Saturday, November 7, 2015

Trumbo: Naming Names - Richly Satirical Roll Call Outing The Hollywood Blacklist Persecutors Instead

While most movies are just movies and nothing more, there are some that stand out, not only as exemplary social artifacts succinctly representative of their historical moment in time. But in the case of a raw visionary work like the striking dramatic feature Trumbo, a mainstream film that could in no way have been made before now.

In other words, it took another century and a generation at least once removed from the traumatic  state terror of the 20th century McCarthy period in the United States, to grasp a clear sense of the repression and harm done to the ensuing damaged population and soul of a people. And to at least have partially recovered from that reeling PTSD emanating from the anti-communist purges in this country back then. And oddly enough, without a collective clue, subconsciously or otherwise, as to why or how it all ended up this way.

And a shameful US history so concealed and buried, that any collective consciousness sense of recall is a blurred vision of a barely conceived political reality today. In which nowhere beyond the left and alternative media in this country, is there a discussion or even awareness of why communist candidates flourish in national elections elsewhere around the world, but in the United States a mainstream politician would be as likely to declare themselves a communist ideologically, as running on the pedophile ticket.

But Trumbo, as courageously and candidly scripted by John McNamara and based on the Bruce Cook biography, unearths that repressive time when, following WW II during which the Soviet Union in the vanguard of defeating Nazi Germany and an ally and friend, became demonized instead as an emerging world power and a formidable ideological competitor to capitalism. And suddenly those Americans with communist ideals and affiliations were deemed criminals, and were in substantial numbers systematically destroyed economically, imprisoned and driven into exile or suicides.

And among those were the politically outspoken Hollywood filmmakers like Dalton Trumbo, brave and unrepentant, and willing to sacrifice their careers and even freedom as political prisoners, and known as the Hollywood Ten. And as conceived with cartoonish satirical flair by director Jay Roach in 'I'm a communist and it's okay' Trumbo, these movie martyrs are afforded not only celebratory redemption from a dark period in time, but in the stinging wit devised to 'name names', there's a bold switchup in exposing by roll call instead, the Hollywood honcho and actor villains who perpetrated the horror.

Likewise commendable, is that while most conventional and misleading recollections of that period tend to portray HUAC's accused communists as either dupes or a case of mistaken identity, this film not only defiantly declares personal ideological convictions to be a civil right, but that one can be a communist and proud. A point which is perhaps most vividly emphasized in a conversation Trumbo has with his young daughter in one scene where she asks, am I a communist too. And he replies through a compelling anecdote that, yes you are if you share your lunch with a hungry classmate in school.

And Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, who winks his way with determined honor and devilish dignity through the subversive escapades as Trumbo, disappears so thoroughly into this role - as Trumbo himself triumphantly did when demolishing the Blacklist by continuing to write scripts under assumed names - that if he doesn't grab this year's Oscar for Best Actor, there's no justice at that podium. Along with supporting actor John Goodman as a producer and Trumbo ally, who relishes a more furiously confrontational approach to dealing with a studio red baiter stopping by.

And a stage in question which sixteen years ago, shamefully saw the lavish honoring of the Blacklist's supreme snitch, Elia Kazan, while many Academy members immune from that convenient memory lapse protested during the Oscar ceremony. So will the Oscars this year celebrate a movie that not only emphatically redeems their persecuted colleagues but ironically accuses and shakes up Hollywood itself as the perpetrator? An Academy Award moment that will surely be indelibly inscribed in movie history.

Prairie Miller

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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Carey Mulligan Talks Suffragette: 'Feminism Isn't Anti-Male'

**Exclusive: Carey Mulligan, the female action hero extraordinaire star of Suffragette, is on the line to Arts Express to describe the tremendous effect of this most important passion project for her. And above all, being part of movies that matter in the world. Along with the privilege of portraying a workingclass female swept into the struggle for women's rights in England a century ago, and ''the chance to play someone ordinary who becomes extraordinary, finding her own voice despite everything."
 And not unlike in some ways, Mulligan's own struggle in the male dominated film world, enduring "a fair number of years in my career just trying to sort of be polite. And you know, worrying about having my voice heard. Or, worrying that I couldn't get my voice heard. Or that I would need to sort of man up to get my voice heard."
Mulligan also praised the courageous red carpet rebel female takeover protesting domestic violence at the London premiere of Suffragette. And that "if people want to use the film as a platform to talk about things that matter, then that's brilliant."


**The Activist: A political thriller surrounding the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee, and starring Lakota Nation actor Michael Spears. A conversation with the film's director, screenwriter and composer, Cyril Morin. And touching on Nixon, Nam, economic sacrifice zones, uranium, tanks, Leonard Peltier, Brando, Johnny Depp and 12 Angry Men.

**Hard Labor: A socio-economic workplace horror thriller conjuring the metaphorical legacy of fascism and repression in Brazil. Filmmakers Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas phone in to talk about the fusion of politics, history and horror in the movie, delving into joblessness, werewolves, money, racism, slave shackles, interrogations, Brazilian historical amnesia surrounding military repression, and the beast behind the merchandise rack in a local grocery store.

Prairie Miller

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Arts Express: Halloween Visitation, Yiddish Death Of A Salesman, Musical Muse On Stage

**Halloween Visitation: Cult Horror Director Sam Raimi Drops In. Delving into the various dark motives fueling his new small screen series debuting on Halloween weekend, Ash vs. Evil Dead And joined by the star and longtime collaborator, Bruce Campbell, as they hold forth on why movies should be hard to make; the joy and fulfillment of frightening audiences with the unknown; mirrors; pause buttons; and the art and challenge of leading actors off the cliff in movies.

**Death Of A Salesman In Yiddish: A radically new theatrical interpretation. This emotionally stinging story of a man caught up in the illusions of the American Dream, achieves a further resonance touching on the plight of immigrants, and performed with English super-titles projected on stage. Included in this segment are interviews with the current director and star of the Arthur Miller play, and a compilation of past clips of the various productions with recorded reflections and conversations with the late Arthur Miller, on this centennial commemoration year of his birth. And touching on his struggles against the Blacklist, and against Columbia Pictures as well in its McCarthyite attempt to bury the film and its anti-capitalist elements.


** Music Corner: Multi-talented classical concert pianist, poet, singer and filmmaker Hannah Reimann performs her tribute to music legend Joni Mitchell, recreating her body of work on stage. Arts Express stopped by to catch the show, and talk to Reimann about why Mitchell resonates as her chosen muse; how the piano led her down the creative path to poetry, and raising awareness about Alzheimer's with a film she's putting together in tribute to her dad - My Father's House. And how of all this in one way or another helped her heal, and 'allowed me to feel whole again when I felt broken into a million pieces.'

Prairie Miller

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

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tab Hunter And the Hollywood Male Meat Market; Occupy The Red Carpets; Net Hotspots

**Tab Hunter Confidential: A conversation with the actor about surviving the rather tainted Golden Age of Hollywood, and the male celebrity meat market that is the subject of this big screen confessional documentary memoir. As the former fifties teen idol recalls his troubling memory lane identity crisis, being bought, sold and traded by Hollywood studios, in possession of nearly every aspect of his fabricated persona. And the rather strange ultimate emotional closure that 'I am happy to be forgotten.' Along with exhilarating memories of Gary Cooper, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Natalie Wood.

**The Refugee Crisis In Europe: A timely message from Storm Clouds Gathering, and what's really going down over there these days. Our Arts Express Best Of The Net Hotspot for this week.

**Occupy The Red Carpets: The insular world of film festivals and galas is being to crack lately, and most evident on those red carpets. More recently at the London premiere of Suffragette, as hundreds of contemporary female rebels, Sisters Uncut, protesting government withdrawal of funding of domestic violence programs with chants of 'dead women can't vote' staged a takeover of the proceedings. And with the surprising support of the Suffragette cast and filmmakers in attendance. Footage from the protest, and a conversation with Suffragette screenwriter Sarah Gavron.


**Michael Moore's Dissident Doc, Where To Invade Next. Or maybe not. A sociopolitical critique of the elusively titled entry into this year's NY Film Festival. 

**The Inhabitants: Sinister screen siblings Michael and Shawn Rasmussen phone in to Arts Express from Boston, delving into their latest Halloween supernatural invasion thriller. Touching on the Salem witch hunts and persecution of historically feared colonial era midwives revisited, along with burrowing into the dark side of moviemaking as apprentices to John Carpenter.

Prairie Miller

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

Friday, October 2, 2015

NY Film Festival 2015: Where To Invade Next: Benevolent Capitalism, A Love Story

NY Film Festival 2015: The Movie Where To Invade Next Coulda And Shoulda Been, And That The Measure Of A Man Was: Air France Bosses Clothes Ripped Off By Angry Laid Off Workers

It's clear that Michael Moore makes documentaries foremost, to inspire social change. But apparently criticism from a highly conservative American public regarding his blue collar class warfare approach in movies like Roger & Me, and advocating the benefits of socialism in Capitalism: A Love Story and  praise for the Cuban health care system in Sicko, have taken their ideological toll on the filmmaker. And subsequently seemingly more interested in the powers of persuasion than truth.

Moore remains adamantly in opposition to the inequality, injustice and oppression so endemic to US society as detailed in Where To Invade Next. But in his determination to raise the resistant collective consciousness in this country, the chosen method to his particular ideological madness is as misleading as the title of his latest documentary - which has little to do with US invasion and occupation around the planet.


Instead, in a playful bait and switching about of conventional approaches to the criticism of US policies that are the basis of investigative documentaries, Moore sets out to metaphorically invade countries in order to steal, not their resources, but their ideas and policies that might improve the dismal socio-political state of affairs here. In other words, a sort of contemporary quest for the proverbial holy grail. But excuse me, Europe as the utopia of choice?

Clearly in evasive cherry picking mode, Moore selects only positive examples of superior quality of life situations overseas. Including far more appetizing public school lunches in France, better working conditions and longer employee vacations in Italy, free higher education in Slovenia, an economy cleansed of corruption because women have become in charge as bankers in Iceland, and anti-war, anti-Nazi Holocaust remorse as a compulsory subject in German schools.

Well, just a minute. Benevolent capitalists in Europe? Don't tell that to the millions of masses on the continent currently suffering and demonstrating against joblessness, poverty, homelessness - and yes, suicide as a result of the drastic measures there known as austerity. And supposedly better societies because they're not warmongers like the US? Isn't that widespread adversity endured by the masses related to engaging in all those Middle Eastern wars over there, in league with the US through NATO coalition offenses?

And what about those cautionary history lessons in German schools. Well, they seem to exist simultaneously with a rising tide of fascism and anti-Muslim, anti-immigration racism among the youth as well there today, and across Moore's fantastical entire Euro-Disney theme park continent he seems to have crafted. And women as potential progressive saviors of a world ruined by men? Sure, if you don't examine the record too closely of say, Margaret Thatcher for starters. Or the many right wing Tea Party type women in politics here, ranging from Palin and Bachman to Fiorina, and including Coulter and all the news actresses at Murdoch's Fox television.

Then there's Moore's distortion of history, as he extols free higher education in Slovenia as somehow a novel idea floating around. Apparently distancing himself as much as possible from any notion of socialism which might heap criticism upon his approval-obsessed agenda, Moore seems to have 'forgotten' that free education, health care, shelter and guaranteed employment for everyone, were cornerstones of the socialist principles of the USSR - which happened to include Slovenia before the 'benevolent' capitalist overthrow of the Soviet Union. Moore then goes on to mock what he deems the indifference and passivity of American youth - while pretending the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter have never existed.

Well, why bother with those pesky facts, when your primary objective is a feelgood film for the frustrated US population back home. Karl Marx once said that it's not enough to be right, you have to be convincing. Apparently Michael Moore embraces the latter notion in his film, with far too faulty fact checking regarding the former.

Prairie Miller

More information about the NY Film Festival 2015 is online at:

Arts Express, Thursdays 2pm ET: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY 99.5 FM, and streaming live and archived everywhere at

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Clutter: A Conversation With Carol Kane About The Dark Side of Consumerism - Hoarding

Carol Kane As Allison In Annie Hall 

**Clutter: A Conversation With Actress Carol Kane. What about stuff in our society today, and how capitalism pushes stuff in place of necessities in pursuit of profits, diminishing and devaluing what's really meaningful in our lives. A look at the bittersweet dramatic feature Clutter, starring Carol Kane. Touching on the stepchild of consumerism - hoarding - as an expression in this DVD release of abandonment, loss and the emotional meaning of things.

**Broe On The World Film Beat: Laws Of The Market Episode. Professor Broe is on location in Paris, covering the Air France worker protests ripping off the shirts of the airline bosses firing thousands of workers. And what it has to do with his assessment of the best movie at Cannes this year, the misleadingly retitled The Measure Of A Man. And, its rather ideologically confused press reception at the NY Film Festival in progress as well.


**Writers Corner: Miguel Gardel reads from his short story, The Man From Arizona. Touching on brutal garment center sweatshops as metaphorical human slaughterhouses; boarding room despair; surviving the monotonous machines by singing the blues; one fuzzy revolutionary goatee; and an abandoned prosthetic leg still wearing a sock and a shoe.

More information about the NY Film Festival 2015 is online at:

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NY Film Festival 2015: Michael Moore's Daring Doc, Where To Invade Next

Arts Express Best Of The Net Hotspot: Michael Moore lifts the lid of secrecy and fields questions pertaining to his latest film taking on the military industrial complex, Where To Invade Next. 

Where To Invade next Trailer

The daring documentary delving into the most recent malevolent machinations going down at the Pentagon, will be unveiled at Toronto then proceed to the NY Film Festival in September.


Djimon Hounsou Talks Air. Or rather, the lack of it on a poisoned planet destroyed by endless wars. As the Oscar nominated African born actor perhaps best known for his role as slave rebel leader Cinque in Steven Spielberg's Amistad, goes toe to toe with The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus in a bid to save the world, in this new sci-fi eco-thriller. Hounsou phones in to Arts Express to reflect on survival issues on and off screen as well, as an immigrant and actor of color who was once jobless and homeless in Paris, sleeping under bridges and hunting in trash cans for food; the refugee immigrant crisis in Europe today; and resisting stereotyping in movies of 'Africans in loincloths chasing gazelles.'

The Report: A conversation with Fringe Festival playwright, Martin Casella. While much fanfare has been taking place this year remembering World World II during this 70th anniversary, there's been lots of forgetting as well, and much of it being covered on Arts Express. The Report is a new Lynn Redgrave Theater August production delving into yet another chapter in that buried history, the government culpability and coverup of the worst death toll in the UK, the Bethnal Green London East End underground tube tragedy crushing to death nearly two hundred civilians. Casella is on the line to Arts Express to talk about the implications of this production concerning human memory and all wars, what his play George Bush Goes To Hell is all about, and what led him to move on from Hollywood and working for Spielberg, Coppola, Disney, Universal and HBO to his labor of love in theater.

Writers Corner: A gathering of the contributors and creators of the literary magazine, And Then. Mitchel Cohen reports.
More information about the NY Film Festival 2015 is online at:

Prairie Miller

Arts Express, Airing On The WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations