Category Archives: Hollywood

Wonder Woman

After years in development, Wonder Woman has finally gotten her big budget Hollywood screen adaptation with a female director at the helm. Gal Gadot carries off the role with a sufficient level of likeability and physical prowess. One would not be unreasonable to ask “Have we finally reached peak cinematic feminism?” I mean, it’s 2017 fer chrissakes! The answer is most likely a resounding No, but I’ll be damned if Wonder Woman doesn’t set a new standard in feminist pandering and wish fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong. The film definitely has entertainment value, but you are well advised to brace yourself for some serious next level Hollywood-style proselytizing for the Church of Feminism.

In contrast to the annoying trend toward gender swapping revisionism and the near ubiquity of blockbuster heroines, the feminist editorial in Wonder Woman is expected because it was written into the character’s source code from the start. In fact, not only is the Wonder Woman character a pretty explicit piece of feminist mythology, this film is easily the most overt attempt to canonize feminism as a globalist secular religion. Though it eventually resolves with a respectful nod towards Wonder Woman’s origins, it is chock full of contemporary talking points, groan inducing PC orthodoxy and heavily loaded religious symbolism.  I’m not an expert on every aspect of Marston’s original vision, but I know enough to know that they made some pretty dubious revisions to the original mythology in order to cater to current political narratives. 

The film lays it on pretty thick right out of the gate. After delivering a voiceover in which Diana Prince confesses that her idealism had been blunted upon entering the world of mankind, a Wayne Industries armored carrier service delivers a package to our heroine working at what appears to be a cushy curator gig at the Louvre. Instead of an American patriot working from the inside of military intelligence, we have an aesthete working in a key EU member state at the world’s most renowned art museum. The package contains a WW1 photo of Wonder Woman and a note from Bruce Wayne indicating his desire to hear the story behind it. Cue the time warp back to Diana’s childhood in the matriarchal paradise of Themyscira. 

If you thought the Vuvalini in Mad Max: Fury Road was pandering to radfem matriarchal fantasies, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Themyscira. Presumably modeled after Marston’s vision, the Amazons of Themyscira live in a utopia of pure feminine bliss and order. The gigantic architecture resembles classical Greek design and was expertly carved from marble and stone. Young Diana is enthralled by the combat training exercises being carried out under the iron discipline of Robin Wright’s Antiope. Naturally, every Amazon possesses balletic, superhuman combat skills with and without perfectly crafted metal weapons. Young Diana pleads with her mother, Hippolyta, to begin combat training but she forbids it.  “Don’t you think she should learn to defend herself?”, asks Antiope. Absolutely not, says Hippolyta. After all, she is protected by Antiope’s Amazon army of super soldiers. Right away, we’re presented with a matriarchy in which there is perfectly crafted stone architecture, expertly wrought metal weaponry, abundant resources, peace, order, beauty, art, education, military might, cultural tradition, multiracial harmony, political equality and apparently, procreation. We aren’t privy to the details of the male eugenics program which weeds out male births, but it’s safe to assume it’s fully funded by taxpayers. Of course, all of these marvels are achieved without the aid of men. I realize this is superhero mythology, but this level of pandering seems geared towards appeasing the Julie Bindels and Laurie Pennys of the world. 

While putting her to bed, Hippolyta attempts to disabuse young Diana of her desire to learn combat.  I mean, it’s great that you’re breaking gender stereotypes and setting an example for young girls, but you need to get #WOKE to all this war stuff, Diana. Hippolyta busts out the Amazonian Bible and lays down the origins of civilization itself.  Zeus made man in his image and, at first, they lived together in peace and harmony.  Ares, the God of War and a white male, filled the hearts of men with fear and suspicion which put them in conflict one another. Ares killed all the gods, but was vanquished by Zeus and doomed to roam in the world of men. Zeus then created the Amazons to protect mankind from the scourge of Ares. The only way to stop Ares is by wielding the mythical God Killer sword; a sword whose phallic nature can be used to kill Greek and Christian gods alike. Step aside King Arthur and make way for Diana of Themyscira, PYGS! So to recap, a fucking white male poisons the hearts of mankind and fills the world with hatred and strife, but a peaceful civilization of women descended from Zeus lies in wait to redeem and defend the world from evil Ares.  In short, womyn are goddesses, saviors and redeemers, but m*n have only poisoned the world with war because of their toxic masculinity. Kneel before the Church of Feminism and repent! 

Naturally, gender studies are mandatory in Themyscira so Diana is completely unencumbered by harmful gender stereotypes and pursues combat training against Hippolyta’s wishes. Diana rises to the head of the class and not only can she kick everyone’s ass, she has magical bracelet powers and shit.  Clearly, Diana has a little more goddess mojo than her Amazonian counterparts. 

While contemplating her supernatural abilities by the beach, a fighter plane crashes into the ocean.  Its pilot is in danger, so she dives into the ocean to save this hapless dolt. Upon dragging his helpless ass on to the shore, she realizes why this mysterious being has fallen into a state of misfortune and requires the rescue of an Amazonian goddess.  “You’re a m*n”, realizes Diana. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor exhibits his utter cluelessness to gender expression by saying, “Don’t I look like one?” And with this simple exchange, meme #hxstory was made.  

After fending off an invasion in which the Amazons’ balletic badassery is barely sufficient to repel m*n with g*ns, Diana realizes that Ares has plunged the world into a deadly conflagration that threatens to consume all of mankind. Under inducement of the magical Lasso of Hestia, Steve Trevor reveals that he is a spy who stole plans to a deadly bioweapon being developed by….wait for it…..THE GERMANS! Because there has apparently never been a country in the history of the world which has bred genocidal and totalitarian ambitions quite like Germany. Under the command of General Ludendorff and the evil Dr. Isabel Maru, the German army will wreak destruction on countless women and children. Maybe some men, too, but who cares about them, amirite? Knowing that the lives of women and children are at stake, Diana resolves to leave Themyscira with Trevor in order to kill Ares and vanquish evil from the hearts of men. Hippolyta is saddened, but resigns herself to accepting Diana’s choice by reinforcing the valuable lessons in gender supremacy and misandry that the Amazons have cultivated for so long.  “Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you. You have been my greatest love. Today, you are my greatest sorrow,” says a tearful Hippolyta. Determined to uphold the tenets of #SocialJustice, Diana sets out to check privilege, smash gender norms, and generally kick the patriarchy’s ass. “I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves,” she promises. And just think. This was WAY before Tumblr. Watch out, fascists! 

Diana and Steve set sail for London to get Dr. Poison’s plans into the hands of British military commanders. While at sea, Steve reveals himself as the patriarchal piece of shit that he is with an antiquated bit of “chivalry”; he makes a comfortable bed for Diana while confining himself to a cramped edge of the deck. She invites him to join her, but he hesitates because it’s not proper to sleep with women outside of marriage. This is an admirable amount of restraint for a rapist who doesn’t understand consent, but Diana persists. Diana reveals that she doesn’t understand why men and women get married and commit their lives to one another if they don’t keep the promise. Steve is stumped, and quite frankly, so are we. Who wants children and families or any of that patriarchal enslavement?  I mean, gender scholars have pulled the veil from all this heteronormative bullshit. After raising Steve’s hopes of getting some Amazonian action, Diana leaves him blue balled by telling him that she’s read all of the works on sexuality written by Themysciran gender scholars. They concluded that m*n were necessary for reproduction but unnecessary for sexual gratification. Guess you’ll have to resort to self-service, Trevor.

Upon arriving in London, Diana is instantly appalled by rampant pollution, shitty architecture, catcalling, and m*n everywhere. In another nod to the Marston mythology, we meet Steve Trevor’s body positive secretary, Etta Candy.  Diana is puzzled by the phenomenon of a secretary and asks what that entails. “Oh, well, I do everything. I go where he tells me to go, I do what he tells me to do,” she says. “Well, where I’m from that’s called slavery,” retorts Diana. Oh snap! Burned again, shitlords! EMPLOYMENT is slavery! I mean, it’s not like Themyscira had a very strict military and government hierarchy or anything! It’s not like the cultivation of resources, development of military discipline, or the building of civilization requires some level of submission to leadership or anything. It’s ALL ARBITRARY PATRIARCHAL ENSLAVEMENT. 

Steve insists that Etta help Diana blend in by getting her some new clothes.  Cue the montage in which we’re treated to Gal Gadot sporting early 20th century British fashion while chuckling at the high hilarity of the many patriarchal restrictions it places on her Amazonian combat capabilities. There aren’t any free bleeding-friendly yoga pants which would raise awareness of period shaming, but Diana settles on a smart corporate business suit that comes with glasses. The glasses are essential in order to forestall sexist assumptions that she’s a clueless dumbass because that’s obviously the first thought a m*n thinks when seeing a woman. 

Steve scandalizes the British high command by daring to bring Diana, a woman, into their top secret meeting. They’re totally triggered because of their fragile masculinity, but they listen to his plea to take the bioweapon plans and destroy the secret lab. David Thewlis’ Sir Patrick assures him it’s unnecessary because they’re on the cusp of signing an armistice deal. Diana isn’t buying it. Because she’s been educated in Themyscira University with a degree in postmodern gender theory, she can read Babylonian cuneiform and shit. She tells these clueless dumbshits that they’re risking the lives of innocent women and children. Subsequently, they should send all the men to the front to save them because what good have men ever done in the world? The commanders are too triggered by the presence of such a #STRONG womyn, but Trevor resolves to keep his promise to bring her to the front. As the enthusiasm amongst American feminists for mandatory selective service indicates, women are CLAMORING to fill combat roles and reach the heights of military command positions.  

Before they undertake this dangerous mission, they need to assemble a diverse, multicultural team of men to bumble their way through the mission while marveling at Diana’s Amazonian voluptuousness. Among the mercenary heroes are an English drunkard marksman, an Arabic guy to school everyone on #RACISM, and of course, a Native American(?!?!) dude to remind everyone about the evils of colonialism perpetrated by the American white man.  

With the blessing and patronage of Sir Patrick, the heroes set out to the battlefront to kick some proto-Nazi ass. Upon reaching the front, Diana is unfazed by the bullets and ordnances flying around her and can’t understand why these cowards won’t just advance their position.  The lives of women and children are at stake! Steve tries to spell it out for her. 

Steve Trevor: This is no man’s land, Diana! It means no man can cross it, alright? This battalion has been here for nearly a year and they’ve barely gained an inch. All right? Because on the other side there are a bunch of Germans pointing machine g*ns at every square inch of this place. This is not something you can cross. It’s not possible.

Diana Prince: So… what? So we do nothing? 

Steve Trevor: No, we are doing something! We are! We just… we can’t save everyone in this war. This is not what we came here to do. 

Diana Prince: No. But it’s what I’m going to do.

Checkmate, shitlords.  Cue slow motion robe removal and step ladder climb on to the battlefield.  It’s cheesy as hell, but it works. 

In an unusual concession to patriarchal norms, Wonder Woman actually allows some romantic affection to develop between Diana and Steve.  After liberating a French village from occupation, the heroes enjoy a moment of peace and celebratory revelry. Marksman Charlie attempts to entertain the crowd with some sweet piano ballads and his crude but spirited singing voice.  In what is probably one of the more poignant commentaries on the true legacy of modern feminism, Steve Trevor reveals something remarkably honest about the state of manhood in 2017. It’s a confession that’s probably meant to be another indictment of the shallowness of men, but I suggest that it reveals the dearth of positive paternal examples for young men in general. 

Diana Prince: What do people do when there isn’t a war? 

Steve Trevor: They get a job, get married, have children. 

Diana Prince: What is that like? 

Steve Trevor: I… don’t know.

As much as I enjoyed Gal Gadot’s martial vision of Wonder Woman, I can’t help but think that it lacks the joyful cheeseball patriotism that Lynda Carter brought to the 70’s version of the character. Like Superman and Captain America, Wonder Woman was most definitely a patriotic superhero.  Even her Israeli accent makes her seem more Euro-cosmopolitan and less American. Instead of the bright primary colors of Lynda Carter’s Old Glory-inspired two-piece, Gal Gadot sports an armor-like combat skirt which mutes the traditional blue, gold and red with dull metallic overtones. It looks cool, but it definitely says Globalist Wonder Woman instead of America’s Wonder Woman. 

The film is entertaining enough, but I never felt that Wonder Woman was in danger at any point nor did I sense that she had any real weaknesses or flaws. Besides her bombshell good looks and physicality, Gadot alternates between adequate and bland on the charisma scale. Whether it’s that the role has been flattened by the necessity of fulfilling every item on the feminist checklist or that she’s not that great an actress in the first place, there’s an absence of any real personality. The responses to the film from feminist media have been predictably hilarious.  If it’s not the outrage of Wonder Woman’s shaved armpits, it’s the hope that one day Wonder Woman will be a fat, queer, non-binary WOC.  One gets the distinct impression that the more you pander to feminists, the more petty the complaints become. 

Above all else, Wonder Woman is a hymn to the twin religions of Globalism and Feminism. The one plot twist in the film could easily be seen as a slam on Nigel Farage, UKIP and #Brexit. As for the feminist proselytizing, Wonder Woman represents a new high water mark for religious symbolism. In one of the early battle scenes, Wonder Woman bounds through a church steeple to take out the German snipers endangering the civilians below.  After dispatching them handily, Wonder Woman emerges from the rubble of the Christian Church to bask in the glow of her devout and grateful flock. Symbolism doesn’t get more blatant than that.

The ending of the film is respectful towards the character legacy, but also rife with theological overtones.  Diana recognizes that she may never conquer the evil that lies in the hearts of humanity. As a goddess of love, they are always free to choose the salvation she provides if they just listen and believe. Praise Wonder Woman and get ready for Justice League, PYGS. 

Diana Prince: I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know… that only love can truly save the world. So I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission now. Forever.

Get Out

So you say you want to see The Stepford Wives repurposed to accommodate the latest #WOKE narratives around white privilege and white supremacy? Look no further, identity politics addicts! Get Out is here to confirm every current political narrative, every ideological bias, reinforce your racial self-loathing AND vicariously satisfy your murderous revenge fantasies! Idiotic, predictable, and supremely hateful, Get Out is one of the most vile examples of contemporary racial politics I’ve yet witnessed. Despite being the villains, the film is mostly geared for smug progressives who take Buzzfeed privilege quizzes seriously, retweet Tim Wise, think gender studies is a legitimate field of knowledge and have one or more #Blacklivesmatter merchandise items prominently displayed.  The type of p*rsxn who thinks microaggressions are a thing and genuinely gets zer panties in a twist over the usage of #AllLivesMatter. Based on some of the responses in #WOKE Twitter, it apparently served its purpose of stoking the racial animosity industry which doesn’t exist for blacks cuz white institutional power and shit. 

Black people can’t be racist. So STFU. Take some critical race theory, racist.

The premise is very straightforward and there’s not a single real surprise to be found. Daniel Kaluuya plays smart, handsome, upwardly mobile photographer, Chris Washington. As Rose Armitage, the utterly charmless, vapid and detestable Allison Williams is perfectly cast as his seemingly #WOKE, sensitive, totally-not-racist girlfriend who has taken every article from Everyday Feminism to heart. They’re presumably in love and getting ready to spend a weekend with her parents. UH OH! GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, AMIRITE? DO THEY KNOW???? “Oh, don’t worry,” assures Rose. “My dad would’ve voted for Obama for a third term.” GOT THAT, #RACISTS? THEY THINK THEY’RE TOTALLY NOT RACIST. BECAUSE THINKING YOU’RE NOT RACIST JUST PROVES THAT YOU’RE RACIST. IF YOU’RE WHITE, YOU’RE A RACIST, RACIST! With this current article of faith firmly established, it’s merely a matter of waiting to see which phantasmogoric manifestation of racial malevolence surfaces.  

Peak #WOKENESS?

When they arrive at the Armitage estate, Chris is taken aback by the presence of black servants whose behavior is strangely vacant. Bradley Whitford’s Dean Armitage tries to reassure Chris that he’s totally-not-racist by affirming his wish for a third Obama term just like Rose said. Dinner time brings some additional tension when Rose’s unhinged, nutbag brother asks a few too many uncomfortable questions and initiates an awkward invitation to wrestle. Chris’ unease heightens as as his attempts at conversation with the servants only reinforce his concern that something is deeply wrong here. The tension reaches a crescendo during an outdoor party in which all of the Armitage’s rich, effete liberal aristocrat friends are in attendance. Every performance is a cringey stereotype of shallow cosmopolitanism. Chris is relieved to find another black guest, but is taken aback yet again upon discovering that he exhibits the same vacant mannerisms as the servants. He attempts a parting fist bump, but OH SNAP THE DUDE GRABS HIS FIST INSTEAD. A REAL BROTHA WOULD HAVE RETURNED THE CULTURAL GESTURE. When Chris returns to his room, he bugs out completely when he discovers that the charger cord on his phone has been disconnected yet again. WILL CHRIS ESCAPE THIS #RACIST PRISON OF RICH, WHITE LIBERAL PROGRESSIVES?????

To be perfectly fair, there is some deeper subtext pertaining to the dissolution of the black family and the deleterious effect it’s had on black culture. Catherine Keener plays the matriarch of the Armitage family and possesses the ability to induce hypnosis on the black victims. While under hypnosis, Chris finds himself imprisoned in a psychic netherworld called The Sunken Place. She exploits Chris’ guilt over a childhood trauma he experienced losing his single mother. Naturally, we have another well adjusted black male who grew up with a single mother and no father. The Sunken Place could have been explored further as a metaphor for debased state of the black family. Now before you post that Mother Jones article preaching against spreading hate facts about single mothers, the data reveals overwhelmingly negative effects for black children growing up with single mothers. The Armitage family can be seen as an archetypal legacy of white progressive elites which stretches back to Margaret Sanger through Lyndon Johnson and up to Hillary Clinton who’ve wrought vast destruction on the black population. 

If there is a genuine criticism of institutional racism in the film, the entire legacy of progressive legislation from Jim Crow to the Great Society to the 1994 Crime Bill must be put on trial. Filmmaker Jordan Peele claims that the film was meant as a poke in the eye at white, middle-class liberal elites. Fair enough. That’s an admirable aim and a deserving target, but ultimately, I doubt that anyone came out of the theater thinking about anything other than the evil, racist white man. 

The film also does some particularly idiotic cheerleading for the TSA.  LilRel Howery plays Chris’ best friend, Rod Williams, and he brings his suspicions of foul play to the authorities. He lays out his concern that a rich, white family is responsible for the abduction of his best friend. They laugh off his allegations (HAHAHA! WHITE PRIVILEGE, AMIRITE?) and Rod is left to investigate his friend’s disappearance on his own. As TSA gropefests make the news on a regular basis, it’s as though the filmmakers were intentionally stoking the racial animosity so that they could sneak in sympathy for a frequently embarrassing and increasingly intrusive government agency

There is something deeply depressing, nihilistic and slightly malevolent about this film.  It’s a film which could have been so much more surgical about connecting racism to policy outcomes presumably aimed at improving life for the black community. It could have addressed the Left’s absolute refusal to discuss things like fatherlessness, values or IQ. Instead, it was content to take a worthy target and exploit the narrative du jour. It felt like the goal was just to have progressives walk out engaging in another circle jerk of postmodern smugness. OMG! SO GOOD AND SO TRUE! THE FACT THAT WE CAN CHEER A MOVIE PORTRAYING WHITES AS RACIST VILLAINS PROVES WE’RE NOT RACIST! AND NOW WE’RE GOING TO GO TO A DECOLONIZING WORKSHOP TO PURGE OURSELVES OF OUR TOXIC WHITENESS! Could you make this very same film in which you reversed the race of the two leads? Of course you couldn’t. The Left have abandoned any notion of holding people to equal standards. They’re hypocrites and cowards who only want to construct a cultural panopticon filled with recursive loops of confirmation bias designed for the sole purpose of engineering a self-reinforcing consensus of pure ideological conformity. Make no mistake, they are actively engaged in the business of reshaping language and culture. By dominating media and the entire education apparatus, they’re constructing one-sided cultural narratives that are impervious to scrutiny, debate or facts. Racism is EXCLUSIVELY a phenomenon of the white race through the postmodern magic of “historical and institutional power”. Get Out is just the latest escalation of the Left’s cultural hegemony of boundless nihilism and obnoxious cynicism. Naturally, the critical echo chamber is gushing with praise. They’re already pushing it on Academy voters. I’m sure it’ll be Best Picture at next year’s Oscars.

The Founder

A cynic might view John Lee Hooker’s portrait of Ray Kroc, The Founder, as an indictment of the American Dream itself. McDonald’s has come to signify everything illusory, toxic and and inhuman about American capitalism and idealism. Whether it’s Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, or any of the various #FightFor15 campaigns, the progressive Left has the fast food industry squarely in the crosshairs. Depending on the outrage du jour, the fast food industry is underpaying workers, poisoning the population with toxic food, contributing to the obesity epidemic, hastening the global warming crisis and propping up oversized agribusiness conglomerates. No other restaurant chain embodies all of this amoral rapacity, soulless industrialism, and ruthless expansionism more than McDonald’s. Of course, there is some truth to the charges leveled at McDonald’s and the fast food industry. However, as this film brilliantly illustrates, these qualities were features of Ray Kroc’s personality flaws and what he injected into the McDonald’s brand rather than design flaws in the fabric of American values or even the fast food industry.  

The Founder is a fairly straightforward historical biopic which, like its subject matter, succeeds on economical storytelling and tasty performances. It’s a fascinating story because it reveals how McDonald’s and fast food became synonymous with American values. More importantly, it shows how Ray Kroc deformed those values through his own ruthless ambition. 

Hollywood films often present their subjects through an ideological lens of progressive politics, and I suspect the filmmakers of The Founder had a similar aim. As long as you recognize that, the film presents some fairly decent lessons in market economics, industrial engineering of food production, contract law ethics, and brand building. The title of the film is very loaded because it draws up an assumption in your mind about its meaning. What Ray Kroc “founded” is not exactly what you might think.

Before McDonald’s, Ray Kroc was a mediocre traveling salesman trying to hock milkshake multimixers to the burgeoning fast food industry.  The drive in was the dominant model and it included features of the fast food experience that have been long consigned to the historical memory bin. Hamburgers and fries were served on washable dinnerware and delivered to your car by waitresses on roller skates. Ray Kroc had a mass market mentality, but no one in the middle American fast food business seemed to share it. His attempts to appeal to American ingenuity and Say’s Law fell on deaf ears.

Ray Kroc: But if ya had the Prince Castle, 5-spindle, multimixer… with patented direct-drive electric motor we’d greatly increase your ability to produce… delicious, frosty milkshakes, FAST. Mark my words. Dollars to donuts, you’ll be sellin’ more of those sons of bitches… then you can shake a stick at. You increase the supply, and the demand will follow… Increase supply, demand follows. Chicken, egg. Do you follow my logic? I know you do because you’re a bright, forward thinking guy who… knows a good idea when he hears one. So… What do you say? 

When Kroc receives an order for eight multimixers from a burger joint in San Bernardino, his hopes and curiosity intensify. Kroc arrives at McDonald’s and he is thunderstruck. He receives his order instantaneously, the wrappings are completely disposable, there’s no wait staff, and there’s a line of customers as far as the eye can see. However, all of this innovation came from the minds, sacrifices and work of Dick and Mac McDonald. Through a combination of ambition, courage, and Dick McDonald’s ruthless pursuit of cost savings and production efficiency, McDonald’s changed the fast food game for all time. Kroc is captivated and ingratiates himself with the McDonald brothers. 

Kroc pitches the McDonalds a national vision for the restaurant. The Golden Arches are more than just a visual brand; they are the symbolic glue between the Christian cross and the American flag. The McDonalds aren’t sold because they tried franchising the restaurant but couldn’t maintain quality control. Dick McDonald was a master of industrial food production and a capitalist through and through, but he didn’t want to lose control over the quality of the product. Being the more sentimental of the brothers, Mac sees a possibility for the kind of national success that eluded them and persuades his hard headed brother to sign a deal with Kroc.

Kroc returns to the Midwest with his sights set on complete domination. He makes appearances at Rotary clubs, churches and synagogues and begins recruiting families into the McDonald’s franchise with the fervor of an evangelist. Kroc may not have invented the food production system, but he did succeed in grafting the idea of McDonald’s to the psychological infrastructure of American ideals: family, opportunity, optimism. 

Despite his early success, his is unable to repay his business loans due to the small percentage allotted in his contract. He grows increasingly impatient with Dick McDonald’s insistence on quality control. Kroc really turns an ethical corner when he forms a real estate holding company at the advice of Harry Sonneborn.  By owning the land on which the franchises are built, he is guaranteed a larger revenue stream and capital base. Most importantly, it offers him leverage over the McDonalds. When he sees a possibility to cut costs with milkshake mix instead of real ice cream, Kroc sets himself on a collision course with the McDonalds. Kroc amasses enough power to buy his way out of his contract. Through the process, he kicks his wife of 39 years, Ethel Kroc, to the curb and courts the wife of franchisee, Rollie Smith. 

The film tips its partisan hand in a final scene which shows Kroc rehearsing a speech he’s preparing for an event in which Governor Ronald Reagan is scheduled to attend. Kroc is rehearsing all of the catch phrases and appeals to American ideals he perfected during McDonald’s ascent. When he finally approaches the part of the speech involving the first restaurant, he stammers and stumbles. Yes, we get it, folks. Republicans are shallow hypocrites who don’t uphold the ideals they espouse. But that’s a little too simplistic. Kroc won the McDonald’s enterprise, but he sacrificed its soul in the process. He took Dick McDonald’s industrial food production innovation and replaced it with a ruthless Benthamism. The McDonalds were the Jeffersonian capitalists who wanted to keep their idea regional and decentralized, but Kroc was the Hamiltonian who wanted a strong national identity for McDonald’s.

If you walk away from The Founder with the impression that American capitalism and idealism are false and hollow, you bought the cynicism that Hollywood is always selling. Fortunately, it’s a film that I believe has more meat on its bones than the average agitprop shit sandwich. Corruption, soulless industrialism, megalomaniacal ambition and hollow appeals to nationalism aren’t inextricably linked to capitalism. If that’s what the business is projecting into the world, that says more about the values of the individuals behind it. In the case of McDonald’s in its contemporary incarnation, the blame for these phenomena lies squarely at the feet of Ray Kroc. The McDonald brothers embodied American idealism without any grandiose speeches or national ambitions. Capitalism takes on the characteristics of the individuals behind it, and McDonald’s was ultimately hijacked by a particularly ruthless individual.  If there’s any overriding message of The Founder, that is surely it.  

Miss Sloane

Risible, idiotic, ludicrous, cartoonish, and deeply partisan are a few of words that come to mind in summarizing this utterly loathsome Jessica Chastain vehicle, Miss Sloane

As the titular character, Chastain portrays yet another progressive, feminist power fantasy packaged as an indictment of the lobbying industry. Both the film and the character can be best described as an attempt to fuse Annette Bening’s principled lobbyist, Sydney Ellen Wade, with the ruthlessness of Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood. Exhibiting a typically hyperbolic level of comic hysteria, would-be moral indignation and faux virtue that are standard features of Hollywood agitprop, the film presents Elizabeth Sloane as a lone, fearless crusader who dares to challenge the gun lobby, but pays a steep price. 

Like The Big Short, the film is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, it presents the lobbying industry and the politicians they serve locked in a symbiotic Gordian Knot of compromised ethics. The lobbyists are unprincipled mercenaries who simply work for the highest bidder, and the politicians are equally craven, self-interested careerists who are driven by the vagaries of public sentiment. On the other, it is most definitely portraying one side of the political equation as ultimately principled.  Sloane enters this snake pit of moral relativism and plays the game on its own terms in order to fulfill one unassailable, unalloyed moral good: gun control.  

The film opens with Elizabeth Sloane being prepped for a congressional hearing which has been convened to investigate her possible violations of Senate Ethics Rules. Under heavy questioning from John Lithgow’s laughable caricature, Congressman Ron Sperling, our would-be Machiavellian heroine lays out her credo:

Lobbying is about foresight. About anticipating your opponent’s moves and devising counter measures. The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition. And plays her trump card just after they play theirs. It’s about making sure you surprise them. And they don’t surprise you.

The film flashes back to the meeting which took place seven months prior to this hearing which set the chain of events in motion. The senior partners of her firm set her up with the head of the most powerful gun rights organization in the country. They recognize the deficit in appeal their cause has with women. Since she never gets tired of winning, they want Elizabeth Sloane to Make Gun Ownership Great Again for the female electorate. Sloane may be a mercenary, but she has SOME PRINCIPLES, dammit! She’s not going to just take any paycheck. She laughs in his face, and defects to the competitor firm with her cadre of #WOKE, #DIVERSE junior associate millennials in tow. 

With steely resolve, Elizabeth orchestrates a strategy to win the passage of the Heaton-Harris Amendment which would mandate background checks for gun purchases. This eventually leads her to a televised debate with her former colleague arguing the merits of the bill. This is where the film cudgels you over the skull with its progressive editorial. The debate is a cringe inducing piece of propaganda which portrays Sloane carving her opposition to pieces, overwhelming him with seemingly airtight logic, and unequivocally holding the appearance of the moral high ground.  As Pat Connors, Michael Stuhlbarg has the dubious distinction of being this week’s hapless conservatard who manages to bypass every substantive argument with a facile variation on MUH CONSTITUTION. Chastain takes obvious pleasure in rebutting every claim with ever escalating moral indignation as her #WOKE team cheers on the brutal #PWNAGE she dispenses. 

The fact that the progressive Left are the true moral and constitutional relativists who want to criminalize gun ownership is not exactly a secret. Every single one of Sloane’s rebuttals reveals the calculating sophistry that the Left has used to erode the perception of inviolability the Bill of Rights was meant to convey. It’s just like getting a driver’s license, and no one thinks drivers license mandates have destroyed individual liberty!  It’s just like fugu chefs in Japan who have to train for seven years!  We’re living in a different world from the one in which the Founders lived!  Get #WOKE, conservatards!

The Bill of Rights was, in fact, meant to delineate the boundary of individual liberty over which the government may not trespass. The Second Amendment follows the First because it is an inherent recognition of the fragility of liberty. The 2A places the responsibility of upholding liberty in the hands of every citizen. It is a recognition that stewardship of liberty cannot even be fully entrusted to the nation state. It is not a license for homicide. No quantity of laws will ever deter the homicidal maniac from committing homicide. No quantity of bureaucratic oversight has ever prevented a single act of mass gun homicide. If laws make the purchase of firearms too onerous, it only makes a bigger black market for firearms. It also incentivizes the sociopaths to enter into government and law enforcement positions so they can enjoy the cover of legitimacy. Gun control simply consolidates gun ownership in the hands of the State layered over with a vain hope that it will affect moral choices. The Left’s entire case is a gigantic appeal to emotion, and none of this enters Stuhlbarg’s argument.  He just gets to be Sloane’s intellectual roadkill in order to serve the greater goal of confirming the bias of the audience.  

The film tries to add some complexity by showing the amphetamine popping Sloane going off script during the debate. In a heated moment, she likens the defense of the 2A to being analogous to Christian opposition to gay rights. The #WOKE millenials are left slackjawed when she reveals that her colleague, Esme Manucharian, was a survivor of a deadly school shooting without consulting her beforehand.  Once Esme is outed, she becomes the public face for gun control. The tables turn when her life is threatened by a paranoid gun nut, but she is saved by a civilian who was carrying a legal concealed firearm. Good guy with a gun stops bad guy with a gun. The film tries to present this citizen vigilante as a national hero who is showered with media coverage, BUT THIS NEVER HAPPENS IN THE REAL WORLD NO MATTER HOW OFTEN IT HAPPENS. 

Elizabeth Sloane can be added to the ever growing list of feminist fantasy stereotypes. She’s driven, but she’s ultimately propelled by a sense of moral certitude. Her moral relativism is justified because she’s striving to uphold a higher moral absolute. She’s willing to allow her hypocrisy to be exposed only so she can expose the hypocrisy of The System©. And of course, real female power reaches its true apotheosis by Reforming Democracy®.

It’s also another example of feminism’s supremacist tendencies by portraying her as better than all of the male characters at every level. Even if Elizabeth Sloane is morally compromised in some way, she’s still better and smarter than every man in the film. She’s can even detach the need for emotional fulfillment from sex! She doesn’t need no m*n! 

Miss Sloane is just the latest installment of Hollywood’s partisan political agenda and pathological desire to flatter progressive pretensions of moral and intellectual superiority.  It undoubtedly sees itself as a rebuke to The System©, but I doubt that anyone outside the media echo chamber and the target audience sees it that way. 

Hidden Figures

Picking up where The Imitation Game left off, Hidden Figures arrives to crank the Hollywood virtue signalling dial to 11. Instead of a gay, British computing genius who helps the government, we get three black female math geniuses who help the government. Or to use #WOKE parlance, “womxn of color”. By most media accounts, Hidden Figures is a factually accurate account of the lives of three of NASA’s Human Computers: Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). Even if it boasts historical accuracy, the screen adaptation reeks of social justice grandstanding and narrative building. 

On the one hand, it’s great that this story is being told and the world can appreciate the critical contributions these women made to the American success in the Space Race. On the other, it is intensely irritating to watch a film whose political agenda bludgeons you over the head with every scene. This is a film that desperately wants you to walk out of the theater determined to dismantle “white supremacy” and “smash the patriarchy”. This is a film that seems blatantly calculated reinforce the omnipresent feminist narrative that women are socialized to be excluded from math and science. This is a film whose every line of dialogue seems customized for HuffPo headlines and #WOKE Twitter. And of course, this is yet another film which portrays women as paragons of pure poise, unshakable composure, boundless intelligence, unassailable virtue, and competence in every facet of life. 

The film kicks off the #RACISM narrative right off the bat. Our three heroines are stranded on a rural road as Dorothy Vaughan repairs their stalled automobile. A police officer pulls up to inquire about their condition, and naturally, he’s a belligerent, racist oaf who treats them with suspicion and contempt. Setting up a behavioral pattern that will define virtually every interracial interaction for the remainder of the film, the police officer is disarmed and bewildered to discover that they’re NASA employees. And like mathematicians and engineers and shit! Check your privilege, RACIST!

The rest of the film seems designed to set up variations on this scene.  In other words, three #STRONG, #INTELLIGENT Womyn of Color suffer one racist indignity after another, but eventually get to show the dumb white supremacists what they’re made of. Dorothy Vaughan is passed over for a promotion despite doing the work of a supervisor in the West Campus computing pool. Mary Jackson is denied an opportunity to advance as an engineer because she can’t take continuing education classes at the segregated school. Katherine Johnson is treated like shit even after she’s assigned to the elite corps of mathematicians working on getting a manned spacecraft in orbit. 

Hidden Figures wants you to believe that it’s “smashing stereotypes with its fearless portrait of WOC”, but it only can do that by building new stereotypes and straw men of its own. With the exception of Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison and Mahershala Ali’s Jim Johnson, all of male characters are racist dolts, faceless functionaries or power hungry bureaucrats. Even John Glenn can’t catch a break from the ever vigilant feminists at Bustle who bust him for calling Johnson a “girl”. Kirsten Dunst fares no better as the utterly unsympathetic West Campus supervisor, Vivian Mitchell.  She has the thankless role of being the token white, female racist who has to repeatedly deny advancement to the heroines due to budget cuts or obscure rules. BUT WE REALLY KNOW WHY SHE’S SHUTTING THEM DOWN, DON’T WE? 

The bulk of the film centers around Taraji P. Henson’s Katherine Johnson and her ascent through the ranks of the mathematics team responsible for the Friendship 7 mission. Upon her arrival, the film sets up the predictable racial tension as she is greeted by a roomful of silent white, male stares. It doesn’t take much to anticipate the trajectory the film takes, and there’s barely a surprise throughout its length. With the predictability of the mathematical equations Johnson calculates, you can anticipate every single dramatic cadence. As Paul Stafford, Jim Parsons is yet another two dimensional cardboard cutout who’s only job in the film is to bark instructions, enforce bureaucratic protocols, and marvel at Johnson’s genius when she shows him up. Costner is mildly sympathetic as the gruff department head who places his trust in Johnson’s ability. Naturally, he also gets to be the White Knight who makes the “smash white supremacy” meme literal by destroying the segregated restroom sign with a crowbar. 

There are numerous points which require varying degrees of suspension of disbelief, but one of the biggest is Johnson’s relationship with her three daughters. Johnson is a widow for the first half of the film, and the only caregiver is her mother. Her daughters are extraordinarily well behaved, happy and show no signs of discontent being separated from their mother most of the time. Johnson’s male counterparts have to phone home to their wives with the bad news that the Soviet launch of Sputnik will require that NASA redouble their efforts, but the one person who’s consistenty burning the overtime candle is Johnson. SEE SEXISTS? ALL THAT NONSENSE ABOUT MEN WORKING LONGER HOURS THAN WOMEN IS HATE FILLED PROPAGANDA! WOMEN CAN SHOULDER EVERY BURDEN WITHOUT A MAN AND THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES. 

To the film’s credit, they emphasize the central role that religious life played for the black community during that time. Social graces, manners, respect for elders and being well dressed are values which are consistently upheld in religious circles. The events of the film predate the Great Society and the destruction of the black family it wrought. Henson’s character is courted by Ali’s Jim Johnson, so the film is actually willing to portray marriage as a positive virtue. 

I doubt there’s much discussion of it in #WOKE media, but the film touches a third rail of racial politics: the correlation between race and IQ. Charles Murray continues to be raked over the coals for The Bell Curve, but the film is portraying a phenomenon that is, in fact, pretty rare. You’ll find plenty of hand wringing in progressive publications and government websites over the shortage of African-Americans graduating with STEM degrees. The film clearly wants you to point the finger at the reliable boogeyman of #SYSTEMIC #RACISM, but the hard truth is that very few African-Americans are pursuing STEM degrees. The Hollywood and academic elite undoubtedly believe that putting forward nothing but positive stereotypes will bolster self-esteem in the black community. It may make for a great circle jerk of self congratulations, but reduces filmmaking to SJW propaganda. 

Sadly, the film is also a pretty obvious bit of government propaganda. Don’t get me wrong. I remain enthralled by the possibility of spaceflight, but one simply cannot underestimate the symbolism that NASA, and by extension, this film represents. Spaceflight is largely viewed as the last remaining frontier of human achievement which can only be realized through the infinite benevolence of the State.  The government wants to preserve a monopoly on this realm of endeavor because it needs to own every area of aspirational idealism in order to keep people distracted from all of the horrible shit it’s doing. If people continue to hold the belief that the government can be used to confer an endless array of Public Goods and reach the highest pinnacles of human achievement, then no one is happier than the politicians. 

One of the biggest ironies of the film is the disconnect that presently exists between the contemporary radical wing of racial justice activism and the film’s open celebration of the MLK Civil Rights legacy. While the film lionizes the breakdown of Jim Crow laws, the collegiate safe space crowd openly EXTOLS racial segregation as next level #SocialJustice. 

I wanted to like Hidden Figures, but Hollywood seems pretty intent on prioritizing political virtue signalling over making good drama lately. Everything about the film is expertly crafted, but it sinks under the weight of the agenda it’s carrying. Fences appears to be a film portraying the life the ordinary black father, but what are the chances Hollywood is going to make a version of this movie for hidden black men? I know which side of that bet I’m on.  

La La Land

It’s not going to replace The Sound of Music in the pantheon of greatest musicals, but it’s a nice throwback to Old Hollywood with a modern sensibility.

La La Land is the kind of film that you thought was consigned to the scrap heap of Hollywood history.  In other words, it’s a boy-meets-girl love story with song and dance performed by two charismatic and attractive leads.  It’s colorful. It’s fun. It’s a film with a smile on its face that wants to entertain you. Ryan Gosling is the idealistic jazz musician, Sebastian, and Emma Stone is aspiring actress, Mia. Even with its bittersweet ending, the film is refreshing because of its unabashed old fashioned approach.

Besides the love story, La La Land deals with the question of what it means to be an artist and being true to your principles by finding your own voice. Sebastian is the quintessential jazz purist who wants to rescue jazz from cultural oblivion. He dreams of opening a club that features Honest Jazz, but bides his time playing lounges and 80’s cover bands. Mia is just another actress hunting for scraps in the Hollywood meat grinder until Sebastian encourages her to tell her own stories by developing her long abandoned writing.

More specifically, the film addresses the ideological divide in jazz between innovation and tradition, and which takes priority when it comes to attracting audiences. Is jazz a fixed tradition with specific, definable parameters or is it a blank slate which must incorporate modern technology and borrow from other idioms in order to innovate and attract audiences? In Sebastian’s case, his version of artistic radicalism was to return to jazz tradition despite being given an opportunity to play in John Legend’s globetrotting pop/R&B act.

In one scene, the film does an excellent job showing the chasm of misperception between the jazz aficionado and the casual consumer. Mia tries to explain that she finds Kenny G perfectly enjoyable and her parents would put on a smooth jazz station as background music. Instead of being an elitist snob, Sebastian draws her attention to the musical action happening on the combo performing in front of them.  The film clearly wants us to see the beauty in jazz that Sebastian sees and show what makes jazz such a dynamic and rich art form.

Where La La Land really shines is in the romance between Sebastian and Mia. How long has it been since Hollywood unironically presented the pursuit of love and companionship between a man and a woman as a virtue? Hollywood has been so far up its own ideological ass for so many years trying to fulfill every politically correct agenda that a scene with Sebastian and Mia holding hands in a theater while watching Rebel Without a Cause feels pretty radical. 

It’s multicultural, but it is blessedly free of hamfisted racial or identity politics. Sebastian’s sister marries a black man, but they didn’t insert some tortured narrative about racism. The jazz club scenes contained multiracial audiences and showed people getting along and having a great time enjoying an art form that has succeeded in building cultural bridges.  Since Hollywood seems so solidly intent on propping up politically divisive narratives by constantly emphasizing America’s sordid history in films like Race and Birth of a Nation, the absence of these tiresome themes in La La Land is noticeable and welcome.

The film is not just a candy coated sugar high though. The tradeoffs, compromises, self doubt and financial insecurities which come with the territory of being an artist create the emotional and dramatic tension between the characters. Artistic idealism is an admirable virtue, and one which resonates with me, but Damien Chazelle is correct to point out that absent clear communication, the pursuit of a stable family life and the artistic dream can easily become irreconcilable goals.  It’s great to see that the pursuit of artistic individualism is upheld as a heroic virtue, but it’s worth remembering that it is not an ironclad promise of financial remuneration or commercial recognition.

Needless to say, the SJW media factions and progressive Twitterati have predictably heaped condemnation on La La Land for the very reasons that it’s good.  Hopefully, studios will pay more attention to the positive acclaim and box office receipts, think twice about pushing ideological agendas, and remember that people enjoy being entertained and watching attractive people fall in love on screen.

Hollywood Proselytizes for the Cult of Obama to the Bitter End


If Meryl Streep’s steaming pile of smug and the generally ignominious and partisan tone of the Golden Globes weren’t a sufficient reminder that Hollywood is a de facto propaganda arm for the Democrats and all things Obama, I present this towering feat of kiss ass.

This creepy, outrageously obsequious and idolatrous ode to the Obama Cult of Personality comes courtesy of celebrity sycophants, and a Diverse© pool of Marginalized P*rsxns engaged in a breathless and vacuous recitation of talking points. This is virtue signalling that would make Kim Jong Il jealous. Obama is obviously concerned about the demolition of his legacy so the self-congratulatory vibe is cranked to 11.

In the Soviet Union, artists were required to glorify the State.  In America, it’s a way to telegraph that you’re a Good P*rsxn and totally #WOKE while indulging a fantasy that you’re being edgy and contrarian despite being in a bubble of near perfect ideological conformity.

Positively loathsome. 

Trumbo

image

To say that Hollywood is inhabited by narcissistic egomaniacs is perhaps an understatement and self-evident. However, that’s not to say that the Hollywood creative class is without talent, skill or deeply held ideological convictions. If nothing else, Hollywood films are very good at promoting Hollywood’s own brand of self-righteous mythology. Specifically, that Tinseltown is inhabited by collection of pious crusaders who are On the Right Side of History.  Trumbo is unequivocally one of these films. 

Trumbo is a biopic which dramatizes the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. It also touches on issues of free speech, free markets, the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 50’s and the Hollywood Blacklist. This film is roughly analogous to Reds in that it dramatizes a figure of the American Left who had Communist sympathies and was persecuted for his convictions. It is far inferior because in contrast to Redsit utterly fails to pinpoint the failure of Marxist ideology. Nor does it acknowledge the reversal of roles that has taken place between the Right and the Left in contemporary society. In the latter respect, Trumbo is dismal bit of partisan hackery. It seeks only to reinforce the mythology of the American Right as corrupt, vacuous authoritarians who are Wrong About Everything. Conversely, it portrays the Left as the principled, virtuous rebels On the Right Side of History whose voices and spotless moral rectitude are under perpetual assault by dirty ReTHUGliKKKans. It’s refreshing to get a Hollywood film that wears its political stripes on its sleeve, but the solid philosophical points it makes are completely undermined by its partisanship.

Trumbo starts off on very shaky ground and only devolves. We’re presented with an extravagant poolside party with Bryan Cranston’s Trumbo arguing passionately in favor of the beleaguered proles whose labor creates so much surplus value for the greedy Hollywood capitalists. The soulless and indifferent Hollywood executive with whom he was arguing haughtily dismisses him as a Dirty Red and walks away leaving a cloud of contempt in his wake. This incident portends the ostracism to come. Principled, Compassionate Leftist is just trying to speak his mind and stick up for the Little Guy and he’s just shut down by an Evil, Heartless Conservative. Poor Comrade Trumbo. 

In a subsequent scene on the plush ranch he purchased from the earnings he made from the dirty capitalist system, Trumbo is taking his daughter Niki on a horseback ride. Niki nervously asks him if he’s a Communist to which he answers clearly and unequivocally, “Yes.” She asks him if she’s also a Communist. Instead of educating his child with history, economics, and sound reasoning, he lays out a half-baked, simplistic analogy which offers no sound foundation upon which to make an informed choice. Rather than expounding on why he was sympathetic to Marxist politics, he likens Communism as being exactly equivalent to sharing a sandwich with a student at school. This is the level of vile sophistry to which Hollywood has descended. Socialism is just charity and caring for your fellow man, proles. That’s all. Utterly contemptible and loathsome.

Anti-communist sentiment was on the rise, and Trumbo and his screenwriter colleagues banded together to oppose the ascendant persecution. Ironically, they proclaimed the freedom to assert their political convictions on First Amendment grounds. In another gathering of Hollywood elites, David James Elliott brilliantly channels John Wayne’s cartoonish patriotism and his anti-Communist bloviations. The roomful of executives and actors express their agreement with cheers, applause and laughter at every proclamation. Once again, we see the Dirty, Evil Conservatives in the thrall of patriotic groupthink and the Fearless, Intrepid Leftists who just want to assert basic American Constitutional principles. The gathering ends with a confrontation between Trumbo and Wayne in which Wayne is taken down a peg when Trumbo reminds him that his patriotism was only tested in the comfort of a Hollywood studio. Not in the trenches of the battlefront. As failed actress, gossip columnist, and all around contemptible bitch, Hedda Hopper, Helen Mirren giddily informs Trumbo that he will be ruined in the court of public opinion by her column.  The film’s attempt to attribute Hopper’s media Star Chamber to conservative/anti-communist ideology is yet another example of the film’s sheer dishonesty about the contemporary Left.  

Despite making waves for his political sensibilities, Trumbo lands a lucrative contract with MGM. As he’s about to sign on the dotted line, Louis Mayer holds up Hopper’s column and warns him not to make these kinds of headlines. He signs and simply advises him not to read the papers. His career lift is soon cut short as he’s served a subpoena to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He is subject to an interrogation that most have come to associate with the term McCarthyism. He refuses to answer questions on the grounds that he’s not being charged with an actual crime. Trumbo is ultimately charged with contempt of Congress, and sentenced to time in the federal penitentiary along with nine others. The infamous Hollywood Ten are born. Once again, the film is placing all of the toxicity on one side of the political equation.

Hopper exerts her influence even further in a private meeting with Mayer. She pressures him into refusing employment to those on the Blacklist by threatening to tar him in her column and manipulating him with appeals to patriotism. Mayer tries to push back, but caves in when he realizes he’s cornered. She plunges the knife in further with a few choice anti-Semitic digs at him and other Jewish studio heads. Here, we see the filmmakers peddling the mythology of racism, Nazism, authoritarianism and fascism being the sole province of the Political Right. Never mind the Nazi’s application of Keynesian economic policy in the run up to World War II which mirrored FDR’s applications. Never mind FDR’s internment of the Japanese. The filmmakers clearly want the viewer to associate Nazism and fascism with the Political Right.

While in prison, he befriends a gruff and surly inmate, Virgil Brooks, who is in charge of prison supplies and happens to be black. Naturally, since Trumbo is a Leftist and Friend of the Dispossessed and Unjustly Persecuted, he is able to ingratiate himself to him sufficiently in order to obtain work typing up requisitions. Brooks offers him the gig, but reminds him that he will “fuck him” if he violates his trust at any point. During his period of incarceration, a former Trumbo actor colleague, Edward G. Robinson, is called to HUAC to testify. The inmates are able to watch the hearing on the communal television. Robinson confesses to being a liberal Democrat, but outs his own former colleagues as Communists just to avoid the ostracism that Trumbo and the remaining Hollywood Ten received. After the testimony, Brooks says that if anyone in prison snitched like that, they’d be killed. That’s right, proles. Truly ethical behavior and real human virtue can be found in the prison population of America. The American criminal justice system is surely guilty of being overzealous in prosecuting an ever expanding sphere of illegality, but this persistent effort to invert reality and attribute virtue to all things Leftist is positively odious. This phenomenon is due in no small part to activism from both the black community and liberals alike. You’re more likely to hear idiotic lectures about white privilege than you are admissions of their respective roles legislating these outcomes.

In another bit of blatant partisanship, Trumbo encounters fellow inmate and former HUAC committee member and interrogator, J. Parnell Thomas. Thomas was sentenced for corruption charges, and Trumbo takes a shot at him by reminding him that he’s the only real criminal between the two of them. Apparently, only conservatives are corrupt and abuse political power.

After serving his year long sentence, Trumbo returns to his family and attempts to revive his flagging career prospects. He’s forced to sell his plush ranch and the Trumbo family take up residence in the Los Angeles suburbs. His neighbors are aware of him and the persecution continues with threatening anonymous notes and vandalistic messages on their property. Desperate for work, Trumbo makes a deal with B-movie kingpin, Frank King and agrees to write scripts under a pseudonym. During this time, he secures work for his blacklisted colleagues and enters into a period of relentless output and perpetual solitude. In a family meeting in which Trumbo conscripts his family into his semi-clandestine script writing factory, Niki wonders how she will fit in time for her studies and her Civil Rights activism. Got that, proles? Leftists are smart, studious, industrious and of course, care deeply about Social Justice. Trumbo’s star is also quietly rising as he wins Oscars for penning Roman Holiday and The Brave One, but cannot claim credit due to his blacklist status. His relationship with his family is increasingly strained as a result of his punishing work schedule, and things come to head during Niki’s sixteenth birthday. She cannot believe that her own father cannot spare even a minute to share a piece of birthday cake on this momentous occasion. She storms off in a fit of frustration. Trumbo seeks her out in order to attempt a reconciliation and finds her fighting #PATRIARCHY and #RACISM at the racially integrated café. For once, the Hollywood film portrays the father as a positive influence on his daughter. Apparently, even Leftists have to affirm family values and the virtues of fatherhood every now and then.

Trumbo’s fortunes finally turn when Kirk Douglas asks him to work on the script for Spartacus. Douglas is able to win Trumbo over by telling him that Spartacus is the story of a man who stood his ground when the world was against him. Trumbo’s script catches the attention of filmmaker Otto Preminger and he’s offered another big opportunity to write the script for Exodus. Hopper’s defamation campaign is relentless and she attempts to manipulate and threaten Douglas for employing Trumbo, but ultimately caves in to Douglas’ resolve. “When did you become such a bastard?” asks Hopper. “I’ve always been a bastard,” retorts Douglas. What appears to be Spartacus’ Randian message of individualism against the tyranny of the collective is transformed into the facile collectivism of #JeSuisCharlie. The reign of repression is finally broken when Preminger goes to the press with an open admission that Trumbo is the writer of Exodus.

Trumbo is canonized with an award in the final scene, and here, the film commits its final atrocity of intellectual dishonesty and smug, self-congratulatory partisanship. In a speech, Trumbo asserts a hypocritical and contemptible moral relativism by claiming that there were “no heroes and no villains” during the anti-Communist purges. After two hours of demagoguery and demonization of the Political Right, the filmmakers just want you to believe that this was just a non-partisan slice of history without an agenda from which you can draw your own conclusions. It’s not as though the politicization of Hollywood began under FDR and has continued to push government propaganda ever since then. It’s not as though leftists have triumphed overwhelmingly in their legislative pursuits over the past century and those policies have contributed to any of the negative outcomes in America. It’s not as though leftists have overwhelmingly colonized academia and Hollywood and nearly all of the messaging reflects a solidly leftist ideological bent. It’s not as though leftist social justice activism has taken on the exact same characteristics as the McCarthyist witch hunts and people now lose their jobs and fortunes in the Star Chamber of social media. There are no failed leftist policies and there is no reckoning to be made with the historical connections to failed socialist states and contemporary leftist policy. Nope. It’s just those dirty conservatives and their nationalism, authoritarianism, racism, and dumb, selfish devotion to capitalism.

Trumbo is a an interesting story which touches on an earlier and highly politicized atmosphere in America from which important lessons can be drawn. Unfortunately, it’s just peddling the same lesson that Hollywood is almost always selling. As long as you’re a Leftist, you’re a Good Person. If not, you’re evil, racist and stupid and on the Wrong Side of History. Setting aside his socialist politics, Trumbo’s life stands as a testimony to the importance of free speech. It reminds us of the inextricable link between individual freedom and economic freedom that can only flourish under capitalism.  It serves as as a warning against the pernicious influence of politicians who exploit the power of the State in order to carry out political vendettas. Regardless of political affiliation, everyone can learn from these examples. It’s just too bad they’ve been papered over with the facile talking points of the Left.

Reds

image

I admit it.  It’s not the Marxist lovefest I expected.  

I went into Warren Beatty’s 1981 opus expecting it to be another Hollywood love letter to socialism.  Instead, what I witnessed was a remarkably honest portrait of a doomed love affair between two seminal American communist radicals. Their ideals pitted them against one another and drove them apart despite their deep devotion to one another. 

Reds is a sweeping historical political drama which encompasses the roots of the American socialist Left, World War 1, and the Bolshevik Revolution.  The film is built around the tempestuous love affair between John Reed and Louise Bryant played by Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton respectively.  Its major achievement is how it manages to expose the limitations of Marxism by showing how the central characters’ allegedly revolutionary ideals undermined their ability to simply be with one another. 

As expected, the film spells out some of the facile appeal of socialism at the outset.  Beatty takes a very classical approach to filmmaking and the themes of the film are embedded in the characters. Louise Bryant is the aspiring writer and avowed feminist with libertine sexual mores who scandalizes Portland’s high society.  John Reed leaves jaws agape at the Liberal Society when he openly opines that the motivation behind the war is the capitalistic profit motive.  Louise is enthralled by Reed and asks him for an interview. They spend an evening together in which Reed bores the shit out of her regales her with his passionate desire to foment a socialist revolution.   Socialist feminist and Marxist revolutionary meet and the seeds of a deep love affair at a momentous time in history are sown. 

All of the touchstones of leftist bohemian ideals and political activism are present. The couple shared a permissive attitude towards sexual promiscuity and polyamory. Their disdain for capitalism, anti-war sentiment, artistic idealism, and initial refusal to submit to traditional bourgeois values are attitudes that would define the Left for decades. Most importantly, they shared a naïve hope in the promise of a worker’s revolution.  

Reed and Bryant eventually travel to Greenwich Village and we’re introduced to the seminal figures of America’s socialist Left including Emma Goldman and Max Eastman. The atmosphere is ripe with revolutionary spirit. Reed’s attempts to cover labor organizing efforts for his socialist magazine take him away from Bryant and drive an emotional wedge between them.  Meanwhile, Bryant tries to peddle her writing, but fails because her writing sucks. Bryant tries to assert her independence, but can’t confront how much she ultimately wants and needs Reed.  The couple resolve to remain together and set out to Provincetown, MA with Eugene O’Neill to live as artists in a quasi-communistic manner. 

Reed’s activism leads him away from the idyll of Provincetown, and on to the campaign trail to canvass for Woodrow Wilson.  Bryant has an affair with O’Neill, and Beatty draws out the conflict between monogamy and the bohemian spirit of free love.

Bryant and Reed separate again, but are reunited when Reed follows her to France. He asks her to join him on his journey to Petrograd to cover the imminent Bolshevik Revolution.  Though their love is rekindled in the fires of the Revolution, their activity is not viewed favorably by US federal authorities.  Reed is given a platform at a Bolshevik rally and stirs up the proles with some good old fashioned demagoguery.  It’s impeccably staged and plays like an Occupy Wall Street protest if it weren’t run by a bunch of pussies. 

They return to the US with a renewed hope in revolution, but with the Feds hot on their tail.  Adding to their travails is their renewed tensions with the American Socialist Party.  Reed is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and tries to persuade them toward a Bolshevik spirit. His views are at odds with the leadership of the party. Reed breaks with the main party and forms his own more “pure” Socialist Party and is voted as the leader to seek the sanction of the Bolsheviks in Moscow. Here, the film turns a corner and starts to show how the revolution and Marxist dogma ultimately implodes and pits socialists against one another.  The bickering and tests of purity which the party members apply to one another translates perfectly to modern day purges carried out by social justice progressives today.  

After enduring imprisonment for improper paperwork, Reed travels back to Moscow is ultimately conscripted by the party elites to be a propagandist.  The consequences of his choice hit hard as he is denied return to the United States. He finds his appeals to the Party squashed by crushing authoritarianism. Reed is crushed to discover that he is unable to get a simple communication to his wife due to the palsied bureaucratization, incompetence and backwardness of life in Soviet Russia.

He is ultimately reunited with the recently deported Emma Goldman and he ponders his fate in her squalid apartment.  In a devastating monologue, Goldman tries to appeal to his sense of reason by pointing out the tragic failure of the revolution.  Instead of emancipating the proletariat, the Bolshevik regime has metastasized into a brutal and repressive police state. Not only is the dictatorship of the proletariat intolerant of dissent, it has driven the economy into deep contraction and dysfunction.  Blinded by his idealism, Reed brushes it off and says that you just can’t have a revolution without cracking a few skulls.  

Reed is sent on a fateful mission to Azerbaijan to bring the gospel of Bolshevist Socialism to the Muslims.  To his dismay, he discovers that his propaganda speech was mistranslated by Party kommissar, Zinoviev.  Drawing an excellent and accurate parallel between Marxism and Islam, Zinoviev replaced “class war” with “Holy war”.  Reed gets upset that his voice and intent was subordinated by the will of the Party and launches into a screed against the tyranny of the collective.  It’s good stuff. 

The train is sacked by counter-revolutionaries and a stunning battle scene involving cavalry, muskets and cannons ensues.  

Meanwhile, Bryant travels to Russia to try and find Reed.  They are ultimately reunited, but Reed contracts typhus and he spends his last days in a Soviet hospital.   

Despite the patina of revolutionary politics, Reds is a traditional romance which ultimately affirms monogamous bourgeois values.  Reed and Bryant were variously portrayed as marginal talents and busybodies who were trying to reconcile their artistic ambitions with their political sensibilities and libertine sexual desires. These values worked at cross purposes more often than not and each paid an emotional price.  

Reds is an impeccably produced film which tackles a lot of pithy material while succeeding at being a solid dramatic romance.  It reveals the roots of socialism’s enduring appeal while also showing where it went off the rails.  Socialist ideals still hold a lot of appeal with the Hollywood set, but Beatty deserves a little credit for tackling it head on and with a higher than expected level of intellectual honesty.