April 14, 2017

THE SIX KINKIEST MOVIE SEX SCENES

One man's kink is the same as a woman's in the big bad world of BDSM. Films from William FriedkinLuis Buñuel, Steven Shainberg, David Cronenberg, Nicholas Wendig Refn, and David Lynch provide this sexy video essay with meat for kink. You might want a fork and a spoon. 


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April 13, 2017

2017 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP

CANNES 70

For its 70th festival, Cannes breaks with its well-guarded tradition of opening the festival with a Hollywood movie. Festival regular Arnaud Desplechin takes that significant honor with “Ismael’s Ghosts,” about a filmmaker (played by Mathieu Amalric) whose life is upended when a lover from his past shows up as he’s about to start shooting his latest picture. Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Louis Garrel also star.

Cannes16

Hollywood's absence at Cannes extends across the films in competition for the Palme d'Or, and across the entire festival. Hollywood has clearly lost its place on the premiere stage for Global Cinema. — R.I.P. Hollywood. Superhero Movies Killed The Motion Picture Star.

Cannes3

Conventional wisdom has it that Cannes traditionally skips a year as regards the quality of films shown every year. It is yet to be decided if this year’s selection will pale in comparison to last year’s imperfect lineup. Palme d'Or Competition films by Michael Haneke, Hong Sangsoo, François Ozon, Naomi Kawase, Todd Haynes, and Lynne Ramsay promise to give critics and jury judges some high-quality films to choose between.

French New Wave veteran Agnès Varda’s “Visages, Villages” is sure to be a hot ticket at a determinedly French festival that never forgets its own. Oh Cannes, how we adore you! 

CANNES 70 OFFICIAL SELECTION

OPENER

Ismael's ghosts

“Ismael’s Ghosts” (Arnaud Desplechin)

Canne25

COMPETITION

120BeatsPerMinute

“120 Beats per Minute” (Robin Campillo)

Beguiled

“The Beguiled” (Sofia Coppola)

“The Day After” (Hong Sangsoo)

“The Day After” (Hong Sangsoo)

A Gentle Creature

“A Gentle Creature” (Sergei Loznitsa)

Good Time

“Good Time” (Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie) 

Happy End

“Happy End” (Michael Haneke)

In the Fade

“In the Fade” (Fatih Akin)

Jupiters-moon

“Jupiter’s Moon” (Kornél Mundruczó)

Killing of a Sacred Deer

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Lamant-double

“L’amant double” (François Ozon)

Le redoubtable

“Le redoubtable” (Michel Hazanvicius)

Loveless

“Loveless” (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

The Meyerowitz Stories

“The Meyerowitz Stories” (Noah Baumbach)

OKJA

“Okja” (Bong Joon-Ho)

Radiance

“Radiance” (Naomi Kawase)

Rodin

“Rodin” (Jacques Doillon)

Wonderstruck

“Wonderstruck” (Todd Haynes)

“You Were Never Really Here” (Lynne Ramsay)

“You Were Never Really Here” (Lynne Ramsay) 

Cannes5

UN CERTAIN REGARD

“After the War” (Annarita Zambrano)

“April’s Daughter” (Michel Franco)

OPENER — “Barbara” (Mathieu Amalric)

“Beauty and the Dogs” (Kaouther Ben Hania)

“Before We Vanish” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

“Closeness” (Kantemir Balagov)

“The Desert Bride” (Cecilia Atan & Valeria Pivato)

“Directions” (Stephan Komandarev)

“Dregs” (Mohammad Rasoulof)

“Jeune femme” (Léonor Serraille)

“L’Atelier” (Laurent Cantet)

“Lucky” (Sergio Castellitto)

“The Nature of Time” (Karim Moussaoui)

“Out” (Gyorgy Kristof)

“Western” (Valeska Grisebach)

“Wind River” (Taylor Sheridan) 

Cannes4

OUT OF COMPETITION

BladeOfTheImmortal

“Blade of the Immortal” (Takashi Miike)

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

“How to Talk to Girls at Parties” (John Cameron Mitchell)

Visages  Villages

“Visages, Villages” (Agnès Varda & JR) 

Cannes20

MIDNIGHT SCREEENINGS

“Prayer Before Dawn” (Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire)

“Prayer Before Dawn” (Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire)

The Merciless

“The Merciless” (Byun Sung-Hyun)

The Villainess

“The Villainess” (Jung Byung-Gil)

Cannes10

SPECIAL SCREEENINGS

“12 Jours” (Raymond Depardon)

“An Inconvenient Sequel” (Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk)

“Claire’s Camera” (Hong Sangsoo)

“Demons in Paradise” (Jude Ratman)

“Napalm” (Claude Lanzmann)

“Promised Land” (Eugene Jarecki)

Sea Sorrow

“Sea Sorrow” (Vanessa Redgrave)

“They” (Anahita Ghazvinizadeh)

70TH ANNIVERSARY EVENTS

24-Frames

“24 Frames” (Abbas Kiarostami)

Come Swim

“Come Swim” (Kristen Stewart)

“Top of the Lake” (Jane Campion)

“Top of the Lake” (Jane Campion)

“Twin Peaks” (David Lynch)

VIRTUAL REALITY

“Carne y arena” (Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

Carne y arena


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April 09, 2017

5 Things Democrats Could Do To Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t) — TED RALL

SUPERCoupla weeks ago, I speculated that we may soon witness the end of the Democratic Party as we know it. I was kind. I didn’t mention the fact that the party is all out of national leaders. I mean, can you name a likely, viable Democratic candidate for president in 2020? Can you name three?

I followed up with more crystal-balling in a piece predicting that the meek will not inherit the earth if and when Trump gets dragged out of 1600 Penn by Senatorial impeachment police. The meek — the Democrats — could have/should have been the Anti-Trump Party. But they’ve dropped the ball. After the deluge, Paul Ryan.

With everyone so focused on the Trump Administration dead pool — how will he go? when? — we’re overlooking that Republicans could come out of the Trump debacle stronger than they went in. How crazy is that?

Now I want to look at another facet of this political Rubik’s cube: what the Democrats could do to avoid political irrelevance.

Not that they will.

—Democrats should stop calling themselves “The Resistance.” It’s an insult to the actual resistance fighters of World War II who were tortured and murdered. It’s also an attack on Strunk and White’s diktat not to stretch words beyond their plain meaning. Resistance to Republicans hasn’t been part of Democratic politics for generations. Quit the hype. Under-promise, over-deliver.

—Democrats should actually resist Trump and the Republicans. They shouldn’t have gone along with any of his nominees, but their promise to filibuster pencil-necked right-wing libertarian freak Neil Gorsuch would be a nice place to start. No Democrat, including those from purple/swing states, should vote for any GOP nominee or legislative initiative. Let’s not hear any more stupid talk of finding “common ground” with Trump on infrastructurespending or anything else. The GOP controls all three branches of the federal government so they’ll get whatever they want — and they should own whatever happens as a result. Democrats shouldn’t get their hands dirty.

—Democrats ought to articulate an alternative vision of what America would look like if they were in charge instead of Trump and the Republicans. It’s nice (not least for the 24 million people who would’ve wound up uninsured) that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare imploded. But that victory goes to rebellious Republicans, not Democrats. Here was a national debate over the ACA — Obama’s signature achievement — and Democrats didn’t even participate! How crazy is that? Never mind that they wouldn’t have gotten a vote on it — Democrats should have proposed their own bill reforming the ACA, one that moves left by adding single payer. Every Republican idea should be countered by an equal and opposite Democratic idea. Other countries call this act of self-definition shadow governance or, in a time of war perhaps loyal opposition. Whatever you call it, refusing to let your adversaries frame the acceptable ideological range of political debate is basic. In other words, a standard party-out-of-power tactic (e.g., the Tea Party 2009-2016).

—Democrats need to stop disappearing between elections. Campaigns are exhausting and it’s natural to want to catch one’s breath and conduct a postmortem to determine what went well and wrong. But it’s gotten to the point that the only time left-of-center voters hear from the Democratic Party is the year of a major election, for the most part only a few months before November and then only to ask for money. In the era of the 24-7 news cycle and the Internet, that hoary see-you-in-two-to-four-years approach is as outmoded as Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s cut-and-paste stump speeches and network TV shows that take summers off for something called “vacation.” A modern party should become part of our everyday lives. Every burg needs a Democratic Party storefront bustling with activity. Every Republican officeholder needs a ferocious Democratic challenger, even at the localest of local levels. Door-to-door campaigning and grassroots organizing should happen every day of every month of every year — in every state, regardless of presidential race electoral vote considerations, just like Howard Dean said.

—Bernie Sanders says Democrats can and should do class issues and identity politics. He’s right. As we’ve seen with the increased acceptance of LGBTQ people in recent years, the two are intertwined: gays’ incomes have risen But here’s the rub: you can’t really take on poverty and income disparity while accepting contributions from banks and other corporations whose interest lies in perpetuating economic misery by keeping wages low. The biggest lesson Dems should internalize from Bernie’s candidacy is his reliance on small individual donations.

(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.)

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Why is Trump So Hated? It’s the Tribalism, Stupid — TED RALL

TRUMP
This one is in post-9/11 cadence: why do liberals hate Trump so much?

It’s his style.

This being about politics, one would think — would hope — that the president’s atrocious Watergate-level poll numbers were the result of his self-evident idiocy, Muslim-bashing, far-right cabinet and court picks and his policies. Rancid as they are, Trump’s politics don’t seem to be the main reason he riles up so many Democrats.

You pick the Trump outrage that’s got liberals in a tizzy and I’ll point to an equal and not-so-opposite they had no problem with when it was authored by a Democrat.

Trump’s first major policy decision was his ban on travel to the U.S. by the citizens of seven (later revised to six) Muslim countries. Thousands of protesters converged on JFK and other airports. Federal judges across the nation issued emergency stays. Subjecting people to a religious test? Such evil nativism could not stand! Right-wing media pointed out/claimed/stretched that President Obama — who, save for the short-lived Occupy Wall Street protests, suffered few complaints from America’s impotent Left — had thrown a wrench into immigration by Iraqis to the U.S.

False equivalence? Perhaps. It became harder to avoid the stink of progressive hypocrisy when Trump authorized his Department of Homeland Security to deport non-citizens, including green card holders, whom the authorities even suspect of an offense — which could be as trivial as a traffic ticket. Millions of law-abiding Americans — if you’re born in Mexico and came here at age four and never lived outside of America what else are you but American? — were in Trump’s crosshairs. It was racist and nativist and disgusting and why the hell didn’t Democrats take to the streets to call Obama racist and nativist and disgusting when he deported more undocumented workers than any other president in history?

Trump ran as an anti-interventionist. America First! Leave the world to its troubles; the U.S. has too much infrastructure to build and a country to make great again to bother with foreign BS. In a extemporaneous portfolio short on detail and long on invective, isolationism after 15 years of Global War on Terror was a Trump thing most of us ought to have been able to get behind. Now, after three months of beribboned armchair generals whispering belligerent nothings into his ears, Trump has discovered his inner carpet bomber. Syria must be bombed! Well, bombed more.

The U.S. destruction of Syria began under Team Obama-Clinton, of course. Surely even Trump remembers that; he talked about it all last year at his rallies. Hillary told Barry to fund and arm something called the Free Syria Army which no one knew anything about and turned out to be mostly a thing called the Al Nusra Front which is pretty much Al Qaeda and seems to be friends with ISIS now.

Remember all the antiwar rallies in 2012? Remember how Obama got primaried for destroying Libya and Syria? Neither do I. But don’t be surprised if the streets fill with signs opposing Trump’s Syria war — signs that might have made a difference to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed by American-made and –funded weapons under Obama.

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign mantra was “It’s the economy, stupid.” Now it’s tribalism and it sure is stupid.

There isn’t much ideological distance between neoliberal warmonger Obama and corporatist warmonger Trump. There is, of course, all the difference in the world in their styles.

Obama was a bourgeois liberal Democrat’s sopping wettest dream: affable, professorial, so calm a pundit called him Spock. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Doris Kearns Goodwin! Bet he (or Michelle) owns at least one tote bag from an NPR pledge drive.

Who cared that he called Snowden a traitor and ramped up NSA spying on Americans and kept Gitmo open and kept torture and said it was OK for American cops to use killer drones to kill Americans on American soil? He was a fascist. But he was our fascist. Our fascist with a smile.

Trump frowns. Like Churchill, he thinks.

Their fascist.

Trump, on the other hand, is Republican and crass and loud. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he doesn’t care that everyone knows it. He dates and marries trophy ladies. His cabinet picks don’t know significantly less about the world than Obama’s did or Hillary’s would have. The difference between his and his and hers is that Trump’s gang is ugly and brash (Bannon, Flynn) to the Democrats’ Tuesday night kill list pretend seriousness.

Democrats aren’t a party. They’re a sports team.

Not convinced? Consider the Did Russia Install Trump hysteria.

There is, after thousands of articles and scores of hours of Congressional testimony, still not a smidgen of evidence (much less proof) that Russia influenced the election. Yet here you have Democrats — the gang that’s supposed to be into the Truth about climate change and science and all — calling for impeachment. Why this bizarre conspiracy theory? Why not simply impeach the SOB for being stupid? But I digress.

Russia-bashing completely without cause, older readers will recall, is the traditional go-to of the right-wing. What are fine Rachel Maddow-watchers like you doing in an ugly hidey-hole like this?

Tribalism. Y’all are rabid over Trump for doing the same crap Obama did because Trump’s an R and hangs with the jocks and you’re a D and a geek so you hate Trump and miss Obama. Junior high school cafeteria seating system, anyone?

The worst thing about America’s political system is that it has no politics.

(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.)

A small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

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March 27, 2017

ON THE FRINGE: FILMSTRUCK STREAMING WITH COLE SMITHEY

The four films presented here form a dominant harmony of ‘70s era independent movies from filmmakers operating on the fringe of Global Cinema. Les Blank, Werner Rainer Fassbinder, Costa-Gavras, and John Waters are all maverick filmmakers whose non-traditional approaches bounce off one another in this specially curated collection with personal, political, and social resonance against the technology-driven global realities of 2017. You won't find any cell phones here, just some heavy doses of nitty-gritty humanity. 

Multiplemaniacs

Multiple Maniacs” was made in 1970. Viet Nam’s influence is written all over the film. Bourgeois citizens gather to witness crude performers committing vile acts, only to be shaken down for their cash in a violent climax to the confrontational entertainment that came before. Meanwhile, network television shows the horrors of the Viet Nam war every night's news reports. Baltimore’s real-life counter-culture (check out David Lochary as Mr. David) take their cut of John Waters’ fearless (prototypical Punk) fantasy that comes complete with a necessarily Shakespearian tableau. Waters pushes the film's defiant tone toward a public episode of violence, in an ending that Clifford Odets could appreciate.   

Here is the ultimate filmic and political palate cleanser of a movie. Divine can’t help but moan at being seduced into anal play within religious walls, but that doesn’t mean she owes her new lover (Mink Stole) any more respect than she gives the other people she treats like disposable fetish objects. Divine is the ultimate whore/slut/reprobate cross-dresser. You'd have to call up Iggy Pop to find a pop star act of such Dionysian design.

John Waters cuts to a deeper social quick than any other American filmmaker because he understands the innate beauty of all people, regardless of how they look, much less how wild their imaginations and libidos run. “Multiple Maniacs” wallows in perversion for perversion’s sake because that’s what it’s there for; that's how it's done. It's supposed to be messy to reflect the ugliness of the Viet Nam War. Social class lines are clearly drawn. In the words of Elvis Costello, "If I'm going to go down, you're going to come with me."

You can fight the ideas, but you can’t fight the orgiastic feelings that John Waters transmits like a circus ring leader because his respect for filth runs so deep. Dirt is good for you even when it tastes like spinach pulled from manure. “Multiple Maniacs” is dirtier than that. Get filthy.

State-of-siege

Costa-Gavras is an exquisite leftist filmmaker because he is too much of a pragmatist to fall into idealistic traps of the left or the right. Costa-Gavras' unique upbringing, as the son of a Pro-Soviet (Communist) Greek Resistance fighter in the Greek Civil War, meant that attending university in Greece or in the United States was out of the question. France offered the perpetual outlier an education in law in 1951, that paved the way for a switch to film school and apprenticeships with directors Jean Giono and Rene Clair.

Like "The Battle of Algiers," "State of Siege" includes a gut-wrenching scene of torture, this time performed on a theater stage for a private audience of military officials and other well-dressed reprobates. What was once a shocking scene of inhumane punishment comes across as normalized for audiences watching it in 2017.

Celebrated in critical circles for his groundbreaking film “Z” (1969), Costa-Gavras made fresh tracks across the backs of America’s power-grabbing military pawns of capitalist exploitation (think The United Fruit Company) with “State of Siege” (1972), a political thriller released at the height of the Watergate scandal. The efforts of the radical left are just as dimwitted as the vastly more effective methods of rightwing corporate raiders; the difference is that one has all the money and guns. Living by the sword always means dying by the same blade regardless of who is doing the transporting and who is doing the cutting.

Motherkusters

FilmStruck is committing an enormous public service by showcasing Rainer Werner Fassbinder, New German Cinema’s hottest and most prolific star. Fassbinder is the German version of Lou Reed if Lou had been a German filmmaker.

Although the version of “Mrs. Kusters Goes to Heaven” that is currently being shown on FilmStruck does a fake-you-out move by spelling out, and including, two different endings, this movie presents a compelling case for autonomy of the individual. In an age when the NSA utilizes the same data that social media crunches to decide the plot of the next Hollywood movie you sit through like a hungry cat sniffing fresh tuna in the air, “Mrs. Kusters” puts the media, politics, and familial trust in same trash bin. Brigitte Mira’s elderly matriarch is a postfeminist every bit as complex as the outsider character she played in Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.” Heaven is what you make it.

Les-blank-always-for-pleasure

Les Blank’s intuitive sense of documentary filmmaking is purely organic. His films allow for a natural symbiotic exchange to occur between the viewer and the work at hand. You can feel it happening when “Always For Pleasure” (1978) gets into the Second line musicians and partiers at a funeral procession. Irreverent joy overflows into Blank’s wanton absorption of a melting pot made up of Black, White, European, French, Native American, Caribbean, Spanish, Mexican, Appalachian, and West Indian influences. Outside of society, and yet minted within primal human instincts for shared communal experience, the Second line musicians and their followers give back all that has been taken away from most of America’s citizens. You can guess the rest, with a smile on your face.


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March 20, 2017

The Splitting Up of the Democratic Party: Why It’s Probably Coming Sooner Than You Think

Photoshopsurfing4Before the election, some pundits were predicting that a Trump defeat would cause the Republican Party to split into at least two discrete new parties — one representing the old GOP’s business establishment, the other for the populist firebrands of the Tea Party. As the fight over gutting Obamacare reveals, those factions are in an uncomfortable marriage. But a full-fledged rupture doesn’t appear imminent.

A bigger story, one the corporate political writers aren’t focused on, is on the left. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Democratic Party split in two.

In my imagined scenario, the liberal Democratic base currently represented by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren file for divorce from the party’s center-right corporatist leadership caste. What next? Led by Sanders/Warren or not (probably not), prepare to see a major new “third” party close to or equal in size to a rump Democratic one.

I even have a name for this new 99%er-focused entity: the New Progressive Party, or simply the Progressive Party. Since this is ahistorical America, no one remembers the Bull Moosers.

Today’s Democratic Party is evenly divided between the Bernie Sanders progressives who focus on class issues and the Hillary Clinton urban liberals who care more about identity politics (gender, race, sexual orientation and so on).

In the short run, a Democratic-Progressive schism would benefit the GOP. In a three-way national contest I guesstimate that Republicans could count on the roughly 45% of the electorate who still approve of Trump after two months of hard-right rule. That leaves the new Progressives and the old Democrats with roughly 27.5% each — hardly a positive outlook for the left in the first few post-schism elections.

But as the cereal box warning goes, some settling may — in this case will — occur…and sooner than you’d think.

First, some “Republicans” in the Trump coalition — those Obama and Sanders voters who switched to Trump — will migrate left, attracted to a Progressive left-nationalist economic message that puts working-class Americans first minus the racism and nativism of the anti-NAFTA Trump right. Doesn’t feel like it this second, but bigotry is finding fewer adherents.

Second, demographic trends favor any left-of-the-Democrats party. Slightly more than half of Americans age 18 to 29 oppose capitalism in its current form. Some Millennials will move right over time, John Adams style — but most will not, mainly because the capitalist economy isn’t likely to reward them with better-paying jobs as they age. A strong Progressive Party — and 27.5% of the vote is strong, guaranteeing access all the way down the ballot to minor races and a spot on the national presidential debate stage — would be the natural home for America’s long-disenfranchised political left.

Third, the Progressives would attract sustained media attention. Excitement generates enthusiasm.

Finally, it isn’t a stretch to imagine that some mainstream Republicans disgusted by a Trump/Tea Party-dominated Republican Party might scoot over to the old Democrats — whose current politics are Republican Party circa 1980, so it’s not like it would be an uncomfortable fit — adding to their numbers.

Granted, this is all very back of the envelope. But my instincts tell me we’ll probably wind up with three surprisingly evenly matched parties before too long.

To be clear, a Democratic split isn’t inevitable. It may not even be more likely than not, not in the next few years anyway. But 10 or 20 years out? The further you extend the timeline, I’d bet a tidy sum that the left will finally hear what the Democratic Party leadership has been telling them for half a century — we don’t need you, we don’t owe you, we won’t do anything for you — and walk.

Why am I so convinced that today’s Dems will go the way of the Whigs?

Still controlled by center-right Clintonistas, the Democratic National Committee continues to snub progressives and leftists despite the fact that Bernie could have beaten Trump.

Throughout the campaign, polls showed Bernie would outperform Hillary in the fall. Still, the DNC cheated on her behalf. And they sleazily lined up the superdelegates for her.

She never considered him for veep. She didn’t even promise to appoint him to the cabinet. Big mistake.

She didn’t adopt any of his signature platform planks.

After the debacle Democratic leaders blamed everyone but themselves: WikiLeaks, Russia, the FBI, the media, even Bernie voters. They didn’t think they did anything wrong.

In the race for DNC chair and thus for the soul of the party, they picked the establishment choice over the progressive.

If you’re a Bernie Sanders Democrat, you have to be a complete idiot to believe that the Democratic Party has learned the lesson of 2016: lean left or go home. Even after it became clear that Trump was putting together the most right-wing administration in American history, Democrats were still voting in favor of Republican appointees.

I can’t predict how the great split-up of the former Democratic Party will play out. But given the escalating rage of the party’s progressive base in the Age of Trump and the absolute refusal of the DNC leadership to grant them concessions, it’s hard to imagine this restive crowd staying calm and keeping Democratic.

The tsunami is coming. Lefties have a choice: get washed away, or grab a surfboard.

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.)

A small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

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THE 11 BEST PUNK BANDS!

The only time I've had front-row seats for a concert was at a San Diego Lou Reed show for the "New Sensations" tour. I went with my girlfriend Lori, and brought along a demo cassette of my band ("The Rockin' Dogs). At the end of the show I stood up just as Lou was turning to walk off stage and yelled his name as I tossed the demo onto the floor of the stage. Lou reached down and picked up the tape and stuck it in the back pocket of his faded black jeans. I'll never forget seeing the outline of the Rockin' Dogs demo in Lou's pocket. I'm sure he listened to it at least once. Even though nothing ever came of it, I love that Lou picked up the demo and took it with him. This video is for you Lou. 


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January 31, 2017

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Case for Left Nationalism

Make America Great Again. Trump’s campaign slogan was a direct appeal to nationalism. As a son of the Rust Belt city of Dayton, Ohio, I wasn’t surprised to see that it worked. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1b/Muralbelfast2.jpg/200px-Muralbelfast2.jpg

People in the postindustrial Midwest and in much of the rest of flyover country are tired of being ignored by the urban coastal elites who seem to think laid-off factory workers should shake off their blues and get a job as a coder. Not that the children of the dispossessed stand a better chance: Silicon Valley is a great wealth generator but a lousy job creator. Many highly skilled American tech workers are unemployed, cheated out of jobs by sleazy companies who abuse the H1B visa program to hire compliant foreigners for a fraction of the cost.

If you’re one of the millions of left-leaning Americans shocked and awed at Donald Trump’s first week as president, his “America First” inauguration speech, his orders to build his Mexican border wall, tear up NAFTA, start a trade war, and especially the sudden brutalism of his Muslim travel ban, I have news for you: there are just as many others who are cheering him on, thrilled that he’s keeping his campaign promises. As far as they’re concerned, the rest of the world — including refugees from countries whose wars were started by the U.S. — can go to hell.

After all, their hometowns already have.

As Sabrina Tavernise recently wrote in The New York Times, victims of economic decline and their attendant societal ills — depression, alcoholism, the meth and opioid epidemics — revolted in the 2016 election against elites “who lived in isolated islands of economic opportunity and sneered at people who didn’t.” She cited NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who sees a clash between globalists and nationalists. “The globalists, who tend to be urban and college-educated, want a world like the one described in John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ — no religion, walls or borders dividing people. The nationalists see that as a vision of hell…They also want to limit immigration, an instinct that globalists are often to quick to condemn as racist.”

Globalism dominates economic policymaking in the Democratic Party. Beginning with the takeover of the party by the Clintons’ Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990s, Democrats have pushed through free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, and the creation of the World Trade Organization. This has not come without consequences: Globalization eroded the power of Big Labor, formerly a major source of income and manpower for the party. It also turned off people in Ohio and Michigan and Illinois and Pennsylvania — those who lost their own jobs, as well as their friends, families and neighbors. Democratic politicians have been so blind to the suffering all around that they never even once proposed a bill that would have helped victims of outsourcing with money or job retraining. Some even publicly praised the fact that wages were going up in places like Mexico! Trump gave long-seething Americans an outlet for their rage.

The globalist left vs. nationalist right paradigm is, however, is a recent thing. In fact, the right part of that equation only dates back to last summer; pre-Trump, exporting American jobs via trade deals was a point of bipartisan consensus.

The short history of Democratic globalism suggests that one way back from defeat and political irrelevance, both for the party and for the broader Left, is to make the case for a leftist nationalism.

Until the 1970s, Republicans promoted free trade agreements. Democrats opposed them. Protecting workers, especially the highly-paid blue-collar laborers, from foreign competition, kept union donations pouring into party coffers. But then party fundraisers found Wall Street. Big finance craves freedom of movement for capital so business owners can find the cheapest raw materials, supplies and workers in the world — and a broken, dispirited workforce unable to organize and bargain collectively. Wall Street told the Democrats: dump your other girlfriend. You can’t have us as well as big labor. Workers have gotten ground up under the bus ever since.

The grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders — and of Donald Trump, whose fundraising tactics and social media-driven campaign emulated Sanders’ down to the fonts and spacing of his email solicitations — have broken big corporate donors’ hold on campaign financing. Meanwhile, look what happened to Hillary Clinton (“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders“) and her base of corporate and wealthy individual backers. Nationalism, not globalism, is the future of American politics — but right now, it’s only the right that’s riding the wave.

Though patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and the first of the nativist, history shows us a long and honorable record of left-wing nationalism. The Chinese civil war turned in favor of the Communists over Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists after Mao Tse-Tung directed his cadres to lead the patriotic resistance against Japanese occupation. Most members of the French Resistance against the Nazis were communist. Fidel Castro was an ardent patriot/nationalist; so was Ho Chi Minh. These leftists understood that the oppression of workers by the ruling class often manifests itself via forms of globalization: invasions, colonialism, the establishment of puppet states via imperialism. It is not necessary to succumb to the dark forces of bigotry, or to deny refuge to victims of war as Trump did last week, to stand up for the citizens of your own country against those who would exploit or abuse them.

There’s nothing wrong with imagining a world without borders. It’s good for Americans, and for decency, when wages of workers in other nations increase — there are fewer wars and more consumers. As things stand today, however, nation-states are here to stay. In fact, there are more of them than ever before.

Is it really so unreasonable for American workers to expect the leftists who claim to care about them, to fight for them to earn higher wages? A left unable to appeal to nationalism has no future.

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.)

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January 26, 2017

UNDERMINING THE NAZIS ON FILMSTRUCK STREAMING WITH COLE SMITHEY

Elem Klimov's communist parents constructed his first name as an acronym taken from Engels, Lenin, and Marx. During his 70 years, Elem Klimov made only five films: "Welcome, or No Trespassing" (1964), "The Adventures of a Dentist" (1965), "Agony" (1975) and "Farewell" (1981). "Come and See" was his astounding final picture that would finally establish Klimov as a storyteller of untold narrative depth and intuitive filmic sensitivity.

For the film, Klimov fashioned a detailed visual vernacular of dialectic form. His original, rigorous narrative format compresses the overwhelming heartbreak of Hitler's War. We experience its many jolts, shocks, and horrors. By the film's end, we witness a young boy's soul so terribly ravaged by the war's horrors that he resembles an old man.

Objectively, "Come and See" is Elem Klimov's brave attempt to cinematically compartmentalize and contextualize his own wartime experiences as a child escaping the battle of Stalingrad, in the company of his mother and younger brother, by raft across the Volga while the city burned to the ground behind them. Klimov said of the indelible event, in relation to "Come and See," "Had I included everything I knew, and shown the whole truth, even I could not have watched it."

Francois Truffaut’s third to last film, "The Lat Metro," draws on his childhood experiences growing up in Paris during the Nazi occupation between 1940 and 1944. Truffaut was born in 1932. Both his uncle and grandfather were active in the French Resistance.

THE LAST METRO

For the most popular of his later films (“The Last Metro” won 10 César Awards), Truffaut spent years piecing together the script with details taken from newspaper stories or anecdotal experiences. The passive resistance of his characters exudes a confidence of purpose that they discreetly understate, and yet astutely pronounce with their clandestine actions, hidden in plain sight. That Truffaut wrote the film’s leading role of Marion specifically for Catherine Deneuve is transparent as it is rewarding.

Much like “Casablanca,” “The Last Metro” (1980) is a wartime romantic drama guided by the magnificent charisma of their similarly exquisite onscreen couplings. The ideal pairing of Gerard Depardieu (working at the height of his powers) with Catherine Deneuve is a cinematic treat every bit as enticing and fulfilling as seeing Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fulfill their characters' ethical obligations. If Truffaut owes a great debt to “Casablanca,” he couldn’t have paid it back with any more style, integrity, wit, authenticity, and nostalgic romance as he creates with "The Last Metro."

The Marriage of Maria Braun

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s bold depiction of postwar Germany in “The Marriage of Maria Braun” shares a theme of womanly independence to that of Barbara Stanwyck’s implacable character in the pre-code classic “Baby Face” (Alfred E. Green, 1933). Guided by his frequent muse Hanna Schygulla (“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”), Fassbinder takes a dryly neo-realist approach that combines documentary techniques with formal compositions to underpin the drama. Michael Ballhaus’s brilliant cinematography is two parts raw and refined.

As Maria partners with a wealthy industrialist, to whom she also serves as his mistress, she accumulates the wealth she seeks to provide for her Nazi soldier husband upon his release from prison. The war has transmogrifies her heart into a ball of repressed emotion. Maria and her husband are victims of a war whose effects will continue to be passed for many generations to come. The economics of war is always a lose/lose proposition; regardless of how much money it drives.

The Night Porter

It has taken decades for the shocks of controversy surrounding Liliana Cavani’s magnificent picture “The Night Porter” (1974) to catch up with the uncomfortable intimate truths that Cavani illuminates. Liliana Cavani was 40 years ahead of her time.

If the plot sounds like a pure sexploitation picture along the lines of “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS,” it proves every bit as transgressive, but all the more political in its provocations.

Charlotte Rampling is Lucia, a leftist (non-Jewish) Holocaust survivor who carried on a BDSM relationship with one of her Nazi guards during her time spent starving in the concentration camps. Lucia played the part of a submissive who received protection in return from her SS dom lover Max (Dirk Bogard).

It is 1957 when Lucia, now married to an American orchestra conductor, discovers her former SS master working as a night porter in the Vienna hotel where she and her husband stay. Soon the former lovers are up to their old games of master-and-slave.

Cavani doesn’t merely flirt with the taboo subject matter of a prisoner and guard carrying out their roles within the context of obsessive fetishized sex, she grabs it by the throat and listens to the body gasping for air. Sex allows Max and Lucia to breathe.

People will always find ways to express themselves regardless of the physical or mental restraints placed on them. If those expressions take on an intrinsically dark and primal reflection then you know you have hit the animal nerve that sex brings out in all of us. Freedom is a construct of the mind that allows the body to follow down any hallway, no matter how dark.

Come and See

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January 25, 2017

2017 Oscar Nominations Show Black Artists' Gains

New York City, January 24, 2017 — Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs was joined by Academy members Demian Bichir, Dustin Lance Black, Glenn Close, Guillermo del Toro, Marcia Gay Harden, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Brie Larson, Jason Reitman, Gabourey Sidibe and Ken Watanabe for the 89th Academy Awards nominations this morning.

La La Land led the nominations with 14, which ties the record of most nominations ever with 1997’s Titanic and 1950’s All About Eve. Arrival and Moonlight followed with eight nominations each, and Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and Manchester by the Sea received six nominations each.

After last year’s Oscar nominations, in which no Black actors were nominated for the second consecuitve year, changes were made within the voting system that allowed for new members. Those changes have resulted in the six Black actors/actresses receiving nods today, an historic occasion.

With Fences’ Denzel Washington and Loving’s Ruth Negga nominated in the Best Actor/ Actress category, and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) getting nods in for Best Supporting Actor/ Actress, it marks the first time Black actors have been nominated in all four acting categories.

Fences, Hidden Figures, and Moonlight are all nominated for Best Pictures, marking the first time that three black films have ever been nominated in this category.

Also record-setting was the amount of Blacks receiving nominations (18), surpassing the seven given in 2009.

That includes Kimberly Steward, Pharrell Williams, Denzel Washington, Barry Jenkins, Ruth Negga, Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, Octavia Spencer, Tarell A. McCraney, August Wilson, Joi McMillon, Bradford Young, Ava DuVernay, Ezra Edelman, Raoul Peck, Herbert Peck, and Roger Ross Williams.

Viola Davis is the most nominated African-American actress, with 3 nominations (Best Supporting Actress nom for Doubt, Best Actress nom for The Help).

Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) – First time three African-American actresses received Best Supporting Actress nominations in same year.

Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer – Second time both actresses have been nominated in same year but first time in same category for different films.

Joi McMillon – Second black person to be nominated for Best Editing and the First Black Female to be nominated

Ezra Edelman, Ava DuVernay, Raoul Peck, Roger Ross Williams – First time four Blacks received Best Documentary Feature nominations in same year.

Bradford Young of Arrival  is the second Black person ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography.

Set to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the 89th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

By Wilson Morales

Special to ColeSmithey.com

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