More flicks and pix…

THE CONSTANT GARDENERJohn le Carre‘s novel marked a thematic shift in his work which this excellent adaptation adheres to, positing a post-Cold War villain (the pharmaceutical corporations) audiences can relate to while dramatizing the human toll exacted by the unholy wedding of governments and corporations. The complicity autopsied here is the government-sanctioned (on multiple levels) appropriation of beneath-the-radar Third World (African) populations for medical experimentation, and the fate of those principled ‘rogue’ individuals who seek to expose the powers-that-be. Rachel Weisz is the journalist, wife of timid Brit career diplomat Ralph Fiennes, determined to unveil the veiled ‘health procedures’ perpetrated against impoverished Kenyan citizens under the guise of ‘care’; alas, Fiennes’ diplomatic superior (perfectly played by Danny Huston) has interests in both getting into Weisz’s panties and preserving the status quo complicity of the British government and drug companies, and it takes the disappearance of his wife to begin to tear the blinders from Fiennes’s eyes. All this duplicity and espionage could have been dry as African sand, but director Fernando Meirelles — whose City of God crackled with immediacy and terrifying energy — forges from an excellent script a gripping drama that gets under the skin in all kinds of ways, aided considerably by its sterling cast (including Pete Postlewaite and Bill Nighy in key supporting roles). This isn’t a dogmatic political tract: in keeping with the strengths of LeCarre‘s novels, it has the heat of the heart in every frame. What sets this film apart from others of its ilk is its emotional core: Meirelles opens us up to the true scope of the tragedy, from its most base humanity — the warm intimacy between Fiennes and Weisz, the bonds of friendship and conviction between Weisz and her African compatriots, and Fiennes‘s awakening to the consistency of those bonds in the light of Huston‘s maladroit attempts to portray them as betrayals — to the cruelity of those in power so callously indifferent to the human toll of their crimes. The massive tragedy is horrific, but it’s the sorrowful arc of Fiennes‘s character, LeCarre‘s Constant Gardener, that grounds it in something one can almost touch and taste. Timely, agonizing, and potent, Meirelles exposes all levels of this contemporary corruptive network to the sun, from the highest levels of power to the sordid fly-blown remnants of the disposal operations that maintain the silence necessary to such criminal extremes of unchecked globalist policies. The film circles one such crimescene from its black heart — in which we and Fiennes visit the sad scene of Weisz’s final moments — to its heartbreaking finale at the same remote beachhead. A remarkable film, highly recommended.

THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE — One of the late summer’s surprise hits, this rather curious fusion of 1970s bookends The Exorcist and Robert Wise and Frank DeFelitta’s forgotten reincarnation opus Audrey Rose is arguably an extension of the current cycle of studio remakes of 1970s horror films, revamping The Exorcist into a more “life-affirming faith-based” crowd-pleaser. Actually, it’s closer in tone to The Runner Stumbles (Stanley Kramer’s sad final film) than Audrey Rose, but I’d be surprised if anyone had heard of, much less seen, that curio — so, let’s stick with The Exorcist and Audrey Rose analogy, shall we? The particulars, from its Catholic orientation and claim of basis in a true story to the gender and exorcism of its possession host (effectively portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter), are almost identical to The Exorcist, save for the courtroom framing device and resulting reorientation to the case history at hand. Supplanting Pazuzu with a more traditional demonic presence, skirting scatalogical extremes, and eschewing the sparks between secular amorality of Exorcist director Friedkin‘s pragmatic approach to Exorcist author Blatty‘s passionate faith-fueled Christian content and intent, Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson is clearly on the side of the angels from the get-go. Thus, its the dramatic tension between courtroom opponents Laura Linney and prosecutor Campbell Scott in the trial of Roman Catholic exorcist/priest Tom Wilkerson that is the arena of this spiritual battle, not the frigid bedroom-and-barn locales in which Wilkerson sought to exorcise Carpenter. In short, it’s Perry Mason sugar-coating a pro-Christian horror flick, as such an extension of the ongoing fundamentalist Christian horror cycle (e.g., The Omega Code, the Left Behind series, etc.) and Hollywood satellite productions (from indies like The Rapture to studio efforts like The Seventh Sign, Stigmata, and others). That said, Derrickson spices the courtroom/prison cell/late-night-home-alone-in-the-apartment crisis of faith character arc Linney suffers in the thrall of Wilkerson‘s faith with some mighty effective chills. Primary among these are the flashbacks to Carpenter‘s gradual collapse and possible possession, including one startling classroom hallucination that had me jumping and involuntarily muttering, “Jesus Christ!” That wins my heart in the horror department, so I’ve got to recommend this despite the sanctimonious piety of the courtroom proceedings and reassuring agenda of the film as a whole.

GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK — Highest recommendation! George Clooney‘s maturation as a filmmaker and actor continues with this crisp, unpretentious, straight-forward and remarkable “you-are-there” account of premiere TV journalist Edward R. Murrow‘s determinative decision to expose and derail the witch-hunt mounted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Despite the caveats of some critics, Clooney‘s decision to work with extant archival footage of McCarthy, the Senator’s investigations, and the televised hearings is a masterstroke: while the fidelity to its period (the early 1950s) and performances are sterling across-the-board, the galvanizing power of the McCarthy footage cannot be overstated, nor its relevence to the post-9/11 national environment we find ourselves steeped in today. David Strathairn has always been among my favorite character actors of this generation, and he inhabits Murrow with unwavering focus and gravitas (including the framing farewell speech to a broadcasters gathering, Murrow‘s sobering parting shot to the very medium and its corporate captors who were intent upon trivializing democracy in its race to pander to consumer culture). The supporting cast — Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels) — are just as good, but Frank Langella is arguably best of all as the CBS honcho who backed Murrow‘s stand against McCarthy while tending to the harsh mistress of business — which, after the crisis, claims her pound of flesh. This is brilliant populist filmmaking, the courage of its convictions (and determination to “speak truth to power,” as they say) anchored primarily in its determination to dramatize a key turning point in American history by simply telling the story, sans flash, flourishes, or embellishments. Note that Clooney is the second ‘liberal’ filmmaker to incorporate a telling archival clip of General & President Dwight Eisenhower at/as a critical point in its tapestry (the first, of course, was Oliver Stone with JFK). Clooney ends with a succinct Eisenhower clip that stands in harsh historic contrast to current President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney’s pro-incarceration-without-due-process (and torture) policies; indeed, decency and shame seem distant from our current government’s members. Like so much else in this film, it’s impossible not to draw the unfortunate parallels — how far astray we’ve wandered from our espoused ideals, as a country, as a people, and as a world power. But whatever your politics, see this film — it’s a solid piece of work, and a perfect companion feature to Michael Mann‘s excellent The Insider (1999). Together, they offer sobering accounts of the rise and fall of CBS News and American television journalism as a whole. Clooney lucidly locates the seeds of the destruction Mann potently dramatized, both evident in the closed-door office rooms meetings so central to both stories. Another link they share are those ‘coffin nails’ — a lot of cigarettes are smoked in Good Night, and the only commercial Clooney includes in his tapestry of 1950s TV is a hilarious cigarette ad of the period; The Insider neatly caps and concludes that component of Good Luck in spades. Again, Good Luck and Good Night is not to be missed — among the year’s best.

More this weekend –


And Soon the Office…

Between the wind and lightning and rain storms yesterday, and the two coats of paint I splashed onto the walls & ceiling (and floor and me) of the new office/studio/library room, and the pleasure of hanging with my son Dan for the afternoon and early evening, I didn’t even approach the computers yesterday except to unplug them completely when a bolt of lightning hit nearby. Sparks flew and there was a loud ‘pop’, sharp enough to prompt the mass unplugging of tech equipment in every corner of the house. That was the first bolt to hit — before that all we’d had was rain and wind — but it was enough. Luckily, everything seems to be working fine this morning.

Before the storm hit, though, Dan and I enjoyed the new Blue Underground DVD release of an old drive-in fave of mine, Tombs of the Blind Dead, which was big fun. More on that later, too. After Marj got home, we enjoyed our first sit-down dinner together at home since Dan moved out earlier this fall, and it was big fun, too. Drove Dan back to town in the hammering rain with a bag of video bootie (giving him some of my old big-box horror vids), then home again home again to jiggedy-jig the second coat of paint in the new room before collapsing around midnight.

So, catchup post later this morning. Until then, the eagerly-anticipated, sorely-needed room awaits the next stage, underway as I type this, of the massive shelving construction (being done by the good folks at Rise Up Builders, Olivier and Elliott, who have done top-notch work for us before). Soon, soon, I’ll be in my new work space!


And Soon the Office…

Between the wind and lightning and rain storms yesterday, and the two coats of paint I splashed onto the walls & ceiling (and floor and me) of the new office/studio/library room, and the pleasure of hanging with my son Dan for the afternoon and early evening, I didn’t even approach the computers yesterday except to unplug them completely when a bolt of lightning hit nearby. Sparks flew and there was a loud ‘pop’, sharp enough to prompt the mass unplugging of tech equipment in every corner of the house. That was the first bolt to hit — before that all we’d had was rain and wind — but it was enough. Luckily, everything seems to be working fine this morning.

Before the storm hit, though, Dan and I enjoyed the new Blue Underground DVD release of an old drive-in fave of mine, Tombs of the Blind Dead, which was big fun. More on that later, too. After Marj got home, we enjoyed our first sit-down dinner together at home since Dan moved out earlier this fall, and it was big fun, too. Drove Dan back to town in the hammering rain with a bag of video bootie (giving him some of my old big-box horror vids), then home again home again to jiggedy-jig the second coat of paint in the new room before collapsing around midnight.

So, catchup post later this morning. Until then, the eagerly-anticipated, sorely-needed room awaits the next stage, underway as I type this, of the massive shelving construction (being done by the good folks at Rise Up Builders, Olivier and Elliott, who have done top-notch work for us before). Soon, soon, I’ll be in my new work space!


Time to Play the ILSA Game! C’mon, America, Join in the Fun!!

Sometimes the online headlines — the title at the top of the window frame — speak volumes.

Yesterday’s first online news item on President Bush unapologetically supporting the current US torture state was a case in point: “Bush Declares ‘We Do Not Torture’ — Yahoo News”.

Ya, Yahoo News — what a ya-hoo.

It’s all

  • <a href=”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051107/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_torture”>here.
  • This is a step forward from Bush’s previous claims that “America does not believe in torture,” which was at least not as blatant a lie. We may torture, but we don’t “believe” in it, or that we are doing it.

    Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? I assume enough of you are acquainted with Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia — if only by reputation — to understand the game following.

    Hey, big-budget remakes of 1970s and ’80s gorefests are all the rage right now, right? I mean, if they can remake Assault on Precinct 13, Dawn of the Dead and even Squirm (under the modified moniker Slither, which technically was a 1970s flick starring James Caan), why not bring back Ilsa?

    Think about it. Uma Thurman would be a natural, unless Meryl Streep has dibs. Hell, we can even preserve the Middle East setting of Harem Keeper, and bring back Ilsa’s statuesque ass-kicking, eye-gouging Amazonian bodyguards Velvet and Satin in the bargain. Whadya think, Lucy Lui and Keira Knightley in those roles?

    Consider this the opening pre-title faux newsreel sequence of the upcoming Ilsa: Dominatrix of Abu Ghraib, though that title isn’t final (producers are also considering Ilsa: Blood-Bitch of Guantanamo Bay). They weren’t originally going to cast Ilsa as el Presidente, but recent developments have prompted the bolder narrative strokes (and I do mean strokes):
    _____

    “PANAMA CITY, Panama – President Ilsa on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful.

    “We do not torture,” Ilsa declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.

    Ilsa supported an effort spearheaded by cyborg Vice President Dick Kaiser to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.

    “We’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job,” Ilsa said. “There’s an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law.”

    Licking her lips seductively, President Ilsa added, “My law.”

    Kaiser is seeking to persuade Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban if one is passed by both chambers.

    Accompanied by her aides Satin and Velvet, Ilsa spoke at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a challenge to the administration’s military tribunals for foreign terror suspects.

    In a case entailing a major test of the government’s wartime powers, justices will decide whether Osama bin Laden’s former driver can be tried for war crimes before military officers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, U.S. military forces have held hundreds of suspects at known installations outside the United States, including at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

    Ilsa was asked about reports that the CIA was separately maintaining secret prisons in eastern Europe and Asia to interrogate al-Qaida suspects — and demands by the International Red Cross for access to them.

    Without confirming or denying the existence of such prisons, Ilsa said, “Our country is at war, and our government has the obligation to protect the American people.”

    She pointedly noted that Congress shares that responsibility with the administration.

    “We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do … to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the
    law. We do not torture,” Ilsa said.

    The European Union is investigating reports of the CIA prisons. The story was first reported by The Washington Post….

    Sen. Max Thayer, D-Mass., said Ilsa’s comments in Panama,
    combined with Kaiser’s efforts to exempt the CIA from the torture ban, “only demonstrate that the White House learned nothing from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”

    “This administration has consistently sought legal justifications for harsh techniques,” Kennedy said.

    The United States drew worldwide condemnation after photographs circulated showing guards at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad mistreating and humiliating prisoners.”
    _______

    Go ahead, play the Ilsa game in the coming days.

    Really, it’ll do you good.

    It may not make this latest stance of our own country less vile, but it’ll at least keep you focused on how badly our leaders are trying to place a gentle spin on their ReBiblican torture state. I don’t recall Jesus condoning this kind of behavior, but what do I know, leftist heathen stooge that I am?

    Having endured their own open torture states (many subsidized by the good ol’ U. S. of A. and our C. I. and A.) in Panama City, Panama, where Fearful Leader was speaking, South and Central Americans were hardly sympathetic.

    Maybe we should wake the fuck up north of the border, eh?


    Time to Play the ILSA Game! C’mon, America, Join in the Fun!!

    Sometimes the online headlines — the title at the top of the window frame — speak volumes.

    Yesterday’s first online news item on President Bush unapologetically supporting the current US torture state was a case in point: “Bush Declares ‘We Do Not Torture’ — Yahoo News”.

    Ya, Yahoo News — what a ya-hoo.

    It’s all

  • <a href=”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051107/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_torture”>here.
  • This is a step forward from Bush’s previous claims that “America does not believe in torture,” which was at least not as blatant a lie. We may torture, but we don’t “believe” in it, or that we are doing it.

    Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? I assume enough of you are acquainted with Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia — if only by reputation — to understand the game following.

    Hey, big-budget remakes of 1970s and ’80s gorefests are all the rage right now, right? I mean, if they can remake Assault on Precinct 13, Dawn of the Dead and even Squirm (under the modified moniker Slither, which technically was a 1970s flick starring James Caan), why not bring back Ilsa?

    Think about it. Uma Thurman would be a natural, unless Meryl Streep has dibs. Hell, we can even preserve the Middle East setting of Harem Keeper, and bring back Ilsa’s statuesque ass-kicking, eye-gouging Amazonian bodyguards Velvet and Satin in the bargain. Whadya think, Lucy Lui and Keira Knightley in those roles?

    Consider this the opening pre-title faux newsreel sequence of the upcoming Ilsa: Dominatrix of Abu Ghraib, though that title isn’t final (producers are also considering Ilsa: Blood-Bitch of Guantanamo Bay). They weren’t originally going to cast Ilsa as el Presidente, but recent developments have prompted the bolder narrative strokes (and I do mean strokes):
    _____

    “PANAMA CITY, Panama – President Ilsa on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful.

    “We do not torture,” Ilsa declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.

    Ilsa supported an effort spearheaded by cyborg Vice President Dick Kaiser to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.

    “We’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job,” Ilsa said. “There’s an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law.”

    Licking her lips seductively, President Ilsa added, “My law.”

    Kaiser is seeking to persuade Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban if one is passed by both chambers.

    Accompanied by her aides Satin and Velvet, Ilsa spoke at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a challenge to the administration’s military tribunals for foreign terror suspects.

    In a case entailing a major test of the government’s wartime powers, justices will decide whether Osama bin Laden’s former driver can be tried for war crimes before military officers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, U.S. military forces have held hundreds of suspects at known installations outside the United States, including at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

    Ilsa was asked about reports that the CIA was separately maintaining secret prisons in eastern Europe and Asia to interrogate al-Qaida suspects — and demands by the International Red Cross for access to them.

    Without confirming or denying the existence of such prisons, Ilsa said, “Our country is at war, and our government has the obligation to protect the American people.”

    She pointedly noted that Congress shares that responsibility with the administration.

    “We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do … to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the
    law. We do not torture,” Ilsa said.

    The European Union is investigating reports of the CIA prisons. The story was first reported by The Washington Post….

    Sen. Max Thayer, D-Mass., said Ilsa’s comments in Panama,
    combined with Kaiser’s efforts to exempt the CIA from the torture ban, “only demonstrate that the White House learned nothing from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”

    “This administration has consistently sought legal justifications for harsh techniques,” Kennedy said.

    The United States drew worldwide condemnation after photographs circulated showing guards at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad mistreating and humiliating prisoners.”
    _______

    Go ahead, play the Ilsa game in the coming days.

    Really, it’ll do you good.

    It may not make this latest stance of our own country less vile, but it’ll at least keep you focused on how badly our leaders are trying to place a gentle spin on their ReBiblican torture state. I don’t recall Jesus condoning this kind of behavior, but what do I know, leftist heathen stooge that I am?

    Having endured their own open torture states (many subsidized by the good ol’ U. S. of A. and our C. I. and A.) in Panama City, Panama, where Fearful Leader was speaking, South and Central Americans were hardly sympathetic.

    Maybe we should wake the fuck up north of the border, eh?