Political Content in this week’s new movies: Shutter Island, and The Ghost Writer
1. SHUTTER ISLAND [Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.]
summary from imdb.com:
It’s 1954, and up-and-coming U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston’s Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He’s been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn’t been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. Teddy’s shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals “escape” in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, Teddy begins to doubt everything – his memory, his partner, even his own sanity.
directed by: Martin Scorsese
starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas
1. John Nolte at Big Hollywood
2. Carl Kozlowski at Big Hollywood
3. Darin Miller at Big Hollywood
4. Debbie Schlussel
5. Christian Toto
6. Ted Baehr’s movieguide:
7. Kurt Loder
8. John Boot at Pajamas Media
9. Andrew Klavan
10. Sonny Bunch
Poli-Bits: Cold war “paranoia”, House on Un-American Activities Committee, socialism, dastardly anti-communism/Red scare, “mid-century debate over treatment of mental patients”, “post-traumatic shock syndrome”, guilt from WWII, Catholic guilt, U.S. government is conducting Mengele-style experiments on mental patients
strange politically correct, Anti-American, revisionist history references to the House on Un-American Activities Committee engaging in psychiatric experiments with analogies between Nazi Germany and the American government in the 1950s/socialism is extolled/He learns from a former inmate that the House on Un-American Activities Committee was using the hospital to test psychotropic drugs on socialists. Then, he starts to realize they are giving lobotomies to people./it throws in red herring discussions of socialism and 1950s America at the height of the Cold War./the intense discussions of whether God loves violence and the nature of socialism and Cold War America will lead susceptible, uneducated people astray.
Soon, he begins suffering debilitating migraine headaches that trigger hallucinations involving a vague guilt that seems to derive from his participation in WWII
Flashbacks suggest Teddy’s traumas in the decade since World War II. That war, its prologue and aftermath, supplied the dark undercurrent of classic film noir. The term “post-traumatic shock syndrome” was not then in use, but its symptoms could be seen in men attempting to look confident in their facades of unstyled suits, subdued ties, heavy smoking and fedoras pulled low against the rain.
“…mixing Cold War paranoia, the Holocaust, Catholic guilt, the mid-century debate over treatment of mental patients…”
Plus, I definitely could have done without the constant moral equivalency dialogue, implying that the U.S. government is testing mental patients and doing Mengele-style experiments on their brains “just like the Nazis and the Soviet gulags.” Come on. Even in this completely non-political thriller (that wasn’t that thrilling), they couldn’t resist in trying to make it political. Plus the flashback scenes of Leonardo DiCaprio liberating Dachau and ice-sculpture trees of dead Jewish bodies was a cinematic Holocaust-porn that had no place here.
the following line from the novel was stated in the movie [most likely not in those exact words, but close enough:] “…we heard there was a known subversive in the area yesterday. He was seen on your street passing out Communist literature.”
“TB: It’s set in the 1950s?
MS: Early 1954, during the cold war paranoia. I was about 8 or 9, 10 years old, so I remember the mood of the country very well, particularly the Red scare and the fear of being bombed, the air raids in schools, that sort of thing. And particularly the films and television shows I saw, coming from a working class family. We saw mainly anti-Communist stuff. “I Led Three Lives,” or “Time Limit,” directed by Karl Malden. The actors are wonderful in that one and it’s really beautifully directed. It’s very simple but it really shows the fear of that time, the fear of brainwashing, which leads directly to “The Manchurian Candidate,” which ultimately was the one. And a few months after that came out Kennedy was killed. It puts the cap on the whole period in a way.”
the flabby second hour (which, among other subplots, brings up the House Un-American Activities Committee and a suggestion that Shutter Island is really all about locking up innocent socialists)
2. THE GHOST WRITER [Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference.]
summary from imdb.com:
An unremarkable ghost-writer has landed a lucrative contract to redact the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former UK Prime Minister. After dominating British politics for years, Lang has retired with his wife to the USA. He lives on an island, in luxurious, isolated premises complete with a security detail and a secretarial staff. Soon, Adam Lang gets embroiled in a major scandal with international ramifications that reveals how far he was ready to go in order to nurture UK’s “special relationship” with the USA. But before this controversy has started, before even he has closed the deal with the publisher, the ghost-writer gets unmistakable signs that the turgid draft he is tasked to put into shape inexplicably constitutes highly sensitive material.
director: Roman Polanski
starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, James Belushi, Olivia Williams, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson, Eli Wallach, Jon Bernthal
1. John Nolte at Big Hollywood
2. Kyle Smith
3. Kurt Loder
4. Sonny Bunch
5. Christian Toto
6. Debbie Schlussel
7. movieguide.org Christian reviews
8. James Bowman at The American Spectator
9. David C. Stolinsky, MD
Poli-Bits: [haven’t seen it, but based on reading many reviews:] war crimes, International Criminal Court, waterboarding, Manchurian Candidate, protesting “torture” of “innocent” terrorists, Evil: Bush/CIA/Amerika/corporation$/missile defense/Halliburton, leaked info/investigative journalism, terrorist suspect renditions
it’s a fictional tale unambiguously designed to validate various conspiracy theories that have been in existence since the war in Iraq began./Lang represents a Prime Minister in the Tony Blair mold and the story postulates how Blair might have come to support George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. There’s a Haliburton-inspired company and various unsavory characters skulking in the background./Polanski also pokes fun at his own situation. After Lang has been accused of crimes against humanity, he realizes he must remain in the United States since it’s one of the few countries that does not recognize the jurisdiction of the court. As long as he’s in America, he can be a free man; if he returns to the U.K., he will be arrested upon arrival.
But neither ought it distract viewers from a well-made, sleekly retaliatory, pleasurably paranoid tale in praise of enterprising (and also brave) investigative journalists and in condemnation of political skulduggery in general and right-wing Anglo-American collusion in particular./Harris and Polanski penned the adapted screenplay with a feel for a contemporary movie audience sick to death of headlines about U.S. involvement in covert torture operations.
“It’s a relief (for me) to talk about the latest film of Roman Polanski/rather than discuss his personal life as a sex offender, issues that have preoccupied the news media for almost a year./the movie deals with political intrigue, disgraced politicos, and behind-closed-doors machinations/though the setting is genuinely British, emphasizing how the Brits deal with terrorism vis-à-vis the dubious American ICC jurisdiction
a former British prime minister accused of war crimes./Leaked information about Lang’s involvement in the “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects
It will be hard for most critics and filmgoers to separate real life drama from the one inside this movie, especially since there is every possibility the 76 year old Polanski will stand trial in America, and may never make another film as a result. There are significant parallels between Polanski’s life and this latest example of his art, including a deliciously ironic one Polanski had to be aware of: when scandal erupts, with Lang accused (as Tony Blair has been) of handing British citizens over to be tortured by the U.S, it’s suggested that Lang may have to live in exile within the United States because it doesn’t recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. There’s not a lot of love for America in this movie, so you can almost feel Polanski’s glee at sentencing one of his characters to what he surely feels is an even less desirable fugitive status than his own.
Pierce Brosnan plays Tony Blair, er . . . “Adam Lang,” a retired British Prime Minister who is obviously Blair. Lang is staying in the U.S., where he is writing his memoirs. But he can’t leave because he’s now wanted by the International Criminal Court at the Hague, as it’s now come out he helped the CIA “torture” Islamic terrorists from Iraq and Afghanistan via waterboarding. Good for him, in my book. But that’s not how the movie wants you to see it. Instead, the plot points to the CIA handpicking Tony Blair in college, when he was studying acting, and making him our U.S. Manchurian candidate for Prime Minister, where we directed his every move. Like I said, it’s every far-lefty’s fantasy.
In Polanski’s morally confused world, saving innocent lives with the use of water boarding is an absolute wrong and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision (he’s quite obviously the Brosnan character) to join America in the liberating of 25 million innocent Iraqis can only mean that he’s Bush’s poodle and a stooge for the CIA – a CIA that we’re told is always working against America’s best interest because of their Middle East policies and, yes, support of missile defense./to cover up Lang’s ties to a CIA agent who in turn’s involved in (you knew this was coming) a Halliburtonish multi-national corporation. The weight given to these silly reveals is laughable. I’m sure in a fever-dream as he’s spooning with Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann would gasp. But the only crime Lang appears to be guilty of is in allowing himself to be influenced by those who think winning the war against Islamo-fascism is a good thing.
2. Today’s Batch of Miscellaneous Extraneousness from Across the Web:
2. Before we’ve even seen a trailer for Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”, here’s news of his next project starring Christian Bale, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams, and Olga Kurylenko.
3. Join this Facebook group to help to try and get the 4 hour director’s cut version of “The Assassination of Jesse James” released…
4. Gary Oldman?? Viggo? “Take Terrence Malick. So obviously confused by The Thin Red Line’s surfeit of stars, he left Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, Billy Bob Thornton and Viggo Mortensen on the cutting room floor.”
5. Robert Greenwald, maker of the Fox-News-bashing so-called-documentary “Outfoxed”, has his next target all picked out: conservative former-maker-of-“24” Joel Surnow’s upcoming Kennedy mini-series. Here’s his latest attack video: http://stopkennedysmears.com/
6. the most annoying Green-worshipping movie trailer that i’ve seen all week: “Furry Vengeance” starring Brendan Fraser…
note that it’s from Participant Media… where social justice is just as important as entertainment… (check out those social action campaigns!)… thanks to Participant, we got to experience such marvels as Algore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Clooney’s sympathize-with-the-suicide-bombers “Syriana”… ugh…
7. Speaking of Participant Media, i just noticed that the upcoming Zombie movie “The Crazies” is being released by Participant… would you like to know what 5 things you can do for the sake of Social Justice after watching The Crazies? Go here after you’re done sighing.
8. here’s a fun one! “Why the Oscars are a con” by far leftist John Pilger!