Hollywood and US Militarism

We’ll see if the film industry does it any different this time in its slate of Iraq war films. The April 2002 views of British filmmaker and journalist John Pilger below seem accurate to me in Hollywood Hurrah” –

Continue reading Hollywood and US Militarism

Antiwar Novel Johnny Got His Gun Newly Filmed

Posted by “Renata”: 

Greenwood Hill Productions has completed principal photography on a feature film based on Dalton Trumbo’s classic anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun starring Ben McKenzie.

The movie is a new film version of the novel based on the 1982 Off-Broadway play which starred Jeff Daniels, rather than a remake of the 1971 feature which Trumbo wrote and directed.

McKenzie plays ‘Joe Bonham,’ a young American soldier hit by an artillery shell on the last day of the First World War. As a quadruple amputee who has also lost his eyes, ears, nose and mouth, he lies in a hospital bed but remains conscious and able to reason, all the while struggling to communicate with the outside world. The film explores the interplay between science, medicine, religion, and politics….

Bradley Rand Smith adapted the play from Trumbo’s award-winning 1939 novel. Since that time the book has sold 100 millions of copies having been printed in 40 separate editions in 30 different languages; the most recent in July 2007 with a new forward written by Cindy Sheehan, whose solider son died in Iraq on April 4, 2004. The one-person stage play, Dalton Trumbo’s JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, was first presented Off-Broadway in 1982 at the Circle Repertory Theatre winning Jeff Daniels won an Obie Award for his solo performance. Continue reading Antiwar Novel Johnny Got His Gun Newly Filmed

Flags – Iraq War play by Jane Martin

Charles Isherwood: 

As fake news announcers (three flat-screen televisions adorn the stage), they segue from enumerating the latest stats from Iraq to announcing the sales of Harry Potter books. In graver voices, they intone things like:

When our children
in service to slogans perish
Do we mourn them
Knowing they died well?
And are we comforted?


Jordan Flaherty

Next Monday the Fox network presents a new television show called K-Ville.  Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, the show promises to highlight the heroism of New Orleans cops.  Unfortunately, the true story of policing in New Orleans is unlikely to be told by Fox, or by anyone in the corporate media.

Tommy Lee Jones – Citizen

 FromWhen the War Comes to the Home Front“:

…on Hollywood’s ability to sway public opinion and its right to ask provocative questions, he is resolute.

“Cinema has as much reason to deal with politics as literature does. Or theater. Or the editorial page of your local newspaper,” the gravelly voiced actor says on the phone from a Beverly Hills hotel.

Interview with Anthony Breznican: 

In an unusually blunt conversation, Jones is at once defiant, passionate and eloquent, although his legendary status as one of Hollywood’s hardest interviews is deserved. He is not quick to open up.

Could In the Valley of Elah be set against the backdrop of any war?

“In part, but not entirely,” Jones says without elaboration.

What is it, then, about Iraq that makes it specific to this story?

Jones takes a breath. And then, it finally happens. He makes a long, slow series of statements that few politicians of either major party would speak so directly.

“There are many questions raised by the movie, but they all boil down to one big question, and that’s the big question in front of everybody in the country,” he says, his eyes hard. “It’s inescapable. It makes no sense to talk around it or avoid talking about it …

“That question is: To what extent are you engaged in a fraudulent war, you as an American citizen?”

The thought hangs there, daring for an attempted answer. Jones forges even further: “The other questions fall right behind it. To what extent was al-Qaeda embedded in Saddam Hussein’s government before we invaded? To what extent did the Hussein government’s program to develop weapons of mass destruction pose a threat to your freedoms? … How prepared was our army for that invasion? … Was there a good plan of what to do once we inevitably defeated them militarily? … Were our soldiers sufficiently equipped? …Was that a wise choice, to wage that war?”

His statements are punctuated with heavy pauses. He is tempting vilification by those still in lock-step with the White House, and he knows it. But he doesn’t stop.

“And coming around full circle, to the original question: To what extent was it a fraudulent enterprise?” he says.

There is no blame, no vitriol against President Bush or other politicians. He speaks of respect for the troops, who were sent on orders, and says we all have to evaluate our personal responsibility for why.

“You have to ask yourself that. There are good reasons to ask yourself that. And if you can’t ask yourself that, in the face of these children coming home in various states of disrepair — young women with one of her legs blown off, young men with their faces burned off — in the face of who-knows-how-many dead Iraqi schoolchildren and wives and old people … if you can’t ask yourself those questions, you’re not paying attention.”

Jones doesn’t offer his own answers. “In the political world, the only position I have is voter. I’m not a spokesman for anything,” he says. “If you want to know about my politics, the only way to do that is to look at my work.”

From his Oscar-winning role in The Fugitive to the military men he has played in Rolling Thunder and Rules of Engagement, and even the cowboys in Lonesome Dove and his own 2005 feature directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Jones has explored men who are both devoted to authority but wrestling with doubts.

He continues that in Elah as well as the upcoming Coen brothers film of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country For Old Men, playing a world-weary sheriff chasing a killer.

A movie such as Elah doesn’t pay anything close to a Men in Black salary, but shining a light on the unseen grief of military families is why Jones took the risk.

“I liked the movie for having a realistic outlook on matters of the heart,” he says.

Asked if patriotism is a matter of the heart, he narrows his eyes. “Yeah,” he growls.

“But often it would be better suited as a matter of the mind.”

Jason Bourne and James Bond – How Different is Mr. Amnesia from 007?

From Counterpunch: Two Very Different Kinds of Spy Movies???

May well be as Allen and D’Amato claim, but do the Bourne movies go only so far as exchanging rather toxic calories for mainly empty calories, however thrilling?

Continue reading Jason Bourne and James Bond – How Different is Mr. Amnesia from 007?

Iraq War Redacted by US Media

by Gina Dogget 

A US film exposing the ugly reality of the Iraq War seared the big screen at the Venice film festival Friday, with director Brian De Palma saying he hoped it would help end America’s military occupation.

“The pictures are what will stop the war,” De Palma told a news conference after the showing of the movie, “Redacted”.

The feature, which is based on the actual March 2006 rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi schoolgirl by US soldiers who also slaughtered her family, is a reaction to what he sees as sanitised media accounts of the war seen in the United States.

“All the images we (currently) have of our war are completely constructed — whitewashed, redacted,” said De Palma, who is best known for such violent fictions as “Carrie” and “Scarface”.

“One only hopes that these images will get the public incensed enough to get their congressmen to vote against the war,” he added.

“Redacted” hits hard with its dramatic reenactment of the conditions, attitudes and stresses that led up to the real-life crime.

One of the soldiers involved, Private First Class Jesse Spielman, was in early August sentenced to 110 years in prison for his role in the rape and killings.

Shown through the imaginary video lens of one of the soldiers involved in the raid on the girl’s home, De Palma’s dramatisation is interlaced with actual news clips, documentary footage and stills from the war.

The decision to use the device of the videocam arose from De Palma’s research on the Internet. “The blogs, the use of language, it’s all there,” he said.

He explained that legal obstacles in dealing with real people and events meant he was “forced to fictionalise things” to get the movie made.

“Redacted” will initially be distributed nationwide by Magnolia Pictures as a “classic art film,” its producer Jason Kliot said. “If the response is strong one hopes the distribution will grow the film in a big way.”

The movie was something of a jolt when compared with the other fare on Venice’s programme.

Art and Social Change — Books, Films, Papers…

Whispering in Shadows: a Syilx interpretation of litterature engagee?
    Renate Eigenbrod

I engage, you engage, we engage

The Jeweled Net of Indra

Make it Active: “Action Poetique”
    Kristin Prevallet

Annual Director’s Dialogue on Art and Social Change, free to. the public. These issues are at the forefront of the current sociopolitical climate and the …

The Situation
    Matt Forsman

Operation Homecoming
    Mark Sommer

The Case that Will Not Die
    Jerry Tallmer

It has now been 80 years since the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti tore the United States half apart — and caused a great deal more hullabaloo elsewhere around the globe — in mass demonstrations of hurt, outrage, and fury, bucking against the flanks and flailing clubs of the mounted police, a/k/a Cossacks.

…if the Communists jumped on the case, so did a great many other people who were not Communists at all, or very offbeat sorts of Communists — writers and artists and actors and singers and poets from Upton Sinclair to Dorothy Parker to Diego Rivera to Edna St. Vincent Millay to Woody Guthrie to hundreds of others, and none more effectively than the Ben Shahn whose woodcut Sacco and Vanzetti poster is sort of the cornerstone of Peter Miller’s film [Sacco and Vanzetti].

Of its very nature, the footage between the archival footage is a panoply of talking (or music-making) heads, from Howard Zinn to Studs Terkel to Anton Coppola to Arlo Guthrie — and many others — to Jeanette Murphy, daughter of the slain paymaster. “Do I think they killed my father?” she says on camera. “Well, somebody did.”

La faute à Fidel! — film by Julie Gavras

The eruption of Allende’s Chile and the Cuban Revolution in the life of a 9-year-old French girl

   Michel Porcheron

“It’s because of Voltaire”. “It’s Rousseau’s fault”. Immortalized by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Miserables, the refrain from the tune sung by Gavroche (1) beneath a shower of bullets on the barricades of Saint-Denis Street during the Parisian insurrection of 1832, is known throughout the entire world.

More modestly, La faute à Fidel! (“It’s Fidel’s Fault) is the first full-length feature film from young Julie Gavras, daughter of Costantinos, better known as Costa (2).

Before becoming a film, La faute à Fidel (Tutta Colpa di Fidel) started life as a book by Italian journalist Domitilla Calamai (3) that Julie Gavras adapted for a free version for the big screen. Not just by chance¼ it was Costa’s fault! “I enjoyed the book very much because it gave me the impression of rediscovering myself without it being my story exactly¼ In spite of that, all the questions that the author asks about commitment I also asked myself, perhaps now more than ever before¼ I feel a great fascination for that generation, that of my parents, that of those who took on a commitment, those who fought and experienced an era which was so bright, so happy,” said the young director, for whom the next generation is “supposedly cynical and lacking in incentive.”

Take a look at the synopsis of the film: Anna is nine years old. For her, life is simple, made up of order and habits and she is growing up comfortably between Paris and Bordeaux. In the space of a year, between 1970 and 1971, the political commitment assumed by her parents, who are extremely left-wing, begins to disrupt Anna’s life. First her uncle, a communist implicated in the struggle against the Franco regime, disappears, probably assassinated by the Spanish Civil Guard. Later, following a trip to Chile during the presidency of Salvador Allende, Marie and Fernando (Anna’s parents) convert their political convictions into action. And so the tranquility comes to an end in the home on the outskirts of Paris, now filled with “red and bearded” comrades, people who dream of Fidel Castro’s Revolution.

And so ends the age of religious education and, above all, the tranquil calm that characterized the young girl’s life.

It’s Allende’s fault! It’s Fidel’s fault!

It is not exactly the autobiography of Julie Gavras during the 1970s but the life of young Anna, as told by Domitilla Calamai, in a film adaptation. But for someone who was 11 years old at the time that her filmmaker father was shooting Missing” it was without doubt, the first film that I understood”, says Julie Gavras.

“When I was younger, Costa’s films were a bit dark, even a bit too long (she laughs). That story taught me about the date September 11, 1973. I learnt what a coup d’état was, what a military junta was. I didn’t make a political commitment when I was 11 years old, far from it, but what’s certain is that I discovered how the world worked because of that event. “

Without even realizing it, as happened with the young Julie in real life, Anna, upset but curious, is to discover new values: the importance of sharing, the feeling of belonging to a group. She even absorbs some knowledge of communist thinking and ends up crying when she hears the Chilean song “Venceremos.”  Another point, the chords of the legendary song of the Spanish Civil War ring out around the house. “The communism of the Ebro Army, imperialism, women’s rights; she tries to fit these vast concepts into her small world,” writes Cecile Mury in the French weekly Télérama.

With just a few documentaries behind her, Julie Gavras has undertaken a feasible and accessible task (with autobiographical elements), while at the same time ambitious. And she has done so without a safety net, without putting her parents in front of a tape recorder, without the help of filmmaker Gavras behind the camera.

La faute à Fidel! (1:39 hours) is a reflection on political commitment and all that that implies; the reasons that are the basis for this and utopia. It is about the rebellion of adults seen through the eyes of a little girl. Seen, of course, from afar, in a subjective way and from a distance that is at once entertaining, conspiratorial and critical. It is the reflection of an era (the 1970s) “seen by” and not “made by.” The young Gavras wanted to explore a new track in place of “historical” trails that have already been analyzed and re-analyzed. Although she harbors a feeling of understanding towards her parents, whom at times appear to be disorientated and without replies for all the questions she puts to them, the young Anna emphasizes that it is not for this that she is disposed to forgive them for a certain “abandonment”. But Anna is growing up, her perception of the world is becoming enriched and, following in the footsteps of her parents, she accepts this new life which she is now analyzing from a personal point of view.

The Daily Show and Political Activism — by Megan Boler

The Daily Show and Political Activism

by Megan Boler

The popular debate about whether Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is “bad for Americans” won’t go away. Indeed, worries got so big that now FOX has launched a conservative antidote, “The _ Hour News Show” which premiered this week. Now streaming on YouTube, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough ran a piece featuring Daily Show clips and two pundits debating whether “therapeutic irony is rendering us politically impotent.” Similar fears were fanned last year when news media had a fiesta with a questionable study by two academics which claimed that watching The Daily Show breeds cynicism and lowers young voters’ “trust in national leaders.” In September, The New York Times Magazine ran a savvy piece called “My Satirical Self” about a generation of satire in which Wyatt Mason describes how “ridicule provides a remedy for his rage.” In 2003 in an interview with Bill Moyers, Moyers asks Jon Stewart: “I do not know whether you are practicing an old form of parody and satireor a new form of journalism. Stewart replies: “Well then that either speaks to the sad state of comedy or the sad state of news. I can’t figure out which one. I think, honestly, we’re practicing a new form of desperation (July 2003, PBS).

But Courtney Martin’s January 7 Baltimore Sun column touches on the plaguing question of satire’s role in politics: “Satire, of course, has a long and proven history as the source of bona fide social change. Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, George Orwell’s Animal Farm – all of these led to new public awareness that then led to protest, even some pragmatic reforms. Rebels distributed copies of Animal Farm, a novella satirizing totalitarianism, to displaced Soviets in Ukraine right after World War II.”

However, she laments, TDS viewers are only chatting around the water cooler.

Such claims are not only too simple, but wrong: the court jesters of our dark times translate into far more than chit-chat.

Orwell, Tim Robbins, 1984 as a Play Today

Tim Robbins and S.F. Mime Troupe director uncover ‘echoes of our current situation’ in Orwell’s classic

by Andrew Gilbert

For Tim Robbins, the actor, director and playwright known for his politically charged work, the relevance of a theatrical production based on Orwell’s devastating dystopian tale about the mechanics and methodology of totalitarianism was as apparent as the morning headlines.

“Beyond the obvious idea of torture and monitoring civilians, I was floored when I reread the ‘War Is Peace’ chapter,” said Robbins, speaking by phone from the Manhattan home he shares with Susan Sarandon and their three school-age boys. “It’s the book within the book, and it talks about what war represents within Oceania and why it’s necessary, and you’ll see echoes of our current situation. If you want a quick view into what inspired me to do this play, look at just that chapter.”

David Walsh and Others — Films of 2006 and Book and Film Reviews

Film Reviews by David Walsh

David Walsh picks his favorite films of 2006 

 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000

1999 and the decade — 1990s 

A Few Essays and Book Reviews:

The serious artist and the Cold War
Underworld, by Don DeLillo

Artistic and cultural problems in the current situation

Related: WSWS arts editor David Walsh discusses art and the present political situation

The Aesthetic Component of Socialism

The Art And Politics Of Film

John Updike’s Terrorist

Other Reviewers:

Ann Talbot Le Carré’s new novel questions his previous Cold War certainties in The Constant Gardner

Sandy English The plausible and the implausible in Carolyn Chute’s Snow Man

Alex Lefebvre Flaunting rottenness: Plateforme, by Michel Houellebecq

Sandy English Inside and outside the family –Alice Munro’s short stories

In Defense of Artistic Freedom

A Conversation at the Swans Café… John Steppling & David Walsh

…the so-called art critics, by and large, are entirely lost. They have no means by which to gauge the success or failure of a film. It’s entirely hit or miss. So-and-so is convinced that the New Portuguese Cinema is the coming thing, X and Y are equally certain that the latest 6-hour Hungarian suicide film is positively ground-breaking. It goes on. No one has a clue. People are convinced if they see enough films, or at least enough of the “right” films, it will all work out in the end. But it doesn’t, because they lack the slightest objective means by which to judge what they see. So their heads are crammed with images, very few of which are subjected to a serious critique.

How does one arrive at such an “objective means”? Of course, this notion will be rejected out of hand by the vast majority of contemporary critics or academics. Everyone, as we know, has his or her narrative, equally valid or invalid. One simply plays at art or film or criticism. The dreadful unseriousness of contemporary intellectual life!

Breton suggests that one proceeds with two sets of facts: the history of the particular art form (what Hegel calls the “empirical body of knowledge”) and the history of society. I think these are reasonable starting-points. Does a work take up some of the most advanced work in the field and develop it, and does it take a penetrating look at the world?

To answer these questions, of course, one has to know something about the history of the medium and the history of society. More generally, “You must be something to do something,” as Goethe remarked. I return to the unlined faces and the empty heads of the vast majority of film directors and writers.

The relationship between art and social life is extremely complex. One of the central points I’m attempting to make is that the historical, cultural and intellectual “climate” is of critical importance in the creation of art work. One can berate the individuals involved for a multitude of sins, but the difficulties today are not the result of personal failings, even on a mass scale. What is the artist or critic breathing in? What are his or her conscious and unconscious minds feeding on?

What did the artists of 1925, whether surrealists or constructivists or Bauhaus advocates or social realists, take for granted, more or less? A hatred of king, country, priests, police, flags, war, authority. The art work took off from that point. An oppositional viewpoint was more or less “built in,” as something presupposed, it was present in the conscious and unconscious. Why? Because of the great events and the presence of a mass socialist labor movement.

Of course the artists were not all in agreement with a struggle against capitalism or any such thing. But the “labor question,” the “social question” was a part of late 19th and early 20th century intellectual life, even for the partisans of “art for art’s sake,” and such. Consider Wilde, a remarkable socialist theoretician, after all. Or Mallarmé, who subscribed to an anarchist magazine. The list goes on. Proust commented (unfavorably) on the prospects of the socialist movement. These issues were in the foreground for anyone serious about modern life. They were in the air.

The Appeal of Star Trek

Where No One’s Gone Since
by John O’Brien 

“But my point is, what is it about Star Trek that generates its appeal?”

There are two main factors, Gerrold says, and they both concern the original series which Boarding the Enterprise focuses on.

“First, we had such a remarkable cast in (William) Shatner and (Leonard) Nimoy and DeForest Kelly. You couldn’t design a better cast, it was an accident of casting. In this case (Star Trek creator) Gene Roddenberry picked three very, very good actors and they fit together so beautifully,” he says.

“And then the second thing is, the context of Star Trek is that here’s a world where everybody is respected and everybody has a place in this world and people are all big enough to handle their problems, and so they focus on problems of a much larger scale and challenges of a much larger scale.”

He says this is a formula the spin-off series have failed to replicate.

“The original series is about ‘let’s boldly go out and seek out new worlds, let’s explore new planets, let’s meet new civilisations’ and so on.

“And they would come up against new people and new planets that would challenge their definition of themselves, it would make them ask the question ‘what does it mean to be a human being? What are we up to here?’ And I think that was part of the appeal of the show: we’re discovering not only what’s out there but what’s inside ourselves, and that the final frontier is really the human soul, not space – space is just where we’re gonna meet the challenge,” Gerrold says.

Recent Review of Oliver Stone’s Salvador

Review by Howard Dratch: 

What if Oliver Stone directed a movie about the El Salvador war (which some called “civil”) back in the ’80s? What if it was a terrific movie that was lost in the blockbuster successes of some of his other films? What if, more than twenty years later, that same film can still both entertain and describe a time and a war that was important to Latin America and to the United States back 25 years — one that could happen around here again and can be compared to the Iraq conflict?

Continue reading Recent Review of Oliver Stone’s Salvador