“The Death of Stalin” as a movie title conjures up the harshness of life under the Soviet dictator, hardly the stuff of comedy. But that doesn’t take into account what happens when Armando Ianuzzi gets hold of the material. Ianuzzi, after all is the man who dreamed up the British political satire series, In the Thick of It, which he then transported to HBO in the US as VEEP, starring Julia Louis Dreyfus. Death of Stalin is very much in that vein. When Stalin unexpectedly keels over and dies of a massive coronary it is clear his entourage have no idea what to do next. Most of the film deals with the slapstick intrigues of the remaining members of the Politburo to see who will take over from Stain. Initially it looks like the feared KBG chief Lavrentiy Beria will gain control. He is a monster who has tortured and executed hundreds of thousands of people during the war and various Stalinist purges. Referring to a fellow member of the politburo who is a neurotic chatterbox, Beria says, I spent my career trying to get people to talk and I can’t get this guy to shut up.” As in VEEP and In the Thick of it, Ianuzzi’s characters explode with salty profane and devilishly funny language. Steve Buscemi is a standout as Khrushchev. Parts of the film were shot in the Ukraine to provide authentic settings. The wardrobe department must have had a ball creating horrible-fitting suits for the men, and ghastly floor-length overcoats. If you like political satire at its best check this one out on pay-per-view.
Journalism 2018 style
Vito Sgro was the catalyst behind a group of investors, who ten years ago made the launch of the Bay Observer possible. Little did any of us know at that time that ten years later Vito would decide to run for mayor of Hamilton. Vito is a great friend, but his candidacy poses an obvious conflict that has to be acknowledged. This is the new reality in today’s world of alternative journalism where crowdfunding and billionaire benefactors have replaced the advertising and subscription based business models. Nobody knows where traditional journalism is headed, but we know that it is needed now more than ever. Some are suggesting news outlets be allowed to become registered charities. As it stands now news aggregators like Google, Facebook and Twitter essentially steal news from the originators and in the case of Google pay pennies for the eyeballs our news websites deliver to them. As a monthly publication it is unlikely the Bay Observer will be a major factor in the election, if indeed any news outlet is any more. Still I will have to hand the coverage of the mayoralty race at least, to someone else. Today’s introduction of Vito Sgro and his campaign will be my only contribution on this topic. I see no reason however to refrain from writing on the rest of the municipal campaign and the municipal issues that we have been covering over the years. It is not a perfect solution but at least it is there for all to see, and people can make their own minds up about what they choose to believe.