Arts Review

Novelist Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047 imagines an American meltdown

By James Brookfield, 6 December 2016

When we meet the cast of characters, in Shriver’s dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future, the US is mired in economic crisis, driven largely by the growth of entitlement spending.

Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today—the 1948 documentary restored

By Clara Weiss, 5 December 2016

The film, written and directed by Stuart Schulberg, was intended to advertise the principles underlying the indictment of the Nazi criminals at the Nuremberg Trials.

New study of American novelist

A conversation with Tony Williams, author of James Jones: The Limits of Eternity—Part 2

By David Walsh, 2 December 2016

Tony J. Williams has written a new study of the American novelist, James Jones (1921–77), best known for From Here to Eternity, Some Came Running, The Thin Red Line and the posthumously published Whistle.

New study of American novelist

A conversation with Tony Williams, author of James Jones: The Limits of Eternity—Part 1

By David Walsh, 1 December 2016

Tony J. Williams has written a new study of the American novelist, James Jones (1921–77), best known for From Here to Eternity, Some Came Running, The Thin Red Line and the posthumously published Whistle.

Moonlight: How much can a person be reduced?

By Glenn Mulwray, 30 November 2016

The critically-acclaimed film by Barry Jenkins, about a working-class youth in Miami, seeks to understand a person’s development in fairly narrow terms.

Silent Night: A moving contemporary opera on the 1914 Christmas truce

By Fred Mazelis, 29 November 2016

The opera has received almost a dozen productions since its premiere five years ago.

Bleed for This and The Edge of Seventeen: Are these any match for the times?

By Joanne Laurier, 24 November 2016

Bleed for This is a gritty biographical movie about a “blue collar” fighter who makes one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history. A difficult, friendless teenager finds her stride in The Edge of Seventeen.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) dies at 82

By Hiram Lee, 23 November 2016

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, famed for songs such as “Suzanne,” “The Stranger Song,” “So Long, Marianne,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Bird on the Wire,” died November 7 at the age of 82.

The “madness” of war dimly understood in Hacksaw Ridge and the world set right by aliens in Arrival

By Joanne Laurier, 17 November 2016

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is about the first and only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor in World War II. Arrival is a feeble science fiction parable from Denis Villeneuve.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Ang Lee on the Iraq war and American hoopla

By David Walsh, 15 November 2016

The drama takes place in 2004. A unit of American soldiers, who have survived a brief but fierce battle with Iraqi insurgents, are being celebrated as “heroes” on a nationwide tour.

Pittsburgh Symphony musician strike longest in history

By Evan Winters and Samuel Davidson, 15 November 2016

On November 15, the strike will surpass the 46-day strike of 1975, the only other in the orchestra's history.

Gimme Danger from Jim Jarmusch

By Kevin Martinez, 11 November 2016

American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has made a documentary on the not so well-known, but hugely influential rock group, The Stooges.

National Bird: “I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” says US drone pilot

By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2016

Sonia Kennebeck’s film, whose title suggests that drones should now be considered the US national emblem, is a documentary that brings to the screen the story of three whistleblowers.

USA Network’s Mr. Robot, Season 2: Pessimism overtakes anger, with unfortunate results

By Carlos Delgado, 7 November 2016

After an intriguing start, the second season of the television drama about anti-corporate hackers spirals largely into gloom and incoherence.

Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes and the current cultural vacuum

By Joanne Laurier, 3 November 2016

Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes, commissioned by Amazon Studios, is a television miniseries set in the period of the anti-Vietnam War protests.

American Pastoral: A film version of Philip Roth’s novel

By David Walsh, 29 October 2016

The film and novel follow the life and eventual terrible misfortune of Seymour “Swede” Levov, the son of a glove manufacturer in Newark, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Michael Moore in TrumpLand grovels in praise of Hillary Clinton

By Fred Mazelis, 27 October 2016

With his latest effort, Moore emerges as a chief promoter of the favored candidate of Wall Street and the Pentagon.

Nick Hedges’s photographs reveal what Britain’s slums were like in the 1960s and 1970s

By Margot Miller, 25 October 2016

In Hedges’s words: “Adequate housing is the basis of a civilised urban society. … The photographs should allow us to celebrate progress, yet all they can do is haunt us with a sense of failure.”

The Magnificent Seven: Hollywood remakes and the problem of diminishing returns

By Carlos Delgado, 24 October 2016

The film, a remake of the 1960 original, tells the story of a band of hired guns who defend a small town from marauders.

Does Bob Dylan deserve to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature?

By David Walsh, 21 October 2016

Comparisons of the singer with Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville are out of place and also beside the point. In the end, it will not do Bob Dylan any good to be placed in such company.

The false friends of Peter Weiss, German dramatist, filmmaker and novelist

By Stefan Steinberg, 20 October 2016

Central to Peter Weiss’s work were the seminal experiences of the twentieth century––the crimes of fascism, the October Revolution and its subsequent betrayal by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The Dressmaker, The Girl on the Train: The “return of the native” and other issues

By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2016

In The Dressmaker, the art of beautifying the human body is the weapon of choice to vanquish intolerance and ignorance. The Girl on the Train is a murder mystery centered around a New York City suburb.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016: Part 4

Sami Blood from Sweden, Werewolf from Canada, Park from Greece: Society’s cruelty to its youngest members

By David Walsh, 5 October 2016

Amanda Kernell’s Sami Blood, from Sweden, is not an easy film to watch. It was also one of the most moving and authentic films shown in Toronto this year.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016

Ma’ Rosa from the Philippines: Small-time drug dealers set upon by the police

By Dylan Lubao, 5 October 2016

The 14th film from Filipino director Brillante Mendoza was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and earlier premiered at Cannes.

Clint Eastwood’s Sully: The “Miracle on the Hudson” dramatized

By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2016

Eastwood directs a fictional version of the January 2009 incident in which pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a commuter jet in the Hudson River, saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016: Part 1

How well does filmmaking reflect present-day life?

By David Walsh, 27 September 2016

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival screened some 400 feature and short films from 83 countries at 1,200 public screenings.

Leonardo da Vinci–The Genius in Milan: The marketing of genius

By Lee Parsons, 23 September 2016

The film is being distributed in over 50 countries this year and comes out of the largest exhibition ever mounted in Italy of the work of the great polymath, Leonardo da Vinci.

Young Euro Classic: International music festival in shadow of European Union crisis

By Verena Nees, 19 September 2016

The summer music festival was held in Berlin for the seventeenth time and attracted an audience of 26,000 to the Berlin concert hall at the Gendarmenmarkt.

Miss Sharon Jones! Barbara Kopple’s documentary

By Kevin Martinez, 12 September 2016

Veteran documentarian Barbara Kopple has returned with a lively and inspiring film about soul singer Sharon Jones and her battle with pancreatic cancer.

Jason Bourne again

By Hiram Lee, 6 September 2016

The latest entry in the Bourne series of spy films finds the former CIA assassin taking on the agency in a “post-Snowden world.”

War Dogs: Cry havoc? Or what exactly?

By Kevin Martinez, 5 September 2016

Based on a true story about two young arms dealers who defrauded the US government out of millions, the film is a coarse yet oddly sanitized version of a little-known episode of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comic actor Gene Wilder: 1933–2016

By James Brewer, 1 September 2016

Although his work in film ended more than 25 years ago, Wilder will be long remembered for the humor and humanity he displayed in films like Young Frankenstein.

Southside With You: An insufferable account of the Obamas’ first date

By Matthew MacEgan, 31 August 2016

This fictionalized account of the first date between Barack and Michelle Obama in 1989 presents a racialized view of society served up with a large side of banality.

“Political art” in New York City this summer

By Clare Hurley, 29 August 2016

While much of the artwork is as yet unsatisfying, it is welcome that many of these visual artists are registering awareness of the social and political crisis.

Anthropoid: A film looks at 1942 assassination of Nazi chief Reinhard Heydrich

By Fred Mazelis, 26 August 2016

The new movie remains on the level of a violent action film, avoiding a more probing look at the Holocaust.

Toots Thielemans: 1922-2016

“That little space between a smile and a tear”

By James Brewer, 25 August 2016

The Belgian-born multi-instrumental jazz musician became widely known for his virtuosic harmonica playing.

A portrait of photographer Robert Frank

By C.W. Rogers, 20 August 2016

Don’t Blink––Robert Frank, is a very personal and generally engaging documentary of the life and career of the acclaimed photographer and filmmaker.

Season 3 of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman: Hollywoo(d) and mental illness

By Josh Varlin, 15 August 2016

Netflix’s original animated series BoJack Horseman manages to provide a comedic yet thoughtful look at the entertainment industry and the psychic damage it inflicts.

Café Society: Woody Allen’s love letter to the wealthy and famous

By Joanne Laurier, 12 August 2016

The film, set in the 1930s, takes its title from legendary clubs in Manhattan that welcomed black and white artists and performers. Unfortunately, the film is the opposite of everything those clubs stood for.

Sleeping Giant: Deception and lies about the “new” working class

By Nancy Hanover, 11 August 2016

A new book by Demos editor Tamara Draut seeks to refurbish the Democratic Party and the trade unions by promoting identity politics.

Turkish regime imprisons and harasses artists, journalists and academics after coup attempt

By Sandy English, 8 August 2016

In the aftermath of the July 15 attempted coup, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has imprisoned artists, banned books and frozen academic relations with other countries.

Lady Dynamite and other Netflix comedies

By Ed Hightower, 6 August 2016

A number of new comedies on Netflix offer mixed results.

All Quiet on the Western Front: A generation haunted by war

By Isaac Finn, 5 August 2016

Erich Maria Remarque’s seminal work, All Quiet on the Western Front, deals with a generation thrown into World War I and the confusion and depression of those who survived.

A comment on the recent San Diego Comic-Con International

By Kevin Martinez, 4 August 2016

The convention attracts over 150,000 people each year to attend panels, workshops and events celebrating comic books and science fiction. What does this say about the official culture?

HBO’s Veep: Lots of profanity, but not enough of what’s truly ugly

By Carlos Delgado, 2 August 2016

The popular HBO television comedy stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, a hopelessly inept and unprincipled US vice president who ascends to the presidency.

Captain Fantastic: An anti-establishment superhero?

By Joanne Laurier, 30 July 2016

Writer-director Matt Ross’s film is a semi-anarchistic tale about a family’s “off-the-grid” existence in the Pacific Northwest.

Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War

By Eric London, 26 July 2016

A 2008 book by Professor David Williams provides a mountain of evidence refuting the claim that the recent film Free State of Jones, directed by Gary Ross, presented “a quasi-historical” approach to the American Civil War and social conflict in the Confederacy.

Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, season 4: Does the positive outweigh the negative?

By Ed Hightower, 26 July 2016

The fourth season of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, the comedy-drama set in a fictional women’s federal prison, is now available.

Our Kind of Traitor: Going with the current

By Joanne Laurier, 21 July 2016

Our Kind of Traitor, a British spy thriller directed by Susanna White, is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by John le Carré, the veteran novelist.

Wiener-Dog: Todd Solondz continues to look critically at American life

By David Walsh, 20 July 2016

The new film comprises four stories, loosely linked by the presence of a “wiener-dog” (dachshund). Each has at least one or more satirical, telling moments or elements.

Musician-singer M.I.A dropped from Afropunk festival for criticizing Black Lives Matter

By David Walsh and Zac Corrigan, 18 July 2016

M.I.A. has every right to criticize Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, who travel in privileged circles around the Obamas and other leading Democratic Party figures.

A tribute to German Sinto musician Häns’che Weiss

By Bernd Reinhardt, 16 July 2016

In addition to a remarkable command of his instrument, guitarist Häns’che Weiss was distinguished by his thrilling musicality.

The life and career of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami

By David Walsh, 14 July 2016

The Iranian director will be best remembered and long honored for the series of feature films, including documentaries, that he made between 1987 and 1997.

“Ordinary people truly imbibed the principles of the American Revolution”

An interview with Victoria Bynum, historian and author of The Free State of Jones—Part 2

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 13 July 2016

This is the second part of a conversation with Victoria Bynum, whose research helped inspire the film Free State of Jones, about an insurrection by Southern Unionists against the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Book Review

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill: Attention to social inequality—in her own way

By Sandy English, 12 July 2016

In her new novel, Gaitskill focuses on a poor Dominican teenager from New York City, the suburban family she lives with during the summer and her experiences relating to a particularly abused horse.

“Cinema has the potential to make us richer in spirit”—filmmaker Paul Cox (1940–2016)

By Richard Phillips, 11 July 2016

Cox directed over 40 dramatic features and documentaries—the overwhelming majority on paper-thin budgets—during his more than forty-year career.

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate, dead at 77

By David Walsh, 7 July 2016

Cimino is best known as the director of The Deer Hunter (1978), which won numerous Academy Awards, and Heaven’s Gate (1980), which was denounced by leading critics, lost a great deal of money and severely damaged Cimino’s career.

Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley dead at 89

By Hiram Lee, 6 July 2016

Ralph Stanley led one of the most remarkable groups in Bluegrass music and was among the genre’s greatest banjo players and singers.

Free State of Jones: Three cheers!

By Joanne Laurier, 28 June 2016

Gary Ross’s film is a fictional account of an intriguing, but little known chapter in American history.

25 April: Animated documentary on New Zealand’s role in the Gallipoli invasion

By Sam Price and Tom Peters, 25 June 2016

The film shows the horrors of war but fails to challenge the nationalist mythology surrounding the Anzacs.

Alf Sjöberg’s Miss Julie (1951) and G. W. Pabst’s The Threepenny Opera (1931): Films worth noting … and seeing

By Joanne Laurier, 23 June 2016

Swedish filmmaker Alf Sjöberg’s Miss Julie is based on the play by August Strindberg. Austrian filmmaker G.W. Pabst’s film The Threepenny Opera is an intricate movie version of the legendary Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill work.

“All the terrifying things all really happened”

Toyen: A film about the Czech surrealist painter and her times

By David Walsh, 18 June 2016

Czech director Jan Němec, who died in March 2016, made a film about the surrealist painter Toyen in 2005, which is now available. The film is intriguing and sometimes deeply moving.

The Nice Guys: Something, but not very much

(And, briefly, Terence Davies’ Sunset Song and Hany Abu-Assad’s The Idol.)

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 17 June 2016

The Nice Guys is set in 1977 and follows the investigation into a disappearance, which turns out to be part of a broader conspiracy. Sunset Song and The Idol have recently opened in movie theaters in the US.

Again on Don DeLillo’s Zero K: How does a novel turn toward social life?

By Eric London, 13 June 2016

Don DeLillo’s latest novel, about the determination of a small group of wealthy individuals to have their bodies cryogenically preserved, is worth our attention.

The Lobster: Relationships forced on—or forbidden—people

By David Walsh, 11 June 2016

In Yorgos Lanthimos’ film, individuals without a mate are sent to a “hotel” where they have 45 days to find a partner or be turned into an animal. Then, there are those who escape.

HBO’s All the Way: Lyndon B. Johnson and the civil rights movement

By Charles Bogle, 10 June 2016

HBO’s All the Way is a serious effort, devoid of contemporary identity politics, to portray a significant moment in American history.

Right-wing Polish government revives effort to extradite Roman Polanski

By Alan Gilman, 9 June 2016

The new attempt by the Polish government to extradite Polanski is the latest chapter in the US government’s vindictive pursuit of the filmmaker.

Love & Friendship: An early Jane Austen work adapted

By Joanne Laurier, 8 June 2016

In England in 1790, Lady Susan Vernon, widowed and penniless, schemes to reverse her fortunes.

Night without end: Don DeLillo’s Zero K

By James Brookfield, 7 June 2016

American author Don DeLillo’s 17th novel is a dark story about the determination of a small group of wealthy individuals to have their bodies cryogenically preserved.

Anohni speaks on war, inequality and Obama

By George Marlowe, 6 June 2016

The World Socialist Web Site spoke to Anohni about her new album.

Anohni’s Hopelessness: A protest against war, drone bombings and more

“If I killed your mother with a drone bomb, how would you feel?”—Crisis

By Zac Corrigan, 6 June 2016

Anohni is the British-born, American transgender singer formerly known as Antony Hegarty who released five albums under the name Antony and the Johnsons.

HBO’s “Girls”: What should the voice of this generation say?

By Carlos Delgado, 3 June 2016

Praise for Lena Dunham’s “Girls” generally lauds its “frankness” and “realism” about the unpleasant, even ugly, aspects of life for American youth.

A talk given in San Diego, Berkeley and Ann Arbor

Art, war and social revolution—Part 2

By David Walsh, 1 June 2016

This talk was given by WSWS arts editor David Walsh at San Diego State University, University of California Berkeley and University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in April and May.

A talk given in San Diego, Berkeley, and Ann Arbor

Art, war and social revolution—Part 1

By David Walsh, 31 May 2016

This talk was given by WSWS arts editor David Walsh at San Diego State University, University of California Berkeley, and University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in April and May.

Sing Street from Ireland, A Bigger Splash from Italy: Neglected realities

By Joanne Laurier, 28 May 2016

John Carney’s Sing Street is a musical comedy-drama set in Dublin in the mid-1980s. Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, based on a 1969 French thriller, takes its name from a painting by British artist David Hockney.

High-Rise: A film version of J.G. Ballard’s novel

By David Walsh, 27 May 2016

Like the novel, the film—set in the mid-1970s—begins with its central character calmly sitting on the balcony of his 25th floor apartment eating roast dog.

Cash Only: What interests contemporary filmmakers and what doesn’t

By David Walsh, 25 May 2016

Cash Only is an independent American film set in the Detroit area. The film takes place in the Albanian community.

Captain America: Civil War—A waste of resources, technology and human skill

By David Walsh, 23 May 2016

What are these performers doing in this film? Is there any major film actor at present who would say “No” to this sort of project?

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 4

Maggie’s Plan, Frank & Lola, along with Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932)

By Joanne Laurier, 20 May 2016

Some not very good new films—and better old ones.

Money Monster: Who are the criminals?

By Joanne Laurier, 18 May 2016

Money Monster is the latest film to depict the consequences of the 2008 financial crash and the criminal manipulations of the financial elite.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 3

Radio Dreams, about Iranian Americans—and the problem of images without insight

By David Walsh, 17 May 2016

Radio Dreams is a pleasurable experience. Other films at the San Francisco festival––The Event, No Home Movie, Counting, Five Nights in Maine––fared less well.

An interview with Babak Jalali, director of Radio Dreams

By David Walsh, 17 May 2016

The WSWS spoke to Babak Jalali during the recent San Francisco International Film Festival.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 2

The Return, about released prisoners, and other social dramas (or comedies)

By Joanne Laurier, 13 May 2016

In a number of the films screened at the festival, their creators were evidently overwhelmed by the disintegrating social structures in some of the most impoverished parts of the world.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 1

Look at today’s filmmaking … then look at the world

By David Walsh, 11 May 2016

The recent San Francisco International Film Festival, in its 59th edition, screened some 175 films, including approximately 100 feature-length films, from 46 countries.

Everybody Wants Some!!—Richard Linklater goes to college

By Hiram Lee, 10 May 2016

Everybody Wants Some!! is the latest coming-of-age tale from the American independent film director.

Looking for Grace—a strangely cold story about a teenager leaving home

By John Harris, 9 May 2016

The movie centres on the efforts of a lower middle-class couple to find their runaway teenage daughter and only child.

Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Are the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet a genuine alternative to contemporary filmmaking?

By David Walsh, 7 May 2016

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, beginning May 6, is presenting a retrospective of the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, the Franco-German filmmakers.

Elvis & Nixon, A Hologram for the King: Trivializing culture, history

By Joanne Laurier, 6 May 2016

Two ostensible comedies, Elvis & Nixon and A Hologram for the King, drain their stories of their most important social and historical content.

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba—The banalization of the novelist and his art

By David Walsh, 4 May 2016

The film follows the relationship that develops after a young American journalist in Miami in the mid-1950s writes an admiring letter to novelist Ernest Hemingway, then living in Havana, Cuba.

David Walsh speaks on “Art, War and Social Revolution” at meetings in California

By Evan Blake and Jake Dean, 3 May 2016

Walsh presented the history of 20th century anti-war cinema and sought to uncover the roots behind the present cultural stagnation in the light of the eruption of American imperialism.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me: The plight of a Lakota youth

By Norisa Diaz and Kevin Martinez, 2 May 2016

The film is a lyrical and honest look at the poverty and social neglect that affects one of the most historically oppressed communities in the United States.

Class Divide: A close-up look at gentrification, inequality in New York City

By Fred Mazelis, 29 April 2016

Children of hedge fund managers attend private school on Manhattan’s Tenth Avenue, across the street from one of the city’s public housing projects.

Prince (1958-2016)

By Hiram Lee, 27 April 2016

While music icon Prince, who died April 21 at the age of 57, was among the more electrifying performers of his generation, his work could be terribly uneven.

The paintings of Eugène Delacroix at London’s National Gallery

By Ross Mitchell and Paul Mitchell, 26 April 2016

The stated intention of the organisers is to give visitors “the opportunity to (re)discover” the “revolutionary artist” Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).

A concert of relative rarities by American composer Aaron Copland

By Fred Mazelis, 23 April 2016

Copland’s jazz-influenced Piano Concerto deserves a higher profile in the orchestral repertoire.

The Hope Six Demolition Project: PJ Harvey takes on war and global poverty

By Matthew MacEgan, 22 April 2016

Harvey’s new album is the product of the artist’s investigation into the poverty and devastation being inflicted on different parts of the globe.