I have been separated from my computer from 7:30 this morning until now — 11:00 at night. The only thing I’ve managed to get done today is a poster riffing off of a little joke I made in a post yesterday:
My rule of thumb is that, if George Clo0ney’s in it, I’m going to hate it. I dislike his bovine face, I dislike his smug acting, and I dislike his politics — politics that too often leak into movies that are being sold to our children as “entertainment.” Take, for example, Tomorrowland, which Bill Whittle takes apart as a piece of Leftist garbage:
Apropos Brad Byrd, I used to know a lot of the people who worked with him. They were all kind, decent, and brilliant, and they were all hard Lefties, of the Nancy Pelosi variety. I understand that Byrd is cut from the same cloth — kind, decent, brilliant, and very, very Progressive. It was quite a surprise when that team came out with The Incredibles, a movie that is hostile to the dreadful leveling that is socialism as preached by America’s creative elite.
What’s she got to complain about?
It’s already old news that Michelle Obama — Princeton and Harvard grad, highly paid (but still useless) lawyer; and jet-setting President’s wife — thinks herself very poorly used by the American system. To hear her tell it, she’s been chewed up and then spit out on a filthy sidewalk, where crude, rude, KKK-type white people have ground her remnants into the dust. I just have a few links about this and a comment.
Link One: Writing at Allen West’s site, Michele Hickford has the perfect commentary about Ms. Obama’s whines.
Link Two: Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin (and yes, it’s funny that the whiner and the skewerers are all named Michelle) neatly deconstructs all the lies behind Michelle’s complaints.
Link Three: Wolf Howling points out that Ms. Obama is just one weapon in the race hustlers’ arsenal.
Wolf Howling also alludes to an important, and extremely sad, point: Ms. Obama may be lying about her facts, but she’s not lying about her emotions. This Ivy League-educated, spoiled, pampered, private-jetted darling genuinely feels as if she is a victim. It turns out that the only thing worse than having to listen to Michelle Obama is actually to be Michelle Obama and to live within that unhappy, resentful, beleaguered brain.
Hollywood wants you — but you shouldn’t want it back
Early this week, I wrote about all the horrid, distasteful people who populate my TV screen lately. Robert Avrech, who is someone with a much greater understanding of Hollywood’s inner workings made the same point in an article he wrote last December:
Sadly, most series on the air and in development are unsubtle messages formulated by postmodern Holly wood writers, producers and executives. This is no longer mere propaganda, but a clarion call for a new national morality. It is a world where women do not need husbands to raise children, as in Playing House, where the most anticipated marriage on TV is between two men, as in Modern Family and where the ties that hold a family together are murder, rape and plunder, as in Vikings. The protagonists of The Americans, a Cold War drama, are a ruthless but attractive Soviet couple working as spies against America. In the hit Netflix series House of Cards, a Washington D.C. power couple, played to silkily sinister perfection by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, lie, cheat and murder their way into the White House. Blessedly, these repugnant American Borgias have chosen not to have children. But the show’s writers would have us believe that theirs is a glorious union.
In the new Hollywood lexicon, the family is a unit held together not by traditional family values, but by gangster ethics.
Global warming is real — provided you ignore all the facts proving that it isn’t
The global warmists are getting increasingly shrill in their insistence that the earth is on the verge of boiling us all to death, and that anyone who denies it is a flat-earther who, in a just world, would be burned at the stake for heresy (if only burning at the stake didn’t increase the atmosphere’s already deadly carbon load). Being ignorant, these hysterics do not understand that, historically, global warming has always been a blessing for mankind, increasing available water and crops, and allowing people to focus on cultural advancement. Global warming would be a good thing.
Of course, there is no global warming. More likely, there is going to be global cooling, thanks to a very quiet sun — and global cooling has always meant famine. We in America might be able to weather a famine (especially if we can agree that humans matter more than Delta Smelt), but more fragile economies are going to be in desperate trouble.
By the way, if a warmist challenges you about the assertions I just made (no warming, probable cooling), you could point that person to 22 inconvenient facts about our climate.
Another piece of old news is Mark Halperin’s embarrassingly racist questions as he tried to prove to Hispanics that Ted Cruz is really a coconut — brown on the outside, but totally white-racist-male-chauvinist-pig on the inside. However, even if it is old news, if you haven’t read Fausta’s response to Halperin’s nonsense, you’ve missed something fine.
Halperin, faced with attacks from the Left and the Right, did an “I’m sorry you’re offended” apology. And Cruz, cleverly avoiding his reputation for snarkiness, responded with an extremely gracious “you have nothing to apologize for.”
The First Amendment’s death continues apace
Victor Davis Hanson keeps getting better — which is impressive when one considers how good he was to begin with. The whole time I was reading his article about the Left’s steady deconstruction and destruction of the First Amendment, my head kept bobbing up and down, like one of those nodding dog toys you used to see in the windows of cars. If you read it, you’ll nod too:
Apparently there is no longer a First Amendment as our Founders wrote it, but instead something like an Orwellian Amendment 1.5, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press — except if someone finds some speech hurtful, controversial, or not helpful.”
Cowardice abounds. When artists and writers mock Mormonism in a Broadway play like the Book of Mormon or use urine or excrement to deface Christian symbols, no Christian gang seeks to curb such distasteful expression — much less to kill anyone. Every religion but Islam knows that its iconography is fair game for caricature in the United States; none sanctions assassins. Jihadists seek to make this asymmetry quite clear to Western societies and thereby provide deterrence that gives Islam special exemption from Western satire and criticism in a way not accorded to other religions. And they are enabled by Westerners who prefer tranquility to freedom of expression.
When will Kirsten Powers realize she’s a conservative?
For many years, as I slowly realized that I was no longer aligned with Democrats, I still thought of myself as a Democrat, albeit a smarter, more informed one. It took a while for me to figure out that my values were completely inconsistent with today’s Democrat party and that, rather than honoring myself by remaining a Democrat, I was demeaning myself.
Kirsten Powers still considers herself a Democrat, but I suspect that, as she looks at toxic Democrat-led policies on America’s college campuses, she may eventually want to leave that identity behind too:
The root of nearly every free-speech infringement on campuses across the country is that someone—almost always a liberal—has been offended or has sniffed out a potential offense in the making. Then, the silencing campaign begins. The offender must be punished, not just for justice’s sake, but also to send the message to anyone else on campus that should he or she stray off the leftist script, they too might find themselves investigated, harassed, ostracized, or even expelled. If the illiberal left can preemptively silence opposing speakers or opposing groups— such as getting a speech or event canceled, or denying campus recognition for a group—even better.
Self-identified “moderate” Muslims sound surprisingly extreme
I was talking with a friend today about American blacks and the way they resolutely refuse to involve themselves in their own salvation, preferring to blame white people and then to look to the majority-white government system for succor. Every time I spoke broadly about “blacks,” my friend reminded me that the majority of American blacks are just like me: hard-working, honest, and decent. It’s only the noisy ones who are engaged in black-on-black killings, drug use, single motherhood, and rioting.
My friend, as usual, is correct. Thinking through my rhetorical laziness, I realized that the reason I keep lumping all blacks together, as if the disgraceful minority represents the completely ordinary and respectable majority, is because whenever the minority acts up, the majority, instead of castigating those self-destructive behaviors, supports the behaviors, joining in the constantly repeated chorus of “It’s not our fault; it’s whitey’s fault; now give us money.”
My friend then reminded me that speaking up isn’t that easy. Blacks who step off that plantation are subject to vicious racist attacks that would do the KKK proud — except that these attacks come from Democrats. (Oh, wait! The KKK was also Democrat, wasn’t it? It seems as if the Democrats, no matter where they stand politically vis a vis blacks, always keep a closet full of disgraceful racist taunts at the ready.) As a closet conservative in my community, I know precisely how difficult it is to stand against your community, especially when you’re raising children.
This is all by way of introduction to the concept of “moderate” Muslims. Those who speak out sound remarkably like the fanatics. And those who don’t speak out . . . well, it’s difficult to know whether they agree with the fanatics and so-called moderates, or if they’re simply scared to death. After all, an ISIS sword is even more devastating than a Democrat’s racial slurs.
Our profoundly weak economy
Progressives I know insist that the American economy is in great shape and invariably point to the stock market as proof. They seem incapable of understanding that years of low interest rates, steady money printing, and quasi-fascist crony capitalism have disconnected the stock market from the economy. The stock market no longer proves anything at all, except that those who know how to operate the political system can still get rich.
Given how weak our economy is, and how dangerous the money policies are that drive the illusion of prosperity, it’s small wonder that a well-known economist says that the next recession — and there will be a next one — will be devastating.
Our Leftist Pope
You can tell she’s a Christian because….
Barronelle Stutzman, the gal whom Washington State has been intent upon destroying because she refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding, got a chance to have her say in the Washington Post. You know how you can tell that she’s a Christian? It’s not just that she makes a compelling case explaining how she can be friends with gays while still standing behind her freedoms of speech, religion, and association when it comes to being forced to provide her artistic services for a ceremony that runs counter to her mainstream faith.
No, the real reason you can tell that Stutzman is a true Christian is that, when she speaks of the man who turned her over to the Nazi branch of the Washington State political correctness police, she still calls him her “friend.” Stutzman either has her tongue firmly in cheek, or she is a woman who takes seriously the Christian notion of turning that same cheek.
Anyway, please read Stutzman’s article. The conclusion sums up what every American should understand about freedom:
In Washington, Rob and Curt have the right to get a marriage license. But that doesn’t mean that the state should be able to force people in the creative professions like myself to create expression celebrating the ceremonies. We all have different viewpoints about how to live our lives. One thing I’ve loved about our country is that we protect the freedom of artistic expression and the right to disagree over these kinds of issues without one side being threatened by the government over it.
But whatever the state says and however they want to try to punish me, they can’t change my faith. What happens in my business or my life is in God’s hands. Having a clear conscience means much more to me than any amount of money or my business. Rob and Curt have their beliefs about marriage and aren’t being stopped by the state from living them out. I only ask for the same freedom.
“Come watch Veep with me,” Mr. Bookworm said this evening. “It’s got really clever writing and a great cast, and it’s often very funny.” He’s absolutely right and normally that would be an enticement to watch a TV show. The problem for me is that each of the characters is loathsome — stupid, vindictive, petty, arrogant, hate-filled, venomous. Moreover, they exhibit these traits against each other, their colleagues and friends. Veep isn’t the only show that has such horrible people.
In fact, being horrible lately seems to be a prerequisite for hit shows: A psychopathic chemistry teacher who becomes a drug kingpin (Breaking Bad); a mafia kingpin who kills lots of people (The Sopranos); a devious, dishonest ad men and the equally devious, dishonest, desperate, addicted, and adulterous people who inhabit his world (Mad Men); and a sociopathic bootlegger and his psychopathic cohorts (Boardwalk Empire) are just a few of the horrible people who spring to mind in the top-rated shows for adults.
And Lord knows, we all know about kid shows, with smart aleck, sarcastic, disrespectful, know-it-all kids smugly triumphing over stupid, venal adults. It ain’t the Brady Bunch any more.
I don’t know whether popular TV shows represent a mirror we hold up to ourselves or if they are a projection of what we’d like to be. All I know is that, in the old days, most of the stars of TV shows, barring a few overwrought soap operas, were people one could like. Lucille Ricardo might have been immature and self-centered, but she was also enthusiastic and she always led with her heart. So many of those shows ended with a kiss or a hug between the main characters. Leave It To Beaver, The Brady Bunch, Three’s Company, All In The Family, M*A*S*H — no matter how vapid they may be now or how politically correct, they involved characters who were striving to be good or who were, at the very least, silly. None were bad. Even Archie Bunker, with all his awful “right-wing American” prejudices had a solid core that endeared him to audiences. When push came to shove, and no matter how reluctantly, Archie did the right thing (at least according to Norman Lear’s rubric of what was right).
Anyway, it’s just a thought. Perhaps I’m putting too golden a glow on the shows I grew up watching. I just know that I really hate spending time in the company of today’s TV characters. I have this terrible sense of revulsion when I’m around them too long.
When I watch Dancing With The Stars, I almost invariably end up fast forwarding through the rumbas. Rather than being classy, sinuous dances, they’re invariably sleazy gyrations that look like the prelude to a strip show. Except that last night I got to see a different kind of rumba. Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore) and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy did one of the most beautiful, elegant, sensual (but not sleazy) rumbas I’ve ever seen. It was mesmerizing and fully deserved the perfect score it got from the judges:
Rumer Willis is an interesting person. She’s a ferociously hard worker, a real talent, and never seems to play the diva — which is something one might expect from the child of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Instead, she has a down-to-earth sweetness that is very endearing. She is also one of the most talented natural dancers I’ve seen on the show in the years I’ve been watching.
Watching this, it’s fascinating to remember that, thanks to such movies as Our Dancing Daughters, which had come out one year earlier, many believed Joan Crawford to personify the modern Flapper. It took some years before Crawford transformed herself into the powerful, almost iconic, line of female characters that shaped her legacy.
A word of advice if you go to see Disney’s new, live-action Cinderella: Don’t take a cynic with you. Cynics will not appreciate this sugary, beautiful confection. To them, it’s an offense at every level.
You’ll note that I said “sugary,” rather than the more dismissive “saccharine.” Something that’s saccharine isn’t really sweet; it’s fake. Disney’s Cinderella is sweet through and through.
Kenneth Branagh directed the movie with a mid-19th century sincerity that is utterly alien to movies that are directed at today’s youth market. There was no snark, there was no sleaze, there was no vulgarity. It was innocent and sweet and flowery from top to bottom. The little girl in the row behind me, maybe ten years old, loved it. So did I. The teenaged cynic in the seat next to me sneered the whole way through.
Having now watched episodes 6 and 7 in House of Cards, I’m done with the show. I’m freeing up several hours of my life to read books, write, visit with friends — indeed, do anything but watch something that’s turned into yet another boring, polemic, Leftist wish factory.
BEWARE — HERE BE SPOILERS. If you haven’t given up on House of Cards, don’t read past this paragraph. You’ll regret it if you do.
I don’t know how many of you have watched House of Cards with Kevin Spacey. I have been watching it since Netflix released the first season two years ago. Spacey plays Francis Underwood, a manipulative Democrat politician who uses chicanery and much worse to make his way through Washington, D.C.
The show’s been fun to watch because Spacey is wonderful. He affects a broad Southern accent, speaks in a rich deep voice and, in a riot of cheerful overacting, chews up the scenery as his character uses a potent combination of pure malevolence and utter charm to manipulate people to achieve his invariably nefarious goals. At his side, like a sane and sensible Lady Macbeth is Robin Wright, playing his equally vicious and manipulative wife. They are two happily married, evil, dishonest peas in a pod. In the first two seasons, that made for very good TV.
This season, which Netflix released last Friday, is different, though. I’m not going to give away any spoilers when I say that, after having watched 5 episodes in the new season, it seems to me that the writers have changed Underwood substantially. He’s no longer focusing on clawing his way up, and doing whatever is necessary to create the bodies he climbs over. Instead, having already succeeded in that climb, instead of being in control, he’s a victim of circumstances and of people even more powerful and manipulative than he is. Frank Underwood’s less charming when he’s the underdog.
Years ago, Don Quixote told me that Lady Gaga is a genuinely talented performer. I protested, saying she’s just an auto-tuned exhibitionist. Tonight, at the Academy Awards, it turned out that, as is often the case, Don Quixote was right. Tonight, Lady Gaga did a staggeringly good Sound of Music tribute. It was the kind of thing that makes you entirely rethink a performer — and hope that she’s turning over a new leaf.
I’ll update this post with a better quality video when I can, but this will do until then:
UPDATED: I substituted in a functioning, high-quality video.
Unusually for me, I saw a first-run movie tonight. It was, as you’ve already realized, American Sniper. Also unusually, the Century Cinema, which is Marin’s premiere movie theater, with a big screen and a George Lucas-installed sound system, had an almost completely packed house on the second weekend of a January movie. One expects packed houses for the first week or two of a Star Wars or Harry Potter franchise movie during the summer, but it just never happens for any other type of movie, especially in January. Never. And for the first time in my admittedly experience seeing a movie in Marin, about half the theater broke into applause when the movie ended. Marin’s conservatives are creeping out from undercover to see this one.
Not being a professional movie reviewer, I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. You already know the story: Texas good ol’ boy Chris Kyle leaves the rodeo circuit, joins the Navy, becomes a SEAL, and heads off to Iraq, where he becomes a legend as the most successful sniper in American military history. After four tours of duty, he returns home and begins helping vets who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the war (or, of course, both). One of those vets, a Marine, murders both him and a neighbor, Chad Littlefield. Throughout it all, Kyle and his wife love and fight and love some more, and have two children who make both of them proud. It’s a simple story, really.
When Chris Kyle died, America mourned. His funeral cortege and memorial service drew thousands of people, although his former Commander-in-Chief (and still current Commander-in-Chief of the American military) was never heard to mention Kyle’s name. I guess Kyle just didn’t look enough like the son Obama never had — although it seems that Hugo Chavez, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown did look like that son, at least if one is to judge by the encomiums Obama poured upon them and the representatives he sent to the hoodlums’, er sons’ funerals.
Unlike me, Clint Eastwood’s film is carefully apolitical. It keeps a very tight focus on one man and the people around him. Just as they were in Kyle’s autobiography, his family by blood and marriage vie for first place in his heart with his SEAL family. Kyle is enormously patriotic. He’s repulsed by the sadism and immorality he sees amongst the Iraqis he fights. He lives to protect his fellow servicemen. And he has troubles transitioning rapidly between war in Iraq and peace at home.
In this regard — the profound disconnect between wartime on Monday and peace on Tuesday — Kyle’s situation reminded me strongly of British WWI fighters who also made almost painfully rapid transitions between home and war. Just as Kyle talks on the phone with his wife while sniping on a rooftop, British troops sometimes received by the afternoon post the mail their loved ones had sent that morning. (For other interesting similarities and differences between the British experience in WWI and the American experience in Iraq, I recommend this book.
To the extent I notice a director’s touch, Eastwood’s was deft and sure. Those two simple words count as high praise from me. I usually notice the director’s role in a movie when I hate the movie because of the director’s bizarre, irritating, or offensive decisions. Eastwood makes none of those mistakes. His style is smooth, professional and, when it comes to the fighting scenes, incredibly dynamic, while still being coherent enough to keep the audience engaged.
What really makes the movie, though, is Bradley Cooper’s incredible acting. “Acting” actually seems like the wrong word. Cooper doesn’t “act” Chris Kyle; he “is” Chris Kyle. Admittedly, I’ve never met Chris Kyle, so I’m taking a leap of faith by saying what I did. What I really mean is that Cooper inhabits his character’s skin so seamlessly that there is never, ever a sense that Cooper is acting at all. This is a fully realized character. One has no sense of the actor named Bradley Cooper positioning himself on the set and then, when he hears the word “action!” going through the motions of the character named Chris Kyle. There is no actor named Bradley Cooper. There is just Chris Kyle.
One of the things that makes it clear just how extraordinarily Cooper fills the role is to watch the other actors. They’re all good . . . but you can see them acting. I have a vague memory of having seen Cooper in some other roles and not noticing him. He apparently was waiting for this role.
All in all, American Sniper is a movie that deserves its accolades and blockbuster revenue. Chris Kyle was one of those great, salt-if-the-earth Americans who emerges in times of war — not a man who loves killing for killing’s sake, which would make him no better than the enemy, but a true sheepdog who is willing to get dirty in the fight to protect his flock. Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and the rest of the American Sniper paid Kyle his due by creating this great movie.
Boyhood, which opened in July 2014 and is currently slated as one of the top contenders for Best Picture, has earned that rarest of rare accolades: a 100% score on Metacritic. Critics just love the movie.
The most obvious thing they love about the movie is the movie’s gimmick, which is actually quite clever. The movie was filmed over the course of 12 years, with the same actors gathering together for a few days each year to shoot that year’s scenes. It’s seamlessly edited, so you see the children grow up and the parents grow old. In that way, it’s like watching a very well-produced montage of home movies. Small wonder that probably 75% of each of the reviews I read centers on this clever technique.
Gimmicks alone, however, are not enough to sustain a 100% score created by looking at 49 different critic reviews. The critics also really like the movie’s story arc and character development. [If you're planning on seeing the movie, you might want to stop right about now, because I'm going to go into SPOILER territory.]
Giving you time to think about whether you want to continue. . . .
Tick. . . .
A little more thinking time. . . .
Tock. . . .
Okay, last chance. After this sentence, a review filled with SPOILERS is about to begin. . . .