Last words on Miley Cyrus, the sordid, pathetic avatar of America’s pop culture

Miley Cyrus is an American tragedy.  By that, I don’t mean that she herself is tragic.  Of course, to the extent that she’s a young woman who’s been utterly corrupted by Hollywood, that’s an individual tragedy.  When I say she’s an “American tragedy,” though, I mean that she is emblematic of that sad state to which American culture has been reduced.

I wrote a couple of posts about Miley at Mr. Conservative and really don’t want to write about her anymore.  However, that doesn’t mean I’ll be so selfish that I won’t share other writers’ fine thoughts about her with you:

Camille Paglia:  “Subversion requires limits to violate. *** Pop is suffering from the same malady as the art world, which is stuck on the tired old rubric that shock automatically confers value. But those once powerful avant-garde gestures have lost their relevance in our diffuse and technology-saturated era, when there is no longer an ossified high-culture Establishment to rebel against. On the contrary, the fine arts are alarmingly distant or marginal to most young people today.”

Victor Davis Hanson:  This brilliant classicist sees a straight line between The Satyricon “about the gross and pretentious new Roman-imperial elite,” and Filner, Spitzer, the Kardashians, Miley, and the myriad other celebrities who demean themselves and who manage to demean us even more simply because we lack the moral decency to stop watching their perverse spectacles.  Thus, Miley knows that, gross though she was, she will profit economically from this publicity.  We may exclaim and express outrage but, en masse, Americans lack the will to turn their backs on her entirely.  If she comes out with a catchy dance tune, all will be forgiven.

Michelle Malkin:  Michelle does a flashback post which reminds us we shouldn’t it blame it all on Miley.  This Southern Christian girl wasn’t born that way (to quote Lady Gaga); instead, a star-stuck father and a corrupt entertainment system turned her to the dark side.  Which gets to my point above that, even as we decry this, we still buy movie tickets, watch TV, listening to music, etc., all of which funds this moral degradation.

Charles C.W. Cooke:  And of course, there’s always a racial spin.  Cooke looks at a crazed black racist at The Nation who tweeted out something that reminds us that, just as to a hammer everything is a nail, to a race obsessed person, everything is a racial attack:  “[Aura] Bogado ranged from the incomprehensible assertion that ‘White is the new Miley’ to the self-parodic confession that ‘Every time I see ‪@MileyCyrus slap that black woman’s butt, I think about the way that enslaved blacks were whipped for white entertainment.’”  “Progressives” — living in a delusional past and hating it, but incapable of recognizing modern reality.


Maybe you’re just not as interesting as you think you are

The online magazine IndieWire has noted something interesting:  movies with gay leading characters aren’t doing big box office.  In the 90s, movies such as The Birdcage (based on the audience tested La Cage aux Folles), Philadelphia (about the still-headlining catching scourge AIDS), and In & Out (with a pleasing Kevin Kline as a gay teacher trying to hide in the closet) were big sellers.  In the first decade of the 21st century, the numbers went even higher with Brokeback Mountain (surely one of the most demoralizing movies about gays ever made), which grossed over $80 million in 2005.  Other gay-themed movies didn’t do as well in that decade (topping out in the $60 million range with Sacha Baron Cohen’s gross-out Bruno), but they were still bringing at least $30 million each.

In the last few years, though, gay themed movies (that is, movies with the main protagonists being gay), have failed to bring in the big money.  IndieWire assembles the numbers:

Top Grossing Films With Lead LGBT Character (2010-present)
1. The Kids Are All Right (2010) – $20,811,365
2. I Love You, Phillip Morris (2010) – $2,037,459
3. Farewell My Queen (2012) – $1,347,990
4. I’m So Excited (2013) – $1,216,168
5. La Mission (2010) – $1,062,941

Even the highest grossing of the bunch couldn’t match the lowest grossing gay-themed movie from a decade earlier, well the remaining ones couldn’t even get into the high single digits (when counting by millions).  So what happened?  IndieWire offers five theories, only the fifth of which I’ll quote in its entirety:

1. There’s just not as much of a need for these films anymore. [snip]

2. There are less LGBT films being made, so there will clearly be less of them grossing $1 million. [snip]

3. There are less marketable LGBT films being made. [snip]

4. All the good LGBT representation is on TV.  [snip]

5. The market has simply changed. Here’s where the most significant answer lies, and it very much encompasses the last 4 explanations as well.  The economic world of film is vastly different in 2013 than it was in 1993 or 2003.  Back in the 1990s, studios were making the kind of mid-budget films in which “Philadelphia,” “In & Out, “The Birdcage” and “To Wong Foo” encompass. Then in the 2000s when studios all had started specialty divisions (like Universal’s Focus Features and Fox’s Fox Searchlight), LGBT content seemed to be delegated there with smaller budgets (like with “Brokeback Mountain,” “Kinsey,” “Milk,” and “Capote”).  Nowadays, even those kind of $15-$20 million budgeted LGBT films are rare.

I think that the “market has changed” theory is on the right track, but it’s too narrow an analysis.  The problem for blockbuster gay-themed movies isn’t just the “type” of movies being made (i.e., big budget versus small, art film versus action, etc.).  It seems to me the audience just isn’t that interested anymore.  Depending on which statistics you believe, a generous count is that the entire LGBT spectrum, from “L” all the way through “T” makes up at most 10% of the population.  Straight women who want romances or rom-coms aren’t going to want to see gays or lesbians as the main characters.  Straight men who want action movies aren’t going to be interested in anything but a macho lead, because the little boy part of each men still thinks that, under the right circumstances, he too can be that hero.  Teen boys through to young men in their early 20s, who seem to be homophobic no matter how gay-friendly and supportive their community is, will watch gay stuff only in the context of gross-out sex and feces jokes, a la Bruno.

The gay-themed movies of the past had broad audience reach for reasons very specific to those movies:  Some, like Philadelphia spoke to very big issues with which society was struggling.  Others, like The Birdcage and In & Out, had brilliant (and, I might add, straight) comedic actors with great scripts that happened to tap into a time when audiences still got a sort of thrill from being hip enough to watch a gay-themed movie.  Brokeback Mountain?  Great acting and a serious plot about pathetic human beings.  That’s got to appeal to the nation’s “elite” movie-goers.  Also, it was a sufficiently serious movie that people who would normally only be willing to watch gays in a comedic context could contemplate the spectacle of watching R-rated gay sex in a movie theater without any laugh lines.  (Incidentally, effeminate comic figures have been in Hollywood movies since the dawn of talkies; other than that, they stayed discretely locked away, both on screen and off.)

But now, for the majority of straight Americans, the thrill is gone.  Gays are indeed ubiquitous on TV.  They’re also pushing to the forefront of the media everywhere, in numbers disproportionate to their representation in the American population.  The vast number of Americans are not homophobic, even if they don’t want the ancient institution of marriage extended to gays.  And as for gay marriage, increasing numbers of Americans support that too.

We no longer see gays as stock comic figures.  We no longer see gays as tragic martyrs to disease.  We no longer see gays as closeted victims.  We no longer see gay images in movies as titillating.  And, assuming we’re heterosexual, we don’t see them as acceptable lead characters in romances, rom-cons, action movies, or teen flicks.  That leaves a very, very small market for movies with gay leading characters.

In other words, now that straights have run out of reasons to see gay movies just because they’re gay, it turns out that gays might not be as interesting as they think they are.  A gay movie has to offer entertainment on its on terms without preaching at audiences.  And gays probably want to make movies that aren’t demeaning to them — which I think Bruno (staring the straight Baron Cohen) was, insofar as it presented gay sexual behaviors as grotesque, disgusting, and perverse.

Until a gay-charactered movie has crossover appeal, offering a solid product that appeals to Americans’ cravings for comedy, romance, action, or serious stuff (which, insofar as gays goes, has mostly been done), I supect gay-themed movies will continue to languish economically.

A Jewish, conservative review of World War Z, plus a little about my upcoming trip

My friend who blogs at “To Put It Bluntly,” has some things to say about World War Z.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m too busy today to read what he has to say, but I trust him. I know that he’s incredibly intelligent and a good writer, so whether or not he likes the movie, it’s going to be a post worth reading.

I heard you ask — “Why are you so busy?”  It’s summer and that means vacation time.  I’m locking the computer away from the house-sitter, so I won’t be trolling the net at all.  (Some people lock away their alcohol; I lock away my computer.  Heh.)  We’re off to Europe, where I’ll have only the most limited internet connection.

I’ve become more amenable to these Europe trips lately (despite the fact that I got the travel bug out of my system in my 20s) because I fear that there won’t be much Europe left for my kids to see in twenty or so years.  The land will still be there, of course, but I think the character will have changed to the point where Americans and Jews — or American Jews — may not be welcome any longer.

I’m also looking forward to the trip because I’m so gosh-darned tired.  I’ve worked 12 to 16 hours a day since March, when I started writing for Mr. Conservative.  I’m not complaining about the work.  It’s been an interesting gig, and I very strongly believe in that site’s potential.  Still, working on that seven days a week, more than full time, while running the household as the full-time home manager has left me frayed around the edges.  You’ve certainly seen a diminution in my output here, although it’s not all attributable to Mr. Conservative.  Some of it is simply because I’m very disheartened about the first six months of Obama’s second term.  Right up until the election, there was the chance that Romney might win, despite apathy, lies, and fraud.  Now, I’m very, very worried about the damage Obama will do, not just to America, but to the world over the remaining three and a half years.

So, I need to recharge my batteries and maybe getting away from the news, instead of drowning in it, will help refresh me and take the edge of this despair I feel.

The site will still be active while I’m gone.  Although Don Quixote is reveling in every second of his retirement, he has promised to post occasionally.  I’ll also send updates from Northern Europe.  I’ll be in some interesting places, including St. Petersburg, and I bet I’ll have a lot to say about the state of modern Europe.  The fact that I’ll have only the most superficial visits to the place certainly won’t stop me from having strong opinions.

Also, I’ve begged a few friends to post in my absence, and I hope that they do.  If I can, I’ll also run some Open Threads, although be warned that, if something gets stuck in the spam filter, it may be several days before I find it and release it.

Game of Thrones and how the things that we watch reveal something about who we are and what we’ve become

Yesterday, my substantive Bookworm Room work was limited to a single post in which I linked to David Swindle’s article about Game of Thrones.  Having read David’s writing, one of my friends sent me his take on Game of Thrones.  I’d like to share parts of it with you, as well as my response.

My friend watched the first two seasons because there was a story there about good versus evil.  I agree.  That I didn’t like the ugly violence of the show (and I found the underlying books dull) doesn’t change the fact that it was simply an R-rated version of an age-old fable of good versus evil.  It was in the third season that the show changed and that my friend, whose life is built around a solid core of Jude0-Christian morality, had enough:

What concerns me is the way the show is written the scum bags are more intriguing characters than the honorable ones. Even scarier is seeing comments of fans on line who brush off the “good guys” in the show as naive idiots (mostly because they get killed off) and the slime balls as compelling heroes of the show. What? Recently there was someone on FB who after one episode wrote: “Jamie Lannister is a class act.” Jaime leaped into a pit with a bear to save another character and now all the fans love him. I reminded my FB friend Jamie was a class act except for the fact he pushed a kid out of a window to kill him, commits incest with his sister, rapes women, murders innocents, and is generally a selfish dirt bag. How everyone sees this one act as some kind of redemption is beyond me. The characters who do the right thing, keep their word, etc, are all murdered and betrayed by the “smarter” cool characters.

I’ve enjoyed GoT for 2 seasons but this season seemed to drag. Then the Stark family (honorable, noble, keep their word types) were betrayed and nearly assassinated to a man. At this point I can count the characters with any nobility left to them on one hand. Plus I’ve always hated shows portraying where the noble characters are somehow the most flawed and the slime balls are the ones we are to sympathize with. GoT does this very well.

I couldn’t agree more. What I wrote back to my friend is that I’ve always felt that, if I’m going to give time in my life to a show, I want to spend it with people with whom I’d want to spend time in real life. I don’t like spending time with sociopaths or psychopaths, so why would I want to spend umpteen hours getting close to Jamie Lannister or Tony Soprano?

I understand the need for dramatic tension. A show that’s just about good guys being good tends to lack plot movement. For centuries, we resolved this by having good guys defeat bad guys — and we identified with the good guys. Kids were Superman, Batman, Dick Tracy, etc. Somewhere along the line, that changed, and we started being expected to identify with the bad guys. (Was it The Godfather that did this or the 1950s James Dean antiheroes?)

We’ve now moved beyond having sympathetic bad guys face off against one-dimensional good guys, and, for the most part, done away with good guys altogether. They’re just so dull. But keep in mind that their dullness is not their fault:  The good guys in modern drama became dull because no one knows how to write interesting or charming characters anymore.  A witty, brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey, or a sparkling Elizabeth Bennett, or a bewildered, striving Pip, or whatever other good character you admire, both because the character is good and because the character is interesting — those people (and they are real to me) seem to be impossible for modern writers to create.

I was actually thinking this same thought last night when I finally got around to watching Skyfall this weekend. I was bored out of my mind, and for a very specific reason. James Bond used to be charming. Now he’s thuggish. That’s actually a bit truer to the books, which were noir-style, but it’s not true to the spirit that’s animated the Bond movies since 1963. In the old days, women wanted to meet the raffish Bond and men wanted to be him. Nowadays, with the psychopathic, possibly bisexual Bond, you want to run screaming from the room. So again, why would I want to spend two hours of my life sitting in the dark watching this so-called “hero”?

Some people I know raved about Big Bang Theory, shown on FX.  It was about a school teacher turned insane drug dealer. They marveled that I didn’t want to watch it. And I couldn’t understand why they wanted me to abandon Pride & Prejudice (always an uplifting, amusing book about charming, personable characters learning how to behave correctly, not badly) to spend hours and hours watching this guy sink constantly lower.

If you want an insight into our lost culture, just watch what serves for comedy, drama, or documentary on HBO or FX or any of the other cable challenges that stream into our homes and our children’s brains.  Seeing these shows is like an intellectual gathering place for all that’s bad about Leftist thought.

And here’s another thought while I’m (finally) on a roll.  Last night, our TiVo captured a dreary (but award-winning) Spanish-language movie called Pan’s Labyrinth.  It’s about an imaginative little girl in Spain in 1944, whose widowed mother has married a psychopathic fascist captain during the Spanish Civil War.  Naturally, the Communists are portrayed sympathetically.

In fact, if one reads about the Spanish Civil War, it was a war much like that taking place in Syria:  moral, decent people would want both sides to lose.  If I remember correctly, it emerged in the 1990s or so that the Communist leaders systematically slaughtered those starry-eyed idealists who had come from America and England to help the Communists fight the Fascists.  The fundamental truth was that both sides were socialist totalitarian bodies that simply wanted dibs on creating dictatorships in Spain.

What I thought as I watched the movie is that, even though the Fascists won, the Communists wrote the history.  And indeed, the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century is characterized by that phenomenon:  no matter who wins or loses on the ground, the Communists write the history.  It used to be that the victor got to own the past, which enabled the victor to keep a tight grip on the present.  Can you think of another place or time in which one side to the ideological battle, whether it wins or loses, always retains control over the narrative?

Here at home, we fought a fifty-year Cold War and, technically, we won.  Except our students all read Howard Zinn’s ultra Leftist People’s History of the United States.  Which means we lost, because even though the Soviet Union is gone, its ideology lives on in the hearts and minds of our children, as well as in the halls of our White House.

I’ve been depressed for the last few days, making it hard to write.  Having read what I’ve just written, I’m still depressed.

A Deanna Durbin homage

A few days ago, Jose brought to my attention the fact that Deanna Durbin died at 91.  The fresh-faced, operatically-trained youngster was, at one point, one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.  Because she walked away from fame, however, she’s not well-remembered today.

I thought it would nice to enjoy a moment from when Durbin was quite young, sharing the stage with another young talent who stuck it out in Hollywood and didn’t live to see old age:

Why I don’t like today’s war movies — it’s not the plot, it’s the people behind the movie

Someone gave us tickets to see a play called Black Watch, about the famed Scottish regiment in the British Army.  The play premiered in 2006 in Edinburgh, at the height of anti-War fervor.  It tells the story of a regiment that goes back 300 years, that bore the brunt of a bad attack in Iraq, and that was later folded into another regiment, to the distress of its members and many in Scotland.  The genesis for the play was a series of news reports about returning vets getting into bar fights, etc.  (Of course, when I heard that, I immediately wondered if these guys would have gotten into bar fights regardless, consistent with their working class Scottish demographic, and then made news solely because of their Black Watch affiliation.)

Here’s a YouTube promo that gives you an idea about the play.  I got tired just watching it:

Although everybody on the Left who wrote it, produced it, acted in it, or reviewed it insists that it’s “even handed,” I have to admit to having my doubts.  I’ll try to keep an open mind, though.  It might indeed be a moving tribute to a long-standing regiment.  (My Dad — who was in the RAF, but ended up in ANZAC, and then somehow served as an infantryman — fought aside the Black Watch in El Alamein.  He carried with him memories of being piped into battle.)

The good thing is that the actors I’ll be watching are all actually Scottish, so they’ll have the accent right.  The bad news — and the reason I have an icky feeling about the play, even if it is well-done and is even-handed — is that I’m absolutely certain that the majority of them are anti-War.  I mean, think about it:  young, Scottish, in the Arts — they’ve got to be Leftists.  I certainly don’t have proof, but I have a reasonable hypothesis, right?

What this means is that those who are ostensibly paying respectful homage to generations of Black Watch soldiers in fact think of soldiers as sadistic baby killers.  For such actors, every depiction of a good soldier is a parody, because there’s no such thing.  And every depiction of a bad soldier — whether on the field or off — feels right because, after all, that’s what troops are . . . BAD.

This is why I hate modern war movies.  It’s not just because I’m squeamish.  It’s because I know that the actors, producers, and directors making those movies hate everything the troops stand for:  their masculine culture (which is why the huge push for homosexuals generally and women on the front lines), their religion (which is why Obama’s Pentagon has hired a rabid Christian hater to work with it on “tolerance”), and their belief that war is the only way to solve some problems (“War, for the times when a ‘Coexist’ bumper sticker just won’t get the job done.”).

To me, it’s a cruel travesty to watch poncy Hollywood (or Scottish) actors bound around pretending to be masculine and brave.  It’s not just that they’re scared little boys pretending; it’s that they’re scared little boys who despise the real thing.

All of this makes it very ironic that Steven Spielberg, he of the anti-War left, has signed on to make a Chris Kyle biopic.  Chris Kyle wasn’t politically correct.  He loved war when it was just, he loved fighting, he loved the manliness of his military environment, and he absolutely and completely hated the people against whom he fought:  the savage barbarians of Islam.  One can bet, though, that in Spielberg’s limp hands, Kyle will become an anguished figure, trying to come to terms with the havoc he’s wreaked upon the innocent people of Iraq.

Incidentally, one of the reasons WWII war films worked so well, and are still watchable, was because the people in them supported the war effort.  Some enlisted, some served, some were in the Army Reserve since 1937 but couldn’t serve because of bad vision (that would be Ronald Reagan), and all believed that America needed to beat the Axis.  Yes, a lot of the actors were scared little boys pretending, but they admired the real thing, rather than despising it.

After I’ve seen Black Watch, I’ll let you know what I think of it, and whether my fears were realized.

Proportional response in the Obama era — “Let’s pretend it never happened”

Congressional Republicans have been working hard lately at something we all should care about — talking to the Benghazi survivors.  Sen. Lindsay Graham has been making it something of a personal crusade.  As far as he’s concerned, there’s a cover-up going on:

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in an extensive interview with Fox News, alleged that the injured survivors of the Benghazi terror attack have been “told to be quiet” and feel they can’t come forward to tell their stories — as he urged the House to subpoena the administration for details if necessary.

The South Carolina senator said he’s “had contact” with some of the survivors, calling their story “chilling.” He told Fox News that “the bottom line is they feel that they can’t come forth, they’ve been told to be quiet.”

I have no doubt but that this is true.  I mean, this is the same administration that lied for weeks about what happened in Benghazi.  If they’d lied a a ruse to lure the attackers out from cover to kill them, that would be one thing.  But the administration, from Obama on down, seems to have lied solely to hide two facts:  (a) contrary to Obama boasts, al Qaeda is not dead, and (b) Hillary is incompetent.

Hillary is also hiding what went on.  When she appeared before the Senate to testify about Benghazi, and was asked about the fact that four men died on her watch, her response was the equivalent of “Come on!  Stop crying over spilled milk.”

The fact is we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?

To answer Hillary’s question (not that she wanted an answer), it makes a big difference.  It makes a difference because we should weed out incompetents before it happens again; it makes a difference because the dead deserve justice; and it makes a difference because the living deserve justice.

If this seems like I’m rehashing an old issue . . . well, maybe I am.  But it’s back in the news because of Sen. Graham’s push for info.  It’s also back in my mind for a funny reason.

My kids love the TV show Psych, which they watch on Netflix. Every kid in the neighborhood loves Psych.  It’s a cute show about a flaky, extremely observant young man (James Roday) who pretends to be psychic to help solve crimes, and his knowledgeable eccentric sidekick (Dulé Hill). The kids especially love Hill’s character, and it’s no wonder that they do. He’s a charming comedic presence, and he and Roday work well together.

If Dulé Hill’s name seems familiar to you, you might remember him as the president’s personal assistant in the Aaron Sorkin TV Show The West Wing.  That show, of course, was about the perfect Democrat president.  As far as Sorkin was concerned, President Bartlet was Bill Clinton without the character flaws and with all of his past mistakes corrected.

My kids wanted to see a young Hill, so we managed to find (again on Netflix) the episode in which Hill first appeared.  He did a nice job, but what really captured my attention was a bit of dialogue that Sorkin put in the mouth of the “perfect Democrat president.”  The episode is entitled “A proportional response” and one of its plot points revolves around the fact that Bartlett is figuring out how to respond to a terrorist attack in the Middle East that brought down a plane on which his personal physician was flying:

President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is furious about a plane carrying his personal physician being downed in the Middle East. After initially requesting a retaliatory attack that would kill a great many people, Bartlet’s military advisors try to convince him to take a more cautionary maneuver.

So, keep that in mind — one American dead in an attack against an American plane.  Here is what Sorkin would have the perfect Democrat president do under those circumstances (emphasis mine):

Bartlet: What’s the virtue of the proportional response?
Admiral Fitzwallace: I’m sorry?
Bartlet: What is the virtue of a proportional response? Why’s it good? They hit an airplane, so we hit a transmitter, right? That’s a proportional response.
Admiral Fitzwallace: Sir, in the case of Pericles 1 –
Bartlet: [talking over him] They hit a barracks, so we hit two transmitters.
Admiral Fitzwallace: That’s roughly it, yes, sir.
Bartlet: This is what we do. I mean, this is what we do.
Leo: Yes, sir, it’s what we do. It’s what we’ve always done.
Bartlet: Well, if it’s what we do, if it’s what we’ve always done, don’t they know we’re going to do it?
Leo: Sir, if you’d turn your attention to Pericles 1 –
Bartlet: I have turned my attention to Pericles 1. It’s two ammo dumps, an abandoned railroad bridge and a Syrian intelligence agency.
Admiral Fitzwallace: Those are four highly-rated targets, sir.
Bartlet: But they know we’re gonna do that. They know we’re gonna do that! Those areas have been abandoned for three days now. We know that from the satellite, right? We have the intelligence. [over Leo's attempt to speak up] They did that, so we did this. It’s the cost of doing business. It’s been factored in, right?
Leo: Mr. President –
Bartlet: Am I right, or am I missing something here?
Admiral Fitzwallace: No, sir. You’re right, sir.
Bartlet: Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response?
Admiral Fitzwallace: It isn’t virtuous, Mr. President. It’s all there is, sir.
Bartlet: It is not all there is.
Leo: Sir, Admiral Fitzwallace –
Admiral Fitzwallace: Excuse me, Leo…pardon me, Mr. President, just what else is there?
Bartlet: The disproportional response. Let the word ring forth, from this time and this place, gentlemen, you kill an American, any American, we don’t come back with a proportional response. We come back with total disaster! [He bangs the table]
General: Are you suggesting that we carpet-bomb Damascus?
Bartlet: I am suggesting, General, that you, and Admiral Fitzwallace, and Secretary Hutchinson, and the rest of the National Security Team take the next sixty minutes and put together an American response scenario that doesn’t make me think we’re just docking somebody’s damn allowance!

President Obama might want to start studying a few old episodes of The West Wing. Maybe if he familiarizes himself with it, he’ll figure out that it’s no response at all, let alone a “proportional one” to let the deaths of four Americans, including an Ambassador, get buried in order to hide the President’s (and his team’s) lies and mistakes.

By the way, if you have followed Sorkin’s career, you’ll know that he’s a drug-fueled genius with a true gift for words and a passion for using TV and movies to convince people of the Democrat Party’s virtues.  He also runs to the well a few too many times:

There’s something either unpleasant or fishy about Michelle’s setting for delivering the Best Picture Oscar *UPDATED*

[UPDATE:  Okay, I knew my theory was way too wacky to be true, although I had fun writing it up.  Although the White House didn't list it on the official schedule (because Thomas Lifson checked), I should have remembered that the Obama's were hosting the annual Governor's dinner -- the one at which Chris Christie got the royal treatment and Obama kicked out reporters when things got interesting (and I'm sure they exited peacefully baa-ing, as one would expect from Obama's sheeple media.

Incidentally, if something fish is going on with Michelle, this might be it.]

Many have commented upon Michelle Obama being beamed in to present the Best Picture Oscar.  It’s certainly a cheapening of the dignity of the White House, not to mention that it’s yet another creepy chapter in the Obama cult of personality.

What I noticed was that Michelle is surrounded by a military entourage.  What’s with that?

I’m not the only one who thought Michelle’s military setting was peculiar.  Over at American Thinker, Thomas Lifson is also trying to figure that one out:

Speaking of that venue, who were those young men and woman wearing uniforms with braids, framing Mrs. Obama?

I don’t know much about uniforms, but they look kind of military to me. If that’s the case, what kind of event was going on at the White House that night? The President’s schedule doesn’t include any mention of a formal event at the White House.

By the time the program was over, it was almost midnight, so I am pretty sure the president wasn’t out playing golf. I wonder what was going on in the First Family’s residence that night?

I agree — there’s something weird going on here.  Was the White House having its own private Academy Awards party?  A lot of people do that, but what’s with dragging the military into it?

Here’s a bizarre thought, one that undoubtedly proves that I’ve had too much chocolate this morning:  The Academy makes a huge deal out of the fact that results are unknown right up until the very minute the presenter reads them out loud.  Is it possible that this was staged, and that Michelle actually filmed this statement hours or days before?  After all, this is a make-believe presidency working closely with the chief city of The Land of Make Believe.

Of course, my little theory would require that those young men and women in uniform (Marine and Navy, I believe) either to be complicit in a fraud or, perhaps, be fraudulent themselves — that is, be actors playing dress-up in uniforms.  In other words, my little theory is a very big stretch.

It certainly would be a good scandal, of the type that would directly affect Hollywood, if it turned out that this was a fake.  I’ll admit that, while trickery is unlikely, it’s still incredibly distasteful to see the American military serve as a backdrop to Hollywood.

The Oscars — a fitting celebration for a vulgar culture


Old Hollywood, which was owned and operated by foreign-born or first generation European Jews had aspirations. What may surprise some is that these aspirations did not usually include Art (note that capital “A”).

The aspirations — or the absence of low behavior — came about in part because of the Hayes Code and the Catholic League, both of which insisted that Hollywood movies refrain from sullying innocent youth and womanhood. This meant that movies were clean or, if they weren’t as clean as one would wish, the vulgarity was subtle or the bad girl either died or repented at the end.

Because Art since the beginning of the 20th century seems to require human degradation, it was hard for Code-bound Hollywood to head in that direction. These proscriptions, of course, were gone by the late 1960s, which meant that both middle-aged and modern Hollywood leapt upon the opportunity to plumb the depths of depravity.

But it’s too simplistic to say that Old Hollywood controlled itself solely because of the Codes. These newly wealthy immigrants also wanted to belong to the country clubs. They wanted to have social polish. They wanted people to admire how far they’d come and the best way to do that was to ape the classy, high-society manners they portrayed in their own films.

Being human, few of them could live up to their own standards, but they certainly tried. And when they or their stars deviated from these “classy” standards, they had legions of employees whose sole purpose was to keep these forays into vulgarity out of the public’s eye.

The Oscars used to reflect these aspirations. They weren’t interesting, but they were upright. Bob Hope made his clean jokes, the stars wore their fancy clothes (which used to be G-rated too), and the entertainment segments weren’t particularly entertaining, but they weren’t offensive either.

This year’s Oscar show would have appalled the Louis B. Mayers, Samuel Goldwyns, and Bob Hopes. Seth MacFarlane looked like a clean-cut, 1950s boy-next-door type, and his jokes (including the shtick with William Shatner) were as unfunny as Oscar jokes always are, but that’s the only thing the show had in common with the old days. This opened as a tawdry, vulgar, nasty, mean-spirited production (including a paean to various actresses “boobs”), made worse by being broadcast during the family hour throughout large parts of America.

I have to admit that I don’t know whether the show managed to rise up slightly after the first half-hour or if it sank even lower (assuming that was possible). I would have walked out in any event because I was bored. Instead, I double-timed out, because I was both bored and disgusted. Old Hollywood would have applauded me.

Missing the old me

Someone who knows me of old and who is, as I am, watching Netflix’s House of Cards noted something about the character Zoe, played by Kate Mara. He said, “You used to have a figure just like hers.”  I did too.  And I miss it.

Kata Mara in white Herve Leger dress

I miss that figure. I haven’t departed tremendously from it but, two babies and 25 years later, I don’t look like that anymore.

Alec Baldwin — the poster child for racially-obsessed liberals

Alec Baldwin was in the news this morning for having another rage attack on New York’s streets, this one complete with foul racial epithets. The easy line to take with this is that Alec Baldwin is a racist.

I’m not sure it’s quite that simple, though. Instead, I see Baldwin’s problem being one of racial (not racist) obsession. To liberals, everything in their world gets run through a racial prism. Nothing is neutral. It’s either about race or . . . it’s about race.

Even when something couldn’t possibly have anything to do with race (e.g., dog food), the absence of a race discussion is itself racist. After all, there are probably poor children somewhere, who are probably black, who are possibly eating dog food in lieu of human food, almost certainly because of racist Republican economic policies or attacks on welfare.

What this means is that, when a cosseted, undisciplined, rage-filled Progressive gets angry, there is only one way to lash put: In racial terms. Just as a dog’s thoughts are ball, ball, food, ball, food, food, ball, belly rub, nap, ball, food,, the sum total of the Progressive’s thoughts are race, black, white-Hispanic, racism, racist, black, and, when angry the n-word.. Truly, aside from a continuous background loop of “me, me, me” sung by a Hollywood-inspired celestial chorus, the racial soundtrack is the only thing filling Baldwin’s brain.

The problem for all of us, of course, is that too many Americans, both black and non-black, have been taught for the last 40 years that this racial paradigm/prism is the only lens through which to see the world. Until this changes, we will not find common ground, and we will continue to live in a racially-obsessed society, with the worst racists being the ones who obsess most about the subject.

Dean Cain politely, even charmingly, keeps his gun

When my first was born, I had a lot of sleepless nights, not to mention a lot of sitting around during the day during feeding times.  It was during these first few months that I discovered Lois & Clark – The New Adventures of Superman.  Or more accurately, I discovered Dean Cain as Clark Kent.  He was just the right gorgeous, caring package to appeal to an overweight, under-slept, over-whelmed new mother.

Because of his superb portrayal of Superman as both an Alpha and a Beta male (gee, the guy really was super), I’ve always had a soft spot for Dean Cain.  Now that he’s politely, and charmingly, come out in support of the Second Amendment, my soft spot has escalated to admiration.  You go, guy!

30 Rock leaves on a pathetic note

I’ve always had a rule for myself:  leave a party while you’re still having fun.  If I know I’m going to have to leave anyway, I don’t wait until a sense of boredom or disgust creeps in.  Instead, as I’m on the cusp, feeling tired and aware that things will soon go downhill, I see myself out.  That way, my memories of the good times aren’t tainted by a whiff of social failure.  The producers of 30 Rock would have done well if they’d followed the same rule I do.

When 30 Rock first came on the scene, it was a funny, fresh show.  It hewed Left (of course), but Tina Fey had a deft comedic touch that allowed her to poke fun at some of the Left’s sacred cows too.  The ensemble worked well together, and there were a few great comic moments.

In the third season, though, which perhaps not so coincidentally coincided with Obama’s election, the show went from pleasantly loopy to boringly stupid.  Fey seemed to have lost her muse.  Plots were certainly zany, but they had a heavy-handed, forced, humorless feel to them.

We stopped watching.

Last night, however, because the show’s final episode was getting good buzz, we sat down to watch it.  It was awful.  Really and truly awful.  There was a slapdash, frantic quality to it that made it depressing, not funny.  Jack had a crisis of conscience, Kenneth was a smarmy head of NBC, Lemon was a desperate homemaker, Tracy was his usual manipulative self, the writers’ room fought over food, Jenna crowed about her own shallowness, and Pete made creepy suicide jokes.

The plot, such as it was, was a weak, shallow device meant to cram everyone into a single hour-long episode:  Even though TGS, the show Liz Lemon produced had technically ended, a weird clause in Tracy’s contract meant that they had to film one more episode.

Think about this:  we watched a whole hour of 30 Rock without ever cracking a smile.  We went in ready to laugh, but the show gave us nothing to laugh about.

If I controlled Hollywood, the show whould have wrapped up at the end of Season 2, before it began its long slide into the soggy mess that it was by the end.  Others might argue that it should have ended after Season 4 or 6.  What’s very clear is that 30 Rock finally left the party long after anyone was still having fun.

The SAG Awards couture: Lumpy, Dumpy, Frumpy, and Tawdry

When it comes to clothes, I settled into my color palette in junior high school.  My favorite color is black; my next favorite is gray.  This is not because I’m a depressed person or into Goth.  It’s because I have absolutely no ability to match colors.

That’s where black and gray come in:  everything goes with them (except brown).  If I put on a black pair of pants, I can pair it with any color top I like.  This is a good thing because my approach to buying tops is as primitive as my color sense:  if I find a top in a fabric I like, in a design that doesn’t make me look plump, I tend to buy it in every color available.

I then wear those five or seven tops for years, right up until they disintegrate.  Once they’re gone, I hunt for another top that I like and buy out all the colors.  I’m not fashionable, but I always look neat, and my colored shirts always match those black or gray trousers.

Which brings me to the Screen Actors Guild (or SAG) awards for 2013.  The Daily Mail has a photo essay showing that the color du jour is black, with a fair amount of white thrown in.  Seeing the headline about black’s triumphant return to the fashion world, I expected to swoon over the various dresses and to wish that I too could have one. Oh, how wrong I was.  The color is good but the styles are awful, just awful.

Julianne Moore SAG Awards 2013

Julianne Moore may well be the worst.  She wore a white dress with abstract, almost 60s-style flowers embroidered around the bottom.  This would be okay but for the fact that the dress has a plunging decolletage that gives a frightening view of her flabby breasts.  Ignore the breasts, and she has no shape at all.  I guess that, when Moore received the invitation to the “SAG” Awards, she took that SAG part literally.

Nava Rivera SAG Awards 2013

Another peculiar costume in the breast department was Nava Rivera’s black dress.  It featured a peek-a-boo cutout (complete with chiffon overlay), that revealed the left half of her right breast, and the right half of her left breast.  She didn’t look voluptuous, she merely looked confused:  Am I selling my acting chops or did I leave the Victoria’s Secret store without putting my street clothes back on?

Jane Lynch, who proudly waves her lesbian sexuality around every chance she gets, opted for a black dress with a pleasantly classic line, except for the leather bondage theme.  Apparently she confused the SAG awards with the Folsom Street Fair.

Anne Hathaway SAG awards 2013

Anne Hathaway, who is a lovely and charming actress, looked like a Barbie doll run amok.  When I was little, I used to layer my Barbie’s clothes:  deep cut this over chiffon that, with a long overskirt complimenting a ridiculously short miniskirt.  I could have dressed Hathaway for pennies on the dollars she spent on her mix-and-match outfit, which included a long skirt, a short skirt, solid fabrics, sheer fabrics, and beaded fabrics.  I get dizzy just writing about it.

The other dresses I saw in the photo essay weren’t bad, but none were beautiful.  They all bespoke too much money, and too little taste.  Collectively,  all of these attractive, wealthy women looked like four of the seven dwarfs:  Lumpy, Dumpy, Frumpy, and Tawdry.

There are years when I look at these Hollywood costume photo essays and wish that, just for one night, I could live the glam life solely to wear a beautiful dress.  Looking at the women from this year’s SAG awards, though, I have to say I’m a lot better off with my current outfit:  black, straight-leg NYDJ jeans and a deep turquoise, round-necked, long-sleeved tee from Target.  Total cost (including the sale price on the jeans): $95.  I look classy, sleek, and comfortable.  Yay, me!

“The Avengers” — a conservative film

Did I ever tell you that I got to meet with David Swindle last year?  He’s an associate editor at PJ Media, which is kind enough periodically to publish my articles.  I’ve been corresponding with David for several years, and was delighted to get the chance to meet him.  He is, as you would expect, he’s very nice, not to mention intelligent, thoughtful, and well-informed.  He’s also a much deeper, more spiritual thinker than I am.  I’m not a person who is comfortable with philosophy and metaphysics.  I like playing with abstract ideas, as well as the nexus between fact and ideology, but my mind doesn’t usually travel much further than that.  David’s does.

You can see his deep thinking on display in his latest post about The Avengers, last year’s smash hit movie.  I saw the movie in a theater (something I rarely do), and enjoyed it very much.  It helped that the actors playing Thor and Captain America were very nice to look at.  I’m also a big fan of Robert Downey, Jr., and always have been.  I thought it was tragic when he destroyed his career with drugs, and I’ve been very pleased to see him achieve a normal life and deserved fame as an actor.  However, I’m sorry to say that I missed the larger dimensions that David sees in The Avengers.  There turns out to be a whole lot of interesting stuff going on in this movie.

Know your political opponent

I am really becoming a fan of Kevin Williamson, over at National Review.  Today, he goes beyond Progressives’ superficial characteristics (wealth reallocation, gun fear, etc.), and digs deep into their values and their psyches.  It’s fascinating reading on its own terms.  It’s also extremely useful because, as Williamson himself says, you have to understand your enemy to defeat him.  Knowledge, of course, is power.

Conservatives are not positioned to engage in a full frontal attack against Progressive politics.  The two avenues open are stealth attacks, where we sneak up when they’re not looking (ideologically speaking) and judo-style attacks, where we use their own momentum to take them down.

The one thing we can’t allow ourselves to be is demoralized.  Dr. Helen notes that conservatives in 2012 are infinitely more depressed than liberals were in 2004.  My thinking has been that, while liberals didn’t like the Bush policies as they were playing out, conservatives are deeply worried about Obama’s “fundamental transformation” plans.  Once you start treating the Constitution like toilet paper, it’s hard to resurrect it as a binding agreement between government and people.  In other words, we have more to worry about than the liberals did.

Dr. Helen, though, has a simpler explanation, which is that the liberals are creating the Zeitgeist, and the Zeitgeist is that conservatives are deeply flawed, evil, and murderous:

The media and Obama blare the non-stop message that Republicans are no good, racist dogs and support fat cats. None of this is true, of course, but the media and Obama spin the message and Republicans get the blame for the majority of all that is wrong with America.

Oh, by the way, speaking of murderous, here is a great, gory mash-up (definite violence alert) showing Hollywood liberals in all their hypocritical glory:

Greg Gutfeld’s book about the “Tyranny of Cool.”

Thanks to a handy-dandy Amazon gift certificate, I just bought myself a Kindle copy of Greg Gutfeld’s The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage.  It sounds like a book that is simultaneously important and enjoyable.  I’ll be reading it with a close eye, because his ideas about challenging Hollywood’s pop culture feed into the ideas that Lulu and I are playing with.

“Pitch Perfect” — Hollywood once again has kids putting on a show

“Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!” Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, every American knew those words. In myriad movies, Andy Mickey Rooney, with a glowing Judy Garland at his side, enthusiastically announced that, if all the kids would just combine their musical talents, they’d be Broadway bound. Sure enough, with a little effort, and with some mentoring from wise elders, these kids would end up on a massive stage, wearing million-dollar costumes, singing and dancing their wholesome little hearts out.

Today, after a long hiatus, Hollywood is once again testing the musical waters with a “let’s put on a show” movie, Pitch Perfect. This movie, though, doesn’t have its heart set on Broadway. Instead, its momentum is directed at the gutter, with a healthy serving of vomit, spiced up with some sleazy sexual innuendos and racism on the side. This is a shame, because the Hollywood musical, with its endless homages to the wonders of live performance, really was one of Hollywood’s greatest artistic accomplishments.

Although a Hollywood musical’s sole purpose is permanence, Hollywood has always been fascinated with the dynamics of live performance. Indeed, back in 1927, the very first “talkie” was a musical, with Al Jolson, already famous on Broadway, warbling the first song ever put into a movie — “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face” in The Jazz Singer:

Inspired by The Jazz Singer’s instant success, Hollywood churned out multiple musicals between 1927 and 1930. Almost without exception, these early musicals were dreadful. Between static cameras and primitive recording equipment, movie audiences had an experience equivalent to sitting in the back row of a large, crowded theater, all the while being forced to watch tuneless, tinny-voiced singers and plump chroines marching through wooden choreography. Audiences stayed away in droves and musicals quickly vanished.

Everything changed in 1933, when Busby Berkeley came to Hollywood and Warner Brothers gave him free rein. Berkeley was a visionary who understood that the camera could roam freely and, in essence, become part of the choreography. He moved the audience out of the seats and onto the stage.

Under Berkeley’s endlessly imaginative direction, Broadway stages (and all his early musicals were framed as Broadway shows) became bustling 42nd Street, trains to Buffalo, verdant waterfalls, gritty bread lines feeding hungry WWI veterans, and Shanghai dives. (That last, incidentally, bursts out of the dive and onto the streets of Shanghai, with dozens of sailors and bar girls doing precision drills that end with a patriotic salute to FDR and the WPA.)

Powered by Harry Warren‘s music, Berkeley’s camera swooped here and there, with Hollywood’s most beautiful extras, clad in scanty costumes, moving around in kaleidoscopic fashion. Consistent with Warner Brothers Studio’s grittier edges (as opposed to MGM’s sheen), Berkeley’s musicals were sexy and a little risqué, although never vulgar. You could take both your young daughter and your mother to see them, secure in the knowledge that, while they wouldn’t understand the mild double entendres, they’d still enjoy the wonderful musical numbers.

With Berkeley having opened the floodgates, the golden age of Hollywood musicals began. Fred wooed Ginger, Eleanor Powell charmed leading men ranging from Jimmy Stewart to Robert Taylor, Mickey and Judy fronted teams of talented teens, Betty Grable strutted her million dollar legs, Gene Kelly sang in the rain, and Donald O’Connor made ‘em laugh. While most of these musical confections were more sophisticated than Mickey and Judy’s Broadway-bound romps, the vast majority had one thing in common: they charted the trajectory of a talented singer or dancer from nobody to star.

With Hollywood movies becoming ever more lavish (and the budgets getting comparably bigger), America’s most famous composers and lyricists abandoned Tin Pan Alley and Broadway for Hollywood. Harry Warren (a man whose talent has never been properly appreciated) was shunted aside by Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Jimmy McHugh, Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, and countless other talented men and women (mostly men), who made America sing.

Nothing good lasts forever. By the 1960s, Hollywood musicals reach both their apex and their nadir. Two of the most popular musicals ever made — Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music — came along in 1964 and 1965, respectively. Hello, Dolly! made a respectable showing in 1969 and that was it — the musical was close to death. Perhaps significantly, none of these late musicals involved a talented performing underdog who made it to the big times. Hollywood made a few half-hearted efforts to revive the musical, some successful (Grease and Fame), and some almost unbearably painful (Can’t Stop the Music), but overall, it looked as if musical lovers needed to prepare the eulogy and move on.

And then, just as Busby Berkeley had once come along to save the musical in the 1930s, the American musical found a savior in the 21st Century: Simon Cowell. Love him or hate him, Simon Cowell is a visionary. With American Idol, he got Americans deeply interested in singing again. Cowell then created or inspired an endless stream of musical performance reality shows. The success of shows such as American Idol, The X Factor, The Voice, Sing Off, and America’s Got Talent proved to Hollywood that Americans today are as fascinated with musical rags to riches stories as they were more than fifty years ago.

With the success of these narrative-free reality shows, it was inevitable that someone would try to fictionalize these musical Cinderella stories. Enter Glee. Glee’s creation was an act of genius. Kids watch it because they love the musical acts, and Hollywood loves it because it sells an agenda that many American parents wouldn’t normally let their kids absorb. So, reality shows, TV shows . . . and then movies, right?

The newest entry in the movie category is Pitch Perfect, a movie about dueling a cappella choral groups, one male and one female, at fictional Barden University, a school that seemingly has neither classes nor teachers. The plot centers on Beca (played by 27-year old Broadway veteran Anna Kendrick), an emotionally remote college freshman whose real dream is to go to Hollywood and create mash-ups. Between a loving father (John Benjamin Hickey) who bargains with her to make the most of that freshman year, and a chance shower encounter with Chloe (Brittany Snow) one of the singers in Barden’s women’s a cappella group, Beca finds herself on the Bellas, an all-female a cappella group.

The movie’s heat-free romantic interest comes from Jesse (played amiably by Skylar Astin), a preternaturally secure freshman who lands a spot on the men’s group, the Treble Makers. Both groups are vying for the chance to win the national college a cappella championship, held annually at Lincoln Center.

Pitch Perfect could have been good in an average fashion. It has all the standard plot lines for a Hollywood movie centered on youthful talent aiming for the top: both the Treble Makers and the Bellas are led by unpleasant people (Adam DeVine and Anna Camp, respectively), whose leadership Beca and Jesse have to challenge. All of the students, from Beca and Jesse on down, have to learn to be nicer and more tolerant. And all of them have to develop their singing styles: The Bellas have to abandon their boring, staid, 50s-style approach to a cappella singing, while the Treble Makers have to find some heart to add to their soul. Although none of the cast members, most of whom are unknowns or barely-knowns, have exceptional voices, the singing is solid, and the arrangements — ranging from pop to soul to rap — are well-done and enjoyable.

The movie’s main flaw, from a parental viewpoint, is its vulgarity. Pitch Perfect is rated PG-13, which means there is no explicit sex or nudity, there are no F-bombs, and no one is graphically killed (or even wounded). With those no-noes out of the picture, Pitch Perfect settles in for a non-stop barrage nastiness, with scene after scene containing actual vomiting, vomit jokes, sex jokes, lesbian jokes, and fat people jokes. Of course, it’s worth noting that the whole vomit/performance theme isn’t so far-fetched. Not too long okay, both Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa managed to toss their cookies in the middle of live performances.

Pitch Perfect also takes the time to insult Jews (slightly) and Koreans (with surprising venom). In other words, this movie panders to the lowest common denominator of teen humor, ostensibly telling kids that they have it within themselves to shoot for the moon (or at least the show biz big-time), all the while spewing images and lines that leave both actors and viewers sullied.

What the movie lacks in class, it makes up in shallowness: Every character is hackneyed: Beca is an icy, distant rebel, with Kendrick bringing lukewarm energy to the part. Jesse is a personality-free nice guy with Astin’s major acting contribution being his undoubtedly sweet smile. The Treble Makers’ lead singer and manager is a predictably malignant, sexist jerk, while the Bella’s lead singer and manager is an equally predictable uptight, controlling virago. Some of the secondary characters, while receiving significant screen time, add nothing to the plot. For example, the manager of the college radio station at which Beca and Jesse work (Freddie Stroma) has no personality whatsoever and only the most slender relationship to the plot. His sole purpose in the movie appears to be to flash his great abs as a sop to teenage girls disappointed by Jesse’s sweet lack of hotness.

There are only two bright spots in this parade of predictables. The first is Rebel Wilson, who plays Fat Amy, a Tasmanian girl blessed with good vocals, unimpeded honesty, and no discernible social skills. There’s nothing original about her character, but Wilson has a surprisingly deft comedic touch, and a wonderful face, that’s simultaneously pretty, blank, and foolish. The second comedic bright spot is the vapid, offensive banter from the male and female hosts who appear at each competition (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks). As a caveat to this praise, though, be warned that, while these talking heads are amusing, they also let loose with some of the most sexually explicit lines in the movie, calling into serious question its PG-13 rating.

It’s truly a shame that Pitch Perfect chose to go for a demeaning, rather than an inspiring, tone. America has incredible musical vitality, and it’s refreshing to see the entertainment world taking it seriously once again. Likewise, there’s something endlessly appealing about seeing attractive young people sing and dance their way to the top. All of us can sing and all of us can dance, but so few of us can do those things well. We seem to get an almost atavistic thrill from watching people who have mastered these core human skills, and all of us celebrate their success. We can only hope that Pitch Perfect is a wobbly first step, akin to Hollywood’s early dreary musicals, on the way to an exciting Busby Berkeley-esque movie musical renaissance.

A very peculiar definition of what constitutes “happy”

I was living abroad when Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released, so I didn’t see it until a few years later, when I was in my mid- or late-20s.  I say this because, had I seen the movie when it first came out, when I myself was fairly close to the character’s ages, I might have had a different reaction, although I doubt it.

As it was, when I saw the movie, while I found parts of it amusing (Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli is a very funny portrayal of a stoner), I basically found it a very depressing portrayal of American teen life.  This is a world in which classes are boring, positive adult role models are non-existent, drug use is rife, and teenagers view meaningless, impersonal, porn-inspired sex as an ordinary activity.  Jennifer Jason Leigh’s 15-year old character willingly participates in her own statutory rape, and then, without any parental input, has an abortion.

The movie is nihilistic.  These are young people without meaning, purpose or values.  I therefore found peculiar director Amy Heckerling’s description of her artistic vision for the movie (emphasis mine):

First-time director Amy Heckerling said she was seeking to make a comedy that was less structured than conventional ones, and more like American Graffiti so that “if you woke up and found yourself living in the movie, you’d be happy. I wanted that kind of feel.

Happy?  Wow!  I didn’t feel happy after seeing Fast Times.  Even though I laughed at some of the humor (much of which is based upon cruelty and embarrassment), I was grateful that my high school years took place in a more innocent time — or, at least, that I was a more innocent high school student.

I’ve mentioned before what a de-aspirational society Hollywood sells our children.  Pre-1960s movies might have been foolish and predicated upon a shiny reality unrelated to the lives of many American young people, but those movies still encouraged America’s teens to aim for the stars, both in terms of material success and personal morality.  Subsequent teen movies offered instead a bleak vision of a dreary, dead-ended amoral teenage universe.


Magic Mike intersects with the RNC protests

James Taranto writes from Tampa about the Leftist protest and its sponsor (emphasis mine):

“Really hard to notice the RNC protesters if you’re not running around trying to find them,” Slate’s Dave Weigeltweeted early yesterday afternoon. “V far from convention, other events.”

The convention’s start was delayed a day, and so was the late-afternoon party in honor of Grover Norquist that we’d planned to attend. This seemed like an excellent time to check out the protesters, such as they were. So we sent Weigel a direct message asking where he found them. He didn’t reply. We guess he wanted an exclusive.

Enlisting Twitter as a reporting tool, we asked our 16,000 followers (in case you’re not among them, we’re @jamestaranto) and quickly came up with 2101 W. Main St., site of “Occupy Tampa.” After lunch we rode out there and found a pitiful little encampment on a lot so small that Zuccotti is Yellowstone by comparison. OT propaganda calls the site “Voice of Freedom Park,” but the map doesn’t show a park there.

It turns out the site is privately owned, by “adult nightclub owner Joe Redner,” as the Tampa Tribune euphemistically put it in June.

Wow!  That rings a bell.  Sleazy adult nightclub owner in Tampa?  A-ha!  I know what’s familiar.  It reminds me of the movie Magic Mike about a stripper who works at a club in Tampa:

The club is owned by Dallas, (Matthew McConaughey) who is a self serving, all-indulging proprietor of the club, and has designs on creating an empire which in his words, will “globally dominate” the world of male strippers. He forgoes friendships and loyalty to achieve his dream, including jeopardizing a close friendship with Mike who has been with him from the start for 6 years and is one of Dallas’ star performers.

So, ladies and gentlemen, is this what the proud sponsor of the RNC protests looks like?

Movie Review: Magic Mike

The much-talked about Magic Mike (talked about because it involves male strippers, so people can feel a frisson of naughtiness just attending the movie) is surprisingly good.  The movie manages to be simultaneously very funny, quite risqué, deeply depressing, and unexpectedly heart-warming. It works because Channing Tatum (or do I mean Tatum Channing?  I can never keep the guy’s name straight) is a genuine acting talent, with a gorgeous body, and real dancing skill.  It also works because Matthew McConaughey, who was always a bit too sleazy to make it as a romantic lead, burns up the screen as a sleazy strip club owner, who keeps his stable of dancers both inspired and in line.

The plot is fairly simple:  Tatum plays Magic Mike who is not so much a hustler as he is a striver.  He’s constantly on the move, trying this and trying that as a way to fund his real goal of become a custom furniture maker.  He doesn’t take advantage of other people, but he cheats himself by sticking to the lucrative, but degrading, stripping business, for which he has a genuine talent.

Mike’s self-delusions about a “future” in the strip club business are encouraged by his employer, the narcissistic, slick, but weirdly charismatic Dallas, a fully realized, but very unpleasant character that McConaughey makes his own. Mike thinks he’s working his way to being an equity partner with Dallas, but it becomes apparent within minutes of his first screen appearance that Dallas doesn’t share.  He’s a petty demagogue who nurses “the talent” solely for his own self-aggrandizement.

Mike is drifting along, womanizing, drinking, and drugging, even as he tries to keep track of all his little money-making schemes in pursuit of his furniture design goal.  His life reaches a crossroad when he meets Adam (aka “The Kid”), played by Alex Pettyfer with aimless, juvenile charm.  Adam blew off a football scholarship, and is now crashed on his sister’s couch.

Mike takes pity on this lost soul, and introduces him to the world of stripping, which instantly appeals to Adam.  Mike then meets Adam’s down-to-earth sister, Brooke (played by a pleasantly non-surgically augmented Cody Horn).  When she expresses her dismay at Adam’s new career path, Mike promises Brooke that he’ll watch out for Adam.

And that’s the movie’s premise:  Mike, by keeping his eye on Adam, gains an unpleasant perspective on his narrow, tarnished little world, even as Adam, awash in sex and money, loses his perspective.  I won’t say anything more other than to say that the movie decently, and intelligently, plays the characters along to a reasonably satisfying, and somewhat surprising, resolution.

For those of you planning to see the movie, a few warnings about the movie’s sex content:  It’s high, so high that I’m surprised it only has an R rating and not an NC-17.  Both male and female (especially male) characters just manage to avoid total nudity.  Even if that doesn’t bother you, understand that this is nudity and sex without love or any other uplifting emotional content (such as liking someone, or even knowing who they are).  The dancers, buffed, shaved, tanned, and polished, writhe around on the floor or wiggle their crotches in the faces of the screaming women in the audience at the strip club, and otherwise display such exaggerated sexuality that most of the people in the audience were screaming with laughter.

I laughed with everyone else, but inside I shuddered.  You see, despite all the nudity and sex on display, Magic Mike is a surprisingly unsexy movie.  Whether or not Tatum and Director Steven Soderbergh intended to do so, they made what amounts to a cautionary tale about sex devoid of any human connection.  For the most part, it’s all rather gross.  Watching from what must be an old-fashioned female perspective, I found the male dancing more homoerotic than hetero-erotic.  I love watching good dancers, but watching men simulate sex on stage was unappealing, to say the least.  This best way I can describe it is to say that the sex and faux-sex was the scary dehumanization of what the Judeo-Christian culture envisions as a core human connection.  It therefore didn’t surprise me that Soderbergh had a miniature pig wander through many of the scenes involving both this peculiarly lonely sex and its often ugly aftermath.

Don’t let Magic Mike’s stripper theme deter you from seeing it.  This is a good story about a lost, but decent, young man who is trying to “get it right.”  It’s also, despite all the sordid displays of flesh and sundry other vulgarities, quite the morality tale.

What Occupy could have looked like — if Hollywood organized it in 1933

I am reading a delightful book about Fred and Adele Astaire, one that offers a little insight into a long-vanished world.  Along the way, the book mentions Eddie Cantor.  That reference reminded me of a song I always liked:  We Can Build A Little Home, from 1933′s Roman Scandals.  As was the case for all Eddie Cantor movies, it was a nice little bit of fluff, with silly songs, and pretty girls (including Lucille Ball, in her first film).  The premise is that Cantor is a sweet, naive young man who lives in a corrupt town, run by rich plutocrats.  The latter seek to evict the solid, working-class citizens, so as to profit from their properties.  Homeless, a whole neighborhood ends up camped out on the streets.

In other words, it’s a complete “Occupy” scenario.  But while Occupy quickly degenerated into a sleazy, disease-ridden, parasite-ridden, drunk-ridden, alcohol-ridden, violent street orgy, 1933 Hollywood envisioned a much sweeter way of protesting:

When Hollywood imitates real life — “Bowfinger” versus Elizabeth Warren

Despite any actual evidence, Elizabeth Warren sticks resolutely to her claim that she is 1/32 Native American.

This is how crazy people think.  Do you know how I know that?  Because I just watched Bowfinger with the kids.

Bowfinger, which was made in 1999, when one could still be at least a little bit un-PC, is a very silly movie.  The premise is that a down-and-out producer (Steve Martin) puts together an “aliens are attacking” action-adventure film by having his little team of amateurs act around the unwitting Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), a famous action movie star, who also happens to be ravingly paranoid.

Kit’s manic delusions are established in his very first scene, when he complains that all the great lines (e.g., “Hasta la vista, baby”) go to non black actors, proving a conspiracy.  From that start, he counts all the “Ks” in a script, points out that the resulting number is perfectly divisible by three, raves about the “KKK” conspiracy he’s just proven, and transmutes “Shakespeare” into the racist “Spear Chucker.”  No surprise, then, that the next step is to Elizabeth Warren-land:

Here’s the key language (starting at 2:00):

Kit: And I suppose Teddy Kennedy ain’t 1/16th black, eh?

Agent: Teddy Kennedy?

Kit: He’s not like the other Kennedys. Look at him. He’s different!

(I toyed with the idea of calling this post “When real life imitates Hollywood,” because Warren’s staunch defense of her minority status came to light in 2012, while Bowfinger dates back to 1999. I decided in favor of “Hollywood imitates real life,” though, because Warren started claiming Native American status long before 1999.)