Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

American Dark Ages, year 41

The United States wasn’t defeated by communism. The United States has been defeated by capitalism.

I count the American Dark Ages as starting December 7, 1972 with the last moon landing.

I have been looking at old ads and propaganda films and I am struck by the ringing tone of confidence that Americans effused back then. There was nothing that Americans couldn’t do. And corporations competed to see who could provide a higher standard of living to the working class.

But now, it wasn’t a communist invasion which ruined and depopulated New Orleans. It isn’t a Russian occupation ruling Detroit and keeping the people in penury. Though it might as well be.

At some point, the predatory element of American capitalism overcame the good sense of the ruling class and the United States started consuming itself. We neo-colonialized our own people. The US now is a hollowed-out caricature of what it once was. In reaction to the introduction of basic environmental and labor protection laws US corporations began to move production, and the jobs and income associated with them, overseas.

The productive effort and scientific and technological genius of the US was squandered on ten million million dollars of military spending. Not a typo, ten trillion dollars.

How can the US afford to bail out AIG for 182 billion but not Detroit for 18 billion? And since AIG was a giant re-insurance firm, why did banks insured by AIG still get bailed out too? And if banks got bailed out, how did AIG lose 182 billion overnight?

Instead of the patriarchal way of the Rockefellers and Carnagies and Mellons, who sought to improve the society through industrialization and philanthropy, albeit for uncertain motives, we now have the Kochs and Scaifes who appear to seek actively to destroy the Republic from within. And a Republican Party that would actually contemplate bankrupting the US in order to try to deny people the chance to *pay for* reasonably fair healthcare.

I am quite sorry to see that dystopian writers like Zamiatin, Huxley, Orwell, John Shirley, Phillip K Dick, Norman Spinrad, John Brunner, William Gibson, and Rudy Rucker, have been largely proven right. Though I am deeply impressed by their insights.

American Dark Ages, year 41. What fun.

Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy

15 August, 2013 Posted by | bad idea, bailout, capitalism, communism, democracy, Detroit, military-industrial complex, scanlyze, science fiction, too big to fail | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spartacus Reigns Supreme

Spartacus Reigns Supreme

by Henry Edward Hardy

Spartacus (1960) is one of director Stanley Kubrick’s best films. Starring a buff Kirk Douglas and darkly handsome Lawrence Olivier, this panoramic spectacular tells the fictionalized story of the Third Servile War of 73-71 BC, the last of the great slave revolts against the Roman Republic.

Douglas plays Spartacus, the leader of the slave rebellion, as a rather simple man who through ability and circumstance comes within a hairsbreadth of overthrowing the Roman slave system. There is a sweet love-story of his romance and marriage to Varinia as played by Jean Simmons, which contrasts to his rise from gladiator slave to a military leader who shattered legions.

It is not clear from the historical records of the real Spartacus that he had the ambition to overthrow slavery as a system, nor the Roman state. He may simply have wished to leave Italy with his followers in order to escape slavery and return to his home. However, in the movie there is a strong political subtext.

The script was written by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo was a well-known author and Hollywood scriptwriter who was a member of the Communist Party USA. He had refused to give evidence against others to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947. In consequence, Trumbo had been blacklisted and unable to publish work under his own name for 13 years until Kubrick and Douglas, who produced the film, allowed him to put his name on Spartacus.

Trumbo’s Spartacus is a humanitarian, a revolutionary, and a communist who keeps the loot in a common treasury for all. The script, based on Howard Fast’s novel is scintillating, and contains veiled allusions and subtle dialog. Particularly risque and adroitly handled is the seduction scene between Crassus (Olivier) and the young Antoninus (Tony Curtis). Crassus discusses eating oysters or eating snails as a metaphor for sexual preference, indicating that it is merely a matter of taste, not of morality.

Spartacus makes great use of the wide screen. The composition of many of the shots is remarkable, and utterly brutalized by pan-and-scan versions. For instance, in an early scene at the gladiator school, the action takes place in the middle of the screen in the pit below, while from either side of the frame the sybaritic Roman elite look on and discusses the life and death struggles below in a cold and repellent, narcissistic manner.

Spartacus is a challenge to the mind, an inspiration to the spirit, a treat for the eye and a tug on the heartstrings. By all means see this great classic on the wide screen when you can.

A version of this review was published by Current.

Spartacus (1960) (IMDB)
Spartacus (wikipedia)
Spartacus (film) (wikipedia)
Spartacus (Rotten Tomatoes)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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9 October, 2007 Posted by | 1960, blacklisting, communism, Dalton Trumbo, House Un-American Activities Committee, Howard Fast, HUAC, Jean Simmons, Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, media, movie, movies, politics, rebellion, review, revolt, revolution, Roman Empire, Rome, scanlyze, slavery, Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick, Third Servile War, Tony curtis | Leave a comment