Posts Tagged ‘vengeance’

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Poachers Tried to Kill Rhinos in South African Reserve. Instead, a Pride of Lions Killed Them.

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On Crackle Now

by Kim Niccolini

I don’t need to tell you that the multiplex is dead. I am a girl who will see just about anything at the movies. I have spent my lifetime going to movies. But even me, the girl who can almost find something remotely redeemable to see at the multiplex, has stopped going. It’s that bad.

So I’m lucky to live in a town that has an independent non-profit cinema –The Loft – which not only shows independent and foreign films but that also screens classic movies on actual film. Currently they are showing a film noir series focusing primarily on tales of cops and corruption. They opened the series with Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953) which tells the story of tough cop Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) trying to take down the corrupt world of the mob and its marriage with law enforcement. Certainly the link between cops and crime is nothing new in the movies. It is as relevant today as it was when it was first explored in early gangster films such as Little Caesar (1931) and Scarface(1932) and when it was so brutally detailed in Frances Ford Coppola’s first two Godfather films (1972 and 1974). If you look to the movies as a model, in the past they have rarely pulled any punches in equating politics with crime and erasing the line between good and bad. Movies have been a great vehicle for showing the inherent corruption of the American capitalist system, whether legit or not. Criminals are cops, and cops are criminals, and in the end all systems – mafia or government – are out for the same things: money and power. Of course, that means money and power for the world of men, not women.

Keep on reading!

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Jodie Foster’s Death Wish

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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.

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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.

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Like, holy wow.

This ain’t a movie, yet.

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Last Wednesday and Thursday “Diana” boarded a public bus and shot the driver in the head with a pistol and walked away. A witness claims she told the second victim, “You guys think you’re real bad, don’t you?” before shooting him.

She then sent e-mails to Mexican media outlets with the handle “Diana, the hunter of bus drivers.”

“I myself and other women have suffered in silence but we can’t stay quiet anymore. We were victims of sexual violence by the drivers on the night shift on the routes to the maquilas [assembly plants in the city]. I am the instrument of vengeance for several women.”

 

You just fucked with the wrong Chica.

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Well I was pleasantly surprised by this one, certainly a great popcorn movie, more comedy than drama.  But, I was wrong on which direction they were heading from the initial teasers.  Seems JJ and crew managed to pull it off, and even left some simmering issues to ponder over.  Thumbs are up (thanks Roger Ebert, maybe I’ll use this distinction in the future).

So, let’s get spoiling!

But wait – a lot of my gripes are just sort of dumb scenes, perhaps hastily written in order to milk the character developments that occur later on.  I get that.  It’s more Fi than Sci.  As a space comedy it’s up there with Spaceballs and Galaxy Quest, and so the added perspective on war and vengeance is delivered with even more resonance.

 

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Revised: 9.8.14

Few movies make such an impact and burrow into your brain so deeply as Christopher Nolan’s first real movie with a budget, Memento.  This tale of amnesia introduced Guy Pearce to America, and he is phenomenal as a brain damaged guy who can’t form new memories, but who must find and kill his wife’s killer in the name of vengeance.

This movie made me a Nolan fan.  His next project ripped off a very good Norwegian film that already worked perfectly fine without American studio exploitation.  I took a step back and started questioning Nolan right then and there.

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But Memento stands apart as an original twisted cinematic ride that is visceral and probably Nolan’s best film, although The Prestige may be up there in the running.

 

But back to Memento which brings Joe Pantoliano back to the screen, whom I hadn’t seen much of since Guido the Killer Pimp.  Come to think of it, he’s also in The Matrix.  These two, Pantoliano and Pearce, try and piece together how the hell Pearce has gotten here and why.  But Pearce has covered himself with tattoos to establish the facts of his existence. When he thinks certain of something he draws it into his skin, so that when he inevitably forgets everything he can quickly return to his quest.

Nolan’s got something, and it really operates on a different level than most people.

The style is much like a noir, a flashbacked mind bent noir with big questions at the heart of the quest.  It is, after all, about a blinding drive for vengeance.  The act of vengeance is brought to life in a way that nobody had ever seen before.

Memento is cited by many as a film to put on a list of mind bending titles (my own list). I hope you youngsters are keeping track of these gems … oh wait, Transformers 12 is coming!

 

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This is pretty good after the initial cacophony of soundtracks in the first couple minutes.  Article.

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“He’s a black republican; no wonder he went nuts.” -K

 
This LAPD cop incident is certainly the most fascinating story around tonight. I don’t know what the hell happened recently. Apparently, this ex-Navy, ex-LAPD officer has targeted his enemies inside the LAPD, after he was unjustly fired in 2009. He may have gone off the deep end recently, given his clear embrace of terrorism. But he still names names in LAPD crimes that occurred several years back. These names have been CENSORED from corporate media, and so I’m posting the full uncensored version here.

Christopher Dorner’s main beef is with an officer called Teresa Evans, a.k.a. the “The Chupacabra,” who allegedly kicked a mentally ill man — a bunch of years ago. That incident may have led to Dorner’s firing from the force, because Evans had friends in the department. Dorner believes that racism is a large factor, as he is black, and has had incidents with white and Mexican fellow officers.

Here are some sensational excerpts from the 11 page “Manifesto”, which is posted in full at the end.

“In 8/07 I reported an officer (Ofcr. Teresa Evans/now a Sergeant), for kicking a suspect (excessive force) during a Use of Force while I was assigned as a patrol officer at LAPD’s Harbor Division. While cuffing the suspect, (Christopher Gettler), Evans kicked the suspect twice in the chest and once in the face. The kick to the face left a visible injury on the left cheek below the eye.”
“…nothing was done.”
“They still found me guilty and terminated me.”
“I ask that all earnest journalist investigating this story ask Ofcr. Abraham Schefres about the incident when Ofcr. Burdios began singing a nazi youth song about burning jewish ghettos.”
“That day, the LAPD stated that it is acceptable for fellow officers to call black officers niggers to their face and you will receive a slap on the wrist.”
“She has a very well known nickname, Chupacabra, which she was very proud to flaunt around the division. She found it very funny and entertaining to draw blood from suspects and arrestees. At one point she even intentionally ripped the flesh off the arm of a woman we had arrested for battery (sprayed her neighbor with a garden water hose). Knowing the woman had thin elastic skin, she performed and Indian burn to the woman’s arm after cuffing her. That woman was in her mid-70’s, a mother and grandmother, and was angry at her tenants who failed to pay rent on time.”
“Teresa Evans, I found her as a woman who was very angry that she had been pulled from patrol for a short time because of a domestic violence report made by Long Beach Police Department because of an incident involving her active LAPD officer boyfriend, Dominick Fuentes, and herself. Dominick Fuentes is the same officer investigated for witness tampering.”
“Evans, you are a POS and you lied right to the BOR panel when Randy Quan asked you if you kicked Christopher Gettler.”
“. A FOIA request will most likely be needed to access these at Parker center or at the Personnel/Records.”
“…Sgt. Anderson all new I was innocent but decided to terminate me so they could continue Ofcr. Teresa Evans career.”
“…I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me.”
“You fuckers knew Evans was guilty of kicking (excessive force) Gettler and you did nothing but get rid of what you saw as the problem, the whistleblower.”
“Gettler himself stated on video tape ( provided for the BOR and in transcripts) he was kicked and even his father stated that his son said he was kicked by Evans when he was released from custody. The video was played for the entire BOR to hear. Tingirides, Eisenberg, and Martella all heard it”
“You can not police yourselves and the consent decree was unsuccessful.”
“The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.”
“You didn’t because you knew I was innocent and a criminal court would find me innocent and expose your department for suppressing the truth and retaliation, that’s why.”
“The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence, PUBLICLY!!! I will not accept any type of currency/goods in exchange for the attacks to stop, nor do i want it. I want my name back, period. There is no negotiation.”
“This department has not changed from the Daryl Gates and Mark Fuhrman days. Those officers are still employed and have all promoted to Command staff and supervisory positions. I will correct this error. Are you aware that an officer (a rookie/probationer at the time) seen on the Rodney King videotape striking Mr. King multiple times with a baton on 3/3/91 is still employed by the LAPD and is now a Captain on the police department? Captain Rolando Solano is now the commanding officer of a LAPD police station (West LA division).”
“Are you aware Evans has since promoted to Sergeant after kicking Mr. Gettler in the face. Oh, you Violated a citizens civil rights? We will promote you.”
“Same as LAPD did with the the officers from Metro involved in the May Day melee at MacArthur Park. They promoted them to Sergeant (a supervisor role).”
“I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change.”
“It is endless the amount of times per week officers arrest an individual, label him a suspect-arrestee-defendant and then before arraignment or trial realize that he is innocent based on evidence.”
“Don’t honor these fallen officers/dirtbags. When your family members die, they just see you as extra overtime at a crime scene and at a perimeter. Why would you value their lives when they clearly don’t value yours or your family members lives? I’ve heard many officers who state they see dead victims as ATV’s, Waverunners, RV’s and new clothes for their kids. Why would you shed a tear for them when they in return crack a smile for your loss because of the impending extra money they will receive in their next paycheck for sitting at your loved ones crime scene of 6 hours because of the overtime they will accrue.”
“They take photos of your loved ones recently deceased bodies with their cellphones and play a game of who has the most graphic dead body of the night with officers from other divisions”
“You allow an officer, Thaniya Sungruenyos, to attempt to hack into my credit union account and still remain on the job even when Det. Zolezzi shows the evidence that the IP address (provided by LAPFCU) that attempted to hack into my account and change my username and password leads directly to her residence.”
“How do you know when a police officer is lying??? When he begins his sentence with, “based on my experience and training”.”
“Bratton, Beck, Hayes, Tingirides, Eisenberg, Martella, Quan, Evans, Hernandez, Villanueva/Gallegos, and Anderson. Your lack of ethics and conspiring to wrong a just individual are over.”
“Suppressing the truth will leave to deadly consequences for you and your family. There will be an element of surprise where you work, live, eat, and sleep. I will utilize ISR at your home, workplace, and all locations in between. I will utilize OSINT to discover your residences, spouses workplaces, and children’s schools. IMINT to coordinate and plan attacks on your fixed locations. Its amazing whats on NIPR. HUMINT will be utilized to collect personal schedules of targets. I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I’m terminating yours.”
“This is simple, I know your TTP’s and PPR’s. I will mitigate any of your attempts at preservation.”
“I will conduct DA operations to destroy, exploit and seize designated targets. If unsuccessful or unable to meet objectives in these initial small scale offensive actions, I will reassess my BDA and re-attack until objectives are met.”
“You are aware that I have always been the top shot, highest score, an expert in rifle qualifications in every unit I’ve been in. I will utilize every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordnance, and survival training I’ve been given.”
“[Taliban fighters] embrace death as it is a way of life. I simply don’t fear it. I am the walking exigent circumstance you created.”
“I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty.”
“You may have the resources and manpower but you are reactive and predictable in your op plans and TTP’s. I have the strength and benefits of being unpredictable, unconventional, and unforgiving.”
“I know your significant others routine, your children’s best friends and recess. I know Your Sancha’s gym hours and routine. I assure you that the casualty rate will be high.”

After threatening to kill the families of officers, Dorner even rants in favor of gun control:

“In the end, I hope that you will realize that the small arms I utilize should not be accessed with the ease that I obtained them. … Whether by executive order or thru a bi-partisan congress an assault weapons ban needs to be re-instituted. Period!!!”

“You disrespect the office of the POTUS/Presidency and Commander in Chief. You call him Kenyan, mongroid, halfrican, muslim, and FBHO when in essence you are to address him as simply, President.”
“Before you start with your argument that you believe I would vote for Obama because he has the same skin color as me, fuck you. I didn’t vote in this last election as my choice of candidate, John Huntsman, didn’t win the primary candidacy for his party.”
“It’s kind of sad I won’t be around to view and enjoy The Hangover III. What an awesome trilogy. Todd Phillips, don’t make anymore Hangovers after the third, takes away the originality of its foundation. World War Z looks good and The Walking Dead season 3 (second half) looked intriguing. Damn, gonna miss shark week.”
“Gov. Chris Christie. What can I say? You’re the only person I would like to see in the White House in 2016 other than Hillary. You’re America’s no shit taking uncle.”
“Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Pat Harvey, Brian Williams, Soledad Obrien, Wolf Blitzer, Meredith Viera, Tavis Smiley, and Anderson Cooper, keep up the great work and follow Cronkite’s lead.”
“The honorable President George H.W. Bush, they never give you enough credit for your successful Presidency. You were always one of my favorite Presidents (2nd favorite).”
“Ellen Degeneres, continue your excellent contribution to entertaining America and bringing the human factor to entertainment.”
“Westboro Baptist Church, may you all burn slowly in a fire, not from smoke inhalation, but from the flames and only the flames.”
“Christopher Walz, you impressed me in Inglorious Basterds. After viewing Django Unchained, I was sold”
“Anonymous, you are hated, vilified, and considered an enemy to the state. I personally view you as a culture and a necessity that brings truth to a cloaked world. Forge ahead!”

This might not be too much of a surprise:

“Charlie Sheen, you’re effin awesome.”

“Blacks must strive for more in life than bling, hoes, and cars. The current culture is an epidemic that leaves them with no discernible future. They’re suffocating and don’t even know it. MLK Jr. Would be mortified at what he worked so hard for in our acceptance as equal beings and how unfortunately we stopped progressing and began digressing.”

End excerpts.

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Django’s Vengeance

Joe Giambrone

Tarantino strikes again to howls and a little hostility.  Django is at 88% with critics and 94% with audiences on the Tomatometer.  We know that Spike Lee refused to see the film at all, and so I was interested to see what the negative reviews were going to point out.

Obviously, the blood, the gory violence, but many are calling the film self-indulgent and too long.  On that point I disagree.  The film was about as long as it needed to be to resonate as an epic, a large scale western with social commentary on slavery.  Perhaps the extra time wasn’t spent in the expected ways, but running time alone is no excuse for a shoddy review.

One of the reviews that caught my attention was by Dana Stevens:

There’s something about [Tarantino’s] directorial delectation in all these acts of racial violence that left me not just physically but morally queasy.”

That’s an interesting point.  Obviously the staging is effective.  To what end is debatable, but it’s certainly well executed and harrowing.  When dealing with something as unthinkably massive as centuries of atrocities against millions of people, and the racial psychosis, which accompanied it, I’m not sure that showing blood and violence is all that inappropriate.  It could be argued that no amount of red corn syrup can make up for the real history that is meant to be conveyed, however abstractly, through these unexpected genre motifs.

Another review by J.R. Jones said,

Like the earlier movie, in which Jewish-American soldiers assassinate Hitler, this one draws heavily on minority group revenge fantasy, the only difference being that the trick isn’t as impressive the second time around.

To which I would reply that the word “trick” is condescending.  And Django Unchained is a considerable improvement over Inglorious Basterds, which was less fun and less focused.  This American story may even be too close to home for some.  While it’s fine to beat up on Nazis, after so much conditioning over the decades, the idea of beating up on genteel white American males packs its own baggage here.  Racism is still alive and well, and thus racially-charged American films can be risky, not to mention “tricky” to pull off.

David Germain writes for the AP:

“Django Unchained” is Tarantino at his most puerile and least inventive, the premise offering little more than cold, nasty revenge and barrels of squishing, squirting blood.”

Germain didn’t notice the iconic, mythical imagery?  Scene after scene gives inventive twists in order to expose slavery to the modern viewer in ways that they haven’t seen before.  Tarantino, of course, is going to be Tarantino, and you can’t fault him for that.  You either appreciate a B-movie exploitation take on serious subjects, or you don’t.  As for the revenge narrative, on that I do agree with Germain.  It does confine the story to a set of expected outcomes, and it does lessen the impact of the ending somewhat.  That is the trouble with all genre pictures, and yet is one of the main reasons they keep getting made – audiences supposedly like consistency.

This is a revenge film, and that is pretty much made clear even by the title.  Is that sufficient reason to dismiss it?  As one would The Count of Monte Cristo?  Revenge is a strong motivator, but it is also a peg in the viewer’s mind on which to hang some weighty topics.  Django’s revenge isn’t purely personal, but racial, a response to great historical crimes.  Great historical crimes that have not been avenged or rectified in the real world, for the most part.  Right there is the topic simmering below the silver film grains.  A great wrong was done to an entire class of people, and they did not exact the kind of revenge dramatized through the person of Django.  Django is a fantasy, through and through, and was never meant to be anything else.  His existence is purely on an intellectual plane, the realm of conflicting historical narratives.

Does Django work as intended?  Perhaps 94% of the audience today thinks so.  I think so.  The narrative was immersive and the journey worth taking.  Was it perfect?  Of course not.  No movie is.  Was the violence gratuitous?  In places, yes.  In others it was uncharacteristically restrained and realistic.  Bullets do kill people.

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I was particularly piqued by some of the reviews by African American reviewers.  This is the meat of the issue, and I’ll quote a few opinions.

Tanya Steele wrote:

“In Tarantino’s imagination, he could accept slavery if he thought of it as black people fighting back under the gaze of a white male. This works for a culture that does not want to confront the evils and system of slavery. We want to believe that it wasn’t all that bad. That it was endurable, escapable, provided opportunities for heroics. Black people were slaves because we didn’t fight back. Django was a character created by a privileged white male.”

Seriously, that’s a stretch that just doesn’t work.  Django’s predicament arises from a plausible bounty hunter narrative.  Django is “under the gaze of a white male” to make this plot work.  It is the initial condition which allows the story to unfold. By story’s conclusion the white bounty hunter is not only dead, but Django is free and victorious.  His progression from slave to skilled assassin to free and clear hero comes in stages of development.  Tarantino is certainly not endorsing slavery, and his white bounty hunter character isn’t comfortable with the practice either.  It is this character who also grows and rejects the practice to such an extent that he would rather kill the plantation owner at the cost of his own life than to simply shake his hand.  These myopic, cherry picked complaints ignore the rest of the story.

Cecil Brown wrote in Counterpunch,

African American critic Wesley Morris hated it. He called it “unrelenting tastelessness — […] exclamatory kitsch — on a subject as loaded, gruesome, and dishonorable as American slavery.”

Pretty damning stuff at first glance, but Wesley Morris actually gave the film 3.5/4 stars and also wrote,

I really like “Django Unchained,” but I didn’t like watching it amid the moronic laughter of some of his movie-geek fans. No filmmaker gives you as much as gleefully as [Tarantino] does. He’s 49 now, and there’s a new maturity in his style.

I can understand that Cecil Brown “hated” the film, but clearly Mr. Morris did not.

I’m quite sensitive to the perception of white money, white director, white screenwriter, black cinema.  Understandably this is a very prickly topic, and can be perceived in any number of ways.  Cecil Brown compares the plantation presented in the film to today’s Hollywood:

“What are the social conditions that would permit Django to be the big howling, empty nigger joke that it is? One of these social conditions, certainly, involves the relationship between black actors and Hollywood as a symbol of the plantation system. …The plantation is called CandieLand (Candyland) and is meant to refer to Hollywood itself as a producer of entertainment (Candy). Get it?”

Really?

As Hollywood did not exist during the timeframe of the film, I saw no references in the film itself to suggest that this is so.  Actual candy predates the motion picture system.  This is an assumption, and a bit of a leap onto a pretty thin branch.  It may be Tarantino’s style to infuse everything with references to Hollywood, but the plantation system during slave times?  Would Tarantino even think of this comparison?

That metaphor seems to originate with Ishmael Reed, who was admittedly biased against the film right from the opening credits.  Reed wrote:

“Tarantino’s fictional blacks apparently lack that part of the brain that makes one compassionate. While some blacks are being brutalized other blacks go about their business. In one scene, a black woman is being whipped while nearby a black woman is enjoying herself on a swing.”

Those particular characters are obviously there to make a point about the divide and conquer strategies employed during slavery to create different classes of slaves, the house slave vs. the field slave.  As such it would be more appropriate to examine in terms of class, and not race.  The house slave vs. field slave distinction is obviously not an invention of Tarantino’s, as Mr. Reed knows full well, but an expression of known historical phenomena with resonance and relevance today.  This is a highly-charged emotional topic, but it’s certainly not all concocted whole cloth by the director.  He is merely pointing his camera in that direction.

Reed then admonishes the film for what it isn’t.  It is not a story about a slave revolt.  That’s true.  It uses the genre cliché of a single man on an obsessive quest to save his lover.  This makes for a tighter plot and a more focused story.  It could have veered off in any number of directions, but this is the story.  A slave is freed, learns to become a bounty hunter, becomes a top-notch bounty hunter, a killer, and saves his wife from slavery.  How this particular narrative could earn so much ire, I still don’t understand.

We should be angry over slavery as well as racism.  But lashing out at those who are trying to shine a light on both?

Tarantino has not only looked at slavery unflinchingly, but taken it to new levels of abstraction for modern audiences to ponder over.  This is a very brave film that uses certain pathways into modern audience perceptions so as to bring home very real historical points, points which apply today.  The psychology at work is universal, and power disparity and the stripping of human rights goes on right now somewhere in the world.  Tarantino has used his own understanding and skills to craft a new take on an old subject, the way it most certainly wasn’t taught in high school.  For that alone he should be treated seriously and given some leeway, some fictional license to explore things on screen.  The alleged hidden racist agenda of the director is simply not supportable.  Filming a situation and endorsing a situation are two very different things.

Tarantino responded to some negative audience members at a preview screening:

“It’s a rough movie. As bad as some of the shit is in this film, a lot worse shit was going on. This is the nice version.”

I do support the film, and I consider it worthy of serious consideration.  Coincidentally, the NAACP has nominated the film in four different categories for its “Image Awards.”

“Despite a controversy over its use of the n-word, Tarantion’s film collected four nominations, one for best picture and others for Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington.” (Hollywood Reporter)

Joe Giambrone is a filmmaker and author of Hell of a Deal: A Supernatural Satire. He edits The Political Film Blog, which welcomes submissions. polfilmblog at gmail.

 

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Flinty Clint’s Quaint Quackery
by ELLIOT SPERBER

While Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood’s recent performance at the Republican National Convention in Tampa has been the subject of a considerable degree of criticism, much of this revolves around the mere form of his speech – e.g. his incessant stammering, and his use of an empty chair as a prop containing an imaginary Obama. Rather than examining the form of his speech, however, an examination of its content may provide us with some insight into the ideological situation presently confronting us.

Among the quips and commonplace distortions of fact that one has come to expect from such speeches (such as the suggestion that US forces invaded Afghanistan under Obama’s, rather than Bush’s command ) was the memorable if not completely clear statement that “we own this country.” Possessing multiple meanings, “we own this country” is ambiguous. On the one hand, in a loose sense, the idea is imbued with an emancipatory dimension. Indeed, the socialistic Woody Guthrie expressed something very close to this in his “This Land Is Your Land.” In his most well-known song, Guthrie suggests that all people own “this land,” collectively. It is “your land,” and it “is my land,” and it is “made for you and me.” Implied in this is the idea that if the land, the country, is made for all of us, none ought to be able to lord it over any of us, and none should have to serve another. However, while this collectivist sense is implicit in Eastwood’s syntagma, unlike Guthrie, Eastwood does not seem to be addressing humanity as a whole.

Rather, Eastwood seems to be exclusively addressing the Republican party. And though the term republican derives from the Latin res publicum – which means the public thing, or the thing held in common – the Republican Party views itself not so much as members of a community so much as owners, of private property holders, antagonistically related to members of the larger society. To be sure, Eastwood’s audience seems interested in the “commons” only to the degree that they can privatize it and reap a profit from it. Not only that, as one of the leading spokespeople of the conservative movement, Margaret Thatcher, phrased it, ”there is no society.” As the Hobbesian implication goes, we are all a bunch of atomized individuals with fundamentally opposed interests, individuals who must protect themselves from other individuals. And like Thatcher’s soul-mate Ronald Reagan, with his western persona, and other cowboy actors like John Wayne, it is noteworthy that Eastwood achieved his iconic status in large part through the portrayal of gunfighters – indispensable aspects of the apparatus employed in the extermination of the Native American population, those socialists, and the ‘privatization’ of the North American continent.

In light of this, it should come as little surprise that Eastwood’s statement concerning ownership would be diametrical to the ecological, indigenist notion attributed to Chief Seattle that “the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” Contrary to the sensibility inherent in that remark, the Republicans (but not only the Republicans) ardently believe that, no, the earth does indeed belong to them. They own it. And, consequently, they can frack it, and mine it, and drill it, and pollute it to their hearts’ content, irrespective of the harms such practices cause.

So, while Eastwood’s statement that “we own the country” and his remark that “politicians are our employees,” may hearken to the populism of Woody Guthrie, and to notions of democratic forms of self-government, this should not be confused with the fact that it actually represents a remarkably regressive notion of political life, one that is not only complementary with contemporary efforts by the Roberts Court, among others, to roll back the legislation of the Civil Rights Era and the New Deal, but much of the 19th century as well. Indeed, wrapped up in his statement is an extremely reactionary sentiment that would hurtle us back to well before the time of Lincoln, to the period prior to the Jacksonian Era, when only those who owned land were extended the franchise and allowed to otherwise participate in the course of social development.

Another part of Eastwood’s speech that ought to be examined concerns his quip about lawyers and businessmen. Rather than have a lawyer like Obama for president, Eastwood opined, it might be time to elect a businessman – as though George W. Bush’s business credentials and tenure in the oval office had not only not occurred, but had not initiated two huge wars, and paved the way for Obama’s kill list either – not to mention the fact that Romney is an attorney as well. Lawyers, Eastwood further explained, are always “devils advocating this,” and “bifurcating that,” and looking at both sides of things. Beyond the reproduction of the simplistic binary that posits merely two sides to things, Eastwood couples this with the presumption that looking at both sides is little more than a nuisance, an elitist indulgence that the decisionistic businessperson has little patience or time for. Of course, it is never a difficult task to raise a laugh with a lawyer joke. For who doesn’t dislike lawyers? Indeed, beyond the prospect of one’s adversary’s lawyer screwing you over lies the probability that one’s very own lawyer will commit just such an act. However, it is important to note that, for the most part, when a lawyer screws over his or her client, the lawyer is acting, beyond any other, in the capacity of the businessperson.

My point here is not to defend lawyers, but to point out the conflict of interests that of necessity arises when social relations are subordinated to commerce – a notion that, around Labor Day, one would hope would be at the fore of people’s thoughts. Nor am I defending the law which the lawyer serves. Written in large part by the forces of business, or by other forms of coercive power, in many respects the law transmits far more harm than anything salutary. Beyond the problem of unjust laws, however, which are ubiquitous, and the reproduction and institutionalization of harms, the fidelity to the mere letter of the law is the purest type of dogmatism. Indeed, it is only to the degree that the law pursues justice, rather than mere law, that it frees itself at all from such inertial stupidities. But just what are we referring to when we speak of justice?

As the theme of justice recurs throughout his work, Clint Eastwood’s films may give us some insight into this question. In addition to encountering the theme in relatively early films like The Outlaw Josie Wales, in which Josie Wales spends the length of the movie avenging the massacre of his family, the theme reappears in his middle and later work as well. In among others, we see the theme of justice in Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films. Most notably perhaps, the theme appears in the only Dirty Harry film Eastwood himself directed, Sudden Impact, involving a rape victim hunting down her rapists. In Eastwood’s masterpiece, Unforgiven, the theme occurs once more, when the notorious shootist William Munny comes out of retirement to avenge the slashing of a prostitute. However, while retribution, or retributive justice is an ancient form of justice, one dating back to the Code of Hammurabi’s ( c.1770 BCE) exhortation that one must repay an eye with an eye, and a tooth with a tooth, retributive justice comprises only one form of justice. To be sure, instead of seeing another lose his or her eye as a punishment, many argue that justice requires the replacement of one’s lost eye, or its equivalent. This theory of justice which, instead of bringing the harmer to the harmed one’s position, seeks to restore the harmed one’s pre-harmed position is known as restorative justice. Others, still, might see justice inhering in an arrangement of social life that precludes foreseeable injustices from arising in the first place. This notion of justice that seeks to obviate harms from arising, and distributes social resources in an equitable manner in order to do so, is known as distributive justice. These examples of alternate notions of justice, however, do not exhaust the subject.

In spite of this, though, and as much as his films contend with the issue of justice, Clint Eastwood does not seem to veer from the retributive model. While this may be unfortunate, it nevertheless should not come as much of a surprise. For over the course of Eastwood’s film career the retributive theory of justice has come to assume a hegemonic position within the so-called justice system. The most disturbing result of this has been the ballooning of the prison population. In the early 1970s around 300,000 men and women were incarcerated in the United States. By the end of 2010 the number of incarcerated climbed to over 2,200,000 men and women – an incarcerated population surpassing in both absolute and relative numbers the incarcerated populations of any other country in human history. Indeed, while the US has only five percent of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s total prison population. And while this statistic may to some degree appear to be tangential to the subject at hand, it leads us back to the point. For above all, in interrogating the invisible Obama, Eastwood is raising the issue of justice. Although he was mocked and derided for it by many, Eastwood should instead be lauded for putting Obama in the chair and submitting him to questioning, pantomiming the possibility that Obama, or Bush, among others, may one day sit in such a chair facing prosecution for war crimes.

But while Eastwood’s theatrical trick may in some respects be laudable, rather than interrogating Obama for the latter’s war crimes, persecutions of whistle blowers, unprecedented corrosion of the Fourth Amendment, and the maintenance of a kill list and the executions attending it, among other heinous acts, Eastwood instead expressed his support for some of the most grievous of injustices. Regarding the notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay, for instance, Eastwood expressed his opinion that it ought to be kept open, remarking “why close that, we spent so much money on it.”

Considering his premises concerning ownership and the merits of businessmen, among other things, it is not surprising that Eastwood and his fellow travelers would arrive at such conclusions. And while the people of the world are facing unprecedented injustices and harms, ranging from war to ecocide, to the elimination of the most basic conditions for well-being, like clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and nutritious food – conditions that in some contexts are referred to as the General Welfare, and are in many respects the preconditions of a just society – it is important to bear in mind that it is not only Eastwood and the Republicans but the Democrats as well who, owing to their basic political-economic philosophies, and the conflicts of interest these give rise to, are fundamentally incapable of pursuing anything beyond the most superficial, retributive types of justice. More than ever it seems that these ideologues, and their benefactors, can merely dole out their spokespeople, apologists, and disinformation experts, obfuscating the fact that their policies are the direct source of much of the injustice in the world. Until the question of justice is addressed in a critical and comprehensive manner, we will not have politics so much as the semblance of politics.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and contributor to hygiecracy.blogspot.com. He lives in New York City, and can be reached at elliot.sperber — at — gmail.com