Cries From Syria

The HBO Documentary puts America’s own political climate in 2017 into an important context

Cries From Syria PosterIt almost goes without saying that the Syrian refugee crisis and Civil War is Bad with a capital B. Evgeny Afineevsky’s HBO documentary “Cries From Syria” is broken up into four chapters. It starts with the birth of the revolution in the Arab Spring, then the start of the Syrian Civil War, the rescue efforts as the situation worsens, and finally the ongoing escape efforts from the regime. It’s a film about how revolution spreads and what it’s like to live under constant turmoil and oppression.

And the imagery Afineevsky cobbles together from raw, handheld footage from many civilians and freedom fighters on the ground are grim and horrifying. “Cries from Syria” opens with a toddler lying dead face down on a beach, the waves washing over his body. A 6-year-old has a hole in his face where a sniper bullet has pierced through his cheek. The aftermath of a chemical weapon attack in 2013 resembles Holocaust imagery. Former prisoners recount how everyone among them was raped, beaten and tortured. And in their testimonials, Syrian civilians remember how wrong they were when they thought things couldn’t get any worse.

But it’s that last bit that stuck with me most of all. “We thought that was the worst that could happen.” Continue reading “Cries From Syria”

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

The Netflix documentary “Nobody Speak” examines the Gawker and Hulk Hogan trial and how this is an example of an attack on the First Amendment.

Nobody Speak PosterOne of the things I’ve had to contend with in the last six months of Donald Trump’s presidency, as well as through the whole 2016 campaign, was justifying my outrage. I had to step back and ask myself, “Is this all really as bad as I think it is?” It’s been very easy for Republicans to now turn around and point the finger at liberals for being hypocrites. Everything they were panicking over eight years ago, now we’re losing our minds. It’s been an endless back and forth of hypocrisy and hysteria.

The Netflix documentary “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” is a good barometer for that paranoia. It’s a movie that argues, quite convincingly, that recent events have set the wheels in motion for the richest individuals to silence speech and press they don’t like and to use money and power to influence the truth and the message in the media. Director Brian Knappenberger believes this is a direct attack on freedom of the press and the First Amendment.

So is he right, or is he cherry picking and stoking more hysteria? I’d like to approach this review from the perspective of someone who might genuinely be dismissive of it, the type of person who uses the phrase “the media” as a pejorative, the type of person who takes pleasure out of drinking liberal tears, or the type of person who wouldn’t bother watching a documentary like this in a million years, let alone exist in the same universe of logic to argue rationally about it. Now I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press”

The Straw That Should’ve Broke the Camel’s Back: Trump and Healthcare

The failure to repeal and replace Obamacare should’ve been Donald Trump’s lowest moment. How did we get back to normal?

On Friday March 24, 2017, nothing happened. This is both absolutely false and the literal truth.

On that Friday, President Donald Trump had pressured the U.S. Congress to vote on a healthcare bill that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with a bill that anyone with eyes would know was inferior. Even conservative senators and news pundits started calling it Obamacare Lite. The Republicans didn’t have the votes, but Trump threatened that if Congress did not repeal Obamacare now, he would not only “come after you” and threaten that they would lose their seats in 2018, but he would make everyone keep Obamacare, as if he was holding the country hostage. “Oh no, please don’t make us keep Obamacare,” said the 20 million people currently enrolled in it.

In what was a sensational headline, multiple media outlets reported that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had “rushed” to the White House to inform Trump that in their last ditch effort hours before the vote, they did not have enough support.

The encroaching reality that this bill might be pushed through anyway, in spite of everyone’s best interests as nothing more than a means to get rid of Obamacare, was terrifying. But what alleviated that fear was the thought that Trump would lose. He was overconfident and impatient, and he demanded that this failing pile of garbage (as Trump might put it) go to vote anyway, and he would get savaged. Ooh the sweet justice that would be, to see Trump and Ryan humiliated on the stage they built for themselves, carrying their head in their hands as they explained to everyone why their promise to repeal Obamacare failed.

But none of that happened. Trump and Ryan pulled the bill from a vote at the last minute (which is apparently a thing you can do). Then Donald Trump got on the phone with a reporter at The Washington Post, and he blamed Democrats. Continue reading “The Straw That Should’ve Broke the Camel’s Back: Trump and Healthcare”

In Defense of Jimmy Fallon (sort of)

Fallon’s Trump interview was bad, but let Fallon be Fallon

Jimmy Fallon was doomed no matter what he did with Donald Trump. In today’s political climate, if you’re not staunchly choosing a side then you’re part of the problem. And in having such a volatile person like Trump on his show this late in the campaign, he already stood to lose the respect of the leftist, cultural elite, but in holding Trump’s feet to the fire he would’ve definitely lost the viewership and respect of the right. Imagine if he tussled Hillary Clinton’s hair or dressed up in a pantsuit with her. He would’ve lost both groups, not just one or the other.

In the numerous think pieces that have been trotted around, the same 15 (scathing) tweets from the same journalists were used as proof that the Internet has turned against Fallon. Vulture said Fallon completed his transformation into Jay Leno, inoffensive and popular, yet to the point that it’s become a liability. Fallon’s the late night show celebs go to because they know he’ll be a pussycat, in the same way it was with Leno.

But Leno and Fallon are still highly different. Leno held firm to a Vegas-style variety show, and with his lame “have you heard about this” stand up and his vaguely snobby snickering at dumb criminals in newspaper headlines and in man-on-the-street trivia, he got old fast because he clung to a segment of the ‘80s and the past that was long past its due date.

There was a point however when Fallon was the new kid on the block, the fan favorite and the Internet’s favorite. Back when he was on Late Night, he didn’t play as many games with his guests but instead performed goofy, often inspired sketches that firstly proved that he was an incredibly talented impressionist and performer, but also ensnared the youth demographic. Remember Tebowie, the blend of Tim Tebow and David Bowie? Or his many stabs at Neil Young or Bob Dylan singing beloved theme songs and Top 40 music? He combined nostalgia for ‘90s TV shows like Saved by the Bell reunions and an affinity for hipper music, like in his history of rap performances with Justin Timberlake, as a way of creating content that, even if you weren’t watching his show live, demanded to be shared online, thus changing the game. Like Letterman and Conan before him, both of whom earned cult status on college campuses with edgy humor, Fallon had become the hot young star all the kids loved, and he did so with inoffensive charm. Continue reading “In Defense of Jimmy Fallon (sort of)”