DID YOU READ

“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu,” reviewed

“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu,” reviewed (photo)

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We perceive documentaries as records of truth; these things happened, the camera recorded them. “The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu” is a record of a lie. Yes, these things happened, and yes, the camera recorded them. But why did they happen and how? And what was going on when the camera wasn’t around? Because of its unusual structure, the film doesn’t say. But attentive viewers will realize this “autobiography” presents an incomplete view of history.

It comes from the perspective of Nicolae Ceausescu, Communist dictator of Romania from 1967 to 1989. A man with a taste for the spotlight, Ceausescu rarely missed an opportunity for a photo opportunity, and he filled his nation’s official archive with hundreds upon hundreds of hours of himself at work and play. The footage is extensive but not comprehensive: lots of speeches and meetings with foreign heads-of-state, occasional travels abroad or hunting expeditions, but no mentions of food shortages or public demonstrations against his regime. Director Andrei Ujica screened all of it and assembled this three-hour film. There is no voiceover and no interviews with experts or historians, just 180 minutes of a life lived inside this impenetrable bubble of peace, prosperity, and propaganda. If you had no outside knowledge of Romanian history, you might be taken by surprise when Ceausescu’s end comes, seemingly out of nowhere. From his insanely warped perspective, he was a great leader caught in a sort of modern day Greek tragedy. Near the end of “The Autobiography,” after Ceausescu’s been deposed, he responds to the allegations that he ordered the execution of protestors by insisting “What you’re saying is all lies, mystifications, provocations!” One of the most interesting things about “The Autobiography” is the fact that it suggests Ceausescu not only fabricated his own reality, he bought into his own self-inflating mythology as completely as anyone else. This guy didn’t just read his own press clippings, he shot footage of himself reading his own press clippings and smirking while a bunch of lackeys stood around applauding.

Of course, beyond the boundaries of Ujica’s frame were real tragedies which afflicted the people of Romania for decades. But Ceausescu’s Communist media machine didn’t record them, so they don’t appear in the film. Aside from one very vocal critic who pipes up to protest Ceausescu impending reelection in front of Congress and is quickly and aggressively shouted down, there isn’t a single voice of dissent in the entire movie. Instead, we watch the small cracks begin to form in the facade of Ceausescu’s carefully constructed fantasy world. The crowds for his public appearances start to thin out. They still applaud for him, but not so intensely. Some of the sequences are just surreal. On a visit to California, fabricated realities collide when Ceausescu tours the backlot at Universal Studios. He appears to be taking very careful mental notes.

Ujica’s film is a major accomplishment for historians and documentary scholars and it is a powerful indictment of politically manipulated media. At three hours it’s also really, really long. Occasionally, I grew a little weary of the endless parade of contextless footage of dignitaries and state functions. With my limited knowledge of Romanian history, and without a narration or intertitles to guide me, I’m sure a lot of Ujica’s subtler points went right over my head. I began to believe the director could have made his point just as powerfully in half the runtime. But upon further consideration, the size of the movie reflect the size of its subject’s ego. Both are a little bloated.

“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu” opens today in New York City. If you see it, tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

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It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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