Sunday, November 20, 2011

Woody Allen Honored - Children and Old Women Attacked In the Land of the Free?! (SIGN THE PETITION AGAINST THUGGERY!)

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Woody Allen is honored this week on American Masters on PBS. I wondered when they'd get around to acknowledging our American Bergman - originally thought of as doing Bergman schtick at the beginning of his career, but every bit as adventurous and original as the great Swedish director (or Wenders or Kubrick or Almodovar or Antonioni or Woody's own favorites  Kazan, Fellini, Renoir, De Sica, Kuroawa, Bunuel, Truffaut . . . .).

I've loved him since Bananas, no Sleeper, no Zelig, no Love and Death, no Everyone Says I Love You, no Manhattan, no Midnight in Paris, no  . . . .

From Salon:

9. "Zelig" (1983)

9. "Zelig" (1983)

Woody Allen’s most formally audacious feature, “Zelig” is a mockumentary that feels like a brainy precursor to “Forrest Gump.” Allen stars as the title character, a freak of nature who takes on the characteristics of whatever ethnic group, political movement or profession that he happens to be near. (“He married me up at the First Church of Harlem,” Zelig’s wife tells the filmmakers. “He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.”)

As I wrote in a recent slide show about great mockumentaries, “It’s one of the greatest examples of form following function in cinema history — a film about a human chameleon that is itself chameleonic, deftly recapturing the syntax of laid-back, analytical 1980s public TV documentaries while simultaneously re-creating the texture of Hollywood features, newsreels, newspapers, still photos, handbills and other historical documents from the Jazz Age through the late 1940s.”

Beyond its technical mastery, there’s a serious message. In the “American Masters” documentary, Allen says that among other things, “Zelig” is a comic statement on the allure of fascism, which fills empty lives with a sense of identity and purpose. This becomes explicit in the section where Zelig resurfaces in Nazi Germany, appearing in newsreel footage behind Hitler at a rally.

In “Faking It: The Subversion of Factuality,” authors Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight write that the film also “represents Allen’s distrust of the mass impulses of the American public … [T]he American public are rarely personified throughout the film. They are reduced to the adoring crowds who follow his exploits in the press, dance to the songs created to cash in on his novelty value, and are quick to both reject him as a charlatan and forgive him as a heroic refugee from Nazi Germany.”

All this and jokes, too. “That Zelig could be responsible for the behavior of each of the personalities he assumed means dozens of lawsuits,” the narrator reports. “He is sued for bigamy, adultery, automobile accidents, plagiarism, household damages, negligence, property damages, and performing unnecessary dental extractions.”

5. "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994)

5. "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994)

“Bullets Over Broadway” is a parable of art and commerce told in the bigger-than-life style of Preston Sturges. (Douglas McGrath co-wrote the script.) John Cusack plays the film’s Woody stand-in, David Shayne, a bespectacled young playwright who gets the chance of a lifetime when a patron offers to single-handedly bankroll his play. But there’s a catch: The patron is a gangster named Nick (Joseph Viterelli), and he’ll only pony up if his girlfriend Olive (Jennifer Tilly), a screechy-voiced, talentless shrew, can have a big part. “Let’s avoid confusion,” Nick says. “She’ll get some lines or I’ll nail your kneecaps to the floor.” David accepts the terms and embarks on a long, weird voyage into compromise and disillusionment; he also has a masochistic fling with his leading lady, a pickled grand dame named Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest, in her second Oscar-winning performance for Allen).

There are so many scene-stealing actors in this picture, and so many scenes worth stealing, that “Bullets Over Broadway” becomes the comedy equivalent of a run on a bank. (Helen’s husky-voiced “Noooo … Don’t speak!” is one of Allen’s funniest recurring bits.) All the characters are riffs on familiar types — filmic and theatrical — except for Cheech (Chazz Palmintieri), the henchman assigned to keep an eye on Olive. He’s that rarity of rarities, a character you haven’t seen before — a playwright in the body of a gangster.

After declaring that David’s play “stinks on fuckin’ hot ice,” David prods him for suggestions on how to improve it. Cheech snarls out some first-rate notes, and pretty soon he’s David’s secret guru and rewrite man. David writes from the head, Cheech from the gut. Their push-pull relationship represents warring aspects of Allen’s talent: the art-house striver and the cut-to-the-chase storyteller.

“I studied playwriting with every teacher, I read every book,” David tells Cheech. “Let me tell you somethin’ about teachers,” Cheech counters. “I hate teachers. Those blue-haired bitches used to whack us with rulers. Forget teachers.” Allen’s most brilliant stroke is that Cheech never consciously realizes that he’s a natural-born writer. He just keeps improving David’s play until he feels as though he owns it, and will kill to protect it.

6. "Love and Death" (1975)

6. "Love and Death" (1975)

“Take the Money and Run,” “Sleeper,” “Bananas” and “All You Wanted to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid to Ask)” are all hilarious, but for my money, “Love and Death” represents the peak of Allen’s “earlier, funny” phase — a gag-a-minute parody of Russian literature and mid-century European art cinema that’s equally influenced by Leo Tolstoy, Sergei Eisenstein, W.C. Fields and Bob Hope.

Allen plays Boris, a “militant coward” who tries to stay alive during the war of 1812 while his great love, his cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton), is stuck in a loveless marriage to a herring merchant. Then he joins her in a plot to assassinate … Oh, like it matters! “Love and Death” is a fusillade of high culture references and vaudeville shtick, and one of the funniest films ever made.

The brilliant opening montage charts Boris’ family tree, which includes a mom who measures blintzes on a chalkboard, a dad who owns a “valuable piece of land” that he carries around inside his coat, and Old Gregor and his son Young Gregor. “Oddly enough, Young Gregor’s son was older than Old Gregor,” Boris says. “Nobody could figure out how that happened.”

Boris has a dream about waiters emerging from upright coffins and dancing, makes chitchat with the Grim Reaper, courts a countess by waving a bent saber at her during a concert, and tells his fellow soldiers that he thinks serfs should run Russia because they actually know how to do things. (He’s a Marxist of the Groucho sort.) Sonja endures her husband’s death without much fuss. (“Where do you wanna eat?” she asks the mourners minutes after he expires.) She gives in to Boris’ overtures, joins him in his dumb-ass plot, and engages him in philosophical intercourse as well as the other kind.

“To love is to suffer,” she tells him. “To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.”
10. "New York Stories," "Oedipus Wrecks" (1989) 9. "Zelig" (1983) 8. "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) 7. "Husbands and Wives" (1992) 6. "Love and Death" (1975) 5. "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994) 4. "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985) 3. "Manhattan" (1979) 2. "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986)

1. "Annie Hall" (1977)

America's latest outrage can be found (in living color!) at the much-admired Wonkette:

A Children’s Treasury of American Cops Brutally Attacking Citizens

How did America’s heavily militarized security guards for the 1% spend the work week? Oh, just pepper-spraying sitting students in the face, macing old ladies, stomping peaceful protesters, yanking women around by their ponytails, destroying libraries and bloodying the faces of America’s citizens. You know, what they’ve dreamed of doing for decades.

  Remember the fat, smug face under that helmet and behind that ridiculous mustache in the picture above. This happened yesterday at UC Davis, a California college in a delightful, sustainable little town between San Francisco and Sacramento — the kind of place earnest liberals move to, when they have kids, so they can all ride around on the town’s famous network of bike paths. It’s a well-off town, mostly, and it takes quite a lot of tax money to keep a bunch of vicious thugs overfed and dressed like junior Darth Vaders with their portable hard-ons, on the off-chance some college kids might one day peacefully sit outside to protest this nation’s revolting descent.

Here’s the video, via Boing Boing:

Click to see all the pictures at full size.

One scene, one town. How many of these scenes have slipped by during these very busy weeks of protests and cop attacks? Up the I-5 in Portland, the stereotypical Brooklyn of the Pacific Northwest is apparently home to an absolutely insane paramilitary gang of thugs who cannot contain their glee at finally being able to go batshit on the people of Portland, with truncheons.

Well aren't you little motherfuckers excited ....

And more, from everywhere, because the kleptocrats told their rent-a-cops to smash heads, put all this to rest, or else. Or else what? In Egypt earlier this year, the cops refused to attack the people. East Germany and then the whole Iron Curtain collapsed when the local cops wouldn’t smash heads when Erich Honecker ordered it. What about America? Where are the cops who walked off the job rather than attack their neighbors drowning in debt and despair?

This is one of those 'better than a thousand words' pictures.
Never mind, he wasn't talking about America.
What exactly is being protected here? Oh, right ....

What happens next? If you are the kind who believes in signing petitions to the president, here’s a petition imploring Barack Obama to stop the American police violence against the nation’s people.

(Pictures from brave people everywhere; click to go to the posts where we found them.)

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