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Dragged Across Concrete

S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) is back with a solid and satisfyingly rough follow-up to the jaw-dropping Brawl in Cell Block 99, reuniting with Vince Vaughn and teaming him up with Mel Gibson in a literally gut-ripping, downbeat buddy cop brutalizer. Seasoned detective Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vaughn) are caught on video using excessive force in the apprehension of a Hispanic drug dealer, creating a scandal for their police department, and get suspended without pay by their superior (Don Johnson). Both men need money – Lurasetti because he plans to propose marriage to his girlfriend, and Ridgeman because his daughter is no longer safe in their ghettoized neighborhood and the family needs to get out. At the extent of his tether, Ridgeman hatches a half-baked plan to rip off a heroin dealer that winds up with him and his partner pitted against a gang of formidable paramilitary bank heisters. A career highlight for Gibson equal to his over-the-hill hero roles in Edge of Darkness and Blood Father, and yet another impressive entry in Vaughn’s growing résumé of scary tough guy characters after True Detective and Brawl in Cell Block 99.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dragged Across Concrete is:

8. Anti-drug. Tory Kittles plays ex-con Henry Johns, whose stint in prison illustrates a very possible outcome for a dealer. His mother, a heroin addict, has turned to prostitution. It is also mentioned that the dealer Ridgeman mistreats has been selling drugs to children, undermining any potential audience sympathy for the criminal.

7. Ableist! Lurasetti compares a hearing-impaired woman’s speech to a dolphin’s.

6. Anti-Semitic! Writer-director Zahler, as Soiled Sinema’s Ty E. puts it, is an artist who seems to have “transcended his Jewishness”, which may account for the brief and harmless but stereotype-oozing portrayal of the friendly jeweler Feinbaum, who says his wife has two brothers who are therapists and three sisters who are lawyers.

feinbaum

5. Homophobic! Henry dismisses his “cocksuckin’ father” as “a yesterday who ain’t worth words.” Disapprovingly, Ridgeman fails to see “much of a difference these days” between men and women, and also mocks Lurasetti’s “gay hair shit” disguise.

4. Media-critical. Chief Lieutenant Calvert (Johnson) derides the anti-police bias of “the entertainment industry formally known as ‘the news’”, which “needs villains” and fabricates them if necessary.

3. Natalist, i.e., sexist! Unexpectedly, the movie features a tender (albeit offbeat) portrait of a new mother, Kelly Summer (Jennifer Carpenter), desperately trying to avoid going back to work after using up her maternity leave. The necessity of keeping a job seems cruel and absurd now that she has a baby. Her proper place, she realizes, is at home with her child, and her boss, Mr. Edmington (Fred Melamed) describes her as a “radiant vision of maternity”. The section of Dragged Across Concrete that follows Kelly is even more affecting on a second viewing.

2. Class-conscious. “My job [in a bank] is so stupid,” Kelly laments. “I go there and I sell chunks of my life for a paycheck so that rich people I’ve never even met can put money in places I’ve never even seen.” Henry’s little brother Ethan, meanwhile, sees big game hunting as “rich white people shit”. There is also the suggestion that those with wealth have the means to elude the law, as Ridgeman at some point in the past allowed the son of businessman Friedrich (Udo Kier) to escape punishment for an unnamed crime in exchange for a future favor from the well-connected father. Ridgeman no longer believes in a meritocratic American dream. “I don’t politick and I don’t change with the times and turns that that shit’s more important than good, honest work,” he tells his partner, determining: “We have the skills and the right to acquire proper compensation” for thankless years of public service.

1.Race-realist – with exceptions. “They’re so cute before they get big,” says Ridgeman’s daughter Sara (Jordyn Ashley Olson) – ostensibly with reference to lion cubs, but subtextually referring to the black boys who harass her when she walks home from school. “This fucking neighborhood, it just keeps getting worse and worse,” frets Mrs. Ridgeman (Laurie Holden). “You know I never thought I was a racist before living in this area. I’m about as liberal as any ex-cop could ever be, but now,” she demands, “we really need to move” or else, “someday, you and me,” she tells her husband, “we are in a hospital room with our daughter talking to a rape counselor.”

Ridgeman and his partner are both depicted as casual racists. “I’m not racist,” Lurasetti jokes: “Every Martin Luther King Day I order a cup of dark roast.” In a twenty-first century world in which “digital eyes are everywhere”, however, old-school law-and-order enforcers like Ridgeman and Lurasetti are living on borrowed time. “Like cell phones, and just as annoying, politics are everywhere,” Calvert observes. “Being branded a racist in today’s public forum is like being accused of communism in the fifties. Whether it’s a possibly offensive remark made in a private phone call or the indelicate treatment of a minority who sells drugs to children […] It’s bullshit – but it’s reality.”

Softening Dragged Across Concrete’s racial edge is the presence of Henry, the conspicuous specimen of Africanus cinematicus played by Tory Kittles. This ghetto thug with the soul of a poet is given to saying things like, “Before I consider that kind of vocation, I need to get myself acclimated” and is at all times depicted as being more astute than those around him. His little brother Ethan, too, is portrayed as an underprivileged but bright lad of great potential. The case can be made that Dragged Across Concrete makes examples of its most prominent bigots by punishing them while rewarding Henry in the end. Ridgeman, who has refused to change with the times, is taught the important lesson that he “should have trusted a nigger.”

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!

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.

Iron Sky – which, for the purposes of this review, shall go by the more appropriate moniker MSNBC: The Movie – is a Finnish-German-Australian co-production pretending to satirize American political life by way of an invasion of outer space Nazis.  Refugees of the Third Reich, MSNBC: The Movie would have viewers believe, sought shelter on the dark side of the moon in 1945 and since then have occupied themselves building an armada of spacecraft to reconquer Earth.

The Nazis’ plan is enacted ahead of schedule after American astronauts land on the moon.  Among the unlucky voyagers is James Washington (Christopher Kirby), actually just a model being used to promote a cynical “Black to the Moon?  Yes We Can!” promotion in support of the reelection campaign for an idiotic treadmill-stomping Sarah Palin lookalike President of the United States (Stephanie Paul).  After beating Washington and forcing him to listen to Hitler speeches, the Nazis turn him into an “Aryan” by dyeing his skin, teach him to sieg-heil, and take him with them on a reconnaissance mission in advance of their invasion of Earth.  Tagging along is Renate (the permanently stained Julia Dietze), fiancee of expedition leader and future fuhrer Klaus (Gotz Otto).  Naturally, Renate, meeting her first black man, is immediately enamored and wants to be his special friend.

Klaus and Renate are a big hit at the (presumably Republican) White House, where Madame President hires them as her speechwriters, their Nazi rhetoric sounding perfect coming out of her own mouth and attracting an interested following of ignorant white vidiot flag-wavers.  Meanwhile, Renate begins to learn the truth about the historical nature of National Socialism while on Earth when, for instance, she runs into a gaggle of the sorts of sexist skinheads who can be found loitering on any typical American street corner.  Is Madame President disappointed when the Nazis finally invade the planet?  To the contrary, “It’s wonderful!” she enthuses, observing that all presidents who start wars in their first terms get reelected.

Soon America’s outer space military might, spearheaded by the USS George W. Bush, flies into unilateral action along with some unwelcome help from the rest of the world.  Will democracy survive?  Will Washington’s color be restored?  Will Renate ditch the goosestepper for the fly black guy?  Will the identical specters of white pride and fascism never vanish from the face of the Earth?  Only MSNBC knows.

Apart from relatively high production values, there is really nothing good to say about MSNBC: The Movie, which, true to its title, is at no point amusing, insightful, or entertaining.  Euro-slime stalwart Udo Kier, who used to appear in recommendable movies, here collects a paycheck for frowning while wearing a Nazi uniform for a few minutes of screentime, but makes the viewer’s experience no more endurable.  For those, however, who find immense hilarity in the idea of a Nazi from outer space seeing a dirty magazine for the first time in his life and saying, “Pictures of this kind turn me on,” there may be something of value in it.  On the subject of pornography, only something as pungent, truthful, and relatively wholesome as that is likely to wash the taste of MSNBC: The Movie from this reviewer’s unsmiling mouth.

A star and a half.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS – as if this hunk of cinematic carrion could spoil!]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that MSNBC: The Movie is indefensible garbage and:

9. Anti-Christian.  Quoth the Nazis: “We are the gift of both God and science.”  “Get me a miracle!” the president stupidly commands a campaign consultant.  A fire-and-brimstone sermon for some reason accompanies footage of outer space warfare.

8. Anti-science.  As in Django Unchained, rational understanding of human biodiversity is transformed into racialist pseudoscience.

7. Anti-gun.  A redneck bitch with a gun fires without warning as soon as she sees people on her land: “Get the hell outta my property!”  Black thugs produce guns in another scene, contributing to an image of America as a benighted hellhole of mass murder potential.

6. Diversity-skeptical.  Notwithstandng its anti-racist message, MSNBC: The Movie emerges as a portrait of a country and a planet with no hope of racial or cultural reconciliation.  “You’ll be sorry you did that, white boy!” Washington says when the Nazis beat him.  Then, when Washington, unaware that his skin has been whitened, approaches a group of urban blacks in a friendly way, they immediately draw their weapons on him.  To the extent that Republicans cater to blacks, such as by promoting the likes of Colin Powell and James Washington, it is strictly for dishonest political purposes.

5. Liberal.  MSNBC: The Movie perpetuates the tiresome leftist delusion that Republicans are somehow akin to the Nazis and that all are fascists in their hearts.  If evil conservatives had their way, they would fiendishly censor and whittle The Great Dictator down to a single scene so as to make Charlie Chaplin appear to endorse Hitler.  A magazine cover showing the president has the caption “New World Order”.

4. Anti-white male.  White men are represented in MSNBC: The Movie by Nazis or other unscrupulous politicians and are mostly stupid, angry, loud, violent, and generally worthless.  A Nazi spacecraft is described as a “fat phallus”.  “I’ve come to discuss our legal union,” Klaus says to fiancee Renate, demonstrating the maximum romance that Teutonic homo sapiens can muster.  “Science demands us to unite . . .”

3. Pro-miscegenation/pro-slut.  Unlike the violent Klaus, James Washingon is a good kisser, and after his naturally sexy poop complexion has been restored, Renate throws caution to the winds of change by planting a long, squishy, disgusting French kiss on him – ensuring that, when the moon invaders really do flash-mob the planet Earth, they will be mulattoes instead of Nazis.

2. Antiwar.  Madame President welcomes the invasion as a boost to her reelection campaign.  A Middle Eastern delegate to a body like the United Nations questions whether America’s claim for the necessity of war is not motivated by lust after natural resources.  In the end, this turns out to be the case, as a vast store of potential energy is discovered on the moon, prompting the governments of Earth, lately victorious against the Nazis, to launch into mutual nuclear annihilation out of greed.

1. Anti-fascist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn on both counts).  When will white people learn?

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