“Once War, Inc. makes its points about the outsourcing of war with all the attendant grotesqueries, it largely runs out of steam and a sloppy melodrama takes over.
“For all of its foibles, the film does tap into the deep feelings of large numbers of people, furious about American corporations that ruthlessly throw their weight around all over the world, and the demise of the US Constitution and open advocacy of torture by the political elite. It also testifies to the failings of the left-liberal milieu, which despite certain misgivings and criticisms, always finds itself running with the political pack of wolves who abet those they so despise. The pack we refer to is the Democratic Party and its apologists and hangers-on.
“In the end, War, Inc is a sometimes lacerating, but highly uneven, protest against the ever-expanding American war machine.”
John Cusack: Bypassing the Corporate Media by Joshua Holland: “Cusack’s anti-war polemic, War, Inc., continues to defy expectations, despite the traditional media’s dismissive reception.”
From Democracy Now!:
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, John Cusack, obviously you’re dealing with weighty and tragic situations, but you’ve chosen satire. Why the satire approach, did you feel was necessary?
JOHN CUSACK: Well, I think, you know, all satire or absurdism does is take current trends to the logical conclusion, you know, if you follow it a couple weeks or a couple years down the road. And some would argue, I think rightfully so, that we’re already there.
War Inc. magnifies that which we already know and that which we are being forced to play along with…. Think for a moment of the real-life desert of the real that we live in. The Bush administration and their paid proxies, for example, attack those who disagree with them on the Iraq war as not supporting our soldiers. The term “irony” is not remotely strong enough to convey the horror of this rhetoric given that it is pouring out of the mouths of the very people who have lied to and exploited the troops, our troops. The same people – the Bush administration and their proxies – sent thousands of US soldiers to their death through willful lies and abandoned the broken rest to a hell-hole wasteland of medical neglect -have the arrogance to actually lecture us on supporting the troops. Worse still, the corporate press echoes these same talking points. Yet we see right through all of this, don’t we? It goes in circles and never stops. Is this not excruciatingly absurd? How does one find the logic of this chaos and maintain some semblance of sanity?
There is a scene in War Inc., which quite literally takes this perverted propaganda and puts it on stage in the form of a chorus-line of women whose legs have been amputated. Watching them kick up their metal prosthetic legs all the while smiling in thanks to the fictional defense contractor who has made their dance possible is bone-chilling. Yes, I laughed at the absurdity, but a sort of nervous laughter because crying long seized to relieve the tension. This scene captures perfectly that which we know about the twisted way in which the crimes of the Bush administration have actually hurt our troops and turns inside-out the talking points of the corporate press, directly aiming the sewage back against its origin.
From “Torturing Iron Man: The Strange Reversals of a Pentagon Blockbuster” by Nick Turse:
“Liberal Hollywood” is a favorite whipping-boy of right-wingers who suppose the town and its signature industry are ever-at-work undermining the U.S. military. In reality, the military has been deeply involved with the film industry since the Silent Era. Today, however, the ad hoc arrangements of the past have been replaced by a full-scale one-stop shop, occupying a floor of a Los Angeles office building. There, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense itself have established entertainment liaison offices to help ensure that Hollywood makes movies the military way.
What they have to trade, especially when it comes to blockbuster films, is access to high-tech, tax-payer funded, otherwise unavailable gear. What they get in return is usually the right to alter or shape scripts to suit their needs. If you want to see the fruits of this relationship in action, all you need to do is head down to your local multiplex. Chances are that Iron Man — the latest military-entertainment masterpiece — is playing on a couple of screens.
In the Orwellian world of U.S. politics, often it takes artists to say the truth that otherwise can’t be said – or heard. Stanley Kubrick brought home the reality of militarism and the madness of U.S. nuclear doctrine in Dr. Strangelove as no nonfiction work of the time could. Sidney Lumet’s Network did the same for the corporate takeover of our culture. Today, John Cusack’s War, Inc. fires a similar shot across the bow of our tortured political discourse.
War, Inc. is a Swiftian allegory of the world not as it might be in some possible future but as it is today, with a performance from Ben Kingsley as memorable as Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove. (It also features a deconstruction by Hilary Duff of her own fame and our twisted, sexist culture that has to be seen to be believed.) The film is scathing, farsighted, bold, and truer than nonfiction. Cusack and the stellar cast of War, Inc. don’t blink. War, Inc. takes inside the world of war profiteers, war makers, embedded journalists, mercenaries, entertainment moguls, and “disaster capitalists” (as Naomi Klein has called them) who form the interlinking military-industrial-media-entertainment-political complex.
Set in fictional Turaqistan, the film tells us more about Iraq – and U.S. politics – today than anything on offer from the establishment media, with it’s 24/7 barrage of abuse of our intelligence.
In times such as these, the role of filmmakers, musicians, poets, playwrights is vital….
Stoner Dudes Explain Torture, Racism and American Hysteria – The Best Film of the Bush Era? – by Kim Nicolini:
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay may very well be the most revolutionary movie of the GW Bush Era. Yes indeed, the travels and travails of these stoner dudes are way more politically challenging than the never-ending barrage of documentaries that have been preaching to the choir for the past few years. Who needs to see real torture and real racism in the documentary format when we can experience it viscerally and be implicated in it via a lot of really funny body humor and pot jokes? Sure Harold and Kumar is ostensibly a comedy. I laughed uproariously during many scenes, but what makes this movie so utterly brilliant is how it uses its genre to make the audience incredibly uncomfortable and make us interrogate every phobia, ism and discriminatory practice that permeates every corner, every person, and every place in these here United States.
By using comedy to make us confront the universal hysteria and xenophobia that seems to be the spirit of America, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is one of the tensest movies I have ever seen.
…One of the scenes in the movie involves Harold and Kumar landing in GW Bush’s Texas home and subsequently getting high with the president who also becomes the movie’s Deus Ex Machina. This content has left a lot of critics confused and dumbfounded. How can this stoner movie about racism portray GW Bush as a pothead savior?
Haven’t seen the movie yet, but it doesn’t sound all that “revolutionary”. Why isn’t the movie titled, Harold and Kumar Escape the World Trade Center Towers on 9-11? Not funny? But Guantanamo Bay is? What if Harold and Kumar then traveled from the demolished towers through war-torn Iraq and stumbled into the bloodbaths unleashed by the US invasion? Hilarious! Not “tense”? What if they wound up smoking pot with Osama bin Laden instead of George Bush? OBL would be a riot especially when he started talking about how the infidels in the North and South towers deserved what they got. Barrels of laughs. Their “savior”! But tense? I haven’t seen the movie yet so maybe that OBL is in it. And maybe this scene is too: What if instead of smoking pot with George Bush, Harold and Kumar stumbled into an actually revolutionary future, where George Bush et al were being convicted of their Crimes Against Humanity in some official tribunal, and the tribunal was then taking up the complicity of Good American citizens in general? Now that could be funny, couldn’t it? Uncomfortably so. Tense even. And revolutionary.
The media is full of articles stating that Iraq war movies and films (the fiction features) have not done well at the box office, but compared to the relative lack of, say, Hurricane Katrina movies, or, say, the ongoing national slaughter of the impoverished by the impoverishers movies, the growing numbers of Iraq war movies, by their very existence alone, are doing extremely well.
Far more such movies have been made now than were remotely ever made about the Vietnam war at a comparable time. And far more people see most any of these movies than see most any such documentary. But it’s no cause for celebration, far from it, because these movies are very careful not to be too “antiwar,” too revealing of the basic illegality and immorality of the US conquest of Iraq.
Continue reading Footnotes to the Conquest: Iraq War Novels and Movies
On the left in North America, the novel kind of died or was killed a long time ago, if nowhere else. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was not only first published in serial form in a left periodical, his research for the novel was funded by it – by the socialist newspaper, The Appeal to Reason. I’m aware of no left news periodicals that are regularly running partisan liberatory fiction. Liberation Lit is one of the few left journals of any type that runs much progressive partisan fiction, and that consciously seeks it out.
Left periodicals might find it ever more to their benefit to run Lib Lit type fiction because, at least compared to nonfiction, it reads better in print than online. Moreover, a lot of nonfiction is actually more useful online than in print, by far; whereas, probably the opposite is true for fiction, with the exception of microfiction. Plus, running liberatory fiction would give left news outlets a comparative advantage over the many news outlets that don’t run any fiction at all, or very little.
Continue reading Fiction and the Left
Some brief excerpts:
(1903) Frank Norris, The Responsibilities of the Novelist: “[The novel] may be a great force, that works together with the pulpit and the universities for the good of the people, fearlessly proving that power is abused, that the strong grind the faces of the weak, that an evil tree is still growing in the midst of the garden, that undoing follows hard upon unrighteousness, that the course of Empire is not yet finished, and that the races of men have yet to work out their destiny in those great and terrible movements that crush and grind and rend asunder the pillars of the houses of the nations.”
Continue reading Political Literary Criticism: 1903-2003
“Where’s the first wave of Iraq War fiction?” – asked at Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books, at the New York Times
There are number of good comments there on a variety of matters, though some that are wanting. In answer to that central question, the first waves of Iraq War fiction are in the movies, on TV, in plays and novels and short stories… While there is not nearly as much as one might hope to see, it hasn’t been too difficult to compile a list of dozens of such works, plus works on closely connected US militancy in the “Middle East,” Afghanistan in particular: https://apragmaticpolicy.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/iraq-war-fiction-3/
Continue reading Iraq War Novels and Iraq Conquest Novels – Where They Are and Are Not
Nick Turse via the Indypendent:
The military has enmeshed itself in American pop culture, infiltrating not only Hollywood, but everything else: from the video-game industry to bigtime sports to the world of online social networking.
Continue reading The Corporate-Military Grip on Culture, Art
Michael Weldon, interviewed by Ryan Lambie:
DoG: On your website you say that movies are more politicized now than at any time since WWII or the Cold War. Could you give any examples?
MW: This is a huge topic. Many movies, producers, and production companies, and some studios, stars and directors have close ties to the American DOD (Department Of Defence), arms dealers (American and Israeli), oil companies, and/or the ruling Republican Party and neocon Bush backers. The Hollywood/D.C. connection has existed for a long time to some extent but it’s stronger now than ever. After 9/11 Karl Rove met with studio heads and top producers and directors and convinced most of them to be part of the war on terror and to be more patriotic and pro FBI, CIA, Armed Forces…
If an American movie features spies, the military, and military hardware and does not explicitly criticized the government and the Iraq war – it has the full cooperation of the DOD. Some of our tax dollars actually go to providing military planes, boats, weapons, soldiers, advisors… to pro military movies that we pay too much to see – then go buy DVDs of! Many major movies have government agents and agencies right in the credits if you know where to look. Even most people who look back at WWII era movies or early Cold War era movies and realize that they were propaganda, don’t realize what’s happening now. Continue reading Karl Rove and Dick Cheney in Hollywood and TV – at taxpayer expense
Not that M*A*S*H* was all that libratory in many ways, but compared to today…?
“M*A*S*H” started out as a sitcom, and the early chapters were the funniest by far. The show initially stayed away from the controversial dramatic plots that developed in later years when it almost bordered on being preachy sometimes.
The series was based on the best-selling novel and movie about the Korean War, but that war soon became a stand-in for the war in Vietnam.
The strongest anti-war scripts arrived long after the United States had left Korea. But the protest against the Vietnam War was still at a fever pitch when “M*A*S*H” first appeared, and not just with college kids and war protesters but with a majority of people who wanted the fighting to end and the soldiers to come home.
If the polls are right, that’s the same way most people feel today about the war in Iraq. But there’s nothing even remotely like “M*A*S*H” on television today.
Continue reading The Never-Never Land of Corporate TV
No one wants to know by Simon Hattenstone
“Brian De Palma, Nick Broomfield and Paul Haggis have been called traitors and villains, their films branded ‘Bin Laden cinema’. They are desperate to tell the truth about what is going on in Iraq. But there seems little appetite for war films right now.”
— expanded —
What can be said of Iraq war fiction thus far? What of the art of partisan fiction? In an interview with Courtney E. Martin, Benjamin Percy notes:
I wrote about the [Iraq war] battleground at home [in 2005], something that had been neglected entirely. A few months ago I did a reading with Brian Turner, who served as an infantry leader in Iraq and who wrote a beautifully haunting book of poetry called Here, Bullet. When we were hanging out afterward, he clapped me on the back and said he thought what I was doing was important and he couldn’t understand why more people weren’t writing about the war. That was a great affirmation for me.
In fact the “Iraq war battleground at home” had not been “neglected entirely.” Noah Cicero wrote about it in an accomplished short novel The Human War published in 2003; Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint was published in 2004; and my own novel Homefront was first [self] published with other fiction in January 2005 after not being picked up by a publisher through the end of 2003 and 2004.
Continue reading Benjamin Percy, “Refresh, Refresh,” and Iraq war fiction