Arlington Road (1999)
Written by Ehren Krueger
Directed by Mark Pellington
On April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was destroyed by a domestic terrorist truck bombing. The people responsible were Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, right-wing extremists. They met during U.S. Army basic training in 1988 at Fort Benning. Radicalization came via right-wing propaganda spurred by the Ruby Ridge standoff. This incident involved the FBI, who suspected Randy Weaver was involved in a gun smuggling operation for white supremacists, surrounding the Weaver family home. The result was the death of Weaver’s wife and son, with Weaver himself being captured. The white supremacist survived until May 2022, when he passed away after serving time in prison. As with all reactionaries, McVeigh & Nichols lashed out at innocent people resulting in the murder of 168 people, including children, in the Federal Building’s employee childcare facility.
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Roger & Me (1989)
Directed by Michael Moore
Those who gain power from the existing institutions love when art is made “highbrow” and separate from the masses. The documentaries made by the Maysles Brothers and Barbara Kopple’s Harlan County USA were not seen as a threat because they lingered in the art house/film festival scene. Michael Moore has always been a different creature, and the reactions from those in power show us they feel threatened by his work. Why is that?
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Directed by Martin Bell
I really feel sorry for adults who think the United States of America is good for anything. How privileged & wilfully ignorant one must be to hold onto those myths in the face of stark reality. There’s not one single moment we can pinpoint as the event when it all went to shit, just mile markers of misery along the way. One of the most significant points in the nation’s history was the election of Ronald Reagan. The American public had already been suffering an extended period of intentional governmental failure and corporate takeover of what had previously been for the public good. The ascension of Reagan and his accompanying religious right-wing zealots secured America’s final descent into Hell, a pit each successive president has made sure we’ve stayed in.
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Harlan County USA (1976)
Directed by Barbara Kopple
Like sand, our memory of history in the United States slips so easily between our fingers that we have forgotten far more than we remember. In this way, film is an act of preservation, the attempt to secure moments in our past in a manner that words cannot. The story of the American worker is one that was ground down almost to nothing in the hands of the Reagan Administration and on into the Clinton Administration, Bush Jr, Obama, Trump, and now today. Many promising new unions are being formed, and it is clear younger people want to embrace that collective strength that is far more potent than the individualism that only leads to ruin & alienation. Barbara Kopple understands the importance of unions and who leads them, which brought her to Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1973.
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I read over 100 books on my Goodreads challenge this year, but about half of those were probably collected editions of comics. I read some great prose, though, some of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I went back to some old reliable authors but also branched out to books and genres I hadn’t really tackled before. For 2023, I’m considering choosing an author whose work is rated very highly and working my way through their bibliography. I might challenge myself with Cormac McCarthy now that we have what are likely his final two books. That’s a hefty challenge. I was also thinking about someone like Richard Powers or exploring some female authors I’ve criminally neglected from the late 1970s/80s. On to my favorite reads of 2022.
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The Passenger (1975)
Written by Mark Peploe, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Peter Wollen
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
This will be our last stop with the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, though he kept making films. It will have to be another time when we look at his work outside his four Monica Vitti films and his MGM trilogy, but we’re ending on an exceptionally high note. Financially this was not a success, and in the aftermath, Jack Nicholson was sold the rights after a dispute between him and MGM over another picture in development. The Passenger would sit on a shelf for three decades after its initial release, a film thought to be lost and only recaptured by going back to read the old reviews. In 2006, it finally received a DVD release and could be rediscovered by a new generation. It’s a dense picture, full of Antonioni’s common themes but lots of new settings and political ideas surfacing. The result is another enigmatic film that performs a kind of hypnosis on the viewer, a picture that is multiple things at once and deserving of considerable examination.
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Andor Season 1 (Disney+)
Written by Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Stephen Schiff, Beau Willimon
Directed by Toby Haynes, Susanna White, and Benjamin Caron
Humanity isn’t going to be saved by Star Wars. It was a global capitalist juggernaut consumed by an even larger one almost a decade ago. It’s a product that gets its label and trademark slapped on a host of garbage manufactured in squalor and then sold to grubby-handed man-children that are desperately clinging to the comfort of their youth because, and they are not wrong in this estimation, the world is broken. But the thing is, Star Wars can be used. It can be a tool. In the desire to overthrow oppressive power, we will have to use the materials made under the monolith to destroy it. That’s the beautiful irony, every day, the capitalist machine unknowingly builds the very thing that will kill it. We don’t know what it is or when that will happen, but it is inevitable.
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Don’t Worry Darling (2022)
Written by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Katie Silberman
Directed by Olivia Wilde
On May 16, 2021, it was reported that AT&T had been offered to divest interest in WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery Inc to form a new publicly traded company. The following month it was revealed that the new name of this company would be Warner Bros. Discovery. On March 11, 2022, the merger was approved by Discovery’s shareholders, and the processor of compliance with regulators from around the world began. By the summer of 2022, the deal was done. David Zaslav was named CEO of this newly merged company, and throughout August and September 2022, he oversaw the reorganization of HBOMax. This garnered significant media attention as dozens of programs and films were shelved. Some had been complete for a while, while others were in the midst of production or post-production. The reasoning behind pulling this content was cited as to balance the significant debt handed over to Discovery from their acquisition. The removal of these pieces of entertainment would allow Warner Bros. Discovery to write the losses off on taxes. In September, the company announced they only had the finances to release two films for the remainder of 2022: Black Adam and Don’t Worry Darling.
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Black Adam (2022)
Written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Certain pieces of film feel like monumental shifts in the culture, or at the very least, that suddenly reflect horrible truths about the current dominant ideologies. Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will was hailed as a masterpiece in Germany, but it found traction outside the boundaries of that country. The Nazi filmmaker’s propaganda piece was awarded in Paris and Venice and lured many people outside of Germany to see fascism favorably. Movies did not start as overt propaganda, but it’s hard to argue now that the productions released by major American film studios are not produced with some sort of establishment normalizing ideology embedded within them. Be it Nolan’s Patriot Act apologia in The Dark Knight or the military glorification found in Michael Bay’s work and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Americanism as a worldview is ever present in our “entertainment.”
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This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
Written by Paul Dehn & Guy Trosper
Directed by Martin Ritt
One of the most destructive forces on the planet since World War II has been Western intelligence agencies. The CIA. MI6. These orgs have devoted themselves to an increasingly insane ideology that sees the upholding of a system that crushes the most vulnerable as “noble” and “good.” Regular people exist as pieces on a board, to be manipulated and moved about, with little regard for their lives. This espionage lifestyle has been glamorized in films, mostly the James Bond series, with fanboys thinking they too could be a dashing spy in a tuxedo bedding buxom women at every turn. The reality is much like what we find in a John LeCarre novel. The lives of spies are ones riddled with paranoia & alienation. When you master being a manipulator, how can you trust that other people aren’t doing the same to you?
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