Archive for May, 2018|Monthly archive page

Notorious RBG is a Notorious Advertisement for a Failed United States Democracy

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2018 at 22:09

Notorious RBG is a Notorious Advertisement for a Failed United States Democracy


Ruth Baden-Ginsberg (RBG) is currently the most important dissenting voice on the Supreme Court of the United States. That is because the rest of the court reads the Constitution like a document that is supposed to protect the well off and their property and not foment popular democracy, and that is exactly what it does.  Ginsberg is also the only Supreme Court Justice with a documentary about them in circulation the United States, “Notorious RBG.”

The highest court interprets the Constitution, a legal document that protects the rights of some of the people some of the time. Ultimately, the Constitution protects the status quo

Only 27 of over 11,000 proposed amendments have passed, and ten were in the Bill of Rights. None of the economic Bill of Rights proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt have ever been added to the supreme law of the land. In fact, the Constitution guarantees little access to governing or decision making to the proletariat at all. It allows those with money to buy speech, to buy better legal defense, to buy and control our mass media, and pay for politicians that pass laws to protect and increase their profit. Most of the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, in fact, are more useful to people the more money you have.  

Justice Ginsberg is usually on the progressive, humanitarian side of court arguments. But why are some of these issues arguments at all? Why do people believe it’s okay to control women’s reproduction, why is it okay that women make less than men for the same work, why is money free speech, why did the court select the president at all in 2000? These have all been arguments in the court Justice Ginsberg has considered. By representing these issues in the court and the way RBG defends her side, it legitimizes a political system that works for the powerful to the detriment of the most vulnerable in the United States. 

On a court of mainly conservative white men, she is a standout, but the system in which she must argue for humanity against corporate, elitist, sexist power, is broken. The film, Notorious RBG, works to legitimize that system by showing that what happens in the halls of power is normal.

If we want real change, we need to stop saluting tepid resistance to a system that is killing us and the planet. Has Ginsberg stood up for the rights of many in this nation? Certainly. But her friendship with the anti-woman, racist Justice Scalia puts her allegiances in question. Ultimately, she works for system that propagates economic inequality using the law.  

Rating: Matinee
The film is well done, and if you want to learn about Justice Ginsberg, it is a good film. Don’t see it for much history of the struggles behind the search for justice.  Certainly, don’t bother seeing it for a critique of our flawed system. See ‘Manufacturing Consent’ instead.

Tex Shelters

“The Terror”: Imperialist Insanity at its Most Artistic

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2018 at 00:27

“The Terror” is an AMC show (10 episodes) about a 1845 British expedition in search of a Northwest passage from England to China and India through the Arctic. It is a fictionalized account of a historical trip into the Arctic of the British vessels the Erebus and Terror. Following incomplete charts from previous missions into the Arctic, they travel into the frozen north. Sounds dull, right? Wrong. The Terror lives up to its title and then some. 

The Terror new

The Terror features an obsessed captain, John Franklin, that Captain Ahab might tell to chill out. He is so insecure that he risks the lives of two ships full of seamen just to prove he’s worthy of a favorable position in the naval hierarchy. The British Empire of the 19th Century didn’t worry about sending men off to die if it meant glory for the crown, and the ventures of the ships Erebus and Terror is no different. 

The cast is excellent and the dialogue is some of the best I have heard on TV since “The Wire.” Like ‘The Wire’, ‘The Terror’ uses colloquial language specific to the time and culture, 1840s British naval vessels in the Arctic. The language is effective in setting tone and creating character. 

The actors who play the three captains are varied and compelling in their own way. Each captain is unique and that leads to his demise or survival on the journey. However, they aren’t the only characters that make the show work. Cornelius Hickey,  Lady Silence, and Harry Goodsir are some of the most compelling characters among many that inhabit the show. 

The three directors for the ten episodes of season one (I have no idea if there will be a season two, and there is no need for one) make spectacular use of the Arctic back drop, the ships (inside and out) and the campsites to create a stunning backdrop for the terror that ensues. 

There is plenty of foreshadowing in The Terror, but how it plays out is fascinating. The darkness, the cold, the stark landscapes, makes the crew mad and ill with unknown ailments. Like all good horror shows, we are never certain what will happen to the characters, even though we assume it’s not going to be good. 

The Terror is a tale of desperation and hope, of death and glory, of obsession and survival. It shows how far a nation will go, England, and how many lives they will risk for money and fame. The brutality of the British in ‘The Terror’ should be a lesson to all of the people in the U.S. who support conquest and torture and venturing where we aren’t wanted into hostile and unknown territory. 

Rating: Pay Full Price
It’s compelling and if you like horror and history, doubly so. 

Tex Shelters

“You Were Never Really Here”: a review.

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2018 at 20:09

you were never really here

“You Were Never Really Here” is an entertaining film by by Lynne Ramsay about a vigilante named Joe, no last name. From the cinematography to the editing, the script to the acting, it is well done. Except the sound editing. That was a disappointment in an otherwise well put together film. 

The music in some scenes was too loud. Why do many sound editors insist on pinning the needle on the music when the drama increases? Was sound man Paul Davis reacting to the shock of the scene and accidentally pushing the volume up to eleven? A deaf audience would have complained about the volume in at least two scenes. Gratefully, the over-loud music was less evident after the first third of the film. 

The film makes great use of flashbacks. Many films hold flashbacks too long so they aren’t flashbacks as much as they are daydreams. Some films use bizarre music that doesn’t match the film or uses smokey filters. Director Ramsey eschews all the gimmicks in the film’s flashbacks and cuts them in so as to develop Joe’s character without being a distraction. 

The film has one star: Joaquin Phoenix as Joe. He is entertaining portraying a troubled veteran hired to rescue lost children. I assume Joe does other jobs as well or there is a bigger demand for rescuing children than one might assume. Actress Ekaterina Samsonov plays Nina adeptly and is especially compelling at the end of the film. 

The film is reminiscent of “Taxi Driver” and “Taken.” There are two major surprises in the film that increase the tension and drama for the viewer. The film ends well with just the right amount of finality without giving us pat answers. 

Rating: Pay Full Price.
Hammer out a few minutes for this Lynne Ramsay gem. 

Tex Shelters 

‘The Master’ Fails to Enlighten 

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2018 at 22:41

The Master Fails to Enlighten 

‘The Master’, a 2012 film by director Paul Thomas Anderson, is an unintentionally messy jumble of ideas with no coherent direction. Like with his overrated Boogie Nights, the director assumes the audience is going to care about the film because Mr. Anderson is clever.

The master sneer

The film tries to carry two strong male leads. However, it fails to make either The Master or his protegé, Freddie Quell played by Joaquin Phoenix, compelling. Both characters are angry buffoons, The Master being the more clever of the two. A little more history of The Master and his cult might have helped us care. 

The character of The Master is a combination of Ernest Hemingway and L. Ron Hubbard. Sounds interesting, right? Nope. We start off with an enigmatic macho man at the beginning of the film, but his bragging has no base in reality and fails to live up its billing. He is cruel, and while charismatic leaders can be cruel, there is little reason to follow The Master. However, I don’t blame the cast as much as Anderson’s script. He assumes that his ideas are inherently interesting, and therefore, it is unnecessary for him to do the work of writing in a back story or compelling motives for his characters.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quill, WWII vet, Schizophrenic, PTSD victim and guinea pig for The Master’s therapeutic technique. Mr. Phoenix (with an assist from Anderson’s script) is obviously reaching for the Oscar by playing a mentally challenged character, but he misses. Perhaps the academy will give him the nod as they did the main characters in Rain Man, Forrest Gump, Sling Blade and A Beautiful Mind. But his performance is not worthy of a top award and neither is this cinematic drudgery.

The Master’s technique is a kind of regression therapy into this and past lives, but it’s not very dramatic. Even the first therapy encounter between The Master and Freddie leaves us dissatisfied. Certainly, it touches on some tragedy in Freddie’s past, but it’s all surface and leaves us wanting, like drinking salt water in the desert. 

The film keeps us at a distance and we don’t care enough about what happens to the characters nor what they do. I am not suggesting we need to like the characters in a movie to enjoy them, but we do need to be moved by them emotionally as we were with the despicable oil man in Anderson’s last movie, “There Shall be Blood.” 

Like one of the songs featured in the movie, The Master is a “slow boat to China”, except the company you are keeping only makes the journey seem longer and more tedious. If you were stuck on a boat with only this movie, you would be compelled to jump overboard.   

The movie tries to do too much and accomplishes little. I kept hoping after the beginning of the third act that each scene would be the end of the movie. Hoping a movie will end while watching it in a theater is never a good sign.

Rating: Rental

Those interested in psychological drama and the acting of Hoffman or Phoenix, or Amy Adams for that matter, will find something enjoyable in this film. For everyone else, rent Anderson’s better film, There Will Be Blood.  

Tex Shelters