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  • 09 Nov 2016 at 10:01 am #8679

    Candy Minx

    Well, “he messed up” is an understate,emt this morning huh?

    With similar issues Thomas Frank really seems to understand the United States and the liberals….especially the weaknesses of the liberals….

    This book should be read by everyone who was blindsided last night…(Stagg and I didn’t watch the election because we knew there was no way the liberal elite was going to get elected last night)

    09 Nov 2016 at 6:03 pm #8681

    Richard L.

    Re: Alan Greenspan

    Greenspan claims to be a longtime disciple of Ayn Rand (see Gary Weiss’s Ayn Rand Nation: The Struggle for America’s Soul and Thomas Frank’s Pity the Poor Billionaire). Back when I was in high school, there was a conservative teacher (affiliated with the John Birch Society) who year after year made Rand required reading in his class, thus indoctrinating selfish, egoistic teenagers who had not yet developed empathy and their prefrontal cortex.

    Lots of teachers in other schools, at least in Kentucky, did the same (the John Birch Society Bible, entitled NONE DARE CALL IT TREASON, was printed by Publisher’s Printing in Bullitt County, just south of Louisville).

    Back in the 1990s, when the Modern Library and others took an internet poll on the greatest books, many were surprised when Ayn Rand’s novels garnered several positions near the top of the list. They should have made it a requirement that voters had to have read it least twenty novels in their lifetimes, because so many Ayn Rand lovers have read no other fiction but hers.

    The current issue of Vanity Fair contains a story on the Ayn Rand cult, saying that her books say, “It’s all right to be a sociopath.”

    Kentucky’s Senator Rand Paul was named after her, and when he was running for reelection this fall, he planted signs all over that said simply, REELECT RAND, letting voters see his first name instead of his last, and it certainly worked–even though Democrats ran a bunch of commercials with the tape of Trump, McCain, and other Republican stalwarts calling him naïve and dangerous.

    Re: Thomas Frank’s LISTEN LIBERAL.

    I read this when it first came out. Mighty insightful. Clinton and Obama have both failed the working man, and among those I know who voted for Trump, they are hoping that he means what he said about getting jobs back from China and better trade deals. To them, Hilary Clinton would be the same swindle they got from Bill Clinton, just more of the same, and anything might be better.

    They might be right, but I doubt it. Don Winslow’s Frankie Machine (in The Winter of Frankie Machine) had it right: The U.S. Government doesn’t really fight organized crime==because it is organized crime.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by  Richard L..
    09 Nov 2016 at 7:14 pm #8683


    Thanks for the heads up on Rand Paul and the Greenspan-Rand connection. I had no idea of such, but considering Greenspan’s failed policies, the connection figures.

    28 Jan 2017 at 4:16 pm #8802

    Richard L.

    Watching, as I can, BRAINDEAD from Amazon Prime. I watched THE NIGHT MANAGER, also on Amazon Prime, based on John Le Carre’s novel, and it was fun to watch.

    Haven’t watched much of anything else lately. I did catch the episode of NATURE on the urban coyotes, which was very good. And, oh yeah, I caught a Mary Tyler Moore retrospective and was amazed by how much President Trump steals from Ted Baxter. The look. The attitude.

    If you too are looking for something good to watch, you might want to check out these reviews:

    and some more, here:

    31 Jan 2017 at 7:19 am #8805

    Candy Minx

    I love that blog…lots of great recommendations on it. I’m going to be in a black hole checking out a lot of their faves.

    Been binging on tv ….Just finished re-watching all of Twin Peaks to be ready for the new one coming out soon. Watch the OA, and we are obsessed with The Young Pope: is like Fellini meets Kubrick in House Of Cards. So juicy and mysterious. Jude Law and Diane Keaton are killing it!

    31 Jan 2017 at 10:50 am #8806

    Taken from my book Insights into Noted Films, American and Foreign recently sent to two University libraries: UT and UF

    Reactions to Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich

    First the film’s pluses. It opens with Craig Schwartz masterfully controlling a puppet likeness of himself to the strains of Vivaldi. The puppet’s “Dance of Despair and Disillusionment” (doesn’t disillusion usually precede despair?) gets increasingly wild and violent till puppet and puppeteer run out of steam, puppet weeps, and Craig sadly hangs it up for another day. That time soon comes when Craig, desperate to work as a puppeteer, tries buskering on a New York sidewalk. The puppets he controls are Heloise and Abelard who in the real life of 12th century France became tragic lovers and Heloise great with his child. Heloise’s cruel canon of an uncle hired thugs to deprive Abelard of his testicles, and the canon shut honor-student Heloise away in a convent. In despair once famed philosopher/theologian Abelard hid behind religious walls, but he couldn’t stand it and became a hermit till wisdom-hungry folks sought him out for intellectual succor.

    The puppet wall between Abelard and Heloise suggests the marital wall between Craig and Lotte. She loves animals more than she does Craig, if she ever loved him at all, and Craig yearns for romantic love like that of Abelard-Heloise even if it gets tragic. If we want to turn even more symbolic here (sometimes risky but here goes), Craig feels castrated in a loveless marriage. Later, with a dab of Descartes, he tells chimp Elijah something like this: I think, I feel, I suffer.

    Back to busker Schwartz. His Abelard-Heloise act is short-lived. A nice little girl (anticipation of Emily?) is intrigued by it, but her father takes offense. To protect his little darlin’s virtue, he beats the crap out of Craig and destroys Heloise and Abelard. Thus we have an example of family values oft-expressed in our time. This sexually represssed neanderthal of a daddy-o parallels and possibly symbolizes Canon Fulbert (Heloise’s uncle). The little girl may represent a budding Heloise.

    At this point in the film, I’m saying to myself, “These scenes are pretty good. Hard to believe they’re the work of Spike Jonze who soon after 1999 lent a slap-happy hand to the Jackass TV series and Jackass, the Movie I and II?” “Jackass” was the brainchild of self-crowned retard Johnny Knoxville (Philip John Clapp of Knoxville, TN). Incidentally, a Knoxville motel figures in Pulp Fiction, but I forget exactly where. Oh my Knoxville, Eternal City of Odd!

    One of the funniest gimmicks I’ve seen in a long time is Dr. Lester’s Floor 7 1/2 where workers stoop and hump around like slow-motion zombies. Lester brags to job applicant Schwartz that the low ceilings amount to thrifty “low overhead.”

    Craig easily gets the job because Lester thinks he’ll just love to hear about the old fart’s sexcapades. The filing test Lester gives Craig is so easy that chimp Elijah could ace it. Given the chance, Elijah would surely file better than Craig or Maxine because soon Craig’s mooning over her and she’s scheming how to make a fast buck out of Lester’s rabbit-hole portal that Craig took into Malkovich’s head. Floor 7 1/2 where Lester’s assistant Floris talks like an idiot and Lester like the dirty old man he remains is Jonze and writer Charley Kaufman’s nod to Lewis Carroll. Alice has become Craig in Lester’s Looney Land to be joined by animal fanatic Lotte, a bunch of dunces that pay MaxineCraig’s shyster “firm” $200 for 15 minutes of mundane “fame” in Malkovich’s brain; Lester’s demented friends; and for a few frantic moments, John Horatio Malkovich himself. Craig/Malkovich’s manipulations create star puppet Craig and a balletic supporting cast, all of whom twirl and swirl with Swan Lake-like beauty and grace.

    Before I go to the minuses, a few words about the academics who praise this film so highly. Professor Norman Holland calls it “wacky and profound,” with more emphasis on the latter quality. After commenting on actor Malkovich as “a focus for other people’s dreams,” Norm says that (italics mine)

    Craig’s puppeteering is another form of artistic identification with another, but it seems more pathological, and so it turns out to be. Both ways open up possibilities for the two men. And both open up possibilities for us, their audience, as we experience their art. There is no loss of self but a possible gain of experience and understanding….

    In the next paragraph Norm contends that [s]ex or love are other positive ways we enter into another–quite literally as Maxine…puts it. Lotte feels John Malkovich’s sexual sensations, as does Craig. There is a mingling of ecstasies with, perhaps, some gain of experience and understanding….

    In his conclusion before the appendix of things in the film he finds puzzling, Norm says, In short, the constancy of our desire defines us, but the experience of being in someone else’s skin (through the arts? through empathy?) can expand and enrich that identity. To me, this idea makes as much coherence for this chaotic movie as I can make….

    Like Norm, Professor Daniel Shaw sees desire as a driving motivator in this film, but Shaw writes of desire in the Nietzschean sense of will (italics mine):

    The crucial point for me was when Craig took control transforming himself from just another passive observer of Malkovich’s action into the internal puppeteer that pulled the strings. Then, when Dr. Lester takes over even more completely than Craig ever could, I thought the answer to the puzzle was clear: the key to being John Malkovich was to be the will behind the actions of the Malkovich vessel. It would actually be a kind of existential theory of personal identity; we are what we do, and the real identity of Malkovich is defined by what he does, and by the reasons and values that explain why he chooses to do what he does….Nietzsche’s theory of Will to Power, then, best answers the pivotal question of who John Malkovich is at the end of the film, seven years after Lester has moved in….Lester’s will commands the body like the pilot of a ship, and John Malkovich ends up being more like Lester than anyone else…. The film begs to be read in light of an existentialist theory of personal identity of Friedrich Nietzsche, which sees the self as defined by its actions, and the projects and values to which we dedicate ourselves….(“On Being Philosophical and Being John Malkovich.”

    I find Holland and Shaw here problematical. First Norm: He says that Craig’s pathological identification with Malkovich opens up possibilities for the actor and for us the audience. The pathology does for Craig for a while, but in the not-too-long-run this negative kills positive possibility for Craig and he’s imprisoned forever in Emily. Some of Norm’s statements have a hesitancy, almost an ambiguity, as if he’s overly concerned about qualifying himself or uncertain about some of the argument he’s making. For example, note the “perhaps” in the following: “There is a mingling of ecstasies with, perhaps, some gain of experience and understanding….” And the parenthetical ideas in the following: “the experience of being in someone else’s skin (through the arts? through empathy?) can enrich that identity….

    Why the questions, Norm? Earlier you stressed pretty emphatically that “empathy is a way of entering into another” and art a positive way of identifying with another. I find particularly troubling this wording that precedes interpretive views of Maxine and Lotte: “Sex or love are other positive ways that we enter into another….” Sex or love? Of course, we know that they don’t always go together. Are you equating them here? If you mean either one, is sex always a positive way into the affections of another? Surely not! I shall say more about Maxine and Lotte a little later.

    As for Professor Shaw’s contentions that Nietzsche is a way to understand and interpret this film, Shaw’s argument is one of the weakest that I’ve read in some time. He cites little Nietzsche; mentions only one primary work, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil; and draws a tad from only one secondary work, Tracy Strong’s Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transformation. Shaw can’t point to any particular situation or character in John Malkovich that’s definitely Nietzschean because there is none. Or is there? Lester’s reliving through a series of bodies might be seen as a kind of Nietzschean “eternal return” (ewige Wiederkunf). In Lester’s case, however, it’s at best Nietzsche light. Moreover, Nietzsche never spoke of the reality of the “eternal return”; he just thought it in The Gay Science and Thus Spake Zarathustra. I saw or heard nothing from Lester or any other character that implies their makers have clearly drawn from Nietzsche.

    Shaw, I believe, misreads the character of Malkovich when he says “the real identity of Malkovich is defined by what he does, and by the reasons and values that explain why he chooses to do what he does.” Malkovich, however, has little identity of his own. He is mostly chosen by others. When he does choose to zoom through his portal into a bizarre restaurant, he experiences a nightmare of his own egotism and gender confusion so extreme he panics and bolts out of the place.

    Like many critics and scholars in the last 30 years or more, Shaw makes the mistake, and a very serious one, of reading art through a critical lens that he likes. This approach works if the primary work clearly justifies the “lens.” Otherwise, it’s off-on-a-tangent thinking that runs self-consciously askew. Thus, the method, if it can rightfully be called such, retards rather than advances scholarship.

    While will or desire drives all the characters in Being John Malkovich, it does so not with empathy but in extremely selfish and controlling ways. Each of the characters wants something and each does his or her damndest to get it through egoistic control. Malkovich desperately craves a clear head, but other egos keep fogging him up. He tries to control himself by jumping into his own portal but instead is controlled by his fears and anxieties.

    Nietzsche would allow such actions as attempts, even heroic ones, at “self-overcoming” on the way to some “higher self.” But it’s hard for me to fully trust Nietzsche. At times his self-parody appears so ego-driven that it undercuts his attempts to reconcile opposites and achieve deeper insights into human potential. Is Zarathustra really Nietzsche’s alter ego? If so, is Zarathustra/Nietzsche ultimately philosophical superman (Ubermensch) or buffoon (Hanswurst)? If Nietzsche were alive and sane, he might say, “Flip a coin. I call both sides” (superman and buffoon). Maybe superman-buffoon is the final secret of Thus Spake Zarathustra. But I digress.

    Back to the film: Lester is no ubermensch. A buffoon he is, one cast by Jonze and Kaufman in their juvenile mold of reincarnation. Maxine, as Norm said in the discussion group, “is hard as nails.” In sex Maxine and Malkovich hump like aggressive ogres. Maxine reminds me of TV-crazed Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) in Network. Both mouth and act like the worst kind of male. Diana gets off a bit faster than Maxine, but the latter talks more trash. Wallowing on couch and omelet table, Maxine and Malkovich are about as romantic and graceful as animated stumps. Are we really to believe that Maxine turns lovingly maternal by stroking her pregnant tummy? Listen to her at film’s end when she tells Emily something like this, Honey, lemme check if you’re ready to go swimming. I’ll just tickle you and see if you vomit. (Were I a Child Welfare worker, Maxine, and saw you make Emily barf, I’d slap a child-abuse citation on you faster than you could say “screw.”) When Emily/Craig hits the pool, Maxine and Lotte appear to forget about the child and go to giggling and pawing each other in what looks like a game of girly high jinks.

    One major problem with this film is that in the midst of its wackiness it gets pseudo-serious with bits of Vivaldi, Heloise and Abelard, reincarnation, William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech (a few lines of which Craig/Malkovich mouths). We get a smattering of Emily Dickinson (a short verse in support of the mammoth Dickinson puppet that Craig rightly sees as a rival puppeteer’s colossal gimmick), a little ballet, lots of lesbianism, and a transgender crisis. I can imagine Jonze and Kaufman planning this film like two naughty boys hiding out in their high school john, one suddenly exclaiming, “Hey, how ’bout this! Let’s see how many hot-button issues we can throw into this flick!” The film does not affirm values; it exploits issues. “Suck my dick!” Lotte screams as cave man Craig drags her by the hair toward the monkey cage. Thus Jonze/Kaufman exploit the transgender urge and male chauvinism in one brutally crude scene. Of all the film’s exploitations, this one is the worst.

    “Truth is for suckers, Johnny Boy,” Charlie Sheen tells Malkovich. Consciously or subconsciously, Jonze, Kaufman, and actor Malkovich work hard to escape from artistic truth and they succeed, probably beyond their wildest dreams. I suspect in the beings of filmmaker, writer, and real actor there gnaws a fear of their own femaleness, maybe a conscious denial of their feminine sides. I also suspect that homophobia, perhaps subconscious but no less insidious, informs much of this film. In any case, in more skillful hands, Being John Malkovich could have been a supremely comical movie, full of philosophical parody and keen wit and irony. As it is, this flick is overrated, mostly crude and shallow, no deeper than the thin skin it pretends to value.—Bob G.

    01 Feb 2017 at 1:44 am #8807


    I was glad to see ‘Hell or High Water’ on the link provided by Richard L. This is another politically-charged example of neo-Western Noir. The McCarthy echoes abound, especially Jeff Bridges’ channeling of Sheriff Bell for his portrayal of a grizzled lawman not making much sense of post-Lehman Brothers’ America. What is noticeable in these recent allegories of disenchantment, well, for me anyway, is how everyone looks so exhausted: not getting enough sleep, drinking too much, etc. The leeching out of hope in the cinematic image of a human face, I find myself pondering portentously. Worth comparing with the stark realism of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, an uncompromising excoriation of food-bank England that is just too unHollywood to be included, as it deserves to be, in the Oscar list. Worth contrasting, too, with La La Land, a movie that, against my better judgement, I really enjoyed. However, the great visual lie at it’s heart is the sumptuous use of cinemascope and technicolour. But sometimes we need alternative facts, right?

    • This reply was modified 11 months, 3 weeks ago by  cantona.
    • This reply was modified 11 months, 3 weeks ago by  cantona.
    05 Feb 2017 at 3:39 am #8820

    Richard L.

    BRAINDEAD was superb. Just marvelous. There is a lot to like.

    HELL OR HIGH WATER was a fine movie. The understated things were nicely done. The Comanches were a nice touch. The bad brother enjoyed his killing spree. The old sheriff enjoyed the hunt and the kill. McCarthy would have added some hawks or eagles, some carrion vultures maybe. The cast was just right. There were enough thinking nuances anyway. Some wow moments requiring reflection. It’s hardly ever this well done.

    Don’t miss the closing segment which presents some of the best dialog in any western. Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine are at their best.

    21 Feb 2017 at 4:41 pm #8881

    As I watched this film last Saturday night, I thought, It has Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men written all over it. Afterward, I went to the McCarthy Forum and found short postings on the works. I especially liked these comments by Cantona:

    This is another politically-charged example of neo-Western Noir. The McCarthy echoes abound, especially Jeff Bridge’s channeling of Sheriff Bell [in No Country] for his portrayal of a grizzled lawman not making much sense of post-Lehman Brothers’ America. What is noticeable in these recent allegories of disenchantment, well, for me anyway, is how everyone looks so exhausted: not getting enough sleep, drinking too much, etc. The leeching out of hope in the cinematic image of a human face, I find myself pondering portentously.

    McCarthy is a genius with southeastern and southwestern dialects. In these, he even surpasses Faulkner. It was good to see the Jeff Bridges character, Sheriff Marcus Hamilton, skillfully use the southwestern kind, keeping in mind that many Texans have their roots in Tennessee. David Mackensie, the director, tempers the film’s violence with the Robin Hood effect of two brothers robbing branches of a big Texas bank, laundering the money through a Native American casino, and in the nick of time using the casino checks to pay off the mortgage on their family land held by the same bank. The brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), really do love each other, but it takes little provocation for ex-con Tanner to morph into a murderer. He finally gets his deathly comeuppance from the barrel of Sheriff Hamilton’s rifle.

    Mackensie’s film has more humorous banter than McCarthy’s, but the latter also mines some gems, like when Sheriff Bell and Deputy Wendell come upon the bodies of a drug deal gone bad. Wendell: “It’s a mess, ain’t it sheriff?” Bell: “If it ain’t, it’ll do till one comes along.”

    Unlike McCarthy, Mackensie uses racial taunting for comical effect. Unfortunately, Hamilton jabs too much at Deputy Alberto Parker’s (Gil Birmingham) Native American-Hispanic heritage. One or two slurs would have been more than enough to contrast Hamilton’s racism with Parker’s noble stoicism. At one point, Parker gets in a good lick observing that the bank he and Hamilton are trying protect from thieves was part of the white greed that robbed his tribe of their land. Tragically, Parker is killed by Tanner Howard, and Hamilton weeps uncontrollably over the body of his deputy.

    22 Feb 2017 at 7:25 pm #8883


    RIP Seijun Suzuki:


    I tried to post this yesterday but for some reason the website didn’t take:

    I finally got around to watch the DVD of Set Fire To the Stars (2014 UK, 2015 US), the semi-biographical movie about Dylan Thomas’s first visit to America in 1950, based partly on the account of Thomas’s promoter the academic and poet John Malcolm Brinnin. The title is derived from the last line of Thomas’s poem “Love In the Asylum”. The movie received mixed reviews and grossed a whopping $4,280 in the US, but I liked the movie when I watched it the other day and it has grown on me since.

    The movie is really about both Thomas and Brinnin, played respectively by Celyn Jones (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Andy Goddard) and Elijah Wood. Great performances by these two actors combined with a great ensemble cast, along with a wonderful wordfilled screenplay, make this movie shine. Also, I have Gruff Rhys’s title song playing a lot in my head.

    POSSIBLE SPOILER: There is scene in which Brinnin’s neighbors in Connecticut came over for a dinner party, identified as “Shirley” played by Shirley Henderson and “Stanley” played by Kevin Eldon. The foursome ended the evening with each one telling a horror story, and “Shirley” we are told writes scary stories. Even in her initial scene earlier, at the riverside, I had the odd feeling “Shirley” was Shirley Jackson, and this little revelation at the dinner party recalled the feeling again. Unfortunately, her last name was never revealed in the movie or in the credits. However, in a film interview I found on the internet, not included in this DVD, Celyn Jones said that “Shirley” is based on a real person, the writer of “The Lottery”, and so “Shirley” indeed is Shirley Jackson, and so “Stanley” is her husband the literary critic and theorist Stanley Edgar Hyman.

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