Why ‘Richard Jewell’ was a Great Movie and ‘Joker’ Wasn’t: With awards season upon us, getting the best that be obtained

As I said in my review of Richard Jewell, the movie—it was an important film that every Trump supporter should see. For that matter, everyone should see the new Clint Eastwood film as it tackles an obscure truth that we live with every day, the nature of power to corrupt those worst to rise to the top of institutionalism. In a society that values perpetual bootlickers and places them in the highest ranks of institutionalism, it should never be questioned why things go wrong yet they do, and that is the precise point of the film. I think its important to mention that it was distributed by Warner Bros. which is the same company that produced Joker, which I thought was the most destructive film I have seen in a long time. In many ways this is the answer to the questions brought up in the Joker and its nice to see our 1st Amendment hard at work. These are the types of choices that we should have as a free society.

I have serious doubts however that Richard Jewell will win any Academy Awards which obviously the studio is hoping to get nominated for. The real-life performances provided in Richard Jewell were certainly worthy of awards, but the politics of the matter is the problem. This film was certainly a direct offering to the 60 million and more Trump voters who have been wanting for a long-time options from the kind of world that went after Richard Jewell cruelly, and unjustly. Even with all we know about our modern FBI and its connections to the Department of Justice, what we have read through the direct text messages of Lisa Page and Peter Strzok which could have easily have been the plot line of Richard Jewell, we are still reluctant to name the beast and call a spade a spade. The point of the movie was a good one, and worthy of best picture of the year for Warner Bros. but the question is one that no institutionalist wants to ask. Rather, they will prefer the Joker’s anarchy to the legitimate questioning of power through constitutional means offered by Richard Jewell.

I generally only have time to talk to really smart people professionally, so it amazes me during the holidays every time, when I get a chance to talk to normal people—people who care more about Ohio State football than the trivial complexities of Freudian legalizations wrapped with the bows of institutionalism which ultimately had a love affair with Karl Marx a long time ago and are still spawning children of thought to this very day. I don’t enjoy talking to those kinds of people with small talk because they don’t care about the big things in life, and for me, those are the only important things. Big things. It was simply stunning to hear so many normal people not understand why Nancy Pelosi is holding back on sending her impeachment votes to the senate, or how people don’t understand the relevance of what Peter Strzok did in the FBI, or the nature of James Comey the former FBI Director who was drunk with power, conspired with anti-Trumper John McCain to attempt a coup right in front of our faces, and expect not to get caught. For many, they just don’t have the mental horsepower to think about such things so they don’t even try and it never ceases to baffle me to their lack of curiosity.

But then someone like Clint Eastwood comes along and nails it with great simplicity pulled into focus in a way only a master storyteller could. Richard Jewell is a far better film not just politically, but ethically than Joker even without the fancy soundtrack and dynamic cinematography. The ultimate question is asked, and the protagonists provide the answer through the direction of the story, which in this case is even more difficult because a lot of the players in the story are still alive and it was true. Can we trust our media, can we trust our government, and the answer is no. Should we move toward anarchy and throw the baby out with the bathwater as they did in the Joker—of course not. That is what made the Joker a cheap shot where Richard Jewell was a true examination to a very modern problem within our functioning republic.

There were several very powerful moments in the film including at the beginning when the attorney friend of Richard Jewell gives him a hundred-dollar bill and says it’s a quid pro quo which everyone should know by now what it means. Jewell says he understands the meaning of the term and its then that Watson Bryant says that he expects in exchange for the Benjamin that Jewell will not become corrupt with power as he fulfills his dream of becoming a police officer. And in several scenes behind Bryant is a sign that says, “I fear my government more than I fear terrorists.” Bryant’s girlfriend and assistant is from Russia and is always there to remind him that likely the government is lying to protect itself as she is the first to believe the story of Richard Jewell’s innocence. And of course, at the end of the film when Jewell finally sticks up for himself, when he leaves the FBI interrogation with Bryant behind him smiling the door to the glass room closes with a the camera fixated on the reverse image of the FBI logo. This was a film that openly questions our government and for that, the Academy should be applauding. Unfortunately, most members of the media culture are precisely like Olivia Wilde’s character of Kathy Scruggs.

It’s movies like this that ultimately educate those who don’t read many books and are not intellectually curious about the world around them. They just want their chicken wings and their Bowl game football to distract them from moment to moment without the impediments of questioning the validity of it all. Trump supporters have been questioning things for a long time and that 60 million number is growing. Hollywood doesn’t necessarily want people questioning things, but I did find it extremely interesting that Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the producers of Richard Jewell. I always watch the credits of a new movie at the theater to the very last one, because there is a lot to learn from doing so, and what I see happening in Hollywood is a change in focus. Even when a terribly irresponsible movie like the Joker is made and the executives at Warner Bros. are betting chips on several potential winners that may be politically opposed—they all make money for the studio which is the name of the game, a trend can be seen emerging. I don’t think Richard Jewell would have been made before the Trump election. Nobody would have understood how to play the parts because our assumption of behavior would not compute the evil it takes to behave the way the FBI and the media did.

There was a scene where Bobi Jewell watched on television the terrible things that Tom Brokaw said about her son and in many ways that was a very powerful scene because that was all of us watching television every day. A few years ago we looked at figures in the media and we liked them until we have witnessed them turning on us over the 2016 election and it has been shocking, even very painful. People who don’t pay much attention to these things do so for the same reason that the Jewell family did, even if they were desperately naive. Bobi Jewell told her son to work hard at defending justice and he believed it whole heartedly, like most of us do and when faced with the terrible evil that those working in the media and the FBI are just as flawed as the worst of us, it is a grim reality that hits home painfully. And that is the essence of this great movie Richard Jewell. It tackles a great pain with a youthful buoyancy found only among very high intellects, but it doesn’t talk down to anybody. Its just a story that has a hard truth attached to it, and for that, it deserves the best awards that it can get. But to ol’ Clint Eastwood, I would think that the best reward he could receive is that people watch the movie and learn something from it. If not at the theater, then when it streams soon from our home televisions. And that is something that every single American should do at least once.

Rich Hoffman

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a Fun Movie, but had terrible, communist politics from the Wanda Group

We are supposed to function under the assumption that politics and entertainment are separate, and that we shouldn’t talk about politics. Yet, with the last two Legendary Entertainment monster film releases, first Kong: Skull Island and now this 2019 release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters the films are about nothing less than communist propaganda which is to be expected after Legendary was bought up by the Chinese Wanda Group in 2016. In the case of this second Godzilla film, Warner Bros. distributed the film, but the contents were clearly guided by the Wanda Group and that is the way things are now in Hollywood. When it is wondered why the American domestic box office was less excited about this monster movie entry than the 2014 predecessor it is due to the massive amount of subtle collectivist propaganda contained within it. I actually lost count of how many times western culture was body slammed in the new Godzilla film and Eastern cultures propped up. So, it should be expected that the domestic total would be less than the original. I thought the Eastern collectivist rants in Kong were bad, this new Godzilla was much worse.

That’s not to say that Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a bad movie. I enjoyed it immensely. As a conservative who loves movies, I am used to not having representation in Hollywood. I enjoyed the movie for what it was, and there were some great ideas. But the politics of the movie couldn’t be ignored. It was very much the star of the show. The theme of the movie was that Eastern understandings of dragons and monsters are that society is to take their rightful place in a kind of harmony with them. Meanwhile the West always intends to slay them. The message was quite clear, East good, West bad. We are supposed to learn to live in subservience to nature not to master it. And Godzilla was a force of nature that was to be worshipped like a God.

Then again, the villains of the movie were all environmental wackos who wanted to unleash all the monsters of the world to kill off humanity and to restore nature back into balance. The film also made an argument against that type of extremism which was interesting. It reminded me of the current Chinese difficulty of accepting Hong Kong capitalism but still holding on to the premise of communism. This Godzilla film was very much a product of Chinese politics, which is to say, a mess of ideas made under the thumbprint of a very authoritarian government. The ignorance of a blissful coexistence with authoritarian regimes and nature continues to be a problem with China and their movies reflect that problem.

Back in 2014 the Godzilla film then earned around $90 million domestically during its opening weekend. This movie made only $49 million. That is a consistent decline since Kong: Skull Island headed on that downward spiral after the Wanda Group bought up Legendary. Kong was also permeated with this promotion that the hostile indigenous people of Kong’s island were no longer deranged lunatics as they had been portrayed in the past, but now they were more advanced than the science of the Western world who were portrayed as greedy and doomed to failure. Monsters like Kong and Godzilla of course are part of an older than civilization intelligence and they watch over us as if we were all pets being guarded the way we would a hamster in a cage.

With those thoughts aside, some of the best moments for me in the new Godzilla film is the confirmation that more and more, we are accepting that ancient Egypt and the Mesopotamian Valley are not the oldest cultures on earth. Our story tellers are now routinely examining much older possible origins for the human race and that is a good thing, so its not all bad in these movies, so long as you don’t care about any of the people, because they are all pretty stupid. And that held true for the original monster movies from Japan. We didn’t watch those movies for the people, but only for the monsters, and that makes these movies fun. But the politics was very distracting, and I would say that it really hurts the domestic box office in North America.

I’ll have to say that the special effects in these monster movies are so much better than the originals and they are a lot of fun if you don’t take them too seriously. But it was hard for me to turn my brain off and enjoy the monsters because the politics of Godzilla and the communist ways of China were so over-the-top. The story of symbiotic relationships after a half hour was really getting on my nerves and that is exactly the kind of thing that is hurting these films at the box office. Honestly, I want to see the next Godzilla movie about the epic fight with King Kong do well, but the films are performing well under what market predictions would have expected, largely because the films aren’t fun enough due to all the political utterances. This is what happens when we let foreign companies take over American media outlets and start bringing their dumb ideas into our culture. The movies would do great if the monsters just destroyed communist civilization and the world would be much more interested because communism to the minds of all human beings represents tyranny, and a lack of freedom of thought. Not to live in symbiosis with them, which was, and continues to be the subtle message of all these films. The “state” (Godzilla is more powerful than you. Learn to live with that power, not against it).

That is also why the mixed messages of Godzilla seeking to recover from injuries in this most recent movie at an ancient temple at the bottom of the ocean was so compelling, because even as the messages of the movie are submission to nature, Godzilla sought healing and refuge at the temple of an ancient culture that has long since died away, following the Vico Cycle that I’m always talking about. It is actually in human creation that anything happens, even for these monsters, and that is the message that the Wanda Group is continuing to miss, because they aren’t just telling a story, they are trying to propagandize their form of government and using all these cool monsters to do it.

But American audiences can smell a rat, and they weren’t in a hurry to go see a movie about communist propaganda. People like me go see the films to see great monsters battle it out and create mass carnage. But nobody wants to sit through over two hours of a communist lecture about how the world would be so much better if the West would only fall and be eaten by a bunch of 300-foot-tall creatures from the ancient past. Even though such a thing is a fantasy for the East their childish understanding about the ways of the world can’t even be buried behind the visual spectacle of the giant monsters themselves. And ultimately that is the reason Godzilla: King of the Monsters didn’t perform well at the box office. It may do well in China, but American markets see through the veil, and it certainly hurt a film that was otherwise a lot of fun and worth the money.

Rich Hoffman

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Journey into the Firelight: The life and death of Robert James Waller

I don’t typically acknowledge memorials because to me, you live, you die—it’s all transitory.  The spirit of someone is what matters and the body is just a vehicle they ride in.  So when a car stops working, I typically don’t attribute that to the end of a person.  However, in regards to what I think is one of America’s great authors, Robert James Waller who died quietly at his home in Texas yesterday at the age of 77, I’ll make an exception because it’s likely we won’t see any more of his very good literature.  Needless to say, I have been a fan of his since his breakthrough novel, The Bridges of Madison County.  I was quite ecstatic when Clint Eastwood took up the movie project at Warner Bros. to make that very interesting novel into a movie just two years after the novel was released as it was to me a modern Arthurian romance mythology about the nature of love—how duty destroys passion between couples and how to live authentically in the modern world.  Here was my favorite actor/director handling one of my favorite novels—so on the opening day of the film, I was the very first one in line—as if it were a Star Wars movie.  I loved the material and subsequently devoured each book that Waller wrote from then on as they were released.

That little collection is a uniquely western view of the world mixed with the type of mysticism associated with oriental cultures.  Waller captured perfectly the modern conflict of the esoteric and exoteric with out-of-the-box characters yearning like Ayn Rand’s characters always for more.  Waller’s characters were trapped against foundations of social convention and always seeking to flee into the firelight—as he put it often.  My favorite of his characters of course was Robert Kincaid who I always associated with—and was obviously autobiographical for Robert Waller himself.

The negative reviews of his work often confounded Waller, he really didn’t understand why the literary critics hated him so much, yet his novels did so well, especially The Bridges of Madison County.  It was a short book that many desperate women were screaming for as a voice beyond the veil of their social conventions cobbled up like a dry rotted sponge being tossed into an old bucket to wash away the dirt on a car that needed to be cleaned after a long winter on the first good spring day.  Pieces of that sponge of course fell off during the act and it showed culturally in the women and some men who read Bridges—and the critics hated it.  Waller’s Robert Kincaid is exactly the type of man who the literary critics were afraid of—he was too perfect, too powerful, too smart—and the idea that someone like him existed in pickup trucks all across the American landscape honestly terrified them.  For the weakened, defeated males of American culture it was also terrifying to them to consider that somebody like a Robert Kincaid could come along and steal their women by just asking for a cold drink on a hot day.  Waller was essentially writing about T.S. Elliot’s Wasteland in the context of small town America.  That wasteland is much more evident in the big cities, and it’s hard to put a finger on it in within the noise of a cityscape—because everyone is a little neurotic in those places—but to segregate the wasteland motif into the Iowa countryside was dangerous, and accurate.  And the literary gatekeepers let Waller know what they thought of him.

Lucky for us all, Warner Bros has some rebels that have worked there for many years in their film and book publishing divisions that have the imprint of the great Clint Eastwood on them to this day.  Eastwood made all his movies for the most part with Warner Bros. so he has had a large hand in shaping them as a company—culturally.  And to this day, especially in regard to the D.C. comic universe of the Batman, Superman, and Justice League movies, there are some rebel filmmakers who are obvious Ayn Rand fans—and that’s wonderful.  I’d attribute that same trait to the how and why The Bridges of Madison County was published and released with the backing of a major player in entertainment and the content took off brilliantly catapulting Robert James Waller into orbit as one of America’s great writers.  Critics don’t like much that comes out of Warner Bros. for many of the same reasons they don’t like Donald Trump.  It’s also why Warner Bros. still owns the rights to Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and has Zach Snyder working on a treatment for a modern film about that topic, because Warner Bros. is still a studio that gets it—in the closed-door offices away from the entertainment media.  And Robert James Waller was one of their experiments—and a delightful one to emerge.

Waller was an economics professor and he understood business holding a PhD on the topic, but it was his art that he cherished most of all.  He had acute observations about things and had to get them out.  Unlike me, who lives in the days of the blog, Waller was one of the last writers to emerge before the computer generation exploded so getting access to his work required official publications of his written word.  But he wrote things for years fine tuning his thoughts which came to a very fine point in The Bridges of Madison County.  Robert Kincaid in that novel was essentially to an Iowa farmhouse lived in by the desperate love hungry wife of Francesca Johnson, what John Galt was to Dagny Taggart in the American classic Atlas Shrugged.

We are of course talking about “overman” characters here and that’s what critics didn’t like.  They wanted flawed people who were melting with guilt by their middle lives—and certainly not dripping with life passion as they moved beyond the age of 50.  Robert Kincaid was one of those characters and Waller managed to write about different variations of this uninhibited maleness in future novels, never to quite the same effect, but the characteristics were unmistakable.  But while Ayn Rand focused on the exoteric nature of things which eventually led to her creation of the Objectivist philosophy, Waller spent a lot of time with the esoteric, which women tend to reside in.  They love the idea of mystery and a connection to the unknown which is very oriental in its assumptions and the methods of Robert Kincaid were generally attributed to this esoteric nature.

Without question, Robert James Waller was one of the great American writers and I’ll miss the opportunity to read new work from him.  He lived a good life and his novels captured a bit of it in a way that was unique—and lasting.  So when it comes to the vehicle of Robert James Waller, I am sentimental about the many miles it drove and the quality for which it performed and as he dissolves into the esoteric nature of the universe I am glad that for a shining moment in the good ol’ firelight he was made terrestrial and formulated just enough exoteric language to share it with the world and give a voice to the wasteland which resides inside most people—if only for a fleeting moment.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

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