41 posts categorized "Politics"

September 05, 2018

TED RALL BY TED RALL

Ted Rall

August 28, 2018

John McCain Knew the Difference Between Right and Wrong. He Chose Wrong.

During the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, I wrote a syndicated opinion column about John McCain, who then seemed likely to emerge as the GOP nominee. As Americans assess McCain’s life and legacy, this ten-year-old assessment still holds up. Bear in mind, this was written before some of McCain’s more egregious warmongering, such as his attempts to stir up U.S. military attacks against Iran, Syria and Russia, not to mention his decision to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Mccain-palin

Puffing Up John McCain, POW
by Ted Rall
February 5, 2008

“A proven leader, and a man of integrity,” the New York Post called John McCain in its editorial endorsement. “A naval aviator shot down over North Vietnam and held as a POW, McCain knew that freedom was his for the taking. All he had to do was denounce his country. He refused–and, as a consequence, suffered years of unrelenting torture.”

This standard summary of McCain’s five and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton, repeated in thousands of media accounts during his 2000 campaign and again this election year, is the founding myth of his political career. The tale of John McCain, War Hero prompts a lot of people turned off by his politics–liberals and traditional conservatives alike–to support him. Who cares that he “doesn’t really understand economics”? He’s got a great story to tell.

Scratch the surface of McCain’s captivity narrative, however, and a funny thing happens: his heroism blows away like the rust from a vintage POW bracelet.

In the fall of 1967 McCain was flying bombing runs over North Vietnam from the U.S.S. Oriskany, an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. On October 26, the 31-year-old pilot was part of a 20-plane squadron assigned to destroy infrastructure in the North Vietnamese capital. He flew his A-4 Skyhawk over downtown Hanoi toward his target, a power plant. As he pulled up after releasing his bombs, his fighter jet was hit by a surface-to-air missile. A wing came off. McCain’s plane plunged into Truc Bach Lake.

Mai Van On, a 50-year-old resident of Hanoi, watch the crash and left the safety of his air-raid shelter to rescue him. Other Vietnamese tried to stop him. “Why do you want to go out and rescue our enemy?” they yelled. Ignoring his countrymen, On grabbed a pole and swam to the spot where McCain’s plane had gone down in 16 feet of water. McCain had managed to free himself from the wrecked plane but was stuck underwater, ensnared by his parachute. On used his pole to untangle the ropes and pull the semi-conscious pilot to the surface. McCain was in bad shape, having broken his arm and a leg in several places.

McCain is lucky the locals didn’t finish him off. U.S. bombs had killed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, many in Hanoi. Ultimately between one and two million innocents would be shredded, impaled, blown to bits and dissolved by American bombs. Now that one of their tormentors had fallen into their hands, they had a rare chance to get even. “About 40 people were standing there,” On later recalled. “They were about to rush him with their fists and stones. I asked them not to kill him. He was beaten for a while before I could stop them.” He was turned over to local policemen, who transferred him to the military.

What if one of the hijackers who destroyed the World Trade Center had somehow crash-landed in the Hudson River? How long would he have lasted? Would anyone have risked his life to rescue him?

An impolite question: If a war is immoral, can those who fight in it–even those who demonstrate courage–be heroes? If the answer is yes, was Reagan wrong to honor the SS buried at Bitburg? No less than Iraq, Vietnam was an undeclared, illegal war of aggression that did nothing to keep America safe. Tens of millions of Americans felt that way. Millions marched against the war; tens of thousands of young men fled the country to avoid the draft. McCain, on the other hand, volunteered.

McCain knew that what he was doing was wrong. Three months before he fell into that Hanoi lake, he barely survived when his fellow sailors accidentally fired a missile at his plane while it was getting ready to take off from his ship. The blast set off bombs and ordnance across the deck of the aircraft carrier. The conflagration, which took 24 hours to bring under control, killed 132 sailors. A few days later, a shaken McCain told a New York Times reporter in Saigon: “Now that I’ve seen what the bombs and the napalm did to the people on our ship, I’m not so sure that I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam.”

Yet he did.

“I am a war criminal,” McCain said on “60 Minutes” in 1997. “I bombed innocent women and children.” Although it came too late to save the Vietnamese he’d killed 30 years earlier, it was a brave statement. Nevertheless, he smiles agreeably as he hears himself described as a “war hero” as he arrives at rallies in a bus marked “No Surrender.”

McCain’s tragic flaw: He knows the right thing. He often sets out to do the right thing. But he doesn’t follow through. We saw McCain’s weak character in 2000, when the Bush campaign defeated him in the crucial South Carolina primary by smearing his family. Placing his presidential ambitions first, he swallowed his pride, set aside his honor, and campaigned for Bush against Al Gore. It came up again in 2005, when McCain used his POW experience as a POW to convince Congress to pass, and Bush to sign, a law outlawing torture of detainees at Guantánamo and other camps. But when Bush issued one of his infamous “signing statements” giving himself the right to continue torturing–in effect, negating McCain’s law–he remained silent, sucking up to Bush again.

McCain’s North Vietnamese captors demanded that he confess to war crimes. “Every two hours,” according to a 2007 profile in the Arizona Republic, “one guard would hold McCain while two others beat him. They kept it up for four days…His right leg, injured when he was shot down, was horribly swollen. A guard yanked him to his feet and threw him down. His left arm smashed against a bucket and broke again.”

McCain later recalled that he was at the point of suicide. But he was no Jean Moulin, the French Resistance leader who refused to talk under torture, and killed himself. According to “The Nightingale’s Song,” a book by Robert Timberg, “[McCain] looked at the louvered cell window high above his head, then at the small stool in the room.” He took off his dark blue prison shirt, rolled it like a rope, draped one end over his shoulder near his neck, began feeding the other end through the louvers.” He was too slow. A guard entered and pulled him away from the window.

I’ve never been tortured. I have no idea what I’d do. Of course, I’d like to think that I could resist or at least commit suicide before giving up information. Odds are, however, that I’d crack. Most people do. And so did McCain. “I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate,” McCain wrote in his confession. “I almost died and the Vietnamese people saved my life, thanks to the doctors.”

It wasn’t the first time McCain broke under pressure. After his capture, wrote the Republic, “He was placed in a cell and told he would not receive any medical treatment until he gave military information. McCain refused and was beaten unconscious. On the fourth day, two guards entered McCain’s cell. One pulled back the blanket to reveal McCain’s injured knee. ‘It was about the size, shape and color of a football,’ McCain recalled. Fearful of blood poisoning that would lead to death, McCain told his captors he would talk if they took him to a hospital.”

McCain has always been truthful about his behavior as a POW, but he has been more than willing to allow others to lie on his behalf. “A proven leader, and a man of integrity,” The New York Post says, and he’s happy to take it. “All he had to do was denounce his country. He refused…” Not really. He did denounce his country. But he didn’t demand a retraction.

It’s the old tragic flaw: McCain knows what he ought to do. He starts to do the right thing. But John McCain is a weak man who puts his career goals first.

Later that year, I reminded readers that there was nothing honorable about the Vietnam War:

Every presidential candidacy relies on a myth. Reagan was a great communicator; Clinton felt your pain. Both storylines were ridiculous. But rarely are the constructs used to market a party nominee as transparent or as fictional as those we’re being asked to swallow in 2008.

On the left–OK, not–we have Barack Obama. “The best orator of his generation!” says Ed Rendell, the Democratic power broker who has a day job as governor of Pennsylvania. “The best orator since Cicero!” Republican strategist Mary Matalin swoons. No doubt, Obama reads a mean speech. Take his Teleprompter away, though, and the dude is as lost as George Bush at a semiotics class. Forced to answer reporters’ questions off the cuff, Obama is so afraid of messing up that he…carefully…spaces…each…word…apart…so…he…can…see…them…coming…wayyy…in…advance.

Still more laughable than the notion of Obama as the second coming of JFK is the founding myth of the McCain campaign: (a) he is a war hero, and (b) said heroism increases his credibility on national security issues. “A Vietnam hero and national security pro,” The New York Times calls him in a typical media blandishment.

John McCain fought in Vietnam. There was nothing noble, much less heroic, about fighting in that war.

Some Americans may be suffering another of the periodic attacks of national amnesia that prevent us from honestly assessing our place in the world and its history, but others recall the truth about Vietnam: it was a disastrous, unjustifiable mess that anyone with an ounce of sense was against at the time.

Between one and two million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans were sent to their deaths by a succession of presidents and Congresses–fed to the flames of greed, hubris, and stupidity. The event used to justify starting the war–the Tonkin Gulf “incident”–never happened. The Vietnam War’s ideological foundation, the mantra cited to keep it going, was disproved after we lost. No Southeast Asian “dominos” fell to communism. To the contrary, the effect of the U.S. withdrawal was increased stability. When genocide broke out in neighboring Cambodia in the late 1970s, it was not the U.S., but a unified Vietnamese army–the evil communists–who stopped it.

Not even General Wesley Clark, shot four times in Vietnam, is allowed to question the McCain-as-war-hero narrative. “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president,” he argued. The Obama campaign, which sells its surrogates down the river with alarming regularity, promptly hung the former NATO commander out to dry: “Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark.”

Even in an article criticizing the media for repeatedly framing McCain as a war hero, the liberal website Media Matters concedes: “McCain is, after all, a war hero; everybody agrees about that.”

Not everyone.

I was 12 when the last U.S. occupation troops fled Saigon. I remember how I–and most Americans–felt at the time.

We were relieved.

By the end of Nixon’s first term most people had turned against the war. Gallup polls taken in 1971 found that about 70 percent of Americans thought sending troops to Vietnam had been a mistake. Some believed it was immoral; others considered it unwinnable.

Since then, the political center has shifted right. We’ve seen the Reagan Revolution, Clinton’s Democratic centrism, and Bush’s post-9/11 flirtation with neo-McCarthyite fascism. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Americans–including Republicans–still think we should never have fought the Vietnam War.

“After the war’s 1975 conclusion,” Michael Tomasky wrote in The American Prospect in 2004, “Gallup has asked the question (“Did the U.S. make a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam?”) five times, in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1995, and 2000. All five times…respondents were consistent in calling the war a mistake by a margin of more than 2 to 1: by 74 percent to 22 percent in 1990, for example, and by 69 percent to 24 percent in 2000.”

Moreover, Tomasky continued, “vast majorities continue to call the war ‘unjust.'” Even in 2004, after 9/11, 62 percent considered the war unjust. Only 33 percent still thought it was morally justified.

Vietnam was an illegal, undeclared war of aggression. Can those who fought in that immoral war really be heroes? This question appeared settled after Reagan visited a cemetery for Nazi soldiers, including members of the SS, at Bitburg, West Germany in 1985. “Those young men,” claimed Reagan, “are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”

Americans didn’t buy it. Reagan’s poll numbers, typically between 60 and 65 percent at the time, plunged to 41 percent after the visit. Those who fight for an evil cause receive no praise.

So why is the McCain-as-war-hero myth so hard to unravel? By most accounts, John McCain demonstrated courage as a P.O.W., most notably by refusing his captors’ offer of early release. But that doesn’t make him a hero.

Hell, McCain isn’t even a victim.

At a time when more than a fourth of all combat troops in Vietnam were forcibly drafted (the actual victims), McCain volunteered to drop napalm on “gooks” (his term, not mine). He could have waited to see if his number came up in the draft lottery. Like Bush, he could have used family connections to weasel out of it. Finally, he could have joined the 100,000 draft-eligible males–true heroes, to a man–who went to Canada rather than kill people in a war that was plainly wrong.

When McCain was shot down during his 23rd bombing sortie, he was happily shooting up a civilian neighborhood in the middle of a major city. Vietnamese locals beat him when they pulled him out of a local lake; yeah, that must have sucked. But I can’t help think of what would have happened to Mohammed Atta had he somehow wound up alive on a lower Manhattan street on 9/11. How long would he have lasted?

Maybe he would have made it. I don’t know. But I do know this: no one would ever have considered him a war hero.

May 19, 2018

CANNES 2018 AWARDS COMPLETE

COMPETITION

SHOPLIFTERS

Palme d’Or: “Shoplifters,” Hirokazu Kore-eda

Grand Prix: BlacKkKlansman,” Spike Lee

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

Actor: Marcello Fonte, ”Dogman”

Actress: Samal Yeslyamova, “Ayka”

Jury Prize: Nadine Labaki, “Capernaum”

Screenplay — TIE: Alice Rohrwacher, “Happy as Lazzaro” AND Jafar Panahi, Nader Saeivar, “3 Faces”

Special Palme d’Or: Jean-Luc Godard

OTHER PRIZES

Girls

Camera d’Or: “Girl,” Lukas Dhont

Short Films Palme d’Or: “All These Creatures,” Charles Williams

Short Films Special Mention: “On the Border,” Shujun Wei

Golden Eye Documentary Prize: TBA

Ecumenical Jury Prize: “Capernaum,” Nadine Labaki

Ecumenical Jury Special Mention: “BlacKkKlansman,” Spike Lee

Queer Palm: “Girl,” Lukas Dhont

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Border

Un Certain Regard Award: Ali Abbasi, “Border”

Best Director: Sergei Loznitsa, “Donbass”

Best Performance: Victor Polster, “Girl”

Best Screenplay: Meryem Benm’Barek, “Sofia”

Special Jury Prize: João Salaviza & Renée Nader Messora, “The Dead and the Others”

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

Climax

Art Cinema Award: “Climax” (Gaspar Noé)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “The Trouble With You” (Pierre Salvadori)

Europa Cinemas Label: “Lucia’s Grace (Gianni Zanasi)

Illy Short Film Award: “Skip Day” (Patrick Bresnan, Ivete Lucas)

CRITICS’ WEEK

Diamantino

Grand Prize: “Diamantino” (Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Woman at War” (Benedikt Erlingsson)

GAN Foundation Award for Distribution: “Sir”

Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award: Felix Maritaud, “Sauvage.”

Short Film: “Hector Malot – The Last Day Of The Year” (Jacqueline Lentzou)

FIPRESCI

Burning-Lee-Chang-dong

Competition: “Burning,” (Lee Chang-dong)

Un Certain Regard: “Girl,” (Lukas Dhont)

Directors’ Fortnight/Critics’ Week: “One Day” (Zsófa Szilagyi)

CINÉFONDATION

Electric-lion

First Prize: “The Summer of the Electric Lion,” Diego Céspedes

Second Prize — TIE: “Calendar,” Igor Poplauhin AND “The Storms in Our Blood,” Shen Di

Third Prize: “Inanimate,” Lucia Bulgheroni

April 18, 2018

Jury of the 71st Festival de Cannes

Jury of the 71st Festival de Cannes

Jury of the 71st Festival de Cannes © RR

Facing a renewed Competition which presents filmmakers who will compete for the first time, the Jury of the next edition of the Festival de Cannes (8-19 May 2018) invites 5 women, 4 men, 7 nationalities and 5 continents under the presidency of Cate Blanchett.

The Jury will reveal his prize list on Saturday, May 19 during the Closing Ceremony.

THE JURY 2018

Cate Blanchett – President
(Australian actress, producer)

Chang Chen
(Chinese Actor)

Ava DuVernay
(American writer, director, producer)

Robert Guédiguian
(French director, writer, producer)

Khadja Nin
(Burundian songwriter, composer, singer)

Léa Seydoux
(French actress)

Kristen Stewart
(American actress)

Denis Villeneuve
(Canadian director, writer)

Andrey Zvyagintsev
(Russian director, writer)

Chang Chen – Chinese Actor
Chang Chen made his film debut in the late Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day. He rose to fame in the Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000. His film credits include Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together (1997), 2046 (2004), The Grandmaster (2013), Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times (2005) and The Assassin (2015), Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Go Master (2006) John Woo’s Red Cliff (2008-2009), The Last Supper directed by Lu Chuan (2012). In 2017, he returned for Yang Lu’s film Brotherhood of Blades II and recently played in Forever young by Fangfang Li.

Ava DuVernay - American Writer, Director, Producer
Nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe and winner of the BAFTA and EMMY, Ava DuVernay is a writer, director, producer and film distributor known for the historical drama Selma (2014), the criminal justice documentary 13TH (2016) and the recent Disney’s cinematic adaptation of the classic children’s novel A wrinkle in Time. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's Best Director Prize for her film Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay amplifies the work of people of color and women directors through her film collective ARRAY.

Robert Guédiguian – French Director, writer, producer
The work of Robert Guédiguian, an activist filmmaker, celebrates the city of Marseille where he grew up. Acclaimed by critics when he first started directing in the 80s, he met public success with Marius and Jeannette, which won the Prix Louis-Delluc in 1997. His film credits include Marie-Jo et ses deux amours (2002) Le Promeneur du Champ de Mars (2004), Le Voyage en Arménie (2007), Lady Jane (2008), L’armée du crime (2009)The Snows of Kilimanjaro (2011). His latest film in date, The House by the Sea (2017), received enthusiastic response from critics and audience.

Khadja Nin – Burundian Songwriter, composer, singer
Youngest of a family of eight Khadja Nin studied music at an early age, before leaving Africa to go to Europe. Her albums are a mix of occidental popmusic, African and afro-cuban rhythms. She gained wide recognition and success with « Sambolera Mayi Son ». “Ya…” (“From me to you”) is a wonderful tribute to Mandela and the video of her song “Mama” was directed by Jeanne Moreau. International Artist, she became a Unicef and ACP Observatory on Migration Good Will Ambassador. She was awarded the Prize “Prix de l’Action Feminine” by the African Women’s League in 2016. She has been committed to support ordinary heroes.

Léa Seydoux – French Actress
Rising to fame with Christophe Honoré's The Beautiful Person in 2008, Léa Seydoux is an award-winning actress, notably the Palme d’or for Abdelatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Colour in 2013. She successfully alternates between author and mainstream films. Her film credits include Rebecca Zlotowski's Dear Prudence and Grand Central, Benoît Jacquot's FarewellMy Queen and Diary of a Chambermaid, Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, Sam Mendes' Spectre, Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster and Xavier Dolan's It’s Only the End of the World.

Kristen Stewart – American Actress
Kristen Stewart has been playing roles since an early age and received widespread recognition in 2008 for The Twilight Saga film series (2008–12). Her film credit includes Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Equals by Drake Doremus (2015), Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ang Lee (2016), and several Festival de Cannes Selections On the Road by Walter Salles (2012), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016) both by Olivier Assayas (2014) as well as Café Society by Woody Allen. She directed her first short film Come Swim in 2017.

Denis Villeneuve – Canadian director, writer
Internationally renowned and recently two-time Academy Award winner for Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve made his debut at the National Film Board of Canada in the early 90's. His first feature, Un 32 août sur terre (1998) was invited to Cannes. He returned there with Next Floor (2008), Polytechnique (2009) and the Oscar nominated Sicario (2015). In 2010 Incendies was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. In 2017, Arrival was nominated for 8 Oscars and 9 BAFTAs, including best movie and best director.

Andreï Zvyagintsev – Russian Director, writer
Multi-award winning filmmaker Andreï Zvyagintsev has already become one of the most respected directors in Russian and international cinema. He directed his first feature film in 2003 The Return which won him a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. He has continued to write and direct award-winning feature films The Banishment (2007), Elena(2011) and Leviathan (2014). His most recent film Loveless won the Jury Prize at the Festival de Cannes 2017, and was among the nominees at the Golden Globe and 90thAcademy Awards.

March 06, 2018

Divide and Conquer — Why Does the U.S. Hate Peace?

Give peace a chance, the song urges.  Rall

But the United States won’t have it.

Olympic diplomacy seems to be working on the Korean peninsula. After a pair of South Korean envoys visited Pyongyang, they issued a promising communiqué. “The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” the statement said. Considering that the Korean crisis and a derpy emergency management official had Hawaiians jumping down manholes a few months ago, this news comes as a relief.

Then comes the rub. The South Korean statement continued: “[North Korea] made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed [my emphasis].”

In other words, the DPRK is saying — reasonably — we’ll get rid of our nukes but only if you promise not to invade us. That guarantee would have to be issued by two countries: South Korea and the United States.

This would directly contradict long-standing U.S. foreign policy, which clearly and repeatedly states that the use of military force is always on the table when we don’t get our way in an international dispute.

Kim Jong-On has good reasons to be afraid of us. In a speech to the UN President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. President George W. Bush declared them a member of the “Axis of Evil”; we invaded and currently occupy Iraq, one of the two other supposed Evildoers. After deposing and enabling the execution of Iraq’s president. Last week Bush’s UN ambassador John Bolton published a legal argument for nuking North Korea without provocation.

Believe it or not, this is the soft side of U.S. foreign policy.

For decades South Korea has tried to deescalate its relationship with the North, not infrequently expressing its desire to end formal hostilities, which legally never ended after the Korean War, and move toward the long-term goal of a united Korea under a single government. And for decades the United States has stood in the way, awkwardly trying to look reasonable as it opposes peace. “We do not seek to accelerate reunification,” a State Department spokesman said recently.

To say the least.

“South-North talks are inextricably related to North Korea-United States relations,” South Korean President Kim Dae Jung said in 2001, after Bush canceled dialogue with the North. The South, dependent on more than 20,000 U.S. troops stationed along its northern border, was forced to suspend reunification talks too.

The Reagan Administration pressured its South Korean ally to break off reunification talks in 1985.

Nixon did the same thing in 1974. After Nixon’s resignation later that year, President Gerald Ford opposed a UN resolution to demilitarize the border by withdrawing U.S. troops.

Even Mr. Reasonable, Barack Obama, refused to listen to South Koreans who want peace (and to visit long-lost relatives in North Korea). Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, Obama threatened to loose the dogs of war: “The United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always. That is what we do.” What Obama would not do was allow North and South Korea to sit down and work out their differences. Before talks, Obama said, North Korea would have to denuclearize. After which, of course, there would be no need for talks because, hey, regime change is fun!

Why, a sane person might ask at this point, would U.S. policymakers want to risk World War III over two countries that repeatedly say they want to make peace and get back together?

For my money, a 2007 analysis by the geopolitical thinktank Stratfor comes closest to explaining what’s really going on inside the Beltway: “The basic global situation can be described simply. The United States has overwhelming power. It is using that power to try to prevent the emergence of any competing powers. It is therefore constantly engaged in interventions on a political, economic and military level. The rest of the world is seeking to limit and control the United States. No nation can do it alone, and therefore there is a constant attempt to create coalitions to contain the United States. So far, these coalitions have tended to fail, because potential members can be leveraged out of the coalition by American threats or incentives.”

The U.S. is the Great Global Disruptor. “As powers emerge, the United States follows a three-stage program. First, provide aid to weaker powers to contain and undermine emerging hegemons. Second, create more formal arrangements with these powers. Finally, if necessary, send relatively small numbers of U.S. troops to Eurasia to block major powers and destabilize regions.” For example, Iran is the emerging hegemon in the Middle East. The U.S. undermines Iran with trade sanctions, props up rivals like Saudi Arabia with aid, and deploys U.S. troops next door in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Similarly the U.S. keeps China off-balance by propping up Taiwan and setting up new U.S. bases in the region. We play India against Pakistan, Europe against Russia.

A united Korea would create a new power center, potentially a new economic rival, to the U.S. in the Pacific Rim. So the U.S. uses threats (“totally destroy”) against the North and incentivizes the South (free border security).

It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so sick. Here’s to the day the two Koreas see through us.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

March 05, 2018

The 2018 Academy Award Winners — Full List

Oscars

Best Picture: "The Shape of Water" 

Director: Guillermo del Toro —"The Shape of Water"

Actor: Gary Oldman — "Darkest Hour" 

Actress: Frances McDormand — "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" 

Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell —"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"   

Supporting Actress: Allison Janney "I, Tonya" 

Original Screenplay: "Get Out" 

Adapted Screenplay: "Call Me By Your Name"

Foreign Language Film: "A Fantastic Woman" 

Animated Feature: "Coco" 

Visual Effects: "Blade Runner 2049"

Film Editing: "Dunkirk" 

Animated Short: "Dear Basketball" 

Live Action Short: "The Silent Child" 

Documentary Short: "Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405"  

Score: "The Shape of Water"

Song: "Remember Me" from "Coco" 

Production Design: "The Shape of Water" 

Cinematography: "Blade Runner 2049"

Costume Design: "Phantom Thread"

Makeup and Hairstyling: "Darkest Hour" 

Documentary Feature: "Icarus" 

Sound Editing: "Dunkirk" 

Sound Mixing:"Dunkirk"

February 10, 2018

Why Do the Democrats Take Trump’s Trolling Lying Down?

TrumpThis is advice for the Democrats. Democrats never take my advice. So why do I keep giving it to them?

These “what Democrats ought to do” columns aren’t really for the Democratic Party leadership. They’re for you, dear left-of-center reader. I’m explaining what the Dems should be doing and comparing it to what they’re actually doing. That gap between what makes sense and what is going on, I hope you’ll conclude, is so big that we should declare the Democratic Party dead and gone. Giving up on the Dems is important.

The Left will never roll up its sleeves and start building a genuine alternative to the current system until it stops trying, somehow, to take over or sway the Distracticats.

This week, I’d like to showcase the stunning ineptitude of the Democrats’ communications strategy.

There are many examples to choose from, but lately I have been marveling at Democratic leaders’ wimpiness in the face of the president’s Twitter-trolling.

On November 28, 2017, Trump tweeted: “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi canceled their scheduled meeting with Trump. “Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell and (House Speaker Paul) Ryan to meet this afternoon.”

Morons!

Schumer and Pelosi were right to cancel — but not because of Trump’s stated pessimism about arriving at an agreement. They should have canceled because Trump insulted them. “Chuck and Nancy”? Really?

As Frederick Douglass said, people naturally have contempt for a person who won’t stand up for himself. Schumer and Pelosi should have fought back. They should have refused to let Trump big-dog them.

They could have taken the high road: “Until the President learns to address us politely, like an adult, using our proper titles and names — Senator Schumer, Representative Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader Pelosi — we Democrats will have no communications with him whatsoever.”

Or they could have gone the Ted Rall route: “We’re sorry, silly fat Orange Donald, that your mother didn’t raise you properly. Until you delete your Twitter account, apologize on TV and sign a contract agreeing to never darken social media again — oh, and no pussy grabbing either — you can go f— yourself.

Either way, they’d have to mean it. That would mean no more meetings, no more tolerating the president’s wanton rudeness. Total obstruction.

I know. It ain’t gonna happen. Democratic leaders obviously believe that they risk debasing themselves if they lower themselves to Trump’s rhetorical level. What they don’t get is that Trump is a bully. The only way to deal with a bully is with shock-and-awe brutality.

The debasement follows the insult. Your decision not to climb into the gutter with the bullying idiot may seem admirable — “when they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama said — but it allows your tormentor to cast you as a coward. When you allow the bully to insult you over and over and over, as Trump does to his enemies, you tacitly endorse their insults. Why, otherwise, do you tolerate disrespect?

Or, to look at it another way, consider why Trump’s fans love him. They love him because he “says it like it is,” doesn’t take prisoners, doesn’t mince words. One person’s lack of impulse control is another’s courage. Imagine, if a progressive were as rude and aggressive as Trump, how exciting that would be?

On January 26, 2018, Trump was back at it — not that he ever took a break. “DACA has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!” Trump tweeted.

Imagine you were Chuck Schumer. You’re a U.S. senator. He’s been in Congress since 1974, when Trump was still making his name refusing to rent apartments to black people. Why, you might ask yourself, should I put up with this patak who dares to give me a ridiculous nickname?

Four days later, here was Schumer, calling him “President Trump” and “the President.” WTF?

Schumer and the Democrats won’t even defend themselves. Do you seriously think they’ll lift a finger for you and me?

By Ted Rall

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

February 07, 2018

What if #MeToo Held Capitalist Predators to Account Too?

The #MeToo Movement has held sexual predators in positions of power who abuse that power to account. Wouldn’t it be nice to also see a similar movement holding predatory capitalists, most of whose victims are women, similarly to account?

January 30, 2018

FEBRUARY PROGRAMMING ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL ON FILMSTRUCK!

       
 
Includes 100 years of Olympic Glory, Night of the Living Dead,
Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, and Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday!
 
Thursday, February 1st
The Great Escape*
Based on the true story of an elaborately coordinated attempt to break out of a Nazi POW camp, John Sturges's The Great Escape is one of the most rousing adventure films of all time, anchored by Steve McQueen's rebellious turn as "Cooler King" Captain Virgil Hilts. Featuring a powerful ensemble that includes Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, the film pulses with the humor of the prisoners' camaraderie and the relentless suspense of their plan. Never released on DVD or Blu-ray, this 1993 Criterion laserdisc edition includes a long-unavailable commentary featuring Sturges, composer Elmer Bernstein, production manager and second-unit director Robert E. Relyea, stuntman Bud Ekins, and film historian Bruce Eder.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, February 2nd
Friday Night Double Feature: The Front Page* and His Girl Friday

These two whiplash-fast newsroom comedies are based on Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur's 1928 stage hit The Front Page. Lewis Milestone scooped the story in 1931, directing a faithful adaptation that stars Adolphe Menjou as the cutthroat editor Walter Burns and Pat O'Brien as Hildy Johnson, his star reporter. The film is presented in its recently restored American version, Milestone's preferred cut. Nearly a decade later, Howard Hawks turned the play inside-out: in 1940's His Girl Friday, Hildy Johnson became a woman (Rosalind Russell), and Cary Grant's Burns is not only her editor but her ex-husband-making the film one of Hollywood's most irresistible comedies of remarriage.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, February 2nd
Olympic Glory*

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. This selection gathers eleven films from the box set, offering a sampler of the history of the Games across continents and decades. Among the highlights in the program are landmark documentaries by some of the world's greatest filmmakers, including Leni Riefenstahl (Olympia); Kon Ichikawa (Tokyo Olympiad); Milos Forman, Claude Lelouch, Arthur Penn, and John Schlesinger (Visions of Eight); and Carlos Saura (Marathon).

Monday, February 5th
Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France

Spurned first by the French New Wave iconoclasts as belonging to the "tradition of quality" and later for the extremist political views their director embraced as a member of the right-wing National Front, Claude Autant-Lara's wartime films are rarely seen today. These four romances, produced during the dark days of the German occupation, are fueled by a slyly subversive voice and exquisite visual sense, and showcase the formidable talents of two of his closest collaborators. The charmingly impetuous Odette Joyeux sparkles at the height of her stardom in a quartet of protofeminist roles, crafted by screenwriter Jean Aurenche, who injects a strain of progressive social criticism that managed to evade the Nazi censors. Also noteworthy is the first screen appearance of Jacques Tati, in Autant-Lara's most popular and technically innovative success, Sylvie et le fantôme. These long unavailable gems deserve to be better known, if only as a record of some of the most talented film artists in France, working at the height of their powers during one of the most perilous periods in twentieth-century history.

Tuesday, February 6th
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Five Miles Out* and Life Is Sweet

Andrew Haigh and Mike Leigh, two of British cinema's sharpest observers of character, turn their attention to the close and sometimes painful bonds of sisterhood. Haigh's 2009 short reveals the volcanic emotions that lurk beneath everyday scenes, centering on a girl who is sent on vacation with her cousins but remains preoccupied with her hospital-bound sister back home. An international breakthrough for Leigh, Life Is Sweet is an intimate portrait of a working-class family with twin daughters who couldn't be more different: the bookish plumber Natalie (Claire Skinner) and the bulimic, ill-tempered Nicola (Jane Horrocks). Jim Broadbent and Alison Steadman exude warmth as the girls' parents, and Stephen Rea, David Thewlis, and Timothy Spall deliver winning performances as the eccentrics who orbit the family unit. The edition of Life Is Sweet is accompanied by an audio commentary by Leigh.
 
Wednesday, February 7th
Sweet Smell of Success: Edition #555

In this swift, cynical film by Alexander Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster stars as the vicious Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco, the unprincipled press agent Hunsecker ropes into smearing the up-and-coming jazz musician romancing his beloved sister. Featuring deliciously unsavory dialogue, in an acid, brilliantly structured script by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, and noirish neon cityscapes from Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe, Sweet Smell of Success is a cracklingly cruel dispatch from the kill-or-be-killed wilds of 1950s Manhattan. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a 1986 documentary about Mackendrick, a 1973 documentary about Howe, a video interview with film critic and historian Neal Gabler, and more.

Friday, February 9th
Friday Night Double Feature: The Misfits and The Harder They Fall

These two swan songs herald the end of the Hollywood star system with a nearly mythical sense of finality. John Huston's The Misfits features the last performances of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and their costar Montgomery Clift would only appear in three more movies before dying at forty-five. Scripted by Monroe's husband Arthur Miller, the Nevada-set film sets the actress's inimitable mix of sensuality and vulnerability against the world-weary alienation of three hardened men, played by Gable, Clift, and Eli Wallach. Humphrey Bogart's last film, The Harder They Fall, stars the legendary actor as a down-on-his-luck sportswriter who gets roped into a scam by a fast-talking promoter (Rod Steiger) lining up fixed fights for a talentless (and clueless) Argentine heavyweight. Bogart would die less than a year after the film's premiere, and his understated portrayal of a reluctant hustler makes for a rich contrast with Steiger's Method-informed bluster, marking a shift in the tides of American film acting.
 
Tuesday, February 13
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist and The Emperor Jones

Courageously outspoken and wildly talented, Paul Robeson was one of the most commanding performers of his time. As a singer, actor, athlete, and activist, he broke barriers in Jim Crow-era America, campaigning for social justice and striving to reshape the public's idea of who a black man could be. Saul J. Turell's Oscar-winning documentary short, narrated by Sidney Poitier, traces the evolution of Robeson's career using a series of his performances of "Ol' Man River," a song that took on layers of meaning over time. That booming voice made its first appearance in sound cinema in The Emperor Jones, a 1933 adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play about a Pullman porter who muscles his way to power on a Caribbean island. Though the fearsome Brutus Jones may not have been the type of stereotype-busting role that Robeson hoped to bring to the screen, the character made him the first African-American leading man in mainstream cinema.

Tuesday, February 13th
Night of the Living Dead*: Edition #909

Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget by a band of self-taught filmmakers, horror master George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead is a great story of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. A deceptively simple tale of a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse who find themselves fending off a horde of recently dead, flesh-eating ghouls, Romero's claustrophobic vision of a late-1960s America literally tearing itself apart rewrote the rules of the horror genre, combined gruesome gore with acute social commentary, and quietly broke ground by casting a black actor (Duane Jones) in its lead role. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, Night of the Living Dead is back. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Night of Anubis, a never-before-presented work-print edit of the film; a program featuring filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez; a never-before-seen 16 mm dailies reel; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, February 14th
In the Mood for Love: Edition #147

At once delicately mannered and visually extravagant, Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Loveis a masterful evocation of romantic longing and fleeting moments. In 1960s Hong Kong, Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite-until a discovery about their spouses creates an intimate bond between them. With its aching musical soundtrack and exquisitely abstract cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin, this film has been a major stylistic influence on the past decade of cinema, and is a milestone in Wong's redoubtable career. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary on the making of the film; Hua yang de nian hua (2000), a short film by Wong; Toronto International Film Festival press conference from 2000, with Cheung and Leung; and more.

Thursday, February 15th
The Red Balloon and The Black Balloon

Floating from midcentury Paris to contemporary Manhattan, these two portraits of urban life breathe a whimsical sensibility into a particular inanimate item. In Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon (1956), a boy embarks on a series of adventures with an inflatable-yet sentient-companion. A gritty variation on that beloved classic, Josh and Benny Safdie's The Black Balloon (2012) follows the stray object of the title on an odyssey through the streets of the filmmakers' native New York City.
 
Friday, February 16th
Friday Night Double Feature: A Slave of Love and Knight Without Armor

The Russian Civil War provides the roiling backdrop for these two sweeping romantic adventures. Nikita Mikhalkov's A Slave of Love (1976) tells the tale of a silent-film star who falls for a Bolshevik on set. Jacques Feyder's Knight Without Armor (1937) revolves around a British spy posing as a revolutionary (Robert Donat) and the countess whom he loves and seeks to save (Marlene Dietrich).
 
Tuesday, February 20th
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Bluebeard* and Bluebeard

A classic fairy tale, read two ways. With his colorful claymation short Bluebeard (1938), Jean Painlevé departed from the nature filmmaking that was his specialty, giving a playful charge to the dark story of a young wife and her murderous new husband. For her 2009 adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic fable, French director Catherine Breillat keyed into the material's more provocative elements, using the fable to explore her perennial themes of sex, power, and sisterhood.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, February 21
Frances Ha*: Edition #681

A leading contender for this year's best director Oscar, Greta Gerwig delivered one of her most enchanting performances as Frances, a woman in her late twenties in contemporary New York trying to sort out her ambitions, her finances, and, above all, her intimate but shifting bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Meticulously directed by Noah Baumbach with a free-and-easy vibe reminiscent of the French New Wave's most spirited films, and written by Baumbach and Gerwig with an effortless combination of sweetness and wit, Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next. This wry and sparkling city romance is a testament to the ongoing vitality of independent American cinema. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a conversation between filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Baumbach; a conversation between actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley and the film's cowriter and star, Greta Gerwig; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.

Wednesday, February 21st
Festival*: Edition #892

Before Woodstock and Monterey Pop, there was Festival. From 1963 through 1966, Murray Lerner visited the annual Newport Folk Festival to document a thriving, idealistic musical movement as it reached its peak as a popular phenomenon. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, the Staple Singers, Pete Seeger, Son House, and Peter, Paul and Mary were just a few of the legends who shared the stage at Newport, treating audiences to a range of folk music that encompassed the genre's roots in blues, country, and gospel as well as its newer flirtations with rock and roll. Shooting in gorgeous black and white, Lerner juxtaposes performances with snapshot interviews with artists and their fans, weaving footage from four years of the festival into an intimate record of a pivotal time in music-and in American culture at large. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary about the making of the film; a selection of unreleased performances by Clarence Ashley, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Cotten, John Lee Hooker, Odetta, and Tom Paxton; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Thursday, February 22nd
Four Luis Buñuel Editions

One of cinema's great subversives, Luis Buñuel spent nearly half a century taking aim at a number of humankind's most cherished orthodoxies. This month, we're presenting editions of four of his late-career French films, which plunge into the surreal and satirical. A ribald deconstruction of contemporary and traditional views on Catholicism, 1969's The Milky Way(Criterion Collection Edition #402) inaugurated what Buñuel saw as a trilogy about "the search for truth." That cycle's next two films, the absurdist masterpieces The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (#102) and The Phantom of Liberty (#290), take place at high-society gatherings disrupted by absurd occurrences, revealing the hypocrisy of conventional morality and the arbitrariness of social arrangements. Buñuel's final film, 1977's That Obscure Object of Desire (#143), is a dizzying game of sexual politics that brings full circle the director's lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Supplements in this program include a documentary about Buñuel's life and work, and a video with Jean-Claude Carrière.

Friday, February 23rd
Friday Night Double Feature: Birdman of Alcatraz and Down by Law

Get a glimpse of life behind bars in John Frankenheimer's 1962 drama Birdman of Alcatraz and Jim Jarmusch's 1986 misfit "neo-Beat noir comedy" Down by Law. Featuring a powerful performance by Burt Lancaster, Frankenheimer's film is one of the blueprints of the prison movie, telling the story of a convicted murderer who, after developing an affinity for birds while in prison, goes on to become a distinguished ornithologist. Jarmusch's sophomore feature turns that blueprint on its head, bringing together Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni for an idiosyncratic tale about a Louisiana prison break that leads to a dreamlike adventure.

Monday, February 26
Observations on Film Art No. 16: The Darkness of War in Wooden Crosses

Raymond Bernard's 1932 masterpiece Wooden Crosses, often referred to as France's All Quiet on the Western Front, is one of the most poignant films to envision the horrors of combat during World War I. Widely celebrated for its lavishly expensive and realistic reconstruction of life in the trenches, the film is also remarkable for the subtlety of Bernard's techniques. For this month's episode of Observations on Film Art, a Channel-exclusive series that takes a look at how great filmmakers use cinematic devices and conventions, film-studies scholar Kristin Thompson explores how Wooden Crosses combines the brutality of other war dramas of its era with a lyricism all its own, achieved largely through the film's exquisite use of lighting.

Tuesday, February 27
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Nadja in Paris and Breathless

Two French New Wave titans find inspiration in the experiences of young American women studying abroad in Paris. In his 1964 short Nadja in Paris, Rohmer teams up for the first time with the great cinematographer Néstor Almendros, observing the everyday comings and goings of an exchange student discovering the city while writing her thesis on Marcel Proust. In his landmark 1960 debut feature, Breathless, Godard pays tribute to American gangster movies with a jazzy tale of a criminal who becomes romantically involved with an American student (the incandescent Jean Seberg) living in Paris.
 
Tuesday, February 27
4 by Agnès Varda: Edition #418

Agnès Varda used the skills she honed early in her career as a photographer to create some of the most nuanced, thought-provoking films of the past fifty years. She is widely believed to have presaged the French New Wave with her first film, La Pointe Courte, long before creating one of the movement's benchmarks, Cléo from 5 to 7. Later, with Le bonheur and Vagabond, Varda further shook up art-house audiences, challenging bourgeois codes with her inscrutable characters and offering effortlessly beautiful compositions and editing. Now working largely as a documentarian, Varda remains one of the essential cinematic poets of our time and a true visionary. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: video interviews with Varda; excerpts from a 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Varda discusses her early career; a documentary about the making of Cléo from 5 to 7; and more.
 
Wednesday, February 28
Adventures in Moviegoing with Megan Abbott

An award-winning novelist and a writer for David Simon's HBO drama The Deuce, Megan Abbott joins film critic Michael Sragow to talk about her precocious filmgoing life, beginning with her family trips to the revival house in her hometown of Grosse Point, Michigan, where she first fell in love with the speed, grit, and thump of crime films like The Public Enemy. She also remembers her epiphany seeing Blue Velvet, which revealed a hidden world and new dimensions to an American suburb like her own. For the program that accompanies the interview, Abbott has picked a slate of films that echo that revelation in different ways, including Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss, as well as movies like Blood Simple, which reflects her ongoing obsessions with film noir, and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which she regards as a breakthrough treatment of female adolescence.
 
---
 
Complete list of films premiering on the Criterion Channel this month:

February 1
Tropical Malady, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005
Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010
Cemetery of Splendor, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015
The Great Escape, John Sturges, 1963
 
February 2
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations, Leni Riefenstahl, 1938
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty, Leni Riefenstahl, 1938
Tokyo Olympiad, Kon Ichikawa, 1965
13 Days in France, Claude Lelouch, 1968
Visions of Eight, Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Yuri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, Mai Zetterling, 1973
White Rock, Tony Maylam, 1977
16 Days of Glory, Bud Greenspan, 1986
Marathon, Carlos Saura, 1993
The Front Page, Lewis Milestone, 1931 
The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm, 1912, Adrian Wood, 2016 
White Vertigo, Giorgio Ferroni, 1956
February 5
Lettres d'amour, Claude Autant-Lara, 1942
 
February 6
Five Miles Out, Andrew Haigh, 2009
 
February 13
Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero, 1968
 
February 20
Bluebeard, Jean Painlevé, 1938
 
February 21
Festival, Murray Lerner, 1967
Francis Ha, Noah Baumbach, 2013
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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.

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December 29, 2017

Lost Opportunities for Women: Sexism Sucks, But Blame Capitalism More By Ted Rall

Harvey_weinstein_1280_gettyimages-452960956One of the points many women have made since the beginning of the current national discussion about sexual assault and harassment has been that sexism and misogyny have cost women countless opportunities to achieve their full potential. Probably because this began with Harvey Weinstein, much of the mourning of opportunity costs focused on Hollywood: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd mentioned her reaction to research she did on the topic: “I got more and more angry as I realized that these women were being systematically excluded based on ridiculous biases.”

It’s an excellent, long-overdue point: Who could possibly count how many brilliant women have been denied high-profile roles as actors and directors and studio executives as the result of the studios’ toxic “casting couch” culture? How much great insight and entertainment have the rest of us, including men, lost because we have been denied the full expression of women censored because they refused to sleep with some nasty executive?

Outside the world of entertainment, might cancer have been cured had more women been encouraged to enter a STEM career?

At the same time, there are many other forms of discrimination that have similar effects, yet they’re so hardwired into the system that we don’t give them much thought.

Most of these tragic cases of human underachievement are the direct result of economic discrimination. There is the guy who would be a great poet if not for the fact that he grew up in rural West Virginia and his parents were poor and uneducated so it never occurred to them to point him towards a career that, had they heard of it, would seem useless and impossible to turn into a viable means of making a living — which, because they were poor, was the only thing they could think about.

There is the woman working as a cashier in the Bronx who might have gone to Yale if she had been granted a scholarship or had been born into a wealthy family, the woman who would have created an amazing computer company had the sexist pigs who compose Silicon Valley’s V.C. class given her pitch a fair hearing, the girl of color sitting in class in a rundown elementary school whose horizons have become a sinkhole thanks to mere demographics.

You can turn this around and look at it from the other side as well. Think of all the profiles you’ve read about an actor who scored his big break due to pure happenstance (as opposed to talent). You may have such a story yourself. If you think about it, though, the random lucky break is not a heartwarming confirmation that the universe provides what you need. Those breaks are few and far-between. The terrifying truth is that most people who deserve them never get them — and that sucks. It reflects the arbitrary and capricious nature of a system that barely pretends to be a smidge of a meritocracy.

I feel luckier than most. Even so, there are many things that I was never able to do simply because I didn’t have enough money: attend the college of my choice, study the major of my choice, join the Peace Corps, take a gap year and travel through Europe, get knee surgery, accept an internship, attend the grad school that accepted me but didn’t offer me financial aid, start a small newspaper, tell a jerky boss to go to hell. I doubt that many people reading this would have trouble composing an even longer list of things they would have liked to do, places they would have liked to see, businesses they would have liked to start, all out of reach due to a lack of funds.

Aside from stifling our dreams and crushing our ambitions, our cult of capitalism denies us the broad-based political debate that might solve many of our most pressing problems. Due to the pro-corporate, right-wing political bias of the mainstream media, all the left-wing ideas that never get expressed in the opinion pages and society are denied distribution, meaning that they never get discussed. For example, antiwar voices are never allowed space in major newspapers, radio news broadcasts, or on television. Surely that rigid censorship has something to do with the fact that the United States has constantly been at war since the American Revolution. When is the last time you heard a politician or pundit argue that we ought to spend more on mitigating climate change than we do on the military?

Capitalism is presented as an ideology that allows people to fulfill their ambitions and make the most of themselves, but in reality it’s exactly the opposite: it constrains people to what they can achieve based upon what’s in their bank account or in their parents’ estate. So the United States has been one of the least socially mobile societies in the industrialized world for quite some time (and it’s getting worse) but most Americans don’t have a clue. This caste system also applies to everyone. Even under a construct of systematic sexism and misogyny, a wealthy woman enjoys far more opportunity than a poor man.

This is not to say that women don’t have every right to rage against men, or to understate the validity of women’s complaints about male misdeeds ranging from contempt to physical assault. The sexual assault and harassment discussion is yet another reminder that the fundamental underlying cause of the problem is power and its inevitable abuse.

It has long been a standard argument of feminists that the world would be a better place if women were in charge.

Certainly more women should be in charge: exactly 50% of the people in charge ought to be women. But we need to look beyond sexism to understand the meta root cause behind unjustly (and foolishly) squandering countless human potential. Whether that waste is directly attributable to discrimination based upon race, gender, or some other factor, it will continue as long as we live in a society whose foundation relies upon the disgusting assumption that only those who can afford it have the right to be everything that they can be.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. 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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