04 June 2010

This project has moved

to here: Political Narratives

But I may post longer form essays here from time to time.

Thanks to all 5-7 of you who have followed this blog.

05 April 2010

The Ghost Writer

Polanski's The Ghost Writer is not a great movie.  Most of the shots are pretty, in that muted New England beach landscape kind of way,  and there are moments of suspense, but it is ruined both by the actors and it's half realized effort to be politically relevant.  The acting is not great, but that's not really what I'm interested in talking about.  What made the film feel unfinished, forced and at times silly, was the attempt to make parallels with reality and the political world created in the film.  At one point, a news conference with Adam Lang, the former British Prime Minister who is hiding in the US to avoid the ICC and allegations of war crimes, played by Pierce Brosnan, and a black woman who looks like Condoleeza Rice actually elicited laughs from most of the audience at the Union Square theater, which was more than half full.  Lang is maybe Tony Blair and some oblique references are made to a stupid American president, who could only be George W. Bush, and a weapons/defense manufacturer called Hatherton, a stand in for Halliburton.  Lang is under attack by the media for supposedly allowing terrorist suspects to be tortured, illustrated in the news with a really unconvincing reenactment of water boarding.

The decision to use these barely veiled correlative characters and events is a strange one.  Clearly there are significant enough differences in the the story of the movie and the real events of the British involvement in the Iraq war that the film probably couldn't getting away with using the actual names of Bush, Rice and Halliburton, but Polanski doesn't give his viewers much credit, making his fictional versions so obvious as to be embarrassing.

I don't think the movie was intended to solicit laughter at any point, but there was quite a bit.  The plot balances on the content of a memoir written by Lang's former ghost writer, who died mysteriously, which contains clues to the truth behind the war crime allegations and Lang's entire career.  Ewan McGregor, an unnamed writer known only as "the ghost," stumbles upon some of the former ghost writer's research materials which reveal certain holes in Lang's story, and begins an investigation.  At one point about two-thirds through the movie I remember thinking, "Oh, god the manuscript is going to have some secret code or something," but was relieved when it didn't, only to be more disappointed when this turned out to be true at the end of the movie.

It's unfortunate, because the movie had a lot of the right elements to make a cool conspiracy-esque story, CIA and all that, but it seemed confused as to how far it wanted to go into a full conspiracy movie, versus a political thriller or whatever.

I would just watch Chinatown again.

Before seeing I called my parents because it was Easter.  I told my dad I was going to see the movie, and he said that my mom wouldn't let them go because Roman Polanski is a pedophile or something.  "I didn't realize you guys were so ethical," I said.  "Well, if you see his movie then you're supporting him, so I guess we're not going do to that."  "But you liked Chinatown," I said, "before you knew he was a pedo."


24 February 2010

Voodoo Histories (?)

This book sounds sort of cool despite the awful title.  I probably could have written it in a couple of years, but I probably will not read it.

06 January 2010


I've written a lot about 9/11 on this blog, or about media that concerns itself with "debunking" or "deconstructing" the story of 9/11, if only because Operation Mockingbird is concerned primarily with the art of the conspiracy theory, and 9/11 has proved a fertile ground for conspiracy theorists and otherwise radical political writers, film makers and thinkers.  My relationship to 9/11 itself has been made strange by this arrangement, because it was something that I didn't give much thought to in the years following the attacks.  Since I have engaged with a particular subset of media which deals with 9/11 in a particularly biased way, it has been important for me to, at times, take a step back and clarify for myself what I really think about 9/11 and terrorism and the way it shaped American politics over the past decade, though none of this kind of thought or writing has appeared on this blog.

Anyway, this is relevant because I recently read Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill, which has been called a 9/11 book, and although that's a frightfully limiting description, 9/11 does figure importantly in the events and mood of the book, though, in a way that has nothing to do with conspiracy theories.  I read the book because after hearing how great it was for months and months and then seeing it on my parents shelf at home over the holidays, I figured I should just go ahead and read it.  I had mixed feelings about, but enjoyed reading it and felt that certain parts resonated with me.  As far as this blog goes, however, there was one passage that caught my interest, as a sort of example of the kind of thought inspired by 9/11 that might lead, though not in a direct way at all, to conspiracy theorist ideas, which struck me because it was embedded in a serious novel that treats the trauma of 9/11 more maturely than most things, whether they be YouTube videos or novels, have (of what I've read/seen).

Part of the novel deals with the dissolution of the marriage between the protagonist, Hans van den Broek and his wife Rachel, which occurs slowly after having to move out of their Tribeca apartment to a hotel uptown immediately following the attacks.  The novel takes a subtle approach to the dysfunction of their marriage, it isn't necessarily 9/11 or being foreigners in America or Hans' tendency toward indecision, but an unnameable feeling that results from those factors and others unknown.  However, in an argument between Rachel and Hans she explains that she no longer feels safe in America, and that part of her decision to move back to England is political.
She said, "Bush wants to attack Iraq as part of a right-wing plan to destroy international law and order as we know it and replace it with the global rule of American force.  Tell me which part of that sentence is wrong, and why."
The rhetoric Rachel uses here is obviously  reminiscent of the arguments that appear in many conspiracy theory films, but presented from the perspective of a rational woman ("a corporate litigator, let's not forget") with no motivation other than her own safety and sanity.  When I write about the arguments and rhetoric of most of the conspiracy theorists that I write about on this blog, I tend to do so with an ironic, condescending tone.  But I can't treat the character Rachel's paranoia this way, for obvious reasons.  Does her paranoia and the paranoia of someone like Alex Jones stem from the same emotional impulse?