Archives for posts with tag: Canada

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/

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY SIXTEEN

Red Army

Red Army tells the intriguing story of the Soviet hockey system – the players, the bureaucrats, and the sport’s utilization for patriotic propaganda purposes under Brezhnev. Star performers like Viacheslav Fetisov, whose reminiscences form the core of this exceptional documentary, contributed to the development of an intricate, distinctively cooperative hockey style as contrasted with the rougher, more individualistic Canadian-American model. While loved and idolized by their people, Soviet athletes, as Red Army makes painfully clear, did not enjoy the freedom and the celebrity lifestyle associated with sports in the United States.

A participant in the celebrated Miracle on Ice of 1980, Fetisov and his teammates went on to win the Soviet Union its sixth and seventh gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics. Fetisov was beaten and harassed by authorities before finally being able to emigrate to the U.S., where he at first had difficulty adjusting to an unappreciative American system. In 1995 he was traded by the New Jersey Devils to the Detroit Red Wings, whom he helped to Stanley Cup victories in 1997 and 1998, largely through a recreation of the successful five-man formation, the “Russian Five” or “Russian symphony”, that had worked so well for the Soviet team.

One criticism of Red Army is that it treats the propagandistic agenda of Soviet sports culture as if this was somehow unique to the communist experience – as if sports in United States, for instance, do not convey the official myths of this decaying society. The U.S. distinguishes itself with the cultural Marxist flavor of its spectator sports, with team members of all different races, sexual orientations, and national origins coming together for a single purpose and teaching not pride in one nation or race, but multicultural meritocracy and allegiance to uniforms. “Spectator sports today is used as a perfume to hide the aroma of our decaying society,” writes Harrison Elings at The Occidental Observer. “It has ushered in an age of sports ritualization. It is used as an escape mechanism for a lost identity, an identity which now accepts and believes in the entrance and mixture of all races into all Western societies. It is Exhibit A for successful multiculturalism and interracial harmony and cooperation.”

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Red Army is:

3. Anti-materialistic. To its credit, Red Army does not stoop to glorifying the gaudy, gangsterish switch to capitalism in the 1990s. “Different mentality. Different culture,” Fetisov says in reflecting on his return to his formerly communist homeland. “We kind of forget about the patriotism. We [are] kind of ashamed [of] what we was before.” Furthermore, he confesses, “We lost something. We lost our pride. We lost our soul.” What Red Army neglects to tell the viewer, however, is just how Jewish the criminal Russian nineties were.

2. Zionist. Directed by a very self-consciously Jewish immigrant’s son, Gabe Polsky, Red Army is comparatively well-behaved in its cautious treatment of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but the choice to include one particular clip from journalist Vladimir Pozner is very telling. “Much of the problems” – that is, in the Russia of today – “are still anchored in that [totalitarian] past,” he says, leaving to viewers’ imaginations what “problems” Russia has. This is something of a throwaway statement in the context of the full-length documentary, but crucial in the marketing of the film to the public, as millions of Americans have heard this remark about Russia’s alleged Soviet-Putin continuity “problems” in the widely seen Red Army trailer included on many 2014 Sony Pictures Classics releases. Asked by an audience member at a Toronto Film Festival Q & A why no Russian filmmaker had previously made a film about the Soviet hockey system, Polsky responded, “maybe because [of] some of the politics in the country, they might just – it’s not possible.” The insinuation of this vague reply is that Putinist Russia is some oppressive bastion of censorship preventing the production of intellectually satisfying hockey documentaries.

1. Pro-immigration, reinforcing the notion that immigrants have valid reasons for moving to the United States and attempting to find a better life. Fetisov, because of his high achievements and non-threatening genetics, presents an unusually appealing immigrant narrative. Some NHL personnel were wary of the sudden influx of Russian players after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Red Army includes a sound bite from one such nativist who suggests the imports are stealing American jobs. This, however, the film implies, was just a form of bigotry that had to be won over. “They’re playing for us and they’re good,” one hockey fan exults after Fetisov and his countrymen hit their stride with the Detroit Red Wings.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Have shopping to do and want to support icareviews? The author receives a modest commission on Amazon purchases made through this link: http://amzn.to/1NV7Rcd

Lust in the Time of Heartache

Written by neoreactionary blogger Davis M.J. Aurini, the ten-minute short film Lust in the Time of Heartache is less a movie than a multimedia essay, with situations and visuals illustrating the ideas in Aurini’s text, which is essentially a Nietzschean lifestyle manifesto. Aurini, who in his YouTube talks comes across as something along the lines of a laidback, Gen-X D’Annunzio, here affects a hardboiled persona as he offers the voice-over narration to various squabbles and humiliations. He is also seen strolling around Calgary looking passably cool before he is forced to confront a gang of well-dressed assassins representing his weaknesses and inner demons. Thematically, Lust in the Time of Heartache bears striking similarities to Fight Club (1999), but stylistically goes for more of a film noir sensibility as filtered through Quentin Tarantino. This is ultimately a vanity project, but still worth the ten minutes of open-minded viewers’ time.

Davis Aurini

Davis Aurini

3.5 out of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Lust in the Time of Heartache is:

6. Pro-tobacco, perpetuating the romance of the philosophical smoker of hardboiled pulp entertainment.

5. Zionist. “The thing I hate most about seeing the powerful abuse the weak is knowing that the weak did something to deserve it.” (cf. Aurini’s exasperating remarks about the CIA being “aligned with the brighter-half of the morality meter” and the leftist establishment trying to “hand Israel over to the Mohammedans”)

Aurini knows they did something to deserve it.

Aurini knows they did something to deserve it.

4. Sexist! Feminists will be apoplectic at certain of Aurini’s assertions as these could be construed to refer to domestic violence: “Abuser. Abused. Two sides of the same coin.” Perhaps to counter this potential criticism, these reflections have been accompanied by scenes of women mocking men.

3. Activism-ambivalent. Aurini’s writing is catchy, but fraught with a tension and contradiction between a jaded resignation and tortured will to power. Of man’s attitude toward the world around him, Aurini seems to advise a kind of detached voyeurism in keeping with fellow neoreactionary Aaron Clarey’s “Enjoy the Decline” ethos: “So here we are at the end of history. The end of money. The end of hope. The end of purpose. The end of man and the end of woman. Nothing to do then but light a smoke and watch the fireworks go down. Enjoy the final decadent days of our once proud and mighty empire. Watch the leaves turn golden and watch as they begin to fall.” This defeatism, however, clashes with the narrator’s final exhortation to “find something worth dying for”, which in turn conflicts with his earlier admonishment not to “go asking for a better world than this because this is the world we chose. This is the world we deserve.”

2. Anti-materialist. “This is the end state of our materialist fate. Capitalism turned innovators into land rapers and socialism turned charity into oppression.” On the sexual front, Aurini laments “a generation that never learned how to love” and argues, “If you don’t know how to love, all you understand is hate.” “It’s pain that makes us who we are. Embrace it.”

1. Anti-hedonist. “Hedonism always turns out the same. Without love, all you’ve got is sex. And if all you’ve got is sex, you’ve gotta keep upping the ante or else it gets boring.” “We’ve become nothing but a bunch of well-dressed apes” in Aurini’s diagnosis. “It’s the luxury that makes us soft. It’s the enemy that makes us cruel. What you need is a struggle. An enemy to overcome.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

[For more on the Manosphere and figures of the Neoreaction, read “Fear of Commitment or Love of Shekels? Matt Forney’s Awkward Dance with Race“.]

Scarehouse_poster

Sorority sisters, haunted houses, and nights of revenge are all typical slasher movie elements; but Killer Party this is decidedly not. A Canadian blast of cold gore porn, The Scarehouse is a story of two competing horrors: the tortures inflicted by its vindictive protagonists, on the one hand, and the vapid “21st century party monster” mentality of their bevy of victims on the other. As to which is more appalling, that is for each viewer to decide. Co-ed sadists Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) are out of prison and out for vengeance after taking the rap for a sorority prank that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter. Determined to torment their fellow sisters, the pair has designed a haunted house attraction to mask the actual torture laboratory within.

The lighting and atmosphere of the film should satisfy devotees of the genre, and genuinely homicidal psychos should also be entertained. The lead performances, particularly Booth’s, are strong; but The Scarehouse, like other torture-oriented horrors, suffers from lack of likable characters. The backstory explaining the night’s motivation is never sufficient emotional justification for the shocking degree of onscreen brutality, and serves only to ensure that even the screaming victims of the atrocities garner little audience sympathy. Occasionally humorous, The Scarehouse is more often disturbing, and this reviewer would much prefer to have seen a movie about these two characters not killing people.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Scarehouse is:

4. Homosexuality-ambivalent. From the perspective that there is no such thing as bad publicity, The Scarehouse is pro-gay for featuring homoerotic flirtation between young women; but the portrayal of the lesbian lead as a psychopath is hardly flattering.

3. Anti-Christian. Jesus freak Jaqueline (Katherine Barrell) stands for the film’s contempt for “fire and brimstone shit”. Other irreverence takes the form of the sadists’ appropriation of crucifixion symbolism: Corey has a cross tattoo on her back, while Elaina at the end can be seen wearing a crucifix.

2. Anti-drug. “You might want to stick to water.” Drinking, along with a rufie, results in the accidental death that sets the plot in motion, and drunks are also more susceptible to the torture porn treatment. One of the songs on the soundtrack also refers to alcohol poisoning.

1. Anti-feminist. Whatever The Scarehouse’s intentions, it shows something of a divided mind with regard to its array of targets. Elaina and Corey advertise no overt ideological motivation for their murder spree, but do demonstrate a distaste for traditionalism as it takes on grotesque, hypocritical forms. Jaqueline’s Christian good girl moral code is a lie, so she must be punished. Similarly, Katrina (Emily Alatalo), for “Frankensteining” herself in an exaggerated devotion to a male chauvinist’s hourglass figure ideal, must answer for her betrayal of her sorority oath to embrace woman’s “inner beauty”.

Corey and Elaina, if they are supposed to be radical feminist progressives, discredit their cause with their violent antics. The moon phases pictured on Corey’s tank top may mark her as merely a walking, talking, rampaging case of PMS. “Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian?” she wonders aloud, to which Elaina replies that “there is some truth in it”, the implication perhaps being that the political agenda of Corey and her type is motivated more by sexual frustrations than by reason or fairness. Elaina blunders through the sorts of clueless academic abstractions that cause social experimenters’ projects to fail. “You know I only have textbook theory,” she frets. “I built this place on a lot of theory, and this is a test run, so give me a frickin’ break on a few minor flaws.”

The fact that horny, drunken fraternity men appear as the gullible victims and not the perpetrators of murder and sex crimes undercuts the popular misandrist myth of an ubiquitous “rape culture” on college campuses. Women’s degradation and endangerment appears as their own doing in The Scarehouse. The sisters only degrade themselves by calling each other “cunt” and “bitch”. As women’s femininity has been eroded, their pedestal toppled by political empowerment, they no longer enjoy their previous freedom from violence and sexual mutilation at the movies. (“I am going to punch her in the box,” Corey threatens.) Just as a man can be kicked in the crotch with the utmost casualness, as has been the case for decades, “liberated” (i.e., dehumanized) women are now more apt to see their breasts removed or their eyelids ripped off on the big screen. A satirical indication of the degeneration wrought by the sexual revolution comes when the sight of the bloody and ravaged Katrina makes one character wonder if this is a “sex party”.

antisocial poster

A future film historian compiling a list of the most representative and sociologically reflective horror films of the present decade could do worse than to include Cody Calahan’s feature debut, Antisocial. Redolent of the contemporary fears of intrusive surveillance, vile conspiratorial plots, drones, martial law, cyber-bullying, terrorism, flash mobs, viral epidemics, internet addiction, and civilizational collapse, Antisocial is more than a mere splatter film.

A gaggle of vapid college coeds gather to throw a New Year’s Eve party, unaware that the sudden outbreak of a 28 Days Later-reminiscent rage plague will soon have them barricading themselves inside and suspecting themselves and each other of infection. And what role does ubiquitous website the Social Redroom play in the chaos? “If you’re not on Facebook,” some have suggested, “you’re probably a sociopath.” Antisocial, thankfully, begs to differ with this assessment.

The story wastes little time in getting to the action and suspense, which is fresh while also respectful of genre conventions and traditions, with the themes, scenario, and spare, electronic moments suggesting influences from George Romero, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter. A guaranteed good time; recommended to horror fans.

4 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Antisocial is:

6. Anti-Christian. Some respond to the epidemic by holding exorcisms, but the explanation for the plague turns out to be decidedly more sublunary. A newscaster’s wish of “Happy New Year, and may God be with you,” rings hollow given the situation on the ground.

5. Gun-ambivalent. The partiers are frightened by shots from outside, but it is unclear whether these are from the police or private citizens.

4. Pro-slut, pro-miscegenation, and anti-racist. Heroine Sam (Michelle Mylett) is pregnant with some guy’s bastard. Cheap tramp Kaitlin (Ana Alic) is an item with black dude Steve (Romaine Waite). As the two are making a sex video, one of the afflicted bursts in on their fun through a window. The fact that the attacker appears to have a skinhead haircut may be intended subtextually to suggest lingering racism and resentment among whites toward those who choose to mate outside the species.

3. Feminist. “Final girl” Sam, once forced to fend for herself at the end, has little difficulty adjusting to the role of the badass. A bandage she ties around her head gives her the martial appearance of an Apache warrior.

2. Media-critical and anti-corporate. Social Redroom executives have secretly implemented a subliminal pattern designed to induce addictive behavior in visitors. Characters are unsure whether to trust material coming out of the mainstream media and look, rather, to grassroots sources of information available online.

1. Luddite. The title, Antisocial, serves a dual purpose, referring both to the nasty behavior of the afflicted and to the film’s critical stance toward social media. The script is full of apprehensions about a world in which “private life is public knowledge”, cruelty is as easy as clicking a key, and lovers break up remotely, by way of handheld devices.

Appropriately, social media darling Kaitlin and her boyfriend are among the first to develop symptoms. Sam and Jed (Adam Christie), who have deleted their Social Redroom accounts, retain their sanity longer than others. “How do you keep in touch with people?” Kaitlin asks. “I see them in person,” Sam deadpans. Significantly, Sam later repurposes a laptop as a murder weapon.

The internet itself is not necessarily to blame, and an online video actually provides the means of overcoming the crisis. What worries Antisocial, however, is the addictive potential and hive mind pull of ubiquitous sites like Facebook. Fear of mass loss of privacy also looms large, and in one of Antisocial‘s more outrageous moments, Social Redroom users’ bodies function as organic surveillance devices.

 

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All Is Bright

Paul Giamatti daringly essays his umpteenth grumpy, disgruntled crumb-bum role in the sarcastically titled seasonal feature All Is Bright, a film which might more descriptively, memorably, and profitably be retitled The Grouch Who Stole Christmas.

Giamatti stars as Dennis Girard, a Canadian thief released from prison only to find that his wife, Therese (Amy Landecker), has given him up for an old friend, reformed crook Rene, played by Paul Rudd. Even more humiliating for Dennis is that Therese, hoping to shelter her daughter (Tatyana Richaud) from the unpleasant truth about her father, has told her that Dennis is dead so as to bar him from having any place in his daughter’s life. Out of work, at loose ends, and nearly at the end of his tether, Dennis bullies Rene into taking him along on his annual trip to New York to hawk exotic Canadian tannenbaums.

Offering nary a likable character, All Is Bright may strain the patience of audiences in search of something funny but basically wholesome, uplifting, and appropriate to view at Christmastime. A “criminal with a small dick”, Dennis Girard is ultimately too flawed, thorny, and unpersonable a character, his choices and outlook too glum, sordid, nasty, and unrepentant, for the film to be terribly entertaining or morally rewarding. All Is Bright is marginally amusing at best, and Giamatti’s grouch card may be maxed out, so the actor is advised to seek opportunities for expanding his range beyond the apoplectic curmudgeon that made him famous.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that All Is Bright is:

9. Anti-American. A U.S. border patrol agent is unfriendly, and Dennis and Rene affect a stereotypical Doug and Bob McKenzie Canadian accent to impress gullible American tree shoppers (cf. no. 2).

8. Green. “They still don’t have stars here,” Rene says on arrival in the United States, probably with reference to air pollution.

7. Anti-drug. “You should keep lungs, yeah?”

6. Pro-slut. The viewer is presumably expected to consider the casual attitude of Russian eccentric Olga (Sally Hawkins) toward what she terms “the thing” an endearment.

5. Anti-Putin. “You have heart like Putin,” Olga says insultingly.

4. Anti-marriage, with infidelity and divorce the norm.

3. Barely Christian. Rene gives his adopted daughter an Advent calendar, but little or no other mention is made of the religious significance of Christmas. An irreverent, vulgar attitude toward the holiday prevails (“If you want to throw up, do it in the tree stand”). “There’s money in holidays.”

2. Multiculturalist, pro-immigration, and pro-wigger. All Is Bright is set in that bizarro Hollywood version of the world in which whites beg and receive cigarettes from blacks. The characters generally interact postracially. And Emory Cohen, apparently typecast as wiggers after his turn as AJ in The Place Beyond the Pines, receives a cameo as dopey but sympathetic dude “Lou, who comes to buy a tree”. (cf. no. 9)

1. Egalitarian/anti-capitalistic. Olga suggests charging more for trees bought by “haves”. While Dennis and Rene represent small-scale enterprise in a relatively positive manner, more successful entrepreneurs are vilified. Dennis, in one unfunny scene, physically intimidates a more professionally operated Christmas tree business into relocating. In an even more unlikely moment, Dennis is physically ejected from the men’s room of a restaurant by its petty proprietor for not being a paying customer. The self-pitying protagonist never abandons his thieving ways (“I will not get caught twice,” he vows), and steals a piano (among other things) from a successful dentist (cf. The Possession) as a gift for his daughter. Criminal redistribution of wealth, All Is Bright appears to argue, is fine and commendable as long as it is perpetrated for a good and heartwarming cause.

the-colony-poster-new

In the not-too-distant future, the world is a winter horrorland after a well-meaning attempt to control global warming has gone tragically awry. Consequently, what remains of humanity after the ecological apocalypse and societal collapse lives scattered in dwindling underground colonies plagued by despair and the common cold. Leading one of these colonies as a sort of benevolent despot is Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), who, when he receives a distress call from another colony in the region, sets out with a small group of men to see what aid they can offer their fellows. Unfortunately, what they find when they get there is a pack of savage, marauding cannibals bent on making Briggs and company’s colony next on the menu.

With high-caliber thrills, a pervading dread, and situations and sinister interiors somewhat reminiscent of Alien, The Colony is a film with a firm grasp of the mechanics of suspense and ends up, alongside The Purge and You’re Next, being one of the scariest, most satisfying offerings of the year. Fishburne, of an age now to convey an easy air of mature experience, is a welcome presence in the lead. Bill Paxton delivers a solid supporting performance as the brutal Mason, Briggs’s principal rival for colonial leadership, while Kevin Zegers is likable enough as Sam, a young man forced to toughen up quick when the yellow snow starts to hit the fan.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Colony is:

3. Pro-castration. Haunting the icy landscape are immense weather control towers, ruins of modern man’s arrogant and paternalistic presumption.

2. Black supremacist. Briggs, a wise and noble black man, has naturally fallen into the leadership position after Caucasians’ botched schemes have practically destroyed the planet. Reminding viewers of what happens to unsupervised and unprogressive white men who have no black savior to guide and protect them from their own primitive follies are the cannibals, whose leader sports the obligatory skinhead look. The Colony‘s black supremacist street credibility is undermined, unfortunately, by its unoriginal (albeit thrilling) concession to the sacrificial Negro convention – unless, of course, the character’s sacrifice points to his role as the Messiah.

1. Green. Because the world dragged its feet in addressing the challenge presented by global warming, its efforts, when these finally came, were too late and too desperate, resulting in an ecological cataclysm worse than the one mankind had sought to avoid. Rather than pointing to the vain futility of humans’ attempts at controlling atmospheric conditions, however, the moral of the story would seem to be that, in order to avert such a future catastrophe, global warming research needs more funding now – or that, in other words, a well-placed stitch in time saves nine.

Naturally, everyone prefers a pleasurable moviegoing experience to a sharply unpleasant one; and yet, as adventurous, seasoned, and discriminating cinephiles already know, there is something instructive and salutary in an occasional trip to cinema’s Dark Side and a philosophically minded sojourn in the Movie House of Pain.  This is the tenebrous, nightmarish place (think Hellraiser and picture hooks and chains slowly swaying and clinking in unfathomable darkness) where nothing worthwhile is ever projected, where filth alone adorns the screen, and where Boredom and Loathing wait like lewdly lip-licking Cenobites to bind and eviscerate the viewer.  These are the experiences, after all, which give good and great movies their significance, just as, without the darkness, light itself would be impossible.

A case in point is Betty and Coretta, a Canadian-made Lifetime Network movie about Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) and Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett), the respective widows of martyred rabble rousers Malcolm X and Martin King.  Superfluous beyond belief, this most recent hosanna out of the Martin King Cult is exactly the film one would expect it to be: a stoic, vapid, stylistically sterile, and self-congratulatory cardboard reenactment of highlights from the lives of two not particularly fascinating women as they bravely continue to live their lives whole decades after the touted events that made them even tangentially relevant to anyone other than themselves – much of it punctuated, of course, by a soundtrack of the obligatory soulful moaning.

Considering the inconsequential nature of the women’s stories following their husbands’ deaths, Betty and Coretta understandably suffers from a lack of interesting event or forward narrative momentum.  Follow Coretta Scott King as she boldly faces reporters who have the nerve to question her about the FBI recordings.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she bravely raises a daughter troubled by nightmares after her father’s murder. Follow Coretta Scott King as she graciously gives multiple inspiring speeches and lobbies to get a holiday named after her husband.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she boldly hosts her own radio talk show.  Follow Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz as they admirably persevere, eat lunch, exchange brave mothering insights, move on up, and boldly shop for shoes together.  Betty’s public accusation that Louis Farrakhan (Alex C. Askew) had a hand in Malcolm X’s murder is as confrontational as the movie ever gets, and even this subplot fails to engage.

Worse, screenwriters Ron Hutchinson and Shem[p?] Bitterman’s script is rock-hard stale bread all the way, with Coretta Scott King sounding every time she opens her mouth as if she suspects the pious stenographers of black historical destiny may be hiding behind a curtain and recording her every word, calling her husband a “vessel for greatness” and arguing that “we need to consecrate his legacy.”  Angela Bassett’s wooden performance perfectly mirrors the empty verbiage she recites, and Malik Yoba is just as boring as Great Doctor Junior Himself.  Mary J. Blige fares better in her role, coming across much more naturally, but the dialogue does the actress no favors.  Lindsay Owen Pierre is unworthy of note as Malcolm X, and Ruby Dee, who narrates the film as a pseudo-documentary interviewee, gives evidence of incipient senility as she delivers her lines in halting, awkward syllables and sometimes even appears to read from cue cards as her eyes dart unsettlingly from side to side.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis, after being stretchered out of the Movie House of Pain like a wounded and bloodied trooper, indicates that Betty and Coretta is:

8. Pro-bastard.  Betty’s daughter keeps it real and skips the marriage bit.

7. Anti-gun.  Betty’s daughter has nightmares about men with guns.

6. Anti-miscegenation.  Betty’s daughter’s white live-in guyfriend, as if wiping his nose before offering to shake hands with Betty is not bad news enough already, also turns out to be a dastardly spy for the FBI.

5. Selectively anti-state.  The FBI is an antagonist, as are the congressmen who oppose the creation of the national King holiday.  (All the FBI probably needs, though, is a quota system, for it to become a tool for progress.)

4. Egalitarian.  Coretta campaigns for “economic justice” and identifies poverty as one of the evils plaguing America.

3. Statist/pro-NWO.  “Can you believe it?” Betty says, exasperated.  “Another round of budget cuts.  When are taxpayers gonna learn?  Pay a little now or a whole lot later.”  The film opens with witness to history Ruby Dee gushing at the momentous dedication of a King statue by President B.O.  Coretta longs for “a new world [order], a just world, a world dedicated to fayuhness and equality for awl.”  The UN is referenced as a weapon for forcing social change in America.

2. Feminist/black uber alles.  “You don’t need a man to survive,” Betty tells a student.  “You just need some trainin’ so you can get a good job.”  Addressing herself to black women, Coretta defiantly intones, “Weeee awwww a powuhful fawss.”

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Imagine that.  And yet, in an unintentional irony, as soon as Betty has enough money, she gets “a nice home, away from the city [and her fellow blacks, presumably], where Betty could give her children the sheltered life she had dreamed of.”  Still, “Every time a neighbor see us, they think we gone blow somethin’ up.”  Bigots!

BettyPin2

Ang Lee’s film of Life of Pi is a special effects spectacle and pantheistic allegory about human diversity and coexistence in a multicultural society.  When Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) escapes from a sinking ship and finds himself alone in a boat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a tiger named Richard Parker, he is horrified to see the animals fight and devour each other until only he and the vicious Parker are left.  He finds himself, in other words, in the unenviable situation of witnessing the symbolized civil strife and disintegration of mutually resentful and belligerent ethnic groups forced to share a cramped piece of real estate.

In George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, a scientist suggests that the hordes of cannibalistic zombies taking over Pittsburgh might be pacified by a food program.  The film’s audience understands that the man is losing his mind, but Life of Pi takes his idea and runs with it.  Presented with the options of either trying to kill Parker, being eaten by him, or attempting to coexist peacefully on the boat, Pi opts for the latter and does his best to domesticate and placate the boat’s savage and carnivorous demographic by feeding it fish.  He has, in short, opted to implement a floating microcosm of the Great Society.

A visit to an island teeming with identical meerkats demonstrates the danger of a racially homogenous society.  Everything appears to be dandy on the utopian island until night falls, when the place itself turns carnivorous and secretes toxic chemicals, so that the whole island constitutes a gigantic Venus flytrap.  Take note, America.  If not for all of the minorities in your midst, you, too, would soon fall prey to a venomous meerkat conformity.  Note that a group of meerkats is, according to Wikipedia, termed a “clan” (i.e., Klan).  Pi indicates the role reserved for racially pure majorities in his Great Society when, on embarking from the island, he takes several meerkats along to feed Richard Parker.

3.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Life of Pi is:

6. Green.  Pi loves animals and apologizes to a dazed fish after he beats it in the head to subdue it, imagining it to be an incarnation of God.  The sinister island of (white) anti-diversity pollutes itself with chemicals as well as intolerant delusion.

5. Anti-Christian.  Pi feeds Parker fish, indicating that Christians are expendable and fair game for processing as Soylent Green in maintaining the multiethnic peace.  They are, if not thrown to the lion, to be thrown to the tiger.

4. Pro-family.  Pi’s family is loving and he is sorry to lose them at sea.

3. Multiculturalist.  The story is framed when a directionless, unshaven white guy (Rafe Spall) comes to enlightened Indian Pi (played as an adult by Irrfan Khan) hoping to be inspired with faith.  Pi, in addition to being spiritually attuned, is a mathematical genius and polyglot.  Mexicans come to Pi’s aid when he washes up on their beach.  The desirability of racial homogeneity, the film suggests, is a poisonous illusion.  Grande Utopie Sovietique et Progressif defector Gerard Depardieu has a cameo as a grumpy and probably racist cook who, disrespectful of the exotic religious and culinary views of Pi’s vegetarian mother (Tabu),  insensitively slops murderous gravy onto her plate.  Meerkats, like fish, are expendable.

2. Egalitarian.  Feeding the tiger gives Pi’s life meaning.

1. New Age.  Pantheist Pi, who considers himself a Christian and a Muslim in addition to (and as a function of) being a Hindu, thanks Vishnu for introducing him to Jesus.  Karma is God’s way, he says.  In his present-day life as a college professor, he teaches a Kabbala class.

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