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


Dr David Archibald, University Of Glasgow
Film International, Financial Times, Cineaste

Steve Ashton,

Liza Bear,
Bomb Magazine

Dan Bessie
Filmmaker and Culture Critic

Prof. Dennis Broe
Jump Cut, NY Newsday, Boston Phoenix

Dianne Brooks
The Film Files,

Paul Buhle
Brown University

Lisa Collins

Benjamin Dickenson
Bright Lights Film Journal, UK

David Ehrenstein
Quarterly Review of Film and Video

Miguel Gardel
Proletaria Press

Michael Haas
Culture critic

Laura Hadden
Pacifica Radio

Gerald Horne
University Of Houston

Reynold Humphries
British Film Historian

Sikivu Hutchinson, KPFK Radio

Jan Lisa Huttner, Films For Two

Cindy Lucia
Cineaste Magazine

Pat McGilligan
Film Historian

Prairie Miller
WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network

Logan Nakyanzi
Go Left TV, Huffington Post

Victor Navasky
The Nation

Gerald Peary
Boston Phoenix

Steve Presence

Radical Film Network, UK

Louis Proyect

Luis Reyes
Film historian

Nancy Schiesari,
BBC, Channel 4,
Univ. of Texas, Austin

Rebecca Schiller
Culture Critic

Michael Slate
Beneath The Surface, KPFK Radio

David Spaner, Arsenal Pulp Press

Christopher Trumbo
RIP, January 8, 2011

Dave Wagner
Mother Jones, Film International

Linda Z
LFC Film Club

Noah Zweig

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

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Moonwalkers: Tarantino On Acid Subversive Sixties Stoner Satire

Moonwalkers may be a sixties cold war comedy about US media machinations to make it to the moon first, but its combo ballsy big screen intersection of politics, publicity and propaganda couldn't be more provocatively in the here and now. As a competitive moon landing operation in heated rivalry with the Soviet Union back then shrewdly bids to even out the odd over at the Pentagon, by substituting for perseverance the predetermined, conveniently scripted scenario skills over in Hollywood.

A psychedelically laden satirical banquet bashing a discredited US media as manipulative when it comes to fact versus fantasy as the storytelling machinations on any movie set, Moonwalkers opts for a hand wringing CIA in stealthy ops mode. And bent on tapping already spaced out on screen director Stanley Kubrick to stage an Apollo 11 makeshift moon landing well, just in case. Reluctantly called to duty for this daffy quest is PTSD damaged Viet vet CIA operative Kidman (Ron Perlman), who has massive anger mismanagement fantasy issues of his own, inside his perpetually restaged Nam freakout flashback head.

Which lands the seriously disoriented Kidman in the UK packing a suitcase full of CIA secretive cash in a search for the elusive Kubrick. And pursuing in the course of an extensive menu of period detail mindblowing mishaps, an array of individuals none of whom are the directing legend but claim they could be. Chiefly among them is failed rock musician Jonny (Rupert Grint) - more Harry Pothead here than anything else. And who may not be Kubrick, but is motivated enough by the money to possibly conjure a marijuana fueled make believe moon landing anyway. 

Move over millennials, who may be too out of touch with the sixties stoners thing you wouldn't understand. But just how far we've come a long way baby, from truth in movies and the media if there ever really was any, couldn't be more subversively served up in Moonwalkers - whether high on controlled substances for the duration or not.

Prairie Miller
Critical Women On Film

Liza Bear: Best Films, Released And Unreleased In The US

            Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

--The New Girl-Friend
--The Assassin
--Going Clear
--The Connection

 --Sworn Virgin
--Stranger in Canton
--The Measure of Man
--Mia Madre
--Human Capital
--Arabian NIghts
--Peace Tolls in Our Dreams
--No Home Movie
--Listen to Me Marlon

Liza Bear
Bomb Magazine

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Court: A Conversation With Indian Filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane

By Liza Bear

'...The film is outstanding in its acute observation of courtroom protocols and procedures, arcane colonial-era laws and judicial peccadilloes that serve to create a theater of the absurd. But the story’s originality surges when it steps outside the courtroom between the sessions, which are constantly adjourned on inane pretexts, to follow the daily lives of the principal players—defense attorney Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber, who’s also the film’s producer), public prosecutor Nutan (Geetanjali Kulkarni), and Judge Sadavarte (Pradeep Joshi), adding texture and layers of unpredictability to their characters. Their domestic and social routines challenge the conventional affiliations between class and professional role—the cold-hearted public prosecutor, for instance, is from a working class background, while the defense attorney is from the upper echelons of social privilege.'


Liza Bear produces Cherchez La Femme on Youtube. She also writes for Bomb Magazine. Liza is a member of The James Age Cinema Circle.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Arts Express: The Most Dangerous Man In America. A Conversation With Director Woodie King Jr.

“I have been despised for so long for being Black, that to tell me you will despise me because now I declare myself officially Red, does not faze me in the least.”
W.E.B. Dubois

**Black Lives Matter: Past, Present, Future.
Most Dangerous Man in America: A conversation with the director, Woodie King and excerpts read by the playwright, the late Amiri Baraka. This is a dramatic reflection of one of the most traumatic events in the terrible period of McCarthyism. W.E.B DuBois, a co-founder of the NAACP, a scholar and political activist, known and recognized throughout the world, was indicted in 1951 by the US government at the age of 82 as "an agent of a foreign power." In the play, the focus moves back and forth between the Harlem community and their opinions, the witnesses' testimony and the courtroom battles. This is Amiri Baraka's last play written just before his death, and never before performed on stage until now.


**Churchill, The Play. Commentary and excerpts.

It is 1946. In the past year, Winston Churchill has led Britain and the Allies to WW II victory in Europe. He has also shockingly been defeated for re-election as Prime Minister. Sitting in forced retirement with his wife Clementine at their Chartwell home, he shares his life in flashback and storytelling. In Churchill, the Nobel Prize laureate discusses his failures, successes, politics, and his obsession with art, liquor and women.

Arts Express, Airing On WBAI/The Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations on May 14th, 2015.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tribeca 2015: Jimmy's Hall Illuminates Occupy Movement A Century Ago

Some movies are miracles simply for existing, warts and all. And Jimmy's Hall is certainly among them, in excavating a past that those who control the world with money and military might, would rather be forgotten.

Directed by Ken Loach, this biopic dramatically recounts the suppression and politically motivated persecution of Irish communist activist Jimmy Gralton, however ideologically timid and vague, during the suffering and uprisings of the Great Depression years. And the only person ever deported and driven into exile for his ideology, by Ireland. And yes, you probably never heard of him, whether in Ireland or this country. Buried history alert.

And apparently the Red Scare persecutions, with left activists imprisoned or driven to suicide or into exile, wasn't only taking place in the United States back then. With Gralton targeted in Ireland by the landed gentry in league with the Catholic Church. Gralton emigrated to the United States in 1909, but returned to Ireland to fight in the Irish War of Independence and again in 1932. Where he led the Revolutionary Workers Group in Leitrim, a predecessor of the Communist Party of Ireland.

Gralton originally departed from Ireland for the United States, an itinerant docker, sailor, and miner engaged in the mass struggles against joblessness and poverty in New York City where he becomes a US citizen. Though this key inspiration and political education in Gralton's life is unfortunately missing in action from the film.

Barry Ward as Gralton returns to Ireland to reestablish on his family's small farm land, the cultural and educational hall of the title. Which soon leads to butting heads with the priests and landlords alike, known angrily among the rural Irish population there as 'the masters and the pastors.'

There are inspiring socio-political episodes throughout Jimmy's Hall, as relevant today as back then pertaining to popular struggle everywhere.  - though with too much emphasis proportionately on romantic and local entertainment interludes - of an occupy movement that was apparently in full swing in rural Ireland a century before Occupy Wall Street. As the poor were routinely evicted and driven from their homes and farms by the landed gentry supported by the Church - and these reactionary forces of oppression confronted vividly in the film, by a mass re-occupy land recovery movement.

Following Gralton's deportation, he was never allowed to return to Ireland. But he continued to struggle in mass movements in the US, never giving up hope in the triumph of the people, until he died in Bellevue in 1945.

Jimmy's Hall is a feature of the Tribeca Film Festival, and will open theatrically in July. More information about the Tribeca FF is online at:

Prairie Miller

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tribeca 2015: Stranded In Canton

 By Liza Bear

New York, April 24--looks like Denmark picked off a lot of awards at Tribeca....I missed both Bridgend and Virgin Mountain.. one Virgin film was enough for one festival...and I've read "Killing Williamsburg", black humor novel about fictitious suicide epidemic ...and seen Virgin Suicides.......
but I did watch every frame of STRANDED IN CANTON, directed by Mans Mansson, a laid-back and wryly humorous film, not an award winner so far but should be, not Danish but Swedish...bittersweet...not clichéed...v open-ended ending....light, but stays with you

A mélange of fiction and real life situations, the story's about Lebrun, a Congolese farmer..."j'ai ma porcherie, mes poulaillers, ma ne suis pas un businessman...." whom Mansson had met in Kinchasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, when he played a whole season there as a member of a football team. All the other players were Congolese. After his football career, Mansson went to art school in Stockholm and started making films. A modest grant from CPH: DOX, a Danish organization, in Copenhagen to make a film in China inspired Mansson to cast Lebrun as his lead.

In the film Lebrun is trying to extract himself from an impossible predicament in Canton (Guangzhou), where's he stuck with a whale load of bright yellow Joseph Kabila presidential election T-shirts, which haven't been delivered to the Congo and are now worthless because the election is over. Wassim, the Lebanese warehouse manager wants a a large payment for months of container storage. Like many of the roles in the film, Wassim plays himself and, according to Mansson reached by phone upstate, pretty much invited himself into the production when he saw the two-person crew shooting. on the street. ie the director doubling up as cinematographer and his sound person.

That's the whole deceptively simple story, how Lebrun passes the time, trying to get out of this predicament, raise the dough to pay off Wassim. He has a buddy, Frank, (Frank No)) with terrible marketing ideas; No was hired as production translator from Mandarin and Cantonese, and doubles up as a main actor. There's a non-romantic interest, a Beyonce-like but Platonic Cameroonian girl-friend, who is the common sense anchor of the film and acts as a sounding board for Lebrun's delusions of savoir-faire.

The acting's very good, unaffected and face cracks up as I write this because in a way it's such a ridiculous story, but so emblematic of false hopes of fast fortunes...not only of the Congolese and sub-Saharan African diaspora in Guangzhou, China's highly polluted manufacturing hub, but of expatriates everywhere, who are escaping the economic destitution of countries ravaged by exploitation, war and government corruption,,,,,Text by Liza Béar

PS Mansson says script was not prewritten , but developed during production. Screenplay credits go to Mansson, Li Hongqi and George Cragg. The film is a succinct 79 minutes in Cantonese, English, French, Lingala and Mandarin, With Lebrun Iko Isibangi , Nana Nya Sylvie, WAssim Hasbini, Frank No playing versions of themselves.

Liza Bear produces Cherchez La Femme on Youtube. She also writes for Bomb Magazine. Liza is a member of The James Age Cinema Circle.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Anti-Oscars 2014: The James Agee Cinema Cinema Circle Awards

In case you're wondering why all those critics groups and movie guild organizations out there seem to inevitably choose the same awards as one another every year from a small field of contestants, there's an obvious - and odious - reason. Hollywood strictly controls who and what gets nominated, simply by making available as awards screenings or screeners, only those films, filmmakers and actors they choose as the winners - and ignoring any other requests. Not so with the James Agee Cinema Circle, defying those financially controlled, bought and paid for bogus awards, with our yearly JACC Anti-Oscars.

And with Oscar wins based - no less than US multi-million dollar election victories - on who can afford to buy elections with the biggest bucks, The James Agee Cinema Circle has announced their Anti-Oscars 2014, in recognition of artistic merit and humanistic values alone. In other words, unlike the Academy, which primarily focuses on entertainment or sensationalism while disregarding debasement targeting race, gender and class, the James Agee Cinema Circle bestows awards on all entries equally each year. And the only losers are relegated to their JACC Hall Of Shame.

With their citing of late iconic film critic Pauline Kael that 'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising,' the Critics Chapter of JACC is described as 'an association of national and international critics, historians and film scholars who are involved in print, radio, online and TV broadcast media and analysis.'

'We have come together to form the first progressive critics organization, in the belief that idealistic perspectives, voices and diverse ideological visions in film criticism that speak with social conviction and consciousness, are sorely lacking as a public platform. We will be recognizing films embodying those humanistic ideals with our annual awards.

There are so many reasons for liking or hating a movie. One big mental roadblock is being knocked out by the performances, dramatic style or cinematography, but evaluating the story as a stinker. And the typical entertainment journalist and those for sale to the commercial media corporations, will argue that if a movie is well made, it doesn't matter if the content is reactionary, degrades, or dehumanizes, or even if it is disseminating untruths about real political and historical events.

But as JACC has so succinctly pointed out, why go to such lengths to lie, when you can just simply tell the truth. And that 'why' will be one of our many probing hot topics on the table.

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.'



*THE TRUMBO: The Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE PICTURE is named after Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a member of the Hollywood Ten, who was imprisoned for his beliefs and refusing to inform. Trumbo helped break the Blacklist when he received screen credit for "Spartacus" and "Exodus" in 1960.

One of the only biopics this year not twisting truths through either falsification or omission, this Michael Cuesta directed docudrama heralds the courageous, defiant, lonely and tragic struggle of journalist Gary Webb, who stood up to both the US government and corporate media in collusion. As he exposed the CIA scheme to flood the inner cities with cocaine back in the 1990s to covertly finance the illegal US-backed Contra war against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.

*THE GARFIELD: The Award for BEST ACTOR is named after John Garfield, who rose from the proletarian theatre to star in progressive pictures such as "Gentleman's Agreement" and "Force of Evil," only to run afoul of the Hollywood Blacklist.


*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For BEST ACTRESS Named for Karen Morley, who was driven out of Hollywood in the 1930s for her leftist views, but who maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.


*THE RENOIR: The Award for BEST ANTI-WAR FILM is named after the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir, who directed the 1937 anti-militarism masterpiece, "Grand Illusion."


*THE GILLO: The Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE FOREIGN FILM is named after the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who lensed the 1960s classics "The Battle of Algiers" and "Burn!"


*THE DZIGA: The Award for BEST PROGRESSIVE DOCUMENTARY is named after the Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, who directed 1920s nonfiction films such as the "Kino Pravda" ("Film Truth") series and "The Man With the Movie Camera."


*THE BOUND FOR GLORY AWARD: The Award for BEST ANTI-CAPITALIST FILM is named after the 1976 Hal Ashby directed biopic about Woody Guthrie, played by the late David Carradine.


*LA PASSIONARA AWARD: For the most positive female images in a movie, and in light of the historically demeaning portrayal of women in movies.


*OUR DAILY BREAD AWARD: For the most positive and inspiring working class images in movies this year.


*THE ROBESON AWARD: Named after courageous performing legend, Paul Robeson. The award is for the movie that best expresses the people of color experience, in light of their historically demeaning portrayals in films.

*THE TOMAS GUTIERREZ ALEA AWARD: Named after the late legendary Cuban filmmaker. For best depicting mass popular uprising or revolutionary transformation in movies


*THE LAWSON: The Award for BEST ANTI-FASCIST FILM this year, is named after screenwriter John Howard Lawson, one of the Hollywood Ten, who wrote Hollywood's first feature about the Spanish Civil War, 1938's "Blockade," with Henry Fonda, and anti-Nazi movies such as 1943's "Sahara," starring Humphrey Bogart.


*THE MODERN TIMES: The Award for Best Progressive Film SATIRE is named after Charlie Chaplin, who made 1936's "Modern Times" and 1940's "The Great Dictator."


*THE ORSON: The Award for BEST OVERLOOKED OR THEATRICALLY UNRELEASED [seen at festivals, or on TV or DVD only] Progressive Film is named after actor/director Orson Welles. After he directed the masterpiece "Citizen Kane" Welles had difficulty getting most of his other movies made.

*JIMMY'S HALL: Directed by Ken Loach, Jimmy's Hall dramatically recounts the suppression and politically motivated persecution of Irish left activist Jimmy Gralton, the only person ever deported, and driven into exile for his ideology, by Ireland. And yes, you probably never heard of him.


*THE SERGEI: The Award for Best Progressive LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT PROGRESSIVE ACTIVIST is named after the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who created Russian revolutionary classics such as 1925's "Potemkin" and 1927's "10 Days That Shook the World."

for a lifetime of principled activism. When Belafonte recently received an honorary Oscar, he said: "To be rewarded by my peers for my work in human rights and civil rights and for peace … it powerfully mutes the enemy's thunder."


"I make things up for a living. I'm a reporter." - Danny Huston in BIG EYES.

"They came into this country with no visas, no passports, no invitations. And with syphilis and gonorrhea between their legs, they consumed us, they consumed our resources. They consumed our minerals, our land.' - MUGABE: VILLAIN OR HERO?


Samuel L. Jackson challenges his Hollywood colleagues with a song

*THE MASSES ARE MORONS. AKA POVERTY PORN: In other words, do actors really have to look so dumb and stumble over their words or behave primitively in the extreme, when impersonating proletarians in movies?


*THE MILITARY HOLLYWOOD COMPLEX CITATION: Special citation inaugurating Hollywood's new role engaging in corporate terrorism in collusion with the US government, by making a movie to hopefully bring down a foreign government.


*ELIA KAZAN TOP TEN HALL OF SHAME 2014: Citations for the worst anti-workingclass and right wing movies of the year is named after director Elia Kazan, who was Hollywood's 'King Rat.' Kazan not only informed on accused radicals to the House Un-American Activities Committee, he took out a New York Times ad justifying his self-serving treachery.


*For more information, please contact The James Agee Cinema Circle at Miguel Gardel, Guest submissions are welcome.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Manos Sucias: A Conversation With Director Josef Wladyka

By Liza Bear

MANOS SUCIAS is a well-researched, tightly scripted first film co-written and directed by Josef Wladyka which premiered at Tribeca FF 14. In spite of having won the Best New Director Narrative Award, it has taken a year to reach the theaters. A US-Colombia production. Distributor is Pretty Pictures.
Setting the story squarely within the context of dire poverty, lack of opportunity, exploitation and economic necessity, this is a highly suspenseful film about two Afro-Colombian fishermen, estranged brothers. Who set sail on a dangerous journey from Buenaventura, Colombia's largest Pacific Coast port, the hub of the drug trade emporium. Towing a narco-torpedo loaded with 100 kilos of cocaine that they must deliver to Panama, and faced with moral choices on the way.


Part 1 of interview with Josef Wladyka was filmed last April in EV by Liza Bear. 
Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3.

Liza Bear is a member of the James Agee Cinema Circle. Check out her other videos and interviews on her Youtube channel, nothingofficial, HERE

Friday, December 26, 2014

Women and Economics In Holocaust Movies

 Phoenix Movie Review: Nazi Sympathetic Ambivalence And Identification With The Oppressor In Holocaust Movies

The proliferation of Holocaust films has burgeoned into somewhat of a genre in its own right, but with a persistent suppressed and unspoken irony kicking in as well. Namely, a larger story of human behavior, inevitably cut off at the same moment in time when its victims turned up in Palestine. And to subsequently likewise perpetrate displacement and extinction of the Palestinians people and their homeland there.

An additional elephant in the screening room when it comes to partial truths and selective history, is the lack of focus on what connects all these instances of inhumanity. That is, economic gain at the expense of those designated victims. Perhaps with the distance of time from such enormous brutality, this objective analysis even dramatically, is becoming more evident in movies.

And in this regard, two such Holocaust dramatic features happen to focus on women  - and painfully fraught female bonding - as the tragic protagonists. While at the same time serving as the historically astute eyes and ears for the audience, and emerging from the extensive virtual cookie cutter, primarily torture porn cinematic category in question. Last year, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida traced the traumatic discovery of a young nun (Agata Trzebuchowska), along with her communist activist aunt (Agata Kulesza), that the apparent beneficiaries of the Nazi persecution of their Jewish family had been neighbors who took over their property.

And now German filmmaker Christian Petzold's Phoenix probes a similar dilemma of women struggling to make sense of the senseless, each in their own way, in adapting as Jews to post-Holocaust life. In this case, Nelly (Nina Hoss) is brought back to civilian life as a barely surviving concentration camp victim by her friend and Jewish Agency employee Lene (Nina Kunzendorf). Lene had fled to England, but returns to Germany after the war to help Nelly recover from severe facial wounds. And with hopes that together they might emigrate to Palestine.

Nelly however, has other ideas. She has never gotten over her dream to locate and reunite with her gentile spouse Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). Even though Lene reveals to her that Johnny betrayed her to the Nazis under duress. Emotionally shackled to him by a self-destructive combination of denial and obsession, Nelly finally tracks him down to the lurid nightclub, Phoenix.

And failing to recognize his wife due to her facially disfiguring wounds and less than perfect surgical reconstruction, Johnny aggressively drags Nelly through an elaborate ploy to pose as his presumably dead wife that she so closely resembles, in order to split substantial monetary compensation damages owed to her by the government. And Nelly reluctantly agrees to play along with the deception, in order to blindly cling to this disgraceful man. Just as she herself chose the ethically questionable route of aiding the camp Gestapo, we learn, by confiscating the property of newly arrived Jewish detainees, to order to ensure her own survival.

Eventually a human canvas emerges in both films, dividing these characters, in particular the females, into people facing brutal moral realities they cannot transcend. And while some go along to get along or succumb to identification with the oppressor, others overcome by immense heartbreak, choose suicide instead. And for none of them, unlike those Holocaust films proposing Israel as some sort of Hollywood happy ending however warped in the real world, does that healing option outside of the flow of history exist. With credit to these movies, for not doing so.

And perhaps even one day, the real story of questionable heroics will be told in movies. Namely, that rather than racing to rescue Jews from European obliteration - as the United States makes claims all the time to have done back then, as well as on behalf of other ethnicities around the world in the present. Under the cover of the better to exploit those invaded and destroyed countries' resources.

And instead, that the economic imperatives of capitalism instead allowed Hitler to advance across Europe, the better to destroy that Western ideological competitor, the Soviet Union. As flawed characters on the world's stage - both personally, and as countries - engaging in a cosmetic reconstruction metaphorically, burying truth under the rubble of history.

Prairie Miller