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Top Gun Maverick: Aerial Warfare, Unmanned

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 10:13pm in

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Arts, Film

As fiction, Tom Cruise's sequel to his 80s blockbuster longs for the days of the single warrior in combat, when air-launched explosive violence is all about ground attacks often with civilian casualties

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Captain Pete Mitchel is back. Top Gun: Maverick exploded onto the big screen this week, and as a disarmingly endearing example of absurd triumphalism, it succeeded. In a line that viewers will long  remember, bad-guy and drone-advocate Admiral Cain gazes forcefully into Maverick’s eyes and tells him: 

“The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is headed for extinction”

In true Maverick style, Top Gun’s top gun replies:

“Maybe so, sir. But not today.”

Here is the true warrior, the fighter pilot willing to risk his life and use his exceptional skills to further the interests of his country: a man standing up for his place, and the place of pilots trained in dogfighting rather than air-striking, in the face of modern warfare. 

In a nutshell, this line also sums up the lies the world was sold about modern aerial warfare in the original Top Gun film. Twenty years of the War on Terror have shown that heroic dogfights between skilled warriors are not what it’s about. It’s about airstrikes, from on high, on ground targets that, all too often, include civilians.

When Maverick refers to the missions his new trainees have been running up to now, he remarks that they have been mostly carrying out low-personal risk airstrikes, and are consequently ill-prepared for the hands-on dogfighting they’re likely to encounter as they bomb their target. It’s almost wistful.

The reality, of course, is that modern air warfare is dominated by the very real presence of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). These are the drones the film’s Admiral Cain would like to elevate at the expense of manned fighter jets. And Top Gun: Maverick is the fightback.  It speaks to the innate desire for a return to heroic warfare, where a low chance of success and a high chance of death is central to the hero’s framing. It’s warfare between real pilots because, remember, “it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.” 

All of this in spite of the fact it would have made more strategic sense to use stealthy fifth-generation aircraft like Navy F-35Cs or USAF F-35As/F-22s or B-2s, or even cruise missiles for this mission. But that’s not the point, is it? After all this is testosterone-fuelled fiction, far from the hard truths of war. 

Dogfights? You Mean Airstrikes

The modern reality of air war lies in the numbers, and it’s a far cry from dogfights.

Since 2010, Action on Armed Violence has recorded 8,222 incidents of air-launched explosive violence, as reported in English-language sources. These have caused a reported 65,009 civilian casualties. Indeed 58% of global casualties of air-launched weapons have been civilians in the last decade. All of these deaths are from airstrikes, none from dogfights. But this framing is totally absent in Top Gun.

What is also absent is the fact that such violence to civilians is entirely the preserve of states. 99% (8,103 incidents) of air-launched explosive violence since 2010 has been attributed to state actors, as well as 99% (64,065) of civilian casualties. Syria is the worst perpetrator of civilian casualties of air-launched explosive weapons (14,339 civilian casualties since 2010), followed by Saudi-led coalitions (9,892), and US-led coalitions (5,432).

Globally, the US is the 8th worst perpetrator of civilian casualties of air-launched explosive violence (1,031 civilian casualties) recorded since 2010. 

But given that – in reality – the majority of those killed or injured from air attacks are civilians, where does this leave societal notions of masculine heroism in air warfare?

Warrior Masculinities

Masculinity has long been associated with dogfighting in the air: from the Red Baron to Tom Cruise’s depiction of the hardened master of the air - the warrior in the cockpit has long been seen as the knight of the 20th Century.

Such a pilot displays all the hallmarks of the warrior archetype. He possesses belligerence and physical prowess; courage, risk-taking, and willingness to defy death; unemotional rationality and logic. But importantly - and seen in Top Gun: Maverick - what is demanded of that warrior is for the risk-taker to come out on top compared to the cautious, calculated warrior. 

This aligns with concepts of the heroic warrior going back to ancient Greece, where the willingness to engage in direct combat with an opponent who had the right and ability to inflict harm was the hallmark of the noble, courageous, fighter.

All of this contrasts sharply with the current realities of much air-launched explosive violence that is unmanned or where risk is minimised.

Killing from a distance has raised debates about martial honour for a long time. Even in the 12th century, the Second Council of the Lateran attempted to outlaw crossbows and this seeps into the film. And in Top Gun: Maverick we see this debate emerge again - a desire for a cleaner, more palatable version of the hero pilot.  

Decades of the ‘War on Terror’ have shown Western pilots and drones conducting an airstrike campaign across the Middle East that has been noted for costing large sums of money, often based on flawed intelligence, and claiming too many civilian lives. The campaign’s success in promoting global security is less well established. And while the film is a far cry from the accountability demanded by sections of the media, it does question the martial honour in the missions that pilots are carrying out, and in the prioritisation of drone warfare over manned aircraft.

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Of course, though, this is Hollywood. The film doesn’t address the issue of civilian casualties of manned and unmanned strikes: in Maverick’s latest mission, the target is isolated from any civilian settlement, and the issue of avoiding civilian casualties is never brought up. The enemy pilots hide behind mirrored helmets; the only casualties of a strike are the pilots of an enemy helicopter, as the last pilot, against whom the film’s showdown takes place, ejects from his craft and presumably lands safely.

In the end, the film reflects the desire for a simpler form of heroism against a clearly defined enemy who threatens something bigger than ourselves; of physical prowess against another warrior in one-on-one, or team-on-team combat. 

The film does not reflect the truth of airstrikes, manned or unmanned, nor does it address the core problematics of air-launched weapons: that warriors are removed from their targets, and from the consequences of their actions on non-combatant victims. What is clear is that the association of masculine heroic warrior ideals with air-launched weapons are fraying around the edges:­ ­­­­­Top Gun 3 might, in the end, be a hard sell. 

Chiara Torelli is a researcher at Action on Armed Violence

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The IPCRESS File: The Spectator and the Faux Rebellion of Neoliberal Identity Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 11:12am in

The United Kingdom’s ITV television network has just remade The IPCRESS File for global distribution. The new series draws on the source material of the original 1962 novel by Len Deighton about an unnamed every-man spy. The subsequent 1965 film starring Michael Cainehas created marketing space for the contemporary series too. In this version the every man agent became the named working-class cockney spy Harry Palmer, whose ordinary class status was contextualised by reference to day-to-day issues of supermarket shopping and inadequate pay (part of an overall move—including the writings of John le Carré—away from sci-fi gadget-encrusted Bond-like supermen). The development of this central protagonist has been supported by a set of follow-up novels and films, which has created a meta-textual identity for Palmer, culminating in this remake.  What might we read in the changes evident in this new adaptation?

A significant pleasure of the original film for its contemporary audiences was how it dealt with its class-based subtext.  Harry Palmer was less a middle-class Queen-&-Country man than a working-class individual whose quirky talent for questioning, wheeling, and dealing elevated him into a civil service security job instead of a typical 60s state-sector job.  The climax of the film reveals how Palmer’s working-class contrarian anti-authoritarian orientation allows him to break from the orders of a foreign government’s brainwashing. His boss dismisses his complaints about his sacrificial endangerment saying, ‘it’s what I pay you for Palmer.  In this respect, working-class Palmer is a highly representative protagonist of Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s 60s-era Labour government having a foot both inside and outside the system.

The new adaptation is quite a distinct restructuring of the original treatments, and while keeping Palmer’s narrative as an orientation point, moves the audience away from a single-protagonist engagement, offering instead multiple back-stories for characters Paul Maddox (Ashley Thomas), Jean Courtney (Lucy Boynton), and Palmer’s social opposite Major Dalby (Tom Hollander), some of whom appear in the original source material.  Essentially, multiple points of identification are being offered to align with current demands of supposedly multi-cultural, neoliberal niche-marketing. This however subverts genuine representations and generates a number of anachronisms.

One of these is the manufactured character of Black US intelligence agent Paul Maddox, supposedly operating internationally in the early 1960s. Plot reference is made to this being unusual but this doesn’t really cover the taboo-fracturing artificial nature of his presence.  Maddox is seen asked out for drinks by white American colleagues and dances with white-blonde Jean Courtney at a US military site without so much as a surprised racially motivated cough of reproach. While US Military segregation might have officially ended by the 60s,unofficially it persisted violently throughout the Vietnam War era.

If screenwriter/adaptor John Hodge didn’t know his social history, then Hollywood popular culture should have informed this representation. Hidden Figures (2016) revealed that during this era even NASA’s toilets were segregated. Brian’s Song (1970) treated the example of a close US inter-racial friendship during this era as so exceptional as to justify a biopic of the experience. Some years after the period setting of The IPCRESS File, the mixed-marriage drama Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) pointed out that anti-miscegenation laws banning inter-racial relations still existed in seventeen US states more than a third of the country.  Indicative of US racial phobias, a year later British chanteuse and actor Petula Clark sang a duet with Black American Harry Belafonte on her 1968 US television show.  Producers asked for another take of the duet because she’d inadvertently touched his arm. Characteristically for the present era of capitalism, the television series has absented this history of racial oppression, while seeking to elicit Black engagement in its cultural consumption.

This pattern is replicated in how women’s identity and historical marginalisation are similarly downplayed in the series.  Admittedly one character, indicative of the era’s limited contraception options, takes her own life after getting pregnant to a Russian spy.  But in the main, female characters demonstrate a level of agency historically and socially unusual, which is hard to find many equivalents of in popular culture from that period, including the source texts.  In the 1965 Icpress film, the female office veteran was a borderline sexist British ‘battleaxe’ stereotype. By contrast, the new series depicts this character as former lethal Second World War spy Alice (Anastasia Hille).  This affirmative tone runs counter to more authentic representations, found in films such as Plenty (1985) and Charlotte Gray (2001), which suggest that in the post-war era such women were often simply establishment-career dumped. 

In the original 1965 film, the main attributes of the younger character Jean Courtney, as played by Sue Lloyd, was sufficient experience to keep her head down in a potentially career-threatening competitively hostile patriarchal office environment.  As now played by Lucy Boynton, establishment careerist Jean is at least as sexualised as Lloyd’s earlier representation, though now broodingly aggressive about making it in a male-dominated world, which the production has her combat via a Princess Margaret-like accent and an implausibly expensive work wardrobe that seems to have come from Jackie Kennedy. Clearly the production is departing from the realist, anti-Bond, end-of-the-spy genre. Perhaps some viewers watching the dubious sequence in which Major Dalby hands out machine guns—equally implausibly representing basic intelligence-gathering staff as able to function as an off-the-cuff special forces tactical unit—might have wondered how a character, regardless of gender, could cope with heavy automatic weapon recoil while managing the logistics of an impractical Jackie-K hemline, with only the ground purchase provided by stiletto-heeled summer sling-backs.

In The IPCRESS File, the historical problem of invisible career women being reduced to the unofficial status of office ‘tea-ladies’ has, eschewing issues of sexual objectification, apparently been solved by Jean’s intensive use of lipstick. It’s worth recalling, in comparison, that during this depicted period a generation of anti-establishment, subversive revolutionary women, such as Angela Davis, Germaine Greer and Selma James, were coming to maturity. For the purposes of marketed cultural consumption, women are being offered points of identification in this current adaptation, though the fight against sexual objectification, struggles for agency, and the real historical restrictions they experienced at the hands of the patriarchy are like the representation of Black ethnic oppression; that is, largely absented.

Intelligence office boss Major Dalby (Tom Hollander) is Palmer’s class counterpoint in the text.  In accent, iconography and deportment he is overtly of the ruling class. In the source materials he is depicted has corrupted. By contrast, the new series portrays him as tempted into national betrayal by love, the orthodoxies of his position in society having trapped him in an uncommunicative, stagnate marriage. And while it might be true that being a member of the patrician class is bad for your emotional well-being; this representation does have the effect of creating another identity point of narrative entry. In essence, a viewer can now enjoy identification with a narrative, supposedly about Palmer, even from an elevated class position. It is Dalby that also recognises Palmer’s talents and promotes him into intelligence. So, even though for the purposes of demonstrating Palmer’s worldliness he’s shown occasionally quoting Karl Marx, Dalby’s function in the text in relation to Palmer helps undermine the sense that class exists at all as a constraining oppression.  Here class is just part of a set of identities. 

British Screen journal of the 1970s created some of the more important film theories on how in Lacanian psychoanalytic terms, the spectator (viewer) is sown or knitted into a visual text, and therefore potentially into its ideological project.  Stephen Heath’s Notes on Suture (1978) is a prominent source applicable here.  Perhaps more useful for this analysis is feminist Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975).  Very crudely and inadequately summarised Mulvey suggests spectator engagement is generated by two types of scopophilia – sexual visual pleasure.  One of these is voyeuristic pleasure in sexualised objectified representations of femininity. Mulvey cites the image of Lauran Bacall in To Have, and Have Not (1944), an example we find replicated in Lucy Boynton’s portrayal of Jean Courtney.  The other pleasure offered is male narcissism.  The spectator is Oedipally encouraged to identify with the central male protagonist or his doubles/surrogates within the narrative. The IPCRESS File adaptation, demonstrates that in our era of neoliberal niche-marketing capitalism, the cultural iconographic vocabulary of these narcissistic points of identification have been significantly extended – even to the extent of Jean Courtney functioning as both sexualised object and idealised character.  However in terms of sidelining critical politics or oppressive reality, the service to power has not been changed.

This still leaves two ‘characters’, which are interrelated, in The IPCRESS File.  The first is the 60s itself, here represented in vivid lacquered strategies, using glossily restored London buses, part of an overall fetish for period fashion, and using expressionistic camera angles that invoke the 1965 film, and possibly CGI staging.  This is the 60s as emblematic of Baudrillard’s ‘hyperreality’, – a 60s as theme park ride, with numerous disciplined identities from within capitalism, provided their own special entry gate.  As hyperreality, this is an ideological safe zone where nostalgic and fetishised identities are shorn of the historical and social contexts that could say something about power

Indeed, this relates to the character that in later episodes is revealed as the villain of the piece: US General Cathcart. Potentially in this hyperreal safe zone, there is a postmodern joke inference that this might be the older version of Colonel Cathcart, the antagonist from the Second World War novel, Catch-22. The General is a borderline sociopath obsessed with developing a neutron bomb, and he is finally killed-off when Palmer breaks from his brainwashing. Here in this 60s theme park, the threat is over. In real reality, the ideology that Cathcart represents has continued in the use of napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, in the imposition of numerous Fascist regimes and their death squads across South America, and in global mass civilian casualties and the use of uranium-based munitions in Iraq and elsewhere, the last producing a generation of Iraqi babies with birth defects.

In the real 1960s, the public protested US imperialism outside US embassies. What are the chances of the global audience as spectators of The IPCRESS File doing the same?  

New documentary trailer: Gaza Fights Back

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 2:21am in

 

Filmed during the attack and in the days following the ceasefire, the documentary tells the story of how Gaza’s armed resistance groups outwitted the vastly superior Israeli military and established their ability to intervene against Israeli ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and provocations at the al-Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

“The Palestinian military capabilities are not highly sophisticated and destructive, but it becomes so effective when it’s used by Palestinian smart youths who believe in their rights and freedom,” a masked al-Qassam commander says.

The documentary features intimate interviews with survivors, many of whom lost family members in the Israeli bombardment.

Among them is Omar Abu al-Ouf, who lost 22 family members in the bombing of his family’s house in al-Remal, Gaza’s main thoroughfare.

“The first missile came down on us in the street with no prior warning or call,” he recounted.

Among those killed was Omar’s father, Dr. Ayman Abu al-Ouf, one of the most senior physicians in all of Gaza.

Others, like 11-year-old Amal Ramzi Muhammed Nasir, fled amid the bombardment to take shelter in United Nations-run schools.

“We were trying to sleep. At exactly 1 a.m., there were sounds of explosions and airstrikes nearby. The house was shaking due to the intensity of the explosions.”

Gaza 2021

Men carry a child killed when Israeli airstrikes targeted an apartment complex in Gaza on May 16, 2021. Photo | AP

Having escaped to a school, Nasir and her family returned after the ceasefire to find their homes in ruin.

“We arrived and saw that our neighborhood that housed us our entire lives, our shelter, completely leveled to the ground,” she recalled. “Every single house was damaged and bombed.”

Jawad Mahdi, owner of the al-Jalaa tower, described Israel destroying the place he and his family lived for 25 years:

The building collapsed, and it took 25 years’ worth of memories, a place we lived in for 25 years, with my children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. Imagine building a house brick by brick, piece by piece, living in your home with your knowledge and dreams. Suddenly, you find yourself out of this house. An indescribable tragedy – being kicked out of your own home in an instant, a matter of seconds, even a minute, under nonexistent, illogical, and unethical reasons.”

As for future confrontations with the Israeli military, the al-Qassam commander sees them as inevitable as long as the occupation remains: “The Israeli occupation experienced our military capabilities in the last aggression on the Gaza Strip and the whole world saw it. And we still have more important capabilities in the shadow.”

He believes that armed resistance presents a viable path to liberation:

The lessons learned from the last aggression on the Gaza Strip is that Israel is an occupation state that could be defeated. It’s not a firm state that has been depicted by the Israeli Zionist propaganda machine. Palestinians can get their liberation and retrieve their rights and freedom.”

Feature photo  | A Palestinian child sits atop the rubble of homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. Khalil Hamra | AP

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post New documentary trailer: Gaza Fights Back appeared first on MintPress News.

On Starship Troopers (and Peckinpah)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/04/2022 - 12:01am in

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aesthetics, art, Film

Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls has gone through the complete cycle. It was initially received as a notorious turkey, then it became a cult hit that college students watched while playing Showgirls-themed drinking games, and before long it gained a reputation among highbrow commentators including legendary New Wave director Jacques Rivette) as one of the greatest American films of the era.

Good-bad films culture is a space where transgressive movies that are rejected by initial audiences can begin the process of reappraisal and rehabilitation...there is a high degree of overlap between good-bad movie fans and art cinema fans. Film maudit culture emerges from this overlap. I don't mean to say that a legendary film maudit such as Heaven's Gate or Showgirls should be seen as good-bad. Rather, I mean that film maudit sits at the nexus where the concepts of cinematic merit and artistic seriousness are problematized and reshaped.--Matthew Strohl (2022)Why It's Ok to Love Bad Movies, p. 19.

I have been living with Strohl's book for a few weeks now. I avidly search, often without luck, the streaming networks for the movies he discusses and I watch (or re-watch) them in light of his sophisticated and amusing analysis. I quietly mourn the days when my laptop had a DVD player and I could go to the university library or rent from Netflix's once enormous supply. 

The passage quoted above got me thinking of Verhoeven, and especially about (1997) Starship Troopers which has always troubled me. The film has stilted dialogues, an insipid story, but a lot of amazing visual imagery. On Twitter I asked Why think Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is satire? And that went viral with everyone assuring me that it is best understood as a parody/satire of fascism. I am not so sure.

Verhoeven's first major cinematic work was a documentary, Mussert (1968)--Anton Mussert was the leader of the Dutch national-socialists and executed for treason after WWII. I have been unable to find it in order to re-watch it on short notice. But I recall it as an engaging character portrait of Mussert, who is humanized in virtue of the kind of ordinariness of the perceptions of people that knew him. It's important for what follows that I do not mean to say that Verhoeven is interested in defending Mussert's ideology or choices. What is important is that Verhoeven has a documented interest in fascism (no surprise given his biography). 

Soldaat van Oranje (1977) is part of Verhoeven's period of great success in the Netherlands. It's based on a true story. What's distinctive about it (other than the nudity which made all his movies appealing later to my teenage self) is that it starts as a kind of group portrait of students and the choice to collaborate or to resist seems largely arbitrary and driven by ambiguous motives. It's a movie that repays multiple viewings because it's also unusually reflexive about the power of images and the way mutual surveillance is internalized. But I wouldn't call it an antiwar movie because it also treats war as an adventure. (Feel free to challenge this; it's been a while.)

This all by way of prologue. In what follows I want to argue that Verhoeven's Starship Troopers actually expresses a fascist viewpoint. At a high level of abstraction this actually echoes the initial unease about and reception of the film that by now is widely thought inadequate. Since the film also clearly and repeatedly parodies and satirizes a world government that deploys an explicitly fascist aesthetic and propaganda methods most people I know disagree with me.

Moreover, if I am right it also goes against how Verhoeven's claims about the film are usually interpreted (2014). Verhoeven is quoted as follows:

"I stopped after two chapters because it was so boring," says Verhoeven of his attempts to read Heinlein's opus. "It is really quite a bad book. I asked Ed Neumeier to tell me the story because I just couldn't read the thing. It's a very right-wing book. And with the movie we tried, and I think at least partially succeeded, in commenting on that at the same time. It would be eat your cake and have it. All the way through we were fighting with the fascism, the ultra-militarism. All the way through I wanted the audience to be asking, 'Are these people crazy?'" Empire. By Adam Smith, Owen Williams

Interestingly enough, Neumeier is on record (see here) of being a huge fan of the novel.

In what follows, I take for granted that Verhoeven's intentions are anti-militarist. Even so, there are two weird things worth noticing about Verhoeven's claims. First, the main points of the first chapter of Heinlein's Starship Troopers, are the fear and adrenaline in the confusion of battle. The first sentence of the narrator is "I always get the shakes before a drop" despite being full of drugs! I am not suggesting Heinlein's Starship Troopers isn't fascist -- that's a different debate --, but it is quite striking that Verhoeven claims he could tell after the first two chapters. (The second chapter is a flashback to the narrator's decision to join the service which is how the movie starts.) So, I want to suggest that this passage is worth being cautious about.

Second, Verhoeven himself explicitly qualifies the success of his own effort, he claims he only "partially succeeded." Verhoeven is not known for modesty, and I suggest that he must have discerned something of the argument I intend to offer.

Now, in the quoted passage fascism and ultra-militarism are equated. And such militarism and fascism are indeed on display in the first visual of the movie with the logo of the federal network (and the soundtrack playing a marching tune). The first scene of the movie is a slick recruitment video for the mobile infantry. Strikingly, this is a racially and gender integrated force. (The US Armed forces did not allow women in combat roles until much more recently.) We also learn that the world is imperiled ("help save the world") and something of the ideology of the federation: "service guarantees citizenship." (I return to this below.)

The second scene is shot as if embedded with the infantry in the process of invading Klendathu (the planet of the bugs), "which "must be eliminated." This invasion turns out to be disastrous not the least for the reporter and camera man embedded with the troops which are destroyed by the local bugs. This scene is not slick at all. 

That Klendathu "must be eliminated" is an echo of Cato's famous genocidal claim about Rome's arch-rival, Carthage (censeo Carthaginem esse delendam). This is important to my argument. For, the political ideology of the federation, as presented (and mocked and satirized) in the film, is a militaristic form of civic republicanism. This is, in fact, explicitly articulated in the third scene.

The third scene is a flashback (partially analogous to the second chapter of the book). And we find ourselves in a high school classroom where we are introduced to the hero -- or (if he you disagree with me) main character -- of the film, Rico, a conventionally attractive young man, who is drawing a picture of a boy and a girl and not paying attention to the teacher (Rasczak) who we learn is veteran missing part of an arm (and later turns out to be lieutenant commandeering an elite infantry unit that Rico joins after his initial unit is largely wiped out).*

In the flashback, Rasczak immediately summarizes the main point of the year: "the failure of democracy and the social sciences who brought the world to the bring of chaos."+ We learn that humanity is united in a federation akin to the United Nations (and Star Trek's federation). This federation has been transformed by a coup d'état of veterans who have created a system characterized by social stability for generations.

As we hear the teacher intone, Rico returns to drawing and we see the girl (Carmen Ibanez), who is his model. And as she smiles to him (into the camera), we clearly see her and a portrait of Spinoza. (I return to this below.) Raszcak switches to a Socratic method, and asks another student why are only citizens allowed to vote? And so the audience gets a civics lesson of the ruling ideology, which has a number of distinct elements:

  • A distinction between citizens and civilians. The distinction is political and moral.  
  • Citizenship is gained through service, primarily (perhaps exclusively) military service.
  • The political distinction is that the voting franchise is limited to citizens.
  • The moral distinction is that citizenship is freely chosen, and accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic. (Later, by focusing on Rico's parents, we learn that the life of a civilian is basically hedonist enjoyment without responsibility.) This moral distinction is characterized in terms of civic virtue. 
  • Importantly, while the students view citizenship as a means toward social benefits (including college entry), as reward for services rendered, the teacher rejects this. Gifts are never of value.**
  • Voting is treated as an expression of political authority, which rests on force, especially violence.
  • Violence is the supreme authority from which all other authority is derived. (This is much quoted.)

A student (Dizzy Flores, who is interested in Rico) objects that her mother claims violence does not solve anything. We then get another look at Spinoza, when Raszcak asks Carmen Ibanez (the student who is being portrayed by Rico), what the "city fathers of Hiroshima would say about that," (to which the astute and chilling response is, nothing because they are dead). Near the end of the scene we see a drawing of Hannah Arendt and a bust of Marcus Aurelius. It's not silly to have images of Spinoza, Arendt, and Marcus Aurelius in the classroom if one's ideology is a kind of realist, civic republicanism. 

At the end of the scene -- it's only 90 seconds long -- the question is asked (of Rico) if he believes the ruling ideology and Rico honestly says, he doesn't know. And Raszcak responds that he doubts any of them would 'recognize civic virtue if it bit them in the ass.'

I have spent some time on this because the federation's self-understanding and its structure is formally not fascist. (I don't deny, by the way, that there are important connections between, say, the roman republic and fascism.) We also learn quickly that the federation's military is a meritocracy. And there is some freedom of speech in the federation because there is no suggestion that there will be dangerous consequences for Dizzy Flores' mother doubting of official ideology (and Rico's own lack of conviction). 

Now, the film goes on to show that much of this is sham. The aesthetics of the federation are openly fascist (we see Neil Patrick Harris --  of Doogie Howser, MD fame -- visually transform into a Gestapo officer), it seems committed to open-ended wars of aggression, its claims about citizenship largely a sham because soldiers are treated as expendable; many of the scenes provide us a window into the propaganda that the federation directs at its own citizens. In addition, the federation clearly presents itself as superior to bugs (whose intelligence it constantly underestimates). And it is this fact, this exposure of the militaristic hollowness of the federation, alongside the sheer craziness of its way of life, that is taken as representing the viewpoint of the film and this, in turn, is treated as its anti-fascist message. 

The problem is, however, that exposing that civic republicanism and the duties of citizenship are a sham is itself a feature (not a bug [sorry]) of fascism, or at least what we now call the alt right. In addition, Rico's journey in the film is treated sympathetically. And his species of masculinity is also familiar from contemporary alt right. 

That is to say, while some viewers may end up thinking that Rico is a kind of idiot, I don't think that's the perspective of the movie itself. Initially, his decision to join the service is a rash rebellion against his parents and motivated by his desire to stay near Carmen Ibanez. (This plan fails because Carmen, who is much smarter, is sent to space-force to become a pilot.) He has a change of heart once he is responsible for the death of a fellow trainee (and Carmen far away), but he rescinds his decision to leave the military after his parents (and the city of Buenos Aires) are destroyed by the bugs. After this, this decision is existential. and he devotes his life to killing bugs. 

Rico never questions his decision. And whatever limited growth he shows, it's primarily in the art of killing and military tactics. Rico shows himself to be brave and a good, loyal platoon leader, who rises through the ranks because infantry has a high mortality rate. Importantly, while the smart kids who become officers are uniformly shown to be awful and true believers, in the infantry we see mutual care and comradery of beautiful young people willing to sacrifice for each other and the greater good. 

Now, for some people it's obvious that in virtue of serving an awful regime, which is parodied in the film, Rico and his friends are also so satirized. On social media Liam Kofi Bright suggested, with a knowing nod to Stanley Fish, that it represents a kind of surprised by sin structure. I actually think that's right. For Kofi Bright the lesson is, for the viewer, 'you too can be made to empathise with and root for the villains.' This may be Verhoeven's intention, although it is worth noting that we never root for the senior officers or the federation while watching Starship Troopers

My response is that to be surprised by sin just is the human condition. And it does not follow that in virtue of serving an awful regime -- in Kofi Bright's words "objectively what they're doing is aiding a fascist war of conquest...[a]ll their virtues and vices play out against that unquestioned background" -- Rico and his friends are also satirized or parodied. It's not even obvious that Raszcak is satirized in the film. (He turns out to be rather brave and caring of his troops.) In fact, we see Rico taking on the virtues that Raszcak extolls (and exemplifies). 

My position is illustrated by Sam Peckinpah's (1977) Cross of Iron, which appeared the same year as Verhoeven's Soldaat van Oranje. Cross of Iron, which explores the comradery and conflicts of a German platoon on the Eastern front, was a flop Stateside and was panned by critics. (Interestingly enough it did very well in West Germany.) Now, Cross of Iron is very violent, but there is no reason to think that in virtue of coming to sympathize with Corporal Rolf Steiner (James Coburn), whose home is on the front, and who is shown to be courageous and have quite a bit of humanity toward the enemy, we end up admiring the Wehrmacht or Nazi Germany.++ It's pretty obviously an antiwar movie, even though we are shown that for some men war is preferred over domestic life (a good part of the movie explores a romance between Steiner and his nurse Eva, who he ends up rejecting). 

Of course, Cross of Iron is not satire, so structurally it is not identical to Starship Troopers. And whatever aesthetic surrounds Coburn's Steiner, it is by no means fascist. But the aesthetic surrounding Rico and his friends is fascist. The ones that survive keep their beauty. And at the end of the movie Rico even 'gets' Carmen, while the morally superior Dizzy Flores dies. And so while insipid militarism is clearly criticized, Rico's military service is not. 

Now, one might object that Rico's inability to see through the lies and his dedicated service to a corrupt regime make him flawed. Obviously, I am not interested in convincing you otherwise. But I don't think the movie manages to convey this; unlike the smart elites of the federation, he is not obviously "crazy." In fact, he remains likeable and heroic to the end; he is a fascist poster boy. 

If  am right then this episode also illustrates something else: that so many people defend the movie as merely satire also shows something of how difficult it is to distance ourselves from fascism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*In the book, the teacher is Dubois (who turns out to be a colonel in the service).

+This is an important difference from the book, where the 'old regime' is described much latter as a form of "unlimited democracy."

**This turns out to be false. In war, Raszcak teaches Rico that what's freely given by another should be accepted.

++I don't mean to suggest that Steiner is unambiguous hero.

Chino, Do You Know Your Miranda Rights?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/03/2022 - 2:00am in

Tags 

Film, Music


My favorite genre is the movie musical; my least favorite, the musical-theater-kid movie. Both Spielberg’s Story and last year’s other corny pretender, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, have arrived as quaint, todos-juntos representatives of the latter brand. Bright, high-pitched, and would-be weird, they come from a time when we weren’t shaken by a global pandemic that wiped out millions of the bottom and made billions for the top. Miranda had the audacity to state in a promotional podcast for In the Heights that he wanted to “transcend” (“progress beyond”) West Side Story by not making “yet another gangster movie.” Good for him.

Long Day’s Journey into Slight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/03/2022 - 4:23am in

Tags 

Film


Gravity is at the center of Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, an apocalyptic comedy in which Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio play twin Chicken Littles gesturing broadly toward a falling sky. But more than anything it’s gravitas that McKay seems to be after. Don’t Look Up was recently voted the winner of this year’s Writers Guild Award for Original Screenplay, and, this Sunday, it may win a few Oscars as well. The film, which was subsidized by Netflix, is a messy and inane statement of purpose by a director who is drowning in purpose—and statements. At this point, another statuette could serve as a life preserver.

Which Philosophical Problems Should Be Made Into Movies or TV Shows?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/03/2022 - 1:32am in

There are already lots of philosophical fictional movies and television shows, but not as many as there could be, and perhaps not as many as there should be.

Some philosophical problems get a lot of attention from the filmmakers, such as knowledge of the external world (The Matrix, The Truman Show, Vanilla SkyInception). Others, not so much, such as nominalism vs. realism regarding universals.

This may be owed to differences in the degrees to which the problems lend themselves to stories, or to stories that benefit from being told in a visual medium. But it may also be owed to a lack of familiarity with certain philosophical problems and how they might be an important part of a story.

So here is a chance to share your own, “Wouldn’t it be cool if they made a movie about _____________?”

If you can, give us a one or two sentence sketch of a story, too, or at least a line about how it lends itself to story that would make for a good movie or television show, if it’s not obvious.

Digital Rocks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/03/2022 - 6:08am in

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Film


Eventually DCI scrubbed celluloid film almost entirely from the film industry, ushering in the most significant technological shift since the introduction of sound. The digital revolution transformed nearly every aspect of filmmaking for Hollywood and independent filmmakers. This revolution was invisible, and it was designed to be that way. Its success depended on audiences never noticing at all.

Cartoon: Threats all go to the movies!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/01/2022 - 9:50am in

Tags 

Cinema, Comics, Film, Movies

Follow me on TwitterFacebookInstagram, or at my website.

Watch ‘Encanto’ free Disney’s online: Where to stream and watch from anywhere

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/12/2021 - 6:01pm in

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Film

Animated Movie’s!! Is Encanto available to stream? Here are options for downloading or watching Encanto streaming the full movie online for free on 123movies & Reddit, YTS torrent, including where to watch the anticipated movie at home. Is watching Encanto on Disney Plus, HBO Max, Netflix, or Amazon Prime?

Watch Here: Encanto Full Online Free

watch encanto online

If you’re looking to take the kids to a movie this weekend, Disney’s latest animated film Encanto might just be a perfect choice. But if you’d rather stay inside and stream it, then you’ll have to wait—though perhaps not as long as you might think.

Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, the same team who brought you ZootopiaEncanto tells the story of a family who lives in the mystical mountains of Colombia who have all been blessed with magical powers.

Well, everyone except one child, that is. Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, is the only normal member of her family. And wouldn’t you know it, the fate of all magic turns out to rest in her non-magical hands.

If you’re looking to take the kids to a movie this weekend, Disney’s latest animated film Encanto might just be a perfect choice. But if you’d rather stay inside and stream it, then you’ll have to wait—though perhaps not as long as you might think.

Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, the same team who brought you ZootopiaEncanto tells the story of a family who lives in the mystical mountains of Colombia who have all been blessed with magical powers.

Well, everyone except one child, that is. Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, is the only normal member of her family. And wouldn’t you know it, the fate of all magic turns out to rest in her non-magical hands.

Here’s everything you need to know about where to watch Encanto, and when you can expect Encanto on streaming. Disney’s Encanto: Theatrical release, streaming details, arrival on Disney+, and more!

encanto free online

Disney’s Encanto: Release date for theatres

As already mentioned, Disney’s latest offering is already playing in cinemas of most of the nations. The film was released in states like the USA, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Germany, and more on November 24.

However, nations like Mexico, Australia, Argentina, UAE, Singapore, et cetera welcomed Encanto on November 25. Similarly, countries including India, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and more were the last to receive the release this week on November 26.

encanto free online

Encanto: Cast and characters

Encanto is a musical comedy that showcases the characters of Hispanic origin, and therefore, makers have casted the actors by keeping their backgrounds in mind. Hence, fans will notice a predominantly hispanic voice cast which includes the following:

Stephanie Beatriz voices Mirabel Madrigal, Noemi Josefina Flores voices Young Mirabel, John Leguizamo voices Bruno Madrigal, María Cecilia Botero voices Abuela Alma Madrigal, and Olga Merediz has lent her voice for Alma’s singing performances.

Diane Guerrero voices Isabela Madrigal, Jessica Darrow voices Luisa Madrigal, Angie Cepeda voices Julieta Madrigal, Wilmer Valderrama voices Agustín Madrigal, Carolina Gaitán voices Pepa Madrigal, Mauro Castillo voices Félix Madrigal, Adassa voices Dolores Madrigal, Rhenzy Feliz voices Camilo Madrigal, Ravi-Cabot Conyers voices Antonio Madrigal, Maluma voices Mariano Guzman, and Alan Tudyk voices Pico.

encanto free online

When will Encanto arrive on Disney+?

Makers are giving Encanto a 30-day theatrical run in the USA, and fans will have no other option except to visit the nearby cinemas. After the culmination of the run, the movie will make its way to Disney’s OTT platform.

Viewers can expect the arrival of Encanto around December 24, 2021, on Disney+. Therefore, they should get a suitable subscription for the platform before the release, in order to catch a hassle-free premiere.

encanto free online

Where to Watch Encanto

For now, the only place to watch Encanto is in a movie theater. It is not yet available on streaming. You can find a showtime at a movie theater near you here. But you won’t have to wait long to watch Encanto on streaming.

encanto free online

When Will Encanto Be Streaming?

While Disney has not yet officially announced a streaming release date for Encanto, Collider reported in September that Encanto will be available to stream free on Disney+ on December 24, 2021, in one month’s time.

It’s not clear where Collider got the information that Encanto will move on to Disney+ after 30 days in theaters, as most of Disney’s theatrical films have had a 45-day theatrical window before heading to digital on-demand and Disney+.

Decider reached out to Disney for confirmation and was told that the release date was not yet finalized. However, it would make sense that Disney would want a big, family film on the streaming service for Christmas 2021. Stay tuned for the official release date, but, for now, expect to see the film on Disney+ on December 24.

encanto free online

WILL ENCANTO BE ON HBO MAX?

No. Encanto is a Disney movie and not a Warner Bros. movie, and therefore will not be on HBO Max at the same time it is in theaters.

In 2021, HBO Max—which is owned by Warner Media—released Warner Bros. movies like Dune on the streaming service at the same time those movies were released in theaters. However, that will not be the case with Encanto.

IS ENCANTO ON NETFLIX?

No. Encanto is not streaming on Netflix and likely will never be streaming on Netflix, due to the fact that it will be streaming on Disney+ after its theatrical run. Sorry!

How to watch Encanto online for free

So, how can one watch Encanto online for free? There is a way, but fans will have to wait for Encanto to come out on Disney Plus first. The service typically costs $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year (which saves subscribers $15.98 from the monthly price.)

But there are ways to subscribe to Disney+ at no cost and watch Encanto online for free when it’s finally available to stream. Keep on reading ahead to find out how.

How to Watch Encanto Free Full Movies in Australia?

Helen Lyle is a student who decides to write a thesis about local legends and myths. She visits a part of the town, where she learns about the legend of Encanto, a one-armed man who appears when you say his name five times, in front of a mirror.

How to watch Encanto Free Streaming in New Zealand?

Encanto movie will be released in October and is available for free streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The best place to watch it is by clicking the link below! If you’re not from New Zealand, click here for more information about how subscribers can get their own copy of this awesome film when they sign up as well.

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