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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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out_of_the_furnace_poster

Christian Bale racks up another career highlight performance as Russell Baze, a good but deeply flawed man at the end of his tether in Out of the Furnace, a strong, deeply American film from writer-director-to-watch Scott Cooper. Baze is an endearing dead-end ex-con and mill worker who, in a relationship reminiscent of that between Keitel and DeNiro in Mean Streets, attempts to look out for his war-damaged deadbeat brother Rodney (Casey Affleck). Rodney is in debt but uninterested in conventional employment, leading to his involving himself in the dangerous world of underground fighting.

Out of the Furnace stands as a stark statement that the American Dream is deceased. Its rust belt setting rings all too true, and a barroom television moment more subtle than a similar scene in 2012’s Killing Them Softly shows that Obama’s hope-and-change rhetoric has no reality for the typical working (or unemployed) stiff. Out of the Furnace is a film of its time and timely, its story enthralling, with each frame carrying fascination and a feeling of immediate importance.

Those who enjoy tense, earthy family dramas and character studies with gritty, realistic settings – movies like Sling Blade, Mud, or The Place Beyond the Pines – are certain to appreciate Out of the Furnace, which, in addition to the showcased character creation of Christian Bale, features sharp supporting performances from Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, and Willem Dafoe. Deserving special recognition, furthermore, is Woody Harrelson, frightening light-years from Cheers here as hillbilly drug kingpin Harlan DeGroat. Harrelson’s hot dog moment in the opening scene sets the grotesque, tenebrous tone of the film and constitutes the most shocking piece of fast food humiliation since the fried chicken scene in 2011’s Killer Joe.

5 stars. Highest recommendation.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Out of the Furnace is:

7. Diversity-skeptical. In one of his underground fights, Rodney is pitted against a black thug who taunts him, calling him “white boy” and mocking his military service. Pleasantly, Rodney makes a comeback and gives this rascal a vicious and racially charged beatdown.

6. Antiwar. Rodney comes back from Iraq as an angry and alienated man.

5. Protectionist. The mill is scheduled to be shut down, with American jobs exported to China.

4. Pro-miscegenation. Notwithstanding no. 7, Russell is in love with brown beauty Lena (Zoe Saldana), but loses her after his stint in the pen.

3. Anti-drug. Drunk driving lands Russell in prison. Harder stuff turns Harlan DeGroat into a maniac.

2. Anti-redneck. Harlan DeGroat is the scariest white trash bad guy since Deer Crossing‘s Lukas Walton.

1. Pro-family. Russell Baze is driven by his devotion to his family, caring as best he can for his sick father and brother while both are still alive, and diligently avenging them after they are gone.

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