Sunday, May 29, 2016

100 - 1

"His imperfections flowed from the contagion of the times; his virtues were his own." -- Gibbon
Happy 99th Birthday to the last American President. . .

                                                          * * * * * *

Yes, it is a cold war document. Yes it was written and directed (and scored!) by right-wing loon Bruce Herschensohn (borrowing from Leni Riefenstahl). And yes we have to listen to Gregory Peck's voice.

But it is a great documentary (ignore the part about Dallas): earnest, transcendent, and -- like the man himself -- honorable and very moving. He left behind a more compassionate country (and world). What more can one do?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Never

#NeverHillary

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Somewhere


Both singers are dubbed and both are singularly limited as movie actors. (Yet who else could go from playing Tony in West Side Story (1961) to playing -- 30 years later -- Benjamin Horne[!] in Twin Peaks?) And yes we know that Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer hated each other on set. (Wood wanted her then-husband -- and future murderer -- Richard Wagner as Tony.) Plus the movie is not light and funny, nor a showcase for star performers in their best routines. Still. . .

Where did all this go? What happened to it? This quiet and warmth. This full-bodied belief in transcendence, heartbreak, longing. This sense of doom coming not from covens of corporate vampires creating a world frozen in dread, cynicism, and corruption; rather, a tragic forboding arising from the nature of things, as if one is never in so much danger as when happy and/or alive -- that is when the devils seem to have their day, and hawks steal something living from the gambol on the field.

West Side Story can now be seen, almost 60 years on, as a bleeding-heart opera of the Kennedy Years, filled with a faith in endless possibility and joy, undercut by distant drums, it is a movie with a vanished New York City of movement, color, good humor, fellowship, and a loathing of pretension and power at the center of its tender heart. Let it bleed.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Not?


This is why not: Andrew Levine with the revolting answer; and Rob Urie on the leading proponent of reactionary violence in the world today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rose Hobart


This is what happened to Joseph Cornell: He got his hands on a print of East of Borneo (1931) and became so obsessed with its star that he began chopping away everything which wasn't a beauty shot of Rose Hobart. Left with about 15 minutes of footage, he added several pieces of an eclipse documentary, tinted everything, silenced the sound from both originals, added two Brazilian songs, then projected the work at silent movie speed.

What he accomplished is nothing less than the directorial ravishing of a screen star; and a seriously erotic capturing of her lust. The gaze that masters the movie is Rose Hobart's gleaming blue eyes, a gaze that can change atmospheres, eyes that seem to swim in sperm ~ she's always in a trance state of sexual longing, or perhaps remembering some great fuck. Her looks and body movement suggest nights of quiet landscapes, breasts between the moon, of love and wetness from night 'til dawn.

She is surrounded by pools of sucking water, volcanoes flowing lava, moonlight and rain clouds, bunches of bananas, torches, melting crème inside a cool chalice, erect palm trees, the wick of a flame in swollen close-up. And lots of men: natives, Poobahs, and the very lucky Charles Bickford.

And the ravishment at the center: Hobart's panther-like walk, over it a glaze of passion, promising a woman who would lash around her lover like a storm. Her sleek slenderness. Her beautiful neck, arms, shoulders, and back. Skin that photographs like flesh.

The beauty and lust of a woman immortalized. And Cornell's perfect proof that millions of people in the world will never meet each other.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Galant' Uomo


He was the first.

Mark Lane 1927 - 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Spurs Without Tears


Matt Moore:
No tears.

There would be no emotional outbursts, no big scenes about what this failure feels like or what the future holds. The San Antonio Spurs didn't look inward or down after their Game 6 113-99 loss to the Thunder on Thursday. The Spurs were eliminated 4-2, failing to reach the conference finals for the second straight season since winning the title, and losing in the postseason for the second time in five seasons to this young, emotional, athletic team from Oklahoma City. The end comes with questions, and the weight of those questions was evident the entire night even as the Thunder ran away with the game.

Was this the last game Tim Duncan will ever play? What about Manu Ginobili? Is the era over? Do the Spurs finally need to get younger? Are changes necessary after 67 wins and a historic season that saw them lose only once at home in the regular season?

With 3:12 remaining, the Spurs had cut it to 11. From the other vantage point, the Thunder had let a 26-point lead slip, and the crowd was about to have a collective panic attack and crumble into the fetal position. One more big play and the panic was going to start to infect OKC. Kawhi Leonard ran the pick and roll, and Old Man Riverwalk, the Big Fundamental, caught the ball and drove the lane. Then this happened:

Duncan's face as he walked off the floor was a haunting reminder that eventually everyone has that moment where they just can't do what they used to.

After the game, when asked if this was Duncan's last game, Gregg Popovich was coy, jokingly asking the reporter if he knew something Popovich didn't know, and simply saying Duncan played well in Game 6. (He did.) Duncan did what you expected after the game. He said he would think about it after he left the arena.

We've thought this was the end of San Antonio before. The 2011 failure to get out of the first round. The 2013 Finals, maybe the toughest loss in NBA Finals history. This felt different, but so did those. Maybe Duncan will simply return, maybe Ginobili will, too. What's clear, though, is that as great as this Spurs team was in the regular season, it was not ready to face the elite teams.

The beautiful ball movement that has sent basketballphiles' heads spinning was gone, replaced by isolation grinds which the Thunder snuffed out and manhandled. The scoring balance was absent as the Spurs turned again and again to LaMarcus Aldridge, who had two great games and then returned to just being a mid-range shooting power forward, high in volume, low in efficiency.

And then there was Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard's season was phenomenal. He was among the elite in efficiency in every type of play-set he interacted with, offensively or defensively. He was a great spot-up shooter, isolation scorer, pick-and-roll player, slasher, cutter, post-up player and he defended every man, woman, child, wildebeast, mountain lion and mythical creature he was tasked with on his way to Defensive Player of the Year.

However, if we're going to hold these elite players to high standards, Leonard's game has to be examined. Against the Clippers in 2015 he faded over the course of the series, taking less and less of a role before San Antonio was bounced in Game 7. He was solvable. Against the Warriors this season, he failed to assert himself.

Against the Thunder, he had his games, but over the course of the series his impact became less and less. On Thursday, Leonard finished with 22 points, on 23 shots, and really only started trying to exert his will when it was too late. He had just nine shots at the half as the Thunder ran up a 24-point lead. That can't happen if Leonard is going to be the best player on a title team, the guy they lean on. The Thunder, fittingly, took a very Spurs approach to guarding Leonard and Aldridge. No matter how much individual success they had early in the series, OKC kept throwing tough, physical defense at them with Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams on Aldridge and Andre Roberson and Kevin Durant on Leonard. It wore them down, it wore them out, and in the end, the cumulative effect was too much.

The team that always defined itself by its scoring balance and poetic flow found itself stuck in the mud, spinning its two-star wheels helplessly. This was Aldridge's first year in the system and though he was the marquee name of the summer, this team's future is built around Leonard. His early success came as a utility man on the 2014 title team. The jury is still out on his tenure as a star player. Leonard is still phenomenal, still growing, and with how many close games this series had, it's entirely possible that if Leonard did enough the series could have bounced their way.

But it didn't, and on some level, either the Spurs have to return to the balance they had before this season's revamped attack (which was designed to counter the Warriors) or Leonard has to rise above. He has improved every year, but this shows that even he will have to deal with the setbacks every young player -- he's only 24 -- has to go through.

Heavy is the crown.

As for the Spurs' longtime ruler, the greatest player in franchise history, Duncan said nothing Thursday night, as he has said nothing so many times. He is timeless, ageless, speechless, his only expressions coming in disbelief at a foul call he disagrees with. (And he was still making those faces in Game 6 all the way to the end.) Tony Parker sat at his locker and stared straight ahead. Duncan stared straight ahead as he answered the media's call on whether this was it for him. Manu Ginobili walked down the hall toward the bus, embracing Patty Mills as they walked side by side.

From Popovich to Duncan, and Danny Green in between, the Spurs were the same classy organization they've always been. They showered the Thunder with praise, answered their questions dutifully. Then they left.

When asked about his conversation with Popovich, after which Duncan returned for the fourth quarter, Duncan said: "He asked me if I wanted to play and I told him I wanted to play and I always want to play, so he said to go for it. That was the end of it, so I stayed out there the whole time."

Manu Ginobili on if he'll retire: "I'll take my time as always."

Kawhi Leonard on Duncan as a teammate: "He's been a great teammate to me. Helped me grow up a lot throughout my years. We'll see what happens."

So no. No farewell tours. No emotional goodbyes. No tears. If this is the end -- and as always, assuming that it is should be considered folly with this seemingly immortal squad -- it comes with the same quiet dignity that has brought them so many championships, so much success, so much respect.

However, no matter how long it takes, or how far away from the spotlight they'll go, the Spurs will face a process that Tim Duncan described when asked about his future.

"I'll get to that after I get out of here, and figure life out."

After such an amazing season, and with such high hopes dashed, the Spurs are left to do the same.

Friday, May 13, 2016

By Your Enemies Ye Shall Be Known


Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination and the younger brother of George W. Bush, posted a statement Friday on Facebook declaring, “Donald Trump has not demonstrated [the] temperament or strength of character” necessary in a president. He continued: “He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy.”

Mitt Romney appeared Thursday night at a gala dinner in Washington DC to benefit the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When asked if he would run as an independent candidate for president, he said he was not interested. He then added, “I don’t intend on supporting either of the major-party candidates at this point.” He continued: “I am dismayed at where we are now, I wish we had better choices, and I keep hoping that somehow things will get better, and I just don’t see an easy answer from where we are.”

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who like Jeb Bush was a candidate for the Republican nomination and signed a pledge last year to support the eventual nominee, said Friday that Trump was unfit to be commander in chief. “I don't think he’s a reliable Republican conservative,” he said. “I don’t believe that Donald Trump has the temperament and judgment to be commander in chief. I think Donald Trump is going to places where very few people have gone and I’m not going with him.”

An even more scathing denunciation came from former US senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, who will be a delegate to the Republican National Convention pledged to Ohio Governor John Kasich. “Unequivocally, I am not supporting Donald Trump,” he told the press. “I think he is a sociopath.”

While saying he would vote for Trump in November, Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, said he would not attend the July convention in Cleveland. This is the increasingly common choice of those who won’t oppose Trump publicly but don’t want to be associated with his coronation as the nominee.

The executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Ward Baker, told a briefing for lobbyists and donors Thursday that Republican candidates should skip the convention if they felt it was to their advantage in November.

Some of the most right-wing members of the House Republican caucus have declared their opposition to Trump, including Justin Amash of Michigan, who bills himself a libertarian, and Steve King of Iowa, a ferocious anti-immigrant bigot who supported Texas Senator Ted Cruz and is aligned with the most extreme Christian fundamentalists.

Trump often sounds remarkably populist in ways that white working class voters appreciate. He has been critical of things that elite Republicans (and elite corporate Democrats) hold dear, including corporate globalization, “free trade’ (investor rights) deals, global capital mobility, cheap labor immigration. He questions imperialist adventures like the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya, the destabilization of Syria, and the provocation of Russia. He’s a largely self-funded lone wolf and wild card who cannot be counted to reliably make policy in accord with the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. And he’s seizing the nomination of a political organization that may have ceased to be a functioning national political party.

Things are different with Hillary. She’s a tried and true operative on behalf of both the nation’s capitalist and imperialist ruling class who sits atop the United States’ only remaining fully effective national and major party – the Democrats. She’s a deeply conservative right-winger on both the domestic and the foreign policy fronts, consistent with the rightward drift of the Democratic Party (and the entire U.S. party system) – a drift that she and her husband helped trail-blaze back in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1964, when Mrs. Clinton was 18, she worked for the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Asked about that high school episode on National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996, then First Lady Hillary said “That’s right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.”

It was a telling reflection. The First Lady acknowledged that her ideological world view was still rooted in conservatism of her family of origin. Her problem with the reactionary Republicanism afoot in the U.S. during the middle 1990s was that it was “not conservative in many respects.” She spoke the language not of a liberal Democrat but of a moderate Republican in the mode of Dwight Eisenhower or Richard Nixon.

The language was a perfect match for Hillary and Bill Clinton’s politico-ideological history and trajectory. After graduating from the venerable ruling class training ground Yale Law School, the Clintons went to Bill’s home state of Arkansas. There they helped “lay…the groundwork for what would eventually hit the national stage as the New Democrat movement, which took institutional form as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)” (Doug Henwood). The essence of the DLC was dismal, dollar-drenched “neoliberal” abandonment of the Democratic Party’s last lingering commitments to labor unions, social justice, civil rights, racial equality, the poor, and environmental protection and abject service to the “competitive” bottom-line concerns of Big Business.

The Clintons helped launch the New (neoliberal corporatist) Democrat juggernaut by assaulting Arkansas’ teacher unions (Hillary led the attack) and refusing to back the repeal of the state’s anti-union “right to work” law – this while Hillary began working for the Rose Law firm, which “represented the moneyed interests of Arkansas” (Henwood). When the Arkansas-based community-organizing group ACORN passed a ballot measure lowering electrical rates residential users and raising them for commercial businesses in Little Rock, Rose deployed Hillary to shoot down the new rate schedule as an unconstitutional “taking of property.” Hillary joined the board of directors at the low wage retail giant Wal-Mart.

During the Clintons’ time in the White House, Bill advanced the neoliberal agenda beneath fake-progressive cover, in ways that no Republican president could have pulled off. Channeling Ronald Reagan by declaring that “the era of big government is over,” Clinton collaborated with the right wing Congress of his time to end poor families’ entitlement to basic minimal family cash assistance. Hillary backed this vicious welfare “reform” (elimination), which has proved disastrous for millions of disadvantaged Americans. Mr. Clinton earned the gratitude of Wall Street and corporate America by passing the arch-global-corporatist North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act (which had mandated a necessary separation between commercial deposit and investment banking), and by de-regulating the burgeoning super-risky and high-stakes financial derivatives sector. Hillary took the lead role in the White House’s efforts to pass a corporate-friendly version of “health reform.” Along with the big insurance companies the Clintons deceptively railed against, the “co-presidents” decided from the start to exclude the popular health care alternative – single payer – from the national health care “discussion.” (Barack Obama would do the same thing in 2009.)

The Clinton White House’s hostility to “big government” did not extend to the United States’ giant and globally unmatched mass incarceration state or to its vast global military empire. Clinton’s 1994 crime bill helped expand the chilling expansion of the nation’s mostly Black and Latino prison population. Clinton kept the nation’s “defense” (Empire) budget (a giant welfare program for high-tech military corporations) at Cold War levels despite the disappearance of the United States’ Cold War rival the Soviet Union.

A growing number of Republican party leaders are already coming to believe that Hillary is not all that bad an option for them. More Republican billionaires are considering the same. For example, the notorious Koch brothers, ultra-conservative multi-billionaires in the US, have already signaled publicly they could support Hillary if Trump becomes the Republican nominee. And Hillary’s husband, Bill, is reported to be aggressively courting with some success-other billionaire Republicans, seeking money and support for Hillary in exchange for what in return one can only guess.

Not long ago this guy would've been carrying our bags.
-- Bill Clinton on Barack Obama, 2008


Monday, May 9, 2016

Requiem


Noam Chomsky and the 21st-century American Nightmare.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ride


"I dwell in possibility
A fairer house than prose
More numerous of windows
Superior of doors
Of chambers as the cedars
Impregnable of eye"

- Emily Dickinson

Bounty hunter Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) catches up with his prey -- young shoot-`em-in-the-back outlaw Billy John (James Best). On their return toward Santa Cruz, Brigade and Billy run into Brigade acquaintance Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Boone's sidekick (James Coburn), two men also planning on taking in Billy John – in Boone’s case for the promised amnesty. Also met with is a lovely, slender, recently widowed blonde woman (Karen Steele), who becomes an object of love for the four men. Toward Santa Cruz, being pursued by five killers led by Billy John’s older brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef), Brigade’s route becomes the slowest, most open and circuitous possible, as it becomes clear Brigade’s real motive is not grabbing the bounty on Billy John’s head, but the inevitable confrontation with brother Frank -– the man who hanged Ben Brigade’s young wife.

Gruesome as the story can sound, Boetticher and Scott’s Ride Lonesome (1959) is one of the warmest, gentlest, most intimate and tender of great genre movies. And one of the strangest. It is built on seven sequences, alternating day-and-night: a very wide, always outdoors (there are no interiors) chamber piece. Charles Lawton Jr. and Henri Jaffa's color scheme flips from a faded daylight of sun, bone, silver, scarlet, smoke, rust to a Tintoretto darkness of vibrant chestnut, deep blacks and browns, fire. The movie is 72-minutes long. Yet what other movie takes its time as intensely and deeply as does this one?

Here, in a 3-and-a-half minute shot, Ride Lonesome breaks all bounds.



Roberts as Boone and the sweet, gangly Coburn move together in a loving and kind friendship. All the night scenes are luminous, as if in secret: very dark with still camera, forcing us to become part of words, tone, gestures. The characters in Brigade's group have their one-on-one with each other, usually at night. (Opposed to brother Frank's four horsemen who run away at first sight of their boss's blood.) The most likeable character in the story is the shackled young outlaw. And we want Billy John to be taken in by Boone: we want Boone and young Witt to have their place and their chance to begin again.

Director Boetticher's intimate chain has smaller links, reminiscent of Ozu pillow-shots, brief pauses where nothing happens except the beauty and tenderness of the pauses themselves. (Embraced by Heinz Roemheld's delicate, Sketches of Spain-like score.)



Randolph Scott, in his calm focus on the coming meeting with Frank, acts as the tender germ in the living plasma of the picture. We realize his love for Karen Steele by his choice to tear himself open and tell her of his kidnapped, raped, and hanged young wife. It sets us up for a fully satisfying and realized emotional and thematic closure -- one of the best endings we'll ever see.

Monday, May 2, 2016