11 posts categorized "Social Satire"

May 11, 2020

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

Sweet Smell of SuccessAlexander Mackendrick (director of “The Ladykillers”) may have been of British descent, but his quick-paced 1957 sardonic drama — about the symbiotic relationship between a decadent Manhattan newspaper showbiz columnist and a hungry press agent — captures America’s indulgence in greed, corruption, and aggression like none other. Drawing on the noir style and subject matter of Billy Wilder’s perfect “Ace in the Hole” (1952) “black political drama” would be a suitable moniker for the dark pitch of cynical social satire that “Sweet Smell of Success” examines, rather than the “film noir” attribution that it frequently attracts. Here lies the defective foundation of the American Dream as viewed from an American viewpoint (Burt Lancaster’s company produced the film).

Sweet smell

The story takes place during a day and a half in the life of its New York City characters. Fey toady press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is in the doghouse with his Walter Winchell-type gossip columnist mentor-and-abuser JJ Hunsecker (emphasis on the second “J”). Mackendrick’s ravenous camera moves through Manhattan’s late '50s Broadway theater district on a nocturnal quest for truth.

Sweetsmellsuccess

According to JJ, the frequently groveling Sidney is not responding quickly enough to JJ’s orders to rev up the rumor mill to break up a hot romance brewing between Hunsecker’s adult sister Susan (Susan Harrison) and a bland jazz guitarist named Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Steve Dallas isn’t exactly the next Tal Farlow on guitar, but he’s earned Susan’s romantic devotion. JJ wants to shut the whole thing down with a smear-job on Steve Dallas that sticks. “Communist” is a convenient accusation. JJ’s incestuous emotions seethe in his sexually impotent [or bound] mind. Sidney is working through an imagined apprenticeship with JJ that he hopes will eventually lead to his mentor’s place. The latent homosexual dominant/submissive subtext that exists between the two men underscores JJ’s impotent but nonetheless incestuous desires for his sister. Trouble in mind; trouble in action.

Lancaster_sweet-smell-of-success

Neither man has an ounce of ethics but both fake morals to mask their true devotion — to power and money. Sidney calls everybody “baby” or “sweetheart” to get what he wants for his master. He sees though JJ regardless of how beholden to him he is. Sidney tells his de facto boss, “JJ, you’ve got such contempt for people it makes you stupid.”

Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.49.49 PM

Based on a novella by former press agent Ernest Lehman (“Sabrina”) and adapted by Clifford Odets, the great leftist poet of Harold Clurman Group Theatre — “Sweet Smell of Success” exists in a self-loathing urban bourgeois stratosphere where a gossip columnist like JJ Hunsecker can make or break a career depending on whether or not he mentioned it in his column.

SweetSmell

Burt Lancaster’s JJ Hunsecker is a nasty master manipulator, but he doesn’t know his limits — and he doesn’t care because he’s been rewarded so much and so long for his ruthless tactics. He’s irresponsible. JJ’s capacious power has blinded everyone, including him. Still, his days are numbered.

Cocosse | Journal: Flick Review < Sweet Smell of Success | Alexander  Mackendrick (1957)

Neither the antagonist (JJ) nor the film’s (purposefully) falsely represented protagonist (Sidney) has any redeeming traits. They suffer ongoing degrees of retribution, but each will carry on in the prescribed despicable methods to which each is accustomed.

Sweet smell

“Sweet Smell of Success” flopped at the box office. It is in Time Magazine’s list as one of the top movies of all time.

Not Rated. 96 mins.

5 Stars

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.

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October 11, 2019

PARASITE

ParasiteCannes film festival favorite Bong Joon-ho (“The Host” and “Mother”) is a gifted Korean satirist with an international sensibility for the many ways that capitalist oppression operates against citizens. You don’t need to know a thing about the social mores of South Korea to empathize with a lower class family infiltrating a wealthy family’s home in the guise of private tutors, a personal driver, and a maid. This is a familial interloper movie on a Robert Altman narrative scale.

Parasite

If Americans feign condescension for welfare recipients, that knee-jerk class-aware prejudice is indisputably promoted through our capitalist propaganda that runs the gambit from movies, commercials, podcasts, news broadcasts, and from the oh-so-vocal (if inarticulate) editorial voices played on radio stations and online.

Parasite4

If there’s one thing the filmmakers here know, it’s that you can never underestimate people in control of their own minds. So it is that our entrepreneurial family of domestic interlopers make do in their ghetto basement hovel by folding pizza boxes to make their daily living. The Kim family fight an ongoing battle with bums who pee in their window sills. Yelling isn’t always the best option.

Parasite3

The family’s son Kim Ki-woo (persuasively played by Woo-sik Choi) learns from his college student pal about a family named Park in need of an English tutor for their teenage daughter Da-Hye (Jung Ziso). Ki-woo’s sister Kim Ki-jung (So-dam Park) employs advanced computer graphic skills to create a fake college diploma to assist in his job quest. Dog eat dog social-climbing strategies take hold. Behavioral skills are honed to a diamond edge as the Kim family work their way into the Park family household one by one.  

Parasite2

Bong Joon-ho deftly shifts perspectives between the characters, enabling the audience to digest the story’s themes of alienation with different motivations in mind. Some are more noble than others. “Parasite” is an evocative title for an onion-layered filmic essay about our (humanity’s) place in social systems that reward corruption and punish poverty in not so equal measure. Every house holds secrets that can send the whole thing crashing down at any moment. If you come out of this movie thinking that the capitalist system is the invisible parasite of the story, you just might be on to something.   

Parasite5

"Parasite" is a loving homage to interloper films such as Claude Chabrol's elegant "La Cérémonie" and Fred Schepisi's terrific adaptation of "Six Degrees of Separation." Suspense, danger, and humor are equal parts of the equation. No wonder "Parasite" won the 2019 Palme d'Or at Cannes, the film clearly deserved the honor.

Parasite-movie-set

Rated R. 132 mins.

Five Stars

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

December 04, 2018

THE AMERICAN MEME

American_memeBert Marcus’s third documentary gives a brief window into the potentially self-destructive effects of social media celebrity culture as indivertibly birthed by poor little rich girl Paris Hilton. Marcus reminds audiences that Kim Kardashian started out as Hilton’s personal assistant before kicking off her own cult of celebrity with a leaked sex tape that arrived four years after Hilton’s sex tape.  

Social media is “like a drug; we don’t know what the side effects are going to be 20 years from now.” What we do know is that privacy is dead, along with every other great social institution Americans once took for granted. Millennials couldn’t care less.

Netflixable? Documentary explores the history of “The American Meme” |  Movie Nation

What’s missing from this documentary is any historical context about how people such as Napster founders (Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker), and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, contributed to creating a bottom-of-the-barrel economy built on people willing to sell their souls for pennies on social media platforms such as Vine and YouTube.

Slavery to the corporate machine of social media platforms comes in many forms. America no longer has any legitimate media outlets because these companies all now cater to a clickbait formula that ignores editorial responsibility for their meager existence. Groupthink and popularity are all that matter. A dissection of the economics behind social media’s stranglehold on corporate media, and on the lives of thousands of YouTubers, would have been an appropriate addition to this film.  

The American Meme

Josh Ostrovsky (a.k.a. the fatjewish), Brittany Furlan, DJ Khaled, and Kirill (“Was Here”) Bichutsky are the other social media personalities that Marcus interviews and examines as examples of people who spend every waking minute seeking fame and fortune from the lowest common denominators of clickbait mentality. Creating endless scenes of topless girls receiving champagne facials at nightclubs is where it’s at for Kirill. The film’s “celebrities” share one thing in common, these are lonely people seeking approval and validation from a mob of fans who care only about themselves.

The American Meme | FilmInk

The Hilton Hotel granddaughter is arguably the least compelling of the bunch. We watch as Paris goes through her childhood doll collection with her mother Kathy, a woman whose arrested development roughly matches that of her daughter. If ever there was an example of vapid beauty, Paris Hilton is the poster-girl for it. We listen as Hilton prattles on about how her top was pulled down for “one-second” during a photo shoot for Vanity Fair that launched her famous-for-being-famous career that has led to her becoming a DJ, and launching an endless product line of merchandise. Paris Hilton overload sets in. Cute is, after all, a dime a dozen. Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame be damned.

Brittany Furlan

Brittany Furlan’s tale of Vine success exemplifies a small town comic actress who rose to fame for making humorous six-second video clips before Twitter inexplicably shut the service down. The filmmakers shed no light on the fractious relationship between content creators and the concealed corporate machinations that hold these people’s fate in their hands. As many people have discovered the hard way, you can pour your entire life into creating a brand for a platform such as Vine only to have the rug pulled out from under you without notice.

BGN Film Review: 'The American Meme' – Black Girl Nerds

Ironically, Furlan wins her escape from the clutches of the social media rabbit hole via rock drummer Tommy Lee whose own career received a significant boost from a notorious sex tape involving Pamela Anderson. There is something tragically fitting about Furlan taking up a romantic relationship with a wealthy musician 30 years her senior.  

The American Meme' Review on Netflix: Stream it or Skip It?

In a bumbling manner “The American Meme” exposes the hollowness of social media platforms that chew up people’s lives in the interest of likes and follows. We get a glimpse of the collapse of social media that will take many lives with it in one way or another. The film poses a significant if silent question, what is left after you put your entire persona on display for the internet to comment on, critique, and masturbate over?

Netflix's The American Meme Examines the Effects of Fame – The Torch

All the money in the world won’t help you then, for you have sold your soul to capitalism’s demons; there is no way to ever get it back.  

Not rated. 90 mins. 

Three Stars

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

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