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Some valuable history on US Mid East troubles
I will have to watch this documentary again. It is packed with blunt recounting of the history and multiple forces impelling the US and other dominant nations as they mercilessly sweep back and forth across this oil and gas rich and vulnerable Middle Eastern region. I have loosely kept up with the major shifts in power over there over the last fifty years and have delved some into the times in the early 1900s when oil fields were being discovered and drilling contracts were being signed. I only recently learned about the role of the pipelines through the region between Turkey and Afghanistan and from there to China, India, Europe, and the US. There so much provocative information congealed in this hour and a half that it screams to be taken seriously and viewed many times. And, I am not one who views films more than once. I offer thanks to those who made this film.
The Girl in the Café (2005)
An Odd Combination of Romance and Global Politics
You have never heard of this movie, "The Girl in the Café," have you? If not, well, see it and you will know why. After meeting Gina (Kelly Macdonald) in a café, lonely civil servant Lawrence (Bill Nighy) asks her to join him at the G8 Summit in Iceland. These two shy outsiders hit it off almost instantly, but their attraction is tested when Gina's personal convictions contradict Lawrence's professional duties and the modus operandi of the G8 leaders. Macdonald earned an Emmy for her performance in this made-for-television movie. It has an overarching plot about the G8 but that also has a parallel plot that charts the course of an endearing May-December romance between Gina and Lawrence. This is a great movie about a crucial issue in our new, globalized world. While it has a simple plot, it grips your attention with every subtle inflection of emotion and each surprising, modestly spoken, but incisive confrontation by the ingénue outsider, Gina, with the heady, sophisticated, dignified G-8 political leaders. The highlights of the movie, for me, were the tensely awkward moments as these confrontations take place. They were almost humorous had it not been for the glaring gravitas of the issues being addressed by the G8. In an officious, clandestine, sterile, dehumanized, and sanctimonious manner, these men and women are literally charting the course for the entire globe for the next fifty years. While their issues are scaled down and tailored for a brief TV movie, they, nevertheless, contain a simple, persuasive representation of the political philosophy of a group of leaders who now have absolute power over the rest of the world. This power extends, unfortunately for them, to the third world countries made desperately impoverished by the wealthy nations whom the G8 are representing. Most of those who are dispassionately doing the complex intellectual work for these 'Lords of the Universe', and therefore determining the G8's policies, are unelected, highest-echelons civil servants from the eight world dominant nations. This is the most exclusive club in the world. I was spurred on to learn more about this G8. While it is brief and adapted to a television audience, it, nevertheless, gives a revealing insight into that lofty, inhumane, but pretentiously humane, world. It was produced by a British, independent film company. As an Independent film, it is part of the growing trend of 'alternative' movies. As with alternative energy, alternative life styles, alternative-organic-farmer to market foods, alternative medicine, and the internet as a source alternative information, this new generation of films is part of that burgeoning new world of alternatives. These alternative movements are juxtaposed against what is in the mainstream and owned and incessantly promoted on the outlets of the mainstream media that is also owned by this newer version of the ancient Feudal States and controlled by the new Corprocrats. Those of us who are New Green World Denizens must learn to change our habits which have been shaped by those psychopathic, exploitative, dehumanizing, multinational corporations and their lackeys in D C's Center of Corruption.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
"Ghost Writer" a must see
Polanski's "Ghost Writer" is definitely a 'must see.' I got back from seeing "Ghost Writer", back and forth on long bus ride, hadn't eaten since early morn, ate a tidbit, tried to watch TV and zonked out and just now awakened almost four hours later at 11PM and, bleary-eyed or not, I just had to say this: What a fantastic movie. One for those who keep up with world-shaking shenanigans; those with eyes to see, ears to hears, and minds to understand; --- this is a work of true genius and remarkable guts. No one but a world citizen, entangled between evil, global, clandestine principalities that are subjugated by their stealthy, almighty Imperators; only a person with the mind of a great artist as well; no one but a Polanski could have made this particular movie at this particular tipping point in history.
He will only get a virtual Oscar from 'the few' scattered across the 'Western Axis of Evil', but who are not of their world, and only from those who, accidentally, have been prepped to receive his meta- message. I am still in awe that he could pull it off with Hitchcock- like surprising twists while using innuendos to expose a still smoldering, extremely complex, international intrigue. This could only have been produced by German, French, and disaffected UK leaders. No wonder there has been such a tug of war over his extradition. It is not shocking that it has, so far, mostly been seen in Europe. It is no wonder none of the major US theaters have booked it. It has had 'limited' release in US, mostly art house theaters was made on a 40Mil budget, and has had a low gross so far. It is probably Caviar for the EU, but a hot potato for the US, with the exception of CA movie land, the US Northeast, and the Florida coast, as you might have guessed! Its reception appears to be like those movies dubbed 'Banned in Boston', only for "Ghost Writer" it is "Banned in the Red States."
How 'spot on' he pegged Tony Blair. And, his cryptic, brief and chilling, allusions to Bush and Cheney should be epithets for both of their epitaphs. Such clever nuggets like these alone make it worth seeing.
Cheesh! What a movie! I have been a fan of his film noir style since "Repulsion" in 1965. Remember "Rosemary's Baby"? But my god, in this movie, he reveals that has he matured into the cinema artist's epitome of Jung's Modern Man as described in "Modern Man in Search of a Soul"1 but with laser like insight into and detection of, and a genius international spy's grasp of, the grisly, ugly, ruthless, behind the scenes, lofty, conspiratorial world of power. Traces of "The Good Sheppard", and the many others of that ilk dotting this decade of cinematic critiques of the secret, ruthless side of government, flickered across my mind as the movie advanced to the denouement. And, as an additional bonus, I found a new love in Olivia Williams who played that intriguing, sinister wife, Ruth Lang.
I'm not sure why but I have a hunch that Polanski's very existence on earth is like a shiv in the heart of Stephen Spielberg. The only real justice in the world is poetic justice. With this film, Polanski got his by turning the tables on his judges!
1. "The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it". Carl Jung, "Modern Man in Search of a Soul" and " Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other". Carl Jung
Invictus and Mandela the Man
"Invictus", the Movie and the Man Mandela By Edwin L. Young, PhD December 14, 2009
Clint Eastwood's Weltanschauungen is pure Americana. From the Wild West gunslingers to the on-the-outs lawman to macho modern women to global battlefields and finally to reformation in a third world nation, Eastwood's fame has been established on indomitable hero and heroine characters fighting against insurmountable odds and winning. His movies are all of a type one could call the "invictus" type and seem almost to be an extension of what I would presume to label as his own, but not idiosyncratic, 'invictus' type of personality. Eastwood's finesse as a director justly earns him the appellation of one of the greats among movie directors. Yet, with respect to those American-ish accolades, I must retract from the consensus that he is well deserved of being worshiped as a hero in the cinematic world. I must make a case that warrants my detraction from his halo awarded by the film critics, and even me. I strongly suspect that he is a true believer in his version of this pure Americana Weltanschauungen. Unfortunately, and I am sure unwittingly, this thematic schema underlying his work is aiding in perpetuating a broader cultural motif. While seemingly a hallmark of inimitably strong and laudable characters and his own character as well, this pattern in his movies is actually a prominent yet unacknowledged source of America(n)'s proclivity for using violence to deal with conflicts with those who are considered unsavory and misguided antagonists within our nation. Ironically, the same characteristic which is considered worthy of being emulated for the good of the country is, nevertheless, one that contributes to fostering those very same conflicts which presumably is his intention is to put to an end. Paradoxically, "Invictus" is an exception to his themes. It simultaneously proves and disproves a justification for his upholding of his devotion to this macho cultural motif. Surely this movie is a glowing example of that indomitable will with head bloodied but unbowed. On the other hand, Mandela himself, and Mandela's political strategy is the most telling example of a diametrically opposite belief system about what true human greatness is and what the most effective means are for dealing with those who are considered ideologically oppositional, unsavory, misguided antagonists, and enemies, both within his, and our nation, and abroad. Mandela, an internationally famous yet solitary 'consensus of one' within his fiercely divided nation with its formerly mutually violent and now mutually suspicious and antipathetic parties, stands as the turning point, as a pivotal force, for future world history. What was Mandela's strategy and why was he successful in stemming the tide of national, mutual animosity between Africans and Afrikaners? He used two things. First he used the management strategy of interlocking objectives. What this means is that two camps can be, in this case, made to feel that the success and well-being of each depends upon each striving to make sure the other reaches their goal successfully. Second he took on a challenge to make a national symbol, South Africa's Rugby team, the winner of the international tournament. At the beginning they were considered the dark horse. His victorious election to the presidency of South Africa after having been imprisoned for thirty years by the Afrikaners made him a folk hero of monumental proportions to the blacks and an awesome figure to be feared and reviled, but secretly revered, by the losing Afrikaners. So, when he sent for the Captain of the Rugby team to join him in the quest, against all odds, to win the world cup and had them shown on national TV, with the whole nation watching, he put in progress a plan to unite the nation in supporting its team in their determination to win. His public appearances, drawing attention to their county's ambitions for their Rugby team preceding the tournament, began to make the nation see him as championing the cause of all South Africans. Interlocking objectives! Both sides were gradually induced to work for a success that would be their mutual victory and, in the end, to him see as the leader favoring, not one side, not just the blacks, but all South Africans. His character, forged into iron from his early days as a political activist, was further forged into steel while in prison as he read the great books of the world and observed and studied the Afrikaner guards. One major factor not mentioned in the movie was that it was F. W. de Klerk, the last President of the apartheid South African State, who brought him those books over all of those years. I speculate that de Klerk did much more than just bring him books. Mandela read and thought while imprisoned, in an environment sealed off from the immediate pressures that make men small-minded, grew into a highly educated, highly independent, deep and deeply universalistic thinker and planner. What I see in all of this is his abdication of the belief in the cult of the individual. The cult of the individual essentially is the message behind the message in the poem "Invictus." Notwithstanding the invictus message, Mandela now had a new assumption and a new understanding of the encompassing nature of structures and systems. He eventually saw how the system, of racially antipathetic, politically opposing parties, was intertwined with a multitude of other, mutually influencing and sustaining, systems. Further, he eventually saw that there were fulcrums within those systems which others may not see but which could be used to alter them, from the most encompassing at the state and even international level, to the interactions between former antagonists, and ultimately alter even the character, personalities, and behavior of all individual citizens. This is the meaning of a true, great statesman! One who understands how he and all people are shaped by the structures and systems within which they exist and then turns that around to reshape those very same structures and systems for the greater good.
Non-Open-Minded leave all hope behind when entering.
If you have the time, there are two great, very recent, documentary films to watch. "With God on Our Side" is a documentary that is propaganda for the evangelical/right-wing political movement. It is well done and terrifying to me. "Religulous" is a documentary by Bill Maher, the famous, politically incorrect comedian. He travels all over the world visiting sacred places of the major religions, their sects, and their leaders and their followers. It is simultaneously hilarious and profound. Viewing and listening to his interviewees gives you insight into the utterly absurd beliefs common to all religions and the extraordinary, and often dangerous, influence they and their leaders hold over huge segments of the earth's innocent, ignorant, gullible people. I found it helpful to watch "With God on Our Side" first and then "Religulous". Looking back from the latter to the former helps give me better perspective on how sinister political and economic motivations meld with deep religious convictions. In all, or at least most, of these religious 'covens', you dare not question lest you be cast into hell upon death. It is also amazing how intransigent such beliefs are to rational refutation. It is amazing how language and human needs for meaning and immortality work to convince people of beliefs that are pure figments arising from human being's astounding mental faculty of imagination and ability to hold totally incongruous, contradictory information in their minds with equanimity. "Religulous" is now showing in a limited number of theaters across the country. It is, to me, the most important documentary ever, even more so than those of Michael Moore.
Old West plot serves modern political message
Another of America's Dirty Little Corporate Secrets I watched a movie the other night called "Conspiracy" (2008 staring Val Kilmer). It had received somewhat poor reviews. This was justified for a professional movie critic who bases their critique on traditional, Hollywood, Oscar-like standards. However, I saw it as a great 'message movie'. I knew a little about the controversy over Mexican immigrant legislation, a little about the Maquiladores, as well as a little about the worldwide exploitation of underdeveloped countries by US corporations, so I immediately became engrossed in the movie. This movie is a valid dramatization of what American corporations have been doing for many decades now. In the movie, Halliburton and Brown and Root and other such companies are all accurately portrayed by their compression into the movie's one 'fictitious' corporation, Halicorp. The movie also accurately represents the true situation with respect to Mexican 'illegals'. Americans have been employing them to do our dirty, hard work while keeping the death scythe of deportation or arrest over their heads to keep them working for slave wages which they need to save their families in Mexico from starvation. A conveniently opportunistic system has been devised whereby US corporations undermine Mexican corporations and make it impossible for Mexicans to earn a living in Mexico. Consequently, Mexican laborers have to flee to the US and take below subsistence wages. The only other alternative for them has been the Maquiladoras. In the beginning, the Maquiladoras were supposed to help the Mexican cities along the border economically but this turned into a nightmare as the US corporations exploited, virtually raped, the cities and their people who had come in the millions to live along the US-Mexican border and make a decent living. Eventually, these corporations moved on to cheaper slave labor in underdeveloped countries that were even worse off. Those border towns turned into impoverished garbage heaps. Those Mexican workers, therefore, had no choice but to swim across the border river or the climb border fences to find slave-wage work in the US. Those who take the time to inquire and those with eyes and ears to see and to hear with their hearts know, understand, and grieve for these Mexican Maquiladores workers and Mexican immigrant workers and their families who are caught in the tragic trap laid for them by the US corporations. There are those who know much of this and are happy to benefit from such dastardly exploitation. Yet, there are some caring few who create sanctuary churches and cities to care for desperate 'illegals' and their shattered families and often even sequester them from local 'de jure' police who are really serving as 'de facto' henchmen, a kind of recrudescent form of the KKK, for local businesses. On the other hand, there are these unconscionably insensitive, narcissistic, obsessively acquisitive employers who find all sorts of convenient ways to rationalize and blithely transform the plight of their Mexican illegal slave workers so as to make it seem like they are actually providing them with a great blessing, in fact, saving them. The white, well-to-do, ordinary American employers also rationalize this villainous behavior by seeing themselves as superior, a kind of unofficial master race, and their non-white slave workers as somewhat like mongrel dogs that must be kept from citizenship in order to prevent a pollution of our pure genes and true American heritage. The movie drives home a final thrust by revealing the xenophobic bigotry of the Halicorp types like Rhodes, the local head of Halicorp, when Rhodes, attacks and demeans retired Special Ops Marine William, whom he thinks he has beaten, for being half American Indian and half Anglo American. War-hero McPherson is the stranger-newly-come-to-town who successfully defends the town, New Lago, and its 'illegal alien' workers against Rhodes and his puppet Sheriff, deputies, and other complicit locals who were acting as Rhodes' thugs out of fear for their lives,. In the end, the people of New Lago, 'emblematic of the vast majority of ordinary people', finally rise up and turn against Rhodes, "emblematic of corporate American CEOs", demonstrating that, after all is said and done, America is a land of non-xenophobic, non-bigoted, non-exclusionist, multi-colored, multi-racial immigrants. On the other hand, however, in America, we know there are a great many Americans who simply choose to look the other way and let this corrupt and calamitous situation with our decent immigrant workers putrefy. Many are aware that this same type of exploitation by American Corporations is taking place in underdeveloped countries all over the globe and do nothing. Finally, there are the perpetrators who are running these US-legitimized criminal operations and hosts of right-wing political and media lackeys who are aligned with them. For these criminal corporations, Halicorp is the perfect, 'grotesques' symbol!
Pixel-pixilated allegory of modern world culture
This plot is a mere scaffold for a brilliant and unorthodox 'message movie'. The movie is a commentary on modern merging of violence and sex in animated video porn/games that are melodramatic representations of real life. It illustrates the blurring of reality and fantasy with respect to these sexual, violent, and narcissistic-egoistic aspects of modern life on an international scale. The media- intensified-frustrated-lust of both genders is played out in exaggerated dramas of ruthless domination by males of females and females of males. It also epitomizes the extent to which deception and manipulation has been refined. It illustrates, simultaneously, our lust for exposure of and our need for vicarious experiencing of the privately repressed violence, taboo sexuality, and power lust, which is both engendered by and suppressed by our world cultures. It illustrates how the media in modern cultures increasingly and simultaneously are glamorizing slaughter-heroes of war, vicious superheroes of athletic conflicts, predatory sexual conquistadors, and victorious warlords of economic competition, all of whom relish the goriness with which they vanquish the conquered, while at the same time the same media are amplifying their moralistic condemnation unconventional behavior. Life imitates art in this film when killing up close is bloody personal but there is no legal aftermath with which to contend. Nevertheless, the bloody personal aspect wreaks such an immediate psychological consequence of inner terror that only hell could rival that it catapults one straight back to immersion in the animated demonlover flicks where art imitates our real life fantasy world. It is a pixel-pixilated allegory of modern world culture.
Free Zone (2005)
Much needed portrayal of living within Israeli-Palestinian region
My 7 vote was for the filming, direction, and plot. For the informative value of the film, I would give it a 9. It was a bravely balanced portrayal and helped personalize my understanding of the how the structure of the conflict militates against the urge to empathize when face-to-face. It is heartrending watching antipathy being replaced with empathy and mutual assistance even while the regional conflicts continually compel opposing sides toward distrust and attack. Seeing the way the many groups are living in constant fear of lethal attacks has become the norm is heartbreaking. Each side continuing to live with a hollow hope for resolution and peace is awesome and somewhat offsets the massive human tragedy. While typical of human social psychology, it is still sad to see that even clashes within affiliates can lead to incendiary outbursts. The final scene is a terrific metaphor for the complex, dire configuration of the plight of the individual people, the American, Israeli, Palestinian, and all others in the region. Portman is to be commended for her taking the role of Rebecca in a movie that was sure to receive little acclaim.
Babel - Old and New
The raw, natural staging of Babel's characters helped make it very realistic. The aging of Pitt added authenticity. Pitt was good and Blanchett had very few lines but they were well executed. The rest of the actors were unknowns but did extremely well.
Babel was similar to Crash but spread across continents. What a great commentary it was on how our new mix-mash world culture has evolved to create unbridgeable misunderstandings and catastrophes both in local settings within families and between families and foreigners and with the same interactions occurring in settings on a global scale while the news of these events involving them are broadcast, instantaneously, from anywhere to everywhere. The people in these catastrophes are presented as good, well-meaning persons, doing what, for their place in their culture, job, and situation, is normal or even obligatory. In other words, horrible consequences are unwittingly perpetrated by well-intentioned people caught in a blindly insensitive and often brutally, haphazardly evolved world-structure. It was often harrowing to watch but, as for instructing viewers in an intelligent perspective on the current mangled state of global culture, it was a mission well accomplished. Accolades go to the writer and director!
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Devil Wears Prada: A portrait, a veritable parable, of modern America!
"The 'Devil' Wears Prada" and the Flies the Most Glamorous and Formidable Jet Fighters I went to see "The Devil Wears Prada" this afternoon. It was very good, very entertaining. Mainly and initially I was interested in the psychology of the fashion world. Of course, I knew pretty much about this already because TV is saturated with it. Also, I had a woman friend, really two in fact, in Dallas who were involved in its Fashion Mart during the seventies and eighties and told me a lot about it. It is a ruthlessly competitive world. Everyone in it plays the game and plays to the status cravings of everyone else. This drive combines with the uncanny ability to cast a bigger spell, a more compelling mystic, and to be more convincing in presenting one's creations than one's rivals. Nevertheless, this drive propels these fashion gladiators to use stealthy throat cutting, back stabbing. Since they cannot be blatant with their unprincipled competition, they resort to Machiavellian deviousness, manipulation, and sabotaging. The tautness of these opposites of stylishness and ruthlessness can result in implosive stress. It can also result in beastly mutual psychological ruination, especially among their insufficiently calloused underlings. All the while they must learn to be coyly dedicated to setting the stage for ripping off obeisant devotees in a conspicuous consumption contest. The game, like all sports, is infectious. Now, an unexpected stage is set for a different set of incompatibilities. Enter a young, beautiful, brilliant, ambitious college graduate with bountiful belief in herself, self acceptance, empathy, and having that crucial element of worldly innocence. Wham! 'Classical' American wholesome meets 'modern' American superficial, frenzied, duplicitous, and winner takes all fashion society. Just that tad of ambition in her is enough to seduce her into this alien whirlwind. At first blush of le style d'un moderne in her appearance, her friends suspect an incipient seduction in the making. She resents their hints that she will inevitably succumb to Siren's beguile. The dizzying aura and commanding magnetism of her boss, challenging her capabilities, ensnares her and she takes up the gauntlet. Bit by bit she forces herself to learn to garner admiration and envy in the glamor game until, seduction almost complete, she is on the brink of becoming the person she initially reviled, her boss. At this moment of truth the submerged wholesome girl emerges with its fill of repressed revulsion bursting out. Her epiphany is grasping the toll on her idealistic soul of this mischievous and counterfeit fashion rat race. Among their not so fortunate and unwary clientèles, on the other hand, the enticement of this fashion world everlastingly and irresistibly sets off ever so subtle but nonetheless horribly loathsome, invidious comparisons and wretchedly demeaning rivalries. Yet, these fawning patrons persist in following religiously. For, in the end, the fashion world could not exist without this dynamic. This is psychological Darwinianism at its pinnacle of calculated maliciousness. Only the most hardhearted, ruthless, cunning cutthroats among the would-be fashion titans survive and ascend. Those who relish being, have the talent, and can convey that special air of ultimate authority as trend setter rise to and endure at the top as high priestesses and nigh sacred icons of the business. These people draw money capitals to their door and can cause currencies to course around the planet. These fashion moguls reap fortunes off the shallow envy of the appearance junkies which they create. With their diamonds and sapphires dangling, they thrive on the wasted heaps of glitter and rhinestone style-mongering idiots who bankrupt themselves while trying to keep up with the latest and most sheik creations from these artists in the craft of facade. But, if you want an understanding of the heart of American culture, here is where you will find it. Ironically, one can apply this same description, this same socio-psychology, to our defense industry, military leaders, politicians, lobbyists, academicians, professionals of all types, and yes even our clergy, and, woefully, you and I, along with the rest of our fellow Americans. Americans are status junkies who believe in one manifestation or another of this competitiveness and ambition for status, power, wealth, and fame, as though 'it' were the ultimate religion. Sadly, however, it is not just winning but is also beating, and defeating any and all comers, that is the prize we seek. Toward this 'holy' end, any means you can get away with is justified. Defeat of and one-upping one's rivals, and even one's friends, is the true religion of Americans. Adhering to the good old American sportsmanship code is necessary, outwardly, of course. Doing this, as winners, must be done not too gleefully and with grace and a barely detectable, demurely condescending, contempt for the losers. This art is also a major requirement in this religion. 'A spoonful of insipid, sugary diplomacy may help the 'poison' go down'. Of course, one must learn to keep one's disdain for the losers inconspicuous, somewhat like a genteel, beneficent serial killer, a Dr. Hannibal Lectern in lace, if you will. One must, however, be a true believer in the arts of this uniquely indigenous religion. Furthermore, one must be true to that religion even if it means destroying the hearts and values of masses of fellow humans and ultimately, in the process, results in consuming and destroying the earth. These hyenas of the fashion jungle, whether in the world of adornment, or any other industry, cannot just momentarily stop their ravenous quest for dominance, victory, or stardom long enough to take stock of themselves or to consider the futility of their addiction and its awful consequences on the hearts and souls of their victims, and the health of the earth as well, while doing so. After all, being number one is all that matters! And everyone, as Miranda so heroically and gallantly says, just before the movie's curtain time, "That's silly. Everyone wants to be us." Yes, deep down, everyone wants to be the envy of everyone, right?