Charlie Sheen and the bedlamite approach to insanity

England’s Bethlem Royal Hospital, founded in the 13th Century as part of a convent, eventually transformed itself into the world’s first facility dedicated to the mentally ill.  By the 16th Century, when it housed only the mentally ill, it was famous for the cruelty with which those patients were treated.  The word “bedlam,” which describes a situation that is completely out of control, is a bastardization of the hospital’s name.

For centuries, Bethlem Royal Hospital was also once of London’s most popular tourist attractions.  For a penny, people could walk through the facility, staring at the inmates, many of whom were chained to walls, lying in their own filth.  It was considered a good show to see the crazy people rant and rave.  No wonder, then, that many British people chose to incarcerate mentally ill relatives in their own homes (rather as Rochester did with Bertha).  Those homes may have become prisons, but at least they were safe and private.

The practice of making insanity a public show changed only when people realized the indecency and immortality of laughing and staring at people who were helpless victims of their own mental illnesses.  People of good will now think to themselves, “I never would sink to such a low practice.”

Apparently the American media is not made up of people of good will.  For as long as I’ve been aware of him, Charlie Sheen has been a substance abuser and a loathsome individual.  Now, though, it’s apparent that his vices have caught up with him and rendered him mentally ill.  Reading the transcripts of his interviews his definite evidence that he has parted with reality.  Normal people, even eccentric people, do not say “I am on a drug, it’s called Charlie Sheen.  It’s not available because if you try it you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”

In a decent world, Sheen would get the treatment he requires.  In an indecent world, he’s paraded around for the media’s profit, just as the inmates at Bethlem Hospital were once paraded around for the profit of their ostensible caretakers.  It’s embarrassing to watch someone sink into such complete degradation.

Some might say that Sheen wants this publicity.  He’s actively seeking it, after all, as he has done for the length of his career.  There’s a difference, though, between a mentally functioning person (even a low functioning person) taking appropriate steps to advance his career, and a mentally ill person treading that same path.  It reminds me of the arguments the ACLU always makes about the paranoid schizophrenics on the streets of San Francisco:  “They want to be there.”  Yes, that’s true.  They do indeed want to live on the streets, eating garbage, crawling with lice, and having suppurating wounds all over their body.  But they want to live that way because they’re crazy as loons.  Their desire to be dysfunctional (starving, filthy and diseased) on the streets is evidence of their insanity.  A decent society, rather than saying “Great, eat garbage,” helps them out.

I find the Sheen spectacle disturbing, just as I find Lindsay Lohan’s collapse disturbing, and Miley Cyrus’ journey from wholesome comedienne to drug-experimenting slut disturbing.  All of these people are victims of Hollywood, which cultivates their weaknesses, addictions and insanity for its collective profit, and then further profits from their spectacular, pathetic, demeaning, and always very public, implosions.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

When Hollywood Jews openly supported the Promised Land

Hat tip:  Sadie

Hollywood hates government

Someone took the time to track the nature of the bad guys in Hollywood action flicks from the 1980s to the present.  It won’t come as a surprise to any of you that she discovered that “the overall winner of the villain tally is American military/government/law enforcement.”  In the 1980s, Russians appeared, but not as often as our own people.  And since 2001, no Middle Easterners have appeared at all. Definitely check out her post, and then come back and talk to me.

The gal who wrote the post sees the statistics as signs that America has an innate distrust of government, which would seem to indicate a libertarian stance to Hollywood.  That’s hard to believe given Hollywood’s over-the-top Progressivism.  Of course, Hollywood could recognize that the audience for its action flicks is anti-Big Government, and could be giving the public what it wants, but I don’t think so.  I’m putting my own biases up front here, but the tone of Hollywood movies is such that I think the choice of enemies has more to do with an innate dislike of America itself, rather than a distrust of big government.

What say you?

(Hat tip:  Lulu)

And I thought I just disliked him because his films are boring and pompous

I never liked Jean-Luc Godard movies.  I go to movies to be entertained, not bored.  He failed my simple test.

Aside from being (in my mind) a boring film maker, it turns out that he is, as well, a deep, blatant, vicious antisemite.  Of course, if you’re a New York Times consumer, you’d never know that.  And what’s really bad is that the New York Times doesn’t avoid Godard’s antisemitism because the Times is itself ignorant of Godard’s ugly side.  Nope, the Times is well aware of it.  It’s approach, therefore, is to gloss over, explain away, and excuse his depravity.

I doubt anyone, with a straight face, can disagree with me when I say that the Times would have responded differently if evidence ever emerged that Godard had said “I dislike gays/blacks/Asians/Hispanics/Muslims/other victim group that suits the Times’ criteria.”

They’ve always gotten it bass-ackward when it comes to religion and morality

The Chris Coons-Christine O’Donnell debate over the First Amendment has cast into stark relief the fact that the Left believes the First Amendment’s purpose is to keep religious people out of the public square.  I’ve blogged on this point before, so I won’t belabor it.  I’ll only say briefly that the Amendment’s language, the historical context, and the Founder’s contemporaneous writings all establish conclusively that they didn’t want the government to meddle in religion, not vice versa.

While looking for something else, I stumbled across a monologue from a Hollywood movie that perfectly sums up the Leftist view about the First Amendment, a view supported only by wishful thinking and religious animus, without any historical or textual support.  The movie is The Contender, which came out in 2000.   The plot is simple.  Democratic VP dies in office; President picks perfect liberal female politician to replace him; evil, hyper-religious Republican seeks to destroy her with footage showing her cheerfully participating in a gang bang; female politician refuses to defend herself; perfect Democratic president, knowing her rectitude, understands that it’s all a fake, and gets her appointed as VP.  End of morality story.

I’ve often cited to the movie as an example of navel gazing, because there’s a scene where the perfect liberal female plays solo basketball, all the while monologuing about how her own intuitive moral sense is the only guide she and the world need.  I can’t find the language, though, so you’ll just have to accept as true my take on it.

While I was looking for that language, though, I stumbled across some other language, which I haven’t thought about in years, and wouldn’t have thought about but for the Coons/O’Donnell debate.  This is from the end of the movie, when the triumphant perfect liberal female, in an address to Congress, puts the evil Republicans in their place, and provides spiritual manna to the good Democrats (emphasis mine):

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism. Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves, that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.

Do I need to add anything here?  No?  I didn’t think so.

The next Narnia movie

They seem to have deviated significantly from the book (which simply describes a series of picaresque adventures), and it’s in 3D, which gives me a headache, but it actually still looks like a good movie.  I’ll certainly be at the theater to see it:

Why are we still paying to be insulted? — Boardwalk Empire & why I don’t like it *UPDATED*

HBO has recently premiered Boardwalk Empire, a lavish new series that seeks to recreate Atlantic City chicanery during the Prohibition era.  HBO really went to town on this one.  Not only did it get Martin Scorcese to direct (leading me to ask my husband, disingenuously, “didn’t he used to direct real movies?”), it’s obvious that HBO was ready to spend generously on the production itself.  The sets and costumes are gorgeous.  For a pedantic purist — and I am one — it’s an A+ job.

I’d almost enjoy watching the show if it wasn’t for that pesky little problem that crops up in so many Hollywood products:  the need to sling gratuitous insults at Republicans.

I blogged at length about this phenomenon after plunking down ten of my hard-earned after-tax dollars to see Julie & Julia.  That movie was sold as a charming romantic comedy/biopic, one that compared Julia Child’s love life to that of a modern young woman who undertook to bake a Julia Child recipe every day for a year.

It was another movie with lavish production values and a loving tone.  Meryl Streep played Child with shrieking verve, while Amy Adams was the neurotic Julie of the present day.  I’m not sure I would have liked the movie that much under any circumstances, given that Streep was exhausting and Adams irritating, but the movie lost me completely with its gratuitous swipes at Republicans.  As I wrote a little over a year ago:

I started getting uncomfortable when Julia Child and her husband used the fact that Julia’s Pasadena-based father was visiting to do a little McCarthy and Republican bashing.  Still, it’s pretty much de rigueur in movies that involve the 1950s for filmmakers to show their liberal bona fides by bashing McCarthy.  We’ve known since the 60s that Hollywood will never accept that old Joe was right, and the government did have a ridiculous number of communists and communist sympathizers anxious to do harm to the United States.  In Hollywood-land, only the excesses of McCarthyism (and there were indeed such excesses) live on in collective memory.  I therefore stayed with the movie despite this pro forma McCarthy indictment.

Where the movie lost me was during a scene in the modern era.  Its genesis is the fact that Julie, whose blog is taking off, is expecting a famous food publisher for dinner.  The night before the planned dinner she had made Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon — and then burned it. The next day, she calls in sick to work so that she could remake the time consuming dish.  She carefully (and falsely) blogs that she is sick and then blogs later that, miraculously, she is well again, so as to lend an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise unconvincing narrative.

On her return to work the next day, she discovers that her boss has read this false blog entry, and is offended that she’d referred to work and that she’d obviously lied about her health.  Then (and I’m quoting from memory here), this bit of dialogue emerges from the bosses mouth:  “You’re lucky I’m a nice guy.  If I were a Republican, you’d be fired.  But I’m not (or I’m trying not to be) a schmuck.”  (Half the Marin audience laughed.)

Boardwalk Empire does exactly the same thing:  it throws in a swipe at Republicans that does absolutely nothing to advance the plot, but simply allows the Hollywood types to indulge in their usual mean-spirited nudging and winking at their fellow liberals.  To understand just how offensive the dialogue I’ll quote is, you need a little background.

The series begins at the very end of 1919, right before Prohibition went into effect.  We’re introduced to Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, Treasurer for Atlantic City’s council. Within minutes we learn that, while he affects a pious exterior, and sells himself to the public as a devout prohibitionist, he is in fact planning to ally himself with independent rum runners, as well as the Chicago and New York mafia, in order to enrich himself and his cronies. He is, in a word, despicable.

Within the first few minutes of the movie, Nucky attends a New Year’s Eve dinner with his fellow council members and the mayor. All are eagerly awaiting Prohibition’s spoils. It is within this context that the following dialogue ensues:

Nucky: Mr. Mayor, Friends, fellow members of the City Council.  As you know, in less than 2 hours, liquor will be declared illegal by decree of the distinguished gentlemen of our nation’s Congress.

Assembled councilmen: Boo! Hiss!

Nucky: To those beautiful, ignorant bastards.

Assembled councilmen: Hear, hear!

Nucky: Rest assured that, dry though the country may be, I am in the midst of concluding arrangements and will keep Atlantic City wet as a mermaid’s t**t.

Mayor: Gee.  You’re f***ing mermaids now?

Nucky: Every vote counts, Mr. Mayor.

Unknown council member: A Republican through and through!

Did that last line add anything to the scene? I don’t think so. It simply showed that Martin Scorcese and friends are so lost in a world of Republican-hating that it leaks out of them constantly, like gas from a swamp.

The thing is that, as long as the public pays, these Hollywood types get away with this kind of crude disrespect.  We go to the movies and say, “Well, what can you do?  Other than that, it was a good movie.”  And we keep on paying for HBO because it feeds us sports and tolerable movies and other amusing stuff.

But really, shouldn’t we be making some sacrifices here?  I can live without a few movies if it means sending a message to Hollywood that it is not all right to take gratuitous swipes at half the movie-going population.  Can you?

UPDATE:  Elwin, in the comment, advises me that Nucky was, in fact, a Republican, a bit of information for which I am most appreciative.  I don’t think that changes the point I was making, which is that the throwaway line about Republicans was gratuitous in context.  This is not a serious documentary that looks at the political scene locally, in Atlantic City, and nationally.  In that case, one would a scholarly approach to the town’s political make-up that discusses the political parties and the nature of those parties at that time.  Instead, the characters are introduced simply as crooks and the line exists only to insult.

UPDATE II:  Apropos the Julia & Julie post to which I linked, a very reputable, erudite, learned scholar has advised me that McCarthy was every bit as vile as history has painted him.  There were communists in the government and the military, says my friend, but McCarthy came along after this threat had been removed, and simply used the backwash to destroy people for his own satisfaction.

The problem, as I see it, is that Leftist historians use McCarthy’s foul acts to hide the fact that the Communists had, in fact, infiltrated government.  He becomes the historic straw man for the very real threat to America’s constitutional integrity and national security.

Take back popular culture

I’ve written several times at this blog about the need to take back popular culture and make it more consistent with American values.  (Indeed, I think every conservative blogger has written the same thing.)  This Englishman, speaking of the disaster of British multiculturalism, perfectly articulates why a country must celebrate its own values:

For Murray, multiculturalism is a moral vacuum, and “into a moral vacuum always bad things creep.”

The Eton and Oxford educated Murray quotes Saul Bellow in his introduction to The Closing of the American Mind: “When public morality becomes a ghost town, it’s a place into which anyone can ride and declare himself sheriff.”

“Once so-called multicultural societies decided that they didn’t have a locus, that they didn’t have a center of gravity, anyone could ride in and teach the most pernicious things,” Murray expounds. “It didn’t matter. It was just another point of view.

“It’s an extraordinary situation. We allow absolutely anything. This is the reason the British police used not to investigate certain types of killing, like honor killings. This is a community matter, they’d say. Police have admitted that now. This is why tens of thousands of women from certain communities have been genitally mutilated. We have made ourselves entirely relative and it’s time to change that.”

If you believe that Hollywood is marketing values antithetical to America, you can finally do something about it:  You can become a film producer, at least sort of.  Find out how here:

And a teeny, little bleg, so that I too can take advantage of this great opportunity, without imposing on my liberal husband’s hard earned wages:

A challenge to us all to renew the philosemitic paradigm in America

Stand With Us is an extraordinarily important organization.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  Its goal is to counter the calumnies that an unholy union of Leftists and Islamists spread against Israel, especially on college campuses.

The Stand With Us founders realized something that American Jews and other friends of Israel had missed completely:  while most kids, Jewish and non-Jewish, go to college to get educated and have fun (not necessarily in that order), a certain sector of Muslim students goes to college, not for education and fun, but to delegitimize the State of Israel.

Delegitimization is not a sideline or a hobby.  This is the main goal.  On college campuses, the vehicle for this goal, usually, is the Muslim Student Union (“MSU”).  Outside of college, CAIR dedicates itself to the same full-time principle.

Here’s a useful analogy, especially if you’ve lived through teenagers.  You are a busy person.  You have a job, a household to run, obligations to your community, and children to raise.  Your teenager is not a busy person.  Oh, sure, he or she attends school and has some extracurricular activities, but they’re just side issues to the teenager’s main goal:  getting what he or she wants.

So if your teenager wants a new pair of ridiculously expensive shoes, that is what will occupy your teenager’s every waking thought.  And your teenager will let you know that.  You will never hear the end of the shoes.  While you’re trying to finish a major project, run errands, cook dinner, clean house and manage the carpools, all that your teenager is saying is “I want those shoes.  I want those shoes.  I want those shoes.”

Those Muslims dedicated to Israel’s destruction are precisely the same — they eat, sleep, live and breath destroying Israel.  They are completely dedicated and well-funded.  (We’ll just guess where that money comes from, right?)  And for about 30 years, they’ve been the only voice heard, especially in the higher education world.  When they set up their tables on campus malls, Jewish kids and other friends of Israel walked by them in disgust, but pretty much ignored them.  They were pernicious, but who really cared, right?  After all, there are final exams next week and parties this week.

But just as a drop of water can wear away a rock, the relentless anti-Israel messaging has had an effect on those who know nothing about Israel.  The know-nothings are the vacuums that the MSU and CAIR has been filling.

Filling this vacuum has been especially easy on campus because college professors are so often Marxists, and the Marxists have made common cause with the Islamists.  Each for their own reasons wants Israel and traditional Western values gone.  When they’ve achieved that goal, then they’ll fight over the spoils.  This means that college students — young, uninformed, malleable, and encouraged to be open to new ideas — are being filled with anti-Israel bile, within the classroom, on the campus plazas, and inside of the meeting rooms and dormitories.

As for whether the anti-Israel bile shades into old-fashioned antisemitism, look at what the MSU, CAIR, and their allies, both Muslim and Leftist say, and you will see, over and over and over, the signs of antisemitism that Natan Sharansky has helpfully spelled out:  demonization, delegitimization, and double-standards.  Those factors appear on every campus, in every Leftist march, and at every U.N. gathering.

Which brings me back to Stand With Us:  This organization aims to fill that 30 year old vacuum.  By providing students from all over the world with pro-Israel facts, by training them to stand up to a fact-devoid but hate-filled argument, and by giving them mountains of attractive, easy-to-read, and fact-filled written materials, Stand With Us is fighting back.

If you believe in Israel’s legitimacy, and her right to survive as a nation among nations, then you should donate to Stand With Us.  (You’ll find contact information here.)  If you believe that Israel’s and America’s fates are tied together, not because of some nefarious Jewish lobby, but because both are truly the last bulwarks in the world of true democracy and individual liberty against onslaughts by Leftism and Islamism, then you should donate to Stand With Us.  If you believe that freedom of speech means that the truth should be heard, then you should donate to Stand With Us.

But I have another challenge for you, one that isn’t just about giving money to what has become the premier organization in the world for countering anti-Israel slanders.  I want you to help me change the American zeitgeist, which has become very hostile to Jews.  This means, of course, changing America’s popular culture.  I’ve written before about the fact that I came of age in the post-WWII era when Jews were admired.  Israelis were seen as plucky Davids, and Jews at home were seen as wise, funny and principled.

That’s changed so much.  Israel is now seen as a rapacious, repressive, apartheid-style, genocidal nation.  And Jews — well, Jews support that regime, so how good can they be?

Worse than that, the Jews we see in popular culture, the Jews that Hollywood promotes, are not nice people.  Larry David is truly a brilliant comic mind, but his show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, presents an extraordinarily loathsome individual:  self-centered, insensitive, demanding, cheap, malicious, etc.

David is not an anomaly.  The most popular Jewish comedienne, and another one with her own show, is Sarah Silverman:  vindictive, vicious, anti-Christian, and neurotic.  Oh, and how about Jon Stewart?  He’s neurotic, anti-Christian, hostile to traditional American values, exceptionally foul-mouthed, etc.

These are the Jews that the mid-West sees.  No more long-suffering, wise and kind George Burns; no more silly Milton Berle; no more wildly talented Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, or Jerome Kern; no more hapless Jack Benny.

I’m not asking you all to become movie stars.  I am thinking, however, about the fact that the next generation, my kids’ generation, gets the world through entertainment media.  To change the paradigm for that generation, how about a rockin’ song that manages to interweave Israel’s 3,000 year old connection to Jerusalem?  How about an awesome video game, a la Call of Duty, that has IDF soldiers hunting down Ahmadinejad?  How about a warm-fuzzy comedy, which has an old-fashioned Hollywood Jew, wise and funny, rather than neurotic and mean-spirited?

Adam Sandler was on the right track when he did You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, a movie about a wildly talented Israeli Special Forces fighter who really wanted to be a hairdresser, but it was too gross to gain enough traction.  So far the only other thing Hollywood has managed to do recently about Israeli goals and fighters was Munich, in which Spielberg managed to make Israel look evil for bringing mass murderers to justice.  Spielberg gets great kudos for his Holocaust work, but it’s pretty clear that his interest in Jewish well-being ends with 1945.

So, if you have any type of talent, or if you know someone who does (I don’t, and I don’t), Israel needs your help.  It’s not enough to educate the people in the vacuum aware of the facts.  We need to make them care about the facts — and that’s done by changing the pop culture paradigm.  So, to borrow a perfect pop culture phrase:  JUST DO IT.

The relative value of actors *UPDATED*

I already mentioned how impressed I was by Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech, which I posted here, and listed to in its entirety while folding laundry.  Listening to Reagan made that task go much faster.  It’s a fabulous speech, with each idea — most of which are as relevant today re government spending, individual freedom, and threats from abroad as they were in 1964 — beautifully developed and presented.

The speech is a great reminder that, in a pre-MTV era, in a day before spin and sound bytes, people could develop ideas.  Theoretically, they still can, but no one has the patience to listen.  My kids, who are bright enough, have a 3 second attention span.  If you haven’t caught their interest in that time, give up.

But that’s not actually the point I want to make.  I want to make a different point, about the insults that emanate from the Left (by which I really mean the media) when a credible conservative candidate appears on the scene.

I was three when Reagan made his speech.  I was still relatively young when he was governor.  This means that my first real memories of him involve his presidency.  One of the things I remember most vividly from that time is the fact that one of the “worst” insults routinely hurled at him by the media and other self-styled intellectuals on the Left was that he was an actor.  That meant, prima facie, that he was stupid.  Up until the end of the Reagan presidency, “actor” and “stupid” were cross-referenced in the Leftist dictionary.

That all changed with Clinton, when Hollywood went hog wild for a president, and he reciprocated that love.  In today’s media world, actors who are seen as credible voices on the political scene, opining on talk shows, in the news, before Congress, in the Lincoln bedroom, and at pricey White House parties.

What one discovers each time most of them speaks is that enough of them are so stupid that one is forced to conclude that, subject to a few exceptions (Reagan, Kevin Costner, and Gary Sinese, to name just three), actors really are singularly unsuited to opine on political issues.  If you check out the fun at Big Hollywood, you’ll get to see regularly the imbalance between intelligence and lack of intelligence when it comes to the Hollywood crew, with the scales weighing heavily on the unintelligent side.

UPDATE:  Two perfect examples from the entertainment area:  Sheryl Crow and Janeane Garofalo — both arrogant, ignorant and, quite possibly, delusional.

Kevin Costner

As an actor, Kevin Costner has never floated my boat.  I just don’t get him.  That’s okay.  Where it really counts, he’s a mensch.  Wish there were more like him.

I find myself in the peculiar position of defending “Family Guy”

I’ve never been able to last more than a couple of minutes watching Family Guy.  It is, quite simply, way too crude for my tastes.  It takes vulgar, and puts it into hyperdrive.  I’m also out of sync with its liberal sensibilities, but that goes for 99% of what’s on TV nowadays, so that fact really doesn’t distinguish Family Guy for me.

Given the grotesqueness that so frequently pops up on the show, I wasn’t surprised to hear that it’s now decided to offend Vietnam War vets.  After all, at a certain point, the same old targets get boring.  Still, I was curious as to how the show was going to serve up this latest offense, so I hopped on over to the video, here.  And yes, it is true that the segment is remarkably nasty when it comes to Vietnam Vets.  Remarkably.  But still….

Okay, I’m going to hate myself for saying this, but the attack on Vets lives within the context of a larger attack that actually has some merit.  This attack is against an America that, by elevating Obama to a pedestal of alarming proportions, has debased itself in the process.  And in that context, the nastiness of the attack on the Vets is a reminder that America’s slide downward to its current economic, cultural and security abyss started with the anti-War movement.

Just think about it:  the video starts with the statement that Washington, D.C., is the “seat of government for the world’s former most powerful nation.”  It then moves immediately to a visual of the Washington monument, a symbol of America’s freedoms and unique status, dwarfed by an “Obama monument.”  (And we won’t even get into the phallic symbolism of that large, black obelisk.)  It doesn’t take a dodo to figure out that, whether or not the writers intended it, the characters are saying that the mighty Obama presides over a shrunken nation.  Travel from there to a nasty Vietnamese man taunting American soldiers about the war dead, and ending with “Vietnam!  Undefeated!” and you have a pretty scathing indictment of a downfall that began with America’s own Fifth Column, and ended with an artificially inflated president lording it over a shrunken nation — and, worse, one that he continues to diminish.

Honestly, I don’t know what the Family Guy writers were thinking when they wrote this stuff but sometimes the truth leaks out, no matter the writer’s goals.  Whether these writers were planning on ridiculing conservative fears, lauding Obama, or attacking Veterans on the eve of Memorial Day, they managed to create a short vignette that contains within it some very ugly truths about our past, present and future.

A bad movie review that makes me want to see the movie

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so when the New York Times disses a movie based upon its politics, that may just be enough to mobilize me and move me to a theater.  Here’s the NYT on Robin Hood:

You may have heard that Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but that was just liberal media propaganda. This Robin is no socialist bandit practicing freelance wealth redistribution, but rather a manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and a big government scheme to trample the ancient liberties of property owners and provincial nobles. Don’t tread on him!

So is “Robin Hood” one big medieval tea party? Kind of, though that description makes the movie sound both more fun and more provocative than it actually is. The film’s politics, in any case, are more implicit than overt, so that the filmmakers can plausibly deny any particular topical agenda. Which is fair enough: the fight of ragged warriors against sniveling and sadistic tyrants appeals across tastes and ideologies. In our own minds, at least at the movies, we are all embattled underdogs standing up for our rights against a bunch of overprivileged jerks who won’t leave us alone.

You can read the rest here, if you want to.

Then again, John Boot doesn’t like it either, because it’s a really bad movie, so I may just go into my default mode with any movie and not watch it.

Football, faith and the media

Well, I finally got around to seeing The Blind Side.  For those unfamiliar with the movie, it retells the true story of Michael Oher, a profoundly disadvantaged black boy who ended up as a scholarship student at a Christian academy in Memphis.  Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, parents at the school, stumbled across him, and eventually took him into their home and family.  With the Tuohy family’s help, he graduated from high school, went to Ole Miss on a football scholarship, and was eventually a first round NFL draft pick.  You can read his story in the New York Times article that served as the basis for the movie.

I have to say here and now that I really dislike most new movies that I see.  I find them boring, and the values usually offend me.  My husband is resigned to the fact that there’s a 90% likelihood that I’ll walk out on any movie within the first 10 minutes.  But I sat and watched The Blind Side to the end, including the credits.  It’s that rare story of good people doing good things.  With the exception of a single jerky football player and the drug dealers from Michael’s old neighborhood, the movie shows people motivated to do well for a child who was truly lost in the system.

As many of you already know, the movie makes no bones about the Christian values driving those who got involved in Oher’s life.  A Christian academy took Michael in (admittedly with something of an eye to his football potential), and Leigh Anne explicitly viewed her acts through the lens of Christian charity.   While the movie doesn’t preach Christian doctrine, it does say something rare in Hollywood movies:  Christians are good people and they are not bigots, even Southern Christians.

Others who have seen the movie (SPOILER ALERT) have noted that Hollywood did manage to get in a few anti-Republican digs, but they were minimal.  When Leigh Ann, frustrated with an endless line at a government office asks the rude, gum-chewing clerk who’s in charge, the clerk points to a picture of George Bush.  Anyone who isn’t half dead realizes, of course, that the United States President is not directly in charge of the lackadaisical behavior at a Memphis government office.  Leigh Ann just ignores the foolish dig and powers on ahead.

The biggest “political” moment in the movie comes when Miss Sue, a private tutor played by Kathy Bates, makes a confession to Leigh Ann during her job interview:  She’s a Democrat.

I think the movie-makers were trying to show that it’s scary, and that one needs to be secretive, in order to be a Democrat in Republican country.  Leigh Ann’s response, however, was pitch-perfect, and I know this because I was a Democrat in Southern Republican country.  She looks blank (“why would someone make a big deal about this confession?”), mutters a polite word, and moves on.  No diatribes, no insults.  It’s very real, and it says something about both Democratic expectations and Republican realities.  (SPOILER ALERT OVER.)

Even though I saw the movie a couple of days ago, I was thinking of it today because of Stuart Schwartz’s article about the fear and loathing the mainstream sports media feels towards Tim Tebow.  (Don Quixote, who knows his sports, read the article and he says that, while Schwartz misunderstands some of the jabs as being aimed at Tebow’s faith rather than his slightly goofy football, the gist of the article is correct.)  Here’s a flavor of what Schwartz has to say about the media’s approach to an overtly Christian NFL player (hyperlinks omitted):

Get accused twice of rape (Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh), repeatedly abuse your wife (Michael Pittman, Tampa Bay), regularly strangle and drown hapless dogs (Michael Vick, Atlanta)? Ah, well, boys will be boys, it is society’s fault — and besides, women and dogs don’t wear Super Bowl rings. But pray, work with the poor, and refuse to engage in casual sex — there’s something seriously wrong with you. Or, as one Sports Illustrated writer put it, you are a certified “wackdo.”


With rare exception (Denver Post columnist Woody Paige predicted stardom, maintaining that murder and mayhem are not the only qualifications for NFL success), the journalists have delighted in disparaging the Tebows as too “Christiany,” a journalistic synonym for “fascist.” You know, the kind of people whose vocal love for Jesus conjures up thoughts of a “Nazi rally,” as the largest Boston sports radio station described a family gathering.


Positively un-NFL, so much so that one front-office executive announced to Yahoo Sports that “I don’t want any part of him” and his nutty views. Yahoo Sports columnist Les Carpenter, reacting to this, noted that Tebow, “known for his goodness[,] has actually drawn a more visceral reaction [from the NFL and sports journalism establishment] than those players who are at their core, truly bad.”

But Tebow continues being Tebow. He responds with good-natured humor to a jeering press that accuses him of being a virgin with a simple statement: “Yes, I am.” And he goes on to explain the importance of commitment and marriage and ends with noting the discomfort in the room: “I think y’all are stunned right now.”

…To which Pro Sports Daily responded “Don’t be shocked if some of these guys want to take him out and kill the legend that is Tim Tebow.” NCAA Football Fanhouse expressed dismay that “the most popular player in SEC history is saving himself for marriage.” “Unbelievable” when he can have any girl he wants.

What is wrong with this guy? The Washington Post brought in professional atheist Richard Dawkins to reassure its readers that the NFL has nothing to fear. Too many hits from the blind side did not produce this “dummy.”

There is something very wrong with a milieu that routinely excuses violence and vice, and that is genuinely frightened of goodness, the same goodness that saw Michael Oher rescued from an abysmal vacuum of poverty and neglect.

You know that I like matching things up.  I look for articles and stories that provide stark contrasts or that reinforce each other.  Here, we have two stories about faith.  One about its power, and the other about the fear it inspires.

I’m not a person of faith.  I think it would be wonderful and comforting to believe in God, but I don’t.

I’m also not a fool.  I don’t disc0unt the notion of God, because there is too much that neither I, nor anyone else, can explain or understand.  To deny God’s existence is so audacious an act, I would basically be arrogating God-like status for myself.  My cautious view, lying in a gray zone that encompasses atheism and agnosticism is, as I often say to the children, that something preceded the Big Bang.

Mostly, though, regardless of my personal religious views, I’m someone who likes American Christians (by which I mean those people who worship God, not those who worship liberalism as shaped through PC churches that periodically make a nominal nod in the Bible’s direction).  In my experience — and I lived in the American South when I was a Jewish atheist Democrat — American Christians are truly good people.

Yeah, sure there are the Sunday Christians who practice fraud on Monday, and there are the ones who are racists or antisemites, but that’s not the face of the vast majority of American Christians.  Their faces are the same face that the Tuohys and the Tebows show:  hard-working, committed to traditional morality, generous with hearts and homes, and deeply aware of the value of life.  This last — this reverence for life — is not just focused on the abortion issue.  Instead, it manifests itself as a generalized belief that ordinary people are worthy.  People aren’t cogs, or PC labels, but individuals, imbued with a spirit that deserves respect.

I think it is this respect for the individual that is so frightening to the liberal establishment.  Individualism and Big Government are antithetical.  As, England, my favorite socialist example, shows, once Big Government takes over the functions individuals once served (as parents, employers, caregivers, etc.), hard-work, morality, and generosity fly out the door. You end up with a country that veers wildly between excessively tight control (those kumquats had better be the right size) and complete anarchy (as demonstrated by England’s soaring alcoholism, assault, murder, child abuse, SDT, and illegitimate children statistics).

Worse, those countries that have moved beyond England into hard-core Communism demonstrate that, once the collective is transcendent, the individual has no value at all.  Even as government benefits are being showered on the collective (free homes, free health care, free whatever), the individual is being sent to gulags and concentration camps.

I know that I’ve traveled a long way from a surprisingly sweet and good Hollywood movie to the gas chambers, but it is a continuum.  As the media’s relentless attacks on Tebow’s fierce individualism show, the Left fully understands that people like Tebow and the Tuohys undermine the hegemony it seeks.  And as ordinary Americans need to understand, the utopian hegemony the media imagines will arise when the Tebows are gone, is in reality a totalitarian world devoid of all human kindness.

Can it be good that Brad Bird is thinking about making a movie about the Iraq War? *UPDATED*

UPDATE: Thanks to the amazing power of the internet, a reliable source has let me know that this is a rumor, pure and simple.  No truth to it.  I’m leaving this post here, however,  just in case anyone follows up on it, so that there is no confusion about the truth (this) and the rumor (below).  Also, it is a cool mind game to imagine someone with Bird’s abilities tackling a story-line like this.  I might not necessarily like the results, but they’d still be interesting.

Okay, this is rumor, arising from speculation, with a sound basis in gossip, but I’m going to pass it on for what it’s worth.

You all know who Brad Bird is, right?  He worked on the Simpsons show, his first full length movie was The Iron Giant, and he shot to “I know that name” fame with The Incredibles.  The latter is a truly brilliant movie.  It’s witty, exciting, imaginative, and the voice casting is unusually perfect.  My favorite character is Edna “E” Mode, who is voiced by Brad Bird himself:

What’s also great about The Incredibles is the core values that permeate the movie’s fabric:  competition is good, striving for success is good, an education that seeks equality of outcome instead of equality of opportunity is bad:

Helen: Dash… this is the third time this year you’ve been sent to the office. We need to find a better outlet. A more… constructive outlet.
Dash: Maybe I could, if you’d let me go out for sports.
Helen: Honey, you know why we can’t do that.
Dash: But I promise I’ll slow up. I’ll only be the best by a tiny bit.
Dash: Dashiell Robert Parr, you are an incredibly competitive boy, and a bit of a show-off. The last thing you need is temptation.
Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

This was a subversive movie, and the funny thing was that even the people who worked on it didn’t realize it.  I know this because I knew a lot of the people involved in the film since it was made at Pixar Studios, across the bay from my Marin home base.  All of them, without exception, are die-hard Democrats who loathed Bush with an irrational passion, and rejoiced in Obama’s election.  They are unthinking, knee-jerk liberals, yet it was they who kept saying how brilliant the principles in The Incredibles were.  I pointed out, delicately, that the principles are at odds with an identity-based, Big Government, equality of outcome Democratic party, but they were incapable of seeing that.

As for Brad Bird, I don’t know.  I’ve met him once, and can tell you that he is a very nice man on superficial acquaintance, but that’s all I can tell you.  Everything else you know:  brilliant, imaginative and, possibly, subversive.

Which is why I found interesting a rumor that has popped up in Marin:  Bird is planning on making a movie called The Pride of Baghdad, about lions that ended up free after the Shock and Awe campaign in 2003.  My first thought was, “Oh, no!  Now anti-war, anti-American politics are going to trickle down into kids’ movies too.”  My second thought was, “Wait a minute.  I think Brad Bird is a bit subversive.  Let me check this out.”

What checking it had has revealed is that there is indeed a graphic novel called Pride of Baghdad, and it does take as its starting point the lions who escaped from the zoo as a result of the U.S. invasion.  As at least half the consumer reviewers at Amazon like to point out, and you can almost hear the trembling outrage in their voices, U.S. troops shot the lions, a story that made the news back in 2004.  (I rather suspect that the city’s residents were pleased not to have hungry lions roaming around, but that’s just me.)

Beyond that, however, I’m having trouble pinning down whether the book is pro-War or anti-War.  Most reviewers simply raved about the book’s incredibly graphics and its plot’s nuance.  They were vague as to ideology, Instead, they fell into a “this is a great book, I really liked it, take my word for it” mode.

As much as anything else, the Amazon reader reviews hint that it is the reader’s own sensibilities that inform the book.  You got the War is hell, and is worse than a lack of freedom reviews, as well as the War is hell, but being a perpetual prisoner is worse reviews.  It’s entirely possible that the book is so neutral, it is basically a Roar-schach test (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) of each viewer’s own values.  It will be very interesting, therefore, to see what values Brad Bird chooses to emphasize should he make the movie.  Will it be about the evil U.S. and the horrors of war, snatching people from their comfortable prisons and exposing them to death, or will it be about the fact that freedom is not free, but that any price we pay is better than the loss of individualism and freedom?

What do you get when you cross a Bratz doll with a Smurf? *UPDATED*

What do you get when you cross a Bratz doll with a Smurf?  A Na’vi.

Yup, folks, I finally caught up with my pop culture and went to see Avatar last night.  Seeing it made me realize why I so seldom bother to catch up with pop culture.  The movie was a snoozer.  The first two hours were mostly a college freshman’s fantasy anthropology thesis leavened by myriad cliches and really bad acting.  At the very end, when the action adventure sequences finally kicked in, I didn’t think the visual quality or the plot turns were any better than the most recent Transformers movie.

Others have written about the movie’s politics, which are certainly offensive (military evil, corporations evil) and stupidly demeaning (indigenous people are child-like angels on earth), so I won’t go there.  What bugged me was how derivative the movie was.  Again, others have commented on the way in which Cameron simply recycled Dances With Wolves and a gazillion other movies in which the evil American military and corporations seek to destroy indigenous people, only to have a messiah like ex-military or ex-corporate person ride in to save the innocent indigenous who can’t save themselves.  All that goes without saying given Cameron’s knee jerk politics (although I don’t see him donating his profits to any indigenous people’s groups).  Nope, what bugged me was the lazy derivative quality that had Cameron borrowing from a bunch of other movies.

For starters, as I said, the creepy Na’vi were clearly inspired by hybridizing Bratz dolls and Smurfs.  Here, I’ll illustrate.

First, the Bratz dolls, with their big heads, huge, highly colored eyes, and abnormally elongated bodies:


Next, the Smurfs, with their blue skin and big ears:


Blend these pop culture images, and you end up with Na’vi, completed with oversized heads, big ears, big eyes, blue skin and weirdly elongated bodies:


The only mystery is how the Na’vis figured out, on their own, the wonders of corn-rowed hair:


But the borrowing didn’t stop there.  Do you remember when Jake Sully was giving his impassioned “we can’t all get along” speech?  Because the movie was in 3D, Jake’s wagging little tail kept distracting my eye.  It didn’t take me long to track down that image either:


Twice in the Wizard of Oz (that I can remember) that tail took center stage:  once when the four friends began their long walk down the hallway to meet the Wizard for the first time, and once again when the tail kept peeking out of the costume the Cowardly Lion had stolen from the witch’s guards.  There is no doubt in my mind that the same genius who designed the tail for the Wizard of Oz got resurrected to help out with the Na’vi.

Cameron raided old Hollywood for other ideas.  The night time scenes of a luminous Pandora were pretty, but certainly not original.  Disney got there first, all the way back in 1940, in the lovely Nutcracker Suite part of Fantasia:

For the goddess’ tree, those glowing, hanging limbs, into which the Na’vi can plug their braids, were clearly inspired by commercial grade rope lights, right down to the little bulbs embedded in the strand, and the plugs at the end:


(Here’s an even better example of light ropes.)

As for the dialogue . . . bleh!  Cameron is a terrible writer.  Borrowed ideas, film cliches (people always whoop in helicopters or when they’re otherwise flying) and, worst, unbelievably hackneyed lines borrowed from decades of bad action movies:

[to Jake, before he becomes an Avatar]
Dr. Grace Augustine: Just relax and let your mind go blank. That shouldn’t be too hard for you.


Dr. Grace Augustine: So you just figured you’d come here, to the most hostile environment known to men, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?
Jake Sully: Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn’t do.


Trudy Chacon: [fires on Quaritch’s Hellicopter] Your’e not the only one with a gun, Bitch!


Col. Quaritch: Yo Sully! How does it feel to betray your own race?


Jake Sully: It’s over.
Col. Quaritch: Nothing’s over while I’m breathing.
Jake Sully: I was kinda hoping you’d say that.

Cliches, insults, wooden writing, it’s all there. I’m surprised Cameron didn’t manage to have the wacko Marine Colonel throw in “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”  To be fair to Cameron’s bad writing and nasty attitude, though, he did manage to get in a snide reference to “shock and awe” by referring to the campaign against the angelic Na’vi in those terms.

I could go on, but it’s like re-living a bad dream over and over.  For 162 minutes, I writhed in my theater seat, overwhelmed by boredom, leavened only by the occasional disgust.  What a lousy movie.  If it wasn’t for the computer animation, it would have sunk like a stone.  And to be honest, even the animation wasn’t that good.  [Slight spoiler alert:]  The only time I really felt it added to the movie was when ash was falling after the crazed military bombed the great tree.  That was kind of pretty.  [End of slight spoiler.]

If you’ve seen Avatar, I bet you know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t, save your money.  Or better, the ticket price to a gift basket at Soldier’s Angels.  Those guys and gals deserve it after the massive insult lobbed at them in the most popular movie in years.

UPDATE:  Silly me.  I forgot another borrowing.  (The following is a slight spoiler, if you care.)  When the born-again indigenous Jake calls upon the earth for help, and gets that help, that came right out of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis (who borrowed the concept from Tolkein).  In both those classics, the enraged trees in a land despoiled by evil end up helping the good guys.  Funnily enough, though, I never saw either Tolkein or Lewis as savage critics of corporatism, conventional religion or their own nation’s military.  I must have missed something.

Andrew Klavan’s must-see PJTV

You’ve got to see this one.  It’s so right — and it really resonates with me because I work so hard educating and inoculating my children against the omnipresent Leftist pop culture.  I think the video also works for me because, as a history major who has always rejected Marxist and deconstructionist approaches to history, I believe in historic facts and despise the way in which liberals manipulate history to suit their current political outcomes.  (Although, to be just, Shakespeare did precisely the same thing, although he was pandering to current royalty, rather than trying to propagandize the public.)

Pop culture inversions

I’m not a Woody Allen fan, but occasional scenes in his movies stick in my memory.  There’s one scene I remember, although I don’t know if I really saw it or if my fertile imagination invented it.  It was from one of his late 60s/early 70s movies.  As I recall, it shows him riding on a subway, reading what looks like Commentary Magazine.  In fact, the camera reveals that he’s actually reading either Playboy or a comic book or something else lowbrow.  He just has Commentary as camo to impress subway bystanders with his intellectualism.  I keep thinking of that scene, because it strikes me that, if the same scene were filmed today, the character would secretly be reading Commentary Magazine, and would have Playboy or a comic book or something else lowbrow displayed ostentatiously to impress people with his pop culture cool.

Strange world.

Hollywood priorities revealed in petition signatures

When the law finally caught up with Roman Polanski, self-confessed rapist of a 13 year old girl, the entertainment and fashion worlds leaped into action.  Without even attempting to claim Polanski was innocent (hard to do, since he admitted the charge as part of a plea-bargain), the petition assured the world that Polanski deserved freedom because he was an artist who traveled to a film festival.  Unbeknownst to normal people (that would be you and me), a film festival is the modern equivalent of the medieval notion of sanctuary.  I’m not making this up.  Hollywood spelled it out:

Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him.

By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.

The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no-one can know the effects.

Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.

Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians – everyone involved in international filmmaking – want him to know that he has their support and friendship.

The above is nonsensical to anyone who respects either the law or moral decency.  But it flew big time in the entertainment and fashion world.  Here’s a complete list of the original signatories, many of whom are major players in the entertainment industry.  In the sea of French names, I’ve highlighted the names I recognize.  I’m sure many of you will recognize more.  (‘I’m reprinting the list in its entirety, because its length is impressive and important.)

Olivia A. Bugnon, Michael A. Russ, Erika Abrams, Marguerite Aflallo, Fortunio Aflallo, Stéphane Agussol, Fatih Akin, Yves Alberty, Stephane Allagnon, Brice Allavoine, Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Gianni Amelio, Greta Amend, Wess Anderson, Michel Andrieu, Roger Andrieux, Pascale Angelini, Yannick Angelloznicoud, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Bernard Anne, Tomas Arana, Frédéric Aranzueque-Arrieta, Alexandre Arcady, Fanny Ardant, Asia Argento, Judith Arlt, Marie-Hélène Arnau, Stéphane Arnoux, Darren Aronofsky, Stéphanie Arques-Voitoux, Olivier Assayas, Alexander Astruc, Simone Audissou, Gabriel Auer, Jennifer Augé, Zdzicho Augustyniak, Alexandre Babel, Vladimir Bagrianski, Jean-Yves Bainier, Hélène Bainier, Lubomila Bakardi, Fausto Nicolás Balbi, Eleonor Baldwin, Jean-François Balmer, Alberto Barbera Museo nazionale de Torino, Sylvie Bardet-Borel, Ruth Barensteiner, Luc Barnier, Christophe Barratier, Ernest Barteldes, Carmen Bartl, Pascal Batigne, Sylvette Baudrot, Anne Baudry, Henning Bauer, Tone Bay, Juan Antonio Bayona, Xavier Beauvois, Liria Begeja, Matthieu Béguelin, Gilles Behat, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Marco Bellochio, Yannick Bellon, Florence Bellone, Monica Bellucci, Véra Belmont, Jacqueline Belon, Jean-Marc Benguigui, Djamel Bennecib, Saïd Ben-Said, Luc Béraud, Jean-Pierre Berckmans, Jacob Berger, Christof Berger, Alain Berliner, Gael Garcia Bernal, Pascal Berney, Xavier Berry, Jean-Paul Bertin, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuseppe Bertolucci, Jean-Marie Besset, Nico Beyer, Marlène Bisson, Arnstein Bjørkly, Lucien Blacher, Jean-Marc Bloch, Léa Bloch, Marks Blond, Catherine Boissière, Anne-Sylvie Bonaud, Olivier Bonnet, Thierry Boscheron, Renata Bosco, Freddy Bossy, Claudia Bottino , Jacqueline Bouchard, Louise Anne Bouchard, Patrick Bouchitey, Cédric Bouchoucha, Paul Boujenah, Patrice Bourbon, Frédéric Bourboulon, Jérôme Bourgon, Etienne Boussac, Christine Bouthemy, Katia Boutin, Elizabeth Brach, Ian Brady, Jacques Bral, Sophie Bramly, Paulo Branco, Patrick Braoudé, Guila Braoudé, Edwin Brienen, Adrien Brody, Stéphane Brodzki, Isabelle Broué, Max Brun, Merima Bruncevic, Bastien Brunel, Caroline Brunner, Anne Burki, André Buytaers, Anthony Byrne, Come Caca, Marco Cacioppo, Gerald Calderon, Monica Cannizzaro, Peggy Carajopoulou-Vavali, John Carchietta, Christian Carion, Angela Carlin, Henning Carlsen, Jean-Michel Carré, Esteban Carvajal Alegria, Lionel Cassan, Bryan Cassiday, Pascale Castioni, Miss Catadler, Steve Catieau, Morgane Caux, Mathieu Celary, Pedro Celestino, Teco Celio, Muriel Cerf, Dabiel Chabannes, Thierry Chabert, Chagi, Jean-Yves Chalangeas, Daniel Champagnon, Christophe Champclaux, Georges Chappedelaine , Litseselidis Charalampos, Yann Charbonnier, David Charhon, Fabienne Chauveau, Claire Chazal, Valérie Chemarin, Patrice Chéreau, Hubert Chertier, Brigitte Chesneau, Marie-Christine Chesneau, Michel Chevalier, Franck Chevalier, Mishka Cheyko, Catherine Chiono, Catherine Chouchan, Elie Chouraqui, Alex Cichy, Souleymane Cissé, Jean- Pierre Clech, Henri Codenie, Robert Cohen, Olivier Cohen, Lilia Cohen Decerisy, Catherine Colassin, Suzanne Colonna, Jean-Paul Commin, Andrea Concato, Patrick Conrad, Anne Consigny, Alain Cophignon, Antony Cordier, Alain Corneau, Jérôme Cornuau, Bruno Coulais, Guy Courtecuisse, Miguel Courtois, Antoine Courtray, Christiane Courvoisier, Guillaume Cousin, Morgan Crestel, Rudyard Cretenet, Dominique Crevecoeur, Alfonso Cuaron, Estelle Cywje, Isabelle D. Philippe, Nicola D’Ugo, Frédéric Damien, Sophie Danon, Bill Darbyshire, Olivier Dard, Luc et Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Isabelle Dassonville, Sophie Davidas, Robin Davis, Bruno de Almeida, Marion de Blaÿ, Agnès de Kergorlay, François de Lamothe, Hervé de Luze, Artus de Penguern, Valérie de Saint-Do, Wim De Temmerman, Virginie De Wilde, Christel de Wit, Olivier Debert, Viviane Decuypere, Guillermo del Toro, Alain Delannoy, Benoît Delmas, Michel Deloore, Jonathan Demme, Nicolaine den Breejen, Ruud den Dryver, Louisa Dent, Caroline Deruas, Edwin Dervaux, Dante Desarthe, Romain Desbiens, Sophie Deschamps, Thomas Desjonquères, Alexandre Desplat, Chris Devi, Rosalinde et Michel Deville, Guillaume D’Ham, Christelle Didier, Dieter Diependaele, Anne-Sophie Dinant, Kathrin DiPaola, Claire Dixsaut, Julien Doger, Catherine Doire, Xavier Dolan, Fanny Dollé-Labbé, Helen Donlon, Ariel Dorfman, Kristen Doty, Jean Douchet, Thierry Drean, Fabrice du Welz, Marina Duarte Nunes Ferreira, Nicholas Dubreuil, Danièle Dubroux, Martine Dugowson, François Duhamel, Sissi Duparc, Jean Dusaussoy, Verlaine Eddy, Daniel Edinger, Arne Eickenberg, Yaniv Elani, Majka Elczewska, Benoît Eliot, Gerónimo Elortegui, Elrem, Sam Enoch, Peter Lucas Erixon, Ernest, Ann Eyckmans, Nicolas Fagard, Jacques Fansten, Joël Farges, Gianluca Farinelli (Cinémathèque de de Bologne), Etienne Faure, Pierre Antoine Faure, Guy Ferrandis, Maud et Romain Ferrari, Michel Ferry, Jean Teddy Filippe, Aurélie Fiorentino, Alan Fischer, Bob Fischer, Martine Fitoussi, Sebastian Fleischhacker, Joy Fleury., Michael Flynn, Hugues Fontenoy, Scott Foundas, Werner Fraai, Jean-Robert Franco, Stephen Frears, Patrick Frégonara, Marion Frelat, Thierry Frémaux, Christine Freret, Marc Freycon, Nadine Fruchard, Sam Gabarski, Dominique Gadoin, Jean Francois Gaillard, René Gainville, Sara Gandolfi, Fernand Garcia, Matteo Garone, Vincent Garreau, Philippe Garrel, Yves Gasser, Tony Gatlif, Catherine Gaudin-Montalto, Jean-Marc Gauthier, Costa Gavras, Christiane Gehl-Gabadou, Nathalie Geiser, Lizi Gelber, Isabelle Gély, Jean-Marc Ghanassia, Alain Gil, Véronique Gillet, Terry Gilliam, Christian Gion, Zbiggy Giovanos, Agata Giovanos, François Girault, Stéphane Gizard, Michaël Goldberg, Nelson Gonzalez, Carlos Miguel Bernardo González, Charles Andre Gordeaux, Christophe Goumand, Yann Gozlan, Michel Gras, Eric Gravereau, Martin Gregus, Dominique Greusard, Thierry Grizard, Serge Grünberg, Philippe Gruss, Geoffroy Guerrier, Florent Guézengar, Marc Guidoni, Laurence Guillat, Philippe Guillermo Bernd Günther, Marta Gutowska, Michele Hababou, Mikael Håfström, Lesly Hamilton, Catherine Hargreaves, Ronald Harwood, Dimitri Haulet, Geert Heirbaut, René Heitz, Buck Henry, Michèle Henx, Nicole Herbaut de Lamothe, Ingrid Herbert, Thoralf Herz, Siegfried Hettegger, David Heyman, Laurent Heynemann, Joshua Highfield , Patrick Hirigoyen, Fritz Erik Hoevels, Dominique Hollier, Isabelle Hontebeyrie, Frédéric Horiszny, Andreas Horvath, Robert Hossein, Igor Hrovatic-Hanover, Jean-Loup Hubert, Wendy Hudson, Allison Hull, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Luce Jaccard, Gilles Jacob, Eric et Veronique et Nicolas Jacquelin, Olivier Jacquet, Just Jaeckin, Thomas Jahn, Olivia Janik, Olivier Jansen, Nihad Christian Jarallah, Jean-Baptiste Jay, Anne Jeandet, Marie Jergan, Alain Jessua, Renate Jett, Sébastien Jimenez, Arthur Joffé, Pierre Jolivet, Kent Jones (World Cinema Foundation) , Erik Jørgensen, Emmanuelle Jossifort, Peter Josy, Florence Joutel, Rémy Jouvin Bessière, Alexandra Julen, Paola Jullian, Roger Kahane, Pierre Kalfon, Elisabeth Kalinowski, Michel Kammoun, Pascal Kané, Reena Kanji, Nelly Kaplan, Wong Kar Waï, Katylodola, Elisabeth Keplinger, Nicolas Kermel, Darius Khondji, Nathalie Kiener, Ladislas Kijno, Luc Kinsch, Muriel Kintziger, Richard Klebinder, Jonathan Klein, William Klein, Harmony Korinne, Jan Kounen, Andrzej Krakowski, Chantal Krakowski, Sylvia Kristel, Hanna Kudelski, Diane Kurys, Elzbieta Kusak-Majchrzak, Emir Kusturica, Irene Kuznetzova, Jean Labadie, Eliane Lacroux, Eric Lagesse, Michel Laigle, Stéphane Lam, John Landis, Claude Lanzmann, David Lanzmann, André Larquié, Pauline Larrieu, Jacques et Françoise Lassalle, Marc Latil, Carole Laure, Christine Laurent-Blixen, Pierre Laville, Emilien Lazaron, Junille Le Pesteur, Eric Le Roy, Pierre Le Scouarnec, Fábio Leal, Pawel Lech, Vinciane Lecocq, Eric Lecocq, Patrice Leconte, Linda Lefebvre, Béatrice Lefoulon, Catherine Legal, Delphine Legros, Claude Lelouch, Jean-louis Lemierre, Ann Lemonnier, Julieta Lencina, Alain Lenglet, Gérard Lenne, Claudine Lenoir, Julie Lerouxel, Les Nanaqui, Larry Levine, Charlotte Levy, Lorraine Lévy, Pierre et Renée Lhomme, Stephane Lioret, Katarzyna Lipinska, Marish Lippi, Jean-Marc Loiseau, Catherine Rachel Loiseau, Cynthia Long, Jean-Claude Irving Longin, Marisa Lorah, Marceline Loridan-Ivens, Nicole Lormeau, Joffrey Louis, Michael Louis Wells, Boris Loundine, Rachel Lowenstein, Catalina Lozano, Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski, Flore Luquet, Laurence Lustyk, David Lynch, Bania Madjbar, Krzysztof Majchrzak, Velipekka Makkonen, Laurent Malet, Tim Malieckal, Guy Malugani, Erling Mandelmann, Bertrand  Mandico, Michael Mann, Alessandro Marcelli, Carlos Marciales, Yvon Marciano, François Margolin, Joseph Marin, Jean-Pierre Marois, Tonie Marshall, Alexandre Martelin, Alain Martin, Sandrine Martin, Danielle Martinetti, Florent Martinez, Didier Martiny, Mario Martone, Thierry Mathelin, Christine Mathis, Esmeralda Mattei, Nicolas Mauvernay, Yannick Mazet, Christopher, Spencer et Claire Mc Andrew, Natalie Mei, Michelle Géranium Melman-Gory, Guillermo Menaldi, Mathieu Mercier, Muriel Mercier, Frédéric Mermoud, Nicolas Mesdom, Laura Metaxa, Margot Meynier, Allison Michel, Radu Mihaileanu, Anna Mikropoulou, Jean-Louis Milesi, Claude Miller, Lionel Miniato, Eric Miot, Bernard Mirgain, Annie Misserey, Nelly Moaligou, Jean – Marc Modeste , Mario Monicelli, Maryline Monthieux, Miguel Morales, Jeanne Moreau, Frédéric Moreau, Sarah Moreau-Flament, Gael Morel, Christian Morel de Sarcus, Omayra Muñiz Fernández, Carmen Munoz, Stephanie Murat, Christian Mvogo Mbarga, Tim Myers, Anna N.Levine, Elisabeth Nègre, Charles Nemes, Florence Nicolas, Juliette Nicolas-Donnard, Sandra Nicolier, Edouard Niermans, Rachel Noël, Rui Nogueira, Olivier Nolin, Alejandra Norambuena Skira, Anna Nordahl, Fabrice Nordmann, Fabrice O. Joubert, Sigrid Obellianne, Lucien Obellianne, Marc Obéron, Michel Ocelot, David Ogando, Mariana Oliveira Santos, Szentgyörgyi Ottó, Martine Pagès, Eric Pape, Vincent Pappalardo, Jacques Paratte, Nadia Paschetto, Abner Pastoll, Alexander Payne, Guy Péchard, Nicola Pecorini, Richard Pena (Directeur Festival de NY), Lindsey Pence, Olivier Père, Suzana Peric, Vladimir Perisic, Patrick Perlman, Jacques Perrin, Laurent Petitgirard, Cesare Petrillo, Hervé Philippe, Thomas Pibarot, Andréa Picard, Michel Piccoli, Arnaud Pierrichon, Stéphane Pietri, Anne Pigeon Bormans, Samuel Pinon, Claude Pinoteau, Jean Piva, Guillaume Pixie, Gosia Plachta, Michele Placido, Sabrina Poidevin, Agnès Catherine Poirier, Emmanuel Pollaud-Dulian, Maud Pommier-Samaan, Jean-Yves Potel, Stéphane Pozderec, Harry Prenger, Jean et Marie Prévost, Gilbert Primet, Peter Priskil, Angélique Prokop, Stefanos Psaromiligas, Bozena Psztyk, Florence Quentin, Marie-Hélène Raby, Philippe Radault, Tristan Rain, Florence Raphaël, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Joseph Rassam, Rolandas Rastauskas, Brett Ratner, Raphael Rebibo, Redha, Ben Omar Redouan, Carol Reid, Dusan Reljin, Jo Reymen, Laurence Reymond, Catherine Reynier-Barateau, Yasmina Reza, Christiane Rhein, Jacques Richard, Dominique Robert, Margarita Robski, Pascale Rocard, Jean-Jacques Rochut, Christian Rogler, Yannick Rolandeau, Michèle Rollin, Paul Rondags, Avital Ronell, Frank Roozendaal, Graciela Rosato, michèle Rossi-Ducci, Elisabeth Roudinesco, Kontochristopoulou Roula, Laurence Roulet, Joshua Rout, Paolo Roversi, Didier Roy, Jacques Rozier, Charles Rubinstein, Isabelle Ruh, Martin Ruhe, Sonia Rykiel, Anita S. Chang, Esteban S. Goffin, Joaquin Sabina, Marc Saffar, Ludivine Sagnier, Gabriela Salazar Scherman, Thérèse Saliceti, Walter Salles, Jean-Paul Salomé, Jean-Frédéric Samie, Marc Sandberg, Emmanuel Sapin, Léo Scalpel, Jerry Schatzberg, Richard Schlesinger, Kirstin Schlotter, Daniel Schmidt, Georg Schmithüsen, Julian Schnabel, Pierre Schoendoerffer, Barbet Schroeder, J. Neil Schulman, Pierre Schumacher, Pierre-Alexandre Schwab, Ettore Scola, Luis Gustavo Sconza Zaratin Soares, Martin Scorsese, Carole Scotta, Steven Sedgwick, Andrea Sedlackova, Frank Segier, Michèle Seguin-Sirhugue, Guy Seligmann, Dominique Sels, Elis Semczuk, Christiane Semczuk, Lorenzo Semple Jr, Julien Seri, Joël Séria, Catherine Sermet, Olivier Séror, Henry-Jean Servat, Ken Seton-Vyhnal, Sophie Sharkov, Boris Shlafer, Nanan Sikki, Antoine Silber, Pierre Silvant, Charlotte Silvera, Noel Simsolo, Christophe Sirodeau, Philippe Sisbane, Abderrahmane Sissako, Beatrice Sisul , Grégoire Sivan, Petter Skavlan, Romain Slocombe, Jola Lech Slowianska, Marcin Sokolowski, Pierre Somers, Loïc Sorel, Paolo Sorrentino, Valérie Soulier, Arnaud Soulier, Vassilis Sourapas, Yannis Stavrou, Roch Stephanik, Karen Stetler, Denise Stieglitz, Guillaume Stirn, Bernard Stora, Stephan Streker, Gérard Stum, Jean-Marc Surcin, Tilda Swinton, Christian Szafraniak, Piotrek Szymanek, Jean-Charles Tacchella, Radovan Tadic, Mickael Tanguy, Danis Tanovic, Bertrand Tavernier, André Techiné, Katie Teece, Hutfer Teense, Cécile Telerman, Harold Alvarado Tenorio, Marie-Ange Terrier, Alain Terzian, Christian Texier, Jean-Paul Thaens, Valentine Theret, Virginie Thévenet, Alexandre Thiery, Pascal Thomas, Jeremy Thomas, Marc Thomas Charley, Balthasar Thomass, Cyril Thurston, Zelda Tinska, Frédérique Topin, Giuseppe Tornatore, Serge Tosca, Cali Tosca, Serge Toubiana, Walter Toubin, Jean-Luc Touillon, Maurizio Trani, Daniel Treichler, Guillemette Trimech, Nadine Trintignant, Claire Tromeur, Fernando Trueba, Julie Turcas, Mitja Tušek, Tom Tykwer, Alexandre Tylski, Stephen Ujlaki, Fritz Urschitz, José Antonio Valdés Peña, Kenny Valdisserri, Jaques Vallotton, Phil van der Linden, G.W. van der Meiden, Betrand van Effenterre, Leopold van Genechten, Pieter van Hees, Edith Van Her, Rudolf van Maanen, Christophe van Rompaey, Dorna van Rouveroy, Elbert van Strien,  Vangelis, Alessio Vannetti, Jean-Pierre Vaucouloux, Lucília Verdelho da Costa, Christian Verdu, Jean-Pierre Vergne, Sarah Vermande, Elizabeth Verry, Maryana Vestic, Julien Veyret, Caroline Veyssière, Francesco Vezzoli, Régine Vial, Daniel Vigne, Vivien Villani, Marta Villarroya Estruch, Marc Villemain, Jean-François Villemer, Daria Vinault, Verde Visconti, Ivan Vislen, Didier Volckaert, Alain Vorimore, Thomas Vossart, Gilles Walusinski, Eric Watton, Lioba Wehinger, Monika Weibel, Florian Weigl, Dominique Welinski, Wim Wenders, Raphaël Wertheimer, Andy Whittaker, Cornélius Wiijgers, Dorothée Wiijgers, Agnès Wildenstein, Anaïse Wittmann, A Wolanin, Margot Wolfs, Peter Woltil, Arnaud Xainte, Steve Yeo, Likhem Young, Paule Zajdermann, Christian Zeender, Claudie Zehnacker, Ania Zenowicz, Fabrice Ziolkowski, Terry Zwigoff.

After the fact, a few entertainment types who didn’t get in on the first go-round submitted their names for a second take.  Again, I’ll highlight the names I recognize, but I bet you’ll know even more than I do.

Isabelle Adjani
Antoine Aronin
Paul Auster
Morgane Beauverger
Candice Belaisch-Goldchmit
Yamina Benguigui
Pascal Bruckner
Jessika Cohen
Philippe Corbé
Jean-Paul Dayan
Katarina De Meulder
Arielle Dombasle
Nathalie Faucheux
Corinne Figuet
Pierre Forciniti
Louis Garrel
Albert Gauvin
Johanna Gozlan
Davide Homitsu Riboli
Taylor Hackford
Isabelle Huppert
Neil Jordan
Thierry Kamami
Milan Kundera
Gaelle Lancien
Claude Lanzmann
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Sam Mendes
Camille Meyer
Patrick Mimouni
Yann Moix
Mike Nichols
Sandra Nicolier
Marie Nieves Perez Neël
Salman Rushdie
Carine Sarna
Ysabelle Saura Del Pan
William Shawcross
Olivier Soares Barbosa
Steven Soderbergh
Nil Symchowicz
Danièle Thompson
Eugenia Varela Navarro
Diane von Furstenberg
Scott Foundas
Margaret Walker
Elsa Zylberstein

Just so we’re clear here:  Way more than a hundred people working in the entertainment and fashion industry jumped on the bandwagon to defend an admitted child rapist.  Of those people, at least 20 are names familiar even to someone like me, a complete Hollywood troglodyte.

By the way, the list doesn’t include other Hollywood heavy-hitters, such as Harvey Weinstein, who were also shocked that one of their professional peers could be called to account for his criminal acts, but who didn’t sign the petition.

Today, a different group of Hollywood actors issued yet another petition, this one on an entirely different subject.  These actors were protesting the Obama administration’s decision to transform Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s military tribunal slam dunk into a general criminal case in the New York Federal court system.  The petition is a good one, so I’ll let it speak for itself:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 mastermind and four other terrorists in a civilian court, rather than by the military justice system, should not be allowed to remain without challenge. Not only does it put the national security of the United States of America at risk, but it is a travesty of our justice system. It brings additional heartache to the families and friends of the 9/11 victims, the first responders, and the concerned citizens of New York whose lives were changed forever.

This is not just a New York tragedy, but a terrorist threat to our country and freedom loving people around the world. It provides a platform for these terrorists to spew their propaganda and hatred to the world from a courthouse just blocks from Ground Zero.

We stand with 9/11 families, New York City’s first responders and the U.S. military who will be forced to cope with the consequences of this dangerous decision if it is not reversed.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments in this petition.

What’s fascinating is the list of entertainers who signed this petition, so that they, like their Polanski-loving peers, could bring their prestige to a cause in which they believe. Are you ready? It’s an impressive list, especially because of the moral courage the signatories display. To build the suspense, I’ll have you go below the fold to see the identity of those actors who stand publicly against this travesty of justice: Continue reading

Media continues to give new meaning to old ideas

There’s yet another movie coming out about the way in which the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq destroy lives and turn young men into pathetic losers:

There is a grim timeliness to the release of “Brothers,” Jim Sheridan’s movie about the effects of war on the family of a Marine serving in Afghanistan. Whatever the other consequences of President Obama’s revised strategy in that country, we can be sure that it will yield more stories like the one told in this film. And it is sobering, eight years into the war, to reflect that in 2004, the first time this movie was made — by the Danish director Susanne Bier — it was just as topical and urgent.

The review is written in terms of high art — which I translate as boring and pompous — but I gather that the brother who goes to war suffers terribly, and that his sufferings transfer to the family, and that they all suffer and are destroyed together. War is hell, people.

The above is the usual we expect from Hollywood.  What’s so funny is the way in which the New York Times‘ movie reviewer, A.O. Scott, assures us that the movie is completely apolitical:

But this “Brothers,” like its predecessor, is in some ways less a movie about war than a movie that uses war as a scaffolding for domestic melodrama. It also follows the template of American movies about Iraq and Afghanistan in being resolutely somber and systematically apolitical: you can witness any kind of combat heroism or atrocity, and see unflinching portrayals of grief, trauma and healing. But you almost never hear an argument about the war itself, or glimpse the larger global and national context in which these intimate dramas take shape.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Scott that a movie that paints war as an evil thing that destroys, not just the enemy, but the warriors at home and, by extension, their families too, is pretty anti-war.  And that if it’s anti-war, it isn’t apolitical.  Instead, it’s standing firmly on the side of those liberals who believe that all wars, regardless of the goals, are inherently evil and destructive.  It also stands firmly on the side of those liberals who do not believe that there is a warrior class that finds fulfillment in serving, and that despite the fact that war — even a just war — can indeed be hell.

As an antidote to the liberal establishment’s firm belief that military service inevitably destroys human beings, let me replay this great video of Congressional candidate Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, which I already added to my affirmative action post:

Is Avatar just another anti-imperialist film with fancy special effects? *UPDATED*

The big buzz is about James Cameron’s Avatar, which is supposed to be to modern movies what The Jazz Singer was to the silent film:  It will remake movies.

I don’t know about that, but having seen the preview a few days ago when I took some boys to the movies, I can tell  you that one thing about this “new” movie is very same old-same old:  the plot.  As best as I could tell from the noisy, muddled preview, the film is about the evil American military trying to take a planet away from the good and pure indigenous people.  Hey, it’s 1492, or 1620, or 1876 all over again — but this time, you can be sure (and I’m guessing as to the ending), a revisionistic history will destroy the evil forces in America’s futuristic military, and the pure and wonderful indigenous people will once again control their world, with a few appropriately subdued Americans paying homage to their moral superiors.

UPDATE:  As Charles Martel pointed out, the military’s greed in the film Avatar comes about because the planet contains “some sort of dilithium crystal that’s worth a lebenty zillion dollars per gram and that the native village just happens to be sitting plumb smack on top of the only deposit of the stuff on an entire earth-sized planet.”

In response, Spiff left this great comment, which I simply have to elevate to post status:

I was thinking about what you said regarding why the humans cared about the planet in Avatar. It’s always some super duper resource that we want and the noble aliens live right on top of it and have no idea what they have. And so the imperialistic humans come and try and steal it.

Since sci-fi is all about taking current issues and taking them to there extreme I’d like to see “Avatar” do something new.

If the current politics or our nation continues the way it is going here is how I see “Avatar” going based on what you saw:

The original survey crew would have to file endless environmental and cultural impact reports before even setting foot on the planet.

Once there, the survey crews would have to establish contact with the local aliens and do everything in their power to befriend them, even if it meant risking the safety of the team. The Marines attached to the team for security would have Rules of Engagements that would make it nigh impossible to defend themselves from the aliens if they were in fact hostile, all this while providing all sorts of assistance and aid to the local aliens.

Once the resource was discovered, humanity would spend gazillions of space credits negotiating with the aliens to tap the resource. This would of course include massive amounts of aid, rent for the facilities and construction and security costs. And of course the humans would not get the resource, the aliens would own it, we would pay through the nose for the resource we paid and worked to remove. And this assumes the aliens like us.

When the aliens decide they don’t like us anymore they would kick us out and “nationalize” the facilities we built. They would then raise the price of the resource and their leaders would steal all the money for themselves and tell their population it’s all the fault of the humans. And of course our leadership would acquiesce and agree all the way.

Of course this would cause the aliens to fight with humans and kill them. Once again human security forces would have their hands tied to do anything meaningful to defend themselves and stop the aliens.

When it finally did come down to a confrontation, human forces would win the day despite all the rules on how to conduct the war. We would occupy the planet and hand it over to a new crop of corrupt leaders and it would start all over again.

At least that’s how I would write it.

How much should we forgive a great artist?

Hollywood is quite sure that Roman Polansky should be forgiven for raping a 13 year old because, considering his value to the artistic world, it wasn’t really rape.  It was so long ago, he’s so talented, she’s so over it, whatever . . . .  “All is forgiven, dear.  Come home.  I miss you terribly.”  (And for those wondering, that’s the caption to a 1940s Esquire cartoon that shows a typically gorgeous Esquire woman, in a filthy kitchen, on the phone to her obviously henpecked husband.)

The reason I’m doing a sort of free-flowing rumination about this is because, on Pandora, I just heard a passage from Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow, one of my favorite operettas.  Or at least it once was one of my favorite operettas.  Now, I listen to it with my mind operating on two tracks.  One glories in the gorgeous fin de siecle music that represents the last gasp of a more innocent time.  The other track cannot forget that Lehar did nothing when his lyricist for so many successful operettas, the Jewish Fritz Löhner-Beda, was taken, first to Dachau, then to Buchenwald, and then to Auschwitz, where he was beaten to death.

Admittedly, doing something in the Reich of 1938-1942 (when Löhner-Beda met his brutal end) wasn’t necessarily easy or safe.  But there is still something dreadfully wrong about the fact that Hitler’s favorite living composer, one who could have gotten favors, did nothing.  It makes it awfully hard to listen to his music with the same pleasure I once enjoyed.

Matt McConaughey finally lives up to his potential

I remember the huge buzz that surrounded Matt McConaughey’s debut in motion pictures.  I remember it not because I was particular taken with him, but because he was from Texas, a place I value.  I also remember how quickly I realized that, despite the buzz, McConaughey wasn’t going to set the world on fire.  He’s nice enough, but….  And then there were those little brushes with the law (plus nudity and bongos, if I remember correctly).

But even silly, overrated people grow up, and McConaughey seems to have done so with a bang.  Running counter to Hollywood mores and D.C. politics, McConaughey is making a big deal out of supporting American Vets.  I’m so impressed, I may even make a point of watching one of his movies.  He deserves some support for taking what is (but shouldn’t be) a very brave stand in today’s entertainment world.

Patriotic Hollywood

It’s actually hard to find old patriotic songs from WWII era Hollywood because not many are loaded onto YouTube.  Here’s a short one, though, from Hollywood Canteen:

Patrick Swayze, at his balletic prime, in Dirty Dancing

I should have posted this yesterday but, since late is better than never, I post it today.  I am reminded, watching this video, of the absolutely beautiful way in which Swayze used his body.  Some people can be trained to dance, and some are just born dancers:

Patrick Swayze — R.I.P.

In the 1980s, I was quite the Patrick Swayze fan, admiring his looks, his physique, and his adequate acting chops.  Although I outgrew that youthful infatuation, in the last few years I’ve become an even bigger fan, since I admired his valiant fight against cancer.  Sadly, the cancer finally won:  Patrick Swayze passed away today, aged 57.

Patrick Swayze

The slightly creepy side to Cole Porter music

I was listening to some Cole Porter the other day, and it occurred to me that some of his songs have a rather creepy quality to them.

Stalking love:

Obsessive love (yucky recording, but you’ll get the point):

And masochistic love:

And yet they’re all such lovely songs.

Speaking of lovely, here’s the beautiful Cyd Charisse dancing up a storm in Silk Stockings, when people still thought Communism was a bad, oppressive thing:

Something refreshing

Many, many years ago, I had the good fortune during the Aspen Music Festival to be present in someone’s living room when some of the guests, musicians all, decided to do some sight reading for their fellow attendees.  I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences, although perhaps not quite the same caliber of performers:  Itzhak Perlman, Pincus Zuckerman and LazloVarga (who was once one of the most famous cellists in the world before Yo-Yo Ma came along).

To be honest, I was too young to appreciate the caliber of music I was hearing, but I was smart enough to look out the window.  Because this spontaneous little concert took place when the town of Aspen was flooded with musicians, people within range of the window understood that they were hearing something very special.  More and more gathered to hear, until there were dozens of people crowded on the grounds around the apartment, all drinking in the extraordinary music.  As I said, I didn’t quite get the music, but I understood the awe.

Two scenes in two old Hollywood musicals always make me think of that moment in time.  One scene comes from Rose Marie, a true classic staring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald.  Until tonight, when I captured it on TiVo, I hadn’t seen Rose Marie in 35 years and had forgotten how charming it is.  I’d also forgotten that it has a scene that, with a little extra zing and drama, vividly reminded me of Aspen, Colorado, so long ago:

The other movie that has a scene reminiscent of my own youth is The Great Waltz, a highly romanticized homage to Strauss:

Hollywood’s war on men continues

Back in 2006, I wrote an optimistic article for American Thinker in which I saw some hope in Hollywood’s approach to manliness.  I’m going to quote here at some length from my earlier article, because I want to make the point that I was lauding an enormously successful movie because it celebrated traditional male virtues:

The Narnia Chronicles: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a wonderful film, with Christian themes intact.  I therefore went to the film prepared to be impressed — and I was.  The big surprise for me, though, and something I haven’t seen discussed anywhere, is the movie’s positive depiction of its male lead, Peter (played by 18 year old William Moseley).

As the movie begins, Peter is a young man who is casually kind to his sisters, painfully impatient with his brother, and loath to take on responsibility.  Once in Narnia, of course, Peter has responsibility thrust upon him, for he quickly learns that he is the High King of prophecy.  It’s important to note that he’s not simply one of two kings, or one of four royal children — he is the High King, the leader among leaders.  Although he is at first appalled, once he realizes that he cannot avoid this destiny, he swiftly grows into his role.

The pivotal moment for Peter comes when he, his sisters, and their talking beaver companions are stranded on rapidly cracking ice, with a frozen waterfall above them about to burst, and hostile wolves surrounding them.  To add to the pressure Peter faces, one of the beavers has a wolf poised above his throat.  Up until this point in the movie, he has merely been reactive.  This crisis forces him to be proactive.

Peter has few options.  He can kill one of the wolves, but this is unlikely to save him and his companions from melting ice.  With imminent disaster facing him, and everyone screaming different advice to him, Peter is forced to make his decision alone, and quickly.  At the last moment, he plunges his sword into the ice beneath him, causing the entire ice pack beneath the companions and the wolves to crack.

While the wolves slip into the water, Peter’s sword creates a pole to which he and his sisters can cling as their block of ice races downstream. (The beavers, of course, run no risk from their icy plunge.)  Peter’s rapidly developing courage and resourcefulness reappear when Lucy slips off the ice floe, and he dives under water to rescue her.  It’s a gripping scene, made more so by the fact that dire circumstances have forced Peter to leave the boy behind and become a man.

Once Peter has crossed his personal Rubicon, from boy to man, his old—fashioned manly virtues develop swiftly.  He displays principled honesty when he confesses forthrightly to Aslan that Edmund’s failures can be traced back to Peter’s own impatience with him; he shows magnanimity when he welcomes Edmund back into the fold, even though Edmund’s treachery almost destroyed them all; he demonstrates brilliant tactical skills when, in Aslan’s absence, he creates a masterful battle plan; and he acts with incredible gallantry when, despite his sheltered upbringing in Finchley, he leads his troops into battle against the witch and her foul warriors.

In the remainder of the article, I contrasted the Narnia movie to the anti-male nihilism in Brokeback Mountain, which came out at about the same time.  When I considered that Narnia was a huge hit, while Brokeback was something of a big joke, beloved by critics but laughed at by ordinary Americans, I hoped that I was seeing a positive trend regarding boys and men in movies.  I have to admit, though, that I got a little worried when the Narnia sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian came out.  In a major departure from the source book, the filmmakers presented Peter as whiny, jealous, suspicious, and foolishly impetuous.  The heroic, moral character from the first book had disappeared and in his place was a petulant teenager.  Still, compared to the movie I saw last night, a movie that starred yet another character named Peter, this impaired Peter in Narnia was still a virtuous man.

And what did I see last night that cast me into such despair about pop culture and the attack on traditional manliness?  It’s a “comedy” called I Love You, Man, which came out some months ago, but which I only saw yesterday on DVD.  The premise is simple:  After eight months of dating, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) and Zooey (Rashida Jones) decide to get married.  It turns out, though, that during their eight months of being together Zooey had never noticed that Peter didn’t have any guy friends of his own.  Her girlfriends, however, point this out as a threat to the marriage (he’ll be whiny and clingy) and as a threat to the wedding (lots of bridesmaid, no groomsmen).   Overhearing this conversation, the panicked Peter decides to do some guy bonding so that he can stand tall at his wedding and be independent afterward. For the next hour and a half, we watch Peter deal with a series of truly disgusting guys in an effort to bond with one of them.  His ultimate pick as is “guy friend” is a man that any woman would recognize instantly as a dangerous narcissist or a sociopath, and it is this character who gleefully introduces Peter into a modern man’s world.

From start to finish, the men — and the women — in the movie are repugnant.  Peter, who is sweet enough, is so emasculated that, although heterosexual, he is an anti-man.  To the extent he has any virtuous behaviors, they exist because he’s abandoned manliness.  He is a lesbian in men’s clothing.  His father and mother enjoy embarrassing him about his sexuality, such as it is.  His brother is a gay man who has become so bored with picking up other gay men that he’s begun preying on straight men. Zooey, while a fairly decent, straightforward woman on her own terms, hangs with a group of gals who discuss sex in the crudest terms, and who genuinely seem to dislike men.  One of her closest friends is married to a man who is so disagreeable it is impossible to tell why his wife wants to become pregnant with him.  Played by Jon Favreau, he’s not only hostile to everyone around him, his “guy” friendships focus on gambling and binge drinking.  Peter’s efforts to bond with Favreau’s character end with the vomiting scene that seems to be obligatory in all modern movies.

Peter eventually gravitates to Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who is not gay, who is not a binge drinker, and who is not a lonely old man seeking friends by posting “young man” pictures on line (as one character does).  The scenes that follow the developing Peter-Sydney relationship play out like a parody of a traditional chick-flick, with a nervous, tongue-tied Peter trying to woo the cool Sydney (only in a nervously non-sexual way).

What kills any comedy potential in this parody of chick-flicks is the fact that Sydney is unspeakably repugnant.  I’ll freely concede here that it’s entirely possible that all guys, outside the company of woman, have a special living room chair in which they masturbate, complete with accessories; haunt open houses to pick-up divorcees; track other people’s farting patterns; inquire into the explicit details of their friends’ sex lives and then broadcast those details to others; encourage their dogs to poop on heavily trafficked sidewalks; and aggressively attack people who “insult” them.  Even if it is true that this is just how guys are, that does not mean that these are virtuous behaviors.  Peter, however, is simultaneously intrigued and repulsed, with attraction dominating.  Sydney, therefore, becomes the eponymous man of the “I love you” title.

The movie’s message is clear.  Men are either epicene or revolting.  There is no middle ground.  Ordinary male behaviors involve projectile vomiting, public defecating, impulsive violent behavior, obsessive (and often deviant) sexual behavior and, if they’re not amongst the “nice” guys, you can add on brutishness, gambling and binge drinking.  The concepts of decency, kindness, honor, and bravery are conspicuously absent.  Real men — men who have integrity, who honor women, who protect those weaker than they are — simply do not exist in this Hollywood universe.

What’s even worse than the misanthropic nihilism of I Love You, Man, is the fact that the critics thought that this little movie was just great.  At Rotten Tomatoes, it’s got an 82% on the freshness meter.  Scan through the reviews and you’ll find words of love for Rudd’s charm, Segel’s comic timing, and the funny sexual predicaments — all of which is true if you don’t mind the fundamental premise, which is that guys are crude, disgusting and amoral.  As the mother of a lovely 10 year old boy, I mind that premise a great deal.  I don’t like the way our culture demeans men.  I want men to be able to honor themselves.  Movies such as this one render them as nothing more than figures of ridicule.  They are perpetually gross, sex-obsessed jokes.

I should add here that I have a pretty loose sense of humor.  I’ll laugh just as hysterically as the next person at the peeing scene in The Naked Gun, at Lucy Ricardo’s endless antics, at the Three Stooges’ eye pokes, and at the existential zaniness in Groundhog Day.  There are few cows too sacred for a good joke.  Systematically demeaning an entire population group, however, ceases to be funny.  Additionally, hen one looks at the statistics about boys and education, and about men and crime, this systemic degradation begins to seem destructive and downright dangerous.

Vote with your feet.  Avoid movies that, rather than laughing at the human condition, aim to destroy the soul of half of our population.

On the anniversary of the start of WWII, remembering when Hollywood supported Good Wars

Today is the 70th anniversary of Germany’s bombing campaign against Poland, the official start of World War II.  I thought, therefore, that this song from 1941’s Babes on Broadway was just right.  It is an explicit tribute to beleaguered Britain, which was, at the only time, not only the sole nation fighting the Nazis, but also on the receiving end of the Blitz:

Hollywood supports the war effort : 1944’s Up in Arms

Up in Arms, from 1944, was Danny Kaye’s break-out movie. The musical number supporting the war effort starts at 4:30:

Hollywood patriotism circa the 1940s

Apropos my post about patriotism during Hollywood’s golden age, Bruce Kesler sent me this great video showing both Jimmy Cagney and Mickey Rooney doing their George M. Cohan impressions:

Since I’m an avid fan of old musicals, I may, for a few days, scatter throughout my posts video links to patriotic songs and dances from Hollywood’s old days.

Jimmy Cagney, by the way, was an ardent, some might say extreme, Democrat.  It’s no coincidence that in two of his films — Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy — Franklin Roosevelt made cameo appearances.  Still, Cagney’s movies never deviated from showing a true love of country, warts and all.  My earlier post wasn’t meant to pretend that there weren’t Leftists in Hollywood or that Hollywood didn’t crank out a few pro-Communist, pro-Soviet movies.  These were the minority, though, and did not reflect the overarching trend in movies, which was affection for America.

Hollywood’s perverted patriotism

Hollywood and the media establishment as a whole are inescapable parts of American and, indeed, world culture.  It’s fascinating, therefore, to think about the type of patriotism our American media now espouses and that which it embraced in the past.   Depending on how one defines patriotism, whether as love of country or love of a particular political leader, American media has always done its best to lead the way.

Typically, there are two types of patriotism, one of which I think is healthy and one of which is scary.  The healthy one is love of country.  I’m talking true love of country, the one that sees a citizen believing he is singularly blessed to live in his country.  Your citizen recognizes that his country has had — and still has — failings, but nonetheless thinks it’s the best game in town — and this is true whether he focuses on his personal freedoms, the economy, national security or social mores.  This patriot is completely distinguishable from those who have nothing good to say about their country, but can only recite an endless litany of its moral failings.  When the “patriots” focuses obsessively on his countries wrongs, periodically stopping to make that rote statement that “I love my country,” you see someone akin to the chronic wife beater, who always excuses his abuses by claiming that he’s doing it for his wife’s own good.  That’s not about love.  It’s about power and hatred.

The other type of patriotism is one that attaches itself to a leader.  These are the cults of personality, and I can’t think of one that hasn’t occured in the context of a totalitarian dictatorship.  (If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.)  Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in German, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao in China, Kim Jong Il in Korea, Castro in Cuba, and Qaddafi in Libya are all perfect examples of this scenario.  In each case, a leader ascended to absolute power and the people, who may have been at first seduced by his demagoguery, ended up at sword-point being forced to worship him completely, to their own detriment and that of the state.  That is why it is always frightening when someone ascends to office based upon a personality cult, rather than based upon past accomplishments.

The early movie makers were, without exception, patriots who truly believed America was the best nation on earth.  This was true whether they were immigrants who escaped from oppression in other lands (e.g., Louis B. Mayer or Jack Warner), or came from America’s heartland (Walt Disney).  Even as they recognized America’s flaws — and recognize them they did, especially because flaws tend to make for good drama — their love for this country came through loud and clear in every movie they made.  MGM, especially under Louis B. Mayer, loved to present an idealized country in which an honest and free people would triumph, whether to music, laughter or tears.  Warner Brothers tended to focus on America’s noir nitty-gritty, but the good guys were the cops who saved decent citizens from those lowlifes who rejected the American dream in favor of crime or the soldiers who protected Americans from enemies abroad.  And then there’s Disney, with every movie somehow serving as the backdrop to a subliminal national anthem.

Early Hollywood’s deep love for country was never more clearly seen than during World War II, when every studio in Hollywood willingly bent its efforts to helping America win the war.  Whether churning out movies about the home front, about our Allies or our evil enemies, or about the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, each picture had a single goal:  to help Americans support the war effort so that America would achieve an absolute victory.  The same held true for written media and even popular song.  Women were reminded not to sit under the apple tree with anyone but their overseas love; soldiers were assured that, with a little praise for the Lord and a lot of ammunition, they would prevail; and every citizen was reminded to remember Pearl Harbor.

Early American TV also celebrated American virtues.  Family shows weren’t about dysfunction, with snotty kids putting inept and helpless parents firmly in their place.  Instead, no matter the show’s name (Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, The Ozzie and Harriet Show), the truth was that, in TV Land, Father (and Mother) always knew best.  And while these shows, in both tone and racial representation, may not have accurately reflected many of the homes in America, they nevertheless helped Americans aspire to be part of stable and loving families, with respectful, moral children.  As with early movies, TV shows through the early 1970s saw the nitty-gritty of America (again, it makes for good drama), but the American people, the ordinary families, the police officers, and the military, were the heroes, not the enemies.

Only in one area did old Hollywood deviate from the purer form of patriotism, and that was when it came to Roosevelt worshipo.  Generally speaking, old Hollywood movies shied away from blatant political statements, recognizing, no doubt, that their audience encompassed both Roosevelt lovers and haters.  Sometimes, though, a little propaganda was just too good to resist.  So it was that, in 1933, when Warner Brothers made Footlight Parade, starring James Cagney, neither Cagney, the studio, nor choreographer Busby Berkeley could resist including an homage to the WPA and Roosevelt in the wonderful grand finale, Shanghai Lil.  (The politics come in at about 2:15.)

Looking at this musical pièce de résistance now, over a distance of 76 years, the effect is not only visually spectacular (it is Busby Berkeley, after all), but tinged with an almost wholesome nostalgia.  I wonder, though, whether the more sophisticated crowd in 1933, who watched with horror as Roosevelt threw an already fragile economy into absolute chaos, was quite so charmed.

The years since John F. Kennedy have presented the spectacle of a media that entirely lacks the old-fashioned love of country that characterized early Hollywood.  Instead, modern media professes a wife-beater’s love for country, with films, magazines, books, television shows and songs that have been relentlessly hostile to American values, whether those values relate to economics, national security or old-fashioned societal morality.

On the economic front, in film after film after film, America is painted as an exploitative imperialist power, in thrall to shadowy corporations headed by evil white men.  A perfect example of this is 2005’s Syriana, a muddled mess with mega-watt star power.  If you have the stamina to try to sift through the inchoate plot, you learn that evil oil interests control the world.  The same year saw an equally muddled film with almost exactly the same plot:  The Constant Gardener. These movies, with their focus on the effect evil American corporations have on exploited Third Worlders abroad, were the natural successors to the two decade run of movies about the effect evil American corporations had poor Americans at home (think Norma Rae, Silkwood, and Erin Brockovich).

On the war front, Hollywood has been relentless in its attacks on American forces.  They are painted as brutish, stupid murders or innocent pawns, rather than people of intelligence, patriotism, bravery or integrity.  Again, examples abound.  The staggeringly dull and mean-spirited In the Valley of Elah (2007) is a case in point.  The IMDB plot summaries pretty much say it all.  One sums up the film as an example of “dirty little secrets with an impressive case of dehumanization caused by the invasion and consequent war in Iraq.”  The other explains that the movie shows “the failings of the military to adequately look out for the well-being of its soldiers.”  Valley of Elah is such a perfect example of Hollywood’s antipathy to the American military that I’ll stop here.  I know, though, that you can easily summon to mind other examples.

And then there are Hollywood’s most insidious attacks, those against mainstream American morality.  In 1999, the Hollywood establishment gave its best picture award to American Beauty, a bleak look at the depravity, ennui and despair that is, in Hollywood’s jaded eyes, Middle America.  That movie at least had the virtue of being up front in its challenge to American values.  As most parents will attest, though, the real problem is the dozens of movies coming out assuring America’s children that it’s totally okay to take drugs, drink, screw around, drop out of school and lie to ones parents.  Do this, and you will be amusing and very cool.

Even apparently innocuous movies such as The Sure Thing, which was ostensibly a remake of the delightful It Happened One Night, celebrate college drinking.  Its stars do it — so why shouldn’t you?  Then there’s one of my least favorite movies of all time, the one that left me with an abiding dislike for the heterosexual Tom Cruise:  Risky Business. It is almost impossible to imagine a more sordid movie than this tale of a high school student (played by a known teeny-bopper magnet) who turns his house into a brothel to raise cash, and then suffers (a term I use lightly) an eventual comeuppance that is minimal compared to his complete moral collapse.

Watch enough Hollywood movies — and people at home and abroad do — and the message you will receive is absolutely clear:  America is a despicable place, filled with despicable people who use its economic freedoms and its vast arsenal to enslave and destroy, both at home and abroad.  This is wife-beater patriotism.

While the entertainment world may show a wife-beater’s love for country, the opposite it true when it comes to Democratic presidents.  They are accorded a type of worship that skates eerily close to the state-mandated worship people in totalitarian regimes are required to show for their various “Dear” or “Great” leaders.  In Hollywood and Manhattan (the two geographic centers of American media) John F. Kennedy, a hawk and a fiscal conservative, has morphed into a Progressive politician who would have put his political life on the line for a socialist economy and a pacifist national security plan. Bill Clinton, a self-indulgent, sexually debauched leftist (although he had the good sense to move to the center when attacked) was portrayed on America’s TV screens as the innocent victim of sleazy attack politics launched either by white, male, corporate monsters or by white, male, Christian fanatics. And while he was never president, wannabe Teddy Kennedy on his death has been treated as a secular saint.  His unfortunate contretemps — cheating scandals, murder, treason, sexual debauchery and alcoholism — are presented as “flaws” and “mistakes” and “failings.”  The message to Americans, especially the young ones, is clear:  Feel free to kill, lie and cheat.  If your politics are pure and Progressive, we’ll always forgive you.

As for Barack Obama, I don’t even know where to begin with him.  Every mainstream TV show, whether news or gossip; every big time magazine, whether news, fashion or family; and every major newspaper, has focused relentlessly on the Obama personality cult.  The obsession with Obama’s wonderfulness has always been, of course, a necessary offset to the fact that his record, when not absent entirely, showed the kind of Leftist political extremism that would have frightened every ordinary American in flyover country (not to mention those in a few states and counties on either coast).  There is no better way to avoid his missing transcripts, his radical friendships and affiliates, his complete lack of executive experience, and his failed political initiatives than turning him into a cutting-edge red, white and blue poster; raving about his physical beauty (although I’ve always thought he looked more like Dopey than Depp); and announcing, based on the evidence of a single (possibly ghost-written) book that he was the second coming of Einstein in terms of intelligence.

Just as with Jesus, the secular faithful in the American media, those who hate the country but love the man, repeatedly told us that we could atone for our grievous sins as Americans by “coming to Obama.”  The Dear Leader would wash away our collective failings.  With this in mind, do not expect Hollywood to come out any time soon with Obama movies comparable to Nixon, The Reagans or W.  A movie about Obama is likely to be closer in emotional tone to The Passion of the Christ.

As always when it comes to Hollywood and television, it’s tempting to slough off its failings by say “it’s just entertainment.”  That’s the lazy way out, though.  With its spectacular reach, a reach that now extends around the world, and with its trained ability to drive messages home in the most entertaining way possible, what Hollywood does matters.  It shapes both foreign and domestic views of America (America is greedy and evil, and its own citizens hate it), and it warps our youth culture by assuring them that the most demeaning and debauched behavior is the surest way to popularity and success.

We can fight back, though.  Despite its chronic demonization of capitalism (the bad capitalism, of course, in the form of oil and manufacturing), the entertainment world is all about money.  We can vote with our feet.  Turn off shows or don’t pay for movies that offend your patriotism and your sense of values.  Also use social networking, such as twitter or facebook, to give your opinion of movies.  Just today, one of my facebook friends gave a succinct and very ugly review to Taking Woodstock, the latest Hollywood fairy-tale about the wonders of dirty hippies, mud, drugs and loud music.  His facebook friends may think twice about shelling out their hard-earned money on that movie.  We’ll never see Hollywood’s golden age again, but we don’t have to sit back silently and let the wife-beating, demagogue worshipping modern media have the last world.