In the Shadow of the Moon

In the Shadow of the Moon is a great movie. Perhaps it was perceived as an epitaph to the nation’s greatest achievement when it was released, but a propos of the recent news of the imminent launch of the lunar explorer and the recent passing of the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, it is a superb way of remembering how great we once were so that we could achieve such greatness again.

These men are old. It is only proper that we record and remember their remarkable and extraordinarily positive journeys as we do the experiences of Holocaust survivors.

Maybe everyone will also begin to remember what remarkable goals we achieve when we entrust power to great people with extraordinary capabilities.

And, these pioneering astronauts were extraordinary people. Amazing people.

The end of another era is upon us, indeed.


“Being There” Wasn’t There

Being There, the last movie by Peter Sellers and a favorite of many who admired this iconic genious, is not a movie that true admirers of movies would embrace. Directed Hal Ashby, an accomplished director, missed with this movie. 

Perhaps the more salient question is whether it is possible to make a grand illusion about a grand delusion and somehow make it a credible illusion. In Being There Ashby attempts a very daring goal. He tries to make a mockery of how simple-minded American society has become. The essence of the story seems to be that the American psyche has become so utterly bland and unsophisticated that the simple act of throwing about random lines acquired from television shows will afford a random stranger entry into the most rarefied of cliques and into the heart of the circle of power.

For many, the commentary worked. For me, it did not. Being There played mostly like a typical Three’s Company episode writ large. After all, the truth is closer to Wag the Dog than it is to Being There: the sophisticated power mongers manipulate an unbearably naive public, not the other way around. 

Alas, Shirley McLaine masturbated on camera for nothing.


Why We Fight

Why We Fight | A Film By Eugene Jarecki 


Many theories exist regarding the cadre or cabal of people who rule the USA. Why We Fight makes no attempt to make any controversial arguments regarding conspiracies to rule the world, but it does make a very convincing case for why the incredible influence of the military-industrial complex is unhealthy for the nation. 


It also shows what a remarkably prudent, prescient and wise President Dwight Eisenhower was. His predictions regarding the excesses of the military-industrial complex have proven prophetic. Had he been a betting man, he would have become awfully wealthy. Of course, the nation owes a considerable debt of gratitude to Eisenhower for the calculated risks that he took as Supreme Allied Commander in World War II.


The most poignant aspects of the movie came across in the juxtaposition of neoconservatives like Bill Kirstol and Richard Perle against Eisnhower. Compared with Eisenhower, these men seem like naive strategists on the ultimate ego trip. 


Why We Fight is a strong reminder of what greatness is, it is a respectful tribute to the greatness that brought the USA to greatness, and it provides an apt warning about the dangerous combination of influence and pettiness that threatens to bring us down. This is a worthwhile documentary to watch.

Ocean’s 13

I had the incredible misfortune of being stuck with this remarkable turkey of a movie on an Air India flight back to Los Angeles from Frankfurt. What is perhaps more remarkable than the fact that the writing is so phenomenally poor is that the movie has so many stars, young and old. It is entirely understandable why Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon would want to make this jerk-off movie. They have rather grand lifestyles to sustain. It is impossible to understand why fine actors with fine legacies–like Al Pacino, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould–would voluntarily elect to participate in such a pathetic excuse for product placement.

This movie is nothing but one long commercial for Las Vegas, cell phones, Oprah Winfrey and Maxim magazine. The plot is not just stupid. It is insulting. Everyone is willing to suspend disbelief at the movies, but how can anyone believe that it is possible to obtain a subway tunneling drill in order to simulate a magnitude 4 earthquake on the Vegas strip and still have a profitable heist? Even if one were to believe that the earth moving equipment could somehow be secreted underground or even usurped from the controls of city workers, how on earth could an operation like this veer off course for weeks without anyone’s notice? And, why the hell could they evade attention when they caused countless other earthquakes along the way?

None of this is as stupid as gimmicks like “magnetrons” and artificial intelligence clusters that evaluate the legitimacy of big casino payouts by performing biometrics on the winners–in real time.

I did not suffer this bomb nearly as much as people who paid money to see it in movie theaters. I donned my headphones only when I could not sleep on and after my computer’s and my iPod’s batteries had expired. This movie movie was so bad that I was tempted to exit the airborne theater, nevertheless.

Steve Soderbergh has made many great movies in his time, such as SchizopolisSolarisGood Night and Good Luck, to name a few of many. Almost all of them have been quite profitable (and cast with George Clooney). It is awfully puzzling, then, why he would choose to work with this remarkably childish script. A six-year-old could probably not sit through this incredibly shallow and poorly veiled commercial. 

Soderbergh needs neither the money nor the publicity. Why do people make these movies? 

Balls of Fury

I had a nagging suspicion that this turkey of a movie was written by members of my generation with my generation in mind. A quick check with IMDB revealed that my suspicions were correct. In fact, the “creative” forces behind Balls of Fury, Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, are exactly as old as I am. We were all born in 1970. Obviously, we were all obsessed with Def Leppard while we were growing up in the 1980s (I saw them in concert), and we all developed an absurdist slapstick sort of comedy that was an amalgam of Eddie Murphy and Airplane.

I abandoned all of them.

Garant and Lennon continued to embrace these useless qualities and even managed to convince some studio executives that the number of our generation, generation X (or gen-xers, for the many who insist on contraction of meaningless ascriptions) who will be suckered in to see this movie will be sufficient for a hefty profit. They must have been right. After all, the movie was clearly done on a shoestring budget, in complete haste and with a largely amateur staff. So, getting a fraction of us Gen-xers would be enough for a profit.

In my case, it was not the 80s factor that drew me to the movie. It was the fact that I wanted to see a lighthearted movie, and The Simpsons Movie was not playing in my vicinity. Balls thus became the natural choice for an evening of mirth. Mirth was not achieved, however, because Lennon and Garant elected to fully deploy 80s nostalgia probably because they were convinced that the pitch that got them the project remotely contained merit.

In that regard, they were utterly mistaken, and, consequently, they developed the germ of a potentially funny idea into a nostalgia movie for a generation that is incapable of feeling nostalgia. After all, how does one create a feeling of nostalgia when the old music and old TV shows never die. TVLand keeps playing the shows on which we grew up. Umpteen radio stations in each radio market still play Def Leppard and every other hair band from the 80s. The “alternative” radio stations keep playing the alternative hits of the 80s. Motown and 70s disco and rock are permanent fixtures on the radio dial of every American. How could we miss the past when we are bombarded with it daily?

So, why waste an opportunity to make something funny by appealing to fictive nostalgia?

Despite all that, it does not seem as if this team of people could have made a funny movie at all. Although Lennon is hilarious on Reno 911, he gives a less than inspiring performance of the German stereotype. Garant’s framing and timing in the direction are always off, and the editing stretches what should be two-second jokes into 30-second attempts at humor that ultimately fail because one is too bored at that point to laugh at all.

In all, this was a poorly conceived and poorly executed movie that was marketed well. It is difficult to tell if this team has any potential for future success because there are far too few moments that inspire genuine laughter in Balls.

All I can say is nice try, guys. I want my $9 back.

What the Bleep? What the F**k??!!??

Lord have mercy. Tonight, after three weeks of procrastinating, I finally decided to put off my nightly slate of work to watch What the Bleep Do We Know?, and I desire fervently to let the entire world (or the few people who ever read this blog) know that this is perhaps the shittiest movie of all time. It is so bad that I could not tolerate more than 10 minutes of it.

The movie seems to want to make a connection between human consciousness and spirituality to quantum theory. This is an impossible task to anyone who has a shred of understanding regarding either endeavor. Hence, the movie begins with a pretty stupid premise.

But, the directors insist in digging themselves in deeper. They use a lot of “experts” who are nameless and, in all likelihood, completely unknown. What these experts say has no relationship or bearing to anything else in the movie. They are a bunch of people who are far to happy to listen to their own horseshit, and giddy like little babies because somebody has shown up with a camera to record their horseshit.

So, they keep talking, and the directors put poor Marlee Matlin, a fine actress, through the most dreadfully boring and meaningless of plots, and then they attempt to tie the plot to the horseshit that their “experts” are dispensing.

A greater disaster could not have been humanly conceived. One would hope that it would be obvious to anyone watching this movie that the only people who don’t have a bleepin’ clue are the directors of this movie, but one is soon shocked to learn that there is an entire cottage industry–practically a cult–that has grown around this failure of human imagination. Their web site is here. They even have a newsletter!

Heaven help us.

Clint Eastwood is Steven Spielberg’s Bitch

This movie review of Letters from Iwo Jima is not going to be your typical review.

Much to my dismay, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima turned out to be little more than another war propaganda movie. Infantilized, stylized and ultra-adrenalized for maximum emotional effect, the movie had the sole effect of evoking pity for the inferior Japanese whose pathetic technology, ignorant culture and inadequate production capability were no match for the superior America whose soldiers apparently meted justice randomly.

The critical response is puzzling, therefore. Every one of the presumptive adults who reviewed this movie is in awe of the cultural magnitude of what they call Eastwood’s great achievement. Much like The Flags of Our Fathers, Letters is another propaganda movie about how wonderful war against an evil enemy is, and everyone, it seems, is gullible enough to fall for the cultural gimmick and avoid or deliberately overlook the explicit propaganda of the movie altogether.

The movie’s appeal to the Japanese is not surprising at all, of course, because that country has cultivated a victim’s perspective with respect to World War II ever since it succumbed to the brutality of the atomic bombs. Letters projects an image that the Japanese wish to project these days. The movie mocks the “samurai way” of honorable death, even though the idea still persists pervasively in Japanese society. The movie portrays Japanese society as civil, though repressed, and the Japanese people as victims of the emperor, much like Japan’s enemies. Of course, the emperor remains in Japan, and his offspring are celebrities. So, this portrayal of victimhood is a false image that Japan projects for its own benefit and to the consternation of the Chinese and the Koreans who have yet to receive acknowledgment of atrocities from Japan.

So, why would Clint Eastwood make a propaganda movie? Why would a man who has made so many sophisticated movies resort to making a movie that insists on tying America’s greatness to a single event: World War II? The only salient answer is that he is simply the latest to cash in on the redemptive value of World War II. In a time when the US is involved in its second worthless, meaningless war in the middle east and its greatest blunder since Vietnam, people are desperate for redemption. At at a time of low national morale, people are desperate to see scenes that depict America as a great nation, a savior nation, a generous nation, a kind nation.

People also like violence that appears not gratuitous. Spielberg proved this with Schinlder’s List and Saving Private Ryan. It is only natural, then, that Eastwood would use the cloak of redemption to make a propaganda movie energized with graphic and realistic violence for the desperate masses.

So, yes, if you want to be manipulated into thinking how wonderful war is and how wonderful it is that the US won WW II, then see this movie. It will make you cry. It will make you sad, and it will make you forget what a wretched situation the US has created in Iraq. In as much, Letters from Iw Jima will make you feel good. That’s what good propaganda does.

But, Eastwood is older than Spielberg. He could have made a more sophisticated movie.