Category Archives: Art

A fascinating conversation with Oliver Stone


Few American filmmakers arouse more controversy than Oliver Stone, both from his eclectic choice of subject matter to the content of the films themselves.

In his 1986 film Salvador, he explores a repressive regime through the eyes of a U.S. photojournalist drawn to Latin America in hopes resurrecting his fading career. In the much more financially successful Platoon, released in the same year, he captures the deep systemic corruption of a war that would tear two nations apart through the eyes of a naive young solider. In JFK he captures the dark uncertainty at the heart of an epochal event still shrouded in uncertainty.

Most of his other films are similar dissections of the American psyche and the contemporary Zeitgeist, ranging from with two Wall Street films, to Nixon, W, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, and Talk Radio.

His newest film, slated for release 16 Star, is Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role.

In this, the latest episode of Conversations with History, Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, conducts a fascinating conversation with the director, with the topics ranging form Stone’s approach to the cinematic arts to his own views of the American system.

It’s well worth your time.

From University of California Television:

Movies, Politics and History with Oliver Stone — Conversations with History

Program notes:

Published on May 23, 2016

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes filmmaker Oliver Stone for a discussion of his career as director, screenwriter, and producer. Stone describes formative experiences, talks about different aspects of the filmmaking process including working with actors, writing screenplays, and postproduction. He focuses on the themes that have drawn him, and emphasizes the distinction between a historian and dramatist who works with historical materials. He concludes with a discussion of recent works including Alexander and the 10-part documentary on The Untold History of the United States.

The Empire Files: Turning troops into lab rats


In the latest episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin turns her critical gaze to aother national shame: The exploitation of America’s military as experimental subjects of testing on everything from nerve gasses and biological warfare agents to mind-altering drugs and nuclear weapons.

Not only does America’s military brass treat soldiers as experimental animals; they also deny what they’ve done and refuse to pay the medical treatments needed to alleviate the miseries they’ve induced.

And they’ve been doing it for more than a century, as she searingly documents.

What marks this episode as particularly notable is the dramatic change of format, evidence of Martin’s skills as a visual artist [you can see some of her painting and photography here]. The result is a new fusion, and, we hope, a measure of things to come.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Used & Betrayed – 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats

Program notes:

On Memorial Day, politicians will speak at ceremonies all over the country and repeat their favorite mantra: “Support the troops.”

This pledge is hammered into the American psyche at every turn. But there is a hidden, dark history that shows that the politicians are in fact no friend to service members–but their greatest enemy.

An easy way to prove this truth is to look at how they so quickly betray and abandon their soldiers after purposely ruining their lives, and even after using them as literal lab rats.

In this disturbing chapter of The Empire Files, Abby Martin documents decades of experimentation on US troops—from nuclear tests to psychotropic drugs—as well as knowingly exposing them to deadly poisons, from sarin gas to Agent Orange.

Most damning is that the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking help from the government for the side-effects are always met with lies and denial.

FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles // @AbbyMartin // @telesurenglish

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Original music by Anahedron

A Trump/Putin kiss echoes a Berlin past


The media and social media have been abuzz with images of a mural by Mindaugas Bonanu on the wall of Keulė Rūkė, a “small liberatarian barbecue joint” on the Lithuanian side of the Russian border:

BLOG Kiss Trump 4

We haven’t seen in any of the stories and media we’ve seen to an earlier artwork that became iconic [we even have a T-shirt with the image, a gift from elder daughter].

We refer, of course, to the 1990 Berlin Wall painting, My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love, by Dmitri Vrubel and featuring the 1979 embrace of Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker. We thought it noteworthy to note the antecedent of the image that’s the virus of the moment, as well as an archetype of the pivotal moment when the Soviet Union was relinquishing its grip on East Germany and other satellite nations:

25.7.1991 "East-Side-Gallery", gelegen zwischen der Jannowitzbrücke und der Oberbaumbrücke. Reste der Berliner Mauer, die nach der Öffnung von vorwiegend ostdeutschen Künstlern auf der Ost-Seite bemalt wurden.

Headline of the day II: Destructive narcissism


No, it’s not another Trump tale.

From News Corp Australia:

Tourist destroys ancient statue of king in quest for perfect selfie

The 24-year-old man, who has not been named, climbed up next to the famous statue of former Portuguese king Dom Sebastiao outside a Lisbon train station on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Quote of the day: Dr. Seuss, a modern prophet


From author Lydia Millet in a short but powerful essay for the Atlantic Wire on why she believes Dr. Seuss’s brilliant parable The Lorax [the children’s book, not the treacly film version] is a seminal work of literature extremely relevant for our times with its warning of the dangers of rampant human greed:

Isn’t that a subject worthy of novels? Shouldn’t the cascades of extinction and rapid planetary warming register in our literature? And yet, despite the fact that most Americans support the work of saving species from winking out, and increasingly support strong action to curb climate change, the highly rational push for the preservation of nature and life-support systems often appears in the media—and certainly appears in most current fiction—as a boutique agenda. Climate change is shifting that marginalization, but not fast enough.

What makes The Lorax such a powerful fable is partly its shamelessness. It pulls no punches; it wears its teacher heart on its sleeve. This is commonplace and accepted in children’s stories, but considered largely undesirable in literary fiction. In fact snarkiness and even snobbishness can be brought to bear by some critics if they believe they’ve sniffed out a whiff of idea-mongering in fiction. When it comes to philosophy—just say no! Politics? Heaven forfend! If adults wish to put themselves in the path of notions about right and wrong, the theory seems to go, they can darn well seek out a house of worship or a counselor. Maybe even an AA meeting. They shouldn’t go to a book, unless it’s holy scripture or a self-help manual. Fiction should be an ethically safe space, free of fancy ideas. It should be dedicated modestly to relationships or escapism or the needs of luscious voyeurs.

But I happen to believe in the urgency of now. I don’t accept the proposition that ours is a historical moment like any other, that we can handily shrug off our duty to the future by placing ourselves in an endless, linear continuum of progress that makes its share of errors but is finally, comfortingly self-correcting. Rather I follow the strong evidence for the singularity of this human era, its unique power to make or break that future, directly linked to tipping points associated with climate catastrophe and the irreversibility of extinction. I cleave to science and the need to communicate science, or at least the products of science. Beyond and within science, love: not the love we have for ourselves, but that greater love we forget or take for granted in daily life, the love of otherness. The desperate need for otherness. And I suspect there’s no place, in art or journalism or politics, that isn’t ripe for that discussion.

Coping with the inevitability of climate change


Given that global climate change is already happening, and the reality that political leaders lack the will or ability to implement measures to head off imminent impacts, what then?

That’s the subject of How To Let Go of the World -and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, the new documentary from Josh Fox, direct of the award-winning 2010 documentary Gasland.

Here’s how the reviewer for the New York Times sums up the film:

The film’s title will use up many of the allotted words for this review, so it’s best to be terse when critiquing “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” Hence, a one-word assessment of this documentary: Tough. As in, tough to watch. Tough to consider. Tough to ignore.

But beneath the despair Fox conveys a certain optimism in this discussion with Chris Hedges for the latest installment of Days of Revolt, Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English.

The optimism lies not in any conviction Fox has that quick, massive response may avert the worst impacts — he has none. Rather, his optimism stems from the ability of the human spirit to craft emotional responses that foster a spirit of community, responses mediated by song, dance, and the other arts.

From Days of Revolt:

Days of Revolt: Letting Go of the World

From the transcript:

HEDGES: I just want to interrupt–you in the film point out that it’s not like we stop at 2 degrees. That becomes essentially, once we hit 2 degrees, it just begins to accelerate.

FOX: The problem is we’ve already warmed the Earth by about a degree Celsius over pre-industrial times. We have enough heat and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and methane in the atmosphere now to bring us to definitely 1.5 degrees and perhaps beyond. Some of the projections for this year even bring us to 1.3 degrees, and we’re talking Celsius. Doesn’t sound like so much. But if you think about your freezer at home, if you take it from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 34 degrees Fahrenheit, everything starts to melt and everything starts to spoil, which is what’s happening on the planet Earth right now. Everything that?s supposed to stay frozen is melting and that has created feedback loops and all the things we know will continue to accelerate.

HEDGES: Explain feedback loops.

FOX: So at the top of the Earth and at the bottom of the Earth, there are these poles which have white snow and ice, and white reflects heat and light and black absorbs it, right? So that heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space, because it’s reflecting off of the poles. As the poles shrink as we melt them, then all of a sudden there’s even less reflectivity. So that’s one feedback loop. Another feedback loop is that as we melt the permafrost, there’s all sort of methane trapped inside the permafrost that creates even greater greenhouse gas emissions. These things start to accelerate and spiral.

HEDGES: You also talk about the animal agriculture industry, which many people avoid, but is a major contributor to climate change.

FOX: Of course, there’s so many contributors. Not just oil and gas and coal but yes, animal agriculture and deforestation is another major cause because trees basically bring carbon into them and exhale oxygen which we need to survive. So the more we cut down the forest, you get less oxygen and you get more carbon dioxide. What was most startling to me is the sea level rise projections. When you 5-9 meters of sea level rise, that’s basically say goodbye to Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore.

HEDGES: You show in the film what it will look like. What these cities will look like when huge sections of these cities are gone.

FOX: In New York it’s always interesting because whenever we show that map to people in New York, you see the Lower Eastside get eaten, you see Williamsburg, Red Hook and The Rockaways. And people always go, ‘Well, I live over here in Park Slope. I’m on a hill.’ I’m like ‘Okay that’s cool. Yeah you’re right, you know. The Brooklyn Bridge won’t be under water but the onramp will be.’ Now you won’t be able to take the subway. It’s so funny how we think these things aren’t going to happen to us and yet, that is extraordinarily startling.

So what does this mean, this 2 degrees? Basically what it means is if we’re already for all intents and purposes are at 1.5 or beyond, there is no scenario in which New York, Baltimore or D.C., Miami, New Orleans stays above water if we continue to develop and drill for more fossil fuels. And just today, the oil and gas industry had a huge auction in the SuperDome in New Orleans to ten more years of oil and gas drilling offshore. We’re talking about frack gas expanding. We have proposals right now for 300 frack gas power plants throughout the United States and people are battling them every single place we go. They’re battling the pipelines, they’re battling the power plants. Hillary Clinton speaks of natural gas as a bridge fuel. So does Barack Obama, by the way. What that bridge means is 30-40 more years of dependence on fossil fuel, the worst fossil fuel that there is for climate change. That’s not responsible action, that’s not what is says in the Paris Accords. You have an incredible contradiction right now among this administration that saying, ‘We wanna take on climate change. We wanna keep climate change well below 2 degrees,’ is what they said in Paris. And yet you have FERC permitting all these pipelines.

And now for something completely different. . .


A delightful subversive little animation from Crave, the directors and vfx artists collective of Roman Kaelin, Falko Paeper and Florian Wittmann:

Wrapped

Program notes:

“Wrapped” is a graduation short film from Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, created at the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction. After running at over 100 festivals world wide and winning numerous awards the film is finally online.

“Wrapped” delves into the clash between civilization and nature.

  • LA Shorts Fest / Best Experimental / 2014 / USA
  • Siggraph CAF / Best Student Project) / 2014 / Canada
  • Animago Award / Best Young Production / 2014 / Germany
  • ISFVF Peking Film Academy / Bronze Award / 2014 / China
  • Festival of Beijing / Outstanding Technical Achievement / 2014 / China
  • The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival / First Place, College Competition / Animation / 2014 / USA
  • Cinemaiubit International Student Film Festival Bucharest / Best Experimental Film / 2014 / Romania
  • VES Awards / Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project / 2015 / USA
  • Next Generation Short Tiger / 2015 / Germany
  • ArtFutura / 3D ArtFutura Show Award / 2014 / Brazil
  • XVIII Guanajuato International Film Festival / Mention Short Animation / 2015 / Mexico