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My new Harvey Weinstein-related column in Taki’s Magazine, “The Overlord of Oscar Bait,” argues that, just as Hollywood should no longer import chimpanzees to appear in movies like Bedtime for Bonzo because they can now be digitally simulated by putting Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit, we should consider banning professional child actors in the fairly near future. Perhaps acting ought to be a profession for adults to choose freely, rather than for children to be pressured into by their stage moms and dads? For example, you aren’t allowed to be a professional football player until roughly age 21, so maybe child acting could be restricted to amateur theatricals up through, say, age 18.

One of the funnier aspects of Hamlet is that in the same astonishing scene (II, ii) in which Hamlet delivers his “quintessence of dust” speech for the ages, Shakespeare, speaking through Hamlet, goes on to indulge in some extremely topical and local satire regarding the London stage fad c. 1600 for grown-up plays (including a couple by Ben Jonson) performed by all-child troupes. (This exchange is often cut to shorten the run-time of productions of Hamlet.)

Shakespeare, the theatrical businessman, is particularly annoyed that Jonson’s plays for child actors satirize adult actors (such as Shakespeare’s own mostly grown-up troupe):

Hamlet — Do they [i.e., Globe players] hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? are they so followed?

Rosencrantz — No indeed they are not.

Hamlet — How comes it? do they grow rusty?

Rosencrantz — Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but there is sir, an aery [nest] of children, little eyases [eaglets], that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically clapped for’t: these are now the fashion, and so berattle [i.e., abuse] the common stages – so they call them – that many wearing rapiers [i.e., gallants] are afraid of goose-quills [i.e., the satire of the boys' playwrights] and dare scarce come thither [i.e., to the public playhouses].

Hamlet — What, are they children? who maintains ‘em? how are they escoted [i. e., paid]? Will they pursue the quality [i. e., the profession of acting] no longer than they can sing [i. e., before their voices change]? will they not say afterwards, if they should grow to common players – as it is most like, if their means are no better – their writers do them wrong to make them exclaim against their own succession [i.e., the profession of public actor, to which they must shortly succeed].

This dialogue is often cut in productions of Hamlet to get the play over before midnight.

Also, in Tom Stoppard’s inversion of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, it is pointedly implied that the impoverished mostly adult actors troupe that comes through Elsinore is not above — times being what they are (indifferent) — pimping out the youngest boy in their troupe for special private performances.

 
• Tags: Movies, Shakespeare, Stage 
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From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

The Overlord of Oscar Bait
by Steve Sailer
October 18, 2017

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was a celebrated figure during the (perhaps now finally concluded) Bill and Hillary Era. In particular, he was the central string-puller of the insufferable orgy of virtue-signaling that the Academy Awards have become.

The annual Oscar season is the Olympics of self-satisfied displays of moral superiority. And no one ever played the Oscar campaign game better than Weinstein, whose companies have had their fingers on 341 Academy Award nominations.

Harvey issued a statement last January when his company’s movie Lion received a Best Picture nod:

“‘Lion’ is the company’s 26th Best Picture Nomination in 28 years, and it is just as exciting as the first. I couldn’t be more proud of the entire team. The most important part of this is the effect that ‘Lion’ is having on social issues around the world. Its themes of diversity, love, and unity are very special to me on a personal level. UNICEF said it best — ‘Lion’ is an anthem of hope, love and acceptance.’ That means more to me than anything.”

Despite all his successes in the virtue business, Harvey, like Bill and Hill (for whom he bundled so many contributions), is not a virtuous individual.

Read the whole thing there.

 
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From my movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

The 1982 Blade Runner was also one of the first (and last) sci-fi movies to feature demographic change. Los Angeles in 2019 was overwhelmed by Asian immigrants and everybody had moved back downtown into giant high-rises, two forecasts that seem right on track with two years to go.

While the mass immigration and the no-backyards crowding are arriving on schedule, Blade Runner’s flying cars and off-world space colonies, however, are lagging.

To this day, most other sci-fi movies foresee a future America that’s majority white with African-Americans as the main minority. Idiocracy is just about the only successor to Blade Runner in suggesting that America’s dystopian future will be even less white than its present.

Read the whole thing there.

 
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Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro

Movies usually take at least two years to go from conception to completion, even with all the money in the world behind them. For example, the sequel to the August 2014 surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy arrived in theaters in May 2017, 33 months after the original.

So, it’s obvious that all the Oscar-bait movies currently debuting on the festival circus were conceived of no earlier than November 9, 2016. Or at least that’s the impression we are supposed to get …

From The Atlantic:

How This Year’s Oscar Contenders Are Tackling Trump

Some of the biggest hits—and one notable flop—at the Toronto International Film Festival played as blunt allegories for the current political moment.

DAVID SIMS 1:23 PM ET CULTURE

When introducing his new movie The Shape of Water at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, the director Guillermo del Toro was clear about the message he wanted to convey. The Shape of Water is a romantic, grown-up fairytale, where a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) working at a secret government facility in 1962 falls in love with a sea creature (Doug Jones) that’s being held there against its will. It’s a story of empathy triumphing over prejudice, one where the facility’s villainous supervisor (Michael Shannon) is largely driven by hatred of what he doesn’t understand.

… When discussing The Shape of Water, del Toro (who is Mexican) has been equally upfront about how its sea creature is a stand-in for “the other,” or the outsider, in any kind of political situation. As this year’s Oscar race kicks off, del Toro’s movie is resonating—it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It’s also part of a larger trend in political and allegorical mainstream filmmaking, where directors are plainly and loudly tackling the Trump administration, some with more grace than others.

… This year, a sizable chunk of the festival’s biggest hits have a few key things in common—they’re coming out in the first full year of the Trump administration, they’re deeply topical despite many of them being period pieces covering unfortunate historical events, and they have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

… But The Shape of Water is more directly applicable to the current debate raging over the White House’s hardline immigration policies and the emergence of the alt-right. Del Toro hasn’t shied away from that interpretation, saying of Shannon’s villain, “He doesn’t see anyone because his arrogance is so big. … It speaks about the issue we have today that choosing fear over love is a disaster.” When asked about the current political climate, he said, “It’s like a cancer. We have a tumor now. That doesn’t mean the cancer started with that tumor. It was gestating for so long.”

In dramatizing America’s idealized past in The Shape of Water, del Toro tries to get at the root of problems in the present. The film takes place in the ’60s, when the country is a forward-looking superpower, but the story is set largely within a darker underbelly. “If you were white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, it was a great time to be alive,” del Toro said of that decade. “If you were not, if you were anything else, it was not.”

Guillermo del Toro knows because he is a famous Person of Color, as you can tell from these photos of him with Peter Jackson, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Shannon. Del Toro’s dad owned an automobile manufacturing company in Mexico, which means that Guillermo knows all about racism and oppression. Del Toro’s dad was kidnapped in Guadalajara and held for ransom for $1 million for 72 days, until Guillermo’s friend James Cameron paid it.

Who here can’t identify with having James Cameron pay your industrialist dad’s ransom? It’s practically a rite of passage.

Del Toro may look like a Hobbit, but his ancestry comes from the extreme northern border region of The Shire, so that makes him The Other.

Del Toro hasn’t lived in his native Mexico since his father’s kidnapping, but that just makes him more aware of how racist you are for having doubts about not welcoming so many Mexicans to America.

 
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From BoxOfficeMojo:

Finishing outside the top ten, Annapurna’s Detroit had a tough weekend. Kathryn Bigelow’s latest struggled in its nationwide expansion, pulling in an estimated $7.7 million from 3,007 theaters for a $2,411 per theater average. Expectations heading into the weekend were a performance in the low teens, but instead this performance is much closer to that of Free State of Jones, another adult drama that debut in the summer last year and managed to only bring in $7.6 million in its opening before finishing with $20.8 million for its domestic run. Audiences did agree with critics (78 on Metacritic), scoring the film with a strong “A-” CinemaScore, but with an opening like this it’s unlikely word of mouth will be able to keep it around for too long.

Here’s my review of Detroit about the 1967 riot in Taki’s Magazine last week.

Detroit, rather like Jordan Peele’s hugely profitable Get Out from earlier this year, is kind of a horror story about white racism killing black bodies.

But it had a number of strikes against it:

- Directrix Kathryn Bigelow, unlike Jordan Peele, is white. In fact, she’s extremely white, with a lot of formal education in modern art theory. Blacks like blacks, while whites like to worry about how problematic it is that a white person is allowed to make a movie with black characters. Thus, from Slate a thumbsucker thinkpiece on Detroit and some other film that is morally superior due to the filmmakers being black.

Whose Streets, Whose Stories
Who gets to make art out of black pain? Two very different new movies show why it matters.

- Bigelow’s not a big crowd-pleaser (even Point Break was more of a cult hit). Her most important audience has been male directors like her mentors Walter Hill and ex-husband James Cameron who like the fact that here is a technically skilled woman director who is interested in the masculine stuff they are interested in (e.g., blowing stuff up — her Hurt Locker features some of the more realistic explosions in movie history). But who also preserves an independent viewpoint as an intelligent woman who admires men, but also analyzes them because she’s not one of them. As a woman director making movies about men-in-uniform she is a fish that knows she’s wet. (Bigelow reminds me a little of Patti Smith, another Art Theory type, whose great topic was masculine charisma in rock music.)

- White people may well be getting tired of rehashes of Whites Behaving Badly in the distant past (which may bode poorly for the three (that’s 3) Emmett Till movies said to be in development).

- Among that slice of whites who can’t get enough of movies of Old Time Whites Behaving Badly, Bigelow and Boal’s movie is a little too realistic for the purely politically correct. For example, blacks are repeatedly shown doing stupid, greedy things to set off the Detroit Riot. Detroit is not quite enough of a Hate Whitey movie for the Hate Whitey white audience.

This is the first movie distributed by Annapurna Films, the production company of Larry Ellison’s daughter Megan, and Annapurna perhaps tends to be the anti-Weinstein Brothers of companies in the Oscar Bait business., focusing less on Message Movies than the Weinsteins do. For example, Annapurna’s next three movies are being directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways), Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), and Wes Anderson (The Grand Hotel Budapest). I’m sure that critics will go through contortions to explain how each one of these movies is intended to be an anti-Trump message movie and is in fact exactly What America Needs to Heal from Trump’s Horrible Tweet of Yesterday.

But I suspect that those three directors mostly just do their own, very different, things, and Megan Ellison is happy to use a little of her father’s giant pile of money be in business with them.

In contrast to Detroit, the other mid-summer Oscar contender, with its entire cast drawn from the native stock of the British Isles, is rolling along:

Dunkirk finished in second with an estimated $17.6 million, dropping only 34% in its third weekend in release for a domestic cume just shy of $135 million. Internationally, Dunkirk delivered an estimated $25 million from 63 markets bringing its overseas cume to $180.6 million for a global tally that now stands at $314.2 million. Looking ahead, the film opens in Italy at the end of August followed by early September releases in China and Japan.

 
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From my review of the movie Detroit in Taki’s Magazine:

Riot Acting
by Steve Sailer
August 02, 2017

The key moment in the self-destruction of the once great American city of Detroit over the past half century can be dated precisely to July 23, 1967, when blacks began the Detroit Riot. Before 4,700 paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions finally halted the orgy of criminality, African Americans had looted 2,500 stores and burned down 400 buildings in their own neighborhoods.

The next year, 80,000 whites moved out of Detroit. …

Of course, today we are instructed to think of these white refugees from black violence not as victims but as perps. Almost nobody is interested in the stories of the millions of Americans whose lives were literally dislocated by the huge surge in black urban crime during the peak years of American liberalism, 1964–75.

For example, the opening text for the new movie Detroit, which opens nationally on Friday, pins the blame for the black riot of 1967 on the economic devastation caused by the 22,000 whites who had presciently left Detroit the year before, apparently taking all the magic dirt with them, leaving only the tragic dirt.

In reality, the Detroit Riot had little to do with economic decline. Instead, it was a classic example of how rising expectations fuel resentment.

Read the whole thing there.

By the way, poor movie reviewer A.O. Scott appears to be having a nervous breakdown (or perhaps a crisis of faith) in the NYT:

In ‘Detroit,’ Black Lives Caught in a Prehistory of the Alt-Right

DETROIT Directed by Kathryn Bigelow Crime, Drama, History, Thriller R 2h 23m
By A. O. SCOTT JULY 26, 2017

 
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Just askin’ ….

 
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Our most celebrated thought leaders, such as Chancellor Merkel, have repeatedly pointed out for us that European values morally require the demographic inundation of the European peoples in The Other. Similarly, the New York Times film critic is highly enthusiastic about how humane values require human extinction in War for the Planet of the Apes. A.O. Scott raves about the latest monkey movie for finally coming down wholeheartedly on the appropriate side of the Who? Whom? divide:

Review: New ‘Planet of the Apes’ Makes You Root Against Your Species

Speciesism is like racism only more so.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

NYT Critic’s Pick Directed by Matt Reeves PG-13 2h 20m

Reviewed by A. O. SCOTT JULY 12, 2017

… The apes pause to witness the aftermath of the carnage they have narrowly escaped, and their wordless, shocked response, registered above all on the face of Caesar, their leader, is an eloquent rebuke to a species that has abandoned any but a biological claim to the name human.

… We are now, three movies into this reborn franchise, entirely on the side of the apes. The prospect of our own extinction, far from horrifying, comes as a relief. At last the poor planet will catch a break.

… The distinction of this run of “Planet of the Apes” movies has been its commitment to the venerable belief that science fiction belongs to the literature of ideas, and its willingness to risk seeming to take itself too seriously. Each episode has pursued a stark ethical or political problem, and each has shifted the moral ground from human to ape.

“Rise” was about how people treat and mistreat animals, about the tension between recognizing them as sentient beings and the long habit of exploiting and confining them. “Dawn” was a wishful parable of decolonization and counterinsurgency, concerned with the competing but equally legitimate claims of two tribes occupying adjacent territory. “War” — which, in spite of its title, is less a war film than a western wrapped around a prison movie — vindicates Koba’s view of humanity as irredeemably cruel and deceitful.

… A new strain of virus is robbing people of their ability to speak, accelerating a reversal of species hierarchy set in motion two movies ago when Caesar first howled the word “no.”

He is a grayer, sadder hero now, and in “War” he succumbs for a while to a vengeful impulse at odds with his essential high-mindedness. You could say that he is putting his humanity at risk, or that he’s only human, after all, but of course both descriptions would be absurd.

Mr. Scott is aware that his praising the apes for being more “humane” than the humans is speciesist, and thus we need a new vocabulary purged of the old insensitive human supremacist terms that reflected the intolerable old hierarchy of species. But we’ll have to make do with these archaic words for now:

We’ll have to come up with a new vocabulary, but while we still have this one — and while flesh-and-blood people are still directing digital gorillas and chimps — I’ll just say that it’s good to see a movie so thoroughly humane.

Mr. Scott, however, has one complaint: the heroes aren’t portrayed quite as feministically woke as one might wish:

This world is also intensely and somewhat unimaginatively masculine. The default setting for primate social organization in these movies, human and otherwise, is patriarchal, and while a few female apes and a young human girl appear on screen, the filmmakers’ inability to flesh out the familial and affective dimensions of an otherwise richly rendered reality is frustrating.

 
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From Slate:

The Disturbing Truth That Makes Get Out Depressingly Plausible

By Damon Young

… It is just disproportionately easier for us to be snatched, plundered, discarded, and ultimately forgotten about.

And from Fusion:

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ is a horrifying warning about what happens when you trust white people

For a more intelligent review of Jordan Peele’s Kill-the-White-People horror movie Get Out, see Screen to Screed:

Being John Mal… colm X: a Get Out Review

Here’s my review in Taki’s Magazine.

 
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From my new movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

Get Out, a remarkably racist kill-the-white-people horror movie that makes Django Unchained seem like My Dinner With Andre, is the box office and critical smash of the winter. …

Get Out could have been a very amusing movie, but Jordan Peele correctly perceived that in this era there is big money in supplying audiences with their politically correct racial hate uncut with much in the way of wit. People don’t want intelligence in 2017, they want anti-white animus. …

Get Out is clearly modeled on the funny scene in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Annie Hall where Alvy Singer has an Easter ham with Annie’s ultra-WASP family.

Of course, Alvy didn’t ultimately slaughter Annie and her entire family as racial revenge.

Read the whole thing there.

For an alternative view of Get Out, here’s Cosmopolitan:

Get Out Perfectly Captures the Terrifying Truth About White Women

There are many scary things about the movie, but scariest of all is its realistic depiction of racism.

by KENDRA JAMES
Feb 28, 2017

Major spoilers ahead.

In Get Out, writer-director Jordan Peele takes 90 minutes to meditate on a lesson Kim Kardashian once spelled out for America via snake emojis and Taylor Swift: White women are not to be trusted.

… Peele brings Get Out to a higher level of horror, at least for any person of color in the audience. We’re all keenly aware of how possible it is.

The film begins with Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) traveling home for the weekend to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Alison Williams) parents who live on the set of a horror movie — excuse me: in a secluded, wooded, mostly white suburb. …

It’s a literal and visual representation of building a better life in America on the backs of the subjugated.

As the plot unravels, it seems that Rose is willing to take Chris’s suspicions seriously and, as the title indicates, get out. …

But here, condensed into one 10-minute span, I recognized the sinking feeling of being betrayed by a white woman you’ve stanned for, loved, liked, or even simply been mildly okay with. …

For some, it’s the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump, or finding out that the leader of your local NAACP chapter is literally a white woman in disguise. For others it’s finding out that Taylor Swift’s been coasting on America’s fear of black men for years. I feel it every time I realize there’s a white women on my Twitter timeline who will tweet in earnest for Planned Parenthood while sparing only a perfunctory tweet for Black Lives Matter or the Standing Rock Sioux. …

Jordan Peele is married to and expecting a child with a white woman, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Chelsea Peretti. He’s also biracial; his mother is white. …

White women have always played, and continue to play, a large part in upholding the supremacy. They have not held the best interests of people of color. Putting full trust in them has often been to our detriment. Rose’s willingness to put herself and, essentially, the survival of white bodies above the well-being of black people was as unsurprising as it was terrifying. In Get Out, whiteness trumps all, and the true horror is leaving the theater knowing that, in this case? It’s not just a movie.

This essay seems like the kind of thing you didn’t see all that much of before about Obama’s second term. This was in Cosmo, for heaven’s sake. This kind of naked racial hostility was less socially encouraged before about 2012 or 2013.

 
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Of course not!

We all know, from first principles, that immigrants are Good.

We also know that Sweden’s natives are very, very white, and thus are Bad.

Therefore, we know, both from abstract reason and from documentaries like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which people are the real problem in Sweden: the white nativist native whites.

And also the Russians. (If any.)

From my review in Taki’s Magazine:

Fight the (Imaginary) Power
by Steve Sailer
December 28, 2011

The more popular it is to worry over some organized threat, the less of a danger it likely is in reality. After all, if some group or institution was truly fearsome, most people would either be terrified into silence or admiration.

For example, Dan Brown made a fortune off his The Da Vinci Code pulp novel during this low ebb of the Catholic Church’s powers with a tale of how a nearly omnipotent Church conspires to cover up pagan feminism’s golden age. … But Brown is practically Edward Gibbon compared to his successor as a global publishing sensation, the late Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or as it was originally titled in Sweden, Men Who Hate Women). Himself a hate-filled lefty nerd, Larsson concocted an elaborate fantasy world for true believers in the conventional wisdom. …

You may have somehow garnered the impression that Sweden is a politically correct social democracy where the main problems women face (qua women) are oppression and rape at the hands of Muslim immigrants whose traditional misogyny is sometimes excused in the name of multicultural sensitivity. Otherwise, Scandinavia would appear to be a feminist utopia. …

But readers of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which has sold nearly 30 million books, know better. Larsson fearlessly exposed the true plagues menacing contemporary Sweden: rich Nazis, Christian male chauvinists, rapist legal officials, and two generations of billionaire serial killers—the first preying on Jewish women, the second on immigrant women. …

Read the whole thing there.

 
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Screenshot 2017-01-29 14.28.33From the Los Angeles Times, a blow-by-blow account of a feminist celebrity struggle session at the Sundance film festival:

Celebration of women filmmakers triggers heated debate among Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Shirley MacLaine

Amy Kaufman

… Here at the home of ChefDance CEO and founder Mimi Kim, Woodard, Shirley MacLaine, Elle Fanning and Jill Soloway were just part of a formidable group gathered during the Sundance Festival for a lunch to celebrate women in film. …

Shirley MacLaine, at 82, wearing purple and pink in honor of Saturday’s Women’s Marches, chimed in, saying that Donald Trump presented a challenge to “each of our inner democracy” and urged everyone at the table to explore their “core identity.”

Then Jessica Williams, the former “Daily Show” correspondent who was at Sundance as the star of Jim Strouse’s “The Incredible Jessica James,” spoke up.

“I have a question for you,” Williams, 27, said to MacLaine. “My question is: What if you are a person of color, or a transgendered person who — just from how you look — you already are in a conflict?”

“Right, but change your point of view,” MacLaine offered. “Change your point of view of being victimized. I’m saying: Find the democracy inside.”

What does “democracy inside” mean? That you should give each of the voices in your head an equal vote? Each of your past lives gets a say?

“I’m sorry,” [Salma] Hayek said, jumping in. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Williams answered.

Uh-oh … Microaggression!

I realize Salma is now 50, but it’s probably not a good idea for a 27-year-old actress to call her “ma’am.” Just sayin’ …

“Who are you when you’re not black and you’re not a woman? Who are you and what have you got to give?”

Williams took a deep breath. “A lot. But some days, I’m just black, and I’m just a woman,” she said. “Like, it’s not my choice. I know who I am. I know I’m Jessica, and I’m the hottest bitch on the planet I know.”

It’s generally not advisable to say that to Salma Hayek. The question of who, exactly, is the hottest bitch on the planet has never been one that Salma can ponder, which she does every time she looks in a mirror, with wholly disinterested objectivity.

“No, no, no,” Hayek said. “Take the time to investigate. That’s the trap! …There is so much more.”

“Right,” agreed MacClaine. “The more is inside.”

On the inside, for example, Shirley MacClaine is also, via her famous past lives, an androgyne of the pre-Atlantis Lemurian era, the harem girl of a Turkish pasha, a dancing girl of Old Isfahan, and “I remembered being a Muslim gypsy girl who had migrated from Morocco and was living with the Coptic Christians in the hills of Spain.”

Top that for Intersectional Pokemon Points, Jessica Williams!

Williams, whose speech at the women’s march at Sundance was praised as one of the most powerful and effective last week, looked down and said she was struggling to articulate herself. Peirce [the butch lesbian director of Boys Don't Cry] tried to help her, saying that when she goes out in public looking masculine, she causes discomfort in a way Williams might as a black woman.

Hey, thanks!

​​But that wasn’t quite right.

There’s nothing straight black starlets like Jessica Williams appreciate more than being told that they are about as alluring as white middle-aged butch lesbians.

So a​f​ter a few moments of reflection, Williams returned to Hayek.

“I think what you’re saying is valid, but I also think that what you’re saying doesn’t apply to all women. I think that’s impossible.”

“What part of it is impossible?” Hayek responded. “You’re giving attention to how the other one feels.”

“Because I have to,” Williams said.

”If you have to do that, then do that,” Hayek said. “Then that’s your journey. But I want to inspire other people to know it’s a choice.”

This was when “Mudbound” filmmaker ​Dee Rees — who had moments earlier introduced herself as a black, queer director — jumped in. At this lunch, she said, she didn’t feel like she was posing a threat to anyone. But in line at the bank? Things were different. “I don’t see myself a victim,” she said. “[Jessica] doesn’t see herself as a victim. But it’s how you’re read.”

“I also feel like the word ‘victim’ — I feel like it has bothered me,” Williams replied. “When I talk about feminism, sometimes I feel like being a black woman is cast aside. I always feel like I’m warring with my womanhood and wanting the world to be better, and with my blackness — which is the opposite of whiteness.”

In case you were wondering.

Cora, who had been in the kitchen cooking lamb stew and halibut, wandered over to share that she grew up gay in Mississippi, where she was sexually abused from age 6.

Thanks for sharing.

No matter an individual’s experience, she said, she just wished all women would have one another’s backs.

And maybe more than just backs, but you have to start somewhere.

It was a somewhat of an abrupt turn, and “Transparent” creator [Jill] Soloway returned to Williams to ask her to continue speaking.

“With intersectional feminism, it’s our responsibility as white women to recognize that when there are people of color or people who are queer — we need to prioritize your voices and let you speak the loudest and learn from your experience, because we haven’t been listening. So please, Jessica, finish your thoughts.”

You know, Jill, maybe Jessica Williams was starting to realize that while nice, she isn’t quite in Salma Hayek’s league and would rather you change the subject to something like having Elle Fanning give her opinion on Shirley MacClaine’s most awesome past life.

Williams, visibly uncomfortable, said she also wanted to encourage all of the women in the room to pay special attention to women of color and LGBT women.

In other words, I’m definitely better looking than most LGBT women, but can we get off the subject of me vs. Salma Hayek, please?

“I think we need to not speak over black women,” she said, “not assign them labels.”

It’s nothing personal, Jessica, it’s just racial.

“What does this mean, ‘speak over?’” Hayek asked.

Oh boy, Jessica, you shouldn’t have provoked the alpha uber-female.

“To project your ideas on me,” Williams said. “I think there is a fear that if we present an idea that, ‘Hey, maybe [black women] have it a little bit harder in this country’ — because we do; black women and trans women do — if we’re having it a little bit harder, it doesn’t invalidate your experience. I really am begging you to not take it personally.” …

Lots of luck with that … The more actresses you gather together the more rapidly the chance of things being taken personally approaches infinity.

“So when you say women of color,” Hayek began. Then she noticed that Williams was not making eye contact with her. “Jessica, do you mind if I look at your eyes?”

Salma discovered at about age 13 that the only way interpersonal exchanges didn’t go in her favor is if the other person didn’t look at her. For example, it’s harder for Salma to get her way with blind people than with deaf people.

Williams barely looked up.

This is like Donald Trump meets Stuart Smalley.

Still, the back-and-forth continued, with Hayek questioning whether or not she was considered a woman of color in Williams’ estimation.

The Flight From White.

Nearly everyone in the room responded that Hayek was.

Who would dare insult Salma Hayek by saying she is white?

Granted, Salma is a Conquistador-American on her mother’s side and a Crusader-American on her father’s side. In 2017, that ancestry makes her a Woman of Color.

Next week, I’d like to see Salma Hayek, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vergara, and Alicia Machado debate who is more Woman of Colorish.

“Wouldn’t it solve it if women just all had each other’s backs in general?” Cora [the lesbian chef] asked suddenly.

The solution, obviously, is for hot women to stop competing for the attention of the enemy, men, and have each other’s backs, like with my famously relaxing back massages. I’m an expert chef so you know, Salma and/or Jessica, I have really good hands. And if that doesn’t fully relieve the stress …

“Sure,” Peirce said. “The thing is this, yes, all women can work together, but we have to acknowledge that black women have a different experience. She’s here struggling and we keep shutting her down.”

“I don’t think anybody here shut her down,” Cora said, fighting back.

“Can I interrupt, because I feel misunderstood,” Hayek agreed.

I’m not sure I’d call that agreeing, but it’s best not to disagree with Salma if you know what’s good for you.

“It’s not shutting you up. I feel misunderstood on one point: We should be also curious about our brain.

Tell Salma you are curious about her brain.

“By being the best that you can be. That’s what I was trying to say to you. Let’s not just spend all the time in the anger, but in the investigation.”

“Baby, I’m Mexican and Arab,” she went on, addressing Williams.

After all, who has ever heard of a Mexican Arab getting ahead in this world?

“I’m from another generation, baby, when this was not even a possibility. My generation, they said, ‘Go back to Mexico. You’ll never be anything other than a maid in this country.’ By the head​s ​of studios! There was no movement. Latino women were not even anywhere near where you guys are. I was the first one. I’m 50 years old.

Parts of me are less than 50 years old, but, overall, I’m 50.

“So I understand.”

“You don’t understand,” Williams said, shaking her head quietly.

To be fair, almost everybody sounds like an incoherent idiot when reporters publish verbatim conversations. It would have to be a conversation between, say, Steven Pinker and Charles Murray to look impressive on paper when unpolished by the reporter.

For example, when I was captain of the Rice U. College Bowl quiz team, the Houston Chronicle published a front page article ostensibly on the subject of what geniuses we were. But the reporter published quotes from me verbatim, which made me sound like a dope. I was a little mad at the time, but it mostly struck me as adding an extra layer of entertainment — Quiz Kid Talks Like Bozo –to the article, and thus was funny while being fair enough: I really did say exactly what the newspaper said I said.

From Wikipedia:

Hayek was born Salma Hayek Jiménez in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her younger brother, Sami (born 1972), is a furniture designer. Her mother, Diana Jiménez Medina, is an opera singer and talent scout. Her father, Sami Hayek, is an oil company executive and owner of an industrial-equipment firm, who once ran for mayor of Coatzacoalcos. Her father is of Lebanese descent, with his family being from the city Baabdat, Lebanon, a city Salma and her father visited in 2015 to promote her movie Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Her mother is Mexican, with her grandmother/maternal great-grandparents being from Spain. Raised in a wealthy, devout Roman Catholic family, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, USA, at the age of twelve. …

On March 9, 2007, Hayek confirmed her engagement to French billionaire and Kering CEO, François-Henri Pinault, as well as her pregnancy. She gave birth to daughter, Valentina Paloma Pinault, in September 2007 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. They were married on Valentine’s Day 2009 in Paris.

 
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Commenter Almost Missouri writes:

Another thing is that Federal agencies like the FBI and ATF mainly employ young-to-middle-aged white guys, so if your organization looks like that, they’re all set to infiltrate you. If your org is full of weedy Near Easterners or scabrous ghetto thugs, well, you can go your way unmolested by the Feds.

From my review of the 2001 movie Spy Game starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt as undercover CIA agents operating in China, Vietnam, and Lebanon:

If all CIA covert operatives look like Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, the stars of the snazzy but brainless “Spy Game,” it’s no wonder our spooks have proven so ineffectual ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall deprived them of a blond enemy they could infiltrate. …

“Spy Game” is set in 1991, when retiring master spy Redford learns that his protégé Pitt has been arrested in China. (The wily Communists caught him by using the sophisticated counter-espionage technique of noticing that Brad Pitt isn’t Chinese.) …

I last saw Redford play a CIA man outwitting his heartless Agency superiors in 1975′s “Three Days of the Condor.” In the quarter century since, my own hair has deteriorated sadly. Yet, I’m happy to say, not a hair on Redford’s 64-year-old head has changed, other than that the passing decades seem to have infused his hair with even more body.

Screenshot 2016-10-27 00.14.48

“Bridge of Spies”

Actually, in most movies hostile to the CIA, you can usually tell who is the CIA agent by his thinning hair.

I Googled for evidence for this perception of mine and found a good quote in a recent book entitled The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television by Tricia Jenkins:

“CIA higher-ups were almost always portrayed as cruel, devious, and incompetent uber-WASPs with thin lips and thinning hair.”

But it turns out that is from my review of another CIA movie, The Recruit.

Anyway, are there ethnic differences in tendency to have thinning hair? I could imagine that American Indians don’t have much of it, but among whites, it mostly seems to come up as a WASP stereotype in CIA movies.

 
• Tags: Movies 
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Monsieur Hulot ponders office cubicles of the future

I finally got around to watching a couple of movies by the great French comedian / director Jacques Tati, 1959′s Mon Oncle and 1967′s Play Time.

Home sweet home for M. Hulot

Tati, a successor to Chaplin and Keaton, made post-silent comedies without much plot or dialogue but with a lot of sound effects and visual gags.

Tati liked the eccentric, traditional Paris and aimed his satire at the coming wave of rationalized, Americanized modernism.

These films star his standard character, a tall, amiable pipe-smoking duffer named Monsieur Hulot who grapples, not particularly effectually, with the modern world.

Monsieur Hulot is a man well suited for life in the picturesque and extremely French working class neighborhoods of Paris.

His nine-year-old nephew, who lives in an expensive all-white modernist mansion where he is bored silly, is entranced by his opportunities to visit his uncle in his downscale French world of motorbikes, horse-drawn carts, and dubiously added-on apartment buildings.

Here’s a photo from 1966 of my father and I trying to recreate the famous poster shot from Mon Oncle on my dad’s new Honda 90:

For decades, this photo and the uncharacteristically carefree expression on my worrywart dad’s face were vaguely associated in my mind with the words “French comedian.” So I’m very happy to have finally watched the movie (even though, it turns out, we were going the wrong direction).

But Monsieur Hulot is more than a little lost when he must venture into modern International Style districts.

In fact, Play Time is set in a steel and glass skyscraper district of Paris that didn’t exist yet.

Tati went broke building a set that looked like Sixth Avenue in New York City.

One running joke are the travel posters inviting you to visit destinations such as London, Hawaii, Mexico, and Stockholm by showing the same International Style skyscraper in each:

Watching Mon Oncle and Play Time got me thinking about the Flynn Effect of rising raw scores on IQ tests.

The Flynn Effect is one of the more unexpected and interesting social science discoveries of the later 20th Century.

The Flynn Effect has been strongest on IQ subtests that are least affected by local cultures and that most resemble having to deal with electronic machine logic.

The futuristic Raven’s Matrices tend to be less culturally biased than other IQ tests but has had a very large Flynn Effect of about 3 points per decade, or a standard deviation per half-century.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first American IQ test, Louis Terman’s Stanford-Binet, emerged in what’s now Silicon Valley and that Louis’s son Fred Terman, Stanford’s Dean of Engineering, has perhaps the best claim to be the father of Silicon Valley. My general hunch is that one cause of the Flynn Effect is that early IQ test designers had a pretty good sense of the direction in which the world would be moving: away from tacit, locally idiosyncratic patterns of behavior and toward machine logic ways of thinking, a shift in which Silicon Valley has led the world.

Much of the joke of the Monsieur Hulot movies is that Monsieur Hulot is a pre-Modernist man. He is accustomed to the Paris of the first half of the 20th Century, which in Tati’s view is about as good as human life gets. But, despite, being a curious fellow open to new things, Monsieur Hulot can’t seem to become accustomed to the global culture of the second half of the 20th Century.

In this scene from Play Time, Monsieur Hulot has ventured to a new skyscraper to take care of some business. A 75-year-old messenger boy tries to notify the man Hulot has come to see via a new message machine that’s like a Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices IQ test:

In Mon Oncle (1959), Monsieur Hulot investigates his wealthy sister’s ultra-modern kitchen (my apologies for the sound on this clip being slightly out of sync — Tati movies need the sound effects to be perfectly synced with the action):

Tati was a rich kid who was a gentleman rugby player before he got into comedy. He started out in show biz doing impressions of rugby players, so I imagine that’s what he’s doing bouncing the plastic coffee pot.

And here’s a link to a classic scene in Mon Oncle in which Monsieur Hulot’s upwardly-mobile in-laws try out their new automated garage door with the electric eye trigger that their dachshund can’t open for them when they get trapped in the garage because he feels guilty, although he doesn’t know why, and thus isn’t wagging his tail.

This is the saddest scene ever.

And then they call their maid to set off the electric eye, but she’s afraid of electricity.

 
• Tags: Flynn Effect, IQ, Movies 
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From my movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

War Dogs: The Real Spiel
by Steve Sailer
August 24, 2016

The comic biopic War Dogs starring Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli, the 22-year-old Miami Beach international arms dealer whose scandal was a nine days’ wonder in 2008, serves as a fun test of my instincts about how the world actually works.

Eight years ago, I went out on a limb to predict that the stoner bro who won a $300 million Pentagon contract to supply AK-47 ammunition to the Afghan army wasn’t going to be the Bush administration’s Watergate or even its Iran-Contra. The more I looked into it, the less it smelled like a vast conspiracy implicating the entire military-industrial complex all the way up to Dick Cheney…and the more it seemed like a Jonah Hill movie.

Read the whole thing at Taki’s Magazine.

By the way, here’s video of the 2008 mushroom cloud over Tirana, Albania. It almost certainly wasn’t Diveroli’s fault, although it involved people he was involved with. Albania’s paranoid dictator Enver Hoxha, who hated both the West and the Soviets, made it the most heavily armed country on Earth. For awhile Albania was friends with Chairman Mao, but then Hoxha turned against the Chinese for Marxist deviationism. When Albania joined NATO, the country set about destroying its former Communist ammunition, but occasionally there would be slip-ups. And, when there was, Ka-Boom!

Also, commenter Brutusale points out this scene in an Adam Sandler movie that explains a lot of the business model Diveroli brought to international arms dealing:

 
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From my movie review of Ghostbusters in Taki’s Magazine:

Paul Feig, Honorary Non–Straight White Male
by Steve Sailer
July 20, 2016

Do you ever get the impression that our endless identity-politics culture wars have less to do with the liberation of their ostensible beneficiaries than with the further career advancement of a small number of individuals whose careers were already doing pretty well?

For example, consider the hoopla over how it’s your social duty to attend the big-budget remake of the 1984 hit Ghostbusters because the well-worn roles are filled this time by actresses.

And yet the writer-director who finally got the privilege to bring back to the screen this prized boy toy franchise after 27 years is…a man. In fact, he’s the King of Women’s Comedy, Paul Feig, previously director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy.

Read the whole thing there.

 
• Tags: Movies 
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The hit Disney kids’ movie Zootopia about a city where talking lions lie down with talking lambs came across to me as something that must have started out culturally rebellious but then got throttled by the test marketers and executives into the usual You-Go-Girl fare.

Here the creative team talks about their original vision, which is pretty great: the prey have subdued the predators with “tame collars” that shock the predators any time their predatory instincts start to kick in (much like the Ludovico Technique does to Alex in A Clockwork Orange). The hero fox, Nick Wild, discovers when a doctor temporarily removes his collar that he feels free and happy. So he comes up with the idea of a Chompers Only speakeasy / amusement park, Wild Times, where predators can get their collars illegally removed and enjoy their innate selves.

In A World Where white guys are publicly resented, incessantly, for still having much of the talent, it’s not surprising that the talented are getting tired of being the rhetorical punching bags just for being white guys. This surreptitious rebellion of the talented explains a lot about what’s going on.

 
• Tags: Movies 
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I finally went to see two popular animated movies at the $3 theater: Disney’s big budget / big hit Zootopia and the medium budget / medium hit Angry Birds based on the Finnish smartphone game. Like a lot of mainstream movies these days, both are allegories about classic iSteve topics like biodiversity.

Zootopia is a cop movie set in a utopian city of talking animals where lions lie down with lambs, where predator and prey normally get along with perfect amity. It’s about a tiny girl bunny who comes to the big city to follow her dreams and be a policeman, even though everybody tells her only large animals can be cops. To solve a big case and convince the police chief, a hard-headed Cape buffalo voiced by Idris Elba, that she belongs on the force, she has to enlist the help of a handsome fox conman (Jason Bateman).

Zootopia likely started out as a satire on diversity and political correctness, but then self-emasculated itself when early research reports came back that audiences want political correctness about diversity and feel-good pap: Anybody can be anything they dream of, as long as they work out enough.

The movie is still quite decent, although it’s painful to think about how good it could have been if that much talent had been given free rein to follow their instincts without PC being given a chokehold on their creativity.

From Slate today comes an article worrying that Disney almost didn’t gut their own movie:

This Deleted Scene From Zootopia Would Have Made the Racial Allegory a Lot More Disturbing

By Aisha Harris

After months and months of vague promos, Zootopia’s arrival in theaters came as a surprise to viewers—not only was the film fun and entertaining, but it was also totally a message movie about the perils of racial profiling. And if you thought about it too hard, the racial allegory quickly began to fall apart: What’s with the discriminated-against predators also being in positions of institutional power? And why, in a movie about shutting down stereotypes, is the fox actually sneaky and the weasel really a cheater?

And why, in the scene that get the biggest laughs, are all the clerks at the Van Nuys Department of Motor Vehicles (pretty much the Van Nuys DMV I go to and where Homer Simpson’s sister-in-laws Patty and Selma work) sloths? And not stereotype-shattering sloths, but sloths who fulfill every stereotype you ever guiltily entertained about sloths and DMV clerks?

And there’s this scene that stereotypes wolves as liking to howl:

Moreover, if you watch closely, the filmmakers disclose what a Malthusian nightmare a predator-free ecosystem would be. For example, here is the rabbit heroine saying goodbye to her mother, father, and 275 siblings as she heads off to Zootopia. Watch Bunnyburrow’s population counter at 0:45:

Still, after decades of questionable and/or downright racist on-screen depictions of people of color, Disney’s attempt to address such heavy subject matter in an animated kids’ movie can be considered a valiant effort and a sign of progress.

Which is why it’s probably a good thing that a deleted scene from Zootopia that is now online didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.

This deleted scene explains the key question of why the 10% of the population who are predators don’t follow their instincts:

For starters, the tone of the scene is considerably darker than that of the lighthearted romp the movie eventually became. It depicts a ceremony, soon revealed to be a “taming party,” in which a young bear cub named Morris prepares to become a “big bear.” His father presents his eager, ecstatic son with a collar in front of a room full of equally eager and ecstatic bear cubs: “With this collar, Zootopia accepts me,” the papa bear announces, wistfully, as Morris repeats after him. There’s a tinge of sadness and hesitation as he goes to put it around Morris’ neck, and understandably so—Morris is soon given an electric shock after becoming too excited. The room gasps, and a startled Morris hugs his father tight.

The idea of animals in a kids’ movie suffering a form of ritualized corporeal punishment in order to gain acceptance by others is already pretty heavy—but it’s made even more disturbing when you consider it within the context of the film’s blatant racial allegory. The suggestion that the only way for the predators to coexist in the world of Zootopia is to “tame” them in adolescence would have brought in some icky, very colonial notions about race that such a film probably wouldn’t be able to engage with properly, to say the least. So let’s all be grateful that the top dogs at Disney made a wise decision to let this scene go.

And here’s another deleted scene, showing Jason Bateman’s male lead, a fox, having his taming collar temporarily removed by a doctor:

In other words, the predators were forced to stop preying on the prey pretty much the same way Alex is tamed in A Clockwork Orange. The idea of a huge budget talking animal knock off of the themes of A Clockwork Orange is pretty awesome.

But that explanation for why the world works the way it does was cut out of the movie because it wasn’t lame and PC enough. So in the final version of the movie, all the animals have just “evolved” to not prey on each other. Why? Just because. No cost is paid to evolve, there are no tradeoffs, no choices, nothing of interest.

To me, this lowers the stakes in the movie and makes the film quickly forgettable. Which is too bad because it has a lot going for it otherwise.

Here’s a documentary about how the creators were told by Disney suits and marketing researchers to drop the shock collars and make the movie about the evils of stereotypes:

Because audiences like Goodthink.

Angry Birds is set on a paradisiacal island where birds, lacking predators, have evolved to be flightless, much like the now extinct dodo bird of Mauritius and other birds on predator-free islands that have since been plagued, sometimes into extinction, by the arrival of human sailors, along with their pigs, dogs, and rats. Feral egg-eating pigs remain a major threat to rare birds on Hawaii.

The birds on their isolated island live in pleasant harmony with each other, caring for their eggs, taking yoga classes, and, sure enough, there’s the bird version of the Free Hugs guy from Times Square. (I told you that guy was famous.) Almost everybody is happy except for grumpy Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), who is an Angry Red Bird. He gets sentenced to anger management therapy.

Then a boatload of pigs arrive from an unknown island.

The naive birds, having never met pigs before, don’t listen to Red’s warning that something seems fishy about these friendly pigs.

SPOILER ALERT: The pigs steal all the birds’ eggs and take them back to their island for a feast. Red leads the now angry birds in an attack on Piggy Island, which requires the flightless birds to shoot themselves at the pig city using sling shots. The birds heroically retrieve their eggs and go back to their own island, and don’t live happily ever after with the pigs at all.

The movie is based on old fashioned 1990s Edward O. Wilson / Jared Diamond-style concern for biodiversity (here’s Diamond’s chapter in The Third Chimpanzee on the sad fate of the giant flightless birds of New Zealand after the Maori and their pigs arrived). But it seems topical today because of the Camp of the Saints floating hijrah in the Mediterranean.

It’s not bad, although it will appeal most to very small children.

 
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From The Hollywood Reporter:

Oscars’ Diversity Dilemma: A Mathematical Solution to Parity in Voting

by Brian McLaughlin 1/29/2016 6:00am PST

Los Angeles Film School instructor Brian McLaughlin has a quick fix to mitigate the old white guy factor.

How to address the Academy’s diversity issue?

… So what to do? I would like to propose a mathematical solution, since I teach statistics at L.A. Film School.

He teaches what at the what?

There is a simple change that could be made so that Oscar voting would be weighted to correlate to the demographics of the moviegoing public.

Each year, the Motion Picture Association of America publishes the Theatrical Market Statistics report. In it, they slice and dice domestic and international movie attendance in every way imaginable. Using that report as a baseline, each voter’s ballot could be assigned an appropriate weight so that the total weighted votes would mirror the gender and racial breakdown of the domestic film audience.

… The same could be done with ethnicity, although the math in this example isn’t as simple. Minorities represent about 37 percent of moviegoers but only 7 percent of the Academy. So ballots of minority voters would need to be weighted about 7.8 times more heavily than those of white voters. Total white votes would have a weight of 5,580 (6,000 x 93 percent), and total minority votes would have a weight of 3,277 (6,000 x 7 percent x 7.8). Add the two together (5,580 + 3,277 = 8,857), and the weighted minority vote at the Academy becomes 37 percent, reflecting that of the audience.

This would be a multiplicative process, so votes by women of color would carry even more weight, 23.4 times those of white men.

What about people who think Furious 7 should win Best Picture? They should get ten times as many votes as people who liked Spotlight.

… I know that the basis for democracy is one man, one vote, but just as congressional districts have been gerrymandered, weighted balloting is a form of Hollywood redistricting.

Brian McLaughlin, a producer and actor, is an instructor at Los Angeles Film School.

These concepts of voting, counting the votes, giving the prize to the person who gets the most votes … they just seem outdated. It’s 2016! The producers should simply make up an inoffensive list of winners based on current social norms.

 
• Tags: Movies 
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Screenshot 2016-02-05 02.54.01Hail, Caesar!, the Coen Brothers’ latest movie, is a cheerful comedy about a busy week in 1951 at the fictitious Hollywood studio, Capitol Pictures, where their Barton Fink took place in 1941.

That 1991 film told the story of Fink, a Clifford Odets-like Communist playwright (played by John Turturro) who becomes the toast of Manhattan’s cafe society during the New Deal for his leftist dramas about The People. But Fink then accepts a lucrative offer to write for Hollywood. There he discovers that writers have no power in the movie business (unlike the New York stage, where playwrights have the contractual right to fire directors), and gets assigned to write a Wallace Beery wrestling pic for all eternity.

Hail, Caesar! is set in Hollywood during the McCarthy Era a decade later.

We’ve seen this period portrayed a million times from the point of view of the subpoenaed screenwriters (e.g., Redford and Streisand in The Way We Were), but the Coen Brothers show us the Red Scare from the anti-Communist side’s point of view.

Ten years after Barton Fink, the screenwriters are still affluent Communists. A Malibu cell of Stalinist scribes has so far restricted itself to slipping pro-Soviet metaphors into detective stories and musicals, which have gone largely unnoticed by anybody (except by other leftist writers and the most paranoid rightists) watching the exuberantly pro-American studio output.

But now, the Malibu Marxism Study Group has moved on to direct action, kidnapping a Clark Gable-like star (George Clooney) from the set of a Bible picture (Hail, Caesar!) to hold him for ransom, while Herr Professor Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School lectures him on the dialectic. Clooney’s character is dim enough and self-absorbed enough to like what he hears about Marxism. Fortunately, two anti-Communist patriots, a young cowboy star and the studio’s conservative Catholic fixer (Josh Brolin), team up to foil the Commies, although not before the Malibu Marxists gay leader makes a theatrical escape to Moscow.

This is the Coen’s Catholic flick to go along with their Jewish movie, A Serious Man, and their various Protestant sect movies, such as O Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit.

Hail, Caesar! wasn’t rushed out in time for 2015 Oscar qualifying. Maybe it was delayed, or maybe the Coens realized it wasn’t quite up to Oscar quality. It doesn’t exhibit the extreme lucidity the Coens achieved in recent films, although it definitely doesn’t suffer either from the anhedonia of Inside Llewyn Davis.

But by the usual standards of February releases, it’s very good. It looks nice. The list of stars is impressive although borderline unwieldy in length: Clooney, Scarlett Johansson as a mermaid movie star in the mode of Esther Williams, Channing Tatum (Gene Kellyish — it’s fun to make unfair insinuations about Kelly because he was such an egomaniac), Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix (a real life MGM studio official, whose job was to persuade the heavily Irish cops and the Catholic Church to not make public fusses over the various scandals the stars got themselves into), Ralph Fiennes as a sort of director George Cukor, Jonah Hill as a notary public who makes a living out of his unquestionable legal personhood, and Tilda Swinton as identical twins who are highly competitive gossip columnists.

The one newcomer, Alden Ehrenreich, steals the show as a laconic rodeo star trying to learn how to talk to rich people rather than horses.

After Frances McDormand gets done editing the cowboy kid’s seemingly flailing attempt at drawing room drama, it’s suddenly clear he’s going to be a big star in the James Dean – Elvis Presley mode that nobody in 1951 could yet anticipate.

Throughout Hail, Caesar!, the mood is sunny and there is always something happening.

On the other hand, the jokes aren’t quite as funny as the Coen Brothers at their best, nor does the plot appear to have quite the superb fit and finish of their top half dozen movies. The period details are fun, but lots of other filmmakers have affectionately parodied old time Hollywood.

Five movies within a movie are seen in Hail, Caesar! But the overtly disparate ingredients make the overarching movie more like sketch comedy, which many people can do pretty well. At peak form, the Coens, in contrast, can extract more from a single premise (What if James M. Cain wrote true crime stories for 1940s men’s magazines read in small town barbershops? What if our dope-smoking burnout buddy tried to solve a confusing Raymond Chandler detective case?) than just about anybody.

Granted, The Big Lebowski is stuffed with elements that didn’t strike viewers as having much connection when it came out in the theaters, but famously started to all make some kind of weird sense when viewed for the third time on cable at 3am. So, I may be premature in assuming that the movies-within-the-movies are just random in Hail, Caesar! Maybe 3 years from now we’ll all be talking about how everybody thought Hail, Caesar! was just a lightweight goof when it came out and nobody at the time grasped its transcendent whateverness.

Or maybe not.

All in all, Hail, Caesar! requires less mental effort on the part of audiences than did, say, A Serious Man, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Hail, Caesar! is the Coen Brothers movie for people who sort of like Coen Brothers movies.

 
• Tags: Coen Brothers, Movies 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


PastClassics
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
A simple remedy for income stagnation