Archives for posts with tag: California

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig, an actress for many years, reveals herself to be a talented writer and director with Lady Bird, a standout coming-of-age story starring the excellent Saoirse Ronan as a mischievous, unappreciative Catholic schoolgirl with a “performative streak”. Lady Bird is the rare teen film that will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, to parents as to younger viewers, and the film’s development of its protagonist’s relationship and interactions with her parents, her sweet and vulnerable father (playwright Tracy Letts) and especially her stern but big-hearted mother (Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf), is finely textured and affecting. Occasional grossness fails to ruin an overwhelmingly touching and funny film experience.

Five stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Lady Bird is:

6. Pro-gay. Lady Bird, at first disgusted to discover that her boyfriend (Lucas Hedges) is gay, ultimately feels sympathy for his situation.

5. Populist. Lady Bird, at first ashamed of living in Sacramento, comes to accept her attachment to “the Midwest of California”. Gerwig set the film in 2002 and 2003, she says during her commentary, to mark the period she identifies as a key moment in “the erosion of the middle class”, with 9/11 and the Iraq War referenced as contributors to middle America’s decline. “Is this a joke?” the protagonist asks on seeing a picture of Ronald Reagan hanging in the home of a more well-to-do family. In a refreshing break from typical suburbs-bashing fare like Todd Solondz’s Happiness, Gerwig concedes that American suburbia is “in my bones”, and this affection communicates itself through the tempered and never obnoxious sentimentalism on display in Lady Bird.

4. Drug-ambivalent. Students share a rumor that their teacher Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson) had a son who died of a drug overdose, but the overall tone of Lady Bird toward recreational substances is more permissive. “Her mom clearly knows that they’re high,” Gerwig observes of one scene in which Lady Bird’s mother encounters her daughter with a group of her friends. “She’s not gonna do it [i.e., reprimand them]. She’s gonna just leave,” Gerwig approves. Lady Bird’s grandmother, on the other hand, is said to have been an “abusive alcoholic”.

3. Race-ambivalent. Catholicism appears in Lady Bird as a successful model for peaceful coexistence of races, but the existence of sub-rosa racial tensions is also acknowledged, as when Lady Bird suggests that her adopted mestizo brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) got accepted by a competitive university primarily because of his ethnicity and he in turn accuses her of racism. It is interesting to note that Miguel and fellow non-white adoptee Shelly (Marielle Scott) are usually framed separately, so that they never seem to be fully integrated members of the McPherson family. Mild moments of anti-white bias occur in Lady Bird when the protagonist is shown copying answers from an Asian girl during a test and when comparatively well-behaved Miguel and Shelly have to scold unruly white girls for wrinkling the magazines in a grocery store, where Lady Bird is also shown shoplifting. Her Asian boss at the coffee shop where she later gets a job also has to reprimand her for flirting on the clock – a second juxtaposition of oriental seriousness and work ethic as opposed to white American frivolousness.

2. Anti-Semitic! Lady Bird vomits after drunkenly kissing an atheistic New York Jew named David at a party. “We don’t have to constantly be entertaining ourselves, do we?” Lady Bird’s mother objects at her daughter’s fiddling with the car radio. Who but a hate-filled anti-Semite would object to a non-stop saturation diet of popular culture?

1.Christianish. Writer-director Gerwig had a Catholic upbringing and brings both an affectionate familiarity and an irreverence to her depiction of a Catholic high school, acknowledging Catholicism’s “theatricality” and making light of the superstitions associated with transubstantiated wafers and such. At the end of the film, however, the protagonist abandons her concocted identity as “Lady Bird” and embraces her given name of Christine, a marker of her identity as a Christian. In addition, after moving from Sacramento to New York, she feels herself drawn to the comforting beauty of a cathedral service with its choir. She returns, says Gerwig, to “the place that is home to her”.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

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Nomads

John McTiernan, director of Hollywood blockbusters Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988), and The Hunt for Red October (1990), began his movie career rather more humbly with the flawed and eccentric but nonetheless entertaining debut Nomads (1986). Notable as McTiernan’s only credit as a screenwriter, Nomads was eviscerated by the critics when first released, and still has only a 13% green splat at Rotten Tomatoes. “Was there any sense in it?” asks leading lady Lesley-Anne Down in an interview included on the Nomads Blu-ray. “I don’t think there was very much sense in it at all for anybody.” Is Down correct in dismissing the film as a shallowly offbeat curio – and were the critics who panned the movie motivated only by an objective assessment of its merits?

Nomads stars Pierce Brosnan as a French anthropologist, Jean Charles Pommier, who in the opening sequence dies in the care of Down’s character, Dr. Eileen Flax, in a Los

Down

Lesley-Anne Down freaks out in John McTiernan’s Nomads.

Angeles hospital. He appears in a beaten, bloodied, and seemingly insane state, and his enigmatic last words initiate what will be a strange paranormal ordeal for Flax, who over the course of the film will both investigate and experience what befell Pommier, with most of the story told in flashback. The anthropologist and his wife (Anna Maria Monticelli) had only recently moved to the U.S. and purchased a house that, as it turns out, has a horrible history attached to it. Soon after moving in, the Pommiers discover Mansonesque graffiti on the garage door and more graffiti inside: “Gutman’s a Hero”. The home, they learn, was the site of a horrific child murder, and a band of elusive antisocial misfits who live out of a van have adopted the house as a holy site.

Pommier, being an anthropologist, follows the titular “nomads” around Los Angeles with the intention of documenting and studying them in order to gain a better idea of the threat he faces and to understand “what kind of people could think of a murder as some sort of shrine.” He determines that none of them have employment and watches them from a distance as they laze at the beach, party, and generally terrorize people. The nomads become aware of Pommier’s surveillance after he witnesses them murder a man and put the body in a dumpster. After first being pursued by them and escaping, Pommier again works his way into proximity with the group – at which point they seem to accept his presence and stage an impromptu photo shoot, with one of them, Mary, played by Mary Woronov, doing an exotic dance. When Pommier develops the film, however, he finds that none of the nomads appear in the exposures, which invites a comparison with vampires – although the nomads, who have no problem frolicking in the daylight, are clearly not vampires at least as conventionally depicted.

These quasi-vampires – vampire lore comprising a traditional understanding of the eternal Jew – are nomads, or what Pommier, drawing on Eskimo legends, describes as an urban variety of Innuat. As related in the film, “It has to do with wandering the desert. […] It’s all the same. Nomads live in deserts, whether it’s a desert of ice or sand or whatever doesn’t make a difference. […] They were supposedly hostile spirits. According to the myth, they were capable of assuming a human form” and traveled from place to place, bringing ruin and madness with them wherever they went. As Pommier tells his wife:

None of this may mean anything. None of it at all. […] But I may have found people who are living outside – outside any structure. They do not participate. No exchange, no constraints. They resort to violence with no provocation and then get away with it. It is as if to the official world they did not exist.

All of this rootlessness, in combination with the confluence of ritual, child murder, the reverence for a killer with the Jewish name Gutman, as well as the general depravity and destructiveness, contributes to an accumulation of clues that the nomads may be the Jews. Curiously, composer Bill Conti mentions during his Blu-ray interview that the soundtrack includes what he describes as a “Middle Eastern sound” – though to this reviewer’s untrained ear such a flavoring is difficult to detect in the synth-and-guitars music cues.

Adam Ant Nomads

Adam Ant portrays the leader of the titular band of roving marauders.

“You must not try to fight them,” a sinister nun (Blue Velvet’s Frances Bay) tells Pommier. This encounter takes place in a dilapidated cathedral where, in a sequence of nightmarish phantasmagoria, a flock of satanic women in habits is seen running through the halls in masks, one of them flashing her bare breasts at Pommier – all of which points to a faith corrupted. Dancing Mary, the nomad portrayed by Mary Woronov, wears a cross that glints in the sun, and later, when she is seen at night, she wears an even larger crucifix so that the viewer can hardly help but notice it as she cavorts like a stripper. Are these Christian elements ironic and indicative of cultural subversion, or have these been added as fig leaves to hide the almost naked Jewishness of the menace? Woronov’s features, it must be noted, are rather evil and arguably Semitic-looking.

In a key moment toward the end of the film, Pommier says to his wife with an air of wistfulness as they survey the Los Angeles skyline from a rooftop, “We are so very far from home, you know. All of us.” He laments his “bourgeois” life in a “civilized” world – in short, bemoans his condition of rootless cosmopolitanism. Both he and his kindred spirit the doctor, another childless middle-aged professional in the process of moving into a new and foreign home, have agricultural surnames, Pommier (“apple tree”) and Flax, that betray their simple origins and relatedness to the earth – Flax also connoting blonde and distinctively northern European looks – that set them apart from the dark, mysterious wanderers who move in their midst. Pommier’s polyglot cosmopolitanism, peripatetic ways, and sophistication nevertheless present a thematic parallel with the lifestyle of the nomads, so that it comes as no surprise when Pommier finally succumbs to them. The horror of Nomads is loss of a sense of belonging to a place and one’s own native culture – the horror of an alienated world in which, for instance, Dr. Flax’s colleague Cassie Miller (Jeannie Elias) complains about the “meshuggenah lunatics” who people the city. Whatever the meaning of the film, it may be worth observing that it is set in the entertainment capital of the world and that the final nomad antagonist Dr. Flax encounters is unable to pursue her beyond the California state line.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

buzz-aldrin

Buzz Aldrin with Mickey Rooney

In 2002, Buzz Aldrin made the news again when he punched moon landing skeptic Bart Sibrel in front of Café Rodeo at the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills. Sibrel, making a nuisance of himself, had planted himself in Aldrin’s path and demanded that the astronaut swear on a Bible that he had landed on the moon in 1969. Aldrin’s reaction was that of a self-important and temperamental actor rather than that of a disciplined man of science. Aldrin discusses the episode in his 2009 autobiography, Magnificent Desolation.

Like most Americans, I’m quite skeptical about conspiracy theories. I’m someone who has dealt with the exact science of space rendezvous and orbital mechanics, so to have someone approach me and seriously suggest that Neil, Mike, and I never actually went to the moon – that the entire trip had been staged in a sound studio someplace – has to rank among the most ludicrous ideas I’ve ever heard. Yet somehow the media has given credence to some of the kooky people espousing such theories, and my fellow astronauts and I have had to put up with the consequences.1

Hollywood, indeed, alluded to the possibility of a faked lunar landing as early as the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, and the 1977 thriller Capricorn One concerns the cover-up of a faked Mars mission.

The media treated Aldrin like a hero again, however, after assaulting conspiracy theorist Sibrel – and it is interesting to note that the story received news coverage coinciding with the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Here is Aldrin’s account of the “Blow Heard ‘Round the World” in his book Magnificent Desolation:

Because of the publicity the hoax theorists have garnered, occasionally even in a serious interview a reporter will broach the subject. One September morning in 2002, I was in Beverly Hills at the Luxe Hotel, filming a television interview for a Far Eastern TV network, when the interview began going in a direction that I knew was out of bounds. At first I tried to be cordial, adroitly answering the question, assuming the interviewer would recognize my reluctance to talk about inanity, and bring the focus back to a bona fide space subject. Instead the interviewer began playing a television segment that had aired in the United States on the subject of hoaxes, including a section suggesting that the Apollo 11 moon landing never happened. I was aware of the piece and had been livid when it originally aired. I did not appreciate the interviewer’s attempts to lure me into commenting on it. Lisa [Cannon, Aldrin’s stepdaughter] had accompanied me to the interview following her early morning triathlon training in the Santa Monica Bay, and she immediately recognized that this was a flagrant violation of our willingness to conduct the interview in good faith, so she called a halt to the production. We weren’t belligerent, but we did not linger long over our good-byes, either.

lisa-cannon

Lisa Cannon

We left the hotel room and walked down the hall to catch the elevator, only a matter of seconds away. I pressed the button for the ground level, and Lisa and I looked at each other and smiled. It had been a strange morning already. When the elevator doors opened on the ground level, it got worse.

As we stepped out into the hotel foyer, a large man who looked to be in his mid-thirties approached me, attempting to engage me in conversation. “Hey, Buzz, how are you?” He had his own film crew along, with the camera already rolling to document the encounter.

I greeted him briefly, acknowledging his presence, and kept moving – standard procedure for life in Hollywood. As Lisa and I walked through the foyer toward the front door of the hotel, however, the man kept getting in my way, peppering me with questions, none of which I answered. Lisa took my arm and glared at the man. “That’s enough,” she said, as I could feel her pressure on my arm guiding me toward the door. “Please let us alone; we’re leaving now.”

We stepped outside under the hotel awning, and the film crew continued right along with us. Lisa’s car was parked across the street on Rodeo Drive, but there was no crosswalk nearby, and the traffic was brisk.

Meanwhile, the “interviewer” had taken out a very large Bible and was shaking it in my face, his voice becoming more animated. “Will you swear on this Bible that you really walked on the moon?”

I looked back at the man and gave him a look as if to say, Will you swear on that Bible that you are an idiot? The man was becoming more virulent, inflammatory, and personally accusatory in his outbursts. I tried not to pay any attention, but he was saying things like, “Your life is a complete lie! And here you are making money by giving interviews about things you never did!”

astronauts-gone-wild

Mardi Gras will never be the same after this.

Lisa approached the cameraman and insisted, “Please turn off that camera! We’re just trying to get across the street to our car.”

I’m a patient man, but this situation was silly. “You conspiracy people don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

Lisa spied a break in the traffic, so she grabbed me by the arm again, and said, “Buzz, let’s go.” We started walking across the street, but the large man kept getting right out in front of us, standing in the middle of Rodeo Drive, blocking our path as his cameraman kept rolling film. Lisa seemed nervous about trying to go around him, while searching for her keys to unlock the car with the man in such close proximity, so we turned around and walked back to the bellman’s station outside the hotel.

“Okay, this is ridiculous,” I said to Lisa and to the bellman. “Call the police. This guy is not letting us get to our car.”

I was under the awning, and Lisa turned away from me to approach the cameraman again. “Please turn that camera off,” she said. Meanwhile the large man was nearly screaming at me, “You’re a coward, Buzz Aldrin! You’re a liar; you’re a thief!”

Maybe it was the West Point cadet in me, or perhaps it was the Air Force fighter pilot, or maybe I’d just had enough of his belligerent character assassination, but whatever it was, as the man continued to excoriate me, I suddenly let loose with a right hook that would have made George Foreman proud. WHAAP! I belted the guy squarely in the jaw.

While I prided myself on staying in relatively good shape, it was doubtful that my septuagenarian punch did much damage to the follow, except perhaps to his ego. But he was not at all concerned about the punch, anyhow. It was obvious that he had been goading me in that direction, and he seemed ecstatically happy that I had finally grown exasperated and hit him.

“Hey, did you catch that on tape?” he called out to his cameraman. That was all he cared about.

Lisa turned around and walked back to me. She cocked her head slightly, looked up at me, and asked quietly, “Buzz, what happened?”

I looked back at my stepdaughter rather sheepishly, and said, “I punched the guy.”

“You what?” Lisa’s hand instinctively flew to her mouth in disbelief, as though already postulating in her mind any potential legal ramifications.

The film crew and “interviewer” hastily packed up and headed for their vehicle. They had gotten what they were hoping for – and more. Before the night was over, the film of me punching the guy was on the news and all over the Internet. The interviewer went to the police, threatening to file assault charges against me.

In the meantime, Lisa contacted our legal representative, Robert O’Brien, and told him everything that had happened. Robert suggested that we hire a criminal lawyer, just in case the encounter actually led to charges.

On the following Tonight Show, Jay Leno included the incident in his standup routine, cheering, “Way to go, Buzz!” They doctored up the video of my punch, and edited it to make it appear as though I had given the guy about twenty rapid-fire punches instead of the one.

David Letterman also came to my defense in his opening remarks for The Late Show, and threw in a double feature on the story the next night, since they had “dug up” some old archival footage of a reporter accosting Christopher Columbus, accusing him, “You didn’t really cross the ocean and land in the New World. You’re a liar!” And of course, Columbus decked the guy.

By then, television networks and evening entertainment news programs were calling, suddenly wanting me to appear on their shows. Ordinarily I would have been delighted, but our legal advisers said, “No interviews.” Eventually the matter died down. The city of Beverly Hills did not bring charges against me, and there were witnesses to the harassing behavior that provoked my response. It still cost me money to hire a lawyer to defend myself, and the hoax advocate received the publicity he sought, so I suppose, in the end, he won. But the punch provided me with some satisfaction, at least, and I was gratified by the calls and notes of support. CNN Crossfire commentator Paul Begala gave me a thumbs-up, and many others sent encouraging messages. Ironically, some of the most supportive words came from my fellow astronauts, to the effect of, “Hey, Buzz, I wish I’d punched the guy! Finally, somebody has responded to these hoax theory perpetrators.” More than my knowledge of rendezvous techniques, more than my actions under pressure during the initial lunar landing, more than anything in my career as an astronaut – it seemed as if nothing elevated me more in their estimation than “the punch.” From that day on, I was a hero to them.2

Some have alleged that the scene was staged and cite, for instance, the fact that Aldrin and Sibrel went on to collaborate on the 2004 documentary Astronauts Gone Wild. It is strange, too, to note that Sibrel, in publicizing a theory that ought to hinge on forensic examination and logic, instead decides to interject religion into the showdown, obnoxiously brandishing his Bible and thereby setting himself up for ridicule by progressives. The cameraman is also careful to get a clear shot of the restaurant’s sign and street address, which – if, indeed, this confrontation was a hoax – might have been a condition set by the Luxe Hotel for permission to use the Café Rodeo as a location. Begala’s response, not the typical one for commentary on an assault, was to give the “thumbs-up”, the gesture made synonymous with film criticism by Siskel and Ebert. Lisa Cannon, the woman seen with Aldrin in the video, has been credited with a “significant role” in “developing Buzz Aldrin’s brand”.

Regardless of whether the “Blow Heard ‘Round the World” was a planned event, it served as an object lesson for the public during the politically crucial period following 9/11. As Aldrin’s account makes clear, the media treated him like a hero for punching Sibrel. Aldrin also makes a very deliberate reference to his military service in describing his thought process leading to the moment of violence. The takeaway for the audience is that hitting “conspiracy people” is the laudable thing to do in these turbulent times following the destruction of the World Trade Center. Laugh at them if possible, but punch them if they become too insistent. This was before the advent of YouTube, when critical analysis of the 9/11 matrix was in its comparative infancy. Connecting “conspiracy people” with superstition, socially awkward behavior, and lack of patriotic reverence would pay off in preconditioned public responses as inconvenient scrutiny of these events would become much more common over the years.

apollo

Destination Moon

Notwithstanding his touchiness about the reality of the Apollo mission, Aldrin is eager to emphasize his connection with the entertainment industry, and one of the chapters in Magnificent Desolation is titled “Pop Goes Space Culture”. He boasts of his friendship with science-fiction illusionists like James Cameron, the director of The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss. “For several years, Lois and I had been spending a lot of time driving up to L.A. on business and to attend a variety of Hollywood events in the evenings,” he writes, adding that they eventually moved into “a luxury high-rise condo along the Wilshire Corridor of Los Angeles, just west of Beverly Hills, because so much of our business was now connected to the entertainment industry.”3

“A little-known Hollywood fact is that my name had already been firmly ensconced in Hollywood lore long before Lois and I moved there,” he continues. “On the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, at the corners of Hollywood and Vine, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and I have not one star but four, one on each corner of the intersection. Actually, our ‘stars’ are in the shape of moons.”4 Recognition on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is a rather unexpected tribute for a veteran of NASA’s Apollo 11 program – either that or a tellingly fitting one.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Endnotes

  1. Aldrin, Buzz; and Ken Abraham. Magnificent Desolation. New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2009, p. 281.
  2. Ibid., pp. 282-285.
  3. Ibid., p. 256.
  4. Ibid.

Weirdo and generally sleazy San Francisco character Graeme Whifler began his directing career in music videos, specializing in bizarre outings for Ralph Records artists like the Residents. His other credits include directorial dabblings in television documentary programs like Ancient Prophecies and the original screenplays for Sonny Boy (1989) and Dr. Giggles (1992). He also wrote and directed the notoriously extreme horror project Deadly End (2005).

What does Whifler have to say for himself? “All I wanna do is get inside people’s minds and fuck with ‘em and make them feel and think things that they’re not supposed to feel or think,” he confesses, “so I know, when I’m writing, if I’m doing something right, I’ll start giggling like I’ve just, you know, taken a shit on the floor and I’ve done something really bad […]”1 Whifler prides himself, indeed, that he has done something “really bad” with his horror opus Deadly End, as he boasted to one interviewer:

Our last victim was in France, some poor psychologically frail young woman required hospitalization from watching my little movie, but she’s fine now.

Deadly End might never have been released if it weren’t for some guy going into a seizure during one of the film’s “heavy” scenes. It was playing in a huge theater; part of Montreal’s Fantasia Festival, and this guy starts croaking like a frog and flails about on the floor. Well, thank God, sitting right next to him was Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame. Stuart rushed to the lobby to get help, found a young woman selling popcorn, told her what happened in the auditorium, and all she said was “cool”. The guy made it to the hospital okay, but Stuart was so impressed by witnessing Deadly End’s deadly power that he vowed to find the film a distributor, which he did, thank God.

The guy who had the seizure wrote me an e-mail months later saying he liked what he saw and was wondering how he could get a DVD so he could see how the movie ended. I sent him one, hoping to score my first fatality. But truthfully, the film isn’t that gory or bloody, less than a cup in the entire movie. I do employ certain other small psychological triggers so that as they add up, they give most a fun ride. For the weaker and less fortunate, it’s Darwin time. […]

Graeme Whifler

Graeme Whifler

Irwin Keyes – horror fans know this name – came to a small screening at my home, and he brought his girlfriend. Half an hour or so into the move, Irwin’s gal snuck out of the room. I found her 45 minutes later, outside, in the rain, crying. After the film finished she came back inside, cold, wet, and pretended that nothing was wrong. What can I say, Deadly End squeezed some sore somewhere deep within her. The part that set her overboard was the radio talk show announcer’s rap, “God’s greatest gift to man is pain” (I stole that line from Harry Crews). She told me she’d never heard something so sad.

Irwin’s girlfriend reacted kind of like the 20-year old woman in a Phoenix theater who left the Deadly End screening sobbing to take refuge in the little girl’s room. She said the old people in the movie reminded her of her grandmother and it was just so sad she couldn’t take it anymore. Then there was the autistic guy in Calgary who I caught in the lobby trying to sneak out of the theater fifteen minutes before the movie’s big ending. He looked upset and he told me he thought something really bad was about to happen. I scolded him for leaving before it was over and assured him the film had a happy ending. He shuffled back into the theater. I saw him after the movie was over and he didn’t look too good. The movie really burrows deep and upsets some, the weak, the lame, der untermenchen. Deadly End is a sort of psychic crematorium for those of unsettled minds.

Just kidding. […]

When people ask me “Graeme what kind of movies do you like?” I answer “I like movies where people get hurt.” Of course, that includes tragic drama and good comedies. But what I don’t like is seeing people getting hurt in the same ways over and over and over again. Most all the “genre” product is so tired and so lame. I’ve pretty much given up going to the movies unless I’m hungry for popcorn, but recently I’ve noticed they are starting to put something in the butter topping at the theaters that’s making me sick.2

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Whifler, Graeme. “Audio Commentary” (special feature). Carroll, Robert Martin, Dir. Sonny Boy [Blu-ray] (1989). Los Angeles, CA: Shout! Factory, 2016.
  2. Barton, Steve. “Whifler, Graeme (Deadly End)”. Dread Central (February 13, 2008): http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/6191/whifler-graeme-deadly-end/
Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey

Mention Paul Morrissey and movies about transvestites, heroin addicts, and other varieties of lowlife are likely to come to mind; but the director of such films as Flesh (1968) and Heat (1972) holds very different views than one might assume from a first impression of these films and from his professional association with Andy Warhol. “Staunchly conservative, Morrissey still frowns upon the moral and artistic state of America today,” writes Steve Ryfle, who interviewed the filmmaker in 2000. Rather, Morrissey’s vintage films reflect his view that “modern American life was going down the toilet.”1 David Bahr of The New York Times writes:

Paul Morrissey disdains rock music, abhors recreational drugs and thinks even less of liberal politics. When asked his views on sex, he pauses for a moment, looks his inquisitor in the eye and says: “I’m Catholic. I’m with Rome 100 percent.”

Such sentiments may seem surprising coming from a director whose films luxuriate in the libertine lives of heroin users, masturbating transvestites and polymorphous-perverse male prostitutes. Yet Mr. Morrissey – who from 1966 to 1972 directed more than half a dozen movies produced by Andy Warhol, discovered the avant-garde rock band the Velvet Underground and once saw a court label his work “obscene, vulgar and profane” – believes he’s misunderstood, to say nothing of misrepresented.2

Morrissey situates his work outside the counterculture and characterizes it instead as his disapproving reaction to the general collapse of morality as it occurred around him:

There’s something I realized years later, after I had made all the films, although I probably realized it at the time even though I wasn’t conscious of it. At that time, there was this idea that was just coming in – the media was just getting hold of it, and the music world was just screaming its lungs out about how great it was – saying you could do whatever you want. That was really idiotic, and stupid and foolish and silly, unbelievably stupid.

People, by the late sixties, were doing whatever they felt like, and nobody gave a damn.

“I understood that these people were good story material, good subjects to show where life had gotten to, and how pathetic it was,” Morrissey explains.3 Blood for Dracula (1974), for instance, imagines a future-shocked traditionalist vampire (Udo Kier) who despairs of finding virgin blood to drink in the sexually free and easy 1970s, while Trash (1970) depicts the boredom of heroin dependency. “So much of the culture glamorized drugs at the time,” remarks frequent Morrissey leading man Joe Dallesandro. “Paul wanted to show the seedier side, where it all led to.”4 Women in Revolt (1972), which utilizes a cast of transvestites for satirical purposes, mocks the increasingly noisy and confrontational feminist movement of the day. “I thought it would be funny if they were playing women who were converted to lesbianism by the women’s lib movement,” Morrissey says. “The whole women’s thing was so ridiculous. ‘We don’t need men,’ and all that.”5

The director envisioned his Madame Wang’s (1981) as a satire of nonexistent American values and the decline of Western Civilization:

The huge Masonic Temple was a Greek temple, it represented past culture, and it was abandoned and lived in by derelict female impersonators. That was my take on Americans, especially Southern California Americans. They couldn’t care less about anything, except maybe getting up in drag or doing a punk rock show and screaming and throwing themselves on the floor. And the poor Russian agent comes from East Germany and says, “I’ve got to meet Jane Fonda, we’re taking over this country one day, and we have to have all of our operatives in place and I’m one of them.” And everyone says, “great, so what?”6

Morrissey gives the following explication of his comedy flop Spike of Bensonhurst (1988), in which his “pain in the ass” protagonist (Sasha Mitchell) “treats everybody like dirt, and does whatever he wants”:

The little switcheroo, which I thought was the point of the story, was that finally when someone disciplines him it turns out to be the best thing that happens to him. The idea that there are some standards and a sense of order in the world somewhere […]7

Like so many avowed conservatives in American politics, however, Morrissey’s work reveals his complicity in the projects of the culture destroyers even as he professes traditionalism. The mundane drugs-and-drag depravity of his classic oeuvre, while successfully illustrating the emptiness of the revolutions in sexuality and consciousness that had been engineered during the 1960s, also serves to normalize the ascendant dysfunction.

“Life is so second rate now,” Morrissey assesses.

And that idea that life has degenerated to a second rate position was part of the story to all those movies. I still don’t see that as a story element in any other movies – the obvious fact that life today is so much poorer than it was before. And I don’t think you can tell that story unless you’re aware that there’s a difference now. Most people don’t even know there’s a difference between today and before.8

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  2. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  3. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  4. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  5. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 20.
  6. Ibid., p. 21.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., p. 19.

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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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWENTY

Kill the Messenger

Anybody with even a casual interest in conspiracy lore knows at least the outline of the true events that inspired this worthwhile film. Released on the heels of the Ferguson unrest of 2014, Kill the Messenger tells the story of San Jose Mercury News journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), who discovered that the 80s crack apocalypse epicentered in Los Angeles was facilitated by the Central Intelligence Agency through its sponsorship of the Nicaraguan contras.

Unlike any number of other media stories about police brutality, microaggressions, gentrification, hoodie scares, or other mysterious manifestations of racism and white privilege, Webb’s unsavory revelations give blacks good reason to be angry at their government’s actions. Webb made powerful enemies with his disclosures, which cut across partisan politics but incensed blacks in particular, and understandably so, given crack’s devastation of their families and neighborhoods. Kill the Messenger stops short of alleging that the CIA intentionally targeted black communities for destruction, but does highlight the particular blight these areas have endured.

Primarily, Kill the Messenger is the story of Webb the man, whose life and career were irreparably damaged by the titular smear campaign. Tastefully, but admittedly somewhat disappointingly, the movie leaves to viewers’ imaginations the question of whether Webb, as the official version goes, committed suicide by shooting himself twice (!) in the head or was murdered by some New World Order assassin. Renner is intense as Gary Webb, and the use of actual television news reportage of the day – including CIA shill (and current Ben Carson foreign policy advisor) Duane Clarridge’s jaw-droppingly stupid and smarmy reaction to Webb’s allegations: “Don’t give me that conspiracy bullshit. […] There has never been a conspiracy in this country” – does much to enhance the impression of reality.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Kill the Messenger is:

6. Non-partisan. Both Republicans and Democrats are implicated, as is indicated by the opening montage.

5. Pro-gun. Webb keeps a handgun in his home and uses it to scare a spooky prowler away from his car.

4. Drug-ambivalent. Webb and his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) smoke weed, but a visit to South Central Los Angeles underscores crack’s social ravages.

3. Media-critical. After initially celebrating his breakthrough, Webb’s fellow journalists either distance themselves from him or devote themselves to discrediting his work.

2. Anti-state. This writer must not have been paying attention during his high school civics class when the teacher explained how it was the government’s responsibility to import hard drugs into the country.

1. Borderline anti-Semitic! Richard Schiff plays Richard Zuckerman, a CIA asset and shill utilizing The Washington Post to trash Webb’s credibility. Tim Blake Nelson plays sleazy attorney Alan Fenster, who, while lending crucial assistance to Webb’s investigation, comes across as the stereotypical lawyer who insists even in private conferences on referring to his client “Freeway” Rick Ross (Michael K. Williams) as merely an “alleged” drug dealer. Oliver Platt, meanwhile, appears as Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who at first defends Webb’s work but then wimps out in the face of the media firestorm. Perhaps to compensate for these unappealing characterizations, both Webb and his wife as visualized in the movie are darker, less Nordic-looking figures than the biographical subjects.

Gary Webb

Gary Webb

Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner

 

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY SEVEN

Nightcrawler

Beginning with its opening shot of a full moon, Nightcrawler hums with the limitless potential of Los Angeles at night. Jake Gyllenhaal plays professional thief and aspiring entrepreneur Lou Bloom, who shifts lanes into the high-adrenaline world of the nightcrawlers – freelance news cameramen who eavesdrop on police radios and race through the nocturnal streets of L.A. for graphic crime and accident footage – when he gets a taste of the money and the excitement there is to be sucked from human suffering. Gyllenhaal turns in an electric performance as the bizarre and intriguing Bloom, whose drive to get closer to the carnage than his competitors takes him first into situations of questionable ethics and then into outright illegality and endangerment of police officers and the public. The always diverting Bill Paxton appears as a rival nightcrawler, while sexy Rene Russo is a rung on Bloom’s ladder of self-promotion.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Nightcrawler is:

5. Anti-drug. Among the titles of Bloom’s salacious videos are “D.W.I. crash kills four” and “drunk mom kills biker”.

4. Pro-police. Cops are depicted as brave men who risk their lives to protect the citizenry. California Highway Patrolmen are shown putting themselves in peril to pull a woman from her burning vehicle.

3. Anti-white. “We find our viewers are more interested in urban crime creeping into the suburbs,” says news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo). “What that means is the victim or victim’s preferably well-off – and white – injured at the hands of the poor or a minority.” The suggestion that television news ignores black victimhood in favor of rich whites is preposterous. Many news organizations, in fact, have policies of censoring information about black criminal activity – particularly when whites are the victims. Anybody who casually watches the news knows who Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray are – and even a misbehaving South Carolina schoolgirl has been receiving a lot of press of late because an insufficiently obsequious white cop yanked her out of her desk – but how many Americans could name a single white person murdered by a congoid within the last five years?

2. Media-critical and anti-capitalistic. Nightcrawler presents the television news industry as the worst, most nihilistic manifestation of capitalism, with human drama and suffering commoditized and exploited for titillation and ratings. Bloom blurs the line between objective documentary reportage and filmmaking when he drags a crash victim’s body to get a better shot.

1. Anti-Semitic! Bloom is an icy, emotionless freak who thinks of every situation in terms of potential profit and exercise of control. Even his sexual come-on to Nina Romina is conceived as an impersonal business negotiation. The viewer is told that Romina resists unspecified sexual demands from Bloom, which suggests that he may have deviant tastes. He exploits the gullibility of assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) and shows no pity or human interest as he lies bleeding in a street.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Blue Jasmine

Embarrassing for a white nationalist to admit, Jewish pervert Allan Konigsberg (alias Woody Allen) remains one of this writer’s favorite directors despite the auteur’s corrosive persona and poisonous cultural influence. Now, with Blue Jasmine, the seriocomic pedo-provocateur furnishes Cate Blanchett with her best and strongest role to date as the fallen Park Avenue socialite spouse of sleazebag Wall Street operator Alec Baldwin, who, after being caught “up to his ass in phony real estate and bank fraud” and committing suicide in prison, has left her penniless, alone, and psychologically brittle. Moving in with her blue collar adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, Jasmine struggles to adjust to her lowered station in life – a situation Konigsberg expertly fondles, balancing audience schadenfreude with surprising sympathy. The cast is perfect, the jazz is hot, and Woody is in top form. Fans will enjoy.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Blue Jasmine is:

7. Drug-ambivalent. “You drink, you become a jerk.” Characters imbibe throughout, sometimes to the impediment of their judgment. Overcoming addiction is presented as an accomplishment, but Blue Jasmine constantly runs the risk of promoting a kind of nervous breakdown chic given how good Blanchett looks in the film – at least until the concluding scenes, when her traumas and bad habits show on her face. “Have you ever gotten high on nitrous oxide?” asks randy dentist Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg).

6. Liberal. “The government took everything,” moans hypocrite Jasmine. “The first thing you gotta know,” her husband earlier warns, “is how to not give half your money to the government.” Resistance to taxation and redistribution of wealth is thereby framed as the scheming of a white financial criminal to avoid paying his fair share of the common burden. Working for the State Department, meanwhile, is “glamorous”.

5. Multiculturalist. New York and San Francisco appear as peaceful and orderly multi-ethnic metropolises. A note of discord is struck when Jasmine, working as a dentist’s receptionist, snaps, “Can you just put someone on [the phone] who speaks better English?” Presumably, though, this is only supposed to mark the character as a bit of a bigot instead of a person with a valid dislike of America’s multicultural experiment.

4. Pro-miscegenation. The film includes multiple white/Asian pairings. In one scene, a white man and Asian woman gawk in bemusement as Jasmine hallucinates and talks to herself. The mixed couple is thus the face of normalcy, the fair Nordic that of pathology.

3. Pro-slut. “It’s not like we’re engaged, so, you know, I’m free.” Ginger, quickly seduced by a man she meets at a party, shamelessly discusses her sex life within earshot of her children.

2. Anti-marriage. Baldwin plays a serial philanderer. Jasmine says her sister’s husband “used to hit her.” Louis Szekely (alias Louis C.K.) plays another cheater.

1. Crypto-Zio-capitalist. As with Arbitrage (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and Assault on Wall Street (2013), it is the hated European gentile male and not the Jew who serves as the representative figure in financial shenanigans. “Jesus Christ almighty,” Konigsberg’s script has “philistine businessman” Baldwin gripe when arrested. Jews instead come across as the victims, with Baldwin bilking brother-in-law Andrew Clay Silverstein (alias Andrew “Dice” Clay) and his ostensibly Catholic but Jewish-looking and therefore subtextually Semitic wife out of all of their lottery winnings and savings. Audience sympathy is generally with the down-to-earth crypsis-Jews rather than with the snooty elitist blonde. Hilariously, Baldwin’s innocently idealistic Ivy League son and heir Danny, who rejects him after learning of his fraudulent dealings, is played by a Jew, Alden Ehrenreich. All of this, of course, only serves to obscure the reality of Zio-financial hegemony and Jewish supremacism.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Ready 2 Die

After robbing a Federal Reserve Bank branch and leading the LAPD on a televised freeway chase (“like O.J., Holmes”), four luckless desperadoes find themselves stranded without a car in East L.A., pursued both by the authorities and – after a “ghetto APB” and word of their loot gets out – their greedy fellow gangstas as well.

Writer-director John Azpilicueta stars as the bereaved Lucky, dismissed from a SEALs training camp for “emotional problems”; Jacob Martinez is Smiley, a chubby old thug who tried in vain to go straight, but whose financial troubles have thrust him back into a life of crime; and Pablo Hernandez is Psycho, a hitman who pretty much lives up to his name. The most interesting character, dishonorably discharged Ranger and Coolio haircut hood rat Sniper, is played by Bless May, who unfortunately receives the least screen time of the foursome.

Azpilicueta’s film, typical for an Asylum release, is shoddy and rough-hewn, with crap special effects, some substandard acting, too little coverage for action scenes, and overreliance on quick cuts and shaky-cam cinematography. A series of black-and-white flashbacks, intended to humanize the leads, only succeeds in stalling the action; but sleazebags attracted to a movie as underachievingly titled as Ready 2 Die will no doubt be entertained by its ready abundance of murder, profanity, rape, and pandemic nastiness.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ready 2 Die is:

7. Anti-Christian. More than one thug is adorned with a cross, either as a necklace or a tacky tattoo.

6. Anti-marriage. A mulatto wife is a lazy, unfaithful freeloader.

5. Miscegenation-ambivalent. The aforementioned wife is, however, depicted as quite the sexual trophy and gets the hiding heroes excited as they voyeuristically enjoy the sight of her in the act of adultery.

4. Anti-bankster. The fact that the crooks attack a Federal Reserve bank makes them, if not quite sympathetic, at least not as dastardly as if they had robbed a small business like a liquor store. Ready 2 Die conveys a generalized anger at the economic plight of the country; and, without articulating any particular argument, the movie seems to be suggesting blame by flashing the Federal Reserve Bank sign during the opening robbery. Sniper is unemployed, and the fact that Smiley is behind on his house payments reminds viewers of banks’ predatory lending tactics.

3. Anti-police. Ready 2 Die evinces either indifference toward the “fucking po-po” or, if anything, actual hostility, casting them as the pesky antagonists who pursue the central characters.

2. Anti-war. Sniper expresses the nihilism of war brought home when he says that shooting at police cars and helicopters is “just like Fallujah, baby – just different motherfuckers.”

1. Racist! Ready 2 Die demonstrates as well as a movie could why even minorities have reason to fear the eventuality of their neighborhoods going majority non-white. Gangs, drugs, and scary tattoos are the norm, with mothers living in fear that their children will be murdered not by white supremacist pigs, but by members of their own wretched raza. Furthermore, blacks appear in an almost uniformly unfavorable light in the film. Sniper is one of the movie’s most coldblooded killers. “Fuck that funny-lookin’ bitch,” he excuses himself for shooting a bank teller. “She was lookin’ at me all crazy and shit.” He robs and kills because he would rather do this than “flip some burgers”. A black cop lounges around his home milking “disability”, while his misbehaving son ludicrously claims to have been suspended from school just for being black.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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