Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

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“People get rich complaining about this shit.  Complaining is a respected industry.”

This is a mockumentary about the fashion industry, that’s rather edgy in its black comedy.  (A different film of the same title was released in 1999.)  A new top fashion model endures the depravity of the business, but not so well it turns out.  She dies right in the middle of her biggest photo shoot.

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With her death the centerpiece of the film, the nutty and exploitative cast of characters are confronted about what they do and why.  This is not a well-loved film, and yet it was far more interesting in concept than the Robert Altman fashion industry film Ready to Wear (Prêt-à-Porter).

Many issues are touched upon, including the nature of for-profit documentaries themselves.  Everyone has an angle to play, especially when the dead model is used to sell clothes, post-mortem.  Turns out that supermodels are worth more dead than alive.

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The blitzkrieg of artsy bullshit and rationalization which follows calls into question not just these industries, but the consumers who are ultimately responsible for them.  That includes the movie audience.  It’s discomforting by design, intended to disturb.  That’s probably why it remains under the radar…

 

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Kevin O’Leary:

“Suck Satan’s cock!”
-Bill Hicks

 

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Joe Giambrone | Political Film Blog

With Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese stomps on Consumerist Christmas like Godzilla on crack.  This is the boldest, most audacious piece in recent memory, a film whose release date holds even deeper meaning than most American audiences could possibly process.  They were assaulted, intentionally, on levels far deeper than their supposed virgin eyes.  The naughty sex and drugs and runtime are the shallow criticisms currently making the mainstream rounds.  Yawn.

Wolf is not about sex and drugs.  The film is about money, power, greed, the legitimacy of this market-based wealth accumulation system.  The sex and drugs are simply window dressing to a far deeper sickness, one that claws right out from the screen like a 3D Craptacular and strangles the audience where they live: their own greedy little insatiable egos.  Because Jordan Belfort did it, he already topped them all.  They could never compete.  It’s been done.

Wolf has meaning across the society, the way we organize ourselves here as buyers and sellers, each competing to one up the next.  Scorsese has finally matured to the point where he can tell it like it is, the American experience, the actual American Way, the American Dream, the myths, the reality, the psychology we’ve all been sold.  This is a far bigger story than the tale of one super con man with a drug problem: we’re all complicit.

I’m of the opinion today that Wolf of Wall Street is indeed Scorsese’s best film, the full 2 hour and 59 minute cut.

Director Martin Scorsese arrives at The Royal Premiere of his film Hugo at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London

People will likely respond with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.  Of the three, Taxi Driver is the only film to reconsider.

Goodfellas is one of the most overrated of all Scorsese’s efforts.  From the first trailer I saw it was plainly obvious: this is no Godfather.  Scorsese’s artifice, his penchant for voiceovers and intrusive directorial voice left me distanced and unconvinced on any level.  Better gangster films are not difficult to locate.  Sorry, film geek boys; you can stop pitching this as some greatest film.  It ain’t.

Conversely, with Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese’s style meshes gloriously with this over the top exploration of excess and debauchery.  DiCaprio’s voiceovers provide a witness, a sounding board, a then-and-now take on the events that heightens the black comedy and makes for a hilarious counterpoint to the events unfolding on screen.   With Wolf, the intrusive and jarring cuts, freeze frames and confessions all serve to bring the story to life.

Raging Bull was another effort that left me cold. Jake LaMotta was a sad sack, uncharismatic, a chore to watch.  The film felt like penance rather than magic.  Interesting photography couldn’t save this drudgery, in my opinion.

That leaves Taxi Driver (or perhaps you’re rooting for Casino?  Hugo?  Mean Streets?)  Up against Taxi Driver we have an interesting dilemma.  The two productions couldn’t be more different, the budgets, the visual aesthetics, the tone.

But that was 40 years ago.  The world has moved on, and cinema has moved on.  I don’t know if one could reasonably compare the two films.  Is that even a rational thing to do?

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That leaves Wolf, this week’s surprise affront to decency and American blinders.  Scorsese just came off a 3D kids’ movie, Hugo, to turn in probably the single most thought provoking film of the year.  We can’t help but see our place in Jordan Belfort’s world, because we’re not even at the servant’s quarters level.  Everything he does, he does to profit himself in the manner proscribed from on high: greed is good.  Greed is everything.  Our entire civilization is predicated on greed now.  The lurch to self-interested depravity as our religion, the cornerstone of our world, hoarding wealth for ourselves and our own, well, it needs to be acknowledged.  It needs an offensive matinee showing.  It needs shocked, flabbergasted little old ladies squirming in their seats out in Bumblefuck.

 

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This contained mind-mash pits an opportunist against nature, as celebrity obsession enters the realm of disease collecting.  Meaning: fans buy diseases so that they can better imitate and commune with their celebrity idols.  By willingly infecting themselves in order to better worship their idols, fandom has created a new commodity to exploit.  Beyond simple exploitation, the competition to obtain celebrity viruses and to sell them on the black market is fierce and criminal.

Such is Brandon Cronenberg’s directorial debut, a small noirish thriller of blood, disease and the underworld.  People who are inclined to appreciate David Cronenberg’s films will probably respond well to the movie.  The story’s Cosmopolis vibe addresses capitalist ruthlessness and the depravity associated with marketing the world to the highest bidders.  With cultural criticism (assault?) rivaling films like Idiocracy and God Bless America, here we have a very subtle, tempered version of business as usual in an unusual racket.

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The market for satire, criticism and any kind of thought whatsoever is pretty small.  DVD reviews of Antiviral made clear that a lot of people didn’t get the movie, or care to.   I thought the film was well done and thought provoking, a lot more so than Contagion anyway.  Caleb Landry Jones is a fantastic actor, and he pushes it to the edge here.  The film carried a dark, creepy sensibility even in glaringly sterile white rooms.

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by Steven Jonas

According to Wikipedia:

“Elysium or the Elysian Fields is a conception of the afterlife that evolved over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.”

In his movie “Elysium,” set in 2154, writer director Neil Blomkamp has a rather different view of the place. It is not reserved for the dead, but for the very much alive super/super/ultra-rich (read: ruling class) who have apparently survived the dead-zone for everyone else that their policies have created on Earth. And as is well-known by now to most readers of these pages, they have retreated to a vast satellite world that, even though they are hardly dead, they have for some reason named “Elysium.”

Perhaps it is because even now, there are members of the present ruling class, not only in the U.S. but around the world from here to China, to Russia, to the oil Kingdoms, to certain European and South American enclaves, who think of themselves as truly above everyone else. They are in their own minds god-like perhaps, and certainly totally entitled to their riches, even if in the process of gaining them they are dooming the rest of mankind to the kind of existence that Blomkamp portrays in his movie.

That is, one could imagine the Kochs, for example, or certain Saudi princes, or certain Russian oligarchs, or certain Chinese’s “princelings” (that is descendants of founding members of the Chinese Communist Party — who would be rolling over in their graves if they knew what had become of their children and grandchildren), thinking of themselves in the category of the “righteous and the heroic,” entitled to the life they have developed for themselves 140 years from now on their space-island. (Yes, entitled, there’s that word again. Well you have heard of “entitlements,” haven’t you? Indeed this, not pre-paid pension benefits like Social Security, is its real meaning: what the ruling class think they are entitled to, come what may for everyone else.) Indeed, Elysium does seem to be international, for English is not the only language spoken there; French, the international language of the 19th century, is also.

Elysium” is a movie that says many things to us, not, perhaps, all of them intended to be said by Mr. Blomkamp. Let me get my criticisms out of the way first. First, without giving it away, the movie has a happy, or at least apparently happy, ending. One must presume that this is one of Mr. Blomkamp’s bows to Hollywood, necessary to get made what is a very expensive, VERY high-tech movie (with marvelous special effects, which I happen to love). But the ending is jarring, to say the least, and very unrealistic. It’s sort of like the ending of Roland Emmerich’s (otherwise) masterpiece “The Day After Tomorrow” in which millions of Nord Americanos, fleeing a new ice age (which indeed could be a short-term consequence of global warming, as is explained in that movie) are welcomed with open arms south of the border. Oh yeah!

Second, in “Elysium” there is some confusion about what the real issue is between the masses trapped on the ravaged Earth and their rulers on Elysium: the total misery and oppression of the masses that has been created by those rulers on Earth out of which there seems to be no way, or the question of illegal emigration to the satellite and how that is managed. Blomkamp seems to be trying to deal with both issues side-by-side. For me this led to some confusion about what the movie is really about. Third, there is no history: how did this all come to be, in the 140-or-so years from now until then? We know already what capitalism and its evil twin global warming are leading to: the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Famine, Flood, Plague, and War. But for the reality of the movie to have been achieved, how did the masses become so totally oppressed and repressed, how did the ruling class manage to get away with it, apparently unscathed, and how did even they manage to accumulate the capital for what would be a very expensive enterprise: Elysium itself?

However, there are many excellent features of the movie, and I don’t have space to deal with them all here. First of all, one doesn’t have to imagine 2154 to see what life is like for many millions of humans, right now. For the future slum of Los Angeles in the movie was actually set in one of the present slums of Mexico City. The reality of health care faced by the masses is brilliantly portrayed by an emergency room scene likely not that different from those in many poor countries right now, and by the fact that cures for all sorts of ailments are readily available (in the movie provided by a magic, 22nd century fix-whatever-it-is-that-ails-you machine), but only on Elysium. Which is how many people around the world must now feel about the lack of available medical care, and in the U.S., where modern medical care miracles are widely distributed, for those who can afford them. But if in the U.S. you don’t have health insurance, fuhgeddaboudit.

The cops are vicious, violent, automatons (not that all present cops are, but there are plenty like them). Max’s “parole officer” is a sappy automaton, in function probably much like certain members of that profession in real life, now. “Homeland Security” is ever-present (as it is becoming more so, now). The “Defense Secretary,” Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, is a vicious, scheming Dick Cheney-like character for whom “defense” is primarily against all the people left behind on Earth. She can see events on Earth that might present some kind of threat to her realm, in real time (and the NSA is already checking out the technology available to her). And she uses working class traitors to help her keep the working class oppressed. Then there is workplace reality faced by the movie’s hero, Max, brilliantly played by Matt Damon. You see it all: speed-up, unions long gone, no occupational health and safety regulations, minimal pay for dangerous work, the foreman clearly acting as an intermediate oppressor, the boss of it seated in a sealed container overseeing the shop floor, but not wanting to even smell it, much less descend onto it. And so on and so forth.

Blomkamp does present a vision of what Earth could look like in the future, and not necessarily 140 years in the future, with global warming already wreaking havoc and capitalism becoming ever more ferociously profit-centered. What we need next is how this all is going to be prevented. Since that is going to take leading parties and the next generation of socialist revolutions around the world, don’t expect to find that story in a Hollywood movie.

http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books on health policy, health and wellness, and sports and regular exercise.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lRCzIaeJio

 
American Psycho was such an odd, disturbing black comedy / satire that a lot of people didn’t know what to think about it.  Reviews were pretty polarized at the time, and yet the film endures as a kind of popular meme, even parodied recently by Huey Lewis and Weird Al Yankovich.

Lewis’ 80’s pop music is cited in the film itself as an example of what American Psycho Patrick Bateman considers the quintessential music of the 1980s Reagan period.  Bateman has a lot of opinions about a lot of things, always trying to find the best of the best, or at least the most expensive, with a quirky Batemanesque appeal.

Case in point, he orders a “real blonde” prostitute from a call girl service.  Only, she’s not exactly what he ordered.  Things end badly.

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The film creates a milieu of Ivy League plutocratic decadence with Wall Street trading types loaded with cash and beyond the touch of what most people call the real world.  It’s not about Bateman exclusively, but about a sickening American aristocracy laid bare for one of their own to go off the deep end.  I’m not sure if the film succeeds at being coherent or consistent thematically.  It is a sort of slasher mind fuck question mark.  But damn, it’s difficult to forget.

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Where to start?  How about with an observation concerning World War Z and how Hollywood muddles nearly any political point it ever tries to make in the service of maximizing viewership?  “That’s how they sell the most tickets imaginable, by appealing across a broad spectrum, and combining so many ideas that everyone can walk away feeling like they got what they wanted (Anthony Kaufman).”  Pretty good observation, and it also lets the perpetrators of propaganda off the hook for the more malignant ideas they push on the masses.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises was a case in point.  So what has that got to do with Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear?

“Get off the babysitter!”

Risky Business spoke to me when I first snuck in to the multiplex through the exit door and caught it.  I guess I was 16, a junior in high school.  Joel (Cruise) has a debauched best friend Miles who is always prodding him to cross that next line.  I had a similar real world compatriot, and so this relationship at the opening of the movie immediately grabbed my attention.  And if that wasn’t enough, there are also a bevy of stunning prostitutes in the film, including Rebecca DeMornay as Lana.  That’s enough to attact 90% of 16 y.o. American boys, and so where does this thing go?

It goes off into the world of business, capitalism, Yale.  It’s an odd and sometimes confusing journey into supply and demand.  In this case the supply is Lana and friends, the demand are the little rich boys of a Chicago suburb who are ready to put their money down.

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Ah, but the competition is not going to sit still while upstarts like Joel try and pilfer a stable of high class call girls.  Enter Guido the killer pimp.  And then it seems Joel himself has ascended into the pimp racket.  There are some strange complications however, as prostitution, pimping and competition also entail the little matter of stealing whatever’s not nailed down.  In this case, the stealing is from Joel’s own house – scratch that – Joel’s parents’ house while they are away on business.  The stakes for Joel keep raising, especially after his Dad’s turbo Porsche ends up in the lake.

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One might try and claim a clear pro-capitalist, even libertarian slant to Joel and his pimp business.  Supply, demand, profit, everyone’s happy (not Guido).  But is that the ultimate point of Risky Business, or is there a larger ironic point to be gleaned?  The ending, and its Yale business school tie-in leave room for contemplation.

Oh I hate giving away plot, and yet I need to stuff a sufficient amount of words into these things.  See the movie, if you haven’t already.  You tell me what you think.


 

And transcript, by Rob Kall / OpedNews.

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The other point I’ve been making for a decade about offshore production is not free trade, it’s labor arbitrage; and that all tradable goods and services can be moved offshore. So that you can very easily have a permanent unemployment rate of 25% or 35% percent or even higher, because the only jobs that can’t be offshored require hands-on performance: like going to the dentist, or getting your hair cut, or being served in a restaurant by a waitress, or in a bar by a bartender.

“When one side runs with it too far it becomes abusive, it becomes too much regulation, and then it becomes too little regulation. So keeping the balance requires sensibility, intelligence, and not ideologies. If the people are committed to ideologies and are operating ideologically, then it always gets out of balance.”

 

Paul Craig Roberts has a new book.

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The Failure Of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Dissolution of the West 

I don’t always agree with Roberts (especially concerning the Reagan legacy); however, he often make a lot of sense economically and in defense of civil liberties.

“In the late 20th century and early 21st century, governments in the US and Great Britain chafed under the requirement that government, like the people, is ruled by law and took steps to free government from accountability to law.

Appleton says that the result is a “tectonic shift in the relationship between the state and the citizen.” Citizens of the US and UK are once again without the protection of law and subject to arbitrary arrests and indictments or to indefinite detention in the absence of indictments.

In the US, citizens can be detained indefinitely and even executed without due process of law. There is no basis in the US Constitution for these asserted powers. The unconstitutional powers exist only because Congress, the judiciary and the American people have accepted the lie that the loss of civil liberty is the price paid for protection against terrorists.

In a very short time the raw power of the state has been resurrected. Most Americans are oblivious to this outcome. As long as government is imprisoning and killing without trials demonized individuals whom Americans have been propagandized to fear, Americans approve. Americans do not understand that a point is reached when demonization becomes unnecessary and that precedents have been established that revoke the Bill of Rights.”

 

 

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The political turmoil of the early 70′s brought to life by the director of Carlos. Check out the trailer…

 

Also see the trailer for Carlos (2010), a multi-part mini series:

 

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Mandatory viewing:

Wealth Inequality in America

 

Plutocracy
  1. the rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy.
  2. a government or state in which the wealthy class rules.
  3. a class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth.
Kakistocracy
  • government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

(dictionary.com)

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review-branded

Now here’s an ambitious idea: kill all advertising.  This twisted take on the global consumer culture is worth a look, and contains some gems.  Warring mutant brands, the Gods of consumerism fight to the death above Moscow.  What a crazy situation.

The film almost clicked, but it suffers from some problems.  Some of these are basic screenwriting issues.  An odd disembodied voice over narrates, but this narration doesn’t open the film.  It suddenly intrudes in the second scene.  Big editing mistake.  The film also takes too long to get ramped up and on point.  It includes the main character’s former life as a Russian marketer / US CIA spy, but this really doesn’t have anything to do with the later developments.  They’re practically two different movies stuck together.

The beginning should have been scrapped entirely, and the main concept exploited better.  It was close, but didn’t quite make it to the goal line.

Branded on Netflix.

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If advertising and its psychological degradation interest you, be sure to check out How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989).