We Need Kids’ Shows About War
For family entertainment, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is remarkably complex. The animated Disney show is about military strategy, chain-of-command, civil-military relations, diplomacy and statecraft. More importantly, it’s about wartime ethics. What constitutes acceptable losses in battle? Would you torture a prisoner if you thought it would help save... Read more
‘BlackKklansman’ Nails the Comedic Terror of America’s White Supremacist Movement
When white supremacist leader Jason Kessler rose from the metro station at Unite the Right 2 in Washington, D.C., I had a hard time processing how tiny he was. For all his hateful rhetoric and bluster, Kessler is a small man. As his assorted crew of masked miscreants walked... Read more
Why Can’t We Just Play Ball?
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a sports fan. As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the military. Until recently, I experienced those as two separate and distinct worlds. While I was in the military — I served for 20 years as an officer... Read more
Moscow’s Cuban Propaganda Movie Was a Cinematic Masterpiece — And a Commercial Flop
This story originally appeared on March 4, 2017. In 1992, the Pacific Film Archive’s Edith Kramer was given a difficult task — track down a copy of the obscure Cuban-Soviet propaganda film Soy Cuba that had been produced almost 30 years earlier. Cuban novelist and critic Guillermo Cabrera Infante wanted to... Read more
‘Sorry to Bother You’ Is Boldly Anti-Imperialistic
Sorry to Bother You, an explicitly left-wing surrealist satire written, directed and produced by Oakland-based rapper Boots Riley has become one of the surprise box-office hits of 2018. Kicking off the year as one of the darlings of the Sundance Film Festival, the indie flick had one of 2018’s... Read more
The Fictional Nuke Film That Won the Oscar for Best Documentary
This story originally appeared on May 29, 2015. It’s a little after 2:00 p.m. in Kent — an English county east of London — and the doctor is making an emergency visit. He’s escorted by two Civil Defense volunteers, a man and a woman. He checks in on his... Read more
‘Threads’ Is One of the Most Horrifying Films I’ve Ever Seen
This story first appeared on May 5, 2015. In the basement, a few days after the bombs dropped, Ruth Beckett’s parents try to make her eat. She’s pregnant and eating for two. It’s not just about her anymore, her mother reminds her. “I don’t care about this baby anymore,”... Read more
Texas Megachurch Preaches the Power of Drones
This story originally appeared on Aug. 25, 2014. The video opens on a birds-eye view of a city through a green tinted lens. An electronic user interface lights up the screen, an homage to the robot vision from The Terminator. The camera pulls out to reveal the surveiller—an armed... Read more
In ‘The Sheriff of Babylon,’ Iraq Is a Crime Scene
There’s a corpse in the street and no one wants to claim it. The body rots under the Hands of Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. It’s 2004 and, according to Pres. George W. Bush, America has achieved victory. The body was once an Iraqi named Ali Al Fahar who worked... Read more
‘Akira’ Is Afraid of Nukes
Looking up from a highway toward Tokyo on a clear, sunny day, a half globe of light appears. It grows larger and larger until it consumes the city. A blast like a nuclear explosion. Thirty-one years later, the city has rebuilt itself. Neo Tokyo is a bustling metropolis. The... Read more
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