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December 1, 2014
[313] What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us? … Errol Morris and Ron Rosenbaum discuss The Kennedy Assasination …

“Can we even have the certainty that all is uncertainty?” I ask.

“Here’s my problem,” Morris replies. “My article of faith is that there’s a real world out there in which things happen. The real world is not indeterminate. I don’t want to hear people misinterpreting the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Something happened. The problem is not about the nature of reality. We know somebody killed Kennedy and there’s an answer to the question of who and why.

“Another thing we know is that we may never learn. And we can never know that we can never learn it. We can never know that we can’t know something. This is the detective’s nightmare. It’s the ultimate detective’s nightmare.”

April 20, 2014
[politics] The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (Part 1) … Errol Morris On Donald Rumsfeld … ‘Not just him but the entire building was in denial. Doug Feith — don’t get me started on Doug Feith — told me that they had a Marshall Plan all set to go in terms of rebuilding Iraq. And he pointed to this stack of huge three-ringed binders, all of them black. There must have been about 10 of them stacked up on top of a cabinet. And I asked to see them, and he said, “No, you can’t. It’s classified.” And I said, “Well, O.K., I understand that, I guess.” But I raised it to somebody else within the next couple of weeks. I said, “Well, Doug Feith showed me the Marshall Plan for Iraq.” And this person laughed, and he said, “Mik, that was the Marshall Plan.” It was a copy of the original Marshall Plan, not a plan for Iraq.’
September 24, 2013
[movies] Errol Morris on How Donald Rumsfeld Sees His Own Legacy … interesting preview of Errol Morris’ new film on Donald Rumfield. Here’s the trailer.

The most distinctive thing about Rumsfeld is his use of language. Is it Orwellian? In 1984, language is used as a means of control—but it is conscious control. With Rumsfeld, I felt I was witnessing something more complex: a man using language to obscure the world from himself as well as from others. In his Pentagon press conferences he would frequently quibble over the meaning of words: “pre-emption,” “insurgency,” “quagmire.” It was almost a way of keeping a safe distance from reality.

Most people remember that Rumsfeld’s famous comment about “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” happened at a press conference, but few remember that it was in response to a question about what evidence we had that Saddam Hussein was linked to terrorist organizations—which was the justification for the war in the first place. The more I studied this performance, the more I realized that what Rumsfeld said wasn’t really an answer. It was an attempt to change the subject, to turn reporters’ questions about intelligence into a lofty question about the nature of knowledge: “Sometimes we have evidence for things and sometimes we don’t; sometimes we know what we’re looking for and sometimes we don’t.”

November 25, 2011
[conspiracy] The Umbrella Man … brilliant Errol Morris short interview with Josiah Thompson on a weird detail from the assasination of J.F.K. ‘[John Updike] said that his learning of the existence of the Umbrella Man made him speculate that in historical research there may be a dimension similar to the quantum dimension in physical reality. If you put any event under a microscope, you will find a whole dimension of completely weird, incredible things going on. It’s as if there’s the macro level of historical research, where things sort of obey natural laws and usual things happen and unusual things don’t happen, and then there’s this other level where everything is really weird’
November 17, 2011
[books] Stephen King Goes to the Rescue of JFK … Stephen King’s latest book reviewed by Errol Morris …

In “11/22/63,” we get glimpses of a nimbus of evil that surrounds the world. There are no single crimes. Each act of cruelty or violence is somehow associated — harmonized, King would suggest — with every other act. Inside the past, Amberson learns there are no accidents, no inadvertencies. Just an infernal machine. (Tick, tock.) He says: “Coincidences happen, but I’ve come to believe they are actually quite rare. Something is at work, O.K.? Somewhere in the universe (or behind it), a great machine is ticking and turning its fabulous gears.”

There is a darker what-if. What if history is too forceful to redirect? What if jiggering the engine produces no favorable outcome — merely a postponement of the inevitable? If he had lived, Kennedy might not have escalated the war in Vietnam, and might have kept America out of a bloody mire. But we don’t know.

November 15, 2011
[books] Errol Morris Interviews Stephen King … on his new book about time travel, J.F.K. and Lee Harvey Oswald …

Oswald just happened to be at the right place at the right time. He and his wife were effectively done, and she was living with Mrs. Paine out in Irving. He used to come on the weekends, but that week, he came on Thursday — the night before the assassination. And it seems pretty clear from his actions and from the things he said that he had decided to do this, but that he could be persuaded to change his mind. He and Marina went to bed that night and in bed, he asked her, “Is there a chance that we can get back together?” And she was very cold to him. She said, “No, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, Lee.” And in the morning, he left his wedding ring and he left all the money in his pockets in a teacup in the kitchen for her. And that was it. There is this chain of ifs, but really, it’s as simple as that. He wanted to shoot somebody. He wanted to be somebody famous. It’s all there. The pieces all click together pretty nicely.

July 6, 2011
[docu] 59 Minutes With Errol Morris … brief interview with the documentary director …

“Good Lord, it’s my past,” Morris says as he leafs through a box filled with folders labeled “Manson Girls” and “Lobotomy.” Many of the boxes are cardboard coffins for movies he pursued for years but couldn’t fund.

March 31, 2010
[morris] New Details on Errol Morris’ Next Documentary, Tabloid‘His next film, Tabloid, is a considerable departure from his previous film, Standard Operating Procedure, and centers on the fascinating figure of former Miss Wyoming, convicted rapist, and dog-cloning supporter Joyce McKinney.’
August 10, 2009
[docu] Errol Morris is on Twitter … … ‘HISTORY LESSON: The camera was the first version of Photoshop.’ [link]
July 18, 2008
[movies] Peter Bradshaw reviews Errol Morris’s documentary Standard Operating Procedure: ‘The Abu Ghraib scandal was a product of the digital age: ordinary roll-film cameras or Polaroids might have been too conspicuous, there would be no facilities for development, and any resulting prints might have been confiscated or lost. But digital images, immediately accessible and so easily transferable and reproducible, and with ineradicable date and time stamps, were the captors’ undoing. Watching this film is the grimmest experience imaginable…’
April 12, 2008
[movies] Standard Operating Procedure … the web site for Errol Morris’ new documentary about Abu Ghraib‘The one thing that can be said conclusively about Abu Ghraib is it was entirely a violation of the Geneva Conventions. All of it.’
March 31, 2008
[films] Recovering Reality … More from Errol Morris on Abu Ghraib … [via Kottke]

‘When Brent Pack talks about [Gilligan’s treatment] as being standard operating procedure, I find that a powerful and odd moment. He’s sincere, he’s not a bad guy, and yet he’s telling us something that is actually surreal and disturbing—even more so because he’s not a bad guy, because he’s being sincere. Or just seeing Lyndie England and how devastated she was by all of this. I’m moved by it. Call me crazy, but I am. She gives this final speech, which to me is so sad, about how maybe the whole world is just backstabbing and lying. You’ve got all of these players caught in this strange drama. The perversity of it all.’

March 23, 2008
[movies] Errol Morris talks with Werner Herzog‘If everything was planned, it would be dreadful. If everything was unplanned, it would be equally dreadful. Cinema exists because there are elements of both in everything. There are elements of both in documentary. There are elements of both in feature filmmaking. It’s what makes, I think, photography and filmmaking of interest. Despite all of our efforts to control something, the world is much, much more powerful than us, and more deranged even than us.’
March 21, 2008
[movies] Standard Operating Procedure — trailer for a new documentary from Errol Morris about the events in Abu Ghraib prison. [via Kottke]
January 3, 2008
[war] Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3] — a wonderful long series of blog posts from Errol Morris as he obsessively examines two early war photos taken during the Crimean War to decide if they were staged or not … [via Metafilter]

‘Much of the problem comes from our collective need to endow photographs with intentions – even though there are no people in the frame, including Fenton himself, who is conspicuously absent. The minute we start to conjecture about Fenton’s reasons, his intent – his psychological state – we are walking on unhallowed ground. Can we read Fenton’s intentions off of a photographic plate? Is there anything in the letters that tells us what he was really thinking and what really happened?’

December 24, 2007
[blog] Zoom – the blog of documentary filmmaker Errol Morris.
May 30, 2006
[film] Predilections — a profile of Errol Morris‘I like the idea of making films about ostensibly absolutely nothing,” Morris says. “I like the irrelevant, the tangential, the sidebar excursion to nowhere that suddenly becomes revelatory. That’s what all my movies are about. That and the idea that we’re in possession of certainty, truth, infallible knowledge, when actually we’re just a bunch of apes running around. My films are about people who think they’re connected to something, although they’re really not.’ [via Kottke]
April 29, 2006
[film] It Becomes a Self-fulfilling Thing — a discussion between Errol Morris and Adam Curtis‘Where people do set out to have conspiracies, they don’t ever end up like they’re supposed to. History is a series of unintended consequences resulting from confused actions, some of which are committed by people who may think they’re taking part in a conspiracy, but it never works out the way they intended.’ [via Kottke’s Links]
August 22, 2005
[film] Interview with Errol Morris … from the Huffington Post .. On Robert McNamara and The Fog of War: ‘When people say to me, this is just some self-serving account that McNamara has provided, part of my feeling when I hear that is, “Well, yeah, of course it is!” But that’s not all it is. It’s not just a self-serving account, it’s a complicated account. We all have narratives about ourselves, about who we are and why we do what we do. We have accounts of ourselves for ourselves and we have accounts of ourselves for other people to try to convince them about who we are and our underlying motivations. Part of the premise here is that people reveal themselves through their use of language, through talking.’
November 8, 2004
[comic] Dan Clowes Switch Commercial — the creator of Ghost World did an unused commercial for Apple (directed by Errol Morris) … ‘It’s like a perfect robot pal.’
March 8, 2004
[film] Making History — interview with Errol Morris about his documentary The Fog of War on Robert McNamara‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I don’t believe in conspiracies. People are far too confused, too much at cross-purposes with themselves, too argumentative, too nutso ever effectively to conspire to do anything. Maybe they manage to pull it off for a limited amount of time, but not on some mass scale, like deceiving the entire world. What scares me more, and it’s at the heart of the movie, at the heart of this particular story, is not that we make this plan to lie, to deceive, but that we somehow convince ourselves of our own rectitude, our own correctness, our own rightness, no matter what the evidence to the contrary. Humans love nonsense, they lap it up. Ultimately, we’re just big baboons!’ [Related: Fog of War Trailer]