January 10, 2017

FEMINIST THEORIES ARE STREAMING ON FILMSTRUCK

Although condemned by some cultural gatekeepers and critics as indecent (even after And God Created Woman was edited, and dubbed, for its U.S. release), Brigitte Bardot's stunning portrayal of a freethinking woman became the celebrated subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome. In it, de Beauvoir described Brigitte Bardot as a "locomotive of women's history" for good reason. The petite but curvy French actress captured the collective global imaginations of women and men alike. Still, the picture adds up to more than merely Bardot's obvious physical allure and headstrong attitude. It is a timeless social document of the ways that a young woman's allure can fuel, destroy, and build the dreams of men who fall under her spell. If Helen of Troy was "the face that launched a thousand ships," Brigitte Bardot was the girl who incited a sea change of sexual liberation in Western culture.

Fat Girl

Originally entitled A Ma Soeur! (To My Sister), this film's inapt English title Fat Girl (2001) does the picture an injustice. This obvious public relations ploy, to stir controversy with a derogatory term, cheapens writer-director Catherine Breillat'sbold thematic statements regarding budding female sexuality in the modern world, and feminist ideals at large.

Anaïs Reboux plays Anaïs Pingot, the Rubenesque 12-year-old sister to the lithe Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who, at the age of 15, is anxious to lose her virginity. Anaïs's observant, if pokerfaced, vantage points on morality and social conditions enable her to survive a traumatic event through the brutal life lessons she vicariously learns from the world around her. Fat Girl is an understated picture that doesn't shy away from any of the ambitious feminist heights that Breillat fearlessly mounts with surgical precision. Breillat's ear for naturalistic dialogue is especially exact during an extended seduction scene that is a centerpiece of the film. Like Catherine Breillat's watershed debut feature (A Real Young Girl) Fat Girl is a masterpiece awaiting inspection from audiences prepared to grapple with its unveiled meanings and insightful commentary on womanhood.

Story of Women

Claude Chabrol's Story Of Women delves into the difficult conditions of a Nazi-occupied French town that transforms a mother of two into a hardened opportunist. Isabelle Huppertwalks a fine line as an anti-heroine whose broken relationship with her PTSD-suffering husband (François Cluzet) culminates in a betrayal of epic proportions. Marie's motivations shift as she lifts her family out of poverty by providing soap-induced abortions to local prostitutes with whom she carries on friendships. Because abortions were criminalized in France — from 1920 to 1975 — due to a grievous loss of French men during World War I and II, Marie-Louise Giraud became an ideal scapegoat for a French court looking to send a message to the French populace at large.

Zero Motivation

Writer-director Talya Lavie takes inspiration from Jean Vigo's once banned 1933 film Zero For Conduct, about a bourgeoning rebellion in an all boys boarding school, to transpose a narrative drawn from her experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Although Zero Motivation might play as a light comedy to Israeli audiences, the film echoes systemic abuses suffered by female soldiers in the America military where rape is a common occurrence. When our defiant heroine soldier Zohar (Dana Ivgy) attempts to lose her virginity to a fellow soldier, she requests that he "be more gentle." His callous response, "I'm combat, baby" speaks volumes about the sexist effects of his military training. From a feminist perspective Zero Motivation is possibly the most challenging film of the four titles included in this brief survey of feminist themed films currently streaming on FilmStruck.

Turner's subscription movie service FilmStruck is an online streaming service, managed by Turner Classic Movies,  that offers an exhaustive collection of current and classic arthouse films, and is the exclusive streaming site for the Criterion Collection. FilmStruck is currently available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, on the web, as well as on iOS and Android devices. FilmStuck will soon be available for access on Roku and Google Chromecast.

And God Created Woman_10

January 03, 2017

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Useless Impotent Democrats Will Not Lift a Finger to Fight Trump

By TED RALL

Donald“There’s no savior out there.” That’s a line from “Lord’s Prayer,” a song written by TV Smith for the Lords of the Church, a band that trafficked in 1980s melodic punk. Here’s some more:

“There ain’t no savior out there

Your stairway to heaven leads nowhere

Don’t look to me for emancipation

You are your only salvation.”

That’s my message to Americans who want to resist Donald Trump and his works — or more precisely the policies of the most right-wing cabinet in American history. Waiting for divine intervention is lunacy. If you’re serious about slowing down the Pencites, you’d better get ready to take them on yourselves.

You sure won’t be able to count on the Democratic Party.

Take Trump’s cabinet nominees — please! In the old days, Democrats would only have needed 40 senate seats to filibuster a would-be attorney general accused of racism, an energy secretary who forgot the name of his own department and a sitting CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary of state.

Unfortunately for the republic, then-majority leader Harry Reid was such a fool that he thought Democrats would never lose another election. So, in a fit of staggering ahistoricity, he eliminated the filibuster for most nominees in 2013. As a result Trump will probably get all his picks, perhaps minus Sessions because he’s widely disliked by his colleagues.

OK, so unless you’re a character in the too generously reviewed movie “Arrival,” what’s past is past, no do-overs. But Democrats don’t seem to have much appetite for anti-Trump combat even when you consider their new self-imposed limits.

Democrats’ approach to policy is likely to boil down to “let the Republicans do what they want, then take the blame when they overreach.” They may even let the GOP repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration’s sole major policy achievement. “Republicans are about to learn that there’s a big difference between being against something and being for something,” said Steve Israel (D-New York). “They’ve already stumbled out of the gate, and we should let them continue to stumble.” Unasked: How many Americans will die for a smart tactic?

On the nominees, look for bureaucratic foot-dragging of approvals with procedural votes and other stalling tactics. “I don’t want to needlessly prevent President Trump from being successful,” Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) told The Politico. “But accelerating the confirmation of unacceptable candidates who have views that are outside the mainstream is not constructive.” In the end, though, those unacceptable candidates will get their gigs.

Dems even plan to try to find common ground on rebuilding infrastructure — an admirable goal that I’ve pushed for years. But Trumpism is already so extreme that Democrats ought to ask themselves whether they’re missing the fuhrer for the trees: is it possible to get behind an autobahn without endorsing the tyrant who builds it?

If they really wanted to mount a resistance to Trump, Congressional Democrats could do so with considerably more vigor.

Notably, any single senator can place a personal “hold” on a nominee or bill. There’s no time limit or limit on the number of holds. In 2008, for example, Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) placed a hold against a funding bill for 12 federal programs. A hold only goes away one of two ways: the senator lifts it, or the 60% of the Senate votes against it. Democrats could use the hold to replace the filibuster Reid got rid of.

But there’s no reason to believe Democrats will put up a serious fight against the Trumpists. “In the end, a hybrid strategy might make the most sense for Democrats — use Trump and the GOP as a foil and slow them where they can — while seeking to pick one or two areas where his aspirations coincide with their values,” CNN muses. “A las Barricadas!” this is not.

Democratic impotence is nothing new; since the 1970s leaders have pushed the party’s ideology to the right while abandoning every pretense of resistance to the expansion of the corporate gangster capitalism that grinds up working and middle-class people’s hopes and aspirations. Now that Trump is about to impose an especially right-wing (here’s another punk reference, to The Clash) clampdown on ordinary Americans, the Democratic Party will lie completely exposed in the full glory of its uselessness.

Screw the Dems. You are your only salvation.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

December 27, 2016

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Please Stop the Fear and Loathing of 2017

By Ted Rall

THE_RETREAT_FROM_AFGHANISTANI admit it: it’s hard to find empathy for the liberal Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton and are now shocked, shocked, shocked that That Horrible Man Donald Trump is about to become president. We lefties kept saying (and liberals kept scoffing) that Bernie would have beaten Trump; now that we’ve been proven right it’s only natural to want to keep rubbing the Hillarites’ faces in their abject wrongness.

But what’s the point? Empirical evidence can’t convince a squishy liberal to move left. Liberals are congenitally attached to the big status quo, the capitalist system itself. Unlike leftists, liberals just want to reform capitalism into something less savage. This, of course, is impossible. Yet liberals’ fears — of revolution, of violence, of the chance they’ll lose their current status — block their ability to see the truth.

Anyway, many of my best friends are liberals. And they’re terribly depressed at the prospect of four to eight years of President (or more for President-for-life) Trump.

I hate to see so many people so miserable (even though the very same people gloated over their Bernie-supporting brethren’s pain last May). More importantly, they’re right about Trump. He is a dangerous mofo for sure. We on the left, accustomed to do all the protesting and carrying on ourselves, are going to need all the help we can get from sad Hillary Clinton Democrats to take on Trump, his Republican House, his Republican Senate, his soon-to-be Republican Supreme Court and, oh yeah, his thousands of police departments, soldiers and killer drones.

So this, my dear dismayed Democrats, is for you. Things will be OK — eventually. Between now and then, they’re going to get a lot worse. But those eventual improvements will only come about if you buck up, roll up your sleeves and prepare for a lot of hard work.

The first thing I want you to understand is, there are no quick fixes to Trumpism.            You already saw the futility of silly games like asking the Electoral College to throw the election after the fact. Only two “faithless electors” defected from Trump; five dumped Hillary! Also, please stop thinking Trump will be impeached. It’s technically possible, but highly improbable since no president has ever faced impeachment by a Congress controlled by his own party. The system will not correct itself. The system is broken; that’s why Trump won.

So what to do? Work outside the system. Resistance must take many forms, but creating a crisis of governance by militant — i.e., unpermitted, uncooperative — action in the streets is essential to dislodging the tyranny which many of us suspect Trump will bring into being. But not yet. First, we must allow the system’s failure to become evident for all to see.

As Che Guevara wrote: “Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.”

At first, the left-liberal anti-Trump coalition must keep its powder dry. Let Trump and his junta cabinet of ultra-right generals and billionaires commit their atrocities. Let the media report on them, with little result. Watch Congress fail to exercise its constitutionally mandated oversight. Count on Democratic resistance that never materializes. See the Supreme Court validate some of Trump’s horrors and reject others only to be ignored and thus exposed as impotent.

Those of us who follow politics closely know that Trump is a fascist-in-waiting. Most Americans, however, are in wait-and-see mode. If we protest too early (c.f., the anti-Trump demonstrations following Election Day), people won’t support us. Let the possibilities of peaceful struggle exhaust themselves first.

Another advantage of waiting is that it allows us to study our incoming enemy. Trump will inherit Obama’s police state. But he will alter its structure, tactics and strategies in ways no one can predict with certainty. We’re outarmed, outequipped and outnumbered. Let’s watch, and wait to see what we’re up against before lashing out.

Here I take a cue from the Afghans. Poor and remote, these fierce people have repeatedly repelled invasion forces launched by far richer, better-equipped enemies: Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. When foreign armies arrive, the Afghans melt away into the mountains. They let their adversaries settle into Kabul and other cities. They study them, poking and prodding in search of weaknesses. Then, when the time is right — typically many years after the other side declared “victory” — the Afghans unleash a ferocious assault that drives out the interlopers.

Trump was born in Queens. But it helps to think of him as an invader. His mish-mash protofascism, ferocious gracelessness and aversion to linear thinking or consistency are foreign to American politics and culture. He doesn’t belong here. He’s un- and anti-American. He’s got to go.

But we have to be smart about this. That starts with you liberal Democrats: stop staring down the barrel of 2017 with fear and loathing. It’s time to start planning.

We have to take our country back.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

December 07, 2016

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Thanks to Trump, No More Ameri-Splaining

Image result for american exceptionalism

A shining city on a hill,” Ronald Reagan called America (by way of the Puritan authoritarian John Winthrop). “We are great because we are good,” Hillary Clinton said during the campaign (via Tocqueville). Michelle Obama, earlier this year: “This right now is the greatest country on Earth.”

You may have heard of “mansplaining,” which is when a dude patronizingly explains something to a woman, often concerning a subject about which she knows more than he does (c.f., rape culture, workplace discrimination, etc.). Other spin-off portmanteaus mocking pompous people of privilege include whitesplaining (white person explains racism to black person), straightsplaining, Millennialsplaining, and even (during the primaries) Bernie-splaining.

May the victory of Donald Trump mark the long overdue death of Ameri-splaining — when American leaders like Clinton and Obama (and not a few ordinary citizens) pretentiously declaim our nation’s supposed exceptionalism to people in countries that do a better job than we do.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank Trump for his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again. Granted, he wasn’t talking to blacks and other oppressed segments of society for whom the past is more about pain than nostalgia. Trump’s campaign was aimed at whites. Nevertheless, Trump deserves credit for acknowledging that — at least at this time — America is not so great. “A Third World country,” he calls us. Keep reading and you’ll see that he has a point.

The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem.

Problems? Where to start?

Our economic structure sucks. We’re the world’s richest nation. But because we also have the most horrendous wealth inequality, most Americans are poor. According to the UN, our poverty rate is worse than 17 of the 19 OECD countries. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty. But the rich pigs in charge don’t care. Which is why we have the worst social safety net.

Maybe we should stop letting people die of cancer because they’re poor before Ameri-splaining human rights to Iran, where free RouhaniCare for everyone (!) rolls out in 2018. Similarly, we might want to stop executing children before telling the Iranians they’re wrong to do the same thing.

Our infrastructure is outdated and poorly maintained. It would take an additional $3.6 trillion to bring our existing highways, bridges, dams, sewers, water pipes, rail and so on up to code — yet spending on repairs is at a 30-year low. That doesn’t count the $500 billion or more it would cost to build a high-speed rail system like they have in Europe and Japan — you know, moderncountries.

Rather than harassing China over their ridiculous little fake islands, perhaps U.S. officials could invite the brilliant civil engineers creating a high-speed train system to Tibet, complete with pressurization like a plane as it soars through and around some of the biggest mountains on the planet, to show us how to bring our trains into the 21st century.

What is with us? Why do we talk down to the rest of the world from the depths of the lowest swamp below the moral high ground? At his penultimate State of the Union address, President Obama Ameri-splained to Russia’s Vladimir Putin over his “aggressive” annexation of Crimea. At the time, the U.S. was in its 14th year of occupying Afghanistan and its 12th of occupying Iraq. It was bombing the crap out of Yemen. Obama’s death drones were killing thousands of people, most of whom he thought were innocent.

When you stop to imagine what we look like to the rest of the world, we’re lucky we got away with just one wee 9/11.

Will Ameri-splaining continue under Trump? You’d think not, but since he’s already swiveled 180 degrees on so many other issues, he easily could revert to Bush-Obama-style triumphalism from his current, refreshing pessimism. The difference now is, no one — not even here in America where no one reads anything — can possibly take the U.S. government seriously when it scolds some country for, say, torturing people. Whereas Obama condescendingly tells his successor that torture doesn’t work (but not that it’s immoral, or that he still allows the CIA to use it), Trump has said of waterboarding “I like it a lot.”

The United States has always been corrupt, savage and brutal. It has always been wildly dysfunctional and hypocritical. But now, thanks to a president-elect who is loudly ignorant and utterly devoid of impulse control, the mask is off. The horrible truth about the United States can no longer be denied.

Trump epitomizes truth in advertising. We’re a nasty, crappy country.

President Trump suits us fine.

By Ted Rall

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

December 04, 2016

THE 10 BEST FILMS OF 2016

13th

While Ava DuVernay’s documentary doesn’t fully articulate the incremental genocide of blacks in America, she does spell out the country’s ongoing slavery of blacks in its prisons. Get schooled.

13th

 

Ma Loute

Bruno Dumont’s devilish French period farce of class conflict and cannibalism draws delicate lines of surrealism, satire and magical realism over the film’s explicit use of slapstick humor. This is one sophisticated high-wire cinematic act.

Ma Loute

 

Hell or High Water

David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water is a politically motivated neo-western torn from the pages of Sam Shepherd’s playbook. Gritty performances from Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges make movie magic happen.

Hell-or-Hight-Water

 

Summertime

Co-screenwriter/director Catherine Corsini crafts a fine romantic lesbian drama filled with organic feminine passion and ethical import. Audiences looking for female-led dramas that are genuine by design need only seek out this impressive film.

Summertime

 

Paterson

“Paterson” is the kind of movie that you walk out of a different person. The film purifies the viewer in a gentle and loving way. It reminds us that we are all poets if we invest a little of our experiences into words and supportive actions.

Paterson

 

I Am Not Your Negro

Samuel L. Jackson’s pitch-perfect rendition of James Baldwin’s unmistakable voice is as pure as Baldwin’s recollections of his murdered civil rights peers Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. collected in his unfinished manuscript “Remember This House.”  

James Baldwin

 

The Handmaiden

Erotic, social, emotional, and political intrigue attend Park Chan-Wook’s baroque psychological thriller set in Korea under Japanese colonial rule during the early to mid 20th century. Stunning.  

Handmaiden

  

Manchester By The Sea

Proof that Casey Affleck is the finest actor of his generation, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s familial drama breathes with pain, humor, and grit. See this movie on the big screen with an audience. You’ll never forget it.

Manchester

 

Elle

“Elle” is a diabolically gleeful black comedy brimming with sly social commentary and traumatically induced sexual fetishes. Verhoeven’s masterful direction, Isabelle Huppert’s nuanced performance, and David Birke’s unfiltered adaptation of Philippe Dijan’s novel combine to form a perfect film. 

Elle

 

I, Daniel Blake

Dramatically understated, and yet precisely composed, "I, Daniel Blake" presents a pointed call to political social and political action. Long live Ken Loach.

I-Daniel-Blake

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