Bombshell Explodes onto the Big Screen

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2019 at 16:08

Bombshell Explodes onto the Big Screen

from www.hellomagazine.com

from hellomagazine.com

I went to see Bombshell thinking it was a vanity project for Nicole Kidman (based on one poorly run interview), forgetting that Charlize Theron was getting the top billing as Megan Kelly. How wrong could I get?

This film is NOT about Fox News, fake news, propaganda, lies at Fox News, right-wing news, or other legitimate complaints about corporate media in the U.S. Bombshell is about sexual harassment in the workplace and specifically the lives of the most prominent sexual harassment and assault victims of Roger Ailes, former head of Fox News. Because the writer limited the film to the harassment case, the film was able to delve deep into the terrible choices women face in the workplace when the person who can fire you or advance your career is asking for sexual favors.  That is the power of Bombshell.

Ailes is played with sleaze oozing from his pores by the delightful John Lithgow. He’s a train wreck, in that you can’t keep your eyes off his horrifying visage when he is on screen. But the stars of the show were Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, the aforementioned Theron, and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil. In a year with Little Women competing for Oscars, I hope these big women win the night.

I knew that a woman must have directed and written this film. Wrong again. It was aptly directed by Jay Roach, director of Trumbo and Dinner with Schmucks and written by Charles Randolph of The Big Short. So how did they do it? They based much of the film on memoirs by two of the scandals victims, Carlson and Kelly, put the acting in the hands of capable veterans, and they didn’t fuc% it up.

I don’t remember the music, so it didn’t suck. What I remember is the pacing. The film didn’t lag, dawdle, pause for contemplation, and that is because the plaintiffs in the case had no time to contemplate what was happening. And it wasn’t too fast to follow. If there was an Oscar for pacing, Bombshell would be in serious contention.

The make up on the actresses is remarkable: Theron could have passed for Kelly on a news set and Kidman could have fooled Carlson’s children, almost. Part of that is due to the actresses knowledge of their characters and the research they did to perform these immense roles and their skill to do so.

I admit that my disdain for Fox News and everything it represents helped me cheer more heartily for the downfall of Ailes. As it turns out, the other corporate news outlets aren’t much better covering real news, they are just less deplorable.

Rating: Pay Full Price
The acting alone is worth the price of admission.

Tex Shelters

Undemocratic: The Presidential Primary System, Year 2020

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2019 at 17:23




The primary system for both the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States is undemocratic. For now, I will set aside the discussion of how the two-party system in the U.S. supports a plutocratic government. For my thoughts on that, please read the article linked here. I will also address the way debates for presidential candidates are corporate controlled in a future article. Finally, I will emphasize the Democratic primaries this time around, for the Republicans control the White House and won’t have a primary season.

The U.S. elections themselves are just for show; “they are not democratic. Our choices are limited and the elections are dominated by corporations that work exclusively to guarantee their profits.” Not only are the elections and our two-party system undemocratic, but the process for selecting the candidates for president in both parties is run by the elites and does not allow for real choice.

The primaries start in Iowa (Monday, February 3, 2020) and New Hampshire (Tuesday, February 11, 2020). These states are two of the least representative states in the U.S. Iowa, which runs a caucus and has about 3.156 million people  and New Hampshire has about 1.356 million people. That is 4.512 out of 327.2 million people or slightly less than 1.4% of the U.S. population. Together, they have less then 2% of the members of the House and the Senate, numbering ten. Yet, “Since 1976, when the Iowa caucuses went to first it became an influential part of the nomination process, the eventual Democratic nominee has almost always won either Iowa or New Hampshire (or both).”

Not only does Iowa and New Hampshire have a tiny part or the country’s population (thus being unrepresentative) they are both two of the whitest states in the nation. Iowa is 90.7% white and New Hampshire is 93.2% white.  The nation as a whole is 76.5% white. If you claim to represent the people, why not choose a state that better represents the U.S. population as a whole, like Florida which is 76.5% white?

Furthermore, “The Iowa primary is not even a vote by the people. It has a caucus (group meetings with the party faithful) that favors party insiders and not candidates with alternative ideas. The primary in New Hampshire has very small turnout. For example, only three to four percent of voters nominated McCain in New Hampshire. So, a few thousand votes in a small state decided who would represent the Republicans in 2008.”

Several state parties block voters from primaries who do not registered with their parties. In this way, voters are coerced to sign-up with one of the two majors parties or have no vote in determining the choices for president.

Click to view: Iowa compared to US demographics
Click to view: New Hampshire compared to the United States

Currently, there are 18 dates for primaries.

The later dates seldom matter, for the candidates are almost always decided before then. So, populous states such as Florida (March 17) and New Jersey (June 2) often have little say in who gets nominated as their primaries happen after 40 other states have had theirs. That disenfranchises California’s nearly 17.2 million and New Jerseys 5.3 million registered voters (2012 numbers).  At least California moved up to Super Tuesday, March 3, when twelve states vote. (ibid)

Closed primaries are ways political parties force party loyalty on the public. The list of closed primaries is here.

In summary, 14 out of 50 states have closed or semi-closed primaries. The reason for this is that the Republican and Democratic parties don’t fully trust voters and don’t want a full democratic process. They believe in unquestioned loyalty: ‘party first, love it or leave it!’ If we wanted a democracy, we would have open primaries for all offices with a limit of one vote per contest.

Fair Vote Reform Suggestions

Setting aside all the other problems with our electoral system for now, here is a way to make the primary process more democratic: set up primaries based on regions and geography. That would make it easier for candidates to travel from state to state. The regions would rotate every four years ensuring that one region would not dominate the process like Iowa and New Hampshire do today. So, the group that votes first in 2020 would rotate to the bottom in 2024 and other regions would move up.

The U.S. could be divided up into nine regions, each occurring three weeks apart. That would be 27 weeks of primaries, slightly over half a year. That would allow each party to prepare for general elections. States could be divided into regions as follows:

Far West:
Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington 

Mountain West:
Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico

South Central:
Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana

Central and Northern Plains:
Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri

Great Lakes:
Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio

Central South:
Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina

Deep South:
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C.

New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

In this way, each region would have a say in who gets nominated. This would take the power to decide the presidency away from two of the least diverse states in the nation, Iowa and New Hampshire. There would be some diversity in each region. While Iowa is very white, there are many native tribes in the other plain’s states. Certainly, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than letting two of the whitest states with large rural populations, NH ranked 12 (39.7% rural) and Iowa 13 (35.98% rural), decide who the nominees are for president in the United States. (2010 numbers)

Moreover, the Republican and Democratic parties would have to pay for their own primaries. Taxpayers currently fund the duopoly that limits our voting choices, paying over $500 million in 2016. So, we end up funding parties that limit our participation in an undemocratic process. It’s just one more problem of many with what we call ‘democracy’ in the United States.

Tex Shelters

Joker–What Have We Learned? (A Film Review)

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2019 at 23:12

joker-joaquin-phoenix-1screengeekJoker from ScreenGeeks.

Joker is written by Scott Silver and Todd Phillips and directed by Phillips. The film presents the Batman and Joker story from the Joker’s mentally-ill perspective. 

There are various ways to look at the film. 1. The power elite ignore the poor and things are going to erupt. 2. A mentally ill man starts a riot. And 3. Poor incel white man does not get his way so he kills people. View #3 is myopic and completely off the mark. 

To call Joker a film about an out of touch, self-pitying white man is to miss the point. There is nothing about race or sexuality in the film and the main character happens to be white. And insane. The only people who would call Joker an incel fantasy haven’t seen the film, don’t know what incel is, call every lonely white guy an incel, or is an actual incel looking for a film to rally around. By the way, one can sympathize with Joker without empathizing with him.

The Joker is a misanthropic sociopath, period. He hates, and will kill, anyone who confronts him, like the six white guys he kills in the film. (And yes, he does kill a black woman councilor in the film as well). He’s such a lost incel that he doesn’t even know he’s supposed to kill only minorities and women. The incel accusation is ridiculous. People call him an incel because he’s a loner? Really? And the “rejection” he was supposed to have experience in the film? That was a fantasy dating scenario that never happens. Watch the film if you want to criticize it. 

Let’s say Joker and his followers mirror Trump (though many Latinos and blacks are rioting along with the whites). Shouldn’t we try to help the people instead of cutting their services and mocking them. Remember Hilary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables?” How many votes did that gain her? It lost her votes, even from progressives who wanted her to succeed. I’m not saying coddle white nationalists, something Joker is not. 

Robert De Niro is great in Joker as a smarmy, smart-aleck talk show host, a cross between Carson and Jeff Ross. The actresses who play Joker’s mother (Frances Conroy) and neighbor (Zazie Beetz) do well in the film. The police going after him are a bit cartoonish, but not too bad. In all, the cast is excellent.

Joaquin Phoenix is great and deserves awards. As a manic depressive with antisocial personality, a sociopath, you never know how he is going to react to stressors or whether what is happening is real. And he reacts in a multitude of ways, all believable if often surreal.  

The film looks good. The gritty, dark alleys and run-down streets and apartment buildings match the action well. And the subway is given an exaggerate 1970s hell-scape visage, just the place for a Joker to be born. 

The plot has some holes and is unrealistic at times. However, the surreal tone of the movie allows for some unreal action. 

All the talk of incels, an important but here misused framing device, hides the true theme of Joker: class. The Joker becomes and unwitting symbol of the poor in the fight against the rich, the rich who defend a system that keeps so many poor. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden recently said he wouldn’t be “demonizing the rich.” And people are spreading lie that the rich are under attack. What Joker does is present an alternative version of saluting and defending the rich, one where Thomas Wayne is shown exploiting and manipulating his position through lies and usury. Wayne is the real societal villain in Joker. 

The Joker is by no means a hero. People will go mad during hard times, and some will rebel. That is what the Waynes, and the Trumps and Clintons, of the world fear. 

Rating: Pay full price. If you want to fully understand it to criticize it, go see Joker. You might be surprised. 

Tex Shelters