Where to Invade Next (North End Productions, 2015), written and directed by Michael Moore.

Reviewed by Roger D. Harris

Posted on February 23 by the Communications Committee

The title Where to Invade Next pimps off of the idea of critiquing US imperialism’s war without end. But documentarian Michael Moore is not going there in his first film in six years.

With Old Glory in tow, Moore’s “one-man army…invades” Western Europe, plus stops in Slovenia and Tunisia, to “steal” good eye-opening ideas to take home:

  • Gourmet public school lunches in France.
  • Free higher education for citizens and foreigners alike in Slovenia.
  • Decriminalization of drugs and attendant social services in Portugal.
  • Schools emphasizing time to socialize over teaching to the test in Finland.
  • Two-hour lunch breaks and eight-weeks of vacation plus paid maternity leave in Italy.
  • Public education condemning its fascist past in Germany, compared to the amnesia in the US regarding the genocide of our indigenous and the enslavement of Africans.
  • Prisons for humane rehabilitation in Denmark.

Spoiler alert, each and every country “surrenders” and even points out that some of their “secrets” originated in the US, such as the May 1st celebration of working people.

Trumbo (distributed by Bleeker Street Media, 2015), screenplay by John McNamara, directed by Danny Boyle.

Reviewed by Roger D. Harris

Posted on January 5, 2016 by the Communications Committee

Trumbo, a Hollywood movie with big name actors and cutting edge production values, portrays communists and by extension their principles in a sympathetic light. Further, Democrats come off in the movie as cowards and quislings, while Republicans are mean-spirited corrupt bullies. Besides being historically accurate, Trumbo is a thoroughly engrossing entertainment experience with drama, intelligent dialogue, and flashes of humor. All that and without gratuitous sex and violence.

Little wonder then that the mainstream media have been less than enthusiastic about a depiction of American history that is critical of their corporate sponsors. The New York Times dismisses the film as hagiography.

Zero Dark Thirty (Distributed by Columbia Pictures, 2012). Written by Mark Boal. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Reviewed by Gary Gordon

Posted on January 8, 2013 by the Communications Committee

There's a scene in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye during which a gangster wanting information from a private eye takes a coke bottle and smashes it into his own girlfriend’s jaw, shattering her face and sending blood flying. It is one of the most disturbing, violent acts I've seen on film, so much so that when I watch the movie I can’t watch that scene. After getting hit, the girl, a towel on her face, increasingly bloody from the wound, cries and gropes her way out of the car, with no help, and the gangster explains to the private eye that he loves her, so the private eye should imagine what he will do to him if the private eye doesn’t talk.

Nothing this violent, this shocking, this sudden, this emotionally and psychologically engaging happens in Zero Dark Thirty, a tepid, badly directed, shoddy, mediocre procedural that has none of the brain power of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and none of the compelling involvement of any episode of Law and Order SVU. It's too bad Gary Oldman wasn’t asked to star in it with Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay.

Zero Dark Thirty. Spoiler alert: They find and kill Osama bin Laden.

Yes, some torture is depicted in the movie. But given director Kathryn Bigelow's love affair with herky-jerky angles and close-ups and the fashionable quick-cutting and rejection of master shots, the torture might as well be the equivalent of a modern movie dance scene -- you know, where you don’t really see all the dancers dance, you just see movement of arms, legs, knees, feet, hands, etc. Goldfinger's laser aimed at James Bond's crotch was more chilling.

Cloud Atlas (Warner Brothers, 2012). Written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Based on the novel by David Mitchell.

Reviewed by Cat Woods

Posted November 2, 2012 by the Communications Committee

Spoiler Alert: because it contains plot details, you may want to read this review after seeing the film.

Cloud Atlas should change the world.

Not that I necessarily expect it to, but it really ought to. Just as I have said for decades that Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) should have changed the world. Had the world responded appropriately to that book, our lives would be different. By all rights, it should have instigated study groups around the globe to consider the myriad interwoven issues it explored regarding the tensions between individual freedom, ethics, and the role of a fair or unfair social order. We should have spent recent decades not necessarily agreeing with Le Guin’s anarchist model of a socialist society but debating our various answers to the critical questions she raised. By rights, The Dispossessed should have launched a whole genre of socio-political literature exploring the nature of socialist vision and the various possible mechanisms of its enactment. Yet 38 years later, it still stands alone; and it has yet to be made into a movie. Even if Hollywood did take its hand to it, you can bet they’d keep the bare-breasted bourgeois women, the chase scenes, and the violent suppression of a popular demonstration while losing every important message about what a better, more just arrangement of the world might look like, how socialism might be won, and what a more equitable social order means personally for the people who participate in it.

Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics, 2010). Produced, written and directed by Charles Ferguson.

Reviewed by Marsha Feinland

Posted on January 24, 2011 by the Communications Committee

Inside Job provides a comprehensible lesson on the current economic crisis and an entertaining expose of the slimy players behind it. I went to see this movie twice. I wanted to both review the information and check on what was missing.

The movie starts in Iceland. A formerly prosperous population suddenly lost its wealth, income and job base when the economy collapsed. The government had privatized the banks and deregulated industry, allowing speculators to finance risky operations with questionable loans. The example is jarring, but we never find out how or why a seemingly rational people allowed the government and some nefarious entrepreneurs to destroy their lives.

The movie provides more historical background for the crisis in this country. The premise is that it all began in the 1980s with deregulation of the banks under Ronald Reagan's presidency. The disastrous result was the Savings and Loan debacle and subsequent bailout. The banks stepped up their debauchery under the Clinton administration. Clinton put Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers in charge of the economy, letting the business school-investment banking cabal call the shots. And shoot they did.

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