Sunday, October 22, 2017

Saviour

"I know there is a God -- and I see a storm coming;
 if He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
-- John F. Kennedy
He was the only one. The only one in the Administration who refused to attack the island. The only one who stood up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood up to the rest of his National Security State (which wasn't his at all), stood up to the established media chorus calling for invasion and air strikes, stood up to the strategic coup being organized behind his back by one of his future killers, Lyndon Johnson. As we now know, the Cubans and Soviets had operational battlefield nukes which, if fired, would have taken out Miami, Washington DC, and New York City. Hence, the end of the world. At every turn, he refused confrontation. When the missiles and sites were discovered. When he ordered the blockade of Cuba, and the Soviet ships approached the quarantine line, he pulled that line back -- four times. When the Soviet tanker Bucharest, almost certainly not carrying any missiles or other armament, steamed toward the blockade line, he decided to let it proceed to Havana, again against all advice. Privately, Kennedy had begun to doubt the validity of the CIA photos, ostensibly proving the existence of the Soviet missiles. (CIA had doctored photos before, during the Bay of Pigs.) When Rudolf Anderson, Navy flier, was shot down in a National Security State covert operation directed against Kennedy by sending -- against direct White House orders -- a U-2 surveillance flight over the island at the hottest moment of the crisis, he kept the shoot down quiet until the crisis was over. "He chickened out again!" bellowed Air Force General Curtis LeMay. (A further anti-Kennedy covert op also involved a U-2: one just happened to "stray" low over Soviet territory, then was "rescued" by nuclear-armed F-102s back to base.)
"There was now the feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans and Soviets and Cubans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling. But again the President pulled everyone back. . ." -- Robert Kennedy
When two letters arrived from Khrushchev -- the first agreeing to all United States demands, the second belligerent and escalatory -- Kennedy decided to proceed as if the second letter never arrived. (JFK would later agree, after the crisis was settled, to all the Soviets had asked for, in the second hard-line letter.) In the most dangerous moment in human history, when all force was on his side, he refused all force. As he whispered to his brother as the Joint Chiefs started clamoring for a first-strike against Moscow: "And we call ourselves the human race. . . I think of all the children in the world who have no idea what the United States or the Soviet Union even are. . . Well, better Red than dead."

Better Red than dead. Was this heard by anyone else? James Douglass:
For at least a decade, JFK’s favorite poem had been "Rendezvous" by Alan Seeger, an American poet killed in World War One. Kennedy recited "Rendezvous" to his wife Jacqueline in 1953 on their first night home in Hyannis after their honeymoon. She memorized the poem, and recited it back to him over the years. In the fall of 1963, Jackie taught the words of the poem to their five-year-old daughter, Caroline.

On the morning of October 5, 1963, President Kennedy met with his National Security Council in the Rose Garden of the White House. Caroline suddenly appeared by her father’s side, and she said she wanted to tell him something. He tried to divert her attention while the meeting continued, but Caroline persisted. The president smiled and turned his full attention to his daughter. He told her to go ahead. While the members of the National Security Council sat and watched, Caroline looked into her father’s eyes and said:
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
After Caroline said the poem’s final word, “rendezvous,” Kennedy’s national security advisers sat in stunned silence. One of them said later the bond between father and daughter was so deep “it was as if there was ‘an inner music’ he was trying to teach her.”

Henry Miller often wrote that each of us are placed here on earth in order to learn one lesson. We then move on. It is hard to appreciate John Fitzgerald Kennedy's life apart from its ending -- a manner of ending surely influenced by his actions during the Missile Crisis. Yet perhaps the miraculous singular purpose of his life was to save us all. For he did.

The Monday night, October 22nd, 1962 television address:



Many actors have played Jack Kennedy in movies and television, on stage. None have captured the self-effacing, realistic, inner grace of the man. The decency. The isolation. The melancholy and fatalism. Here Bruce Greenwood does. Thirteen Days (2000) itself is merely in the deep end of the theatrically-released Movie of the Week genre and is nearly drowned by Kevin Costner's endless, insufferable presence. (He plays White House Chief of Staff Kenny O'Donnell who had little to do with the Crisis drama.) Greenwood makes it special. A remarkably intelligent actor who gives us the hardest of all things to capture on film: thought. And he embodies Kennedy as not only the center (despite Costner's suffocations); but also as target.



No one has appreciated John F. Kennedy more beautifully and profoundly than Catholic theologian James W. Douglass, in his masterpiece JFK and the Unspeakable and in continuing lectures. Here is Douglass at his most moving, Seattle, Washington, September 2008.



And a documentary presented by the JFK Library showing what would have been, without President Kennedy: "Clouds Over Cuba"

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dear Heart


No American composer ever captured the heart of an era the way Henry Mancini captured the heart of the early-1960s. His songs contain within them the loss and heartbreak we would feel, when thinking about that time, the height of the American Century. . .

Monday, October 16, 2017

When Women Were Women and Men Loved It


A woman's place is in the home in this rather insane documentary from '62. (Guess the director never saw All That Heaven Allows, Bigger Than Life or The Wrong Man.) Still, what's better: this?; or Rachel Maddow, Lena Dumbham, Hillary Clinton, Mary Barra, and Kathryn Bigelow? Your choice.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brothers

From May of '93, Dr. Michael Parenti interviewed by Dave Emory.

Fresher than a daisy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

1971 and Now


As antidote to wee Kenny Burns's corporate totalitarian bullshit made for the Petroleum Broadcast System (and for the Coke brothers), here's a 1971 Pacifica broadcast featuring Peter Dale Scott and other historians, recorded right after Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers.

Even then, they knew.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Komachan

Inside 21st-century U.S. culture, kids are generally seen as knowing and obnoxious schemers, somehow always smarter than their parents, sexualized, made to seem like junior-mint Yuppies about as narcissistic as the grown-ups. One of the remaining beautiful parts of Japan is the respect shown toward children as children. Most books, television, games, toys, anime, and movies are emotionally sophisticated, and the creators expect Japanese children to understand. . .

Komaneko is one of the sweetest and saddest movies/anime I know. And so quiet. Another difference: turn on anything American for kids and there won't be more than a nano-second of silence.

Created by Tsuneo Goda, from 2006.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Gravity and Grace

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sacred Heart


The Saint was perhaps the deepest and most beautiful thinker of her century.

Simone Weil left us with these five self-judgments:
1. Not to be dishonored.

2. Not to die without having existed.

3. To traverse this somber age in manly (or womanly) fashion.

4. To perish with a clear vision of the world we shall be leaving behind.

5. To work toward a clear comprehension of the object of our efforts, so that, if we cannot accomplish it, we may at least have willed it, and not just have desired it blindly.
Her essay on concentration ("Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God"), concentration being the ultimate act of love, puts the reader in a state of Grace.

Monday, October 2, 2017

House N*gg*r


Glen Ford:
Morgan Freeman is used to playing God, and in lesser roles, president of the United States. These days, however, Freeman has sold his image and aura to the worst warmongers on the planet. Morgan Freeman has signed on as a front man and propagandist for an all-out military confrontation with Russia, the only country that has the power to turn the United States into a burned out cinder. In a video that Freeman’s right-wing friends are circulating on social media, the actor declares that a new world war has already begun.

“Russia is waging war on the US,” says the text of a video, produced by the so-called Committee to Investigate Russia. Morgan Freeman then intones, “We have been attacked. We are at war.” He spins an infantile 1950s-type demonization of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for supposedly using “cyber warfare to attack democracies around the world.” At this point, we discover that the man who plays God on film is, in real life, just an old time, shuffling Uncle Tom, the kind of shameless bootlicker that we hoped had gone extinct. Morgan Freeman says of the United States, “for 241 years our democracy has been a shining example to the world.” Freeman’s slave ancestors must be cursing his name from the grave.

A sudden, early grave awaits us all, if Morgan Freeman’s script-writers have their way. The ideology of the Committee to Investigate Russia comes straight from CIA, the Council on Foreign Relations, which has vetted every U.S. war since World War Two, and the Pentagon. Former CIA director James Clapper, who lied to the entire world when he told Congress that the government was not spying on the telephones and personal computers of everyone on the planet, sits on the board. He got away with perjury, and now he’s writing Morgan Freeman’s lying script. Max Boot is a rightwing historian with the Council on Foreign Relations who wants to “beef up” the U.S. military. Evelyn Farkas is also on the Council, and is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. Norman Ornstein is a scholar at the Republican-dominated American Enterprise Institute. And Charles Sykes is a rightwing commentator.

This is the political company that Morgan Freeman keeps: militarists, spies, and rightwing hate-mongers – the real dangers to world peace. When Freeman says that the U.S. is already “at war,” he is effectively demanding an attack on Russia. Under Nuremberg rules, Morgan and others like him are guilty of crimes against peace – which are capital crimes. Freeman is trying to whip up a war frenzy that can only end in nuclear annihilation. That makes Freeman a danger to the human race. A war whore -- not God-like at all.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Uptown

Happy October

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Matt


A pitcher straight from the heart. Grant Brisbee with a tribute.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Find the Way

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In the Company of Men


One was the Prince of Darkness; the other, a Prince. Yet both were giants who defined their worlds, and they recall us to a time when the country believed in the connection between action and consequence, not only in the political realm, but in the private as well.

57 years ago tonight: Kennedy/Nixon Debates, Round One.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Please Make It Stop

I guess it isn't enough for Morgan Freeman that he's always been the Uncle Tom of movie actors. And it obviously isn't enough for Rob Reiner to be the worst movie director of the last 30 years, not counting Ron Howard.

Now this.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trane

Happy 91st Birthday.

Friday, September 22, 2017

You Don't Know What Love Is

John Coltrane does. Happy Autumn in New York.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beyond Grace


In many ways, his speech at the United Nations, September 20, 1963, is a more radical moment than was the astonishment of American University, three months before. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty had been signed and was days away from Senate confirmation. The Civil Rights Bill had been entered into the constipated corrupt halls of Congress; and the March on Washington had just been celebrated. Medgar Evers was dead. And children had died: four little girls in Birmingham, five days before; and the President's own prematurely born son, Patrick, in early August.


Here Kennedy recognizes the State of Grace the world had entered into in 1963, thanks to himself, to Nikita Khrushchev, to Pope John XXIII and other leaders. And how fragile that State was. He calls not for an end to the arms race, but for total worldwide disarmament. He calls for a newly established worldwide food distribution program, one particularly embracing poor children. Calls for the creation of organizations across borders providing health care, farm subsidies and equipment, science education and laboratories, for all in need. New laws and enforcement power preserving the beauties and health of our natural environment. And a new United Nations charter strengthening human and civil rights treaties and courts, proposing new laws and courts should conflicts arise not covered by existing measures.

Most stunning -- and self-destructive -- of all is his call for an end to the space race, for a unified effort to explore the stars, the planets, the moon -- and a ban on all outer space weapons and military-oriented satellites. This, combined with Kennedy's refusal to Americanize the war in Southeast Asia, would have cost the corporate/military/intelligence vampires trillions of dollars.

They wouldn't lose a dime, thanks to the greatest American mass murderer of the 20th Century -- and one of Kennedy's assassins -- Lyndon Johnson.

It is a celebration of hope, community, cooperation, and all we hold dear on our short journey from birth to death. "My fellow inhabitants of this planet. . . ."

My God, how far we've fallen. . .

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Francis

Three Deaths


Jim DiEugenio on three murders that forever destroyed Third World nationalism.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hicks


The Mount Rushmore of modern American Comedy: Pryor, Steve Allen, Newhart.

Bill Hicks.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering 9/11


Forty-four years ago today, the US national security state murdered Chile's President, overthrew his elected Workers/Socialist government, and installed a fascist corporate totalitarian state which now seems to've been the future model for the USA itself. Under the business dictatorship headed by mass murderer Augusto Pinochet -- hero to the Chicago School of Economics -- tens of thousands were murdered or forced to flee their land, hundreds of thousands were imprisoned and tortured.

In memory.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fraud


Not.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Greatest Movie Solo Dance Ever?

Yes, it is done in blackface. And yes we don't do things like that anymore. Yet Fred Astaire's tribute to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is so deep from the heart; and so beyond race.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Which Kind Are You?

The Marrying Kind:  what does that mean? As one who once married young and for love, I really don't know. I suspect, generally and not counting shotgun weddings, it refers to a personality more earnest than others, perhaps naive and silly, and certainly terribly optimistic. (Whoever said a "second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience" got it backwards. It's the first marriage that's pure hope.)

Director George Cukor decided to make a movie in search of the answer. New York City, which in 1952 included all the boroughs, not just Zagat Island. Young working-class newlyweds caught up in the deliriums of post-World War II America. Judy Holliday and a fine new actor, ex-prizefighter Aldo Ray. In-laws, broken dreams, money troubles; and the death of a child. The Marrying Kind find themselves pulled apart by The Practical Kind -- all those ready to provide every unmagical reason in the world to not stay together.

The movie says, "No -- love is not blind. In fact, love is the only state in which we truly see someone. To lose love is to lose vision, to lose understanding." For then the loved one becomes just like everybody else.

It is a very dear film. And how lovely to see a New York City that does not take itself too seriously, a place where people have real jobs (and real accents!).

Monday, September 4, 2017

Scab Nation


Professor Richard Wolff on the Land of Disunion and a possible world beyond.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Crazy 8


To the blog!

And to Rob! (The Dick Van Dyke Show premiered 56 years ago this month.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Be Afraid


David Cronenberg's The Fly premiered over thirty years ago this month and seems to have been largely forgotten. (While other US movies of the period continue to receive attentions and accolades -- Hannah and Her Sisters, Platoon, Back to the Future, After Hours, friggin' Blue Velvet.) Upon release it was generally (Kael, for once, got it right) dismissed as just another hi-tech remake and gross-out movie. It is instead one of the great works of art of the 1980s, a movie about separation and loneliness, fear of love and sex, fear of communion and hope. It is about Reaganism and what the 1980s did to our emotional culture. Consciously or not (we know Cronenberg's father died during production of a terrible cancer), the director seems to have sensed that we were taking a turn, that our hearts we're growing quieter, something of the best in human life was now going away forever; that what was public and communal would now be forced back into the darkness of privacy; from now on we would have to look more inward for satisfaction and understanding, through imposed hatred of all things public and the increased dominance of technology. Very hard to watch, it is a movie of overwhelming pain and sorrow and loss, with only three major speaking-parts in its almost 100 minutes.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a genius scientist who works and lives in a warehouse on the dark side of the moon, his only companions being his lab animals. At a science convention Brundle meets a magazine reporter (Geena Davis, Goldman’s soon-to-be-wife of three years) who takes up the goofy and earnest man’s invitation to see something which will “change the world as we know it.” Indeed. We sense that Seth has tried this approach before, without much success. Since Ronnie (the reporter) hands over one of her silk stockings while flashing a gorgeous leg right after arriving at the warehouse, she must like him. Her first stance toward him, however, is a rather knowing condescension – until he demonstrates what will change their worlds: he “teleports” the silk stocking from one “telepod” to another (initially she calls them “designer phone booths”). She rushes back to her magazine’s editor-in-chief, a typical prick mediocrity perfectly played by John Getz. Seth is outraged and he convinces her (and the editor) to wait. He offers to bring her with him, step-by-step, until he and his travel/space revolution is ready to launch; and in hopes she will along the way fall in love with him. She does. Almost from the moment she does, he (literally) begins to fall apart. And the rich red aroma of sorrow – embraced by Howard Shore’s Grunenwald-like score and captured by DP Mark Irwin’s Tintoretto darkness – descends like a mourning veil.

Brundle is a man who wants nothing more than to love, to be part of something other than his own mind. Something it is not in his nature, or destiny, for him to have. He follows his self-destruction and lonely descent into hell with purity and courage. He does not fight it. It is all he really knows. After successfully teleporting a lovely baboon (his first attempt was not successful), Ronnie suddenly leaves him – to finally rid herself of the prick boss/ex-boyfriend. Within moments of her leaving him, Seth begins to fade, feel insecure, jealous and possessive. He drinks, gets quickly drunk, and in a stupor decides to teleport himself before the pods are ready. Successfully he believes.

Ronnie returns to him and they fall. At first, she makes him feel like a sexual superman. When we next see the couple in public, Seth is in full Yuppie regalia, turned into a would-be Don Johnson. He's now rocketing and she cannot keep up, she is too sexually square for this once and future shut-in. So he dumps her, after degrading her. “I don’t need you anymore! Never come back here!” He decides to prowl the streets and kick some Gentrification City ass. (Literally Toronto but a stand-in for Portland or Seattle or the Loop or some other pseudo-hipster shithole). After breaking an arm or two in half, he feels like the toughest stud in town.

Apart from Ronnie, the descent is fast, as he quickly becomes as physically repulsive as he must have feared he was his whole life. After a month, he asks her to return. He has been turned – like the failed attempt with the first baboon – inside/out, his fear and self-loathing now exposed for her to see. She has no choice but to turn away.

SETH
I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man,
and loved it. But now the dream is over,
and the insect is awake.

She shakes her head. But soon, Ronnie will plead with Getz to arrange an immediate abortion, words Seth will hear:

RONNIE
You should have seen him!
There could be anything in here,
in me, in my body. . .
I don’t want it in my body!

Penultimately, she is to kill his baby. Finally, he commits suicide by begging his loved one to murder him.

He also instructs her about Insect Politics:

SETH
Insects don't have politics.
They’re very brutal.
No compassion.
No compromise.
We can’t trust the insect.

A perfect description of our post-Reagan world, and never so anthropodic as in ObamaLand.

Only three characters speak for the movie’s first 50 minutes. (Five minor roles later include Cronenberg as Ronnie’s gynecologist, and a very nice and sexy turn by Joy Boushel as Seth’s bar pickup.) Getz is serviceable (and heroic at the end). Davis is beautiful and moving throughout. But the greatness of Jeff Goldblum is hard to describe or compare. Not for a moment does he hide beneath the make-up or technology. Unlike his character, he is a man to the end.

BrundleFly is what we have become, what we have been forced to become. On our way to becoming what Seth is at the very end: part-human, part-heartless insect (or should that be iNsect?), part-thing.

Be very afraid. . .

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Go

Three ways.

Sinatra.



Lee Morgan.



Brother Bill Evans.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

1962!


A sultry Friday night at Sportsman's Park, June 8th, 1962. Juan Marichal vs. Bob Gibson. Harry Carey and Jack Buck. The best club in San Francisco Giants history (they were 40-17 at the start of the game) against a young up-and-coming Cardinals team that would win three pennants later in the decade. Funny and sweet radio spots. Lots of smoking and drinking and lots more good cheer.

They've been saying around here that Camelot was a myth. The heck it was.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jerry


Old viper John Simon once joked that Jerry Lewis could cure muscular dystrophy overnight if during his next Labor Day telethon Lewis announced he would disappear forever if everyone watching sent in 25 cents. One of the worst of the two billion degradations in our current pop culture is that far more people think of Lewis in terms of "his kids" and that annual telethon than think of him as one of the great movie directors of his age. Which he was.

Lewis's movies are deep and complex and necessary, movies
which are especially beautiful to look at, with amazing and ever-changing pace. And it is here where we begin to understand just how deeply and devoutly Jerry Lewis believed in the magic and in the transformative possibilities of movies themselves. His Total Filmmaker is one of the best (and funniest) filmmaking books around.

The Ladies Man (1961) with Jerry's commentary.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Listen

Tonight's guest, that star of stage, screen, and radio. . . . Lee Oswald?



The second part (36:00), recorded several days later, is a marvelous job of mousetrapping and just a taste of what Lee would get a few months hence, on his way toward oblivion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Roving


Oz and best friend Thorny argue about a series of books called The Rover Boys (Ozzie claims there was no Rover Boys Go to Treasure Island while Thorny insists there was). Having absolutely nothing in the world to do, Ozzie rushes to his nearest library and there runs into son David's English teacher. When she asks Oz what he's looking for -- ashamed to mention the Rover Boys -- he grabs the nearest book at hand, a 25-pound version of The Peloponnesian Wars, Volume One. Astonished at this scholarly taste, the teacher invites Ozzie to lecture on Ancient Greece to her PTA book club -- an offer David's dad cannot refuse. This all happens quickly and soon we're into the near-entirety of the episode: Ozzie struggling through four massive volumes of Sir Henry Parkinson's unread masterpiece. Strangely, Thorny's also going through the books, even though he wasn't even invited to attend the lecture. Eventually, Harriet saves the day by calling the English teacher and telling her Ozzie is sick.

A mind-boggling 23 minutes (wish I could find the uncut version) composed of less than 50 shots -- average shot length over 30 seconds. (The average Curb Your Enthusiasm, for modern example and a show not editorially-retarded, runs 28 minutes containing over 500 shots.)

Ozzie Nelson is the Carl Dreyer of television!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Orchids

Besides the greatness of Rick Nelson, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is best remembered for its astonishing longevity (14 seasons, 435 episodes!) and for the equally astonishing moribund irrelevance of its later years (1960 and beyond). At its best, however, it was great. Under the total creative control of Ozzie Nelson (who it's said made Otto Preminger seem like a pussycat on set), it was the original "show about nothing." Ozzie never had a job, seemed to have no plans for the day, was considered a boob by everyone, and was surrounded by friends, relatives, and neighbors who also had pointless, jobless lives. (What a refreshing change from the CV-obsessed garbage of modern television!) Yet everyone was happy, warm, relaxed, and gentle -- without a hint of smarm or calculation.

One of the wackiest early episodes is called "The Orchid and the Violet," from April of '53. Oz is mistaken for a bum (as he should be) by a florist and his wife, hysterically played by the great Alan Mowbray and by Orson Welles's own Jeanette Nolan, reprising her role here as Lady Macbeth.

Crazy, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Enthusiasms

One man is looking for a little girl's doll; the other for a cone of tutti frutti ice cream.


Cops, a druggist, his wife and best friend, the store manager, telephone operators, his sons: all do what they can to help Ozzie Nelson find that tutti frutti ice cream. Meanwhile, Oz plays cards and cooks hamburgers at four-in-the-morning, files a false police report about being lost, raids a 24-hour supermarket, wakes up his sleeping wife after having a tutti frutti nightmare, wakes up a sleeping druggist, throws rocks at his neighbor's window in order to wake him up in case he has the ice cream, is woken up by the same neighbor (played by the great Parley Baer) who now also has the tutti frutti bug, wakes up the boys and tries to fob off some cherry ice cream mixed with fruit cocktail as tutti frutti on them -- with no one in sight having a care in the world as morning approaches. . .



Larry David's L.A. is a city of gargoyles: racists, liars, assholes, cheats: amoral psychopathic egoists -- a place where one is naturally murdered by tire-iron for honking a car horn at a driver who has backed into you. In the first few seasons, David's character is a rather befuddled and passive Joe who, like Ozzie, rarely works and who, unlike Oz, gets into deeper and deeper trouble the more he tries to do the right thing. Everyone he meets outside his closest circle (and sometimes within) treats him with dishonesty, loathing, suspicion, condescension, arrogance: so-called friends, cousins, his receptionist, his dentist, co-workers, other drivers -- everyone. It's amazing the character hasn't gone postal (yet). But midway through CYE's run, Larry David changed character: thereafter, David becomes the instigator of most unpleasantnesses; and seems to get off on them. When this wrongheaded shift originally occured, I figured it was prelude to the ending of the Davids' marriage -- 'cause who wants Larry to be just another schmuck victim of a betraying wife? But the marital split didn't occur until the end of Year 6, so no. A strange choice, and while probably a leap toward what the "real" Larry David is like, the show lost its Everyman quality and has too often been "this week's politically incorrect kick in the teeth to": Orthodox Jews, kamikaze pilots, gay Barneys workers, the deaf, devout Christians, Lesbians, blacks blacks blacks, pregnant women, little girls, and Koreans who eat dog. Still -- as Ozzie represents the giddy "what me worry?" exhilaration of Eisenhower's suburban white Eden -- Curb Your Enthusiasm embodies the prick heart of 21st Century America, as well and as consistently as anything in the pop culture.



And oh yeah. . .

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Willie and the Mick

The very first Home Run Derby, from December of '59.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Time



RIP, Glen Campbell.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sisters

Father Knows Best was alive for six years (1954-60) and -- sharing the same condition with Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver -- crashed and burned when midnight approached on the decade. Like LITB (but unlike O&H which had the good sense not to turn Rick Nelson into a big man on campus), the Anderson kids changed quite a bit and not for the better. The show is at times preachy, always drenched in Eisenhower monochrome conservatism, somewhat predictable, and toward the end Jane Wyatt as Mother turned herself (or somebody did) into a piece of arch waxworks so annoying as to ruin most episodes from years 5 and 6. Still, I love it, most of the time. It is beautifully photographed, scored, and paced. What's most attractive is its radical faith in the basic goodness of people. Unlike O&H and LITB, there are unrepentant bad characters in FKB (unlike any other 50s family show). There's a war going on here -- internal and external -- between Christian light and Christian dark, and when necessary both sides get their due. But the human good, in the most earnest way, always has the last word.

A lovely episode from March 1955, "No Partiality"

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lost

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Empire is Born

Friday, August 4, 2017

Honne

A lonely man meets an abandoned little girl on Tomoyasu Murata's Scarlet Road (2002).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Swells

Under the hand of Vincente Minnelli.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Moses Supposes

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On the Town

The Powerpuff Girls hit the Big Apple!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Again, Vietnam


Dr. John Newman -- author of four indispensable histories of the American Cold War deep state -- clinches our understanding of John. F. Kennedy and Vietnam:

NO WAR

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Happy

Monday, July 17, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

The True Masters of the Universe

In the midst of what Chris Floyd has called the Continuing Revolution of the Rich, what is it exactly that the swine of corporate totalitarianism wish to exterminate from our race?

This.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Money and How It Gets That Way

Explained by David Harvey.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Longing


A movie exploring extreme states of consciousness or moments of vision or intense emotion is notoriously difficult for story-based viewers to deal with, since most movie criticism is exclusively "realistic" and story-based in its awareness, only sensitive to social events and interactions among characters, fetishistic at analyzing psychology and motivations and resumes: criticism, in brief, only capable of describing and understanding who said what to whom, why he or she said it, and what the consequences in the plot plausibly should or should not be. The difficulty with all this is that all great movie moments are moments when frequently nothing that matters is happening in those ways, nothing may be going on socially, verbally, or "professionally" that is important. The only event taking place at a given moment may be a derangement in the style or in the tone; the occurrence of an expressive close-up of a figure’s face; or the brightness or quality of light falling on the wall of a room ~ actions or events more momentous than those noticed by the story-fetishists and are obviously not analyzable in terms of psychology, resume, dialogue, or social interaction.

The reality to which these true movie moments pay allegiance is a reality that offers itself as an alternative to the prison of manners, social standing, and political categories as definitions of the individual, or as indications of his or her capacities of performance. These are precisely the moments in which a character or a dramatic situation escapes from being understood in those terms, moments when social or political definitions break down or when an individual is released into another, less limiting relationship to his or her surroundings.

These are the moments or scenes that descriptions of the characters or summaries of the movie story leave out, scenes or fleeting moments when characters simply sit still and are silent; when they look at each other but do not speak; when music swells on the soundtrack, or the rhythm of the editing changes, or a special lighting effect is used, even though nothing is apparently happening in terms of the advancement of the plot or the dialogue spoken. Such moments, when the social situations of the characters or the lines they speak cease to express the meaning of a scene, are often the most important ones in movies, moments when the film is longing to express feelings or visions too intense or private to be expressed in story or social form.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

US

Friday, June 30, 2017

Haunted Heart


A young man, Sokichi (Dajiru Natsukawa), promises his blind, dying mother to do all he can to become a successful medical doctor. He loses his way after her death and is kidnapped by a criminal gang specializing in stolen religious relics. The gang's leader, Kumazawa, has a mistress, Osen (the 17-year-old Isuzu Yamada), who takes a fondness for Sokichi and does all she can to protect him, including helping him escape the gang. She escapes as well, and her protection of him continues in the outside world. Through hard work (and occasional petty thievery, of which he is unaware), she sees him through medical school but not before she is arrested at a moment of desperate theft. Eventually he arranges (we presume) for her care in a sanatorium, where in a final rage of hopeless madness, she kills him, mistaking him for the men who betrayed her and hurt Sokichi when he was young, and who caused their eventual separation.

Kenji Mizoguchi's silent Orizuru Osen (1935) forces us to ask: What are we seeing? Whose point-of-view is this? Everything is made strange and difficult. Everything is fractured, obsessively moving back-and-forth, over-and-over, from intense kindness and protective sweetness, to violent criminality and despair. The movie is Osen's heart, and her madness.

And the director's. We know of Mizoguchi's older sister, watching over him much as Osen does Sokichi, protecting and supporting his early artistic wanderings via the water trade. And of Mizoguchi's wife, who would be institutionalized in 1940, due to his cheating, neglect, and brutal treatment. She would die in that sanatorium in 1967, outliving him by eleven years. A sin he would pay for by creating the greatest body of female suffering in movie history. A body he is already at work on here -- and in 1933's Taki no shiraito, among others, years before his wife's commitment.

In their separateness, Osen has gone mad. The spic-and-span doctor -- who owes his worldly respect and comfort to her efforts -- comes upon her, while waiting for a train in the rain, wholly by accident. Basically, he has forgotten her. While she, in her loneliness for him, has departed. After stealing for him and being arrested for it, he did nothing to try and find her. 'Though Osen kills him by furious accident, Sokichi deserves to die.

One of the greatest films from the Japanese classical period, by its greatest director. (And starring perhaps its greatest actress. 17-years-old??)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Veiled

Catherine Russell from her Cinema of Mikio Naruse:
With this film, the director shifted gears yet again to make one of the most anomalous films in his oeuvre. He did not fare any better with the critics, and he himself declared it to be a failure. . .
The film's protagonist Goro periodically pauses while a dark filter drops like a veil over the image and he speaks his inner thoughts in voice-over. . . The device is not terribly effective. . .
A bigger part of the problem with Avalanche is its speechiness. The voice-over monologues are only one element of a script that places an enormous emphasis on spoken language. Moreover, the editing style is remarkably static. . . In one of the film's key scenes, Goro argues with his father, both of them articulating their positions while standing facing each other in a Western-furnished room. Using conventional reverse-angle cutting and a few camera movements as the men move around the room, this four-and-a-half minute scene fails to convey the emotional tension of a conversation in which the son tells his father that he wants to end his marriage. . . .  
Much too harsh.

The blocking of the actors is stagy and there is lots of talk. On first view I thought it was a Japanese equivalent to those popular stage adaptations with Important Themes so beloved by American movie critics of the late-1930s. (Holiday [1938] being by far the best of the group.) It is not. The movie is based on a popular serial-novel and the screenplay was written by Naruse in collaboration with Tomoyoshi Murayama, a well-known Marxist intellectual. (Whose deep understanding of Fascist and soon-to-be-annihilated Japan can be pretty much summed up by the song "Kids" from Bye Bye Birdie.) More important, Nadare (Avalanche) could never work anywhere but within 5 or 6 feet of a movie camera. All the beauty of this strangely brief masterpiece is contained in the medium-shots and close-ups of the very human cast, and most of that beauty resides in the face and body and voice and movements of Noboru Kiritachi, as the ignored wife. The sexual obsession that the Empty Suit husband/son has for Yayoi (Ranko Edogawa) is perfectly believable. But one who believes that Empty Suit husband/son cannot feel love or physical desire for Kiritachi is one who has lost his marbles. She is among the most heartbreakingly beautiful actresses in all cinema and the great Naruse -- who must've fallen in love with her as his marriage to Sachiko Chiba fell apart -- photographs her with reverence. He allows us to comfort ourselves in the beautiful light of her nature.

Nadare (1937) also sports some of the most astonishing hats and hairstyles of the still (in Japan) Deco Thirties.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Shimai

Mikio Naruse's women, from a different time: tender animals, angels, does at large in melancholy and lovely human forms.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Morning's Tree-lined Street (1936) is how normal it is for the director. Part of a long series of 1930s masterpieces by Naruse (Flunky, Work Hard! [1931], No Blood Relation [1932], Apart from You [1932], Every Night Dreams [1933], Wife, Be Like a Rose! [1935], Three Sisters with Maiden Hearts [1935], The Girl in the Rumor [1935], A Woman's Sorrow [1937], Avalanche [1937], The Whole Family Works [1939] -- what titles!), and the third and final starring Naruse's wife Chiba Sachiko (they would divorce soon after), the story is very simple: a young woman leaves her country hometown to make her way in Tokyo.

Catherine Russell:
After some fruitless job hunting in downtown Tokyo, [Chiba] accepts a job as a bar hostess in Shiba ward. Well away from glamorous Asakusa and Ginza, this is a neighborhood bar where the women are dirt poor, each having only one kimono to their name. Contrary to the title, there are few trees to be seen, although a small stream crossed by a little bridge gives the setting some character. The film contains a surprising number of exterior scenes, including shots of canyonlike downtown streets strangely empty of traffic.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wife


Thanks to the downloading magic of Karagarga (the most essential movie site on the net), I've been blessed over the past few years to see more than half of the surviving 60-plus works of Japanese director Mikio Naruse. Meshi (1951) is generally considered to be the director's "return-to-form" movie, after two periods of drift and underachievement: caused by Pacific War restrictions; and by post-war US Occupation restrictions. The problems of wartime production are obvious regarding material and message (although these problems did not keep anti-war masterpieces such as Kinoshita's Army [1944] and Mizoguchi's 47 Ronin [1941-42] from being made, accomplishments absolutely impossible within wartime Hollywood). Yet during the war Naruse was able to create the lovely comedy Hideko the Bus Conductress (1941) featuring the teenage Hideko Takamine, the dark and moving The Whole Family Works (1939), and the ceremonial masterpiece Way of Drama (1944), with the heroically beautiful Isuzu Yamada. Naruse's Occupation output has an especially mediocre reputation, lumped by many (including Naruse's best English-language critic Catherine Russell) under the limiting category of kitsch.

The movies from 1946 - 1951 are certainly more open to the swirls of outside influence (ostensibly of a democratic nature) than anything he made before or after, and have thus taken on the baggage of being impersonal assignments taken until Douglas MacArthur and his Christian band found some other backward non-white non-Western civilization to improve. Yet Naruse's movies under Occupation are among the most human and interesting ever made: Urashima Taro (1946) and Both You and I (1946) are insanely earnest in their worship of "the people and democracy" and in their loathing of zaibatsu culture; the neo-realist noir romance The Angry Street (1950); the beautiful White Beast (1950), embracing the lost women of Occupation; and my favorite Spring Awakens (1947).

If one sees the works in order, the changes within Meshi, hinted at in Naruse's previous movie Dancing Girl (1951), are startling, and I was at first resistant to them. The look is slicker and more processed, almost at a Hollywood level, getting between us and the characters (at first) in a way not to be felt in the Occupation movies. The characters are more typed, less detailed and grounded than we are used to -- they are more like emotional motifs in an anti-connubial music piece. The stars are bigger. (Setsuko Hara was the biggest female star in 1951 Japan.) The script is based on a best-selling prestige novel by the great Fumiko Hayashi. (Naruse's first of many uses of her.)

If the 1950s Douglas Sirk "triumphed" over the slickness of the woman's picture genre and the popular soapy novels usually at its base, then Meshi pre-Sirks Sirk. As with most movies from the Hollywood (born German) director, Meshi has a single consciousness: Hara's. Her loathing of the state of marriage is here (at first) an act of triumph and freedom. She may be trapped within a legal institution, but she is in no way stranded within the torture chambers of her own imagination as are the wives of Dreyer, Mizoguchi, Ophuls, Cassavetes and Hitchcock. Hara creates and re-creates the meaning around her. She throws out the fetching young niece who has come to visit, and who has enchanted Hara's husband. Hara packs up and leaves for Tokyo. She opens the door to an affair with her old flame Kazuo (Hiroshi Nihonyanagi, the same actor she marries in Early Summer). She writes a farewell letter to her husband, decides not to mail it, and tears it to pieces at the end. In control all the way, she is moved purely by her own cares. By leaving the marriage and returning -- her hold over it and her husband becomes near total: a death grip; although the last we see of her, she doesn't seem too thrilled with what she now controls. And neither are we, nor Naruse, thrilled with our heroine. Meshi rejects more than it embraces what has been ignited in the wife by Japan's now ego-based, consumer culture.

Hara's emotional music has changed sharply from earlier in 1951, where she was not the central consciousness of Ozu's Early Summer.



In Meshi, despite the distaste for her husband and their marriage, her pity for him comes through. The husband is lost without her and always would be. Naruse captures the heart of the problem: one is never in so much marital danger as when one feels closest to the loved one. That is when the devils seem to have their hour. And hawks steal something living from the gambol on the field.

She knows this and her return to him is an act of love and triumph over her own "happiness." (Has the awkwardness between two people who live together, two married people, been captured better than Meshi's scenes of "reuniting"?) Making another human being happy is not the worst basis for a life, even if her eyes at the end suggest otherwise.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Most Powerful Man in the World

And the strongest world leader against American vampirism, interviewed by Oliver Stone.  (The full collection of interviews in ePub format can be grabbed here.)

Part One.



Part Two.



Part Three.



Part Four.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Place

Fauré and Bonnard.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Every day is. . .

"I've believed all my life that children have more to teach adults than the other way around. The person who has never dealt with children is a spiritual cripple. It is children who not only open our hearts but our minds as well. It is only through them, only in seeing the world through their eyes, that we know what beauty and innocence are. How quickly we destroy their vision of the world! How quickly we transform them into the image of us shortsighted, miserable, faithless adults!" -- Henry Miller