Friday, November 20, 2015.
By MICHAEL WALSH
The breaking news was both shocking and familiar. Reports of shots fired, of hostages taken, of body counts and suicide bomb explosions. It was Friday the 13th and it seemed as if all of the day's bad luck was focused in Paris's 10th and 11th arrondissements and its suburb of St. Denis.
The next day, France's President François Hollande blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and it was reported that the tech-savvy Wahhabist jihadists had claimed responsibility. The U.S president declared that "this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share."
Wednesday, Hollande went before France's Parliament, where he urged constitutional changes to broaden state surveillance powers. Following the example of George Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 in New York, Hollande says "we are at war." In effect, he declared himself a wartime president.
By its very nature, breaking news generates more heat than light. The very phrase — breaking news — suggests a picture shattered into fragments, a factual mess that may (or may not) be assembled into something like the truth. The bigger the story, the larger the puzzle.
Thank goodness we have TV shows like Mr. Robot, Person of Interest and The Blacklist at work to find the hidden truth in the random facts, and report it back to us in compelling fiction. I like to think that Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp and his showrunner Jon Eisendrath are currently processing the past week's events into a two-part fourth season premiere.
Their show's title refers to the "list" of international criminals that fugitive Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) offers up to a special FBI task force in exchange for his own immunity. Each episode is named for the bad guy that the good guys get to apprehend.
The episode that I'm looking forward to — let's call it "Abdul Abulbul Amir" — will have the expansive Red setting up the plot. "Timing is everything, Lizzie," he'll tell his upright FBI associate Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). "It's no coincidence that the attacks took place two weeks before the opening of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. They're feeling the heat."
Agent Keen will get that look of skeptical impatience on her face. She'll ask "and just who are 'they'?"
"Big Oil, Lizzie. A week before the attacks, the New York Attorney general's investigation of ExxonMobil made the news. They've known about catastrophic climate change for 40 years. They did the science and they chose to suppress it.
"Remember those oh, so precious pictures of Bush Junior and the Saudi crown prince holding hands and making kissie face in Texas? The media made fun of it, but what we fail to understand is the beautiful thing that they share, the blood brotherhood that they were born to.
"Your people talk about ISIL as if it were some sort of rogue operation. You probably think that Saudi Arabia is a country. Well, it's not, Lizzie. It's the triumph of global capital. The so-called House of Saud is a corporation, and like every other corporation, it exists to turn a profit.
"Abdul Abulbul Amir is their muscle, but he's no religious fanatic. He's paid billions to use the fanatics and deploy their terror on behalf of his patrons. They've spent a century establishing their rule over this planet, and climate disaster is the price they're willing to let the rest of us pay. Paris was a message."
"You make it all sound so hopeless, Red." Looking appalled, agent Keen ask the obvious question. "What are we going to do about it?"
The reason I enjoy watching The Blacklist is that no matter how dire the situation, Reddington always knows who to call (or who to kill) to set it right. I'm really looking forward to his take on the past week's events. While I'm waiting, I'll just kept adding to the Reeling Back archive. The dozen most recent postings were:
DUCK TALES THE MOVIE: TREASURE OF THE LOST LAMP — As conceived by writer-artist Carl Barks, Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge McDuck is one of the great comic-book characters. Too bad that the wit and imagination of his life in print failed to make it into this 1990 cartoon feature. (Posted November 19)
MOONRAKER — Directed by Lewis Gilbert, this 1979 feature was the most entertaining of Roger Moore's seven outings in the James Bond role. The film recognized agent 007's potential as a sci-fi comic-book hero. (Posted November 17)
JOURNEY INTO FEAR — Anticipating Vancouver's emergence a filmmaking centre, writer-producer Trevor Wallace assembled a big-name cast for this 1975 remake of the 1942 noir thriller. The results were disappointing for all concerned. (Posted November 15)
FATAL BEAUTY — After making his directorial debut with the 1985 horror-comedy Fright Night, Tom Holland put Whoopi Goldberg though her paces as a Clint Eastwood-like narc. Together, they brought wit and grit to the war on drugs in this 1987 action comedy. (Posted November 13).
CARRY ON SERGEANT! — A rare example of Canadian silent cinema, this 1928 First World War drama falls short of classic art status but stands as a cautionary tale of how not to establish a domestic film industry. (Posted November 11)
PERFECT — Inspired by an article in Rolling Stone, this 1985 James Bridges feature starred John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis in a cheesy tale of celebrity journalism that became a new low in the history of product placement. (Posted November 9)
AMERICAN BOYFRIENDS — In this 1989 sequel to her 1985 memoir My American Cousin, writer-director Sandy Wilson picks up the story, offering the tale of a more mature teen facing up to the realities of life and love in the mid-1960s. (Posted November 7)
THE BAD NEWS BEARS — Child actress Tatum O'Neal had her last big success at the age of 12. Under Michael Ritchie's direction, she starred as the Little League pitcher who turns humiliation into success for her misfit teammates in this 1976 sports comedy. (Posted November 5)
MY FELLOW CANADIANS — With the American media already in full campaign mode, Reeling Back can't resist joining in the fun by offering visitors to the website a quiz designed to test their knowledge of Canadians who have played U.S. presidents in the movies. (Posted November 3)
A PERFECT WORLD — A meditation on individual responsibility, director Clint Eastwood's 1993 manhunt drama stars Kevin Costner as an escaped convict who uses his few hours of freedom to become an unexpected force for good in the life of a troubled eight-year-old boy. (Posted October 31)
WIZARDS — Adult animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi made the transition from socially-challenging cartoon features, such as Heavy Traffic, to family-friendly fare like the The Lord of the Rings with this original 1977 fantasy adventure. (Posted October 29)
CANNIBAL GIRLS — Though he's best known for his 1984 hit Ghostbusters, director Ivan Reitman first demonstrated a taste for shock comedy in 1974 with this piquant confection from his early days as Canadian cinema's enfant terrible. (Posted October 27)