Posts Tagged ‘Oscars’

MS69tqLX_400x400.jpgYour tax dollars at work manufacturing war propaganda.

 

The Netflix movie “The White Helmets” may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday. It would not be a surprise despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.

Syrian War Propaganda at the Oscars

Yet, we now know that the propaganda around the “noble” rebels holding out in east Aleppo – with the help of the White Helmets – was largely a lie. The rebels mostly fought under the command structure of Al Qaeda’s Nusra affiliate and its fellow jihadists in Ahrar al-Sham. A videoshows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution by Nusra/Al Qaeda and celebrating the extremists’ battle wins.

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by James McEnteer

Best Picture IMHO

Oscars So White?

The Best Picture nominees are all artistically accomplished productions. “Rocky 7,” aka Creed, may or may not deserve to be among them. But Michael B. Jordan’s performance in the lead role is a glaring omission from the Best Actor category, especially considering Sylvester Stallone’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor in that same movie.

Stallone deserves a nomination. So does Jordan. Writer/Director Ryan Coogler also merits a Best Director acknowledgment for reviving the moribund Rocky franchise with fresh energy. What about Spike Lee’s audacious and timely Chi-Raq? Or the dynamic Teyonah Parris?

Beasts of No Nation suffers from a double disadvantage in the eyes of the Academy, with a black cast in a foreign land. (Like Straight Outta Compton!). Idris Elba has been recognized by the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes, but not the Oscars. This oversight recalls the Academy’s inexplicable failure to honor David Oyelowo’s riveting portrayal of Martin Luther King in last year’s Selma.

 

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These omissions reflect much more poorly on the motion picture establishment than on the snubbed artists. A boycott is a viable protest. But the Academy itself needs revision. Not affirmative action categories (Best Minority Actress in a Comedic Role) but a revolution in thinking that more accurately reflects the country in which we live and its rich, diverse artistic community.

Of the eight Best Picture nominees, I have a clear favorite. Running quickly through the field: The Big Short is a star-studded tutorial on the horrific mortgage loan bank scams of @ 2008. Expertly acted and deeply informative, the movie asks us to sympathize with the smart insiders who made a bundle predicting the inevitable financial collapse. But that sympathy is a hard sell.

 

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Bridge of Spies is an earnest, Spielberg/Hanks rehearsal of a real-life Cold War spy exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Mark Rylance makes for a memorable Rudolf Abel. Watchable if unexceptional.

Brooklyn is a gorgeous, bittersweet coming-of-age story with Saoirse Ronan growing before our eyes from wretched waif to worldly woman, who falls in love with her native Ireland only after committing her life to the United States.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a wild ride through apocalyptic wastes, exhibiting director George Miller’s mastery at a whole new level of the genre he created. He richly deserves his nomination, as does the intense, astonishing Charlize Theron.

 

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The Martian is a technically splendid post-modern Robinson Crusoe tale with Best Actor nominee Matt Damon as the sole inhabitant of a planet, reflecting the secret feelings of some Hollywood stars.

The Room is a harrowing, claustrophobic saga of a kidnap victim and her young son in prolonged captivity. To its credit, this film offers an unblinking look at the emotional complications the two face after their escape. Brie Larson dazzles here, as does Jacob Tremblay.

 

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Spotlight is a terrific, old-fashioned journalistic procedural with a splendid cast. Against the odds, scrappy reporters get the goods on the entrenched political-religious powers of the Boston establishment. While I admired this movie, I was even more engaged by another journalism film, Truth, starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchet as his producer, Mary Mapes. A cautionary tale, this film was probably not nominated because it does not have Spotlight’s “happy ending.” And the probable perp, Karl Rove, is still at large.

Which brings us to The Revenant, a tale of revenge based loosely on historical events. But the direction and cinematography elevate this simple plot to an allegorical level. The elements of light and water are mesmerizing and seductive. The harsh retributive human world, where treachery is the norm, love is under constant threat and friends and generosity are rare, plays out in brutal, bloody inevitability before the cold, impassive natural world.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who hardly ever leaves the screen, is transcendent here as Hugh Glass, heartsick, dispossessed, wounded, abused and left for dead, driven to survive and keep moving by the only thing he has left: vengeance. He takes us with him on his painful, frightening journey. We feel every frigid plunge he takes into racing waters, every bite of raw meat he gobbles to stay alive.

 

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Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s decisión to make the movie in a real wilderness was a gamble that pays off handsomely with its authenticity, beauty and menace. Emmanuel Lubezki exploits the natural elements to highlight the tragedy of violent human interactions. The battle action sequences convey the fear and confusionn of these fierce encounters.

In a recent article, a university professor condemned The Revenant as “a film that glorifies settler colonialism.” This seems to me a misreading of the movie. Glass marries a Native American woman who bears his child. He grieves her death at the hands of white soldiers. Neither the French nor the Anglo trappers are romanticized as anything other than mercenary. Native American leaders in the film castigate all the Euro-settlers as trespassers and thieves.

Iñarritu does not sugar-coat the murderous habits and consequences of the intruders into the North American wilderness. Quite the contrary. Can a film be raw and bloody, yet beautiful and elegiac? The Revenant shows that it can. For its moral and aesthetic complexity, in a stark setting with a simple plot, this film deserves to take home all the Oscar gold it can carry.

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James McEnteer is the author of Shooting the Truth: the Rise of American Political Documentaries, Praeger, 2006. He lives in Ecuador where DVDs are 7 for $10.

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Oh no she didn’t!

“One can never really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list,” added Rampling.

 

I don’t have a problem with that.

In America, African Americans make up 13% of the population.  Latinos are 17%. Whites are 77% (Census). Obviously most movies will feature whites as a natural reflection of the population, the ticket-purchasing public. So more opportunities for being noticed and getting awards. It’s not a crime. It’s not a conspiracy. That’s just basic reality.

So: Is the Motion Picture Academy supposed to judge performances or to install a quota system, tokenism? Will that change the underlying demographics?  It’s a juvenile argument, frankly, and I didn’t want to bother posting about it.

Hollywood’s despicable content is far more interesting and relevant, its militarism, imperial hubris, capitalist/materialist worldview. It pushes a malignant, specious narcissism onto children and childlike adults every day of the year. It pushes this greedy, self-obsessed, materially obsessed, neo-fascist, violent, unaccountable, vigilante mindset. We are all forced to endure its influence on our society.

Which meat puppets received a statue is the least of it. It’s just noise.

The Latinos should be whining louder about this if it was a real issue. Do your thing. Spare us the persecution complex.

Jesus, I’m white. Nobody’s hired me to direct a fucking movie, nor to write one. Reverse racism!

 

Oscars 2016: Charlotte Rampling says diversity row is ‘racist to white people’

PS

And a very special PS to Will Smith…

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You should be a lot less worried about the statues on your mantle and a lot more worried that your son is IN A FUCKING CULT!!!

 

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This was my pick for best of the year, and so I’m happy with the selection (unlike Armond White!).

Haven’t seen Dallas Buyer’s Club yet, but that’s certainly up on the list.   My Blue Jasmine review is here.

Here are our reviews of this year’s Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave:

 

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The Square: Documenting Egypt’s revolution

by Eric Wahlberg

The Square, a documentary about Egypt’s January 2011 uprising, provides glimpses of most of the players but gives short shrift to the Muslim Brotherhood, the main player that was then targeted by the deep state headed by the military.

The Square, the Academy Award-nominated Egyptian-American documentary film by Jehane Noujaim, depicts events in Egypt from January 2011 focusing on Tahrir Square. It is neither “Egyptian” nor “American” in any meaningful sense, as the Egyptian “government” has banned it, Noujaim’s mother is American, and she was raised more in Kuwait, has lived in Boston since 1990, and as such is far from typically American in outlook.

Furthermore, she financed and produced the film independently, raising funds from kickstarter.com, where supporters around the world can pledge funds to help finance such projects, and it premiered on Netflix, again for worldwide distribution (except, of course, Egypt). It is very much a film of the new international age, where nationalism is less and less meaningful, where forces of both repression and resistance are increasingly international.

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Given these handicaps/advantages, Noujaim has produced a remarkable documentary, which will surely stand as the most powerful and riveting expose of what lay behind the immediate upheavals that began in 2011 and which will continue into the foreseeable future in Egypt.

This is not to say that it is objective, since that is impossible anyway, as any journalism, any writing, any film inevitably reflects the standpoint of the author. So it is no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood, though unavoidably prominent throughout the film (at least as a specter), is given short shrift. Or that the secular youth dominate the film and are portrayed as the main force and the most appealing protagonists of the revolution.

What astounds the viewer, whether secular or Islamic, is the military and police violence against the people, both Muslims and Christians. It is too easy to forget their overwhelming responsibility for the post-revolutionary violence—in league, of course, with the old guard and the openly criminal elements in Egyptian society.

By highlighting some of the worst episodes of violence in the past three years and winning prominence for her film, Noujaim has done a great service. She has made it impossible for thinking people to ignore the military’s bloody past and present actions. The film uses actual footage of security force atrocities to document the unceasing and unapologetic recourse to murder and torture by the military and police.

Interspersed with these horrible scenes are interviews with senior military figures, one of whom smugly admits that the so-called revolution was actually carried out by the military itself to prevent Mubarak from passing on the presidency to his son Jamal, and that when it is time, it will be cut short. His prophetic words were echoed by worried revolutionaries, who were constantly looking over their shoulders, expecting a coup, and in the end—unbelievably and to their shame—actually calling for one.

This plot was well-known even before the events of January–Feburary 2011. But the revolution seemed to take events out of the military’s control. Suddenly the military was faced with a mass uprising, not so easy to quell as they thought. How would it rein in these powerful forces that it had unleashed—to put the genie back in the bottle? Egyptians quickly matured politically, demanding genuine elections and, as soon became clear, an Islamic government. What was the poor military to do?

Here, The Square pleads “Not my job!” sticking to its human interest angle. Fair enough. We can fill in the blanks: in addition to its ongoing episodic violence, intended to intimidate everyone, the military hobbled Islamic activists at every step, disbanding the elected parliament and stripping the president of his powers, in hopes that they could cow them into accepting a subservient role in the new order.

When it became clear to all—Islamic groups, Christians, old guard, secuarlists—that Islamic groups were ready and able to chart a new course for Egypt based on the Quran, the military’s only weapon was … weapons. Up the violence! Kill, torture, terrorize, and then, when Egyptians of all stripes were pleading for “security”, take control. Very clever.

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This clear scenario is only hinted at by The Square. Most of the film’s protagonists spout the nonsense that the Brotherhood was in a cynical pact with the military, and the only Brotherhood actor featured in the film is Magdy Ashour, a dissident within the Brotherhood who disobeys his higher-ups defiantly at crucial moments, even disowning the Brotherhood at one point. No legitimate Brotherhood spokesman articulates the views held by most members—that the MB was pursuing a more patient, realistic, and less confrontational path to civilian democracy.

The film was originally released in January 2012 and immediately won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance film festival and the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. With the July 2013 coup, Noujaim returned to Tahrir to update the film, swallowing the secularist line about “the largest demonstration in history” precipitating the coup and actually celebrating the coup (through the joy of the film’s actors — excluding Ashour). The film ends with the naive secular hero, ex-street kid Ahmed Hassan, phoning Ashour, traumatized, tortured and in prison, to wish him well and say there is nothing personal in their disagreement over the coup. Crocodile tears.

Noujaim, as channeled by Ahmed and the other main protagonist, British-Egyptian actor Khalid Abdallah, while not happy with the coup in retrospect, rationalizes it as a step toward their goal of a nice, secular democratic Egypt, a lovely fantasy, which the cynical military and the Brotherhood both know to be a false goal.

The Pinochet of Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew the legitimate government headed by President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, ordered the slaughter of thousands, and has since been promoted to Field Marshal by his quisling interim President Adly Mansour. El-Sisi has never actually commanded troops in any “war,” except the war against his own people, making the title ludicrous. Yes, Pinochet became president of Chile and continued his reign of terror for 17 years, but he was eventually arrested and is remembered now as a cruel and unjust tyrant, not Chile’s savior. Read your history, Sisi.

Noujain did not make this logical conclusion, though we, the viewers, can. Like all cultural artifacts, The Square is a product of its environment, its maker, and demands an intelligent viewing. It is to be recommended as a surprisingly honest depiction of events. The fact that it raises the ire of just about everyone shows that it is not pulling any punches. Only the secular socialists can enthusiastically commend it, but then that is Noujain’s milieu. We can at least be thankful to her for providing a precious compilation of historic footage, interspersed with “the human stories of specific individuals caught up in the revolt”, but especially for revealing the military monster eating away at the heart of the revolution.

“This film is sort of a love letter to those ideas that were put forth at the start of the revolution. Some may say that what is happening now is a tragedy, but it is still an open-ended story.” With the deletion of “some may say that,” Noujain has the pulse of Egypt’s revolution. Good luck to Noujain at the Oscars.

A version of this appeared at Crescent International

 

 

Anwar-congo

Nick Fraser writes in The Guardian:

So let me be as upfront as I can. I dislike the aesthetic or moral premise of The Act of Killing.

…I’d feel the same if film-makers had gone to rural Argentina in the 1950s, rounding up a bunch of ageing Nazis and getting them to make a film entitled “We Love Killing Jews”.

What’s not in the film:

The American Embassy in Jakarta supplied the Indonesian military with lists of up to 5,000 suspected Communists.[24] Although some PKI branches organised resistance and reprisal killings, most went passively to their deaths.[25] Not all victims were PKI members. Often the label “PKI” was used to include anyone to the left of the Indonesian National Party (PNI).[26] In other cases victims were suspected or simply alleged Communists.[10]

… Bradley Simpson, Director of the Indonesia/East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, claims that “the United States was directly involved to the extent that they provided the Indonesian Armed Forces with assistance that they introduced to help facilitate the mass killings,” which included the CIA providing small arms from Thailand, and the US government providing monetary assistance and limited amounts of communications equipment, medicine and a range of other items, including shoes and uniforms, to the Indonesian military.

Wikipedia

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