Posts Tagged ‘The CIA and Hollywood’

The CIA and Hollywood 15 – SALT

Published August 1st 2016

Rounding off this second season we take a look at SALT, the 2010 action thriller starring Angelina Jolie as a CIA officer accused of being a Russian sleeper agent. SALT is one of the less well known CIA-assisted productions, but along with technical advice from former CIA officer Melissa Boyle Mahle the producers also consulted with the CIA themselves in a video conference. There is also a very weird story involving one of the extras in the opening sequence in North Korea. We analyse the mystery of Evelyn Salt’s underwear and then the conversation hones in on Russia, who in 2010 were not on the news agenda, and how this movie predicted the rise of the ‘new Cold War’ that is commonplace in most current spy films and TV shows.

The CIA and Hollywood 14 – Zero Dark Thirty

Published July 24th 2016

Robbie Martin is our final guest for this season as we dissect the 2012 docudrama Zero Dark Thirty. We discussed the difficulty in defining what kind of film this is – somewhere between a spy thriller, a documentary and a dry European art house movie. We get into the well-documented CIA support for the film and ask why this is the only major movie about the Abbottabad raid to get ‘Bin Laden’ and why it wasn’t particularly successful. Was the film meant to serve as a substitute for any real evidence of what happened in Abbottabad in 2011? Did the filmmakers even care whether what they were portraying was true or were they blinded by the excitement of the special access they were granted?

The CIA and Hollywood 13 – Race to Witch Mountain

Published July 14th 2016

James Evan Pilato is our latest guest as we dissect the 2009 Disney UFO adventure Race to Witch Mountain. We start off looking at Disney as a corporation – its long standing interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials, the connections to government agencies and their recent takeover of the fantasy genre. We then get into Race to Witch Mountain itself – a strange blend of a kids’ movie, a love letter to the UFO culture and an homage to spy thrillers especially Enemy of the State. Next, we examine the deliberately hyperreal nature of the film and dwell on the effects of a fantasy movie set in the real world with real people. A children’s movie about ‘illegal aliens’ being pursued under the Patriot Act is not Hollywood’s typical output.

The CIA and Hollywood 12 – American Ultra

Published July 3rd 2016

Adam from Themes and Memes is our guest to talk about the 2015 action comedy American Ultra. We start by trying to define this film, which is an intense mixture of cartoonish ultra violence, CIA covert operations, romance, comedy and horror, looking at the dissociating nature of this blend. The intentions of screenwriter Max Landis and the director Nima Nourizadeh are discussed and we ask whether they were reaching out to the CIA or trying to flatter them by making MKULTRA seem cool to stoners and young people. We go on to look at the prominence of female and often maternal characters in modern spy fiction, particular in CIA-assisted productions and ask what difference this makes to how these films and TV shows portray the CIA as a whole.

The CIA and Hollywood 11 – The Men Who Stare at Goats

Published June 26th 2016

Jay Dyer joins us for this episode where we analyse the 2009 comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats, loosely based on Jon Ronson’s book of the same name. It tells the story of a journalist who is inducted into the world of psychic soldiers during the Iraq war. The movie goes on to explain some of the history behind the First Earth Battalion, an experimental Pentagon unit devoted to developing a new generation of super soldier informed by the hippy and New Age movements. We examine what the film leaves out, especially in the form of MKULTRA and similar CIA projects and experiments with similar aims, and ask whether the purpose was not to emplore ‘How could love and peace help win wars?‘ but to weaponise New Age philosophy and the New Age movement.

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