Psychological Warfare – Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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For anyone who thought that American Sniper was a sickening, nationalistic rewriting of history, you haven’t seen anything yet. For next January’s patriotic blockbuster that will highlight the heroic courage of that one indispensable nation is Michael Bay’s – yes, Michael Bay’s – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Is this the new normal, where the CIA and Pentagon attempt to whitewash their war crimes via the medium of Hollywood?

Obviously this is nothing new – during the Cold War the US government harnessed the film industry in order to churn out anti-communist propaganda; producing such ‘classics’ as I was a Communist for the FBI, which portrayed the Communist Party of the USA as being behind 1943’s race riots in Harlem and Detroit – therefore drawing a connection between the African American struggle for civil rights and political subversion.

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The Cold War films were used to shape public opinion, to ‘win hearts and minds’ in the battle against communism and the USSR, however 13 Hours is a much more sinister operation. As with American Sniper, it is presenting itself as a story based on true events, but the events are in reality merely those which the US government wants the viewer to believe are true. Eastwood’s film implied that al Qaeda and 9/11 were responsible for the invasion of Iraq; this was what Chris Kyle himself believed, however in presenting this false narrative Eastwood undoubtedly reinforced the idea in the minds of uneducated viewers.  At a preview screening Kyle’s widow told interviewers that Chris was ‘fighting terrorists’, despite Iraq not having an al Qaeda presence prior to the war.

13 Hours is based on the book of the same name by Mitchell Zuckoff, who co-wrote the text with one of the contractors involved in the operation at the US embassy in Libya to rescue Ambassador Stevens. Zuckoff’s Wikipedia page says of the book:

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi (2014) was co-written with the security team members who were involved in the 2012 Benghazi attack. It tells the story of the 13-hour Benghazi incident from the perspective of the security team who were involved in the fighting, without discussing later political controversies.

Thus it is highly likely that the film will not delve into the real purpose of the Benghazi embassy, why the CIA were stationed there; the history of the militia who killed Stevens and Libya’s political climate. What is guaranteed is a high dose of American exceptionalism, and the dehumanisation of Arabs – or as they were referred to in American Sniper: Ragheads.

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Writing at The Intercept, Peter Maass writes:

The early reviews—I mean the early tweets—are highlyfavorable. If the trailer is an accurate indicator, or the director’s filmography (Bay also brought us Pearl Harbor and Transformers), the star-spangled hype is probably on the money, and we will be the poorer for it.

The main hints are the attention-getting trailer (please take a look) and the cast of characters on the IMDB site. There is apparently no Libyan character who merits a last name—there is just a “Fareed” and “Fareed’s wife.” The other apparently Libyan characters have no names at all; one of them is described as “Bandolier Militiaman” and another is “Camo Headwrap.” Who knows, perhaps 13 Hours will be loaded with rich historical context, but Bay, whose films have grossed $6.4 billion, according to his Twitter bio, is known for other things.

The film is also likely to increase popular support for American militarism and the ever-expanding ‘War on Terror’.

What’s next? The story of how the US military came to the rescue of 60 ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels, who heroically made their way towards Raqqa in order to battle the Islamic State, but on the way were unmercifully hit by barrel bombs stuffed with chlorine, thus leaving General Martin Dempsey with little choice but to crush the regime of Bashar al Assad in response? Directed by Gore Verbinski?

Ultimately, 13 Hours is an insult to the 50,000+ Libyans who died in 2011, and to the millions who continue to suffer today as a result of US, British and French imperialism.

Trailer:

To learn more about what really happened in Benghazi, Libya, and the consequences for the rest of Africa and indeed the world, I recommend the following resources:

Seymour M. Hersh:  The Red Line and the Rat Line
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

Washington Times Exclusive: Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/28/hillary-clinton-undercut-on-libya-war-by-pentagon-/

Cynthia McKinney: The Illegal War on Libya

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Christian Bale calls Moses a Terrorist; Fox News brings out Priest to Condone Drone Strikes

Originally posted on Sophie Stephenson:

Christian Bale – Legend ! Has always been my favourite actor.

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As an aside – Bale’s mother in law convinced Leonardo Dicaprio not to take on the lead role in American Psycho, Bale then duly obliged :)

Good article on making of the film:

‘American Psycho’ Could Have Starred Leonardo DiCaprio (And Been A Misogynistic Horror Film)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/14/american-psycho_n_7054104.html

View original


Signs that the EU is waking up to the USA induced conflict with Russia


Academy Awards 2014 Highlights

It’s fair to say that this year’s Academy Awards marked a departure from previous years. Despite Ellen DeGeneres’ humour falling slightly flat at times, the event was considerably less of a snooze/cringe/misogyny-fest  in comparison to 2013’s We Saw Your Boob’s, the cast of Les Miserables’ ensemble performance and general hosting fail by Seth MacFarlane. The atmosphere – both viewing at home and in the audience, was a much more relaxed affair. Here are a few of the highlights:

The big winners were Gravity (7 awards) and 12 Years A Slave (3)

 Meaning that Alfonso Cuarón was the event’s first Mexican recipient of the Best Director award, and Steve McQueen its first black Best Picture winner.

Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress, meaning that J-Law can resume being adorable, as she did when attempting to steal Lupita’s gong.

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 Despite having 10 nominations, American Hustle walked away empty-handed.

This made The Wolf of Wall Street’s losses a lot more tolerable.

Cate Blanchett gave an inspiring acceptance speech – calling out Hollywood for its denial that women-led films can’t be box-office hits, saying:

I’m so very proud that Blue Jasmine stayed in the cinemas for as long as it did. And thank you to Sony Classics, to Michael and Tom for their extraordinary support. For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.

Lupita, Meryl and Amy got their dance on.

And erm, Ellen achieved the most retweeted selfie of all time.

Winners:

Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Adapted Screenplay – 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

Best Original Screenplay – Her (Spike Jonze)

Best Animated Feature – Frozen

Best Cinematography – Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)

Best Costume Design – The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)

Best Directing – Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Best Documentary Feature – 20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen, Caitrin Rogers)

Best Documentary Short – The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke, Nicholas Reed)

Best Film Editing – Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)

Best Foreign Language – FilmThe Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews)

Best Original Score – Gravity (Steven Price)

Best Original Song – Let It Go – Frozen

Best Production Design – The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn)

Best Animated Short Film – Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares)

Best Live Action Short Film – Helium (Anders Walter, Kim Magnusson)

Best Sound Editing – Gravity (Glenn Freemantle)

Best Sound Mixing –  Gravity (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro)

Best Visual Effects – Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)


Watch Olivia Wilde Discuss the Role of Women in Hollywood

This clip shows actor Olivia Wilde discuss the limited roles available to women working in Hollywood as part of a panel titled State of Female Justice, noting the unwillingness of film distributors to green-light projects with female leads. Wilde demonstrates a great awareness of her position in the industry, stating that as storytellers, it is up to filmmakers (herself included) to educate the public on equality. She makes reference to Alien and Salt, as being two films starring female protagonists – Sigourney Weaver and Angelina Jolie – which had originally been written with male leads in mind.

As this chart shows, women make up half of cinema audiences (if not slightly more), rendering the old supply and demand argument for male-centric movie content invalid.

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As can be seen by the box office success of  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity and Frozen in 2013, audiences are not unwilling to watch female-led movies; however, as long as the majority of parts written for women are that of the throwaway love interest/long-suffering wife, cinema will continue to be created with male driven plots and male audiences in mind. This theory can not only be applied to women, but also to racial minorities: for example, most commercial productions still promote tired stereotypes of African Americans (see use of the angry black woman cliche in Anchorman 2), rather than as multi-faceted individuals. Diversity in Hollywood merely requires the formation of well-written characters, irrelevant of gender or race.


The Wolf of Wall Street – Stratton Oakmont is America

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the glamourisation of the lavish lifestyle depicted in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which charts the true story of young and upcoming stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s rise, as he eventually becomes known as The Wolf (of Wall Street). To say that such Quaalude quaffing behaviour isn’t reveled in here would be an understatement – as we soon come to learn, this is a business that requires the constant consumption  hookers and cocaine to survive – but the underlying theme of greedy self-interest is never lost in the process.

This lack of sentiment for the other 99% manifests itself in a number of ways. An early cameo by Matthew McConaughey, playing Belfort’s boss, tells us of how little importance the workings of the stock market really is – the critical part is the money to be made for those in charge. This is a great scene, and introduces the chest-thumping bravado which will continue to play a role throughout the rest of the film (a ritual which worked its way into the film as this is something that McConaughey does while on-set) as it is then appropriated by Belfort’s own company Stratton Oakmont. Then there is the internal monologue of Belfort, used previously by Scorsese to excellent effect in Goodfellas, which is constantly used to explain that all that matters is personal wealth – after all, Belfort is living in a country which treats everything as a commodity to be sold.

The contrast of this message with scenes of debauchery work really well in providing a work that does not come off as a forceful morality tale; it’s just too damn funny for that. The Wolf of Wall Street is filled to the brim with black humour, particular highlights include the reactions of Belfort and his side-kick Donnie smoking crack in a small room behind a bar together, as well as a later Quaalude-fuelled fight between the two. Credit really must be given to Leo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill for the all-out performances they’ve put in, DiCaprio particularly is on top-form here – it’s difficult to recall a performance of his which was so gleefully exuberant as it is here. Writer Terence Winter should also be commended for his script, there are so many quotable lines of dialogue present here that just when you think you’ve heard one that cannot be bettered, along comes the next.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a glorious work of cinema, one which I’ve seen twice this week and can’t wait to watch again. Wonderfully outrageous whilst always maintaining a social commentary, Scorsese and DiCaprio will have to create something extraordinary in future for this to be topped.


Best of the Golden Globes 2014

Oh to live the lives of the rich and famous/beautiful. But still, the Golden Globes are a fun ceremony, and this year’s proved to be no different.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler continuing to perform a top-notch hosting job, poking fun numerous times at the Hollywood double standard:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus sitting with the film crowd instead of the lowly TV actors (she was nominated twice):

Julia Louis-Dreyfus eating a hot-dog:

Joaquin Phoenix showing up, and looked like he was having a genuinely good time:

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A drunk Emma Thomson took her cocktail onstage before throwing her Louboutin’s away:

Awkward moment between Bono and Diddy:

Bono quite happy to share a moment with Amy Poehler:

(who then won in her category):

The crew of Breaking Bad’s Best TV Drama acceptance speech:

Leo DiCaprio finally wins something (his last GG was for The Aviator in 2005 – in Dicaprio terms, that’s a long time…is an Oscar finally on the cards?):

So did Matthew McConaughey, who also gave an amazing acceptance speech:

Having up until now been overlooked in such a promising list of nominations, Steve McQueen and 12 Years A Slave walked away with Best Picture – Drama:


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