Fragmented documentary and action film formula offer unrewarding film experiences
by Alan Charlton
Photo Credit: Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman star in a scene from the movie Logan. The film attempts to change the superhero genre by showing the mortality of the protagonist, a human mutant. Unfortunately, writes Alan Charlton, Logan fails to break from formula, remaining only as a “bloody repeat” of other such films. ( Photo credit for Logan / CNS photo / Fox )
All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I. F. Stone
In cinemas throughout the Lower Mainland
Since the days of Thomas Jefferson and J. S. Mill, it has been argued an essential component of any democracy is an independent press. The so-called fourth estate has been seen as a vital balance to the legislative authority in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and the United States, even though the idea of Lords Temporal, Lords Spiritual, and House of Commons cannot be strictly applied to them. This concept is at the heart of the intriguing and entertaining documentary All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I. F. Stone.
The film attempts a number of things, including paying homage to Stone who for decades published a newsletter in which, after meticulous research of various sources, often including government documents, he showed the official view of events was contrary to the truth. Thus the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the accusation Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and, of course, the whole Watergate affair, were exposed as baseless.
The film also argues the great media outlets, including the New York Times and the leading television networks, contribute to the lies by simply, without questioning, repeating the government line.
Finally, the film argues that the kind of independent press exemplified by such organs as Young Turks, Democracy Now, The Intercept, and Rolling Stone are necessary to hold governments accountable since they operate without funding from either government, advertising, or corporations.
They not only attempt to publish the truth underlying national events, but also report on important issues that might otherwise be disregarded by media, which are more concerned with entertaining than reporting.
Though the film is perhaps too fragmented as it jumps back and forth between newsreel footage to interviews, a process some might find a little disconcerting and in need of a more linear and fully developed explanation, it is obvious the film today takes on enormous relevance.
It deals with essentially American presidencies, from LBJ to Obama. At one point Stone’s son quotes his father as saying, “If something goes wrong with the government, a free press will ferret it out, and it’ll get fixed. But if something goes wrong with the free press, the country will go to hell.”
In these days when print journalism is in its death throes and people rely on tweets for their information, Stone’s statement should give everyone pause. One wonders if the kind of solid, thoughtful and expansive journalism the movie advocates can possibly survive. If that is the case, then the film All Governments Lie may well be a rallying call for all of us to support those reporters who are truly committed to the traditional work of the fourth estate.
The film is well worth seeing whether or not one agrees with it. The nice thing is that it is not only playing in some local movie houses, but it can be downloaded for free on the Internet. Regardless of the venue, it provides a truly rewarding experience.
One would like to believe the same is true of Logan, a film which has received widespread critical and audience acclaim. With this in mind, I ventured off to see it. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I am not a fan of action hero movies, which to my mind tend to be formulaic and largely the result of computer generated special effects.
In cinemas throughout the Lower Mainland
Logan tries to avoid the first fault by showing the protagonist, a human mutant, aware of his own mortality, as he ages and attempts to provide care for his 90-year-old mentor. And even if one is not familiar with the characters, the film almost manages to be a stand-alone item that one can follow with a fair degree of understanding.
Unfortunately it remains formulaic as the plot line involves Wolverine (Logan) being saddled with a clone of himself – a young girl with the same lethal fangs. The result is the plot largely consists of a series of fights resulting in a multitude of bloody encounters, decapitations, and an enormous body count.
Some have argued Logan is intriguing for positing the idea of the vulnerable nature even of action heroes, but in the end it remains nothing more than a bloody repeat of much that has gone before.