Archive for July, 2012

Today’s mail

Posted: July 31, 2012 in -
Tags: ,

Dear Political Film Blog Editors,

Filmmakers with a story to tell about their Hispanic experience (whether personal or by exposure) should check out the Coco Latino Project, a film contest with a $10,000 grand prize.

The Coco Latino Project is seeking original videos based on five themes: Identity, Family, Home, Influences and Mealtime. Interested participants should visit the Coco Latino Project website for contest rules and information regarding the cash prize and travel opportunities.

Time is limited; the entry period ends August 12. Below is a press release with more project information.

Thanks so much for helping us spread the word about Coco Latino. If there’s no space on your blog for a post, a Tweet or Facebook post will go a long way to get this into the hands of deserving filmmakers. For Twitter, please use the #CocoLatino hashtag.

To interview the project creators or contest judges, please send me a note with your area of interest and the best way to contact you.

Kind regards,

Paul

PS: The Coco Latino logo can be downloaded here and there’s a Q&A video from contest judge Mando Alvarado on YouTube.

Paul Wiseman | Communications Manager

T +1 (305) 860-1000 Ext. 124

M +1 (407) 463-6470v

 

When Business Becomes Crime
Drug War Savages
by SAUL LANDAU

Savage: not domesticated or cultivated; wild.

In June and July the war on drugs proceeded apace as DEA agents and Honduran military goons knocked off some Miskitu people in Honduras – suspects supposedly running drugs in small boats. Police around the United States made thousands of drug-related arrests and doctors prescribed drugs for hundreds of thousands of sad and unmotivated adults and children. But in Mexico the story of dead people, cops or civilians, abounds in the never-ending drug war. Daily, we read of atrocities committed by rival Mexican narco gangs in collusion with the army or police. The drug war makes little sense in a nation where a sad person who sees a doctor gets drugged (legally) and a sad person who smokes a joint runs the risk of arrest.

Oliver Stone’s “Savages” shows how a trivial love-business story leads to border narco violence as he launches his non-tendentious cinematic attack on the drug war. Set in southern California beach country, with mansions growing out of the cliffs, sun-drenched Frisbee tossing surfers and bikini-clad beach gals as the extras, “Savages” examines the marijuana business and the ruthlessness of the criminal corporations (Mexican cartels) to extend their markets into the turf of small indie dealers like Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson), best friends who share everything. Chon, an Iraq Navy Seal vet whose mind remains at war and the green-oriented, philanthropic Ben with a botany degree from UC Berkeley are partners in a marijuana production and distribution business.

Ben grows super weed, treats his workers and customers fairly and Chon handles any physical disagreements that emerge. They also love the same poor little rich girl, Ophelia (Blake Lively) whose parents have neglected her emotional needs, but bought her everything. O, in deep need of parental love, adores the two father-figure-lovers. With her Iraq-vet lover she has “orgasms while he has “wargasms.” He is metal. With Ben, who is wood, she makes love. Interesting how a young beauty with absent parents chooses two hippy business studs and they cement their friendship by sharing her. Their perfect combination –for her — and the ideal Hollywood ménage a trois in liturgical Laguna Beach gets interrupted, however, by a Mexican drug cartel message –a beheading video — that wants to buy into their fabulous smoke business. Enter violence and mayhem into the plot because, their paid DEA agent informs them, one doesn’t say no to criminal cartels. Some absence of realism appears in this part of the plot taken from the Don Winslow novel “Savages”.

In this film, Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” combine with “Wall Street” to offer a cinematic essay on what happens when business becomes crime thanks to the war on drugs. Our heroes, who deal hi grade blunt to needy Laguna Beach users, must concede or resist as the Cartel’s queen pin,(Elena) Salma Hayek drives them to decision by kidnapping O. “They can’t love her as much as they love each other,” she concludes of Chon’s and Ben’s relationship. Salma dines with her captive and sows motherly feelings. O also understands what it might have been like to have had a mother who cared about her. But all niceties vanish in the presence of banal villainy, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), who as the cartel’s enforcer, becomes a believably wicked and murderous sadist, who after getting his face full of O’s contemptuous spittle, swallows some lustfully and wipes the rest off his face with her hair.

Stone does not turn “Savages” into a pedantic anti-drug war message film. The viewer, however, will get the point, thanks to the role of Dennis (a chubby and balding John Travolta), a DEA agent taking his salaries from the US government, the independent pot dealers and the cartel. This Stone coketail of a film unleashes the unrestrained violence of the real drug war, as well as the lingering 60s sexuality that developed around lots of weed smoking and coke snorting. But “Savages” will not become the typical teen-friendly summer movie. The self-indulgent trio, who get stoned, have sex, surf and eat fine meals stop far short of becoming heroes of a masterpiece. But they are fun to watch and the film spanks the drug war promoters where they should feel a little pain despite their insensitivity to reality.

Reality. On July 11 The federal government filed papers to seize properties in Oakland and San Jose to shut down the nation’s largest and highest-profile medical marijuana dispensary operation. Copies of the federal Complaint for Forfeiture were taped to the front doors of the two marijuana dispensaries in Oakland and San Jose California, alleging they were “operating in violation of federal law.” In other words, the war on drugs ensures that criminal drug enterprises will continue to thrive in their business and its violence. (LA Times July 11)

Outside the movie theater, everyone can see how the Justice Department uses federal resources to arrest and prosecute individuals who comply with the medicinal cannabis laws of their state. In July, the House of Representatives voted 262 to 163 to defeat a federal budget amendment that sought to prevent the federal government from spending taxpayers’ dollars to target state compliant medical marijuana-related activities, despite the reality that most of their constituents opposed it.

Curious teens will try pot. The less curious will only drink. The curious can get punished by the cops, the less curious boozers, after reaching 18 or 21, become legal. In the movie, a 3 way romance, grown-up children seeking parents, druggie business ventures seeking to expand or limit risks, and lots of sex and violence, make a sure-fire combo for cinematic success. At the end – two endings, actually — you might ask: “So who are the real savages?” And “what makes them uncivilized?”

 

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens August 3 at he San Jose Peace and Justice Center, 48 South 7th St., San Jose CA., and on August 14 at Washington DC’s Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Ave NW, 8 PM. More info at: http://saullandau.com/

 

NBC Invents War-o-tainment

by David Swainson

If you’ve watched the Olympics on NBC you’ve probably seen ads promoting a war-o-tainment reality show cohosted by retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, co-starring Todd Palin, and with no apparent role for reality.

The ads brag about the use of real bullets in a way that promoters of the new Batman movie probably wouldn’t try. But the chances that any of the celebrities engaged in “war competition” on NBC’s “Stars Earn Stripes” will be shot and killed is essentially what it was for John Wayne, as he promoted war while dodging it (even if nuclear weapons testing got him in the end).

RootsAction.org and Just Foreign Policy have set up a website at StarsEarnStripes.org to push NBC to show the real cost of war, and to help get them started.

“Stars Earn Stripes” is being produced by the TV “genius” behind Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” and “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” (Husband Todd Palin is a “Stars Earn Stripes” co-star.) NBC is promoting the show during its Summer Olympics telecast as the next big sporting event. But the sport it’s exhibiting is war.

On “Stars Earn Stripes,” celebrities will pair-up with members of the U.S. military to compete at war-like tasks, including “long-range weapons fire.” Only there won’t be any of the killing or dying.

Our wars kill huge numbers of people, primarily civilians, and often children and the elderly. NBC is not showing this reality on its war-o-tainment show any more than on its news programs. Other nations’ media show the face of war, giving people a very different view of war-making.

NBC news programs have repeatedly used retired generals, pretending independence but getting their pro-war talking points from the Pentagon. See New York Times: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand and Glenn Greenwald: The Pulizer-Winning Investigation That Dare Not Be Uttered on TV.

In the United States, our tax dollars are spent by the billions each year marketing the idea that war is a sport and associating the military with sporting events. Media companies like NBC are complicit in the propaganda. While 57% of federal discretionary spending goes to the military, weapons makers can’t seem to get enough of our tax dollars. In the spirit of transferring veterans’ care to the realm of private charity, “Stars Earn Stripes” will give prize money each week to “military-based charities” in order to “send a message.”

One of NBC’s corporate parents, General Electric, takes war very seriously, but not as human tragedy — rather, as financial profit. (GE is a big weapons manufacturer.) A retired general hosting a war-o-tainment show is another step in the normalization of permanent war. And consider for a moment who that retired general is. During the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia commanded by Gen. Wesley Clark, civilians and a TV station were bombed, while cluster bombs and depleted uranium were used. Had Clark done these things for another nation, NBC would probably favor his prosecution and certainly not employ him. See Democracy Now! Confronts Wesley Clark Over His Bombing Of Civilians.

StarsEarnStripes.org is asking NBC to stop treating war as a sport, and to air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars, on any program, any time in the coming months. We’ve provided some resources to help NBC research and show the reality of war, at StarsEarnStripes.org.

http://davidswanson.org

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at davidswanson.org and warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization rootsaction.org.

The Aurora tragedy raises the haunting question: Why does pop culture inspire people to kill?

by Owen Gleiberman

Spree killers and their connections to pop culture phenomena, and more widely applicable: pop culture’s influence on both empathy and obsessions.

 

It’s an obvious point, an old point, and a true one nonetheless.  This billboard was put up in Idaho, and we need more like it.  The victims of US aggression receive miniscule attention in this myopic, narcissistic land.  Ours is a propaganda state of worthy and unmentionable victims, where lives are valued according to policy requirements.  The attention given to their deaths, to the injustices perpetrated against them is commensurate with the politics of the editorial decision makers.

Whose massacre is greater, in that above photo?  Who continues to kill with impunity?  Who gets away with it in broad daylight?

Let the Obama apologists flood the world now with dissembling and obfuscation. (Dead Libyans and dead Syrians and dead Africans and dead Yemenis and dead Pakistanis and dead Afghanis don’t count, you see).

 

 

Must say I haven’t yet seen Dark Knight Rises. Perhaps I’ll find a free version somewhere, so as not to support it financially.

What I’ve seen of the story disturbs me: the blatant exploitation of current political realities to rake in bucks. The people’s protest is yet another tick on a list of items to twist into a plot point. The rule by billionaires is included — but in what context, and with what message? That only a weirdo billionaire can save us poor dumb rabble who are so easily manipulated into being evil?

ROLLING STONE has a new interview with Nolan, and asks him some of these questions. His answers are to be expected (all big Hollywood types resort to these stock answers about politics), and feel quite disingenuous. By the way, this is the cliche Hollywood response throughout history to all such questions of propaganda and political messages:

NOLAN: We put a lot of interesting questions in the air, but that’s simply a backdrop for the story.

Nothing to worry about here; just buy the damn ticket.

NOLAN: What we’re really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that somebody would try to wedge open. We’re going to get wildly different interpretations of what the film is supporting and not supporting, but it’s not doing any of those things. It’s just telling a story.

Repetition is key. Go back to sleep.

NOLAN: If you’re saying, “Have you made a film that’s supposed to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement?” – well, obviously, that’s not true.

Really? The people’s uprising in the film is easily hijacked by a demagogue warlord. Perhaps as could, and has happened in real life. To say that this plot development is meaningless? The man is lying.

NOLAN: If the populist movement is manipulated by somebody who is evil, that surely is a criticism of the evil person.

And says nothing about the people who create and participate in the movement? Nothing about the concept of protest? The legitimacy of popular uprisings? The rights to assemble and demand change? In the real world version of these movements, we have the movements attacked by organized, militarized, unlawful police violence. That has been the real world result of popular struggle over the last year. To put his head up his ass and pretend it’s all a story with no bearing on the world, despite looking a hell of a lot like the TV news is disingenuous in the extreme.

I had a major problem with Nolan and his Batman in The Dark Knight. He thought it would be fun or “interesting” in his parlance, to have Batman torture the Joker in the police interrogation room. The hero, the champion who tortures? That is an infuriating immoral aspect to a lot of Hollywood films today, a sign of the debauchery and immorality of those in power to edit the scripts that become the films shoved down our collective throats. When the “hero” Batman resorted to torture, I was quite disgusted in the extreme. For all its budget and and technical wizardry, The Dark Knight left me worried at the current state of comic book films and their power to alter and affect young minds.

This fear was solidified as The Dark Knight okay’s the total surveillance of Gotham — NSA spying on us all — to save us, of course. Every police state is saving us. Every totalitarian is saving us. Every fascist regime is saving us. It’s all for our own good, according to Christopher Nolan and his Batman. As Dick Cheney found it easy to identify with the “Dark Knight,” who apparently got the memo and was operating in “the shadows,” we should be very wary of the propaganda threaded throughout these films.

Not everyone is as sophisticated at analyzing them as you and me. They’re called children (and a lot of the poorly educated public).

Christopher Nolan is of course a brilliant filmmaker.* No one could deny that. He’s also well on his way to becoming a billionaire and joining the ranks of the 1%. To do this, he must rake in the money of the 99% while appeasing his 1% paymasters. That’s his game. That’s his motivation.

As should have been painfully obvious on the opening night of this film, the messages and the ideas thrown against the wall matter. The spree-killing “Joker,” with bright red hair found quite a bit to chew on in the previous film. It was he whom The Batman tortured in the cell. It was he whom he idolized and modeled his behavior on. The real-life Joker wired his apartment with bombs, much as the on-screen Joker would have done. The real-life Joker had similar nonsensical motivations for his actions. They were pointedly pointless.

When you play with fire, you get burned. But in this case, it was a lot of innocents getting burned, and not those responsible for putting those ideas out there.

 

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* Leni Riefenstahl (Hitler’s propagandist) was also an undeniably brilliant filmmaker, as was D.W. Griffith (Ku Klux Klan proselytizer). It’s not enough.

 

The words that define the debates are examined by Prof. Michael Parenti, a long-time rebel and all-around brilliant rabble rouser. More on deep politics and resistance to the right wing plutocracy at Enlightened Films.