The Unknown Known and the Meaningless Language of Donald Rumsfeld

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My last post featured John Oliver on drones.  In that video Oliver talks about a government memo in which the word imminent is robbed of all meaning.  Recently I watched the Errol Morris documentary The Unknown Known, which is a documentary about Don Rumsfeld.  A better title would have been The Man Who Wasn’t There.  Rumsfeld talks in a bureaucratic language that robs everything of meaning.  He speaks almost entirely in euphemisms.  The more you watch of this movie, the less you know.

That does not mean that it is without value.  While you start the movie thinking it is going to be a movie trying to hold Rumsfeld accountable for the mistakes, namely the Iraq War, that he made while in government, it becomes that almost seems more to be about the manipulation of language.

Having just read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think but to compare Rumsfeld to Eichmann.  Now let me be clear, I am not comparing Rumsfeld’s crimes to Eichmann, or saying that they have an exact personality match.  However, both seemed to be characters in bureaucracies that used a kind of empty language that masked the horrible realities of their actions.  Both men also seem to be very shallow thinkers.

Rumsfeld, in this movie, rarely seems to reflect deeply on what he has done.  He has kept an amazing amount of records.  He dictated so many memos that he called them “snowflakes”.  He doesn’t seem to be consciously misleading Morris.  It is more that he answers the questions directly, but in a way that is devoid of any deeper meaning.  It is an interesting movie with an extremely frustrating subject.

An Interview With Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam: Hollywood is just “gray, frightened people” holding on for dear life http://www.salon.com/2014/09/19/terry_gilliam_hollywood_is_just_%e2%80%9cgray_frightened_people%e2%80%9d_holding_on_for_dear_life/
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An interesting interview with one of my heroes, director Terry Gilliam. 

Terry Gilliam’s Work is Way More Influential Than You Think

Terry Gilliam’s Work is Way More Influential Than You Think

I’m really looking forward to seeing Gilliam’s new film The Zero Theorem.  The above article is an interesting article about how Gilliam has influenced the world of film.  Even if you don’t know who Gilliam is you have probably seen one of his films:  12 Monkeys, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas just to name a few.  Gilliam was also a member of Monty Python.

The new film is a dystopian satire like Brazil.   I have read that the movie features things like a statue of Jesus with a security camera for a head.  Through grotesque imagery Gilliam is able to make the absurd parts of our world, yet ones that we have become desensitized to, seem new for the first time.  His fantasy is a critique of our reality.

“The Conformist”: An unsettling political masterpiece returns

“The Conformist”: An unsettling political masterpiece returns http://www.salon.com/2014/08/28/the_conformist_an_unsettling_political_masterpiece_returns/ via @Salon

This article in Salon made me really want to see this movie.  It is also nice to see a long form piece about a work when so many reviews are becoming shorter and shorter. 

The Movie Locke and The Morality of Telling the Truth

‘Mastery of small, telling gestures’: Tom Hardy as a man who goes awol in Locke.

Warning – There are some small spoilers for the movie Locke in this piece.  However, there is nothing that gives anything away that should spoil the ending or your enjoyment of the movie.  

Last night I saw the movie Locke starring Tom Hardy.  I knew very little about the film before I saw it, other than it was a one man show where Hardy spends the entire movie in a car, and what little I thought I knew outside of that was wrong.  For some reason I thought that it had something to do with crime, but it did not. I thought I was renting a criminal thriller, although one with a unique premise, but the movie, although it kept you on your seat the way a thriller does, was way more interesting and unique than your typical thriller.  

The movie is a story of a man that makes a moral mistake in his life, the only one from what we can tell, but a big one.  He has gotten a woman pregnant that he barely knows.  He is in charge of large concrete construction jobs and after finishing one of his buildings he sleeps with the woman after they share two bottles of wine.  His reason for sleeping with this woman is that she is a very sad person, who has a very lonely and unfulfilling life, and he feels bad for her.  However this act and all other characters are never seen.  We only know what is going on in the title character’s life, Ivan Locke, because of conversations he has on his car phone on the way to the hospital on the night this woman is to give birth.  

The character of Locke is not only married, but also has a historical concrete pour set to take place the next day.  He decides that it is the right thing to do to be by this woman’s side as she has a baby, because it is his mistake that it is being brought into the world.  He has to inform his family that he will not be home and his coworkers that he will not be at the concrete pour.  This is what the drama of the movie comes from.  It seems like a very simple story, but it is completely captivating.  

One of the things motivating Locke is that he never knew his father until he was in his 20’s.  He despises his father as he has a bunch of one man imaginary conversations with his father about how he wants to be a better man than him.  He doesn’t want the baby to grow up not knowing who he is.  

At the center of this film is a series of moral questions about what happens when we tell the truth.  Locke decides to be truthful with everyone involved.  Will he be ultimately rewarded or punished for telling the truth?  Does telling the truth matter more than the possibility of either the reward or punishment?  Is Locke acting morally when he tells his wife about what he has done, or is he destroying his family and causing unneeded pain?  

This is a film that could be discussed in a philosophy class, but it never seems like it while you are watching it.  It has the pace and excitement of a thriller.  It could be a one man play, but the cinematography and the music are highly cinematic and compelling.  I couldn’t help but think of other movies that have beautiful shot night sequences like Heat, Lost In Translation, or Drive.  

Tom Hardy is simply one of the best actors living and breathing today.  He is always able to transform himself completely into whatever character he is playing.  Watch him in Bronson, Warrior, or this movie and you will see a completely different and believable character on the screen.  Although there is no doubt that the writing and directing are absolutely superb in this movie, it says a lot that his performance, at the center of the film, is completely captivating.  

Whether you come to this movie to view it as a very well done piece of entertainment, or are looking for something deeper, I have no doubt that it will be worth your time.  

Police Militarization in the Media and in Pop Art

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/ferguson-protests-policing_n_5680594.html

The above link is an article from Huffington Post where Police are actually engaging with the protestors in St. Louis instead of using force against them.  This is what police should be doing.  I have have been especially hard on Police through this blog because of the increasing militarization and excess use of force that we have seen throughout the country.  Not just in Missouri, but as an overall trend.  However, there are some officers in a St. Louis suburb that are engaging with protestors int he right way and they should be commended.  

Our police officers should be a part of our communities and not something terrifying that stands outside and apart from communities.  They have a hard job, I’ve never denied that.  However, they are supposed to protect and serve citizens, which is a mission that seems lost on a more and more consistent basis across the country, due largely to the increase in SWAT teams and the movement of equipment from our war zones to our police departments.  

Yesterday I watched the new Robocop.  It can’t compete with the classic version from the 1980’s that was actually a pretty smart satire in the form of a sensationally violent 80’s action movie.  The new movie has many faults, mostly in the action scenes that are bloodless and cartoon like.  However, the movie is not completely stupid and not without its merits.  One of the things that movie does get right is the idea of a corporation moving military equipment from foreign war zones to our cities and communities.  This is something that is actually being done in reality and the movie uses science fiction to heighten what is being done in reality.  (The movie also deals, although slightly superficially, with the ideas concerning our increasing use of drones, our manipulation of the media by corporations, the way our corporations are stateless actors that think outside of what is good for the nation state, and our unjust occupation of foreign countries.  However, even if some of these things are being dealt with on somewhat of a superficial level, it is great to see a big money tent-pole movie that actually have these ideas included in it.)   

I am glad to see our mainstream media focusing more on this problem in light of what has happened in Missouri, although of course I wish the root cause of it had never happened.  I am also glad to see some police officers realizing their true mission and acting as part of the community.  Third, I was happy to see a piece of pop art that dealt with these subjects.  Hopefully there will be continued awareness brought to these issues through the media and entertainment.  

Apocalypse Now Turns 35

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http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/this-is-the-end-james-gray-on-apocalypse-now-20140811

Apocalypse Now has long been one of my favorite movies.  It is still completely relevant today as there is something elemental and myth like about it.  I watched it again earlier this year and this line by the character Kurtz struck me: “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”  We still see that kind of absurdity in our culture all of the time.  The above article is an excellent write up on the movie, and why it still matters, from Rolling Stone.