Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

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Best of Enemies Trailer


When an influential and forward-thinking writer locks horns with a conservative author, things get a little intense. Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. made headlines when they were enlisted to debate the Republican and Democratic presidential ideals in 1968 for ABC, and subsequently found themselves in a controversial feud as they became more and more incensed by each other's opinions. With threats of violence and insulting jargon leaving a shocking mark on the legendary televised argument, it became a landmark moment in political media and, indeed, continued - albeit indirectly - with later publications and lawsuits from both parties. While there used to be an element of poise and dignity with political conversation, from this moment, things heated up considerably when it came to fighting about the government.

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Gore Vital: The United States of Amnesia Review


Essential

Not only is this documentary a superbly well-assembled biography of the notorious author-commentator, but it's also a bracingly clear-eyed look at the America most people don't want to admit exists. The late Gore Vidal was a thorn in society, using his snappy intelligence to speak the truth even if it left him persona non grata. But when asked about his legacy, he famously replied, "I couldn't care less."

This echoes in his main message that America is resolutely ignoring its own history. "We miraculously forget everything," he said. "The lessons we should be learning we will have forgotten in no time at all." But history was his passion, as he wrote novels, plays, films and essays about the USA's evolution from a republic to an empire. No one wanted to hear this, even as he astutely noted how the nation essentially turned into a military monolith after WWII, and then became even more driven after 9/11, waging war without provocation or respect for any other country while using the Patriot Act to remove fundamental rights of habeas corpus and due process at home.

Filmmaker Wrathall packs the film with interview footage, allowing Vidal to narrate his own story and deliver his own lacerating comments (there's also narration from his literary executor Parini). And the screen is littered with Vidal's pithy, eerily astute remarks about politics ("Our form of democracy is bribery on the highest scale") and life in general ("Love is a fan club with only two fans"). This is all set within the framework of Vidal's life story. Descended from a long line of authors, politicians and innovators, he was raised to be a deep, free thinker. So it's no wonder that he took on society's "basic values", which he knew were false notions of what is natural.

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Picture - Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens Toronto, Canada, Friday 26th November 2010

Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens - Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens Toronto, Canada - The Sixth Semi-Annual MUNK Debate media photo call held at the InterContinental Toronto Centre. Friday 26th November 2010

Your Mommy Kills Animals Review


Good
In the first few minutes of the shrewdly named Your Mommy Kills Animals, we're told the U.S. government named the animal rights movement the #1 domestic terrorist threat in 2005. We spend the rest of the documentary determining whether that's a legitimate assessment or a desperate strategy.

If you've never pegged the animal rights universe as painfully complicated, think again. Director Curt Johnson, Oscar-winning producer of the 2002 short Thoth, stirs a whirlwind of history, opinions, and first-person footage that's the most accessible, thorough chronicle of animal rights ever put to film.

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The Trials of Henry Kissinger Review


Excellent
Where were you when our military secretly carpet bombed Cambodia in 1969? Or in 1970 when a coup was being arranged to overthrow president elect Salvador Allende in Chile? Or in 1975 when the Indonesian army invaded East Timor and killed more than 100,000 civilians? Chances are you were ensconced in your home somewhere far from danger totally unaware that such horrors were taking place. But if you were Henry Kissinger you couldn't claim such honorable innocence even though years later you would try. In a roundabout way this is what the documentary The Trials of Henry Kissinger, by Alex Gibney and Eugene Jarecki, is about. It attempts to sort out all the evidence that has surfaced in the past 20 years concerning the questionable and possibly nefarious political actions of Henry Kissinger who served as U.S. National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford between 1969 and 1977. Kissinger - who grew up in and escaped Nazi Germany - has been one of the most well-known, charismatic, and respected statesmen in the world since he rose to prominence under the much troubled Nixon administration. Somehow, though, he came out unscathed and even managed, ironically, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Nevertheless, over the past decade skeptics have begun to surface. Most notably, journalist Seymour Hirsh as well as respected military leader General Telford Taylor both have made claims -- through interviews and books -- that Kissinger "may have needlessly sacrificed human lives to achieve strategic goals." Specifically in 1969 when he and Nixon allegedly sabotaged the Paris Peace talks - which could have ended the war in Vietnam - simply because they wanted to buy time before the U.S. elections. All of these activities were mere rumors until two years ago when journalist Christopher Hitchens' wrote a book titled The Trial of Henry Kissinger, which caused a big stir in the political world. Kissinger and his cronies denounced it but refused to press charges - presumably because they would then have to disprove the work of Hitchens (and many others), who used the Freedom of Information Act and actual government documents to not only discredit Kissinger's reputation but prove that he knew very well the deeds he helped orchestrate. This documentary isn't as damning as Hitchens' book - there is some humor from Kissinger (which isn't really too funny) and some from Alexander Haig - who defends Kissinger's actions and calls Hitchens a "sewer-pipe-sucker" - as well as neutral comments by the likes of Kissinger biographer Walter Isaacson and military officer Brent Scowcroft. But there is still a lot of convincing evidence that Kissinger qualifies as one cold, calculating, Machiavellian S.O.B. And more importantly it raises the question of accountability for world leaders - many of whom seem to escape such responsibility.

However, regarding actual legal action against Kissinger the film isn't convincing beyond a reasonable doubt mainly because there are so many other men (especially Nixon) who could equally take the blame. But unlike Hitchens' book it isn't full of contempt for its subject nor does it have the feeling of a smoking gun conspiracy. The evidence is presented straightforwardly and best of all there are numerous interviews by the likes of the aforementioned Hitchens and Hirsch as well as New York Times writes Elizabeth Becker and William Safire who have studied Kissinger's actions closely. There are also interviews by a good number who worked alongside Kissinger in those years - many of whom were wiretapped by Kissinger in the 1970s.

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Christopher Hitchens

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