Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Magnificent Ambersons

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

So this 1942 film is not the version that writer/director Orson Welles wanted to be released. The studio, RKO, chopped fifty minutes out of it and added a more upbeat ending. But, what we do get to view is an interesting story about the positive and negative aspects of change.

The film opens with the Narrator (Welles) speaking. The Ambersons reached their “magnificence” back in 1873. However, we are told that their “splendor” existed in a town which would “spread and darken into a city.” Right up front we know that small town life can be threatened by progressive urban growth. The look of the movie, especially at the beginning, is one of an old newsreel, which, like the beginning of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, evokes a nostalgic feel, but also reminds us that what we are seeing are extinct images. The Narrator says that in the past, “they had time for everything. Time for sleigh rides, and balls, and assemblies, and cotillions.” Men and women courted in a measured manner, with serenades being part of the romantic process. He goes on with this epic catalog, with its numerous “ands” which slow the movement of the script, emphasizing the deliberate pace of prior times. Welles is showing a contrast with nineteenth century life and that of 1942. Imagine the difference between the high speed tech world of the present versus then. We now want to cram as much as we can into a life, but are we also not taking the time to appreciate the individual experiences? During this older time, “The only public conveyance was the streetcar.” The Narrator offers an ambiguity, saying this would be “too slow for us nowadays, because the faster we’re carried, the less time we have to spare,” as we always find something else that needs doing. We see the streetcar stop at the Amberson mansion. This image and the talk of the leisurely pace of the streetcar will ironically contrast with what happens later.
Anonymous townsfolk pop up occasionally, commenting on the Amberson family’s progress, a positive sounding word that does not fit the arc of these people. The citizens act like a Greek chorus, commenting on the action. They tell us that they admire the Amberson mansion for its well-appointed rich woodwork, plumbing, etc., and this admiration indicates the affluent nature of the family. We also learn of the failed attempts of Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) to win the affection of Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello). At one point it is said that Eugene is “dressing up.” That statement has the connotation that at that time, Eugene was out of his social league for pursuing Isabel. Eugene takes to drinking too much as a result. Isabel accepts the advances of Wilbur Minafer (Don Dillaway), a dull but reliable businessman. A townswoman predicts that Isabel could never love the likes of Wilbur, and would then shower all of her affection on offspring, spoiling the children.
It turns out that the lady’s look into the future was on the money. Wilbur and Isabel only had one child, a son who is always called “Georgie.” That nickname makes the boy sound like a child, and that is how he acts for almost his whole life. He is considered a “terror” by the residents, as he gets into fights with other children, and curses and hits their parents. He is like Fitzgerald’s reckless rich, riding carelessly through town. He has long hair and wears a kilt-like skirt as a youth, which gives him an effeminate appearance, possibly emphasizing that he is, and will continue to be, a “mama’s boy.” He is actually called a “would-be dude.”

Time passes (of course, which is the point of this movie), and Isabel throws a party for the now young adult Georgie (Tim Holt). He may look older and his hair is shorter, but his speech and actions show him to still behave as a child. He is symbolic of the old privileged order, represented by the Ambersons, which does not want to change with the times. At the party, the long absent Eugene has returned, widowed, and with his grown-up daughter, Lucy (Anne Baxter). Georgie is immediately attracted to Lucy, but he can’t even remember people’s names, which shows how self-involved he is. He also makes self-indulgent statements like one should do whatever one likes in one’s own town. The implication here is that Georgie considers the place his town. His patrician attitudes come across to Lucy. He says he has no desire to be a lawyer, banker, or politician. Because he hasn’t had to work for a living, he has the distance to, one may say insightfully, question what these people, “ever get out of life, I’d like to know. What do they know about real things.” But, when Lucy asks him what he would like to become, he says, “A yachtsman.” Is he being funny, or is he that out of touch with the common man?

Wilbur has suffered failures in his business ventures, and is experiencing ill health, probably as a result of his misfortunes. Isabels’ marriage to him has been suffering, and that is why she now is excited to see Eugene again. Since he drank too much earlier in life, Eugene will no longer indulge in alcohol consumption. He has moved up in the world, and is now a successful businessman. But, he is an inventor, and he has developed a new version of the automobile. He represents change. Georgie, of course, scoffs at this look into the future. Someone says it is like “old times” with Eugene’s return. But the inventor sees this reliving the past as an impossibility. He says, “When times are gone, they’re not old, they’re dead. There aren’t any times but new times.” The new times have changed the world order, and now we find Ambersons pursuing Morgans. We also discover that Georgie’s Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) has always had a crush on Morgan, which adds to this reversal of fortune on the part of the Morgans.

Georgie’s resentment of Eugene is on two levels: first, because he dislikes his inventions causing a change in the economic order, (he urges his family not to invest in Eugene’s business); secondly, he is jealous of his gaining his mother’s attention. Lucy, although seemingly in a perpetually cheerful mood, says to her father that Georgie is domineering and arrogant. At this point, Eugene does not want to judge Georgie harshly, and says that since he is Isabel’s son, he must have some fine features.

Welles provides us with a significant scene which symbolizes the precarious nature of  both accepting change and also the maintaining of the status quo. Eugene takes Isabel and other Ambersons on a car ride, but in the snow. The automobile gets stuck, unable to transverse the slippery road. Georgie, in a sleigh accompanied by Lucy, rushes past them. But, a sharp turn causes the sleigh’s occupants to tumble out. Georgie falls on top of Lucy, and he uses the opportunity to kiss her. One could interpret these proceedings as showing the shortcomings of progress in the form of the automobile, and that the old standby of the sleigh is more reliable. But, it, too, succumbs to nature’s trial. However, one could argue that Georgie would have been fine if he had not been distracted by Lucy, who, being the daughter of Eugene, represents the perilousness of the future, and which distracted Georgie, and altered his otherwise secure route.
We have a merry scene with members of both families singing at their outing which then shifts to a sad one where we view a mourning wreath on the Amberson door (the doorway, where Eugene’s advances toward Isabel were refused, and where he again is later turned away, becomes symbolic, as it reflects the fate of the Ambersons and Morgans). Wilbur has succumbed to his illness. We start to sense a change in the Amberson estate when we hear that all that Wilbur left his wife was some insurance. Georgie may initially appear mournful, but is later shown acting like a gluttonous child as Fanny feeds him while pumping him for information about his mother and Eugene. Georgie was not happy about Eugene accompanying Isabel to his college. The youth’s condescension is unashamedly overt, as he says that Eugene is so low on the social order in his mind that he is “beneath himself.”
We have a scene where Lucy rides with Georgie in a carriage (not a car, of course). He wants to talk about the possibility of their marriage. She does not, and does say that he still should have some sort of professional plans. The best that he offers is the he will work with charities and belong to movements, acting like a “gentleman.” He offers nothing specific, showing no passion to really help. He just says what he believes is the way a person in his exalted station in life should act. He says that he does not see himself peeling potatoes or arguing a legal case. That is because he hasn’t had to do any work, expecting others to provide those services. He has had a free ride. Lucy does admit that her father would like to see Georgie choose a profession. The young man’s response is a bit contradictory. He says that he wouldn’t be much of a man if he let someone else dictate what he should do. But, he is willing to play the part that his family’s station in life has prescribed for him.

At a dinner party with the Ambersons and the Morgans, Eugene admits that his automobiles have changed the way people live, Streets have had to be widened. People living for convenience in small towns can now move farther away, because they can travel faster to other places. This fact undermines the pull to live in the town itself. Georgie says the car is a nuisance and shouldn’t have been invented. Instead of feeling insulted, Eugene becomes philosophical. He admits that his invention has not added beauty to the world or anything to the human soul. He acknowledges that every step we take forward in the name of progress, we may be taking a step backward for civilization. This statement may be the main theme of the film.
Although Fanny wants her nephew to undermine Eugene so that Isabel may relinquish him and he may then pay attention to Fanny, she eventually recognizes the truth. She says to Georgie that even if his mother was not in the picture, Eugene would not find her to be the one for him. She also says that Isabel was always a good husband to Wilbur, and that even though there may have always been some feelings between Isabel and Eugene, the two never did anything wrong. However, the Oedipal anger that Georgie has grows stronger as he sees Eugene as a longstanding interloper, and it is now that he refuses to let Eugene through that doorway into the Amberson home to see his mother. Eugene writes a letter to Isabel, saying that she must decide whether to move forward (a word representing progress and change), or have things remain (meaning resistance to change), which would entail Isabel choosing her son over Eugene. She lets Georgie read the letter. He at first is angry, then confused and depressed. Feeling the need to be nurturing toward her son, she says she will break it off with Eugene, and she and her son will go on a long trip around the world. In essence, do what the privileged class does, which is, remain detached from problems.

Right after his mother’s decision, Georgie runs into Lucy in town. She admits that she hasn’t been in touch with Georgie because she says that they had been acting like little children, playing at being in love. She is ready (as a Morgan) to move on. He, obviously, is not ready for that. He tells her that he will be leaving with his mother and this meeting could be their last. She acts cheerful, and wishes him a nice trip. Her lack of feeling of loss disturbs him greatly. But, we then see that Lucy’s cheerfulness is just a false front, and she goes into a store looking for the equivalent of smelling salts, after which she faints.
Jack Amberson (Ray Collins) returns from a trip to Europe and says that his sister, Isabel, was ill. But, Georgie does not want her to return home. After they do return home, the family still prevents Eugene from seeing the gravely ill Isabel. Even as she is about to die, Isabel still is indulging her son, asking if he ate something and if he was catching a cold. She asks if Eugene had visited. Georgie is honest and says that he had. Isabel’s regret is that she could not have seen him once more. Her decision to live in the past and not to move ahead with Eugene destroys her.
The patriarch of the family, Major Amberson (Richard Bennett) had ruminated about how the progress of the town was rolling over him and burying him. After Isabel’s death, his family’s fortune depleted, he says that all his business dealings were a trifling and a waste. He has a terrifying look into the future, where he fears the Amberson name will not even be remembered. Now, no streetcar bothers to stop at the doorway of the once exalted Amberson home. Uncle Jack, now financially broke, at the train station tells Georgie about an old romance, and how he said goodbye to her at the station. In one’s memory, she is frozen in his mind, and probably he is in hers. Only in memories can the forward marching of time be halted, and the magnificence of the Ambersons remain intact. As his train is about to leave, where it will take him to a new job, Jack says that they all thought Georgie was such a terror that he should be hanged.

The Amberson house must be sold, and Fanny wants to move into a boardinghouse. She has no money, though, having lost it in a taillight investment, indicating that new order won’t accommodate the old. It is now that Georgie finally steps up to help pay for his aunt’s and his survival. He acquires a job in the legal profession, but he needs a high-paying job, so he works at a dangerous dynamite factory. The way to make money now is through risky businesses. Lucy reads that Georgie was struck by a car, and had both of his legs broken. This accident symbolically implies that the future is running down and trying to destroy any obstacles from the past that may try to stop its forward motion. Eugene and Lucy visit Georgie in the hospital The final scene has Eugene telling Fanny that Georgie felt that he was given the opportunity to tell Eugene how sorry he was for the way he treated him.

The Narrator toward the end of the story says, as we see a town transformed into an ugly city, that as Georgie walked home, he traveled through “strange streets of what seemed to be a strange city.” It seemed the town “heaved and spread. It befouled itself and darkened the skies … Tomorrow they were to  move out. Tomorrow, everything would be gone.”

The film seems to be telling us that, for better and for worse, change is an inevitability.

The next movie is Amadeus.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pressure Point

Pressure Point
SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

There is a good chance that you have not heard of this 1962 film, but it contains an insightful psychological and social exploration of how bigotry, on a personal level, and totalitarianism, on a national scale, can take hold. It is not surprising that the producer of the movie is Stanley Kramer, whose many motion pictures focus on the big issues, such as Inherit the Wind and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It also showcases two terrific performances by Sidney Poitier and, of all people, singer Bobby Darin.
The credits role to a jarring jazz score which will underline the abnormal mental pathology of Darin’s character (who has no name, but is just known as the Patient, just as Poitier’s character is the Doctor). The Young Psychiatrist (Peter Falk) barges in on his boss, a gray-haired Poitier, saying he can’t get through to a young African American patient, whose mother was a prostitute who brought white men home with her, and whose father was killed by white men. Falk argues that his patient quite naturally sees him as the enemy, and that a black psychiatrist should handle the case. First off, that Poitier is the head of psychiatry here means that there has been progress in racial matters, which will undermine Darin’s later prediction that it will take the country 5,500 years before African Americans will be accepted by white people. Also, Poitier does not practice so-called reverse racism, as he says he appointed Falk to the case because he thought he was the best person for the job.
Falk says that the patient’s problem is anger and hatred. Poitier says he experienced a similar case and the majority of the film is a flashback as he retells his story to give Falk some perspective on his situation. It was Poitier’s first real psychiatric job, and it was at a Federal penitentiary in 1942. It is a significant time, since Nazism is controlling most of Europe. Darin’s inmate, serving three years for sedition, enters the psychiatrist’s office, and starts laughing. Immediately, he shows his racial prejudice, which triggers a defensive response on the part of The Doctor. If the laughing wasn’t enough, Darin says he doesn’t care what Poitier thinks of him because he is a Negro. He says that the Doctor must think he has it made because the Jews put the cripple, Franklin Roosevelt, in the White House. So, Darin’s character, although being forthright about his outlook, reduces everyone to a derogatory label, as do all racists.
When Poitier asks Darin if he believes everything recorded in his records, and why he was willing to go to jail for it, Darin makes it sound noble, twisting the argument around, saying one has to sacrifice for his or her beliefs. Of course, it is the cause that is in question here, not the dedication of the believer. He does admit that he believes most of what he has espoused, and the rest is politics, which has to do with the power to manipulate people to one’s way of thinking. He considers his imprisonment an expected setback, which occurs when trying to fight the established order. He cites Adolf Hitler as an example, and that he was able to use the time in prison to write his manifesto, Mein Kampf. Darin says he will use his incarceration to explore the vast prison library there to learn more and be ready to sway others when he gets out.
Poitier admits that he could not keep his medical objectivity when dealing with this racist patient. He was disappointed that his sentence was not longer. It is interesting that this doctor could be emotionally detached when dealing with thieves or murderers, but could not do so with this patient. He saw Darin’s character as more dangerous because he was a leader type, intelligent, and could influence many others with his message of hate; in that way, he presented a more widespread danger than the criminal whose victims are more limited.
We see Darin resting on his cot in his cell, and the shadow of the barbed mesh connecting the bars on his window highlight his imprisonment, not only externally, but also internally. The small cell is a type of expressionistic reflection of the lonely world in which this patient has lived most of his life. We witness his hallucination during a panic attack, where he sees a tiny version of himself trying to climb out of the sink drain in his cell. He presses the water valves to wash away the image. This is a conflicted visual. On the one hand, Darin’s character is trying to climb out of the dark sewer of his tortured unconscious, but he also drowns any self-understanding, and thus, reveals his desire for self-destruction.
In another session with Poitier, Darin says that he doubts the doctor can help him, because, being black, he can’t even help himself. Even though he is a psychiatrist, he could only get a job in a prison, and has a shoddy office. He says that Poitier will never be accepted by a white society. But, when Darin has a panic attack when asked about his blackout spells, Poitier knows his exact symptoms, which include feeling sick in the stomach, inability to breathe, sensing odd sounds and colors, and experiencing body stiffness. Poitier admits that he had this same problem in the past. Because he has established a commonality between them, Darin drops his hostile pose, and asks for help. The film is saying that even supposed enemies can find a connection, not feel alienated from each other, if they make the effort to view each other as individuals, and not as stereotypes.

After time in analysis, Poitier narrates that a psychological picture of Darin’s character began to emerge. His father rejected him because his conception was not planned or accepted by him. The marriage to the boy’s mother only occurred because she became pregnant. His father was difficult to please and easy to anger. He was a butcher, and he both repelled his son with his blood-letting profession, but also served as a role model for brutality, as he wielded knives to cut the meat. His mother restricted herself to her bed, playing the part of an invalid, using pity as a way to get affection from her son, her only source of attention. His mother would make him rub her leg to ease a cramp, and this type of inappropriate attention caused Darin’s character to feel ashamed. His father was notorious in the neighborhood, coming home in a loud, drunken state, bringing women he picked up, and humiliating his wife by having sex with them in their house.
The movie presents these recollections in a stylized manner. The past events are sometimes dramatized  in Poitier’s office, with a black background, to show how thoughts are not recreated as concrete reality, but are more dream-like. Sometimes we hear the boy’s voice coming out of the adult Darin’s mouth, as he lays on the couch in the doctor’s office, and we also get an image of the boy on the couch. It shows how he, and we, are being taken back in time, but it also implies that the grown-up Darin is still a frightened child in many ways. There are shots at odd angles, emphasizing how his character’s view on life became distorted.
Because the neighbors were repulsed by his father's’ actions, Darin’s youthful boy was not allowed to play with the neighborhood children. He rationalized his separateness as something special that made him stand out from others. He then created an imaginary friend, who he used to bully, getting revenge for how he was mistreated. We again get an example of self-hatred, because the imaginary friend is part of himself. We see the youthful Darin’s character holding a pipe, which turns into a knife, and that reminds us of his father cutting meat. The boy would also have violent revenge fantasies where he was a Far Eastern ruler who tortured or killed others, including the figure of his mother, who he could not feel sorry for because of her lack of courage, despite her weaker physicality, to defy his father. He appears to overcompensate for the feelings of inferiority instilled by his father by being aggressive, but also his revulsion of blood showed his guilt for emulating his father’s savage nature. The doctor gets him to admit, grudgingly, that by the patient’s logic, African Americans, who are without much power in American society (remember this takes place in 1942), should be admired for trying to fight for civil rights. Darin’s character says he does not see blacks as inferior in Africa, among their own race, but refuses to grant them an equal standing in the United States.
He says those who are Jewish are more “dangerous” because they “pass” for whites, and are intelligent. He believes that the “purity of the white Christian stock” is threatened by these “others.” It is common practice in totalitarian ideology to designate those who do not fit into the established culture as the scapegoats, the ones that are the causes of the majority population’s problems. This is a way of diverting the populace from placing any blame either on those in power, or the totalitarian belief system trying to gain control. It is ironic, here, that Darin’s character says he is fighting for mainstream Americans when he, himself, was an outcast, shunned by his own neighborhood where he grew up. He may be trying to buy back into the society that rejected him by being a warrior who is against those he feels are usurping it.
His imaginary friend faded away with age, but Darin’s character’s angry antisocial ways manifested themselves as he became a juvenile delinquent. And, his ability to lead others because of his intelligence developed, as other youthful misfits, also wanting to unleash their anger for not fitting in, followed his lead, braking windows and committing other local infractions.
He left home at age fifteen after a humiliating event where his father, who taunted him about his disgust for blood, pressed a piece of raw liver onto his face. When Poitier shows some compassion by saying how difficult it musts have been for him at that age to be on his own, Darin’s response is that he had to do things that were not fit for a white man. He then apologizes for this statement after seeing Poitier’s stiff response. The psychiatrist's inability to be objective here is shown, because, as Darin’s patient points out, for him to apologize is an “achievement.” Poitier goes to his superior and says he wants off the case, and says that he shouldn’t be treating him because he is an African American. This statement is basically what Falk’s character says at the beginning, in reverse, and illustrates why Poitier is telling this story. His boss says he needs to be objective, and says that he went out on a limb to hire a black psychiatrist, so “Don’t let me down.” Poitier’s narrator says what he felt the man left out was “just because you’re a Negro.” It’s as if his superior is saying that the psychiatrist’s blackness is a handicap which he must overcome.
In another session, Darin tells what he considers to be an amusing story, but which turns out to be a sadistic one, and which points to Darin’s character’s malfunctioning moral compass. While working in construction, he acquired a following of fellow employees, who obeyed him. One time, while in a bar, he initiates a destructive game of tic-tac-toe by carving the lines into the bar surface, followed by painting the surfaces and playing the game on all the establishment’s floor, walls, and ceiling. He now wields an actual knife, as opposed to the pretend one in his childhood daydreams, and intimidates those present. He humiliates the bartender’s wife by playing the game with her lipstick all over her body, molesting her in a form of sexual abuse. While he does this to her, he tells the bartender to lie down on the floor and go to sleep. It is ironic that now Darin’s inmate can’t sleep, possibly showing that the evil he has done is subconsciously exacting its own revenge on him.
Poitier asks him if he ever had meaningful feelings toward another person. He says that there was a young woman he met during The Great Depression, after he lost his job, and resorted to selling apples on a cold city sidewalk. The woman smiled at him and bought all of his apples. She seemed truly interested in him, and he was pleased that he could make her laugh. He helped carry the apples to her house, which appeared luxurious by the poverty-stricken standards of the time. The next day, she again approached him and bought him warm chestnuts to eat. The woman’s father appeared across the street, angry at his daughter’s attention to Darin’s apple-selling street person. She defied him, and asked Darin’s character if he would call on her that evening. When he showed up, the father answered the door and made it plain that he was not good enough for his daughter. After he slammed the door in his face, he noticed a mezuzah on the door frame with the Star of David. He later generalizes this action of rejection to all Jews, forgetting that the girl was Jewish, and was a kind person who accepted him. Pain has a way of leaving a more lasting impact that an act of kindness on some people.
The shot of the Star of David is immediately followed by the image of a swastika, showing how prejudice can lead one to join organizations that foster falsely negative beliefs. Darin is at an American Bund meeting, where the speaker blames the Jews for exploiting Christian Americans as they hold onto their money and buy fur coats for their wives. He even wears a pair of glasses that have a large nose attached, viciously spreading the stereotype of how Jews appear. He then urges those gathered to salute Adolf Hitler. Darin’s character has insight into the falsehoods that must be propagated to achieve the takeover of the American government. He admits that when there is no clear enemy, one must be created because the “people need one to blame things on.” He says that average white people want to change the system that they feel has shortchanged them. Black people are easy targets because they can be identified readily. They won’t need wristbands adorned with the Jewish star to designate them. Darin’s patient says that some lies have to be told to achieve the greater good of making America pure again.
He describes how the Nazi movement was growing in the United States. People go to meetings, tell others, and more show up. They contribute donations. They create fear of the Jews, who consider themselves as the “chosen people.” Those the Nazis attack fight back, which just brings more attention, and more followers. He says the American Bund has recruited a famous journalist, industrialists, and even some Hollywood people. They have established youth camps to indoctrinate young people, even sending them on trips to Germany. Darin’s narration is accompanied by actual footage of Nazi meetings that took place, not in out-ot-the-way rural places, but at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Poitier’s narrator says that even though there are not many psychopaths in a given society, “when militant and organized hate exists, a psychopath is the leader.” And, if one psychopath has a hundred “disgruntled and angry” followers, you then have to deal with, in essence, a hundred psychopaths. Poitier tells Darin in a session that he can’t succeed because everything that he is preaching is based on a lie. But, Darin’s patient points out that “The Big Lie” existed before Hitler. The United States is supposedly based on the principle that “All men are created equal.” But, Darin points out, Poitier, being an African American, knows that that precept does not exist in reality. Black people were not allowed to go to the same schools, acquire the same jobs, and live in the same places as white people. It is at this point that Poitier’s narrator says that now he was truly frightened of how his patient’s beliefs could spread.
The film then reverts back to Darin’s specific psychological problems. Darin had not admitted that the figure he saw in the sink was himself previously, but after intense interrogation, he says that it is really the figure of his father, too. He confesses that he did want his father dead. Poitier explains that Darin’s image and his father’s are interchangeable, because of his desire to kill his parent, and also self-punishment for his lethal fantasies. He was both killer and victim. Once he understood and accepted his hatred of his father, the blackouts ceased, he was able to sleep, and he stopped coming for treatment. He shows up later at Poitier’s office and says he will be able to get out within the month. Poitier, however, still sees him as a threat, and does not approve of granting an early parole. Darin’s patient then spouts out more hate, saying how the Germans have eradicated the enemy in Europe, and soon that will happen in America. Poitier asks for an apology, which Darin refuses. After Poitier takes off his coat and glasses and approached his patient, he is able to apologize. Poitier says once he no longer appeared as a symbol of authority by taking off his jacket and glasses, and was not standing behind his desk, it was easy to apologize to just another human being, who isn’t labeled as part of some generalized enemy.

The staff points out that Darin’s character has become a model prisoner, and think that Poitier is not able to be objective because of his patient’s beliefs. The staff interviews Darin’s patient, and he tells partial truths, but also says that he now sees the light, and owes blacks and Jews an apology. Poitier happens upon the interview and says that Darin’s character is lying, that he still maintains his Nazi beliefs. Darin then says that Poitier is against him because he is still angry at the way he used to be, and will not grant that he has changed. The looks on the staff members show that they do not value Poitier’s assessment. Because of this professional humiliation, Poitier decides to quit. Before he leaves, Darin’s character pays one more visit to the office. He says his point about the existing views toward African Americans was proved - the white staff believed the white prisoner over the black psychiatrist.

Back in the present, Poitier says that Darin’s character was eventually hanged for beating a man to death. He says to Falk’s psychiatrist that he knows how he feels through his own experience, but he didn’t quit, and Falk is inspired to go back and deal with his version of a hateful patient. Before Darin’s character left his office, Poitier said that his movement would fail, “because there is something in this country … something big enough to take it from people like you and come back and nail you into the ground. You’re walking out of here? You are going nowhere!” For our future, let’s hope this psychiatrist’s optimism is a valid one.

The next film is The Magnificent Ambersons.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wag the Dog

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

This blog has discussed films such as A Face in the Crowd and Network which predicted the abuse of the media in a democratic society in order to manipulate the population. But, this 1997 satire, directed by Barry Levinson, presents that deceptive practice at the highest level of the American government, which uses modern cinematic technology to pull off the fraud.

The movie begins with a reference to the title. The written heading says that the dog can wag his tail because the dog is smarter than his tail. If the tail is smarter, than it will wag the dog. The story (co-adapted by David Mamet) implies that the expanse of the American population is being outsmarted by a few individuals who manipulate the masses to serve them, instead of the other way around.

The president is up for re-election within two weeks. In a despicable act, he is accused of molesting a young girl belonging to a Girls Scouts-like organization in the White House. The story immediately provides us with a person of low morality at the highest level of government. His campaign ad emphasizes that the people shouldn’t gamble by choosing someone new to the office, saying “Why change horses in midstream?” To modern ears, the slogan sounds corny, but Abraham Lincoln used it. His reputation of being  “Honest Abe,” ironically contrasts with how far the integrity of politicians has fallen. What follows stresses how honesty has become an almost extinct entity in current politics.

The White House brings in the ultimate fixer, Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro). Conrad’s default position is who knows what the truth is? He’s not concerned with the veracity of the scandal, because as he says, “What difference does it make if it’s true? If it’s a story and it breaks, they’re gonna run with it.” Thus, he knows that the press will flood the media with the allegation, because people love a juicy story, if it is real or fake. So, he immediately starts with small lies, so he has time to concoct larger ones. The whole goal is to distract the citizens, which he has found he can easily sway, away from the scandal long enough to get the president re-elected. The chief executive is in China, and Connie wants him to stay there while he works on the plan. First, he says the word to the press will be that the president is sick. This unknown man can now wield such power as to dictate what the president is to say and do. He says that the delay has nothing to do with the “B-3 bomber.” A White House aide says there is no such plane. Connie says, “I just said that. There is no B-3 bomber, and I don’t know why these rumors get started!”  Connie knows that just by denying something that no one has any idea about will trigger human curiosity. So, this “fake news” will then provide the diversion he needs. By propagating a negative, the speaker is protected from accusations of lying, since no positive position was claimed.

Connie decides that the best distraction would be a war. When he is told that we are not at war, he says “We’re gonna have the appearance of a war.” And, there is what passes for truth – appearances. If it looks true, or even better, if it feels real, then we embrace it. There is no longer a reliance on facts, because facts can be manipulated. What the news does not highlight is just as important as what it does. It comes down to accepting what we believe to be true. Perception becomes reality. Connie says we are at war with Albania. When asked why that country, his response is “Why not?” To prove a negative leads to never-ending futility, because anything can be hypothesized in the absence of some evidence. That is why science first observes phenomena, constructs a hypothesis based on concrete evidence, and then tests it. In addition, Connie appeals to emotion instead of concrete facts, saying nobody knows about Albania. He says, “They keep to themselves. Shifty. Untrustable.” He picks an obscure country so he can sow his seeds of mistrust on virgin unawareness. Again, the news release is framed to claim plausible deniability. Hostile actions with Albania are denied, so any references to the supposed B-3 bomber can’t be assumed to be connected to the hypothetical aggression. Connie has given the press and the people something to chew on, even if it is imaginary food for thought.

What better place to get help to present the “appearance” of a war than Hollywood, which has a long history of making war movies? So, Connie, accompanied by an assistant, Winifred Ames (Anne Heche), seeks the assistance of famous movie producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman, in an Oscar-nominated role). We first encounter him in a tanning bed, because appearance is what counts, not underlying substance, even if the appearance rests on fakery, like his tan. When Stan asks why him, Connie spouts out several war slogans, including, “54-40 or Fight” and “Remember the Maine!” He says that we recall the phrases, what we would now call “sound bites,” but can’t remember the wars. People remember the Marines raising the flag in WWII, or the naked girl involved in a napalm bombing in Vietnam, but not the story surrounding them. It is the catchiness of the slogans and the emotional visuals that capture the interest of the people. These elements are what Hollywood excels at. Connie emphasizes that television focused in on the one smart bomb going down a chimney in the Gulf War, out of all the missions conducted, to extrapolate the whole campaign from one visual. And from that one image the war was sold. He tells Stan, “War is show business.” To back up his argument, he says to Stan that what if that shot of the smart bomb was done on a film stage in Virginia with a scale model of the building. When Stan asks if that’s true, Connie’s consistent response about truth is “How the fuck do we know?” He later says that the first draft of the Warren Commission said that Kennedy was killed by a drunk driver. For Connie, everything is open to interpretation. Given the level of modern technology, how do we separate fact from fiction? If those in charge, the film is saying, are dishonest, then democracy is at risk, since voting should rely on informed decisions.

As Winifred and Connie watch a press conference with the White House press secretary, Stan begins to see Connie’s point. The journalists start to ask questions about the fictitious Albania conflict and the B-3 bomber, ignoring the presidential scandal. Stan asks to contribute to the White House stance, and the press secretary says exactly what Stan tells Connie, who relays it on his cell phone. But, Stan says that the press secretary didn’t “sell” the lines, which shows how Stan is joining the team that merges politics and show business. Winifred notes that Stan lives in a home larger than the White House, which indicates that fiction can be more powerful than fact.

Stan now begins to concoct the story-line, supplementing Connie. He says that Albania has a suitcase nuclear bomb that they are trying to sneak into the United States through Canada, because the Albanian terrorists want to destroy our way of life. This story-line enlists patriotism. Stan then gathers people around him the way he does when he makes a movie. They call their production a pageant, which is a pretend spectacle. He recruits people, like Denis Leary’s Fad King, who helps with marketing war items so that the fake war can turn a profit. He enlists a country-western singer, Johnny Dean (Willie Nelson) to write a patriotic song that is produced like “We are the World.” There is a brief but telling shot which has Stan putting the president on hold as he tells his Cecil B. DeMille story. The point is the movie producer is running the show now, so the tail is wagging the dog. This idea is further demonstrated when Stan is filming the phony Albanian peasant girl escaping the Albanian terrorists. Stan wants her to appear to be carrying a calico cat, but the president wants a white feline. Stan’s response is “I hate when they start to meddle.” A man who produces make-believe stories is the boss now, turning the real political world into a fabrication. A bag of potato chips is digitally morphed into a cat, and a blue screen becomes an Albanian village. The state-of-the-art filmmaking process, if presented as reality, sabotages real life. Connie says, “It makes you glad to live this long” to see this kind of technology, a statement that combines an awe for scientific achievement undercut by the scary way it is being used in this story.

The people involved in this false production don’t care about the country’s democracy. They don’t even vote, except for the Oscars, says Stan, which shows how his business of creating illusion is more important to him than the actual well-being of the country he lives in. But the peasant girl, played by Kirsten Dunst, and anybody else in the production, can never say a word about their participation in the “pageant,” or else, Connie quietly threatens, people will come to their homes and kill them. It is a chilling moment when Connie threatens the actress, suggesting how easily a totalitarian state can come to exist.

Connie builds on the made-up story by wanting the president to land at an airport where it is raining. The president can then cover an Albanian girl and her relative, symbolically protecting them. The phony Albanians present a sheaf of a harvest based on some concocted version of a ceremony that Connie dreamed up that will show thanks to the president for protecting Albanians from terrorists. On the phone, Winifred asks if there is any way there can be rain at the American air base for the presidential landing. These people have so much power, they see themselves as god-like, believing they can alter the weather. This self-perception is encouraged by being around Stan, who as a filmmaker can manipulate the weather for a scene, and who tells Connie that he could have provided a rain-making machine, instead of diverting the plane to a city where there was wet weather.

Connie’s plans hit a snag when the CIA stop the car carrying him and Winifred. William H. Macy’s agent says that there is no war, there are no terrorist training camps in Albania, and no suitcase bomb exists, based on their intelligence gathering. Connie convinces him to let them go by giving a speech that predicts the type of war in which we are engaged today. He tells the CIA agent that if he doesn’t get with the program, then he isn’t doing his job, and will lose his employment. He tells him, “The war of the future is nuclear terrorism. It is and it will be against a small group of dissidents … and you can call this a ‘drill,’ or you can call it ‘job security,’ … And if there ain’t no war, then you, my friend, can go home and prematurely take up golf. Because there ain’t no war but ours.” Connie’s tail is wagging the heck out of this dog, claiming that no war takes place unless he says so. He can control the message through the media, which is the most dominant way to disseminate what he decides is the news. After his speech, Winnifred says Connie gave a “great performance,” which cements the idea that the political world and the show business world have become one.

But, Connie’s “agreement” with the CIA falls apart. The president’s electoral opponent says he talked with the CIA, and announces on network news that there is no war with Albania. A dejected Connie says the war is over, because he “saw it on television.” Whatever appears in the media is taken as truthful. However, Stan lives in a world of illusion, and can’t distinguish between fact or fiction. His producing powers, which have given him the control over life and death in films, makes him feel omnipotent. So, anytime things go wrong, he says, “This is nothing,” because he won’t allow himself to be subject to the limitations of actual life. He says that it is his war, and now it needs an “Act Two.” He sees life as a story, and he and the Fad King say that the tale of a war must have a hero. They invent a war hero who has been left behind enemy lines, like a discarded shoe, and who must be rescued. He needs a nickname, so they come up with “Old Shoe.” Connie gets Johnny Dean to come up with a ballad about loss and redemption, a favorite Hollywood plot. To add to the authenticity that the song was made a long time ago, and now remembered to fit the current situation, as opposed to appearing suspiciously produced recently, Connie says that the recording of the song should be scratchy. To show the extent of this conspiracy, they have it inserted into the Library of Congress, and one of Connie’s female aides sleeps with a journalist, so she can plant the idea of the old song matching the story. A video of the song shows a young girl crying as she listens to the words. Stan says they could have used fake tears, but the actress actually cried. This fact shows they have sold this falsehood so well, that the actors involved have deluded themselves, and accept the phoniness as real. Connie and Stan start to fling tied-together shoes onto electric wires as a sort of yellow-ribbon type of symbol symbolizing the hope for Old Shoe’s return. They can make money out of this activity by selling shoes and t-shirts, connecting the sales pitch to hero-worship. The Fad King says that they will say that Old Shoe ate little burgers in the field, and they will then sell these burgers at franchises, with the sales pitch that they are good to eat, “Behind enemy lines – or anywhere.” Fiction and politics produce profits in a capitalistic three-way.

Stand writes a speech for the president to deliver about the lost war hero. But, the chief executive doesn’t like it, calling it too corny. Stan meets with the president, sits at his desk in the oval office, and presents his speech to White House secretaries, who cry. The president is sold. When Stan sits in the White House in the president’s chair, it is a significant image because it shows how appearance, illusion, and fiction now control the country. Connie gets military records, and they come up with William Schumann (Woody Harrelson), his name being appropriate for someone being called “Old Shoe.” But, there is a mix-up, as the records accessed soldiers in “special prisons,” instead of “special programs.” The real Schumann is a far cry from the pretend one Stan invented. Harrelson’s sergeant is a psychotic inmate who raped a nun. The scene where they meet Schumann and put him onboard a plane flying to his supposed arrival back in the states becomes farcical, but is still very funny. Connie calls someone saying they are going to need a whole lot of Schumann’s medications. Schumann keeps saying he must get back to base so he can eat his “beans.” He randomly comes out with lines like, “I owned a Camaro,” and sings, “I like the night life/I love to boogie.” At times, he does not know how he arrived where he is. In a way, his out of touch with reality world presents the nightmare version of what happens when reality is altered, as is occurring deliberately here.

The plane crash-lands in a storm, and, luckily for the conspirators, the local rural owner of a gas station shoots and kills Schumann when the latter tries to sexually assault his daughter. There is a hero’s funeral for Schumann with the pretense that he sustained fatal injuries. Stan looks at the funeral from inside the airport terminal. He says, showing how reality and illusion are inseparable, that it is a complete fraud, “and it looks a hundred percent real. It’s the best work I’ve done in my life, because it’s so honest.” What a contradictory statement, because he associates exactitude in presenting a fiction for reality as being free from something fraudulent.

The jump in the president’s popularity is accurately attributed by one newscaster to the “spin” placed on events, not the actual events themselves. However, the media also attributes the president’s success to the “Why change horses in midstream?” campaign. This is too much for Stan, who previously expressed how producers don’t get enough credit for their work. Despite Connie’s pleadings, Stan leaves saying he is going to announce his part in the proceedings. Connie gives the nod to the security man, giving approval for Stan’s elimination. In this world, the manipulators of reality have power over life and death to protect the vision they project to the people.

Stan’s death is, of course, a lie, attributed to a heart attack. But then, he lived deeply in a life where illusion ruled. A news commentator says they are not sure of his age, since there are conflicting biographies. The film ends with a news report of violence in Albania. Is this real, or is the fraud continuing? Director Barry Levinson at the time of the making of the movie said that, because of technology, it is becoming difficult to tell the difference between real and fake news. Senior news journalist Tom Brokaw stated that we must realize that there is, as in other disciplines, a scale of reliable providers. We, using our objective reasoning skills, must assess the reputations of information providers, and believe those without resorting to bias.

The next film is Pressure Point

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Insider

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

Michael Mann’s 1999 film presents profiles in courage. Jeffrey Wigand’s decision to act for the greater good by telling the truth about the tobacco industry causes him to endure personal suffering. The title of the movie is ironic. Wigand was a corporate insider of the status quo, but, by doing the right thing, which should represent normal behavior, he becomes an outsider. But, the CBS producer, Lowell Bergman, must also fight against resistance and the threat of occupational exile, in order to get Wigand’s information out to the public.
The story starts far from American shores in the Middle East. The camera puts the audience in the position of Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a producer for the highly rated and well-respected TV news magazine, 60 Minutes, who has a hood over his head. Hezbollah soldiers take him to meet Sheikh Fadlallah, the leader of the militant organization. After Lowell sets up a meeting between the Sheikh and CBS correspondent Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer), and the Hezbollah people have left, Lowell tells his assistant “Take your blindfold off. Welcome to the world.” Symbolically, until the journalists deliver the information to us, we reside in the darkness of our ignorance.
The scene switches to scientist Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe, in an Oscar-nominated performance). He is already becoming an outcast, as he cleans out his desk while the other employees in white lab coats have an office celebration, their jovial attitudes contrasting with his solemn one. There is a slow motion shot of him walking out of the doors of his former place of work, which is a foreshadowing of the last shot of the movie. He drives to his upper-middle-class suburban Kentucky house, which he afforded by taking money from a company that actually undermined the health of the citizens living there, and where he now feels out of place. He delays telling his wife, Liane (Diane Venora), that the tobacco company, Brown and Williamson, fired him. Her first response is not to ask how her husband is doing. Instead, her concern is one of self-preservation, asking about their expenses, and health benefits for their daughter who has asthma. It seems ironic that Wigand, who worked for a business that contributed to so many lung ailments, should have a child suffering from a breathing disorder. Jeffrey, feeling under attack for letting his family down, offers the reassurance that his severance package was a good one, and it included health benefits.

Lowell receives an anonymous package of documents containing the results of a study analyzing fire risks due to cigarette smoking. He needs a technical consultation, and someone recommends Jeffrey. When Lowell calls his house, Jeffrey’s wife answers, and after Lowell says he is with 60 Minutes, she tells Lowell that her husband doesn’t want to speak with him, without even knowing the reason for the call, since she assumes it has to do with his job termination. Being a journalist, Lowell knows there is a story here. (There is a picture of Caesar Chavez on Lowell’s wall, suggesting he admires a rebel who fights for truth, as did the Latino leader). After some back and forth faxes, they meet at a hotel close to Brown and Williamson’s offices. Jeffrey acts very paranoid about the meeting, suspicious of the room service person knocking at the door. Jeffrey says he can do the consultation since it deals with Philip Morris, and does not pertain to his job. His insistence that he can’t say anything else causes Lowell to become extremely curious.

Shortly after his meeting with Lowell, Jeffrey’s former boss, Thomas Sandefur (Michael Gambon), calls Jeffrey in to set down new guidelines for his confidentiality agreement. If he does not comply, all benefits will be terminated. It is possible that the company was following Jeffrey and knew of his meeting with Lowell. Jeffrey is quite angry at the meeting, questioning any justification for calling those present being in the service of true science. He says, “So, what you’re saying is it wasn’t enough to fire me for no good reason. Now you question my integrity? On top of the humiliation of being fired, you threaten me? You threaten my family?” He curses Sandefur, and storms out. Then, he calls Lowell in a rage, saying he sold him out. Lowell gets him to listen to logic, telling him why would he give him up, especially before he received any information from Jeffrey.
Lowell and Jeffrey meet again in the latter’s car during a downpour, indicating the storm of resistance they will have to weather. Not all corporations should be judged the same, according to Jeffrey. He felt that the CEO of Johnson and Johnson did the right thing during the Tylenol scare a while back. The head of that company immediately pulled all bottles off of the shelves, and installed tamper-resistance caps. He put the safety of the people ahead of acquiring wealth. Jeffrey tells Lowell that he went to work for a tobacco company for the money and benefits, and hoped that he could do some good through research. His confidentiality agreement doesn’t allow him to talk any further about his work. Lowell succinctly says that Jeffrey is in a state of conflict, caught between wanting to expose the truth and protecting his family’s economic well-being.
Lowell consults with his staff, including Wallace. The legal advice is that big tobacco never lost a lawsuit. They have tremendous resources, and can tie up the litigation for an extended period of time, causing the opponent to be drained financially. Their defense is the “We didn’t know argument,” which states that if they provide a product which turns out to be harmful, and people choose to use it, the effects are their responsibility. But, Jeffrey knows that the tobacco companies did know that nicotine is addictive, and chemically enhanced its addictive properties, making it extremely difficult for people to exercise free will and stop smoking. Lowell realizes that Jeffrey’s information, because he was a corporate vice-president and noted scientist, would be a crippling blow to the tobacco industry.
Jeffrey becomes a public school science teacher. He tells his students, “I find chemistry to be magical. I find it an adventure, an exploration into the physical building blocks of our universe.” He has transitioned into a job which pays a great deal less than what he used to earn, but which allows him to enjoy his profession. And, he is now working on behalf of the public sector, not to its detriment, inspiring young people with his love of knowledge. He tells his wife that maybe, even though they had to move to a downsized house, this change can be for the better, because he will be able to spend more time with the family. But, his decision to not sign the new confidentiality agreement leaves him open to threats. He is alone as the last person at a golf driving range, when a large man shows up in a suit, hits a few balls before closing, and stares threateningly at Jeffrey. Jeffrey finds footprints in his newly planted garden which shows he is being observed. Also, the destruction of the plants implies that he can’t feel secure enough to put down roots in his new life. His wife receives threatening emails, and Jeffrey finds a bullet in his mailbox. It matches the caliber of one of his guns, and the FBI men who show up are intimidating, implying that Jeffrey, being agitated, may be trying to incriminate his former employer. They also confiscate his computer without even asking permission.

Lowell tries to help Jeffrey as the conspiracy seems to widen against the former tobacco scientist. He calls a contact at the FBI, questioning the way the two agents acted, implying that maybe they may be seeking security jobs with the tobacco companies, or might know people in those jobs, and could have been persuaded to menace the Wigands. Lowell says to his Federal agent friend, “I’m getting two things; pissed off and curious.” His statement carries the threat of how a free press can put fear into questionable activities by threatening to expose them. He also gets private guards to protect the family. However, this need for security further distances Jeffrey and his family as it establishes a barrier between them and the world outside.
Jeffrey admits that he does not like to get pushed around, and after the threats to himself and his family, he tells Lowell he wants to be interviewed. However, when they meet for dinner, he questions Lowell’s sincerity. He says, “I’m just a commodity to you.” Lowell says maybe to the network he is, but to Lowell, he is “important.” Jeffrey wonders if any good will come from his information. He says maybe people watch Lowell’s show because it’s “something to do on Sunday night.” He says maybe what he has to say won’t change a thing, while his family will be “left out to dry, used up, broke, alone.” Jeffrey says all Lowell is putting out there are words. Lowell counters by telling him nobody is making Jeffrey speak out. Lowell tells him not to evade his responsibility by questioning Lowell’s motives. Lowell says he has been putting his reputation on the line publicly, and backing up his words with action, getting stories to inform the people. This back-and-forth exchange highlights the courage needed to open oneself up to attack in order to fight for what’s right.
Lowell wants to work around the confidentiality clause by having Jeffrey compelled to testify in a lawsuit that the state of Mississippi is bringing against the tobacco industry. In the meantime, he and Mike Wallace record the interview for 60 Minutes. Jeffrey says that the CEO’s of the tobacco companies perjured themselves in front of Congress when they said they did not believe nicotine was addictive. As an insider scientist, he knows that they used ammonia to produce “impact boosting,” to cause the nicotine “to be more rapidly absorbed in the lung and therefore affect the brain and nervous system.” Jeffrey says that the tobacco industry inside their doors said they were in “the nicotine delivery business,” so that a smoker would get his or her “fix.” Jeffrey specifically rejected being involved with using a drug that was a flavor-producing additive that was a lung carcinogen, and that is why he was fired.
To illustrate how much influence the tobacco industry has, it pressures a court in Kentucky to put a restraining order against Jeffrey testifying in Mississippi. That state rejected it, but if Jeffrey goes back to Kentucky he could be fined and imprisoned. Jeffrey asks a question that shows how upside-down things have become when he says, “How does one go to jail?’ for telling the truth, and thus endangering his family. After agonizing over what to do, Jeffrey decides to testify anyway. As he rides to the courtroom, Jeffrey passes rows of headstones in a cemetery, possibly reminding us of what is at stake, which represent the lives of numerous individuals that were, and can be, victims of smoking. The disease that tobacco causes becomes a metaphor for a corruption spreading throughout industry and government that threatens the wellbeing of the citizens. However, when he does return to his home, his wife and children have left, his spouse unable to deal with the pressure. As Lowell tells Mike, “These are ordinary people under extraordinary pressure.” In Mississippi, Richard Scruggs (Colm Feore), who is assisting in the prosecution of the tobacco industry, knows what a sacrifice Jeffrey is making. He tells him, “You’re assaulted psychologically. You’re assaulted financially, which is … directed at your kids … You feel your whole family’s future’s compromised. Held hostage.” The soundtrack of the film is a combination of Middle east sounds and jazz. The former adds a mournful, almost sad feel to the film. But both add to a sense of being out of the mainstream of America, which is where Jeffrey finds himself.

Big tobacco then goes after Lowell and CBS, legally. Through a principle called “tortious interference,” they can sue the network for facilitating Jeffrey’s violation of his confidentiality agreement. The CBS lawyer says that the Big Tobacco can sue for enormous sums because “the greater the truth, the greater the damage.” What this implies is that some truths must be concealed if they adversely affect the powerful. The phrase “Too big to fail” comes to mind. Lowell finds out that there is a deal to sell CBS to Westinghouse, and the lawsuit would impair that transaction, and the higher-ups at CBS, including the chief counsel, will suffer financially. So, the tentacles of this financial conspiracy reach into many places. Lowell refuses to shoot an alternative version of Jeffrey’s interview, but Mike Wallace, afraid that Brown and Williamson could wind up owning CBS, cooperates. Wallace records a preface to the severely abridged interview that airs, but CBS even guts that.  

So, now, Lowell, like Jeffrey, who has moved into a hotel room, is all alone, professionally, forced to take a mandatory leave of absence. Jeffrey feels that all he gave up is for nothing if CBS won’t air his interview. However, Lowell works to invalidate smear campaigns against Jeffrey concerning false allegations of shop-lifting and failed custody support involving his prior marriage. He covertly leaks information to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, so that information about Jeffrey and Big Tobacco has nothing to do with CBS being involved in breaking his confidentiality agreement. CBS also comes under attack for caving to lawyers and big business, which in a democracy is dangerous because it stunts the free flow of information. As Lowell says to his boss, “Are you a businessman? Or are you a newsman?” With Wallace now on his side, and with, as Lowell says, “The cat completely out of the bag,” CBS airs the complete interview. We see people stopping what they are doing, listening to the program, learning, so that they can make informed decisions. Jeffrey’s daughter looks up with respect at her father as she sees him on the TV, implying that role models are important.

Unfortunately, as Lowell tells Jeffrey, “I’m all out of heroes, man. Guys like you are in short supply.” To which Jeffrey responds, “Yeah, guys like you, too.” In the end, Lowell quits, because his whole assurance of protecting his sources has been compromised by the corporate undermining of the news. He tells Wallace, “What got broken here doesn’t go back together.” He walks out of the building of his employer, and the exit is shown in slow motion, mirroring Jeffrey’s plight at the beginning of the film. Lowell pulls up his coat collar against the unwelcoming cold as an outsider.

Written addendums show that the tobacco companies settled for 246 billion dollars with states that sued them for reimbursement for Medicaid funds paid to smoking victims. Jeffrey Wigand was named teacher of the year in Kentucky. Lowell Bergman taught graduate school journalism at Berkeley, and worked for PBS. The film is a tribute to those who work hard and sacrifice for the good of the many.

The next film is Wag the Dog.