8bitagent wrote:Well Ted, even til the moments before death, claimed he never believed in any conspiracies involving the death of JFK or RFK. Like the hanging of RFK Jr's wife recently, I guess it's just 'one of those things'
http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/05/13/ ... tice/print
Weekend Edition May 13-15, 2011
The Good Don’t Triumph and There is No Justice
by RANDY SHIELDS
This July 21 is the 30th anniversary release date of Brian De Palma’s political/conspiracy thriller "Blow Out," starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen and John Lithgow. Critics praised De Palma’s artful weaving of references to other directors and movies and real life events into "Blow Out" but audiences were turned off by the film’s ravagingly sad ending. As a movie heathen, I’m not so interested in De Palma’s cinematic virtuosity, and I feel that the critics never got to the heart of why this is such a powerful film — which is the fact that it’s a deep and devastating attack on America. The film’s numerous similarities and small divergences from today’s political landscape are instructive.
Travolta plays Jack, a sound technician who serendipitously records an auto accident which turns out to be the murder of the governor of Pennsylvania and potential presidential candidate. Jack rescues Sally (Nancy Allen) from the crash scene and the story follows their efforts to interest the authorities in the evidence they have, the conspiracy/cover-up they are met with and their own fated investigation as they battle against the political operative/murderer Burke, played by John Lithgow. The film is set in Philadelphia against the backdrop of a splashy patriotic ain’t-we-great "Liberty Days" celebration.
Jack and Sally represent marginal members of the American working class, motivated chiefly by guilt and trying to redeem themselves. The fact that they feel guilt is in stark contrast to the powers that be in the movie or to America’s real political, financial and military elite who would find it unfathomable to redeem themselves because they would never imagine that they’ve done anything wrong — except, perhaps, not made enough money or not bombed enough countries.
Jack and Sally are pitted against Burke who is no mere private eye gone bad. No, Burke has superior knowledge of surveillance, wiretapping, the staging of "accidents" and various ways to kill people. It’s never made explicit in the movie but I take Burke as some kind of ex (?) government agent, probably a CIA assassin. He is a one man death squad who ties up the "loose ends" and engages in false flag murders of complete strangers to cover up the murder he really wants to commit. The powerful and privileged are protected at all costs.
The greatness of "Blow Out" is due to the contrast between what America thinks itself to be versus what it actually is. In the movie, as in real life, while the people are having an Old Glory-gasmic celebration of the America they think they live in — freedom, democracy, the light unto the world — in reality, in the underbelly of the nation, the real work is being done by people like Burke, who murder innocent people right and left and get away with it, violating every law and premise the nation was supposedly founded on — except murder and theft are exactly what it was founded on. The "Liberty Days" revelers whoop it up in mirage America, the America that never was or is always just out of reach, celebrating fake freedom (the one that doesn’t know it’s chained up because it never moves) and fake democracy (the one where we’re supposed to be eternally grateful to vote for one of the twin heads, Republican or Democrat, of the capitalist freak.)
"Blow Out’s" roof top climax, played out beneath the exploding fireworks of "Liberty Days," is one of the most memorable scenes in all of film. Travolta’s character Jack does everything in his power to do the right thing but he and Sally are ultimately destroyed, Sally physically and Jack, more pertinent to everyday life in America, mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually. When Jack tries to be an honest, altruistic full participant in society, when he becomes the most vital and self-actualized, and the least little bit effective (a hero for the working class, as opposed to Navy SEAL death squad heroes for the ruling class), America promptly destroys him. Jack lives in trickle-down America where evil, not wealth, trickles down and ruins many a small life. "Blow Out" is a great and terrible Greek-like tragedy because Jack gets the person killed that he initially saved.
It was actually the audiences, not the critics, who best understood "Blow Out." The critics were too cowardly and unclassconscious to acknowledge the truth of a film that took on the Great Satan, they could only speak of De Palma’s technical brilliance. But the audiences — they understood in a visceral way, the ending smacked them in the mouth, the ending said all is not well here, their hopes and dreams and notions of justice crushed, innocence laid waste (as represented by Sally), the mockery of the "promise" of America and all the lies told to children every day in every school. Audiences recoiled at seeing themselves as the mindless "Liberty Days" revelers instead of the heroic resisters like Jack and Sally — they understood that they betray the founding icons every day — by never taking a risk to overthrow the illegitimate ruling class — even as they celebrate those icons.
On the roof top in "Blow Out," on a raw revelatory monumentally sad Independence Day night, the flags wave, the fireworks explode and the cheers rise while, out of sight and under the din, another innocent person is anonymously killed for the American ruling class. That’s the American creation story, by God: the good don’t triumph and there is no justice. America wrecks the world, America moves on — and it all so easily escapes the notice of the revelers. America doesn’t pay, America doesn’t make amends, so get used to it, red man, black man, yellow man, sand man. And if every once in a blue moon the serfs get hit and bellyache, "Why do they hate us!" — and the masters go on a ten-year murder tantrum across the earth — well, for Wall Street, the Pentagon and the corrupt politicians who successfully run on racism and warmongering, well, it’s all good. In fact, it’s a bonanza. Let a thousand Blackwaters bloom. That’s your American revolution, that’s your gift to the world.
De Palma took much more heat for his 2007 film "Redacted" than he did from the 30-year-old "Blow Out" even though the latter will go down many years from now as the most consummate film critique of America. ("Redacted" was based on the true story of Abeer Hamza, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered in her home by American soldiers. The troops also murdered her mother, father and 6-year-old sister. Just a little slice of life in America’s nonstop unconstitutional wars which weak-ass liberals insist that their hero Obama continue. Yes, liberals support the gang-rape of children and mass murder — see how easy it is to be Fox News when your Dumbocratic targets don’t, in fact, have any principles except getting their man elected?)
The one faulty thing about "Blow Out" is that John Lithgow’s character is presented as a rogue operative whereas the lawlessness and murderousness that he symbolizes have always been US government policy, though, unlike today’s world, they used to be officially denied and decried. Also of note: Lithgow’s character is cut loose in the end by his superiors as opposed to, say, the way Obama moved heaven and earth to get CIA agent Raymond Davis, accused of murdering two Pakistanis, out of a jail in Pakistan and back to America.
Another divergence between "Blow Out" and the present concerns the idea of conspiracy. In "Blow Out" there is an all-encompassing successful conspiracy. But that was so then (Reagan) and this is now (Obama). And what’s different now is that the constitutional scholar/shredder Obama has normalized his predecessors’ crimes: undeclared wars, torture, indefinite detention and extra-judicial assassination (including of American citizens) are now openly defended and celebrated. When you can openly get away with these crimes and more, when there is no effective opposition to anything you do, what need is there for a conspiracy?
Now that I’ve given you my bleak interpretation of Brian De Palma’s bleak vision of (bleeping) America, let me cheer you up. I’m no comedian but I do know a few jokes.
Did you hear the one about the country that got its pride back after ten years by summarily executing a 54-year-old dialysis patient? Booyah! You don’t think that’s funny? Well there’s lot of college students, who were only ten years old at the time when the pride was lost, who think it’s a riot… Tomorrow belongs to them and they are well prepared — look at all the American flags apparently stashed in their dorms, ready for any Old Glory-gasmic celebration that comes along…
What about the one where a government walks into a bar and says give me billions of dollars each year to fight a terrorist boogeyman and then, when the same government has the opportunity to easily capture the terrorist and question him about his worldwide links to other terrorists, and put him in handcuffs and frog-march him into court for months on end and demystify him — but, instead, chooses to immediately gun him down and silence him, thus insuring his martyrdom …? You heard that one too? You’re so hip, you must watch a lot of TV!
OK, what about the killing of the terrorist in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the 24-hour aftermath where, in Washington (District of Costellobad), the White House took back the tale of the bloodthirsty fiend shot dead in a fire fight while cowardly using one of his wives as a human shield in his luxurious mansion while his impoverished followers freeze their jihadis off in caves? You don’t think that’s funny? You know, you’re a tough crowd, so let’s just call it a night before I start heckling you back.
Just go out and get the Criterion Collection’s recently released "Blow Out" on Blu-ray or a double disc DVD containing lengthy interviews with Brian De Palma and Nancy Allen, De Palma’s 1967 feature "Murder a la Mod," a booklet and many other extras.
Randy Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a hacker who infected the FBI's Carnivore program with a potent computer virus, delaying its deployment by several years...
...Stanley $10 million to write a worm that steals money from a secret government slush fund to the order of $9.5 billion. Gabriel reveals to Stanley that he works for an organization called the Black Cell that was started by J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s, which is responsible for retaliatory attacks against terrorists who have attacked Americans. It is currently headed by Senator Reisman (Sam Shepard), who discovers that the FBI has caught onto Gabriel and attempts to pull the plug. After Gabriel refuses to terminate his plans, Reisman attempts to have Gabriel killed, which fails. Gabriel tracks the Senator down while he is fly fishing in Bend, Oregon and kills him.
Gabriel proceeds with his plan and raids the local branch of the WorldBanc. He takes hostages, puts explosives on them and deploys Stanley's worm. After stealing the $9.5 billion he boards the hostages and his crew on a bus out of the WorldBanc. Gabriel demands a plane at the local airport (a hostage negotiation cliché) but it was a diversion. An S-64 Aircrane swoops down, lifts the bus and releases it on the rooftop of a skyscraper. From the rooftop, Gabriel seemingly departs with his team in a helicopter, which Stanley shoots down with a rocket-propelled grenade. At the morgue, Stanley and Agent Roberts learn that the body recovered from the helicopter is that of a former Mossad agent named Gabriel Shear, revealing that the "true" Gabriel Shear is still alive.
The end of the film shows Ginger and Gabriel in Monte Carlo transferring the $9.5 billion into other accounts. The final scene shows a yacht being destroyed while Ginger and Gabriel look on in a smaller boat while a news anchor voice narrates that a suspected terrorist died on that yacht, the third such successful counter-terrorism operation in as many weeks...
christs4sale wrote:I would say Three Days of the Condor (even though Richard Helms apparently was a consultant for the film), The Conversation and Marathon Man.
http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlines ... ligan.html
M: Did you have any contact with the CIA while you were making THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR?
P: There wasn't, really. We would have welcomed it, but we knew better than to try to pursue it actively in any way. What we did was to invite Mr. (Richard) Helms to come and watch the shooting for a day, which he did. I think he enjoyed himself very much. It was a movie, finally, and not any attempt on our part to do a definitive documentary.
I think that the critics are falling into all kinds of traps with this movie. Absolutely falling all over themselves. Half the critics are looking at it as a serious political piece of propaganda and criticizing it on that level which, god knows, wasn't intended. The film was three-quarters finished before any of these CIA revelations began to happen.
We were doing a straight thriller. That’s what we wanted to do. And we were shocked that as much of what we imagined, if you will, was coming to pass. We were absolutely dumbfounded. The attempt was, first of all, to make it faithful to the genre of a thriller. And within that, to explore certain ideas of suspicion, trust, morality, if you will; but it was not intended in any way as a documentary, I suppose, but as a warning—using the CIA almost as a metaphor, and drawing certain conclusions from post-Watergate America.
I didn't want this picture to be judged; it’s a movie. I intended it always as a movie. I never had any pretensions about the picture and it’s making me very angry that I'm getting pretensions stuck on me like tails on a donkey. If I wanted to be pretentious, I'd take the CIA seal and advertise this movie and really take advantage of the headlines. Central Intelligence Agency, United States of America, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway. And don't think it wasn't suggested—obviously, that’s what advertising people do. We really put our foot down—Redford and I—to absolutely stop that.
M: I mean—did you question whether or not you would use the CIA presence so literally in the film?
P: Sure, we did think twice about it. But I didn't think there was any way to duck it. The word that comes to my mind is speculative. It was a speculative film. We were just speculating, saying what if, what if, what if. Then we got caught in the headlines. I think that’s interfered rather strongly with an objective assessment of the film as a film, as a movie. From the producer’s point of view, that’s terrific, because it makes the picture timely. From a critical standpoint, my fear is that it has forced the movie to be judged by standards other than it was intended to be judged by. If I were to make the film now, I'd still make the film the way I made it. Because I wouldn't attempt to make a serious film about the CIA without switching entirely what I was doing. I'd give up the whole spy genre and do a documentary about morality and government bureaucracies. That’s another kind of movie...
Nobody is bored in this movie. There’s nothing to hate in this movie. It’s a movie, what’s to hate? What’s to not like? JAWS it’s not, maybe, but there’s nothing to hate in it. So what happens is that the intellectuality of critics takes over, after the fact. That’s what I think happens. They go to the movie, have a damn good time and then they feel guilty about it, because it’s in the headlines. If it weren't in the headlines now, they'd come away saying, jeez, this is a terrific spy thriller. But now they have to say, wait a second, it’s a spy thriller, but look what it’s about... and then a certain kind of intellectual snobbery takes over. I'm not knocking the critics; I'm just saying that they have a conscience that hits them afterwards.
The same thing happened with THE WAY WE WERE. Critics went to THE WAY WE WERE and they all cried. Then they came out and wrote about it as dribble. In between the lies they begrudgingly said they liked it, but they felt guilty for liking something so overtly romantic... I think if they had to write about it immediately after, it would be terrific. They get too long a time to think.
M: But you ‘are exaggerating the movie’s political impact—I think it is a very serious film.
P: Here’s what I always try to do, and again it’s something I get my wrists slapped for all the time. I want to work within genres—a western, romance, melodrama or spy film. And then, within that form, which I try to remain as faithful to as I can, I love to fool around with serious ideas. The westerns that I've made have not been straight westerns, by any manner. JEREMIAH JOHNSON was, for me, a very serious film. It was a western, but it was still a serious film and it entertains very serious ideas about copping out, dropping out, how far can you go? Do you have to make it work within the system or do you try to make it work elsewhere? To me, those are serious ideas, but still it’s a movie, basically an entertainment.
Here I tried to deal, as much as I could, with trust and suspicion, paranoia, which I think is happening in this country, when every institution I grew up believing was sacrosanct is now beginning to crumble. It’s destroying, in a very serious way, a certain kind of trust that is essential to have in a working society. Now those are all very pretentious ideas to have. But I don't think they have to be pretentious, if you put them in this kind of entertaining piece. I don't think there’s anything wrong with exploring those ideas as long as you don't get pretentious about it.
I think it’s interesting to take Redford as a man who trusts, in the beginning of the movie, and turn him into a guy who is practically paranoid by the end, so much so that he distrusts his lover. And to take a girl (sic) who doesn't trust in the beginning, and when she’s forced to be close at gunpoint and doesn't die, she ends up trusting in an odd way. Those ideas are serious ideas, but I don't think of it as an idea picture. I think of it basically as a thriller, and that was what I wanted to make.
M: The ending is very political.
P: That, to me, was very important. I did not want to take a cheap shot at the CIA, which is very easy to do now. I wanted to give (Cliff) Robertson a voice. Let him say what he says there, which is, hey look, we have a job to do. We didn't invent it. You guys paid the taxes for us to do this job... I don't necessarily agree with that point of view but I felt I had to voice it, in all fairness, because otherwise I think it’s just taking a cheap shot, which is easy to do—making them a bunch of moustache-twirling villains. God knows, they're bad enough. All you have to do is present the reality.
M: You sound as if you have a lingering respect for the CIA.
P: What I mean is, I don't defend the CIA’s actions. I think they're horrific. But, on the other hand, I don't think we should abolish the CIA. What we have to do is find some way of making a check and balance system work that, conceivably, hasn't been working before. The CIA has grown autonomous in a way that’s horrific. Have you read in the paper about the plates they've printed to make their own money, billions of dollars? They've printed billions of dollars, and the money has turned up in Mafia hands. Those actions are horrific. So anybody who goes to see the movie and says, this is far out, this couldn't happen, it’s not true.
M: Was the New York Times ending thrown in because of what was happening while you were shooting—the Watergate disclosures?
P: No, it wasn't at all. We didn't want the CIA to end up victorious, it was as simple as that. When a power that strong is after a single individual, where can he (sic) go? The book has the CIA killing everybody; I didn't want to do that. I didn't want him dead. I wanted some hope, some sense that the audience could feel that there is a recourse; and the fact is, as corny as it seems, that what is changing everything now is the media. That’s the pipeline that’s exposing all of. this, whether it’s Ellsberg with The Pentagon Papers, or Watergate with Bernstein and Woodward. Somehow, when it’s public knowledge, that at least is a starting point. And we couldn't come up with another ending.
M: Did you consider other endings?
P: We considered following the book, where he kills people, but that just sounded cheap to me. There was another alternative, which was for him to somehow find a way of discrediting the character played by Cliff Robertson, and we toyed with that for awhile, but that didn't work out. I was always nervous about the New York Times ending; so was Bob. We all were. But under the circumstances, it seemed the most truthful one, albeit corny. I mean, how would a guy get himself out of a situation like that?
The only way I know is to write a book about it, to go on television and say, “Hey look, these guys are after me and here’s the proof.” I mean, somehow, when you become a large public figure, it’s hands off. It’s like the CIA wouldn't dare to try to make a move to stop this movie. We have too high a profile. It’s like the Russians not killing Solzhenitsyn. If he were less famous, they'd do something to him. But notoriety is his only protection; he has too high a profile. What would happen to world opinion if something did happen to Solzhenitsyn.
M: I understood the ending differently. Isn't there a strong implication that the CIA also controls the New York Times?
P: There is. We are saying, god help you all if we can't keep this pipeline open. What if. That’s why he says, suppose they don't. That’s all I really meant—not that they will or they won't. There is that slight bit of doubt, and that’s what I wanted. That’s why I froze the frame, with Redford looking like he might be hunted—because, you know, there was a real attempt to suppress The Pentagon Papers. We're taking all of this very for granted now, all this freedom of the press. Oh come on, they're going to print it, they're going to print it. Well, it’s only within a couple of years that that’s happened. There was real government pressure to stop the New York Times from printing The Pentagon Papers—and they might have won, very easily. I don't know how much pressure is being brought to bear right now, on these newspapers, by CIA people. It can't be good for the CIA—there’s a bad part to all this, too—because the CIA, I'm sure, is partially paralyzed at this moment because of the public attention on them. And that’s not good for this country either.
M: I disagree. I don't have any affection or respect for the CIA—for operations like the murder of Allende. It sounds as if, again, you—and the film—are really in favor of having the CIA.
P: I think you have to. In other words, I wish the world was such that you didn't have to, but I'm not naive enough to believe that there isn't an intelligence gathering service in every other country, and I think that being the case, we have no choice but to have one. The fact that the CIA is corrupt I totally agree with, but the abstract idea of having an intelligence gathering service in a country like the United States—well, I think you have to. I really do.
M: What script changes were made as a result of the CIA revelations?
P: None, I promise you. We didn't try to jump on the headlines at all. First of all, we were too late. We started shooting the picture in October. The story began to break in December. We were four weeks from finishing the movie. We had shot the whole set-up, the whole plot, we were locked. We couldn't, all of a sudden, start changing scenes; we couldn't.
M: But it was a movie that was influenced by Watergate—it never would have been made ten years ago.
P: No, it wouldn't. Oh, absolutely. It had to do with Watergate, Chile—we knew about Allende, that had happened. We knew about links between Hunt, Colson, Magruder, those guys in the CIA. And we knew that one of the things Hunt was accused of was leaking CIA plots to book companies, to write mystery stories. That’s absolutely fact.
M: Of course, the other reason why the film is approached on political terms by some people, including myself, is because of the presence of Redford. He is a very political liberal actor, and it is not hard to think that he was attracted to the project because of what it had to say, politically, about the CIA.
P: That was one of the reasons he was attracted to the project. But the basic reason, to be honest with you, and I hate to disappoint everybody, but the real reason he wanted to do it was because it was the kind of movie neither of us had ever made before. It was a thriller, it was contemporary.
8bitagent wrote:Can anyone recommend films in league with Network, Blow Out, The Shining, Taxi Driver, Parallax View, THX 1138, 2001, 2001, Seconds, etc? It seems like that 68-81 period yielded some of the best cinema ever. Actually more specific films with an "RI" element.
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