Clinton Con

The New Left-run Democratic Party staged an unsuccessful convention in my estimation, underscoring a contention that Democrats, if elected again to the presidency, may be less effective in persuading the public than you might think. With a politically correct culture and its byproduct, rampant self-suppression and self-censorship, polls may conceal or underestimate the number of Trump voters. I suspect that Trump, a buffoon who represents an American backlash against dominant ideas and intellectuals, has the edge in 2016’s presidential race.

This is partly thanks to Democrats, whose vacancy and empty value proposition is contained in their secondhand convention slogan: “Stronger Together”.

HRChissyHillary Clinton, the former Goldwater girl gone to college, may have intended to stress togetherness over strength but I think the convention theme is a part of her campaign’s problem. By emphasizing unity without providing a coherent cause around which to unite or evidence of unity—the nation, in fact, is divided—Democrats incurred the voter’s anger (Clinton admits that people are “furious” at the state of the union) and affirmed that the nation is more divided than before Obama was elected and re-elected. There is no togetherness in America. Given two terms of hope and change and constant conflict brought by Barack Obama, there is chronic domestic violence and foreign attack—often the blurring of both—amid daily strife, confusion and division.

Obama is why Donald Trump is the only apparent alternative.

Similarly, by emphasizing strength—”Stronger Together”—as the goal, Democrats all but cede Trump’s reason to exist in the race, daring the American voter to choose the strongman whose basic proposition is that he can fix what’s wrong with America, because he’s a more conniving crony than Mrs. Clinton, and that he can do it—somehow, never mind details. If togetherness is what voters seek, they were reminded this week during the Philadelphia propaganda that it is lacking in the U.S. If pure strength is what voters want, they were given a contrast between Trump, whose bluster is mistaken for strength, and Clinton, who obviously does not bring Americans “together” let alone make the incessantly attacked U.S. “stronger”. The evidence is everywhere in the news, social media and the streets. The U.S. is neither stronger nor together by the most elementary accounting of facts. Only entrenched New Left intellectuals and stakeholders really believe Democrats’ slogan if they do (and if they told the truth, they probably don’t). Leftists hurl invective at the Tea Party movement, Ted Cruz and Fox News and at anyone, even CNN and Starbucks, who questions the Obama administration or leftist dogma.

In other words, the Democratic National Convention’s “Stronger Together” is based on a fraud, a lie, a contradiction.

This suits President Barack Obama, a dishonest president who lapsed this week into his performance persona again, cadence and all, to deliver what most pundits deemed an optimistic speech on America. That Obama’s speech was not optimistic, unless by optimism one means confidence in a future nation divided by race, sex and every other factor beyond one’s immediate control, was lost on most pundits, who compared Obama to Ronald Reagan. Obama’s hip, rhythmic rant chided Trump’s narcissism while displaying Obama’s own, invoking himself over and over, from self-centered focus on a past speech to a veiled pitch for a book he wrote. No, Obama’s speech is not an example of optimism in America’s future. It is an example of gloating about America’s demise by his doing. Flag-waving displays of what’s been interpreted as patriotism were a hacking at Americanism—a kind of gravedancing before the casket’s been lowered. The Obama presidency stands for dismantling American law, rights and founding ideals. Obama and the Democrats seek an end to the United States for its moral basis: individual rights. The screaming, yelling, raging and sermonizing was not an expression of optimism, it was pure triumphalism for multiculturalism and feminism and their premise, egalitarianism, over individualism, thinly disguised as Philadelphia patriotism.

But Democrats’ celebration of victory over individualism is premature. America is not yet completely done as the nation based on individual rights. Not yet, not yet. Democrats laid out every old idea to dominate the world’s bloodiest century—altruism, collectivism, statism—with plans for total government control of the individual’s life in terms of faith and the use of force. A preacher sermonized the multicult while a general bellowed about a PC war. Mrs. Clinton would rehash her book about the U.S. as a village, a book in which she proposed prohibition of divorce for couples with children. Vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine, a Virginian who expressed admiration for Harry Truman, the Democrat who brought peace in a world at war by dropping the atomic bomb twice, not just once, on the enemy, stood out for sounding reasonable. Bill Clinton was reduced to a prop to make his hard, embittered wife seem softer. Michelle Obama chastised and judged. Michael Bloomberg, who as mayor used demagoguery to ban drinks in New York City, denounced the danger of demagoguery. Socialist Bernie Sanders, who is not a Democrat, made an impact with his socialist uprising. Elizabeth Warren noticeably withheld a rant. Democrats succumbed to the New Left.

Then came Chelsea Clinton, the only child of multimillionaire influence peddlers Bill and Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton eerily emerged to mimic the Stepford-like appearance last week of her friend, Ivanka Trump. This familialism or familism—the alarming rise of a Blood Collective/Family as an American political power—began as modern-era mythology with the morally depraved Kennedys, continued with the terrible presidencies of the Bushes, echoed with repulsive objectification of wives, children and grandchildren with Gores, Palins and others and comes to a sickening, un-American climax with this parade of Trumps, Clintons and still more new breeds. Twins were a Democrat theme. America’s first pair of husband-wife presidential nominees is coupled with a nepotistic GOP nominee. If either major candidate wins, a tyranny of Family looms large over America.

Enter Hillary Clinton, an activist-Methodist from Park Ridge, Illinois, who in her less guarded moments is almost amicable compared to her vulgar, nationalist opponent. Yet the former first lady, senator and secretary of state resembles Meryl Streep’s matriarch ruler in The Giver, pointing, hugging and faking her way through this week’s propaganda show, complete with big screen breaking glass effects to evoke a female Big Brother in 1984. Whether that’s what persuades voters that she is less pathological than the deranged, dangerous Donald Trump remains to be seen. Hillary Clinton had an opportunity to show her composure and speak to Americans as a fractured but decent people, rising above the hatred and divisiveness of the Obama years, pledging to do what her gauzy graphics promise she’s equipped to do: listen to and contemplate Americans as individuals. Hillary Clinton, accepting her earliest New Left ideals, badgered by Sanders the socialist and tied to a track record of distorting the truth while peddling influence, did not rise to the occasion.

Movie Review: Rocky (1976)

Movie Review: Rocky (1976)

Pictures of man in motion, discipline and hero worship lift Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky to fulfillment of its theme. Screened at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater for a 40th anniversary showing featuring an interview with co-star Talia Shire (read my thoughts on the interview after this review) at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2016 on Hollywood Boulevard, Rocky inspires the audience. The 1976 motion picture is intimate, like 1955’s Marty with Ernest Borgnine, small and naturalistic, not romanticist in the highest sense. Yet Mr. Stallone’s low budget, independent-type United Artists movie, like 1993’s Rudy with Sean Astin, depicts with brains and vigor a mythical figure: the self-made sportsman.

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Having never seen Rocky, or its sequels, I was well aware of its reputation, lines and movie star. TCM’s guide, too, describes it as a boxing movie, which doesn’t capture its essence. “Yo, Adrian” came to be mocked for some reason I never understood. So did Rocky‘s success; the character’s, the movie’s and the film series’. When Sylvester Stallone was talked up for a supporting actor Oscar this year, I correctly guessed that he would not win, though I knew that Rocky is the role for which the movie star staked his career and fortune.

When Rocky appeared on TCM’s schedule, I looked forward to finally seeing this seminal movie 40 years after it was made. Now that I’ve seen it, a lot of the hype and backlash makes sense. Though it’s a sports movie, Rocky’s more like a Western in some ways; the hero is an individualist who takes ownership of his domain. He is solitary. He has no family. Rocky rides alone. In this sense, Rocky is perfect for 1976, when feminism began to erode man-woman relationships, leading to emasculation of the American male. Rocky acts like a cowboy—like an American—like a man. Rocky doesn’t choose someone conventional. He picks his partner based on what he sees in her. He wants her. He courts her, he asks for her and he earns, and takes, her. So I see now that reducing their relationship to “Yo, Adrian” is a smear against man as a heroic being.

I also see now that Rocky, directed by John Avildsen, is a great Philadelphia movie, like 1993’s Philadelphia and 1940’s The Philadelphia Story, and it’s not just about the scenery and the steps. More on that later.

Philadelphia’s cold, gritty grayness serves as the wet, dark depth from which Rocky Balboa (Mr. Stallone, magnificent in every scene) rises. In the film’s first part, Rocky faces reality. At 30 years old, with bulging muscles from boxing, sad, brown eyes and a habit of alcohol and cigarettes to ease his pain and possibly his guilt from working as a mobster, he’s on his way to becoming a thug and he knows it. Coming home to a poster of his hero, legendary boxer Rocky Marciano, Rocky Balboa looks at an old photo of himself as a boy, gazes into the mirror and ponders whether he is, as sour fans call him after an opening bout, a “bum.”

It’s a legitimate concern. But there’s evidence to the contrary, too. Besides sneaking an occasional smoke, nursing an occasional drink, losing an occasional match, there’s something else about Rocky, who walks the streets at night, knows everybody in the neighborhood, goes easy on his shakedown targets and has a fondness for turtles, goldfish and puppies. He’s a hero worshipper, with Marciano’s chiseled body as the god of Rocky’s home—as against the portrait of Jesus Christ hanging at the gym—he’s kind and intelligent, which everyone around seems to sense, know and like about him, and, deep down, Rocky Balboa takes pride in himself.

It’s in his walk, when he struts around dark corners, greeting neighbors. It’s in his trade, when he enters a pet shop and flirts with the cashier, in whom he sees a quality he values. It’s in his talk, when he singles out a tough girl and delivers a stern lesson in the importance of earning one’s reputation—Rocky‘s first crucial transition to an extraordinary tale of a self-made man. Rocky walks the girl around the ‘hood, taking the wayward youth on a journey back home, where she thanks him, having been unhinged from clannishness and at least for now restored to a natural, decent state of being an individual who’s capable of standing alone.

This is a small scene, seemingly innocuous, but it marks a critical moment of the man’s self-awareness. It’s as if Rocky realizes in giving that speech that he’s infected with the mind-body dichotomy, not practicing in reality what he preaches in theory, living by example to the opposite of what he instructs the street kid. By now, the audience knows that Rocky likes being alive—he teems with life and, even when he’s down, it’s because he’s sad about something unfulfilled, not in pity for himself—and his love for life is ready to be (re)born. The audience—and this is why the movie earned 1976’s top spot and won Best Picture—is in on the heroism; a picture of man, machine and bridge, carrying a train, car and athlete all in forward motion, gets it going. So, too, does Bill Conti’s epic score.

Soon, the inner conflict gets an outer conflict to match, with world heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) looking for a new means to profit from his work. As Rocky is inwardly American, Creed is outwardly American, exploiting the Uncle Sam persona, the nation’s Bicentennial, even General Washington’s crossing the Delaware River, shamelessly engaging in greedy promotionalism and inviting Rocky Balboa to box for the championship title as a uniquely American match. Equally greedy for an opportunity to prove himself in the arena, Rocky accepts.

But, knowing he’s a man not a boy and beginning his realignment, Rocky persuades the pet shop cashier, whose name is Adrian (Talia Shire), to date, yielding another interesting character contrast. As Rocky has grown his body to the exclusion of developing his mind, Adrian has clearly done the opposite. Both are variations on the mind-body dichotomy; each embodies the disowned self—which both through mutual commitment choose to reclaim. He takes her ice skating, where she first sees him fail but not before she sees him try. The later scene in which he reaches up while she visits his home for the first time, taunting and tempting her with his sexuality, seals their gaps. This causes a problem for Rocky’s pal and Adrian’s brother/paternal figure Paulie (Burt Young), who faces his own transformation, and it’s game on.

Enter the old man, in this case a 76-year-old trainer named Mickey Goldmill played by the late Burgess Meredith, who, in one scene in which he pleads for the job and seeks to redeem himself for an earlier rejection of Rocky, masterfully begins the retraining even as he walks away. This is a beautifully shot scene in which both men accept reality, come to terms and trade. They do so in a handshake—not a fistbump—while the train keeps moving on. Training, too, keeps moving, as Rocky downs raw eggs for protein to promote muscle growth.

As he does, and this is why the remarkable Rocky is not really about boxing, Rocky gets better, Adrian gets better, life improves and the world opens. As Rocky trains, jogs, conditions, sweats and expends effort, the neighborhood literally comes to life, with Conti’s theme piping through as fires burn bright. Whomever wins, it’s dawn in America, at least in America’s first capital, as Rocky prepares to box Apollo. In fact, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, it’s wanting to win that matters. In this sense, Rocky—who looks in the mirror and conducts one more essential reality check before the bout, explicitly naming terms to himself—wins by going the distance, letting himself learn by letting go of what he can’t control that remaking his life for his own sake is the highest reward.

By the end, he is bloody but unbowed, as William Ernest Henley wrote, and he is triumphant by thinking and acting on principle—observe his breakdown of the concept southpaw as proof that he grasps that his mind and body are one—and, come what may, there is his woman, wearing red in another key scene and similarly remade and rejuvenated. “Adrian!!” is both his final and first call in triumph.

Rocky goes out on top.


Speaking at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on April 30, 2016 at TCM Classic Film Festival 2016, actress Talia Shire (The Godfather), who played Adrian in director John Avildsen’s Rocky, insistently and rightly gave full credit to Hollywood’s unsung Sylvester Stallone.

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Talia Shire being interviewed at TCM Classic Film Festival 2016. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

Shire, whose brother and Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola was honored at the festival with a handprint ceremony in the historic theater’s forecourt, repeated the legend of Mr. Stallone’s achievement: that Sylvester Stallone declined offers for his script, did not let his property go, and insisted that producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff cast him in the title role. Rocky‘s location shots were illegally directed without government permission, as is widely known, and the movie went on to win Oscar’s Best Picture and led to six sequels, including last year’s Creed, in which Mr. Stallone reprised his Rocky role.

Talia Shire recalled that Burgess Meredith set a good example for the cast and crew and was “full of creative joy.” Sylvester Stallone was, she said, “larger than life.” She added with reverence that he was “very sensitive” and was single-minded in his conviction that “something extraordinary was being made”.