The Classic American Western As Emblem of Historic American Culture
Since the beginning of the twentieth century one of the newer art forms and expressions of our culture has been cinema—“motion pictures.” It was the novelty of live theater and acting captured as moving images in film and presented on a screen. In many respects, like other art forms, film represents what is happening in our culture. At its very finest it is capable of shining a vivid light on our beliefs and values, portraying them, dissecting them, and, like other art forms, it may be used as an instrument to affect or even shape our outlook and our politics. Continue reading
Be skeptical of Ken Burns’ documentary: The Vietnam War
Some months ago I and a dozen other local veterans attended a screening at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta – preview of a new documentary on The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick” The screening was a one hour summation of this 10-part documentary, 18 hours long.
The series began showing on PBS Sunday Sep 17, and with Burns’ renowned talent mixing photos, video clips and compelling mood music in documentary form, the series promises to be compelling to watch. That doesn’t mean it tells the truth. Continue reading
The Orpheum Theatre Group made the decision after patrons took issue with the screening of the movie starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara on August 11. Continue reading
Imagine a Boot Stamping on Your Face
“The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. They can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us, and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us.” — Director Steven Spielberg, Minority Report
We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by such science fiction writers as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.
Much like Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move.
Much like Huxley’s A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who “have their liberties taken away from them, but … rather enjoy it, because they [are] distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing.”
Much like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the populace is now taught to “know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.” Continue reading
The recent death of Gene Wilder prompted the theatrical re-release of two of his most popular movies. For those unfamiliar with the great comic actor on the big screen, that new release yielded much more than a windfall of laughs.
“We’ve got to save our phony-baloney jobs,” perhaps the truest line in all of cinema. In September, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wilder’s family-friendly film from 1971, played in 200 cinemas. The 1974 Western satire Blazing Saddles played in only 60 theatres but was more significant, for several reasons… Continue reading
In the early 1960’s, on Friday nights I would watch WTTW, the local PBS television station in Chicago. Their offering? Silent movies. The one that struck me the most – ‘Metropolis‘ – the 1927 film by German Director, Fritz Lang with musical ‘soundtrack’ by Gottfried Huppertz.
In this past half-century plus, missing segments of the film have been discovered and the film was eventually restored to its near full original presentation – the Director’s cut – if you will.
Over the years I have witnessed numerous additions and partial restorations including the first semi-full major restoration of the film – including digital applications in 2001. ‘Metropolis’ was once again upgraded in 2010 as additional footage was discovered.
Why does any of this matter? To some – it will not. To others, you will realize that what you are about to watch is an eighty-nine year old depiction of life in the future. Much of it has come to pass.
Oh yes… what you about to see has been modified by a fan, to include the music of Pink Floyd (‘Wish You Were Here‘). It is set set to the pre-2010 version (without the most recently discovered footage).
Today is one of those days that I am not up to publishing new columns on this day.
Let us return – Back – to OUR Future.
Enjoy the beauty of REAL film-making. ~ (J.B.)
George Kennedy, an American actor who won an Academy Award for playing a hulking chain gang convict who pummels Paul Newman in the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke” and later earned laughs in the “Naked Gun” comedy films, has died, media outlets reported on Monday. He was 91.
The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, citing a Facebook post made by Kennedy’s grandson, said the actor died early on Sunday in Boise, Idaho. Reuters could not independently verify the reports. Continue reading
“The West has never known a Hero like the Killer who commanded Fort Massacre” ~ Taken from the film trailer of the 1958 Western, “Fort Massacre.”
For those of us who have realized that no matter who we vote for, a corrupt government gets elected, the past few days have provided an awful lot of humorous but thoughtful moments. It has been fun to watch the Republican Party continue to implode as their previous demand that Donald Trump not run as a 3rd party candidate begins to backfire and further illustrate there is actually no significant difference between them and the Democrats. As this writer has previously written, one of the strongest supporters of current, stated republican principles is none other than the Democrat front runner, Hillary Clinton. She supports everything Jeb, Marco, Carly, Lindsey Graham, Huckabee and Ben supports, militarily and socially, even more so in many regards.
A couple of days ago, Trump set the media (social and sycophant) on fire with his proposal to stop all immigration of Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” It certainly appears the entirety of the political world has turned on the “Donald” with many making reference to the same Constitution they have studiously avoided while religiously supporting unconstitutional social issues and unlimited wars. Continue reading
When does the day come, when one can put aside the trials of life – and just
The Hollywood Reporter calls it a “shocker” that a patriotic movie by one of the best directors working today, about an American hero who kills jihadists, is really, really popular. To me, that sounds like a formula for success, but Hollywood still thinks tender stories about gay males coming of age are what the public demands, along with cartoonish special effects-laden, nine-figure-budget mind candy. Continue reading
Elia Kazan’s classic A Face in the Crowd is a good primer on Barack Obama’s rise and fall. Lonesome Rhodes arises out of nowhere in the 1957 film, romancing the nation as a phony populist who serially spins yarns in the most folksy ways — confident that he should never be held to account. Kazan’s point (in the film Rhodes is a patsy for conservative business interests) is that the “folks” are fickle and prefer to be charmed rather than informed and told the truth. Rhodes’s new first name, Lonesome, resonates in the film in a way that Barack does now. Finally, an open mic captures Rhodes’s true disdain for the people he champions, and his career crashes. Continue reading
Scott Eyman’s new life of the actor John Wayne portrays an extremely complicated man who invented his own public persona and played it beautifully.
“Truly, this man was the son of God.” Thus speaks a Roman centurion at the end of George Stevens’s inaptly named The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). It’s a line that always gets a big laugh, partly because the idea of anything so irreligious as Hollywood hokum commenting on the provenance of Jesus Christ is axiomatically funny, but mostly because the centurion is played by John Wayne, a movie star who might have known a son of a gun when he saw one, but who patently knew precious little else.
Except, one learns from Scott Eyman’s exhaustive new biography, John Wayne: the Life and Legend, Wayne was a rather more cultivated man than his movie persona allowed. He was a talented chess-player and no slouch at bridge, and he had a penchant for reciting Milton and Dickens and Shakespeare from memory. Among the titles on his bookshelves were first editions of Lolita and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as well as a complete set of Winston Churchill’s prose. True, he got into the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. But at high school, in Glendale, he had won the essay of the year award, had written for the student newspaper, was a lynchpin of the debating team and was both President of the Latin society and Chairman of the Senior Dance. Continue reading
Once in a while, Hollywood gets it right: for example, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. As Breitbart News has already noted, it’s a distinctly dystopian take on the future, seen from the perspective of year five of the Obama era.
And as with its predecessor film from last year, The Hunger Games, this new film is a big hit. As a commentary on Obama’s America, that’s all the more revealing since movie audiences tilt young. In fact, Americans aged 12-24 represent only 10 percent of the US population, although they account for nearly a third of US moviegoers. So it’s the young—supposedly a cohort of Obama loyalists—who are bulking up the audiences for this PG-rated film.
Yet it must be observed that the source material precedes Obama; the first novel, The Hunger Games, appeared in 2008. Indeed, author Suzanne Collins has said that George W. Bush’s Iraq War was a major inspiration for the whole Hunger Games trilogy.
In other words, if American presidents, and their policies, are to be given “credit” for Collins’ dystopian fantasies, the credit must then be apportioned between the two parties. Continue reading
Every so often we are reminded of our roots – back on the old Hollywood lot. The Federal Observer has posted this video in the past, yet it seems even more relevant today. There are great lessons in movies – not all – but the true classics – and this is one of them. Thanks to the good folks over at Zero Hedge for reminding us. See you at the movies… (Ed.)
Every now and then, it is good to refresh knowledge of what is truly important in life. So it’s time to post “The Greatest Speech Ever” by Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin was known as the greatest silent actor ever. The most powerful excerpts from his speech, still very relevant today, in my opinion, are below:
“And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.” Continue reading