26 posts categorized "Political Satire"

April 03, 2016



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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HailCaesarThe Coens Go A Wandering In McCarthy Era Hollywood And Get Lost

The ever-streaky Joel and Ethan Coen commit a cinematic blunder with a would-be screwball comedy that has all the laughs you can count on one hand.

Lushly composed but disconnected set pieces play out in ‘50s era Hollywood backlot intrigue involving Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, a movie industry “fixer.”

Eddie Mannix is in charge of keeping big budget pictures on schedule and under budget. He also patches up potentially scandalous incidents involving wayward starlets before gossip columnists can get wind of their indiscretions. Mannix has the bearing of a cheesy private investigator who intentionally wears too much cologne. He marks his territory.


Brolin’s modulated performance is in keeping with the comedy’s restrained tone and the film’s lulling tempo but there’s nothing to sink your teeth into.

It says a lot about the film that its most engaging subplot involves cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). The ambitious but woefully unskilled Doyle is cast beyond his acting chops in a romantic period drama being directed by the esteemed British director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). Ehrenreich steals what there is of a movie with abominable line readings drive Ralph Fiennes’s pleasantly articulate director to distraction. Still, the subplot doesn’t pay off. Neither do any of the film’s other narrative detours.


Even Coen-regular George Clooney gets cornered into mediocrity. Clooney plays Baird Whitlock, an A-list star who gets kidnapped away from the sword-and-sandal epic he’s currently working on by a group of blacklisted [communist sympathizing] screenwriters looking to abandon America. Think the Hollywood Ten — Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Ring Lardner Jr. etc.) The nerdy movie writers keep Baird sequestered inside a plush seaside house in Malibu, where he easily falls in with his captors' anti-capitalist ideologies, at least until another script comes along. 


The Coen’s bland use of political satire here is so inept that you can’t decipher what kind of point, if any, they are attempting to make about a [mostly] brave group of blacklisted writers who were sited for contempt of Congress, and lost their once flourishing careers for refusing to answer question about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party. 

“Hail Caesar!” falls into the same dustbin as other Coen Brother cinematic splats that include “Intolerable Cruelty” and “The Ladykillers.” Simultaneously overworked and underdeveloped, here is an unfunny comedy that will leave audiences scratching their heads about the point of so much blind slapstick razzmatazz that goes nowhere. The movie is pretty to look at, and that's about it.

“That’s all folks.”

Rated PG-13. 106 mins. 

1 Star

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 22, 2016



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free 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! Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon


Black_God,_White_DevilIn 1964, when Brazil enjoyed a golden era of culture and musical influence (Bossa Nova), 25-year-old writer/director Glauber Rocha left an indelible mark on international cinema with “Black God, White Devil.”

Following on the heels of his equally dynamic feature debut film “Barravento,” “Black God” redoubled Rocha’s Cinema Novo movement, which carried Rocha’s socially rebellious anti-capitalist and anti-religious beliefs.

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As a founding member of Brazil’s radical left, Rocha espoused the eradication of money while working as a film critic and journalist in his teens. After making this film, Rocha published his “Aesthetic of Hunger,” a socio-political manifesto calling for a revolutionary cinema, that he fulfilled with his next two films (“Terra em Transe” and “Antonio das Mortes”), which combine to form a trilogy.


The Brazilian maverick from Bahia appreciated the works of Luis Bunuel, Jean Luc Goddard, and Roberto Rossellini, whose influence comes through in Rocha’s helter-skelter films. In turn, “Black God, White Devil” inspired a diverse generation of filmmakers from around the globe. Traces of his influence can be found in auteurs as distinctive as Sergio Leone and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

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Fiercely political from beginning to end, the linear narrative follows Manuel (Geraldo Del Rey), a peasant ranch hand, and his downcast wife Rosa (Yona Magalhaes). A drought ravages the arid Sertao outback where Manuel and Rosa struggle to survive during the 1940s. When his cattle rancher boss attempts to cheat him, Manuel kills the brute and goes on the run with Rosa into the hinterlands.


The newly minted outlaw falls under the spell of Sebastiao (Lidio Silva), a bloodthirsty religious leader (a self-decreed saint) who condones violence and human sacrifice. Sebastiao preaches about an imaginary “sacred” island destination where the land and the sky will become one after a rain of gold.

An apocalypse is coming, he promises. Sebastiao adds to his followers with an ongoing procession of intimidation and violence. His goons fire rifles into the air when they pass through sleepy villages. The leader personally attacks the women that he effectively kidnaps. He makes Manuel crawl for miles on his knees while balancing a heavy rock on his head before convincing his loyal subject that Rosa’s newborn infant is the devil, and must be sacrificed. Only blood can cleanse the souls of Sebastiao’s flock. When Sebastiao kills her baby, Rosa takes up the dagger against the charlatan. Now she and Manuel are equals.

Black God, White Devil2

Rocha’s roving handheld camera creates a subjective viewpoint of the remote landscape and the oppressed peasants who are easily exploited by anyone with a gun. Enter Captain Corisco (Othon Bastos), a cangaceiro (a nomadic bandit) to co-opt Manuel’s and Rosa’s quest for freedom, if not salvation. Dressed in a Napoleonic-styled hat bejeweled with coins, Corisco fits the bill of a bandolero-toting cowboy. A church-hired assassin, on a mission to kill Corisco, lurks in the sagebrush of the desolate region.

“Black God, White Devil” is a cinematic call for the audience to reject all political and religious doctrine in favor of an individual liberty at one with nature, something you could call sustainable.




Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free 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! Every bit helps!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

April 26, 2015



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free 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! Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

SHOCKTOBER! reaches a fever climax of terror with Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE for episode #76. Dramatist Phil Holt returns to the podcast to guest co-host this very special Halloween edition with the addition of Brooklyn Brewery's POST ROAD PUMPKIN ALE ! Close the curtains, light some candles and settle in for our scariest episode yet! 

SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on SOUNDCLOUD.  If you're on an ANDROID DEVICE subscribe on STITCHER — TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

Post Road


Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This film’s intimidating title alone was enough to keep weak-kneed audiences away from cinemas and drive-ins back in 1974 when filmmaker Tobe Hooper released what was, at the time, the most intense horror movie ever made.

In the United Kingdom, the picture was banned on principle alone.

Rumors of the film’s notorious chainsaw-wielding Leatherface character, who impales a young woman on a meat hook, a scene revealed in the movie’s promo poster, spread quickly.

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Audiences were afraid of how badly they might be scared – and they had good reason.   

If Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was the premiere slasher movie, Hooper’s film followed that film’s thread to its logical arc of exploitation. Tobe Hooper’s limited budget hardly encumbered the visionary filmmaker’s ability to wring psychological tension from the same pool of inspiration that Hitchcock had used for “Psycho,” namely the notorious Wisconsin grave robber and murderer Ed Gein.

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Hooper baited his film’s hook with a time-honored exploitation trope about the picture being based on a “tragedy” that “befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin.” There are still plenty of people who believe that the murders we witness onscreen are based on real-life killings; they are not.   


Over a black screen we hear the sound of a shovel digging. Camera flashes reveal short visions of fresh corpses. A news broadcast tells of Texas grave robberies. The camera pans down the body of a ripe cadaver holding the head of another while propped up on a tombstone. Dry dust blows across the macabre scene. We are firmly inside an American gothic atmosphere of Grand Guignol gore. A dead bloody armadillo lies facing up on a Texas road.  

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The story’s setup has been ripped off so many times that it now seems rote, but remember, no one had seen anything like it at the time. A group of five white hippie types (three guys and two braless girls) pull their Ford van to the side of the road to allow their wheelchair-bound member Franklin to pee into a coffee can. A big rig rolls by and Franklin goes spilling down the hillside.

Vulnerabilities lurk.

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The group is on their way to visit Franklin’s and his sister Sally’s grandfather’s grave to make sure it isn’t a victim of one of the spate of grave robberies. Driving past a slaughterhouse delivers a pungent stench that disgusts the quintet. Picking up a hitchhiker backfires immediately when the facially disfigured young man passes around snapshots of slaughtered cows before cutting himself with a pocketknife. He soon cuts Franklin’s arm before the group evict him from the van.

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Soon the five are separated while visiting grandpa Hardesty’s disused family home. Little does the group realize that they are next door to the [family of] grave robbers, who also happen to be bloodthirsty killers. 

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Tobe Hooper uses an arsenal of filmic techniques, lighting designs, while an increasingly noisy soundscape (of screams and chainsaw sounds) ratchets up the fear and suspense to a heart-palpitating rhythm of horrific discord.

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Breathtaking Dutch angles Dutch angles and extreme close-ups of images like bones and eyeballs underscore a gothic dinner table scene that takes the cake for sly social commentary and black humor. No matter how many filmmakers have attempted to recreate the all-out insanity of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” very few have come close.   

Rated R. 83 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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