Saturday, July 4, 2015

Chloe And Theo: Dakota Johnson's Fifty Shades of Green?

A kind of big screen flaky fairy tale about environmental activism and global warming, Chloe And Theo is an unfortunate example of how good intentions can end up formulated in the worst ways. Not to mention underestimating the intelligence of the assumed idiotized movie audience to such a degree, that this film on sugar coating overload can be viewed as more about polluting minds than mother earth.

Presumably based on a true story about Theo Ikummaq, an Indigenous Canadian Arctic Inuit who sought the help of world leaders as his people have been observing with alarm the melting away of their frozen, once eternal 'cathedrals of ice' all around them, Theo apparently ended up in this Hollywood style yarn instead. And a narrative which never more than vaguely addresses the ecological issues presenting themselves, but veers into an offensive crime caper parody connected to poverty and racism. Black Lives Hardly Matter Alert.

Dakota Johnson, fresh from her critically denounced stint as the love interest of demented Wall Street honcho Christian Grey in Fifty Shades Of Grey, has moved on to masquerading here as scowling, duplicitous homeless hustler Chloe on the streets of Manhattan. How she ended up there and whether it may have anything to do with Grey dumping her for good in the perpetual Shades sequels to come, is anyone's guess in the absence of a credible back story.

In any case, Chloe soon crosses paths with Theo, who has journeyed to 'the people of the South' in order to hopefully seek help from their elders on behalf of his people concerning an 'angry sun' as 'my world is melting, please save our world from the sun.' But what eventually ensues is no less than two acts of threatened violence involving African American males confronting him, and all sorts of potential fraud at the hands of poor people, that indeed appears to upstage as a more often than not silly distraction, any environmental concern as the most imminent danger.

Which is not to say that the film is without its scattered moments of wit and solemn reflection. For instance elders in the 'South' unlike the wise and revered ones of his own culture, are discovered by Theo to his dismay as discarded and seemingly imprisoned inhabitants of bleak nursing homes. Or, the subtle but meaningful interludes of reflection, when Theo's quest is defined as 'purpose' in contrast to US society's emphasis on 'fun' as the ultimate human fulfillment.

Though an unfortunately telling episode, is when Chloe berates an upper class human rights lawyer, played by Mira Sorvino, who offers to help Theo have his message heard. As Chloe scolds her for being too rich to understand or relate to poverty and street people like her. An irony presenting itself which is so blatant and unreal, as these wealthy actors themselves impersonate the poor with such artificial posturing primarily telegraphing utter mockery.

So will we ever see the day when the actual workingclass is hired in movies to authentically play themselves? Just as whites historically mimicking people of color on screen was shunned long ago.

So the question remains, what does it actually mean to say a movie is going green, or is it just more of fifty shades of green gone Hollywood. Which in that case, is likely to refer more to the motivation of green growing in box offices, than in nature.

Prairie Miller

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Second Mother: A Younger Rebel Latina Generation Leads The Way

While class conflict is nothing new in movies, though more often than not the perpetual elephant in the room, rarely have stories explored class differences that can play out as well beyond the human family itself, in actual families. Which infuses the Brazilian social satire The Second Mother with fresh and flaky charm, when not an alternately brutal candor and a fiercely crafted narrative glow.

Written and directed by Anna Muylaert (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, the bittersweet reverie of radicals-on-the-run from Brazil's former military dictatorship), The Second Mother presents the all too familiar predicament of workingclass women under capitalism. Who are forced by economic circumstances and the cruel absence of any social support system or safety net, to substantially abandon a nurturing and attentive role to their own children, in order for the family to economically survive by selling their labor on the indifferent marketplace. And in many cases, by assuming the role of surrogate mother to the children of an affluent family, as housekeeper.

In the case of The Second Mother, Val (Regina Case) is a middle aged provincial woman who left her daughter Jessica (Camila Mardila) in the care her estranged husband's new family far away a decade ago, in order find work as a live-in maid in Sao Paulo and send money back home to support her child. Jessica is now a high school graduate, and though long harboring bitter resentment towards her absentee mother, she sends word to Val that she will be arriving shortly to take college entrance exams in the city, and needs to live with her temporarily while doing so.

And though elated to see her daughter after so many years have passed, Val reluctantly agrees to this perceived imposition on her approving but imperiously condescending employer, Barbara (Karine Teles). Who though friendly to Val, can barely conceal her class disdain toward her hired help.

And when Jessica arrives and discovers to her disgust that despite her mother's sacrifices to support her and years of full time devotion to the demands of this other family, that Val has been rewarded for her services by being relegated to sleeping in a tiny airless basement room that she must now share with Jessica, let's just say the fun begins. Including Jessica defying all existing implicit class norms of absolute obedience, deference and deep seated divisions. As Jessica informs everyone that she prefers to eat at the family's table and sample their food instead, and stay in the unoccupied and far more elegant guest room rather than sleeping on the floor of her mother's horrendous cubicle.

And while her daughter's behavior and equal opportunity defiance initially render Val torn between her steadfast loyalty and alliance with this artificial family whose utterly socio-economic conditional affection is increasingly exposed, and yearning to mend a long broken relationship with Jessica, class consciousness does eventually crack those emotional barriers. Allowing a glowing light of liberation in metaphorical terms, to shine through.

And with Jessica representing an emerging, inspiring bold rebel youth rejecting the reactionary traditions thwarting the generations preceding them. And perhaps a new day for Brazil and a long oppressed and recently reinvigorated Latin America as well.

Prairie Miller

Friday, June 26, 2015

Arts Express: Kate Winslet Talks Equal Opportunity 17th Century Gardening

 A Little Chaos: A conversation with actress Kate Winslet about her latest film channeling French feminism among 17th century royalty, as a determined equal opportunity gardener. While challenging as a character the 'dishonesty, synthetic world, pomp, posturing and ridiculous outfits' of that pretentious elite back then.

The Face Of An Angel: British director Michael Winterbottom phones in to Arts Express from Italy to talk about media madness today evoking Dante's dark wood in an existential wilderness, in his latest dramatic feature. Delving into nightmarish tabloid noir, and corporate media monsters as dark magical realism. Along with revisiting reflections on the legacy of his 2006 screen classic, The Road To Guantanamo.

Poetry Corner: Appalachian movement poet Michael Henson reads from his work. Conjuring the ravages of capitalism and consumerism, Noah's Ark, subways, and the devastating rural oxycodone epidemic in progress - 'an amalgam of Whitmanic vision and intensity.'

Art Corner: A listener guided tour of the National Academy Museum in New York City, and what visitors can discover there. Including images of seemingly spinning clocks, tunnels, the Ebola crisis, and the death of surfaces. Revealing other meanings and stories beneath the surface of things. Cynthia Parsons McDaniel reports.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sex, Lies And Hollywood: An Open Secret

**An Open Secret: Documentary exposes the child casting couch rampant in Hollywood, and director Amy Berg shunned by film festivals and struggling to find a distributor. A young victimized actor phones in from LA.

**Actress Kim Basinger phones in to Arts Express to talk global sex trafficking, motherhood mania, sexual violence, controversial conversation as a good thing, and extreme acting in her latest film, The 11th Hour.


**Rape at Rikers and the legacy of black female bondage: A conversation with author and class action attorney Marlen Bodden, on behalf of women routinely sexually assaulted at the NYC prison.

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Arts Express: Office Politics: Power, Class And Race; Euro Anti-Diversity at Cannes; Lost Lives At the Terminal Bar

**The Screening Room: Last Call. Lost lives from the other side of the bar through the bartender's eyes. In the Tribeca excerpted short,  illuminating snapshots of the Port Authority desolate, desperate, and down and out regulars and drifters passing through the seedy, aptly named Times Square purgatory of the Terminal Bar across the decades.

**Cannes Reflections, Future Cinema Prospects: Professor Dennis Broe on location in Paris, delving into emerging themes this year connected to Euro anti-diversity and anti-immigration; Tamil Tigers and the Lakota First Nation on screen; Shakespeare snubbed; and out of work journalists for hire on a movie.

**Office Politics: Pondering power, class and race on stage and in the toxic workplace. A conversation with playwright Marcy Lovitch.


**Poetry Corner: What Memphis Needs, Valium Blues by Alexis Krasilovsky, and a reading by the late African American poet Wanda Coleman. Known in her lifetime as the LA Blueswoman and the unofficial Poet Laureate of LA.

Prairie Miller

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Arts Express: Cannes Film Festival Wrap-Up Report, Bromancing Woody

**Cannes Film Festival Wrap-Up Report: Professor Dennis Broe on location for Arts Express, presenting among the best films, The Law Of The Market. A French workingclass drama about arresting poor people for stealing food, and the indignities visited upon these victims of a destroyed economy. And according to Broe, the best Dardennes brothers movie the Dardennes never made.

Also, a Cannes film crop this year summed up as Euro-Disney, auteur porn in 3D, the Chinese Balzac, global materialism and a son named Dollar, shoplifters in the supermarket, French luxury product placement, heelgate and female mannequins on the red carpet runway, and the screen staple of philandering males. And, Shakespeare demoted to 4th place writing credit behind three screenwriters of Weinstein's Macbeth - a tale signifying Oscar but little else.


**Bromancing Woody: Several guests this week inspired by Woody Allen. Including Woody scholar Alex Sheremet, in a conversation about his online anthology, Reel To Real: A Digi-Dialogue. And his introduction of an innovative concept online, the perpetual work in progress of e-books known as digi-dialogues, as a permanent construct.

And, filmmaker Quincy Rose phones in to Arts Express from LA to talk about his first dramatic feature, Miles To Go. A self-described 'voice from the modern manchild generation' - and he'll explain. Along with the influence on his work of Rose's actual godfather offscreen: Woody Allen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Arts Express: The Book Of Negroes, Cannes Film Festival Report, Dolph Lundren Talks Skin Trade

The Book Of Negroes: The second secret American Revolution in 1776 that freed thousand of slaves, in this historical drama. And featuring that rare celebrated phenomenon, a female rebel leading a victory against human bondage in America. A conversation with the African Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo and female freedom fighter on screen, star Aunjanue Ellis.

The Cannes Film Festival Report: Professor Dennis Broe reporting on location for Arts Express. And deconstructing the continued cultural imperialism of the cinematic marketplace, and the infiltration of the red carpet economy at all levels of the global film industry. And how Professor Broe accidentally wandered into a French street rally promoting fascism and monarchism.


Skin Trade: A conversation with actor Dolph Lundgren. Delving into combating global sex trafficking as an action hero on screen, trading in brains for brawn as a former Fulbright Scholar, and how he got involved in movies by chance when asked to point a gun at Christopher Walken's head during a visit with girlfriend Grace Jones, to the set of her James Bond movie.

Prairie Miller