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Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 8, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just uploaded to my radio archives:

March 7, 2013 Robert Gordon on the end of growth (paper here) • Adolph Reed, author this review essay, on some recent “race” movies (Django Unchained, etc.)

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Responses

  1. I’m glad Adolph is back on your show, given his charge of “left anti-unionism” against your Nation “Opionator” piece, which even the oringinal author of the charge retracted. I like much of Reed’s bombast in the essay, but then this:

    The fact that there has been no serious left presence with any political capacity in this country for at least a generation has exacerbated this problem. In the absence of dynamic movements that cohere around affirmative visions for making the society better, on the order of, say, Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights,” and that organize and agitate around programs instrumental to pursuit of such visions, what remains is the fossil record of past movements—the still photo legacies of their public events, postures, and outcomes. Over time, the idea that a “left” is defined by commitment to a vision of social transformation and substantive program for realizing it has receded from cultural memory. Being on the left has become instead a posture, an identity, utterly disconnected from any specific practical commitments.

    The coupling of “vision” with “substantive program” in the purported critique is instructive. Anyone can have a vision: mad, on drugs, left, right, stupid , genius, visions are in abundance. The left has been nothing but sparklepony, Occupado movement visions. But “substantive programs”? That’s a whole, whole other world, one that neither Reed nor Chomsky nor Negri nor McKibben nor Reed’s former presidential choice of Hillary nor any Name has the slightest familiarity, expertise, documentation, or tenured right to explain.

  2. Martin: Good morning, Cranky McGripeberg!

  3. Mara, that is very, very funny. Thanks.

  4. How much focus do you give to climate change, Doug?
    Internationally, it has become the most pressing issue, surpassing even the corrupt global economic system. The science becomes clearer each year and predictions just keep getting gloomier. Yet the U.S seems to be completely ignoring it, worrying more about its phoney debt issues. Is it something to do with how religious America is? That climate change is considered in the same category as evolution and so, therefore, no one wants to touch it with a barge pole?

  5. A Review of Adolphe Reed’s “Review” of Beasts of the Southern Wild:

    This is a comment on Adolphe Reed’s “field trip to the movies,” in which he admits to a) having his mind made up about the movies before going in, and b) to having learned nothing from film for the last decades. Doug Henwood also admits at the beginning of the interview to not having seen the movies.

    I was pretty upset by this discussion mostly because two intellectuals I normally respect for their independent and unpredictable thinking are confidently (arrogantly?) discussing a topic–film–they obviously know little or nothing about. I would seriously suggest to Reed that he might learn a thing or two from film if he looked even a little outside Hollywood for a film to watch (see Netflix, Itunes). Most ‘real’ film, with any aesthetic sense (including, ahem, the use of metaphor) or artistic integrity, is made outside of the United States. You might google Iranian film as but one example.

    I am all for understanding the politics of a film, and I even think that good, complicated politics is crucial to good art. However, it just does not appear that Reed has enough of a sense of film aesthetics or history to do this very convincingly. Henwood never saw the films in question, so he is not able to challenge Reed in any intelligent way. They both should have known they were in trouble when they started quoting and agreeing with Milton Friedman on the use of metaphor!

    I have not seen The Help, although I have no doubt that–as Henwood says–critiquing that movie is like shooting fish in a barrel. Nor have I seen Django Unchained although my husband says the politics of that movie is more complicated than Reed lets on (and we’re no fans of Tarantino).

    I have, however, seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, and in this case, I think Reed is way off. In his original article, Reed claims that this film presents an “exoticizing narrative of quaint, closer-to-nature primitives.” It is one of the only moments in the article when he actually lays out a bit of an argument against the film’s politics. The rest of his discussion involves strangely comparing the film to Leni Riefenstahl’s photographs (I looked these up, and the comparison just does not work for me) and a moment on a plane with Oprah’s friend Gayle King. At worst this is name-dropping and intellectual posturing, at best it’s too cynical and reductive, and worse, just bad reviewing.

    I find it important to write this comment in order to defend good, political art/film criticism against this sort of seemingly-smart-yet-actually-shallow opining. God knows, there is very little good art criticism out there, although it does exist. I normally like Henwood’s show because it has an aesthetic sense, especially when it comes to music, unlike so many lefty blogs and podcasts that mistake politics for art or are just out to lunch on these topics.

    To my mind, Beasts is a beautiful, non-realist film of a sort of post-apocalyptic vein that describes a rural underworld subculture produced by Louisiana, industrial waste, and climate change. It is about death and grief and loss. Yes, it has metaphors, even an obvious allegory! It really should not be treated so dismissively or reduced to these hardy-har-har academic cliches.

    R Durnford

  6. Reed is really top rate.

  7. No, actually Reed is not top rate on film. Being an expert on one thing does not make you an expert on everything, right? It’s not personal to Reed, but his arguments in this segment are faulty and I felt this needed to be pointed out.


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