8 posts categorized "Political Satire"

March 31, 2018


Screen Shot 2021-04-02 at 6.47.03 PM“Chief Zabu” is a fascinating cult comedy for an odd collection of reasons, not the least of which is the punchy comic chemistry that flows between died-in-the-wool New Yorkers Zack Norman and Allen Garfield.

Garfield plays Ben Sydney, a slimy New York real estate developer angling for an economic foothold on Tiburaku, a tiny Polynesian (recently independent) island nation. Ben falls for conman George Dankworth’s (Allan Arbus) pie-in-the-sky promises about an island known for its proximity to French nuclear testing. Naturally, Ben wants to pitch Dankworth’s $5000 buy-in to his pal Sammy (Norman). Dankworth has gone so far as to ship over a phony diplomat Chief Zabu (Manu Yupou) who is supposedly attempting to gain admission of Tiburaku into the United Nations.

Lucianne Buchanan

The comedy is all about tone and irrational gags, as when Sammy has adulterous [loud] sex with an investor’s wife (Lucianne Buchanan) much to the dismay of his neighbors.


“Chief Zabu was completed in 1986 but yanked after negative previews. Nonetheless, for nine years, Zack Norman took out a weekly ad in Variety that featured his face with the line “ZACK NORMAN As SAMMY In “CHIEF ZABU” in the hope of finding a distributor for the movie. It took until 2016 for a newly-edited cut of “Chief Zabu” to be publicly presented. If you ever have a chance to see it, don’t pass it up. Here is a rare comic artifact worth savoring.   


Rated R. 74 mins.

3 Stars

CHIEF ZABU co-writer & co-director Neil Cohen graces the BIG FEAST to talk about William Friedkin's THE FRENCH CONNECTION over a mid-day beer. Naturally, Neil brought along some show-and-tell stuff, including Luis Bunuel's drivers license and gun license! Bon appétit!

Cole and Neil

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Bunuel's Gun LicenseBunuel's Driver's License


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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February 10, 2018


Andrea RiseboroughWhile not as bawdy as it could or should have been, Armando Iannucci’s (director on "In The Loop," scriptwriter on television's "Veep") determinedly British send up of the Russian political structure at the time of Joseph Stalin’s death is a satisfying political spoof.

With no German accents anywhere in earshot, the satire kicks in with Adrian Mcloughlin’s death (as Stalin) while listening to a freshly minted radio recording by Maria Yudina (Olga Kurylenko), a symphony pianist who sends Stalin a hate note along with the vinyl record for the Russian leader to mull over. A puddle of pee surrounds Stalin's [is-he-really-dead] corpse. Not pretty. 


This goofy cinematic vantage on petty jealousies, backstabbing, and political maneuvering of Russia’s Central Committee gives the audience a not so unrealistic sense of how politicians operate regardless of their country of origin.


Jeffrey Tambor is delightfully insufferable as Deputy General Secretary Georgy Malenkov who wrangles to take command of Russia now that Stalin is out of the way. Malenkov has stiff competition in the likes of Lavrentiy Beria (exquisitely cast with Simon Russell Beale), the head of NKVD (Russia’s secret police called the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. Steve Buscemi is predictably watchable as Nikita Khrushchev. Especially delicious is Michael Palin’s turn as Foreign Minister Vyachaslav Molotov. The former Monty Python actor and contributor hasn't lost his razor-sharp comic timing. 

Death of stalin

The Death of Stalin” plays lighter than its subject matter projects. While another trip through the editing process could have helped, this is a movie that audiences will happily discover as time goes by. It doesn’t hurt that the film was banned in Russia. I wish it had been more transgressive to warrant such an action, but it’s got plenty of laughs as it is. Motherland or Home Land, it's all the same. 


Rated R. 106 mins.

3 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

July 15, 2013


The-best-years-of-our-livesThe underlying satirical nature of William Wyler’s post-war paean to American soldiers returning home from World War II lurks throughout this beloved drama.

The winner of nine Academy Awards — including the only time an actor has won two Oscars for the same role — “The Best Years of Our Lives” is such a blatant example of American-produced propaganda that its blunt elements serve opposing purposes to its detailed context of approved social behavior, realities, and identities.

Samuel Goldwyn first commissioned the script from war correspondent MacKinlay Kantor, whose blank verse novella “Glory for Me” informed the finished product — written by Robert E. Sherwood. When Sherwood allows the story’s brimming social subtext to overflow with regularity, the complex scenes strike enduring dissonant chords that contradict every bit of gung-ho nostalgia and political brainwashing that the movie seems to parade.


Each of the film’s ex-military protagonists carries his battle scars differently. Emotionally insecure bombardier Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) disregards his marriage to a local trollop. Rather, Fred woos Peggy (Teresa Wright), the vulnerable daughter of Sargent Al Stephenson, a 40-year-old soldier Derry meets on his way back to the same Midwest town, Boone City. Also present is Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), a Navy man who lost both hands in an explosion. Homer has since mastered use of the hooks that attach from below his elbows.
Economic realities are on prominent display.

Well-off family man Sargent Stephenson takes refuge in alcohol to numb his post-war depression. His patient wife Milly (Myrna Loy) is her husband’s loyal keeper.
Al’s longtime mentor, and bank owner, Mr. Milton (Ray Collins) gives Al a promotion from his former desk job to “vice president in charge of small of loans” — “at a salary of $12,000 a year.” Mr. Milton comes to regret his generosity in light of Al’s favoritism toward fellow veterans with “no collateral.”

Best Years of Our Lives

Al publically breaks company rank at a dinner hosted by Mr. Milton. The inebriated civilian professes love for his bank before representing it as a generous investor “in the future of this country.” During the speech William Wyler keeps the camera on Al with a deep focus on Milly’s telling facial expressions that translate her husband’s intentionality to the other dinner guests. The distraction works, for the film audience at least. Still, Al Sharpton’s days of gainful employment at Cornbelt Trust Company may be numbered.

The scene that scratches the heavily music-queued movie sparks its inciting incident. Fred Derry works as a “soda jerk” at a local department store. A well-dressed gentleman wearing a ring on his left pinky orders a sandwich. Homer stops by for a chocolate sundae. The stranger wants to “ask a personal question.” Homer answers out of turn, giving his well-rehearsed explanation of how he uses his “hooks.” The stranger compliments Homer’s braveness before expressing an unconventional opinion of the war.

“You got plenty of guts. It’s terrible when you see a guy like you that had to sacrifice himself, and for what.”

Homer is confused.

“We let ourselves get sold down the river. We were pushed into war.” The “leftist” at the counter believes that “the Germans and the Japs had nothing against us. They just wanted to fight the Limeys and the Reds.”

The opinionated stranger talks about the American people being “deceived” into war by “radicals” in Washington. 

A fight ensues that directly addresses everything the wounded soldiers have been hiding. They must fight forevermore. 

The Best Years Of Our Lives 2

Not Rated. 168 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)

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