We’re all uncomfortable

If you refuse to watch art from people you in some way disapprove of, only Tom Hanks and Julie Andrews are left.   

-– The Chair

Make me watch Forrest Gump or The Ladykillers again and I’d probably punch you in the face.

Not to mention, Hawaii and the 1980 remake of Little Miss Marker would be a very tough slog.  (Note: Sorry, Jules).

And truly, if you’re going to watch some classic films why not simply go to the acknowledged mainstream top of the list choices.  Perhaps Chinatown or even… ROSEMARY’S BABY?????????

What’d’ya say Mrs. Mulwray?

Uh, oh.  Both films were directed by Roman Polanski and Mr. Polanski is best known these days by a new generation of filmgoers as the man who had sex with an underage girl and fled the U.S. before he could be properly punished for it.

Rightly or wrongly – and it’s not either one – this issue came up recently in a writing class when we were analyzing story elements of a classic sequence in Rosemary’s Baby where the lead character is raped by….

Well, who did it is not important for the subject of this discussion.  The pertinent part was the past deeds of this director and how much his personal actions influence what a viewer now sees or can’t see in the piece of art being offered to us.

This film still kind of says it all #ugh #uncomfortable

My knee jerk reaction is that we must separate the art from the artist and realize that times change, truth reveals itself in increments and people who live in glass houses, which means ALL of us, shouldn’t throw stones.

On the other hand, to NOT acknowledge that the personal is not only political but pertinent and influential, is to ignore the extreme cultural moments we are living through these days. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody but I’m not so sure I want to support ANYTHING director Bryan Singer does/did again.

As a gay guy, I’ve heard about his penchant for younger men for years and the fabled parties where they gathered with him (Note: Or were gathered up for him).  On the other hand, I was never there and certainly never saw him doing anything inappropriate with a 15 or 17 year old boy elsewhere so who was I to judge?  What is my responsibility?  And does it mean he shouldn’t direct Millennium Films’ upcoming big budget remake of Red Sonja?

I’m with Randy #10yearoldmemes #stillapplies

The Sundance Film Festival this week previewed the upcoming 4-hour HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, which chronicles in painstaking detail Michael Jackson’s sexual relationships with pre and early adolescent young boys when he was in his thirties.

British filmmaker Dan Reed is a respected documentarian and by all accounts the personal testimony of Jackson’s victims, their families, and the similarity and specificity of details make it as devastating to watch as the current Lifetime series Surviving R. Kelly, which centers on that singer/songwriter/producer’s longtime sexual abuse of numerous underage women.

I have not felt comfortable with Mr. Jackson’s music for DECADES given that we were close in age as I watched him parade to endless premieres and show biz photo ops in the eighties and nineties in the company of  9, 11, 13 and 15 year olds boys, sometimes two or three at a time and occasionally strangely holding hands with the odd one as he spoke of playful sleepovers at his dreamy playground of a ranch.

This picture REALLY makes me uncomfortable

I remember thinking to myself, what would someone my age conceivably EVER be doing with those boys overnight and, if it wasn’t overtly sexual, could it EVER conceivably be appropriate, even with their parents’ approval?  What I concluded then and now was that it could not and, hence, I never was able to listen to or watch Mr. Jackson in the same way ever again.

I have no proof and I’m not faulting anyone who jams out to Billie Jean or who will forever see him as the King of Pop.  But there was and is something so questionable in my mind about Mr. Jackson’s personal life that sucks the goodness and fun and joy out of anything I could possibly see or hear him do.  Even the famed Motown anniversary moonwalk – the younger, gentler version of what he left behind – leaves me at best sad for all concerned when viewed in the context of the entirety of his life.

This brings me no joy #notaseasyas123

One teaching colleague of mine recently shared the difficulty of talking to college students about Miramax/Harvey Weinstein when recounting the history of the Hollywood independent film movement.  It’s not that you don’t do it, but how do get them to appreciate what that studio accomplished without the stench?   And how do you write a book about the history of television in the last century and not give The Cosby Show its due?  That’s a topic someone else very close to me (Note: VERY) is dealing with at the moment.

Can we just talk about Denise Huxtable and noone else?

To say nothing of Louis CK  and his recent jokes about the students of Parkland or Woody Allen movies in general.   How do I look at Annie Hall these days?

As a baby boomer I can only speak to Annie Hall, one of my favorite films of all time, and confess that it will forever make me laugh because I am able to block out all reality and focus in on the joy it brought me throughout my life.  Yes, I am that strong or that weak where these feelings overwhelm everything else past and present and take me back to a time when it at least FELT like we were all a lot more innocent and unsullied by the realities of a hopelessly stained contemporary world.

Of course, that is/was a fantasy in itself but at the very least it got me through my twenties and thirties.  Though when you shove Manhattan in my face now  and I’m forced to watch Woody with Mariel Hemingway’s 17 year-old character, (Note: As happened several months ago on cable TV) it’s cringe worthy.  Meaning denial only works in certain cases and, in this case,  I suddenly froze up and couldn’t help but turn away.

Can I hold on to this?

So yeah, in this light I totally get some of my students’ aversion to Rosemary’s Baby and Mr. Polanski.   How many of us Jews interested in movies have ever had a tough time with academic articles fetishizing the filmmaking talent of Adolph Hitler’s favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl?  (Note: Whose Triumph of the Will is coincidentally used as a bittersweet punch line in said Annie Hall)

Perhaps the answer is a film festival featuring Triumph of the Will, Rosemary’s Baby Annie Hall and maybe…oh…Cosby in Uptown Saturday Night?   We can also add in Kevin Spacey ‘s Oscar winning performance in American Beauty and two of Singer’s X-Men movies for good measure.

The audience at this film festival

But how many of us would go?   Not as many as would watch any one of the six in the privacy of our own homes and keep it a secret.

Michael Jackson – “Bad” 

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DER ORANGE FUEHRER

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-3-53-32-pm

It’s difficult to watch the real life Leni Riefenstahl style propaganda film Donald Trump is trying to live each day he serves as the Electoral College president of the United States.

And yes – Riefenstahl was the official director of the Nazis – Hitler’s personal chronicler – with such films as Triumph of the WILL (Note that word in the title) to her credit.

And double yes – I am saying Trump fashions himself as a modern day Hitler – one who demands to be adored and rule with an iron hand as he WILLS to personally wipe out ANYONE and EVERYTHING that stands in the way of his adoration.

WAH!

WAH!

And, well, um – yeah – I’m not ruling out his attempts at future US concentration camps for particular groups of outliers he doesn’t like if he continues to remain in power. It will have to be craftier, done in a 2017 style and method, and I doubt he could pull it off. But I’m not eliminating it as his final solution.   Because I also doubted this ignoramus would be elected.

We don’t want people with bad, bad ideas coming into our country.

That was just one of many rousingly vague bromides that spewed out of his mouth in Saturday’s latest propaganda speech in Florida.

In the context of the remarks he was referring to immigrants.   So let’s take him at his word, even though he doesn’t seem to have one worth taking, only many that stream out of his sub-consciousness in scattershot directions.

What exactly ARE bad, bad ideas? Who decides they are bad? And how?

Believe me, this country already knows BAD ideas

Believe me, this country already knows BAD ideas #SAD

Well, he indicated in his speech the answer laid somewhere between his skewed interpretation of the appeals court opinion overturning his recent executive order to limit immigration and the actual special powers granted a president to enforce laws via our Constitution. So to prove his point he quoted said law in his speech, reading the following from a piece of paper.

Whenever the president finds that the entry of any alien, or any class of aliens, to the US detrimental to the interests of the U.S., he may by proclamation and such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens…or any restriction he may deem to be appropriate.

What the subject of his own Riefenstahl mind movie leaves out – and what separates the U.S. from past and present dictatorships – is presenting some sort of reasonable proof or argument of one’s assertions of detriment to the gatekeepers of checks and balances enshrined in our constitution. That is to say that blanket refusal of entry – and in many cases – RE-ENTRY of tens of thousands of people, many of whom already hold green cards and are actually re-entering their own homes, dorm rooms or childhood homes – needs to be reasonably defensible in court, in life, or otherwise – or it is illegal.

And we know a few things about illegal dealings... don't we Don?

And we know a few things about illegal dealings… don’t we Don?

As is the case with dictatorial thinkers (nee the president who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million), there is an outright rejection of anything that challenges their ultimate power. In fact, his voice grew fiery and his body physically jolted as he bridled at how his people were now hard at work on a NEW (world?) ORDER to challenge the court’s blockage of his original executive one. This was most apparent in the words he chose to describe his view of what the Constitutional statute enshrining his powers that he had just read from did to anyone who opposed him.

Every word here is a total KILL for the other side.

That’s right – KILL. As in – you’re dead. Lie down.

LET ME HEAR YOU SAY IT!

LET ME HEAR YOU SAY IT!

There is a style and rhythm to the way this guy speaks, haphazard though it might often be. One of the few consistencies is – there is not a lot of nuance. KILL means just that. Whether in a competition, or the court system, or perhaps literally. In America we will win, win, win. At what cost? Well, you tell me. Or perhaps he is already telling – us.

Again, he’s not that complicated.

As the man continues to speak about fake news from our most vetted and fact checked information sources (eg. The New York Times and Washington Post); appoint people who have fought their entire adult lives to dismantle the very government agencies they are now being charged to steward (eg Scott Pruitt EPA, Betsy DeVos Dept. of Education, Rick Perry, Dept of Energy); and stacks his closest inner circle of advisors with white men who, like himself, have ZERO to little experience in governing or foreign affairs (son-in-Law Jared Kushner, charged with achieving peace in the middle east, and the unmentionable former Breitbart “news” chief and avowed Leninist Steve Bannon, who I’ve unfortunately just mentioned, as his top consigliere on EVERYTHING) – we all need to CONTINUALLY ask ourselves.

WHAT. EXACTLY. IS. THIS?

Gotta get it together!

Gotta get it together!

Since the majority among us, certainly among those reading here, are reasonable people, the answer is, once again, as uncomplicated as a Trump speech:

IT. IS. EXACTLY. WHAT. YOU. THINK. IT. IS.

What this in turn means is that we all need to act accordingly:

#RESIST #DEMONSTRATE #ACT #DONATE

LOL (but also, YES!)

LOL (but also, YES!)

Do not stop. Call your representatives in Congress. Post on social media. Talk to friends. Go to meetings. Argue with relatives. Take to the streets. This is how the country came into being centuries ago, has continued to flourish through difficult decades, and is the ONLY road for survival. Despite how much our new dictator-in-chief rails against it.

How do I know this is needed? Because these days I even find myself, a life-long liberal, occasionally agreeing with John McCain from the sidelines. Yes, that’s right. The guy who brought us Sarah Palin.

We need a free press. If you want to preserve democracy as you know it you have to preserve a free and adversarial press. That’s how dictators get started.

Nailed it #maverick?

Nailed it #maverick?

Sure, he walked back that statement hours later by saying he wasn’t equating Trump with a dictator. But I’m not. I’m in full equating mode. Well okay – perhaps that’s a bit harsh in light of recent court opinions. Let’s just say that at this point – he’s an aspiring dictator.

When I told my husband about what I was writing, he reminded me of the brilliant Susan Sontag’s 1975 essay for the New York Review of Books on the work of Leni Riefenstahl entitled, Fascinating Fascism. In it, she factually and intellectually goes on to debunk and devastate the Nazi chronicler’s attempt to rehabilitate the reality of the extensive period of her life in service to Hitler into a gauzy creative representation of an unfairly marginalized artist who simply shot what she saw.

I'll save you the trouble it looked something like this #dumpsterfire

I’ll save you the trouble it looked something like this #dumpsterfire

Let’s hope someone, or more than one, are able to do the same thing en masse with Trump that Sontag did with Leni. And that it sticks.   If history is any indication, this person, or people, will come from what our modern-day American Fuehrer in training likes to most sourly call: THE CROOKED MEDIA. Which, given the reach of global internet platforms these day, is not only the NY Times and the Washington Post but each and every one of us Americans who gives even a whit about democracy and freedoms – not only for ourselves but for all of our non-immigrant, and immigrant, brothers and sisters throughout the world.