I Am Cuba (1964) Written by Enrique Pineda Barnet & Yevgeny Yevtushenko Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
Capitalism is everywhere. In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, capitalism became the dominant economic ideology on the planet. There are only four communist states: China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (North Korea operates under a philosophy of Juche, which while similar in some ways to communism, is not a representation of that system). Capitalist realism became the term to define this post-Soviet era, a play on “socialist realism,” an art style popular during the USSR’s existence. It’s from this constant presence of capitalism in all aspects of life that the phrase “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than an end to capitalism” was coined (attributed to both Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Zizek). So, if capitalism is the all-encompassing economic system of our lives, how is it represented in the media?
Three Days of the Condor (1975) Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfield Directed by Sydney Pollack
The CIA is one of the most evil and chaotic institutions in the United States. The formation of the CIA in the wake of World War II amounts to a political coup by the business class. Anticommunist sentiments were running high in the Truman administration in the wake of the war. The Soviets were gaining ground in a Europe attempting to heal from fascist destruction. However, the United States ushered many “useful” Nazis across the Atlantic to help build a new world order that put America at the top of the heap. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the CIA’s precursor, scheming to undermine any communist growth in the world. The OSS would eventually hire a group of wealthy and educated white men who saw this as an opportunity to turn the world into their playground, become the secret agents they’d read about in a growing & popular genre of literature at the time, and for some (the true believers) they operated with religious fervor to destroy communism. These agents turned global politics into a deadly game they played against people trying to survive and make their nations better and amongst each other, games within games.
Blow Out (1981) Written & Directed by Brian De Palma
In 1966, Italian director Michaelangelo Antonioni wrote & directed Blow-Up, a mystery film about a fashion photographer who believes he may have caught a crime on film while shooting in a park. When director Brian De Palma was working on Dressed to Kill, he started to think about reframing Antonioni’s film around sound rather than images. By late 1980, De Palma was shooting Blow Out in his hometown of Philadelphia, working alongside many recurring collaborators. The result is a film made in the vein of dozens of 1970s political thrillers, wrapped up in the post-Watergate paranoia that has fueled Americans’ minds ever since.
Not much has changed in the 24 hours since I posted my last review of this bullshit show. This weekend is being used by the elite to try and burn the fight out of many Americans. On Monday, they expect all the groveling cows to return to their shitty jobs for paltry wages. Congress is on their two-week break, and I can guarantee you’re going to see ramping up of anti-LGBTQ talking points among the conservative campaigns in the coming months. Hell, at this point, I suspect the Dems will join them on those talking points, appealing to an imaginary group of conservatives that would ever vote for a Dem.
Language and meaning are one area where American politics reveals its most significant deficit. It’s not a rare occurrence to see “man on the street” interviews wherein some reactionary calls Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi a “communist” or “socialist.” As someone with political leanings that actually are communist, I find this both funny and terrifying. And while the political illiteracy of the Right is blunt & obvious, the same aspect in liberals is there but subtler. It hasn’t been until recently that I have seen the actual depth of liberal depravity. They are rushing to join their reactionary brethren by joining the culture war distractions about transgender people and CRT. Instead of making arguments that bring attention back to the real problems (wage inequality, climate collapse), they do shadow plays about issues that will only lead to a fascistic response.
The Scary of Sixty-First (2021) Written by Dasha Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn Directed by Dasha Nekrasova
One of the pieces of cultural lore that has rippled through people’s minds has been the revelations surrounding Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was a native Brooklynite whose first professional job was teaching at the Dalton School while lacking a college degree. Odd, right? Eventually, he was dismissed from the school and entered finance, working at Bear Stearns. As Epstein rose in wealth and prominence, he began cultivating some extremely prominent acquaintances. There are some unknowns about what he did with this wealth & power. However, there are also some things we know for sure. It is an absolute fact that he engaged in the human trafficking of women and children and that they were used for his and his friends’ sexual gratification. Epstein’s life ended when he allegedly “committed suicide” while in prison, a situation whose details are deeply incredulous.
The Parallax View (1974) Written by David Giler, Lorenzo Semple Jr., and Robert Towne Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Since the colonial period, conspiracy and paranoia have been foundational to the American psyche. Europeans crossing the Atlantic to rape & pillage grew to fear Indigenous people whether they were an actual threat or not. This would continue as closed religious communities struck out against themselves (see the Salem Witch Trials), and Westward Expansion bolstered bootstraps ideology which led to further social atomization.
Blazing Saddles (1974) Written by Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, and Al Uger Directed by Mel Brooks
There is a statement on Twitter from right-wing ideologies that due to the fabricated idea of “cancel culture,” a film like Blazing Saddles couldn’t be made today. I am confident that anyone saying that hasn’t ever watched the movie or their viewing was when they were a child, and they’ve forgotten most of it. Blazing Saddles may not be able to be made today, not because we are more sensitive to racism, but rather because the system responsible for making movies doesn’t want to produce anything that will elicit genuine emotion from their audiences anymore. Blazing Saddles is one of the strongest anti-racist films I’ve ever seen, one that centers on the experiences of its Black protagonist and doesn’t pull punches on showing the white establishment as complete assholes.
Veep (HBO) Seasons 1 thru 7 Created by Armando Iannucci
If you follow this blog, you know one of my interests is examining how media is used to prop up the legitimacy of institutions in America. Since the early days of film, people have been rewriting history or portraying offices like the President with this sense of eternal nobility. This type of writing, present in the works of filmmakers like Aaron Sorkin, turns my stomach. It ultimately serves as propaganda to admonish activism that pushes for material change and instead pivot the American mindset into being satisfied with shallow sentiment and hollow platitudes. For example, the West Wing constantly presents those who populate the White House as flawed but virtuous, centrists who are always right and debate themselves into wins against conservatives and leftists. When The West Wing was originally airing, I remember someone I knew who liked the show admitting that it was ultimately “porn for liberals.” It provided a comforting fantasy with little to no connection to what happens in reality. Veep is the antithesis of this.
Azor (2021) Written by Andreas Fontana and Mariano Llinás Directed by Andreas Fontana
Something is wrong in Argentina. From the moment Azor begins, you feel disturbing things; the music and images hint at more sinister machinations at work. But on the surface, it seems…okay? The filmmakers have put their audience in the shoes of people attempting to navigate life under a dictatorship in Latin America. Azor is set in 1980 during the Dirty War when right-wing death squads scoured the country of anyone suspected of supporting socialism or other left-wing movements. This military junta killed between 9,000 to 30,000 people. Hard numbers are hard to get because so many of these people were disappeared overnight and never seen again, with no formal record of what happened to them.