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First posted October 17, 2020
Updated October 19, 2020
PICKS OF THE MONTH
October 2020 Picks
The full video of "The Right to Vote," the first episode of Whose Vote Counts, Explained, the new Vox Media series on Netflix. [All-access video uploaded to YouTube by Netflix, 28 September 2020]
"The Right to Vote"
(This episode of the series Whose Vote Counts, Explained was launched by Vox Media together with the series' second and third episodes on 29 September 2020 on Netflix Philippines)
WE recommend you watch all three episodes of the whole series, but this first episode of Whose Vote Counts, Explained, delivered via that fittingly-clear-as-always signature Vox manner, is to us the most visceral of the three, mainly for its push on why the idea of the United States as the world's best model of democracy should now finally be universally regarded as one of our planet's biggest myths. Sure, unlike such countries as the Philippines, individual outlets of the American free press can hardly be touched at the national level (the reason why America's Republican-leaning elite can only support Fox News as their biggest disseminator of "alternative facts" and won't try to go after any one of those other truth-telling institutions of investigative journalism with the intent of closing it). But most other facets of American systems of corruption are really no different from those to be found in such countries as the Philippines, in fact can be said to be darker for having radically bigger containers of greed.
If there's something unique with America's corrupted brain, it would have to do with its being a multicultural nation, which is somewhat akin to a dormitory consisting of factions of dudes coming from different regions. The availability of the concept of a clear Other in the form of a different race or religion makes that concept attractive to the social blame game inevitable in various crises. And so, the eternally toxic racism and consequent white supremacism that would make Adolf Hitler beam with pride in his grave lives on in that plutocracy called the United States of America, with no indication of ever finding resolution in our or the next generation's lifetime.
So, in this episode of this enlightening series, the previously-sexist, now mainly racist acts of voter suppression in that country (along with the lying that goes with them) manifest themselves as collectively one of the world's most successful artworks of evil. That is not to say, however, that this continuing xenophobic (should we say neo-Nazi) habit (which is now largely Republican) hasn't its own admirers among other countries' leaders, mainly dictators who would be displaying superiority complexes that equal Donald Trump's party's strongly-conserved shamelessness hiding beneath the skirt of select Christian values.
Of course the second episode of this series―on how money is king in American politics, titled "Can You Buy an Election?"―is just as valuable a watch, but we Filipinos already know about that money stuff as the American legacy in the Philippines' own problematic representative democracy.
The series' eponymous third episode, meanwhile, on gerrymandering, is also quite educational in its delving into how the practice works for ruling parties.
In the end, however, nothing compares with the glaring degeneracy of the voter suppression act that continues to happen in the USA as one of the most despicable examples of political as well as moral meanness inside the first world, and it's all happening in full view of the rest of the world that now look at America as no more than an erstwhile model.
The official trailer for Kiss the Ground. [Trailer uploaded 21 August 2020 by Kiss the Ground]
Kiss the Ground
(Released 26 October 2020 on Netflix Philippines)
A temporary YouTube access to the full film has been uploaded by Michael Sears on 2 October 2020 but is un-embeddable here, so just click for it here:
PRODUCED by supermodel, activist and businesswoman Gisele Bündchen, Kiss the Ground is an argument for regenerative agriculture via the able lens and dramaturgy of Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell, and it's on influential Netflix! To put that sentence in context, be it known that regenerative agriculture is still a controversial approach within the climate change scientific community, at least as regards its claims about carbon dioxide reduction. Probably also because there's the fear that it would be used by the oil and gas industry as an excuse to go on with the unabated extraction of fossil fuel, although we have yet to see an oil drilling company investing heavily in reforestation, regenerative farming, and desertification reversal. The part where the environmentalist community would not have any beef against regenerative agriculture is in the area of soil rehabilitation and desertification reversal.
Now, let it be known that the criticism around regenerative agriculture is not exactly going in one direction alone. Mainstream climate change activism is also getting a flak from the regenerative movement for being wrongly focused on carbon emission reduction alone without regard for that other necessary thing: drawdown. Which is where regeneration comes in. But, sadly, it seems that the movement's formula has been identified as requiring losses for the pesticides industries of the US, China and India, and it's precisely on that demand that those three countries begged off the Paris Agreement.
Starring the farmers and activists behind the regenerative movement, Kiss the Ground conscripted Woody Harrelson to man the narrator's (moderator's) mike, and―to boot―an original song from singer-songwriter and agroforestry farmer Jason Mraz (who also gets to speak about his farm in the film).
To answer some questions about the message of the film, here's the Kiss the Ground world premiere Q&A panel video by Kiss the Ground on YouTube, saved after that Q&A's live airing on 23 September. Enjoy and get your measure of it!
An embed of a page at poetryfoundation.org with Louise Glück's poem "Aboriginal Landscape" that was first published in Poetry magazine, December 2013
The Swedish Academy's awarding the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature to Louise Glück
(Awarding announced October 8, 2020, the Swedish Academy)
SO Louise Glück was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for this year, which is a sigh of relief from last year's controversial bestowal of the honor by the Swedish body to Serbian nationalist Peter Handke (for his novels and plays). A sigh of relief as well from the 2018 postponement (due to a sexual harassment complaint) of the announcement of that year's prizewinner to 2019. The 2018 winner was finally revealed in October 2019 as Olga Tokarczuk, an anti-nationalist.
Now, we understand of course that Handke's body of works previous to his nationalist texts are worthy of high commendation and lasting recognition. But context is everything, of course, and the endorsement of the Swedish Academy is probably regarded by many as having the same weight as any endorsement (or non-endorsement) by that other nationalist who goes by the name of Donald Trump, whether it's of a tweet by QAnon or a somebody's misread pronouncement regarding face masks. And, notably, the Nobel website did include those controversial titles of Handke's in their bibliography for the author, inspiring in turn Europe's far right.
So this year it's a more peaceful pick, then. Which, of course, doesn't really mean anything to anybody who hasn't read a single Glück piece yet. Having said that, let us here in diskurso, as an arts magazine that constantly claims to be more interested in artists' works than in artists' names, now quickly salute the Academy for their current selection by endorsing at least a single Glück poem, this one embedded above, titled "Aboriginal Landscape." It's a poem on death, by the way, in case you want to know before reading, apt indeed for these recent years that saw the rise of death-denying nationalist gods.
(Advertising, Artists' rights)
Three video materials from APRO's CORTA! tv ad series
(The ad series released 30 September 2020 by APRO through Leo Burnett Brazil)
HERE'S APRO and Leo Burnett Brazil's description of this public interest tv ad series of theirs:
"CORTA! (Cut!) – it’s a term frequently used in the audiovisual industry, and now, it’s the name of a powerful new campaign from Leo Burnett Brazil aiming to put an end to the sexual harassment plaguing the industry.
"The campaign is brand-new, having just launched at the end of September; however, its roots date back to 2017. Three years ago, the Brazilian Association of Production of Audiovisual Works (APRO) developed 'Corta!' – the Pact for Anti-Harassment in the Audiovisual Industry. Fast forward to today – with the help of Leo Burnett Tailor Made and in efforts with #MeTooBrazil, an independent arm of its namesake #MeToo movement in the U.S. – the CORTA! Campaign launched to shine a spotlight on this urgent need for a change in industry behavior."
The official trailer for Netflix's David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. [Trailer uploaded 23 September 2020 by Netflix]
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
(4 October 2020, Netflix)
THIS David Attenborough witness statement at the natural historian and broadcaster's late age offers a most frightening threat. The only letdown is it still shifts its gear to a prescription-offering optimism at the end, given that the populations of the world has full knowledge that no government on our planet will take any drastic step to mitigate or reverse the threat until it is all too late in the game. But, of course, we understand why the film has to take that prescriptive direction, otherwise it wouldn't make its way into any media roster. And perhaps it's not directed at impossible governments but to some other realistic audience.
Now, why the pessimism, you'd ask. Well, we all know that all of the governments of the world are driven by big business that often comes into conflict with basic science, and if all of these governments' approach to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic is to be read as an indication of how they would all collectively react to the progress of climate change this late in the day and forward, we already know we can't rely on them to make all the urgent steps that would make a difference. Let us love this documentary for its dark threats, and while we each may want to embrace the available solutions Sir David Attenborough offers, we'd do best to be rid of the narration's optimism and replace it with a revolutionary's more appropriate anger and consequent urgent commitment to planning for each of our village's own survival.
The official trailer for The Trial of the Chicago 7. [Trailer uploaded 23 September 2020 by Netflix]
The Trial of the Chicago 7
(Released 16 October 2020, Netflix)
THIS long-delayed Aaron Sorkin-written historical film project started on paper in 2007, but Sorkin actually intended it for Steven Spielberg's directing style. However, Spielberg begged off the project after the 2007 Writers Guild of America strikem and it wouldn't be until 2018 when the Spielberg-co-founded DreamWorks Pictures would decide to give the script a go at filming, with Sorkin himself assigned to direct his own masterpiece after showing his directing mettle in 2017's Molly's Game. DreamWorks put the film up with Paramount Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Marc Platt Productions and Shivhans Pictures; but during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic Paramount Pictures sold the online streaming rights to Netflix. And so here we are.
So the film is mainly about that show trial put up by the until-2016 worst president the United States ever had, Richard Nixon. It would probably be the sixth film on this subject that we know. As for that trial, well, it had the obvious intent of convincing the world that there was a kind of antifa movement meaning to overrun government. Oops, did we just confuse Nixon's evil cunning with Trump's vocabulary and fake-news-driven motives? Well, we're not apologizing for dragging out a similarity.
But the film is also, among other things, about judges like Julius Hoffman (played here by Frank Langella) in America's still-problematic justice system and democracy. It's also about a whole lot of other things, including the black power movement and the reasons why there has to be such a thing. True, some poetic license had been invoked to service some chronological drama expected of feature films, but these hardly had any effect on the basic truth about the history of this event. And, yes, some essential elements of this history had to be contained for focus.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote in his review: "Sorkin has structured The Trial of the Chicago 7 ingeniously, so that it's never about just one thing. It's about the theatrical insanity of the war in the courtroom, about how the government would stop at nothing (including flagrant attempts at jury tampering), and about the politics, at once planned and spontaneous, of how the Chicago protests unfolded." Meanwhile, John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "Sorkin has made a movie that's gripping, illuminating and trenchant, as erudite as his best work and always grounded first and foremost in story and character. It's as much about the constitutional American right to protest as it is about justice, which makes it incredibly relevant to where we are today."
Although these notes of ours look like a salute solely to Sorkin (we're fans of his The Newsroom, by the way), that is not our intention, knowledgeable as we are about cinema as a team art requiring a bunch of other geniuses to produce a genius of a final product. But we actually still have a few more words allowed us by our editor for this entry, and we would like to allocate these to Sacha Baron Cohen, who we think stands out in his role as Abbie Hoffman, and to Eddie Redmayne, who took the part of Tom Hayden. We're sure there will be enough time to mention the other names involved in this cinematic achievement in the next Oscars.
Text (c) copyright 2020 diskurso.com