Archives for posts with tag: Olympics

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

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Foxcatcher

From Capote (2005) collaborators director Bennett Miller and co-writer Dan Futterman, here is another somber character study revolving around the circumstances of a true crime. Magic Mike himself, Channing Tatum, stars as Olympic grappler Mark Schultz, who in 1987 was taken under the wing of eccentric pharmaceuticals heir John E. “Golden Eagle” du Pont (Steve Carell), who sponsored America’s team at Seoul in 1988. Du Pont would hardly warrant the movie treatment if not for the fact that he murdered Schultz’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), another one of the wrestlers sponsored by the eccentric multimillionaire, in 1996.

Tatum gets another role that allows him to display not only his competence as an actor, but his impressive athleticism as well. Comedian Steve Carell, nominated for Best Actor, has with justification been praised for bringing to life an unexpectedly deep and enigmatic character, and his exaggeration of Du Pont’s halting quirks of speech and his solemn air succeeds in creating an onscreen presence more magnetic and fascinating than the real man who inspired it. Foxcatcher invites comparison with the same year’s similarly intense Whiplash, another story of a disturbing Svengaliesque relationship, and should engross audiences prepared to be entertained by something again as unstintingly grim.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Foxcatcher is:

5. Pro-gay. More than one scene of grappling carries an undeniably homoerotic charge. As Kristian Lin observes in Fort Worth Weekly, the film “is about a rich guy who can’t explain his deep-seated need to spend hours each day with his arms around young, muscular men wearing singlets. In real life, du Pont had a wife (who is completely left out of this movie), and his problems likely stemmed from paranoid schizophrenia rather than latent homosexuality.”

4. Anti-drug. Magic Mike’s use of cocaine with Du Pont’s encouragement marks his nadir as a person and athlete. His sponsor also throws him off-course with copious alcohol.

3. Anti-gun. Private gun ownership gets a black eye with Du Pont’s murder of David Schultz. The place name Newtown Square (in Pennsylvania) may also serve as a subliminal reminder of the Sandy Hook Elementary incident in Newtown, Connecticut.

2. Liberal. Du Pont represents the typical NPR listener’s idea of the dread Republican power structure looming over America – an affluent WASP, crazed, gun-obsessed, hypocritical, and probably secretly homosexual. Du Pont appears as an emblematic figure of the Reagan era beloved of today’s conservatives: a coke-snorting military buff and fraud whose money substitutes for character and whose moralizing masks a hollow, selfish depravity.

1. Anti-American. “I want to talk about America. I want to tell you why I wrestle.” With these words, Jewish co-screenwriter Dan Futterman and Shabbos goy collaborator E. Max Frye establish thematically that their movie is concerned with the essence of what it means to be an American. Not long after uttering these lines, Mark is shown nervously wolfing fast food alone in his car. It is, as Lin puts it, “a takedown of the myths we Americans like to tell ourselves.” The viewer is only invited to feel contempt for the monologue in which Du Pont expresses the pro-America feeling that informs his fears: “When we fail to honor that which should be honored, it’s a problem. It’s a canary in a coal mine […] I’m an ornithologist, but more importantly, I am a patriot, and I want to see this country soar again.” If only people were less patriotic and also more open about their obvious gayness, perhaps, the world would be plagued with less madness and murder.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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