Many People Are Saying That Donald Trump Was Born In Moscow

It should come as no surprise that a conciliatory Hillary Clinton is behaving with courtesy and tact toward the president elect. Or that the outgoing president is preparing for a peaceful transfer of power. All of that is as it should be, given the history of our democracy. No matter that the Donald saw fit to keep us in suspense about how he would behave if he lost an election, which by definition, would have been rigged if he hadn’t won it. We’ve always expected Hillary and Barack to act like rational adults, and unsurprisingly, they have done so.

But none of that means that the rest of us need to be conciliatory or tactful. Rather, it’s time for a little Alt-Left action.

This madman’s takeover of the American government with the material support and overt blessings of a foreign power is something that we need to loudly resist from day one, and relentlessly pursue until the day we reclaim our sovereignty as a nation.

We must demand to see Trump’s original long form birth certificate, since many people are saying that he was born in Moscow instead of Queens, as he frequently claims without being very convincing.

Conspiracy theory, you see, is not something that you need to feel in your heart in order to use it as an effective tactic. Civil rights, living wages, women’s rights, healthcare, LGBT rights, global warming, freedom of religion, our history as a nation of immigrants, common civility, and truth itself have transformed into collateral issues for the winning of elections.

Unrelenting and deeply divisive rhetoric is what matters, and it is high time that the left start to hone its skills in that department.

The formula is fairly simple:

a grain of truth no matter how small +

bombastically boisterous hyperbole +

never ending shameless repetition

It is more important than ever for us to see Trump’s taxes, since many people are saying that until right before he announced his candidacy he was on the payroll of the Kremlin.

Let the investigations begin, let them multiply daily, and let them go on for the next four years, into the details of how he coordinated with foreign governments and hackers to compromise a U.S. election. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but we’ll never know for sure unless we investigate and talk about it every single day.

The key, you see, is to delegitimize. And there are many more grounds for doing it than was ever the case with Barack Obama, who won the popular vote both times by wide margins without the overt assistance of any foreign powers. How could Hillary have won the popular vote and yet lost Pennsylvania? Many people are saying that Vladimir Putin invested millions in that outcome.

Nothing less than a special prosecutor will let us uncover the truth of how Trump surrogates plotted inside the FBI to encourage leaks and rebellion that decisively aided and abetted one candidate, the candidate promising free reign to racially and religiously profile.

By Wednesday morning the hashtag #NotMyPresident had been stapled to half a million tweets. Spontaneous protests erupted in dozens of major cities, even as Clinton and Obama were calling on us to give Trump a chance to unite and lead the country.

No thank you. Let not even people I respect speak to me of coming together as a nation or uniting behind this nutcase. We must fight from day one with every tool in the toolbox. That’s how it works from now on.

I’m sorry, when in coming years I keep calling him a madman or psychotic, if that makes you feel less secure. You are less secure, period. It is no time for denial. The actual menace will not become magically less if we pretend it is not there. When the Donald’s approval ratings sink into the teens and he’s wandering the halls of the White House tweeting at 3 am like Macbeth with a smartphone, no doubt the risks will be even greater. But letting him have a smooth path from the beginning would make things worse in the long run.

It is high time to tune out the chatter of mainstream pundits and their pointless polling apparatus, and never listen to them again.

Over and over they coached the madman about how to stay on message, stick to his opponent’s weaknesses, not show who he really was, set aside his vindictive nature and act like somebody else, somebody who might be perceived as more presidential.

Again and again they treated the election like no more than a sporting event, glibly suggesting better strategies that the campaign eventually adopted. The electionsportscasters utterly failed to face the reality that this was a struggle for the heart and soul of our nation.

Time after time they framed the vote as a choice between the lesser of two evils, even as the madman himself accused them of tipping their hand because they knew which candidate was more dangerous by ten thousand percent. Enough of all that. They are disgraced. I never want to hear any of their voices or see any of their faces again.

Rather, it’s time to take a page from the playbook of the Alt-Right, which is what finally put this election into the column of the candidate born in Moscow.

Because, you see, it doesn’t really matter if he was or wasn’t  born in Moscow instead of Queens, or if Vladimir Putin is his half-brother, even though many reliable sources are saying, and his behavior strongly suggests, that it’s almost certain.

Best Moving Pictures of 2015

The cultural event of 2015 was not a book or a play or a film. Rather, it was two late-in-the-year essays by Rebecca Solnit that caused quite a stir among those with a distorted affection for the good ole days: 80 Books No Woman Should Read and Men Explain Lolita To Me.

MadMaxWomen

I won’t rehash here Solnit’s entire poke in the eye at our cultural patriarchy, but do want to suggest that her critique is the same reflection in a different pond of #OscarsSoWhite. And the poking has only just begun.

People standing in the bread line for handouts of inclusion are starting to get really annoyed at how rigged the system is. Culturally, it all meanders back around to which narratives qualify as significant in our society and which ones “belong” on the fringe. Are the narrative arts an opportunity to experience empathy bridges to the lives and stories of “others?” Or are they a tool for flaunting narratives that made the good ole days not so good at all?

It’s not just a question of who the nominees are, who the directors are, or who is picking out the stories to begin with. It’s a question of whether or not these priestly editors of our culture have any genuine curiosity at all about the experience of “others?” Mary MacNamara nails the heart of the problem in her great LA Times piece: Oscars 2016: It’s time for Hollywood to stop defining great drama as white men battling adversity.

The links above to Solnit and McNamara’s essays are of far greater interest than the rest of what I have to say in this silly top 10 movie list thing that I do every year. If you’re pressed for time, click through to those gems and forget about what’s below. I’m not going to splain to you directly why movies such as The Revenant and The Martian and Bridge of Spies failed to achieve the great honor of going on my list, so the only way to understand those omissions is to read what Solnit and McNamara have to say about it.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road. The first 3 movies on this list were a photo finish from the standpoint of great story and impeccable filmmaking. But Mad Max got extra credit points for being a spectacle like no other. It’s an amazing feat of cinema, subtle at the micro level of relationships and finely-painted detail, plus breathtaking at the macro level of epic sequences and epic themes. I look forward to watching this film again and again over the years and seeing something new every time.
  1. Carol. What was it like to be a lesbian during the McCarthy era in the United States? Well, if you have any curiosity at all about the experience of “others,” you will find this film mesmerizing from start to finish. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give amazing performances that first and foremost serve the story. The things I most want to say about it would amount to spoilers. See this film.
  1. Spotlight. Investigative reporters working relentlessly to right a wrong. That’s like a genre unto itself, right? But all too often the formula’s bones stick out like an emaciated movie of the week. This film raises the bar on the genre, and the ensemble of its brilliant performances strikes methodically at something real: that the world gets changed for the better by groups of dedicated people, not heroes.
  1. Chi-Raq. Spike Lee’s best film since Do The Right Thing. He injects a unique brand of absurdity into the horror of the gun reality so as to do true justice to the insanity involved. One can only hope that Lee has given up on the Hollywood pipeline and will keep following the cue of his wicked tragicomic imagination. His jaggedy-edged depiction of the American experience is one of the few voices out there that gives it any coherence at all.
  1. Inside Out. Likely to win Best Animated Feature, but should have been nominated for Best Picture. Way better than most of the paint-by-numbers flatulence out there, both in animation and live action. Shouldn’t filmmaking awards, if they need to exist at all, pay special attention to originality? You won’t see a more original movie this year.
  1. Experimenter. Ever heard of the “obedience experiments” conducted by psychologist Stanley Milgram to test why/how people obey authority even when they feel it’s wrong to do so? With the trial of Adolph Eichmann lingering in the background, subjects give ever-increasing electrical shocks to their fellow human beings. And the film itself is an experiment, grafting together mutually exclusive genres with in-your-face Brechtian chutzpah.
  1. White God. A self-organized pack of street dogs starts a rebellion against the human oppressors. It is rare for a film that is so openly metaphorical (and in many different arenas at once) to also grip your attention from start to finish while never overplaying its hand around the underlying meaning. This film puts Kornél Mundruczó on the map of world cinema, and I can’t wait to see more of his work.
  1. The Big Short. On the surface it’s such a playful film, but rumbling underneath that playfulness is a harsh indictment of crimes that most people would never sit through were they being exposed in documentary form. I so hope that this film is just a first step in Adam McKay using his considerable comedic talents to make more ‘serious’ films. A definite dark horse for Best Picture (along with Mad Max and Spotlight) that might deny a gold statue to that pretentiously man’s man film about bloody revenge in the snow.
  1. Straight Outta Compton. Okay, so maybe you have no interest in rap music or the culture that surrounds it. But aren’t you at least curious about where it came from, and more importantly… WHY? This film often feels like a documentary where the camera (surprisingly!) keeps rolling even as its subjects spiral out of control. Shame on the Academy for ignoring it.
  1. Steve Jobs. Michael Fassbender gives the performance of the year as the title character, and the greatest moment in the film exemplifies why the Academy snubbed it. “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time,” says Seth Rogan in the role of Steve Wozniak. That is the theme of the entire movie in a nutshell, and not surprisingly, anathema to Hollywood’s paradigm of rewards and punishments. Too many people would have to hand back all of their awards if having talent wasn’t considered a lifetime license to be an asshat.

 

Honorable mentions: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Anomalisa, Beasts of No Nation, Best of Enemies, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Heart of a Dog, Love and Mercy, Phoenix, Room, Seymour: An Introduction, Tangerine, The Duke of Burgundy, The Danish Girl, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Hunting Ground, The Look of Silence, The Visit, Trainwreck, Trumbo, What Happened, Miss Simone?, World of Tomorrow.

(Note: following films not yet screened as of the above opinionating: The Lobster, Son of Saul, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, Arabian Nights, Timbuktu, Creed, Concussion, The Assassin, The Tribe, Youth, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Mustang)

 

Best Moving Pictures of 2015

The cultural event of 2015 was not a book or a play or a film. Rather, it was two late-in-the-year essays by Rebecca Solnit that caused quite a stir among those with a distorted affection for the good ole days: 80 Books No Woman Should Read and Men Explain Lolita To Me.

MadMaxWomen

I won’t rehash here Solnit’s entire poke in the eye at our cultural patriarchy, but do want to suggest that her critique is the same reflection in a different pond of #OscarsSoWhite. And the poking has only just begun.

People standing in the bread line for handouts of inclusion are starting to get really annoyed at how rigged the system is. Culturally, it all meanders back around to which narratives qualify as significant in our society and which ones “belong” on the fringe. Are the narrative arts an opportunity to experience empathy bridges to the lives and stories of “others?” Or are they a tool for flaunting narratives that made the good ole days not so good at all?

It’s not just a question of who the nominees are, who the directors are, or who is picking out the stories to begin with. It’s a question of whether or not these priestly editors of our culture have any genuine curiosity at all about the experience of “others?” Mary MacNamara nails the heart of the problem in her great LA Times piece: Oscars 2016: It’s time for Hollywood to stop defining great drama as white men battling adversity.

The links above to Solnit and McNamara’s essays are of far greater interest than the rest of what I have to say in this silly top 10 movie list thing that I do every year. If you’re pressed for time, click through to those gems and forget about what’s below. I’m not going to splain to you directly why movies such as The Revenant and The Martian and Bridge of Spies failed to achieve the great honor of going on my list, so the only way to understand those omissions is to read what Solnit and McNamara have to say about it.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road. The first 3 movies on this list were a photo finish from the standpoint of great story and impeccable filmmaking. But Mad Max got extra credit points for being a spectacle like no other. It’s an amazing feat of cinema, subtle at the micro level of relationships and finely-painted detail, plus breathtaking at the macro level of epic sequences and epic themes. I look forward to watching this film again and again over the years and seeing something new every time.
  1. Carol. What was it like to be a lesbian during the McCarthy era in the United States? Well, if you have any curiosity at all about the experience of “others,” you will find this film mesmerizing from start to finish. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give amazing performances that first and foremost serve the story. The things I most want to say about it would amount to spoilers. See this film.
  1. Spotlight. Investigative reporters working relentlessly to right a wrong. That’s like a genre unto itself, right? But all too often the formula’s bones stick out like an emaciated movie of the week. This film raises the bar on the genre, and the ensemble of its brilliant performances strikes methodically at something real: that the world gets changed for the better by groups of dedicated people, not heroes.
  1. Chi-Raq. Spike Lee’s best film since Do The Right Thing. He injects a unique brand of absurdity into the horror of the gun reality so as to do true justice to the insanity involved. One can only hope that Lee has given up on the Hollywood pipeline and will keep following the cue of his wicked tragicomic imagination. His jaggedy-edged depiction of the American experience is one of the few voices out there that gives it any coherence at all.
  1. Inside Out. Likely to win Best Animated Feature, but should have been nominated for Best Picture. Way better than most of the paint-by-numbers flatulence out there, both in animation and live action. Shouldn’t filmmaking awards, if they need to exist at all, pay special attention to originality? You won’t see a more original movie this year.
  1. Experimenter. Ever heard of the “obedience experiments” conducted by psychologist Stanley Milgram to test why/how people obey authority even when they feel it’s wrong to do so? With the trial of Adolph Eichmann lingering in the background, subjects give ever-increasing electrical shocks to their fellow human beings. And the film itself is an experiment, grafting together mutually exclusive genres with in-your-face Brechtian chutzpah.
  1. White God. A self-organized pack of street dogs starts a rebellion against the human oppressors. It is rare for a film that is so openly metaphorical (and in many different arenas at once) to also grip your attention from start to finish while never overplaying its hand around the underlying meaning. This film puts Kornél Mundruczó on the map of world cinema, and I can’t wait to see more of his work.
  1. The Big Short. On the surface it’s such a playful film, but rumbling underneath that playfulness is a harsh indictment of crimes that most people would never sit through were they being exposed in documentary form. I so hope that this film is just a first step in Adam McKay using his considerable comedic talents to make more ‘serious’ films. A definite dark horse for Best Picture (along with Mad Max and Spotlight) that might deny a gold statue to that pretentiously man’s man film about bloody revenge in the snow.
  1. Straight Outta Compton. Okay, so maybe you have no interest in rap music or the culture that surrounds it. But aren’t you at least curious about where it came from, and more importantly… WHY? This film often feels like a documentary where the camera (surprisingly!) keeps rolling even as its subjects spiral out of control. Shame on the Academy for ignoring it.
  1. Steve Jobs. Michael Fassbender gives the performance of the year as the title character, and the greatest moment in the film exemplifies why the Academy snubbed it. “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time,” says Seth Rogan in the role of Steve Wozniak. That is the theme of the entire movie in a nutshell, and not surprisingly, anathema to Hollywood’s paradigm of rewards and punishments. Too many people would have to hand back all of their awards if having talent wasn’t considered a lifetime license to be an asshat.

 

Honorable mentions: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Anomalisa, Beasts of No Nation, Best of Enemies, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Heart of a Dog, Love and Mercy, Phoenix, Room, Seymour: An Introduction, Tangerine, The Duke of Burgundy, The Danish Girl, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Hunting Ground, The Look of Silence, The Visit, Trainwreck, Trumbo, What Happened, Miss Simone?, World of Tomorrow.

(Note: following films not yet screened as of the above opinionating: It Follows, The Lobster, Son of Saul, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, Arabian Nights, Timbuktu, Creed, Concussion, The Assassin, The Tribe, Youth, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Mustang)

 

A few thoughts on “How you going to pay for that?”

35 years of unchecked Reaganism have produced perpetual right-wing attacks on the New Deal, Great Society, women’s and civil rights, and any notion of our collective will being employed to curb excessive accumulation of wealth… to the great detriment of general equality and quality of life.

Unabashed Reaganism has become a malignancy in our society and democracy. It has firmly established a strong “no we can’t” mentality, a mentality that is populated mainly by offstage bogeyman economists (Wizard of Oz academics who affirm that what is good for the average American is bad for America), even within the Democratic party.

“How are you going to pay for it?” is not a question only for Bernie Sanders. It’s a question our whole nation and political system should be attempting to answer, but isn’t. People’s daily struggles for the basics constantly get pooh-poohed as “Oh, those people just want handouts,” while in reality the handouts flow faster and faster in the other direction.

Can we afford to spend umpteen times more on our military than any other country? Yes, we can. Can we afford another war or two in the Middle East? Yes, we can. (And yet Cold-War-hungover Reagan Republicans will keep crying wolf that our military standing is on the demise.)

Can we afford universal healthcare that would in the long run save us money by changing course toward a health system rather than a disease system, as it does in every other wealthy nation with universal healthcare? No, we can’t. That we cannot afford. Because that would restructure our economy in a way that a few large industries don’t want. And those very industries have invested enough in politics to have veto power. Which, by the way, explains the entire situation.

I am tired of “no we can’t.” Very, very tired of it.

Hilary Clinton is far, far better than any candidate on the Republican side, and I will vigorously support her if she is the nominee. But meanwhile, I am eternally grateful for the dialogue that Bernie Sanders has injected into this election.

People are extremely dissatisfied with how things are going, and if the most compelling explanation/solution for that does not get presented from the left, it will most certainly get volunteered from the right.

Is Hilary more experienced and more presidential? Absolutely. And lots of people in the know don’t consider Bernie presidential at all.

But also, we truly need a political revolution.

I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I’m very glad that this is the conversation we’re having. Lets talk about how we’re going to pay for it. Lets put our imaginations to work. But lets not allow what would be best for this country to get vetoed by the question itself.

Press Release – Frank Lee, a novel, by Jeffrey Seeds

Rollerskaters-On-Top-Of-A-Bus Publishing
1316 1/2 Third Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ   07712

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeffrey Seeds
732-807-3699, JeffSeeds@yahoo.comFrank Lee, a novel, by Jeffrey Seeds, cover

If laughter is the best medicine, take this…

Asbury Park, NJ, September 17, 2015 –   Jeffrey Seeds’ debut novel, Frank Lee, catapults readers playfully around a planet whose own trajectory seems to be toward self-destruction, confirming along the way a suspicion you may have already entertained. It’s not only messed up where you are, but everywhere else as well.

Frank Lee, the literally larger-than-life title character, is 9 feet tall when born to the wealthiest family in the Republic of Texas, but that’s about the end of his good fortune. Home schooled by a heretic and exiled to Mexico by a booze-deranged stepmother, he flees from continent to continent in search of answers, one step ahead of a swelling pack of colorful and bloodthirsty enemies.

Horny pirates and absurd philosophers; religious goofballs and crazed heads of state; secret societies and lesbian anarchists; natural disasters and perversely contorted platitudes; sex, drugs, and hallucinations; all abound. There is a twist, and twisted new oddballs – extraterrestrials even – at every turn.

In the satirical tradition of Swift, Vonnegut and Colbert, no person, place or thing is sacred on Frank Lee’s globe-circling quest. The plausible and implausible weave together into a cliffhanging adventure that ultimately answers all of the questions you’ve ever had about life on Earth.

Seeds is fluent in several Asian and European languages, and he taps into his decades of study and work in a medley of cultures to paint whimsical pictures of the universal human calamity. With backgrounds in painting, film development, and political activism, he sketches poignant landscapes… only to explode them using the tried and true hypocrisies of each landscape’s local inhabitants.

If laughter is the best medicine, this novel may be just what the world needs at the moment.

An early reviewer said: “Dizzying in its scope, traveling through time and history with the most insane group of fellow travelers imaginable (I’ve never before met the Dalai Lama, Kim Jong-un, Karl Rove, and Bucky Fuller on the same page in a novel)… disturbing to easy politics and conventional wisdom…. contradictory rules of life abound, with platitudes and biting political humor spouting from every page… a page-turner from start to finish… ROFLMAO.”   (Jamie Hubbard, Yehan Numata Professor of Buddhist Studies at Smith College)

Review copies and interviews upon request.

#   #   #

Frank Lee is available on Amazon and other fine book retailers at this link.

This Press Release has been published via the following outlets:

PressBox

PressBox UK

Newswire

 

 

 

The Best Moving Pictures of 2014

SnowpiercerFilm criticism is subjective. When a film raises the bar, that’s a fuzzy metaphorical bar, not a literal one (like measuring the high jump). There is no standard checklist for rating a film, like there is for judging prize bulls at a county fair (that’s relatively objective territory). Nor is there a test to get licensed as a film critic, you just jump in and start opinionating. The next closest thing is political punditry, where it doesn’t matter if you know what you’re talking about, so long as you sound convincing.

Top 10 lists are how film critics try to outclass the royal sham of year-end awards pageantry, which is unduly influenced by PR campaigns that turn those prizes into the furthest thing imaginable from spontaneous acclaim. The process begins way before you might think, like breeding for the Kentucky Derby, entire projects hatched from day one with Oscars and Globes in mind.

At the very least, people audacious enough to publish a top 10 list ought to tell you their criteria, but few ever do.

For a film to make my top 10 list it has to go somewhere that no film has gone before. It needs to be innovative, visit the truly unexpected, resonate for more than 72 hours. Not hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, give me something original. Not so original that it’s nonsensical and I have no clue what’s going on, but definitely not made from 100% re-circulated material. As a society we need to do better at recycling, but lets not enlist Hollywood to lead the way.

If you’re going to produce genre, fine. People love that stuff, and they buy tickets to it. But that shouldn’t win you any medals, not unless you transcend formula and hit one out of the park.

Meanwhile, those handing out golden statues define excellence as confined within a narrow band of showcase pieces made with the taste of awards’ voters in mind, which promotes a circular flunkeyism instead of creativity. Scores that sound like other scores. Sets that resemble other sets. Characters that come off like other characters. All because year after year it’s the same tiny incestuous pool of people creating every sight & sound & word up on that screen, and that very same pool voting for commendations. There are signs that better and cheaper technology may change the paradigm one day soon, but for the moment, Hollywood maintains its dull stranglehold.

If you’re going to continue the Hunger Games franchise you have to beat Catching Fire (last year’s best film). Maybe Mockingjay Part I is all set-up and the payoff of Part II will make the wait worthwhile, so I’ll reserve judgment for now. Second year in a row as top earner at the U.S. box office, but please, don’t go resting on your laurels. You’ve got your audience, now knock our socks off.

If you’re going to do the disabled physicist with synthesized voice romance genre, you’d better avoid making it schmaltzy. And if you decide to give it such a lofty title, you’d better trick me into learning something (anything) about everything, as Hawking’s popular book did. Passing platitudes through a vocoder isn’t enough.

If you’re going to do post-9-11 war in a khaki-colored country, you have to beat The Hurt Locker (six years ago’s 2nd best film) and Zero Dark Thirty (two years ago’s best film). That bar has been set pretty high. You don’t get away with converting a so-so memoir into a racist & sexist John Wayne yarn set in Sadr City with cowboys and “savages” instead of Indians. It might sell tickets, but it doesn’t deserve nominations. It might get the blood running hot in Texas, but it hardly helps defeat ISIL. Perhaps I bring political bias to the theater with me, but the slick falsification of history in American Sniper is scary. Lots of pixels have been spilled on this, here and here and here and here. Shame on Clint Eastwood. He is the empty chair.

It’s sort of a no-brainer that Boyhood will walk away with the most coveted Oscar, and it’s an okay movie. But I fear that focus on the project’s process has overshadowed the actual result as a film. Critics have wanted to heap accolades on Linklater for years, and this film is a good enough excuse. Worthy of an honorable mention, but not best of the year in my book. It did however evoke the best walking-out-of-the-theater-casual-review of the year: “I’d have liked it better if it’d been called Girlhood.” What happened to his sister? That was a big final flaw in this praised-for-its-process project, especially in an industry where women are systematically not hired as the storytellers (a fact that is evidenced over and over by which stories get told and HOW they get told).

Other films turned me off or failed to turn me on for a cascade of specific reasons. Birdman: entertainment industry narcissism that jerks the audience around for no apparent reason other than artistic license; it could just as easily have been entitled DelusionalOldManActorhood. A Most Violent Year: derivative, and not as violent as most comedies, and spans only 33 days (bait & switch title), and more mood than substance. The Grand Budapest Hotel was enjoyable and gets an honorable mention, but it was no Moonrise Kingdom, farce upstaging whatever satire was intended. Gone Girl: it truly matters what story you decide to tell; when so many women are actually victims of domestic violence, what purpose is served by making up a story of the one who lies about it?

Selma is a well-crafted meditation on the civil rights movement. It underwhelmed me while watching it, but resonated long afterwards. I include it in part because of the various snubs it’s been handed. Dear White People on the other hand is the kind of film that keeps me showing up at movie theaters in hopes of getting surprised. I’ve seen it twice now, and it’s still fermenting in my brain like a stinky cheese. Relentlessly challenging and relevant (what was right & wrong in the past is about a thousand times easier to pull off than what’s right & wrong now). I’ll have to watch it a few more times to fully digest it. More movies like this please.

_TFJ0226.NEFIf you’re going to do a “how we won the war” movie, it better be about the guy who actually DID win the war and then had history ignore him and who then committed suicide because of medieval persecution of his sexuality, and who, oh! by the way… invented the modern computer. Good job. That’ll get you #2 on my list.

If you’re going to do quirky post-civilization dystopian nightmare, you’re up against A Clockwork Orange and Brazil and Blade Runner, so you’d better set the story on a train and dance with the implausible but make it compelling enough to be almost real and with killer production design (versus heroic snipers)… and you’d better put Tilda Swinton in it and you’d better give her coke bottle glasses and buck teeth. Bravo! Best movie of 2014! No other one even came close.

I admit to being opinionated about movies, but Hollywood does a lot of tone setting for our culture (which in case you haven’t noticed, is a little off track). And then they hold their self-congratulations ceremonies, on which producers and studios blow huge wads of cash lobbying for incestuous recognition. I like to throw a wrench into it, because they are a myopic club, and they almost always get it wrong, praising the forgettable and overlooking the truly inspired.

  1. Snowpiercer. Bong Joon-Ho might be the next Kubrick (check out his Korean language films The Host and Mother and Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite); whereas Harvey Weinstein is more likely to be the next overblown bully producer to get a bunch of embarrassing emails leaked. It’s a crime how he tried to murder this movie, and then, when he couldn’t get away with that, buried it alive instead. A crime. Snowpiercer is the best film Harvey ever had in his clutches, and all he did was try to take a leak on it.
  1. The Imitation Game. This is the most worthy of the mainstream awards nominees. Great filmmaking about a person whose significance has been neglected due to the bigotry of his (and our) time. When will Popes and Queens stop “forgiving” such people, and instead, avoid oppressing them in advance? Alan Turing, though it might take another century to fully grasp it, was the most important inventor, and possibly the most important philosopher, of the 20th Century.wearethebest
  1. We Are The Best!. Sheer delight from first frame to last. Best coming-of-age, girl-group, lets-poke-out-eyes-of-the-patriarchy film… EVER!!!! Don’t pollute yourself with reading about it, just see it. They truly truly truly ARE the best!
  1. Dear White People. Some of this movie felt gratuitous while I was watching it, but then it started fermenting. Sort of a politically anti-correct Do The Right Thing set on a fictional college campus. Shakespearian in its complexity, thoroughly right-nowish in its characters, dialogue, and issues. I’m still thinking about it months later. I’ll watch it again and again.dear-white-people_784x0
  1. Whiplash. It’s a harsh movie. A drama that grinds almost into a horror film. One that until the very last frame I might have ended up hating, but then it completely blew my mind. It’s about so much more than what it’s about.
  1. Ida. So here you have what amounts to a genre: how horrible were the Nazis? It’s almost as if there’s nothing left to say about it. But this film has much more to say about it. Spoiler: it will wrench your heart out.
  1. Nightcrawler. Seemingly a dark study of a quirky and ambitious guy (on which level it works as entertainment), but below that surface lurks a damning indictment of how the television news industry is destroying journalism, the role of ratings in constructing reality, and by extension, television itself.lunchbox
  1. The Lunchbox. If you’ve never been to India, here’s your chance. No need to take off your shoes, board an aeroplane, and then go through customs. Compared to that movie set in India that won Best Picture a few years ago and whose name you already can’t remember, this is a tale that will hold up for the ages.
  1. Selma. David Oyelowo deserved a best actor nod (up against actors playing fictional characters or real-life figures that few people would recognize), and Ava DuVernay deserved a best director nod over at least three of those who did get nominated. But if you want to comprehend why David and Ava didn’t get nominated, you’ll have to watch Dear White People.leviathan
  1. Leviathan. A metaphor for Russia under Vladimir Putin? No doubt. But it is also excellent filmmaking, a gripping drama from beginning to end, and a hyper-realistic glimpse inside rural coastal Russia. Beautiful cinematography and the best use of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten ever.

Documentaries: Citizen Four; Last Days In Vietnam; She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. All three are must-see films. Not such a great year for feature-length documentaries (last year a stellar crop worthy of its own top 10 list), so I’m giving a shout out to these three and including another few in the honorable mentions list.

Honorable Mentions: Belle, Big Eyes, Boyhood, Blue Ruin, Calvary, Divergent, Edge of Tomorrow, Finding Vivian Maier, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, Frank, Gabrielle, Interstellar, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Journey To the West, Locke, Lucy, Mockingjay Part I, Obvious Child, St. Vincent, Still Alice, The Babadook, The Drop, The Fault In Our Stars, The Immigrant, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Great Invisible, The Hundred Foot Journey, The One I Love, This Is Where I Leave You, Two Days, One Night.

Not yet seen: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night