America No Longer Has A Viable Opposition Party To Conservative Ideology


In today’s American two-Party system, there is no active opposition party to Conservative ideology or an opposition party with a pro-active message (despite the Progressive movement within the Democratic Party and other parties that are not “officially” recognized).

I used to watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC. But I was so discouraged and disappointed – oftentimes shocked and outraged – by their behavior and what I saw as  irresponsible “reporting” 1  (and both using the overwhelmingly biased and closed-minded Joy Reid 2 as their replacement host) during the election, that I simply had to stop tuning in.

With her recent show devoted solely to “connecting the dots between Trump and Russia,” Rachel Maddow has burrowed in even deeper (and reduced her credibility to being little more than the Democratic Glenn Beck) by continuing to embrace fear-mongering through irresponsible and agenda-driven speculation. By amping up a fear that the Clinton Campaign used to divert attention from her own campaign dealings and mistakes, Maddow and others are fanning the flames of war and, simultaneously, taking a gamble that, if they lose, will greatly aid Donald Trump’s ability to further convince the public that neither the Democratic Party nor the media can be trusted.

I hate seeing the Democratic Party continue to be its own worst enemy. I hate seeing Democratic news hosts become Democratic apologists and outright fear-mogerers. I hate seeing Democrats using the old Republican playbook as their guide and, in effect, becoming everything we used to fight against (McCarthyism, anyone?). The Democratic Party used to be a very real, very active and vocal alternative. We used to offer that desperately-needed balance. And hope. Continue reading “America No Longer Has A Viable Opposition Party To Conservative Ideology”

America No Longer Has A Viable Opposition Party To Conservative Ideology

Observations on Cinema vs. the Capitalist Feeding Frenzy


William-Friedkin-xlarge

Filmmaker William Friedkin was recently interviewed for a piece in The Telegraph titled “Superhero movies are ruining cinema, says Exorcist director William Friedkin.”

I agree with Friedkin’s sentiment and I would take it one step further and say that it’s not “Superhero movies” that are ruining cinema, but that those films are a product of what has so dramatically changed since the 70’s.

The corporate greed and the paint-by-numbers mentality that has now driven cinema for many decades is, in itself, a product of a state of mind that has been vigorously taught, conditioned, indoctrinated and embraced in the U.S. Its impact is reflected in all aspects of our lives socially, culturally, politically and, yes, artistically…

Continue reading “Observations on Cinema vs. the Capitalist Feeding Frenzy”

Observations on Cinema vs. the Capitalist Feeding Frenzy

The Perfection That is “Sherlock” Returns


Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.42.31 AMShooting on Season 4 begins in January.

Such good news!

And it looks like there will be a SHERLOCK “special” in addition to the season’s 3 regular episodes. I’m not sure what qualifies as a “special,” but any more of these two together qualifies as special-enough for me.

I just finished turning my girlfriend, Emily, on to the series (seasons 1-3) and I have to say the second time around for me was as good if not better than the first! It’s also nice to now have my own Watson to share the show with. Or perhaps she’s my Sherlock. Either way, we’re in this together now and that makes me very happy indeed.

It’s a rare TV series that fires on all cylinders, but this is one of them. The chemistry between Cumberbatch and Freeman is already legendary. Truly. There are very few characters and relationships on TV whom I actually yearn to revisit regularly. This is one of the ones I believe will be a part of my life for a long time to come. I look forward to seeing them anywhere, anytime. And I miss them when they are absent. Not since the original STAR TREK have I felt so “at home” in a show.

Every moment in this world is glorious. Glad there’s more on the way.

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The Perfection That is “Sherlock” Returns

Favorite & Least Favorite Films of 2012


I don’t usually post my list of favorite and least favorite films until long after awards season has passed. This year, I waited even longer than usual. This is because I was having a hard time coming up with the motivation and enthusiasm to write breakdowns of why I liked or didn’t like a film, how it effected me, etc. Recently I came to accept that I simply have too little desire to commit that much time to such an endeavor, but I would still like to post my list so that it is available for anyone who may be interested.

I will, however, link titles to any posts I wrote about specific films in the past.

As with all lists, this simply reflects what were or were not my favorite films, what films had an impact on me one way or another, whether great or small. There are also titles from 2012 that I have yet to catch up with and, as I do, I will add them to this list where appropriate.

So here ’tis. All lists are alphabetical.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012:

Films2012posters

AMOUR (2012) 9/10

ANNA KARENINA (2012) 8/10

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012) 8/10

DEEP BLUE SEA (2011-2012 U.S. release) 8/10

HAYWIRE (2012) 9/10

HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, THE (2012) 8/10

KID WITH A BIKE, THE (2011 – 2012 U.S. release) 8.5/10

MAGIC MIKE (2012) 8/10

MARGARET (2011 – 3 HR CUT released to DVD-only in 2012) 10/10

MASTER, THE (2012) 8.5/10

PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, THE (2012) 8.5/10

SAMSARA (2012) 9/10

SPRING BREAKERS (2012) 8/10

TURIN HORSE, THE (2011 – 2012 U.S. release) 8.5/10

 

2012 FILMS ALSO WORTH SEEING:

ARGO (2012) 7.5/10

BERNIE (2012) 7/10

BRAVE (2012) 7.5/10

CHRONICLE (2012) 7/10

DARK KNIGHT RISES, THE (2012) 7.5/10

END OF WATCH (2012) 7/10

FRANKENWEENIE (2012) 7/10

GREY, THE (2012) 7.5/10

HATFIELDS & MCCOYS (2012 – TV Miniseries) 7/10

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012) 7/10

IMPOSSIBLE, THE (2012) 7.5/10

INTOUCHABLES, THE (2012) 7.5/10

KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012) 7/10

LIFE OF PI – in 3D (2012) 7.5/10

LINCOLN (2012) 7.5/10

LOOPER (2012) 7/10

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012) 7/10

NOT FADE AWAY (2012) 7/10

PARANORMAN (2012) 7.5/10

PROMISED LAND (2012) 7/10

QUARTET (2012) 7/10

ROYAL AFFAIR, A (2012) 7.5/10

RUST AND BONE (2012) 7/10

SESSIONS, THE (2012) 7/10

SKYFALL (2012) 7.5/10

TALL MAN, THE (2012) 7/10

TO ROME, WITH LOVE (2012) 7.5/10

ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) 7.5/10

 

FAVORITE TV OF 2012:

DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON 2 (2011 BBC Mini-series – 2012 U.S release) 9/10

SHADOW LINE, THE (2011 BBC Mini-series – 2012 U.S release) 10/10

SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE (2012– Starz Series) 8/10

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2012:

DJANGO UNCHAINED 4.5/10

HITCHCOCK (2012) 6.5/10

 

LEAST FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012:

CLOUD ATLAS (2012) 3.5/10 before I gave up 1 hr in.

JOHN CARTER (2012) 3/10

PROMETHEUS (2012) 2 /10

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012) 2.5/10 before I gave up 1 hr in.

 

BEST OLDER FILMS SEEN FOR FIRST TIME:

ENTER THE VOID (2009) 9/10

GRAND PRIX – in 70mm (1966) 8/10

SUMMER INTERLUDE (1951) 8.5/10

SUMMER WITH MONICA (1953) 9/10

Favorite & Least Favorite Films of 2012

DOWNTON ABBEY Season 3: When A Writer’s Hand Is Forced


HUGE SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED SEASON 3 YET!

downton_abbey_key_art_season_3_a_pI won’t go too in-depth about the third season of DOWNTON ABBEY as I actually found most of it to be very entertaining and satisfying. But this third season introduced a few moments that could be seen as the ever-feared missteps a series can take when it overstays its welcome or when popularity seeps in as a guiding force in how the story unfolds.

DOWNTON has quickly become a household name since I first watched what seemed to be just another BBC mini-series that the vast majority of Americans had not only never heard of, but were quite likely NEVER to hear of, like so many fantastic British shows to come before it and live in relative obscurity here in the States. But DOWNTON ABBEY hit a nerve and its popularity has since soared on this side of the pond. And while I’m happy for the show’s success, that kind of popularity always fills me with a little dread as well. I won’t lie. Sometimes I like good shows to remain a bit of a well-kept secret. Selfish, I know. But then I can also continue complaining about how the best shows never find an audience and how stupid American viewers are over all. But then a show like DOWNTON gains a measure of real success and either A) I have to stop complaining about the dullness of Americans or B) the show has to lower its standards to keep its new audience entertained.

When I read that Shirley MacLaine was gonna be on the show, I thought my fears had been realized. Now don’t misunderstand, I love Shirley MacLaine. But her presence suggested the possibility of this fine BBC drama placating its newfound American audience with a more “familiar” face (Elizabeth McGovern, though American, has not been a familiar face on these shores for a number of years, while Ms. MacLaine has managed to embed herself in our continued social consciousness). Thankfully and allaying my fears, MacLaine’s role on DOWNTON was short and sweet. She didn’t try and eat the scenery or overwhelm with her presence. No, in fact, she fit right in and was most welcome both in her arrival and departure. I thought it was all just right and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Then there was the big mid-season surprise. The sudden death of Sybil. I admired this choice. Though she was my favorite of the sisters (and the one I had the biggest mini-series crush on), I always like when a main character is killed off. It often forces a show and its viewers to deal with a particular set of experiences that they have not had to deal with before. That gives it resonance. Something to talk about, something to remember, both emotionally and structurally. But there was a lazy bone to be found in the storyline surrounding Sybil’s death. The much-decorated doctor who insists that Sybil’s symptoms are nothing more than those naturally found in pregnancy is such a pompous, unlikeable fool of a man that I would guess 99% of the audience knew that our dear country doctor was indeed correct and that Sybil’s life was in danger. Why choose to paint these two in such black and white terms? Why not offer a bit more credibility to the doctor responsible for Sybil’s death? Why not allow us, the audience, to share in the difficulty of the life and death decisions being made? Perhaps Mr. Fellowes believed he was doing just that. Or, perhaps, he didn’t want to. I don’t have the answer. All I know is that I was thrilled Sybil died (from a story perspective, that is), but disappointed that the events surrounding it hadn’t been painted in grayer strokes so that her death may have been even more of a surprise and may have engaged me by allowing me to partake in some measure of responsibility. As it stands, the writing allowed me to get ahead of the characters in what was to unfold. But all in all, this was a mildly disappointing and fleeting moment surrounded by so many wonderful moments that I was able to push it aside with relative ease and not have it negatively impact my feelings about this extraordinarily engaging show.

julian-fellowes_1365344c
Julian Fellowes

Then the Season 3 finale arrived. Now let me just start by saying that I’m okay with Matthew’s death. Conceptually. Remember, I like when main characters die. Particularly beloved ones. But this particular death felt incredibly inorganic to me. And it’s not simply because actor Dan Stevens chose to leave the show and forced scribe and creator Julian Fellowes into a story corner. Certainly that plays a role (and I think will actually breed some ill-will toward Mr. Stevens though, for myself, I hope his personal choice leads him to a successful career), but it’s in the handling of Matthew’s death that I take issue with here.

Viewers across the globe have complained that there was simply too much similarity between Matthew’s death and Sybil’s. Both died following the birth of their child. Both were in loving relationships that were damn near perfect for those characters, making the loss that much greater. It worked wonderfully for Sybil’s death. But for Matthew’s… I could feel the writer struggling. For me, giving Matthew and Mary their final moment together to once again profess their love for one another and for Matthew to bask in the glow of his newborn son before driving off to his inevitable demise was just too much for me. It felt manufactured. Insincere.

Now I have a friend who believes I’m in the minority in feeling dissatisfaction with allowing Matthew’s relationship to end with such happy/tragic perfection. He feels that most people wanted to see/needed to see some measure of resolution before such a tragic event. But in reading comments online and talking with other friends, I’m thinking that my sense of dissatisfaction might be the overriding sensation being felt in living rooms across the globe. Death is a dirty business and Matthew wasn’t just another character in DOWNTON ABBEY. He was our guide through the world of DOWNTON ABBEY. The upstairs of Downton, that is, just as Bates is our guide downstairs.

Julian Fellowes had set up the near perfect end for himself, then chose not to take it: Matthew wants to leave with Mary. She tells him “No, I’ll be fine” and returns home without him. For me, that decision ending with them never seeing one another again and Matthew never seeing his son would have had the gravitas and tragedy earned by Matthew’s character. As it stands, I feel as if I were gently lead into Matthew’s death, as if Mr. Fellowes were afraid of the forced-decision to prematurely rid the show of Matthew and therefore second-guessed the audience’s reaction. Matthew’s endless profession of love for Mary seemed overwrought and inorganic; it was hinting too strongly at something else, setting up the scenes to come with an uncharacteristically heavy hand. Perhaps Mr. Fellowes was hyper-aware that this episode was going to air on Christmas Day and felt some measure of guilt in having to kill off Matthew (and possibly spoil Christmas a la Scrooge or the Grinch) and so chose to balance this fated tragedy with an extra helping of gaiety and joy.

For me, Matthew’s death should have been devastating, not just surprising. Unfortunately, I felt less devastation and more confusion. For a moment, it felt like I was watching a different show. Try as I might to feel better about it, I just couldn’t. Some other friends commented that they too had felt it a bit awkward and inorganic, but felt better about it once they’d learned that Mr. Fellowes had been forced into killing off Mathhew’s character. For me, sadly, that realization only highlighted just how inorganic Matthew’s death actually was.

There may have been no way to make Matthew’s death intrinsic to Season 3 as it clearly wasn’t Fellowes’ wish to end that character’s journey here. He had much more in store for Matthew. And perhaps that is why Fellowes exhibited what I consider an uncharacteristically unsteady hand in fashioning Matthew’s demise.

One thing is certain: writing is difficult. Incredibly so, as anyone who has attempted to do so knows. And Mr. Fellowes has certainly more than earned his right to stumble slightly, though he may not personally see it as such. But for me, Matthew’s death could have been a strong and defining moment in the DOWNTON ABBEY universe. Instead, for me, its a slight blemish on an otherwise incredibly engaging show.

DOWNTON ABBEY Season 3: When A Writer’s Hand Is Forced

The Oscar Coffin


OscarcoffinI’ll try and keep this short as I’ve gone on about this almost every year since I started this blog (and so many years before that in old-fashioned verbal exchanges).

This year’s Oscars was the nail in the coffin for me. I’ve been swearing to stop watching them for ages (I’ve never missed a one since I was a wee tyke). But each year the ceremony depresses me more and more. Seth MacFarlane and company was the final straw. And I actually like THE FAMILY GUY. I can do grossly inappropriate humor. In the proper context. The Oscars is not that context. MacFarlane brought a smug artificiality to the proceedings that, in an odd way, actually managed to highlight so much of what I do not like about the Oscars. There is a gross insincerity about the whole affair. It reeks of desperation, of panic, always on the edge of total collapse, like a star imploding in on itself. You can feel each and every producer vigorously second-guessing what the audience wants. Now granted, I may not be the typical Oscar audience despite my life-long commitment to them. I actually want it to be a celebration of cinema. I actually want it to be about the human beings, the creative individuals responsible for breathing life into these works. But that is not what the Oscars is and, each year, it is rarely more than a painful reminder for me of that heartbreaking reality.

Beyond MacFarlane’s nastiness (which also represents much of Hollywood for me) and that conceited grin I wanted to punch (did anybody else want to knock those teeth right out of his mouth?!), the Oscars simply do not represent what film and cinema is to me. In fact, it represents more of what I don’t like about contemporary Hollywood and exacerbates those elements that I feel keep film from being taken seriously as anything more than distracting entertainment. I’m sorry, when bloated openings and pointless dance numbers (for films not even from this year), or montages my nephew could have done better in iMovie (007) take the place of 30 more seconds so that a real human being can have his or her moment to say thank you… You know something’s wrong. It’s what Hollywood has become: character is not important, human beings, honest emotions, depth, insight, real experiences… None of these things matter. But big, pompous spectacles with flashing lights and loud sounds… Now THAT’S Hollywood. And for me, watching that train wreck each year is an incredibly painful experience.

In this new technological age, I can go to Youtube for future broadcasts and see the acceptance speeches that interest me (the parts that don’t get cut off by a self-mocking JAWS theme, as if that somehow made it humorous and not just plain insulting). I can watch Shirley Bassey and Adele, I can watch the In-Memorium and Barbra Streisand. I can see Daniel-Day Lewis’ and Ben Affleck’s humble speeches and the lessons they contains for those of us struggling to realize our dreams here in this very odd town. Yes, there are reminders at the Oscars of the good things –what isn’t rotten in the state of Hollywood– and those brief moments when daring and artistic films are recognized. I’ll watch those in chosen clips and consciously eliminate all the nastiness that surrounds it. I don’t need to invite any more negativity or insulting belittling of my favorite art form into my own home.

So next year I’ll do something nice for myself on that night. Like go see a really good film in a really nice movie theater.

Even if I’m the only one there.

 

 

The Oscar Coffin