10 posts categorized "Political Satire"

March 10, 2016

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

COLE SMITHEY

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Whiskey-tango-foxtrot“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (a.k.a. WTF) is such a bizarre title for a movie that it seems unlikely audiences will flock to see Hollywood’s first good film of 2016. I’ve seen it twice for good reason. Tina Fey blows the doors off this baby. So does the ensemble. Martin Freeman (as war photographer Iain MacKelpie), Christopher Abbott (as Afghan fixer Fahim), and Billy Bob Thornton (as a Marine General) contribute mightily to the film’s artistic success. Sure it's American white lady propaganda. You know that going in.

Screen Shot 2022-03-18 at 6.02.20 PM

It’s a telling coincidence that the real Kim Barker, upon whose book “The Taliban Shuffle” this film is based, once described herself as “a Tina-Fey type. The heavens were listening. Fey got wind of it and optioned the book before teaming up with co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa to take a running start at Robert Carlock’s seamless adaptation of Barker’s book.

If anything, the movie is paced too evenly. It's missing a dramatic centerpiece, but pushes through on the inertia if its wealth of well observed details. 

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The movie squanders a potential key sequence that would show how Kim Barker handles herself alone. As fits the Hollywood formula a man, who represents her knight in shining armor, saves a drunken Kim from an unknown alley in the darkness of night. Can’t win ‘em all. This is a sign of how far Hollywood is willing to go in promoting an unapologetically feminist character; she needs a man to save her even if she manages to return the favor.

Episodic in form, and contained in mainly medium and close-up shots, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” blends America’s pointless Afghan war, comedy, intersecting political and cultural mores, with a thematically meaningful romantic thread. The nuanced tone of the movie is reflected in a military rescue mission that occurs at Dutch angles of blue and green lighting to the strains of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.” The action is stylized to fit the genre, and the moment.

Whiskeytangofoxtrot

One of the film’s clearest themes states that gender doesn’t matter much; we all become products of our environment. In Kabul, “sex with strangers in restaurant bathrooms” comes with the territory for foreign journalists, and their bodyguards, regardless of whether they are men or women, much less pretty or average looking.

Screen Shot 2022-03-18 at 6.02.47 PM

Once leaving her relatively sheltered life in the States, Kim Barker embraces her wartime environment in the “Ka-bubble” of Afghanistan. A watershed event occurs during her first embed outing. Her Humvee’s bulletproof windshield absorbs the first bullet fired by a group of angry Afghan warriors. Without missing a beat Kim jumps outside to videotape the action as she shadows an American marine like a monkey on his back. Her bravery (or professional rashness) earns her an “Oo Ra” from Billy Bob’s General Hollanek. Later, when Kim explains the reason that Marine-built wells keep being destroyed in a tiny village, we see a woman speaking truth to power in a way that has never before been shown in cinema. 

The disorienting storyline spans more than three years, during which time the fearless Baker becomes a battle-tested war journo looking for her next adrenaline fix. So much so that her Afghan fixer Fahim is compelled to read her the riot act over her irrational actions of late. Kim Barker hasn’t had much cultural sensitivity training.

Tina-Fey-Margot-Robbie

Kim gets a brief, and comical, introduction to Afghanistan from the first Western woman she meets, television reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (played by the impossibly lovely Australian Margot Robbie). Tanya hates to be “rude,” but just has to ask Kim for permission to have sex with Kim’s supposedly New Zealand-born bodyguard Nic. Kim gives her consent. She’s only thinking of her boyfriend back in New York. Still, Tanya encourages Kim to share in the practice of shagging your peers. When Kim demurs, Tanya blurts out the unthinkable, “Talk to me in two months when you pussy’s eating your leg.”

Normally I wouldn’t spoil a joke, but trust me; you’ll still laugh when you hear it. The irreverent zinger reflects the film’s precise use of coded ways that journalists, military officers, security forces, and afghan civilians and military communicate. When Alfred Molina's Afghan bureaucrat Ali Massoud Sadiq says he wants Kim to be his "special friend," we know what he means. 

Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot2

The movie explicitly addresses American media’s nonexistent coverage of the war in Afghanistan during a meeting between Kim and Geri Taub (Cherry Jones), the head of the network that funds her reporting. Geri blames it on the public’s lack of interest in the war rather than even pretend to have an editorial mind of her own. The economic signal is clear. War is money, but the media can’t sit at the big table to profit from it anymore.

“The Navy says Who Ya, the Marines say Oo Ra; don’t mix them up.”

Rated R. 112 mins.

4 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

March 30, 2013

STRAP-ON

Patty

Long Live Patty Hearst!

Trashmeister writer/director John Waters takes ironic comedy and social commentary to an all-time sleazy low in his new movie “Strap-On.” Waters deviates from his Baltimore roots to urban and rural areas of Afghanistan where Maya Stain (played by former SLA member Patty Hearst) fights for SOC (Socialism Over Capitalism), a left wing mercenary group caught in a cross-fire between Taliban fighters, the Mujahideen, American troops and desperate civilians. Hearst might be pushing 60, but she still knows how to handle a machine gun. You will never want to see another movie after seeing this one, and you won’t want to see this one again.

As the group’s gutsy feminist leader, Stain wears an 18-inch, neon-blue strap-on to symbolize her authority and to distract her enemies. The ploy works. Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS has nothing on Stain. At times Stain is content to keep the bulge inside her camouflage fatigues, but for most of the film, Stain allows the large member and its flesh-burning, squirting acid to protrude from her pants in a permanent semi-erect state.

YGK's Strap on bitch - Femdom POV - Young Goddess Kim | Modelhub.com

Waters views the mercenary lifestyle as fodder for social camp. He satirizes the Afghanistan military and social structure of the country while also poking fun at things like their public bathrooms, which consist of a well from which the user must hang on a rope with a piece of wood as a half-seat. There is a scene where the strap-on-wielding Stain throws a knife into the back of a Tajikistan military officer, sending him down into the dung-filled hole, giving Stain the opportunity to lean back and roar like a banshee in devilish delight. Her victim is indeed left "stained."

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However most of the film’s violence is directed at America’s private military firms. The SOC’s primary targets are private military contractors, i.e. rival mercenaries. “Strap-On” takes no prisoners. Stain’s torture of U.S. soldier — using her preferred method of violent personal intrusion — makes anything in “Zero Dark Thirty” pale by comparison. Think snuff-movie.

Tatyana (played by British comedienne Tracy Ulman) is an Uzbekistan national that Stain takes as a hostage during one of the SOC’s hostile take-overs of an American military facility. The movie really gets going when Tatyana, a cross between Deborah Harry and Hillary Clinton, becomes romantically-involved with Stain after the dust has settled. A wild pornographic lesbian love scene involves Tatyana singing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” while Stain pounds her from behind like a steam locomotive.

Strap-on

Waters’s “movie” satirizes death, sex, torture, weapons, military officials, the Taliban and the universal phallic obsession of all soldiers. “Strap-On” is yet another reminder that America has gone past the point of no return and dragged the rest of the world down with it. Just as America’s ethics have gone down the toilet, its films have followed suit. The stain cannot be contained. Cinema is dead. 

Rated R. 157 mins.

3 Stars

APRIL FOOLS!

COLE SMITHEY

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

February 11, 2013

NO

NoAgit-Flop
Pablo Larrain’s Pinochet Trilogy Loses Substance

Gael Garcia Bernal’s television adman-turned-political-commercial-creator Rene Saavedra is such an ethically ambiguous and passive protagonist that “No” falls flat as a piece of wannabe agitprop cinema. Director Pablo Larrain continues his ongoing study of Pinochet-ruled '70s-era Chile — behind “Tony Manero” (2008) and “Post Mortem” (2010) with an airy statement about the power of the television commercial formula. This lackluster film is based on a stage play, “Referendum” by Antonio Skarmeta.

Rene is the fence-sitting son of a famous Chilean dissident exiled after the C.I.A. assassinates democratically elected President Salvador Allende in a coup, leading to the rise of Augusto Pinochet, a brutal despot. The terrible treatment his father endured has cowed Rene into utter submission under a corrupt system he can barely begin to fathom.

Dictatorial governance begets dictatorial interpersonal relations. After leaving his job making television soft drink commercials, Rene takes on the personality of mini-tyrant over his creative team, which is assigned to design and produce a 15-minute political segment capable of convincing the public to vote “no” against Pinochet in an upcoming referendum.

Pinochet's goons deploy various intimidation tactics against Rene and his staff. Even Rene’s separated wife and son come under attack from the dictator's relentless crew of thugs. Still, nothing polarizes the cowardly Rene into any action beyond the immediate demands of his job. He’s a corporate shill married more to keeping his weekly paycheck than to standing up and fighting when the situation demands it.

While the film’s production standards are high, the narrative is as unsatisfying as they come. It’s impossible to empathize with a protagonist who lacks balls. Rene Saavedra is one of the most impotent examples of a freedom fighter you'll find anywhere in cinema. With friends like this, leftists don’t need more enemies.

Rated R. 110 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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