'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising.' - Pauline Kael


Paul Robeson With Oakland, Ca. Shipyard Workers, 1942

Black August

So in order to best cover all bases, progressive film critics tend to consider three categories of assessment, rather than two: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The first two are self-explanatory. And the third category is reserved for movies that may have been impressively put together, but there's just something offensively anti-humanistic about them.

Stay tuned......

The Organizer

Thursday, August 29, 2019


Served Up Here 
**Karma Express: [That 'refurbished' Lionel train above was the company owned by Roy Cohn...]

Official Secrets Review

"My motive was to stop a war and save lives - Yes, I'd do it again."

Yet another instance of filmmakers of courage and conviction stepping up where unfortunately and unlike Gun, politicians and the press (including critics) fear to tread. Which is the reason you likely never heard of this best female action hero this year.

While most attention when it comes to US invasions and wars, is paid to those who fight them, the truly courageous with unbroken resolve who battle for peace instead, are inevitably ignored or worse punished into silence. Such was the predicament of young British intelligence translator Katharine Gun. And venturing a guess you never heard of her.

Yet this fearless woman's lonely struggle nearly stopped the Iraq invasion and mass death and destruction - costing up to a million lives and many more injured - in its tracks. While her bold and plainly stated motivation was simply explained as caring about the world - and confessing her actions in order to protect her fellow workers around her from similar suspicion and persecution.

And sadly as well, too often investigative, truth telling filmmakers step up to the plate to bring such insidious government manufactured events like the WMD hoax in question here, to light, where more often than not politicians and the media fear to tread. Or as one persistent reporter is ordered by his boss in the docudrama Official Secrets - 'stop over-thinking it.'

And Official Secrets, directed and co-written by South African filmmaker Gavin Hood and based on the book The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion  by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, is both a politically inspiring and emotionally intense portrait. And of one woman's fiercely determined, solitary challenge in a faceoff against the illegally duplicitous UK government, that would already seem to have clearly earned Keira Knightley best female action hero acclaim this year - blockbuster babes move over.

That is not to say that movies reviewers - and that all too often dancing around controversy, elephant in the room film criticism - will be forthcoming regarding praise for this politically illuminating gem. Unfortunately as is already the case with Official Secrets and similar films exposing government deceit, intelligence manipulation,  and mass murder in pursuit of avarice around the world - fear of denunciation from those in power for 'overthinking' what lies in plain sight, is marked it seems by press retreat from daring and truthful responses.

Instead, reactions more likely avoid the kind of bravery demonstrated by the film's protagonist, however minimal in comparison, by diverting reader attention to unwarranted distractions like assessments of production values or dramatic pace over vision. And relegating the crucial importance of what matters in the real world to an inconsequential realm - instead a pressured meek press opting for feeling taking precedence over thought and ideas.    

Prairie Miller


Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting and indoor                                                            


** "I think horror has to address the current collapse of society, that is what it's always been good at. It's a cautionary genre that tries to shock people out of their complacency - and I really believe that it has a heroic purpose, horror films." 


Understanding The US Obsession To Make War In Venezuela
'...The answer to whether or not Venezuela will be intervened militarily may not have to be sought in the official statements of the head of the Southern Command, Craig Faller, but in the signals that come from the cultural wing of the American war apparatus, that is, from the film industry.'
"If you want to know what the next great war will be, just look at the marquee of the cinemas," exclaims a literary character - and may be right.

“There's no looking back for #JackRyan. Next stop: Venezuela.”

Friday, July 12, 2019


Served Up Here                                             

The Gold Glove: Fatih Akin Takes The 'Glove' Off, In This Take No Prisoners Socio-Politically Rooted Horror Spree  

"Your heroes are losers. You are supporting a lost cause. Believe me, I knew the original Nazis. Growing up I was surrounded by broken men, men who came home from the war filled with shrapnel and guilt, men who were misled into a losing ideology. And I can tell you that these ghosts that you idolize spent the rest of their lives living in shame. And right now, they're resting in hell."
(Arnold Schwarzenegger to Donald J Trump)

At the same time a gruesome serial killer horror film and in no way that at all, Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin's The Golden Glove confounds and fascinates once again, somewhat like his predatory protagonist, luring in audiences with a bait and switch narrative agenda exploiting the notion of controversial entertainment for socio-political shock and awe. And specifically from a cultural outsider's subversive point of view.

The take no prisoners, daring director's perspective focuses yes, on disturbing audiences, but more as mirror reflecting back on themselves with ugly historical truths, than what may be seductively, evidently up on the screen. And specifically how Germany or any western society may appear to the alienated, demonized or victimized outsider - whether immigrant or conquered, destroyed nation historically and in the present time.

The narrative is ostensibly a retelling of the crimes attributed to an actual obscure early 1970s German serial killer Fritz Honka targeting primarily elderly prostitutes inhabiting a dilapidated, exceeding grotesque red light district pub of the title, but much more. The Golden Glove is based on the novel of the same name, revisiting the madman's barbaric exploits, and written by Heinz Strunk.

A blue collar, alcoholic with physically deformed facial features and a raging temper, Honka (a remarkably disfigured, transformed Jonas Dassler) prowls for his female victims at the local bar in question, and takes them home to his attic hovel where he horrifically, beyond graphically rapes, tortures and beats most of them to death, dismembering and stuffing their bodies behind a wall there. And when complaints ensue about the terrible smell, he readily blames the cooking odors of a Greek family he detests as immigrants, living below.

Though Akin would appear to have much more on his mind that similarly sadistically plays with audience minds. We learn in the course of this grueling procession that victims and perpetrators alike are the seeming waste product of  a decaying Western civilization following WW II, specifically Germany in this case, leaving in its wake a procession of damaged and destroyed humans. And among them dangerous elements as well.

At one point we learn that the serial killer's father had been a communist sent away to a concentration camp during the war, as was one of Honka's prostitute victims - implying a similar fate of other women like her at the bar as well. And, the telling presence of another mysterious intimidating barfly there, a former SS officer with eventual sadistic malice on his mind at the men's urinal there.

All of which creates a grotesque canvas that might be said to extend from the Hieronymus Bosch and Bruegel sado-masochistic Renaissance hellish landscapes, Germanic even if Dutch - a seemingly self- fulfilling trajectory that may be said to extend from the cruelty and decadence of early capitalism, to the degeneracy and blight of late stage capitalism today.

And consequently, the telling cultural outsider perspective of Akin, a demonic depravity and ironic reversal connected to western demonization of the 'other' - whether referring to misogyny or the horrendous mass murder and serial killing all around the world, justified politically and economically by those controlling western powers.

And not unlike Akin's previous film In The Fade, in which Diane Kruger goes full Antifa with nothing to lose, following the loss of her entire family at the hands of right wing extremists. In other words, the immensely provocative notion of victimization reversal - and the justified perpetrator as motivated by victimization in a persistent cycle perpetuating grief and revenge.

THE OPERATIVE: Diane Kruger Kicks Ass

** 'The world is so hypocritical about the sanctions - it's okay for Israel to blow up children but we can't have the components for medical equipment.'

While the tendency is to not view actors in terms of the characters they play, there may be a pattern regarding the choice of roles. And in the case of Diane Kruger, her recent work demonstrates political conviction, determination and courage rare in a vocation more associated with ambition, conformity, and exclusively careerist considerations. 

Such was the case with Kruger's subversive principled role as victim turned sympathetic anti-right wing Neo-Nazi terrorist in the dramatic feature, In The Fade. And no less is her astonishing commendable turn in The Operative - an anti-Zionist espionage thriller particularly daring at this historical moment in time in view of the assault, and even censorship and outlawing, of those critical of Israeli crimes against Palestine and abroad.

And The Operative is no typical espionage thriller, though those basic conventional elements form
the groundwork of the narrative. Rather, as the enigmatic story unravels, Israeli director Yuval Adler opts for psychological components instead - and specifically how spy operations like the Israeli Mossad exploit emotionally vulnerable assets who may be cooperative but not voluntary at all in that regard, under psychological pressure.

Diane Kruger is Rachel, a rootless and alienated German woman who seems to have been cornered into assisting the Mossad as a driver, a favor to a friend while living in Israel. And seemingly personally connected to rebellious resentment against a contemptuous, rejecting half-Jewish father - who harbors critical, liberal views politically against Israel. 

And Mossad agents maneuver to ensnare Rachel psychologically and ever deeper into deadly assignments, connected to her value as a multi-lingual teacher - coaxing her off to Iran on a vague assignment, but with cruel and homicidal intended operations conspiring with Kurdish terrorists. And to maintain Rachel in an anxiety-free state of mind while exploiting her for their own illegal ends as they infiltrate a foreign country, the Mossad emotionally pairs her with Thomas (Martin Freeman), a similarly expendable, culturally alienated British asset living in Germany.

A German, French and Israeli co-production, The Operative is based on the novel The English Teacher. Written by former Israel intelligence officer Yiftach Reicher Atir who may have conflicted feelings of his own, The Operative is a deeply engaging and critically important politically and emotionally brutal thriller exposing the Mossad. And Israel as well, a country reportedly possessing 80 secret and globally unregulated and unquestioned nuclear warheads - and with enough fissile material to produce 190 more - while engaging in attempts to sabotage and destroy Iran in that regard, a country possessing none. While back in 2014, former US president Jimmy Carter noted that 'Israel has, what, 300 or more, nobody knows exactly how many' nuclear weapons. 

Which would deem The Operative essential filmmaking indeed. A brave production stepping in to confront those challenges - where timid and cowardly or complicit governments and corporate media fear to tread.

Prairie Miller

  'We blew it. Good night, man. I'm hip about time. But I just gotta go...'


** "Gary Cooper said something that I didn't understand at the time, he said that if I know what I'm doing, I don't have to act. I didn't understand that, and now I do. And that sounded strange coming from an actor, and it was such a wonderful moment. I feel that freedom - and in Easy Rider, I didn't understand that yet."

Peter Fonda Talks Boundaries, Easy Rider: And a different sort of journey, his life journey in film. And in our conversation, touching on co-starring in his last film theatrically released before his passing, Boundaries - yet another road movie with no less than two Christophers - Plummer and Lloyd; memories of James Stewart, Marlon Brando, and playing football with Elvis; teeth, water, and a song John Lennon wrote about him secretly; life growing up around Henry Fonda as 'uncertain and unformed'; and why "12 Angry Men was my father's Easy Rider."

THE LOAD: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You...Disappear. And which might update that Winston Churchill axiom: History is written by the victor's filmmakers.

A tense, muted, never less than simultaneously grim and confounding, historically laced road movie venture into the heart of darkness of a disappeared country, The Load [Teret] opts for subtlety over sensationalism. Directed by Serbian Ognjen Glavonić, the story follows truck driver Vlada (Leon Lucev), who appears to be transporting an unknown, secretive cargo across a terrifying landscape from Kosovo to Belgrade, being subjected to NATO bombing in 1999. Not only bombing the population, NATO is likewise conducting a propaganda blitz, dropping leaflets across the land intended to convince civilians that destruction, invasion and occupation are their glorious democratic future. While The Load has been cited as referencing the highway thrillers Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, and Williams Friedkin’s retelling, Sorcerer. 

Glavonić, who has emerged from a young, post-communist Yugoslavia generation of filmmakers, appears most personified here in a despondent, directionless nomadic youth Vlada picks up along the way. An aspiring musician who plays some of his songs on a cassette for Vlada - when asked about the group, the youth's reply provides a stinging metaphor expressing the fate of the broken, disappeared and Western imperialist devoured Yugoslavia itself: My group no longer has a name, because the band broke up when everyone was gone.

While the inferences of The Load remaining ambiguous regarding casualties of war and culpability, have been referred to as a praiseworthy artistic preference - perhaps the truth resides elsewhere. No less than that this Serbian-French collaboration is an ironic co-production between that NATO invader/exploiter and victim country. Which might update and expand that Winston Churchill axiom: History is written by the victor's filmmakers.

Likewise an intriguing update that might have made for an insightful postscript, would have been the inclusion of the current shadow CIA regime change factory known by its front name CANVAS, and secretly functioning in the present time in Serbia. And where self-declared coup president of Venezuela Juan Guaido had been trained to do just that. While preceded by their regime change factory operation that succeeded in the imprisonment there of Socialist President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes, a subsequent Hague trial and imprisonment over the course of many years  - and with Milosevic ultimately declared innocent long after he had died in prison at the Hague, for lack of adequate medical care for a serious heart condition.

Prairie Miller

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Jack Prefers Not To

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018


Thursday, November 2, 2017

In The Fade: Diane Kruger Goes Full Antifa

When Western terrorist attacks by mostly Middle Eastern right wing extremists take place, among the shocked responses in the aftermath, is always the perplexed reaction in disbelief, as to why such a presumably meaningless assault could have taken place. Yet like a long lingering elephant in the room that just won't seem to go away, the evidence is in plain sight.

Say for instance, the murder in recent times and in progress, of over a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan alone by the US military and European allies. And a kind of blowback retaliation on their own soil of the perpetrators, that may not even be those original fighters - but perhaps their surviving inconsolable relatives or children determined to seek revenge.

Such is the intriguing metaphorical premise of Fatih Akin's In The Fade (Aus dem Nichts). The German director of Turkish parentage masterfully flips the script, as Hamburg housewife Katja (Diane Kruger) endures the horror of her Kurdish husband Nuri (Numan Acar), a legal activist for the local Turkish community, along with her young son being murdered in a racially motivated, anti-immigrant targeted bombing of his office by German white supremacist Neo-Nazis.

The emotionally disintegrating, suicidal widow, overcome by feelings of hopelessness and rage, seeks a revenge in kind against the two accused perpetrators - following their acquittal for lack of irrefutable evidence in court. And what ultimately ensues is not just a stunningly executed thriller, but a brilliant parable for our time.

In other words, the immensely provocative notion of victimization reversal, and the perpetrator as perpetrated. Along with ironically, the accusation that has always been raised against Germans where  this movie was made - how could you as a people stand by and do nothing while Hitler annihilated civilians and enemies alike in the millions. Well, perhaps exactly what those leveling charges have been doing since then, without much objection or even acknowledgement raised - and the United States alone having killed and continuing to do so, more than 20 million people in thirty-seven victim nations since World War II.
You go, Diane.

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on the WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


By Liza Béar

"1945" Opens at Film Forum, New York,  November 1--Not to be missed! Once in a while an independent film hits the screens that totally galvanizes you by its sheer filmmaking craft and its insights into human nature.


Simply titled, 1945, this highly original psychological thriller, superb in every respect: script, directing, ensemble acting, b&w camerawork, musicand of course the overpowering sense of menace and (false) suspicion) created throughout the film. Such a complex & intimate portrait of immediate postwar peasant psychology, such nuanced and sophisticated storytelling about an important subject is award-winning Hungarian director Ferenc Torok's sixth feature.

It's based on The Homecoming, a short story by noted writer Gabor T. Szanyo. WWII has ended. The arrival of two Orthodox Jews, father and  son, by train throws the inhabitants of a nearby Hungarian village into a maelstrom of fear, suspicion and havoc as they prepare for the wedding of the town clerk's son. As time allowed, I spoke to Ferenc and Gabor  last week about aspects of the original story, the development of the film, and  characters with a bad conscience, [note; the interview took place in the Green Room's mirrored clothes closet at JCC].

1945 Film Credits: Writer-director: Ferenc Torok; screenplay Gabor T. Szanto & Torok; director of photography: Elemer Ragalyi; editor: Bela Barsi; music:  Tibor Szenzo; production design: Lazlo Rajk.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Working Stiff Revolt

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wonder Woman War Criminal

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah said on Twitter that “Gal Gadot’s support for Israel’s slaughter of 11 children a day in Gaza in summer 2014 means it’s common sense not to reward her with money.”

The tension between supporters of Israel and the women’s movement came to a head in March when Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian activist and co-chair of the Women’s March, argued that feminists could not also be pro-Israel. Ms. Sarsour told The Nation. “There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

Sunday, April 30, 2017