By Jim Fouratt
I write this as the film community is all abuzz about the best of the year’s awards. Nominees and winners are beginning to emerge; the Oscars remain the number one cinematic competition in the world. Each year, I prepare REEL DEAL’s essential movies of the year, as well as the best albums and songs of the year, for you to clip and reference. Publisher George Capsis wishes to expand the online presence of WestView and has asked me to be the Online Arts Editor. This year, I will place my Essential List of Movies 2016 and Essential List of Albums and Songs 2016 in the WestView online edition. These will now make better use of digital assets that will complement my writing. Send me your email at email@example.com so that I can alert you when new material is posted.
Best in Narrative Film 2016 (in order)
- I, Daniel Blake
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Manchester by the Sea
- Little Men
- Hidden Figures
- Miss Sloane
- Love & Friendship
- Nocturnal Animals
- Things to Come (L’avenir)
- The Handmaiden
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
- Sworn Virgin
Best in Documentary Film 2016 (in order)
- Zero Days
- JT Leroy
- OJ: Made in America
- South of Salem
- No Home Movie
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Gimme Danger
Since we are about to enter four years of Trump, I thought I would share some thoughts on the importance of pop culture in responding to the many changes that Trumpland will bring.
WHY POP CULTURE MATTERS IN THE RESISTANCE TO THE TRUMP AGENDA
Recently, there has been a lot of chatter on the internet about: “How can we be thinking of awards when the world is falling apart?” There is an almost hysterical blindness to the role that popular culture plays in shaping the public’s consciousness. We know the dark side of “reality” television and the dumbing down of public discourse by reducing any real depth and/or nuance to a 140-character tweet. Most of my recent political work has been in the area of popular culture: the movies, books, music, and theater we consume. I write about film here in WestView, on my blog (Jim Fouratt’s Reel Deal: Movies that Matter), and in music, through Listen Up or Radiosexbeat.
I do this, not to alert you to the latest larger-than-life action film or fantasy animation (that has little to do with actual life), but to expose you to the creative work of artists looking at life and trying to reflect back, in narrative and documentary film and in popular music, to who we are today. How do we regenerate hope in this moment of depersonalization and, at the same time, the heightened false sense of individualism? I must remind myself, and you, that “their” real goal is to create market and profit in this moment of the triumph of Capital.
I do try to get you to discover and support artists in your own community. Mine is New York City, where artists are not afraid to speak their inner truth. Here are some NYC people who I find doing the work an engaged artist should do: Penny Arcade, Justin Elizabeth Sayre, Pamela Sneed, Joseph Keckler, Jack Waters, Peter Cramer, Roy Brown, Chavisa Woods, Steven Winter, Barbara Hammer, Sarah Schulman, Toshi Reagon, Ira Sachs, Karen Finley, Dane Terry, Tom Leger, Carol Lipnik, Barbara Kopple, Margoh Channing, Stephen Shanaghan, Taylor Mac, Citizen Reno, Machine Dazzle, Amber Martin, Sam Green, Bizzy Barefoot, Erin Markey, Shane O’Neill, Bonny Finberg, and Jim Feast, to name a few, all of whom don’t get the wider attention paid to Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Common, or Lady Gaga, for example. There are of course others.
I asked you to support and attend the work being developed at places like La MaMa, Dixon Place, The Owl, Pangea, The Stone, Bowery Underground, Roulette, and Issues, to name a few, and the seemingly endless pop-up venues all over Brooklyn and now Queens.
I think it is my job as a cultural critic to make sure you know about events at Revolution Books or the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Film Forum, BAM, etc. I go and I hope to see each one of you there. When I had my own venues, I led the programming, with conscious choices relevant not to fame but to the intersection of art, creativity, survival and, yes, I will say it: JOY, and the erotic, spiritual, and intellectual.
Now, let’s look at why I think a discussion of awards and recognition for creative work is essential to keeping hope alive.
Movies: It really depends on what films are being given attention to in the dominant media. Has anyone besides me seen Alex Gibney’s Zero Days? This story of CYBER WARFARE, and the U.S. role as the country leading the attack, is critical in any discussion of the fog of Russian hacking. Or the British film I, Daniel Blake, about what happens to an older worker who loses his job, cannot find another one, and faces the insensitivity of the “welfare” system? Or Moonlight, about the intersection among identity, family values, and drug culture in a minority neighborhood? Or Jessica Chastain’s political thriller Miss Sloane (about lobbyists in D.C. and the revenge of corporate interests like the NRA when they don’t get what they want)? Or Little Men in which Ira Sachs exposes how gentrification and economic disparity affect not only neighborhoods but also families, friendship, and neighborhoods? (Ira Sachs lives in Greenwich Village.) Or Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13 about the U.S. Constitution and the reality of systemic racism in the U.S. and the dignity of the oppressed? (Now on HBO on Demand.) Or Trapped, about the fight between two older Southern business women to keep open their abortion clinics to give women the right to control their own bodies? (Now on HBO on demand.) Or I am Not Your Negro, in which Raoul Peck gives voice to an unfinished work by James Baldwin, with Samuel Jackson as the voice of Baldwin.
Pop Culture can actually help us see the machinations of the Trump agenda. I believe it is in pop culture that the battle for the minds of the public is going on. Without the incisive humor of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, the public would not have benefited from their laser insights and acute ability to cut through fake news and political schemes. They focused on the real issues with an outrageously heightened sense of humor and satire during the last months of the presidential campaign.
I believe it is critical that we each educate ourselves in order to sort through political spin, fake news, etc. and engage our friends in this conversation in the street, the lounge, or over a good brew. Talking in person is a much better way to interact …at least I have found it to be true.
Who here has actually read the Wiki-Leaks DNC or Podesta emails? I read as many as I could and was shocked at the dirty playing at the highest level of the DNC to destroy Bernie Sanders. Yes, Sanders was the candidate I supported. When he was out of the running, I endorsed Clinton. My litmus test was the U.S. Supreme Court. I suggest that the contents of those emails are important and critical to understanding the DNC under Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She had the full complicity of the Clinton campaign to undermine the Sanders campaign despite the fact that he actually won in those swing states (like Wisconsin) which would later vote for Trump over Clinton.
Much of the fog of hacking is a cover-up for the actual content revealed to the American public. Why, when Trump called for hacking by Russia of Clinton’s emails, or asked for someone to take Clinton out, or chanted “Lock her up!” did the FBI not arrest him for threatening a candidate or calling on a foreign government to intervene in a democratic process? Where was the FBI? Or Obama’s Attorney General? Why has Giuliani’s role in getting the FBI head to suggest in the last week of the campaign that Clinton had violated national security not been investigated? No public official, certainly none of my State’s (NY) elected officials, called for the FBI or the Attorney General to intervene.
But let me stop pointing fingers now. We are here together, I hope, in resistance. I am committed to putting aside, once examined, what happened and moving forward. Of course, we do not have to agree. But, please, let us talk together.
Jim Fouratt: firstname.lastname@example.org.