The best analysis of the Big Lebowski I’ve ever heard [Repost from 2013 w/Updated working link]

There are many other elements to analyze in the film: the homage to films of the 30’s and 40’s, especially the film noir detective genre and the Busby Berkeley musical of course. There is the satire of the art world, L.A., power and violence, the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy and violence of the rich (and their cop enforcers)…The list is long, but this clip gets at the most important theme, the heart of the matter, in more ways than one.
The dude abides…

P.S. This is a short video clip with a voice-over review from Richard Brody’s “Front Row” series for the New Yorker magazine. In case they move the link again, that should help people search for it. If you find the link at the top is broken, please let me know in the comments and I will fix it if possible.

P.P.S. This is a spoiler for the clip, but if the clip does get taken down permanently, here is the most important part of the review:

After The Dude tells Maude about his experiences as a 60’s radical, Brody comments,

“The historical events The Dude refers to here are real and crucial moments in the American New Left in the 1960’s. The subject of the film is, what remains of the 1960’s, of the spirit of protest, of the anti-militarism of that period? And the Coen brothers provide an answer: No matter how burned-out and gone to seed its heralds may seem, its spirit abides.


Field hollers et work songs

This clip is from Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks (and very possibly Richard Pryor, who was a writer on the film) created a brilliant segment that manages to cut right to vicious racist heart of the u.s. in ways that only satire can achieve. I hesitated to add this clip in with eminently serious songs, but the songs speak for themselves, and the use of satire is deadly serious. The best satires crush your heart and make you laugh a the same time. Absurd, non?

Rick Roderick – Fatal Strategies

So, I could get into detailing all of things i disagree with, but RR is just sort of great unto himself – and who doesn’t love listening to an academic with a strong southern accent discuss Baudrillard.  Of course, enduring questions will always be relevant – and unfortunately, questions of virtual reality and the real will be relevant long after we are dead and gone… For those lit crit masochists out there, this is probably around twenty years old, so it’s like a little theory and america time capsule. You can see RR struggling with the definition of the – or The – Post-modern…There is a lot of overreach here, but with perspective it’s easy to pick out questions and subjects for further discussion.

So, have at it. It’s a fun ride (if you’re into this kind of thing…).

Robert Reich interviewed by Bill Moyers about his new film “Inequality for All”

As usual, Reich’s analysis of our situation is sound, but because he is a liberal, he is loathe to question the core tenets of capitalism.  The logic of capital is to concentrate wealth and power.  It makes everything a “resource” to be exploited, from the natural world to human beings (also part of the natural world, but that is another -related- discussion).  Capitalism works to commodify the entire world, i.e., put a price on everything and bring it into a market.  You can see this happening to education now with horrific effects.  It also demands ceaseless accumulation.   An example of that logic is embodied in the creation of corporate business cycles where each one has to be more profitable than the next, forever – by any means necessary.

The idea that we can’t have total equality because everyone would sit around and feed at the trough of the state is joke.  What do you do when you are relaxed and have time to yourself?  What happens when you get together with other people with a common goal? What would happen if you had the opportunity to create something and pursue your interests?  That we need fear or greed to motivate us is another sick myth perpetuated by capitalists because they don’t want us to have agency, control of our own lives. They don’t want us to realize we have the power to create a system without them – and they definitely don’t want us to be angry at them, much better to blame ourselves.  We have been so propagandized, we have internalized our corporate master’s attitudes.  Yes, you’re working two jobs and can’t make ends meet. Well, blame yourself.  This is bullshit.  One of the good things this film does is show how wrong that propaganda is, but Reich constantly falls down when he continues to put his faith in capitalism.  Of course, I don’t expect him to do anything else.  He is a liberal and the modern american liberal is afraid of radical change. He is an advocate of tweaking the system we have to make it more equal.  Unfortunately – and we can look back over more than 100 years to show this conclusively – the system we have is capitalism and for the reasons stated above, its logic is faulty and it progressively makes things worse.  The roller-coaster of change under capitalism can make it seem like some things are better, but the highs and lows get lower as time goes on and it is fueled literally and figuratively by exploitation.  It constantly works toward inequality and concentration of wealth and power through exploitation.  I won’t even begin a discussion of the psychological devastation it has caused because that would make this comment book-length.

Reich is correct, there is nothing wrong with globalization – but there is something wrong with corporate globalization.  Creating NAFTA and bringing China into the WTO decimated our economy.  Corporations (while they were making huge profits incidentally) wanted to rip our jobs from us (no, we didn’t “lose” them, we were bashed over the head and they were stolen) and exploit poor people in other countries, all just to make more, and more, and more…Neither Clinton nor Reich invented trade or trade organizations.  Corporate interests got Clinton elected, wrote the legislation, and served on the boards that made it all happen.  Yes, there are bad guys.  Moyers has been good about naming them for years. They are members of ALEC, they are the walton family who almost single-handedly created the system for our goods to be made in China, they are the koch brothers, GE, coke, mcdonald’s, big oil, monsanto, bankers, apple (yes, apple), microsoft, and the gates foundation…the list is long.

I’m sure Reich wants to be diplomatic and keep his friends in high places, most likely so he can try to convince them to change, but it is also because he has been paid by the elite and/or their institutions his entire career: public service is never wholly public and rarely is it service. Also, elite schools have always been a part of the power structure and as far as I know, Reich has spent most of his time at those institutions since leaving “public” “service.”  That being said, his heart is in the right place and his analysis of how we got here has a lot to recommend it.  Some of his prescriptions aren’t bad and some are downright necessary; so, I will probably see his movie and continue to post info from his site – and I will continue to insist that capitalism is a doomed course.  We need to organize to fundamentally change our system at the root.

Four Horsemen (2012) – documentary

The general analysis in this film is sound and it is well worth watching if you aren’t familiar with the facts they present. Unfortunately, at the very end, they quote a couple of natural law and precious metal bugs who could probably be classified as libertarian. That really only takes up a minute or so of the film, so it is by no means a deal-breaker. Other than that, plenty of common sense recommendations at the end: debt forgiveness, workers owning the means of production, redistributing wealth, etc…The biggest problem of course is that the filmmakers conclude we can have a kinder gentler capitalism. Not possible. The logic of capital is the commodification of all things, exploitation for profit at any cost, consolidation of wealth and power. We’d be much better off with a kinder gentler socialism, but that would be a false choice. We don’t have to choose between the two. Humans invented capitalism and socialism, we can invent other ways to organize society. In fact many think capitalism is essentially over. So what’s next? Unless (or possibly even if) people organize politically for radical change (i.e., structural change at the root), all the facts and trends point to those in power instituting a kind of neo-feudalism with a strong helping of techno-fascism. This is not hyperbole or sci-fi. We are well on our way. It seems most people have accepted it in one way or another. That may be the biggest problem of all.

A Place at the Table – trailer and interview with the filmmakers

Looks like a good movie. This interview is a good example of liberals coming to understand that charity does not work, that systemic problems need systemic answers, that seemingly individual problems have national and global consequences – and have political causes, i.e., people in power are causing problems like poverty. Unfortunately simply clicking on something is not going to change anything and even voting will have little systemic effect. The next step for liberals like this is to realize our entire political system is corrupt and needs radical change through collective action. Unfortunately, not going to happen anytime soon.

Click here to go to the website