Archives for posts with tag: state capitalism

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past

After an overly busy and action-saturated exposition, alleged pedophiliac ringmaster Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past develops into a passable superhero entertainment, with Logan (Hugh Jackman) venturing back to the seventies to try to stop scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) from developing the adaptive Sentinel robots who pose an existential threat to mutant survival in the future. Highlights include a comedic slow-motion bullet-halting set piece and the climactic confrontation in which Logan and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) gang up on renegade Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Jennifer Lawrence, meanwhile, playing the pivotal role of Mystique, will, depending upon the viewer’s tolerance for fetish garb, either be sexy or repulsive in her scaly blue body stocking and slather of greasy red porn hair.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that X-Men: Days of Future Past is:

4. Anti-family. Asked if he has children, Logan (Hugh Jackman) answers, “Sure as hell hope not.”

3. Anti-corporatist. At the unveiling of the Sentinels, decorations feature Trask insignia melded with elements of the American flag, suggesting a fusion of government and the defense industry.

2. Feminist. The formidable Mystique kicks or otherwise incapacitates dozens of men throughout the film.

1. Crypto-Zionist. Ostensibly antiwar, Days of Future Past shows its neoconservative streak by having the Sentinel raids on the X-Men occur under the threateningly gloomy skies of Russia and China, two countries currently standing in the way of the Jew World Order. Bodies dumped in a pile evoke the famous images of the Holohoax, while Bolivar Trask’s obsession with experimentation on the mutants so as to find a way to eradicate them recalls the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele’s alleged experiments and Hitler’s supposed “Final Solution” of fumigating the world of Jewry.

The Trask Industries logo, with its angular insignia in a circle against a plain field, vaguely suggests a Nazi banner, and the fact that Trask himself is a midget casts race-conscious gentiles and nationalists as small, abnormal men who overcompensate for their inadequacies by pointing their fingers at those who happen to be a little different. Mutants, like the Ashkenazim, are extraordinarily talented infiltrators who pass as members of a majority they despise and to which they consider themselves superior, a step higher on the evolutionary staircase. Mystique, significantly, is a shapeshifter who, in her mission to save her “people”, insinuates herself into the highest levels of politics so as to subvert and neuter human government from within.

X-Men: Days of Future Past also reveals that, while Magneto has been accused of murdering John F. Kennedy (thus accounting for that legendary “magic bullet”), the helmeted hero was actually trying to save Kennedy’s life because – get this – Kennedy himself was a crypto-mutant! Thus, continuing with the Jewish-mutant parallels, the film seeks to exonerate Israel of any connection with the JFK assassination and paint the president as a tragically fallen friend of the Jews. This would all seem to be designed to distract from the intriguing case made by journalist Michael Collins Piper, author of Final Judgment, to the effect that the Mossad had Kennedy killed because he opposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

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Spring_Breakers_poster

Writer-director Harmony Korine’s dope-drenched epic of college-age pagan debauchery suffers from the same fatal ailment as most other movies that insist on taking as their subjects the absolute dregs of society – namely a lack of characters worthy of the least bit of audience sympathy. The introduction of the principal quartet of spoiled and mostly indistinguishable bimbos is so icily off-putting and nonchalantly bile-provoking that it could almost be a set-up for some exercise in torture porn. College students in name only, these are pretty, pot-addled apes who, during a lecture on the civil rights movement, amuse themselves by scrawling lewd notes or drawing a picture of a penis. Where the Boys Are this is not.

Tired of what they feel to be their intolerably mundane lives, four girls determine to travel to Florida to “find” themselves on spring break. Short of funds, three of them successfully rob a restaurant, and off they and naive Christian friend Faith (Selena Gomez) head for the sun and sand, where their participation in grotesque bacchanalia rightly lands the disgusting group in jail. Coming to their aid as if by providence, revolting rapper and drug dealer Alien (James Franco, in a truly transformational character creation) bails them out and takes the girls under his demonic wing, introducing them to his gangsta friends. Faith, though stupid, retains some vague wisp of the notion of decency and so decides to go home at this point; but her three friends remain and go with Alien, who, like a thuggish Charles Manson, will usher them through an initiation into nihilistic evil.

More shocking and memorable than actually good, Spring Breakers does contain some visual coups that viewers will never forget: a man performing fellatio on two guns; three girls in pink ski masks dancing, guns in hand, in the attitude of the three Graces; and, of course, sand strewn with cheap, jiggling flesh. With the anesthetized and dreamlike shoot-out of the climax, the director walks a particularly dangerous line. Are the events at the end of the film intended to inspire audience approval or did Korine even stop to consider how these moments would be received? Is Spring Breakers really the serious social commentary it seems to pretend to be or just a tacky exploiter that points and laughs at societal disease? Is Korine documenting or actually celebrating the decline of western civilization? Either way, this vile opus has much to say about American life, and much of it is true.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Spring Breakers is:

9. State-skeptical/anti-business. “Everyone can use a little bailin’ out once in a while,” Alien says in a line that hints at a broader significance. With his neck tattoo of a dollar sign, Alien symbolizes misguided rapacity and mirrors the criminal world of big business.

8. Pro-gay. Girls frequently engage in teasing kisses, grinding, and so forth, none of it particularly sexy. The sum effect, however, is normalization. Alien clearly enjoys sucking the guns and tells the girls afterward that he loves them.

7. Media-critical. “Just fuckin’ pretend like it’s a video game. Act like you’re in a movie or somethin’,” one of the girls advises the others before they commit a robbery. “I got Scarface on repeat. Constant, y’all,” Alien boasts, contributing to the sense that these young people’s poor behavior has been programmed by their entertainment (cf. The Bling Ring).

6. Anti-American. Alien describes his materialistic gangsta lifestyle as “the American Dream” (cf. Pain and Gain). “Seeing all this money makes my pussy wet,” one of the girls says.

5. Anti-Christian. Juxtaposed scenes equate Christianity and substance abuse as means of escape from reality. Two dumb Christian friends of Faith advise her (with good reason, as it turns out) to “pray super hardcore” for her well-being in Florida. (Ironically, her religious scruples do preserve her from the danger experienced by the other girls.)

4. Diversity-skeptical and anti-wigger. “I don’t like it here,” Faith says, finding herself in the midst of a bunch of scuzzy blacks and wiggers and feeling intensely uncomfortable. This moment counterbalances the casual flashes of suggested black-white miscegenation in the film. A theme of Spring Breakers is self-destruction, and one moment in which a girl drinks from a black water pistol, a rapper’s smug face on a poster behind her, indicates the self-loathing and suicidal nature of wiggerism.

3. Culturally and morally ambivalent. From drugs to guns and gangsterism to flippant fornication, Korine keeps such a cold, ambiguous distance that his attitude from one scene to the next is occasionally difficult to fathom. The copious casual sex and drug abuse carry surprisingly few consequences, with only a shot of a vomiter passed out by a toilet (and party-crashing by police) disrupting the flow of fun. There is nothing at all admirable in Alien or his groupie disciples, and yet the amount of time devoted to his misbehavior, his air of a tragic artist of wasted potential, and the martyrish pose pretentiously granted him at his demise would appear to give him a neon sheen of antiheroic myth. The ravages of gunplay, likewise, are mitigated by the fetishistic fascination and sexuality accorded to firepower. One of the girls determines that “being a good person” is the “secret to life”, but fails to act according to this piece of wisdom.

2. Relativistic and nurturist (i.e., anti-science). Spring Breakers points to environment as the key determiner of individual development, discrediting the role that genetics and race play in shaping human intelligence and character. “I was the only white boy in my whole neighborhood,” the worthless Alien recounts. Consequently, he grows up to be indistinguishable from the criminal blacks among whom he moves. “We met people who are just like us. Just the same as us,” one of the girls reflects in voice-over. Only the social context of their spoiled upbringing, sheltered by white privilege, has presumably prevented the girls from sinking into savagery before now. Heritability would appear to play no role in shaping these people, so that Spring Breakers works like a stock anthropology lecture to the effect that those spear-brandishing jungle natives in the National Geographic are no less civilized than the European gentleman reading poetry in his smart smoking jacket, their mating and war-making rituals being identical at bottom. The culture war does, however, appear to hold importance for Korine, even if it is not always clear on which side of the battle line he stands.

1. Anti-human. No likable characters = no reason to care.

Director Sam Mendes made his fortune with American Beauty, one of the most overrated films of the 1990s.  He did something to begin redeeming himself with Road to Perdition and now continues his foray into legitimately earned accolades with Skyfall, a solid entry in the Daniel Craig James Bond series.  The action set pieces are top-notch or close, with the opening sequence being a particular doozy; and the writing team has injected a valuable uncertainty into the story by presenting a battle-damaged Bond somewhat past his prime and perhaps in over his head in confronting a foe of similar background and prowess.

Javier Bardem has fun as Silva, a quirky, almost Batman-style supervillain and hacker extraordinaire with a private army.  Silva, a former MI6 agent, has a bone to pick with M (Judi Dench), holding his ex-boss responsible for torture he endured at enemy hands.  She is also the subject of his unhealthy mother fixation, so that 007’s current favor with her irks Silva as a kind of sibling rivalry.  M is closer to the action than usual in Skyfall and gets to play with the boys a little.

Packed with lovely ladies, unusual perils, and several exotic locations, Skyfall is a film that should satisfy spy action fans.  It also functions as an interesting character study, with Bond’s psychology and backstory receiving more attention than in most of the films.  Unfortunately, this is where Skyfall strikes its few false notes, with the masculine mystique of the character done something of a disservice in overly generous revelation.  Have any Bond fans been clamoring, for instance, to see 007’s childhood home or to meet his parents’ old groundskeeper?  Happily, Skyfall‘s many merits more than make up for the few missteps, and build solidly on the previous groundwork, ensuring future adventures.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Skyfall is:

8. Anti-family.  “Orphans always make the best recruits,” M confides (cf. no. 1).

7. Drug-ambivalent.  Bond has become an alcoholic and pill addict, but cigarette smoke retains its sexiness as blown by Severine.

6. Mildly xenophobic.  The Orient and the Middle East are, as always, the lands of mystery, danger, and intrigue.  (The Turkish government must be offering discounts on licenses for filmmakers to run roughshod over Istanbul rooftops, as Skyfall is, along with Taken 2, one of two recent movies to enjoy that privilege.  Not one, but two Third World produce stands are overturned during the opening chase.)

5. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation – a James Bond tradition.  007’s new girlfriend, fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris), is black.  In addition to some lucky Turkish babe (Tonia Sotiropoulou), Bond’s other conquest of note is sultry Eurasian maneater Severine (winner of Tastiest, Scariest Seductress of Year 2012, Berenice Marlohe), who, particularly as costumed and colored in the Floating Dragon sequence, is exquisite.

4. Pro-gay.  Computer genius Silva is a mean one, admittedly; but gays have come a long way when they can give James Bond a run for his money.  Skyfall thus has its cake and eats it as well with regard to glorification and vilification of homosexuality.

3. Macho minus.  Craig plays Bond as the alpha male who can outrun a fireball, but the screenplay occasionally seems to want to undermine this familiar characterization, implying that Bond may have dabbled in homosexuality and that he is motivated partly by unresolved childhood trauma.  Oy vey . . .

2. Multiculturalist.  Skyfall acknowledges the contributions to international security of minorities, women, the elderly, and the nearsighted.  Javier Bardem’s hair has been dyed blonde (blonde being the color of evil) to mitigate the insensitivity of portraying a Hispanic homosexual as a villain.  London appears as a representative orderly multiracial society.

1. Statist.  After MI6’s headquarters are attacked, their operations move into the underground command center from which Winston Churchill’s war effort was directed, thus establishing a parallel between the “good war” and superpower intelligence agencies’ struggle with fourth generation adversaries today.  Now terrorists and hackers, not the Soviet Union or SPECTRE, are the primary threats to civilization, so that Julian Assange replaces Blofeld or Goldfinger as governments’ primier bogeyman.

State enterprise and covert intelligence agencies bring mankind salvation.  MI6 achieves its apotheosis when one of its worthies is martyred in a Scottish church, effecting a spook-as-self-sacrificing-savior conceit.  Bond has earlier referred to his own “resurrection”.

Gun control gets an endorsement when Bond is shown at a disadvantage in having to change clips when pitted against a terrorist’s high-capacity magazine.  Also, MI6 has invented for Bond a handgun that is palm-programmed so that only he can fire it – unlike the common firearm or “random killing machine”.  (Are mandatory consumer models next?)  The government-media complex receives a nod when we see that Bond gets his news from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  Picturesque Shanghai, meanwhile, puts in a good word for state capitalism, depicting in its futuristic architecture and technology the new type of society on the rise.

A very impressive debut feature from Nicholas Jarecki, Arbitrage makes the world of high financial malfeasance seemingly more accessible by examining its workings at the personal and intimate level of one man’s life.  Richard Gere, in a career highlight turn, anchors the film as troubled hedge fund magnate Robert Miller [sic. “Can someone please tell Hollywood there hasn’t been a WASP on Wall St for 30 years?” – @AnnCoulter, December 2, 2013].  Miller is an expert at projecting confidence and has built a fortune on the basis of the trust people have invested in him; but, just as financial activity is largely a matter of trade in illusions, so Miller’s personal as well as his professional life is not so secure as it might appear from outside.  When he loses control of his car and pulls a Chappaquiddick with unlucky French mistress Julie (Laetitia Casta) on a deserted road, the ensuing police investigation, led by Detective Bryer (Tim Roth), threatens a run on his relationships with his partners, investors, his wife (Susan Sarandon), and daughter (Brit Marling).

Finding himself in a major pickle, Miller enlists the help of Jimmy (Nate Parker), the black son of a former chauffeur, and sets in motion a cycle of lies that endanger not only his own security, but the well-being of every other person whose life intersects with Miller’s.  His family situation could disintegrate if the truth of his doings and dealings came out; also at stake are the stockholders who depend on Miller for the good stewardship of their wealth.  When Bryer targets Jimmy as a means to nailing his principal quarry, Miller places Jimmy in the unenviable position of being expected to sacrifice himself, potentially going to prison, for an irresponsible billionaire who may only view Jimmy as an expendable variation on the sacrificial Negro.

Though Miller continues to behave reprehensibly throughout the remainder of Arbitrage, the remarkable thing is that he never ceases to be a compelling and pitiable character.  In action, he is a fascinating man to observe, and his professional dealings display a talent and  admirable charisma that make the audience want him to succeed in bringing some order back into his life.  Gere, so handsome and seemingly serene, is the perfect actor to play Robert Miller and creates a wonderful interpretation.  Susan Sarandon is typically great, particularly in one powerful scene in the denouement.  That her character is absent for most of the film is in keeping with Miller’s experience (in consideration of how he neglects her), but increased screen time for Sarandon would be nice.  Marling and Casta, too, are fine and affecting in their supporting roles.  Jimmy, as written, is never an entirely convincing character, which is not the fault of Parker; but he does serve interesting ends for the story.  Tim Roth, naturally, is diverting in his adversarial role.

Tense and filled with devilishly uncomfortable moments, Arbitrage is very recommendable, affording a rare and human glimpse into a closed society.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Arbitrage is:

6. Anti-drug.  Julie turns to cocaine for distraction after romantic disappointment.

5. Anti-slut.  Julie, though depicted sympathetically, must be punished for the harlot’s part she plays in potentially wrecking Miller’s home, and so dies in decidedly unglamorous fashion in a wreck of her own.

4. Diversity-skeptical.  That Miller’s chosen accomplice, Jimmy, is a young black man from Harlem is a circumstance that complicates and darkens their relationship, partly because Jimmy’s father was one of Miller’s servants.  Jimmy is sensitive on the subject of his ambiguous, mostly business, but possibly also partly sentimental position relative to his father’s employer.  His blackness makes him an easy target for prosecution.

3. Class-conscious.  Detective Bryer resents the special treatment “rich assholes” like Miller receive in the legal system and demonstrates an unwise zeal in his effort to incriminate him in Julie’s death.

2. State-skeptical.  Police falsify evidence.  Statist economic intervention and nationalization of industry in Russia distorts market processes and, while seeming at first to be a boon for Miller, is ultimately the cause of his financial woes.

1. Capital-skeptical.  Though not an anti-capitalist film, Arbitrage knows its subject too well not to concede the vile, illusory nature of much of high finance.  Those who suffer the most from such malfeasance are seldom the authors of the crimes.

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