WEIRDLAND: February 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Luckiest Girl Alive (Mila Kunis), Promising Young Woman (Carey Mulligan), Andy Samberg

If she wasn’t already, Mila Kunis is now the “Luckiest Girl Alive,” signing on to star in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel for Netflix. Kunis stars as Ani Fanelli in the upcoming film, based on Jessica Knoll’s 2015 New York Times best-selling thriller about a New York magazine editor whose “meticulously crafted life” is upended when a crime documentary forces her to relive the shocking truths of a devastating incident from her teenage years. The “Bad Moms,” “Black Swan” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” star will also produce the project under her Orchard Farm Productions banner. The film is being shepherded by producers Bruna Papandrea and Jeanne Snow for Made Up Stories and Erik Feig and Lucy Kitada for Picturestart, the latter of which will oversee the production. Papandrea and Feig have been attached to produce “Luckiest Girl Alive” since they acquired the rights to Knoll’s best-seller novel in 2015. 

Novel Spoilers: The plot twist is that you don't know if Ani has been telling us a true story or if she actually did orchestrate and participate in her school shooting. That is why the police officer sarcastically called her The Luckiest Girl Alive. Because you would have to be lucky to survive a horrific murder spree that killed all your enemies and you escape without a scratch. You really think Arthur just offered her the gun without her being in on it? You really think she could have overpowered big Arthur the mass murderer without him thinking she was his friend? There is a good chance her prints are on the gun because she shot Dean, who had assaulted her sexually. It's the classic twist of the unreliable narrator. Knoll is adapting the screenplay and will serve as an executive producer on the film, directed by Mike Barker. Source:

Cassie’s escapades are ultimately self-destructive, and Promising Young Woman becomes as much about retribution as the difficulty of moving on after trauma. We can thank Carey Mulligan for helping to bring such emotional weight to Fennell’s weird scripted material. Mulligan connects Cassie’s strength with her vulnerability; there’s a rawness and pain that belies the anger of her performance. She nails Cassie’s unhinged and unhealthy state of mind in a key sequence, scored to Wagner’s darkly epic piece “Liebestod” from Tristan and Isolde, when she attacks a jerk’s pickup truck with a crowbar. While audiences might initially enjoy watching her smash the guy’s windshield, the camera pulls back to reveal Cassie as a wounded and solitary individual. The romance seems a bit of a box to check, at least initially, but Burnham is quite charming, and the writing at the end of their first date scene is so precise and so well observed, it’s sort of startling. Mulligan and Burnham have a sweet, unforced chemistry; you’re really pulling for them, which is sort of cruel (but effective). Promising Young Woman builds to a truly shocking climax that delivers Fennell’s themes with a dark and twisted sense of humour—and justice. It’s a clever and unexpected turn in a film full of surprises. Cassie's ending is not happy, but it's heroic. And the end credit music is a song called “Last Laugh,” which may feel victorious. Source:

Kaiser (Celebitchy): I ordinarily ignore Andy Samberg around here. It’s not a judgment on him at all–I think he’s incredibly cute and very funny, in a goofy-hot-boy-that-I-would-loved-in-college way. Anyway, I usually ignore him because I guess I think that no one else is that interested in him. Because I rarely–if ever?–pay attention to Andy Samberg at a gossip-level, I was pleasantly surprised by his Men’s Journal cover story. Did you know that Andy is 42 years old? Did you know that he’s been married to indie singer Joanna Newsom since 2013? Whom he started to date in 2008. Before Joanna, the only dating rumors about Andy were with Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst around 2006, according to Star magazine. "Star magazine exclusively reveals that Kirsten Dunst, 23, is dating Saturday Night Live funny man Andy Samberg, 27. On March 20, the two were seen getting cozy at Hollywood’s uber-trendy Hotel Café during a Jose Gonzalez concert. Goodbye Jake Gyllenhaal, goodbye Josh Hartnett and goodbye Tobey Maguire. Kirsten has lucked out with Andy. An eyewitness says he is quite the gentleman! There was no way Kirsten was getting back together with Jake Gyllenhaal." 

Did you know that Andy Samberg and Joanna Newsom met when he attended incognito one of her concerts and wrote her a love letter? He said Joanna was his "favorite person in the world." They have a little daughter and they’ve never released their daughter’s name publicly, and Andy still won’t refer to his daughter by her name in the media. Andy says "the birth of my daughter was the best moment of my life." This Men’s Journal piece also quotes several of his female co-workers, and they all are like “he’s a really woke ally to women.” The Mad Men/Don Draper spoof that Andy Samberg performed in the 67th edition of the 2015 Emmys was a perfect example of having the right instinct to start a great spoof and then just drive it off the rails. Jon Hamm confessed having felt mortified in a good way.

-Did you have a personal preference when it comes to breakups? Have you been usually the dumper or the dumpee?

-Andy Samberg: I’ve had my share of both. Actually, I don’t feel I’ve ever dumped anyone. It’s never been, “You know what? I’ve decided I don’t like you.” It’s been usually about the circumstances. I had a girlfriend in college, then I transferred because I wanted to go to film school, and the long distance made our relationship impossible. Things like that tended to happen to me. Not that I haven’t had some brutal breakups in the past. One time I was dating an actress and she told me, “Hey, I thought I was going to be on location for a film shoot for the next six months and now it looks like I won’t be, so we should break up.” I was like, “Okey dokey. I can tell I was really important to you.”

-You were voted the class clown in your high school. Did that title come with bragging rights?

-Andy Samberg: Remember, I went to Berkeley High, and being voted the best at anything was not something you bragged about. I had a friend who was six-five, superbuff, the blonde quarterback. We all made fun of him for being the quarterback. Berkeley is the inverse of the rest of America. We’d be like, “Oh great, you’re the quarterback. How cliché. We get it, you’re so handsome and talented.” Nobody got more ripped on than the quarterback at our high school. Source:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' by Adam Curtis, Kerry Thornley and Lee Harvey Oswald

'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' (2021), Adam Curtis' new documentary suggests our innate flaws are what's holding society back and argues humanity’s worst enemy is itself. A new BBC documentary series from Bafta-winning filmmaker Adam Curtis has been broadly welcomed by critics. Several hailed the six-part series as "dazzling" and "terrifying", but others said it was "incoherent" and left them confused. Curtis has described it as an "emotional history of the modern world". It chronicles growing anxieties in the western world, and to do so, it takes in the scope of centuries, the influential stories of lesser-sung players and the ever-shifting tides of human psychology – and how the world’s power structures have, throughout generations, sought to bend it to their will. Luckily, he gives us a glimmer of a way out. “The ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make,” reads the keynote quote from American anarchist David Graeber, “and could just as easily make differently.” Our innate pessimism amid such an intricate and immutable world order, however, has us leaving Can’t Get You Out Of My Head fearing the worst. “Again and again,” Curtis says, “we’re getting this knocking at the door, whether it be the Occupy movement or Donald Trump or Brexit or Black Lives Matter, all arguing that there is something wrong and corrupted with the system of power. It’s always shooting out of the ground from different sources and I don’t think that it’s going to go away. But no one seems to have come up with what the alternative would be. What I’m trying to do in these films is explain why we feel so helpless and yet we want change.” The key to understanding today’s human population, it argues, is in recognising its subconscious patterns of behaviour. But the series itself exposes our most self-defeating pattern: that our innate flaws are destined to destroy any dream society we might ever imagine. That rotten systems are never really overthrown, they just mutate, that power breeds corruption, that political and social ideals are incompatible with human failings. As Curtis points out, all major world leaders have run out of ideological ideas, so we’d better get busy formulating something non-catastrophic to come next. In the first part of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain), there are several references to JFK, Jim Garrison and Kerry Thornley. Source:

Jim DiEugenio: In 1965, Kerry Thornley wrote a manuscript entitled Oswald which would be published as The Idle Warriors in 1991. This book shocks you when Thornely reveals the fact that E. Howard Hunt was stationed at Atsugi Air base at the same time Lee Harvey Oswald was there. Anybody can easily connect the dots of Oswald to the legendary CIA operative Hunt. Thornley also acknowledged there were many coincidences he was personally involved with and he may have been unwittingly manipulated by the conspirators. Some of the claims he makes in The Idle Warriors include numerous meetings in New Orleans with Gary Kirstein and Slim Brooks, who both–like Thornley–disliked Kennedy. Thornley clearly lied about not seeing Oswald in the summer of 1963 in New Orleans. And Garrison rightly indicted him for perjury before the grand jury. There is simply no way around this with the declassified evidence. Beyond that, two of the witnesses, Doris Dowell and Bernard Goldsmith, testified that Thornley had told them Oswald was not a communist. Thornley was used by the Warren Commission, perhaps more than any other witness, to paint Oswald as a communist. The new evidence states Thornley was so close to LHO that he actually visited him at his home. (Affidavit of Myrtle La Savia, who lived a block away) Once Thornley became a person of interest to Jim Garrison, he became protected by higher authorities. Thornley left for Florida, and according to records unearthed by Garrison's investigators, he owned two fancy houses, one in Tampa and another in Miami. Not bad for a guy who had worked as a waiter and a doorman. 

Kerry Thornley had moved to New Orleans in February of 1961, which coincided with the preparations in the Crescent City shifting into high gear over the upcoming Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. David Ferrie and Guy Banister were operating in places like Belle Chase naval air station and Banister’s office at 544 Camp Street. In fact, because of the ARRB, we first found out about the training grounds at Belle Chase from file releases in the nineties about Ferrie. He worked there as a trainer for the CIA, under the auspices of his friend Sergio Archada Smith, who worked for the CIA under State Department cover. With the move to the Crescent City, Thornley was now going to run into a group of people who also knew Oswald and they were associated with this anti-Castro, CIA associated movement. This group was called the Friends of Democratic Cuba (FDC). It was a shell company created by the CIA and FBI, “which involved the shipment and transportation of individuals and supplies in and out of Cuba.” The man who was supposed to be the recipient of this merchandise was Sergio Archada Smith. Members of the committee were Grady Durham and Bill Dalzell, the latter was a CIA operative and friend of Clay Shaw. Thornley himself admitted having shown his Oswald manuscript to Guy Banister in his introduction to The Idle Warriors. The Commission wanted Thornley to bring all drafts of his book The Idle Warriors with him. Thornley's main liaison with the Warren Commission was Albert Jenner. To me, in terms of sheer incrimination and character assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, Thornley ranks with Ruth and Michael Paine, George DeMohrenschildt, and Carlos Bringuier. Thornley was very valuable by offering his portrayal of Oswald as a sociopathic Marxist. And he is duly quoted in the Warren Report in three damaging passages. 

In a memorandum Thornley wrote on October 24, 1967, he expresses trepidations about Jim Garrison. By letter, he now begins to dictate terms to Garrison. One of those terms ended up being he would only meet Garrison's assistant DA Andy Sciambra at NASA, which was the place where many of those who worked with Oswald at Reily Coffee Company had been later transferred. Apparently, coffee grinders make good aerospace designers. As he entered the establishment, Sciambra recalled thinking that, if someone like Thornley could command entry into such a place, then Garrison probably didn’t stand a chance in Hades of winning out. Obviously, Thornley did not just call NASA and say: I need a secure room to meet with an opposing attorney; put me next to a rocket silo, so he gets the message. No, not Thornley. Someone did that for him. Someone involved in protecting him.In one of the declassifications revealed by the ARRB, the CIA admitted that it ran something called a Cleared Attorneys Panel in major cities—one of them being New Orleans during the Garrison investigation. The existence of this panel was first exposed in a classified letter by attorney James Quaid to CIA Director Richard Helms on May 13, 1967. In that letter, which was declassified relatively early in the ARRB process, Quaid asked to be placed on the CIA’s preferred list of lawyers in New Orleans. As for his perjury, as shown above, there isn’t much that Thornley was not lying about, or at least equivocating upon. And it’s a shame that we had to wait until the ARRB to get the evidence. But yet, Thornley then admitted to both Doris Dowell and Bernard Goldsmith that he knew Oswald was not a communist. How can one explain such behavior? I believe it’s not explainable, unless we allow that Thornley was playing a role, his motivation being his almost pathological hatred of JFK, which David Lifton cannot bring himself to confront. In 1992 on the syndicated program A Current Affair, Thornley said, “I would have stood there with a rifle and pulled the trigger if I would have had the chance.” (Program of 2/25/92) Source:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Saint Valentine Day, Palm Springs

Palm Springs (2020) #15 of the Best Romantic Comedies by Rotten Tomatoes. There have been so many riffs on the “Groundhog Day” formula that it can sometimes feel like the movies themselves are stuck in an endless time loop, but each subsequent iteration has tweaked the original in some way. “50 First Dates” stripped away the unexplainable metaphysics of it all for a romantic comedy mixed with Oliver Sacks's theories. “Edge of Tomorrow” added aliens and “Gears of War” cosplay to the mix. “Before I Fall” applied Harold Ramis’ concept to teen anxieties, “Happy Death Day” added a horror twist. And yet, despite “Groundhog Day” becoming a genre unto itself, Max Barbakow’s witty and wise “Palm Springs” is the first movie that doesn’t just apply that old formula to a new problem, but also fundamentally alters the basics of the equation. It’s a simple adjustment, and yet the difference feels as radical and transformative as pouring milk into a bowl of cereal. What if, instead of relegating one person to a cyclical purgatory they’re forced to repeat over and over until they learn the error of their ways, you relegated two people to the same pocket of the Twilight Zone? Imagine spending the rest of your meaningless existence with the same person. Imagine being stuck in a perpetually static purgatory where meaningful change can only be seen through the eyes of the other person suffering alongside you. 

But Nyles (Andy Samberg in one of his most realist performances) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti, a delightful force of comic impetus) aren’t married — they don’t even know each other — and the bleak desert wedding aisle is where they first meet. Nyles is there with his Instagram model girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner), who refuses him sex and cheats on him. But Misty isn’t the only reason why Nyles is depressed (“we’re all just lost” he mopes to anyone within earshot), or why Samberg exudes a disaffected Bill Murray vibe even before the premise reveals itself. That might have more to do with the fact that he’s woken up at this wedding a million times before, and he’s running out of ways to pass the time. The first masterstroke of Andy Siara’s relentlessly clever script is that it starts with its lead character already stranded in a limbo. Not that Sarah is up to speed. The older sister of the bride (Camila Mendes) and the black sheep of her family, Sarah is sick of herself even before she gets stuck. She doesn’t seem to be all that charmed by the super disaffected guy who wore a Hawaiian shirt to a fancy wedding, but the fact that Nyles doesn’t know her is a good enough reason to make out with him under the stars. 

The overarching plot of “Palm Springs” isn’t especially novel, but each scene is just sweet, funny, and demented enough to feel like a little surprise. Andy Siara’s script is delightful for how it beats you to the punch, running through all of the hilarious things Nyles might do to amuse himself in a deathless world (the brutally sarcastic way he says “I’ve never considered the multiverse”). But if Nyles has been stuck there long enough to have mastered every possible move, Sarah changes everything by introducing a code-breaking new variable. Something interesting I observed about the movie... do you even notice how an average romcom has little backstory about the female lead? And practically her whole point of existence in the movie is for the male lead to have a turning point? I felt a gender-reversal for that concept with this movie. We got to know so much about Sarah’s life and why she is the way she is. But we know little to nothing about Nyles life. The film cleverly makes that point right at the end when they are floating in the pool and he says “oh I have a dog, Fred, a Shaggy dog type.” The chemistry between Samberg and Milioti is off the charts and there is a sweetness in their relationship that is severely lacking these days. “Palm Springs” isn’t as magical whenever Nyles and Sarah aren’t together onscreen. If anything, “Palm Springs” has a smart pro-marriage message at a time when so many of today’s kids seem ready to relegate the very concept of marriage to “ok, boomer” status. 

On the other hand, the movie is so touching and sharp about the ideas it chooses to spotlight that — like a loving marriage — the joy it provides is more than enough to make up for the paths it doesn’t travel. Less weighty and immense than “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” but similarly concerned with the value of romantic partnership, “Palm Springs” offers a novel way to explore why the decision to share your life with someone can be more than just a band-aid placed atop a gaping wound of loneliness. Sure, “Groundhog Day” arrives at essentially the same place, but this winsome bauble of a movie is uniquely eager to embrace the idea that life isn’t quite as limitless as it seems. There are only so many things you can do in this world. As Nyles whines after we first meet him: “It’s always today.” And he’s right. But seeing your life reflected back at you through someone else’s eyes can make it that much easier to appreciate what happened yesterday, and look forward to tomorrow. In the original script, Siara clearly hints that Nyles's experimental tryst with his black friend Jeff is a prank.


NYLES: (he laughs) It turns out I’m not really into dudes.

Nyles gathers their burrito wrappers and tosses each of them over his shoulder across the patio, directly into the trash. Source:

Friday, February 12, 2021

Oliver Stone's JFK: Destiny Betrayed will debut on Cannes Film Festival, Sons of Camelot (JFK Jr.)

Oliver Stone has confirmed to have finished a documentary on the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, which will premiere at the 2021 Cannes film festival (July 6July 17). His groundbreaking JFK film (206 minutes in his director's cut), took the form of a fascinating labyrinth on a crucial event of the twentieth century, whose ramifications are still mysterious for many people. Clifford Krauss reported in the New York Times that members of the Kennedy family had supported Stone's movie JFK. Obviously, Oliver Stone is not done with this subject, since he filmed a new documentary on JFK and the inaccuracies of the Warren report. Stone also specified that “JFK: Destiny Betrayed” (his new documentary) is estimated to last four hours. Stone explained he is having a hard time finding a distributor. Both Netflix and National Geographic turned down the documentary as a result of unapproved fact checks. “Where are you going to find this information except in this film?” Stone questioned. “If they do a fact check, according to conventional sources, of course it’ll come out like it doesn't fit to the official facts. It’s about real facts that are very shocking to people.” Nevertheless, the filmmaker also explained that his project will see the light this summer: “Cannes invited us for July this year. This is a big step for us because at least if we are not recognized in America, it will be recognized internationally. Where are you going to find such information except in the film? If they verified the facts, agreeing with conventional sources, of course the film is going to be considered incorrect. How can you prove this to be true? It is very, very difficult.” Suffice to say that with such comments, we are even more curious to see this new film by Oliver Stone, who has not signed a feature film since Snowden in 2016. AGC, the TV production-distribution division of Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, is considering to acquire the rights of Stone's documentary. 

In this new doc-series, Oliver Stone and writer James DiEugenio, author of “Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case,” place now declassified files related to President Kennedy’s assassination in a far larger context, aiming to shine more light on what really happened in 1963. Coming in on the assassination from the angle of Kennedy’s far-reaching policy speeches that threatened the status-quo, Stone will “reveal that Kennedy’s foreign policy actions were revolutionary in many ways and were a conscious decision he had been contemplating for a decade before taking office,” said an AGC executive. “Stone will put Kennedy’s assassination in context politically, and present interviews, documents, and forensics reports that will change forever how Kennedy’s life, political career, and assassination will be considered.” Those interviewed in the series include John Tunheim, chairman of the Assassination Records Review Board, criminologist Henry Lee, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., James Galbraith, and Salon founder David Talbot (author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government). “It’s not an exaggeration to state that this series will feature the most distinguished collection of talent and knowledge on the JFK case ever assembled,” said Talbot. Stone added: “This documentary film represents an important bookend to my 1991 film. It ties up many loose threads, and hopefully repudiates much of the ignorance around the case and the movie.” “JFK: Destiny Betrayed” reunites Stone with ace cinematographer Robert Richardson (“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” “Nixon,” “The Aviator”), who won the first of his three Academy Awards for “JFK.” 

Oliver Stone: “There’s no chain of custody on the magic bullet, which is called CE-399. There’s also no chain of custody on this damn rifle, the Mannlicher-Carcano, which Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of shooting. I don’t want to go into the details, but we can’t account for who was in possession of the bullets and the rifle at various times. It’s a mess. Then we got more detail than ever showing that there was a huge back-of-the-head wound in Kennedy, which clearly indicates a shot from the front. It’s also clear that the autopsy from Bethesda was completely fraudulent. And there’s Vietnam. No historian can now honestly say that the Vietnam War was Kennedy’s child. That’s crucial. The last thing is the C.I.A. connection to Oswald. We have a stronger case, not only for post-Russia but also for pre-Russia. In other words, he was working with the C.I.A. before he went and when he came back. Those are the main points. Those who are interested will find it’s pretty clear that J.F.K. was murdered by forces that were powerful in our government. We point the finger at a couple of individuals. But I don’t want to get into that here. Now, why do I have to do this? I’m doing the documentary for the record so that you can see for yourself what the evidence is. That’s all. Eventually it will be out. Even if it’s on YouTube”. Source:

“John F. Kennedy Jr. considered himself a crusader in the tradition of his father JFK and uncle Robert Kennedy, for equal justice for minorities and the poor,” journalist Leon Wagner claims. “John was outraged by the idea that the people who had the least ability to defend themselves would be most vulnerable thanks to Joe Biden’s 1994 crime bill, and he called Biden 'a traitor'.” At age 39, John Jr had made up his mind to launch his political career by seeking an electoral mandate in New York State, and he was about to announce it publicly. He had also expressed to his friends his ambition to ultimately reach for the presidency. Given his personality and his popularity, he had high chances to make it in less than 20 years. He might realistically have become U.S. president in 2008 or 2016. Brought up in the worship of his father, John Jr had taken a keen interest in “conspiracy theories” about his death at least since his late teens. His knowledge deepened in his thirties, made him aware of State and media cover-ups in other affairs, and motivated him to publish, eight months before his death, a cover article by Oliver Stone, director of the groundbreaking film JFK, titled “Our Counterfeit History”. Pierre Salinger believed JFK Jr. would have run for president in 2000. “There seemed little doubt in the minds of those who knew him that John was on the brink of a bright political future. He was probably a more natural politician than any of the other Kennedys," historian David Halberstam said, “and that includes his father. John had all the makings of a political superstar.’” 

Laurence Leamer (author of The Kennedy Men and Sons of Camelot) said in an interview for FOX News, 2004: “John Kennedy Jr was very serious about running for the Senate. In fact, he'd talked to Roger Ailes (FOX CEO) about his political plans. And Roger Ailes, who's a great political expert, said that he thought that John had a big chance of becoming senator in New York. So he was hoping to run for it. But he was very upset with Hillary Clinton. Despite the Kennedy myth, I don't think John Kennedy Jr was so liberal. I think so many people associated him to be so far in leaning to the left. But he was a centrist Democrat, and he wanted to do his campaign the right way. When his cousin, Patrick Kennedy, ran for the state legislature in Rhode Island when he was 21 years old, all of the Kennedy money came there to get this young man into office. On election day, John was there at one of the polling places and a photographer took some Polaroids of his cousin. An incumbent came in and John went up to him and said, "You know, this is not the way this should be done. This is not the way you should win an election." So John wanted to wait until he was ready to win an election because he really cared about doing the right way and was going to come out and ask for people's votes in the right way. John was sharp as a tack and not easily fooled. He had his father’s gift of being able to ask just the right questions. There were some early polls which indicated he would have done quite well had he run. Actually John was ahead of Hillary, but he was just too much of a gentleman. In fact, that was one of his problems. He just was too nice. I mean Hillary came in, she was the carpetbagger. He should have gone into that race and would have won. But today, you aren't going to win an election because you're a Kennedy. In fact, you know, in the last couple of elections, the young Kennedys have lost the Senate. They all have lost. So the Kennedy name is not enough anymore, that's for sure. Why are we still so fascinated with the Kennedys themselves? Because the drama is just so overwhelming. It's the ultimate immigrant drama. It's the American story to the Ninth degree. The promise they had when we think of JFK. And he was a symbol, we remember when JFK died and then there was such closure with his son dying so young and promising. It really was the beginning of Camelot with JFK and Jackie. What we have witnessed it's essentially the end of that romantic idea with the death of John Kennedy Jr.” Source:

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Palm Springs, White Guilt, Homo Americanus

The Academy Awards recently announced inclusion thresholds for Best Picture category, and while promoting Palm Springs, Andy Samberg had a few key words to those who took issue with the very strict, very limiting, very much not doing the least parameters: "The Oscars thing, people having issues with that, it’s insane. The parameters, if you look at them closely, you could have the whitest cast in the history of cinema and still very easily meet them by just doing a few roles behind the camera. People that have problems with it can fuck off." Samberg and Milioti are wonderful and deserve a lot of credit for their commitment to their roles. The "trope" of two people who seemingly despise each other before magically falling in love has a long history. Consider Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant flinging vicious verbal barbs at one another in "His Girl Friday," all while being sucked into each others' orbit. The question is: "Who else could put up with either one of these people? They're perfect for each other." Falling in love is not what either Nyles or Sarah expected in their lives. After all, back in the real world, Nyles dated Misty, by all appearances a cheating nightmare (although Meredith Hagner is hilarious), and Sarah spends her time self-medicating and covering up her self-pity with a jaded exterior. 

"Palm Springs" is genuinely romantic, in a way that sadly feels old-fashioned (but isn't). People get bruised by past experiences in love, and they barricade themselves off from hurt. This becomes a habit, and the habit then becomes your personality. "Wait until the right person comes along" assumes that people stay as open and vulnerable as they were when they were young. But when you've been knocked around by life, love is not necessarily a 100% positive experience. Love comes with other painful things attached: regret, fear, mistrust. "Palm Springs" explores it all. Along with the screenplay, Palm Springs only manages to pull this off because of the undeniable chemistry shared between Samberg and Milioti. Their dynamics—Nyles’ silly sense of humor and Sarah’s robust cynicism— match for a fantastical love story. The duo is a delight together and manages to lean into both the comedic and dramatic elements that are required of them. Andy Samberg, known more for his comedy skills on SNL than dramatic acting chops, is at his very best here. Source:

The 2021 Critics Choice Awards nominations announced on February 8 are topped by “Mank” with a leading of 12 bids, followed by the surging “Minari” at 10. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” has eight nominations followed by “News of the World” with seven. “Nomadland,” “One Night in Miami,” “Promising Young Woman” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7”—each reaped six bids while “Sound of Metal” and “Tenet” have five. All of these titles save for “Sound of Metal” make up our predicted Top 10 nominees for Best Picture at the Oscars. “The Midnight Sky” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” have three bids, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” and “Pieces of a Woman” got two and in the one nomination category are: “Malcolm and Marie”, “Palm Springs”, “Soul” and “The Way Back”. Winners of the 2021 Critics Choice Awards will be revealed on March 7 during a live CW telecast. This is two days after Oscar nominations voting begins; whose roster of nominations will be revealed on March 15 and the 93rd Academy Awards are announced on April 25. Source:

The expression “White guilt,” along with hundreds of similarly ill-defined terms that have sprung up in the USA over the last fifty years, is just an embellished follow-up term of the now defunct Soviet-Speak, which likewise contained a myriad of similar surreal nouns and convoluted phrases, such as “domestic fascist terrorists,”  “antifascist struggle,” “economic self-management,” “peaceful  coexistence,” “interethnic  tolerance,” etc.  The Liberal System in the US and EU, along with its legal and academic apparatchiks, is now in the belated process of updating this old Bolshevik language. One must look firstly at the period starting with 1945 and after, a period which brought about not just a new political order, but also marked the beginning of the use of a new sanitized political vocabulary. Defeated Germany bore the brunt of the new notion of the political, although citizens in the victorious US and the UK swiftly followed suit with their own self-flagellating rhetoric. Words such as “colonialism,” “segregation,” “racial distancing,” “apartheid,” and “fascism,” soon became the metaphors for the absolute evil, with “fascism” now denoting pretty much anything to the right of center. Over the last seventy-five years, the West has embarked on a penitential passion play whose effects can be observed today in most media outlets. What is frequently overlooked, however, is that guilt-tripping Whites in the realm of politics has been unfolding hand in hand with a gradual criminalization of the White cultural heritage. The destructive role of the Frankfurt school and its mostly Jewish-Marxist scholars in instilling the concept of White guilt has been amply demonstrated, although the postwar brainwashing of Whites can by no means be attributed to Jewish scholars and activists only. I tried to summarize the history of intellectual purges in Europe, starting immediately after the end of World War, which gradually resulted in the growth of the language of guilt, leading subsequently to suicidal self-denial of millions of White students and politicians in Europe and the US. 

As I noted in Homo Americanus: "Particularly harsh was the Allied treatment of German teachers and academics. Since National- Socialist Germany had significant support among German teachers and university professors, it was to be expected that the US reeducational authorities would start screening German intellectuals, writers, journalists and film makers. Having destroyed dozens of major libraries in Germany, with millions of volumes gone up in flames, the American occupying powers resorted to improvising measures in order to give some semblance of normalcy to what later would become “the democratic Germany.” Likewise, French intellectual life from 1944–1950 was similarly depleted of hundreds of anticommunist and nationalist intellectuals suspected of fascist collaboration, with many becoming objects of public shaming. Dominique Venner: Of all professional categories, journalists and writers were hit the hardest. This underlines the ideological character of the conflict and the ensuing purges. The proportion of writers and journalists who were shot, imprisoned, and barred from their profession surpasses all other professional categories. Do we need to be reminded of the assassination of Albert Clément, Philippe Henriot, Robert Denoël, of the suicide of Drieu La Rochelle, of the death of Paul Allard in prison prior to court hearings and of the executions of Georges Suarez, Robert Brasillach, Jean Luchaire […] or the death sentence pronounced in absentia or a commuted prison sentence for Lucien Rebatet, Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, etc.?” From 1950–1990, Western intelligence agencies, with the USA at the helm, had to rely heavily on skills of prominent anti-communist and White nationalist academics and scientists in an effort to contain the perceived Soviet threat. 

Putting solely the blame on the liberal media and crypto-communist college professors for generating the culture of White guilt is only partially correct. In order to tentatively elicit a convincing answer regarding the pathology of White guilt one needs to raise some rhetorical questions about Christian teachings. Why are White Christian peoples, in contrast to other peoples of other races and other religions on Earth, more prone to altruism toward non-White out-groups? Why are guilt feelings practically nonexistent among non-White peoples? One answer to these questions may be found in Christian teachings that have made up an important pillar of Western civilization over the centuries. Over the last one hundred years, modern Liberal and Communist elites have aggressively promoted those same feeling of White guilt, albeit in their own atheistic, secular and “multicultural” modalities. Yet the fact remains that the Vatican, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the German Bishops’ conference, along with all other Christian denominations in Europe and the US today are the loudest sponsors of non-White immigration to Europe and America, as well as the strongest advocates of White guilt. After the fall of Communism, the same messianic drive to punish those who defy modern Liberal and multicultural scholasticism found its loudest mouthpiece among US neocons and antifa inquisitors. The Jew St. Paul and later on the North African St. Augustin — judging by their own convulsive contrition — suggest that they suffered from bipolar disorder. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (7:18) may be the key to grasping the modern version of neurotic White self-haters put on display by prominent news anchors and humanities professors today: “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

Guillaume Faye's criticism of the Western civilization as something that has evolved into a “system that kills peoples,’ his concept of ‘ethno-masochism,’ and his vision of technological progress as something that can be harnessed by nationalism rather than as something to be shunned or prevented. (Faye in this regard runs counter to more popular anti-technological positions adopted by Heidegger, Ellul, and Kaczynski.) A year later, Faye returned to speaking engagements and published Archeofuturism, his response to “the catastrophe of modernity” and an attempt to provide an alternative to traditionalism. Although somewhat welcomed back into the New Right fold in 1998, when he published his edgy The Colonisation of Europe: True Discourse on Immigration and Islam in 2000, Faye attracted considerable hostile media and political attention. Faye was clearly, however, a prophetic and perceptive thinker. He foresaw the gradual replacement of genuine political leaders with “regulators,” adding that the political decisions taken by states are therefore replaced by strategic choices made within the framework of various networks — those of large companies, banking organisations, public or private speculators, etc. All these separate strategies trigger a self-regulation mechanism that allows the System to work towards satisfying its own ends. Source:

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Imperialism, Junk Economics and Global Fracture

Financial takeover of industry, government and ideology:

Almost every economy is a mixed economy – public and private, financial, industrial and rent-seeking. Within these mixed economies the financial dynamics – debt growing by compound interest, attaching itself primarily to rent-extracting privileges, and therefore protecting them ideologically, politically and academically. These dynamics are different from those of industrial capitalism, and indeed undercut the industrial economy by diverting income from it to pay the financial sector and its rentier clients. One expression of this inherent antagonism is the time frame. Industrial capitalism requires long-term planning to develop a product, make a marketing plan, and undertake research and development to keep undercutting competitors. The basic dynamic is M-C-M’: capital (money, M) is invested in building factories and other means of production, and employing labor to sell its products (commodities, C) at a profit (M’). Finance capitalism abbreviates this to a M-M’, making money purely financially, by charging interest and making capital gains. The financial mode of “wealth creation” is measured by the valuations of real estate, stocks and bonds. This valuation was long based on capitalizing their flow of revenue (rents or profits) at the going rate of interest, but is now based almost entirely on capital gains as the major source of “total returns.” Stock prices have largely become independent from sales volume and profits, now that they are enhanced by corporations typically paying out some 92 percent of their revenue in dividends and stock buybacks.

Even more destructively, private capital has created a new process: M-debt-M’. One recent paper calculates that: “Over 40% of firms that make payouts also raise capital during the same year, resulting in 31% of aggregate share repurchases and dividends being externally financed, primarily with debt.” This has made the corporate sector financially fragile, above all the airline industry in the wake of the COVID-19 crises. While the subject deserves a more thorough discussion than can be elaborated here, the journalist Matt Stoller summarizes in popular terms the essential business plan of private equity: “financial engineers raise large amounts of money and borrow even more to buy firms and loot them. These kinds of private equity barons aren’t specialists who help finance useful products and services, they do cookie cutter deals targeting firms they believe have market power to raise prices, who can lay off workers or sell assets, and/or have some sort of legal loophole advantage. Often they will destroy the underlying business. The giants of the industry, from Blackstone to Apollo, are the children of 1980s junk bond king and fraudster Michael Milken. They are essentially are super-sized mobsters.” The classic description of this looting-for-profit practice process is the 1993 paper by George Akerloff and Paul Romer describing how “firms have an incentive to go broke for profit at society’s expense (to loot) instead of to go for broke (to gamble on success). Bankruptcy for profit will occur if poor accounting, lax regulation, or low penalties for abuse give owners an incentive to pay themselves more than their firms are worth and then default on their debt obligations.”

The fact that “paper gains” from stock prices can be wiped out when financial storms occur, makes financial capitalism less resilient than the industrial base of tangible capital investment that remains in place. The United States has painted its economy into a corner by de-industrializing, replacing tangible capital formation with “virtual wealth,” that is, financial claims on income and tangible assets. Since 2009, and especially since the Covid crisis of 2020, its economy has been suffering through what is called a K-shaped “recovery.” The stock and bond markets have reached all-time highs to benefit the wealthiest families, but the “real” economy of production and consumption, GDP and employment, has declined for the non-rentier sector, that is, the economy at large. How do we explain this disparity, if not by recognizing that different dynamics and laws of motion are at work? Gains in wealth increasingly take the form of a rising valuation of rentier financial and property claims on the real economy’s assets and income, headed by rent-extraction rights, not means of production. Finance capitalism of this sort can survive only by drawing in exponentially increasing gains from outside the system, either by central bank money creation (Quantitative Easing) or by financializing foreign economies, privatizing them to replace low-priced public infrastructure services with rent-seeking monopolies issuing bonds and stocks, largely financed by dollar-based credit seeking capital gains. All economic systems seek to internationalize themselves and extend their rule throughout the world. Today’s revived Cold War should be understood as a fight between what kind of economic system the world will have. Finance capitalism is fighting against nations that restrict its intrusive dynamics and sponsorship of privatization and dismantling of public regulatory power. Unlike industrial capitalism, the rentier aim is not to become a more productive economy by producing goods and selling them at a lower cost than competitors. Finance capitalism’s dynamics are globalist, seeking to use international organizations (the IMF, NATO, the World Bank and U.S.-designed trade and investment sanctions.) to overrule national governments that are not controlled by the rentier classes. The aim is to make all economies into finance-capitalist layers of hereditary privilege, imposing austerity anti-labor policies to squeeze a dollarized surplus. Industrial capitalism’s resistance to this international pressure is necessarily nationalist, because it needs state subsidy and laws to tax and regulate but it is losing the fight to finance capitalism, which is turning to be its nemesis just as industrial capitalism was the nemesis of post-feudal landlordship and predatory banking. Industrial capitalism requires state subsidy and infrastructure investment, along with regulatory and taxing power to check the incursion of finance capital. The resulting global conflict is between socialist capitalism (the natural evolution of industrial capitalism) and a pro-rentier fascism, a state-finance-capitalist reaction against socialism’s mobilization of state power to roll back the post-feudal rentier interests.

Underlying today’s rivalry felt by the United States against China is thus a clash of economic systems. The real conflict is not so much “America vs. China,” but finance capitalism vs. industrial “state” capitalism/socialism. At stake is whether “the state” will support financialization benefiting the rentier class or build up the industrial economy and overall prosperity. Apart from their time frame, the other major contrast between finance capitalism and industrial capitalism is the role of government. Industrial capitalism wants government to help “socialize the costs” by subsidizing infrastructure services. By lowering the cost of living (and hence the minimum wage), this leaves more profits to be privatized. Finance capitalism wants to pry these public utilities away from the public domain and make them privatized rent-yielding assets. That raises the economy’s cost structure – and thus is self-defeating from the vantage point of international competition among industrialists. That is why the lowest-cost and least financialized economies have overtaken the United States, headed by China. The way that Asia, Europe and the United States have reacted to the covid-19 crisis highlights the contrast. The pandemic has forced an estimated 70 percent of local neighborhood restaurants to close in the face of major rent and debt arrears. Renters, unemployed homeowners and commercial real estate investors, as we4ll as numerous consumer sectors are also facing evictions and homelessness, insolvency and foreclosure or distress sales as economic activity plunges. Less widely noted is how the pandemic has led the Federal Reserve to subsidize the polarization and monopolization of the U.S. economy by making credit available at only a fraction of 1 percent to banks, private equity funds and the nation’s largest corporations, helping them gobble up small and medium-sized businesses in distress. For a decade after the Obama bank-fraud bailout in 2009, the Fed described its purpose as being to keep the banking system liquid and avoid damage to its bondholders, stockholders and large depositors. The Fed infused the commercial banking system with enough lending power to support stock and bond prices. Liquidity was injected into the banking system by buying government securities. But after the covid virus hit in March 2020, the Fed began to buy corporate debt for the first time, including junk bonds. Former FDIC head Sheila Bair and Treasury economist Lawrence Goodman note, the Federal Reserve bought the bonds “of ‘fallen angels’ who sank to junk status during the pandemic” as a result of having indulged in over-leveraged borrowing to pay out dividends and buy their own shares. Bair and Goodman conclude that “there’s little evidence that the Fed’s corporate debt buy-up benefited society.” Just the opposite: The Fed’s actions “created a further unfair opportunity for large corporations to get even bigger by purchasing competitors with government-subsidized credit.”

The result, they accuse, is transforming the economy’s political shape. “The serial market bailouts by monetary authorities – first the banking system in 2008, and now the entire business world amid the pandemic” has been “a greater threat to destroy capitalism than Donald Trump.” The Fed’s “super-low interest rates have favored the equity of large companies over their smaller counterparts,” concentrating control of the economy in the hands of firms with the largest access to such credit. Smaller companies are “the primary source of job creation and innovation,” but do not have access to the almost free credit enjoyed by banks and their largest customers. As a result, the financial sector remains the mother of trusts, concentrating financial and corporate wealth by financing a gobbling-up of smaller companies as giant companies to monopolize the debt and bailout market. The result of this financialized “big fish eat little fish” concentration is a modern-day version of fascism’s Corporate State. Radhika Desai calls it “creditocracy,” rule by the institutions in control of credit. It is an economic system in which central banks take over economic policy from elected political bodies and the Treasury, thereby completing the process of privatizing economy-wide control. Source:

Since 1933, the economy has grown at an annual average rate of 4.6 percent under Democratic presidents and 2.4 percent under Republicans, according to a Times analysis. In more concrete terms: The average income of Americans would be more than double its current level if the economy had somehow grown at the Democratic rate for all of the past nine decades. If anything, that period (which is based on data availability) is too kind to Republicans, because it excludes the portion of the Great Depression that happened on Herbert Hoover’s watch. When Franklin D. Roosevelt first ran for president, in 1932, he did not have a fully coherent economic plan. He sometimes argued that reducing the deficit was the key to ending the Depression. Above all, though, he called for “bold, persistent experimentation.” As he explained: “Take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Over time, he and his advisers came to champion the ideas of John Maynard Keynes. In an economic downturn, when companies and households are caught in a vicious cycle of spending reductions, the government needs to step in. The Keynesian approach has shaped Democratic economic policy ever since. Despite being conservative, both Eisenhower and Nixon were nonetheless comfortable using government to help the economy when needed. The elder George Bush signed a tax increase that contributed to the deficit reduction that, in turn, fueled the 1990s boom. For the most part, however, Republican economic policy since 1980 has revolved around a single policy: large tax cuts, tilted heavily toward the affluent. There are situations in which tax cuts can lift economic growth, but they typically involve countries with very high tax rates. The United States has had fairly low tax rates for decades. The evidence now overwhelmingly suggests that recent tax cuts have had only a modest effect on the economy. G.D.P. grew at virtually the same rate after the 2017 Trump tax cut as before it. Source: