Archive for Ronald Reagan

Mad in USA

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on August 21, 2017 by dcairns

 

One of my big theories, which I may have mentioned before, is about projection. We project onto our enemies our own most shameful traits, and so who we hate and why we hate them sometimes says more about us than them. I don’t feel bad about hating Donald John Trump for his stupidity, grandiloquence, intolerance, aggression and dishonesty, since those are all qualities I can find in myself, and I find them deplorable.

What I find interesting is how all the insults Trump applies to others — and for a man with such a limited vocabulary, he has used quite a few — apply better to him than to those he attacks. Crooked! Sad! Failing! And the alt-right’s phrase “virtue signalling” — used whenever someone to the left of Hitler says something they be honestly believe to be nice, something that actually IS virtuous, becomes an interesting one.

Firstly, when did virtue become something to be held in contempt? But the addition of “signalling” makes the intent clear: this supposed virtue is a sham, it is merely part of a ritual whereby leftie types self-indentify to one another. I’m nice, are you nice? It still doesn’t strike me as that awful. I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with it. But the alt-right are pretty different from the conservatives. It’s been argued that while liberals care about the most good for the most people, or at least like to think so, conservatives care about “values.” Which have nothing to do with anybody’s wellbeing and are often mere bigotry. So a conservative can be in favour of something that will have only negative effects, like the war on drugs or the right to bear arms, but that doesn’t matter, because what’s important is that it’s, in fact, virtuous, according to the rule-book (which is typically some interpretation of the Bible, the Constitution, or something heard on Fox News).

But at a certain point, conservatism shades into the even more toxic alt-right, who are full of hatred and negativity and know it. It makes them feel better to believe the left are insincere, full of the same nastiness, just lacking the balls to come out and admit it.

But ironically, the right are the ones who are always signalling. Liberal “virtue signalling” could be more simply described as “stating your beliefs” or maybe “stating your professed beliefs” if you want to be cynical about it. The signallers, the code-users, are on the alt-right. “Globalist” means Jew. They know it, and they know we know it, but only those dumb neo-Nazis who are spoiling the fun for everyone else would admit to anti-Semitism. The right have all these corny sayings, “red pill” and shit like that, and they also have this carefully maintained not-too-plausible deniability, a gossamer-thin veil between their outward presentation and their obvious, but never confessed racism.

Is Trump’s obsessive use of the “OK” gesture a White Power sign? (The three raised fingers form a W, the circled thumb and forefinger and the ball of the thumb a P.) This seems to have started off as a 4-chan hoax. But now it’s a well-known enough meme that a smart president would avoid doing it. So that the fact that Trump continues to do it, can’t seem to SPEAK without doing it, starts to look like a genuine signal.”Look, I’m using a symbol with racists associations, AND I DON’T CARE.

If you look at the OCCASIONS his tiny thumb and forefinger meet during his notorious, and live-in-ignominy historic Trump Tower press conference, I would point out two things –(1) it now seems connected in his mind with white power, because he uses it whenever talking about white supremacists and (2) he definitely isn’t using it to mean “OK.”

One last movie-based observation since this is supposed to be a movie blog (but this stuff is OBSESSING me right now). Ronald Reagan: movie star. George W. Bush: executive producer (of THE HITCHER and others). Steve Bannon: movie producer (appalling political “documentaries,” somehow owns a piece of Seinfeld). Maybe nobody associated with the movie business should be allowed in politics?

Donald Trump has been in several movies, but he should have been disqualified anyway for being an evil, stupid, corrupt, racist asshole.

Juke Swamp

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2015 by dcairns

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JUKE GIRL is a pretty good Warner melo from the pen of A.I. Bezzerides — like all his films it manages a prominent role for a Greek-American character, and carries a bit of a political punch. Odd to see such a left-leaning film, siding with farmers against crooked wholesalers, yet starring Ronald Reagan. He’s actually kind of winning in it.

The title character is lovely Ann Sheridan, who dances with customers in Muckeye’s bar. The movie is in no way hers. The plan must have been to imply that it’s the story of a racy dance hall hostess to cover the fact that the movie is really about organized labour. It would have been great if Reagan had gotten in trouble with HUAC for being in it, but alas even their idiocy had limits.

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My favourite line is Ann seducing her way onto the premises of the wholesalers’ so Ron can steal a truck to help out the embattled Greek farmer who must get his produce to market before it spoils. “Gee, a packing house must be a wonderful place at night,” she coos through the fence.

With almost precode energy, the movie does a lot of packing itself, cramming in a murder and framing along with the dirty business dealings and hints of political corruption. It’s oppressively crammed with ugly mugs, bulbous, walking Drew Friedman cartoons — if you have Richard Whorf AND Howard Da Silva in a movie, you are possibly subjecting your audience’s nerves to what the automobile industry calls destructive testing. How much nasal sneering can we take?

Curtis Bernhardt directs, without his interesting expressionistic flourishes, but with a lot of GUSTO.

At the end, the murderer is revealed as wholesaler Gene Lockhart, so Ron and Ann are saved from the lynch mob. We think that’s going to be the situation defused, since Lockhart, an unintentional killer, is clearly in the throes of complete nervous collapse and can be turned over to the sheriff, but NO — the ugly (ugly!) mob he has whipped up now turns on him, and Bernhardt, who can’t help himself, chucks in one METROPOLIS style high angle of hands reaching for the miscreant, ringing around him, seemingly about to tear him apart like Charles Laughton’s Dr. Moreau…

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And we fade out. A coda rounds off the fate of the other characters, but this moment of bloody, Reign of Terror revolution is never referred to again, and we are left to assume that Lockhart was (a) torn limb from limb (b) hanged from a lamppost or (c) eaten.

This is why Warner pictures are the coolest.

The title attracted me in the same way that SO YOUNG SO BAD and PROBLEM GIRLS seem like really appealing movies based on titles alone. Watch for them here soon!

Pipe Dream

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on April 5, 2014 by dcairns

Why am I so amused and bemused by this scene in the Don Siegel-directed melo NIGHT UNTO NIGHT, in which Ronald Reagan has an epileptic fit?

It isn’t because it’s Ronald Reagan — not everything he does is automatically funny. Admittedly, some aspects of his presidency were humorous, but I didn’t, on the whole, find the idea of this jocular, ruddy-faced buffoon hovering over the doomsday button particularly funny. I spent my adolescence in a state of terror. I would have probably been terrified anyway, for more general/biologically reasons, but I still hold him responsible for that part of my anxiety not linked to hormones.

And it isn’t because it’s an epileptic seizure — those aren’t funny at all, certainly no funnier than any other neurological malady.

It isn’t even the unlikely combination of Ronald Reagan having an epileptic seizure. Though that makes me smile a little bit.

It’s more to do with Siegel’s direction, which is weirdly ineffective and wrong. It turns out that his talent, on sure ground when dealing with direct, determined action — he would have made the best movie ever of a Richard Stark Parker novel if given the chance — falls apart when called upon to render the hallucinatory, the abnormal, the fugue-state. Instead of some kind of evocation of perceptual crisis, we get a low angle or two placing striking emphasis on Reagan’s smoking material. Pipes are just funny, I think, in a way that Reagan and epilepsy aren’t, always. Pipes are always a bit funny. Making a pipe the fulcrum of a dramatic neurological crisis experienced by Ronald Reagan is very funny.

And then there’s the dog. Interesting to note that was a montage director at Warners before his directing career took off. That’s not at all the same thing as being an editor. Siegel shot his own material to create montage sequences for other directors’ films, showing the passage of time, the development of a situation, or just the atmosphere of a place. It probably explains his admirable terseness. But nothing explains that very voluble dog, who barks and reacts for an extraordinary length of time. The shortness of the shots suggests that Siegel had trouble getting the mutt to understand his direction (Later he would have similar struggles with Shirley MacLaine, but succeed). It looks as if all the usable bits of dog footage have been spliced together — and then abandoned, left in the film without any narrative shaping. It’s quite peculiar.

But the pipe bit is the best.