Arts and Culture

American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919–2021

By Sandy English and David Walsh, 5 March 2021

On February 24, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti died, one of the last significant surviving American artists who emerged in the post-World War II period.

The “loss to the nation’s artistic and creative output may prove incalculable”

New reports show extent of pandemic’s devastation of the arts in New York City, California and nationwide

By Elliott Murtagh, 5 March 2021

The unprecedented ravaging of arts and culture across the US continues unabated.

Amanda Gorman’s Dutch translator forced to quit because of race—a call for cultural segregation

By James Clayton, 4 March 2021

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, the winner of the International Booker Prize for The Discomfort of Evening, has been forced to resign as translator of Gorman’s poetry into Dutch.

HBO’s docuseries Allen v. Farrow: A shameful, vindictive, McCarthyite attack on filmmaker Woody Allen

By Joanne Laurier, 4 March 2021

The four-part HBO documentary Allen v. Farrow concerns the long-discredited claims of sexual abuse aimed against Allen. The series presents no new evidence, but large helpings of middle-class moralizing.

One-third of US museums might close in 12 months, American Alliance of Museums warns

By David Walsh, 28 February 2021

The bankrupting of thousands of arts organizations and the expulsion of tens of thousands of artists from their chosen field go hand in hand with the fabulous enrichment of a handful of plutocrats.

Bridgerton: Not alternate history, but anti-history

By Clare Hurley, 27 February 2021

The eight-part Netflix historical romance Bridgerton has been enormously popular. The creators hardly conceal their admiration for and envy of the aristocracy.

Anticapitalistas covers for Podemos’ incarceration of Spanish rapper Pablo Hasél

By Alejandro López, 26 February 2021

In its article acknowledging the mass anger against the policies of Podemos, which it helped found, Anticapitalistas warns of mounting opposition on its left among workers and youth.

Amanda Gorman at the Biden inauguration: “O sing, sweet lucre,” or, The poet wore Prada

By James Clayton and David Walsh, 26 February 2021

Gorman rose from almost total obscurity to the cover of Time magazine in the space of a single month.

Judas and the Black Messiah: The 1969 state murder of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton

By Helen Halyard and Fred Mazelis, 25 February 2021

The December 4, 1969, assassination was one of the most brazen crimes ever carried out by the US ruling class.

Native Son: Restoration of suppressed film starring, co-scripted by author Richard Wright

By Frank Anderson, 24 February 2021

The restored 1951 film version of Wright’s Native Son paints a lacerating picture of social life in America’s second city.

Ignorance: Tamara Lindeman and the Weather Station sing about “climate grief”

By Erik Schreiber, 23 February 2021

On its first American album, the band has brightened its sound by incorporating saxophone, organ and other instruments. The weakness lies in the melodies and the perspective.

Charité, Season 3: Berlin’s famed hospital during the Cold War

By Verena Nees, 21 February 2021

The third season of the Charité television series features a gripping story line portrayed by a largely compelling array of actors. It leaves, however, the historical background of the building of the Berlin Wall in the dark.

Nomadland: Forced out on the road (mostly) because of economics

By David Walsh, 20 February 2021

Frances McDormand plays Fern, a 60-year-old woman at economic and personal loose ends. She lived for decades in Empire, Nevada, a company town owned lock, stock and barrel by the United States Gypsum Corporation.

Miss Marx: Eleanor Marx in the filmmaker’s own image

By Joanne Laurier, 19 February 2021

Miss Marx concerns itself with the latter part of the life of socialist fighter Eleanor Marx—from the death of her famous father, Karl Marx, in 1883 to her own suicide in 1898. Its feminist slant is conspicuous.

BBC Hospital series explores crisis faced by UK’s National Health Service during COVID-19 pandemic

By Ben Trent, 17 February 2021

The series amounts to an indictment of the government’s policy during the pandemic and the impact of decades of cuts on the NHS—facts that will not be lost on Hospital ’s many viewers.

“Anti-Semitism” accusations used in attempt to prevent Ken Loach speaking at Oxford University

By Paul Bond, 17 February 2021

The charges of anti-Semitism against Loach are both long discredited and made in bad faith.

Time magazine and Ibram X. Kendi promote a race-obsessed, money-hungry “Black Renaissance”

By Niles Niemuth, 16 February 2021

Unlike the Harlem Renaissance, this “Black Renaissance,” organized by the Democratic Party, funded by corporate America, endorsed by Time, the New York Times and the entire establishment media, is pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist and ethno-communalist.

Protests erupt as Spanish Socialist Party-Podemos regime jails rapper Pablo Hasél

By Alejandro López, 16 February 2021

On Tuesday morning, a detachment of riot police assaulted Lleida University, where Hasél had barricaded himself with over 50 students opposed to his arrest.

Jazz pianist Chick Corea dead at 79

By Hiram Lee, 16 February 2021

During his six decades in jazz, Corea achieved an unusual level of recognition, gaining a much larger audience for himself than the genre typically allows.

999 Amanda Gorman and the "New Harlem Renaissance"

15 February 2021

Hundreds of artists denounce Spanish rapper Pablo Hasél’s imminent jailing

By Alejandro López, 14 February 2021

Hasél’s prison sentence for “insulting crown and state institutions” sparked mass protests and a petition for his release signed by 300 internationally-renowned artists including director Pedro Almodovar, actor Javier Bardem and folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat.

Easy: Human interaction is not …

By Ed Hightower, 13 February 2021

The Netflix series Easy explores relationships among a group of Chicago residents through a series of loosely interwoven vignettes.

Video game The Last of Us Part II: Violence begets violence

By Carlos Delgado, 12 February 2021

For better or worse, the game is representative of the more “serious” artistic efforts in video gaming.

999 (2/10) Jeep super bowl ad

12 February 2021

Black Legion (1937): American fascism, then and now

By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2021

Black Legion is a 1937 political crime drama, featuring Humphrey Bogart, which deals with a fascist movement active in the 1930s in the industrial Midwest. It has considerable pertinence today.

Dear Comrades: Russian film about the 1962 Novocherkassk massacre

By Clara Weiss, 9 February 2021

Konchalovsky’s film offers a view of the crisis of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, but he does so from the standpoint of the Stalinist bureaucracy itself.

Famed for his Mark Twain one-man show, actor Hal Holbrook dies at 95

By James Brewer, 9 February 2021

A versatile actor from his youth, Holbrook inhabited the persona of American humorist-writer Mark Twain longer—62 years—than Twain himself.

Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer targeted over alleged lack of Indigenous credentials

By Lee Parsons, 8 February 2021

Latimer has been turned into a virtual pariah over questions about her ethnic background detailed in a CBC article published in December.

999 Obituary for actor Hal Holbrook

8 February 2021

A filmmaker “drawn to social realism”

A conversation with Ísold Uggadóttir, director of And Breathe Normally

By David Walsh, 6 February 2021

In December, we reviewed a film from Iceland, And Breathe Normally, directed by Ísold Uggadóttir, that spoke revealingly and movingly to problems that exist all over the planet. We recently spoke to the filmmaker.

Looking into the sun: American author Charles Baxter’s novel The Sun Collective

By James McDonald, 5 February 2021

This is Baxter’s sixth novel. His previous novels include First Light (1987), a beautiful and technically brilliant narrative told in reverse chronological order, and the magnificent The Feast of Love (2000), which was a National Book Award finalist.

Interview with Charles Baxter, author of The Sun Collective

By James McDonald, 5 February 2021

The WSWS recently spoke to novelist Charles Baxter, author of The Sun Collective and other works.

Radium Girls: In the 1920s as now, companies choose profits over workers’ lives

By Joanne Laurier, 4 February 2021

Set in New Jersey, Radium Girls is a historical docudrama dealing with female workers who suffered multiple life-threatening or lethal illnesses from hand-painting watch faces with radium.

“Remember me”: The 70-year career of American actress Cloris Leachman, from Kiss Me Deadly to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mel Brooks and beyond

By David Walsh, 3 February 2021

The extraordinarily gifted actress died January 27 at 94 at her home in Encinitas, California. Leachman’s acting career, comprising nearly 300 credits, extended from the late 1940s until very near the end of her life.

Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time from Hungary: Love blurs the line between fantasy and reality

By Erik Schreiber, 2 February 2021

A chance encounter leads a woman to give up her prestigious job abroad and return home to chase what might be a chimera.

Eighty years since John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon

By David Walsh, 1 February 2021

John Huston (1906-1987) was a major American filmmaker. His body of work from the early 1940s to the early 1950s is especially notable.

London’s Wigmore Hall leads the way in live-streaming music during the pandemic

By Fred Mazelis, 30 January 2021

For more the six months, live chamber music has attracted a growing international audience.

Argentine filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas dies from coronavirus at 84

By Rafael Azul, 29 January 2021

Fernando Solanas, who chronicled the struggles of Argentine workers and indigenous peasants, died of COVID-19 on November 6.

Report finds $158 million in payments to Jeffrey Epstein by billionaire Apollo CEO Leon Black

By Alex Findijs, 29 January 2021

Black paid Epstein $158 million for assorted consulting services between 2013 and 2017, far more than more qualified advisors, according to a company investigation.

Mayor: The dilemmas, contradictions and sheer impossibility of “running a city” under Israeli occupation

By Jean Shaoul, 28 January 2021

Shunning voice-overs, archival footage, commentary, and an explicit focus on the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mayor is an engrossing and understated film with moments of black comedy .

Spanish television series The Barrier: The once and future dictatorship

By Joanne Laurier, 27 January 2021

The Barrier (La valla), a 13-episode Spanish television drama, is a valuable and convincing warning about the dangers of dictatorship and social inequality, and the terrible consequences of world war.

Screenwriter and blacklist victim Walter Bernstein dies at 101

By David Walsh, 26 January 2021

Screenwriter and blacklist victim Walter Bernstein died January 23 in New York City at the age of 101. The WSWS spoke to him in 1999. We repost that interview here.

10th annual GuadaLAjara Film Festival

No Man's Land: A strictly delimited movie about borders

By Erik Schreiber, 25 January 2021

Filmmaking brothers favor the personal and shun the political in a Western set in Texas and Mexico.

999 Censorship of Jenin Jenin (Palestinian film)

23 January 2021

International filmmakers demand end to Israeli ban on Mohammad Bakri’s Jenin, Jenin

By Jean Shaoul, 23 January 2021

Among those supporting Bakri are British film directors Ken Loach and Asif Kapadia, Finnish screenwriter and director Aki Kaurismaki, Palestinian filmmakers Michel Khleifi and Annemarie Jacir and Israeli director Eyal Sivan.

Ferdinand von Schirach’s Enemies: German public television puts police torture up for consideration

By Justus Leicht, 22 January 2021

The German public television network ARD began the new year with a controversial programme examining the value of police using torture to compel suspects to confess.

I’m Your Woman: The problem of films not genuinely drawn from life

By David Walsh, 21 January 2021

In the 1970s, a suburban housewife in the Pittsburgh area leading a largely conventional life experiences a series of increasingly rude and dangerous shocks.

Disney’s Soul in Denmark: New York Times disapproves of a white actor dubbing a black actor’s voice

By David Walsh, 20 January 2021

The Times is unceasing in its campaign to racialize every important aspect of life in the US and globally, encouraging divisions in the population along ethnic lines and facilitating the growth of the far right.

Conductor Riccardo Muti expresses solidarity with Metropolitan Opera Orchestra musicians

By Fred Mazelis, 19 January 2021

The statement by the famed leader of the Chicago Symphony came in response to a call from the musicians, who have been without pay since last spring.

Louis van Beethoven: A German film biography of the great composer

By Clara Weiss, 18 January 2021

The movie introduces many important themes of the revolutionary epoch that shaped Beethoven as a composer and thinker, but barely develops them.

British government rejected visa-free EU touring for musicians to bolster hostile immigration policy

By Paul Bond, 16 January 2021

Musicians and promoters made it clear that the devastating impact of this move will not only be felt by current performers, but also be an obstacle to emerging performers in the future.

Magia Record, Kakushigoto, Fruits Basket and Sword Art Online: A general review of anime in 2020

By Matthew MacEgan, 16 January 2021

A total of 140 Japanese animated television series numbering more than 1,865 episodes debuted in 2020. Our critic comments on a selection of the more popular titles.

499 and Summertime at the 10th annual GuadaLAjara Film Festival

By Erik Schreiber, 15 January 2021

The most recent edition of the festival sought to convey the experience of people who have lived on both sides of the border between the United States and Mexico.

August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix: The blues is “life’s way of talking”

By Carlos Delgado, 14 January 2021

Strong performances and thrilling music power this engaging adaptation of August Wilson’s 1984 play.

George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky: Not doing a good job of looking after the planet

By Joanne Laurier, 13 January 2021

The Midnight Sky, a post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by George Clooney, is done with some care and sensitivity, but ends up primarily as an exercise in resignation.

Death of British filmmaker Michael Apted at 79, director of Up documentary series, Coal Miner’s Daughter

By Paul Bond and Kevin Martinez, 12 January 2021

Film director Michael Apted, who died January 7, was responsible for an intriguing variety of work over his lengthy career. We are reposting here the review of 63 Up as a tribute.

The Mandalorian (Season Two): Indulging nostalgia and setting up even bigger paydays

By Matthew MacEgan, 11 January 2021

Disney and Lucasfilm aired the second season of their Star Wars television series on Disney Plus at the end of 2020, setting the stage for the launch of several spinoff series to swell the portfolios of their stockholders.

Based on a Jack London short story

The Minions of Midas: The making of a certain social type

By David Walsh, 9 January 2021

In the drama’s favor, one must say, first of all, that it is unmistakably of our day: riots in the streets, political and financial secrets concealed from the population, endless, antidemocratic machinations at the top of society.

“Remember, the lemons speak”

Obit: Poet Victoria Chang’s meditation on loss

By Erik Schreiber, 8 January 2021

In her latest volume of poetry, Chang confronts her mother’s death and seeks to understand the nature of grief while grappling with the inadequacy of language.

Unorthodox rapper and beatmaker MF Doom dead at age 49

By Nick Barrickman, 7 January 2021

Daniel Dumile was most respected and admired for the series of albums he released as the masked rap artist MF Doom.

New York Metropolitan Opera replaces orchestra members with non-Met performers

By Shannon Jones, 6 January 2021

Musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Theatre Orchestra, who have not been paid since March, were replaced by outsourced non-Met musicians at the opera’s New Year’s Eve gala.

Once Upon a River: A Native American girl wanders the waterways

By Joanne Laurier, 6 January 2021

The movie follows a Native American teenager through various trials and tribulations. Set in western Michigan in the 1970s, Once Upon a River recounts the adolescent’s supposed emotional education.

My Little Sister: Two siblings clinging together

By Bernd Reinhardt, 5 January 2021

Can love between siblings survive when a brother falls ill and needs care, while his sister enjoys life as one of society’s affluent? This is the question posed by the Swiss film My Little Sister.

John Fletcher (Ecstasy), member of pioneering rap group Whodini, dies at 56

By Nick Barrickman, 5 January 2021

Fletcher’s energetic and melodic vocals complemented the pumping synthesizer beats on Whodini’s earliest records.

German cultural institutions oppose government’s anti–BDS resolution aimed at quashing criticism of Israel

By Sybille Fuchs, 4 January 2021

On December 9, 30 German cultural institutions issued a statement opposing a resolution passed by the Bundestag seeking to silence the BDS movement.

Popular music and the social crisis in 2020

By Elliott Murtagh and J. L’Heureau, 4 January 2021

An examination of some of the most popular music in 2020 and its social backdrop.

Best films and television of the year and the devastation of cultural life

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2020

It is not possible to discuss any aspect of artistic life, or life in general, in 2020 without central reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the various ruling elites have permitted to ravage the world’s population.

Favorite music of 2020

By Hiram Lee and Matthew Brennan, 31 December 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the music industry in 2020. With live performances cancelled and music venues forced to shut down, vast numbers of performers were thrown out of work.

The Crown Season 4: And outside the palace?

By Paul Bond, 30 December 2020

Morgan’s attempt to portray the monarchy’s inner life in human terms successfully captures something of its corrosive impact on all concerned. He shows portions of the ugly reality.

Tribes: A short comedy film mocks identity politics

By Ed Hightower, 29 December 2020

“I want to tell this story to show that, in essence, we’re all part of the same tribe.”—Director Nino Aldi.

Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy: Blaming the poor for their problems

By Carlos Delgado, 24 December 2020

The film, based on J.D. Vance’s 2016 memoir, is a bland and conformist work that ignores the sources of the social problems it portrays.

Pioneering country music singer Charley Pride (1934-2020) dies of COVID-19

By Matthew Brennan, 23 December 2020

Pride was the first African American artist to achieve major success in country music. He produced at least 30 chart-topping country songs through the late 1980s and sold over 70 million records worldwide.

Australian arts and entertainment workers devastated by coronavirus pandemic

By Martin Scott, 22 December 2020

With tens of thousands of artists and technical crew out of work, little support is forthcoming from the federal government.

Musicians and performers speak with WSWS about COVID-19

By Our reporters, 22 December 2020

“The pandemic has laid bare many things, including government claims that it has no money.”

John le Carré (1931–2020): Spy novelist and “inside-outside” man

By Stefan Steinberg, 21 December 2020

In the course of his career, le Carré was able to draw from his experiences during and after the Cold War to attract millions of readers with his carefully researched spy novels.

Sri Lankan government detains young Muslim poet on bogus charges

By S. Jayanth, 21 December 2020

Ahnaf Jazeem is the latest victim of the Rajapakse government’s anti-Muslim witch hunt and its escalating attacks on the democratic rights of writers, artists and intellectuals.

Room 2806: The Accusation—Digging up the discredited sexual assault case against French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn

By Joanne Laurier, 19 December 2020

The case fell apart in August 2011 after prosecutors found, in their own words, that the alleged victim had been “persistently, and at times inexplicably, untruthful in describing matters of both great and small significance.”

Young Ahmed: A portrait of a youthful religious zealot—from the Dardenne brothers

By David Walsh, 18 December 2020

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne often dramatize situations and problems they locate, as in the case of Young Ahmed, in their native region of southern Belgium, one of the oldest and most decayed industrial areas in the world.

The contemporary relevance of Ludwig van Beethoven on the 250th anniversary of his birth

By Verena Nees and Peter Schwarz, 17 December 2020

Beethoven was the most profound musical voice during a period in which humanity progressed in quantum leaps. His works are ineradicably connected with the striving for human liberation.

Bob Dylan sells his songwriting catalog to Universal for a reported $300 Million

By Matthew Brennan, 16 December 2020

The arrangement will allow UMPG, owned by the largest music company in the world, Universal Music Group (valued at $33.6 billion), to have exclusive intellectual property rights to Dylan’s music.

An appraisal of Indian film singer, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (1946–2020)

By Shree Haran and Kapila Fernando, 15 December 2020

During his five-decade musical career, Balasubrahmanyam sought to unite musicians and artists across the Indian sub-continent.

Sale of Bob Dylan's catalogue to Universal

14 December 2020

Amin: A worker far from home

By Joanne Laurier, 12 December 2020

Amin is a subdued, thoughtful look at the condition of migrant workers who break their backs in the metropolitan countries to feed their families in their native lands.

Met Opera locks out stagehands while New York Philharmonic musicians take major pay cuts

By Fred Mazelis, 12 December 2020

Two of the best known musical organizations in the US and worldwide have stepped up their efforts to make the musicians and staff pay for the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York Times, Washington Post feminist critics disparage The Queen’s Gambit

By Fred Mazelis, 11 December 2020

The Netflix series ignores identity politics, in favor of a humane and unselfish view of life.

The Love Song of J. Robinette Biden

By Steven Brust, 10 December 2020

A satirical poem by the novelist Steven Brust on identity politics and the election of Democrat Joseph Robinette Biden.

Mank: Screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz and the writing of Citizen Kane

By David Walsh, 10 December 2020

Mank is a biographical drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his role, or purported role, in the creation of Citizen Kane, the first film directed by and featuring Orson Welles.

Zappa: New documentary attempts to demythologize composer, multi-instrumentalist

By Kevin Reed, 9 December 2020

The documentary about the iconoclastic musician Frank Zappa, who died at age 52 in 1993, presents him as an artist torn between the need to earn a living as a rock music star and his desire to compose more complex and serious orchestral works.

76 Days: On the front lines of the coronavirus battle in Wuhan

By David Walsh, 8 December 2020

The documentary was one of the best movies at this year’s Toronto film festival. It contained some of the most authentic and memorable drama. The documentary is now available on “virtual cinema” platforms in the US.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: The joke’s on who?

By Ed Hightower, 7 December 2020

Writer-performer Sacha Baron Cohen cannot resist mocking even the most undeserving targets, including a Holocaust survivor who tries to disabuse the title character of his (feigned) anti-Semitism.

Adu: A young African boy on a perilous journey

By Joanne Laurier, 5 December 2020

Adu is a hard-hitting Spanish film about the global refugee crisis, dramatizing its vast dimensions through the travails of a young boy as he makes a life-threatening journey throughout Africa.

And Breathe Normally from Iceland: Two women in conditions “when everything is going wrong”

By David Walsh, 4 December 2020

There are not that many films in which a director captures accurately and artistically the “everyday” pressures of working class life.

Adulkt Life’s Book of Curses: Indie veterans make a new beginning

By Erik Schreiber, 3 December 2020

On their debut album, Adulkt Life pay tribute to their musical influences and confront a world in acute crisis.

Music and aerosols: What the research reveals about the performing arts during a pandemic

By Benjamin Mateus, 2 December 2020

The Skagit Valley Chorale rehearsal on March 10 was one of the nation’s first super-spreading events. A University of Colorado study provided a critical recognition that the virus that caused COVID-19 spread predominately in the aerosol form.

The Queen’s Gambit: The coming of age of a chess prodigy

By Matthew Brennan and Fred Mazelis, 1 December 2020

This Netflix offering treats its subject with uncommon seriousness and humanity.

Utopia and the cartoonishness of “conspiracy theories”

By Carlos Delgado, 30 November 2020

The world is not shaped by the hidden machinations of elites, but by social development, the development of the class struggle.

Company Town: a damning look at the role of Unifor in the GM Oshawa plant closure

By Lee Parsons, 28 November 2020

The film follows events from the time of the closure announcement in November, 2018 until the final day of production a year later.

“Any return to ‘normality’ is a long way off”: Musicians and technicians speak to the WSWS

By John Newham, 27 November 2020

Several British artists and performance technicians spoke to the World Socialist Web Site about the impact of the pandemic on them and their work.

British government’s pandemic response threatens art and culture

By Paul Bond, 27 November 2020

The initial wage furlough scheme made no provision for self-employed and freelance workers, who make up the bulk of arts workers. When the government did eventually introduce its Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, many artists did not benefit.

Famed Turkish pianist, composer Timur Selçuk dies at 74

By Nazım Özgün, 26 November 2020

Selçuk was a prominent example of the layer of Turkish intellectuals who turned to the working class amid the political radicalization and social struggles of the 1970s.