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MOVIES AND TELEVISION

The Movie That Made Moral Idiocy Chic By Bruce S. Thornton

Fifty years ago, the movie that changed the movies premiered. Anybody old enough to remember films before “Bonnie and Clyde” can testify to the jolting power of Arthur Penn’s kinetic blend of bluegrass slapstick, Depression-era nostalgia, and gruesome, stylized violence. But something else was revealed then, something that I, just 14 at the time, was too callow and ignorant to notice behind the movie’s aesthetic sheen—the moral idiocy that has since come to define so much of contemporary American popular culture.

“Bonnie and Clyde” staked a claim to a moral seriousness that supposedly validated the stylistic innovations and elevated the film beyond mere flashy entertainment. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, played with fashion-magazine glamour by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, are “just folks,” as Dunaway says in the movie, salt-of-the-earth Americans driven to crime by the machinations of the evil banks they rob for some justified payback, Texan Robin Hoods admired by the common-man victims of American capitalism. Yet “the Man,” embodied in the sadistic Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, wouldn’t let them be, hunting them down and slaughtering them in the film’s famous bloody climax, just after Bonnie and Clyde had finally found the soft-focus sexual fulfillment long a cliché of Hollywood romantic sentiment.

“Social Bandits” on Screen
The Marxist folk-tale underlying the movie’s otherwise conventional star-crossed-lovers plot was obvious, and as such the cinematic innovations accounted for the film’s popularity with many critics (TheNew York Times’s Bosley Crowther was a noble exception). The movie was, in fact, a popularized version of Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm’s 1959 “social bandit” thesis, a bit of communist agitprop arguing that robbers and thieves were really expressions of the “people’s” legitimate resistance to unjust economic and political structures. This notion helped to glorify and justify the violence against authority that exploded in the 1960s, from the bombing of college labs to the depredations of the Black Panthers, the Oakland street gang that was shrewd enough to exploit the delusions of privileged white kids in order to provide cover for the gang’s crimes.

About That Golden Globes Fiasco They should hand out awards for hypocrisy, preening, and lack of self-awareness. By Kyle Smith

On Golden Globes night, Hollywood preened in front of its black mirror as usual, but the degree to which it was blind to what was obvious to all observers was stranger than ever. It was like that time the pear-shaped Homer Simpson looked at his reflection and saw a torso rippling with musculature.

What was the most crystalline moment of self-unawareness?

Was it when Seth Meyers, a white guy like almost every Globes host before him, set up the first two introducers on the NBC broadcast by saying, “Please don’t be two white guys, please don’t be two white guys”? Or when the actress Connie Britton paraded around in a “Poverty is sexist” sweater that retails for $380? How about when James Franco, winning an award for his satiric portrayal of the shlock filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, invited Wiseau up to the stage but then elbowed him aside when he dared to try to speak?

No, for me it was when the house rolled over for Oprah Winfrey, the nation’s most prominent retailer of quack medicine, the celebrity shill who made herself some $3 billion pitching supernatural wishful thinking and life-endangering crackpot pseudoscience to poor people and women, and NBC declared her our next president in a tweet. Oprah, friend to women and the oppressed, the coming anti-Trump? Say what you want about our president, but no one has linked him to a surge in whooping cough. Winfrey’s prominent place in the anti-vaccination movement is far more appalling than the behavior described in the Access Hollywood tape. If Trump kills, it’s only by tweet-induced apoplexy.

NBC, Oprah: The juxtaposition of those two brands is too perfect to pass without notice. If your memory stretches back even three months, you’ll recall that it was NBC that quashed a series of blockbuster scoops by its correspondent Ronan Farrow that, when he finally was forced to take them to The New Yorker, reported that Harvey Weinstein was a serial rapist. By coincidence, the president of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim, moonlights as a screenwriter who wrote Jackie — the kind of arty, Oscar-bait fare that Weinstein often produced and shepherded to Oscar glory (or at least Golden Globes semi-glory).

Chutzpah in Black: ‘Golden Globes’ Points its Finger the Wrong Way By Boris Zelkin

You have to hand it to Hollywood—it’s got chutzpah. The holier-than-thou instinct must truly overpower any sense of decency and morality among its luminaries as they mount their pulpits to lecture the world about the only recently discovered horrors of sexual inequality. Like the convict who finds religion after being sentenced and then proceeds to judge all the world around him, Hollywood now presents itself as some sort of vanguard in the fight against sexism.

Sorry, but America ain’t buying what you’re selling. And maybe that’s what’s really eating you.

For years, you’ve ordained yourselves the high priests of the culture. For years, you’ve sexualized our girls and created lower expectations for our boys and men. You’ve created an industry that we all now understand is awash with the decadence, moral rot, and a self-deception that can only come from years of arrogant self-righteousness that is immune to honest self-examination.

You’ve lived lives of hedonistic excess all the while sneering at those who attempted to live sincerely. You’ve spent years on the therapist’s couch convincing yourselves that you’re good people all the while mocking modestly lived lives and now you feel entitled to lecture the rest of America about . . . anything? Physician, heal thyself! No amount of black cloth can cover your shame.

What Kind of Tent Revival is This?
True to Hollywood’s self-deceptive nature, the whole of the Golden Globes broadcast was presented as a solemn Confiteor, but its sole purpose, truly, was to attempt to confer self-absolution through the exercise of judging others. It was a giant revival tent with Elmer Gantry projecting his own moral failings onto his congregation. The Globes were a set piece designed to proclaim to the world Hollywood’s virtue all the while putting it above those poor rubes at home watching.

All The Money in the World – A Review By Marilyn Penn

J Paul Getty might have had all the money in the world but neither all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men can save Ridley Scott’s movie again. Some viewers will remember the 1973 kidnapping of Getty’s 16 yr old grandson and the gruesome amputation of his ear after the richest man in the world refused to pay the ransom, but especially for viewers who weren’t around then, this movie will make little sense We begin with Michelle Williams as the mother of four Getty children sired by one of J Paul’s sons They soon divorce and in that settlement she agrees to take no money on condition that she get sole parental custody In rapid order, we see that her ex-husband has descended to the depths of drug addiction in Morocco where her oldest boy, Paul, loves to hang out. Yanked back to Rome where mother and siblings live, we see little of his lifestyle but from his long unkempt hair, we can guess that his father has been an unfortunate role model. He is seized off the street by a Calabrian gang that sets their opening ransom at 17 million dollars. The patriarch refused to pay anything, claiming that were he to succumb to this blackmail, there would be 14 other opportunities for kidnap and extortion, and Paolo, as he is known, is kept imprisoned by the gang for many many months.

We are left to wonder why his mother never appeals to the families of the boy’s numerous half-siblings to help her raise money. J Paul Sr had been married 5 times and presumably not all of his ex-wives were as noble and short-sighted as she was – nor do we see her try to borrow money from friends of the family, businessmen or bankers. Since she is played not as a flower child but as a common sense source of stability who wears suits and pumps, none of this behavior rings true. Though the three other children are show on screen early on, they are unaccounted for during this tragic event, leaving us to question how they are dealing with this frightening episode and why they were in the screenplay at all.

Hollywood RIP Edward Cline

This column is not about Islam per se, but it is about the growing decrepitude of Hollywood fare. In a sense, it is about the secular version of Sharia, to conform to the nihilism of the Hollywood left. As Sharia’s purpose is to obliterate all personal values and make them Allah’s, the Hollywood left is busy obliterating them in its own manner. The decrepitude is part and parcel of current trends in the culture.

But, what is Sharia?

Total and unqualified submission to the will of Allah (God) is the fundamental tenet of Islam: Islamic law is therefore the expression of Allah’s command for Muslim society and, in application, constitutes a system of duties that are incumbent upon a Muslim by virtue of his religious belief….

The second major distinction between the Sharīa and Western legal systems is the result of the Islamic concept of law as the expression of the divine will. With the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, communication of the divine will to human beings ceased so that the terms of the divine revelation were henceforth fixed and immutable.

In short, Mohammad died, and all divine revelations ceased. His will ceased to be a power. Men would obey his will and utterances without question. This is, on the face of it, pure hokum. If he’s dead, he has no power over anyone’s actions or beliefs – except in those who want to believe in a ghost in the sky and could not live without believing there is a ghost.

The purpose of the Left’s brand of Sharia is to persuade one to conform to or compel one to surrender one’s personal values, and reason for living – for the state. For the “divine will” of the new elites, the SJWs, who will denigrate every value you might have to ensure that you have no values but their own.

My correspondent has plenty to say about what’s happening in popular culture. In this instance, she discusses the decline and ruination of The Walking Dead (TWD), in which several of the key characters, who were heroes and objects of viewer adulation, have been diminished, changed over for the worse, or given nothing significant to do. Sharia, Hollywood style, is being subtly introduced into the characters’ actions and motives. Fans may not notice it, but they will be fed Koranic “wisdom.” “Don’t be angry with your nemesis; be tolerant and friends. The main event, several seasons into the future, will be Rick, quoting the Koran, and forgiving Negan, one of the most villainous and evil characters in cinematic history, for all the deaths he has consciously caused by his own hand, especially the deaths of some of Rick’s most valued friends, with a baseball bat.

Darkest Hour by Mark Steyn

Even in the darkest hour, an impeccably dressed set: Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) prepares to kiss the hand of George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) upon his appointment as Prime Minister.

Churchill is an abidingly popular role with big-time actors once the receding hairline and expanding girth of middle-age set in. Sometimes the player is too evidently suited to the part – one thinks of Robert Hardy on telly in the Eighties – and the jowly gravitas gets clanked around as if Winnie wandered Chartwell and Westminster in never-was-so-much-owed mode 24/7. On the literal face of it, the man who brought both Sid Vicious and Commissioner Gordon to the silver screen is one of the least obvious cinematic Winstons ever, and he wears his lavish prosthetics with a very light touch. Gary Oldman’s is stylistically both a nimbler and more shambolic Churchill – boozy and blustery and blubbery, immensely secure and oddly disconnected. It is a dazzling performance of the indispensable man of the century, intelligent and insightful, yet one that caused me, by the end, a grave unease.

Churchill tends to the Churchillian, which is to say the epic. Darkest Hour, by contrast, is very finely focused. Joe Wright, director, and Edward McCarten, writer, confine their two dark hours of screen time to a couple of critical weeks in May 1940, when Hitler’s invasion of Norway precipitated Neville Chamberlain’s retreat from Downing Street. Aside from some rather elaborately choreographed overhead shots and a lush grandiose score, Darkest Hour is filmed claustrophobically – in poky sitting rooms, Downing Street basements, attics, Westminster ante-rooms, and chilly lavatories; the lighting is crepuscular. The fate of the world is being determined, but we never glimpse the far horizons, only the dingy backrooms.

What happened that month was a showdown between the two principal contenders for the Prime Ministership, Mr Churchill and Lord Halifax. Stephen Dillane is excellent as Halifax, the vulpine cadaver looking down (in every sense) from the Commons gallery at Churchill’s turns at the dispatch box. Unfortunately, aside from skillful deployments of his inscrutable yet condescending eyebrows, he gets somewhat short shrift on screen, so as a Churchill vs Halifax cage match it never quite comes off – presumably because the third Viscount Halifax is entirely unknown in Hollywood, and thus a tricky pitch. (“Third Viscount Halifax? Hey, let’s see what the first two gross before we commit to that…”)

This is a pity, because the two men were on opposite ends of the seesaw, and, capacious as Churchill’s bottom is, most of the other players – the King, Chamberlain, the parliamentary party, defeatist generals, Dominion prime ministers around the globe – were inclined to park their own butts down Halifax’s end. On May 10th, the day Winston became PM, the Germans invaded Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Ten days later, Hitler’s army reached the Channel, and was within reach of throttling the 300,000-strong British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, and seizing the entire French fleet. In that dreadful month of May, Churchill wanted to fight on; Halifax preferred to use Mussolini’s “good offices” to sue for a “peace” that would leave Britain and its empire more or less “intact” – save for East Africa, Suez, Malta, Gibraltar and sundry other places that would have to be addressed, per the Italian ambassador in London, “as part of a general European settlement”.

Bassem Youssef and the Self-Imposed Limitations of the Nice Muslim Review of “Tickling Giants” and “Revolution for Dummies.” Danusha V. Goska

Tickling Giants is a 111-minute, 2017 documentary that tells the story of “Egypt’s Jon Stewart.” Tickling Giants is produced, written and directed by Sara Taksler. She’s a relative unknown who does a technically excellent job, earning her 100% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes.

Bassem Youssef is a cardiothoracic surgeon with movie-star looks and charisma. In 2011, when he was 37, he began broadcasting satirical commentary on the Arab Spring. He produced videos in the laundry room of his apartment and posted them on YouTube. He hoped for a few thousand hits. He reached millions of viewers.

Youssef graduated to TV. An estimated forty million viewers watched his show – the largest ratings in Egyptian TV history. Jon Stewart had around two million viewers per show. Tickling Giants’ account of Youssef’s career is captivating and inspirational, occasionally funny and often quite sad. It was shot mostly in Cairo. Unless I blinked and missed it, you never see a pyramid, but, rather, street scenes, traffic, the Nile, and protests in Tahrir Square. Tickling Giants depicts appreciative Egyptian audiences gathering in outdoor cafes to laugh at Youssef’s show on big-screen TVs.

Youssef satirized Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hosni Mubarak, Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian army and Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Youssef faced tighter and tighter restrictions on what he could say. He and his staff faced greater and greater personal threats. Thugs, possibly paid by the government, chanted “Death to Youssef” outside his studio. An imam discussed whether it would be permissible to kill Youssef. The imam counseled, “Not yet.” Youssef’s collaborator, Tarek, had to abandon Egypt. Tarek’s father and brother were arrested and held for months without any reason. Youssef himself eventually was forced out of Egypt. Tickling Giants ends with Youssef in exile, giving talks in support of free speech at prestigious awards ceremonies in Western nations. He now lives in the US with his wife and children.

Youssef’s show had a large staff of creative, young, dynamos. The scenes of these idealists gazing out the window of their offices at the thugs calling for their deaths, and the arrival of armed troops to form a cordon in front of their studio, reminded me of life in Poland in 1989. The year that Soviet-imposed Polish communism breathed its last, I participated in demonstrations organized by the Orange Alternative, a group that undermined the authorities through humor. We held a rally celebrating the Red Army. Young Polish rebels gave elaborate, satirical speeches expressing “gratitude” for being “liberated” by the Russians.

As fine as Tickling Giants is, and as much as I could identify with its revolutionary spirit, I kept seeing the empty spaces where the censor’s X-Acto knife had sliced out key elements of the Arab Spring story.

In 2011, the year Youssef’s show launched, journalist Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted by hundreds of men in Tahrir Square. They called her a Jew. She is not Jewish. The assailants used their cellphones to record their assault.

That same year, the otherwise anonymous “Girl in the Blue Bra” was dragged across pavement, beaten with batons, and kicked by Egyptian military. After they stripped off her abaya, one soldier stepped directly on her breasts, clothed only in a blue bra. Her abused image traveled round the world. Hillary Clinton decried “the systematic degradation of Egyptian women.”

Tahrir Square is inextricably linked with taharrush. Men encircle women, sexually assault them, and video-record the assaults. Al Akhbar describes taharrush as a “prominent feature” of life in Egypt, and reports that Egyptian women as well as men tend to blame the victim. President Sisi visited a taharrush victim in the hospital. The Guardian, a liberal newspaper, ran an article entitled, “80 Sexual Assaults in One Day – The Other Story Of Tahrir Square.” During New Year’s celebrations in 2015-16, Muslim men committed mass sexual assaults in Europe. Maajid Nawaz and others pointed to Tahrir Square as the possible petri dish of this contagion.

In Tickling Giants, the protestors are all right-thinking idealists, engaged in a communal effort as wholesome as an Amish barn-raising. Women are prominent as onscreen spokespersons.

Meryl Streep Gives Worst Performance in ‘Me Too’ Campaign By Robin Dolgin

Meryl Streep learned a painful lesson about falling out of favor with her liberal admirers in Hollywood last year: the left eats its own.

She paid dearly for playing the dumb card when confronted about her silence on routinely collaborating with the worst serial sexual predator among the titans in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein. “One thing can be clarified,” Ms. Streep assured her fellow thespians who were launching the “#MeToo” campaign calling out sexual predators on social media. “Not everyone knew,” she asserts. “I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate coercive acts.”

Living in a bubble does have its disadvantages for the three-time Oscar-winner. Ms. Streep’s sanitary use of the words “inappropriate coercive acts” falls hopelessly short of touching on the outrage experienced by the legions of women who suffered blatant sexual assault or violent rape by the now world-famous serial abuser.

Unfortunately, Streep kept going off script, digging herself into a deeper hole as she attempted to explain herself to her colleagues. She referred to the dozens of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein as an “example of disrespect” to her fellow actors during a women’s conference in Boston. “No Meryl, it’s a [f——] crime,” wrote Rose McGowan, the actress who heads the “#MeToo” campaign on social media. “You are such a lie,” McGowan added, referencing the elder thespian’s claim of ignorance of Weinstein’s 30-year sexual rampage stretching across several states in the U.S., encompassing at least two countries in Europe, and impacting the lives of dozens of victims and possibly hundreds of bystanders.

The full weight of the liberal left came down to bear on Streep at the end of 2017. Humiliation is a major form of protest in the progressive community, oftentimes mercilessly targeting victims deemed un-P.C. In this case, Streep wasn’t mocked with a “pussy hat” campaign, but her likeness appeared on hundreds of posters with two words symbolically covering up her eyesight, “She Knew,” which were posted throughout the Los Angeles area (i.e., the center of Tinseltown). Repackaging the truth in attacking President Trump never hurt Streep’s professional standing, but now she’s being held accountable for her words by liberals who are diverting from the same groupthink narrative.

Crown Jewels A new miniseries only goes halfway in depicting its royal subject. Stefan Kanfer

When Upstairs, Downstairs became an international hit, British television producers assumed that they could quickly come up with another dramatized exposé of country-house life. Wrong again. It took the BBC—in a joint-production venture with Netflix—four decades to create Downton Abbey, a series in which the butler and the cook were every bit as engaging as Lord and Lady Downton.

Now the Brits have another smash—but this one marks a significant departure from its predecessors. In The Crown, what happens below stairs stays below stairs. This drama is all about the current Queen Elizabeth, from the time of her childhood, through initiation into the roiled world of royal worldlings, to her difficult marriage, to her troubled middle age and ultimately, after she learns to connect with the British public, her serene senior years.

In Parts I and II, Elizabeth (deftly played by Claire Foy) watches her odious, Nazi-sympathizing uncle, King Edward VIII (Alex Jennings, in a tour de force performance), abdicate the throne to wed a commoner. Then she witnesses her stuttering, publicity-shy father (Jared Harris) take over (The King’s Speech built an epic drama on these shortcomings). Alas, before his elder daughter is ready to wear the crown, King George VI dies of lung cancer.

The new queen is so innocent that the staff, out of earshot, refer to her as Shirley Temple. The naivete is not to last. Elizabeth’s new husband Prince Philip (Matt Smith) assumes the responsibility of her sexual education. But the political and social schooling is led by Winston Churchill (John Lithgow), the lion at sunset. The prime minister is determined that this young lady absorb the basics of regal propriety, diplomatic lingo, and British back-bench maneuvering. She starts out abysmally ignorant of all three.

Sir Winston is a shrewd tutor, but he is also infirm. As Elizabeth grows, she learns to lean on her courtiers. Soon she finds a way to show nothing in her face, to express little in her speeches, and to exert control while seeming to be above the considerations of politics and the Great Game of a shrinking empire. But this mastery of form demands a mask of remoteness lacking human sympathy. Elizabeth alienates Prince Philip, turning him into a distant consort who would rather make merry than make tours. She refuses to allow her sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) to wed the man she loves because RAF hero Peter Townsend (Ben Miles) is divorced and therefore anathema to the Church of England, which Elizabeth nominally heads. Of greater significance, she takes an unseen hand in national policy, chews out the occasional prime minister, and makes sure to kick the ailing Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam) when he’s down.

Civilization’s ‘Darkest Hour’ Hits the Silver Screen A masterful new film shows how Churchill saved the world from Nazi Germany in May of 1940. By Victor Davis Hanson

The new film Darkest Hour offers the diplomatic side to the recent action movie Dunkirk.

The story unfolds with the drama of British prime minister Winston Churchill’s assuming power during the Nazi invasion of France in May 1940. Churchill’s predecessor, the sickly Neville Chamberlain, had lost the confidence of the English people and the British government. His appeasement of Adolf Hitler and the disastrous first nine months of World War II seemed to have all but lost Britain the war.

Churchill was asked to become prime minister on the very day that Hitler invaded France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The armies of all three democracies — together larger than Germany’s invading forces — collapsed within days or a few weeks.

About a third of a million British soldiers stranded in a doomed France were miraculously saved by Churchill’s bold decision to risk evacuating them by sea from Dunkirk, France, where most of what was left of the British Expeditionary Force had retreated.

Churchill’s greatest problem was not just saving the British army but confronting the reality that, with the German conquest of Europe, the British Empire now had no allies.

The Soviet Union had all but joined Hitler’s Germany under their infamous non-aggression pact of August 1939.

The United States was determined at all costs to remain neutral. Just how neutral is emphasized in Darkest Hour by Churchill’s sad phone call with U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR cleverly assures Churchill that in theory he wants to help while in fact he can do nothing.

Within days of Churchill’s taking office, all of what is now the European Union either would be in Hitler’s hands or could be considered pro-Nazi “neutral.”

Darkest Hour gets its title from the understandable depression that had spread throughout the British government. Members of Churchill’s new war cabinet wanted to sue for peace. Chamberlain and senior conservative politician Edward Wood both considered Churchill unhinged for believing Britain could survive.

Both appeasers dreamed that thuggish Italian dictator Benito Mussolini might be persuaded to beg Hitler to call off his planned invasion of Great Britain. They dreamed Mussolini could save a shred of English dignity through an arranged British surrender.