Blank screen? Blame the guy in the black mock turtle neck . . .
We all know the merely ‘great’ moments of 2011. Everyone has their own list.
To wit, the usual suspects: the Kardashian wedding, Weiner’s Tweets, the movie ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, Glenn Beck ‘parting ways’ with Fox, the Beatles’ song ‘In My Life’ used to sell mattresses by Sleepy’s, and so on. Toss in various pedantic finger jabs at the camera by Laurence (‘I was Chief of Staff to the Senate Finance Committee!’) O’Donnell or Rachel (‘Check this out, it is sooo cool. In the 1970s, they actually had LED wristwatches!’) Maddow.
Life defining moments all, surely.
Still, we can sift through the cacophony and seek greater refinement. To kickstart conversation, here’s one stab at a Top Ten:
10. Michele Bachmann
9. ‘Teh Gays’ Invading C-PAC, causing a Counter-Revolution and Coup
8. Khadaffi’s PG-Rated Cher Condi Photo Book
7. Season 2 of ‘Walking Dead’
5. Herman Caine’s Smoking Commercial
4. The Republican Debates (pick your moment)
3. Boehner/Cantor Road Show
2. US/ISI Divorce (and drone war migrating to Africa)
1. The U.S. Default/Debt Debacle/People Realizing Goldilocks Doesn’t Work
Submit your suggestions. Anything missing? What should be here?
The 2011 cinematic version of Le Carre’s finest novel, Tinker, Tailor is a competent procedural that manages to tell the story of a 1970s British mole hunt with diligent attention to period atmosphere. Those unfamiliar with the book or lyrically accurate and evocative 1970s BBC mini-series with Alec Guiness likely will find the movie fine entertainment.
Both the book and BBC series at heart are about layers of betrayal: to colleagues, to institutions, to ‘set’ or social caste, to spouses, to country and ultimately disappointed life entitlement. It’s no accident the BBC series’ credits roll with Oxford spires and a choral lament. That is the alpha and omega of the story. None of that is in the movie. And thus we are left with something less.
The movie also misses a key character. 1970s Britain. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson works overtime to pull the viewer into his re-created 1970s world. Shot after shot lingers on mini-skirted extras, 1970s furniture rejected by “Mad Men” as not innocently 60′s enough, period wall paper in the background and lots of 1970s cars. The film chromatic scale even seeks to lure the viewer in. Yet it’s a manufactured strain that still can’t capture what the BBC cameras did effortlessly — London (and Oxford) as imperial detritus, floating on memory.
The screenplay invents some new scenes and omits others but like a good CSI or NCIS episode tells how a British mole burrowed to the aorta of British intelligence and turned it all into an arm of Moscow Center. When confronted after capture the movie’s mole declares his rationale “I made my mark.” Very 21st Century. In the book and BBC series, this scene is a complex fugue like crescendo of all the cascading betrayals.
The major theme? Young men working in intelligence during WW II, recruited from Oxford to rule the world themselves betrayed by fate. Their youthful expectations to preside over an empire invisibly now just a bitter joke in a world of American and Soviet preponderance. The movie doesn’t touch this but inserts serial betrayal as simply dastardly acts. Tinker, Tailor on Auto Tune.
Some changes are just odd. The original plot device to start the book and BBC series is a sabotaged covert mission to Warsaw Pact Czechoslovakia. The cat’s paw here was fake Soviet mobilization along the NATO border to trigger a crisis in London. For some reason, the movie puts this mission to Budapest and Hungary. Why? Soviet mobilization in Hungary? Even then. Puzzling, maybe, but yawn.
Perhaps modern audiences can’t conceive of Czechoslovakia as ferrin enough. After all, Czech super models adorn beaches from the Aegean, Dubai to the Hamptons. The whole “New Europe” thing? American BMD sites? Recently departed Vaclav Havel being so familiar for decades ? So . . . Hungary?
We felt the movie generally miscast but the acting solid and serving the truncated procedural format. Our new Smiley, as mole hunting protagonist, is stoic and purposeful, with hesitancy intended to show character. Gone is the apparently befuddled, genuinely uncertain (about Ann and many things) Smiley, quiet but with intellectual stride. Gary Oldman, Commissioner Gordon from Batman to you kool kidz, said he modeled his take on Le Carre himself.
Oldman in one or two shots is shown to act physically weak. That’s age but not character. Oldman’s Smiley vehemently confronts Lacon and The Minister that they’ve been duped by The Mole, etc. Oldman’s viscerally assertive, combative and unabashedly confrontational. The anti-Smiley. On all counts. But exactly what a 127 minute procedural format requires.
The rest of the major cast are too young to be men of WW II now in the 1970s. John Hurt, playing Control, rips off his earlier portrayal of Chancellor Sutler from “V for Vendetta”. (We did think about a chest burster but that’s just us). His Control is a alcoholic who likes to socialize with the staff. The movie abandons Control’s journey of quietly frantic desperation to fend off an internal coup. That would have been more valuable than the fabricated scenes of his drinking and carousing.
Similarly, we thought fabricated scenes of violence gratuitous. They seemed tacked on to remind today’s audience that “THE SOVIETS ARE MEAN.” Maybe that was the smart thing to do.
The Bill Haydon and Jim Prideaux cast in the movie are improbable urchins. Both actors are fine, but there’s no way in hell that Prideaux, the spy betrayed in
Czechoslovakia Hungary was “Old Circus” – i.e. an institutional legend, whose stature in fall would topple Control from his throne. This Prideaux looks like the guy you see when you walk by Charles Schwab who welcomes new customers. Haydon, too. Far too young to be the foundational superstar. The movie’s Haydon plays the louche well but simply lacks the internal, instinctive Christ Church hauteur essential to his Miltonian Fall. And without that, all you have “I made a mark.”
A few minor quibbles with supporting roles. Toby and Bland get so little screen time their performances don’t register much. Greatly missing, however, is Toby’s unctuous superciliousness. Ricki Tarr comes across as a petulant tennis coach. His time on screen outsized given sacrifices forced on other characters in the screenplay.
Percy in this movie is a complete fumble. YMMV. And Peter Guillam? What’s with that?
Lacon, the permanent career intelligence functionary is reduced on screen to a quasi- accountant/minder (who plays squash). Gone are his estate, the foundation of his knighthood and pre-occupation with order and appearance. Again missing are motivations and impulses driven from entitlement and prestige. Perhaps this is surgical precision here – if that overarching theme is absent why provide Lacon the buttressing details?
All in all, the audience appeared to enjoy the movie a great deal. If Smiley here is not quite Horatio Cane or Gibbs he still wraps up the puzzle nicely in 127 minutes (and is shown at close assuming Control’s throne (again out of character) triumphantly). We give it a good 3 Leos out of 5. Those less immersed in the BBC series or book may rate it higher.
And so Obama completes another Bush Administration milestone. The formal withdrawal of American forces commences from Iraq — although the Obama Administration fought hard (and bungled negotiations) with the Iraqis to leave a residual force. A goal to which ‘serious’ people like Joe Lieberman and John McCain still cling.
Oddly, the Senators and CENTCOM may get their way even so. Iraqi domestic political opposition (which centered mostly about language in negotiations re legal jurisdiction over American troops and initiation of military activity) may require American troops to ‘leave’ before they are ‘invited’ back. So don’t be too surprised to see American contingents re-flow back to supplement the tens of thousands of contractors and other assorted flotsam and jetsam left behind. Like some kind of cruddy residue.
The ‘support our troops’ stickers in SUV windows are fewer now. The magnets tucked away. Many Americans possibly sense things are different because NCIS no longer features Iraq-related plots prominently. For several seasons now.
Those who lied the U.S. into war a war of aggression or continued to support those lies after exposure? They’ve collectively (nice word, that, no?) have paid little or no price. Many personalities are regulars on the cable TV circuit. Some churn out mind numbing books that like Speer and Posnan try to argue ‘they did not know’ (and weren’t there). It’s their good fortune that Iraq is already becoming the (second) ‘Forgotten War’.
Others are less fortunate. Some returning home will be shocked at the society they thought they were defending. Welcome to the 99%.
Per an earlier tweet (what, you don’t hang on every tweet in your feed??), Neojapanisme is offering a 5 part analysis of the decline of Japanese pop culture and what emerged afterwards. They’re up to part three as of now.
The collapse of spending on popular culture in Japan makes the country an important laboratory for understanding how a “cultural ecosystem” of consumers, producers, distributors, media, trend-spotters, and advertisers operates when market activity decreases. In this context, we must first look at the degree to which middle class consumers made up and then retreated from markets for cultural goods.
We’d agree. We’ve been tracking the decline they describe since we noticed it in the late 1990s. And certainly Japan is atypical in so many ways as to render casual analogies moot.
Yet still, we wonder.
Anyone finding their way to this blog probably expected the semi-coordinated crackdown on the most visible OWS outposts yesterday, Zuccotti Park, drama-infused Oakland bastion and Portland. Among others.
The ‘Authorities’ in each instance carefully mimic each other. They proclaim support for ‘free speech’ but then offering a lurid litany of health, crime and sanitation speculations — all to cast themselves on the side of hygiene and order to the heretofore OWS sympathizing but still passive American suburban onlookers.
From Oakland to NYC it’s a gamble: that the majority of Americans prefer to focus on upcoming Black Friday sales and ‘order’ over their own nebulously understood self-interest. We haven’t done the focus group work. Outside heavy media/Twitter consumers, we’re skeptical how many average ‘Amerikhuns’ understand the meme ‘We are the 99%’ or why that phrase advances their interests.
OWS in some ways emerged in September as happy serendipity. What’s been accomplished between organizing meetings in August to November defies design.
OWS’ various general assemblies, mini-protest marches and world wide presence are perfect fodder to Twitterati, twitching, tweeting and forwarding each detail. This activity conveys dynanism, progress, excitement — and vicarious participation. It eventually spilled over into the reluctant trad media. We’ve long maintained that OWS as a specific socio-politcial phenomenon, however, needs more. OWS has still to create bonds beyond intensive social media consumers. How much connectivity does it have? We may soon find out.
As it stands now, OWS overall and a flagship NYC presence (where ever re-located) need more time as a tangible manifestation. Perhaps non-coincidentially, local forces of small ‘r’ reaction aren’t anxious to grant time. The Oakland mayor said on the BBC the mayors were in coordination. Of course, the ground truth at each encampment and its relationship with corresponding authorities vary and determine outcomes.
It’s encouraging that the OWS sites disrupted by force are prepared to return and stay, challenging actions in courts, etc. OWS across the country appears to understand the imperative to avoid vandalism and violence – sure barriers to connecting with their larger audience. They would be wise to seek access to recognizable professionals sympathetic to their purpose to refute the ‘health, sanitation and public safety’ canards, too.
Regardless of this week’s events we doubt OWS’ destiny is to embody post-Obama politics capable of directly challenging and defeating oligarchy. OWS’ greatest service is to open the door to possibility. To give tangible form for the media-consuming onlookers to recycle from their offices and anchor chairs that Americans would not necessarily resign themselves to the false politics of the two ‘party’ system.
But then again, OWS has surprised before . . .
One of the many clever meme from the UC Davis abuse. Via Imgur.com.
It’s tempting to make a lot out of various state-level elections last night, Tuesday November 8th. After all, Ohio’s Beatles-loving (the band) Kasich suffered defeat on SB-2 and his radical war on collective bargaining decisively crushed. Mississippi similarly rejected a pro-life proposition that was so bizarrely drawn even Haley Barbour dropped his fond reminiscing of Jim Crow to muse even pro-lifers didn’t understand it. Maine rejected a Rightist rollback on voter registration access.
Would be nice to think that these small tactical defeats on Movement extremism represent its ideological and logistical over-extension. The establishment of a Non-Rightist Defensive Line, as it were. Sherrod Brown says Ohio’s action “is a decisive step towards rebuilding the middle class.” Such is the state of Opposition leadership. Still, wins are wins.
As noted by TPM and others, the message is more diluted. Ohio voters actually approved Issue 3 which called for an Ohio constitutional amendment to block implementation of Obama’s health care law.
Creating a proper political defensive line 18 months ago would have been the first priority of competent political professionals. These scatter shot successes, achieved in part by organization and mostly by Rightists’ over reaching, are but a step along that path. Halting an opponent’s Noon Tide and then switching oneself over to the offensive is an altogether trickier proposition. Given Obama’s personal inability to be authentically engaged in non-detached, non-judgmental politics, local successes such as achieved on November 8th will have to suffice: sua sponte, self-organizing (as in independent of Obama’s personal fate or trajectory). Billion dollars or no. Which means a proper defensive line, if it ever were to form, would have to hold for the next four years of Obama.