Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Robert Altman (Ruth and Mike)

Robert Altman was a pioneering film director of the Alan J. Pakula, Hal Asbhy, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola generation.  His film classics include The Player, Short Cuts, Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, The Company, Cookie's Fortune, Gosford Park, Popeye, Prairie Home Companion, Health (we'll just spell it that way), Come Back To The Five And Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and M*A*S*H.

Mitchell Zuckoff tells the late director story in 2009's Robert Altman: The Oral Biography.

Or some of the story.

To Kathryn Reed Altman's credit, there is honesty in the book.  She is the widow of Mr. Altman and she attempts to keep the record accurate and real.  So we learn, for example, of his affair with Faye Dunaway. We learn of health issues and financial problems.

Kathryn Reed Altman is to be praised for making her late husband come alive in the pages as a real and multi-dimensional person.

If only the same could be said of others.

If Shelley Duvall had a falling out with the director, and she clearly did, then that story needs to be in the book.  Not alluded to, it needs to be in the book.

If she did not want to tell it, there were clearly others who could.

So much that is in the book does not need to be.

Warren Beatty, Elliott Gould, Meryl Streep and Sally Kellerman?

The book is lucky to have them.

They offer fresh stories.

Julianne Moore's story is rather minor but it is fresh and adds to the understanding of Robert Altman.

Cher has nothing to offer.

Nothing at all.

Even her dig at Karen Black is not new -- everyone knows the two did not get along.

It is as if all Cher has to offer is that she did not stick to the text of the play (Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) and then she did.  The only thing she leaves out of that tired story this go round is she does not insist that the playwright came up to her and told her to say whatever she wants onstage.  For The Player, she offers the tired red dress story.  Did she not notice anyone else?  Does she have nothing else to contribute?

Lily Tomlin did some of her finest acting under Mr. Altman's direction -- four films in all.  If you throw in the Robert Benton directed and Robert Altman produced The Late Show, you have five.  There is little she has to offer and what she does offer has little value.

In fairness to Cher and Lily Tomlin, they may have offered up much more and it may have been of great value but the author elected not to include it.

We suspect that as a possibility due to Jennifer Jason Leigh.  When she is talking about Short Cuts in the book, she has nothing to offer.  When she talks about Kansas City, she suddenly has additional levels she can share.  We suspect that was true of Short Cuts as well but her remarks there were mainly cut from the book.

Ms. Dunaway's affair with Robert Altman was one of many affairs the director had (and likely one of many Faye Dunaway had).  What made it worth discussing was a level beyond the two going to bed together.  The story of what happened then makes it worth including.

But too often the book misses those moments and the director's film career greatly suffers in the coverage.

Robert Altman's films were often big cast films and the book attempts to have a cast of thousands.  But the characters in his films were interesting and interesting because they did not all sound alike.  In that regard, the author has failed Mr. Altman.

Mr. Zuckoff has not written a bad book and that is probably part of the problem.

A Robert Altman film could be incredible (The Player) or an unqualified mess (Ready To Wear).

What his films never were?  Merely competent.  Mr. Zuckhoff has written a competent book.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, more civilians in Falluja are killed by Nouri  al-Malki with weapons Barack Obama provides him with, death tolls are out for the month of March, faux death polls are out as well for those who prefer to avoid reality and lie, Quil Lawrence Day is celebrated by many faux journalists, we look at censorship, film, 'honor' killings and much more.

How was your Quil Lawrence Day?  Quil is the NPR 'reporter' who played Americans for fools in 2010.  We'll be dealing with him this month.

But to celebrate this important day for 'reporters' around the world, Kim Segupta decided to write a column and see how many lies he could get away with.  Kim, for those who don't know, writes for the British newspaper The Independent.  In the early '00s, it was known for Robert Fisk.  It's had little of note since.  It's had Patrick Cockburn 'reporting' on a woman being hanged in Iraq when she was actually stoned to death.  They changed it after receiving non-stop ridicule but, because they're 'reporters' and not reporters, they didn't feel the need to tag on a correction notice.  Kim was a basic 'reporter' who basically rewrote AP articles.   He covered Iraq for years and never had a scoop, never broke news.  But, if you want to be honest, the so-called Independent didn't take a hard stand against the Iraq War.

No, they helped sell it too.

And now they want to sell more war.  Which is why Kim emerges from under his rock today to write:

The issue of reporting Syria came up two weeks ago when a Russian journalist decided to join me and two colleagues, both Western correspondents based in Moscow. The journalist complained about the Western media’s coverage of Ukraine and gave Syria as another example of biased reporting. It was unfortunate for the Russian that he worked for the state-owned Russia Today which had journalists resigning on air at the time to protest against the Kremlin’s actions in Crimea. 

That's cute, Kim.  It's not factual, but it's cute.  And on Quil Lawrence Day, 'reporters' like you especially don't feel the need to be honest.

Journalists resigned on air from RT?

Journalists, Kim?

He probably shouldn't write about things she doesn't understand -- like journalism.

One person resigned.  Liz Wahl -- Fake Ass Liz Wahl.  Read Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek's "How Cold War-Hungry Neocons Stage Managed RT Anchor Liz Wahl's Resignation" (Truth Dig).  Here's Wikipedia on Wahl:

On March 5, 2014, RT anchor Liz Wahl, of the network's Washington, DC, bureau, resigned on air, blaming RT for propaganda. She explained later "that she felt challenged being the daughter of a U.S. military veteran and being the partner of a physician who works at a U.S. military base, and that is why, personally, she cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin". Wahl claimed that what 'broke' her was that RT censored a question from her interview with Ron Paul about "Russia's intervention in Ukraine". Ron Paul later asserted that he was not censored in any way and that his message was delivered in full and to his satisfaction.[171] Furthermore, the sentence Wahl accused RT of cutting out, supposedly containing the term "intervention", actually contained the term "invasion" and it was in fact televised in full.[172] In response, RT released a statement: "When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt. We wish Liz the best of luck on her chosen path".[173]

Poor Fake Ass Liz.  I'm still confused about her recent public claims to be Asian.  Did she already burn through all the p.r. potential from 'my grandparents were Hungarian immigrants'?

Who knows?

But how did Liz Wahl become "journalists"?  Oh, that's right, 'reporters' like Kim Segupta lie and lie some more.  Why be bound by the facts when you can really smear if you take one and make it plural.  Quil Lawrence is thrilled that Kim Sengupta emulated him on this special day.

Mark Thompson (Time magazine) celebrates Quil Lawrence Day by writing "March Was First Month Without U.S. Fatalities in Iraq or Afghanistan in 11 Years."  Well thank goodness for that.

Some of you may be too young to remember 2002, the year before the Iraq War started, when tens of thousands of Americans were being killed in Iraq.  Not a week went by without a bombing or shooting claiming the life on American citizen.  Bully Boy Bush explained that to protect Americans the US needed to invade Iraq.  And invade the US did and, at last, success is at hand, finally the brutal killings of Americans has ceased in Iraq for at least one month.

What's that?

No Americans were killed in Iraq in 2002?  Bully Boy Bush said Iraq was being invaded to liberate it from "a brutal dictator"?

Well why is Mark Thompson writing his nonsense?

Oh, that's right.  It's the first of the month, we have the death tolls today.

And what better way to ignore the Iraqi dead (and the failure of the Iraq War) than to whore out some stupid ass story about "no US troops killed!"

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following today:

Baghdad, 1 April 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 592 Iraqis were killed and another 1,234 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in March*. 

The number of civilians killed was 484 (including 133 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,104 (including 206 civilian police). A further 108 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, and 130 were injured (not including casualties from Anbar operation).
“With Elections Day getting nearer, I once again stress the need for unity and a holistic approach to violence and terrorist threat in Iraq. The political, social and religious leaders of Iraq have an urgent responsibility to set up a mechanism for dialogue and conflict resolution between various stakeholders”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov said.
*CAVEATS: Data do not take into account casualties of the current IA operation in Anbar, for which we report at the bottom the figures received by our sources.
Civilian Casualties (killed and injured) per governorate
Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 657 civilian casualties (180 killed, 477 injured), followed by Salahuddine (95 killed, 205 injured), Babel (63 killed, 175 injured), Ninewa (67 killed, 83 injured), and Diyala (48 killed, 64 injured not including Buhriz operation).

Operations in Anbar
According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the total civilian casualties in Anbar up to 30 March were 156 killed and 741 injured, with 80 killed and 448 injured in Ramadi and 76 killed and 293 injured in Fallujah.

Iraq Body Count -- which has been counting the dead since the start of the war -- counts 1009 dead from March violence.  Jason Ditz ( reports:

Another month has come to an end, leaving a staggering number of people dead across Iraq. figures show 1,886 killed and 2,186 wounded nationwide, with 1,063 of the dead civilians or security members, and 823 militants.

Why the differences?

For one thing, UNAMI is excluding Anbar.  To a degree, so is Iraq Body Count.  IBC is not counting 'terrorists' killed.  (A) A death is a death and (B) who gets to define?

I don't just mean that from a philosophical stand point -- although there is that.  I mean how many times has the US government, for example, insisted a 'terrorist' was killed only to learn that it was a child or an innocent civilian?

A death is a death.  If you're tracking deaths, that's what you track.

If you want to know how many people died in Iraq in a given period, you need be counting all deaths.

IBC deserves much praise for sticking with Iraq when so many others walked away.  But that's the reason for the differences. is trying to count every violent death.

Let's not forget the true undercounters, AFP.  Prashant Rao Tweets:

  • Tolls for March 2014 in Iraq: Government - 1,004 killed, 1,729 wounded - 748 killed, 1,975 wounded - 512 killed, 1,237 wounded

  • Now people could have noted the death tolls released today.  Instead they offered this:

  • On a completely different note, first month since 2003 without a US fatality in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • No troops in Iraq or Afghanistan died this last month. First time since 2003

  • March was the first month since Feb 2003 without a single American troop casualty in Afghanistan or Iraq
  • March Was First Month Without U.S. Fatalities in Iraq or Afghanistan In 11 Years via

  • March is the first month since February of 2003 that no US troops were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • Oh, look, it's little Scotty Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor, still huffing his own boy smell.  People think I'm too hard on the Christian Science Monitor.  Go check little Scotty's Twitter feed.  He's all over the map today, covering anywhere the US government wants to start a war.  And he includes the Tweet above.  But Iraq?  He has no time for that.  He doesn't even note one count, one death toll.  Little Scotty Peterson sells wars, keeps him in his Fruit of the Looms.

    RT America aired a segment on contractors yesterday.

    RT America: Currently Iraq is importing American weapons, supplies and, you guessed it, private contractors to keep the developing al Qaeda incursion at bay.  If you're wondering, those contractors, many of them anyway, used to be the same folks hired by the US Department of Defense.  According to the Wall Street Journal, about 5,000 contractors are supporting the American diplomatic mission in Iraq -- more than a third of those are Americans.  Over the next few months, the US government is expected to begin sending more than $6 billion dollars and military equipment to Iraq.  The latest deal includes 24 Apache Attack Helicopters made by Boeing and nearly 500 Hellfire missiles produced by Lockheed Martin.  And these people and supplies may be bridging the gap until Iraq has a self-sufficient force to run its country.  But then again, it might not.  It might just keep them needing foreign talent to stay afloat for decades.  To discuss the reliance on contractors in Iraq, I was joined earlier by retired Brig Gen David Reist.  He's the Vice President at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Strategy and Planning Division.  [. . .] Now that the war is official over and thousands of contractors supporting the American mission remain and those supporting the defense contractors who are sending their product over, you need people to guard those Apache helicopters when they get there -- all those sorts of things.  What are many of these contractors' roles in the country now who aren't with the diplomatic mission?  We're talking about essentially defense contractors, right?

    David Reist: We're talking about contractors that whoever won that contract that was offered by the Iraqi [government] --

    RT America: [Laughing] Yeah, yeah.

    David Reist:  Whether the war is over?  That's debatable also because I would not say it is and many Iraqi people would not say.  But whoever wins those contracts and those are competitively  bid and when I was there in Anbar Province, the Governor offered contracts out to whoever won it.  So, there's other countries that are providing a good amount of support and other countries that are reaping much of the benefits of the economic wealth of Iraq at this point in time. 

    RT America:  Okay, that's fair enough.  A lot of foreign countries are making quite a bit of good money on 

    David Reist:  That's the essence of capitalism 

    RT America:  Right.  Exactly.  So is it not -- some would argue that the contracting, it's not going through the Department of Defense anymore but people are still making good money on Iraq not being able to prop itself up fully.

    David Reist:  Uh --

    RT America:  Could that have perhaps been part of the formulation of going to Iraq? It doesn't turn out okay but, hey, at least someone's making money.

    David Reist:  I wouldn't go there as the stretch.  Where I would go is Iraq has to sit here at this point and time and they've got to find those capabilities that they can't -- that they can't provide themselves at this point in time.

    David Reist is correct, the war hasn't ended.  Not by a long shot.

    And US President Barack Obama got more blood splashed on his hands today as his rabid dog Nouri al-Maliki continued terrorizing and killing Iraqis.  Nouri continues attacking civilians in Falluja. Anadolu Agency reports, "At least eight civilians were killed and 16 others injured in Iraqi army shelling of Fallujah in the western Anbar province, a medical official said." And NINA notes today, two civilians were wounded from Nouri's continued bombings of residential neighborhoods in Falluja.  The whorish Center of American Progress and the always war-whoring Time magazine are trumpeting 'no deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan' for the month of March but what they really mean is no US deaths.  Considering that both wars were sold on the lie that they would improve the lives of the people in those countries, the deaths or non-deaths of US 'peacekeepers' really aren't the issue. But it's the whoring we've come to expect from those who pimp war.

    Grasp that their countries get invaded with the lie that it will make their lives better and 13 years later for Afghanistan, 11 for Iraq, the people are dying in large numbers still and you think you look anything less than self-involved as you trumpet "No deaths!"

    It's not just the US military failed to win hears and minds, it's also the stupid American press who don't stop to think how they're 'whoops of joy' play out around the world.

    In Iraq today, deaths continue.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Meshahda roadside bombing left 3 people dead, a car bombing in near Tikrit University left 5 dead and seven injured, the Iraqi military killed 2 suspects to the east of Mosul,  2 police members were shot dead in Alqahira1 corpse was discovered in Sadr Citylate last night 3 people were shot dead in Khalis, and an Arab Jabar Village bombing left 1 Sahwa dead and another injured.

  • Iraq's election campaigns are due to start tomorrow on April Fools Day - pretty much sums up the entire campaign.

  • Yes, campaigning kicked off today and to ensure that the corruption could take hold, broken promises were not called out.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports, "If the fighting goes on, Iraqi military officials say it would be impossible to hold elections inside the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which has been taken over by the militants — but they hint the vote could perhaps be held on the city's outskirts. As many as a third of the province's cities might be affected, election officials say."  AFP words it, "Though not officially confirmed, the vote appears unlikely to take place throughout parts of the western desert province of Anbar, which has been wracked by violence since the beginning of the year, with militants holding control of an entire town on Baghdad’s doorstep."  The US State Dept, once so adamant that elections must take place everywhere in Iraq, was silent on the news.

    Let's all go to the movies!  World Can't Wait does great work and we supported it here -- up until they decided to protest a film that they admitted they hadn't seen.  A film by Kathryn Bigelow, who I've noted before, I've known for years..  (And there's a long story on the journalist involved in smearing the film, Dexy Filkins.  He lied about Falluja, he lied about the film.  But that's a story for another day.)

    Zero Dark Thirty is a great film.  But even if it were a piece of crap, you don't bully the arts.  You can choose not to see a film all you want.  I had and have no interest in Mel Gibson's Jesus movie.  I didn't scream it shouldn't be shown, I didn't try to think of ways Mel should be forced to alter his film.  It's not a film that held interest for me so I avoided it.

    I think Debra Sweet (of World Can't Wait) is one of the strongest and most important activists in the United States.

    But I still struggle with noting her organization, World Can't Wait, to this day because that's not minor.  I don't believe in bullying an artist and I don't believe in censorship.  But I especially don't believe in calling for censorship of a film you haven't seen yet.

    Ashe Schow's Washington Examiner article on the documentary Honor Diaries was sent to the public account.  I haven't seen the film, I won't see it.  That's not me telling anyone not to see it or saying that it has no value.  I'm just not in place where I can sit down and watch a documentary about women being killed for so-called 'honor' crimes.  It's an important topic and I can read about it, I can speak about it and I can hear about it -- we have frequently written about it here -- but I'm not going to sit there and watch a movie about it.  I'm not in a place where I can.

    CAIR is apparently opposed to the documentary.  We note them from time to time.  I went to the website to find a statement on the documentary.  Can't find it.  But I do see "Help Stop Anti-Free Speech 'Anti-BDS' Bill in Maryland Legislature."  It is important to defend free speech.

    Since they don't have a statement proper, we have to go the conservative newspaper The Jewish Press:

    It is hard even for an organization such as CAIR to publicly defend the abuse of women that is described in the film. Instead, CAIR vilifies the Clarion Project, which produced the film, because “Jews produced the film,” as CAIR explained in a letter to Fox News, which ran a segment about the film.
    Clarion produced other films which deal with unsavory aspects of Muslim culture. Those films, “Obsession,” “Relentless” and “Iranium,” were similarly criticized by certain defenders of the Muslim faith, although all included interviews with people widely considered to be “moderate Muslims,” such as the Arab Israeli journalist Khaled abu Toameh, and the American Muslim physician Zuhdi Jasser.

    Okay, what do you say about that?

    How about I hope that the argument that "Jews produced the film" wasn't really made by CAIR but if it was they need to apologize publicly immediately.  But they appear to be concerned by what they see as a pattern of Islamophobia.  Then make your case for that.  I called out DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation decades ago in college.  At the time, professors -- predominately White -- didn't want to hear that.  I didn't give a damn about their sacred cows.

    Today, there's little dispute of how racist that film is.  When that film came out in 1915?  The NAACP protested it.  They got the message out -- a message most didn't want to hear at the time -- but they got the message out and laid the groundwork for the criticism of the racist nature of the film.

    I'm going to be really honest here, most people are too uninformed to 'read' film.

    They lack the critical abilities because they weren't taught them.

    Django Unchained is a racist film from a talented half-wit whose works grows worse and worse with each film because he's an uneducated idiot who, when blessed with success, failed to use that good fortune to educate himself.  So his already cartoonish and limited view of the world just gets more cartoonish.

    One of the most embarrassing moments in Jane Fonda's life is her ridiculous praise for Django Unchained. Ann called it out here, Betty called it out here.  But, like I said, some people can't 'read' film.  That's why Jane Fonda can give incredible performances but mostly in so-so movies.  Faye Dunaway has the filmography.  Faye will be remembered because she gave strong performances and chose well.  Jane has no Chinatown, no Bonnie & Clyde and no Three Days of the Condor (Jane turned down the first two).  On Diane Rehm this week, she was asked about . . . Barefoot in the Park.  By a caller -- the only film mentioned, which really says something about the way the public sees her body of work -- and Jane said it holds up.  Really?

    Mildred Natwick tells Jane to "give up a little bit of you."  And save the 'games' (Corey Bratter's actual life but, sure, call it 'games') for bed.

    Jane thinks that holds up?


    As I said, some people lack the critical abilities to 'read' film and that includes Jane.

    Anyone who knows how to 'read'  film grasps quickly that the Fatal Attraction Glenn Close 'bitch' in Django Unchained, the character the audience screams to be dead?  Samuel L. Jackson's house slave character.

    I'm sorry, the real villains in the issue of slavery were house slaves?

    That's nothing but bulls**t.  In a film overflowing with White actors, the villain is the only other significant Black character?  Samuel L. Jackson's characters buys no slaves and owns no slaves, but he's the one Quentin sets audiences up to boo and hiss.  Jonah Hill, by contrast, is a KKK member who we're supposed to find amusing and chuckle with because, after all, the KKK is so cuddly and cute, right?

    Again, Jane Fonda embarrassed herself.

    I didn't demand that Django Unchained not open or that it be pulled from theaters.  I've called it out for being racist -- and I know damn well in 20 years that will be the accepted view.

    I like Jane.  But I loathe Django Unchained.

    And I bring that all up to point out that if you don't like a film, speak out.  But you don't have a right -- I don't have a right -- to demand that a director have his or her film recut.  You had three US Senators demanding changes -- demanding in writing -- to Kathryn's film and few bothered to call out this attempt at government censorship of a film. From Ava and my "Media: The never-ending sexism:"

    The sexism never ends.  Like when Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin embarrassed themselves with the letter calling for censorship -- yes, government officials insisting on altering a film from the director's intended version qualifies as censorship -- whether it's the insertion of a title card or a call for deletions.
    That cry for censorship was shameful.  And they've backed off that call.  In part because former CIA Director and the outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has praised the film as has former US House Rep.  Jane Harman.  But also because it was made clear that a line had been crossed.
    With that checked off the list, let's return to the three senators and their little letter calling for censorship to note the sexist aspect of it.
    Zero Dark Thirty is a film released by Sony Pictures.  The senators complain to "Chairman and CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment" Michael Lynton.  That position actually has a co-chair.  Amy Pascal is the Co-Chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group.  How telling that the Senate -- where sexism is institutionalized -- would blow off Pascal and make their appeal to Lynton.
    Or did it just not occur to them that a woman could be in charge?

    If Honor Diaries is an awful film, call it out.  But don't try to prevent it from being shown.  It being shown can raise awareness and also raise funds for CARE, among other things.  But it being shown also means a dialogue and without that dialogue Islamophobia isn't brought out in the open and won't be defeated.

    Honor Diaries may not be an awful film.  It's chief critic is a man who hasn't seen the film.  Don't you just love that?  He's decided no one should see it and that includes him.  The uninformed as a shaper of culture?  Maybe he should run for Congress.

    No one benefits from censorship.  Birth of a Nation is still shown today but most Americans today rightly see it for the racist film it is.  That's the victory.  The film is called out and it exists now as evidence and proof of just how racist the society was (and DW as well) to make a film glorifying the KKK.

    'Honor' killings take place all the time.  We cover Iraq, they take place in Iraq all the time and go unpunished.  They also take place in the United States all the time as well.   Among all racial and ethnic and religious (and non-religious) groups in the US.  A woman divorces a man and he shows up later to kill her.  'Honor' killings are about those who see women as having no agency, they are 'things' and then these 'things' embarrass someone -- a husband or ex-husband, a lover or ex-lover, a parent (including a mother), etc. -- it's time to kill the woman.

    A real dialogue around Honor Diaries could go along way towards addressing how this is not a religious issue but it is an issue about the status of women.