New film explores the life of an incel

I read this review of a new film Cuck that has as its central protagonist a white nationalist ‘incel’, the label that involuntarily celibate men who are resentful that women spurn them, give themselves. Incels have been blamed for some of the mass shootings that the US regularly incurs.

It’s a character study determined to provide insight into the types of racist, sexist lunatics who spread fear and hatred via the barrel of a gun and, at least as a portrait of what makes these individuals tick, it’s as timely as it is depressing—and horrifying.

Before it heads down more contrived avenues that exacerbate its dearth of surprises, Cuck crafts an authentic vision of sexually aggrieved white nationalist psychosis. The crazy person in question is Ronnie (Zachary Ray Sherman), a California twentysomething who lives at home caring for his mom (Sally Kirkland, crowing like a prejudiced, pious loon) and, more frequently still, sitting in his dark bedroom, decorated with American flags and pamphlets for the military that won’t let him in because he failed his psych test. Habitually situated shirtless in front of his laptop, pizza and soda always within reach, Ronnie watches online video after online video of right-wing commentators—including his favorite star, Chance Dalmain (Travis Hammer)—ranting about the dangers of liberalism, immigration and diversity.
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This is the best you can be? That’s pretty sad

Every fall, the long-running satirical show Saturday Night Live introduces new cast members. It is considered a huge boost to the career of young comedians to get a slot on this show because many have gone onto highly successful careers later. But this year, the introduction of three new members ran into trouble when it was discovered that one of them, Shane Gillis, had made racist, homophobic, and misogynist jokes.
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Making films in the days before post-production sound

I recently watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder! (1930) that can be seen in its entirety online (see below). I have long been a fan of Hitchcock’s films but had not seen this one and was curious as to what his early efforts looked like.

It is not a great film but I learned something about how limited filmmakers were in their options in those days. As I was watching it, it felt strangely different and I finally pinned it down to the lack of ambient sounds, especially a soundtrack. With modern films, one hears music tht sets the mood, footsteps when people walk, doors shutting, and all the other sounds that accompany the action. But in this case, there was mostly silence apart from dialogue, and it was the absence of such sounds that seemed strange.

In reading about the film later, I learned that in 1930, there was no post-production possibility of adding sounds after filming was completed, like they do now with Foley artists and adding a musical score. Any sound in the film had to be picked up by the microphones that picked up the dialogue while filming the scene. So for example, in this film at the 34:00 mark, we hear a character’s thoughts as a voiceover while he is shaving while a radio played music. How this was done was by having the actor’s voice pre-recorded and played on a phonograph while an actual orchestra on the set played the music.

Here’s the full film.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)

I have long been a fan of comedian Zach Galifianakis’s online sketch show Between Two Ferns where he passive-aggressively, and sometimes outright insultingly, interviews celebrity guests. Here is one sketch where he interviews Ben Stiller.

It appears that they have made a film version of it that will be released on Netflix on September 20.

It is often the case that sketch comedy does not translate well into the long form version, so we’ll have to see how this turns out.

But here’s the trailer.

Review: The Family (2019)

This five-episode mini-series on Netflix is based on a book of the same name by reporter Jeff Sharlet. It is about a secretive group of evangelical Christian influencers know as ‘The Fellowship’ or ‘The Family’ that was originated by someone named Abraham Vereide (1886-1969) and whose mission was greatly advanced by Doug Coe (1928-2017).

Sharlet stumbled into this group as a young man just out of college. Coming from a family in which his mother was a Pentecostal and his father was a secular Jew, Sharlet was looking at various forms of religion when he was recruited by a friend who was in the Family. It had a strange cult-like quality where young men lived together and did menial jobs in the service of influential Washington politicians as a form of bonding. At some point Sharlet left the group and in 2008 wrote the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power that exposed the working of the group.
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Film review: The Unknown Known (2013)

I recently watched this documentary that features Donald Rumsfeld, who served as secretary of defense in the administration of George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006, and thus oversaw the origins of two disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that created massive destruction in those countries and killed and injured and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The film was produced and directed by documentarian Errol Morris who did a similar documentary called The Fog of War (2003) about Robert McNamara who was secretary of defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and oversaw the massive escalation of the Vietnam war.
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A gross miscarriage of justice

It is well known that women have a very difficult time having their accusations of being sexually abused and even raped being taken seriously. We also know that police officers who commit abuses of any kind are very unlikely to suffer any serious consequences even for the most egregious actions. Natasha Lennard writes about the predictable outcome when both those conditions occur in a single case.
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Film review: Hail Satan? (2019)

I recently watched this documentary on The Satanic Temple that I previewed earlier. It is an enjoyable film, informative and quite funny in parts, that looks at the origins of the group, what their aims are, and how they set about trying to achieve their goals. It seemed to have started out as a lark to troll religious conservatives, with stunts such as members dressed in what people think is appropriate Satanic dress holding a press conference on the steps of the Florida state capitol building to endorse right wing Florida governor Rick Scott, who clearly did not want their endorsement.
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Crank up the right wing outrage machine: The next James Bond is a black woman!

Daniel Craig is handing over the James Bond baton to Lashana Lynch.

In news that will surely come as a shock to James Bond fans and the film industry at large, it was revealed today that longtime 007 Daniel Craig will pass the Walther PPK to black British actress Lashana Lynch in the iconic role.

For years there has been intense speculation about who would take over the reins of one of the most durable and profitable film franchises in history once Craig stepped aside. Much of that speculation has revolved around whether the series might make a nod toward diversity and cast a person of color or a woman for the first time.

But if the report today from UK tabloid the Daily Mail is to be believed, the 007 producers are going for a radical twofer: casting a 31-year-old black female newcomer as Bond’s heir apparent.
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When video and audio do not match

I recently watched an old French film with English subtitles. But the timing was very slightly off in that the English words appeared a beat or two after they were spoken. If there were gaps in the dialogue, then one could keep the recently disappeared video image in mind while waiting for the translation to appear. But in quick exchanges, the words that one character spoke would appear when the other person was responding. It was extraordinary how this very slight time lag made it very difficult to follow. My brain found it very difficult to make the rapid adjustments necessary to restore continuity.
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