Thursday, 28 January 2010

How to prove you formed a whole opinion after watching half a film. Over at Big Hollywood, a man who only watched the first half of Steven Soderbergh's Che declares the whole film a work of propaganda. You can tell he only watched the first half because he thinks the whole film is about Cuba—the second half, sometimes called Guerilla, covers events that took place in Bolivia and, more importantly, undercuts the romantic image of Che cultivated in The Argentine, the part of the film devoted to the Cuban revolution. Did Soderbergh omit the years between the Cuban and Bolivian insurgencies—years in which Che grossly mismanaged the Cuban economy, openly insulted the Soviet Union, and failed to exploit the revolutionary potential in the Congo? He did; however, he did so for narrative reasons, not political ones.Guerilla documents the abject failure of the great revolutionary to accomplish anything in the Bolivian wilds. Che and his dwindling forces spend the entire movie walking in circles—about an hour in, his forces are divided and compelled to walk in circles looking for each other, as if their mothers never told them that should they become separated from her at the mall, they should stay put and let her find them. The already leisurely pace of The Argentine slows to an appropriately Jarmuschian crawl, as it allows the viewer to realize that, as in Dead Man, the protagonist died in the first five minutes of the film and all this pointless wandering through desolate lands is designed to get him to understand as much. Anyone who watches the whole film would know this, but then again, no one who had paid attention to either half of the film would ever write: [I]n those two years of “ferocious” battles, the total casualties on BOTH sides actually ran to 182. New Orleans has an annual murder rate DOUBLE that. The famous “Battle of Santa Clara,” that Soderbergh depicts as a Caribbean Stalingrad, claimed five casualties total—on BOTH sides.I'm not touching the reference to New Orleans, and will instead focus on the author's claim that Soderbergh filmed this battle like "a Caribbean Stalingrad," i.e. as the equivalent of a battle in which an estimated 2.7 million soldiers died, because nearly every casualty in Soderbergh's film was an established character. If anything, the film creates the impression that eleven of Che's closest friends were killed during the entire revolution. Then again, I'm not even sure why I'm paying any attention to someone who would write: Seems to me her tragic story makes ideal fodder for Oprah, for all those women’s magazines, for all those butch professorettes of “Women’s Studies,” for a Susan Sarandon or Sandra Bullock role.Because honestly, if you write the phrase "butch professorettes," you're clearly confused as to what stereotype you're trying to convey: "These masculine fairies, I mean, feminine meatheads, I mean—I mean—I mean." No sir, you mean no more than your words signify, and they're all sound and fury.
Phony political scientist sees morons at fake Independence Hall and is impressed. With all apologies to J.D. Salinger, I can't resist reading Donald Douglas's account of a Michele Bachmann event at Knott's Berry Farm in Holden Caulfield's terms. This is contemporary conservatism boiled to the bone: some morons convince a phony of their patriotism by speaking before a replica of an actual American institution. Douglas's photo-essay captures what history signifies when you subscribe to Tea Party logic even more starkly than those fake patriots who demonstrate their solidarity with the Founding Fathers by showing up at rallies with tea-bags. Did I say rallies? I meant "sparsely-attended speeches by purported conservative celebrities in the most conservative county in the country," because as Douglas's own photos attest, David Horowitz and Michele Bachmann have little drawing power within spitting distance of the birth place of Richard Nixon. Not that Douglas would care, mind you, because he can't tear his authentic eyes away from all the ersatz history. Even his grammar becomes ambiguous in the presence of all this fakery:As you can see, the park's Independence Hall is an exact replica of the original historic landmark in Philadelphia, PA. Both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed there.The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed in Knott's Berry Farm's Independence Hall? According to Knott's Berry Farm, they most certainly were: Douglas then produces: [a] shot of the [Knott's Berry Farm's replica of the] bell's famous crack.The faked crack on the fake Liberty Bell is famous? All morons hate it when their grammar reveals that they're morons. Not that it's just the grammar, as his caption to this picture demonstrates: "[t]he sweeties at the gift counter, in 18th century dress." If you press your ear against the monitor, you can almost hear him declaiming: "That is too an authentic 18th century windbreaker!" But perhaps the best part of Douglas's account is the definitive evidence that Tea Party patriots don't know from English. He notes that Michele Bachmann came to California straight from Washington and the last night's SOTU. She reminded the crowd that this time last year the big talk was Joe Wilson's "you lie," while this week it's Samuel Alito's "not true," and she turned that into a little chant to fire up the patriots in attendence. If that chant sounds like Douglas suggests it does—"You lie! Not true! You lie! Not true!"—then those patriots sure told Joe Wilson a thing or two. Update. If you're going to pretend to be an academic, Donald Douglas, you shouldn't link to something that says I'm a "Doctor of Philosophy of English," then write that I claim to have "a Ph.D. in the 'Philosophy of English.'" People who work in academia should, after all, know what the letters "Ph.D." stand for. Moreover, survival in academia requires the actual refutation of points. It's cute that you noticed I made two typographical errors, but neither error was material to my argument, the substance of which you've yet to refute.

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