On the one hand, the Republicans can’t seem to get anything right. President Donald Trump spends most of his time at his golfing resorts, shows no interest in or knowledge about serious issues, is constantly mired in scandals (often caused by his own Twitter account) and suffers from a historically low approval rating. Yesterday, he held another one of his hate rallies, this time in Iowa, where he kept venting to his fans, who are either completely delusional or have the patience of an angel. The New York Times delivered a depressing report, showing the world how mentally unstable the President of the United States is right now. Morning Joe also highlighted Trump’s lies in the clip above.
Republicans in Congress are in no better shape. After much secrecy, GOP senators have presented a healthcare bill that remains loyal to the House version, the one Trump himself has labeled “mean” – money will be taken from Medicaid and the wealthy will get a tax cut. At least four senators are objecting to the bill and it’s possible that more will follow, for different reasons. The bill has no support among regular people, as opinion polls show.
Go ahead GOP, say “We’re 4-0 baby!”
But if that’s all you say, look out.
The Dems greatly out performed you in each of those 4 races.
And yet people keep voting for these clowns. There were four special elections in red districts yesterday and Republicans won all of them, even though Democrats spent a historic amount of money on the one in Georgia, hoping for that district to be the first step in the campaign to turn the state blue. Winning is all that matters in politics, and that’s not what Democrats are doing. Republicans were gloating yesterday. Former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh, a severely conservative commentator, pointed out on Twitter that the results were not very encouraging, but his followers attacked him for being negative. They don’t want to hear anything realistic about the Dear Leader or their party. The fact of the matter remains though – Democrats have a real chance at taking the House next year. Republicans should have won these four races in red districts far easier than they did.
Democrats are currently fighting the Republican notion that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sinking the party. That’s what the GOP are also saying about Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, yes, but the focus lies on Pelosi. Why? Because she’s a woman, dummy. Who are the favorite targets of conservatives? Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. Ask conservatives which liberal woman they might actually respect and you won’t get an answer. There is none. They hate Senator Elizabeth Warren as well. Don’t let conservatives fool anyone into thinking that this isn’t primarily about misogyny. The problem with Pelosi though is that she’s been a Democratic leader for a long time, so a fresh face might be needed. The CNN clip above has Democratic Representative Tim Ryan arguing against Pelosi. He wants her job… but does have a point.
What’s the right path ahead for Democrats? Go full-blown Bernie Sanders/Jeremy Corbyn or more centrist? The former option is attractive, considering how successful the GOP has been in courting populism and the far right. The nuclear option, right? Still, Sanders didn’t even win his battle against Hillary Clinton and Corbyn only managed to weaken Prime Minister Theresa May, not defeat her. The left does need to actually win elections.
I’m all for liberals to attack conservatives with everything they’ve got – the elevation of Trump was a betrayal of everything the GOP and America used to stand for. However, Democrats still need to learn how to speak with working-class voters and really address their concerns in authentic ways. I can’t believe I’m saying that, because that’s what the party used to be good at. There is no way a nationalistic, lying blowhard like Trump should be allowed to walk away with victories. When are Democrats going to show him the door?
In 1953, aging Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Michael Gambon) suffers a stroke during dinner; the family and his closest associates agree to keep his condition a secret and a young nurse (Romola Garai) is assigned to him. This TV movie is based on actual events, a serious incident that was kept hidden from the public. A fictitious nurse has been added to the story, most likely to give it some warmth since much time is devoted to political intrigues and infighting between members of the Churchill family. The script also touches on how the death of a child can still haunt one 50 years later. Excellent lead performances.
2016-Britain. Made for TV. 100 min. Color. Directed by Charles Sturridge. Book: Jonathan Smith (”The Churchill Secret: KBO”). Cast: Michael Gambon (Winston Churchill), Lindsay Duncan (Clementine Churchill), Romola Garai (Millie Appleyard), Bill Paterson, Tara Fitzgerald, Rachael Stirling.
Last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards was full of impassioned, political speeches defying the despotic new President of the United States and the havoc he has wreaked the past week. Just watch the amazing clip above where the Stranger Things cast have gathered to accept the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Co-star David Harbour is on fire as he rallies “freaks and outcasts” to battle this new threat against America. Considering the pain Donald Trump has brought to his nation in a week, and the anger he has stirred, just imagine what the Oscars will be like come February 26th.
In fact, the Oscars outrage has already begun. President Trump’s illogical, cruel, racist and clumsily conceived ban against Muslims from seven countries a few days ago has caused widespread protests all over the country and abroad. More damage has been done to America’s standing in shorter time than even George W. Bush thought was possible and the morale of ISIS fighters and homegrown terrorists has likely been boosted.
One of the countries that Trump or whoever runs America these days selected was Iran, meaning that the distinguished filmmaker Asghar Farhadi ran the risk of not being let into the United States to attend the Oscars where his film The Salesman is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Farhadi has now told the Academy that he won’t come even if the Trump regime would let him. In the interview above, Farhadi talks about what it’s like to work as a director in Iran.
In a statement to The New York Times, Farhadi refused to bow to hardliners – in Iran and the United States:
Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way. In order to understand the world, they have no choice but to regard it via an “us and them” mentality, which they use to create a fearful image of “them” and inflict fear in the people of their own countries. This is not just limited to the United States; in my country hardliners are the same.
He’s a brave man, especially in the way he opposes the dark forces in Iran. But he’s correct to point out the danger of Trump. Iranians know authoritarianism when they see it.
Of course, others are significantly more hurt by Trump’s policies than Farhadi. But he is famous around the world, has already won an Oscar (for A Separation (2011)), and this should be embarrassing to the regime in Washington D.C. I’m not sure they understand, they are after all immune to facts, but this crisis certainly rallies not just liberal forces but Hollywood in particular – as well as the powerful tech sector in Silicon Valley that sees its businesses already hurt by the megalomaniacal president. It’s all very bad PR.
At the same time, Shia LaBeouf, bless his heart, has turned his art projects into a massive protest against Donald Trump, as always inviting controversy along the way. A few days ago, CNN reported that the actor was arrested after getting in a scuffle in front of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. At least people are getting actively involved against this regime.
Everything moves frighteningly fast now, but we see resistance all over the place. Trump has united Mexicans who rally behind their President against the border wall. More than one million Brits have signed a petition against Trump’s coming state visit, guaranteeing Prime Minister Theresa May a lot of well-deserved headache to come. In the BBC clip above, former Labour leader Ed Miliband go after both May and Trump with great fervour. The President’s attacks against the independent media, The New York Times in particular, keep securing new subscriptions for them (I bought one yesterday), grassroots activism is on the rise and many Republicans are secretly embarrassed and worried about where their country is headed. It’s only been one week, but Trump’s disapproval rating is already over 50 per cent according to Gallup, which is historic for a fresh presidency.
So much damage has been done – but probably not enough for clueless Trump voters to notice. Most of it has been done to America’s security; the economy hasn’t been affected yet. All in due time, I guess.
The first Saturday Night Live after the U.S. presidential election was a sad affair, and perhaps it was fitting to combine the grief after Leonard Cohen’s passing and the post-election shock, as Kate McKinnon performed a version of “Hallelujah” in the guise of Hillary Clinton.
I remember film critic Matt Zoller Seitz tweeting two days after the election, “Sorry, late night hosts, at this point in time I’m not really in the mood to hear your take”. And I sympathized with that immensely, it was just too soon to start laughing about the worst thing to happen America since 9/11, especially if those late-night hosts felt a need to be “fair and balanced”. That would be just too much to take.
I’ve deliberately waited a week before blogging about the election in an attempt to get over my own anger. Well, I didn’t really succeed, I’m still angry, but I’m realizing that’s okay after all. There is good reason to be. Not just if you’re an American and believe in what Van Jones believes in, eloquently and movingly expressed by him on CNN on that horrifying election night. But there is also every reason to fear what’s coming if you’re European.
First of all, the election was shocking in several ways and really shook my beliefs. I was wrong about trusting the polls and feeling so confident that people wouldn’t vote for an obviously awful human being like Donald Trump. I was wrong about writing how the GOP is dying. I should have realized that its backbone is so weak that its leaders had no qualms about selling out its ideology in order to please one man if only he was charismatic and authoritarian enough. The signs were there, after all. That’s how the party survives. The morning after the election I realized that the political beliefs I have are no longer shared by a lot of people. A sort of middle-of-the-road leftist, globalist liberalism that brought Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to office as I was growing up and became interested in politics seems firmly dead. Blair lost his soul when he started the Iraq War together with George W. Bush, and the Clintons became increasingly delusional about their business ties and ambition.
In the clip above, from the Real Time episode taped before the election, Bill Maher angrily tells the media to do “your fucking job” and stop talking about the email nonsense and focus on the real threat against the United States. He was right, obviously, and we know now that Clinton herself is partly blaming the media for her loss. There is much to say about the election coverage, but personally I would like to see more guts from everybody involved, the media as well as commentators and comedians, when it comes to the actual blame for Trump’s win. Here’s what actor Michael Shannon had to say, in an interview for RogerEbert.com, about where the fault lies:
I don’t know how people got so goddamn stupid. But it’s really weird, because it’s like the last eight years, now it feels like a lie. Like, this has been festering underneath the whole time. Racists, sexists. And a lot of these people, they don’t know why the fuck they’re alive. They know it. They’re doing drugs, fucking killing themselves. Because they’re like, ‘Why the fuck am I alive? I can’t get a job, I don’t know anything about anything, I have no curiosity for life or the world.’ So this Trump thing is like getting a box of firecrackers, or something. It’s like, ‘Well, this will be fun for a little while, this’ll kill some time.’ Because, y’know, the jackass will be amusing on television, stay stupid shit. Make everybody clap. Hillary would have been too boring, I suppose. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened. It’s the worst. This guy is going to destroy civilization as we know it, and the earth, and all because of these people who don’t have any idea why they’re alive.
Tell us how you REALLY feel, Michael… I wouldn’t be quite as blunt as that, but I applaud Shannon’s rant, especially when people feel a need to attack the media first and not really talk about the people who actually voted for America to get their own Putin. Apparently, that’s too sacred. Those people may not all be racists, but they voted for a man who represents racism and incompetence, even though they had all the facts. They deliberately did this, and they own whatever’s coming. Trump may not end up unleashing a zombie apocalypse, but what he has already unleashed is mirrored in Van Jones’s words on CNN and multiple reports about white men and boys all over the country feeling entitled to attack their fellow Americans of a different color. The end of rust-belt industries is not an excuse good enough for this.
Just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky – no Mexico
There is no reason right now for Democrats and decent Americans to put up with Trump. There is talk about respecting the election results and rooting for Trump to succeed, because that would be the ultimate proof of democracy at work. Well, the fact still is that Trump lost the election by way more than a million votes but still gained the presidency because of the Electoral College. This wasn’t the first time it happened and it’s hardly democracy’s finest institution; it needs to go. Rooting for Trump means rooting for his policies and they are a direct threat against American interests; already, his first nominations for top jobs in his administration are pretty horrifying because of these men’s inexperience or racist views. The corruption of the Trump Administration is also evident in the fact that no longer can the media trust anything coming from the U.S. President; Trump’s tweet above today was quickly deemed false. Journalists should always be skeptical of information from government leaders, but the need to assume right away that the President is lying is a first.
There’s also the whiff of fascism. The American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan are reportedly pleased with Trump and his nominations so far. The first international figure Trump met after his election was Nigel Farage, leader of the British far-right party UKIP (acting like an idiot at the European Parliament in the clip above earlier this year, to please the thugs back home), and he’s been lauded by Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front. There seems to be a new powerful political alliance growing, a bond between nationalist figures like Trump, Farage and Le Pen, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. When I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, this would have been impossible; all of these people would have been rejected as scarecrows from the 1930s. But this is where we are now, a new world where millions of people want to be dominated by strongmen.
With Trump as winner, many Americans will live in fear. Voting for him was an act of selfishness. With Clinton as winner, for all her faults, no one would really have suffered. As for Europe, where I live, the election certainly has consequences as well. Nato lost some of its relevance over a night, America its moral upper hand, and right now it’s easy to feel like we’re stuck between two authoritarian men, Trump and Putin, who will cooperate. Not being able to rely on the United States as a force for good in the world is a new, destabilizing reality that has military consequences, both in Europe and Asia (where Barack Obama tried to wield a lot of influence). This comes at a time when Britain is leaving the European Union after a vote that was largely determined by racism, and France faces the very real risk of electing a fascist for president next year, Le Pen. Several eastern European countries are already governed by far-right regimes.
These are indeed dark times. But we’ll always have comedy. Even if the talkshow hosts and their take on the election seemed to come too soon a few days afterwards, they will be needed in the coming, weeks, months and years. As Trump and Putin make deals in smoke-filled back rooms, we can always laugh at the food fight in The Great Dictator (1940). Alec Baldwin didn’t appear in the latest episode of Saturday Night Live, almost as if it was too much for a grieving audience to watch his Trump… but he’ll be back tomorrow. We need satire now more than ever.
In the clip above, from the 2000 Oscars, Jane Fonda presents Polish director Andrzej Wajda with his honorary Oscar. One of the great filmmakers and the key figure in the so-called “Polish Film School”, Wajda passed away today at the age of 90.
Modern audiences may recognize Wajda’s name from Katyn (2007), the powerful film that portrayed the 1940 massacre of 22,000 Polish citizens in the Katyn forest. Or perhaps as the man behind Walesa: Man of Hope (2013), another drama about a pivotal moment in Polish history. But of course, Wajda holds a much greater place in the history of cinema than that. Born in 1926, the young Wajda joined the Polish resistance during World War II after his father was murdered by the Russians in Katyn. When the war ended, Wajda studied to be a painter, but ended up a film director, getting his international breakthrough in the 1950s with a trilogy consisting of A Generation (1954), Kanal (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958). These films all depicted Poland during World War II from various perspectives, including the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The clip above has Martin Scorsese showing us Polish cinematic highlights, including Wajda’s films.
Symbolic, political, sometimes surrealistic, Wajda’s films continued to garner attention over the years – and he was prolific. In the 1960s, he started making films abroad; he also worked with Roman Polanski on several occasions, and had great ties to the theater. Considering the fact that Wajda’s father had been killed by the Russians, it was only a matter of time before Wajda would take the opportunity to make films that attacked the Soviet system and what it had done to his country. The most prominent one became Man of Iron (1981), a film about the Solidarity movement that even included an appearance by Lech Walesa as himself. It was possible to get the movie made – but it was ultimately banned by the Polish dictatorship and Wajda went into exile.
Wajda’s early days had him depicting Nazi crimes against the Polish people. The end of the Communist regime in Poland made it possible for him to also depict the crimes of that government. The sins of World War II never left him.
Wajda’s last film became Afterimages. It is Poland’s entry for next year’s Oscars. Will it become a posthumous victory for the legendary filmmaker?
In 1988, the Pinochet regime allows the people of Chile to vote on the future of his dictatorship; ad man René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) is hired by the opposition to work on their campaign. A film whose ambition is to show the world what the latter days of Pinochet’s regime looked like to ordinary Chileans – a limited sense of freedom, at least for those who could adapt. The film shows the internal debate within the ”No” side regarding the nature of the campaign – emphasizing happiness becomes a controversial choice for those who had lost friends and families. Compelling and realistic, even though shooting the film on grainy video tape likely amused the filmmakers more than audiences.
2012-Chile-U.S.-France. 110 min. Color. Produced by Daniel Marc Dreifuss, Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín. Directed by Pablo Larraín. Screenplay: Pedro Peirano. Play: Antonio Skármeta (”El Plebiscito”). Cast: Gael García Bernal (René Saavedra), Alfredo Castro (Luis ”Lucho” Guzmán), Antónia Zegers (Verónica Carvajal), Luis Gnecco, Néstor Cantillana, Marcial Tagle.
Trivia: Several members of the actual ”No” campaign were hired either for smaller roles or to play themselves.
Last word: “Pedro Peirano, the writer, is so smart, he was able to compress this enormous amount of information we had into this story, and also be fun, and funny, and dark, and epic at the same time. It was so funny to shoot, we were laughing all the time when we did it. Making a movie, for me, it’s so important to have fun when you do it, especially when you’re shooting it, because otherwise it’s such hard work.” Larraín, Indiewire)
Four days ago we lost Abbas Kiarostami, who died in Paris at the age of 76 after battling cancer. The Iranian director may not be terribly known to most people, but cineastes all over the world mourned his passing. And his story is well worth telling.
In the clip above, an interview with Kiarostami in Cannes from 1997, the filmmaker talks about how the dictatorship shapes his working conditions, but he also refutes the Western notion that Iran is some third-world country that needs to be pitied because of its censorship. After all, censorship comes in many ways when you think about it. Kiarostami also talks about what kind of films he likes and what he doesn’t like. He hates being “held hostage” by movies that overwhelm and provoke you only to be forgotten minutes later, instead preferring the ones that might put you to sleep in a theater but sort of sneak up on you days later. I certainly know what he’s talking about… although I like both kinds of movies at times.
Born in Tehran, Kiarostami majored in painting and graphic design. After transitioning from creating posters to directing ads, he started making movies in the 1970s. His style was down-to-earth and realistic, depicting ordinary people’s concerns and ignoring the fact that his country swapped one dictatorship for another in 1979. He often included Persian poetry and spiritualism in his work. In the 1980s, his films started gaining some international attention, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that he broke through with Close-Up (1990), a movie that was part-documentary. His most famous film became Taste of Cherry (1997), a story about a man who intends to commit suicide. You can see a trailer in the clip above.
Kiarostami remained a curious man, trying new techniques in 2002 and 2004 when he made Ten and 10 on Ten, two films taking place inside a car, the latter shot on digital video as he drives through locations from his earlier movies. His death is mourned by many other prominent filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese who released the following statement:
“I was deeply shocked and saddened when I heard the news of Abbas Kiarostami’s death. He was one of those rare artists with a special knowledge of the world, put into words by the great Jean Renoir: ‘Reality is always magic.’ For me, that statement sums up Kiarostami’s extraordinary body of work. Some refer to his pictures as ‘minimal’ or ‘minimalist,’ but it’s actually the opposite: every scene in Taste of Cherry or Where Is the Friend’s House? is overflowing with beauty and surprise, patiently and exquisitely captured. I got to know Abbas over the last 10 or 15 years. He was a very special human being: quiet, elegant, modest, articulate, and quite observant – I don’t think he missed anything. Our paths crossed too seldom, and I was always glad when they did. He was a true gentleman, and, truly, one of our great artists.”
The Iranian regime also expressed its grief:
Iran has lost a towering figure in international cinema. May the Almighty receive him in His Infinite Mercy. Rest in peace ostad;#Kiarostami
It’s easy to score cheap political points when it comes to Iran. It’s a despicable dictatorship that supports terrorism and has murdered many innocent civilians. We all know that. Kiarostami found a way to live with the mullahs and portray his country and its people without opposing the leadership holding them hostage. It is possible to walk that fine line and educate the rest of the world.
It’s been a terrible week in politics, as Prime Minister David Cameron’s idiotic gamble to stop right-wing voters from abandoning his party went spectacularly wrong. He’ll now go down in history as one of the dumbest British leaders ever, responsible for the U.K. leaving the E.U. and all the damage that follows. No one knows for sure the full extent of it, but the British economy is already suffering and the country could be breaking apart as there’s talk of another referendum on Scottish independence, and who knows if trouble arises again in Northern Ireland. Young and old have been turned against each other, racist voters seem to have mistakenly thought that they were voting against migrants (a situation that won’t change) and the two biggest parties in the nation are reeling from a leadership crisis; Cameron resigned, leaving this whole mess to his successor, and Labour’s Jeremy Corbin faces a huge revolt from his own inner circle.
There are real, serious challenges facing the E.U., but the Brexiters based their campaign on xenophobia and lies. There is nothing but shame to this whole affair. Take a look at the Instagram post above. That’s Dan Stevens, of Downton Abbey fame, illustrating what Brexit means – isolation for Britain.
Speaking of dumb. Bullying billionaire Donald Trump, still likely the GOP nominee for president, landed in Scotland the day after the referendum and saluted the vote, painting it as Britons “taking their country back”, connecting it to his own campaign. Trump put himself squarely in the same camp as Europe’s far-right parties and didn’t even seem to understand that Scottish voters were in the Remain camp. Then he talked about golf…
But if the news in Europe is bad, there are signs of a political recovery in America. According to one poll, likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton now enjoys a double-digit lead over Trump who faces mounting problems when it comes to organization, fundraising and growing discontent within the Republican Party. Politico reports that few Republicans want speaking slots at the upcoming convention because of the political danger of being associated with Trump; many prominent GOP:ers won’t even attend. There’s still constant talk of a possible revolt. Several leading Republicans’ reputations are in tatters because of the glaring dishonesty in the way they express “support” for Donald Trump even though their contempt for the man is obvious. Just look at how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to say on ABC’s This Week if Trump is qualified for the presidency. Pretty astounding.
Donald Trump is not only a bigot. He doesn’t know anything about his country or international affairs, which makes him dangerously unfit for the presidency. Defeating him in November is important for the American people and the entire world. Happily, Clinton is doing well right now. Today, she and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared together at a rally for the first time, in Cincinnati. The latter was perhaps a little too energetic in her drive to convince skeptics… but it was still good.
Warren is on Clinton’s list of vice-presidential contenders. Among the others, according to several media outlets, are Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. But many are saying that Kaine is at the top of the list and I can see why. Warren is a formidable contender and I’d like to see her on the ticket. But her main negative is that she’s fiercely hated by Republicans and Wall Street, which might complicate her relation with independents. Kaine is a very seasoned politician, much like the current Vice President, and his only negative is that he’s perceived as “boring”. But Clinton is exciting enough, isn’t she? As Joy Behar said on The View recently:
Last night, Trevor Noah returned to The Daily Show to say something that is sadly familiar. The ritual of being shocked by another mass murder, mourning, changing our profile pics on Facebook and then moving on is what we do now. After all, mass murders happen more or less every day in America now, and elsewhere. But particularly in America. That’s the new normal, but it shouldn’t be. Last night, Conan O’Brien, who never really talks about his political opinions on his TBS talk show, spent a few minutes (the clip above) expressing a common sense view – you should not be allowed to own a military weapon that can kill so many people unless you’re basically the Army.
The latest reason for this debate is the worst terror attack to hit the U.S. since 9/11 – one man’s decision to shoot up a gay club in Orlando, Florida, resulting in 50 casualties. The shameful buffoon the GOP now call their presidential nominee immediately did what he always does – blame Muslims and spread lies. Even if people like Speaker Paul Ryan and other cowards accept Donald Trump’s racism and “eccentric” behavior, shouldn’t the fact that his “policy proposals” have no effect on anything bother them? After all, this latest terrorist was not a refugee; he was home-grown. No wall or entry ban would’ve stopped Omar Mateen. The GOP’s inability to handle an attack like this in a mature way evidently infuriates President Barack Obama who indirectly hit Trump hard today in the clip above.
An event like this inspires a lot of anger – and it should. The battles aren’t new and they need to be fought again and again. This latest attack has been confusing in the way it touches on many related issues. An event like this requires of every citizen, not only in America, that they understand how complex it is. You can’t handle it Trump-style. Here’s what we’re talking about in three steps:
Wow. I’m anti gun? I’d like one good fucking reason military assault rifles are needed for anything other than military, or mass killings
Gun control: This is a uniquely American problem. Fixing the country’s hopeless gun laws won’t prevent many massacres (maybe some), but it will limit the damage. Military weapons should be banned for the average Joe; Seinfeld actor Patrick Warburton tweeted a very relevant question for the gun nuts two days ago. Others have tweeted lots of examples of how Republican senators are bankrolled by the extremist National Rifle Association. Keep up the pressure, is all I have to say. At least House Democrats are making an effort after Speaker Ryan’s minute of silence today, chanting “Where’s the bill?” A Jimmy Stewart moment – shame on Ryan for consistently putting party above country these days.
Religious extremism: A more international problem. In the clip from President Obama’s press conference above, he asks the question what point is there in labeling the Orlando incident “Islamic terrorism”. He’s absolutely right about that – but the problem is that every time liberal politicians feel awkward about discussing this issue, the more voters Putinistas like Donald Trump gain. There is Christian extremism as well; last year we had a man murdering people in a South Carolina church. Homophobia exists in most religions and too little is done about it; in the clip above, we have the vile preacher Pat Robertson saying that we should let gays and Islamists kill each other. The difference between Christian churches and Islamic mosques is that the latter have a wider influence on states and people in Muslim countries. Political scientist and TIME contributor Ian Bremmer recently tweeted the figures above and a map of which countries allow gays to be executed for loving someone of the same gender. There’s no doubt that those countries have one thing in common. The world consists of an overwhelming majority of Muslims who are decent human beings – and a few who allow themselves to be influenced by the darkest strands of this particular religion, which is actively supported not only by terrorist organizations but hard-line dictatorships like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The nature of the victims: Another difficult debate arose after Orlando, one started by the gay community. Members of it were outraged that some politicians and media outlets treated the attack as just another act of terrorism and avoided to mention that the target was a gay club. This is undoubtedly true in many cases. In the clip above, CNN’s Anderson Cooper puts pressure on Pam Bondi, Republican Attorney General of Florida and, incredibly, a Trump supporter who’s been actively fighting gay rights. She’s not the only one who should be ashamed of herself; there are many right-wingers who have avoided talking about the actual reason why this particular club was targeted.
This clip is awkward to watch for several reasons. The debate spread across the ocean to Europe as well, a continent that has suffered several similar atrocities, notably in Paris earlier this year. A few nights ago, Guardian journalist Owen Jones clashed angrily with Sky News panelists Mark Longhurst and Julia Hartley-Brewer, which resulted in Jones walking off the set. I don’t think his behavior won any new admirers, only cheers from the expected crowd. Still, it gets people talking. I understand what Longhurst was aiming for: the fact that the Orlando attack shared many similarities with the one in Paris and many other places. It’s important that we recognize, understand and talk about what these attacks have in common. But what Longhurst, Republicans and many others don’t understand is that when terrorists attack specific places like a gay bar or a synagogue we also need to highlight the fact that the victims were murdered for a specific reason. And that’s what Jones was talking about. Those reasons must never be downplayed. You have to be able to keep more than one thought in your head.
In other words, a lot to juggle. But every citizen must understand the complexity of these attacks, or they will fall victim to ISIS propaganda, who wants us all to be afraid. The next level of propaganda, men and women we should all be wary of, contains creatures like America’s Donald Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen, Britain’s Nigel Farage, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other racists, gay-bashers and fear-mongers of this world. They all hope to gain politically from attacks like the one in Orlando.
Politics is often hard, especially for those of us who frequently find ourselves in the center. There have been numerous moments throughout history, in different countries, where a decision to turn left or right may be the only sane choice. The most stable governments on this planet find a balance that tries to borrow the best from different ideologies and avoid the worst. Changing from one administration to another thankfully does not mean uprooting the entire system. After an election in countries like the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Israel, Japan, Germany, Australia or Sweden, compromises are usually made with an eye toward the ideological shape of a new parliament. And life goes on.
But all of that boring stuff requires a thinking mind. Now, politics looks like it’s becoming simpler as Europe and the U.S. is headed down a darker and stupid path. We are now severely tested by nationalists and the far right who are influencing large, ignorant masses. One example is Donald Trump, whom no liberal or conservative in their right mind could support. Another is the idiotic British referendum on June 23 that will ask its citizens whether or not to remain as a member state of the European Union. The answer is obvious – leaving the E.U would be an economic disaster for Britain, and it would also hurt other countries who have trade deals with the U.K.. Apart from the financial blow, it would also hurt both the E.U. and Britain culturally since the Union, for better and worse, has been a reasonable way to hold a traditionally war-mongering continent together.
For a country that benefits so much from its membership, and has asked for special deals from the Union, it’s a pretty outrageous thing for Prime Minister David Cameron to do this referendum – especially since he wants the country to remain as a member, even campaigning in the clip above with London’s fresh mayor, Labourite Sadiq Khan!
As a film and TV blog, it’s interesting to look at which celebrities are outspoken on the issue of Brexit. British news magazine The Week featured a compilation a few days ago. It was a relief to see actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Emma Thompson (watch the RT clip above), Keira Knightley and Helena Bonham Carter be on the right side of history. There was also Simon Cowell – and most surprisingly, Jeremy Clarkson, who made the following bright assessment:
“Britain, on its own, has little influence on the world stage. I think we are all agreed on that. But Europe, if it were well run and had good, cohesive, well thought-out policies, would be a tremendous force for good.”
On the wrong side of history we find Michael Caine, Julian Fellowes, Joan Collins and Elizabeth Hurley, who all have weird and sad reasons for not wanting to be part of the E.U.. Caine seems to think that the Union is a “government-by-proxy of everybody” and forgets that his country is run by an actual government, not the E.U.. And Hurley had the following to say:
“If it means we can go back to using decent lightbulbs and choose high-powered hairdryers and vacuum cleaners if we so wish, I’m joining Brexit for sure.”
The European Union needs a lot of work. I agree that it can’t be the “united states of Europe”, it has to be smaller and leaner than that. But on June 23, the choice is very simple. Be smart on what the E.U. is and what it can be in the future, vote to stay.
Adolf Hitler (Oliver Masucci) is suddenly transported to modern-day Berlin; discovered by a documentary filmmaker (Fabian Busch), the dictator is destined for a TV show. In the hands of director David Wnendt, Timur Vermes’s much talked-about satirical novel shares resemblances with Borat (2006), as many of ”Hitler’s” encounters with ordinary Germans aren’t scripted and reveal the racism and stupidity raging across the continent that is perfect breeding ground for, if not outright Nazism, then at least similar ideologies. Masucci is well-chosen, but the film would have benefited from a much shorter, focused narrative.
2015-Germany. 116 min. Color. Directed by David Wnendt. Novel: Timur Vermes. Cast: Oliver Masucci (Adolf Hitler), Fabian Busch (Fabian Sawatzki), Katja Riemann (Katja Bellini), Christoph Maria Herbst, Franziska Wulf, Michael Kessler.
Eurovision Song Contest is on right now, this year hosted by Stockholm since Sweden won last year. For the first time ever, the show is broadcast in the U.S., which prompted GQ Magazine to post the following:
A very relevant question. Eurovision Song Contest, which airs right now on Logo Network, is a cheesy European annual TV song competition tradition dating back to 1956. Over the years, the number of participating countries has increased due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Now, even Australia is competing. Why? It has a sizeable fanbase devoted to the contest. This year, Australia has a good chance of winning, but if they do they will need to coordinate next year’s show with a European country because the rules stipulate that the contest must be held in Europe.
Over the years, Eurovision Song Contest has launched the international careers of ABBA and Céline Dion… but that’s about it. There is no real musical reason for any American to watch the show, especially not on a Saturday afternoon. Still, if you do want to take a look at a global TV event that has become a colorful, merry equivalent to the gay Pride parades, you’re in luck. There’s also, always, the chance of getting a glimpse of the tensions lurking beneath the European façade, as many eastern European regimes, including Russia, do what they can to oppress their gay citizens. The men in charge of these countries love the attention the ESC might bring them, but hate the positive values of the contest.
Ireland has won the ESC a record seven times, but Sweden isn’t far behind with its six wins – and in some ways it has come to dominate the contest. Swedish television has exported expert know-how to other countries arranging the contest in the past, and is putting on a sleek show this year, even including a performance by a major artist, Justin Timberlake (who was recently in Cannes to promote a new movie, Trolls).
As a Swede, I can’t help but promote the two defining moments of Sweden’s Eurovision history. This clip from 1974 is quite historic, borrowed from British TV, where the presenter casually introduces ABBA as a group that would instantly win if everybody in the jury were men…
Exactly ten years later, Sweden won the ESC again with Herreys performing “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley”. Definitely part of my childhood, this is also a typical example of Eurovision kitsch – joyful, silly and irresistible.
Herreys never turned into a second ABBA. But the following year’s Eurovision broadcast in Sweden was made memorable by host Lill Lindfors (herself a successful local artist) who suffered a very shrewd wardrobe malfunction in front of millions of viewers, years before Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl incident.
This year, Sweden sent an inexperienced 17-year-old. Will Frans Jeppsson Wall charm the rest of Europe? I doubt it. Most predictions point to either Russia or Australia. The former has a great, clever stage show, but the song is pretty weak.
Here are my three favorites:
Australia’s Dami Im has a powerful anthem, “Sound of Silence”, that actually sounds like a real radio hit. Unlike most of what we hear in this contest…
This is Bulgaria. Poli Genova sings “If Love Was a Crime”, which also sounds like something we could all dance to. Incidentally, it was co-written by a Swede, Joacim Bo Persson. Sounds like I was paid to point these things out, but sadly I was not.
There are only three worthy candidates out of 26 songs this year. That’s Eurovision for you. The last one of the batch is Austria’s Zoë who sings “Loin d’ici”, which sort of sounds like traditional Eurovision chansons of past years. How charming, and cute.
Legendary political consultant Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) reluctantly agrees to assist the failing campaign of an unlikable presidential contender in Bolivia. A comedy-drama based on the 2005 documentary of the same title that followed James Carville’s involvement in Bolivian politics. A fictionalized version of him is amusingly played by Billy Bob Thornton here, but focus lies on Bullock’s character, a depressed operative who buries herself in a campaign for a rotten candidate. Funny at times and surprisingly cynical, perhaps in a way that emphasizes people’s false ideas of how all politics works… but Bullock is compelling.
2015-U.S. 107 min. Color. Produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov. Directed by David Gordon Green. Screenplay: Peter Straughan. Cast: Sandra Bullock (”Calamity” Jane Bodine), Billy Bob Thornton (Pat Candy), Anthony Mackie (Ben), Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy.