Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Movies, Politics, Comics, Oh MY! (and some poetry too)

It's been a while since I've really sat down and written a mean blog. I am always impressed with these blogging folks who constantly have interesting thoughts and ideas they compile together neatly and beautifully on a regular basis. Furthermore, I don't know how they find time or energy. Well, that being said, I seem to find enough time to watch episodes of Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Colbert, Family Guy and Glee on my computer...and let's not forget my recent foray into at least somewhat-forgotten movies of my childhood via Netflix streaming (I may post on that later).

But ANYWAY...I'm going to spill some babbling thoughts on you. Get ready.

First Stop on Margaux's Wild Ride: Communism and Artists as Liberals (vs) Patriotism and Nationalism in Post(ish)-Cold War, Pre-9-11 American Film!

Wahoo!! Who's excited?!!?? Me too. The first film I'd like to observe with you is REDS (1981) directed and produced by Warren Beatty, who also wrote the film with Trevor Griffiths. Warren also stars as John Reed alongside Diane Keaton's Louise Bryant and Jack Nicholson's Eugene O'Neill. Now, I don't know Mr. Beatty personally, but well...I'll give him some credit. This is a big picture. It's a sweeping piece full of drama, and there are a lot of interesting stories that we don't see in many films, including stories from people who knew Reed, Bryant and O'Neill or were at least around during the period. However (I'm gonna say it) the film struck me as a little self-indulgent at times. In terms of filmmaking and editing, I know little, however, I know enough to realize when a director is being redundant simply because he loves his movie too much to let go. I find this ironic because in the film, it's lighted upon that good writers are smart enough to know when to cut things out. For example, we see Beatty and Keaton being steamy with one another to the tune of the Russian (Bolshevik? Soviet?) anthem, at least two or three times, and honestly, I'm not against steam, but in a three and a half hour film about the Russian Revolution and an American communist reporter and his lady love, do we need all the repetition? We get it. They're in love and they make love, and the dog is always hungry and wanting to come in the room. Another example of unnecessary regurgitation might be found in the train scene in which an old gentleman tells lots of funny jokes that Louise (Keaton) finds funny. We get it. He's funny. We only needed one or two examples. Not seven. Then we see about three long, drawn-out arguments Reed has with the Russian Communist Party over the Americans needing their own party that he will lead. Did we need three examples? Couldn't they have just said no, once? In the end, Reed realizes he loves his wife, Louise more than Communist Revolution (something he should have figured out a long time ago, but hey, it makes a crazy story, so that's something). I think, from what little I've read of Warren Beatty, and that's not saying much...his feeling or interpretation of Reed is that the man was fighting for justice for all mankind. But from what I saw in this film, I felt that at least in terms of Beatty's portrayal, Reed had more interest in leading people than helping them, in getting credit and being an important part of a political movement. Sure, he believed in it, but he blindly rushes off to Russia, putting himself in danger, as well as his wife. And for what? I have to say I found the movie sad and fascinating, but not at all inspiring. Maybe that is exactly the feeling Beatty set out to bestow upon me, in which case I salute him.

The next film on my mind that I recently re-watched was part of my Netflix-streaming nostalgia kick. This film being Air Force One (1997) directed by Wolfgang Petersen, written by Andrew W. Marlowe and starring Harrison Ford. I remember seeing this film in the movie theatre when I was about ten years old. My mom and I liked it, over all. Watching it again, now, and looking at the Russian Communist terrorist seems so strange and somewhat comical to me. In this day and age, I don't feel like anybody is afraid of Russia or sees the nation as a villain any more. Okay, perhaps older generations have their suspicions, and clearly there appear to be many American souls who think the words "communist" and "socialist" are synonymous with "satanic". It's an interesting little time capsule of political feeling. The film takes pride in a president who stays out of trouble, speaks his mind, does what's "right" and gives impressive, surprise speeches. I always loved those speeches in movies because I feel like they just don't happen as beautifully in real life...okay, maybe I should have said "cinematically". This movie is just such an American fantasy. Harrison Ford is one of our movie heroes and there he is-leading the nation and kicking terrorist ass. It's such a joke, and yet it bleeds into our culture. Who's the governor of California? That's right. And if Harrison Ford ran for office anywhere? Yes. He would win. I found this scene interesting in juxtaposition with the scene from Reds.

The movie is an Hurrah USA! It's a celebration of patriotism, maybe one could even say nationalism. I believe I can even recall the line, "Here come the Good Guys," when American military aircrafts come in to assist the hijacked Air Force One. I don't know how I feel about it all, but gee, if it isn't fun to watch. It sucks you in, and how could you ever doubt Indiana Jones as the face of America? Now, I'm not saying Terrorists aren't "bad guys". I think I agree with that...but...well, you know what I'm saying (I hope)...the political climate is so different these days.

You think I'm done? Sit back down and sip your cocoa. This broad's just gettin' warmed up. Next stop? Well, why not look back to the year 1940 at this wonderfully amusing and patriotic comic!? The superhero of these tales is none other than The Fighting Yank. I came across the comic on this marvelous blog whilst sitting in my theatre history class. It's amazing how multi-tasking on a computer can make a class more interesting. I nearly read an entire issue, giggling.

And last but not least, because I wrote a (sort of messy) research paper on him, let's look at some early, Communist poetry from one of our favorite American poets, Langston Hughes!! He was called before McCarthy and the gang in the 1950s but basically said, "It's cool, Fellas. I'm not a radical any more." To which they replied, "Oh good, that's a relief. Okay, see ya later."

White Man

Sure I know you!

You’re a White Man.

I’m a Negro.

You take all the best jobs

And leave us the garbage cans to empty and

the halls to clean.

You have a good time in a big house at

Palm Beach

And rent us the back alleys

And the dirty slums.

You enjoy Rome—

And take Ethiopia.

White Man! White Man!

Let Louis Armstrong play it—

And you copyright it

And make the money.

You’re the smart guy, White Man!

You got everything!

But now,

I hear your name ain’t really White Man.

I hear it’s something

Marx wrote down

Fifty years ago-

That rich people don’t like to read.

Is that true, White Man?

Is your name in a book

Called The Communist Manifesto?

Is your name spelled


Are you always a White Man?


I believe that poem was written in the early 1930s. Anyway, hope you enjoyed my rambling. There's more to come....!


Kelsy said...

This is way more creative than I've been on my blog lately. Congratulations!

TehKyle said...

Can I just say, I really want some of the images on that blog as posters.