Despot of the Week #8 – Baron Ungern von Sternberg

October 27, 2009

Baron

“He’s out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.”

General Corman on Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now.

Back in the bad old days of Imperial Europe, before the two Great Wars of the 20th century finally reined in the long history of bloody conquest plaguing the continent, violent psychopaths did not become serial killers. They ruled nations. By the time the 1900’s rolled around, Europe’s aristocracy were the scions of a dozen centuries’ worth of treachery and inbreeding: sociopaths, perverts and lunatics all. Perhaps no other Empire had a crazier nobility than the Russians, and the Russians produced no more demented an individual than Baron Ungern von Sternberg, a fanatic nationalist who came to believe that he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. He pursued a bloody adventure of rampant lunacy through Siberia and the Asian Steppes, torturing, plundering and exterminating Jews along the way. He even managed (briefly) to conquer Mongolia. This is the story of a man so unhinged he was convinced that by shooting people, he was doing them a good turn.

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John Bolton Excited by Prospect of Nuking Iran

October 16, 2009
john bolton

Neo-con lunatic John Bolton urges Israel to launch preventive nuclear strike

“John Bolton is the kind of man whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, or what the Bible describes as the final battle between good and evil”

    – Former US Senator and arch-conservative crackpot, Jesse Helms

Good old John R. Bolton. Everybodys’ favourite bushy-lipped neo-con psychopath has just gone on the record to state that the only way to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons is for Israel to go ahead and nuke the shit out of them. The way he see’s it, containing a nuclear armed Iran is simply out of the question, so Israel better hurry up and do it now, before those demented Persians get their hands on an A-bomb and hit the button first. Y’see, in the deformed thought processes that pass for sound reason in the fevered, bloodthirsty neo-con nerd fantasies of a man like John Bolton, all roads lead to nuclear mayhem. Talk like this would’ve had even Dr. Strangelove peddling his wheelchair furiously towards the fire exit. Does Bolton have a hard-on for the A-bomb or what? What is it JR?  Is the thought of unleashing the destructive power of all those big, hard, 10 metre tall nuclear cocks getting you all hot and bothered?

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Kill the American Dream: The King of Comedy Review

October 15, 2009

The King of Comedy

The world is still not ready for The King of Comedy. It bombed at the box office upon its 1983 release, and it remains the most overlooked, misunderstood and under-appreciated film in the collaborative filmography of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Perhaps the title is too confounding. The King of Comedy is not really a comic film; at least, not in any sense understood by traditional Hollywood conventions. That’s not to say that it isn’t funny. It’s a scathingly funny movie at times. But it’s also disconcerting, painful and ruthlessly honest. More than anything, it’s a condemnation. It’s a spit in the face of modern celebrity culture, of the soulless ghouls who inhabit that world, and the vacuous public multitude that seeks to worship and emulate them. Literally nobody is spared the lash in The King of Comedy. The dead-on characters who inhabit the film’s satirical landscape engage in spectacularly conceited behaviour. It’s a left hook to the jaw of everybody who fell for the cosy lie of the American Dream: that fame and fortune is available upon demand for anybody who wants it badly enough.

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Carrousel d’amour: La ronde Review

October 7, 2009

La Ronde

An irreverent, knowing look at casual sexual desire and infidelity in turn of the century Vienna, Max Ophul’s La ronde is a witty, frivolous bit of cinematic confection, realised in exquisite style, if ultimately somewhat inconsequential. Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s scandalous fin de siècle play Reigen, La ronde is surprisingly risque for its 1950 release date, being far more boldly suggestive than the Hollywood pictures typical of the era. Although less openly graphic than most contemporary movies, La ronde’s flippantly acquiescent stance towards promiscuous adultery still feels rather daring.

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Blood and Redemption: Mean Streets Review

October 1, 2009

Mean Streets larger

The screen is black. A voiceover intones: “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.”A young man wakes from his bed with a start. It’s Harvey Keitel, future icon of screen cool, but in 1973 just a struggling thirty something actor getting dangerously close to being passed by. He gets up and examines his face in the mirror while we hear the sounds of the street coming through his bedroom window. He returns to bed. As he reclines, his head hits the pillow in slow motion. The big, echoing beat of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” – one of pop music’s most magnificent soul symphonies – kicks in as the credits roll, superimposed over a scratchy Super-8 home video reel of the characters we will soon become intimately familiar with. As the song hits its crescendo: Ronnie Spector’s impossibly plaintive chorus of “be my, be my baby” – the film’s title is unveiled in stark, typewritten letters. Mean Streets. That’s one hell of a way to launch a movie. And what a movie. The movie that launched the careers of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro – the most iconic director / actor combination in the history of American cinema – and practically defined the template for gritty realism in film for the decade to come.

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