South of Teh Stoopid: or, who reviews the reviewers?


Okay. I have a confession to make: I haven’t seen Oliver Stone’s latest film yet. Or at least, not the whole thing. I’ve only seen a few clips, presumably representative of the tone of the whole. What I have seen has me feeling very ambivalent: On the one hand, it’s clear that he’s one of the few US filmmakers willing to give Latin America a fair shake, and its progressive leaders some positive coverage. Which is good; we need more of that. And he seems genuinely concerned with getting to the truth. Which is also good–we REALLY need that. On the other, his rough-hewn style and his embarrassing inability to pronounce Chávez, even after he’s spent so much time among people who can, just grate on my nerves. It’s obvious that he’s got a learning curve ahead of him there, still. Maybe it’s too much to ask for smoothness from a filmmaker whose name is synonymous with sensation (remember JFK? Good movie; factually accurate and highly persuasive, but still…yow.)

But I think we can ask for much higher standards from the would-be critics, no? So, with that in mind, I’ve got about a dozen Google Alerts sitting untouched in my inbox. I’ve merely skimmed the contents, but dayum, they sure seem to be overflowing with bile and pus where Ollie Stone is concerned. How shall I handle them?

Shall I wax on about how some smirky, suit-clad amateur at The Examiner has decided, ahead of time, that SotB has “bombed in Venezuela”? It’s only just come out, and already it’s a flop. Wow, how quick was that? It should be noted that the suited smirker, one James Hirsen, doesn’t offer the slightest proof that “Many of the theaters are reportedly empty. During the first twelve days of the movie’s release, ‘South of the Border’ brought in only $18,601 on 20 screens, according to Global Rentrak. That’s what Venezuelans refer to as La Bomba.” Oh, cute. Next time, at least include a link, loser.

BTW, that meme seems to be a going theme in all the usual right-wing places. Hmmm, I wonder why.

But you know what makes me laugh? Hirsen, obviously a FUX Snoozer wannabe, gets in a swipe at MSNBC in the end. So, what does NBC have to say about SotB? Well, they don’t let ideology get in the way of their reporting, I’ll give them that. They note that Chavecito is an Ollie fan (only now? I bet he saw JFK long ago!) and that never once did Stone not feel safe in any of the progressive LatAm countries he visited, nor anything less than welcome, even if he IS a gringo who speaks Spanish poorly and says “Shah-VEZZ”. This, I’m sure, must really have the “Venezuela is unsafe” crowd in a tizzy.

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly is rather predictably patronizing with this short review, which gives the movie a B+ grade. Guess that deduction was for the “rose-colored agitprop”, which I can assure you (having watched more than my share of Venezuelan news programming) is actually truth, not “agitprop”. It does make some attempt at fairness, though, in noting that Stone is “onto something larger than the cult of personality.” I should say he is–Chavecito’s election in ’98 paved the way for leftists (and other progressive types) in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Honduras. The Right is on the run. That’s not something that mere personality alone can accomplish, as all these leaders have their own individual styles. And if Ollie Stone has caught “a current of history”, then he has done his job well.

The “agitprop” meme can also be seen at hyper-capitalistic Forbes, where Tim Ferguson thinks this is all some kind of lefty plot to “humanize” Chavecito. As though the man were somehow a demon. Ferguson, too, waxes patronizing, preferring to look at the movie through his own accustomed distortive lenses. The man is an idiot, but he’s no doubt useful to the corporatist bosses. That’s why he dutifully describes the ‘Cito as “hostile” and “a dictator”, while praising the weak left in Chile as “democratic” (because it didn’t say boo to the IMF, no doubt) and pooh-poohs the thirteen electoral tests that Chavecito and his supporters in the PSUV and other Venezuelan left parties have successfully stood since 1998. It’s not a film review; it’s capitalist agitprop. I guess asking a Forbes “journalist” to leave his ideology at the door is like asking a sewage lagoon to stop stinking. You can do so till you’re blue in the face, but it just ain’t gonna happen.

And speaking of stinking that ain’t gonna stop, how about Stephen Whitty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger? I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that his surname is just one slip of the keyboard from “Shitty”. His entire review, however, requires no slippage. It’s all the way into the ol’ cesspit, baby.

By now, I bet you’re wondering what the Wall Street Urinal–sorry, JOURNAL–has to say. I do too, but judging from the headers on the excerpt, I’d say it’s not worth subscribing or paying for. As it stands, you can find this same feces-fingerpainting objet d’art, obligingly copied out for you at no extra charge, by those “media” wannabes who just can’t get the fuck out of their goddamn jimmyjams. Somehow, that just seems so appropriate. Turns out that this sucky old would-be Ebert, Ron Radosh, has decided to position himself as a critic of the critics, and he criticizes them all for not being critical enough (of Stone? or Chavecito? take yer pick). Well, doesn’t that just make ME feel so…so…so meta?

Meanwhile, there’s another shitty little right-wing blog posing as a news site that quotes, of all things, the Socialist International to make its fallacious point that Chavecito is a dictator, and Ollie a useful idiot. This is a laugh, as there IS no Socialist International at the moment to speak of. The Fourth fell apart like rotten Roquefort some time ago, and Chavecito only recently raised the possibility of convening a Fifth. That thing calling itself the SI is, in fact, nothing but a bunch of neoliberal corruptos. (And for those who know Spanish, I highly recommend this video. Alberto Nolia nails their crooked little Adeco nuts to the wall.) How lame–and how funny is it that a right-wing site is using a bunch of capitalists calling themselves the Socialist International…to try to discredit socialism?

Meanwhile, tries very hard not to whine, and doesn’t quite
succeed. Care for some cheese with that? Oh wait, you included it, too: “It’s surely helpful to see Chávez and his peers outside of their usual derisive media frames. But this is, after all, another frame, another stage, and another show.” And this corporate website posing as a blog isn’t? Feh.

And speaking of cheese to go with that whine, take your pick as to which is which between the so-called NewsBusters (which busts nothing) and the very ironically named Big Hollywood (which is not big, and is dedicated exclusively to kvetching about the imaginarily liberal Hollywood). Both come off as alternately whiny and cheesy, so there’s no doubt something there for every right-wing ideological carper to nurse his antisocial grudges till they’re nice and fat. Like, oh, say, Brent Bozell’s ass. Or Andrew Breitbart’s.

And oh look! Ollie’s supposedly “feuding” with “film critic” Larry Rohter. When did Larry Rohter become a film critic? I thought he was one of the Old Grey Whore’s two resident LatAm bovine-feces generators (the other one being Simon Romero, whose bons mots on the oeuvre of Ollie Stone I have yet to see.)

And speaking of dreck-writers named Romero, who is this Dennis chap? Sure sounds like a relative of Simon. Smells like it, too.

Well. After all that sulfur, how about a little palate-cleansing sorbet? A former screenwriter for Ollie Stone, who could well be credited with opening the auteur’s eyes to the situation in Latin America, has actually provided a reasonably nuanced, unbiased review. And just for good measure, here’s another, from someone who actually DOES movie journalism for a living. Hallelujah!

On to the next course. But does anyone really care what Maria Conchita Alonso “thinks”? Last time I saw her, she had a bad facelift (and an ugly boob job), and was trying to revive her career by showing off her denuded nether regions. Clearly none of that worked, so now she’s back to spitting venom. Maybe Ollie will take pity on her, and make his next documentary a nature film…on poisonous snakes from Cuba Venezuela. Then Coochita will finally get that elusive starring role she dreams of. Yippee!

WTF is the matter with Alternet? Nik Kozloff is NOT an unbiased reporter either–he strives for “balance” by “balancing” facts with spurious shit that smells suspiciously like hit-piece. I’ve had my issues with his crap in the past, and I continue to have them–he seems keener on appeasing the powers-that-be than challenging them, and that’s NOT balanced.

And finally, I was going to do this stoopid Turan SOB, but you know what? Otto beat me to it. And I’m glad that he has. Read him and laugh. And then, for more laughs, read the good guys at Structurally Maladjusted, too.

And when you’re ready to get serious, there’s this piece, vital to understanding what all the fake film-crit is really all about.

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3 Responses to South of Teh Stoopid: or, who reviews the reviewers?

  1. Slave Revolt says:

    Bina, isn’t it increasingly apparent that intellectuals that are allowed to advance opinions in capitalist societies where a small elite pockets most of the wealth are simply paid whores?
    After a couple of decades of paying attention to this shit, it is so, so predictable. Not news.
    What would be highly unusual is if any of the official corporate media tried to provide a truly balanced assessment of any anti-corporate or imperialist movement or government.
    Seriously, one can’t even develop a conversation with any of the intelligentsia in any in-depth and meaningful manner–because most of them are mired in the muck of deep propaganda and disinformation. They can’t think critically–and they don’t want to because their incomes depend on their advancing memes that are propitious to the ruling classes.
    Well, the mass delusions of the subjects of empire actually work to empower the organized masses in the colonies that endeavor to fight back. This is evidenced by the undeniable advances made by movements in the Americas (despite the obvious and temporary set-backs).
    I am so, so happy that the US is in political, economic, and ideological decline. This opens spaces for authentically democratic movements to address dire problems.
    The decline appears to have a momentum that is really irreversible at this point.
    But a wounded empire is still dangerous–and the disinformation that is common, standard fare with respect to Latin America continue to pose a threat for the region. But, thank dog, the empire is mired in impossible, expensive occupations in that Middle East.
    There will be little appetite among the intelligentsia and the general public to launch wars against anti-imperialist governments in the Americas. At most, they can send in the Marines to isolated places like Nicaragua, thump their chests, and support a rightwing dictatorship here and there. But, as things have changed, it seems unlikely that the US can afford to fuck with Venezuela in any significant way. That is my ‘hopeful’ assessment, anyway.
    I have been consumed with my farms and business, but I do count on your blog to point up the most absurd bullshit and memes that pop-up day-to-day.
    Oh, happy independence day in Canada! I might have to become a frost-back if the shit gets too freaky here.

  2. “Frostback”–LOL! Beats being a snowbird, I guess. (Those are the Canadians who spend winters in Florida. Must be fucking nice. How’re they gonna like their tarballed beaches this coming season, I wonder?)
    BTW, we aren’t independent, and who knows if we ever will be. Even if we get out of the British Commonwealth, we’re still going to be stuck on the REAL empire, the globalized economy. As it is, Harpo would like only too well for us to become the 51st state–he really has zero patriotism.
    No, July 1st is–or was–Confederation Day, which used to mean a lot more than it does now. I think now, it’s become just an excuse to sell kitsch and shoot off some smoke bombs and pretend we count for more than we actually do. I’m saddened by it, because I know how much more we can be…and it certainly does NOT stack up to Harpo’s vision of us as yet another imperial power.

  3. Slave Revolt says:

    My bad. Well, I think that it is independence day in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. That’s something to celebrate!
    And, oh yeah, Venezuela is ‘north’ of the freaking equator.
    If I have had the chance to travel more, I would have known that as commonsense.
    I am working on getting to the place where I can finally travel to places outside my experience.

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