Annual Fundraising Appeal
 Here’s an important message from John Pilger on why the Left needs CounterPunch:
Pilger
John Pilger is one of the world’s most courageous journalists. He’s been contributing to CounterPunch for years. But as he notes, the old media establishment is crumbling around us, leaving precious few venues for authentic voices from the Left. This collapse makes CounterPunch’s survival an imperative. We’re not tied to any political party or sect. Our writers are free to speak their minds. Let’s keep it that way.  Please donate.

Day12Fixed

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
cp-store

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Why Bad Movies Keep Coming Out and What to Do About It

The Politics of Bad Cinema

by JOHN PILGER

As an inveterate film fan, I turn to the listings every week and try not to lose hope. I search the guff that often passes for previews, and I queue for a ticket with that flicker of excitement reminiscent of matinees in art deco splendour. Once inside, lights down, beer in hand, hope recedes as the minutes pass. How many times have I done a runner? There is a cinema I go to that refunds your money if you’re out the door within 20 minutes of the opening titles. The people there have knowing looks. My personal best is less than five minutes of the awful Moulin Rouge.

The other day, I saw Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen. The critics’ applause was thunderous. “A work of brilliance” … “Pure movie-going pleasure” … Smart, sophisticated and hugely enjoyable” … Brilliantly funny”.  One journalist called it a “miracle”. So I queued for a ticket, even conjuring the wonderful scene from Annie Hall (1975) when Woody Allen, standing in a movie queue, meets his hero, Marshall Mcluhan: he of “the medium is the message”.

Today, he might as well call up Hans Christian Anderson’s parable about a naked emperor, which applies to his latest “work of brilliance”. By any fair and reasonable measure, it is crap. Every character is cardboard. The schematic “plot” is crude. Two adopted sisters are thrown together, implausibly. There is a wannabee politican whose name should be Congressman Stereotype. The script is lazy, dated and patronising. Clearly, Allen wrote it during a night sweat. “If Cate Blanchett doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination,” wrote The Times critic, “then I will eat a Chanel hat.” Actually, Blanchett deserves a Lifeboat medal. By sheer dint of her acting, she tries and fails to rescue this wreck.

PR has subverted much of our lives, making unconscious acolytes of those who once might have operated outside the pack. The drumbeat of crap movies with big promotional budgets, mostly from the US, is incessant. The US market share of cinema box-office takings in Britain is more than 70 per cent; the small UK share is mainly for US co-productions. Films from Europe and the rest of the world account for a tiny fraction.  Ironically, in the US, quality film-making has absconded to television.

The hype of public relations – Edward Bernays’ euphemism for propaganda – is now regarded as truth. The medium has become the message. Prime Minister David Cameron, himself a former PR huckster for a media asset-stripper, saw the hyped The Fifth Estate, and declared: “Benedict Cumberbatch – brilliant, fantastic piece of acting. The twitchiness and everything of Julian Assange is brilliantly portrayed.” Neither he nor Cumberbatch, nor the makers of this fiction have ever met Assange. Based on a dodgy, axe-grinding book, the DreamWorks juggernaut is a perfidious, unethical exploitation of a man fighting for his freedom, if not his life.

Not surprisingly, Cameron’s government is slashing at the budget of the British Film Institute, keeper of the world’s greatest film archive and one of this country’s most liberating institutions. Like the National Health Service, it would not be established today. If you yearn to avoid Hollywood’s “babbling brook of bullshit” (to borrow from Richard Lewis in Curb Your Enthusiasm), join the BFI. As a longtime member and supporter, I am often found in one of its acoustically-excellent cinemas, seeing films, past and present, classics and unknowns,  that are reminders of how pleasurable an hour or two in front of celluloid can be. For more than 30 years, my own films have had their premieres here.

The antithesis of Blue Jasmine and The Fifth Estate has just ended a run at the BFI. This is Nothing but a Man, one of only two fiction features directed by Michael Roemer, a German Jewish refugee who grew up in England before emigrating to the US. Made in 1964 and set in the Deep South with an almost entirely African-American cast, it is the story of Duffy (Ivan Dixon), a tormented young black man whose life is consumed and distorted by his refusal to accept his “boy” status.  Aware that only collective action can beat racism, he is constantly looking for solidarity and failing to find it.

Is Duffy’s anger the product of an obstinate nature or a principled struggle against The Man? In keeping us guessing, Roemer (he wrote the script with Robert M. Young) ensures the anger is real, almost a presence in the cinema. Yet it is masked behind smiles; almost everyone in this remarkable film smiles as a way of trapping if not containing their despair. The jazz singer Abbey Lincoln, who plays Duffy’s wife Josie, is brilliant at this emotional and political sleight of hand. There is hope, too, but not a driblet of sentimentality.

None of the main cinema chains in the US wanted to show Nothing but a Man. No major distributor picked it up. Like Peter Watkins’ The War Game, which the BBC banned for 20 years, Roemer’s film did the rounds of church halls, youth centres and later video recorders. The point about the film is that it is as timeless as its director is ageless. At 85, Michael Roemer still teaches at the Yale School of Art and worries that he could not make “commercial” films that people wanted to see.

He need not worry. A film is judged by how or whether we remember it. Unlike the babbling brook of Hollywood – with its suppression of truth, fake heroes and warmongering – a masterpiece, or just a good movie, is unforgettable.  Join the BFI.

John Pilger’s new film, Utopia, is released in cinemas in the UK on 15 November and in Australia in January  www.johnpilger.com