Category Archives: film

Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)

When Apocalypse Now was released, it was heralded as a scathing indictment of the amorality of the Vietnam War. The war that divided America and defined an entire generation of alleged revolutionaries had finally been seen through the unflinching gaze of one of cinema’s greatest artists. In the wake of the release of Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, the cinematic auteur himself has come clean and said that he doesn’t see it as an antiwar film. This is precisely the feeling with which I was left upon reviewing the film. It reveals the hot war in Vietnam as the merely the overt flipside to the domestic psychological degradation and debasement of the American soul being perpetrated through the media and the culture. If anything, Apocalypse Now reveals the savagery, futility and moral vacuum of modern warfare as its own form of psychological propaganda. The decadence and hedonism that had been unleashed in the counterculture were the exact same tools that were used to keep the ground forces numb to their own pain, loneliness and guilt. Sex, drugs and rock and roll weren’t the signifiers of rebellion that gatekeepers of culture would lead us to believe. The narcotic nihilism of The Doors’ “The End” playing against the symphony of destruction in the film’s opening isn’t really a lament. It’s a psychedelic sedative that’s meant to inoculate you to the juggernaut of inhumanity to which you are about to be subjected. These were the new chains of enslavement deployed by social engineers who had built their careers perfecting the means by which to erode the foundations of a healthy society. The combat was simply the laboratory in which the ideas were tested and the means by which the process was hastened.

Apocalypse Now makes this abundantly clear throughout the film in several different ways. The most obvious of which is the scene that Coppola himself concedes is a glorification of aerial combat. Lt. Colonel Kilgore revels in the fact that the Vietnamese are terrified by the sound of Wagner blaring over the helicopter squadron’s loudspeakers as they mercilessly slaughter the terrified civilians. The combination of aural psyops and aerial bombardment feels less like a rebuke and more like a celebration of American military dominance. Hell, you can even find articles discussing the possibility of video game adaptations. The practice of musical psyops has been extended into the era of Middle Eastern warfare with the only significant difference being the switch to heavy metal instead of 19th century operatic pagan mysticism. Same idea, different expressions.

The role of the media in advancing the domestic propaganda effort receives emphasis as well. When Willard arrives at the beachhead where Kilgore’s division is stationed, he is immediately met by a television crew directed by Coppola himself. In a meta moment, he instructs Willard to look like he’s engaged in combat. It’s a brief but highly effective scene because Coppola is revealing that the footage that would eventually be culled by Ken Burns and repackaged as hard hitting documentary was arguably just as stage managed as the fictitious effort you are viewing.

Despite the prevalence of Domino Effect narratives promulgated by the political class and official histories, Coppola goes one better by suggesting that the Viet Cong were yet another enemy created by the US government in a century that would be defined by wars fought for the express purpose of taking down manufactured boogeymen in service of the expansion of the Pax Americana. When Willard visits with the French colonists, he is given a lecture on American proxy warfare by Gaston de Marais.

Gaston de Marais: You Americans. In 1945, yeah, after the Japanese war, your president Roosevelt didn’t want the French people to stay in Indochina. So, you Americans implant the Vietnam.

Willard: [to Hubert] What’s he mean?

Hubert: Yeah, that’s true. The Vietcong were invented by the Americans, sir.

Willard: The Americans?

Gaston de Marais: And now you take the French place. And the Vietnam fight you. And what can you do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Later in the film, Kurtz’s sardonic reading of a Time magazine article suggests the naked and sanitized deception and the media were routinely peddling. The mention of Sir Robert Thompson’s affiliation with the neocons of the RAND Corporation simultaneously hints at the technocratic administration of the war effort while foreshadowing the eventual controlled release of the Pentagon Papers. As films like Wag the Dog and Network have so brilliantly illustrated, Hollywood has been completely forthright about the media’s rank mendacity and captured allegiance on numerous occasions. You need people as skillful as Steven Spielberg who can churn out agitprop like The Post to make the shills in the media seem heroic. This is ultimately what I believe Coppola was saying with Dennis Hopper’s drug addled photojournalist. Despite Kurtz’s murderous megalomania, Hopper remained enthralled by his poetic mystique. Hardly the behavior of an allegedly objective chronicler of America’s long term commitment in Vietnam.

Apocalypse Now offers what can now be seen as a fleeting moment in the ongoing politicization of sex. Once upon a time, liberals were actually promoting sexual liberation. They still do, but it’s been overshadowed by a lot of #MeToo moral grandstanding. Libidinous displays of female sexuality were simultaneously hailed as evidence of the liberated modern woman as well as a way to stick it to the conservative prudes. Coppola brings this to the forefront by portraying what amounts to a DOD sponsored strip show featuring Playboy playmates. Not only does it show how liberalism actively promotes sexual degeneracy, but it reveals Playboy as one of many forms of legal prostitution embedded within the entertainment complex.

If this seems like it’s a world away from the current cultural moment, it’s because liberals are a clever bunch. They carefully tend to the maintenance of both sides of the dialectic by deploying assets who can push the opposing perspective. They’ll happily peddle a former stripper like Cardi b in the mainstream while the entire feminist media complex will breathlessly extol the bravery of the #MeToo “movement”. Don’t believe me? Just ask feminist extraordinaire Gloria Steinem about her stint as a CIA asset and Playboy bunny.

Much like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now is a study in the real dynamics of American power. In one of many of Willard’s voice overs, he puzzles over the seemingly arbitrary decision to take Kurtz out. Kurtz was being groomed to take his place in the highest echelons of the American power structure. Because he had made the decision to step out of line and build his own cult of personality, he became a liability. His decorated status also made it necessary to make Kurtz’s retirement a black operation. It couldn’t be conducted through official channels because it would have been bad PR. It’s not about upholding any sacred honor or fixed morality. It’s about the preservation of the power structure at any cost.

Coppola also strongly suggests the link between the occult and the deep state. Kurtz had taken his considerable military training and transformed himself into a cult leader. I also believe that the appearances of Sir James George Frazer’s Golden Bough and Willard’s discovery of a newspaper article about Charles Manson were not accidents. Kurtz ended up being sacrificed at the altar of the death cult that bred him. His only transgression was carrying out his training without the sanction of his superiors.

In the paganistic final scene, Willard is immediately recognized as the new cult leader simply by virtue of slaughtering Kurtz. Three years after the release of Apocalypse Now, screenwriter John Milius directed a little sword and sorcery film called Conan the Barbarian starring a bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, he seeks vengeance against a cult leader who murdered his family. The final scene of Conan is deeply reminiscent of the conclusion of Apocalypse Now. The exact same premise of the gritty Vietnam War drama is effortlessly transferred over to the pulp fantasy epic. Hollywood doesn’t have a lot of tricks up its sleeve. If they’re recycling the same idea in two major motion pictures, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s a message they’re deeply invested in promoting.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

I suppose I have to give Jim Jarmusch some credit. I watched another one of his films, and I was so disarmed by its laconic detachment and deadpan humor, I almost forgot that it masked his utter hatred for middle America. Almost. Admittedly, it’s a skill every Hollywood filmmaker needs to master, but like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, Jarmusch’s skill is above average. Not perfect mind you, but certainly above average. Almost no one knows how to write real characters or craft real drama in a screenplay anymore. Subsequently, any director who can imitate the gestures of actual filmmakers gets considered an auteur and attracts a loyal following amongst Hollywood’s A-listers. His films have a distinct directorial POV, but he’s also one of those guys who has made the terms “indie” and “quirky” into pejoratives. That’s Jarmusch in a nutshell.

The Dead Don’t Die is a quintessentially postmodern zombie film. Similar to Tarantino, the whole thing is simply layers of meta-references to other films and pieces of pop culture which ultimately reveal a hollow core of contempt. Adam Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson foreshadows the ending by repeating the refrain “This is definitely going to end badly”. With this wink and nod, Jarmusch is signaling that there are no dramatic stakes whatsoever. He even wrangles a cheap laugh by using it as a device for breaking the fourth wall and making some self-congratulatory inside jokes. It’s the Waiting for Godot of zombie films. Whatever pleasure you derive from the film rests on your enjoyment of the deadpan banter between the characters.

The film is essentially a giant pisstake on small town Middle America. With the Cohen brothers, you at least get a kernel of residual affection. No such luck with Jarmusch. To him, these people are just contemptible hicks and hayseeds who deserve the zombie apocalypse that’s coming. Naturally, he engages in some standard Hollywood virtue signaling. The minority characters are all plucky, intelligent, and interesting. The white characters are slow witted, unsophisticated, and charmless. Steve Buscemi is bestowed with the dubious honor of perpetuating Hollywood’s deathless strawman of the provincial, racist MAGA dirtbag. He stoops to a Sarah Silverman-esque depth of hatred by giving him a hat which reads “Make America White Again” and naming his dog Rumsfeld. OMG! IT’S A REFERENCE TO DONALD RUMSFELD. AND IT’S HIS DOG! ISN’T THAT FUCKING HILARIOUS YOU GUYS! Fuck you, Jarmusch. It’s bad enough that no one in Hollywood knows or cares about anyone in middle America, but the fact that this lazy, royalist condescension is so commonplace is just beyond the pale.

On the positive side, the film can be read as subtle nod to the role of geoengineering’s effect on climate change. The zombie apocalypse is triggered by something called “polar fracking”. In the film, it messes with earth’s rotation. What it probably refers to is some kind of tech that manipulates the electromagnetic spectrum since it messes with everyone’s devices. Jarmusch undoubtedly wants it to be seen as comeuppance for middle America’s indifference to or skepticism of The Climate Crisis. Like the globalist elites they represent, if you just get past the smoke and mirrors, Hollywood is always tipping its hand.

I believe the title of the film reveals the establishment’s exasperation with middle America. After years and years of global trade polcy which has decimated rural America, a flood of opoids into the communities, agribusiness consolidation and a neverending onslaught of propaganda which consistently casts flyover country in the most negative light possible, the global elites cannot stand that middle America will not just roll over and capitulate to their progressive overlords. To them, they’re already dead. And yet, they won’t die. So let’s pile on one more insult by just portraying them as zombies that need to be culled by some righteous Malthusians who are just being responsible stewards of Mother Earth.

Bonus points for Chloe Sevigny giving one of the most honest portraits of a female cop since Tyne Daly in The Enforcer. But that’s all you get, Jarmusch.

Downton Abbey (2019)

On the surface, the deep enthusiasm for Downton Abbey seems inexplicable. In a cinematic year that has seen Captain Marvel, John Wick 3 and It: Chapter Two top the box office charts, a costume drama built around British aristocrats has inspired a level of devotion that should make even the Kathleen Kennedys of the world a little jealous. However, if you pause to think about it for a moment, it is perfectly sensible. When confronted by a world of anger, division and unrelenting gloom, the pageantry, dignity and simplicity of life at Downton is a welcome respite.

Indeed, Downton Abbey can be read as a reactionary celebration of an aristocratic social order, but I think that analysis sidesteps the show’s and the film’s overt yet subtle cheerleading for the rising tide of modernity. What I contend Julian Fellowes has achieved is a precarious yet successful tightrope walk which largely achieves its twin objectives of casting the twilight of the old world aristocracy in a favorable light while simultaneously heralding the advent of the new liberal world order.

This premise of the new film is astonishingly simple. The King and Queen of England are coming to Downton and the downstairs staff are getting sidelined by the Buckingham Palace traveling crew. The fact that Fellowes was able to easily extract two hours of rich entertainment from such a seemingly paltry storyline should be an object lesson in storytelling for at least 98% of contemporary Hollywood. Stated simply, Downton Abbey represents a world in which things like meaning, beauty, virtue, order, family, authority and faith carried actual weight. When these things matter, you can write stories that actually reach people’s emotions.

The characters of Downton Abbey are so lovingly drawn and the trials they endured through the series created such a firm bedrock that Fellowes didn’t need anything more from which to build a feature film. When Mary petitions Carson to return to Downton to manage the staff, your heart leaps because you already know the depth of his devotion to Mary, the Crawleys and the household. That’s just one scene. When the dramatic contours are that well sketched out, the only thing that needs to be done is to roll the camera.

It feels churlish to nitpick Downton Abbey, but I have some gripes. The main drama of the film is centered around a minor act of sedition mounted by the Downton staff. Because they’re treated so poorly by the Buckingham Palace team, they engineer a soft coup so they can serve the King and Queen themselves. After all, they’re patriots who want to show their devotion to the English monarchy as well as their provincial pride in being the staff who serve Downton Abbey. Subsequently, they manufacture an emergency in order to divert the Buckingham Palace team back to London. In essence, they mount a revolution which will enable the Downton staff to serve dinner to the King and Queen. Needless to say, we’re not talking about a Robespierre style Reign of Terror, but it feels like Fellowes had to genuflect to the orthodoxy of the revolutionary ethos. The show worked because you felt the Crawleys were inching towards modernity as opposed to diving headlong into the pool. Maybe Anna Bates had been catching up on Jean-Jacques Rousseau at that point, but Carson’s complicity in this gambit almost breaks his entire character arc.

Andy Parker’s sabotage of the water boiler is equally dubious. After being in a froth of jealousy over what he thought was Daisy’s affection for the local plumber, he breaks the mechanism all over again just to discharge his feelings. Instead of Daisy just saying “Bruh, why didn’t you just talk to me?”, she praises him for his willingness to commit an act of pointless vandalism. Men aren’t always adept at handling jealousy, but come on, Julian. This felt like a sop to Antifa garbage can stormtroopers.

I believe Downton Abbey makes the most sense as a story which serves as a proxy for how all the old world British aristocrats adapted to the democratic era. This is especially evident in Tom Branson’s entire growth arc. Tom begins as a fiery socialist revolutionary who wants economic and political equality, but eventually makes peace with the conservative values of his in-laws. In the film, Tom enjoys a nice moment of heroism which confirms his loyalty to the monarchy, but his republican sympathies are also upheld as heroic in another side story involving the Princess Mary. I believe that Tom finding peace among the aristocracy is representative of what socialism truly is: the orthodoxy of the elites masquerading as an ideology that lifts up the working classes. It’s also suggested in Edith’s run as a pro-suffrage publisher and Lord Talbot’s high end car dealership. Whether it was in the arts, publishing, academia, sports or entertainment, the socialist aristocracy simply found new ways of keeping the proles loyal to the democratic ethos. Right, Julian?

As if we didn’t need another reminder of how far down into the depths of Clown World we’ve descended, the idea of a virtuous old world aristocracy is regarded as a fanciful fiction in 2019. Albeit one that fills a gaping void in a world seemingly bereft of any larger purpose beyond consumption and mindless obedience to the orthodoxy of “progress”. When your de facto aristocrats are the Kardashians, a couple of hours fantasizing about having the Crawleys in their place is pretty damn appealing.

For many years, I couldn’t stomach a Victorian or Gilded Age drama because it required me to adopt a worldview that modernity had drummed out of my consciousness. Monarchy was just an antiquated relic that had been rightfully crushed by the enlightened dawn of Democracy. Needless to say, the fractious state of the democratic global imperium has forced me to reevaluate this assumption. It’s not a call to the return of monarchical social order that some in the media might lead you to believe, but its conservative bona fides are such a welcome relief from the seemingly neverending onslaught of wokeisms coming from Hollywood. Men and women fall in love and have children. Women look feminine and beautiful. The men are masculine and not portrayed as hapless and incompetent dolts. It feels weird to highlight these features of Downton Abbey as selling points, but it shows you how badly democratic modernity and its social engineers in Hollywood have downgraded the institutions that are upheld in the film and series. Hollywood is in such a hurry to normalize the idea that a man can fall in love with an AI that it forgets that a story which portrays family stability and continuity is exactly the kind of thing that most people want to see affirmed.

When you have a social order that is built around a hereditary monarchy, the family is sanctified as the building block of society. Society becomes oriented around the preservation of the social order. Art and architecture must also be trained towards the goal of creating timeless beauty so that generations to come will look upon their cultural inheritance with pride and a sense of duty. These notions are completely foreign to anyone who has grown up accepting the assumptions of post-Enlightenment liberalism as the pinnacle of human history. I believe this is why the Burkean model of conservatism has largely failed. Democratic capitalism was designed to uproot this old social order.

As citizens of the increasingly global democratic imperium, we’re supposed to scoff at the small minded and provincial outlook of the world portrayed in Downton Abbey. Sure, you can swoon over the beautiful costumes and elegance of Downton, but come on now. They couldn’t even handle people who are GAY! How backwards were these people, amirite?! Having to bow to a monarch is a indignity no one should have to endure, so thank goodness people have been liberated to shit in the streets without fear of reprisal from authorities. #PROGRESS.

Democracy didn’t abolish the monarchy. It simply obscured it and traded it in for a more crass and debauched version. The Rockefellers and Vanderbilts just got into media and philanthropy and you don’t even think twice about them because they’re funding things like NPR and the MOMA. Surely, they’re just as virtuous as the Crawleys, right? RIGHT?

I’m sure there were British nobles who were as likable and good hearted as the Crawleys. At the same time, when Hollywood or the BBC is trying to place your sympathies with a certain group of people, chances are better than good that they’re trying to divert your attention away from people in that group who are doing things that are unsavory. Perhaps even degenerate. I’m pretty sure Julian Fellowes isn’t terribly interested in discussing Prince Andrew’s connections to Jeffrey Epstein or Jimmy Savile’s proximity to the monarchy. But that’s okay, Julian. All of us lowly proles will never stop praising you for giving us one more opportunity to enjoy Violet’s tart ripostes. Because honestly, it’s the best entertainment you can buy in 2019.

Ready Player One (2018)

When he’s at his best, Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking gifts are so impressive that you almost overlook the propaganda he smuggles into his movies. Even a blatant piece of agitprop like The Post still managed to sustain my interest. Ready Player One is not quite up to the level as his 80’s classics, but it’s a welcome return to his blockbuster sensibilities. Spielberg is calling upon a considerable reservoir of technical and cultural resources for Ready Player One because he’s trafficking a pretty dubious message in very appealing cinematic wrapper. Besides being positively overstuffed with pop culture meta references, the film is a glimpse into the digital slave state currently under construction. Spielberg needs to call on every dark power at his disposal because he is asking the viewer to sympathize with yet another multicultural collection of youthful rabble rousers who also happen to be brave revolutionaries fighting for the right live in a digital fantasyland. That’s right, folks. It’s not about smashing the oppressive control grid and restoring order and virtue. It’s about saving it so we can chill with our online homies in between cockroach burgers, DMT vape hits and energy drinks made from recycled sewage water.

The film contains so many different references to other films and properties, but I would argue that one of the primary templates is one of Spielberg’s own creations: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Instead of a quest for a literal Holy Grail, Tye Sheridan uses his virtual avatar, Parzival, to acquire a digital Grail in the form of three keys. The winner of the contest would gain control of the global virtual playground known as the Oasis. As the Hiram Abiff/Steve Jobs virtual temple builder, Mark Rylance’s James Halliday is the object of Wade Watts’ obsession. You see, folks. Halliday was just another misunderstood science nerd who had a hard time being in the real world. We should view his contribution to a society full of braindead, antisocial dopamine addled tech junkies as an admirable achievement.

In contrast to the corporate fascists at IOI Corporation, Wade’s obsession with Halliday is earnest! The goons at IOI don’t really give a shit about what made Atari’s Adventure so great. Ben Mendelsohn’s Nolan Sorrento doesn’t really play Robotron while chilling to Duran Duran. Wade gets it, man. Wade is the Charlie Bucket to Halliday’s Willy Wonka. The good hearted kid who rose above his broken upbringing and found real connections by playing the vidya.

The pop culture overload of Ready Player One is designed to be part of the appeal, but when Wade tries to bond with Artemis all he can do is regurgitate pop culture references. It shows you how pernicious it is because it feels both sad and contemptible. I enjoy pop culture just as much as anyone, but Ready Player One is essentially showing you that the synthetic reality of pop culture is the material of the cyberprison system that’s being constructed all around us. When Samantha/Artemis is captured, she is forced into a containment cube and electronically sealed into a VR helmet. Spielberg is telling you point blank that VR is the limitless utopia, but it’s also the means by which mental and neural enslavement is achieved. The thirst for being able have virtual sex in the Pandoran jungle will ultimately supersede any impulse to live in the real world. Because the real world just sucks, man!

Spielberg tries to have it both ways though. Thankfully, he does give you a rare and sweet romance between Wade and Samantha (heterosexuality?! GASP!), and you are led to believe he’s affirming life in the real world. But it’s a trick. Wade only shuts down the Oasis for two days out of the week.

Just as we witnessed in his seminal blockbusters, there is fairly overt Masonic and occult symbolism in Ready Player One. Isaac Weishaupt has identified the most prominent symbolism in the film, but I think there are two that warrant emphasis. The demonic image on Aech’s van can be read another signifier of the film’s Luciferian subtext. In this case, I propose that the meta reference is the key. The Face of the Great Green Devil contains a sphere of annihilation in Dungeons and Dragons lore. In other words, your character will be destroyed if you fall or climb in. I suggest that the entire Oasis is itself a giant sphere of annihilation. A digital Tomb of Horrors.

The real kicker is the entire reference to The Shining. In order to obtain one of the keys, the heroes enter a simulation of Kubrick’s Shining. The normies will read it as an homage, but I suggest that Jay Dyer’s analysis of the film is relevant here. In the original, we see the appearance of Jack Torrance’s image in a vintage photo at a party attended by elites. In Ready Player One, Torrance’s image is replaced with Halliday’s. Why is this significant? Assuming that Kubrick was revealing the occultist practices of the global elites, the inclusion of a tech mogul in Torrance’s place seems pretty consequential. Given that a connection between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein has just been revealed in mainstream media outlets, it seems like confirmation.

The ending is meant to have the same triumphant feeling as Charlie Bucket’s acquisition of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but Halliday’s final line feels more cynical than sweet. We’re meant to see Wade as the clever and principled extension of Halliday, but Wade is really a lab experiment. He’s not congratulating him for his ingenuity. He’s thanking him for willingly submitting to his global social engineering experiment. Spielberg is counting on the same thing from you.

Patton (1970)

Patton is such a great film that you can simply enjoy it as pure cinema. All of the praise heaped on George C. Scott’s magisterial performance is entirely warranted and lives up to the legacy of its formidable subject in every way. Like every man who holds a position of power, he was complicated and difficult, and the film does an excellent job of giving an unvarnished portrait. However, I believe that at this stage of American history, we must also take a step back from its ostensible role as a vehicle for WWII propaganda and consider its deeper significance as both a sketch of the male warrior hero archetype and a representation of bygone military ideals.

Anyone who’s read my reviews here knows that I am a critic of current woke trends in cinema which are generally hostile towards every form of masculine authority, strength and virtue. I find these trends a decadent and destructive affront to civilization itself. What’s patently obvious in this obnoxious trend is that Hollywood is attempting to supplant the male warrior archetype with a female replacement. In the progressive worldview, gender is allegedly a social construct, but the heroic virtues that have historically been attributed to manhood can simply be transferred over to women if we just make enough of them superheroes in movies and comics. Or something. And men must subordinate and sublimate any pride or masculine tendencies in themselves in order to accommodate this cultural shift. Because Current Year, you dumbass misogynists.

What Patton does so masterfully is remind us that America wants and needs a warrior class and warrior heroes. People need models of valor and heroism. This isn’t a suggestion that these virtues cannot be found in other realms, but the soldier is the one who will take up arms and sacrifice himself to defend his people and his country. This also entails the idea that the warrior is defending ideals that are embodied and upheld in the nation state. Patton is unequivocally fighting for America as a sovereign nation as well as the institutions charged with their preservation for posterity. When Patton delivers his iconic speech, he speaks of the American thirst for victory as a universally shared virtue amongst his countrymen. The combat unit, like the nation it represents, is a team. Individualism is just a fanciful notion promulgated by effete journalists who are stroking the egos of their Starbucks socialist target demo.

One is left with the impression that he was not a democratic globalist nor was he especially enamored of America’s role as an ally in a multinational coalition. The very idea of fighting for your country is sneered at by anyone in the progressive establishment because it implies there are ideas, institutions, symbols, traditions, and yes, sovereign borders, that require both conservation and defense from invasion. Quite simply, it implies that the nation itself is a distinct entity, has a fixed metaphysical reality and isn’t just an arbitrary social construct. For Patton, America is a place with unique people, institutions, culture and history.

The Hollywood intelligentsia sidestep this idea by focusing almost exclusively on superhero and sci-fi properties which cast the warrior as a representative of a global or intergalactic order that has transcended the quaint notion of a sovereign nation state. For progressives, the subversive is the only heroic ideal because subversion is the only value that ultimately matters in that paradigm. The progressive order is a globalized collection of deracinated individuals who inhabit generic economic zones in which cultural distinction and history has been forcibly obliterated through multiculturalism. Patton feels so radical now because it is an artifact from a time when progressives in Hollywood weren’t as disdainful of America and its military as they are now.

It’s also worth noting that this film is a portrait of a heroic white American man. Would you like to see Lin-Manuel Miranda reinvent Patton as a Mexican immigrant? I’m sure there’s a contingent of woke ideologues who would. Can you imagine Brie Larson attempting the opening monologue of Patton? Of course you can’t because it would be laughable and stupid. People can’t even stand her as Captain Marvel. Can you imagine any progressive extolling the American thirst for victory? Of course not because they absolutely despise this country and its people. Besides, it would sound too much like #OrangeManBad.

Nowadays, people will undoubtedly focus on Patton’s megalomaniacal tendencies or some idiotic revisionist claim that he embodies “white supremacy” or nationalism in its most toxic form. It was even suggested in the film after he delivered a reprimand to a traumatized soldier which landed him in the crosshairs of the media. These people can suck on it. I’d wager that the very people who mainstreamed the #PunchANazi meme wouldn’t deign to pay their respects to man who actually went to war against real Nazis.

People my age have only known cynicism and the revolutionary ethos as organizing principles. We’ve grown up in a world where honest patriotism gets conflated with democratic imperialism and military-industrial overreach. We only know a world in which the masters of war seek only to test their game theory models and then take all of their innovations of psychological warfare back home to degrade their own populations. Increasingly, we’re seeing a military-industrial complex push warfare further into the realm of technocratic innovation which would strip away human involvement altogether while moving us closer to the Skynet nightmare suggested in the Terminator series. When you can vaporize an entire country by drone bombing it from a remote location, it removes the necessity for lofty speeches about valor.

We simply don’t even know what it takes to be the kind of soldier George Patton was. We have no idea what it means to live by a soldier’s code. We have no idea what it takes to go into battle with absolute clarity of moral purpose. For George Patton, to die on the battlefield is the highest glory. Patton didn’t hold the modern view that war was an aberration. He held that warfare has been a permanent feature of civilization and saw himself as part of a lineage of military commanders going back to the earliest empires. He studied the strategy of the great military minds and he reveled in his victory over Rommel by beating him at his own game.

The one gripe I have about Patton is that it is another film which casts the struggle against national socialism as the one unequivocal moral imperative which every American should affirm and recognize for all eternity. It’s as though the Nazis were the only genocidal totalitarian regime in human history. While I’m not going to dwell on the interests who funded the war and fomented the conflict, Patton may have been on to something when he compared Democrats and Republicans to Nazis. While the progressive Left is nearly unanimous in its rote denunciations of a manufactured boogeyman of “white nationalism” or “fascism”, the horrors of communism are nearly ignored despite amassing a body count that surpasses the Nazis by several orders of magnitude. Patton’s disdain for the Bolsheviks was explicit in the film and the biographical records, but these details never get the same traction in the public consciousness the same way the Nazi regime does.

The unfortunate irony is that despite all of Patton’s bravery and grit, the American ideals for which he supposedly fought have allowed communist militias to roam American streets and terrorize American citizens with the tacit support from the media and Democratic Party. These contemptible degenerates in Antifa aren’t worthy of scraping dogshit from Patton’s shoe, but they and the media lackeys who prop them up undoubtedly see themselves as the direct equivalent of the soldiers serving under Patton. It is a supreme tragedy that the American spirit which Patton routinely celebrated and idealized has devolved into a decadent lassitude which has allowed subversive groups like this to flourish with the implicit support of the establishment.

I imagine it’s difficult for the contemporary soldier to have a sense of moral clarity about his mission in 2019. Perhaps the notion of Americanism is still sufficient, but it must be a drag knowing that you’re coming home to some ungrateful gender studies graduate who’s going to spit in your face and call you a tool of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The respect that the military are properly due has been poisoned by too many years in overseas interventions whose costs are invisible to the average American. Even after eighteen years in Afghanistan, the elites are wringing their hands over the prospect of withdrawal. What would George Patton have made of all these things? Impossible to know for sure, but I have a hunch he’d still be fighting for the America he lionized in his speeches.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

It belongs to the current New Wave of Hollywood Wokegnosis, but it’s better than I expected. This is clearly Charlize Theron’s bid for the female equivalent of a 007 or John Wick franchise. To her credit, she carries off the role of MI6 superspy, Lorraine Broughton, fairly convincingly. Part of me was just happy that the film and character was based on an original property and wasn’t just another tiresome gender swap from an existing franchise.

Atomic Blonde is a Cold War espionage thriller which centers around a list of double agents which has fallen into the wrong hands. The events of the plot are set against the rising tide of democratic populism which culminated in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Communism 1.0. Since espionage thrillers exist to propagandize clandestine services, it raises some interesting questions about the degree to which the entire Cold War was being stage managed by intelligence agencies. James McAvoy is a double agent named Percival who is also a black marketeer. He is the one who provides all of the Western consumer decadence to the cultural vacuum of East Berlin. From jeans to booze to porn, Percival helped stoke the appetite for Western capitalism and pop culture. Naturally, the film places your sympathies solidly with the burgeoning underground punk culture who are just trying to get some kicks but keep getting terrorized by Stasi and KGB thugs.

There are also several very obvious product placements throughout the film. Given the film’s tacit emphasis on the influence of consumer culture in hastening the collapse of communism, I think that these are more than advertisements. I suggest they reveal the role that these shadow elites played in moving geopolitical power blocs.

Take the nine times Stolichnaya is featured prominently. Yes, Lorraine looks very cool when she’s drinking vodka on the rocks, but why Stoli? Perhaps because the Pepsi Corporation was able to enter the Russian market in exchange for vodka and several naval military vessels. Considering the film’s anti-Russian tone, it could be an additional subtle form of mockery.

Then there are the deeper cultural references. The cutthroat moral nihilism of the film makes the inclusion of Machiavelli’s Prince an obvious choice. A prominent fight scene takes place in a theater playing Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Since Stalker reads (to me) as an indictment of communism, it’s very possible that David Leitch was reaching for some kind of arch metacommentary by using it as a backdrop for a fight scene. However, I believe that the inclusion of the film all by itself suggests the depth of the role that it, and consumer culture in general, had in turning sentiment against communism.

It’s surely a subject that’s been broached by many others, but the idea of a woman who is a cold blooded killer and can dispatch men bigger and stronger than her requires a greater suspension of disbelief than most other films with male leads. It seems a little too tailor made for wokescolds in the press to regurgitate the standard idiocy about “manbabies who can’t stand #STRONG womyn”. I don’t want to get too pedantic when I’m watching movies, but when every role that was intended for men gets a gender swap, it gets a little stupid.

Furthermore, we’re expected to believe that a woman with highly specialized combat skills was doing elite espionage and black operations in Berlin in the late 80’s and 90’s. Given that approximately .00002% of the current female population are seeking assignments in elite military units in 2019, the starting point is a bit of a reach. Again, I’m not saying that I’m expecting pure realism when I watch a spy thriller, but you shouldn’t have to leap this high just to buy into the initial premise.

There’s also an unfortunate humorlessness to Lorraine. Part of 007’s appeal was his charm and dry one liners. And he smiled, too. Of course, Mx. Theron can’t be bothered to enact that kind of emotional labor for us entitled dudebros, but there’s something just perverse about casting one of Hollywood’s most attractive women in roles where she exhibits no feminine charm. The lesbian makeout scene doesn’t make up the deficit either.

Even the fight scenes create a psychic dissonance that seems calculated to fuel feminist griping over “toxic masculinity”. Every normal man wouldn’t think of physically assaulting a woman. It goes completely against everything decent you’ve ever been taught. Here, you’re seeing men who are fighting Lorraine to the death. At one point in time, men fell in love with actresses in films. Now, men seem relegated to seeing themselves portrayed as dolts and villains while simultaneously watching the most beautiful actresses portrayed as potential deadly adversaries who also happen to be lesbians. Hooray for #EQUALITY.

It’s also kind of funny how schizophrenic Hollywood is in its portraits of communism. If you’re watching Trumbo or Reds, communism is a brave and principled set of ideals. If you’re watching Atomic Blonde or the latest season of Stranger Things, they’re diabolical jackbooted thugs. As someone who grew up during the 80’s, I can firmly attest to the overwhelming prevalence of Cold War hysteria. However, the fever pitch of Russophobia that has permeated every corner of the mediasphere since 2016 feels just a tad forced.

David Leitch manages to imbue the whole affair with enough style and storytelling panache to remain entertaining. The jams are pretty righteous too. In fact, I’m convinced that the inclusion of “The Politics of Dancing” by 80s one-hit synth poppers, Re-Flex, tells us everything we need to know about the role of intelligence operatives in waging psychological warfare and toppling regimes without ever firing a bullet. Despite the film’s final twist which would lead you to believe that it was Lorraine’s cunning badassery that made dupes out of the dirty commies, I suggest that Re-Flex really delivered the overriding message of the film.
We got the message
I heard it on the airwaves
The politicians
Are now DJs

Echo in the Canyon (2018)

(aka Establishment Gen X Aristocrat Canonizes the Boomer Would-be Revolutionaries For Other Aging Boomers)

There’s one scene in Andrew Slater’s love letter to the seminal Laurel Canyon musicians that sums up the entire film. In one of many interview segments led by Jakob Dylan, Graham Nash gets all misty eyed as he looks back on those heady days of creative ferment and unbridled hedonism. “I still believe music can change the world,” he says just barely holding back the tears. Just then, it cuts to Jakob Dylan as he let’s Nash’s words hang in the air. He stares off into the distance, but to his credit, his expression reveals nothing. Maybe he’s taking in the full weight of Nash’s sentiment and genuinely feels a sense of humility. Or maybe he’s silently scoffing at Nash’s audacity for uttering such a pitifully idiotic and painfully maudlin platitude that no one really buys. Maybe he knows that Nash is just regurgitating a mythology that needs to be perpetually reinforced through books, awards shows and rockumentaries. Maybe it’s something in between.

Much like its recent companion, Rolling Thunder Revue, Echo in the Canyon has the distinct whiff of the establishment patting itself on the back. These were musicians who presented themselves as rule breaking revolutionaries, yet the film wants you see them as the torchbearers of the rock “tradition”. Herein lies the great conundrum that the Flower Power Generation cannot reconcile. As anyone who’s read David McGowan’s excellent and far superior survey of the Canyon scene knows, these people were already children of the establishment. They made great music, but they were also trafficking a lot of social degeneracy. The film only scratches the surface of the extent of the hedonism these people were importing into the culture.

I’m sure it felt really transgressive to be for tuning in, turning on and dropping out back then. But this was the generation that turned out a generation of latchkey kids. This is the generation that ushered in higher divorce and suicide rates and enshrined abortion as an article of faith. This is the generation that got hooked on cocaine in the 80s and gave rise to innumerable cults and self-help gurus. This is the generation that colonized Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Democratic Party. Can music change the world? Of course it can. But what kind of “change” are we talking about exactly?

As expected, there is no mention of the dark underbelly of the Canyon scene. They completely sidestep the body count and the mysterious deaths that amassed around these people. They completely ignore Charles Manson’s proximity to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. There’s no discussion of the various mob, military and CIA connections behind the clubs and the record industry. This may explain why the scene in which Beck, Regina Spektor and Dylan attempt to philosophize over the broader cultural impact of these bands feels forced, artificial and utterly laughable.

They talk about the drugs and the sex, but you know they’ve completely sanitized it. Hearing Michelle Phillips talk about her affair with Denny Doherty isn’t titillating or cute. It’s pathetic and contemptible because it radiated out into the culture and wrought tragic results. Where were the uncensored interviews with Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips to give their unfiltered perspective on what it was like to grow up with these paragons of parental excellence? These people knew exactly what they were doing, yet we’re expected to treat them like royalty.

Right.

Go fuck yourselves, Boomers.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

This is it, folks. After 22 films in 11 years, this phase of the MCU has come to an end. As far as big budget superhero franchises go, Endgame gives the audience the most satisfying conclusion for which a fan could hope in 2019. In contrast to the haphazard agenda heavy abortions of the Star Wars universe under Kathleen Kennedy’s stewardship, the MCU was conceived to hang together as a cohesive whole from its inception. At minimum, Kevin Feige and company deserve credit for shepherding a 22 film series through one continuous storyline which resolves with a real sense of closure. Endgame wraps up several character arcs for many of the key Avengers while setting the stage for the next generation of MCU heroes. As one would expect, it’s not without flaws nor is it devoid of progressive messaging we’ve come to expect from every big ticket franchise. The main difference between the MCU and its Disney companion franchise is that you at least get the impression that Kevin Feige’s crew still likes the characters and the fans. For now. With the introduction of the thoroughly detestable Brie Larson as the ostensible leader of the Avengers going forward, I am certainly not optimistic that this trend will continue. If the blatant pandering of Black Panther and Captain Marvel are any indication of the future of Marvel, then it is indeed bleak. Given the early signals from Feige, I’m expecting the MCU to crater just as spectacularly as the vile garbage heap known as The Last Jedi.

Endgame picks up where Infinity War leaves off. Thanos succeeded in depopulating half the universe. The remaining Avengers are left to face their defeat and find a way to be normal now that their comrades and loved ones have been vaporized. Tony and Pepper finally settled down and had a kid. Clint Barton was also enjoying being a family man before Thanos zapped his family out of existence and forced him to turn to vigilantism. Black Widow has basically become a shift supervisor at the Avengers help desk. The Cap tries to make a career transition to grief counselor. In a futile attempt to score points with the SJWs, he offers comfort to a gay dude at a session. Being the ungrateful, miserable shitbags they are, the Cap gets no credit for being an empathetic ally.

Scott Lang comes back from the quantum realm with a wild idea. He thinks they can hack time travel, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone who was wasted by the snap. Cap and Black Widow are sold, but they just don’t have the scientific chops. Bruce Banner tries, but he’s out of his depth. They’re forced to make an appeal to the best scientific mind in the erstwhile Avengers organization: Tony Stark. Tony has an adorable daughter, and is enjoying the simple life that was unavailable to him as a full time Iron Man. Not only does he see major problems in hacking time, he doesn’t want to give up his hard won domestic happiness. But Tony being Tony, he simply can’t let it go. So the Avengers plot one final gambit for all the marbles. Get the band back together one last time, hack time, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone else. No problem, man! These are the mothafuckin’ Avengers after all!

The Goodbyes

As expected, we say farewell to many of our beloved Avengers. Some farewells are more satisfying than others. I’ll discuss the resolutions of the three central Avengers from worst to best.

Thor

Frigga: Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.

The closure of Thor’s story is by far the most undignified and insulting to this former God of Thunder. Thor was the most regal, masculine and distinctly Nordic character in the franchise. Subsequently, we see the pathological anti-white, anti-male, anti-tradition agenda on full display. When Rocket and Banner seek out Thor to enlist him for the time heist, they discover he’s become a reclusive, overweight drunk in New Asgard. Besides being racked with guilt over his inability to vanquish Thanos the first time, he’s also struggling with grief and PTSD over the loss of his entire family and homeland. In contrast to the arbitrary decision to turn Luke Skywalker into an emotionally defeated hermit, Thor’s situation actually makes sense given all that has happened. Thor has been through some serious shit. However, this doesn’t justify the absolutely wretched resolution of his story.

During the time heist, Thor is briefly reunited with his doomed mother. She correctly surmises that he’s the future Thor and that he’s crushed by sorrow and a misplaced sense of failure and guilt. She offers the kind of consolation only a mother could give, but instead of encouraging him to shake it off and get his ass in gear, she absolves him of any responsibility to his familial legacy. Just chillax with Peter Quill and Rocket, son. It’s all good.

So what does he do? He hands over the throne of New Asgard to fucking Valkyrie! That’s right. The son of Odin, the dude who was once in love with Jane Foster, decides to forego any responsibility to the survivors of Asgard or his heritage and just go kick it with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He doesn’t want to have kids or preserve the cultural legacy of Asgard for posterity. Come on, Marvel! Adding to the blatantly anti-European sentiment of Thor: Ragnarok, Civil War and Age of Ultron, the conclusion to Thor’s story in Endgame is the MCU’s final insult to European traditionalism. Never mind that Valkyrie was canonically portrayed as a rather voluptuous Norse goddess who was romantically involved with Thor. Nope. New Asgard is woke and multicultural now. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is going to “make some changes around here”. #TheFutureIsFemale, you white supremacist, Asgardian misogynists!

Utterly reprehensible.

Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers: Avengers! Assemble.

With all due respect to pre-Gadot Wonder Woman and pre-Snyder Superman, Captain America is arguably the biggest patriot of all superheroes. He is Captain America, after all. Despite the MCU’s post-national, globalist agenda, they managed to treat the Cap fairly respectfully and give him a decent resolution. They were able to cheat along the way, but Chris Evans and the Marvel team made me believe in the MCU Captain America. Of course, they were able to pull this off pretty effortlessly in The First Avenger because it was set in WW2. HYDRA was the secret military-intelligence wing of the Nazi Party, and Red Skull was even more diabolical than Adolf Hitler. Since everyone already hates Nazis, Steve Rogers’ yearning to join the Army and fight for America and SHIELD made sense even in Obama’s America in 2011.

Fast forward to 2014’s Winter Soldier, the Cap has been unfrozen after 74 years and is still trying to get his bearings in the modern world. He didn’t have to take sides over Vietnam, Watergate, the JFK assassination or the Civil Rights movement. He didn’t have the opportunity to formulate an opinion on Roe v. Wade, The Great Society, The Pentagon Papers, the Church Committee hearings, the Kosovo War, the 2008 market crash, the Iraq War or the PATRIOT Act. Nor was he aware that SHIELD had absconded with the Tesseract or that they secretly conscripted HYDRA scientists. He just tries to get back into action by doing what he does best. Serve. The problem is that SHIELD is a multinational operation now. The threats are not nation states. They’re intergalactic. Even worse, they’re coming from HYDRA double agents who’ve infiltrated SHIELD. Despite the multinational nature of SHIELD, he still believes that it can be restored to its proper status. The only moral imperative was rooting out the HYDRA subversives. Cap’s instincts were correct and he gives a great speech, but no direct appeals to American patriotism are necessary.

In Civil War, the Cap is forced to reckon with the fact that the Avengers can’t be lawless vigilantes who are accountable to no one. They must subordinate themselves to oversight. Marvel was once again able to completely sidestep the Cap’s loyalty to America as defined place with specific customs, traditions and laws. They simply portrayed him as a generic individualist dissident who was justifiably skeptical of World Security Council bureaucracy. Cap becomes an outlaw to the organization who commissioned the super soldier program that made him in the first place. It’s appropriate that the Cap would do what he did in Civil War, but they jettisoned his patriotism again in the process.

By the time we get to Infinity War, the Cap is sporting a Ted Kaczynski beard and his formerly red, white and blue uniform is more befitting of someone in Antifa. Because of his falling out with Tony, he no longer possesses his iconic shield. In Endgame, Tony and Steve enjoy a hard won restoration of their friendship and alliance as Avengers. When Tony pulls the shield out of his trunk, and gives it to Steve Rogers, it at least feels like Captain America has been made symbolically whole again.

In the final act, Steve Rogers time travels backwards to return Thor’s hammer and the Infinity Stones to their original timelines. Upon his return to the present, we discover that he has pulled a Dave Bowman and comes back an old man. We learn that he chose to live his life in the past with his true love, Peggy Carter. All by itself, it’s a sweet resolution for Steve Rogers. But Marvel being the postmodern relativists and social engineers that they are couldn’t leave it there. Steve bestows his iconic shield to Sam Wilson and thus presumably passing the mantle of Captain America along with it.

On the surface, it seems appropriate and earned given that Sam has been steadfast in his loyalty to the Cap. But the whole reason fans bond with fantasy characters is their uniqueness and specificity. A great character is someone you feel like you know. Steve Rogers went through a unique journey to become Captain America. The super soldier serum simply allowed him to exhibit strength that was a match for the strength of his patriotism and sense of duty. If an iconic character like Captain America is just a software app that can be run on any meatsack operating system, why put any effort into crafting any character? Steve Rogers was Captain America. Sam Wilson is Falcon. But none of that matters now. We’re in the Age of the Final Revolution and the very notions of nationhood, manhood and gender are on trial in the public square. Certainly, the idea of a superhero with a fixed identity is as much an interchangeable part as the protective case for your smartphone. Does this mean Sam will undergo the same super soldier treatment that gave Rogers his heightened abilities? Or is he just going to continue to be Falcon but with Captain America’s vibranium shield?

On an even deeper level, what will Captain America even mean going forward? Unfortunately, Sam Wilson tipped the MCU’s hand.

Sam Wilson: Only thing bumming me out is the fact that I have to live in a world without Captain America.

Despite Anthony Mackie’s considerable appeal, this move is clearly more calculated pandering. If this is a passing of the torch, expect Captain America to be a cinematic leader of the #RESISTANCE from this point forward. Marvel has attempted numerous character reboots in the comics, and fans have always reacted negatively. You can’t just take a character like Captain America, Thor or Iron Man and make him a black dude or a woman just so you can score points with the SJWs. None of these failures stops them though. They are more invested in the cultural engineering than great storytelling at this point. And that’s too bad. It puts a slightly bitter aftertaste to what felt like a well earned happy ending.

Tony Stark

Tony Stark: It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left. We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?

Steve Rogers: I do.

I complain so bitterly about the MCU’s missteps because I genuinely believe that what they get right almost negates everything they bungle. Almost. The premise with which you are presented in the Avengers franchise is yet another set of archetypal misfits, outcasts, and alphas who have to learn to rise above their own limitations and petty grievances in order to work together as a team. Of all the Avengers, the person most hobbled by narcissism and grievance is also its most brilliant scientific mind.

Tony Stark.

When we see Tony finally fulfill the dream of fatherhood he shared with Pepper in Infinity War, it already feels like a happy ending. He traversed a long personal distance from the self-involved playboy we met in the first Iron Man to the devoted father we see in Endgame, and it feels like a truly heroic growth arc. The scenes with Tony and his daughter are among the sweetest moments ever captured in the MCU. Despite all the destruction porn and CGI whizbang, this is the stuff that gives the MCU a human soul. Being a leader of the earth’s mightiest heroes still doesn’t compare to the simple pleasures of being a dad.

Tony gets an even bigger emotional payoff in Endgame. Aside from his newfound fatherhood and his reconciliation with the Cap, he has a reunion with his own father during his detour into a 1970 SHIELD facility to acquire Pym Particles and the Tesseract. As he leaves the facility, he encounters Howard Stark who is anticipating his own birth. They share a brief but awkwardly touching scene in which Tony is able to express the gratitude he was never able to give while he was alive. Again, this is the stuff that gives the MCU real emotional weight, and dare I say it, a smidgen of dramatic maturity.

When Tony joins the Avengers in pulling off the time heist, the stakes are even higher because he has something to lose he never had before. We’re rooting for him like never before. The cruel joke is of course that our tech savvy savior is a proxy for the military-industrial complex. This is the guy who unwittingly unleashed Ultron on the world. This is the guy who builds military hardware, bombs, and AI powered armored suits. How can you make that character palatable? By casting the most charismatic working actor who goes through an unprecedented eight film arc and delivers all the most smartass lines, that’s how.

Tony Stark: I saw this coming a few years back, I had a vision, but I didn’t want to believe it. Now it’s true. What we needed was a suit of armor around the world! Remember that? Whether it impacted our precious freedoms or not, that’s what we needed!

Tony is a sort of military-industrial transhuman Jesus. He seeks the same thing Thanos did: ultimate power. A device which can snuff out half of the universe with a finger snap. We don’t know how the Infinity Gauntlet can filter out its targets, but we just accept that Tony will succeed in vaporizing only Thanos and his minions. His final sacrifice ends up making the resurrection of the previously fallen Avengers a triumphant denouement. It’s quite a feat that Marvel succeeded in placing your sympathies with a weapons manufacturer who acquires the ultimate weapon, but that’s essentially what Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel have achieved here. When he’s drawing his last breath, Pepper informs him the she and their daughter will be okay. That’s great, Marvel. Hooray for Pepper. Not only can she wear the Iron Man suit and run Stark Industries, but she can raise her daughter without a father, too. Yay, feminism.

The #SCIENCE

Tony Stark: Quantum fluctuation messes with the Planck’s scale, which then triggers the Doidge proposition. Can we agree on that? In layman’s terms, it means, you are not coming home.

As I’ve written previously, I don’t go into any sci-fi film expecting pure scientific realism. That’s especially true of the MCU. I’m fine with Infinity Stones, magical hammers, and talking raccoons who pilot spaceships. However, when a film spends 5 or more seconds trying to explain its wildest speculations like the way they did in Interstellar, The Martian or Endgame, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re attempting drop some metaphysics or reach for the furthest limits of established scientific thought. In other words, they’re trying to directly influence your perception of reality itself. Time travel is nothing new in science fiction. Endgame even makes some clever meta references to other time travel films. But what are the metaphysical presumptions behind all this?

  1. The deepest mysteries of the universe are physical. In order to access the quantum realm, they need Pym Particles. Essentially, matter will allow our heroes to access immaterial dimensions of time and move backwards and forwards. Similar to Interstellar and 2001, Endgame posits that metaphysical concepts like time, love and intelligence are locked inside the material substance of the observed universe. It’s a twist on the alchemist’s quest for the philosopher’s stone.
  2. Time is merely an algorithm to be hacked. The Avengers didn’t really have to face defeat or failure. They didn’t really have to own the consequences of their decisions. Some timelines can be rewritten, but most are to be left alone. It symbolizes a scientistic resurrection myth. Subsequently, concepts that were once the exclusive province of religious faith can be substituted with a belief in #SCIENCE.

But it’s just a Marvel movie, dude! Yes. That’s precisely the point. It’s a Marvel movie that happens to be the second largest grossing film of all time. These things are never made without an underlying cultural programming agenda. There are aspects of the MCU that are already a reality. AI, robotics, drones, mass surveillance and all manners of smart tech are already a reality. Even the idea of a mind controlled super soldier is closer to reality than you might think. The MCU combines the outrageously fantastical with the real world in ways that most sci-fi films only attempt. When Tony Stark injects subcutaneous nanotechnology for the purpose of summoning his suit more easily, it’s because they want the idea of tech implants to seem sexy and cool. After all, if TONY STARK uses nanotech implants, don’t you? I mean, come on! Captain America was using facial recognition technology to search for Thanos! Why are you getting so spooked by airline kiosks that use it, bro? Stop being so PARANOID! You must listen to Alex Jones or something.

Steve Rogers: We’ve been hunting Thanos for three weeks now – through face scans and satellites, so far we’ve got nothing. Tony, you fought him…

Tony Stark: What are you talking about? I didn’t fight him. No, he wiped my face with a planet while the wizard gave away the store. That’s what happened, there’s no fight…

I also have a hunch that Hollywood is trying to manufacture a resolution between quantum mechanics and relativity through movies. In Interstellar, Cooper time travels by passing through a black hole. In Endgame, they’re using Pym Particles in a device built by the Avengers. In one film, you’re seeing a hypothetical object with zero volume and infinite gravity. In another, you’re seeing an imaginary substance being used to power a machine that can do something that only exists in sci-fi films. But Tony sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about, didn’t he?

Globalism Über Alles

Thanos: I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive, but you have shown me… that’s impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist. I will shred this universe down to it’s last atom and then, with the stones you’ve collected for me, create a new one. It is not what is lost but only what it is been given… a grateful universe.

This quote represents the underlying sentiment animating Endgame and the entire MCU. It shouldn’t be a mystery that the MCU is one giant hymn to globalism. Mass destruction and depopulation has been recurring theme. We saw it in Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok and Infinity War.

Closely resembling Erik Killmonger’s monologue in Black Panther, this quote will be another interesting litmus test. How many fans are going to find this sentiment repellent? He sounds like a full fledged member of the #RESISTANCE to me.

Besides, how would Tony’s plan be an improvement? He said he wanted a suit of armor around the planet. Freedoms be damned. Don’t think he’s the only one in SHIELD who feels that way. Pick your globalist poison, proles. Mass depopulation or technocratic superstate panopticon. How about both? Heads, we win. Tails, you lose.

Captain Marvel, the WTF and Other Cringe

Bruce Banner: If we do this, how do we know it’s going to end any differently than it did before?

Carol Danvers: Because before, you didn’t have me.

James Rhodes: Hey, new girl? Everybody in this room is about that superhero life. And, if you don’t mind my asking, where the hell have you been all this time?

Carol Danvers: There are a lot of other planets in the universe, and, unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.

Kevin Feige, thank you very much. I hope you’re enjoying this moment because your decision to bring fucking Brie Larson into the next phase of the MCU is your first major Rian Johnson moment. I’m confident it won’t be your last either.

Like many others, I saw the 11th hour inclusion of Captain Marvel (aka Captain RBF) after the cliffhanger of Infinity War as an ill omen. No one really wants or gives a shit about a jerry rigged sop to the SJWs whose undergone a gender swap and at least nine comic book reboots. This is Marvel desperately grasping for a competitor to Wonder Woman that they simply don’t have. Even worse, they cast SJW supreme, Brie Larson, to play her. The good news is that she doesn’t fuck anything up. The bad news is that even for the short time she’s there, the cringe is palpable. She even sports the Hillary Clintonesque haircut in one scene.

Naturally, Endgame genuflects to the Church of Feminism in numerous ways throughout the film. At this point, it has become its own cliché despite the pretense of “smashing stereotypes”. It’s merely matters of degree. Even Black Widow’s sacrifice for Clint Barton has a slightly unpleasant SJW aftertaste. Aside from the abominable decision to hand New Asgard over to Valkyrie, there is one major, utterly cringeworthy sop to the SJWs in the final battle. Look, I got a kick out of Eowyn dispatching the Nazgûl in Return of the King, too. Not only is this a retread of an almost identical scene in Infinity War, you just know the Russo brothers are pandering directly to the writers of The Mary Sue and Teen Vogue when they do this stuff. Writers who are simply going to bitch about how it wasn’t intersectional enough anyway.

While we’re on the subject, Captain Marvel can bring down Thanos’ ship single handedly, but she needs the Avengers sisterhood to cross the battlefield? And they all happened to be congregated there at that moment? This is Admiral Holdo grade shit, dudes. She’s been doing the work of the entire Avengers crew on other planets, but she’s incapable of defeating Thanos on her own? Captain Marvel added nothing to the film, and her presence in the final battle carried no dramatic weight because she simply hasn’t gone through the same journey the rest of the Avengers have. This is storytelling 101. It’s something Kevin Feige and company only selectively grasp, but they have an agenda that trumps common sense.

The decision to turn Hulk into a CGI-enhanced analogue of Mark Ruffalo’s real world soy latte beta persona was also a bit of a disappointment. This is a superhero whose superpower is going on Gamma radiation roid rampages. He got his ass handed to him by Thanos and his moment of redemption is putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping everyone back? Whatever.

And why the fuck was Captain America able to wield Thor’s hammer?! It’s cool, but come on, dudes. Did I miss something? I know this is Endgame and everything, but this is like Rey kicking Kylo Ren’s ass with the lightsaber in the first encounter. I can buy Pepper wearing the Iron Man suit because they at least made the effort of setting the precedent in Iron Man 3. In Age of Ultron, it seemed pretty clear that no one could wield the mjolnir except Thor and Vision.

Whither MCU?

Where do Feige and company go from here? Nowhere good from my vantage point. I expect everything that’s wrong with this phase of the MCU will be amplified. Every mistake they’ve made with comics will be transferred over to the films with no lessons learned and no meaningful concessions to fans.

Brie Larson has already signed on for seven fucking films! If that alone doesn’t chill your blood, then perhaps preachy, forced identity politics are your cup of tea. Kevin Feige and the Disney Corporation will enjoy taking your money.

Endgame was as satisfying a conclusion to this phase of the MCU as I could have hoped. The actors and the writers succeeded in making me believe that they actually cared about these characters and fans slightly more than political correctness. Sadly, that’s the benchmark for success in this Aeon of #SocialJustice. Given the weight of the mandates imposed by the woke intelligentsia at Disney, it’s as as good as it can be. What could it have been if the writers weren’t hobbled by PC orthodoxy and actually were hired for their passion for the material and characters? Ironically, those speculations are now the province of real fantasy. Such is life in clown world in 2019.

How Network Foretold the Age of Fake News

For better or worse, we now live in a 24/7 news cycle. More importantly, the information you consume says everything about your moral fiber according to the woke intelligentsia. When the news that long awaited Mueller report was finally complete and submitted to the DOJ, you could predict how the findings would be received simply based on which side of the Trump ideological border wall you’ve located yourself. Even if you’re not full on MAGA, there is a significant contingent of independents, libertarians, classical liberals, dissident rightists, and even a couple of lone progressives who hold a skeptical view of the news media. Like clockwork, William Barr’s release of Mueller’s statement was perceived through completely different lenses by these two factions. For anyone in the media skeptic contingent, there was vindication. Of course Russiagate was a hoax. Of course it was initiated by the Obama administration and carried out by a cabal of deep state partisans intent on undermining Trump’s presidency. Of course the media were packed with neocons, DNC shills, and deep state assets who were far more invested in an ideological agenda than journalism. Anyone not gripped by Trump Derangement Syndrome could recognize this.

For everyone else, it was merely more evidence that the conspiracy to undermine #OurDemocracy was deeper than anyone could imagine. Maybe the Russians even got to Mueller himself! What should have been a moment of self-reflection and contrition became an opportunity to double down. There has always been an ideological divide, but it appears that it is more pronounced than it has been in recent years. Perhaps more importantly, the media have been unmasked as the partisan activists they are. The degree to which they actively foment this division is now glaringly obvious. To be sure, there are numerous examples of yellow journalism that predate the Trump administration, but what’s different now is that the once vaunted “fact checkers” are being fact checked in real time. The “fake news” meme that originated in Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a weapon against Trump has been hurled back in their faces. And nothing is more beautiful than dishing back the scorn that is so routinely heaped upon the average Americans whom the media elites hold in such abject disdain.

The funny part is that Hollywood has exposed the media aristocracy as the mendacious grifters they are on numerous occasions. Films function on multiple levels and there are a handful of films which pull back the curtain and reveal the machinery of power in all of its depravity. Sidney Lumet’s scorching satire of television news media, Network, is such a film. However, Network goes a step further. It is properly seen as a piece of predictive programming or revelation of the method. With the possible exception of its pitch black ending, every aspect of the film has played out in the real world in ways that match or surpass its wildest moments.

Released in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Network captures the television news establishment at a crossroads. In William Holden’s aging news executive, Max Schumacher, we have an archetype of dying media integrity. Max is old school. He became president of the news division in a world where the idea of an independent, objective media free from the corrupting influence of the ratings rat race and advertising dollars was sacrosanct. The news division was a loss leader on the corporate balance sheet. News was a sober affair untainted by cheap sensationalism. But Max’s moral compass withers when tempted by the sexual charms of vapid ladder climber Diana Christensen and the opportunity to usher Howard Beale into the wide world of political commentary. Max’s affair with Diana is portrayed as consensual, but the recent exposes of Matt Lauer and Les Moonves suggest that the real world of network television is a little more predatory than Lumet and company represented. Today, media executives like CNN’S Jeff Zucker make no bones about their muckraking agenda nor do they hide their attempts to silence independent voices who have an opposing editorial POV.

In Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen, we have a feminist power fantasy, an emotionally stunted sociopath imprisoned by her pursuit of success, and an architect of the reality TV/social media celebrity. Not only does Diana champion Howard Beale’s transformation into a television prophet, she engineers the celebrity of a group of Marxist revolutionaries. When Diana sees footage of the Ecumenical Liberation Army, she sees a ratings bonanza. Diana’s legacy is felt in every corner of the mediasphere. Simply smooth out the Marxist militancy, add lipstick, Louboutins and a middle class Latina, and you’ve got AOC. Just look at the money and fanfare she’s gotten from the Hollywood establishment and one can reasonably conclude that Lumet was revealing the extent to which the Leftist “revolution” is a completely manufactured farce. In short, Diana Christensen would be the one who green lights Jussie Smollett’s “interview” with Robin Roberts.

Howard Beale unwittingly begins his career as a commentator simply for deviating from the antiseptic “reporting” he was required to do. Beale was conceived as a Cronkite-esque anchorman who imbues the broadcast with gravitas. Nowadays, Beale’s analogue is a robotic stuffed suit like ABC’s David Muir. A braindead automaton who is trained to read a teleprompter with the requisite dramatic inflections in his voice in order to convey an impression of Serious Reporting. In Beale, we also see the origins of the blurred lines between editorial and journalism. It’s not that Beale was dishonest, it’s that he gave a voice to disaffected Americans who knew they were being plowed under by the system. He simply put all of the impotent rage, frustration and sadness over the state of the world on loudspeakers.

Seen from a progressive perspective, Beale is nothing more than a proto Alex Jones or Sean Hannity. A more honest appraisal of Beale’s legacy would also include Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Cenk Uygur and even Rachel Maddow. As much as CNN and MSNBC like to tout their fearless pursuit of #FACTS, the truth is that everyone filters reality through a set of moral and emotional receptors. Journalism is not just a clinical recitation of facts. Facts all by themselves don’t tell a story. Every journalist worth his salt is attempting to insert his investigations into a larger narrative mosaic. The types of questions you ask or don’t ask, the manner in which facts are framed or omitted, and the extent to which weaponized language is used all contribute to the audience’s ability to process the information. The story that’s being told emerges from a set of preconceived moral and ideological presumptions. And ethics can be bought and sold. UBS didn’t care what Beale said when they saw the ratings. They only cared when he encouraged his audience to thwart the deal between the parent company and the Saudis.

The true masterstroke of Network is the scene when Beale is called on to the carpet by CEO Arthur Jensen. After Beale’s “Mad as hell” diatribe, Jensen’s monologue is a close second. Chayefsky and Lumet pull back the curtain on the full agenda behind the entire mass media complex: global domination. It’s about total pacification and technocratic servitude. Jensen informs Beale that he hasn’t just scotched a business deal. He’s “meddled with the primal forces of nature”. Even after Jensen lays down the law, Beale continues to drop truth bombs.

Howard Beale: Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there’s a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy’s office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?

But it’s just a movie, right?

Nope. Fast forward to the present day.

In the wake of the most exhaustive federal investigation of a POTUS in modern history, half of America still thinks Trump is guilty of colluding with Russians. Motherfucking half!
Bill Maher says he knows Trump is guilty because…wait for it…..he has a television!

Howard Beale was right.

Network may be regarded as a satire, but both Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky were deadly serious. Isn’t it ironic that we have to look to entertainment for truth and news for comedy?

No Country For Old Men (2007)

It’s bleak as fuck, but it’s still one of the Cohen brothers’ best films. On the surface, No Country For Old Men is a postmodern noir Western for the age of open borders and narco warfare. However, both McCarthy and the Cohens are always reaching for biblical scale symbolism and allegory, so I believe it can be convincingly viewed through a few different lenses. I read it as grand scale tragedy of the dissolution of the American social fabric as it transitions from the Greatest Generation to the Boomers. Though the film focuses on Llewelyn Moss’ attempt to outrun and survive Anton Chigurh, the film is seen through the eyes of Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Bell. He yearns for a time when police officers didn’t have to wear guns, the moral fault lines were clear, and the administration of justice was swift and certain.

In this film, our ostensible hero is a Boomer Vietnam vet who lives in a trailer with his girlfriend. He has no children and he’s retired from a welding career. He happens upon the scene of a drug deal which turned into a bloodbath and makes off with a suitcase full of cash. So the acquisition of his great treasure is not the product of a Joseph Campbell-esque Hero’s Journey or the result of sacrifice. Right away, we’re asked to place our sympathy with a character who came by his reward through sheer happenstance. He merely stumbled upon a random carcass that was collateral damage from the drug war.

As a Boomer archetype, Llewelyn is perfect because he has a compelling mixture of damaged patriotism, trailer park chivalry, and a perverse sense of entitlement to his ill gotten booty. Since he is rendered as a Vietnam vet, his military service represents the last gasp of collective patriotism before the nation descended into a permanent posture of malaise, cynicism and discontent in the post-Watergate era. I mean, what’s wrong with scraping a little cream of the top of drug war, amirite?! Get those Benjamins, dawg! Woot!

He is pursued mercilessly and relentlessly by Javier Bardem’s cold blooded assassin, Anton Chigurh. Resembling something in between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and Benecio del Toro’s cartel killer in Sicario, Chigurh takes on a supernatural and superhuman quality. When we’re introduced to Anton, he kills a random motorist by using a captive bolt pistol after dispatching a police officer and stealing his car. Not only does Anton seemingly kill indiscriminately, his weapon of choice is the same one used in abattoirs to slaughter cattle. This suggests a man who sees himself at the apex of the Darwinian predator/prey dominance hierarchy. He’s not bound by quaint notions of morality. That shit is for the plebs. His purpose is to be a pure conduit for Fate. Life and death are decided at the flip of a coin. He’s just the functionary whose entire existence is about ensuring that the cosmic machinery of determinism runs smoothly.

Chigurh carries out his task with a frightening level of patience, forethought, and discipline. It brings to mind the kind of methodical planning someone like Stephen Paddock exhibited in carrying out the Las Vegas massacre. When considering these qualities along with his ability to self-administer advanced medical treatment after suffering severe gunshot wounds, Chigurh is very likely a programmed assassin with deep state military training. He exhibits the qualities we expect to see in a James Bond or Jason Bourne. There’s nothing in the film that would lead the viewer to draw this conclusion and I suggest this is by design. There’s a despairing fatalism underneath this film and I suspect the Cohens want the viewer to think Chigurh is just a natural product of the modern world.

Sheriff Bell’s final lines suggest that this film is the Cohens’ lament over the passage of a more civilized and stable America. Their employment of Roger Deakins’ cinematography leaves me with the impression of their abiding love for the beauty of America. In contrast to detestable horseshit like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the Cohens’ underlying affection for America always seemed sincere to me. They’re Boomers themselves so there’s more than a little bit of Llewelyn in each of them. They helped usher in the America in this film and, by extension, the world in which we live. Like Llewelyn, they too are just the lucky beneficiaries of America’s post-WW2 ascension to global superpower. That’s not to say they’re talentless hacks, but they are firmly ensconced in the Hollywood establishment. By default, they’re implicated in building the world we currently inhabit. We may nod in despair to Sherriff Bell’s grim ruminations, but I’m fairly confident the Cohens themselves are standing right alongside Rob Reiner and Steven Spielberg cheerleading for open borders.