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The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 
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Ad Astra (2019), starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray, is the best science fiction movie since Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014). Like Interstellar, Ad Astra is visually striking and emotionally powerful, stimulating to both thought and imagination, and unfolds at a leisurely pace—all traits inviting comparisons to Kubrick and Tarkovsky, although I hasten to add that I found both Ad Astra and Interstellar so absorbing that my attention never wavered.

Ad Astra is set sometime later in this century. The US has permanent bases on the Moon and Mars, but the farthest any manned missions have gone is Neptune, where the Lima Project was sent to scan the universe for signs of intelligent life outside the interference of the sun’s magnetic field. However, when the Lima Project went silent, sixteen years into its mission and thirteen years before the time of the film, the US ended deep space missions.

Brad Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride, a Major in the US Space Command. Roy is the son of astronaut Clifford McBride, the Commander of the Lima Project (brilliantly played by Tommy Lee Jones). The film begins with Roy McBride working on a communication tower that extends from Earth into space. It is a modern tower of Babel. The tower is struck by a mysterious power surge, and Roy literally falls to Earth. Luckily, he is equipped with a parachute which allows him to land more-or-less safely. The whole sequence is as thrilling as it is bizarre.

It turns out that the power surge has affected the whole planet, leading to thousands of deaths. After recuperating in the hospital for a few days, Roy is called in to be debriefed and meets some top brass in Space Command (a white, a Latino, and a black woman—from intelligence, no less—for in diversity casting this film is as depressingly predictable as NASA).

It turns out that the surge was caused by an anti-matter discharge near Neptune. The Lima Project was powered by anti-matter. Space Command believes that Clifford McBride is alive and may be responsible for the surge, which if unstopped might destroy the Earth. They ask Roy to broadcast a message to his father from Space Command’s last secure communication hub on Mars. They hope he will respond, which will give Space Command a fix on his location, at which point they can dispatch someone to stop the surge by any means necessary.

The rest of the movie follows Roy from Earth to the Moon, from the Moon to Mars, and from Mars to Neptune—where he finds his father—then back home. This much is not a spoiler, since it can be gathered from the trailer—which is actually quite different than the final film. For one thing, Liv Tyler as Roy’s wife Eve was almost eliminated from the final cut. I don’t wish to give away any more of the plot, because I want you to see this film. But I do want to discuss some of the themes, which will require mentioning some details.

Ad Astra is interesting because it meditates on the personality traits necessary to explore and settle the cosmos. Clifford McBride left his ailing wife and thirteen-year-old son on a one-way mission to find intelligent life in the cosmos. What kind of people are capable of leaving their homes and saying goodbye to their family, friends, and neighbors—forever? Obviously, such people need to have weak ties to the people and places of their birth, or they would never be able to leave them.

Beyond that, they need to have some sort of mission to sustain them, a counter-weight to the things they left behind. In Ad Astra, Clifford McBride is portrayed as an intensely religious man. His faith is twofold: in God, the creator of the cosmos, and in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, which is for many people a kind of religion as well. The four astronauts who take Roy McBride from the Moon to Mars are also intensely religious Christians. There is no sign that Roy McBride shares any of their beliefs. He seems like more of a secular Stoic.

Of course, weak roots and powerful senses of mission are the same traits possessed by past generations of explorers and settlers. Not even a century ago, when people departed on ships for new lands, they could be reasonably certain they would never be coming back. They knew how to say goodbye forever.

Ad Astra also confronts us with just how hard space exploration is on people. Clifford McBride chose to widow his wife and orphan his son to explore the cosmos. Roy chose to follow his father’s career, but he chose not to have children of his own, and his sense of mission destroyed his own marriage. (In a newsflash, Eve informs him that she is “her own person.”)

Many people, however, can’t really leave the Earth behind, so they replicate the best and worst of it wherever they go. Or they simply go a bit mad out in the void, sometimes to the point of mutiny. In one suspenseful and shocking sequence, we see that even the animals we bring into space can go mad and mutiny.

Ad Astra can be taken as an anti-religious film in two ways. First, Roy’s absent father out in space is very much analogous to the Biblical God. Roy can’t help loving the man who abandoned him, but in the end, he finds the strength to let him go. Second, Roy’s father is sustained by his faith in the existence of extra-terrestrial life, a faith to which he sacrificed first his family then his crew. But the Lima Project found no evidence of extraterrestrial life. Clifford begs his son to help him continue his quest. “You can’t let me fail.” But Roy responds, “But dad, you haven’t failed. Now we know, we’re all we’ve got.” It is an extremely touching scene, because as the movie shows, men like Roy McBride can do great things without faith in higher powers.

Since the same causes give rise to the same effects, it seems inevitable that the causes that gave rise of intelligent life on Earth will give rise to intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos. Furthermore, given how big the universe is, it is likely that other intelligent life exists right now. Frankly, though, I find that a chilling thought, since if intelligent extraterrestrials arrived on Earth, the human race will be in the same position as primitive peoples around the globe when white explorers first arrived. We wouldn’t have a chance. I would much prefer to know that “We’re all we’ve got,” that—free of gods and aliens—our kind are free to expand unopposed into the universe.

Both Clifford and Roy McBride are magnificent portraits of Faustian European man. As Clifford tells his son, “Sometimes, the human will must overcome the impossible.” Roy does just that. He is study in what I consider the real meaning of “cool.” He is the intelligent man of action, the taciturn, unflappable Nordic explorer. He has nerves of steel. He is “focused on the essential, to the exclusion of all else.” He has a slow pulse, which helps him stay cool in tight spots. (When a spaceship is in trouble and the captain is paralyzed, Roy coolly steps in and saves the day. Roy’s pulse only gets elevated when he hears that his father is really alive.)

If Roy is a Faustian hero, Clifford is a Faustian anti-hero, like Captain Ahab, whose indomitable will is twisted by an obsession, ultimately destroying him and everyone around him.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Hollywood, Movies, Science Fiction 
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Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey is an extremely popular British period drama, set in the years 1912 to 1926, which ran six seasons (the Brits call them series) on television and is now a feature film set in 1927.

I very much enjoyed the first two seasons of Downton Abbey. Like many Downton Abbey fans, I felt an intense nostalgia for a country I had never known: George V’s England, an overwhelmingly white, unapologetically Eurocentric society ruled by a glamorous aristocracy and monarchy that had not strayed too far from its founding warrior ethos. I was particularly taken with the series’ treatment of the First World War, which I have always found far more moving than the Second. I especially loved Maggie Smith as the scheming, sharp-tongued dowager Countess of Grantham.

Although the series did try to inject as many modern, politically correct tropes as the story could bear, the creators of the series had the good sense not to push it too far, for they knew that absolutely nobody watched Downton Abbey to see black faces, just as nobody chooses to visit London today because they want to see Jamaicans or Arabs or South Asians—and many people now skip London precisely to avoid them.

Like many series, Downton Abbey went on a bit too long. There was a natural story arc which ended with the marriage of Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) sometime in season three. It should have ended there. But they managed to drag it out for six full seasons by doling out romances and tragedies to every major and bit player, to the point of farce. I was disgusted by the end of season three. I was curious to see if the show would recover in season four, but it didn’t, so I stopped watching.

I had absolutely no desire to watch the Downton Abbey feature film, but spending the holidays with family tends to change one’s mind. And in this case, I am glad. The Downton Abbey film is a triumphant return to form, with all the period charm and vivid, likable characters of the best parts of the series, without the soap operatic padding and empty calories. Beyond that, the politics of the film, such as they are, are decidedly wholesome and conservative, even when it tries to be progressive.

The story is set in motion when King George and Queen Mary are on a tour and decide to stay at Downton Abbey. There will be a lunch, a parade, and a banquet, plus a ball at the nearby house of their daughter Princess Mary and her very difficult husband, Lord Harewood. Naturally, the whole estate and village are aflutter, even the most cynical hearts drawing meaning and pride from the event.

Conflicts break out between the Downton staff and the royal servants. Conspiracies are hatched. Eggs and carpets are beaten. Dresses are hemmed, suggestions are hawed. Feelings are ruffled and assuaged. Cheeks blush, eyelashes flutter, men and women whirl around dance floors. Old ladies trade barbs. The dowager Countess schemes to bring home an inheritance. A republican assassin is foiled. Unjust pretensions are deflated by just pretensions, and somehow the grand structure of pretensions is upheld.

The most touching scenes of the movie involve Lady Mary, whose son will inherit Downton. When Mary raises the possibility of selling Downton and downsizing, her maid Anna begs her not to because Downton is the center of the whole community. Later, when Mary’s grandmother, the dowager Countess, tells her that she is nearing the end of her life, they have a very moving conversation about how, despite the inevitability of change, the dead live on in their posterity. It is a life-affirming and deeply conservative message.

Even the republican characters, Tom Branson and the silly scullery maid Daisy, end up being conservatives of a sort. Tom is an Irish revolutionary, but he is also the son-in-law of the Earl of Grantham. In the end, he is more loyal to is adopted homeland and family, foiling an IRA assassination plot against King George. As for Daisy, she has no truck with kings and queens, but she takes care not to deflate the pride of the local grocer who is honored to provide provisions for the royal visit. Daisy does not tell him that the royals are bringing their own supplies.

Even the one PC subplot is somewhat conservative in the end. The Earl’s butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier) is a homosexual. He is somewhat put out when, for the duration of the royal visit, his retired predecessor Carson (Jim Carter), is called back into service.

So, the night of the ball, Barrow goes into town with one of the royal servants, Ellis, who is also homosexual. The two get separated, and Barrow ends up at an underground gay nightclub dancing with other fellows—all this intercut with the ball at the Harewoods—until the police arrive and arrest the lot.

Ellis uses his position on the royal staff to get Barrow out of jail. As they walk off into the night, Ellis tells Barrow that he just needs to be a bit more discreet. Barrow remarks on how good it is just to be able to talk, one man to another. It is clearly the beginning of a relationship.

The whole sequence has the best of liberal intentions, but it is nevertheless a rejection of radical gay liberation ideology, which holds that homosexuals can never find places in existing societies, thus they must burn it all down in a disco inferno.

Since it is based upon six seasons of television, Downton Abbey is not exactly a stand-alone film. I am sure those who have never seen the series would be quite lost, although I had not seen the latter half of the series and had no difficulty picking up the thread.

I highly recommend Downton Abbey to Anglophiles, lovers of costume dramas, and people who just want a vacation from multiculturalism. It is not great drama, but it is well-crafted escapist entertainment: romantic, nostalgic, visually sumptuous, with a witty and literate script and a wholesomely conservative message.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Britain, Movies 
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In memory of Raven.

Even I didn’t expect Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to be this bad. It is simply a terrible movie: derivative, incoherent, arbitrary, superficial, and deeply boring and uninvolving—despite, or maybe because of, the frenetic action sequences, dazzling duels, and effects so special they’ll leave carbon scoring on your eyeballs.

The Rise of Skywalker is 2 hours, 22 minutes long, which is long enough, but it feels even longer. I saw it in a half-empty theatre, and when Harrison Ford showed up on the screen, a whole row of people began streaming toward the exits. It would have been the last straw for me too, but I had my duty to you, dear reader, to sustain me.

There’s no way to “spoil” a movie this bad, thus I am going to give a running summary of the plot. So if you don’t want to hear it, now is the time to angle your deflector screens and warp on out of here, or whatever.

The Rise of Skywalker is the third installment of Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy. The die was cast in the first installment, The Force Awakens, directed by Jar Jar Abrams. Instead of coming up with original stories and a new cast of characters, Abrams and Disney decided to do something calculated, cynical, and easy: milk nostalgia for the original trilogy by bringing back the main cast (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, the droids, the walking carpet) and shooting a derivative remake of the original Star Wars and parts of The Empire Strikes Back (see my review here), but this time as an inept farce. Somehow the rebellion has been defeated and a new empire has risen, turning the victory of the first trilogy into defeat and all their striving into naught. And instead of a male hero, this time we have a Mary Sue, Daisey Ridley’s Rey, who takes to the lead like a fish to a bicycle.

Since Star Wars fans are not exactly the most mature and discerning cinephiles, they squealed, grunted, and buried their noses in this slop while Disney rubbed their hands together in glee and raked in untold millions of shekels.

The second installment, The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, continued in the same vein, with point by point, sometimes shot-by-shot retreads of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. (See my review here). But this time the director’s cynicism and contempt for the story and the fans were so transparent that he provoked a rebellion.

There were many objections: Luke throws away his lightsaber, Luke dies, Leia can suddenly do Force magic, Supreme Leader Snoke is killed off, Rey’s parents are nobodies, etc. Some of these objections may be silly. (Imagine actually caring about non-entities like Snoke and Rey.) But Star Wars fans were awakening to the fact that Disney was exploiting them and holding them in contempt while taking their money.

This gave the impetus—and Gamergate provided the template—for the great Star Wars boycott of 2018 that tanked the movie Solo. (See my review here). As we shall see, The Rise of Skywalker does attempt to placate at least some of the more superficial critics of The Last Jedi.

Since Abrams and Johnson managed to remake and mock the whole original trilogy in only two films, Abrams was in an uncomfortable position in The Rise of Skywalker: he might have to actually come up with something original. Of course he tries to minimize the shock of doing something really new by bringing back the original cast some more. Luke and Han Solo are both dead, but Luke comes back as a ghost and Han as a figment of his son’s imagination. Carrie Fisher really is dead, but Abrams cleverly incorporates unused footage from the first movie. He also finds Billy Dee Williams in carbonite to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian. But the greatest surprise is that he resurrects Emperor Palpatine.

Yes, I know, the last time we saw Emperor Palpatine, he was thrown down a shaft in the second Death Star, followed by a big explosion that we interpreted as the release of malign energies when he went splat at the bottom, followed by the destruction of the whole damn Death Star, to add an even greater air of finality.

But, as in the Roadrunner cartoons, when Wile E. Coyote falls to his death through a portable hole, or blows himself up with a bomb, or gets an anvil dropped on his head, only to be magically resurrected moments later for further adventures with the bird, Palpatine is back to spare Jar Jar Abrams the necessity of coming up with a new villain after Rian Johnson casually dispensed with Snoke.

The trouble is that, for all his Gungans and Ewoks and juvenile dialogue, George Lucas’ Star Wars still had a bit more realism and existential heft and credibility than Roadrunner cartoons.

The Rise of Skywalker begins in medias res as Kylo Ren, the new Supreme Leader, battles to find a Sith McGuffin that allows him to fly to a hidden planet, where he finds Palpatine alive. (Yes, he appears to be on life support. But more than 40 years have passed.)

Still, we have questions. If Palpatine was merely injured, how exactly did his empire fall? Why didn’t he just dust off his skirts and continue the war? Why in the galaxy did he retreat to this remote, hidden planet (Mordor, or something)? Why did he set up Snoke as his cat’s paw rather than rule directly? Why did he not step forward when Snoke was killed? Why did he allow Ren to take over? How, given his exile, did he build a vast fleet of new star destroyers armed with planet killing lasers? Why was Ren searching for him? Etc. Of course none of it makes sense, which means that resurrecting Palpatine is arbitrary, dumb, and unintelligible.

Oh, and you’ll love this: the First Order was just the beginning. When Palpatine launches his new fleet, then we will have the Final Order.

Palpatine orders Ren to kill Rey because he fears her. But why is Ren now taking orders from Palpatine?

Meanwhile, Poe Dameron, Findu, and Chewbacca meet a contact who tells them of a mole in the First Order. They escape by performing as many as six impossible stunts before breakfast, jumping wildly in and out of hyperspace while the enemy fighters manage to still follow them. (So they can do that now?) Then we see Rey doing dangerous and impossible feats, training under her new Jedi master, Leia.

This too has the credibility of a Roadrunner cartoon, and it seems very silly in the universe of Star Wars, where even though there are all sorts of magic and advanced technology, there is still a sense of rules and limits, which helps the viewer suspend disbelief. Jar Jar Abrams explicitly mocks his suspension of Lucas’ rules (and our disbelief) when stormtroopers start flying. “They fly now?” asks Findu incredulously. Throughout this film, lot of us were thinking “They x now?” incredulously. But incredulity is a barrier to actually getting into the story. Which is one reason this film is so goddamn boring.

When Poe, Findu, and Chewie return to base, they bicker like children with Rey. Rey and company are as surprised as we are by Palpatine’s return, so they go to the exotic planet of Pasadena to search for a McGuffin that Rey just happens to find in one of Luke’s books. This second McGuffin will lead to the first McGuffin, which will lead to Mordor or something.

 
“Help us, Dave Filoni. You’re our only hope.”
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On December 20th, J. J. “Death Star” Abrams and Disney Corp. will complete the destruction of the Star Wars saga that many of us have loved since childhood, while raking in untold millions by cynically exploiting nostalgia for the mythos they are desecrating. So pass the popcorn, because I’ll be right there, dear readers, to review it for you.

But the Disney-Star Wars marriage has not been entirely fruitless. Seventy-five percent—soon to be 80 percent—of their movies have been disasters, but Rogue One is a pretty good film.

And now we have The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV series, which is a collaboration between Dave Filoni—the producer of the two excellent animated Star Wars series, The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels—and John Favreau, director of such movies as Elf, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys and Aliens, and the recent remakes of The Jungle Book and The Lion King.

Both Filoni and Favreau are pretty much creatures of the modern mass media. They probably believe all the tenets of political correctness. But in Filoni’s animated series, his love of Star Wars and geek/bro energy pretty much kept the worst excesses of SJWism at bay. Favreau is the wild card here, for he is half-Jewish and pretty much a Disney Corporation insider. Let’s hope the Force triumphs over the Schwartz, lest The Mandalorian be reduced to another Disney-Star Wars farce.

The Mandalorian is basically a Space Western, which is a fantastic tack but also a dangerous one because the bar has been set impossibly high by Joss Whedon’s Firefly, which is not just a Space Western but one of the best science fiction series of all time.

The Space Western is a good fit for the Star Wars franchise, because the original Star Wars drew upon elements of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, and samurai and cowboy films are easily convertible, since the underlying warrior ethos is the same (Seven Samurai = The Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo = A Fistful of Dollars).

The title character is the Mandalorian with No Name played by Chilean-born actor Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones), with a low, husky, ultra-cool Clint Eastwood voice. The Mandalorian people were introduced as early as The Empire Stikes Back. At least Boba Fett wears Mandalorian armor. But they were developed extensively in Filoni’s two animated series as a people with a warrior-aristocratic ethos and a loose, feudal form of government. In the new series, we learn that they suffered greatly under the Empire, were scattered around the galaxy, and have adopted crypsis to survive. (Favreau’s fingerprints?) They follow a tradition and an honor code (“This is the way”). Like ronin (masterless samurai) and American gunslingers, they work as freelance wielders of violence (mercenaries, bounty hunters).

The Mandalorian with No Name is a bounty hunter, a profession introduced in the first trilogy. Here we learn that it is governed by a guild with its own code of conduct and technologies (bounty pucks, which are basically wanted posters, and tracking fobs).

The first season of The Mandalorian has eight episodes, five of which have aired at the time of this writing. The opening three-episode story arc is utterly compelling, introducing the lead characters and their universe, and hooking us in. The story takes place shortly after the fall of the Empire, when law and order have broken down in the galactic rim (the Wild West) and both criminals and bounty hunters thrive.

The Mandalorian with No Name accepts a particularly lucrative unofficial bounty from a former high imperial officer (Werner Herzog, whose accent departs from the British norm for the Empire) guarded by a contingent of Storm Troopers, their armor somewhat worse for wear. After a series of trials, the Mandalorian with No Name captures the bounty, which turns out to be an adorable Yoda baby—a baby of the same species as Yoda. The Mandalorian delivers the baby and collects his bounty. But then he has second thoughts. The baby is strong with the Force, but he is obviously not a criminal, whereas the Imperials clearly are clearly up to no good. So the Mandalorian returns, shoots up their base, rescues the baby, and they embark upon some Lone Wolf and Cub-style adventures. It is great television.

The fourth episode, however, is a big letdown. The Mandalorian lands on a planet where he promptly gets his ass whooped by a strang, independent, Xena-warrior princess badass wahman. But then he teams up with her to protect Diversity Village (there’s even a blonde child) from a band of marauders. It is basically a ripoff of Seven Samurai. I say “ripoff” rather than “homage,” because Star Wars already paid homage to Seven Samurai in a much better episode of The Clone Wars.

The fifth episode is much better but still rather light stuff, leaning heavily on nostalgia. The Mandalorian visits Tattooine, specifically Mos Eisley, and yes, even that specific cantina, where he asks around for work. He meets a rookie bounty hunter played by Jake Cannavale, who looks exactly like his father without any visible input from his mother, who boasts of being the daughter of Jewish director Sidney Lumet (Network) and the grand-daughter of black(ish) singer Lena Horne. Their bounty is an assassin played by Ming-Na Wen. The highlight of the episode is Amy Sedaris as a ship mechanic with a strong maternal instinct for the little green fellow. The plot is quite predictable.

The Mandalorian is off to an erratic but promising start. I like the basic premise of a Space Western. I like the character of the Mandalorian with No Name. I like the fact that it is set in the Star Wars universe. But I especially like how different this series is in style from the rest of the Star Wars canon.

Lucas’s films are extremely busy, and with the development of CGI, they only got busier. The same is true with Filoni’s animated series and the Disney movies. The Mandalorian is not so busy, which adds a sense of realism when one bumps into a droid or an alien monster. Even the Mos Eisley cantina is not so crowded. The special effects are also quite outstanding.

Another important stylistic change is the music. It is not John Williams, or imitation John Williams. Instead, Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson has created quintessential Space Western music by simply melding Ennio Morricone and electronica. His score is tasteful, tuneful, and catchy, with moments of deep feeling and epic grandeur. He even incorporates Williamsesque themes without ever sounding like Williams. I love John Williams’ Star Wars scores, but if Williams had scored this series, even he would have used a completely different sound.

I also liked the color palate of the first three episodes, which leaned heavily on chrome, magenta, and dark greens, like something went wrong with the technicolor.

 
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“Whenever there is a decline of righteousness, and the rise of unrighteousness, then I come back to teach dharma.”

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV, Verse 7

“Nobody can stay mad at Hitler forever.”

Look Who’s Back

David Wnendt’s 2015 film Look Who’s Back (Er ist wieder da) is based on Timur Vermes’ 2012 novel of the same name about Adolf Hitler being mysteriously transported to modern Berlin and becoming a viral media sensation. Look Who’s Back is a fascinating and funny film, but its intended message is hard to fathom. Is the movie a satire of modern society, a satire of the modern media, a warning against recrudescent fascism? If it is entirely satire, it is too broad and all-encompassing so that one does not know where the filmmaker stands, and for what. As I read it, however, the net effect of this film is to make Hitler seem like a much more rational and compelling figure than the carpet-chewing madman to which we are accustomed. This, in turn, undermines the film’s attempt to smear National Populists like Marine Le Pen and Geet Wilders by linking them to Hitler. But surely this was no part of the Wnendt’s or Vermes’ intentions.

Look Who’s Back strikes me as a strange mashup of Jerzy Kosinski’s only good story, Being There—in which a mysterious cipher rides other people’s projections into a position of power—and Network, Paddy Chayevsky’s brilliant satire of television, in which an ambitious and unscrupulous female producer exploits Howard Beale, a TV-anchor turned mad prophet and tribune of populist rage. Only in this case, the cipher is invisible not because he is unknown but because he is overexposed, supposedly dead, and people refuse to believe their lying eyes.

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The basic story of Look Who’s Back is quite simple. Through some miracle, Adolf Hitler (Oliver Masucci) has been transported from April 1945 to 2014. He wakes up in a Berlin apartment complex near the site of the old Chancellery. He then has the sort of comic misadventures one would expect of a guy dressed as Hitler wandering around present-day Berlin. Naturally, nobody thinks he has come back. Instead, they take him to be Hitler impersonator, i.e., a madman or a clown. People want to take selfies with him and do the Hitler salute. Parts of the film are presented as unscripted interactions with real people. If this is true, it seems remarkable how few negative reactions he receives. Frankly, I think it is all fake.

Hitler befriends a newsstand owner and begins to catch up on the last 70 years. He is horrified to learn that Poland still exists, and on German territory no less. Hitler regards Angela Merkel with contempt and regards her party as a pale imitation of National Socialism. But he puts a great deal of stock in the Greens.

Hitler then teams up with Fabian Sawatski (Fabian Busch) who is a bit of a loser, living with his mom and dreaming of being a director while relegated to delivering mail and making coffee at the offices of the MyTV network. Fabian is convinced that this Hitler impersonator will be a huge success and wants to come along for the ride. Criss-crossing Germany, Hitler talks to ordinary Germans about the evils of immigration and race-mixing and the sham of liberal democracy. He finds many receptive listeners. Again: Is this for real or just a morality play? Is it a warning that even the slightest deviation from the liberal democratic consensus will lead straight to You Know Who?

If this is the intended message, then why does the filmmaker portray Hitler as level-headed, reasonable, and even humorous? Why not just use the ranting TV Hitler we have seen a thousand times before? Vermes and Wnendt know that this image of Hitler was constructed by extracting the impassioned climaxes from what were often long lectures filled with facts and arguments. Vermes, by the way, is quite masterful at capturing Hitler’s voice and style, as ably discussed by Counter-Currents’ own James O’Meara, and this is carried over into the film with hilarious effect even when Hitler encounters such minor modern oddities as a granola bar.

Hitler hits the big time when Katja Bellini (Katja Riemann) takes over MyTV. She thinks Hitler will be sensational, but her resentful underling, Christoph Sensenbrink (Christoph Maria Herbst) thinks he can oust her by engineering a public backlash against putting Hitler on a TV satire show. Sensenbrink urges the writers to come up with the most offensive jokes possible. (Example: Q: What did the Jewish pedophile say? A: Want to buy some candy?)

But Hitler’s monologues are not the rantings of a genocidal madman. Nor are they comedy routines, although they have a biting wit. Instead, they are candid and heartfelt meditations on the banality of modern culture, the failure of liberal democracy, and the need for meaning in life. Hitler becomes a viral media sensation.

But then footage of Hitler shooting a small dog that attacked him comes to light. The whole thing strikes me as deeply fake, as Hitler was a dog lover. But it is used to great effect. The audience turns on him. Hitler is kaput. Bellini and Sawatski are aus. Sensenbrink takes Bellini’s job.

But then . . . Hitler comes back. Hitler is, after all, a best-selling author. So Hitler holes up at Sawatski’s mom’s apartment and writes his second bestseller, Look Who’s Back. In a hilarious satire of the modern image makeover, Hitler donates money to animal charities, appears on talk shows, and even manages to get beaten up by skinheads.

Meanwhile, the network’s profits plummet without Hitler, which sets up a scene in which Sensenbrink does a parody of Hitler’s famous Downfall tirade. (It is notable that the only ranting in the movie is not Hitler’s but Sensenbrink’s.) One of the idiots at the network suggests hiring Hitler back, because “Nobody can stay mad at Hitler forever.” Surely Jews would disagree.

Which brings us to another aspect of this film that strikes me as deeply fake: Jews are mentioned from time to time, but always in ways that make them seem like they are essentially powerless, in need of protection, and readily dismissed when they start going on about the dangers of resurgent Hitlerism. Bellini wants Hitler’s assurance that Jews will not be mocked, but Hitler takes her to mean that Jews are “no laughing matter.” A protest from Jewish organization is laughed off. When an elderly Jewish woman recognizes Hitler really is Hitler, it is dismissed as dementia.

This strikes me as deeply dishonest. A huge amount of modern politics in the West consists of placating “deeply concerned” Jews, even when they are transparently neurotic and manipulative. For instance, steps had to be taken lest space aliens be triggered into anti-Semitic pogroms when it was discovered that trees in Germany and buildings in America look like swastikas from above.

The film ends with Hitler, Sawatski, and Bellini making a movie of Look Who’s Back. The worst-case scenario of someone realizing that Hitler is actually, you know, Hitler, is acted out in the movie and disposed of with a diagnosis of mental illness. The movie completed, Hitler and Bellini ride through the streets of Berlin in an open limousine while Hitler monologues on the rise of nationalism, populism, and xenophobia around Europe to a montage of images of demonstrations and politicians like Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders. This, he claims, is an ideal environment for him to come back.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Germany, Hitler, Movies 
David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY
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Lost Highway is probably not a lot of people’s favorite David Lynch film. I would rank it in the lower rungs of his canon. But it is still a masterful film that draws me back again and again.

The big question about Lost Highway is what actually happens. This movie has a plot that you can fully summarize without really spoiling it, because the meaning is never really given away.

There are only two real options for interpreting Lost Highway. Either the story is a delusion (a dream or a psychotic waking dream), or it is set in a real world. If Lost Highway is a dream, like much of Mulholland Drive, where does the dream begin or end? In Mulholland Drive, there is a break between dream and reality, but no such break is clear in Lost Highway.

Fred Madison (Bill Pullman)
Fred Madison (Bill Pullman)

Fred Madison, the protagonist of Lost Highway, is clearly somewhat deranged. The song over the opening and closing credits is David Bowie’s “I’m Deranged,” one of the finest creations of his late career, both highly accessible and utterly avant garde. But derangement itself is a real thing, existing in the real world. Fred and his derangement are depicted in the film. The film is not in Fred’s head. Fred’s head is in the film.

If, however, Lost Highway is set in the real world, then we have to conclude that supernatural events and powers are real as well. I am partial to this interpretation, for the supernatural is “real” in all of Lynch’s other major works.

One of the clues to the meaning of Lost Highway is a comment by the protagonist, Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), who says that he does not own a video camera because he likes “to remember things my own way. Not necessarily the way they happened.”

Mystery Man
Mystery Man

Fred, however, is followed by a shadowy figure, the Mystery Man (Robert Blake) who documents the things he would prefer to forget, including the murder and dismemberment of his wife Renée (Patricia Arquette), which Fred does not even remember having done until he is confronted with the video. The idea of doing terrible things and only learning of them later, from an external viewpoint, in which one is an object, is deeply unsettling.

This establishes that in Lost Highway, video/film is an objective medium—and since Lost Highway is itself a film, I think we should at least try to give it a realist interpretation. Lost Highway depicts a series of events that take place in a real world, albeit one in which magic takes place, as opposed to a dream or fantasy world, subject to the distortions of subjectivity, such as lapses of memory, repression of memory, wishful thinking, etc.).

But if Lost Highway shows us what really happened, then . . . what really happened?

The movie falls into three parts.

In the first part, Fred Madison kills his wife Renée, whom he suspects is cheating on him. Fred is sentenced to die, but disappears from his cell and is replaced by Pete Dayton (Balthasar Getty).

In the second part, Pete meets Alice Wakefield, a dead-ringer for Renée Madison (also played by Patricia Arquette). Alice is the girlfriend of Dick Laurent/Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), a gangster and porn producer with a really bad temper.

In the third part, Pete disappears, and Fred takes his place. Fred has apparently taken on Pete’s body to get out of jail and has now discarded it. Alice disappears, but Renée reappears, no longer dead. Fred tracks down and kills Dick Laurent/Mr. Eddy, who is sleeping with Renée. The movie ends with Fred in Mr. Eddy’s Mercedes being pursued by police. In the last few seconds of the film, Fred begins to morph into another person, perhaps Pete but more likely someone else who will let him again escape the consequences of his actions.

The film’s publicist suggested the story was a “psychogenic fugue.” This is not strictly true. A psychogenic or dissociative fugue is a form of temporary amnesia in which the subject loses his personal identity but then regains it. When Fred murders Renée he has no recollection of it until he sees the video. This could be a dissociative fugue or just a blackout. But the switch from Fred to Pete back to Fred is not simply amnesia. It is presented as Fred somehow stealing Pete’s skin, using it as a disguise to escape prison and uncover the mystery of Renée’s past, and then discarding it when it is no longer necessary.

Lynch reportedly liked the phrase “psychogenic fugue,” but focused more on the musical metaphor. In a fugue, a theme is played (Fred and Renée), then a counter-theme comes in (Pete and Alice), followed by the return of the original theme. In a particularly well-constructed fugue, the counter-theme is foreshadowed in the main theme, and the main theme is echoed in the counter-theme. Lynch does this systematically in Lost Highway, both with the script and with the soundtrack.

The first part of LH is my favorite. Lynch is masterful at creating an atmosphere of brooding suspicion and menace.

The film opens with Fred Madison sucking on a cigarette and looking a bit worse for wear from the night before. Somebody hits the door buzzer, and when he presses the “listen” button, he hears the words “Dick Laurent is dead.” He looks out the windows, but nobody is there.

That night, Fred is packing his saxophone for a gig at the Luna Lounge (where all the lunatics play), when Renée makes her first appearance, emerging from the dark to tell Fred she doesn’t want to go to the club with him that night. She wants to stay home and “read.” Fred is naturally suspicious. With her tight dress, sultry pose, and highball in her hand, she’s not exactly dressed to stay home and read. Their whole interaction seethes with tension and concealment.

And there is something about Renée’s cool manner that invites suspicion. Her dowdy brunette bangs stand in stark contrast with her tight, chic dresses, giving the impression that she is wearing a wig, inviting us to wonder what else she might be concealing.

Fred is soft-spoken and soft-faced, the kind of guy who bites back on his anger and broods. But his music is menacing, ugly, and unhinged, a window into his inner turbulence. (In the second part of the film, Pete Dayton hears Fred’s music on the radio, finds it intensely annoying, and turns it off.) When Fred calls Renée on a break, there is no answer, which makes him suspicious. When he arrives home, he enters their bedroom. There are red drapes, which is one of Lynch’s visual signatures of the uncanny or supernatural, featured most prominently in his various Twin Peaks projects, but also in Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, and perhaps in Eraserhead as well, although it is shot in black and white. Renée is asleep in a bed with dark red and black sheets. She invited Fred to wake her up when he got home. (Presumably for sex.) But there is no sign that he did.

The next morning, Renée goes out to fetch the newspaper and sees an unmarked envelope on the steps. Inside is an unmarked VHS tape. She is somewhat furtive about the tape. Later we learn that she did porn before meeting Fred. Perhaps she fears someone reaching out from her past to mess with her marriage. Fred sees the tape and insists on watching it. It is just a few seconds of video of the front of their house. It makes no sense. Visibly relieved, Renée suggests that maybe it was left by a real estate agent.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: David Lynch, Movies 
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Blake Edwards’ 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s—loosely based on Truman Capote’s 1958 novel of the same name—stars Audrey Hepburn in her iconic role of Holly Golightly, a charming, flighty, feminine, haunted young woman trying to create a life—and an identity—in a gorgeous Technicolor New York City at what is arguably the peak of American civilization, just before the plunge.

I have seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s six times, twice on the big screen, and although I loved it every time, for the first four viewings, the movie played a strange trick on my memory. If you had asked me what Breakfast at Tiffany’s was about, I would have said it is a wholesome romantic comedy. But that’s not really true. Yes, it has plenty of comic elements, but overall, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a very sad and serious film. As Sally Tomato says, the story of Holly Golightly’s life would be a book that “would break the heart.” That’s certainly true of Truman Capote’s novel, which is indeed so heartbreaking that Blake Edwards rewrote the ending for the movie to give us a little hope to cling to.

And, as for wholesomeness, it has that too in the end. But somehow I repeatedly forgot that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the tale of the romantic misadventures of two gold-diggers, Holly Golightly and her upstairs neighbor, Paul Varjak, both of whom are skating through their 20s by having sex with and taking money from older and richer people. Of course, they both maintain their self-respect by keeping a discreet distance between the sex-giving and money-taking, so that the quid pro quo is not too brazenly obvious. Capote said that Holly stopped short of simple prostitution, describing her as an “American geisha.”

Both Holly and Paul rationalize their choices by reference to a mission. Holly wants to buy land and horses and care for her sweet but slow brother Fred, who is currently in the Army. (The novel is set in 1943, so being in the army is a rather dangerous undertaking.) Paul is a writer who needs a patron to give him time to work on his great novel. But it is not working. He’s got writer’s block. As Holly notes, he doesn’t even have a ribbon in his typewriter.

Paul is the prouder and more serious of the two. Holly is top banana in the flake department. Which, of course, means that Paul suffered greatly at Holly’s hands when he falls in love with her.

Maybe the false memories are due to Henry Mancini’s music, which won two Oscars, for best score and best song for the haunting cornball classic “Moon River,” with lyrics of Johnny Mercer, which casts a silvery shimmer of nostalgia over the whole heartbreaking tale. Whatever the cause, I am grateful to this amnesia, for it has allowed Breakfast at Tiffany’s to surprise me again and again with each new viewing.

The basic plot of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is quite simple. Paul Varjak—played by George Peppard at the peak of his Nordic-preppy good looks—moves into an apartment on Manhattan’s upper east side and meets his ditzy downstairs neighbor, Holly Golightly. Holly has lived there for a year but looks like she is still moving in. That’s because she’s rootless, a drifter, a flake. She has an orange cat, but she hasn’t given him a name, because she doesn’t want the commitment. Her favorite place in the world is Tiffany’s, the jewelers on Fifth Avenue. She declares to Paul that if she ever finds a place that makes her feel like Tiffany’s, she’ll put down roots and give the cat a name. Of course it is hard to imagine a home that would feel like Tiffany’s. Buckingham Palace, perhaps? Holly, in short, is not too practical. Her conditions for settling down are a fanciful way of saying “never.”

Paul’s apartment isn’t exactly “him” either. It looks like an expensive European hotel room. It was decorated before his arrival by his patron, Mrs. Failenson, nicknamed “2E,” played by a radiant Patricia Neal (who once played opposite a certain Ellsworth Toohey in King Vidor’s film of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead). The movie creates the character of Paul from the novel’s unnamed narrator. 2E and her relationship with Paul are inventions of the screenwriter, which considerably deepens the character and his relationship with Holly, creating dramatic conflict through “irreconcilable similarities.”

Holly finds Paul to be a sympathetic, useful, and highly presentable neighbor. As fellow gold-diggers, they also have a certain understanding. But in her eyes, their shared mode of life also precludes a relationship, for Paul has no gold, and Holly has set her sights on older, uglier men with more money. For Paul, gold-digging is a short-term strategy, to get his start in life, at which time he will settle down with a nice girl and take care of her. For Holly, however, gold-digging is a long-term strategy to find a husband, who will take care of her forever.

One of the most captivating sequences in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is when a mysterious stalker shows up outside Paul and Holly’s building. 2E thinks her husband is having her followed. Paul, who is a red-blooded male under his gorgeous wardrobe, is game for a confrontation. After a game of cat and mouse in the east side and in Central Park, the stalker approaches Paul and says, “Son, I need a friend.”

It turns out that the stalker, played by Buddy Ebsen, is Doc Golightly, a veterinarian from Texas and Holly’s . . . no, not her father, her husband, whom she married at the age of 14. Holly’s real name is Lula Mae Barnes. Lula Mae and Fred were runaways who showed up on Doc’s farm. Doc was a widower who needed a helpmeet. Hence the marriage. Doc has tracked Lula Mae down to persuade her to return home to “her husband and her chirren.”

Holly will have none of it. The marriage was annulled long ago, and she’s just not Lula Mae anymore. She has constructed a whole new identity for herself. She got rid of her Okie accent with French lessons, courtesy of a Hollywood producer, O. J. Berman (Martin Balsam), and she has a fabulous circle of rich male friends—whom she rates as “rats” and “super-rats”—competing for her attention.

When she sees a heartbroken Doc off at the Greyhound Bus station, she tells him that she’s a “wild thing” and that one should never fall in love with wild things, because they will just break your heart. In truth, Holly is just a flake who doesn’t know who she is or what she wants and is afraid of real relationships and real commitments. Berman thinks Holly is a phony, but he debates whether she is a real phony or not—a real phony being someone who believes his own nonsense.

The whole sequence moves from creepy, to comical, to corny, to deeply moving. That’s the magic of this film.

Once Doc has been sent on his way, Holly gets roaring drunk. It is a catharsis, a crisis, a crossroads. Paul now knows her story but loves her all the more. He hopes that she will get a little more serious about life, and maybe about him. Paul enjoys taking care of Holly. It makes him feel strong and manly. Being taken care of by 2E is convenient but emasculating. Unsurprisingly, Holly proves to be the better muse than 2E. Awakening Paul’s manliness also awakens his creativity.

Thus Paul is appalled when Holly declares that she is no longer going to play the field. She is going to set her sights on marrying Rusty Trawler, the ninth richest man in America under fifty, despite the fact that he is a tittering pig-faced manlet. (In the novel, Trawler is a known Nazi sympathizer who once proposed marriage to Unity Mitford.)

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Movies 
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Note: Contains Spoilers

One of the great things about Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is that he does not have an origin story. Or, actually, he tells two contradictory origin stories, neither of them probably true. But the police can’t find a single shred of information on his real identity: who he was, where he came from, and how he got those scars.

Todd Phillips’ much-anticipated new film Joker is an origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, who becomes the Joker. Frankly, both of Ledger’s origin stories are more interesting.

The question on everybody’s mind is: How does Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker compare to Heath Ledger’s? The answer is: There is no comparison. Phoenix’s Joker isn’t even as good as Jared Leto’s in Suicide Squad. There is no question that Phoenix is a fine actor, but the character he brings to life simply isn’t compelling. He’s just a repulsive loser.

Traditionally, the character of the Joker has drawn upon the Romantic idea that madness can be entwined with genius, charisma, psychological depth, and creativity. Phoenix’s Joker is much closer to the sad truth: The vast majority of crazy people are not deep, creative, or interesting. They are just pathetic, shambling, vacant defectives who repeatedly betray and disappoint the people who are unfortunate enough to love or take care of them.

Ledger’s Joker has a Nietzschean and Heideggerian philosophy, which he articulates with striking words and deeds. Phoenix’s Joker doesn’t have a nihilistic philosophy. He’s just a depressive. When we first see him, he is holding a sign reading “Everything Must Go.” Yeah, it’s for a going out of business sale, but it’s also symbolic. Phoenix’s Joker does not “stand for” nihilism as a worldview. As he says later on, he doesn’t stand for anything. He has no worldview. He’s just a tortured soul, and a banal one at that.

All the other Jokers—Ledger, Leto, Nicholson, even Cesar Romero, ferchrissakes—have some charisma. They are commanding presences. Phoenix’s Joker has no charisma at all. He’s a physically repulsive stick insect of a man: unkempt, unhealthy, and slightly effeminate, reeking of cigarettes and low self-esteem. You’d want to squash him like a bug, if you’d deign to notice him at all.

There are a few flashes of a steely-eyed social competence when Arthur rehearses his appearance on the Murray Franklin Show, but it went nowhere, so it struck me as breaking character.

Ledger’s Joker launched a million memes, both because of his character and his lines. Phoenix’s Joker will have no such influence. He’s a pathetic nobody with nothing to say.

Judging from the technology and social trends, Joker is set in the early 1980s: There are no desktop computers or cell phones. Dem programs are being cut for the mentally ill, and drunken Wall Street yupsters are an annoyance on the subway.

Arthur Fleck lives with his mother Penny Fleck, who seems to be bedridden. Arthur brings in money as a clown, but he’s not that funny. Arthur suffers from mental health problems. He has been committed, he sees a counselor, and he is taking seven different medications. But because of budget cuts, the counselor and drugs are disappearing, and commitment will probably not be an option either. Soon there will be only the street.

Arthur is beaten up by some “teens” (read: brown people) so one of his colleagues at the clown agency (surely there must be clown agencies, right?) gives him a revolver for protection. When the gun falls on the floor during one of Arthur’s clown shows in a children’s cancer ward, he is fired.

Then, still wearing his clown makeup, Arthur is roughed up by some black hoodlums on a night train, pulls out his gun, and shoots them dead. No, wait, that was Bernard Goetz. Arthur was harassed by Wall Street yuppies and shoots three Patrick Batemans dead with seven bullets from what appears to be a .22 pistol (but who’s counting?).

This inspires a Leftist uprising of black and brown people—and some white dirtbags—who begin to wear clown masks to show how sick and tired they are of being terrorized by stockbrokers on the subway.

Oh, and Billionaire Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), who is going to run for Mayor of Gotham, says that people like him, who have made something of their lives, think that all of life’s losers look like clowns. Of course there is only one politician in America today who would say something so unpolitic. Is he supposed to be Donald Trump?

At this point, given the obvious anti-white, Bolshevik slant here, perhaps I should mention that director Todd Phillips and his co-screenwriter Scott Silver are both Jewish. However, to their credit, the entire film is not cast against type. Arthur is first assaulted by non-whites, and sullen black women play prominent unsympathetic roles, subtly underscoring that Arthur’s alienation is in part that of a poor white man in a society in which the lower classes and those who provide services to them are increasingly non-white.

As much as I feared that Arthur Fleck was going to be turned into a sympathetic victim, it is really impossible to like him. When Arthur learns that his mother believes Thomas Wayne is his father, he goes to the Wayne estate to talk to Thomas Wayne and ends up physically assaulting Alfred Pennyworth in front of young Bruce Wayne.

Then he stalks and confronts Thomas Wayne. Wayne explains that he never had sex with Penny Fleck, that Arthur was in any case adopted, and that she was committed to Arkham state hospital for mental illness and also for endangering Arthur. When Arthur steals his mother’s file from Arkham and confirms Wayne’s story, he does not apologize to Wayne. Instead he smothers his mother with a pillow.

Arthur also savagely murders the colleague who gave him the gun. I found this scene so distasteful that I almost walked out. But then I thought of my duty to you, dear reader, and stayed to the end.

One of the obvious influences on Joker is Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983), a dark comic masterpiece that almost reaches Fawlty Towers levels of pure cringe. Robert De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a deranged man who wants to be a standup comic and is obsessed with successful comedian and talk-show host Jerry Langford (brilliantly played by Jerry Lewis).

Like Rupert, Arthur lives with his mother (although there is some suggestion that Rupert’s mother is dead and that, like Norman Bates, he has only an imaginary relationship with her).

Both Rupert and Arthur have imaginary relationships with talk-show hosts whom they eventually meet in real life. In Arthur’s case the host is Murray Franklin who, to tighten the connection between the films, is played by Robert De Niro.

Yet another connection is that both Rupert and Arthur have black romantic interests. When white men date non-whites, the natural presumption is that they are dating down out of insecurity, which makes sense given that both characters are losers. (In De Niro’s case, he actually had a child with Diahnne Abbot, the actress who plays his love interest. De Niro has fathered five children with three black women. One could be considered an accident, etc.) In Arthur’s case, his relationship with his neighbor, single mother Sophie Dumond, is imaginary.

Both movies also have a cartoonish scene in which we see Rupert and Arthur from a distance chased back and forth by security personnel.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Joker, Movies 
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The day Jeffrey Epstein turned up dead in a New York jail cell, I decided I needed to write something about Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Stanley Kubrick’s last and weakest movie.

Epstein has quickly faded from the headlines, so let me remind you briefly of who he was. Epstein was an American Jew who enjoyed immense wealth from unknown sources, hob-knobbed with the global elite, including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, and was a pervert with a taste for underage girls, meaning that he was a serial rapist. He is also accused of sharing these women with his wealthy and powerful friends, which would have implicated them in marital infidelity and statutory rape, making them subject to blackmail.

In 2006, the FBI began investigating Epstein, tracking down over 100 women. In 2007, he was indicted by the federal government on multiple counts of sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex. If convicted, he and his co-conspirators could have spent the rest of their lives in prison. But US Attorney Alex Acosta was told to go easy on Epstein, because “he belonged to intelligence.” Epstein received a sweetheart deal. He pled guilty to two state prostitution charges and spent 13 months at a Florida county jail with generous work release. Epstein’s co-conspirators were not prosecuted at all. The records were sealed, and would have remained so, were it not for the efforts of reporter Julie Brown, whose stories led to the unsealing of Epstein’s records, followed by his arrest and death in custody.

The most plausible explanation for Epstein’s mysterious life and death is that he was a pimp who implicated rich and powerful men and then blackmailed them, financially and politically. If he enjoyed the patronage of “intelligence,” it was most likely Israeli. When he was first arrested, he called in favors from his patrons (and probably from his victims as well), to avoid federal prosecution, which could have embarrassed many powerful people. When Epstein was re-arrested, there was no way he could escape prosecution, so he was murdered to protect the secrets of any (or all) of his patrons and victims.

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Eyes Wide Shut is relevant to the Epstein case because at the core of the film, Stanley Kubrick—who was something of a renegade Jew—gives us a glimpse into how a specifically Jewish financial and political elite uses sexual perversion and anti-Christian occult rituals to promote internal cohesion and control.

Eyes Wide Shut is set in the late 1990s. Tom Cruise plays Dr. Bill Harford, the protagonist. Nichole Kidman plays his wife Alice. They have a seven-year-old daughter named Helena. Bill is a medical doctor and obviously does quite well for himself. The Harfords have a huge, beautifully decorated Manhattan apartment, nice clothes, and a spiffy Range Rover. But the first clue that something might be amiss in their marriage is the fact that they have only one child, aged seven. Did the flame go out? Does Alice no longer want to bear Bill’s babies?

The movie opens with the Harfords preparing for a Christmas party to be held at the mansion of Victor and Illona Ziegler. Victor is played by Sidney Pollack. Ziegler is obviously supposed to be Jewish, so the Christmas party seems a little odd. The Harfords also celebrate Christmas, but there appeared to be a seven-branched candelabrum in their dining room. Apparently, religion doesn’t mean much in the world Kubrick is portraying.

The Ziegler mansion is immense and magnificent. They clearly belong to the upper one percent of the one percent. Kubrick makes it clear that that Harfords don’t belong to Ziegler’s social set. He has been invited because he is Ziegler’s doctor. “This is what you get for making house-calls,” he declares to Alice.

As soon as they arrive, Bill and Alice go their separate ways. Alice gets rapidly drunk and ends up being pursued by a Hungarian Pepe Le Pew named Sandor Savost, who regales her with one cynical quip about marriage after another as they stand at the bar or whirl around the dance floor to “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

Bill ends up strolling around arm-in-arm with a couple of models, both of them taller than him. (Come to think of it, virtually every woman in the movie is taller than him, including Alice.) Cruise spends practically the whole movie grinning in a manner that seems both smug and desperately ingratiating, entitled and needy. It is bizarre and unsettling, but I am sure theater people have a word for it, as might the DSM.

Bill notices that the piano player in the band Ziegler has hired is Nick Nightingale (played by Todd Field), someone Bill knew from medical school. They strike up a conversation while Nightingale is on break. Nightingale invites him to look him up one night while he is playing at the Sonata Café.

Then Bill is interrupted by Ziegler’s butler, who guides him upstairs. Now we see the kind of house-calls that account for his lavish lifestyle. We are ushered into a bathroom bigger than many New Yorkers’ entire apartments. Ziegler is struggling into his clothes while a nude model sprawls unconscious on a chair. Her name is Mandy, and she has overdosed on cocaine and heroin during a quickie with our gracious host. Doctor Harford rouses her and gives her a stern talking to. Apparently, a visit to the emergency room is not required.

Ziegler is clearly a member of the inner party of the elite: ambiguously Jewish, fantastically rich, utterly degenerate. The Harfords come from a lower, outer stratum of the elite. (For instance, Bill actually knows Nightingale, who is merely someone Ziegler hires to play the piano.) Bill is a doctor. Alice used to manage an art gallery. They probably come from money. They might be faintly Jewish, or maybe just New York goys steeped in a Jewish atmosphere.

As soon as they enter the Ziegler party, the Harfords are bombarded with opportunities to cheat, but neither does so. The higher one climbs in the social hierarchy, the closer one approaches the inner party, the greater the degeneracy and the more ferocious the assault on marital fidelity. While something is wrong with their marriage, they are at least faithful to one another. After the party, we see them naked on the bed. Dr. Bill is feeling frisky, but Alice is not into him and looks away.

The next day, we catch a glimpse of the Harford morning and evening routines. Once Helena is tucked into bed, Alice smokes a little pot and gets paranoid and combative with Bill. The topic is sex and infidelity. Bill states flatly that he would not cheat on Alice. He also states flatly the he thinks Alice would not cheat on him, simply because she’s his wife. Alice mocks this. We are animals after all. Does Bill expect her to believe that “millions of years of evolution” can be stopped dead by Bill’s fidelity to his marriage vows? Doesn’t he at least think about cheating?

Alice is particularly incensed at how cocksure Bill is that she is faithful. Bill is a typical modern conservative. He seems to think that only men have strong sexual desires, which are still weak enough to be kept in check by vows and a sense of honor.

But women—at least the kind of women one might marry—don’t face the same temptations. Without men constantly bothering them, women would be sexually inert. He’s not quite sure about women like Mandy, but he probably thinks she is merely a fallen woman who sleeps around only for the money. The possibility of female promiscuity, infidelity, and hypergamy—the desire to “trade up”—is not something that he takes seriously.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Jeffrey Epstein, Jews, Kubrick, Movies 
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Some of my best reviews are about Quentin Tarantino, but this won’t be one of them. Tarantino has gone from a director I loved (see my essay on Pulp Fiction), to a director I loved to hate (see my reviews of Kill Bill I and Inglourious Basterds), to a director I just hated (Django Unchained), to a director I just ignored.

Tarantino’s only great movie is Pulp Fiction, and at this point it is safe to declare that one a fluke. The rest of his works range from the distasteful (Reservoir Dogs), to amiable piffle (Jackie Brown), to nihilistic deconstruction (the Kill Bill movies), to genocidal—although self-deconstructing—anti-white Jewish wet dreams (Basterds), to genocidal anti-white black wet dreams (Django), to a movie I never bothered to see (The Hateful Eight).

And that brings us to Tarantino’s ninth feature film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I planned to skip this one too, but the reviews, both positive and negative, intrigued me, and quite to my surprise, I really liked this film.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does not touch on deep moral themes like Pulp Fiction, but it is better than the rest of Tarantino’s films. It is not distasteful in the ways we have come to expect from him. It is not especially violent, gross, obscene, or anti-white. Basically, it is another Jackie Brown—well-crafted, likeable, and not particularly offensive. I am inclined to be grudging with superlatives in Tarantino’s case, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is definitely his funniest film, and although he might cringe to hear it, it is also his most morally wholesome and satisfying story.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in Hollywood in 1969. It tells the story of two buddies, Rick Dalton (Leonardo Di Caprio), who stars in TV cowboy dramas, and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Rick’s attempt to transition from TV into movies has failed, his series Bounty Law has been canceled, and he is now playing guest heavies in TV series, drinking a lot, and dreaming of restarting his career. Rick has lost his driver’s license due to DUIs, so Cliff is now his driver and sidekick.

The main Dalton-Booth plotline, which meanders along at a rather leisurely pace, is intercut with two subplots, one about Cliff Booth meeting a member of the Manson “family” and visiting the Spahn Ranch, where they are squatting, to check in on its owner, George Spahn, whom Booth had met some years before filming at his property. The other subplot is about Dalton’s new neighbor, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), following her through her life in Hollywood.

Dalton, with the help of his loyal friend Booth, manages to pull out of his career slump by hard work, getting a grip on his drinking, and just general decency. He ends up in Italy, starring in three Westerns and a Eurospy romp, returning married to an Italian starlet, with fifteen pounds of pasta added to his frame.

He arrives home just in time to team up with Cliff and bring about a fairy-tale happy ending to one of Hollywood’s most gruesome true stories, which makes sense of the Once Upon a Time . . . title, which I thought was an allusion to Sergio Leone, but that was just a clever diversion.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a geeky, ultra-detailed nostalgia fest, filled with vintage cars and clothes, period songs and advertisements, and a fat volume’s worth of TV, movie, and pop-culture trivia. The movie brims with actual historical characters, all of them well-cast and well-realized. The fictional characters are rich pastiches of still other historical characters. The clips and posters for fictional movies and TV shows are brilliantly realistic and often hilarious parodies. It’s all very self-indulgent, but one has to admire Tarantino’s immense energy, attention to detail, and devotion to historical authenticity.

But this poses a problem for today’s SJW critics. Windbag Richard Brody at The New Yorker condemns the film as “obscenely regressive” and “ridiculously white.” (I find The New Yorker obscenely progressive and ridiculously Jewish, but that’s a topic for another day.) Brody is silent about the fact that some of these obscenely white characters and actors are Jewish, although in other contexts, of course, Jews are “diverse.”

Once Upon a Time is Hollywood, of course, is all about historical exactness and verisimilitude. Hollywood in 1969 was an overwhelmingly white and Jewish town. It was swarming with liberals, hippies, and downright communists, but by today’s PC-standards, such people seem like ultra-reactionaries.

But being true to the times is no defense in an industry that now peoples medieval and Elizabethan England with Negroes. It would have been a complete violation of Tarantino’s commitment to historical accuracy to black up the cast, but artistic integrity means nothing compared to the imperative of The Great Replacement. I am sure Richard Brody would have no problem with Samuel L. Jackson playing Roman Polansky. Lord knows I wouldn’t.

Tarantino has always made prigs squirm by putting racial epithets on the screen. Here, Rick Dalton sneers about “beaners” and Cliff Booth admonishes Dalton not to cry in front of Mexicans. They also refer constantly to dirty “hippies.” In one of the funniest scenes in the film, Bruce Lee pretentiously holds forth on the set of The Green Hornet until Booth has enough, calls his bullshit, and then humiliates him in a fight.

Feminists actually pushed up their problem glasses, scrunched up their faces, and counted the lines spoken by women. They are not amused.

Dalton and Booth, moreover, are two-fisted “paleomasculine” heroes, brimming with strength, mastery, honor, and camaraderie. And at the end, the excessive TV and movie violence that moralists love to condemn is shown to cathartic, redemptive, and downright hilarious.

Tarantino hasn’t become a reactionary, of course. He’s still a self-hating white shitlib. But he’s also an artist with his own stubbornly-held vision, and he and the leading edge of the Left Zeitgeist have parted ways.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is full of Tarantino trademarks: a complex narrative structure, quirky characters and dialogue, a leisurely pace, banal foot fetishism, and a love of putting complex and intelligent dialogue in the mouths of Negroes. Although there are no Negroes in this film, so Tarantino accomplishes the same comic effect with an eight-year-old white girl. The performances by DiCaprio and Pitt are by turns affable and riveting. The scenes at the Spahn Ranch are utterly suspenseful and creepy, the closest Tarantino has come to creating a zombie flick.

I highly recommend this film, simply as well-crafted grown-up entertainment that does not go out of its way to insult the intelligence, race, or moral sensibilities of its overwhelmingly white audience.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Movies