I didn’t like Saving Mr. Banks, which I thought could more accurately have been called “Walt Disney’s Revenge.” It’s obvious that, by the early 1960s, P.L. Travers was a deeply disturbed woman. Contemporaneous records (including the tapes that Travers insisted be made of her talks with the Disney people) reveal that Walt Disney showed great charm and kindness in dealing with her, so that reflects well on Walt. However, a movie that has Emma Thompson, a talented mimic, portraying the damaged Travers wasn’t my cup of tea. I think I would have liked this version better:
One of the most awful defenses the usual suspects offered on behalf of Mozilla came (natch) from the New York Times, which opined that Mozilla is “special” and therefore cannot be held to ordinary corporate standards:
Mozilla is not a normal company. It is an activist organization. Mozilla’s primary mission isn’t to make money but to spread open-source code across the globe in the eventual hope ofpromoting “the development of the Internet as a public resource.”
As such, Mozilla operates according to a different calculus from most of the rest of corporate America.
Like all software companies, Mozilla competes in two markets. First, obviously, it wants people to use its products instead of its rivals’ stuff. But its second market is arguably more challenging — the tight labor pool of engineers, designers, and other tech workers who make software.
When you consider the importance of that market, Mr. Eich’s position on gay marriage wasn’t some outré personal stance unrelated to his job; it was a potentially hazardous bit of negative branding in the labor pool, one that was making life difficult for current employees and plausibly reducing Mozilla’s draw to prospective workers.
Short version: Silicon Valley is a unique outpost of Progressive corporate responsibility and no tech company can afford to offend the delicate sensibilities within that small, unique world.
Last night, HBO debuted a new half hour show called Silicon Valley, which HBO promises will be the Entourage of California’s high-tech world: five young men will become very, very rich, and then navigate their way through the perils and pleasures of wealth and insincerity in a uniquely rich and powerful environment. Because I’m not a fan of HBO’s leftist sensibilities, I yielded only reluctantly to my husband’s importuning that I give it a try. From the first minute, though, I was hooked.
I don’t think I would have been quite so hooked if it hadn’t been for the Brendan Eich witch hunt. Without that context, the show really is just another Entourage, meaning that you can only remain interested for so long in foul-mouthed, stereotypical young men (computer geeks, as opposed to Hollywood geeks) living the lush life. But what the show did wonderfully, really wonderfully, was to satirize the banal Progressivism that those who have struck it rich in Silicon Valley believe that they must bring to bear on every facet of life.
When the episode opens, the main protagonist is working as a low-level drone at “Hooli,” a company that’s clearly modeled on Google/Facebook/YouTube/Yahoo or any other Silicon Valley company that seeks to think “out of the box,” by turning the workplace into a playground and the world into a Progressive paradise. In fact, Hooli’s real goal is to keep its isolated, banal, self-involved founder very, very rich, which various corporate sycophants and tech geeks along for the monied ride.
One of the more interesting characters, and one that the hero opts to work with, is a weird guy who is fanatically opposed to college, which he believes stifles creativity and initiative. As he points out, most of the tech world’s great ideas came from college drop-outs. To him, college is a place where the top-heavy administration’s entire goal is to churn out people who are burdened with debt, can’t get jobs, and have had their creative abilities sucked out of them. When this guy gives a well-attended talk to that effect, the only opposition he gets is from an old hippie who hurls content-free insults.
It was both a surprise to me and not a surprise at all to learn that Mike Judge is the show’s creator. Judge denies having any political leanings. That may be true. He may just be an iconoclast who’s willing to take on the Leftist shibboleths that completely dominant Hollywood and the professional class. Whatever his motivations and beliefs, his product is refreshing.
For all that Silicon Valley satirizes the brainless, corporate Progressivism that oozes out of Silicon Valley, I doubt that even Judge could have envisioned either the fascist attack on Eich for his personal beliefs or the “we’re special” defense that the New York Times offered up on Mozilla’s behalf. In a world run by Leftists, reality routinely outruns satire. Nevertheless, if you have access to HBO, and if you are willing to tolerate HBO’s endless obsession with sex and foul language, check out its premiere episode (which you can see online). In the unlikely event that it manages to maintain its satirical tone for even a few episodes before sinking into the usual Hollywood quicksand of mushy feel-good Leftism, it’s probably a show you’ll enjoy and one that, moreover, deserves support.
(Should I throw in a few typical review points here? Yes, I shall. Production values are expensive; acting is workmanlike; obscenity is rife. That’s pretty much all you need to know.)
This is me, writing back in 2008 about Winona Ryder’s adaptation of Little Women:
Two of my favorite 19th Century books have very pronounced moral lessons indeed, and they remain enormously popular despite (or maybe because of — but more of that later) those lessons. The first is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the second is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Both of them, no doubt, are familiar to you too, although the latter is likely more familiar to the girls than the boys reading this.
In Little Women, Jo March is a wonderful, enthusiastic, energetic girl (and, eventually, woman) who gets into a lot of trouble because she runs off half-cocked all the time. Indeed, her impetuosity results in her being denied her heart’s desire: an all-expenses paid trip to Europe. However, she learns that life has consolations and that they may be much better than merely getting what one wishes. By subordinating her own uncontrolled desires to the demands of hearth and home, she enriches her own character, learns better to appreciate those around her and, of course, is entitled to her reward — marrying a good man.
The lessons in both books are pretty clear to anyone who bothers to read them. You don’t need an advanced English degree, and hours spent analyzing symbolism and myth, or even more hours deconstructing whatever is written, to figure out the moral lessons Alcott and March were making. Those lessons lie at the core of each book, with the stories around them intended both to entertain and to accentuate the moral the reader takes away.
If Elizabeth just had a frivolous romance with Wickham, and disliked Darcy to the end, the story would be morally stagnant, and would fall in the category of junk romance, rather than great literature. Austen’s charming writing is made worthwhile only because of the moral steel that underlies it. Likewise, if Jo simply frolicked from one misadventure to another, Little Women would probably remain an unknown, shallow work of 19th Century children’s fiction. What makes it interesting are Jo’s epic struggles to subdue her immature self to realize a truly fulfilled adult life.
What irks me is that so many remakes of these two books work assiduously to hide from the reader or viewer these core moral lessons — lessons that have kept these books vital for centuries. I’ve grumbled for years about Winona Ryder’s adaption of Little Women, which is a visually beautiful movie but which completely reverses the story’s moral underpinnings. Jo goes through the movie just trying to do what she wants, and the viewer is given to understand that it’s just so unfair when events stop her. At one point, she explains to Professor Baehr that her father’s philosophy was something along the lines of “if it feels good do it” (and I’m quoting liberally here, because I can’t remember the actual line in the movie, just the sense of it). At that moment in the movie, I simply shut down. No beautiful costumes or charming scenes could make up for the fact that Winona Ryder had turned on its head the book’s actual message, which is that, if it feels dutiful, morally appropriate and mature, do it.
Yeah! What I said way back when. There are few things more offensive than a movie that, rather than exercising artistic license on a book to adapt it to a visual medium, turns the author’s core lesson on its head.
And this is Andrew Klavan, writing about Noah:
Ben Shapiro is a devout Jew, and I’ve heard him speak with real and revealing insight into Torah — something that’s not all that common. In a genuinely sharp essay at Truth Revolt, he took the film apart as a “perversely pagan mess” that replaced God with Gaia to deliver a muddled environmentalist message. You can read the whole excellent thing here, but one point struck me particularly:
It is one thing for a movie adaptation to stray from the source material. Adding characters or scenes, crafting details that vary from the strict text – all of it is in bounds when it comes to adaptations. Critics of Noah who have focused on the extra-Biblical magic of Methuselah or the lack of textual support for instantaneously-growing forests are off-base.
The far deeper problem is when an adaptation perverts the message of the source material. If the movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird had turned Tom Robinson into a villain and Mr. Ewell into a hero, that would rightly have been seen as an undermining of the original work. The same is true of the Biblical story of Noah and the movie version of that same story. It isn’t merely that Aronofsky gets the story wrong. That would be forgiveable. It’s that Aronofsky deliberately destroys the foundational principles undergirding the Bible, and uses Biblically-inspired story to do it.
Now all three of these guys are friends of mine, true men of faith, and big brains — and Nolte’ll let the air out of your tires if you even look at him sideways — but I have to admit, without having seen the film, without being able to judge of its quality, it’s Shapiro’s point that sticks with me. If, as I say, Aronofsky is a declared atheist, if he intended to deliver “the least biblical film ever made,” I can’t help but wonder: why make a biblical film at all? No? I mean, the Bible is the sacred book of gazillions of people. If you disagree with it, if you have a different message than, you know, God’s, well, fine, but then why not make up your own story, why twist and gut and dishonor this one?
It can’t be because Aronofsky is a radically courageous teller of truths. Attacking the Bible doesn’t require any courage in America and certainly no radicalism. Read those comments above. Is Shapiro going to hunt Aronofsky down and behead him? Sure, Nolte might (the man’s a savage), but he’ll probably think better of it in the end. And hell, Moeller’s practically inviting the guy to tea.
What do you think the reactions would have been if Aronofsky’s film had been called “Mohammed?” If Aronofsky had said, “This is going to be the least Koranic movie ever made?” Do you think the reactions would be so civilized, so thoughtful, so interested in “facilitating important conversations.” Now there’s a film that would take courage. There’s a film that would be radical. And there’s a film that Aronofsky is never going to make!
The idea of using the Bible to make a non-biblical film just seems wrong in and of itself — mean and small-hearted and bullying, and cowardly too when you consider he could’ve taken on the Koran. Regardless of the movie’s quality, it just seems like the wrong thing to do per se. Unneighborly you might call it. UnChristian.
But then, maybe that’s the whole problem.
Yeah. What he said!
Last night, I finally watched last year’s 3-hour-long The Wolf of Wall Street, which purports to tell the true story of Jordan Belfort, a guy who got rich beyond his wildest dreams of avarice thanks to the empire he built by fraudulently selling worthless penny stocks. The film garnered a great deal of attention when it opened because it showed the debauchery of Jordan’s life, as well as the life his fellow get-rich-quick traders lived. There were beaches full of cocaine (apparently the actors sniffed up powered Vitamin B), mountains of Quaaludes, oceans of alcohol, and swarms of naked prostitutes, as well as few tossed dwarfs. It wasn’t titillating, it was mind-numbing.
As I commented to my husband, the movie was too much debauchery and too little plot. By the beginning of the third hour, I was desperate for the FBI to move in and just arrest the guy so that we could all be put out of our misery. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, I recommend that you skip the whole movie and just watch the first and last half hours, which will tell you everything you need to know about one crook’s rise and fall.
Also last night, my son saw Noah, a movie that has aroused the ire of traditional believers because of the way it turns God’s message and moral on its head. While my son couldn’t care less about whether the movie twisted the Bible, he does care about good entertainment. This was not, in his estimation, good entertainment. Or as he said, and I quote, “Noah was a terrible movie. It was really stupid and boring. It was the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”
When I pressed him for details, I got a garbled recital about Noah’s stupid belief that he had to kill all of humankind, about his plan to murder his grandchildren, about unbelievable bad guys and animated rocks, and generally about a frenetic, yet boring, mess of a movie. This was a two thumbs down and then some.
Ben Shapiro doesn’t like Noah, the newest Hollywood wannabe blockbuster, this one based loosely on the Bible. At his own website, Truth Now, and at Breitbart, he vigorously attacks the movie for turning the Bible on its head. As you read here some months ago, Hollywood has taken one of the Bible’s pivotal narratives, which focuses closely on the wages of man’s immorality, and turned it into a Gaia-focused extravaganza, with a steroid-pumped, ninja-esque Noah cheerfully watching humans die because they pillaged the animal world. In his Breitbart critique, Shapiro, perhaps accidentally, hones in on why it was ridiculous ever to expect Hollywood to be true to the Biblical source:
In this litany of great sins [eating meat, mining for energy sources, making weapons], you may be missing the traditional Biblical explanations of sin: idolatry, sexual immorality, violence. Rape and murder make brief appearances, but those sins are purely secondary to the true sin: destruction of the environment and the purty animals.
“Idolatry, sexual immortality, violence” — the big sins in the Bible . . . .and the big money-makers in Hollywood:
Without the staples of idolatry, sexual immorality, and violence, Hollywood would go broke. It was therefore always impossible to expect Hollywood to make a movie attacking its holy trinity.
Just yesterday, I pointed you to Roger L. Simon’s post arguing that conservatives are making a terrible mistake when they bail on the movie industry. Our intensely media-driven age, means that increasingly hard-left Hollywood is a superb propagandist that often provides the only information people get on a subject. The beauty of Hollywood propaganda (if you’re a Leftist) is that it’s so subtle. Hollywood doesn’t do clunky Soviet-era posters; instead, as Ben Smith ably demonstrated, it wraps core Leftist messages in rip-roaring good humor, gauzy tear-jerkers, or uplifting homilies. Polemics put people off; entertainment sucks them in.
We’ve gotten used to the Leftist tilt in entertainment over the years. We whine about it to each other (as I have here, here, here, and here), but that’s about all that we do. We accept it as not a necessary evil but an inevitable evil. That attitude encourages a certain passivity.
Sometimes, though, it’s worth making a loud noise, and that’s the case with Hollywood’s newest action flick, Non-Stop. The film has a high-profile star (Liam Neeson), lots of interesting cameos and co-stars, a big budget, and a clever plot about a well-disguised terrorist on a plane who is killing a new victim every twenty-minutes. (Thinking about it, for all it’s flash and newness, the plot is simply a re-hash of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.)
Superficially, it sounds like a fun movie for those who, like me, enjoy a well-produced, fast-paced thriller/whodunnit. Indeed, John Boot, writing at the conservative PJ Media, says that it’s a fun movie, and enjoys the way the ending is unexpected. (He also noticed the Agatha Christie parallel.) It’s that surprise ending, though, that has stirred outrage across the conservative blogosphere. You see, it’s not merely a surprise, it’s a “jump the shark” kind of surprise.
(For the uninitiated, the phrase “jump the shark” originated with the last season of Happy Days, when the show had gotten irrevocably stale. In an effort to jazz things up, they put the Fonz on water skies and had him jump over a blatantly mechanical shark. If a show has to stoop so low, it should already have been put out to pasture. Since then, the phrase is used not only to describe shows that should long-since have been shark chum, but also to describe plot turns that are too stupid to exist even in the magical entertainment universe.)
SPOILER ALERT. NON-STOP’S PLOT DENOUEMENT WILL BE REVEALED BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Judging by the movie’s review at Breitbart, John Boot is correct that Non-Stop’s creators managed to avoid having a predictable ending. They did so, however, only by pushing a hard-Left world view that is going to be swallowed whole by every uninformed adolescent and young person who sees the movie. That is, while one can appreciate that the ending makes for a good movie, it is so unreal — such a high jump over a such a hideous, faked shark — that it should be soundly castigated, rejected, and ruined.
As I mentioned above, the plot device is Agatha Christie on steroids: people trapped in an enclosed space with a hidden killer bumping them off. Today’s headlines say it ought to have been a Muslim, since they’re the ones using terrorism against the rest of the world. If you’re a filmmaker who wants to add a good twist to reality, you make sure your terrorist is a well-disguised Muslim, along the lines of the British, Christian-born Black Widow who headed the grotesquely violent attack against a Kenyan shopping mall.
Having that kind of ending, however, would have failed to advance the movie’s real purpose: propaganda. Breitbart explains precisely what agenda the movie is pushing (and this is your last warning that there are spoilers ahead that will make watching the movie forever unnecessary):
Counting pilots and crew, there are around 150 souls on board. Marks has 20 minutes to figure out which one is the bad guy. Red herrings abound. Is it one of the many actors whose faces we recognize but names we can’t remember? People start to die. Marks is fingered as the hijacker. Who’s doing this? Why are they doing this? What is their motive?
Here’s the answer:
It turns out that the villain is not a hijacker but a terrorist — someone who wants to murder everyone on the plane to further a political goal.
The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.
It gets worse…
After 9/11, this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.
The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.
It gets worse…
The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.
It gets worse…
The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.
Screw you, Hollywood.
Non-Stop didn’t stop at just jumping the shark. Instead, it embraced it and then made mad, passionate love to it. The filmmakers weren’t going for an element of surprise; they were sending a message to those credulous, uninformed Americans churned out by America’s public school system: Americans are bad; Muslims are good. Ignore the headlines telling you otherwise.* Hollywood knows better.
So what can you do? Well, I don’t recommend giving out spoilers unless people ask for them. Otherwise, you will be deservedly hated. However, to the extent that word-of-mouth is the most powerful advertising any Hollywood movie has, start mouthing off. If someone you know, in real conversation or on social media, expresses an interest in it, you can honestly state something along the lines of “I heard it was stupid” or “It’s supposed to be really bad. I’d never pay $14 to see a really bad movie.”
As a sort of tag, given that the movie stars Liam Neeson, I can’t help but remember that in January 2012, Neeson expressed a serious interesting in converting to Islam. Maybe he’s done it already and this movie marks his coming out.
*The usual disclaimer: Not all Muslims are bad. Most Muslims aren’t bad, but to the extent that almost none of them take a stand against the terrorists in their midst, the silent majority are complicit in the Muslim-inspired terrorism taking place in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, Eurasia, the Middle East, and Asia.
Shirley Temple, may she rest in peace, wasn’t just an old movie star. She was — and to some extent, remains — an American icon. That alone entitles her to notice. But the President also should have noticed her passing because she was a former ambassador for the United States, a role she carried out with dignity and honor.
Of course, perhaps all of the reasons I stated above for honoring Shirley Temple explain why Obama ignored her death (if, in fact, that’s what he did).
I’ve been reading a great deal about Obama’s proposed ambassadorial appointments, some of whom have never been to the countries in which they’ll be America’s representatives. They’re getting the jobs as sinecures in exchange for financial services rendered to the President.
Much as I’m always happy to leap onto the anti-Obama bandwagon, he’s not doing anything new. Back in 1949, President Truman did exactly the same thing. He appointed Washington, D.C. hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta as the Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1949. She was famously uninformed about Luxembourg (or really about anything).
Inspired by this uninspired appointment, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse wrote “Call me Madam,” about Sally Adams, the oil-rich “hostess with the mostest” ambassador to “Lichtenburg.” She is blatantly, amusingly, ill-informed, but comes complete with style and charm. She also sings wonderful Irving Berlin songs, so everyone is happy.
The show, starring Ethel Merman, was a Broadway hit in 1951. I’m now watching the 1953 musical, also starring Merman, as well as George Sanders, Donald O’Connor, Billy DeWolfe, Charles Dingle, and Vera-Ellen. It’s not a great movie, but it helps while away the time while I’m doing my post-surgical rest, ice, compression, and elevation, as well as my ten hours a day on the “knee moving machine.”
My only real regret watching the show us that Donald O’Connor didn’t have a bigger, longer career. I love watching him. He’s a charming actor, has a beautiful voice for show tunes, and is one if the best dancers to have come out of Hollywood. It was his misfortune to be stuck in the “Francis the Talking Mule” films, as well as to get the fever (from Francis) that debilitated him and helped derail his career.
Conservatives end to target the Obama administration for things that really matter. Getting our collective knickers in a twist about something that’s as old as politics is a waste if time. Doing otherwise makes us as silly as the Senators who waste their time targeting the Washington Redskins.
A friend tipped me off to the fact that a few deranged individuals have been sending hate mail and threats to an absolutely adorable five-year-old girl who stars on the Disney Channel’s show Good Luck Charlie. The trigger for this behavior was an episode in the show that saw Disney decide to peddle same-sex marriage to the kindergarten crowd:
On January 26, the Disney Channel made a gentle stride into a more progressive era by featuring its first-ever same-sex couple on an episode of Good Luck Charlie, introducing two lesbian moms who bring their child over for a playdate, then show everyone they’re just like normal parents by not scissoring or establishing a golf pro shop in front of the kids.
Unsurprisingly, conservative groups objected to Disney’s tactic, proving that they’re a bit slow on the uptake here. As the friend who notified me about the kerfuffle pointed out, Disney long-ago stopped being family friendly, meaning that it no longer stands for the family values in which Walt Disney believed and that were once normative in America.
In the last couple of decades, Disney has been responsible for an incredible amount of brightly colored, highly polished, cheerily-presented trash being streamed into America’s homes. Small wonder that so many former Disney stars have embraced drink, drugs, and very public sexual misbehavior. (Hey, Miley! Is that you?) Indeed, to discredit once and for all any hint of Walt Disney’s old-fashioned values, big name stars such as the ubiquitous (and, to me, increasingly dull) Meryl Streep have resurrected the old Leftist canard — unsupported by any evidence — that Walt was a rabid anti-Semite and someone so sexist that, even by the standards of the day, he stood out. All of which is to say that nowadays Disney is just another corporate Hollywood institution staffed primarily by the entertainment world’s Democrat Party fanatics.
But getting back to the hate mail the show engendered. To the extent people felt the need to protest Disney’s right to preach gay marriage to the toddler set (something protected by freedom of speech, but perhaps not wise as commercial speech), they should have done so by writing to Disney’s corporate office and (a) politely explaining their objections and (b) equally politely say that, because of those objections, they would henceforth delete Disney from their child’s playlist. Most, I’m sure, did. At least one person, however, followed the path of derangement:
Now police are investigating some voices who have been making death threats aimed at the show’s star, Mia Talerico. By the way, Mia Talerico is 5 years old.
TMZ first noted that Talerico began receiving death threats on her Instagram feed last month, right around the time the “controversy” broke. According to police reports, these included messages such as “Die Mia, Fucking die in hell! Kill yourself, you deserve to die.” That same suspect also reportedly sent a photo of Talerico’s head covered by a bloody fist and the message, “Yes, kill you stupid bitch.” Again, Talerico is 5 years old, and the star of a Disney show about an adorable little girl that had lesbians on it one time.
My friend commented that there are few things worse than stupid conservatives. I agree, although I think there are two other possibilities here: (1) the person who sent those vile threats isn’t politically motivated but is, instead, solidly insane and dangerous; and (2) it’s a false flag operation, run by a Leftist seeking to discredit conservatives. This is not as wacky as it sounds. In the past year, I’ve been aware of two instances in which Leftists sent hate-filled material to themselves, once at Oberlin and the other at the University of Wyoming, in order to discredit conservatives and to satisfy their histrionic personality disorders. (Here’s a list of other anti-conservative hate-crime hoaxes.)
On the off-chance, though, that this really was someone spewing insults and threats against a five-year-old in the name of conservativism, I have the perfect response. Conservatives need to use the Islamo-defense mode. You know how it goes: Some guy hollering “Allahu akbar” blows himself up in a crowd. Lots of people begin to say, “Gee, these Muslims sure are violent.” At which point the apologists in the Muslim community say, “If they’re violent, then they’re not real Muslims.” By saying that, the Muslim community disavows responsibility for the act and, by extension, disclaims any obligation to look at its teachings to see if they could be modified so as not to be an inspiration to perpetual and murderous outrage.
If conservatives were as media savvy as their ideology is realistic and intelligent, their defense here would be, “Anyone this stupid, vicious, twisted, violent, and generally hate-filled, is not a real conservative.” Right now, we have a habit of demanding that bad actors who label themselves as conservatives should be punished for their bad acts, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone in the conservative front lines to say “That person is not a conservative.”
Doing things the Islamo-defense way means that one never has to look at the ideologies underlying the bad behavior to determine whether the actor is in harmony with the ideology (“Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another”) or acting in opposition to it (“hate the sin, love the sinner”). Indeed, it’s this type of blessed ignorance that allows people to declare that the 9/11 terrorists who killed 2,996 civilians on a sunny morning were Freedom Fighters indistinguishable from the American Revolutionaries who battled the British King’s troops.
Multi-talented actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, died an unsavory death today: alone in his bathroom, with a needle in his arm, presumably of a drug overdose. He leaves behind a woman he never married, and three children, ages 10 and under, who will grow up without their father. It’s a great loss to his children and the arts community mourns.
I will not regret a future without Hoffman in movies. I acknowledge his talent. But no matter what role he played, I was always aware of the man behind the character, and the man creeped me out. I can’t articulate what it was about him I found so off-putting. I know only that, if he had been a classmate or colleague of mine, I would have done anything possible to avoid him. Given his popularity, I was obviously picking up on something no one else saw, but to my mind, he was, in a word, unsavory. Or another word, unappetizing. No matter his talent, I felt a sense of revulsion watching him and would make any and every effort to avoid be trapped in front of a screen with him on it. I know my response wasn’t rational, but I had that irrational response every time.
Given all that, it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that, tragically, he was once a heroin addict and that, after years of staying clean, he ran back to that drug and it killed him. I actually thought all along that he was an active drug user. As I said, there was just that . . . something.
His youthful, wasted death is a tragedy for his long-time partner, for his children, for his friends, and for those who found genuine delight in watching him. I am genuinely sorry for their loss.
I’m really good at reviewing bad movies. They’re fun to review because they give me a chance to express the venom that builds up in me as I watch a movie that assaults my intelligence or my values. I have the opposite problem with good movies. All that I can think of as I watch them is “This is a really, really good. This is a really good movie.”
Disney’s Frozen (which has been out for more than a month now, showing how often I go to movies) is a really good movie. More than that, it’s a really, really good movie. There, I’ve said it. Now let me try to drill down a bit.
Plot? The plot is very imaginative. It’s loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the story of a boy who gets an ice shard in his heart and is then rescued by a girl who was his childhood friend. In Frozen, two princesses grow up in a sunny Nordic kingdom. What the younger princess, Anna, doesn’t know is that her older sister, Elsa, has in her hands the power to create snow, frost, and ice. Because the young Elsa doesn’t know how to wield the power, her loving parents make the decision to close up the palace and lock her away from everyone in order to protect Elsa from herself, and everyone else from Elsa.
When the parents die and Elsa eventually becomes queen, the palace is opened for the first time in years for the coronation. Anna meets a charming prince, Elsa objects to their planned engagement, and all heck breaks loose. Without giving too much away, a handsome, but awkward, young ice cutter and his lovable reindeer eventually figure in the plot too. The ending is imaginative, unexpected, and delightful, and I can’t tell you any more in case I ruin it.
Visual quality? Gorgeous. This movie is a visual treat. In a lot of computer animated movies, the animators become obsessively focused on motion — high-speed motion — which just tends to make me dizzy. This movie, however, gave the animators the opportunity to play with fractals and snow storms, and wind, and light. I just sat back in my theater seat drinking in the beauty. Did I say it was gorgeous? Let me just repeat that: gorgeous. (There was also a clever visual reference that wonderful moment in Cinderella when the Fairy Godmother waves her wand, and Cinderella’s rags change into a sparkling silver gown.)
Music? Pretty darn good. My daughter has a semi-photographic memory for melodies and has been singing the songs all evening — and it hasn’t driven me nuts. One song, sung by a goofy sidekick, is especially strange, whimsical, and clever but, again, I can’t tell you about it, because I’d be giving away one of the movie’s clever and delightful surprises.
Moral? Just nice. It’s all about love, of course, but it’s not mixed in with any horrible political correctness. If anything (and I’m sure the movie’s makers didn’t mean to do this) the movie’s plot was a reminder that global cooling is much less pleasant than global warming. Oh, and it also has a good message about . . . . Wait. I can’t tell you that either without giving away an essential plot element.
Message: I care. Oh, never mind. That was George Bush, Sr.’s message. My message is: If you get the chance, see this movie. It’s truly a delight — and I would tell you more but for the fact that giving away anything is really giving away everything in this intelligent, lovely movie. And if it’s already left the theaters near your home, definitely rent the DVD — preferably in Blu-Ray so you get the full effect of the beautiful visuals.
“Six By Sondheim” is a new, well-produced HBO documentary that stitches together the many interviews Stephen Sondheim has given over the years since the late 1950s and then ties those interviews in with six of his best-known or (to him) most important songs. NPR enthused that the show leaves viewers wanting more but, as I am not a Sondheim fan, I wanted less — or at least less of the music. The interviews, however, were interesting.
My takeaway is that Sondheim is a decent, articulate, intelligent man, who thinks deeply about his craft. I may not like his end product, finding the endless word play emotionally distancing and the music discordant, but there’s serious hard work and lots of talent behind it.
Sondheim has made a living out of thumbing his nose at critics who complain rightly that his songs are not “hummable.” Certainly that’s part of why I don’t like his music. I’m simplistic enough to like pop songs that I can sing later. Although maybe “simplistic” isn’t the right word. When Irving Berlin rhymes “farmer” with “potato embalmer,” there’s nothing simplistic about that. It’s a delightful rhyme scheme that captures in three words one aspect of a farmer’s work. Likewise, there’s nothing embarrassing about Johnny Mercer’s exquisite lyrics to I Remember You. “When my life is through, and the angels ask me to recall the thrill of it all, then I will tell them I remember you.” My primary reasoning for disliking Sondheim’s music isn’t that it’s not hummable; it’s that, to my ears, it’s not attractive.
Certainly Sondheim’s subject matter is seldom attractive consisting as it does of strippers, burlesque, broken homes, and psychopathic moms (Gypsy); deadly street gangs (West Side Story); serial killers (Sweeney Todd); a dystopian view of fairy tales (Into The Woods); attempted presidential murderers (Assassins); a man’s throwing away his life’s talent (Merrily We Roll Along); or broken down marriages (Follies). Listening to Sondheim describe his life, this deeply negative view about relationships and people in general isn’t particularly surprising.
Sondheim’s parents had an unhappy marriage that ended when he was 10. Before, during, and after the divorce, he was a pawn in his parents drama and, most especially in his mother’s obsession with his father and her manifest dislike for being a parent. She hated her son and he knew it. Indeed, when Sondheim was 40, right before his mother went into surgery, she wrote him a letter saying that the worst thing that ever happened to her was to have him.
Sondheim was also a homosexual who came of age during a time when his sexual orientation was unpopular, to say the least. There’s no doubt that, in the Broadway world, he could easily have found sufficient numbers of like-minded people to form a relationship that went beyond casual sex. He didn’t, though. It appears that his upbringing left him so emotionally constipated that, as he confesses, he was only able to fall in love when he was 60.
Blessedly, Sondheim seems to keep his politics to himself, but he’s certainly part of the zeitgeist on the Lefter side of the political spectrum. Those who like him are often the same people who sneer at traditional musical theater, with its bright songs and happy endings.
After watching the documentary, I realized that American art and entertainment present a funny paradox. Leftists tend to create and to prefer art and entertainment that focuses on the sleazy, irredeemable side of human nature. Many of Sondheim’s plays exemplify this fact, but the list of gutter-gazing art from Leftists is endless. Hollywood and Broadway Leftists like, and endlessly produce, movies and shows that focus on the bad guys (Tony Soprano, Walter White), depressing situations (Precious, American Beauty), or sordid behavior (just about every movie out of Hollywood lately).
Conservatives tend to yearn for the type of wholesome fare that Hollywood churned out from the time of the Code through the late 1960s. These shows involve happy people muddling through to happy endings, bad people getting their comeuppances in morally satisfying ways, suffering people rewarded at the end, etc. The tear-jerkers involved deeply sympathetic characters who tried to do good and failed, not creepy psychopaths who worked hard at being evil and, even when they got their comeuppance, never repented.
Looking at the differing artistic fare the two political cultures generate, you’d think that it was the conservatives who were the utopians and the Leftists who were the harsh realists. In fact, though, Leftists are the utopians who fervently believe that, if they can just figure out the correct political coercion, they will perfect human kind, turning each man into someone who joyfully, and without greed, rancor, or violence, gives of his labors to support everyone else in the world. Conservatives, on the other hand, recognize that humankind is inherently greedy, rancorous, and violent, and seek to create voluntarily enforced social, moral, and economic systems that harness and control these innate tendencies in a way that’s simultaneously beneficial to the individual and to society at large.
Presumably, this paradox can be resolved as follows: Leftists use art to establish that the world, especially the American world, is a terrible place because it lacks the guiding hand of a loving police state. Meanwhile, conservatives use their art aspirationally, to encourage all people to cultivate voluntarily their better selves, or to put their “baser” instincts (i.e., greed) to a use that lifts up their own lives while improving and enriching the world.
The last time I saw a first-run movie was in England, when we watched the final Harry Potter film. What this means is that I pay very little attention to news about upcoming movies. Since I’m not going to watch them, why pay attention?
I was vaguely aware, though, that Hollywood was producing a Biblical epic about Noah, of Ark fame. Since it’s not a movie by a true believer — unlike The Passion of the Christ– I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I have to say that it apparently has succeeded in sinking below anybody’s lowest expectations.
To understand fully exactly what Hollywood has done to the Noah story, let’s take a minute to revisit that narrative. It’s a long story, running three chapters in the King James version. I’ll try for a briefer retelling:
Humans multiplied on the earth, but so did the evil (also called “violence”) they committed, presumably against each other, causing God to regret his creation. God therefore vowed to destroy all life on earth. Before acting on that promise, however, God realized that Noah was a good man or, more poetically, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” God therefore warned Noah of the imminent destruction, but offered Noah a covenant: build an ark, fill it with two of every living thing (male and female), and God would allow a new generation of life on earth. Noah, without cavil, did as asked.
God then sent forty days and forty nights of rain, inundating the earth with water. The result was that “all that was in the dry land [i.e., that land not meant to be under water], died.” After 150 days, the flood waters began to abate. Noah then used birds to ascertain that there was land. When the ark could finally make a safe landing, God issued Noah a very explicit instruction: “Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.” God also encourages man to eat meat.
So, to summarize: mankind was violent; Noah was good; Noah immediately accepted God’s covenant, building the ark and taking on two of everything; and when the flood water’s subsided, God instructed Noah to procreate, procreate, procreate; and dine in style on animal flesh.
You’d never know all that, though, if you learned your Bible from Hollywood. Brian Godawa managed to obtain the version of the script that was apparently used in the movie, and it tells quite a different tale. You have to read Godawa’s whole post to realize quite how far afield Darren Aronofsky went, but a few passages will make it clear that, unbeknownst to God, Noah, or the Bible, God and Noah’s genuine concern back in the day was anthropogenic climate change. No, really:
Noah paints the primeval world of Genesis 6 as scorched arid desert, dry cracked earth, and a gray gloomy sky that gives no rain – and all this, caused by man’s “disrespect” for the environment. In short, an anachronistic doomsday scenario of ancient global warming. How Neolithic man was able to cause such anthropogenic catastrophic climate change without the “evil” carbon emissions of modern industrial revolution is not explained. Nevertheless, humanity wanders the land in nomadic warrior tribes killing animals for food or wasteful trophies.
In this oppressive world, Noah and his family seek to avoid the crowds and live off the land. Noah is a kind of rural shaman, and vegan hippy-like gatherer of herbs. Noah explains that his family “studies the world,” “healing it as best we can,” like a kind of environmentalist scientist. But he also mysteriously has the fighting skills of an ancient Near Eastern Ninja (Hey, it’s a movie, give it a break).
Noah maintains an animal hospital to take care of wounded animals or those who survive the evil “poachers,” of the land. Just whose animal rights laws they are violating, I am not sure, since there are only fiefdoms of warlords and tribes. Be that as it may, Noah is the Mother Teresa of animals.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the feeling here that Noah is a vegetarian, something that surely would have shocked God. The script goes on from there, only it gets sillier and sillier, including Noah’s desire after the flood to kill all the humans God charged him with saving. I’d be tempted to think that Godawa was hoaxed (surely this can’t be the real script), except that preview audiences have hated the movie so much that it makes one believe that Godawa did get his hands on the real deal.
Just FYI, here are some pertinent parts of Darren Aronofsky’s bio (hyperlinks omitted):
Aronofsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1969, the son of public school teachers Charlotte and Abraham Aronofsky, who are Conservative Jews. He grew up in the borough’s Manhattan Beach neighborhood, where “I was raised culturally Jewish, but there was very little spiritual attendance in temple. It was a cultural thing – celebrating the holidays, knowing where you came from, knowing your history, having respect for what your people have been through.” He graduated from Edward R. Murrow High School. He has one sister, Patti, who attended a professional ballet school through high school. His parents would often take him to Broadway theater performances, which sparked his keen interest in show business.
During his youth, he trained as a field biologist with The School for Field Studies in Kenya in 1985 and Alaska in 1986. He attended school in Kenya to pursue an interest in learning about ungulates. He later said, “[T]he School for Field Studies changed the way I perceived the world”. Aronofsky’s interest in the outdoors led him to backpack his way through Europe and the Middle East. In 1987 he entered Harvard University, where he majored in social anthropology and studied filmmaking; he graduated in 1991.
In other words, New York Jewish, but no real sense of what Judaism is about (and keep in mind that Noah is an Old Testament story, so it’s one that should theoretically resonate with him); environmental background; and Harvard degree in Leftist “social anthropology.”
Aronofsky sounds like an extremely bright, mathematically adept young man who spent his life steeped in cultural Leftism. Knowing that, maybe the movie isn’t a surprise at all.
Hat tip: Ace of Spades
Cher is undoubtedly a talented performer. She’s also capable of being extremely crude, vulgar, and mean. Over the years, she’s criticized conservatives using sexual and scatological insults that do nothing to advance political discourse; they just debase conversation. That’s why it came as a surprise — a very pleasant one — to read that her son by Gregg Allman, Elijah Blue Allman, feels that his mom stepped over the line when she used the “c” word to describe Sarah Palin.
— Elijah Blue (@eliasblau) December 3, 2013
That’s quite classy. Without knowing anything more about the young man, he just went up in my estimation.
I know this must be another Great Depression, because when I read the headlines, I get greatly depressed. It’s useful to remind ourselves that we weathered one and, God willing, can weather another. So I give you Busby Berkeley’s kaleidoscopic homage to lovely ladies:
Typical for Saturday Night Live, it’s not actually funny. I enjoyed it simply because we’ve finally reached the point in the Obama fairy-tale where the formerly credulous population has at last realized Emperor Obama wears no clothes. As always, it’s too little, too late, since we’re still stuck with the man for another three-plus years, but it’s still gratifying to see the scales fall from people’s eyes.
The WaPo’s Richard Cohen wants you to know that 12 Years A Slave is an extremely important movie because it gives Americans a surprising new message that they need to hear: Slavery is bad.
I don’t know under what rock Cohen has been living, but the last major American movie to suggest that slaves didn’t have it all bad was Gone With The Wind, which came out in 1939. Cohen was born in 1948, nine years after Gone With The Wind hit movie theaters. He presumably graduated from high school in about 1965, by which time the Civil Rights movement had changed America’s racial paradigm. His education, moreover, didn’t take place in Ole Miss, or some other bastion of Southern-ness. Instead, he was educated in New York all the way.
Since leaving college (Hunter College, New York University, and Columbia, none of which are known for their KKK sensibilities), Cohen has lived enveloped in a liberal bubble. He first worked for UPI and has, for a long time, been affiliated with the Washington Post.
Somehow, though, up until he recently saw 12 Years A Slave, Cohen always believed that slavery was a good thing for American blacks. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, that’s what he really said:
I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life. For instance, it was not George A. Custer who was attacked at the Little Bighorn. It was Custer — in a bad career move — who attacked the Indians.
Much more importantly, slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks. Slavery was a lifetime’s condemnation to an often violent hell in which people were deprived of life, liberty and, too often, their own children. Happiness could not be pursued after that.
Steve McQueen’s stunning movie “12 Years a Slave” is one of those unlearning experiences. I had to wonder why I could not recall another time when I was so shockingly confronted by the sheer barbarity of American slavery.
Instead, beginning with school, I got a gauzy version. I learned that slavery was wrong, yes, that it was evil, no doubt, but really, that many blacks were sort of content.
Slave owners were mostly nice people — fellow Americans, after all — and the sadistic Simon Legree was the concoction of that demented propagandist, Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a lie and she never — and this I remember clearly being told — had ventured south to see slavery for herself. I felt some relief at that because it meant that Tom had not been flogged to death. But in the novel, he had.
I have no idea whether 12 Years A Slave is a good movie or a bad movie. Aside from the fact that I almost never set foot in movie theaters, going only when I need to chaperone children or when friends want a Mom’s night out, I have sworn off most movies, especially Hollywood history movies.
Sure Hollywood occasionally gets history right. Mostly, though, Hollywood gets it wrong, with the wrongness ranging from Oliver Stone’s delusional JFK, to the old-time biopics that had Cole Porter as a nice straight guy (Night and Day), to the saccharine anti-war stuff of Tom Hank’s war movie Band of Brothers. Hollywood is never interested in truth and never has been. It’s selling entertainment with an undercurrent of propaganda. In the old days, it sold entertainment with a wholesome, moralistic twist. Since the 1960s, Hollywood’s entertaining versions of history simply hate America, and that’s true whether Hollywood expresses that hatred in booming Technicolor or small nuances in Indy pictures.
Without having seen 12 Years A Slave, I willingly concede that slavery is a bad thing. It was a bad thing when Pharaoh enslaved the Jews and it was a bad thing when the British and, later, the Americans enslaved the blacks. It’s still a bad thing throughout the Muslim world where devout Qu’ran followers enslave Filipinos, Christians, blacks, and anyone else unlucky enough to end up in their clutches.
But unlike Cohen, I’ve actually paid attention, not just in school, but in subsequent years, so I don’t need to have Hollywood preach the obvious to me.
David Denby is a New Yorker movie critic. He also fancies himself as a political commentator. To him, Hollywood is the real world, the template against which everything else is compared. Reading his reviews, it’s obvious that, like the yearning kid watching Fred & Ginger trip lightly across in the screen during the Depression-era 1930s, he wishes life could be like the movies. His dream movies are the ones where Republicans and corporations are vanquished, and people live in harmony in the loving arms of a properly Progressive big government.
I stopped reading Denby aeons ago, because he is neither fish nor fowl — neither a good movie reviewer nor an intelligent political commentator. I’ve always assumed that his sinecure at The New Yorker came about because he doesn’t show up Anthony Lane, who is a superb movie reviewer, and he makes the right political noises in his reviews.
So that you know I’m playing fair and not simply maligning Denby on principle, both because I dislike The New Yorker and because I dislike what he now has to say about Ted Cruz (more on that in a moment), here are excerpts from posts I wrote several years ago regarding Denby’s malicious politicism, which he worked into way too many movie reviews. The first excerpt is from a post I wrote in 2006, when I was still agnostic about global warming, but I could tell even then that Denby wasn’t a movie reviewer but was, instead, a propagandist. I’m quoting from the first post at length, both because it so perfectly exemplifies Denby’s world view and because, that, seven years after Al Gore’s movie thrilled the true believers, the facts on the ground (and in the ocean and in space and on the sun) prove how completely wrong he and the sycophantic Denby were:
Denby’s review of An Inconvenient Truth is even more political. Look at the very first paragraph:
Anyone in possession of a major truth that he can’t get others to accept begins to feel that he’s losing his mind. [That may explain so much about Al Gore's recent behavior. --ed.] The skepticism he meets turns him into a soreheaded obsessive. After a while, he becomes “pedantic,” and then, inevitably, “condescending” and “humorless.” [Thus, it's not that Gore is, in fact, pedantic, condescending and humorless. We, the skeptical public created this Frankenstein's monster. In the words of the old song, he's more to be pitied than censured." -- ed.] Al Gore has been in possession of a major truth about global warming for than than thirty years [Gore's prescience was impressive because the era more than 30 years ago was the global cooling fear phase, a phase that occurred when we didn't have the current measurements we do regarding global warming. -ed], and he has suffered the insults of political opponents, the boredom of ironists, and, perhaps, most grievously, the routine taunts of a media society which dictates that if you believe in anything too passionately there must be something wrong with you [The point being that there's obviously nothing wrong with Gore, it's just that the media doesn't understand him -- which really is strange, because I live with the idea that this same media has accepted entirely his view of global warming. --ed.]
Denby then goes on to describe a movie that, if it were about anything other than global warming, would get laughed off the screen. Even Denby acknowledges its faults:
[Gore] appears as the noble-browed warrior of englightenment, brooding over the ravaged earth and the weakness of man, once or twice too often. He mentions family tragedies, which were moving to me, but which strike some viewers as maudlin notes from a campaign biography.
Fear not, though, since “the faults of the movie, semi-excusable as self-vindicating ploys, are nothing compared with its strengths.” The strengths, though, make it sound like one of those appalling 8 mm films we slept through in high school in the 1970s:
For long stretches, Gore is photographed talking before an audience with the aid of slides and charts. There are side trips to fissured ice caps, disappearing glaciers — the snows of yesteryear — and expanses of newly parched and broken terrain. The science is detailed, deep-layered, vivid and terrifying. Every school, college, and church group, and everyone else beyond the sway of General Motors, ExxonMobil, and the White House should see this movie. [Get it? Evil corporations, evil oil, and the foul Texas Christian in the White House are incapable of understanding Gore's greatness or simple science. --ed.] [Bolded emphasis mine.]
Denby isn’t shy about calling the movie what it is: “It’s great propaganda.”
But in Denby’s mind, what’s really great about the movie is how it shows the human side of Al Gore (and you thought he didn’t have one). Thus, Gore “speaks in an intimate voice that we’ve never heard before.” When Gore talks about lying by a river, and keeps coming back to that image after global warming holocaust pictures, “it has a greater resonance.” Denby claims that Gore has learned to speak in a less annoying way. Listen to this and tell me whether you believe that. The rhythmic up and down of Gore’s speech — a rhythm that has nothing to do with emphasizing or deemphasizing actual content — is both soporific and bizarre.
But here’s the real kicker. Denby assures us that the movie demonstrates that Gore has been purified in the crucible of past experiences:
[O]ne has the impression of a complex personality that has gone through loss, humiliation, a cruel breaking down of the ego, and then has reintegrated itself at a higher level. In the movie he is merely excellent. But in person . . . he presents a combination of intellectual force, emotional vibrance, and moral urgency that has hardly been seen in American public life in recent years.
Watch out, Hillary. It’s Saint Al for President.
Every dog’s allowed one bite, and perhaps every movie critic should be allowed one polemic. But Denby isn’t just any movie critic. He’s a Progressive shill making sure that his movie reviews advance his political agenda. Also in 2006, he open-mindedly praised Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, despite the fact that conservatives liked it. Honest. Here’s what he wrote:
“World Trade Center” is about courage and endurance as a function of family strength; it’s about suburban and small-town America trying to save the big city. Those are conservative themes, much praised for their appearance in this movie by the kind of right-wingers who have long hated Oliver Stone. Some of the euphoria—Cal Thomas, a columnist and a commentator at Fox News, calls the movie “one of the greatest pro-American, pro-family, pro-faith, pro-male, flag-waving God Bless America films you will ever see”—is not only inane, it’s enough to turn you off moviegoing [sic] altogether. Can “World Trade Center” really be that bad? No, the ideologues laying hands on the movie won’t sink it.
The last David Denby movie review I read was his slobbering, wide-eyed take on Spike Lee’s When The Levee Broke, about Hurricane Katrina. The view was less interesting for his boringly predictable Bush/conservative bashing, than it was for his starry-eyed fan-girl love for all of the most despicable characters on the Left. In my post on the subject, I quoted Denby directly, but added in hyperlinks giving actual facts about the Leftist “luminaries” that left him quivering with excitement:
Keeping his own voice largely absent and his presence invisible, he [Lee] finds the city’s tattered survivors. He also consults a variety of lawyers and local politicians, and such luminaries as Harry Belafonte and Al Sharpton; the musicians and New Orleans natives Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard (the latter wrote much of the beautiful music for the film); the historian Douglas Brinkley, who makes impassioned critiques of Bush Administration officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and the Mississippi man (a doctor) who publicly advised the Vice-President, when he visited the area long after the storm, to go fuck himself.
My take on that review was that Denby has set a goal for himself: He wanted to be the next Frank Rich. Rich, as you may recall, was the theater critic for the New York Times who proved to be so adept at anti-conservative rhetoric that he was given a permanent gig as a political opinion writer. His opinions were reliably fact-free, but Rich made up for that deficit with his splendid grasp of florid invective, all of it aimed at George Bush.
In his continued journey towards Frank Rich-ness, Denby has now penned an opinion piece that aims to be a dagger to Ted Cruz’s heart. Because no one in his right mind could call Cruz stupid, Denby has opted for describing him as the ugliest person since the elephant man. Moreover — and this is the important part — Cruz’s outer ugliness is the physical manifestation of his inner dishonesty. In this bootstrap argument, Denby doesn’t bother to give actual examples of Cruz’s dishonesty (because he can’t). For him, Cruz’s looks are proof enough:
When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles. He attains an appearance of supplication, an earnest desire that men and women need to listen, as God surely listens. Cruz has large ears; a straight nose with a fleshy tip, which shines in camera lights when he talks to reporters; straight black hair slicked back from his forehead like flattened licorice; thin lips; a long jaw with another knob of flesh at the base, also shiny in the lights. If, as Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves at fifty, Cruz, who is only forty-two, has got a serious head start. For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.
Not only is Cruz a liar, he’s also a demagogue, says Denby. You have to be Denby-clever, though, to figure this one out, because Cruz is too ugly to be your traditional demagogue:
Cruz is not as iconographically satisfying as other American demagogues—Oliver North, say, whose square-jawed, unblinking evocation of James Stewart, John Wayne, and other Hollywood actors conveyed resolution. Or Ronald Reagan—Cruz’s reedy, unresonant voice lacks the husky timbre of Reagan’s emotion-clouded instrument, with its mixture of truculence and maudlin appeal.
Not convinced yet that Cruz, despite his evil looks is a lying demogogue? Well, Denby has other arrows in his quiver. Cruz is also smart. He always has an answer. That proves what a lying liar he is:
Yet Cruz is amazingly sure-footed verbally. When confronted with a hostile question, he has his answer prepared well before the questioner stops talking. There are no unguarded moments, no slips or inadvertent admissions. He speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him? His father is a Baptist, and Cruz himself has an evangelical cast to his language, but he’s an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people’s sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people’s vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts. If they have a shortage of vulnerabilities, he might make some up.
I won’t quote any more, both because of Fair Use principles and because I feel as if I’m sullying my site by doing so. (I’m sure it won’t surprise you that Denby drifts into comparing Cruz to Joe McCarthy.) Moreover, I think I’ve made the point, which is that Denby is a political opinionator who runs everything through old-time Hollywood central casting.
In the old movies, especially the silent movies, Hollywood had to rely on visual cliches as a shorthand to character development. The hero was square-jawed and often, in the Gary Cooper mode, silent (hence the “strong silent type” trope). Meanwhile, the villain was greasy-haired, shifting eyed, and quick-witted in an evil way. As The Incredibles proved to such wonderful comedic effect, villains “monologued.”
In Denby’s narrow, Progressive, Hollywood constrained world, Cruz is Snidely Whiplash brought to life, not because of anything specific that he says or does, but simply because, in Denby’s telling, Cruz fits the visual requirements for a stock Hollywood bad guy:
To the Left, Obama’s political purity is made manifest because of his brown skin and white smile. It should therefore come as no surprise that, to the looks-obsessed Leftists, Cruz, who cannot be denigrated as a mental lightweight, must be painted in the most brutal physical terms. I expect that the Left’s next step will be some 21st-century version of phrenology, with Progressive hacks sagely opining that the shape of Cruz’s head, or the bumps upon it (especially the ones that the Left assumes are there, hidden under his hair), prove his mental deviancy and unfitness for office.
Well, two can play at the looks game, so I’ve got a little rogue’s gallery of Progressives. While they’re not the stuff of nightmares, each could easily play a villain in old Hollywood’s central casting system. (I don’t know why my Picasa chose to include Clinton twice in this collage. I just rolled with it.):
One last thing. If physical beauty is Denby’s standard for ideological purity, let’s just say that Denby falls quite short of his own standards. However, if you called Central Casting and asked them to send over a bombastic, narrow-minded, supercilious, faux-academic, you might just see David Denby show up on your movie set:
My daughter went to our local library this weekend and brought home a bunch of the library’s recent acquisitions for teens. The inside jacket blurb describes them as fantasy or high school relationship books. My daughter said to me, “I don’t know why it is, Mom, but they all turn out to be about lesbians.” Since she’s neither L or G or B or T or Q, I’m not concerned that these books will “turn” her. Certainly, though, they’re creating an intellectual dynamic that tells teenage girls where to look for real romance.
I had that in mind when I looked at the New York Times’ movie review page today. I don’t read reviews anymore, and I never go to movies, and I seldom watch movies, but I occasionally glance at the review page to see what’s going on. I was much struck by the page’s content:
One gets the feeling that filmmakers and the New York Times are advancing an agenda.
Andrew Breitbart was right that, because of media’s far reach, culture and politics flow downhill from it, with downhill being the operative word.
Here’s the thing that the progressives in media and government want to hide from you: The federal government is America’s servant, not its master. This means that the National Park Service is a caretaker, not an owner. To the extent it is denying people access to outdoor monuments (including blocking the roadside vista points from which drivers can see Mt. Rushmore), it is grossly overstepping its bounds.
While the Mt. Rushmore barrycades are the most graphic example of the federal government’s failure to understand that it is the American people’s employee, the most disgusting example is the way the National Park Service has spent tens of thousands of dollars (during a shutdown) to barricade the World War II Memorial, an open air park, in Washington, D.C. The purpose is to prevent members of the World War II generation, sometimes called “the Greatest Generation,” from having access to a memorial honoring their courage and their dead during the battles across Europe, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean during World War II.
Those men and women from the Greatest Generation who are still living have overcome enormous physical, financial, and emotional challenges to visit their monument – a monument built to honor them and their comrades, and that sits on public land that the American people have allowed the federal government to care for. And what does the caretaker do? In a grotesque example of spite, it uses its power – the power we gave it – to block the veterans. No wonder the men who stormed Iwo Jima and fought the Battle of the Bulge, even though they’re in their 80s and 90s, thought nothing of storming Obama’s barrycades.
And speaking of the World War II memorial serving as an example of the federal government’s arrogant overreach and cruelty, HBO’s Bill Maher is the poster child for the arrogant viciousness behind that attitude:
The other thing that apparently was so important for the Republicans to keep open was the World War II Memorial in Washington. That was closed, so a bunch of the World War II vets knocked down the barriers and stormed it.
And then I loved this, they posed for pictures with Michele Bachmann who showed up. Michele Bachmann, one of the people most responsible for shutting the fucking thing down. They’re the greatest generation – nobody said they were the brightest generation.
This is not only cruel, but it’s a gross misstatement of what’s going on: Republicans in the House, exercising their constitutionally granted “power of the purse,” have offered repeatedly to fund every aspect of the federal government except for Obamacare. (Incidentally, Obamacare’s opening days have proven that it is not ready for prime time and may never be.) Democrats from Obama on down have responded by refusing to fund the government and by trying to bludgeon the American people into thinking that the House’s constitutional conduct is somehow “illegal.”
In a perfect world, people all across America would engage in massive civil disobedience by doing such radical things as viewing Mt. Rushmore, standing at the stone-carved feet of Lincoln and Jefferson as they sit in stately dignity in their memorials, touching the names carved into the Vietnam Wall, and walking onto through, around, and over the outdoor World War II Memorial. The Democrats running the federal government need to be reminded that this land is our land, it is not their land.
(This post first appeared in somewhat modifed form at Mr. Conservative.)
We tend to forget, but the big networks get to come to our TVs because they rent airwaves from the federal government. In other words, “we the People” are the landlords and the networks are the tenants.
Do you think this video violates the lease? (Serious content warning — I’d consider this not just defamatory, but semi-pornographic.)
Options if you think it does violate the public trust:
- Contact the FCC
- Contact NBC
- Contact your local NBC affiliate
- Boycott SNL advertisers
The problem with Bill Whittle videos is that, once you start watching them, you can’t stop:
According to the headline, Dolce & Gabbana whose designers were convicted of tax evasion, confronted the issue head-on by dressing the models in their latest show in gold costumes festooned by giant coins:
Color me unimpressed. Back in 1933, Warner Brothers did it better, and it had Ginger Rogers singing “We’re in the money” in Pig Latin. Another nice touch is that the gals in the movie are smiling.