Sunday, December 30, 2007
-- Christian Parenti, "US Illusions Die With Benazir Bhutto," Agence Global via Pacific Free Press):
-- Ava repling to the whiners and big babies. "It's like we" Ava and C.I. "went into a bar to grab a drink and catch up and you hovered around us the whole time, ignoring that we refused your drinks, ignoring that we've told you to get lost. It's last call, find someone else to go home with. You never stood a chance, but you have struck out." :D
Here's who participated on this edition:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
and Wally of The Daily Jot
And of course Dallas -- link locator, soundboard and so much more. We thank everyone. We also thank Jess, Ava and C.I. who demonstrated last week that an edition can be done in a timely fashion -- a lesson we disregarded this week.
Truest statement of the week -- There weren't a lot of contenders this week for the simple reason that so many are on "Christmas break." Mid-week, we were thinking we'd highlight a community site but then came the nonsense of Saint Bhutto and then came Christian Parenti. He spoke out. If you missed it, a lot of people who were (rightly) critical of Bhutto in the last few weeks, in indy media, suddenly hopped on the State Propaganda Wave and acted as if they hadn't previously shared. It was disgusting. It was a weak week but even in a strong week, Parenti would have been a contender because "truest statement" is about telling the truth and he did.
Editorial: Screw You -- Not, not you. We had more disagreements this edition. On this editorial, C.I. and I (Jim) disagreed strongly on the title and another section in this editorial. On the title, I wanted something else after "Screw You" and, if you read the editorial, you know that was "US service members." We weren't saying it. We're saying that was the message sent. C.I. argued (and Dona agreed) that if that was the title, yes, it would be eye catching but a lot of people wouldn't get past the title and would miss the point that we weren't the ones saying that. The other thing that held this up was a comparison. Originally, an obsese person was used. C.I.'s feelings (Ava agreed) that they've had to clarify enough already that they're not interested in what Joe or Joanne X weighs. Their TV commentaries are about people who choose to go air and if it's someone caught by the camera by accident or a one time thing, they don't know the person's looks. But looks are part of the package for actors, actresses and those attempting to be TV personalities. As they say in the standard e-mail Ty sends out, "We're reviewing TV, not radio." C.I. said that the example was bad and would lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings on the part of some people. We finally came up with an alternative. (And "finally" is partly due to my stubborness on changing the comparison.)
TV: Charlie Rose by any other name would still be as bad -- Wow. Okay, Ava and C.I. can say they're not journalists but read over that and think of all your piddling 'critics' (MSM or Little Media) and grasp they don't synthesize like Ava and C.I. do, they never hit as a hard as Ava and C.I. do, and they don't have Ava and C.I.'s sense of humor. (They probably also don't groan and gripe when someone's complimenting as they are doing right now.) They wouldn't let us read this until the edition was done. I generally read their long hand copy out loud and do so either right when it's finished or when the edition's falling apart and we all need something inspiring to prompt us to focus. When I was allowed to read (and read it out loud), I understood why. Everyone was tired before I started reading, they were wide awake as I did and laughing throughout and then I got to the ending. Ava and C.I. know? Yeah, they do. How do they know? They had narrowed it down to three journalists and two of them are friends. They confronted the two over the phone and both denied it. That just left the third suspect. "Were we wrong?" Ava asked while we were all absorbing. No. No, not at all. Dead right. They say it goes to the standards for others that journalists apply but don't apply to themselves. In addition to touching on that subject here, they touched on it Sunday night at The Common Ills. They're sick of it. They're sick of journalists who 'love' their writing as long as it's focused elsewhere. They're sick of people who think they can make offensive statements and be given a pass. They're sick of Big Media and Little Media pretty much across the board. Ava: "And we really don't give a f--k what you did in 2003 or 2004. Kiss our f--king ass. While you've all 'moved on' to other topics, the illegal war has continued and the numbers dead and dying have only increased. I'm really sorry that you don't have the dedication or determination to cover a war but that's your own pathetic ass and your own pathetic problems." We've got a second truest. Dona just reminded me and Mike had asked for it as well. I'll note it below. But the point I'm making is that Ava and C.I. can deny how wonderful their work is but we see a lot of 'critics' and most of them don't pass for informed (they're unable to synthesize or pull from elsewhere) let alone entertaining. As Dona pointed out before, if there was anything we'd print up save from these editions to read over years from now, it would be a few features, some roundtables, most of the editorials and EVERY ONE of Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries. Thank you to Beau's who's already e-mailed to say he loves the title (I do the headlines).
2007 in Film -- This is about films and it's about one specifically, the best one this year. And one you probably can't even see if you're willing to try.
2007 in DVDs -- We thought this would be an easy piece. Ava and C.I. were tired and they said, "Eh, whatever." Then we narrowed down our three (which did include Hobbs' favorite Hollywoodland). That alone took three hours. Dona said, "The roundtable is now off." Then it was time to write and Ava, C.I. and Ty had a great deal to say. Everyone made observations and worked on this piece, but as Wally pointed out, "The funniest stuff is from Ava and C.I. or Ty or all three." That's how it was when the site started (Wally wasn't helping out then) except for Ty. We (Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava, C.I. and me) were all together after I drug C.I. back from a campus speaking thing on Iraq and we were working on the TV piece (that Ava and C.I. didn't want to "waste time" on) but they would shout out things and that would go in. That's why it ended up being turned over to them to write by themselves. Ty points out that, as back then, Ava and C.I. had to shout to get their comments in this weekend. Ava and C.I. point out that Ty had to shout as well. This is a strong feature and everyone deserves credit but for the ones who participate now but aren't part of the core six, it was seeing how the TV commentaries began and why they were turned over to Ava and C.I. in the first place. (C.I. notes that Ty's commentary in 2006 was so strong that he could take over the TV reviews if he "really loved us." Ty says thanks but no thanks.)
They killed Santa Clause and put in an illegal occupation -- We wanted to highlight Wally and Cedric's work in full. They both wanted C.I.'s snapshots included. C.I. said they pull attention away from what's being highlighted. We really find this amazing. C.I. knows the back story (Wally and Cedric use C.I. as an audience to try their material out on) and explains, "Wally and Cedric were talking with Isaiah because sometimes they or Isaiah has an idea and the other runs with it so they wanted to be sure they weren't doing anything he had planned. He explained what he was doing which was similar to what they had planned. Their plan was to post Christmas Eve but they couldn't think of anything. Shortly before midnight, they had this idea. Due to the nature of the humor, they wanted to wait until noon Christmas Day to post it. They then continued the story for two more days."
2007 Tour -- Here was the other problem in the edition. Not Tori's tour, which we loved. But my plans coming into the edition was that we'd do a best of. Ava and C.I. generally do a best of TV piece, two actually -- one on entertainment, one on news. Due to the strike, they said no to entertainment. Due to not doing that one, they weren't interested in doing one on news or 'news.' Ava was very vocal about that and said, "Jim, we know what we're writing, you're not going to be displeased, so lay the hell off." Only at that point did I. But we were doing films and DVDs (more on that) and I thought we should do music. C.I. stared at me like I was insane. Ava said "no" and she and C.I. got up and walked out because I kept insisting. Jess pointed out what should have been obvious (though I wasn't the only one to miss it), Kat does a year in review of music each year at The Common Ills. We were not only stepping on her toes, we were (a) asking her to help us step on her toes and (b) we were jumping the gun. (Kat hadn't said a word but Dona said she did look surprised when I was insisting.) I immediately apologized to Kat (as I should have) and dropped it. But we had a huge hole since the roundtable was off (no time for it), since Ava and C.I. were not doing two best of features (entertainment and news programming) and since we couldn't do the year in music. We actually had a bigger hole. We had one less feature than we do now. Ava asked how "damn long" did we work on the movie piece? At which point Ty and Dona looked at it (it hadn't been typed yet) and said it could actually be split with a few changes into a piece on films in 2007 and a piece on DVDs in 2007. That's what we did.
Highlights -- Mike, Kat, Rebecca, Cedric, Elaine, Wally and Betty wrote this and selected highlights. We thank them for it and note that it was probably the easiest piece to write the entire edition. (Ava and C.I. spent one hour on their TV commentary, took a break and made a snack run, then came back and began reading it over the phone for fact checking.)
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
Mike caught it and noted it in "IVAW & Law and Disorder" and how the week more than demonstrated the comments C.I. made in an "Iraq snapshot" as well as last week's "Editorial: Should we pray to Santa?" For those who haven't yet heard, Iraq Veterans Against the War are staging Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan March 13th through 16th in DC and they've requested that no national rallies, demonstrations or marches be held at that time or DC actions.
As Elaine and Wally addressed in last week's "Roundtable," that's already led one organization to grumble about the request being 'unfair.'
Our position before last week was that IVAW put in a great deal time of organizing the investigation, they provided ample notice of when it would take place and they don't pick up and drop the illegal war the way so many other alleged peace groups do.
Last week, the 3900 mark was passed. That's the Defense Department's count of US service members killed in the Iraq War. It's a milestone, it's a marker.
And where was everyone?
There was no time to note it.
People were busy, you understand.
That didn't mean they didn't care about the illegal war, right?
They were just busy and there wasn't time to pick up on the important news that the 3900 mark was passed.
You could believe that lie and miss the "Screw You" delivered only if you were on vacation last week. If you were, you might have missed, for instance, KPFA dropping their planned topic on The Morning Show to 'cover' the assassination of Benazar Bhutto. They gave over a thirty minute block of time. Aileen Alfandary had already led the news breaks (ripping off whom, who knows?) with that item and had no time for the 3900 mark. She had time, in the third newsbreak, to repeat the same Bhutto points she'd made before and to include comments from the 30 minute segment that just preceded her . . .
You read that right. On KPFA, Alfandary judged as "news" to include in a "news" report what the show had just done (a conversation about Bhutto from two men not in Pakistan, lest anyone think they offered a half-hour of reporting from Pakistan). We're not remembering Ann Curry doing breaks on NBC's Today Show with, "As you just heard in Matt Lauer's interview . . ." But, hey, who thought there were any standards in independent media at this late date? Maybe a future news item on a coffee rate hike could include, "And this morning, Philip is drinking freshly brewed Folgers."?
CODEPINK, which has still not noted the 3900 marker, did feel the need to offer an embarrassing tribute to Bhutto and to start a petition. Life is what you make time for.
What you don't sends a message and last week's message was clearly: "Screw you, US service members."
Ted Koppel was conventional, beltway, right-leaning, gas baggery at it's worst and we say that to be clear that, unlike too many, we're fully aware of who was and wasn't invited on Nightline when he hosted the program. (We're also aware that he preferred all guests to be 'hooked up' via camera as opposed to sitting across from them.) Considering his remarks about the Iraq War before it started, after and today, we never assumed the reading of the names of the dead US service members (which he turned two programs over to) as a statement against the war. It was him grasping that something need to be noted because it was news.
And a number of left outlets rushed to applaud it. Koppel left Nightline and all the outlets that applauded those two specials couldn't offer anything similar. It's a bit like an someone commenting, "That's so great that you speak another language. I wish I did." And, yet, never attempting to learn one.
Ted Koppel's Nightline died and, with it, any hope that various outlets might note the markers. They had other things to do, you understand.
Now far be it from us to be total ogres. Those who felt the birth of Jesus required taking two weeks off surprised us (especially the ones of you who either don't believe in any God or aren't Christians), can get a pass. Bad timing, yes, but you were on your vacations.
Those of you who made the time to praise Bhutto (responsible for the murder of her brother, ripped off billions of public money from Pakistan, facing charges in several countries, a puppet of the Bully Boy and so 'democratic' that her husband and son will now 'inherent' her role as leader of an alleged democratic party) are another story.
And not just because you praised a war criminal but also because you made time to do that while failing to make time to cover the 3900 mark.
You sent a message: Screw you.
Well message received.
We hope you receive the message that we're sick of it.
We hope you grasp that no one need every hear from you again on the illegal war because you've dabbled to the point that you're now not even able to weigh in on the milestones.
We get it and we hope you do: America has no reason to give a damn about what you (occasionally) have to say about the Iraq War because you don't give a damn about ending the illegal war.
You drop the topic every chance you get rivaling even the Democratic leadership in Congress for cowardice.
We'd call you "jokes" but, at this late date, no one's laughing.
They're only staring with gaping mouths in shock at your flipping the bird to the dead.
You're not really about ending the illegal war, let's all get honest, you're just about setting your own self up. Maybe grab a little media time and attention. Expressing your attitude from inside the beltway was Gwen Ifill on the most recent Washington Week when she pompously declare "We in Washington" get how important Bhutto is but who knows "how much of trickles down to others."
Has a more smug ass stunk up the public airwaves?
"We in Washington"? "Trickles down to others"?
The Great Gwenie was informed, by Slate's John Dickerson that the media (meaning big media) had overplayed the story and that most Americans were more interested in other things (despite the grandstanding of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates on the topic) such as the economy. Maybe the realities of how miserable the economy is for so many Americans could 'trickle up' to Gwen?
But that's Big Media. We're talking about the alleged alternative media which, especially Pacifica, came off Thursday like Voice of America Radio as it dished out state propaganda, the likes of which must have had Kenneth Tomlinson creaming in his shorts.
How the hell did that happen?
And how did Christian Parenti end up being a very lonely voice of truth on Thursday [see his "US Illusions Die With Benazir Bhutto" (Agence Global via Pacific Free Press)]?
Bhutto died a very violent death? Well, as Elaine noted, it was "karma." You can't support the Taliban, as Bhutto did for her own personal gain, and not take accountability for the destruction of women's rights and the violence many Afghan women lived and died under without expecting fate to slap you upside the head.
But Big Media started a craze and, heaven forbid, independent media really be independent and think for itself. Instead, it was rush in with valentines about a despicable person. Made us all fear how the death of War Criminal Henry Kissinger might play out.
"Screw you"? We heard you. We reply back, "You ought to be ashamed."
Don't even try to step on IVAW's March event. If you do, expect to be crucified here.
The networks are trying to kill us. That's what we decided on December 24th as we realized we'd again have to cover a 'news'/public affairs program airing on PBS. Not that PBS' hands were clean. We thought of all our PBS friends begging for attention in our reviews for years and okay with our calling out Washington Weak and even encouraging us to do so at one point just to get a little attention, how they might quibble even when we called out an alleged documentary or 'news program' and how, in recent weeks, they've taken to asking if we could take a look at programming elsewhere.
Watching last Monday's installment of The Charlie Rose Show, we grasped quickly that Rose was the shooter but that the shooter's always the patsy. It takes a lot of work at the top to plot a conspiracy.
Our mental state was assisted by the fact that Rose, of course, makes the perfect patsy. He is, in fact, the text book example since heads of state, gas bags and even Jaqueline Bisset have all been able to pull the wool over his willing eyes throughout his too long career. Even in our worst moments of agitated mental state, we knew Rose wasn't smart enough to have hatched the plot on his own and we began to fantasize that he was actually part of a sleeper cell that had been laying low and waiting for the day to . . . take who out? Certainly, our friends couldn't have thought years ago that we'd end up wasting so much of our lives weighing in on bad TV?
Intense reactions such as our own are not the usual response to Rose's program which is a snore fest more often than not. But it's rare, even as bad as PBS is, for it to be so bad. And if he'd paired the segment with a half-hour of our nemesis Patti Heaton, we'd probably still be clinging to our delusions. Instead we were just left with two bottom feeders.
Sarah Sewer (aka Sarah Sewall) seems to exist in this life not only to do damage around the globe but also in order to justify the hate on display towards intellectual women in so many Woody Allen films. The pompous, unattractive War Hawk, who appears to think her hair is drapery, is on a mission that goes far beyond, "Even Brooke Shields may now be plucking the eyebrows, but I'll maintain the Groucho Marx look until they grow together!" They seem on the verge.
Sewer was paired with the Bay Area's own Little Liar Monty McFate. We spewed our diet sodas as we saw Monty trying to go for 'gamine' with a too-short hairdo that made her look about as attractive as Jane Wyman -- in any year. All that do did was bring out her lantern jaw, her tiny teeth and, fringed around the painted in cheekbones, emphasize the Reptilian Eyes she's long sported. They say you get the face you deserve after forty but, truth is, Mother Nature gifted Monty early on.
We weren't sure whether Monty was attempting to play the Marci to Sewer's Patti de Pastilles de menthe or the Alice B. Toklas to Sewer's Gertrude Stein but we did enjoy the sucking up Monty did to Sewer for two main reasons. One, Sewer was basking in it and looking even more the pompous fool than usual. Two, we know Monty. We know how she operates. She butters up a dupe right before she attempts to steal credit. Monty's a backstabber and a publicity hound so we are eager to see exactly what damage she'll inflict on Sewer before this is all over.
Monty started out as a child desperate for attention, prone to larger-than-reality tales (to put it kindly). Nothing was ever Monty's fault when caught. When faced with the fact that no other child could be to blame, Monty offered grandiose lies. Due to her obvious lack of looks and the fact that she was so pathetic, adults wrongly took pity on her. It sent the wrong message. All Monty has instilled is that lying is a great way to get attention and we see that she continues to pursue that path.
For those not in the know about Sewer, when not appearing on TV to look like an unwashed freak who just pulled her hair to one side, is a Bloody War Hawk. Some call her a War Whore, but we try to avoid that term and just call her a War Hawk with an "ugly" sometimes tossed in. As a War Hawk she operates out of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy which is really just a fancy way of saying she's a Destruction Pusher. There's no place on the globe that she doesn't feel her big nose can be stuck in and should be stuck in. Granted, it is a large beak, a ski run -- if you will, and it probably is difficult for her to contain it in her so-so dwellings, but not only does no one need to see it, no one wants to.
As an Ugly War Hawk, she needs a running buddy and, as many stunted woman know, when you're butt-ugly, you hook up with someone even more butt-ugly so that you can be the 'pretty' one of the pair. Hence her hooking up with Monty who currently bastardizes and betrays the social science of anthropology in order to target populations for military operations.
Monty and Sewer teamed up with Mad Maddie Albright and other demented nut jobs to offer up the International Women Leaders Global Security Summit, which Rose was more than happy to promote. 'Global Security' isn't about peace and none of the women involved are 'leaders' -- though calling them criminals wouldn't be stretching the truth.
Monty's official bio by the org notes she's "a cultural anthropologist who works on defense and national security issues" and that she's a professor ("adjunct," not full) at the War Hawk institution John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. It's a threadbare bio but, when you're having to hawk that she published in Joint Forces Quarterly, there's not a great deal you can say about her work in her alleged field. Sewer's official bio brags about her work on "counterinsurgency and U.S. strategy in the 'long war'." It says nothing to the effect that "in her free time, Dr. Sewer likes to bite the heads off of kittens and set puppies on fire," but maybe that's implied?
Monty and Sewer worked on a little thing called the US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. You may have seen that piece of War Porn advertised. Ourselves, we remember the third of the page advertisement that ran in the October 2007 issue of The Progressive (page 28) which included a blurb from The Problem From Hell Sammy Power. When Our Modern Day Carrie Nations is blurbing you, you know you're on the path, if not the eve, of destruction.
We have no idea whether it was the talk of personal odors that prevented Rose from mentioning Sammy by name, but he was happy to offer his own blurb: "More than 2 million copies were downloaded from the internet!" We'd guess that Mein Kampf is also highly popular on the internet and we're equally sure that the 'value' in that is about the same as in the counterinsurgency manual.
Monty was playing the femme to Sewer's butch and blushed that she thinks she "wrote in total about 13 pages of that." Monty playing modest may have charmed Rose (it doesn't take much) but it's equally true that Rose is both a moron and a hack. Monty's back peddling wasn't for Rose's benefit (he wasn't pressing). And it may have played differently to those who don't know Monty. As two who do, it was classic Monty: My lies explode in my face and I begin disowning them.
It's step one in her distancing herself from the manual if it continues to receive critical attention -- not on Rose's program, never on Rose's program. But in the real world, the pages Monty's responsible for (chapter three) are being ripped apart -- remember Monty's an 'academic' -- for plagiarism and out and out theft.
Anthropologist David Price documented the theft in great detail in October (CounterPunch) and noted:
The most damning element of the Manual's reliance on unattributed sources is that the Manual includes a bibliography listing of over 100 sources, yet not a single source I have identified is included. My experience with students trying to pass off the previously published work of others as their own is that they invariably omit citation of the bibliographic sources they copy, so as not to draw attention to them. Even without using bibliographic citations, the Manual could have just used quotes and named sources in the same standard journalistic format used in this article, but no such attributions were used in these instances.
Is it too cruel to point out that those sort of allegations aren't exactly new to Monty?
No need to fear when sitting down at that tacky table (which had at least been polished for a change) with Rose. (Again, one of us has that same table, but in original, hand carved form, not a carbon copy knock off that appears to be made out of tack board. And it's used as a computer desk.) He's not interested. In fact, he's been so disinterested in illuminating the realities about the illegal war that the only way he could out do himself at this point would be to come back in another life as a military issued jock strap. Cheerleading he can handle.
And bemoaning. He found it just awful that politicians weren't echoing the War Hawk work that Sewer and Monty were doing, "You don't hear candidates talk about this."
"We do actually," Sewer said in full repression mode. She went on to whine that War Hawk Barack Obama "gave a speech" incorporating their plans for War Eternal but it was lost as people focused on other things. Still, Sewer assured Chuckie, "at least one candidate has done that."
Smirking like the valet that mistook himself for an insider, Chuckie offered, "I'm familiar with some of the people behind the scenes that you know" who wrote Obama's speech. He means, among others, Sammy Power. But she's become such a drag on the Obama campaign that no one's mentioning her, not even her buddy Chuck. Yet, watching, we had to wonder what PBS thought of that nonsense? He's familiar? So what? Are people watching Public Broadcasting to have Charlie smirk about things he knows but doesn't intend to impart? Isn't he required to mention the names he knows? He brought it up, he wasn't under grand jury questioning. Exactly what, if anything, can our PBS friends find to defend in that moment? (Our answer, when the calls come in, will be "Not a damn thing" only we'll be use stronger language.)
Charlie knew a great deal more than he let on. He knew, for instance, that Sewer's been working with the military for more than the "about seven years" that she claimed. The reality is that Sewer's entire career has been bought and paid for by the military just like Monty's. (Armed Service Committee, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance, et al.) If they couldn't suck off the military-industrial-complex, both women might have to get real jobs and, truth be told, they're not qualified for anything else short of staging their own coup in a Latin American country.
So it's no surprise when 'anthropologist" Monty brags her role is "making force more precise in its applications" and Sewer wants to dismiss with all rules of warfare by casting doubt on "whether we'll ever have the luxury of a conventional foe." Or when Monty, speaking of the anthropologists joining her in betraying their field and academic study, declares" their main job is to advise the commander on the ground". It's not shocking when Sewer reveals all her ignorance and xenophobia by asserting that Iraqis "need to recognize that there are limits to our power as great we are." Maybe it's Sewer that needs to recognize the fact that the Iraqi people want foreign forces (including the US) out of their own country? Maybe she should save humming "How Great Thou Are" for a church pew and get off her damn high horse -- or is she waiting for someone to knock her off?
In a moment when Sewer attempts to illuminate a point she's fumbling, she only illuminates how power hungry, mad and crazed she is, "We're betting on a horse and trying to shape and tame it at the same time." Who's the horse?
We knew who the dogs were, we saw them, Sewer and Monty, on our TV screens. But who's the horse and how dare you pass yourself off as an academic, even one that's provided non-stop oral service to the military-complex, and make such offensive and insensitive remarks on TV. Iraq is a country. It was a country before the US invaded. The idea that a foreign country can (or should!) "shape and tame it" is offensive.
Sewer came close to unhinging in public when she went into rapid-fire mode, spitting out sentences about the failure of states, her desire to create "a strong, international force," how the illegal war must not be seen "as a failure" and her "concern" that, if Iraq is seen as a failure, "we'll move towards isolationism" or, worse, send in the military to "strike him and get out" (as opposed to occupying -- and "him" wasn't identified by the War Pig). That truly does concern Sewer because her whole existence, her belief system such as it is, is rooted in the notion that she, and only she, possess the wisdom to decide. She's a hairy-legged version of the Bully Boy with better vocab. Or maybe she's just the preacher delivering the harangue at the end of Joni Mitchell's "Tax Free" (Dog Eat Dog):
I think we should turn the United States Marines loose on that little island south of Florida and stop that problem!
I am preaching love!
In a too little noted article over the summer ("Harvard's Collaboration with Counter-Insurgency in Iraq"), Tom Hayden asked, "Should a human rights center at the nation's most prestigious university be collaborating with the top U.S. general in Iraq in designing the counter-insurgency doctrine behind the current military surge?" It's a question that Rose knew not to ask.
Hayden goes on to explore "former Pentagon official" Sewer (again, she's worked with the military all her adult life) and notes how, in the intro to the manual, she scrubs away any reality about the US role in the death squads in El Salvador and he goes on to explain how the counter-insurgency is deception and intended to force Iraqis to turn to the US for 'protection.' Again, Rose knew not to raise any of those points.
Monty dug her own grave -- with that mouth, she's never been able to stop herself from doing so -- by rushing to prop up Robert McNamara's Vietnam-era crimes (crimes even McNamara has distanced himself from, see Fog of War) and maintain that, if her program had existed then, grave mistakes wouldn't have been made. To clarify for those who didn't watch the train-wreck-in-progress as it grew, Monty's been 'rebelling' against the sixties her whole life. She's never known a damn thing about them, but she's made rebellion her goal forever because, in the Bay Area, it got her a little attention (in a "Is she for real?" kind of way). Think of her as Ann Coulter's ugly sister. As frightening as that should have been to most American -- Monty's rewriting history to claim that the earlier illegal war should have been fought and could have been 'won' -- equally alarming should have been the snarl (in fairness, that's her attempt at smiling -- as dozens of childhood photos can demonstrate) as she spoke excitedly of additional wars, "new things coming down the line like Africom." If there were any doubts left as to how far from her field she is, Monty proved it by explaining that to learn about Africa, "I generally read The Economist." A conservative publication, yes. But in terms of her field, it's much worse than that. The Economist is a British publication. 'Anthropologist' Monty is stating that to learn about Africa, she goes to a publication from outside Africa. For those who don't grasp it, that's a bit like flat out saying, "To get real information, I can't depend upon the people in the area! I need a White, European translation!"
To be clear, because we will hear this in the phone calls from PBS friends later today, Charlie Rose's embarrassing fact and question free interview isn't necessarily a reflection on PBS. We've noted he's a hack, we've noted that we don't think PBS would find his playing insider baseball with viewers ("I'm familiar with some . . . " but never naming) amusing or up to the standards of PBS -- certainly not the mandated standards but also not the standards in practice -- such as they are. We will note that NPR, on October 10th, could explore the realities Rose avoided -- could and did on The Diane Rehm Show with USA Today's Susan Page filling in for Rehm. David Price and Monty both appeared on that show (Rose didn't feel the need to offer a dissenting view). Others did as well. Early on Monty gave her usual press-friendly lies about how her work follows anthropological standards.
Susan Page: . . . there was a New York Times article last week which actually prompted us to do this show today. And it did talk about this anthropologist named Tracy, but it wasn't clear to me, Montgomery McFate maybe you know, whether her [full] name was just not disclosed to the New York Times article, or if her full name is not being disclosed to the people she's interacting with in Afghanistan. Do you know -- do you know the answer to that.
Monty [quick intake and slow first word -- always a clue Monty's inventing -- seriously, that was evident when she was a child]: Her name was held from The New York Times story and in other media that's come out of Afghanistan at her own request.
Susan Page: But does she give her [full] name to the Afghanis that she's talking with.
Monty: Yes, she does.
The Times article referred to, "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones," was written by David Rohde and, sadly for Monty, Rohde joined the discussion after Monty had lied. So he missed Monty's lie that the locals "Tracy" was speaking with knew her name and that the anthropologiest were clearly identified as such to the locals. (For those not following, anthropologists are not allowed to coerce people into being subjects. In an occupied land, people traveling with a military may not be seen as people you can afford to refuse. Monty lied that all information gathering interviews were done with informed consent meaning that the subjects knew they could refuse questioning and knew they were speaking with anthropologists.) Again, Rohde came in late and missed Monty's lies. When he joined the conversation, Susan Page asked him about "Tracy" and these issues, "But the Afghans -- the Afghanis that she's dealing with, do they know her name, her full name, does it seem transparent for them or does she also go just by her first name?
David Rohde: Um, she was transparent with them. I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist. I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told. And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.
Susan Page: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon? Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?
David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.
Rohde thinks the locals assumed "Tracy" was US military. Tell us another about informed consent and your academic standards, Monty. Every lie, including that "Tracy" gave the locals her full name, was demolished in those moments. But that hasn't stopped Monty from repeating her lies.
Fortunately for her, she was sitting across from an old whore (we will use the word for Rose) who left "boyish" long ago and never developed into the talent that led so many networks to pin hopes on him. As such, he needs corporate sponsorship and his career wouldn't survive without it. So he knows not to raise the difficult issues. Which is how you got a thirty-one minute plus segment allegedly on counterinsurgency that never asked the basic questions, the basic ethical questions, about the misuse of anthropology or noted the reality that a science is being partnered with a the military in an effort to frighten (or shock -- see Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism) a people in order to create a reaction of learned, infantile dependency upon the occupiers.
To be clear, there's nothing about the Nazi government in Germany that isn't appalling to this day; however, for ourselves, the thing that will always stand out the most is that alleged professionals, allegedly bound by a code of ethics, were willing to ignore those ethics to 'service' a state and target civilians. Seems to us the likes of Sewer and Monty give good governmental hand jobs -- considering their mugs, probably at very low, discounted rates -- but they betray everything academic research is supposed to endorse. For all his efforts to appear learned in age, Charlie Rose is still the same dim-bulb he's always been. If he weren't, he wouldn't be able to whore so well. In Chinatown, John Huston says buildings and whores get respectable with age -- maybe that's why very few call out the nonsense Rose has repeatedly offered since the illegal war began but we're not so kind.
On that note, Mike Kirk and Marcia Bemko are among the names that should be added to "TV: Fumble Line." As noted in that piece, PBS friends called to inquire about what we'd thought of Frontline and what we'd written. We summarized our main points and were greeted with gasps that some of the people, who were happy to dine out on Jessica Savitch's good name after she died, were named. We were told those people might have said that in public, yes, but not for publication and it was just unfair to name them. As they begged and pleaded, we finally agreed (and noted the print edition was long out) to pull the names before it went up online because, although we'd both observed the trashing of Savitch by people whose careers she at least helped if not made, maybe it really wasn't public? After the commentary posted, a friend who'd been at Simon & Schuster during the 80s called and asked, "Did you mean Kirk and Bemko?" Yes, we did. The friend informed us that among the books brought out during the 80s "and one I helped on" was Almost Golden by Gwenda Blair. "Anyone who doubts that those two took their trashing public needs to pick up a copy of that book."
Reader Troy e-mailed us last week to remind us that we hadn't provided any names and wondered if it was due to "the ludicrous claim of 'gotcha' journalism"? We didn't provide them because we have a life and had forgotten. They are included now. In terms of "gotcha" journalism, thank you for also finding it ludicrous, but no friends at PBS would ever accuse us of doing that, we keep far too many secrets buried as they damn well know. The false "gotcha" charge came from a journalist in response to "Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)" and, on that, we'll note the following.
In our TV reviews, one journalist has been praised more than any other: Amy Goodman.
That said, we've also held her accountable and do so elsewhere this edition. She didn't cover Abeer (headlines are not covering the issue). We're happy to provide her with deserved praise (she's earned more than we've ever offered but we're not putting out an Amy fanzine). We're not comfortable calling her out but do when we think it's necessary and we don't mince words when we do on her (nor do we on Tom Hayden or Norman Solomon or anyone else whose work we appreciate and value). Our negative criticism of her (or any whose body of work we admire) is based on the work.
Point? There's a man (not named in this) who we don't like. Readers of this site or The Common Ills might get another impression. In fact, many visitors of The Common Ills think he must be loved. Reality? He made a drunken 'pass' (try assault) many years ago on one of us (C.I.) and, in this decade, insulted one of us (ibid) over the airwaves. It was very rude and it was intended to be. This is the most that's ever been (or ever will) be written about it by either of us. Despite that history, he continues to get praised when it's Iraq related and it's never been, "Let us tell you about the cheating husband who . . ." Nor will it ever it be.
We bring that up because we don't do "gotcha." Maybe our journalist accusing via e-mail has a problem with reading but if we're referencing something, we're making sure it was addressed publicly elsewhere when it comes to journalists because they are so damn thin-skinned. We mentioned Amy Goodman earlier and there is a point to that.
If we ever criticize Amy Goodman, we criticize her for the work done or not done. It's based on Iraq and nothing personal. Maybe someone who ran a blind item -- a thinly disguised blind item -- about Amy Goodman, maybe such a journalist is the last person in the world to lecture us about 'standards'? Maybe even more so when the blind item was intended to embarrass Goodman and had nothing to do with her work?
Now we don't claim to be journalists. TV commentaries are, by their very nature, opinion pieces. And we certainly don't claim to be saints or near the verge of sainthood. Nor do we think anyone even glancing at one of our pieces would mistake us for 'goodly.' But maybe if you're a professional journalist and you're unhappy with the amount of time you received so you choose to 'even' the score by running an obvious 'blind' item about Goodman intended to embarrass her and spread a rumor (which we're not repeating), then you've abandoned the high ground from which to cry "gotcha journalism" at anyone else because you hopped on that bus out of your own desire to even a personal score?
Like Charlie Rose, a lot of journalists preach standards but the reality is those are standards they apply to others. If we've learned anything during the writers' strike thus far it is that the biggest Drama Queens are in the world of journalism, not entertainment. And later today, when the calls come in from PBS friends adamentally disagreeing with our take on a broadcast, we'll not be surprised to yet again learn that we're commenting on something we viewed while they're defending something they didn't even bother to watch.
Somewhere in all of that is the explanation for why The Charlie Rose Show can exist. It doesn't continue airing because it's ground breaking or even entertaining programming. It slogs on because, once upon a time, Rose showed promise and, as long as he doesn't upset anyone by allowing reality to enter the program, he gets a repeated pass. Susan Page, a print journalist guest hosting for Diane Rehm, shows more skill and knowledge of broadcast standards in any one appearance than Rose demonstrates in a full year of programming. But he's in the 'club' and as long as he doesn't 'shake things up' by asking the questions or raising the issues that are never supposed to be spoken of for fear of angering someone, he's a 'news' 'star' and many of his peers will rush in to shore up his exceedingly thin credentials.
We're not trying to be part of the 'club' (a year in the 'club' couldn't pay our monthly travel expenses), we're writing for readers trying to find some iota of truth on broadcast television -- truth in entertainment, truth in news or 'news'. The truth is Charlie Rose offers, in a year, about five programs worth watching. In other words, in a full year, he does about one week's worth of honest work. That's playing "gotcha" on the viewers.
Brian De Palma's Redacted is the strongest film of the year. It's also one of the 'war' films that have made it to the big screen in 2007. Some have been good, some have been bad. None have found an audience which led to a lot of jaw boning and little facts.
The only with any facts at his finger tips was conservative Kevin Hassett (see his "Iraq Movie 'Curse' Is a Myth Worthy of Hollywood" Bloomberg News, from November) who pointed out that films about the Iraq War aren't doing any worse at the box office than other films, that films dealing with that subject matter are "more likely to have an 'R' rating or to be unrated" (which cuts into the potential audience pool) and debunks a variety of myths.
One area he doesn't cover is promotion. We're going to zoom in on In the Valley of Elah, which is a film worth seeing. What's it about? Ads told you a soldier was missing. Ads told you Tommy Lee Jones was in it. Hillary Swank co-starred and it's a mystery! Ads told you Susan Sarandon was in it. The ad campaign was lousy.
At the heart, it's Hardcore with Jones in the George C. Scott role. Posters should have featured no one but Jones. It should have been a black and white photo of a haunted Jones. Others, including Swank and Sarandon, are important to the film. But it was marketed as an ensemble mystery when it's the story of one father. Jones' performance is strong enough that the film could have been marketed on that alone and, since the film doesn't have a strong message about the war, it should have been. Audiences could have identified with a father searching for his child -- male and female movie goers. Instead it was offered up as though it were The General's Daughter or some other alleged page turner brought to film.
Coming Home, the earliest film about Vietnam to be a major success (Two People is among the previous films that didn't find a large audience), addressed what went on at home including the spying, the betrayal of veterans by the government and a great deal more. Originally conceived by Nancy Dowd as a story revolving around the friendship of two women, it could have found success that way. It was retooled in a love story between Jane Fonda and Jon Voight's characters. And that's how it was sold. It wasn't sold through shots of Fonda, Voight, Dern, Milford, Carradine, et al. It wasn't a poster featuring every face that appeared in the film. It was a non-traditional love story (and the coupling on the poster, featuring Voight in a wheel chair) made it clear.
The marketing for the Iraq War films has been dishonest, cowardly and an attempt to be everything without ever telling the audiences what it was they should be paying money to see. That and not "topic" (there have been a number of topics and backdrops in the films) nor "message" (many had no message) is what's hurt them at the box office.
Which brings us to Brian De Palma's brilliant Redacted. We'd tell you to rush to see it onscreen, but the truth is you probably can't. From the beginning, the money men have actively undercut the film. They refused to open it wide, they refused to keep announced openings. Mark Cuban, the libertarian, not liberal, is among those to blame. The film was supposed to open in December in Dallas. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks, apparently scared off by Bill O'Lielly's blustering pulled that opening. From the beginning, the money men have shown cowardice.
Apparently that's in response to the courage De Palma shows on screen. Barring major nominations, this is a film you won't discover until DVD. When it does come out on DVD, you need to see it. Barring major nominations? The film should be a shoe in for Best Director and Best Film. But Cuban and the Cowards have so distanced themselves from the film that their own cowardice is undercutting the film's chances at nominations.
At this point, it doesn't matter. The film will have a DVD life, will be remembered as a classic and one of the few to take a point-of-view and tell a story in 2007 when the bulk of film makers hid out or try to sneak into a one scene message.
What's the film about?
Fred Kaplan fell of his pony and couldn't tell you.
It's based on real events. Captain Alex Pickands speaking (for the US military) in an August Article 32 hearing declared, "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."
Abeer, the 14-year-old Iraq girl who US soldiers, stationed to protect the neighborhood, lusted after and plotted a conspiracy to rape and murder. It is the worst known War Crime of the Iraq War and it's, honestly, not all that well known in the US because the bulk of media Big and Small refused to tell her story. She noticed the leers, she recoiled from the touching of her face, she told her parents what was happening and they made plans for her to go live with another family in order to protect her. The day before that took place, US soldiers put their plans in operation. They had a lookout, they cut through her fence, entered her home, took her parents and five-year-old sister to the main bedroom and shot them dead while Paul Cortez and James Barker gang-raped Abeer in the living room. Steven D. Green, who claims he is innocent, is fingered as the man who killed the parents and sister. Rejoining Cortez and Barker, he then took part in the gang-rape and shot Abeer. (Again, Green denies the testimony of other soldiers and maintains he is innocent.) Having killed her, her body was then set on fire in order to destroy evidence and the crimes were pinned on 'terrorists' until, months later, reality began to emerge.
Steven D. Green is the only one who has not been tried. He is scheduled to be tried in April, at a civilian court in Kentucky because he was discharged from the military before the truth came out.
De Palma's film explores those realities and the realities that make War Crimes seem 'normal' and 'thinkable' in an illegal war. It's the most involving of the Iraq War films and the most involving film of the year. More than likely, you won't be able to see on the big screen anytime soon. But when Redacted comes to DVD, rent it, buy it, wonder why you didn't hear about it?
True, the money men actively worked to destroy the film. And it's true that some losers like Fred Kaplan rushed to scream, "Don't see it!"
But they weren't the only ones. The first film about the Iraq War and where was The Nation? Had they tired themselves after wrongly going to town on Laura Dern in those shameless scribbles from a really bad critic who got an award for longevity as opposed to insight or talent? [Alexander Cockburn wrote about Abeer in 2007. The link goes to CounterPunch which we associate him with, not The Nation.] Where, for that matter, was Democracy Now! which, for those who forget turned over an entire program to announcing the release of the film Catch A Fire which dealt with South Africa under apartheid, did so in 2006. One might assume the Iraq War matters at least as much as a film that ends in 1991. But independent media's never been interested in telling the story of Abeer.
They couldn't deal with it when the news was breaking. Probably due to cowardice ("What if we call out War Crimes and it explodes in our face! We can't hide behind John Murtha on this one!") but also due to the fact that they couldn't shut up about the elections in Mexico and, when that story never took off (note, it still hasn't despite all the non-stop hype), they moved on to Lebanon. They didn't cover the Article 32 hearing in August. They didn't cover court room confessions. They still haven't covered the War Crimes. In the summer of 2006, the War Crimes emerged. It's now the end of 2007 and independent media still can't tell you about it -- even after all US soldiers have been convicted except Steven D. Green. Even after confessions. They still can't tell you. At this point, it's not that they can't tell you, it's that they won't tell you.
And where were our beloved peace 'leaders'? Let's not forget them. A large number who set themselves up as such were happy to whore themselves out for Charlie Ferguson's War -- the non-documentary that re-sells the illegal war ("Not enough planning for after the invasion!"). Ferguson supported the illegal war before it started, while he was making his first 'film' and while promoting it. He didn't hide any of that. But who didn't rush to promote that piece of filth? Who didn't share the stage with him?
When you do see the De Palma film, and are amazed by it, remember that when it could have used promotion, it didn't get it. One of the few to weigh in when it actually mattered was Nezua (The Unapologetic Mexican). For audio of his review, check out the November 21st archived broadcast of his review on KPFK's Uprising (and it will be available at the program's website after it's no longer available at the station which doesn't keep archives online forever). It is the best film of 2007.
Reader Hobbs e-mailed (a) asking that we do a feature on films and (b) wondering what we thought of Hollywoodland which "I just got at Blockbuster for $3.99."
Hollywoodland was released at the end of 2006. For $3.99 ("pre-viewed" copy), you're getting a huge bargain. $3.99 wouldn't even get you "one for ___" at your local first-run cineaplex. Financial bargain but worth it?
The basic DVD (there's also a HD DVD version, the $3.99 version -- available at various locations around the country -- is the standard version) includes a commentary track from director Allen Coulter, deleted scenes and several featurettes. Clearly a bargain on many levels but is the Paul Bernbaum scripted film worth watching let alone owning?
Hollywoodland offers a retelling of the life and death of TV actor George Reeves who found fame -- lasting fame -- as TV's first Superman in the fifties half-hour program and then died shortly after. The film opens with private detective Louis Silo attempting to determine how Reeves died. Oscar winner Adrian Brody portrays Silo who is an amalgam of several real life people with a number of additional ingredients tossed in.
What he discovers is that after a series of minor parts, Reeves takes up with Toni Mannix a one-time actress now married to MGM cleaner Eddie Mannix. Toni provides Reeves with many things only to later be dropped for a younger woman. Silo attempts to determine what, if anything, the Mannixes had to do with Reeve's death by gunshot wounds?
Brody holds interest throughout the film but, performance wise, it belongs to Ben Affleck and Diane Lane who play Reeves and Toni Mannix respectively. Affleck's Reeves never takes him too seriously and is on the fringes which provides Affleck with a role written to his strengths and also sympathetic. The exposure from the Bennifer phenomenon did Affleck no favors as a film actor but it is equally true too many smart mouthed leads who always win also went a long way towards killing audience enthusiasm in his films. His most effective roles previously were in Good Will Hunting (which he co-wrote with Matt Damon) and Chasing Amy. In both films, his character loses a great deal before the credits roll. With Armageddon and too many other popcorn flicks, he's a wise guy who still comes up on top and even Bruce Willis, who copyrighted that role for decades, has trouble these days pulling in audiences with that mixture.
In his first scene, the meet up scene with Lane's Toni, Affleck is offering what everyone is familiar with but in a more likable manner. This is quickly followed by scenes that allow for greater shadings and explorations that remind film goers why Affleck first caught their eye.
When an actor that the public has burned out on and is openly hostile too manages to pull off the work Affleck does in Hollywoodland, that's a major accomplishment. With Brody and Affleck already providing so much, you really don't need anything else to qualify as entertaining but along comes Diane Lane enriching the film in ways you won't expect.
Lane's Toni grabs the audience's attention (and Reeves') in her first scene via her beauty and energy and audiences might expect that they're about to see the typical Lane film role where the actress shines in an under-developed role that leaves you wondering when or if the actress is ever going to be cast in a film that really lets her run with the part?
Hollywoodland is and isn't that film. On paper, it's another underwritten role that Lane fleshes out but the film's pace and the pace of the scenes where Toni is just supposed to be present allow the actress the space to create a fully-fleshed out character.
Hobbs wrote that Crapapedia notes the film takes "liberties" with the facts and his e-mail cites Toni's involvement with Reeves' casting in From Here To Eternity. Crapapedia informs you that Reeves won a small part in the film all on his own. Naturally, Crapapedia can't document that alleged 'fact.' Reality check for Crapapedia, Joan Cohn was a go-between for many women. The wife of Columbia head Harry Cohn was regularly sought out to use her influence. Joan Crawford, who regularly lobbied Joan Cohn, was originally cast in the lead role of From Here To Eternity -- this despite the fact that Harry Cohn loved to 'sample' the talent and Crawford had previously shot that notion down. Crawford would screw herself out of the part but most credit Joan Cohn's influence with her original casting. The film also brought Frank Sinatra back to film fame after a number of turkeys and a semi-blacklist and Ava Gardner repeatedly lobbied Joan Cohn to get Sinatra cast in the film. Hobbs quotes Crapapdiea noting that, in the film, when Reeves' agent thanks Toni Mannix for using her influence (to get Reeves cast), she responds, "For what?" thereby demonstrating that Toni had nothing to do with the casting.
That's a curious (translation: false) reading of the way Lane plays the scene and also only demonstrates how little Crapapedia (in all it's Wiki-ness) knows. Joan Cohn was one of the great 'fixers' in the film world, smoothing over differences, advocating for friends and it's perfectly in keeping with the facts to picture Joan Cohn interceding on Reeves' behalf at Toni Mannix' request. Less realistic is believing that Reeves could have been cast on his own since he was known as Superman and the wall and war between TV and film at that point was an obstacle before one even considers the fact that the "heat" factor, as minor as it was, had already left Reeves' career. (The film conveys accurately that Reeves' base was small children. As those children grew up and other children exposed to the TV program grew older, Reeves had greater recognition in the entertainment industry than he did in his own lifetime -- a detail that film conveys accurately.)
"For what?" is one of those throw away scenes that director Bernbaum doesn't rush and allows Lane to layer with meanings -- both in the nervous energy before her line is delivered and after. Over the course of the film, the characters age and Lane captures that better than anyone in the film. (Reeves' aging is revealed to Brody's Silo only when watching a home movie near the end of the film.) Make up did a great job disfiguring her but Lane didn't need that trick-- in posture, movement and line delivery (she's slower and more halting as the film continues) she captures the serious toll time is taking on Toni.
Without giving away the ending, we need to note it's the biggest problem. It rings true; however, the director appears to think something has happened that, frankly, has not. Through out the film, as Silo attempts to determine whether Reeves killed himself or was murdered, he is threatened, beaten and encouraged to look elsewhere. At the end, he does just that. It's perfectly in keeping with life as presented onscreen; however, it is not 'redemption' as the director insists in one of the DVD's featurettes. Brody's Silo has not suddenly realized that his son is now important and should be the focus of his life.
Silo has internalized what Jake Gittes is told at the end of a seventies classic, "Let it go, Jake. It's Chinatown." As he gets closer and closer to truths regarding Reeves' death (we're taking no position on it), he also gets closer and closer to what's below the sheen of big business. Continuing to pursue it means a very difficult life. All that's onscreen suggests that's what Silo's decision is based upon. Silo sells out. And it can't be sold as 'redemption.'
The deleted scenes don't back up Bernbaum's reading and, in fact, demonstrate all the more how Silo's already shaking support is dwindling. Along with strong performances from Lane, Affleck and Brody, Bob Hopkins as Eddie Mannix also leaves a strong impression.
Hairspray is based upon the Broadway musical based upon John Waters' film. Waters' film is seen as the one of his best and that's not just due to the fact that no one's eating feces in it. Like most of Waters filmography, the original motion picture features a cast of odd balls all operating on their wave length. It also featured a star making performance from Ricki Lake. Among the many differences between the musical Hairspay and Waters' original film is that there's no Lake present. Nikki Blonsky plays the lead role of Tracy Turnblad.
Is Blonsky bad in the role? No, she's actually incredible but she and the movie suffer from the opening. Tracy wakes, sits up in bed and audiences are treated the teased up, ratted, 'back-combed' hair. It's a visual. Which leads into the dullest show opener and the most pedestrian opening a major film has suffered through in years. "Good Morning Baltimore" exists to place the location and to place Tracy in the context of where she lives. Like Judy Garland riding a tractor and singing through the worst scene of Summer Stock, it adds nothing and drains a lot of life from the film.
It's a showy piece for cranework (in that regard, it's similar to the parade scene in the film Hello Dolly! -- no, that's not a compliment) but it does nothing. When a man exposes himself to Tracy, she grins and goes on. The people behind her will be shocked. What was Tracy's reaction?
There is none. Does she view nude men daily? Forget offense, might she have shown curiosity? Even a look to the camera, such as Julie Andrews provides in Thoroughly Modern Mille when noting the flattened, female chests around her, would have added a detail. Instead, you get Tracy traveling through a dull looking town in a hurried, dull manner that only comes to life (too late) when she's next to the school bus and begins dancing. To be clear, it's an awful song with on-the-nose lyrics and the sequence shows a lot of 'adventure' in term of film shot set ups but no creativity at all in terms of film making. It is so awful that some may turn the crap off right there.
Though you can't blame them, if you stick around, the film quickly finds life. Adam Shankman holds the title of 'director' for the film but you quickly grasp he's a director in the same way Herbert Ross was -- interested in every detail but lacking a vision. A musical really needs a vision and strong visuals. What saves Hairspray from turning into Funny Lady is the fact that the film doesn't have time to belabor the obvious.
Working with a wide cast of characters, it's necessary, whether the director wants it or not, for the film to pick up speed. Amanda Bynes is Tracy's best friend Penny and Bynes found a role. Via the work of the hair, make up and props department, Bynes was given a strong base for the weakest character in the film and it's to her credit (and our amazement) that she delivered such a strong and charming performance. In the role of Tracy's crush, Zac Efron is nothing but a time waster. Too dull to play a dreamboat and too self-amused to be believable as a character, he provides the worst performance and if Shankman made one smart move, it was not to have the camera focus, in the film's final scenes, on the 'love' between Linc (Efron) and Tracy because who gives a damn? For those who need context, he offers less charm than Jeff Conaway's performance as Kenickie in Grease.
James Marsden is quickly introduced as the host of a TV dance program, Corny Collins, and does such a strong job and provides so much humor (it's not all in the lines) that you wish the actor's age had been set aside and he'd been cast as Linc.
The cast is what makes the film. Though repeatedly betrayed by a director who rarely seems to know where the camera should be (have so many dance scenes ever been shot from above the waist?), the cast delivers. Queen Latifah is amazing throughout and finds the camera, even when it's not trying to find her. (In one scene, her character, Motormouth Maybelle, has to insist that the TV camera return to her and you wish the actors in the film had done the same.)
Hairspray traces the collapse of segregation via a TV dance show in the early sixties. That's a big theme for a musical -- a genre not known for tackling big themes. Grease was set in high school and involved falling in love. That film seemed to suggest that there was still an audience for musicals. Can't Stop The Music convinced film makers that wasn't the case. When musicals began returning in the 80s, they largely featured non-singers and focused more on dancing (Footloose, also with a high school setting, and Flashdance). Hairspray producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have spent the last several years delivering one musical success after another on TV and establishing the fact that musicals remain a popular genre. This decade they delivered with Chicago which was flawed but had standout moments and delivered an audience. Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones were everything that was right about that film and they were both underutilized. The stars (including a too old Richard Gere) were everything that was wrong about the film. Too actorly and unable to zip the way real musical stars (Garland, Streisand, Gene Kelly, etc.) do. The producers' casting has consistently been so bad, you shudder to think what they'd do with a remake of West Side Story which, Rita Moreno aside, has the worst cast of a musical ever. But you're given an indication of exactly what they'd do with such a film via the casting of 'pretty girl' Zac Efron whom is filmed like an 'ugly girl' in a failed attempt to give him depth as Linc. Guys, you rent a trick for an hour, you don't cast them in a film.
But whether it was too long in the tooth Richard Gere, John C. Reilly or a host of other dead in their tracks males, the producers have regularly demonstrated that their hearts and eyes goes to the female lead and they're not really concerned with creating a male musical star, let alone providing any eye candy. Which is why Marsden and Elijah Kelley (as Maybelle's son Seawood, love interest to Penny) are so welcome. Either man could become a musical star, they have the goods and deliver when they're on camera.
And the cast (with exception already noted) consistently deliver. John Travolta succeeds as Edna (Tracy's mother) and turns in the best work he's done this century. Edna's more reserved in this film version and there's an arc of growth to the character that allows Travolta to strut his stuff in terms of acting and dancing. Michelle Pfeiffer takes over the role previously played by Debbie Harry, Velma Von Tussle. Harry was more than effective in the previous film but the character was a permanent scowl. Pfeiffer brings to life a Velma that is much more captivating and much more threatening. In both films, Velma is the resistance to integration. As conceived in the original, her downfall is inevitable. As portrayed by Pfieffer, audiences are provided a stronger view of why the Civil Rights Movement was a struggle. Velma not only has more power (she's the TV's station manager), she's also more entrancing, demonstrating how racism wasn't held in place by a few oddballs that other Whites went along with to humor. Pfieffer's given a few lines that demonstrate Velma's prejudice but it's in her dancing moves that she telegraphs Velma's intoxicating power. No other actress could have delivered this performance because no other actress has embodied the movies lust for White blondes in years. Even someone as skilled as Zeta Jones, in a wig or with bleached hair, would have been sending it up. Pfieffer knows full well the power the archetype holds over film audiences and uses it to create a formidable foe that demonstrates just how real and, yes, attractive racism was seen by many when the Civil Rights Movement began. Velma's daughter Amber becomes a little nothing in this movie and that's because it's what she is. She's one more faceless racist, one more of a crowd refusing equality. It's the powerful like Velma that had to be taken on (and taken out) for strides to be made.
Pfieffer never overdoes the performance and bits of facial work behind Travolta's back, as she walks off from Blonsky and face-to-face with Queen Latifah are powerful minor moments that enrich the drama. Notice that Velma's only comfortable showing her true nature to Maybelle's character. She'll shield it, she'll conceal it, allow it to peak out a little with others (with Whites). She'll use her body (in dance) to enrapture/control males, but opposite Maybelle, Velma's offering no charm, no seduction, just hatred. Queen Latifah's controlled anger at the end of their big scene conveys a great deal about the character Maybelle and about the struggle for equality period. At that point in the film, Maybelle believes small steps will lead to equality but Latifah spins it with just enough of a trace of I'm-stuffing-this-down that the march she will lead later in the film is completely believable. A lesser actress would have audiences scratching their heads over the fact that the one-time-at-a-time character is now marching through Baltimore but Latifah sets up that transformation (which isn't a part of the characterization in the script) with delivery, looks, and the manner in which she holds her head -- a little higher with each scene leading up to the march. The story of the struggle for integration works in the film only due to the performances of Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfieffer. Without them, it's just a plot twist (as it was in the original film) and seems to just have 'happened.' It's a conventional way to present history and one that robs people of the understanding of how much progress has to be struggled for. Both actresses deserve tremendous praise. Latifah could have coasted, she's a natural musical actress. Despite the usual conventions, the film's not overly interested in the subplot. If Latifah had just coasted (as she did in the non-musical Taxi), she wouldn't have embarrassed herself and audiences would have still been entertained. She went for something deeper and she Pfeiffer enrich the film by doing so. Pfieffer could have played the part any number of ways, including the way Debbie Harry played it. Instead, she does what she's done throughout her career, surprises. The two women give two of the strongest performances in film for 2007.
Christopher Walken plays Tracy's father and, between the scenes with Tracy, Edna and Velma, Walken ends up with a more complex part than he's had in some time. With Edna receeding in character strength in the film (for the early parts), Wilbur has to be stronger in this version and still likeable and it's a testament to Walken's considerable skill that he pulls it off. But it all rests on Travolta. More so than on Blonsky. He's playing a woman (Edna's always been played by men) and will audiences accept that? Will they believe it? Travolta frees himself in the role the same way Affleck does in Hollywoodland. Both leave what they've been cast as too often, the stock leading man. And Travolta especially succeeds in the scenes requiring dancing where he conveys Edan's repression, delight and, finally freedom.
Like Hairspray, The Shooter also came out in 2007. The Mark Wahlberg action flick could be another run of the mill action flick but instead offers something far more satisfying. Antoine Fuqua directs, from a script by Jonathan Lemkin, a taunt thriller that calls to mind the strong works of the seventies (Klute, The Conversation) and has little to do with the action misteps of the last two decades. In this character study, nothing is what it seems and no actor hits a false note. Wahlberg delivers the sort of commanding performance he's too often exhibited in films that showed off his own talents but didn't make for involving films. (One noteable exception being I Heart Huckabees.) Kate Mara, as the widow of his former buddy, pulls one surprise after another in her performance and Danny Glover delivers real depth beneath the sheen of his character Col. Isaac Johnson. This is a difficult film to write about because there are so many plot twists and it would be easy to note those and leave you with the impression of, "Oh, I know what happens. No need to rent the thriller." The page-turning suspense will hook you for one viewing, the reason to own it is the rich work done behind and in front of the camera. DVD bonuses include running commentary from Fuqua, deleted scenes and a look at the making of the film.
No comedy makes the list. Why is that? Comedy is the favorite genre of the bulk of those writing this feature. Did 2007 deliver one strong comedy?
What you got instead were the Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, et al capers. They aren't bad movies. They're nice diversions, entertaining even. It's ttrue that this crop of film makers (the actors are actually the film makers even when a friend's behind the camera) is a little more in tune with the fact that it's not 1950 and we'll praise them for that. Women may not receive a great deal more screen time in these boy-epics than they did in past ones (see the bulk of Bill Murray's early work or all of John Belushi's films) but they're also not the one-note stereotypes they've been. They have wants, they have needs. They don't wilt (or vanish from the screen) when things go ugly. Christine Taylor, among other women, has delivered some strong performances in this genre and shaped some memorable characters. But we don't confuse them with true comedies.
We also aren't at all surprised that this decade has destroyed comedies.
Goldie Hawn is still fighting to make a film for which she has a script and a leading man (Kurt Russell). Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and other women have been reduced to thrillers (and Julia Roberts' long ago destroyed her own career by becoming the second lead known as "the girl"). It all goes into the destruction and devaluing of women that has been the hallmark of Bully Boy's occupation of the White House. Which is why the current comedy 'king' promotes misogny in scene after scene and isn't called out for crap like Knocked Up.
Though women don't matter in his sexist world, the reality is you can't make comedies without strong female characters. Barry Levinson may be able to reduce to them nothings for a film or two but women have always held on their own in comedies: Mae West, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Shirley MacClaine, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, etc. You can't cowboy up and get a comedy. (You can get a spoof which is all the bulk of comedies since 2001 have been.) Each year has offered two or three worthwhile comedies until this year when nothing worth seeing was offered. (Music & Lyrics, a romantic comedy, is rated highly by three who have seen it but the bulk of those participating haven't seen it and note that's a hybrid and not a comedy.) As Hawn continues to struggle to get a green-light for what is an inexpensively budgeted film, we don't see a great deal of hope for the near future.
The three films noted above all were released on DVD this year. We think you can start with whichever genre interests you and will be entertained, but entertained by all. All three are strong films regardless of genre. They also lead the pack of 2007's best DVDs.
Last week, Wally and Cedric attempted to demonstrate the absurdity of it in a series of posts.
We loved their series and wanted to note it in full.
From Tuesday's "Christmas in Baghdad" and "THIS JUST IN! U.S. MILITARY KILLS 'TERRORIST'!:"
BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIX MIX -- BAGHDAD.
IN THE U.S. NATIONAL GREEN ZONE TODAY, THE GIDDIEST GABOR OF THE GREEN ZONE, WILLIE CALDWELL, STEPPED BEFORE THE PRESS TO CONFIRM WHAT HAD BEEN UNCONFIRMED FACT BUT COULD NOT BE REPORTED UNTIL THE U.S. GOVERNMENT CONFIRMED IT BECAUSE THE PRESS CORPS HAS NO SPINE. LAST NIGHT, OVER BAGHDAD, THE U.S. MILITARY SHOT DOWN AND KILLED A MAN.
WILLIE INFORMED THAT THE MAN WAS ONE OF AL-QAEDA'S LEADING TERRORISTS AND DISMISSED SPECULATION THAT THE U.S. MILITARY SHOT DOWN SANTA CLAUSE.
"THAT IS AN ALIAS!" INSISTED WILLIE. "HIS REAL NAME IS KRIS KRINGLE. ONLY TERRORISTS NEED ALIAS! WE HAVE IT ON RADAR THAT HE FIRST STOPPED IN IRAN AND WE HAVE EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE HE WAS SMUGGLING IN I.E.D.S. AND OTHER EXPLOSIVES."
AS THE PRESS CORPS DUTIFULLY WROTE DOWN WILLIE'S EVERY WORD AND A BEAMING MARTHA RADDATZ EXCLAIMED "LOVELY!" VIA SATELLITE LINK FROM THE UNITED STATES,
THESE REPORTERS ASKED WHETHER OR NOT SANTA CLAUSE MIGHT HAVE STOPPED IN IRAN TO DELIVER PRESENTS?
"KRINGLE!" EXCLAIMED WILLIE. "I DO NOT KNOW WHY YOU INSIST ON CALLING HIM 'SANTA CLAUSE.' HIS NAME IS KRIS KRINGLE, WE KNOW HE STOPPED IN IRAN, WE KNOW HE BROUGHT WEAPONS INTO IRAQ!"
THESE REPORTERS INQUIRED AS TO THE TYPE OF PRESENTS THAT WERE FOUND WHERE THE SLED CRASHED DOWN?
"PRESENTS? WEAPONS! THERE WERE A FEW REMOTE CONTROL THINGS, LOOKED LIKE CARS, BUT YOU CAN PLANT A BOMB IN A TOY CAR, AND WE ARE THE UNITED STATES MILITARY! WE KNOW BEST! WE HAVE TAKEN OUT A TERRORIST WHO REGULARLY TRAVELED THE GLOBE INDICATING THAT HE WAS PART OF THE GLOBAL DRUG CARTEL!"
ABC'S MARTHA RADDATZ AGAIN BUBBLED "LOVELY" AS REPORTERS RUSHED OFF TO FILE THEIR 'SCOOPS.'
THESE REPORTERS SPOKE WITH TWO IRAQI CHILDREN WHO HAD STAYED UP LATE HOPING TO CATCH SANTA AS HE DELIVERED TOYS. THEY SOBBED UNCONTROLLABLY AS THEIR MOTHER EXPLAINED HOW, LAST NIGHT, THEY HAD RUN TO THE WINDOW AND POINTED EXCITEDLY AT SANTA FLYING JUST OVER BAGHDAD ONLY TO SEE "THIS HUGE FIREBALL" AND HEAR THE CRIES AND SCREAMS OF SANTA AS THE SLED CRASHED DOWN TO EARTH.
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER ON DUTY LAST NIGHT SAID, "WE WERE TRYING TO WAIT AND CAUTIONING THAT IT DID NOT APPEAR TO BE A HOSTILE BUT WE WERE ORDERED 'TAKE HIM OUT NOW! TAKE THAT MOTHER-F**KER OUT NOW!"
Having shot down Santa's sled (thereby killing Clause), the next day it was time for the 'chatter' defense often used to excuse themselves when facing criticism. "U.S. military labels elves 'terrorists'" and "THIS JUST IN! THEY NUKED THE NORTH POLE!:"
BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIX MIX -- BAGHDAD.
YESTERDAY THE U.S. MILITARY'S SPOKESMODEL WILLIE CALDWELL CONFIRMED IN A PRESS CONFERENCE, HERE AND HERE, THAT, IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF DECEMBER 25TH, THE U.S. MILITARY HAD LAUNCHED A ROCKET AT KRIS KRINGLE WHO IS MORE POPULAR KNOWN AS SANTA CLAUSE THOUGH CALDWELL DISMISSED THAT AS AN "ALIAS."
IN ADDITION, CALDWELL STATED THAT SANTA CLAUSE WAS A "TERRORIST" SMUGGLING WEAPONS INTO IRAQ AND THAT HIS YEARLY TRIPS AROUND THE GLOBE WERE PART OF THE "GLOBAL DRUG CARTEL."
TODAY THESE REPORTERS SPOKE WITH THE GENERAL IN CHARGE OF U.S. OPERATIONS IN IRAQ, DAVID PETRAEUS.
PETRAEUS DOES NOT DENY THAT "STRATEGIC TARGET" AND NOTES THAT THE U.S. ALSO NUKED THE NORTH POLE BECAUSE THE ELVES IN "SANTA'S WORKSHOP" WERE A "TERRORIST CELL."
WHEN ASKED FOR PROOF, PETRAEUS REFERRED TO "CHATTER" AND NOTED THAT SOME OF THE LETTERS TO SANTA CAME IN FROM CHILDREN "WHO WERE CLEARLY MEMBERS OF HAMAS. KRINGLE WAS THE LYNCHPIN IN INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM AND RECRUITED FOLLOWERS BY PROMISING THAT HE WOULD PROVIDE WITH 'GIFTS' IF THEY WERE 'GOOD'. THIS IS AKIN TO A PROMISE OF 7 OR MORE VIRGINS IN AN AFTER-LIFE. NOT ONLY DOES THE U.S. MILITARY STAND BY IT'S DECISION TO SHOOT DOWN SANTA, ER, KRINGLE, WE ALSO STAND BY THE DECISION TO NUKE THE NORTH POLE."
PETRAEUS WENT ON TO BOAST THAT THE U.S. MILITARY WAS CURRENTLY USING GLOBAL POSITIONING/TRACKING TO LOCATE THE TOOTH FAIRY VIA BIOMETRICS THEY SWABBED OFF OF A CHILD'S PILLOW.
"TINKY'S REIGN OF TERROR IS OVER!" PETRAEUS THUNDERED.
And what's left after that but to discredit or vanish the last one speaking out? "The widow speaks" and "THIS JUST IN! SANTA'S WIDOW CALLS OUT THE U.S.!""
BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIX MIX -- BAGHDAD.
TODAY, MRS. CLAUSE VISITED BAGHDAD, WITH PROTECTION PROVIDED BY THE EASTER BUNNY, TO HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE WHERE SHE DECRIED THE U.S. MILITARY'S DECISION TO ASSASSINATE HER HUSBAND EARLY ON THE MORNING OF DECEMBER 25TH.
STANDING IN THE CRATER WHERE HER HUSBAND'S SLED CRASHED AFTER BEING FIRED UPON, MRS. CLAUSE INSISTED THAT HER HUSBAND WAS NO TERRORIST.
"HE DELIVERED TOYS. HE BROUGHT JOY. HE WAS VICIOUSLY KILLED. THE REAL TERRORISTS ARE IN CENTCOM!"
MRS. CLAUSE DECRIED THE HATRED AND FEAR THAT SHE STATED WAS BEHIND HER HUSBAND'S ASSASSINATION.
MRS. CLAUSE EXPLAINED THAT EACH CHRISTMAS DAY, THE CLAUSES HAD VACATIONED IN MIAMI AND SHE HAD ALREADY DEPARTED THE NORTH POLE BEFORE THE U.S. NUKED IT WHICH WAS "WHY I REMAIN THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DECRY THIS STATE-SPONSORED TERRORISM."
AS FOR CHARGES OF TERRORISM, SHE STATED THE U.S. MILITARY WAS "HIDING BEHIND THAT FALSE CHARGE" IN ORDER TO COVER UP THEIR OWN ACTIONS.
"THE WORLD IS WATCHING! THE WORLD IS WATCHING!" SHE EXCLAIMED TO THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE SHORTLY BEFORE GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS PULLED THE POWER ON THE MICROPHONE, SENT IN A 5 MAN TEAM TO BAG HER HEAD AND WHISK HER OUT OF SIGHT.
RUMORS ABOUND THAT SHE IS BEING HELD IN GUANTANAMO.
We think just about captures it all.