Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Day Britain Never Surrendered

Christopher Nolan's 2017 film "Dunkirk"

While I was watching Dunkirk with Anthony, Paul, Matt, Bart and Jeff, the word that kept coming to mind was “tight.”
Director Christopher Nolan focuses tightly on the common-man Brits trapped and struggling in this World War II drama, putting you right INTO the cockpit of the Spitty, below decks on the sinking ship and aboard the small civilian craft crossing the English Channel to save the trapped troops. The storytelling is also tight, beginning at almost the end of the story with the despairing, defeated soldiers being machine-gunned and bombed, moving with unrelenting suspense for a brisk 107 minutes.
By the end of the eighth day, 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a quickly assembled fleet of over 800 boats, many of them Thames vessels, car ferries, pleasure craft, speedboats and other small civilian boats. This film’s tight focus puts that extraordinary historic effort into personal, human terms while never stinting on the adventure.

Friday, July 21, 2017

'Angels in America' and Perfection in London

Russell Tovey (Joseph) and James McArdle (Louis)
Paul, Matt, Cameron, Bart, Jeff and I went to Champaign to see the live cinemacast of Tony Kushner’s epic play Angels in America from London, and I found it breathtaking.
Russell Tovey, Nathan Lane and particularly Andrew Garfield gave bravura performances that were in turns funny, searing and simply thrilling.
Garfield was almost hypnotic in his brave and angry dance with death. “One wants to move through life with elegance and grace, blossoming infrequently but with exquisite taste, and perfect timing, like a rare bloom, a zebra orchid,” he says. “One wants... But one so seldom gets what one wants, does one?”
In the close-up shots, you could see the vulnerability and fear hidden behind Tovey’s eyes, and the grinning, hellish rage that shines out of Lane’s. Lane plays Donald Trump’s monstrous mentor, Roy Cohn.
“Yeah, you heard of Ethel Rosenberg,” Lane says, “Maybe even read about her in the history books. Well, if it wasn't for me, Joe, Ethel Rosenberg would be alive today, writing some personal-advice column for Ms. Magazine. She isn’t. Because, during the trial, Joe, I was on the phone every day talking with the judge. Every day, doing what I do best — talking on the telephone. Making sure that that timid Yid nebbish on the bench did his duty to America, to history. That sweet, unprepossessing woman, two kids, boo-hoo-hoo, reminded us all of our little Jewish mamas. She came this close to getting life. I pleaded till I wept to put her in the chair. Me, I did that. I’d have fucking pulled the switch if they let me. Why? Because I fucking hate traitors. Because I fucking hate communists. Was it legal? Fuck legal! Am I a nice man? Fuck nice! They say terrible things about me in The Nation? Fuck The Nation! You want to be nice or you want to be effective?! You want to make the law, or be subject to it? Choose!”
What an experience.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life in America's Fact-Free Bubble

The fact-immune digital information echo chamber, a bubble manipulated by malign forces and inflated by intellectual cowardice, is the source of our current political disaster.
And no, it’s not “both sides.” The fact-free propaganda echo chamber of lies is on the RIGHT — that place where global climate change doesn’t exist, where tax cuts magically increase revenue, where Obama was born in Kenya, where women don’t get pregnant from rape because the body “has ways of shutting that that thing down.”
Fox News reporters and pundits lie about facts all the time. They are fascist propagandists. That’s WHY they pose as journalists, so you’ll believe the lies they peddle.
It is the RIGHT that expresses this epistemological philosophy for you: “On one hand I hear half the media saying that these are lies, but on the other half there are many people that go, no, it’s true,” said Trump spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes. “And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they’re not really facts. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, any more of facts.”
In fact, facts remain facts. That’s what keeps Trump's supporters screaming so loudly and constantly — their futile attempt to drown out the facts.
Nor are facts “biased.” They’re simply facts. The people who toss the term “bias” around constantly are always out-and-out liars. Yet it’s those who confront lies with documented facts who are branded as liars themselves by the corrupt, the know-nothings and the moral cowards who foolishly claim that truth is only a yellow line down the middle of the road.
Unmoored from factual reality, we’re adrift in a sea of madness, just waiting to strike another iceberg in the darkness.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Saved by Small Wonders

This child was reportedly lost at a convention, and knew where to turn for help.

Two barely articulate toddlers sat in the cart ahead of mine at the store.
The little girl proudly showed me her arm sticker. “Wonder Woman,” I said.
Her brother showed me his. “Oh, that’s the Flash,” I said.
He agreed by pantomiming running very, very fast.
Maybe there’s hope for the future after all.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spider-Man: A Friendly, Neighborhood Reboot

Tom Holland as a perfect teenage Spider-Man.
I just saw Spider-Man Homecoming with Jordan and Jake, and loved it.
This is a high school sophomore Spidey, largely too immature to handle the great responsibilities inherent in great power but with a lot of a heart. That reminds me pleasantly of the earliest Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comic books while also managing to refresh the somewhat overworked superhero genre by marrying it to another popular movie genre: the teenage comedy.
And Tom Holland is perfect for that, an actor whose every earnest gesture both charms and rings true.
The villains in these superhero films have been becoming progressively more relatable, building up to Michael Keaton as the Vulture, a working-class antagonist who has what is finally a largely legitimate point of view. He’s right when he tells Peter Parker that, good lad though he is, there are things about adult existence that he does not yet understand.
The film is perfectly integrated into the larger Marvel universe, another aspect that reflects the earliest comics. Iron Man, Captain America, Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts all show up. The dialogue is also peppered with understated references to familiar Marvel characters and events. The Vulture’s high-tech flying equipment springs logically from the alien and robot invasions that we’ve already seen the Avengers fight off, and that makes good sense.
Although the comedic aspects of some of the hero’s early fights were overly belabored — Spider-Man is not that inept — I found the film to be genuinely suspenseful in a way that none of the lame Andrew Garfield vehicles were. Because young Peter Parker is really out of his depth, the sense of danger is heightened.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Night Falls After The Longest Day

Henry Fonda as Theodore Roosevelt Jr. in 'The Longest Day."
I just finished watching The Longest Day, in which Henry Fonda, playing Teddy Roosevelt’s son, insists on going into combat to prove that no favoritism will be shown to him.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was in fact the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops and was, at 56, the oldest man there. He was also the only man whose son also landed that day at Omaha Beach.
How quaint.
America’s rulers in Washington and Wall Street no longer fight and die in any wars. Nor do their children. They leave that sort of thing to the cannon fodder.
Reinstate the draft? I don’t actually think that will work. Warmongers like Trump, Bush and Cheney all managed to evade the draft and combat, and the rich and connected always will.
The only thing that will work is an actual UNDERSTANDING of the rights and responsibilities of a citizen in a democratic republic. But unless they start teaching that on the Kardashians’ show. I don’t see it happening.