September 25, 2017

OCTOBER PROGRAMMING ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL ON FILMSTRUCK!

       
 
Includes a new edition of Meet the Filmmakers on Josh and Benny Safdie,
four films by Michael Haneke and Juraj Herz's The Cremator!
 
Sunday, October 1
On the Waterfront*: Criterion Collection Edition #647

Marlon Brando gives the performance of his career as the tough prizefighter-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy in Elia Kazan's eight-time Oscar-winning masterpiece. A powerfully emotional tale of individual failure and social corruption, On the Waterfrontfollows Terry's deepening moral crisis as he must decide whether to remain loyal to a mob-connected union boss (Lee J. Cobb) and his right-hand man, Terry's brother (Rod Steiger), as the authorities close in on them. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an audio commentary by authors Richard Schickel and Jeff Young; a conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones; Elia Kazan: Outsider (1982), an hour-long documentary; a documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with scholar Leo Braudy, critic David Thomson, and others; an interview with actor Eva Marie Saint; an interview with director Elia Kazan from 2001; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Sunday, October 1
Harold and Maude*: Criterion Collection Edition #608

Countercultural icon Hal Ashby's idiosyncratic American fable tells the story of the emotional and romantic bond between a death-obsessed young man (Bud Cort) from a wealthy family and a devil-may-care, bohemian octogenarian (Ruth Gordon). Equal parts gallows humor and romantic innocence, Harold and Maude dissolves the line between darkness and light along with the ones that separate people by class, gender, and age, and it features indelible performances and a remarkable soundtrack by Cat Stevens. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill; illustrated audio excerpts from seminars by Ashby and writer-producer Colin Higgins; and an interview with songwriter Yusuf/Cat Stevens.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Tuesday, October 3
Tuesday's Short and Feature: The Extraordinary Life of Rocky* andHarold and Maude

In these two comedies, glimmers of macabre humor emerge amid the specter of death: Belgian director Kevin Meul's award-winning 2010 short The Extraordinary Life of Rockyfollows the story of a young boy whose very presence seems to lead his loved ones to die in freak accidents, while Hal Ashby's 1971 Harold and Maude observes the unlikely romantic relationship between a suicidal twentysomething and an eccentric elderly widow.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Thursday, October 5
Meet the Filmmakers: Josh and Benny Safdie

The Channel-exclusive series Meet the Filmmakers invites exciting contemporary directors to turn the camera on filmmakers who intrigue them, capturing their creative process through genuine, personal encounters, not filmographies or biographies. This latest entry goes behind the scenes with Josh and Benny Safdie, brothers who have made their name with a number of singularly chaotic features set in their native New York. In addition to candid footage from the set of their new thriller Good Time, director Michael Chaiken offers an intimate immersion in the Safdies' world, where family life and filmmaking flow together inseparably. Alongside the fifty-five-minute documentary, the Criterion Channel will present a sampling of the duo's key films, including The Pleasure of Being Robbed* (2008), Daddy Longlegs*(2009), their basketball documentary Lenny Cooke*(2013), and four of their shorts*.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, October 6
Friday Night Double Feature: The Arbor* and The Selfish Giant*

With Clio Barnard's new feature Dark River now making the festival rounds, catch up on two of the director's acclaimed films set in the industrial West Yorkshire city of Bradford. In her astonishing debut feature, The Arbor (2010), she turns documentary filmmaking on its head, investigating the brief, tragic life of playwright Andrea Dunbar through a cast of actors lip-synching to audio interviews with Dunbar's family members. In Barnard's first purely narrative work, the Oscar Wilde­-inspired The Selfish Giant (2013), two working-class teenagers become friends as they try to earn money by collecting scrap metal.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Tuesday, October 10
Tuesday's Short and Feature: Bridges-Go-Roundand The Connection

Different corners of New York City come alive in two works by iconoclastic filmmaker Shirley Clarke: in the playfully structured 1958 short Bridges-Go-Round, she evokes the sculptural beauty of the urban landscape through an assemblage of looped footage, while in her jazz-fueled 1961 feature debut, The Connection, she reimagines a Jack Gelber play about a group of heroin addicts anxiously awaiting their drug dealer in a seedy apartment.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, October 11
Carnival of Souls: Criterion Collection Edition #63

A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, this eerily effective B-movie classic was intended to have "the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau" - and with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it has remained an influential cult classic decades later. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: selected-scene audio commentary featuring director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford; an interview with comedian and writer Dana Gould; a video essay by film critic David Cairns; The Movie That Wouldn't Die!, a documentary on the 1989 reunion of the film's cast and crew; The Carnival Tour, a 2000 update on the film's locations; and more.
 
Thursday, October 12
Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Trilogy* - Paradise: LoveParadise: Faith, and Paradise: Hope

Like Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noé, Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidel has long polarized audiences with his boundary-pushing explorations of transgressive desire and abject humiliation. Ranging from the exploits of a middle-aged sex tourist in Kenya to the tribulations of a teenage girl at a weight-loss camp, the stories in this ambitious triptych offer disturbing insights on morality and shame on the margins of contemporary European society. Watch the complete trilogy on the Channel alongside a new interview with cinematographer Ed Lachman.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, October 13
Friday Night Double Feature: Oslo, August 31st* and The Fire Within

Two European cityscapes serve as backdrops for dark nights of the soul in these adaptations of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle's 1931 novel Will o' the Wisp. In Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st (2011), a depressive writer on a furlough from drug rehab confronts his memories and temptations in the Norwegian capital; in Louis Malle's The Fire Within (1963), a recovering alcoholic, having resolved to commit suicide, wanders a forlorn Paris paying final visits to a scattering of old friends.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Monday, October 16
Life During Wartime*: Criterion Collection Edition #574

With his customary dry humor and queasy precision, independent filmmaker Todd Solondz explores contemporary American existence and the nature of forgiveness in this distorted mirror image of his 1998 dark comedy Happiness. That film's emotionally stunted characters are now groping for the possibility of change in a post-9/11 world and, in a daring twist, are embodied by a different ensemble cast, including Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, and Ciarán Hinds. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary featuring interviews with the cast and on-set footage, an interview with cinematographer Ed Lachman, and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Tuesday, October 17
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Tord and Tord* and Persona

The psychology of self steps to the fore in these two existential Swedish films. Niki Lindroth von Bahr's clever animated fable Tord and Tord (2010) employs handsome stop motion and deadpan narration to tell the story of a fox who finds his individuality thrown into doubt by the arrival of a new rabbit neighbor with the same name. Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece Persona (1966) captures the porousness of identity through the turbulent relationship between a troubled actress (Liv Ullmann) and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) during their stay on a remote island.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, October 18
Four Jean-Pierre Melville Editions

Marrying elements of classic genre filmmaking with his own individualistic flair and do-it-yourself attitude, the great French director Jean-Pierre Melville produced a body of work suffused with a quiet existential brooding. In anticipation of his centennial this month, we're presenting the packed editions of four of his masterpieces: Le samouraï (Criterion Collection Edition #306), an elegant mix of 1940s American gangster cinema, 1960s French pop culture, and Japanese lone-warrior mythology, featuring Alain Delon in a career-defining performance; Le cercle rouge (#218), a heist film about the criminal schemes of a master thief, a notorious escapee, and an alcoholic ex-cop; Le deuxième souffle (#448), which follows the parallel tracks of a French underworld criminal escaped from prison and the suave inspector relentlessly pursuing him; and Les enfants terribles(#398), a collaboration with Jean Cocteau that delves into the wholly unholy relationship between a brother and sister.
 
Thursday, October 19
Adventures in Moviegoing with Philip Kaufman

In the latest episode of the Channel-exclusive series Adventures in Moviegoing, writer-director Philip Kaufman (The Right StuffThe Unbearable Lightness of Being), one of the most accomplished and eclectic of all American filmmakers, reveals a cinephilic appetite as wide-ranging as his filmography. Among the formative experiences he recounts: his childhood love for the eye-popping colors in Disney's Bambi and Fantasia, the origin of his interest in world cinema at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts (also the birthplace of Criterion and Janus Films), and his later encounters with the works of American mavericks like Don Siegel, John Cassavetes, and Shirley Clarke. Alongside the interview, check out a selection from Kaufman's personal canon, including John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, Pietro Germi's Divorce Italian Style, and his ultimate favorite, François Truffaut's Jules and Jim.
 
Friday, October 20
Friday Night Double Feature: Le samouraï and The Usual Suspects

Enigmatic outlaws take the spotlight in these crafty crime films, both of which feature iconic police-lineup scenes: a knockout sequence in Jean-Pierre Melville's taut minimalist thriller Le samouraï (1967) follows Alain Delon's contract killer as he attempts to elude identification; Bryan Singer's tricky The Usual Suspects (1995), a neonoir featuring an Oscar-winning performance for the ages by Kevin Spacey, revolves around a team of criminals who meet when they're all hauled into the same New York precinct.
 
Monday, October 23
Le Corbeau: Criterion Collection Edition #227

A mysterious writer of poison-pen letters, known only as Le Corbeau (the Raven), plagues a French provincial town, unwittingly exposing the collective suspicion and rancor seething beneath the community's calm surface. Made during the Nazi Occupation of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot's exploration of mass paranoia was attacked by the right-wing Vichy regime, the left-wing Resistance press, and the Catholic Church, and was banned after the Liberation. But in time the film reemerged as high-profile admirers like Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre championed its powerful subtext and worked to rehabilitate Clouzot's reputation after the war. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an interview with Bertrand Tavernier and excerpts from The Story of French Cinema by Those Who Made It: Grand Illusions 1939-1942, a 1975 documentary featuring Clouzot.
 
Tuesday, October 24
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Doodlebug and Following

In the wake of Christopher Nolan's war film Dunkirk, one of the most widely celebrated and commercially successful films of the summer, this week's Short + Feature takes a look back at the filmmaker's no-less-inventive low-budget beginnings. In the space of just three minutes, Nolan's black-and-white short Doodlebug (1997), about a man hunting a bug in his apartment that may or may not be a figment of his imagination, develops into a compellingly Kafkaesque portrait of madness, while his first feature, the psychological mystery Following (1999), also shot on 16 mm, cunningly scrambles its chronology to tell the story of a writer drawn unexpectedly into a life of crime.
 
Thursday, October 26
Observations on Film Art No. 12: Brute Force - The Actor's Toolkit

What do film actors do when they act? Few aspects of moviemaking craft are more discussed and less understood. In this month's episode of our Channel-exclusive series Observations on Film Art, Professor David Bordwell takes a close look at Jules Dassin's Brute Force (1947) to show how a performance is built from gesture, body language, and speech. Dassin's prison-escape film noir relies on economical acting from performers like Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, and Charles Bickford to create richly nuanced characterizations that resonate beyond the content of the script's hard-boiled dialogue. ACCOMPANIED BY: the Criterion edition of Brute Force.
 
Friday, October 27
Friday Night Double Feature: The Haunted Strangler and Fiend Without a Face

Terror comes from within in these chilling tales, produced by horror impresario Richard Gordon and originally released in 1958 as a double bill. A late-career showcase for monster-movie legend Boris Karloff, The Haunted Strangler follows a muckraking author (Karloff) as he attempts to uncover the real story behind a twenty-year-old series of killings, only to reveal a gruesome side of himself. And in Arthur Crabtree's sci-fi/horror hybrid Fiend Without a Face, a scientist's thoughts come to grisly life in the form of invisible monsters with an unquenchable thirst for human brains.
 
Saturday, October 28
Split Screen Season 8

Two decades after it premiered on IFC, the pioneering television series Split Screen has a streaming home on the Channel, with batches of episodes from the show's four-year run going up every month. In this priceless time capsule, host John Pierson takes viewers on an irreverent trip through filmmaking communities and movie-loving culture at the turn of the millennium. This season features a trip to South Korea to meet the animators behind The Simpsons, an investigation of Billy Graham's insanely prolific evangelical film production unit, and an appearance by Haruo Nakajima, a.k.a. the man in the Godzilla suit.
 
Monday, October 30
Hunger: Criterion Collection Edition #504

Oscar-winning British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) turns one of history's most controversial acts of political defiance into a jarring, unforgettable cinematic experience. In Northern Ireland's Maze prison in 1981, twenty-seven-year-old Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike to protest the British government's refusal to recognize him and his fellow IRA inmates as political prisoners. McQueen dramatizes prison existence and Sands's final days in a way that is purely experiential, even abstract, a succession of images full of both beauty and horror. Featuring an intense performance by Michael Fassbender, Hunger is an unflinching, transcendent depiction of what a human being is willing to endure to be heard. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: interviews with McQueen and Fassbender, a short documentary on the making of the film, and more.
 
Tuesday, October 31
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Swallowed* and The Brood

While the kids are out trick-or-treating, sneak in two unnerving films that milk horror from the physical and emotional trials of motherhood. A young mom finds herself possessed by eerie trances and uncontrollable impulses in dancer-filmmaker Lily Baldwin's Swallowed, made as part of the dream-inspired omnibus Collective: Unconscious (2016). And David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979) sets a mother's rage loose on her daughter, taking the director's obsession with bodily and psychological carnage to bloodcurdling extremes.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
---

Complete list of films premiering on the Criterion Channel this month:

October 1
Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby, 1971
On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan, 1954
 
October 2
The Extraordinary Life of Rocky, Kevin Meul, 2010
 
October 5
Lenny Cooke, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2013
The Black Balloon, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2012
John's Gone, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2010
Daddy Longlegs, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2009
The Pleasure of Being Robbed, Josh Safdie, 2008
The Acquaintances of a Lonely John, Benny Safdie, 2008
We're Going to the Zoo, Josh Safdie, 2006
 
October 6
The Arbor, Clio Barnard, 2010
The Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard, 2013
The Junk Shop, Juraj Herz, 1965
The Cremator, Juraj Herz, 1968
Golden Demon, Koji Shima, 1954
La chambre, Chantal Akerman, 1972
A Taxing Woman's Return, Juzo Itami, 1988
 
October 12
Paradise: Love, Ulrich Seidl, 2012
Paradise: Faith, Ulrich Seidl, 2013
Paradise: Hope, Ulrich Seidl, 2013
 
October 13
Oslo, August 31st, Joachim Trier, 2011
June Night, Per Lindberg, 1940
Blindfolded Eyes, Carlos Saura, 1978
History Is Made at Night, Frank Borzage, 1937
Gap-Toothed Women, Les Blank, 1987
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists, Les Blank, 1995
Ciao Federico, Gideon Bachmann, 1970
The Seventh Continent, Michael Haneke, 1989
Benny's Video, Michael Haneke, 1992
71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, Michael Haneke, 1994
The Piano Teacher, Michael Haneke, 2001
 
October 16
Life During Wartime, Todd Solondz, 2009
 
October 17
Tord and Tord, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, 2010
 
October 20
Madonna of the Seven Moons, Arthur Crabtree, 1945
I Am Curious - Blue, Vilgot Sjöman, 1968
Café au lait, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1993
My Home Is Copacabana, Arne Sucksdorff, 1965
 
October 25
The Edge of the World, Michael Powell, 1937
 
October 27
L'enfance nue, Maurice Pialat, 1968
A Man There Was, Victor Sjöström, 1917
Until the End of the World, Wim Wenders, 1991
More, Barbet Schroeder, 1969
Intimate Relations, Philip Goodhew, 1996
 
October 31
Swallowed, Lily Baldwin, 2016
 
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ABOUT THE CRITERION CHANNEL
 
The Criterion Channel offers the largest streaming collection of Criterion films available, including classic and contemporary films from around the world, interviews and conversations with filmmakers and never-before-seen programming. The channel's weekly calendar features complete Criterion editions, thematic retrospectives, live events, short films, and select contemporary features, along with exclusive original programming that aims to enhance the Criterion experience for the brand's dedicated fans as well as expanding its reach to new audiences. Other recent additions to the programming include MEET THE FILMMAKER: ATHINA RACHEL TSANGARI and ADVENTURES IN MOVIEGOING WITH BILL HADER.

ABOUT FILMSTRUCK

FilmStruck is a new subscription on-demand service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films. Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will be the new exclusive streaming home for the critically acclaimed and award-winning Criterion Collection, including the Criterion Channel, a new premium service programmed and curated by the Criterion team.  FilmStruck is Turner's first domestic direct-to-consumer offering launched in November 2016.

ABOUT THE CRITERION COLLECTION

Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. No matter the medium-from laserdisc to DVD and Blu-ray to FilmStruck, the streaming service developed in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies - Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer's appreciation of the art of film.

September 24, 2017

SPIELBERG: TRAILER

Susan Lacy's Steven Spielberg appears to be a well-researched documentary based on intimate interviews with Spielberg, as well as a cornucopia of people in the filmmaker's orbit. Check out my video essay dedication to the most famous director in the world, at the bottom of this page.

Spielberg-poster

Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

PATREON BUTTON

September 19, 2017

YouTube Stepped Wrong Again

Axial Cut

In latest YouTube related news, I posted my Axial Cut video on YouTube and got hit with a claim before I even hit the publish key. You'd think they'd get the idea that I don't play. I wasn't having it this time. I let YouTube know in no uncertain terms where I stand on the issue. I'm still waiting for YouTube's response to my brief reply to their bullying. Look for an update to my unending war with these shysters. Don't forget that YouTube has only paid me $10 for over one million views. It is hardly worth the hassle to deal with these thieves. Should I continue to bother? Perhaps not.

As always I'm covered by Vimeo where I never get hassled over such obvious stuff. Where is that class-action lawsuit against YouTube? It's going to be a whopper when it finally happens. 

UPDATE: Here's the result — SEE SCREENSHOT BELOW.

This is why you should only put your videos on Vimeo. Notice how "Epic Elite" arbitrarily "decides" that U.S. copyright law does not apply to my video. 

Unlike YouTube, Vimeo upholds the law. YouTube lets companies "decide" they are above the law so that only they reap rewards from a video essay such as the object of this discussion.

"The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

YouTube

September 17, 2017

HITCHCOCK / KUROSAWA: THE AXIAL CUT

Shocking to me is how many people don't seem to get what an "axial cut" is. Although sometimes improperly referred to as "cutting on action," the axial cut is an edit that moves the distance to a character further or closer to the viewer. I'm curious how many of you might not understand exactly what an axial cut is from watching this video. I suppose it is a tool of the cinematographer, but you get a good look at more than a few examples in this video essay.

September 06, 2017

OPERATION SNOWBALL: MY FIRST CAREER IN SHOW BUSINESS

By Cole Smithey

You’d be hard-pressed to track down any information on Google about Jerry Harmon’s Operation Snowball. Sometime in December of 1967, when I was just three-years-old, my stepdad Jerry Harmon launched a touring magic act project called Operation Snowball. Under its auspices, “King Karnak, Barbie, and Cole” would become a ten-year annual touring magic show across the state of Virginia. The purpose of the act was to provide Christmastime entertainment for the patients at all of the mental institutions in Virginia; there were a lot mental hospitals in those days. Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia was on the list.

Western_state_hospital_virginia

Every year we’d kick off the tour with a show at the Towne Theater on Broad Street in Richmond before heading over to the Governor’s office for a photo op with the Governor, who would give his blessing for our two-week tour that followed. I distinctly remember meeting Govenor Mills Godwin on several occasions. A government limo would drive us to a nearby airport where a government appointed pilot from Civil Air Patrol would fly us, with our gear, in a Cesna twin-engine plane to our shows. Sometimes we had to land in cow pastures. Sometimes we hit severe turbulence that would make the most hardened pilots lose their lunch.  

Jerry had been a medic in the Korean war before being switched to intelligence where he trained soldiers in specialized combat techniques, such as decapitation using piano wire. He flew fighter pilot missions, during one of which he had to crash-land his plane. The plane’s windshield exploded into his face, leaving scars from where tiny pieces of glass had to be extracted. The story goes that he killed one of his own men for being a traitor. When he started Operation Snowball, Jerry was riding ambulance duty in a volunteer rescue squad in Richmond, Virginia when he wasn’t doing television news broadcasts for a local station. He’d later become a radio announcer for WEZS (Easy Listening), while teaching Standard First Aid to police recruits every Tuesday night. I spent more Tuesday nights at the Richmond Police Station than I can remember.

Jerry cared about the Mental Health movement in Virginia. He worked for a Mental Health agency headquartered in one of the most beautiful buildings on Monument Avenue. So it was that we’d pull into the parking lot of Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg in the early afternoon, rush in to a cafeteria area with a stage, and perform for a half hour to war vets and mentally ravaged patients whose suffering was only being exacerbated by abuses they were suffering at the hands of their guards.

Jerry Harmon was a consummate performer. He had a line of patter that was so shiny you could eat off it. “Ice, the only thing in the world that is what it is cracked up to be.” My mom and I were the assistants. I had my “Twiggy and Stumpy” bit that I did where I pulled faces. I wore a Philip Morris-styled outfit with a pill box hat with an elastic cord that wrapped under my chin. It was uncomfortable as hell but this was show business after all.

I don’t have much memory of specific years; they all just blend together. But I have a strong memory of the first time I became aware of just who our audience was. I looked out from the stage at the grinning faces of people who would return to an abyss of sadness the moment we left their facility. I saw a Viet Nam war vet in a wheelchair. The man had no arms or legs. I was probably five or six at the time but I didn’t need anyone to explain to me how or why this poor man had arrived at this sad fate. War. War had robbed this human being of his humanity. Long before I hit puberty, I had an ingrained hatred of war that I carry to this day.

Jerry used a clothes hamper that he had dressed into a snazzy rolling lectern from which he would take out rope, Chinese Linking Rings, and a host of other tricks. KING KARNAK was emblazoned across the front. Jerry was a master at sleight of hand. Billiard Balls were a favorite. The show would climax with Jerry chopping my mom’s head off with a guillotine. Some members of the audience would have to be escorted out of the room before the trick could be completed. The patients would frequently mob us as we made our way to our waiting limo. It was frightening sometimes, but we were already on our way to our next show. We did two or three shows a day for our two-week run.

I’ve since gone down to Richmond looking through microfiche files of the Richmond Times Dispatch and the Richmond News Leader for articles or photos from the Operation Snowball years (1967 to 1976), but I couldn’t find anything. It’s funny to think that I had my introduction to show business at such a young age, but I learned the same fundamental lesson that anyone who dares set foot on the boards does; the show must go on.

I took special pride in bringing a fleeting moment of pleasure to people who had no hope in their lives. Jerry treated Operation Snowball like a military mission that had to be prepared for, executed, and completed. He never got paid a dime for his efforts. He might not have been the best dad, but Jerry was a humanitarian, as evidenced by his actions. Jerry had a huge ego, and was quite the braggart, but I never once heard him brag about Operation Snowball. That was something special. Perhaps someday you'll be able to see and read evidence of it on the internet.

Obama Screwed the DACA Dreamers Before Trump Did — By TED RALL

Colesmithey.comAttorney General Jeff Sessions’ September 5th announcement that the Trump Administration is repealing Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for children brought into the United States illegally marks another political low point for a president who stages his photos so he looks tough “like Churchill” but whose governance is so wobbly and noncommittal that he’s elevated waffling to an artform.

The 800,000 DREAMers, Trump said in November, “shouldn’t be very worried.”

“I love these kids,” Trump said. But the president loves his far-right nativist base more.

You better bet those kids are worried now.

As Barack Obama said after Sessions’ statement: “These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.”

Totally true words.

And, coming from the man who set the stage for Trump’s xenophobic and racist policies with plenty of his own, totally empty.

Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform, including legal protection for the DREAMers, during his 2008 campaign. As president, however, he never tried to make it happen — even in 2009 and 2010, when his Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Republicans went obstructionist on all things Obama after 2010, so a frustrated Obama farted out DACA as an unconstitutional executive order in 2012.

In a typically perverse Democratic attempt to out-Republican the Republicans, Obama became the “Deporter in Chief,” throwing more people out of the United States than all the presidents of the 20th century combined.

Obama’s deportees, he promised us, were criminals. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” Sounded like a reasonable policy. Trouble was, one-size-fits-all legal strictures don’t account for the complexities of real life.

Hundreds of children of Cambodian war refugees were deported “back” to Cambodia — a country they had never seen, where they had no friends or relatives — due to the kind of screw-up privileged whites call “youthful indiscretions” — many under President Obama. “I had no luggage. I had about $150 in my pocket. No possessions at all,” remembers Sophea Phea. “Everything’s in Cambodian and you don’t even know how to write your name in Cambodian,” said Chandara Tep.

“Some don’t make it. We’ve had suicides,” said Bill Herod, who founded a charity in Phnom Penh for U.S. deportees.

They weren’t all angels. But is it really so shocking that the children of survivors of the brutal wars in Southeast Asia — wars whose carnage can in large part be blamed on the United States — might do stupid crap as teenagers? Phea used a stolen credit card; Tep shot a gun in the air during a gang fight. He was 15.

Phea’s son, 13, lives in California with his dad. Mom and son can’t see each other — and that’s because of Obama.

Can’t empathize? Show this article to a friend; he or she likely can. One-third of Americans of working age have a criminal record. Obama smoked pot and snorted cocaineGeorge W. Bushhad a DUI; Dick Cheney had two. Roughly 17% of all Americans (including children and other non-drivers) have a DUI conviction.

Let he who is without self-righteous BS Christian sanctimony cast the first deportation.

Trump and his fellow Republicans’ repugnant decision to expose DREAMers — who, by definition, have clean criminal records — to deportation is a classic example of the peril of the slippery slope. This is what happens when the Left goes to sleep because a Democrat is in the White House.

First Obama came to deport the children who knew no home other than the United States, but we said nothing because they had criminal records (even if they weren’t a big deal and/or referred to crimes that occurred ages ago). Then Trump came for the kids with no criminal record at all, but we said jack because they didn’t happen to have the right immigration documents.

By the time they come for U.S. citizens — you know the rest.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) 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.)

September 04, 2017

Today’s Outrage Is Tomorrow’s Memory By TED RALL

This cartoon came about when I was thinking of ideas related to things Trump has done and said. I thought to myself, why bother? Anything I draw about will be forgotten about in a day or two because of whatever Trump will say or do between now and then. Whether the frenetic pace of activity and outrage is Trump’s personality or the result of a clever stratagem, it seems to be working for now. Who can keep up with this guy?

August 22, 2017

BATES MOTEL — A&E TELEVISION SERIES

Colesmithey.com

If there’s a better executed television series that sustains its tension and narrative drive over 50 episodes, I have yet to discover it. Executive produced by Vera Farmiga, with the capable help of a top notch ensemble of producers, editors, and filmmakers, “Bates Motel” pays off big on its high concept of imagining of events leading up to Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking 1960 horror film, albeit with an essential twist of being updated to our modern era.

Vera Farmiga proves herself one of the most talented and hardworking actresses in the business as Norma Bates, a deeply troubled woman with an all too close relationship to her post-pubescent son Norman (Freddie Highmore).

Colesmithey.com

Set in the fictional town of White Pine Bay, a community fueled by a marijuana industry that the town’s charismatic sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) oversees, the serpentine storyline follows a violent if satisfying path. After the recent [suspicious] death of her husband, Norma relocates with Norman when she buys the coastal Seafairer Motel, which becomes the iconic central location for Norman’s not so gradual decent into psychopathic insanity. 

Colesmithey

Max Thieriot is stellar as Norma’s bastard son Dylan whose trajectory takes its own series of revelatory twists. Nestor Carbonell’s resemblance to a young Anthony Perkins circa 1960 adds to the series’ necessary sense of bizarre simile to the Hitchcock classic.

From its pitch-perfect production and costume designs to its well written arc of ebbing climaxes and violent episodes, “Bates Motel” cooks on all burners. There is no overstating the exquisite performances of the series' ensemble of actors, not the least of which are the impeccable portrayals from Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. This is one high-wire act you have to see to believe. Wow.  

Colesmithey.com

(March 18, 2013 – April 24, 2017) (A+) (Five stars — out of five/no halves)

50 episodes

August 14, 2017

Trouble Boys: The True Adventures of The Replacements — BOOK REVIEW

By Bob Mehr

Colesmithey.comI’ll give it to you straight. If you’re a die-hard Replacements fan, don’t read this book; it will make you hate the band you thought you loved. If, on the other hand, you’re a rubber-necking reader who loves one good car crash after another then strap yourself in for a rough ride with some of the worst people, and unprofessional musicians, you’ll never have to spend any imaginary facetime with. Paul Westerberg comes off as the biggest asshole you’ve never met. That’s saying something considering all the notorious assholes out there. Sure, I suppose G.G. Allen was worse but he had to good graces to die young.

When the book gets around to the Mats meeting Dave Edmunds, one of the band’s heroes from day-one (yes the book’s title comes from a Dave Edmunds song), the British rocker can barely contain himself from kicking all of their asses because he hates them freaking so much. Heavens knows he had good reason. I just wish he had done; someone needed to do it. Far too many people suffered these fools quietly, even if never gladly. Considering Westerberg’s proclivity for religiously fucking up every personal relationship and business opportunity ever put before him, Edmunds should have put this incorrigible fucker out of his misery. Dave Edmunds only gets a couple of sentences in the book, but he’s by far my favorite person in it.

Colesmithey.com

Westerberg comes across as such a consciously uncultured idiot that you’ll want to throw the book across the room. He was famous for saying, “We’re not tourists, we’re touring” as an excuse to never do cultural things like go to the Louvre Museum when the band was in Paris.

There are anecdotes a plenty. When a fan approached Westerberg to gush about how his music changed his life, Westerberg stuck his straw in his coke, filled it, and blew the sticky liquid all over the fan’s face. Classy.

When a fan gave a beautiful handmade bass guitar that he slaved over for months creating to Tommy Stinson, the band’s bass player smashed it to smithereens on stage during their performance and threw the remaining scraps into its creator’s face in the audience. Just wow.     

Author Bob Mehr drank plenty of the Replacements Kool-Aid to be able to describe Paul Westerberg as the “preeminent post-punk songsmith of the ‘80s.” Sure “16 Blue” is a respectable song, and “Alex Chilton” is a catchy pop tune, but nothing in The Replacements’ cannon of Westerberg-penned songs holds a candle to (here we go) Warren Zevon, Iggy Pop, Jonathan Richman, The Damned, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Johnny Thunders, Jim Carroll, Stiv Bators, The Buzzcocks, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, or Robyn Hitchcock. “Preeminent post-punk songsmith” indeed. Sit down and shut up.

I’ll go one better and say that the Replacements never had a lick of style to begin with. Wearing overalls isn’t just bad taste, it’s imbecilic. It was always one of the reasons I was never impressed by the band. Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers looked incredible onstage because the band dressed great and dripped with attitude. Take a look at the cover for D.T.K. and you’ll see what I mean. The Replacements were rarely ever even in tune.

Colesmithey.com

Listen to The Replacements’ “Talent Show” to hear what arrested development sounds like. There’s a huge difference between a brilliant 1983 Jonathan Richman song like “That Summer Feeling” as compared with “Talent Show” from 1989. The Replacements were too busy getting shit-faced drunk and tearing up tour busses and nice rooms to begin to mature as people or as musicians. Even Johnny Thunders, who Westerberg slagged off in his crappy little ditty “Johnny’s Gonna Die” (with a line about Thunders “knows a few chords”) had to suffer an earful from Tommy Stinson about Thunders’ cabaret act with a horn section and a busty backup singer. I saw that Johnny Thunders tour, and it put any show the Mats ever performed to shame. Johnny was a hopeless junkie, but he was 1000 times the entertainer than Westerberg ever was. 

“Trouble Boys: The True Adventures of The Replacements” is well researched if redundant; it could have used another editorial once-over. The band was doomed from the start due to elements of mental illness and Paul Westerberg’s fascination with failure that he imposed on those around him. I’m still happy to hear a Mats song come on my Pandora, but I’m not impressed by their songs anymore. They weren’t merely terminal professional amateurs; the Replacements were just failure-infatuated assholes.

Colesmithey.com

August 07, 2017

Our Obsession with Trump Shows Authoritarianism Has Arrived

Rehost%2F2016%2F11%2F4%2Fb19cc29c-d231-48e9-9cc2-8f450b76b48dBernie Sanders has joined the chorus of politicians and pundits who warn that the U.S. is sliding into authoritarianism under Trump. But he’s kind of wrong about how.

There are indeed reasons to worry that civilian and constitutional rule are giving way to institutional post-democracy. Trump’s cabinet and top White House staff contain enough military generals to give Pakistan a run for its money. Trump’s party controls both the House and Senate yet the president prefers to dash off executive orders rather than making the necessary effort to shepherd legislation through Congress. And of course there’s his police-state rhetoric, like when he “joked” that cops should bash their suspects’ heads into the sides of their squad cars.

But the most reliable indicator of looming authoritarianism can be found in the media, specifically in its obsession with the president.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that 41% of all news stories during the president’s first 100 days were about Trump. That’s three times higher than any other president. Six months in, news outlets still devote hundreds of broadcast hours and thousands of words dissecting 100-character tweets Trump dashed off in seconds at four o’clock in the morning.

Trump has a lot on his plate: healthcare, tax reform, the border wall, Venezuela for some reason. But one story towers above all others in news coverage: the Russia-Trump connection. Fifty-five percent of all stories about Trump on TV network news since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel have been about the Russia probe, according to the conservative Media Research Center.

(Count me among the guilty: as a political cartoonist, it’s hard not to notice that images of Trump garner more clicks than those about climate change. Here I go again, right here in this column.)

Americans are divided along party lines. But Trump has brought us together in one respect: he’s making everyone feel anxious by creating a constant atmosphere of crisis.

The president’s Republican supporters are worried sick that a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy will force Trump out before he can carry out his promises. “BREAKING NEWS! WATCH: Top Republican Issues Warning About ‘Taking Out’ Trump – This Is Terrifying…. ” warns an email blast from TeaParty.org. From the same email: “Establishment RINOs just teamed up with the bloodthirsty Democrats to betray their constituents and keep Obamacare – the DISASTER that is destroying he lives of millions of Americans.”

            These emails hit in boxes of Republican voters at an hourly rate. Here’s another: “Within the darkest, dankest bowels of our government, the Leftist Deep State has nursed its wounds and regathered its might. They’re preparing for another surprise attack. The highest Deep State archons have gone absolutely berserk with gnashing, fist-bleeding, spit-flinging rage.” Terrifying! Given how much effort goes into working them up, it’s amazing how few gun owners go on a shooting spree.

Liberals are going crazy too. “Get Organized to Drive Out the Fascist Trump/Pence Regime. In the Name of Humanity — We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!” urges an email from RefuseFascism.org. “We’re in a crucial moment in history, when the danger of a full-out fascist regime, as we have analyzed, threatens the people all over the world and the planet itself as a viable place for humans and other species to thrive and survive.” Even the bugs are doomed!

No false equivalence here — I’m an unapologetic leftie. The point I’m making here is, everyone is obsessed with Trump, not just the media. And that obsession is a strong clue that the authoritarian era may already be underway.

For 15 years the global embodiment of authoritarian rule was Turkmenistan under former Soviet strongman Saparmurat Niyazov. Like Trump, Niyazov was a quirky megalomaniac who routinely issued executive orders on everything from grandiose construction projects (a vast manmade lake in the world’s hottest desert) to the mundane (a ban on chewing tobacco, ejecting dogs from the capital because of their “unappealing odor”).

Like other visitors to Turkmenistan, I was struck by the ubiquity of Niyazov’s image on currency stamps, statues and posters. But what really made an impression on me was how carefully the Turkmen people studied his every move, both literally and figuratively.

Whenever Niyazov’s motorcade left the presidential palace, the police shut down most streets in Ashkhabat. Motorists carefully tracked his schedule to avoid getting stuck in traffic — or arrested. Because college applicants knew that the president personally reviewed their applications, savvy students sprinkled their essays with quotes from the leader’s book, the Ruhnama. When the Father of All Turkmen let his hair go from dyed to white back to black again, countless thousands of his hapless subjects felt it wise to follow suit.

As in the U.S., where leftist opposition increasingly focuses against the person of Donald J. Trump (as opposed to the systemic oppressions of capitalism and militarism), political opposition in Turkmenistan was directed against Niyazov, the center of the nation’s personality cult. En route to my hotel, my taxi driver pulled over to toss his saved-up household trash over the fence surrounding the presidential palace. Judging from the lawn, he wasn’t the only one.

Prisoners will tell you that serving time safely requires a close watch on guards’ mood swings and shift changes. Survival is part of human nature; studying those with power of life or death over you is key to survival in situations where individual rights are slim to nonexistent.

The U.S government has become increasingly violent, intrusive and capricious since 9/11, brazenly listening to our calls and reading our emails and generally treating individual rights like quaint relics of the past. Obama announced his right to drone-kill Americans on American soil; he and now Trump are even deporting U.S. citizens. The erratic nature of Trump’s personality and policy prescriptions have amplified the sense that Americans, like the Turkmen, had better pay close attention to the man in charge if they want to survive.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) 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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