I recently heard Oliver Stone talk about wanting to recut this film, after two different versions have already released. Just what is it that drew him to this, and more importantly what is sabotaging it?
Well, the film is a mess and a half. Long, and many irrelevant scenes and endless exposition from a minor character, as well as from the principal people, make this a hard film to watch. It’s a history lesson from an old Greek, and it’s melodrama amped up to eleven. It’s got exciting battles, but these are undermined by endless speeches and I’m not quite sure Colin Farrell was the right actor for the job.
Stone chose to include many scenes that should have been cut, and failed to include other developments that would have fleshed out the story better. Alexander ends up inhabiting a pretty low spot on the director’s filmography.
Perhaps Alexander’s homosexuality made him an interesting character for a certain time and place today. As gayness is opened up and more acceptable than before, the original larger than life gay character should have had his opportunity to make inroads. Not sure of the lgbt cult status, but that may have been a part of the calculus.
I actually liked Angelina Jolie and her strained accent, as Alexander’s witchy mother. Only, I didn’t like many of the specific scenes, how they were filmed, staged. It seemed clunky and inconsistent. Part of it shows like prime time TV, and other parts like a psychedelic experience. I’d prefer the latter, but it’s indicative that more than the appearance was inconsistent.
Anthony Hopkins’ endless monologue should have met with some whiteout. His entire character lacks any development for the entirety of the film, excepting the final scene. But it’s not just his monologues, as Alexander and several others also go on and on at length, dropping the tension and the plot right out of the chariot.
The Source Family, an actual talking head documentary was more visually interesting and suspenseful, always telling the story through visuals and leaving the talking heads behind. Stone seems to have drank his own Kool Aid on this one, substituting a history lesson for drama. But even as history, there are large gaping holes in Alexander’s development. So much isn’t included, making it frustrating when the stuff that is included lags.
Perhaps readers may expect me to compare the film to Caligula, as my review of it still draws a good number of readers here. There is no comparison. Caligula is a total masterpiece up against this psychobabbling, over the top payday. Sorry, Oliver.
This battle was lost at the script stage. And no recut can salvage that. Let it go.
I was ready to “Login with Facebook” over on TED’s website, when their privacy invading app told me they were taking my email address and other info – including my friend’s info and video information. And I stopped.
Who gives them the right to stick these data mining marketing tricks into their message board?
Fuck you, TED. We live in an invasive, privacy destroying Brave New World of aggressive marketing yuppies with no scruples. Rudeness is being normalized. You can’t even have a conversation with a human for more than two minutes without them pulling out some tappy tappy device in the middle of it. The humans are resembling cyborgs more and more, slaves to the devices.
Anyway, I wanted to comment on Maajid Nawaz’s talk about extremism allegedly running rampant across the globe far and ahead of democracy. Some of his claims make more sense in particular Arab countries than they apply to the rest of the globe. Some of his thinking is constrained and limited in scope, and that is the point I wish to make. The talk, and the world view behind it, are completely missing the larger picture of empire, global hegemony by the US and friends. Behind the scenes the real exercise of power grinds on to coopt and derail popular movements, to benefit extremists when convenient, to fund and arm military dictators, which is very often convenient, to protect brutal human rights abusers when they provide strategic benefit, and etcetera. This is not a new or novel understanding.
The Arab world in particular should know well the machinations of Uncle Sam in propping up oil dictators and overthrowing the disobedient ones. Iran’s actual democracy was destroyed in 1953 by the CIA, and even admitted to. This is not covered up today. Nawaz focuses a lot on Egypt, without mention of US support of Mubarek right up until his ouster by one of their torturer friends in the Egyptian military. The Egyptian military receives more than a billion dollars in so-called military “aid” every year, $1.3Bn as of 2010. What are they purchasing with this graft? Pakistan has also received much. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain receive quite shockingly positive media when their people rise up demanding democracy – and are brutalized, tortured and imprisoned for their efforts. US leaders smile and change the subject. To fail to mention any of this obvious undemocratic imperial meddling is a credibility killer, in my view.
Nawaz himself is a former “extremist,” already taken in by one set of dogmas. One wonder if this new prevailing democracy myth he ascribes to is similarly processed in extremist fashion? As far as fighting for democracy and against Islamic militant extremism, we again must examine the facts on the ground. In 1979 the Mujahadeen, the precursor to “Al Qaeda,” were created, armed, trained and imported into Afghanistan to overthrow the pro-Soviet government. Decades of horror and destruction followed, which persists to this day. That particular US supporting of extremism was launched under Jimmy Carter of all people. Today, the Al Nusra Brigades in Syria are doing the empire’s dirty work. These absolute extremists, with a blood drenched record of terrorism that exceeds Al Qaeda’s record already, are part of the current imperial strategy to topple dominoes. Al Nusra is supported directly and unequivocally by US client regimes Saudi Arabia and Qatar and are hosted and given free passage on NATO state Turkey’s territory to invade Syria next door. US CIA are also on the other Syrian border in Jordan, arming and training fighters.
How does any of this fit into the picture that Nawaz paints during his talk? His is a sin of omission. The myth prevails rather than the reality. I’m all for democracy and promoting it, but let’s not close our eyes and play fools.
And TED, you can go to hell for daring to demand personal contacts from people commenting on your website. Have some shame and some tact, basic etiquette. To talk to you in the street you first demand my mother’s Facebook posts, and which videos she watches? And my sister’s dog photos? Can I say my comment then?
A Review of Up in the Air
A Landscape of Impossible Options
By KIM NICOLINI
If you’d asked me before I did this movie, “What’s the worst thing about losing your job in this type of economy?” I would’ve probably said the loss of income. But as I talked to these people, that rarely came up. What people said, time and time again, was: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” It was really about a lack of purpose. They would say, you know, “After I finish this interview, I’m going to go get in my car, and I have nowhere to be.” And I can’t imagine thinking that every day.
– Jason Reitman on the making of “Up In The Air”
“How much does your life weigh?” This is the question that Ryan Bingham (played to perfection by George Clooney) asks in Up In The Air, Jason Reitman’s brilliant new movie that so beautifully, hilariously, and brutally encapsulates America’s current cataclysmic economy. This is a question for the current economic landscape where people are losing their jobs, their homes, and their every possession at astronomical rates, an economy where people are being left empty handed and without many options for a new future. Ryan Bingham thinks he understands the transience of material culture. That’s why he delivers informational seminars telling people to eliminate excess weight in their lives. Bingham understands the fragility of economic stability and material acquisition because he spends the large majority of his life traveling the country and telling hard working Americans they’re out of jobs. Yes, Ryan Bingham is a professional hit man in this depression era economy which has generated a real unemployment rate of 22 percent. He packs his suitcase, takes to the air, and is like some kind of corporate downsizing angel of death as he delivers bad news encased in motivational speeches that sound like something he pulled out of a fortune cookie.
As the movie follows the story of Bingham and the people he encounters, it delivers one hell of a powerful commentary on where we stand in today’s economic landscape. While it could be classified as a depression era comedy (and it plays like the best of them), in the end the movie is more devastating than funny. Sure, it has loads of exquisitely hilarious moments in which we laugh our asses off, but ultimately the movie is a sad and tragic tale of the dehumanizing effects of neo-liberal economics and the decimation of the American workforce.
District 9 & Sci-Fi Politics
A sci-fi B-Film that punches above its weight. So argued Anthony Quinn of The Independent (Sep 4, 2009) on the South African spectacular District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp. Certainly, it is a refreshing change from such overly done efforts as the Transformers series and Terminator with their tedious super effect twaddle that does little to inspire. Nor will viewers be left wondering about the special effects in this production – Peter Jackson made sure he peppered this work with a fair assortment of them.
DVD: The White Ribbon
The Vicious Countryside: Haneke’s The White Ribbon
by Binoy Kampmark
Arthur Conan Doyle found the English countryside seething with potential criminality. His sleuth creation of Sherlock Holmes was never deceived by the tranquil image of the country retreat and escape from the industrialized centre. London, with its bustle, filth and squalor, was a far more decent option. One finds the same theme repeated in such writers as John Mortimer, who only ever lets his famed advocate Rumpole venture out into the country occasionally for a brief. All tend to end badly. Cynicism towards country life, dominated by casual cruelties and sudden death, is ever present.
This case is brilliantly depicted in Michael Haneke’s black and white The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band), a portrait of a north German village in 1913. The narrator (Ernst Jacobi), who is also a teacher (Christian Friedel) resident in that village during the crucial years, speaks of various mysteries that affected its inhabitants. An attempt is seemingly made on the village doctor’s (Rainer Bock) life through tripping his horse by a wire that is mysteriously removed. The wife of the farmer is killed in an accident. Two children, including one with Down syndrome (Eddy Grahl), are found abused in the woods. The estate barn is burned down; and the cabbage crop destroyed. The police are eventually called in, but they are incapable of making sense of it.
Book: The Road
(DVD not yet available)
by Kim Nicolini
I finally caught John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This is a movie that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. McCarthy and Hillcoat seem to be the perfect marriage with their mutually bleak and apocalyptic vision of the West. Hillcoat’s The Proposition is by far one of my favorite Westerns of all time, and I read McCarthy’s book The Road twice. I was stunned by the barren, desperate, hardcore, ruthlessly survivalist tone of both these narratives. It seemed to me that Hillcoat was the perfect choice to adapt McCarthy’s poetic and savage view of survival in a post-apocalyptic landscape.
Hollywood’s Enduring Myth of the Black Male Sexual Predator
The Selling of “Precious”
By ISHMAEL REED
“A niche market could be defined as a component that gives your business power. A niche market allows you to define whom you are marketing to. When you know who are you are marketing to it’s easy to determine where your marketing energy and dollars should be spent.”
-Defining Your Nice Market, A Critical Step in Small Business Marketing by Laura Lake
One can view Sarah Siegel on “YouTube” discussing her approach to marketing. During her dispassionate recital she says that she sees a “niche dilemma,” and finds a way to solve that dilemma. Seeing that no one had supplied women with panties that were meant to be visible while wearing low cut jeans, she captured the niche and made a fortune. With five million dollars, she invested in the film Precious, which was adapted from the book Push, written by Ramona Lofton, who goes by the pen name of Sapphire, after the emasculating shrew in “Amos and Andy,” a show created by white vaudevillians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.
(Ms. Lofton also knows a thing or two about marketing. Noticing the need for white New York feminists to use black men as the fall guys for world misogyny, while keeping silent about the misogyny of those who share their ethnic back-ground, she joined in on the lynching of five black and Hispanic boys, “who grew up in jail.” She made money, and became famous. They were innocent!)
When Lionsgate Studio and Harvey Weinstein were quarrelling over the rights to Push, which has been marketed under the title of Precious, about a pregnant 350 pound illiterate black teenager, who has borne her father’s child and is assaulted sexually by her mother, Sarah Greenberg, speaking for Lionsgate, said that the movie would provide the studio with “a gold mine of opportunity,” which is probably true, since the image of the black male as sexual predator has created a profit center for over one hundred years and even won elections for politicians like Bush, The First.
When men do stare at goats
by Binoy Kampmark
Your wives are back at home having sex with Bart Simpson and Burt Reynolds.”
-Iraqi Propaganda leaflet, to American soldiers in the 1991 Gulf War.
There is a line at the start of Grant Heslov’s The Men Who Stare at Goats: ‘More of this is true than you would believe.’ The line is off putting – what is, or isn’t true? The audience is none the wiser, and the traces to the original book from 2004 by Jon Ronson by that name are left vague.
Military men are as superstitious as any other, hiding behind the veneer of scientific dogma and vast, mechanized schedules for killing and maiming. But when it comes down to it, do these lethal practitioners know any better than the sagacious shaman?
This film is a fictionalized suspense thriller based upon a criminal international bank. This story, as revealed by the writer in the DVD extras, is based upon BCCI, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which was one of the largest criminal conspiracies ever to exist.
The International is a well thought out suspense plot where a lone Interpol investigator (Clive Owen) goes up against an insurmountably huge and well-connected adversary, the “International Bank of Business and Credit.”
Oil, blood and greed
Alan Maass compares the movie There Will Be Blood with the book that inspired it.
WHEN I heard about it–one of today’s best filmmakers, Paul Thomas Anderson, making a movie from a novel by socialist writer Upton Sinclair–I moved quick, and asked to do the SW review.
There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on a novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano.
District 9 is an Ugly Marvel
Science Fiction of the Now
By KIM NICOLINI
District 9 is not a pretty movie. It doesn’t look pretty. Its message isn’t pretty. It hurts the eyes to watch. In fact, District 9 is an outright ugly movie, but it is an ugly that is perfectly crafted and takes ugly to the heights of a new aesthetic. The screen is full of unflinchingly realistic ugly slums, banal ugly interiors of institutionalized spaces, and ugly people whose entire lives and bodies have been corrupted by the ugly greedy powers that dominate everything in the landscape.
Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, the movie centers on a camp of stranded space aliens who have been contained within a hideous filthy militarized slum and are in the process of being relocated to a concentration camp in the desert. Through its narrative, District 9 overtly exposes South Africa’s egregious practice of apartheid, a system of segregation that was the government-sanctioned practice of legal racism. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out this connection and to understand the film in relation to its historic and geographic specificity. Certainly, apartheid and all systems of racism need to be addressed. But what makes this movie most interesting is how it uses the real life practice of apartheid as a jumping point to expose a whole global system of exploitation, discrimination, and economic cannibalism. District 9 doesn’t take on these big issues with bombastic Hollywood gloss and spectacle, but rather through a beautifully ugly hybrid of film genres – sci-fi, body horror, toxic accident, war and action films – to show how in a world where the toxins of global capital are so fluid, everything is corrupt, nothing is in its natural state, and toxic hybrids have become the new norm.