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True Detective Season 2

The second season of HBO’s bleak series True Detective shifts the scene of the sickness from creepy gothic Louisiana to dystopian southern California, a setting with a more strikingly chaotic ethnic mix that lends itself to an exploration of race relations in America. The plot this time around concerns the intertwined lives and fortunes of vicious but decent-hearted gangster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) and tortured and tarnished detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and their investigation into the convoluted circumstances of a politician’s death.

Semyon

Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon

True Detective presents a world of demographic horror, an America in which racial loyalties are nonexistent and fealty of any other kind is hard to come by. Whites, blacks, Mexicans, and Jews are all crooked. Mexicans, while distrustful and destructive of whites, also think nothing of killing each other, while whites, finding themselves marooned in an increasingly hostile and meaningless world, grasp at anything they can get. Race-based tensions nevertheless continue to simmer beneath the surface of several of the characters’ interactions. Semyon is a self-made man and a bigot, a walking contradiction who dislikes the changing demographics of the U.S. and seethes with an angry white man’s discontent but is also and at the same time cynically complicit in the smuggling of illegal aliens into his country.

Semyon is also an anti-Semite and calls Israeli gangster Osip Agronov (Timothy Murphy) a “KGB kike motherfucker”. True Detective is rather daring in identifying the true ethnic character of the “Russian” mafia. The series gives Semyon more than one moment of triumphant crowd-pleasing sadism, and it is significant that one of these is reserved not for one of the Jewish gangsters, but for an especially weaselly specimen of the Shabbos goy, or gentile who sells his treacherous services to the Jewish enemy. Leonard Cohen’s excellent theme song, “Nevermind”, is interesting in this context for featuring the lines “I was not caught, though many tried. / I live among you, well-disguised.”

Velcoro

Fred Ward as Mr. Velcoro

In another scene, Semyon pummels and then pulls out the teeth of a mouthy brown-skinned inferior (Pedro Miguel Arce) – content that serves as vicarious satisfaction for Caucasian viewers fed up with pretending to like their laughingly darkening world. Representing such viewers is Velcoro’s father (Fred Ward), a retired policeman who found he was no longer able to carry out his duties properly with the advent of the fuck-the-police zeitgeist that found its explosive expression in the 1992 L.A. riots. The U.S. as it presently stands is “no country for white men,” he observes as he enjoys a black-and-white Kirk Douglas movie. He is one of two aged policemen in True Detective who remarks that blacks’ intensifying hostility toward police made it increasingly difficult for them to do their jobs.

The audience, one suspects, is expected to feel a mingled contempt and sympathy for this old man who has given up on life and squanders what little of it is left to him getting high and living in a televised, mythologized past. A parallel character is the disgusting, whorish ex-dancer mother (Lolita Davidovich) of highway patrolman and ex-mercenary Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch). Like old Mr. Velcoro, she prefers the comfort of watching old movies to doing anything productive with her years of decline. Morally and physically decrepit, her narrow, nostalgic tribalism takes the incestuous form of a selfish attachment to her son, who clearly wants nothing to do with her.

True Detective also offers multiple examples of interracial relationships, but none of these is deep, lasting, or free of damaged trust. As one of the season’s other songs suggests, “There’s no future. There’s no past.” – an assessment that could easily apply to America’s multiracial experiment as depicted in these episodes. A feeling of imminent doom pervades not just the lives of the principal characters, but the life of the proposition nation. In one episode, Detective Velcoro visits the set of a cheesy post-apocalyptic action movie – a cartoon version of the American century taking shape around those dumb enough not to notice what has been happening. Indeed, the characters who survive the final episode are those who choose to flee the country – no livable future seemingly being available to them here.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Bauer VHS

In a recent issue of the VHS fan culture publication Lunchmeat, enthusiast Mike Dank describes his experiences exploring other people’s discarded home-recorded videocassettes. “After you accumulate a few hundred ‘normal’ tapes, you tend to want to go a little outside the box and seek out something truly bizarre,” he explains1. One passage of Dank’s account strikes this writer as having a greater significance than the immediate find he details – a resonance more societal than personal.

I started to accumulate more interesting personally-recorded tapes. Some of my initial odd-balls were an audition tape from a terrible actress, a recording of some guy bungee jumping, and what appears to be an amateur recording of an awards dinner. Nothing too terribly exciting, but far from what you might define as run-of-the-mill VHS pick-ups. Then, as if by some sort of VHS-obsessed fate, I found something truly intriguing on the side of the road. Not a block from where I lived, I spotted a cardboard box containing a Betamax deck, and a handful of VHS tapes left out for the trash man. One of these tapes contained the first 30 minutes of an empowerment seminar for women (the kind of half-infomercial, half-roundtable discussion you might see hypnotizing the masses at 2 in the morning) followed by around an hour of soft-core pornography clips stitched together for… well… use your imagination! It seemed to be an inarguable textbook case of someone camouflaging their porn. I mean, who on earth would watch the first 30 minutes of that tape straight through on a whim only to eventually uncover the Skinemax-harvested goods concealed afterward? You start to wonder about the story behind this tape. Did I snag this from some sneaky teenager, maybe a hen-pecked married man?2

Could this be a more perfect encapsulation of sexual trends in the West? Women’s “empowerment” as a ruse, leading into a lonely, voyeuristic depravity, and all of it bound for one civilizational garbage dump.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Dank, Mike. “Finding Forgotten Footage: Unearthing Ultimate Home Video Obscurities”. Lunchmeat Midnight Snack no. 4 (Spring 2015), p. [21].
  2. Ibid., p. [22].
"Can we talk?"

The needle on the Jewometer just broke.

Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz (1985) ****

Joan Molinsky (alias Rivers) appears as herself in this Showtime comedy special about a star-studded Las Vegas tribute to notorious (fictional) nymphomaniac Heidi Abromowitz. A veritable constellation of A-and B-level celebrities is in attendance to toast this tart, “the biggest tramp since Charlie Chaplin”. The only problem is that nobody can find her, so that cantankerous hostess Joan is reduced to rushing around a hotel trying to find out where Heidi is holed up probably getting gang-shagged.

This incredibly raunchy campfest mostly consists of hit-and-miss one-liners (Heidi is alleged to have invented “eightplay”, or simultaneous foreplay with two guys) and nostalgia-tickling cameos from the likes of Kris Kristofferson, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Anthony Perkins, Brooke Shields, Selma Diamond, Robin Leach (who of course gets to spoof Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), Joyce Brothers, Ruth Westheimer, Willie Nelson, Tony Randall, Erma Bombeck, Little Richard, Betty White, Suzanne Somers, Ali McGraw, Howie Mandel, Elvira, Garry Shandling, Vincent Price, Morgan Fairchild, Father Guido Sarducci – and more! The Solid Gold Dancers even put in an appearance, taking the stage to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s hit “Physical”.

80s buffs will be thrilled by the totally retro references to Mother Theresa, Mr. T, and Boy George (“Just what England needs,” Joan kvetches, “another queen who can’t dress!”). The highlight of this extravaganza, however, is not a celebrity, but a hilarious troupe of trained orangutans, one of which specializes in flipping the bird. The only real drawback to this trash treasure is its off-putting Talmudic attitude in promoting juvenile sexuality. “Harder! Harder!” Heidi is supposed to have exclaimed as a newborn when the doctor slapped her bottom, and she is also supposed to have enjoyed an outdoor orgy with several boys as a girl. The best line in Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz definitely comes from negro janitor Vernon Washington: “Joan Rivers? Sheeeit. I thought you was Tony Orlando.”

4 out of 5 possible stars

Post-op cyborg

“We’ll say United 93 went down in this trench here in Shanksville . . .”

How to Murder a Millionaire (1990) ***1/2

Joan Molinsky, the grotesque diva to out-bitch them all, gets to display her sensitive side in this tacky TV comedy feature about a privileged, rich housewife whose life revolves around shopping, hoarsely kvetching to best friend Morgan Fairchild, and watching interviews with transvestites on Monique in the Morning followed by Monique in the Afternoon. Unfortunately, Joan’s idle idylls are thrown into chaos when she begins to suspect that husband Alex Rocco may be trying to murder her – and, even worse, that he may be having an affair! (“What possible motive could he have?” her friend hilariously consoles her. “You look great.”) Desperate for refuge, Joan hides out in a ghetto rat’s nest (“This place just screams for a decorator”) with Fairchild’s thieving black maid (Telma Hopkins) and even goes to work with her as a housecleaner.

All of this, of course, is just an excuse for such fish-out-of-water scenes as Joan cleaning a toilet and trying to make herself comfortable on a disgusting black person’s couch – but not before covering it with sanitary tissues. How to Murder a Millionaire is something of a rarity in Molinsky’s list of movie credits in that it is a genuine starring vehicle for her as opposed to a cameo. For that reason alone, Molinsky admirers (i.e. homos) will probably want to check it out and treat themselves to such TV candy as Joan slumming in her expensive fur coat, washing a window with her rump, and self-pityingly crying while treating her eyes with cucumber slices. Nostalgiacs, furthermore, should enjoy the chintzy early 90s muzak and period cultural references to Leona Helmsley, Arsenio Hall, and the forbidden dance of lambada. What other movie, pray tell, has the sass to ask the question, “Does a bear shop in the woods?”

3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Body Chemistry 2

Lisa Pescia in Body Chemistry 2 (1992)

This reviewer retains a fondness for the lurid erotic thrillers that used to play late at night on Showtime during the late 80s and early 90s. Many of these – the likes of Out of the Dark (1988) and Body Chemistry (1990) – were stylish mysteries and wicked psychological dramas in addition to serving as eye-pleasing programming.

Of these, the one that left the deepest impression on his grade school brain was Body Chemistry 2: Voice of a Stranger (1992), in which the amazing Lisa Pescia reprises her role as the sadistic Dr. Claire Archer. It cuts a gash in pre-pubescence to know that something as grimy as sadomasochism exists – mere nudity was sufficiently forbidden to be exciting in those days – and, furthermore, to know that such sordid entertainment is interesting to a parent too lazy to shoo a youngster from the room while, for instance, a dominatrix humiliates Morton Downey, Jr.

Later generations, alas, would plunge directly into the porn cesspit, ignorant of the mystique that used to await the youthful discoverer of a Bedroom Eyes (1984), Red Shoe Diaries (1992), or some such other softcore classic. In “Generation Masturbation”, Matt Forney relates how early experiences of pornography and dirty movies can shape people’s sexual expectations and muses, additionally, on the disillusioning nature of actual carnal knowledge.

Kubrick seems to have been the one to initiate the young Forney:

We were staying with my grandparents for Christmas, and they had acquired pay-per-view channels through less-than-legal means. My grandpa had three TVs with free HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and all the rest: one in the living room, one in their bedroom, and one in the basement lounge room where I slept. It was two in the morning and I was flipping channels when I came across HBO airing Eyes Wide Shut.

Specifically, the orgy scene.

Read the rest here.

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