AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

4/29/09

XXX Men Wolverine: Manimal Nudie Watch-Men Trendy Package Pageant On Screen

HUGH JACKMAN TO FANS: BUTT OUT

In this trendy new fangled Chippendales-style manimal nudie watch-men package pageant on screen, a super-macho superpower spree in the hyper-imperialistic sense as well, pounds audiences into multi-sensory submission, until they're too shocked and awed to complain or care.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

4/28/09

Way Beyond Journalism or It Takes a Documentary: Critical Women Special Series


DOCUMENTARY FILM IN AN ERA OF A BATTERED AMERICAN PSYCHE

An Essay In Three Parts

By Penelope Andrew

Part II.

Way Beyond Journalism or It Takes a Documentary


Perhaps nothing less than art--the most popular and democratic art—was required to bring perspective and a deeper narrative to the fog of Vietnam, 9/11, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, wiretapping, the open endorsement of torture by a sitting U.S. Vice President, and not one, but two (three with Pakistan) wars in which thousands have been killed and maimed.

Art serves a purpose in society. In war-time, masterful lenses can trace the dark, the dirty, and the ugly and point the way back to the light, the clean, and create (or help elect7) the beautiful.8 According to legendary critic Andre Bazin, film fills in the holes of our deepest desires and dreams.

The oneiric character of cinema, linked to the illusory nature of its image as much as to its lightly hypnotic mode of operation, is no less crucial than its realism…In a certain sense, cinema cannot lie, and every film can be considered as a social documentary. To the extent that it has come to satisfy the dream desires of the masses, it becomes its own dream. The sole objective criterion is success. Every producer who has made a film that pleases knows how to fill the type of imaginary void within which his film took shape. In commercial terms, good producers detect within the public any “dream holes” still unfilled and hasten to fill them in.9

What Documentaries Share with Fictional Narratives: Calling All Heroes and Anti-heroes

Apart from disillusionment with mainstream media, documentaries also reflect disenchantment in our political leaders, who are stand-ins for primordial father figures.

Apart from their achievements as conscious, masterfully crafted social documents in the face of a shallow press in a time of great crisis, the documentaries covered here do one more thing--they place a frame around greatly needed and deeply desired heroes and produce interesting anti-heroes, which are often the filmmakers themselves. Corny and crazy as it may sound—Lee, Morris, Moore, Spiro/Donahue, Walter, Honigmann, and Briski/Kauffman are the Capras, Fords, Wilders, Chaplins, Hitchcocks, Lupinos, and Arzners of today.10

When the lights go out and the audience is “awake in the dark,” every film is a “social documentary” and every effective documentary becomes “its own dream.”

The Head of War Is in The Fog of War

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003) evolved from a one-hour interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara for the PBS series First Person. McNamara who served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson needed to talk about the enigma of the Vietnam War—for which many consider him to be the primary architect. He is propelled back in time to his earliest memory. Director Errol Morris asked questions along the way—through the filter of his original invention the “interrotron11”--and looked and listened with the sensitivity of an artist and the nose of a detective.

As directors, Hitchcock and Morris share several things in common especially in the techniques used to create the magic of Vertigo and Fog of War.

Director Alfred Hitchcock felt the best type of story for the medium of film was the psychological thriller; he portrayed bright, well meaning people (often Jimmy Stewart and in Vertigo also a detective) who get caught up in extraordinary, tragic circumstances; and he punctuated and heightened tension, passion, tragedy, and other powerful feelings through music created by master composer Bernard Hermann. Morris does much the same thing in Fog of War. He shows us the mystery in the horrifying thriller of Vietnam (doomed to be repeated in Iraq); highlights the irony and tragedy of a man seduced out of “private life” by an unconscious desire to master and repeat a previous trauma in WWII and a conscious desire to please a new President in an impossible current conflict known as Vietnam, which also has the potential of recreating what he believed to be the stunning victory of WWI; and he augments the emotional tone and rhythm of Fog of War with an ominous, musical score by Phillip Glass. Both films are artful in their depictions of human vulnerability and its tragic consequences.

McNamara’s “fog of war” thus begins at age two in the recollection of the joy and jubilation in the streets marking the close of WWI. He is 82 when he conjures up this memory and feels it has everything to do with winning the war. His WWI is a far cry from the war described by Trumbo in Johnny Got His Gun. Never does he consider whether all the excitement might just have been about ending a war. Not being able to end war would be a haunting, on-going crisis for him and for all “the best and the brightest” in the Kennedy/Johnson cabinets.

His journey to make sense of (and recover from) the quagmire of Vietnam also touches upon circumstances of WWII with the violent, genocidal zeal of super hawk General Curtis LeMay (later a prominent figure in Vietnam). He blames LeMay and takes responsibility himself in the firebombing of multiple Japanese cities that was a grotesque overreaction costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. The horrific truth of WWII results in Lesson #5: “Proportionality should be a guideline in war.”

McNamara’s most compelling lesson is “Empathize with your enemy,” illustrated by the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He and President Kennedy chose not to listen to the unanimous Joint Chiefs of Staff spoiling to turn the Cold War hot with a full-scale attack and invasion. Instead, he and the new President trusted the opinion of a U.S. diplomat to the Soviet Union who lived with and knew Premier Nikita Khrushchev well. Llewellyn E. Thompson, Jr. had the capacity to put himself in the shoes of Khrushchev feeling he would back down if he could “save face.” Their engagement in the wisdom of diplomacy and empathy averted a nuclear catastrophe.

The ins and outs of how complicated Vietnam became with the assassination of President Kennedy, the toxic influence of Curtis LeMay, the fog of President Johnson, and other tragic circumstances of such an explosive era manages to find a coherent narrative in this film. It also frames two, almost forgotten heroes. The fervent Quaker and anti-war pacifist, Norman Morrison--who set himself on fire outside McNamara’s window at the Pentagon--is temporarily brought back to life. His protest against an unwinnable, genocidal war echoed similar suicides by Buddhist monks. Llewellyn E. Thompson’s empathy--the primary tool and technique of psychotherapy—saved the world from nuclear disaster. Yet psychotherapy and psychoanalysis—perhaps up until the advent of Waltz With Bashir—continue to be targets of jokes by the media and the cinematic arts.

It could be argued that McNamara is not only still under the spell of the fog of war, but is also a victim of PTSD.12 His participation in the film may very well have been—consciously or unconsciously--part of his recovery and his service to The World Bank his compensation for enormous guilt.

The fog of war is still upon the U.S. government in struggling to figure out how to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and dissolve Guantanamo Bay. How clear it seems now that all roads lead back to “Empathize with Your Enemy” and diplomacy as the only real solutions. It’s shocking to think back to the early Presidential campaign of Barack Obama where he was criticized by Republicans and Democrats on his promise to embrace diplomacy, which would extend to the borders of Iran (the current version of the Soviet Union, the enemy in the Cold War and former ally in the Great War).

Morris is masterful at engaging the audience to identify with McNamara’s struggle(just as Hitchcock did with Stewart’s Scottie). Ironically, this has been the only aspect of Fog of War to be severely criticized, but the film’s “flaw” is really its greatest strength. McNamara is just like the rest of us and only human. The audience finds its own humanity in having empathy for him.

NOTES

1. Joe Bonham is not the average Joe that Sarah Palin nauseated the American public with, but an extraordinary Joe. Trumbo’s narrator and protagonist is one of the most powerful anti-war heroes ever written. One could hear a pin drop in the audience as Donald Sutherland clutched his beaten up copy of Johnny Got His Gun and recited the part of this maimed soldier. His riveting soliloquy drew cheers from the audience at the recent screening at the IFC Center and shouts of “Go Donald!”

2. Why would anyone choose the subject of war? It is perhaps to complete psychologically my own “tour of duty” as a social work intern and honor the Vietnam Veterans with whom I worked. This article is inspired by them and dedicated to all my patients who have survived trauma.

3. Trauma—an event outside or beyond everyday events or daily reality; the breakdown that occurs when the psyche is exposed to stimuli that are too powerful to be processed in the usual way.

4. Sontag, Susan, Updike, John, et al. “The Talk of the Town,” section devoted to 9/11, The New Yorker (September 24, 2001).

5. Truth—property of being in accord with facts or realities; sincerity in action, character, and utterance; fidelity, honesty, actuality, etc. Truth—when capitalized: often means transcendent, fundamental or spiritual reality; sometimes synonymous with God.

6. The extent to which the American psyche and system have been traumatized and twisted to fit so well with the Neoconservative agenda is outlined in: Naomi Kleins’s, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Toronto: Knopf, 2007).

7. Elected, of course, foreshadows and refers to the ultimate election of Barack Hussein Obama.

8. Beauty—quality or group of qualities of a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or exalts the mind or spirit; brilliant, extreme or egregious example of something; particularly graceful, ornamental or excellent quality.

9. Bazin, Andre, “Every Film Is A Social Documentary,” translated by Paul Fileri. Originally published as “Tout film est un documentaire social,” Les Lettres Francaises, No. 166, Vol. 5 July 5, 1947.

10. Should I have to justify placing Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner in the company of Capra, Ford, Wilder et al, I will (with pleasure). By Arzner’s very nature as a gay woman and one of the few artists who chose not to marry for convenience in the Hollywood of the 30s and 40s, she is a quintessential anti-heroine. Her films took on taboo subjects for their time, such as marital infidelity and questioned traditional institutions such as work and marriage. Lupino dared to tackle the subjects of rape and bigamy. They focused on serious subjects on domestic and institutional fronts, just as Capra took on greed and political corruption; Ford looked at the shame of the Great Depression and poverty; Chaplin focused on fascism; and Wilder exposed phoniness and shallowness everywhere.

11. An original invention of Morris’s, aptly named by his wife.

12. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—a psychological consequence and casualty of war and other catastrophic events, those that occur outside the “normal” range of human events.

13. Transgenerational trauma—psychic damage passed from one generation to another; the most often used example are the children and grandchildren of Nazi concentration camp victims and survivors.

14. Bazin, Andre, p. 1.

Penelope Andrew, a NYC-based writer who contributes to The Huffington Post and Critical Women on Film, is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle. Her article: “Trauma & Recovery: A Review of I’ve Loved You So Long,” will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter of the American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work. A certified psychoanalytic psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, she maintains a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Her second-year internship as a social work graduate student involved working with Vietnam Veterans.

Part I: Introduction to the Documentary Phenomenon

Part III: A Body Is Finally Produced: Body of War

This article also appears in The Huffington Post

Tears For Sale: Women On War

Tears for Sale/Čarlston za Ognjenku

Director: Uroš Stojanović
Cast: Katarina Radivojević, Sonja Kolačarić, Stefan Kapičić, Nenad Jezdić

Review by Nancy Keefe Rhodes
Syracuse International Film Festival


Cinema sometimes answers the horrors of modern war and its equally devastating aftermath in the countryside with fierce fantasy. US audiences will think readily of Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 Pan’s Labyrinth, for example. There, a lonely young girl took refuge in a protective parallel world based in myth and fairy tale as Franco’s Fascist regime held sway in the person of the sadistic Captain Vidal, whose mission was to root out resistance fighters among the mountain peasants. But even del Toro’s 1944 Spain is an orderly world when set next to the post-World War I Serbian mountains of director Uroš Stojanović’s debut feature.

Tears for Sale was added late to this year’s Syracuse International Film Festival (April 24 – May 3), so it’s missing from the printed program. Fortunately, there was room for it mid-evening on the first Sunday at the city’s venerable old Palace Theater, where it was the finale to the day’s program in that venue of experimental and fantasy shorts alternating with sober documentaries. Thus one arrives in the topsy-turvy world of Pokrp, the fictional mountain village in a nation that lost two-thirds of its male population in the trenches of the Great War. In Pokrp’s landscape, there seems to be no order save that of legend, curse, luck and their attendant obligations, even as distant Belgrade beckons throughout the story with its glittering new sky-scraper and its "new age" requiring a new dance.

The film opens in an ancient cemetery that’s largely underwater. On the shore, Ognjenka (Katarina Radivojević) and her sister Little Boginja (Sonja Kolačarić) bicker over whether taking a swim in such waters is cursed (the cemetery is flooded with the tears of their deceased grandmother, a mourner of epic proportions). A voice-over meticulously, sometimes lyrically narrates how the family business has flourished. Only two men returned from the war in 1918 and the survivor of these two – more cemetery doings – blew himself sky-high after lacing the vineyard with land mines. Now, village women draw straws during harvest to enter the vineyard and, near the story’s end, one of the sisters will enter by choice to dance a last time – a tango – with her lover, after he ventures in by mistake.

These images continue. There is a great deal of mixing elemental life and death in Tears for Sale. Thus, the village inn keeps a specially potent “spider brandy” under lock and key, taken out to conjure up the village’s dead, zombie-like war veterans who retain their fatal injuries from the grave as they dance with the living. Thus a stately old hearse serves as a main conveyance in the sisters’ travels and love-making. The film has screened abroad as Funeral Brides and, a literal translation of its Serbian title, Charleston and Vendetta.

Like all good yarns, this one begs re-telling in all its twists and turns. But suffice it to say that Ognjenka and Little Boginja embark on a forced march, to return in three days with a man for the village to replace the late, lamented Grandpa Bisa. As they cross the map, they find other villages are similarly, sometimes comically afflicted. Then they encounter a two-man traveling side-show. Dragoljub Aleksic (Nenad Jezdić) makes his living being shot from a giant cannon as the "Man of Steel" – what better occupation and what more suitable image in a land destitute of virility? His side-kick is the bowler-hatted, mustachioed, initially shifty “King of the Charleston” (Stefan Kapičić), ostensibly the brains of the outfit. The four pair off and repeatedly consider slipping off to Belgrade, but return dutifully to Pokrp and there discover each man prefers fidelity in the midst of riotous lust.

Ulysses Pictures/Blue Pen executive producer Mirjana Tomić was on hand for the festival screening and afterward she spoke at some length about the younger film community’s enthusiasm for working on a different kind of cinema project than usually has come from Serbia in recent years. A superb ensemble of women – an older executive type, a witch in a crow’s beak headdress who looses the grandmother's spirit as a flock of red birds from the open jaws of a cow's skull, a lusty young rival for the strong-man, that grandmother herself, the village “bad girl” and a bride whose groom was torn from her arms at the alter by the war – populate Tears for Sale.

New-comer Uroš Stojanović has made an extraordinarily accomplished and absorbing film. The son of veteran Serbian screen and TV actor Fedja Stojanović, he had considerable support and talent on-board besides the thoroughly committed cast. A joint production of France, Serbia and Gibraltar, the film had as major producer (and now European distributor) French filmmaker Luc Besson. Director’s Wong Kar-wai’s regular composer, Shigeru Umebayashi of Japan, did the score. Shot over three months in the fall of 2005 and taking three years for post-production, Tears for Sale is both Serbia’s most expensive film to date and its most successful indigenous box office hit. Despite some major festival screenings including Cannes and Toronto, except for January’s Santa Barbara festival it has been little seen in this country and it won’t get major European theatrical release until this summer.

Nancy Keefe Rhodes
Women’s Voices Radio/WAER Syracuse 88.3 FM
Stylus Magazine

4/26/09

Documentary Film In An Era Of A Battered American Psyche


"The Rise of the Documentary Film in an Era of a Battered American Psyche: Theater of War, Body of War, Fog of War and Michael Moore”

To look at the escalating popularity of the documentary film is to enter an interesting, complicated, and--if one dares to dig deeply enough--collectively psychoanalytic exploration of the role of desire and dreams in a time of mass confusion.

An Essay in Three Parts

By Penelope Andrew

Part I.

Introduction to the Documentary Phenomenon


To look at the escalating popularity of the documentary film is to enter an interesting, complicated, and--if one dares to dig deeply enough--collectively psychoanalytic exploration of the role of desire and dreams in a time of mass confusion. More documentaries are being produced (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tightened its criteria for qualifying nominations as submissions soared), many more are being seen (they now comprise a burgeoning market in which even mega-producers like Harvey Weinstein have positioned themselves), and their quality has risen impressively (as evidenced by glowing reviews and in winning multiple, international nominations and awards in and outside their category).

Seasoned mainstream as well as independent narrative filmmakers are weaving the controversial, colorful threads that make up the increasingly hot-topic tapestries of the genre: Jonathan Demme’s treatise on former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, The Man from Plains (2007) and Spike Lee’s opus When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)—an HBO-produced TV documentary series that won a Peabody, three Emmy Awards, and several foreign film festival awards was also lauded for its artistry in the 2008 Whitney Biennial—are but two examples.

Filmmakers totally devoted to the genre--Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, 2006); Michael Moore (Roger & Me, 1989 through “Untitled Michael Moore Project,” 2009); Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven, 1978, The Thin Blue Line, 1988); and the very prolific, cross-over (with the Oscars to prove it) director, Rob Epstein (Word Is Out, 1977, The Times of Harvey Milk, 1984, Threads from the Quilt, 1989, The Celluloid Closet, 1995, Paragraph 175, 2000)—practice their craft with creative abandon and will likely continue to flourish.


The Pervert's Guide To Cinema

U.S. television has also played a role in the rise of the documentary with PBS and HBO among the major hothouses in which filmmakers have tackled subjects from the very dirty, political tricks of Lee Atwater to the war crimes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Actor/directors have done some interesting work in the genre, i.e., Diane Keaton (Heaven, 1987) and Rosanna Arquette (Searching for Debra Winger, 2002 and All We Are Saying, 2005).

Then there are the brilliant and poignant single films done by virtually unknown filmmakers. Born into Brothels (2005) by first-time directors, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, stands out among them as a work of dedicated passion. A search for humanity in the most unlikely of places--Calcutta’s red light district—this small, intimate film tied with giant Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004 for The International Documentary Association Award and won The Independent Spirit 2005 Truer Than Fiction Award. The National Board of Review made room for both films in tapping Brothels as Best Documentary, while Moore’s film took its Freedom of Expression Award. Born into Brothels’ Academy Award and Fahrenheit 9/11’s Palme d’Or stand side by side as two necessary bookends in a year when so many nightmares cried out for attention and creative expression.

And then there is the work of Heddy Honigmann whose devotion in finding the soul of her subjects and touching the psyches of her audience is in a class by itself. Her 1999 film Crazy covered the subject of genocide through the eyes of the Dutch peacekeeping forces who witnessed atrocities in the Congo, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and other breeding grounds for waking nightmares. Ultimately, it was music that soothed and saved these men and women whose psyches barely survived their service as blue helmet (i.e., unarmed) veterans for the United Nations.

Crazy is rarely seen and not yet available on DVD. To view a segment of this amazing documentary on American cable television’s independent film channels is to yearn for more. The tragedy and the majesty of her images, and the haunting riffs of the veterans’ musical choices—Puccini’s Turandot, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Crazy,” et al—are very, very hard to forget.

The late Francine Parker’s 1972, anti-war documentary FTA was dusted off, restored, and screened theatrically at the IFC Center in New York City in early February and is now available on DVD. The film followed Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, and six of their “trouble-making” writer, actor, musician friends as their anti-USO alternative to Bob Hope—a thinking troops’ troupe--entertained baby-faced U.S. soldiers stationed in cities across the Pacific Rim. In a particularly moving scene, Sutherland recites a passage from Dalton Trumbo’s powerful anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun, about a guy named “Joe1” who is a WWI veteran trapped inside a body maimed and disfigured beyond human recognition. The IFC screenings were introduced by Fonda herself, in a powerful reminder of the censorship, fear, and smear tactics that derided her as “Hanoi Jane” and tainted a group of anti-war activists who cared deeply about the troops, as “un-American” during another troubled time in U.S. history.

The film restores Trumbo to a place alongside Theater of War’s Bertolt Brecht as one of literature’s most powerful, anti-war voices and one of documentary films’ currently celebrated and rediscovered anti-heroes.


Meryl Streep in Theater Of War


How to Frame Such a Landscape?

With such a rich landscape of documentary filmmaking, narrowing a field of documentary dreams was extremely difficult. A specific time period, 2003 through the present, and a particular theme, war2, were chosen.

Although these films coincide with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, their stories begin with 9/11 and reach back to the Vietnam War and even further. The obscene and now well known fact that 9/11 was the geo-political opportunity after which the Bush Administration had thirsted, while for the rest of us it was a national nightmare, which they exploited relentlessly is still a bitter pill to shallow. This informed the choices of the films considered: Fog of War (directed by Errol Morris), Theater of War (directed by John Walter), Body of War (directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro), and Fahrenheit 9/11 (directed by Michael Moore), and Waltz With Bashir (directed by Israeli Ari Folman, veteran of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon), which exposes horrors staggeringly similar to the trauma3 of Vietnam veterans.

The Dumbing Down of America

It can be argued that with the Bush Doctrine in full swing, the popularity of documentary films became activated by the public’s disillusionment and mistrust of the mainstream media and by the disintegration of responsible investigative journalism, especially around coverage of the U.S. invasion, prolonged occupation, and escalation of the war in Iraq.

Not only did mainstream media fail to perform with distinction, they were seduced into collusion with Bush’s propaganda machine, whose tactics extended to censorship especially in hiding the dead and broken bodies (and damaged psyches) of war. New media tried to compensate but could not satisfy the ever growing appetite for responsible war reportage. The media—like the American people—were stunned into submission by fear and confusion.

Susan Sontag’s attempt in a New Yorker essay to provide a deeper meaning to and broader context for 9/11 was met by outrage, derision, and death threats.

'The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public….And this is not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that American still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by the Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done…about what constitutes a smart program of military defense….The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.' 4


On Truth5 in Media and Hurling All Those “Isms” and “Ists”


“I want the truth!”

Tom Cruise as Lt. Daniel Kaffee


“You can’t handle the truth!”

Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep

-- A Few Good Men



Could we have handled the Truth? The Neocons counted on the notion that we couldn’t and made sure that we didn’t, while the remaining political establishment (left, right, and center) and mainstream media bought into a growing infantilization and dumbing down that Sontag diagnosed and prophetically warned against.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Atwater, McCarthy (in his time), and a long line of U.S. political figures have played fear and confusion to great advantage. Cover ups, lies, scaring people into submission (especially artists and filmmakers in Hollywood; HUAC is a prime example), driving some to early deaths (the soldiers in combat, the suicides that followed ruined careers in the McCarthy era), and enlisting others in the enormous profit-making businesses of war (Blackwater, Halliburton, et al) run rampant through the political arteries of the U.S. One can trace American mudslinging and smear-labeling--terrorist, Communist, socialist, feminist, and perhaps the most damning of all “ists,” artist--back a long way. Recently, another “ism” emerged--mainstream journalism—and became a dirty but helpful phrase used by the Left.

Mainstream journalism co-created the “War on Terrorism.” There is a line to be drawn from NBC’s Today Show co-host Katie Couric—“I just want to say, I think Navy SEALS Rock!” through the constant bombardment of platitudes and what Sontag called the “reality-concealing rhetoric” of around-the-clock Fox News, to the perverse, overwhelming congressional majority vote that granted former President Bush the widest authority to wage and escalate war. It is in this climate that our psyches were battered heavily and constantly.6

NOTES

1. Joe Bonham is not the average Joe that Sarah Palin nauseated the American public with, but an extraordinary Joe. Trumbo’s narrator and protagonist is one of the most powerful anti-war heroes ever written. One could hear a pin drop in the audience as Donald Sutherland clutched his beaten up copy of Johnny Got His Gun and recited the part of this maimed soldier. His riveting soliloquy drew cheers from the audience at the recent screening at the IFC Center and shouts of “Go Donald!”

2. Why would anyone choose the subject of war? It is perhaps to complete psychologically my own “tour of duty” as a social work intern and honor the Vietnam Veterans with whom I worked. This article is inspired by them and dedicated to all my patients who have survived trauma.

3. Trauma—an event outside or beyond everyday events or daily reality; the breakdown that occurs when the psyche is exposed to stimuli that are too powerful to be processed in the usual way.

4. Sontag, Susan, Updike, John, et al. “The Talk of the Town,” section devoted to 9/11, The New Yorker (September 24, 2001).

5. Truth—property of being in accord with facts or realities; sincerity in action, character, and utterance; fidelity, honesty, actuality, etc. Truth—when capitalized: often means transcendent, fundamental or spiritual reality; sometimes synonymous with God.

6. The extent to which the American psyche and system have been traumatized and twisted to fit so well with the Neoconservative agenda is outlined in: Naomi Kleins’s, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Toronto: Knopf, 2007).

7. Elected, of course, foreshadows and refers to the ultimate election of Barack Hussein Obama.

8. Beauty—quality or group of qualities of a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or exalts the mind or spirit; brilliant, extreme or egregious example of something; particularly graceful, ornamental or excellent quality.

9. Bazin, Andre, “Every Film Is A Social Documentary,” translated by Paul Fileri. Originally published as “Tout film est un documentaire social,” Les Lettres Francaises, No. 166, Vol. 5 July 5, 1947.

10. Should I have to justify placing Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner in the company of Capra, Ford, Wilder et al, I will (with pleasure). By Arzner’s very nature as a gay woman and one of the few artists who chose not to marry for convenience in the Hollywood of the 30s and 40s, she is a quintessential anti-heroine. Her films took on taboo subjects for their time, such as marital infidelity and questioned traditional institutions such as work and marriage. Lupino dared to tackle the subjects of rape and bigamy. They focused on serious subjects on domestic and institutional fronts, just as Capra took on greed and political corruption; Ford looked at the shame of the Great Depression and poverty; Chaplin focused on fascism; and Wilder exposed phoniness and shallowness everywhere.

11. An original invention of Morris’s, aptly named by his wife.

12. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—a psychological consequence and casualty of war and other catastrophic events, those that occur outside the “normal” range of human events.

13. Transgenerational trauma—psychic damage passed from one generation to another; the most often used example are the children and grandchildren of Nazi concentration camp victims and survivors.

14. Bazin, Andre, p. 1.

Penelope Andrew, a NYC-based writer who contributes to The Huffington Post and Critical Women on Film, is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle. Her article: “Trauma & Recovery: A Review of I’ve Loved You So Long,” will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter of the American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work. A certified psychoanalytic psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, she maintains a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Her second-year internship as a social work graduate student involved working with Vietnam Veterans.


Part II: Way Beyond Journalism or It Takes a Documentary

Part III: A Body Is Finally Produced: Body Of War

This article also appears in The Huffington Post

4/24/09

Obsessed: Anatomically Incorrect Male Date Rape?


Bottle blonde sexpot in heat with boundary issues on McMansion home invasion spree, with alpha male power as the ultimate female aphrodisiac. All that's missing is the stained blue dress. I did not have sex with that woman, she had sex with me.


CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

HE SAID, SHE SAID....The Informers


A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

SHE SAID....

In the buff naughty boobs 'n buns bad parenting sex and drug addiction romp. And a weird cry for help cinema probing wasted LA youth without adult supervision in sight. Though with sly hints about exactly where all those hallucinatory Hollywood plots in theaters across America may arise.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE


HE SAID....


This is an ensemble film adapted from novel writer and co-screenplay writer Brett Easton Ellis' 1994 collection of short stories of the same title. He is best known for his past success with American Psycho and Less Than Zero.

Under the direction of Gregor Jordan, this adaptation is set in 1980's Los Angeles with a multi-strand narrative that unpleasantly balances an array of characters who represent both ends of the spectrum of the Hollywood environment. From a self-indulged womanizing movie mogul William Sloan (Billy Bob Thornton), his neurotic wife Laura (Kim Basinger) who enjoys sex with her son's friend Martin (Austin Nichols), and their deeply confused adult children Graham and Susan (Jon Foster and Cameron Goodman).

The list continues with a sexually perverted Rock Star named Bruce (Fernando Consagra), the love interest of William Sloan and TV reporter/weather person Cheryl Moore (Winona Ryder), and everyone's girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard). On the lower end of the scale is a "spaced out" doorman named Jack played by the late Brad Renfro and his ex-con uncle Peter (Mickey Rourke) who try their luck at kidnapping. All of the sequences of the movie are somehow connected to a circle of sexually active blonde men and women who are young, rich, spoiled, and drug inducing who party all night.

Genuinely, these are juicy topics and issues to get into on film. However, the tedious over-the-top and one dimensional dramatic character study is merely a sensationalized satire. The crisscross characters of this hyper-elitist social landscape are supposed to represent the trendy iconography of L.A. in the early 1980's. The film should have been fascinating, instead it's a joyless division of fractured historical perspectives.

The episode nature of the plot prevented me from being swept by the story and/or characters. I realized 15 minutes into the film, that there is no real momentum. Periodic stretches in the movie go by without anything of consequence occurring. The over-extended performances by the characters isn't the main reason to avoid this film - it is the incomprehensible way the material is played. The manic swirl of characters left me bored and exhausted.

It is outrageous that the only meaningful scenes regarding the subject of AIDS is only given limited time on screen. I would think that the orgy scenes would give the director and screenplay writer an idea to adapt this into the plot.

I find this flick to be an ultimately unsubstantial dramatization of the 1980's Hollywood.

Directed by: Gregor Jordan
Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Release date: April 24, 2009
Genre: Drama and Adaptation
Distributor: Senator Films
MPAA Rating: R

Film Rating: (D)

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.Com
Film Showcase

4/11/09

READER MAILBAG

NY POST DISSES PRAIRIE


Lou:
You ought to report more accurately to your readers. My review was no 'rave.' It was a mixed review.


'...The weekend's fourth release is predicted to finish out of the top 10 with a paltry $1.7 million. That would be Gregor Jordan's Bret Easton Ellis adaptation "The Subterrean,'' the most loathed film at this year's Sundance Film Festival. In honor Mr. Ellis' most famous work, I award this appalling portrait of the '80s "less than zero''stars. This release from the financially-challenged Senator is scoring 14 percent positive reviews at RT, thanks to raves from Joshua Rothkopf and Prairie Miller.'

Lou Lumenik
Lumenik On Film
http://blogs.nypost.com/movies/

In the buff naughty boobs 'n buns bad parenting sex and drug addiction romp. And a weird cry for help cinema probing wasted LA youth without adult supervision in sight. Though with sly hints about exactly where all those hallucinatory Hollywood plots in theaters across America may arise.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE


My name is Reed Martin and I am a professor at NYU.

I have a new film school textbook coming out that I would like to send to Prairie Miller. It's being released by Macmillan Press and it's already getting some terrific reviews. Can I send you (or Prarie) a copy? That would be great. Thanks. I appreciate it.


http://us.macmillan.com/thereeltruth

Reed Martin
NYU


DAZZLED BY THE GOLDEN BOYS


BRUCE DERN AND DAVID CARRADINE TALK THE GOLDEN BOYS WITH CRITICAL WOMAN
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO INTERVIEW


HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE...I LOVED IT!!!
Claude H.

Hi Claude:
Yes, this was a real surprise, a unique gem! Glad you enjoyed it too.
Prairie

The sheer delight of this salty boy talk elder outing, with lifelong fierce courage on the high seas but acute commitment panic when females are around, is how creatively goofy this gang of confirmed and born-again bachelors can be when fleeing romance.


CLICK TO READ GOLDEN BOYS REVIEW HERE


STATE OF PLAYBOY: CROWE TAKES TIME OUT FROM CORPORATE CRIMEFIGHTING TO SHAG AFFLECK'S CRANKY SPOUSE


Hello, there!

I’m Jose from Mallorca (Spain) and I’ve read your interesting review about upcoming movie State Of Play.

I’ve been following Robin Wright Penn’s movies for a long time…
And I would love to know if she has an important role here.
I know she’s playing Anne Collis, Affleck’s wife and I know she has a supporting role but…

Does she have important amount of screen time? I mean, I don’t know if she has only 3 or 4 scenes or if her role is bigger than that? I don’t know, but if you can be a little specific on how much she appears in the movie and if her role is good or not.
Do you think is an interesting role, a showy role…?

Thanks a lot for all and sorry for my regular English. It’s a little difficult for me to express myself in English but I hope you can understand what I mean...

Thanks.
Jose
Mallorca, Spain

CLICK TO READ STATE OF PLAY REVIEW HERE

Hey Jose:
Robin Wright Penn's role in State Of Play is nothing much to write home about. She mopes around at rare intervals, doing the cranky housewife thing. It's pretty much a guy movie.


STILL BURNED UP OVER FIREPROOF



READER BLESSES CRITIC...AND MEMPHIS TIGERS


Prairie,

Your review of "Fireproof" was interesting, but a little shallow. Actually, this story is targeted at church-going couples as much as (if not more than) those who never darken the church door. The sad truth is that trends like porn addiction and divorce are as common in Christian circles as anywhere else. As a Christian husband and father who faces the same struggles as every other red-blooded American male, I am grateful for the Kendricks' treatment of these delicate issues.

The reconciliation of the marriage in the movie is ALL about the grace of God. The medical equipment for the mother-in -law just create an interesting sidebar. When Caleb learns to humble himself before God, his priorities change about EVERYTHING...including his use of discretionary income.

If you think the production was cheesy, fair enough. Considering Sherwood's budget, I think they did an admirable job. However, please don't miss the point that God worked in the hearts of both husband and wife to save the marriage.

Blessings to you in Jesus' name.

Kent S.
Arlington, TN

GO MEMPHIS TIGERS!!



Hello:
You are entitled to your point of view...however; personally this happened to me; same church different set of circumstances....married for over 30 years, ex went through mid-life crisis....I only wish a film of this caliber would have been out six years ago; I truly believe it inspires hope for marriages who believe life is greener on the other side of the fence only to find after thousands of dollars in attorneys, heartbreak, et cetera, that the marriage could have been salvaged if both saw beyond their own selfishness and what is really important in life....
I also have done my fair share of writing as well as worked in radio for my dad's radio station, so I think I have a fair handle from where you are coming from....religious beliefs set aside, I still felt the movie had a lot of merit in that even if you do not center your core beliefs around a God or a religion in any rite, the crux of the situation is perhaps there is a lot of truth behind the old adage, familiarity breeds contempt; so in essence if nothing else reflect the reason you are married and if one cannot deal with their short-comings in one relationship, they will haunt you into the next relationship!
Thank you for considering my comments.
Best of luck in your articles! ( : Take care ~Susan


Hi Susan:
Thank you for your very thoughtful personal comments about this movie, and I'm sincerely happy that the film was inspiring for you. But I do write for a broad audience, so I have to take a more general view of any film and its entertainment value, for believers and nonbelievers alike, hope you understand and glad that we can respectfully disagree.
Best,
Prairie


FIREPROOF: TWO VIEWS OF PRAIRIE


Prairie Miller sounds like a Christian hating liberal.
Maureen H.

FIREPROOF: CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE


Hello Maureen

She was mainly commenting about the structure of the story. That is what critics do. If they weren't allowed to comment on something because it involved religion, then how would good quality work be separated from weaker efforts? She was saying the story left loose ends, didn't make sense in some places. It wasn't intended to be an attack on anyone's beliefs. You don't want a lower standard to be applied to a movie just because it contains religious aspects.

Best Wishes
Alan G.


Hi Prairie
I love it when the religious freaks get on your case! I trust you have finally started working on your relationship with the lord! Your replies are so mild - Obama-like in your calm sagacity. How do you control yourself? I suppose you have to, or risk having nutters turn up on your doorstep.
And you can use my name too. Loud and proud

Gary Gilbert


READER: DON'T DISS MILEY


Hello,

I'll be the judge of this after I have had the opportunity to view the new Hannah Montana movie for myself. Until then, your opinion holds absolutely no credibility with me. I also consider your snipes and hurtful comments about Miley's slight overbite (buck-toothed) to be completely unacceptable. In my opinion, it never ceases to amaze me how critics like you always try to tear down somebody successful like Miley Cyrus that provides a good role model for kids today. I suppose too, that if the little guy that plays "Richo" on the Hannah Montana Show becomes too successful at his craft, you'll probably pick on him for his size or some other physical feature that he has no control over! I wish that "bottomfeeders" like you would do us all a favour and just go away!

Ted M.


SEEING STARS


Ms. Miller, your critique of Duplicity is right on. However, how did it get three stars? My wife and I both thought exactly as you described it about the non-chemistry between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. I couldn't help but imagine what it must have been like on the set during the filming of this boring movie and two inharmonious actors, both out of their element.

What movies like this do tell me, however, is that no matter how famous the actors/actresses have been in the past they clearly must keep working in order to maintain their lavish lifestyles while keeping their star status.

Had it not been for Julia Roberts in this movie I would not have bothered seeing it knowing what I know now. For her sake, I hope in the future she finds a role which I truly believe will complement her acting skills. Duplicity was not one of them.

Richard S.
Austin, Texas


Hi Richard:
You're pretty persuasive. Have you ever thought about taking up movie criticism? No license is required!


EAGER TO HEAR FROM PEEVED MOVIE CRITICS


Hi there,

I am a college journalist working on an article about why critics are often regarded as irrelevant by mainstream movie audiences. As part of my research, I am hoping to interview some critics about film criticism and its relevance. If you would like an opportunity to have your own say about the issue, please contact me.

Best regards
Will D.

Hi Will:
I've got a posse of irrelevant critics heading your way! Stay tuned....


WOMEN FILM CRITICS CIRCLE MEMBER CONDUCTS SURVEY TO APPEAR IN JAPANESE MAG


I am asked by a Japanese TV guide type magazine to do quick survey to Americans.
The article will compare opinions about the U.S. TV shows.
**This survey is for The High Vision magazine (April 24th issue).
The High Vision: Japanese monthly TV magazine.

Izumi Hasegawa
HollywoodNewsWire.net

Thanks, Izumi. Looking forward to see the survey!

4/6/09

Twilight: DVD..... Supremely enjoyable but............

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg, based on the book by Stephanie Meyers
With: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli.

Twilight is the perfect teenage coming of age film
a date flick that informs on how to relate to temptation, to love,
to those who see you as different, not fitting in.......

this is a film that honors yet separates the teenager from his/her parents
this is a film so beautiful in scenery, photography It is splended, breathtaking
this is a film where the shining knight on a white horse goes beyond the superman of yesteryear
to the vampire, who want your blood, not your body, but learns self control for the good of persevering his love ideal, the girl with a heart and adult intelligence way beyond her years.

this is a film that pits bad guys against good guys(no guns used in combat) that flies you into the air, defying gravity to show your superiority amidst us, the limited mortals.
The chase scene replicates the video car scenes upon which many a teenager today has spent the better part of their free time and Google is prominent in helping to understand the world.

this is a film that couldn't absorb more of what parents want for their children.
Children love it, adults love it. It is done with such care and understanding.

the only problem is, what world are they addressing. Is it the ideal film for the world before the economy turned sour and kind/helper big brother loomed large in our imagination or is it a relic of the past projected into a future that is no more.

In either case,it is supremely entertaining nostalgic or not.

LindaZises

WBAI Women Collective

4/4/09

Cut: Keira Knightley Stars In Anti-Domestic Violence Video


British actress Keira Knightley has volunteered for a new campaign, sponsored by Women’s Aid, to help raise awareness of the plight of battered women. The PSA ad is shot by her Atonement director Joe Wright.

The short film is titled CUT, and was made for the UK charity Women's Aid. In the disturbing video, Keira is seen leaving a movie set and arriving home to unexpectedly face a violent partner. He beats her, pulling her up by the hair and kicking her in the stomach.

The camera then pans to show she's still on the movie set, while the words 'isn't it time someone called cut' flash across the screen. Keira can be heard screaming in the background.

Keira says,“Domestic violence kills two women every week but we rarely hear about it. I wanted to take part in this advert for Women's Aid because domestic violence exists in every section of society. We may not think we know someone who has experienced domestic violence, but this does not mean that it is not happening.

The film is being shown on UK television and in theaters there.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO

4/2/09

Oblivion [El Olvido]: Funny, Yet Sad, And Beautiful

Heddy Honigmann, Director:

"All my films are about fighters, people putting up resistance. Against oblivion and loss"

Oblivion is no exception.

Heddy Honigmann's extraordinary ability to capture the essence of her subjects, the layer upon layer of meaning, of progression from one moment to the next, her images that speak volunms to the narrative, spoken frankly, often emotionally, always directly into the camera and into our hearts and our minds creating an impression that lingers. I feel as if I know these people. I am there with the camera talking, listening, learning and laughing. This film has humor. It is not depressing, It is illuminating and that is what makes it so enjoyable, so worthwhile.

By the end of the documentary I am almost convinced that I now know the history of Peru, a brief history, not going all the way back but the history that spans the latter 1900's into 2000; the history of corruption, of insidious poverty side by side, moment by moment of footage.

Oblivion chronicles the life of a people who somehow find a way to survive, to keep going even as their ranks swell into the millions of inhabitants in Lima and the politicians, the men in charge continue to be baboons, murders, the worst of human kind. The use of food as a way to learn the customs, the way of life in Peru is wonderful.

And the children!

Heddy Honigmann brings the children into focus again and again. They are, for the most part, happy with little to nothing of their own. Education is not within their grip and yet, they survive seemingly without anger. They toil with a smile, they beg with a casual acceptance of being ignored. It is almost as if the entire notion of failure escapes them.

This is a film that brings life in Lima Peru into our hearts and minds, a work of distinction that only Heddy Honigmann could do with such aplomb.

http://www.heddy-honigmann.nl/hhonigmann/films/elolvido
Opens April 15th at Film Forum in New York City.

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective