“The War on Drugs was the biggest swindle I’ve ever seen, globally.”
-Neill Franklin, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
“The War on Drugs was the biggest swindle I’ve ever seen, globally.”
-Neill Franklin, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Bonus hypocrisy from the US State Dept. itself:
“We urge Ukraine’s leaders to respect their people’s right to freedom of expression and assembly…
We call on the Government of Ukraine to foster a positive environment for civil society…
and to protect the rights of all Ukrainians to express their views on their country’s future in a constructive and peaceful manner
in [Kiev] and in other parts of the country.
Violence and intimidation should have no place in today’s Ukraine.”"
Violence and intimidation of protesters holds a near and dear place in the United States itself though. Are memories that short over at the State Department?
Much concern for the Ukrainian protesters — a large chunk of whom are neonazis, apparently, and many others are “color revolution” stooges of western imperial meddling, in other words: On The Payroll. This is the same old story, and the US media is always complicit in selling Uncle Sam’s self-interested tall tales to the rubes.
The worrying ‘game’ is played by choosing victims at random and trying to knock them to the ground with one punch. More and more people report being victimized by its callous ‘players.’
Not sure how I feel about this…
“The weapons effect was first shown in 1967, in a study by psychologists that showed participants who were provoked until angry acted more aggressively toward others when there was a gun on a table in front of them.
Since then, more than 50 other studies have replicated the weapons effect, even among people who weren’t angry.
“Seeing these violent gun scenes in movies may be strengthening the weapons effect among young people,” Bushman said.”
From Indiewire. The most twisted, poetic mindfuck of the season. I don’t know what to think about this ode to cruelty, psychopathy, nightmares and gore. I don’t really get Rob Zombie or the French author whose psychotic musings overlay the imagery in this “video essay.” But tis the season of the witch, and terror is in the air.
Everything wrong with this film is summed up in three words by producer Joel Silver: “genre based entertainment.”
I took this as a serious movie, because it features Jodie Foster and in a different kind of role, as a disturbed vigilante. I too wrote a similar psychological story about a character dealing with violence, a novel that needs a rewrite called American Gun Disorder. I bring it up for the similarities that stand out: both have main characters in New York City dealing with violence and the desire for personal protection, firearms if necessary, in an inherently dangerous world. Both main characters devolve and go essentially crazy.
Unfortunately, The Brave One is more of an implausible Charles Bronson Death Wish type plot, for the entire middle of the movie. In rapid succession, Jodie just happens to find herself in the middle of extreme over the top incidents, where she must blast scumbags left and right. It’s like the producers called central casting. They placed an order for scumbag gang, psycho jealous husband, generic gangbanger pair, creepy John and suited elite gangster threatening stepdaughter. Bang, bang, bang, bang…
What’s more, they took this off the shelf revenge fantasy and threw a British artsy-indie director at it, in order to make it appear more substantive. Besides insulting the audience, he failed in his stylistic choices. Such a film where the main character devolves from sane to insane, in way too short screen time no less, really needs to be from her point of view. It has to be experiential. The camera must capture experience, real time moments, the personal perceptions of a character.
What we got instead were standard setups, voyeuristic treatment. The shots are more concerned with making it look cool than the actual psychology of the story. A style like Black Swan, religiously following the main character throughout, would have been appropriate. Here, we have a nicely lit commercial TV version of New York City. It feels absolutely nothing like the actual New York City. As cinematographer Philippe Rousselot revealed it was primarily shot on long lenses, which of course keep the audience at a distance, and it wasn’t “a panaorama.” Intimate shooting requires wide lenses, proximity, a feel for the environment. Long lenses, on the other hand, render the background as less consequential, simply window dressing.
A real character in the actual New York is half your work at selling the fear, the desperate sensibility and feeling of helplessness. Walking among 40 story towering behemoths makes one feel very insignificant and powerless. Add to that the hardened, aggressive city denizens, the 24 hour working class struggle and the fringes of civilization and you’re 90% there toward selling a descent into dog eat dog paranoia. Watch any five minutes of Taxi Driver before you start production. The Brave One failed glaringly there. It’s simply overlit and filmed Hollywood style.
The last problem, judging from bonus feature commentary, was Foster herself. A “public radio junkie,” she was perhaps the wrong person to be steering this story. NPR liberal head-nodders don’t walk around the city blasting gangbangers to kingdom come. It doesn’t compute. It may have been a good opportunity to show off her vocal talents and trade a radio show for unnecessary voice overs (but came off about the same anyway). Her character, however, didn’t click for this world, for this story.
Now the film had a shot, and some people liked it – that’s why I rented it. The beginning was okay, and the end had a little bit of inventiveness, not much, but some; I’d rate it 2.5/5. The stupid action movie one-liners, “who’s the bitch now?” didn’t help. The film’s middle, however, had no chance to avoid eye rolling and disbelief. It’s like the various personalities involved took hold of sections of the film ensuring their concerns were included at certain points: just too many chefs. In the end The Brave One pandered to rightwing conservative notions of payback and the death penalty, the usual point of these “genre based entertainments.” No surprises on that front, which was a bit off-putting. It’s like being trapped by conventions, by the idea that doing it differently is somehow verboten. I found it an unnecessary, poorly done mimicry of harder edged predecessors, just another vehicle that should have stayed on the lot.
“It’s only in the movies that you find this kind of fantasy violence. And that’s infected the American culture; you young people believe all of this shit! Batman and Superman, you’ve lost your minds, and you don ‘t even know it! At least respect violence. I’m not saying don’t show violence, but show it with authenticity … when you’ve reached this height of technology level of a Michael [Bay], of a ‘Transformers,’ I don’t understand the meaning of it and the reason for it, except that it appeals to some visual sense, some kinetic sense of dynamism and a need for action. But action is not always a solution, character is.”
I’m not sure if Stone always lives up to his own standards. Particularly, the ending of Savages was a bit stupid, sort of ruined the movie.
Some want to call him out over Natural Born Killers, but I think those people are missing the point. NBK was a statement about TV and movie violence and intentionally unrealistic and over the top. That was the entire point, and remains consistent with what Stone says here. I think he is making a stand for believable violence, the possible as opposed to the ridiculously implausible.
It’s funny how the terms “terrorism” or “mass murder” are only applied when the group or individual carrying out deadly acts of violence have an agenda that isn’t tied to money or profit. Say you wanted to dump deadly chemicals and radioactive materials into the world’s water supplies for reasons having to do with foreign policy, strong religious convictions, or you’re just having a bad day. Perhaps you’re feeling a little more genocidal than usual and want to bring about drought, famine, increased carbon emissions and civil strife to every corner of the world. Maybe you’re pissed off by polar bears and Palestinians in equal measure. In any case, you want to do something drastic and spectacular to hasten the demise of life on this planet as we know it. Still, whatever you do, don’t act on your homicidal impulses for any of the stated reasons above unless suicide, execution or life imprisonment is part of your agenda. Instead, follow these easy steps towards realizing your dream of inflicting endless terror and untold misery upon the earth and everything on it still clinging wretchedly to life.
Stop yammering on about “Jihad”, your asshole ex-boss, multiculturalism, the Rockefellers, Chechnya and all that other old hat, creepy loner fanatic shit. You don’t want to see the results of your handiwork from a dingy death row cell. Picture yourself instead whizzing past drowning Somalis on your power yacht and/or waving to incinerated Bangladeshi garment workers from Tony Blair’s pimped out private jet. It’s a lot more fun than living alone in the woods or trapped inside a walled in compound in Pakistan with a bunch of wives.
Try to avoid long, rambling handwritten manifestos outlining your Luddite worldview. Draft instead a press release to the New York Times outlining the necessity of invading yet another oil rich country on “humanitarian” grounds. But first you’ll have to . . .
. . . fester a few years in a “think tank” and come up with ingenious ways to convince the populace that healthcare, clean air and living wages are not in their best interests. But endless war and tax breaks for the rich are. Try not to laugh too hard in front of a camera when one of your buddies gesticulates with his penis to illustrate “trickle down” economics.
Dress nice. Sometimes that means wearing a plus sized JC Penney mint green pant suit and a girlish headband while delivering ultimatums to dictators you had lunch with a few weeks previously. Remind your enemies that “all options are on the table” . . . some of them have even left a gravy stain on your floral blouse.
Try not to talk about the US’s role in erecting a global surveillance apparatus to monitor its own citizens, spy on its allies and intercept the world’s e-mails, texts and chats as a means of asserting complete control via an information gathering panopticon that uses unmanned drones to take out “enemy combatants”. Even if your moral and principled stance on foreign policy compels you to chain yourself to a nuclear facility or an endangered tree stump, public support for your endeavor lasts only as long as it takes a celebutard to be pissed on in a sex tape. Remember that the world is not going to suddenly stop delving into the real meaning of Breaking Bad because you got up one day, didn’t shave or comb your hair and made a symbolic gesture.
Whenever possible, try to be born into wealth and privilege before you start racking up a significant body count. But being an “elected” official helps, too. Nepotism is the most guaranteed route to success, but knowing who to flatter and who to fellate helps, too. Become BFF with the Canadian Prime Minister. (It’s best, though, not to imagine him in Leiderhosen stroking a hairless cat.) Strike a groveling pose whenever an Israeli official comes into view. But be prepared to neither sit or shit comfortably for a week. It also helps if you have an intimate crony relationship with the ruling party of Japan and the mobster subcontractors responsible for hiring the cheap labor to clean up the radioactive swill inside damaged nuclear power plants.
Build a pipeline on indigenous land, and make sure it leaks foul smelling carcinogenic effluvia into the lakes, rivers and ground waters of their ancestral lands, which just happen to stand in the way of your fracking. This is almost as clever as building a bunch of nuclear reactors on a seismically unstable island prone to typhoons and tsunamis. Expand your empire of military bases, oil refineries, pipelines and poppy plantations, and just drone strike any brown person wandering too close to your “strategic” interests. Sometimes it works to host an Olympics to make pesky citizens less wary about the slow and painful deaths they will face on a toxic island waste dump surrounded by a dead ocean.
Go to Davostan, which is a base camp for high ranking terrorists. Only they don’t have to fire old Soviet assault weapons in some remote desert as training for carrying out mass murder. Participants at ‘Davos’ tend to stand around politely discussing the most profitable ways of transforming the global workforce into indentured servitude, prison labor and “sustainable” energy for their luxury cars and yachts. Just don’t call security if a sweaty and unshaven Irishman in pink wraparound shades accosts you while Dr Evil is delivering his keynote address on how to get African children to dig faster for the minerals that power our mobile devices.
Now that you’ve met al-Bono, it’s time to talk about “philanthropy”. Think of it as a rallying slogan just like “jihad” only scarier for its recipients since they first have to endure decades of colonialism and its attendant plundering of their natural resources, civil wars, droughts and famines. Philanthropy is when you send a few malaria nets to an orphanage where celebrity’s children are incubated. Covering small children in nets prevents them from asking why they are being eaten alive by plague carrying pests smack in the middle of a war zone in the first place.
If your friends, loved ones, former co-workers and neighbors describe you as “bat shit insane”, it might be time to bring the crazy down a notch. Resist the temptation of telling them how twerking was devised by Henry Kissinger at last year’s Bilderburg meeting. Avoid spelling it all out in the comment section of a YouTube cat video. This is just going to ignite a lot of Facebook speculation after your arrest and conviction about the lack of resources for the mentally ill. If you have something to say, save it for a Power Point presentation produced by JJ Abrams and the folks at Pixar. Lay out your bid for world domination and mass extinction in language that regular folks can relate to. Show them a shiny new Audi. Grow a pair of big tits. Win a World Cup title. You’re not going to launch global Armageddon by being a Debbie Downer. Luckily for us, very few people equate “insane” or even “dangerous” with a desire to amass the lion’s share of the world’s wealth, squander its resources, poison its water supplies, imprison and enslave its most vulnerable populations, and hasten the extinction of species vital to our very existence.
Tell someone you hired Navy Seals to secure the perimeters of your waterfront property in the Hamptons and they’ll likely envy you. Hell, they’ll probably want to bang you. Tell them why some people have the luxury of living in abject fear in a stadium-sized mansion, while the majority struggle just to make ends meet, they will again lament the nation’s rubber room shortage. In short, limit your insane rantings to shareholder meetings, the op-ed pages of the NYT, or when you have to make a State of the Union address.
Jennifer Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
Walmart Brawl For Last Copy Of GTA 5
“But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
“The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954—in 1945 rather—after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.”
by Jennifer Epps
Two fiction films about domestic left-wing terrorist groups played in theaters this spring, and are interesting to consider together, since these indy thrillers approach similar themes. Robert Redford’s film The Company You Keep is new on DVD this week. The East will be released on DVD next month, on Sept. 17th.
In The East, a film showcased at the Sundance Festival, co-writer and up-and-coming star Brit Marling plays Sarah, a young private-sector spy keen to do well for her agency. She has to keep her assignments so secret she tells her nearest and dearest she’s off to Dubai when really she’s just a drive away in the deep woods, infiltrating a troublesome band of youthful anti-corporate eco-terrorists. She lives with them, learns their ways, and becomes assimilated in order to uncover their schemes to disrupt big business – a service much coveted by those same businesses. But the experience is so intense, this monkey-wrench gang gradually starts to change her. Whenever the unit temporarily disbands and she heads back to her normal city life, she feels like she has come back from a foreign country, only now it’s her home that feels foreign.
The East is named after the fictitious anarchist collective Sarah spies on — a mysterious, much-hyped group of rebels out to punish mega-corps which heartlessly destroy the planet or poison masses of human beings. The movie is many things – spy caper, romance, psychological drama, crime thriller, coming-of-age story, animal-friendly environmentalist lament – but it is perhaps predominantly a journey-to-another-world. Like Alice or Dorothy, once covert agent Sarah slips into the woods, she finds herself in an alien, Looking-Glass world. There are no surreal talking animals in this universe, but with the very first initiation rite Sarah can see she’s “not in Kansas anymore” – and that she’s out of her element. Tough as nails and primed for a fight, Sarah is astonished to discover that battle isn’t really the point here among all the soul-baring and trust exercises.
Of course, Sarah is a stand-in for the audience, so Marling and writing partner Zal Batmanglij (the film’s director) peel away the outer layers of the forest-dwelling radicals incrementally, letting us first see them the way she would. The most immediately alienating is Benji (an ardent Alexander Skarsgård), who comes off at first as a Charles Manson-like cult leader. His hair is archaically, kiddingly, long, and he appears to hold a privileged status in the commune-like encampment from which he delights in breaking newcomers’ spirits. Then there’s diminutive Izzy (Ellen Page), so solemn and ideologically fierce she seems like the most potentially dangerous. And though the group turns to Doc (Toby Kebbell) for medical help, his manner and his simple home remedies are so unorthodox his ministrations seem likely to do more harm than good. Yet before too long Benji’s wild tresses have been shorn, Izzy has revealed her soft side, Doc’s qualifications have been affirmed, and we, along with Sarah, have gained insights into this band’s traumas, regrets, and vision.
Though Batmanglij and Marling disapprove of these activists’ tactical choices when they injure others, we can see, eventually, how much respect they have for the young outliers’ heartfelt motivations, and for their willingness to explore an alternate form of living. Rather than just showing the surface trappings of counterculture, The East tries to get inside all this experimental living and find out what it’s really all about. (Marling and Batmanglij were inspired to write the film because they spent a few months living with squatting freegans.) And often the script is quite deft in the economical way it scores its points. The first dinner at the East’s remote hideout is a clever, visual way to show the group’s internal philosophy of interdependence. Then, at a climactic juncture, Sarah finds herself impulsively eating from a trashcan to illustrate the principles of freeganism – it’s a perfect merger of story, theme, character revelation, and eloquent speech-writing. It’s also a moment of humor/suspense that works beautifully.
Kudos are definitely due to Batmanglij and Marling for navigating a minefield with this kind of story: they could have easily fallen into preachiness either for or against their characters. Instead, Benji’s lynchpin character is variegated enough for Sarah and the audience to change our opinion of him in each of the film’s three acts. Likewise Sarah’s boss at the agency, the wonderful Patricia Clarkson, is never a cartoon but moves deliciously from mentor to formidable opponent.
The East doesn’t make us choose between collectivism and the power of one – it honors both. Its slight of build yet tightly-coiled heroine – thanks to a visceral performance by the ferociously intelligent Marling — is a mesmerizing protagonist. She’s no latex-squeezed, ultra-competent action-heroine, but is instead serious and resourceful, sensitive and relatable, and she pays a high cost for her achievements. But after learning about harmony, equality, and unity from the rebels, she comes out the other side as an exemplar of the idea that one person can make a difference. It is thanks to her dynamic character that the film is able to pull off its balancing act, conveying the notion that: in questions of morality, even when the goals are harmony, equality, and unity, perhaps one’s own conscience is the only reliable arbiter.
Along the way, Marling and Batmanglij expose something that gets very scant attention – corporate spying on citizen activists – and at a time when Edward Snowden has made people more conscious of the extent to which our communications are being captured as a matter of course, this film couldn’t be more timely. Without lecturing (except briefly, in the sequence where Izzy confronts her CEO dad), The East manages to convey searing criticism of current business as usual in the U.S. of A. It is one of the most eloquent and vital movies indicting late capitalism you could hope to see, underpinning its twisty, surprising climax with the burning philosophical problem: how can we save the world?
The film provides no easy answers but is on the side of the angels — it promotes, without spelling it out too much, mutual respect, co-operation, open-mindedness, and educating the public. It is clear that Batmanglij and Marling believe in film as a force for social change. But they also realize that to be effective they must be disciplined in providing us with compelling characters, a gripping conflict, and a tight story structure. They deliver all that in spades. The East lays down the gauntlet for other fiction filmmakers to retain a strong point-of-view on hot political topics and make an exciting entertainment to boot.
Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival gave Batmanglij and Marling’s film its premiere, and Redford even cast Marling in a pivotal supporting role in his own film The Company You Keep — clearly he wasn’t concerned about the similarities between the two indies, though they were released within weeks of each other this spring. There certainly are similarities, though. The East and The Company You Keep are both thought-provoking political thrillers about a small group of domestic left-wing militants who are designated as terrorists by authorities. Both show the radicals’ driving forces to be reactions against mass-scale atrocities perpetrated by those in power. And both films clearly condemn violence as a tool of political resistance.
Still, Redford’s film has its own precedents. It seems to make sense to view The Company You Keep as the third film in a Redford trilogy about the ‘War on Terror’. I haven’t heard him describe any such trilogy, but Redford’s last three films seem very much concerned with the post 9/11 era and the direction the country has taken. The first, Lions for Lambs (2007), was a politically laudable but artistically dull and didactic Bush-era anti-war screed. The second, the superb and moving drama The Conspirator (2010), was set in the maelstrom right after Lincoln’s assassination yet was indisputably modern in its portrait of the oppressiveness of railroading military tribunals like those Bush had brought into the fore as part of the ‘War on Terror.’ Most of the referents in Redford’s third film of the trilogy, The Company You Keep, are to the 1960’s and 1970’s, but the film is set in modern times, and its subject matter is terrorism, unjust war, and dissent. No doubt it wasn’t just a historical exercise.
The Company You Keep, like Redford’s prior two films, is the story of an older man, an educated liberal, who mentors an antagonistic or disengaged young upstart. In Lions for Lambs it was Redford as a university prof teaching apathetic student Andrew Garfield to care more about what his government is up to; in The Conspirator it was Tom Wilkinson handing over a complex defense case to Civil War veteran James McAvoy. Here it is Redford once again, as an aging attorney who is an upstanding citizen working for the public good. He scolds cocky rookie reporter Ben (Shia LaBeouf) – even while fleeing him half-way across the country. The chase begins because LaBeouf’s ambitious stringer discovers that Redford’s small-town lawyer is a big-time outlaw, an ex-member of a militant 1960’s group, and a fugitive from the FBI because of his secret terrorist past.
The mentoring dynamic throughout Redford’s trilogy may simply be a natural outcome of Redford being in his 70’s and being highly successful, sought-after, and opinionated. Yet, if there’s one overriding aspect of Company which prevents it from being truly politically effective, it might be the film’s underlying ageism – an elevation of those politicos over 60 and a patronizing slant on the uninformed under-40s. The movie evinces an implicit belief that Hippies were much more aware and engaged than Tweeters are. The politicized people in Company are all above a certain age (played by Redford, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Richard Jenkins, and Brendan Gleeson). By contrast, none of the young adults in the film (LaBoeuf, Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Terrence Howard, who plays an FBI agent) are politically opinionated – except, perhaps, about terrorism. The ex-hippies express passionate views in the film on current events, but the young people are more concerned with their careers, schooling, and personal lives. It’s weird that the retirement-age radicals who flee to the deep woods in Company somehow have no idea that anyone like the young rebels of The East could be hiding out too; in Company’s world, activism seems to have halted in the mid 1970s.
This isn’t to say the youngsters don’t have winning personalities. LaBoeuf’s cheeky, devious, irreverent reporter uses some of the sly techniques Redford himself used, alongside Dustin Hoffman, in All the President’s Men. He is also the Tommy Lee Jones character to Redford’s Harrison Ford, for just as in The Fugitive we find ourselves pulled in both directions, unsure whether to root for pursuer or pursued. But ultimately, the view of the press evinced by Company is that it is both shallow and overzealous: Ben’s doggedness in pursuing the ex-Weatherman is cast in a similar vein as Sally Field’s destructive investigative reporting in Absence of Malice.
Unlike the fictitious anti-corporate group living on the fringes in The East, the organization under scrutiny in Company is a real domestic terrorist organization: the infamous albeit small revolutionary group which dubbed themselves the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), formed in 1969 as a splinter of the Students for a Democratic Society. Discouraged by the failure of mass protest to end either the war in Vietnam or virulent racism at home, the Weather Underground chose to make bombs and try to overthrow the U.S. government. They were of course eschewed and condemned by the large protest movements of the time, but became more infamous.
Though the kernel of Company is based on actual history, the names of the former Weather members are fictional and the characters composites. Dramatic license is taken to fashion a mystery about decisions of the past. It is not a literal evaluation of the Weathermen, it doesn’t care about the exact details of their tactics, whether there was any discipline to their goals of property destruction (warnings were generally issued so buildings could be evacuated) or how exactly they crossed the line into violence against living beings. (There is a documentary about the Weathermen to cover that, however – Ben is even shown watching it as research in this movie.) The facts, which Company doesn’t dwell over, are that three members of the WUO died while bomb-building, and three security officers were killed during a Brinks truck robbery staged by a couple of ex- WUO members — who got sentenced to life, and 22 years, in prison. But Company is quite vague about the internal workings of WUO, or what led to the deaths of innocent people, because its characters are composites and because it doesn’t recreate the events of the fateful day – it is enough for the moral probing of the movie simply to establish that people died. There is a central mystery, but it manages to lie beyond the details of the long-ago crime; the film is not much interested in forensics, and focused instead on the human heart.
Screenwriter Lem Dobbs has adapted Neil Gordon’s novel The Company You Keep for this film. It is a book first published in 2003, long before the McCain-Palin campaign brought the Weather Underground back into the spotlight with charges that co-founder Bill Ayers knew Obama in Chicago. But the novel did emerge as Bush was laying the groundwork to make the world America’s battlefield. And like The East, this story asks the question of whether or not the ends justify the means, of whether criminally violent resistance against powerful criminals is warranted when the system itself is so violent to so many. Not too surprisingly, the answer in both films is no.
Author Gordon seems especially pissed off at the WUO: “I don’t think highly of the positions the Weather Underground took and I don’t believe that political violence was an effective or appropriate tool”, he told an interviewer. And he blames the WUO for an awful lot: “when Weather broke up SDS, which they did violently, undemocratically, and with huge cruelty, they destroyed what could have been an enormous, powerful progressive movement in this country…The American left never recovered.”
The trouble with having two back-to-back films which debate a choice between violent and non-violent resistance is that, surely, non-violence won that debate for most people long ago. It is not a major question for the millions of people who oppose corporate and imperialist agendas. Given that it sure isn’t every day that features about left-wing dissent hit the big screen, when two in the same season depict committed grassroots activism as extremist, violent militancy, there is definitely the chance of creating the wrong impression about those movements. And right-wing blowhards would love to milk that wrong impression and spread it to PETA, Greenpeace, peace marchers, and many others who try to fight the systems of cruelty and oppression the right would like to protect.
Of course, that is not what any of these filmmakers would want. Neil Gordon argues: “There is a great pathos to the history of the American left. Its death is the saddest story of our country…[W]hen we look at it from the vantage of today, where America, for all its power, has near–pariah status throughout the world, it can only make us long for the lost ideals of our country.” Both films want to take a complex view, to mourn the wasted opportunities for change when people with noble motives abandon core principles. Both of them keep alive the idea that an unjust system and the need for resistance still remain.
The flaw with the approach of nostalgia and bitter regret in Company is that though the characters may find clarity, they don’t offer much of a solution to the audience – beyond an assertion that parents should take care of their children. (Despite his age, Redford’s character is often shown, in rather cloying scenes, as a dutiful father to a prepubescent daughter, and his commitment is a pillar of the film.) It’s true that nothing requires art to provide solutions, and often asking questions or exposing problems is enough. But we are dealing with the future of the planet and human civilization, and it would be nice to have something to go on. I get that the theme of Company is the importance of taking personal responsibility, and that this could very well be interpreted as a responsibility to become more active and engaged. But the metaphor of progeny-over-politics could also make any conservative family-values champion proud – they might not admit it, but that message is right up their alley. It is also, whether intentionally or not, a kind of argument in favor of disengagement.
The East takes a different approach from The Company You Keep in many ways. The characters feel rawer and more immediate. It’s less reserved, and it has a more youthful energy. And it has more relevance in the issues it presents: it’s about the state of the union right now, and the examples of corporate lawlessness targeted by the East’s members are loosely based on true recent instances. But perhaps the most important difference of all is that The East suggests at the very end – fleetingly and delicately – a way out of this mess of corporate mayhem and crimes against humanity. And that, ultimately, is a discussion well worth having.
Roger Ebert famously called Fight Club a “fascist movie,” but I don’t actually agree with this assessment.
“’Fight Club’ is the most frankly and cheerfully fascist big-star movie since ‘Death Wish,’ a celebration of violence in which the heroes write themselves a license to drink, smoke, screw and beat one another up.”
This is a comment on the style of parts of the narrative, not the substance, what I believe is truly behind the acting out. Fight Club does not promote fascism, and that seems like a very odd determination. What it does do is set up the natural conflict between order and chaos, society and anarchy. The stifling banality of consumerism strips modern man of his primal nature, but the more he is controlled and ordered, the greater the need to turn to barbarism, mindless violence, war. This dichotomy is behind Fight Club, and is expressed in several ways, not all of them crystal clear either.
The movie does meander in parts, losing steam here and there, jumping about in its direction, which can be frustrating. A lot of ideas are included, some which work better than others. There is also a fantasy element to confuse one even further.
A far from perfect film but even Ebert acknowledged that the intent of the narrative may diverge significantly from what some audience members may take from it. Can we see and absorb what we choose to from a film like this?