Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Politi-flicks: The Flip-Flop on the Other Foot

While past Democratic Presidential candidates have found themselves successfully degraded as "flip-floppers" by Republicans, we're 21 months before the 2008 election and already the tables are turning -- starting with John McCain and Mitt Romney.

The apotheosis of the negative flip-flop ad was the John Kerry windsurfing classic. By simply flipping right-to-left the footage of Kerry practicing a solo and inferred elitist sport and providing a couple unexplicated examples of votes he'd made in the Senate, they smeared -- or rather, labeled -- him good.

Now filmmaker Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers) has put out a Web video cataloging video records of Sen. McCain's reversals, one of them within the same episode of Hardball. Before the commercial break: okay with gay marriage. After the commercial break: not okay with gay marriage.

Particularly on that issue, one feels for McCain's struggle between his tolerant feelings and his soul-selling deal with the devil to win the Republican religious voting bloc. He was ripped by that very group back in 2000 when he was smeared in South Carolina and lost the nomination to the Bush/Rove machine. That nomination, he thinks, is his if he can just capture that group this time, desperate, whatever it takes. He can practically taste the nomination -- will Jeb out or a late-inning replacement, it's his turn in the party, it surely is, just as sure as it was Sen. Bob Dole's back in 1996.

Dole lost to a Clinton.

Poor ex-Governor of Taxachusetts, Mitt Romney. His religious problem is his Mormanism, which fundamentalists reportedly distrust. He would never have been elected head of that left-leaning Northeastern state had he been a Movement Conservative. In fact, Romney was Pro-Choice...before he was Anti-Choice.

Will the Religious Right see through his Massachusetts windsurfing? It doesn't help that he once held a fundraiser for a(n unsuccessful( Democratic candidate.

So Hillary, Barack, John E. Or one of you others we'll be seeing on the Primary Trail, at least until the first couple contests are decided. When one of you gets the Party trophy, are they going to be able to smear you with the flip? Or will you be inoculated -- because some Internet-savvy filmmaker like Robert Greenwald flopped it all back on them?

As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Answers, please

Congress is asking specific questions of specific senior members of the BushCheneyRepCo Administration. First Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) gave Attorney General Alberto Gonzales some homework:
10 days ago, Vermont Senator Leahy grilled Alberto Gonzales on the question of a Canadian citizen we kidnapped, transported to Syria, and tortured. Gonzales demurred and said he would provide information to Leahy in one week. Leahy granted the week and threatened further hearings if Gonzales did not respond within the week.

On the 29th, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reminding of her delinquent homework from the 11th:
...I asked, "Is it the position of this administration that it possesses the authority to take unilateral action against Iran, in the absence of a direct threat, without congressional approval?"

At that time you were loath to discuss questions of presidential authority, but you committed to provide a written answer. Since I have not yet received a reply, the purpose of this letter is to reiterate my interest in your response.

This is, basically, a "yes" or "no" question regarding an urgent matter affecting our nation’s foreign policy. Remarks made by members of this administration strongly suggest that the administration wrongly believes that the 2002 joint resolution authorizing use of force in Iraq can be applied in other instances, such as in the case of Iran. I, as well as the American people, would benefit by fully understanding the administration's unequivocal response.

Ah, Jim Webb. Dreamy.

Now Leahy is back in the act (can't let that freshman get ahead of the dues weary) along with Sen. Arlen Spector (R-PA), hitting Gonzales again but this time on the same question being asked of Condi.

Which brings us to the question, what happens if they don't answer? Can we start indicting them for Contempt of Congress?

What if they give inadequate or, worse, wiseass answers?

Will they be spanked?

Will the Administration be stopped?

With Americans wishing the Bush Presidency was please please please over already at 58%, will the Democratic Party successfully execute the will of the people and shut them down for insolence?

Total War

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi usurping El Presidente's foreign policy leadership, he and Cheney are installing apparatchiks in every single government agency to blunt Democratic reform.
The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify "the specific market failure" or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review "any significant guidance documents" before they are issued.

One assumes that reporting to the White House means reporting to Karl Rover, chief operative. Scoundrel Time Karl.

Bush is losing on the international so he's tightening up to try and save big corrupt heavily regulated businesses, i.e. Exxon. While at his doorstep, the ever courageous Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), threatens real counter-Bushorism action:
Americans are not looking to Congress to pass symbolic measures, they are looking to us to stop the President's failed Iraq policy. That is why we must finally break this taboo that somehow Congress can't talk about using its power of the purse to end the war in Iraq. The Constitution makes Congress a co-equal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it. We have a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the brave troops whose lives are on the line, to end the war. We can and must force the President to safely redeploy our troops so that we can get back to focusing on those who attacked us on 9/11.

His plan is simple and clear, which I like about it: no more funding for troops stationed in Iraq after six months, with exceptions for strategically targeted, necessary missions.

Maybe six months is or isn't the right number, but the important thing is that Russ puts out a line. If he can get enough fellow Senators engaged in where that line should be (Four months? Ten months?) then even if it shifts a bit, it's a buy-in.

Just like Bush/Cheney Co's maximalist positions that always used to end up co-opting the opposition.

Let's see who else in the new Democratic led Senate has what it takes to stand with Russ and make this Constitutional remedy pass.

And then it'll be showdown time.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Now the GOP Senators (and not just Chuck Hegel) want in on the surge/escalation/augmentation critfest:
But on the same program, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said, "I cannot support sending additional troops to Iraq."

On "This Week" on ABC, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said the resolutions were "not helpful" to the new American commander, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, or "to the troops, to the Iraqis."

On "Fox News Sunday," Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican presidential contender, said he was considering voting for a resolution criticizing the plan.

And per Salon's reportage, even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and the general Bush personally selected to take over from Gen. Casey have a problem with the basic command structure:
The Baghdad surge plan, announced by the president on Jan. 10, calls for the new U.S. soldiers to be embedded with Iraqi forces, who will take the lead. But while the U.S. troops would report to American officers, their Iraqi counterparts, in an apparent sop to national sovereignty, would report to Iraqi officers. The potentially disastrous result: two separate and independent command structures within the same military operation.

"I know of no successful military operation where you have dual command," McCain told Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last Tuesday. Petraeus, heralded by the Bush White House as the man who would make the surge work, signaled his agreement, telling McCain, "Sir, I share your concern."

Holy cow, per the same article, even the armchair "architect" behind Bush's plan, another non-warrior theorist from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, is taking his shots:
These days, Kagan, in particular, has been careful to differentiate the AEI plan from what Bush actually proposed. The AEI blueprint advocated that American and Iraqi forces should work together -- with the more competent Americans in the lead and in control. The units would operate "within a single command structure," Kagan's written plan for a surge states. "Unity of effort is essential for success in this kind of endeavor." Small wonder that Kagan said about Bush's ideas in an interview, "This is not our plan. The White House is not briefing our plan."

It's hopeless, this Bush, the accumulated and climaxed insult upon America by this would-be Royal Family.

Only an activist Democratic Congress led by such as Webb and Pelosi and Feingold and Murtha can save this country in these final two years we are now enduring.

They're even moving into the lead in foreign policy, with Speaker Nancy on tour in Iraq and now Afghanistan:
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, met with President Hamid Karzai and other senior Afghan leaders on Sunday, days after the Bush administration announced that it was seeking an increase in aid for Afghanistan.

Ms. Pelosi, a California Democrat, also met with American military commanders. She did not speak to journalists.

Dear Lord, even with the worst child in the worst as President, can the adults through the Legislative branch re-take control?

Saturday, January 27, 2007


The mainstream media rarely covers a peace event properly, but there was a rally in D.C. Saturday with such luminaries as Tim Robbins and Rep. John Conyers (D-NY) in attendance, and, thanks to the Net, here's some excellent coverage.

MSNBC focuses on D.C.

ABC News covers both coasts.

And, to make sure no one thinks these protesters are voicing anything approaching a fringe opinion, the latest post-SOTU polling has Bush down again after speaking in public.

Yes, everybody hates him.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Pop quiz, hotshot.

Category: Presidential Line of Succession

Question: If the President and Vice President are removed from office, who then becomes the President of the United States of America?

Answer: You can wear it.

The date is all too suggestive.
And arousing.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Insane Man

Consider this a companion piece to yesterday's post. Our country is being run by two extremely well-connected, stubborn, certifiably insane men.

Here's the meaty quote from a scary story about how Nancy Pelosi was not consulted by Bush on his "new" Iraq War "strategy":
"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice," the California Democrat said. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' "

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, " 'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

The truth is that the Iraqi's hate us for bringing chaos to their world, and the retaliation must have inside info since they've just killed:
2 Colonels
1 Lieutenant Colonel
1 Major
1 Captain
2 Command Sergeant Majors
1 First Sergeant
1 Sergeant First Class
2 Staff Sergeants
1 Corporal

All in one helicopter January 20th.

Ah, victory.

And this final nugget regarding Bush's very late explanation to House Speaker Pelosi:
Apparently, Pelosi's final come-back to the president was the following:

PELOSI: He's tried this two times — it's failed twice. I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?'

BUSH: Because I told them it had to.

PELOSI: Why didn't you tell them that the other two times?

Because he's craaaaaaaaa-zy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


With Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald now clearly targeting Vice Presidente Dick Cheney in a road leading through the Scooter Libby trial, and El Presidente Bush laid bare yet again in maybe the most duck-in-a-barrel State of the Union address of his career, it looks like Dr. Doom Cheney is starting to come unhinged.

In public.

For real.

Resignation? V.P. impeachment?

It is even conceivable that George W. Bush will be around to deliver his final State of the Union address as scheduled next year?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Politi-flicks: State of the Response

With George W. Bush having squandered the faith of a nation, with a commanding majority of the population not bothering to take seriously his 2007 State of the Union address because we're not so stupid as to take being lied to a sixth year in a row, the real story is the response -- that of freshman Senator Jim Webb (D-VA).

You can read credible live-blogging of El Presidente's SOTU here and here, or pro-blogger style by Andrew Sullivan here. How odd that no one's rushing YouTuber clips to their sites. Nobody really cares what he has to say anymore. He's not our leader, except by fiat. What an odd moment in the history of America.

It's actually easier to find James Adomian and UCB crew's pre-emptive SOTU strike that seems to have popped up the very day of the address, with his brilliant prediction of Bushian rhetoric and delivery. The capper is the Democratic response by two comics playing Hillary and Obama, climaxing with her parodist screaming, "You will not touch me! You will not touch me! No one will touch me! No one will touch me!"

The real Democratic response was another matter, and those who might cringe at memories of milquetoast donkey rebuttals past finally got their due with Sen. Webb's response.

You owe it to yourself and your country to check this out.

Per Jonathan Singer:
I would concur with the sentiment of Chris Matthews, who opined that, perhaps for the first time since Ed Muskie delivered the Democratic address in 1970, the opposition response was stronger than the President's own state of the union address.

Per Sullivan:
He managed to bridge economic populism with military service and pride: a very potent combination. He did so with a sense of responsibility. The message, in short: "Lead us toward responsible redeployment in Iraq - or get out of the way." And he said it with testosterone and authority - more authority than this president now has.

And Josh Marshall is more interested in videoblogging Webb's response than the SOTU itself.

You may remember that these two elected officials crossed swords the first time they met in D.C. in November, over Bush asking about Webb's Marine lance corporal son serving in Iraq, and His Petulance not getting a response he wanted to hear:
Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

"I didn'’t ask you that, I asked how he's doing," Bush retorted, according to the source.

Payback's a bitch, you and everyone knows it. So does El Presidente feel the Senator, a military hero, novelist and historian, breathing down his neck?

Webb's closing paragraph, after references as positive leadership models Republican Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, then drives in the stake:
"These presidents took the right kind of action for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight, we are calling on this president to take similar action in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way."

What it all comes down to, between the twice-elected President and the newly-elected junior Senator...

Which one seems like a leader?

As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Newsweek's annual pre-Oscar nomination actor roundtable is up on their site for this year, with participants Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Mirren, Brad Pitt and Forest Whitaker, a staggering collection of talent. I've been a big fan of this feature every year and coming out of Sundance it's kinduva perfect segueway back in to Hollywood. Brilliant artists talking about their art, but artists with per diems that could finance a couple of Slamdance entries at a time.

One nice thing this year is that they have clips of the actors talking. Forest Whitaker seems like a particularly cool guy and Helen Mirren gives away some fascinating tips on her Queen Elizabeth portrayal, slipping into character here and there. But I think the decision to do the roundtable in front of an audience (for the first time) is at the cost of candor. Now the actors aren't just gabbing and sharing secrets with mainly crew around, they're on a live stage in a performance situation. The roundtable is suggested by the shape of what the actors sit behind but it is no longer a seamless 360 degree gathering surface. Lateral seating position is now a factor. Do the two actors seated in the middle have the best agents? It's a talk show format rather than a semi-private conversation, although Brad Pitt deserves credit for trying to incite more interplay among the panelists.

It's still interesting because they are all amongst this year's more interesting, accomplished performers, and I thought DiCaprio in particular came across guileless and grateful. His is my favorite quote from the (edited, of course) transcript:
You're all rich. You're all famous. You've all received critical acclaim. Why work? Why keep acting?

DICAPRIO: I love it. There's no other art form in the world that affects me more. There's nothing that I walk away from feeling transformed by the way I do with cinema. There's something so gratifying about being burned into celluloid and knowing that I can look back later in life and have stories about those experiences. It's an amazing gift.

While I never got myself burned into celluloid during my brief stint working on features, the sentiment about the stories, the experiences, rings true. You got that buzz at Sundance/Slamdance, partying with the cast and crew of American Zombie, hanging out at the Producer's Brunch where the participants don't have to convince each other that it's their movie, too, and doing the little crazy production there with Ester Goldberg for Zannel.

That's what keeps the movie making junkies coming back for more.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I'm a little under the gun here to keep moving, i.e. check out of one condo and get to an event, but I wanted to try and get a post in anyway, even if it should have been last night.

This is the first time I've ever attended the Sundance Film Festival, and since I came for the new position I started in mobile entertainment December 4th, I have zero movie tickets. However, thanks to a friend who is in the documentary feature Nanking, I did get to see this extraordinarily shattering movie, which I expect will get good p.r. once released.

The film tells the story of the 1937 invasion of China by the Japanese army, specifically the assault on and occupation of the then capital, Nanking. The atrocities are too numerous to completely enumerate here, but between the actors reading the perishable words of those who were there and the horrific footage (outstanding archive work), the audience was rapt.

After the lights came up and the film party took the stage for questions, it was revealed that several descendants of one of the Americans who helped save 250,000 Nanking citizens were in the audience. They took a bow and at the end of the session rose again to thank the filmmakers and cast. Very emotionally, tear-wrenching, and what I assume is the type of great film festival experiences that keep attendance vibrant and growing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Broad Attack

From Yahoo:
U.S. contingency planning for military action against
Iran's nuclear program goes beyond limited strikes and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former U.S. intelligence analyst said on Friday.

"I've seen some of the planning ... You're not talking about a surgical strike," said Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005.

"You're talking about a war against Iran" that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years, White told the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.

This just as The New York Times reports:
Iran's outspoken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be under pressure from the highest authorities in Iran to end his involvement in its nuclear program, a sign that his political capital is declining as his country comes under increasing international pressure.

Nice work, Presidente.

But, you say, the White House claims "President George W. Bush has stressed he is seeking a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program."

Just like he did before the catastrophic Iraq War? With this one poised to be potentially much, much worse for our country?

I don't know how many times I have to say it on this blog, but I'll repeat it for the next two years:

Every time he opens his mouth, he lies.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Politi-flicks: A.G.

How ironic is it that U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the highest law enforcement officer of our great nation, has the same initials as the prestigious office he holds, when no Attorney General since President Richard Nixon's appointee, John Mitchell, has done so much to subvert our Constitution?

Things didn't end well for Mitchell, the first A.G. ever to be convicted and imprisoned for illegal activities. While Gonzalez may never be convicted, based on his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony today, some want him impeached:
Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

Article I, Section 9:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Based on a medieval Latin derivation, habeas corpus literally means, "(You should) have/produce the body to be subjected to (examination)." No indefinite incarceration without cause or by opinion or by executive fiat. It's only been suspended in the Civil War (i.e. "Rebellion") and by El Presidente after we were attacked on 9/1/2001 -- not invaded in any number, at all.

Besides purging open-minded judges already issuing subpoenas to GOP Party members and replacing them with, for instance, a close associate of Karl Rove, and treating habeas corpus like some smug little lawyer's game, Gonzalaz was excoriated by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) over his approving torture as a new U.S. military policy. It seems Gonzalez and the rest of the Bush crew sent an innocent man who just happened to have dual citizenship (Canada and Syria) against his will to Syria, where it was certain he'd be tortured. Leahy had a post-hearing press release up on his site before the day's end:
In the 32 years since I first came to the Senate – during the era of Watergate and Vietnam – I have never seen a time when our Constitution and fundamental rights as Americans were more threatened by their own government. Just this last weekend, the President and Vice President indicated that they intended to override the will of the American people, as expressed in the most recent national elections, and ignore actions of Congress in order to escalate the war in Iraq. This Administration has circumvented express congressional prohibitions on creating databanks of information on law-abiding Americans over the last five years.

And maybe worst of all is the three-card monte trick the Administration is trying to play by claiming they will now follow the FISA rules they so gleefully flouted per the blow-up a year ago. According to Glenn Greenwald what's really going on is:
What seems to have happened is that they convinced one single FISA judge whom they like to sign a broad, sweeping Order allowing them to do everything they were doing before but declaring it all to be in compliance with FISA. That is why the Committee Democrats are so eager to get the Order. But, as Schumer pointed out, they could just start eavesdropping without FISA warrants again any time they want because they continue to insist that they have that power. And if they did, we would never know...

It seems like an endless criminal operation whose very purpose is to avoid any oversight, even the merest amount.

So the real war is starting, between the Congressional and Executive branches of government.

Who's going to be our Elliot Ness?

As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

X Marks

It turns out part of what gives The Departed its edgy angst is the proliferation of "X's" as a design motif throughout the picture.

Rene Rodriguez at the Miami Herald has the screenshots to prove it:
I recently went through the film again on DVD to see how many Xs I could find. To avoid even a hint of spoilers, I've arranged the frames out of chronological order. But if you've seen The Departed, you'll get an extra kick out of these. And if you haven't, Warner re-releasing it to theaters on Jan. 26, so no excuses.

Amen to all that. According to production notes posted on Rotten Tomatoes:
The letter X was also used symbolically throughout the movie, at the behest of Scorsese, who meant it as an homage to the 1932 movie "Scarface," directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Howard Hughes, in which the X has a special significance. "Marty asked us to utilize the letter X wherever we could," Zea reveals, "so you can see X's on windows, on walls, on floors..."

"The X is a sign of death, so Marty wanted us to include them—sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly," adds Ballhaus, who even used lighting to project X's into certain scenes.

The concept of death harkens back to the title. Monahan explains, "In the Catholic Church, we would refer to the dead as 'the faithful departed.' I started playing around with that idea and the fact that, ironically, this movie is about faithlessness—to others, of course, but most fatally to the characters' own best interests, so I thought the title fit."

And there you have it, Devils with Dirty Faces as Scorsese called it the other night on the podium. And, per IMDB trivia:
The word "fuck" and its derivatives are said 237 times throughout the film.

You can check for yourself how many times they say the "c" word.

Best Picture material?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Another Purge

It's Cheney as Stalin time again with yet another purge of non-radical elements, this time of anyone investigating the Bush/Cheney Co. Administration or disgraced GOP Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham (massive defense bribe taking) in the Justice Department, namely Federal District Court Judges who would do the right thing.

Just to give you a sense of how Politiburu this highly co-ordinated operation is, replacements include longtime Karl Rove employee, the guy charged with digging up the dirt on each and every Democrat, J. Timothy Griffin.

This is an out-and-out coup, the same castrating of our fair governmental system as Richard Nixon attempted to perform during his infamous Saturday Night Massacre, trying to get his Attorney General to fire Special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox. But there won't be any Elliot Richardson to resign rather than do the dirty work, no deputy William Ruckelshaus defying partisanship and resigning in protest as well, just all the Robert Bork's, doing Bush and Cheney and Rove's corrupt business. Cheney learned from Nixon's mistakes, is being much more crafty this time, cloaking it in a provision inserted by his Party henchmen into the Patriot Act.

I guess we'll be relying on Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to bring it up in the Senate.

Let's hope she makes merry hell for the Bushies.

Tell her she should.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I recently had the pleasure of meeting Billy Mernit, a novelist, composer, professor of romantic comedy, and blogger on the same vast and pleasurable subject. Like a knucklehead I asked him his five favorite romantic comedies and got all trumpy about his neglecting to include Bringing Up Baby. He's since banged his head on the wall of Nettertainment and it only feels right to make good on my end by directing you, valued reader, to Billy's Living the Romantic Comedy.

Treasures include a "The 2nd Annual Asta Awards for the Best in Romantic Comedy," which lists among it's genre-bending categories:
Best Potential Rom-Com Star Debut in a Non-Romantic-Comedy Movie:
Every now and then one comes out of a movie going, “who was that?” and this year everyone I know who saw The Devil Wore Prada was asking about Emily Blunt, playing Meryl Streep's marvelously sarcastic British assistant. Ms. Blunt has the delivery, looks and sensibility to do the Rom-Com proud, so the good news for ’07 is that she’s in one, called Dan in Real Life.

Billy is especially vindicated by Ms. Blunt winning a Golden Globe for a BBC television role tonight.

You also have an opportunity to name Billy's new novel (I went with I'm With Who) and, in my favorite piece, enjoy alongside him working with Diane Keaton circa 1978 on her unreleased singing career:
Keaton was charming self-deprecation incarnate on the phone. She had these songs, y’know, that she liked to sing, sort of, and well, people had been telling her she ought to, y’know, do something, like a record or something, which was a really dumb idea if you asked her, but anyway… We arranged to have her come down to my place the following week with a pile of sheet music.

Thus, to my own disbelief, one day Diane Keaton walked the three flights up to my humble village pad, where I awaited with nice lilies in the vase on the piano, a pot of coffee on the stove, and the songs she'd sung in Annie Hall already committed to my anxious memory.

As charming in print as he is in person, he's forgiven for a little slip of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Howard Hawks (if screwball doesn't qualify, why bother?). If not for RomCom, as Billy puts it, in our lives, what's the alternative -- RomTrag?

(With less genre investment than I have in, say, sci-fi or noir) I'll go with:

Bringing Up Baby
The Palm Beach Story
Annie Hall
Choose Me
It Happened One Night

Okay, so what's missing...

Sunday, January 14, 2007


El Presidente's "plan" for escalating our Iraq involvement is meeting unexpected resistance from, and it's a good one, the democratically elected Iraqi government. Per The New York Times:
"We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem," said an American military official in Baghdad involved in talks over the plan. "We are being played like a pawn."

And how do we feel about the guy the democratically elected leader of Iraq picked to run his side of the Baghdad co-U.S. operations:
In face of strong American skepticism, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has selected an officer from the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq who was virtually unknown to the Americans, and whose hard-edged demands for Iraqi primacy in the effort has deepened American anxieties.

Then there's logistics:
There are no solutions yet to longstanding problems like who — the American forces, or the Iraqis' own anemic logistics system — will supply the fuel required to keep Iraqi Humvees and troop-carrying trucks running, at a time when the American supply chain will face new strains in supporting thousands of additional American troops.

The plan gives a central role to the National Police, viewed as widely infiltrated by Shiite militias and, despite an intensive American retraining program, still suspected of a strongly Shiite sectarian bias. One American officer said that the National Police commanders have been "dragging their feet" over their role in the new plan and that they could seriously compromise the operation.

Then there's the likelihood that the very enemy we'll be surging after will melt away, as usual when we go in, into the populace and scatter around Iraq until things cool down again.

But maybe this would have been an okay some time...deep in the past:
Another senior officer involved in developing the new plan said that the new crackdown would have been much easier to implement if it had been adopted earlier. He said that when he returned to Iraq for a second tour in the fall, he was shocked to see how far the American war effort had regressed, something he attributed to muddled strategy. "When I got back three months ago, the hodge-podge called Baghdad was like a Rubik’s cube gone awry," he said.

And who is the author of this plan, the intellectual underpinning for this McCain Doctrine of increased commitment? Why, 36 year-old Frederick Kagan, to whom, "Wow, you mean we can still win this war?" a grateful Bush reportedly said. According to reader PS on Talking Points Memo:
So I am completely baffled by the extent to which the media has given him credibility as a "military expert"; one imagines how the surge would have been received if Kagan was accurately identified as "an expert on Napoleon and the early 19th century Russian army." His CV reveals no publications in refereed history or political science journals in the last decade. Basically the intellectual architect of the surge is an oped/Weekly Standard writer whose only substantive expertise is on Napoleon.

Really puts your mind at ease, don't it?


Saturday, January 13, 2007


So with all the critic groups having weighed in, climaxing with the BFCA (we'll all be forgiven for not knowing it's the Broadcast Critics Award), you have to start looking at The Departed as the front runner. It's Scorsese's year to be sure (Clint won too recently and not enough voters will see a black & white Japanese war tragedy to pull it out of the arty sidebar) and while about two months ago, before seeing any of the pictures except Marty's graduation party, I made the following Oscar predictions:

Best Picture: Dreamgirls
Best Actor: Forrest Whittaker
Best Actress: Helen Mirren
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson
Best Director: Martin Scorsese

I loved Dreamgirls, which is warmer than Chicago (Best Picture winner adapted by Bill Condon , who both wrote and adapted this one) and much more about period, albeit less overtly formal, but in some ways I wonder if it can beat this unusually cross-appealing guy picture. It's where two 1970's film sensations pass the baton to a gaggle of extremely good young actors doing arguably their best work to date; at the same time there's the Scorsese/Dicaprio graduation to a humongous box office success; and lastly it's Marty's graduation to the most successful plot-driven picture (and there haven't been many -- Cape Fear and Age of Innocence?) of his entire career.

Entertainment Weekly is going with:

The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

which is the exact same as the Producers Guild nominations and the Directors Guild.

So assuming that Little Miss Sunshine (deservedly) wins Best Original Screenplay, traditional home of the smart indie Best Picture nominee's consolation prize (hey, it happened to Citizen Kane and The Crying Game) the only question is whether Eddie Murphy's brilliant performance overcomes whatever antipathy Hollywood may have towards him for past behavior, and the Academy thinks the indie is plenty rewarded, and maybe Murphy's body of work is enough that Arkin's doesn't completely outshine him.

The other three are locks (Does anyone really think Sacha Baron Cohen can dislodge the long overdue Forest Whitaker? But you invite Borat to the Party), and the Jennifer Hudson win would mirror Catherine Zeta-Jones for Chicago, same pattern for a Best Picture win. But a Scorsese win could either be given as a one-off on what's essentially an exceptionally memorable action pic, or open the door to the total love for the biggest quadrant crossover movie in many year's toting a hard "R" rating. Like The Matrix but with the classic Hollywood counter-culture winners pedigree.

Nicholson is the underrated player in all of this, not that he deserves the award this time (won't be #4, but you always want to invite him to the Party), but no matter how hammy that role might have been -- and the outtakes are reportedly insane -- he's the anchor, the license to unleash everything else in the movie, the blessing that it would be okay, no matter the gore or the twist. I think working with Nicholson against all these young bucks freed Scorsese to cut loose like making the apotheosis Big Combo era Hollywood B-movie, with budget, the highest octane male ensemble cast in ages, and everyone playing it fast and intense.

Babel's box office is going to limit it, and the other indie-friendly award it might win is Cinematography. Maybe The Queen scores an earlier award, I'm guessing Beyonce is about to win a (again, deserved) Oscar for "Patience" and Scorsese's career-long editor, Thelma Schoonmaker could easily win her third (previously for Raging Bull and recently The Aviator), so it's feeling very democratic this year, no Titanic taking all the bacon. But it could easily be a title fight at the end of the evening, and it wouldn't shock me if a shocker slipped through.

I pick The Queen as the dark horse, maybe even the Crash, because Academy membership trends older. As in, took direction for Cecil B.DeMille. The age trend hurts Dreamgirls more than The Departed, because those 70 and older may not have grown up with Motown. One octogenarian I spoke with told me she didn't care for the music at all.

So is this like the year The Silence of the Lambs won? Intense and graphic B-movie with budget, stars, smarts, plot, "R" rating? Director Jonathan Demme and crew were up against arguably weaker competition, Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK and The Prince of Tides, but they also pulled off a similar apotheosis, the Roger Corman movie. Demme explicitly acknowledge this by giving Corman an interesting bit part in the movie, and Roger could not have had a better graduating ceremony, a prize pupil elevating such a violent form.

Dark horse nominees that could turn the Best Picture race a whole new direction are United 93, which a lot of members didn't dare subject themselves to in the theater, and may have a similar barrier even on DVD screener. Critic organizations have given it awards because they have to see everything to do their jobs, Letters from Iwo Jima for all the right reasons, and I'm afraid released too late and I'm guessing too unprepared on the Oscar campaign plan to build fast enough buzz, especially since the Academy moved up the show and the voting, and especially if it's first wave is a youthful buzz, too outlaw for the fogies. I'm dying to see Little Children but it probably peak with a writing nomination and Kate Winslet (5th time!) for Best Actress.

I started this blog last year with some Oscar analysis, and even then I wasn't interested in partisanship, just figuring out the factors why Crash won, the buzz, the marketing, even (hey!) the movie experience itself. So it feels fun to be getting back into it. Does an Eddie Murphy win boost chances for that pic or will voters see those three (or more) Oscars as enough? Is it The Dreams or cops from Southie or maybe a Queen?

I'll be interested to know if Academy voters watch The Departed for their second time at home. Because everybody saw that movie in the theater and it was a wild ride. If they are, if it becomes a DVD screener classic, it could be all momentum going into the voting, into the night of February 25th.

Sound analysis?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Yes, change

The Dems are doing a pretty decent job with their 100 hours. They are getting things done.

Except for Senate Republidem Joe Lieberman (I-CA), who is blocking a Katrina inquiry, which mean another lie he told his very own constituents to get reelected.

While our new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, tells us Iraq is four count 'em four, four wars in one.

But the weirdest rumor yet is that Bush pre-taped his speech Sunday night. Why else would the White House ban pool photographers?

And how about that odd sound hiccup at the beginning of the ALL the networks were suddenly taking a different sound feed source than customary.

It would account for his freaky woodenest tinman performance yet.

If he only had a heart.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Who Will Stop Him?

Maybe it'll be some combination of Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). They won't be able to do it without you and me. Maybe this is turning into one of those people power movies but on an epic scale, where a multitude of protagonists coalesce to fight a villain who's power has grown so large for so long, it takes everyone united to stop him and his crowd from raining violence down upon the innocent, a bloodlust for countless men, women and children.

Or maybe it's like one of those late '50's, early nuke paranoia fantasies of executive branch capture and psychotic corruption threatening to take the helm of our great nation.

Today Bush had our guys raid the Iranian consulate in Kurdish Iraq and take six (6) employees under custody.

Tonight an explosion tore through our embassy compound in Greece. As in Europe. Where you're supposed to feel safe.


Steve Clemons reports a rumor shooting around D.C. today that in recent days the President may have signed a secret order to commence war with Iran and possibly Syria:
Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

The questions asked by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice point eerily to him acting on a tip. You can watch all the Senators on the panel grill the hell out of Condi, who refuses to interpret the President's words last night in anything but riddles and evasions. Revealed yet again as arguably the most overrated public servant in modern Washington, D.C. history.

And how are we going to get enough army? By abandoning active duty time limits?

Worse than Vietnam. It's to no longer be no more than 24 months in the shit, it's be no more than 24 consecutive months.

Enjoy that one month vacation, soldier.

Bush is going for it, ready and willing and Cheney's death puppet. They want chaos in the Middle's been their plan all along.

Maybe it'll be Keith Olbermann. Sure, he'll be part of it. So will Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

America wants the leaders it just elected to police El Presidente Bush. It's a sickening sequel here three decades later with Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger all back again for one more attempt at national and international domination their way, authoritarian style. They're only back because this time they think it will work. In reality, all they have experience with, is losing wars and getting thousands of innocents killed to do it.

It's Nixon time again. But while you usually think of Dick Cheney as job security for George Bush, it's actually the other way around. Dick Cheney is counting on Congress not impeaching George Bush to get to him. Way too much trouble and, with some Nixonian anti-accountability stonewalling, by now he thinks he can run the clock.

These guys are trying to force a horrific American policy and foist it on countless Presidents to follow, not just a few helicopters out of the Green Zone. This is putting America on war footing for another decade.

So either you agree on their chaos theory and think young American bodies and our national Treasury and innocent civilians are expendable at any rate for as long as you roll the dice on escalating violence to control resources. Water, oil, nukes.

Today and tonight was the first call-and-response.

Somebody stop him.

Everybody stop him.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Politi-flicks: Bush's Last Speech

Barring resignation, health problems or impeachment, there's two years to go in the George W. Bush Administration and I wouldn't be surprised if this last speech was the last time anyone will even pretend that it's important to see it.

Why would any network preempt programming to cover him? Unless it's to watch a car wreck as he drives America through the steel guard rail at 120 mph in a State of the Union address announcing war on Iran just as Cheney is angling for hard, why would anyone bother listening to him?

It was that bad.

I went into tonight thinking Bush had somewhere between and 20% and 35% chance of convincing America he was finally facing up to his responsibilities and would really, really focus if we give him 20,000 (escalated to 21,500 by the time the speech rolled around) more American soldiers to put in harm's way.

Bush's big hurdle coming into the speech is that there are very few people left in America who still believe he can deliver adequately on anything he promises. As Keith Olbermann so made clear with blistering graphics shortly before the speech, the justifications, cost estimates and declared turning points for this war have changed so many times, whatever Bush said tonight is irrelevant by definition.

The fact is that there has been no fully competent execution except maybe on disproportionately lowering taxes on the wealthy. Nothing, absolutely nothing for the people that isn't botched, sold to cronies, underfunded or donut-holed. It's a managerial failure, to be sure, but can't we admit that this six year nullset of failure is inherent proof of an ideological bankruptcy as well?

Ah, there are die-hard. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who appears to have been the first national figure to give Bush & Co. the inspiration for the "surge" (the "McCain Doctrine") and even he today seemed off his game, splitting hairs on having won the (initial) Iraq War (We were greeted as liberators! We were!)

The once sympathetic Howard Fineman declares "A Crisis of Confidence":
Bush's political problem is not so much that he has lied to the American people—though he may well have done so—but that he seems for years to have been lying to himself.

What the voters saw on TV just now was a man struggling to come to grips with his own unwillingness to face facts. It's still a struggle. His acknowledgement of mistakes was oblique and not as brave as it sounded at first blush. Mistakes were made, and he said. "The responsibility rests with me," he said. What he meant to convey was that others had made the mistakes, but that he was stepped up to take the hit. Hoo-aw! He said that he had "consulted" congressional leaders of both parties before he came to a decision on sending more than 20,000 additional troops. He didn't really consult with members of Congress, and certainly not with Democrats, unless you consider Sen. Joe Lieberman a Democrat.

But if there's anything really newsworthy in the speech is exactly that joyride of threatening war with Iran and Syria. From the complete text (from Kos):
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.

Well, he has to do something to get our attention back before January 2009.

How about World War III?

As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Letter to Netter

Here's an email I received last night from a good friend who usually has the most biting of analyses:

I've gotta hand it to the Dems for doing the morally right thing by starting to put the heat on GWB for non-escalation. Frankly, as I think you know, I personally favor the cynical option: giving Junior whatever he wants so that he has the opportunity between now and 2008 to completely destroy the Republican Party as a vote-getting entity.

(BTW: by "right thing" I mean the right thing for American families -- beginning to end the shameful waste of American lives & the waste of taxpayer $$. Teddy's bill is clearly a prelude to a push for withdrawal, and leaving Iraq isn't necessarily the best thing for Iraqis; I think the minute we get out of there all hell's gonna break loose, and they'll be outright civil carnage until the situation there shakes out with clear winners and losers and a reformed sociopolitical strata. Once that shakeout happens, stability will return although the form of that stable society probably won't look very pretty from any vantage point other than that of the new ruling elite. Nonetheless, we're going to have to leave sooner or later, our presence is impeding the inevitable, so we might as get out & let the Iraqis start to get on with whatever they have to go through on their own to get to the other side.)

The Dems will benefit in the short term by doing the right thing, which also enables them to put Repubs in the bind of having to either repudiate GWB or repudiate the clear will of the electorate -- my guess is that when Teddy's bill come to a vote, almost every repub senator up for re-election in 2008 will cross the aisle.

However, the Dems have also got to know that they're setting themselves up for another generation of nonstop calumny and revisionism by the RW noise machine. If you listen closely you can almost hear the wingnuts smearing away right now w/ their crayons: "We were winning but the pansy liberals made us pull out." Get ready for it. Since you live and work w/ latte sippers you probably don't directly hear much of this but I've got to tell you, in my 25 yrs on wall street if I had a dime for every time I heard that we lost Vietnam because of spineless liberals or hippies or Jane Fonda I'd be retired already. The truly scary thing is that i hear this tiresome refrain from otherwise bright and sensible people.

It is w/ that knowledge that I've got to hand it to Teddy, Nancy & Harry -- they're doing the morally right thing even though they know they & their party will be vilified and traduced for the next 20 yrs because of it.

My thought was that this approach vis-a-vis the Iraqi's themselves is actually pretty libertarian. Hello, Hobbesian state, and call us when you come out the other side.

Back here in the states we call it, "tough love."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lion in Winter

Lord knows he is not without sin. Nor was he the most inspiring of his brood, in the shadow of two superstar brothers, which may have contributed to his avoidance of assassination. But big props to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) for standing up today and throwing down the gauntlet against this egomaniacal bloodletting to be that is El President George W. Bush's expected Iraq War escalation plan.

In his address Tuesday to the National Press Club, Teddy repeats multiple quotes that seem to be straight out of the Bush/McCain escalation justification, but are revealed one-by-one to be Vietnam War escalation justification quotes, including a classic by another Texan, President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Kennedy could not be clearer in his reasons to oppose the escalation, nor could he be clearer in identifying that, "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam."

You can read a terrific piece currently headlining at DailyKos that he posted directly to the blog reading community, "Escalation: It's Not Up To Him," regarding the speech and accompanying legislation he's introducing to force both Democratic and Repub Senators to take a stand.

You can sign Kennedy's online petition supporting his legislation here.

As Chris Bowers writes at in "Escalation As The New Social Security," when Dems stood together to block Bush/Cheney/Rove's attempt to gut Social Security like Repubs have wanted to do since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced it during our Great Depression, we not only won but for the first time we proved the darkest GOP forces were beatable. That victory, that line in the sand, bolstered our spirits and started us down the path that led to the Congressional turnover we're enjoying just this week.

Here's our next chance.

This is America. We have no kings. The Decider can stuff it.

Just. Say. No.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Saddam is Magic

Could Saddam Hussein's trial and execution have been any more botched?

NPR reports that not only is he seen as a brave martyr in the Arab world for his stoicism in the cellphone execution video, various people report seeing his face in the moon.

A little research later and it turns out this isn't quite a new phenomenon, just one revived due to the execution and ensuing publicity.

Would it have been that hard to ship him off to The Hague for International Court justice? Oh, that's right, Bush/Cheney didn't want any part of that international cooperation stuff except on their own draconian terms.

Given how thoroughly this Administration has botched every single major policy domestic and foreign, are Americans really going to allow themselves to be hoodwinked again by an escalation sales job starting Wednesday night?

Sunday, January 07, 2007


My close friend, Erika Schickel, has just had her first book published, a collection of funny, insightful, biting, illuminating essays, many of which have been published over the past several years leading up to this achievement.

The book is entitled, You're Not The Boss Of Me: Adventures Of A Modern Mom, and nothing would make me happier than if every single Nettertainment readers would buy a copy.

This isn't just a ploy to boost her Amazon ranking, you'll actually have a great time. If you want a little sample of the goods first, there's a few of the article versions posted on her own site here. One audience pleaser is "Journey to Another Girl" wherein mom goes out with a girlfriend to a strip club for lap dances. When they first get to the club:
The 4Play vibe is kind of English Country meets Z Gallerie. Picture Ralph Lauren hip-deep in Victoria'’s juicy Secret. The decor is louche, plush, and just a little bit naughty. Heavy burgundy velvet drapes hang like swollen labia from the doors and walls. Over the bar a series of plastic female torsos hang like hunting trophies on a brick wall. They are headless and legless and have only arms and hands to clutch at themselves in randy bas-relief. They look like the pervy mannequins that got kicked out of Bloomingdale'’s window for misbehavior.

Maybe the major theme that runs across most of the essays is what so many of us who have aged from at least self-perceived rebel to responsible (one hopes) parent have had to grapple with: freedom vs., well, love. Family love. Free behavior, misbehavior, what have you is a path to growth we don't want to lose entirely, but can that survive the responsibilities of familyhood?

Just about all of Erika's ethical decisions are either bounced off her impeccably supportive husband, Doug, or filtered through her devotion to her two precious daughters, Franny and Georgia. The girls serve to focus her understanding of her own emotions, sometimes in the simplicity of her love for them, sometimes in her expectations both hopeful and fearful for their futures, sometimes in reflecting on what feelings her daughters themselves are revealing to better understand her own. And sometimes it's a little risky behavior, like smoking (in a terrific extended piece, a history of pleasure), that brings the necessary release from the pressures of parenting.

The essays are great as individual reads, literate yet conversational, but taken altogetherer there's a richness thanks to Erika's always expanding interests and consistently probing, prowling mind.

She's also aided by her experience as a live performer -- Erika knows how to make even the most heady stuff play -- and over January she'll be reading excerpts both in NYC and LA. If you're in one of those cities this month, check her out.

Who knows, you might even end up somewhere in her next book.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Here's why I think Wes Clark should have some position in the next Administration, like President, Vice President, Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, or Secretary of Defense. From The Independent, "Wesley Clark: Bush's 'surge' will backfire":
What the surge would do, however, is put more American troops in harm's way, further undercut US forces' morale, and risk further alienation of elements of the Iraqi populace. American casualties would probably rise, at least temporarily, as more troops are on the streets; we saw this when the brigade from Alaska was extended and sent into Baghdad last summer. And even if the increased troop presence initially intimidates or frustrates the contending militias, it won't be long before they find ways to work around the obstacles to movement and neighbourhood searches, if they are still intent on pursuing the conflict. All of this is not much of an endorsement for a troop surge that will impose real pain on the already overstretched US forces.

So while John McCain allows that he's for escalation as some sort of gift to the forces already there, Clark reveals them as the exact opposite, death warrants.

Clark goes on in the commentary to propose solution paths, mainly diplomatic. I couldn't agree more, but it won't happen with this President.

Talk to me about the diplomatic solution again in twenty-four (24) months.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Big moves these past 24 hours in D.C. Under the cloak of Nancy Pelosi's historic swearing in, the Bush Administration deploys a second fleet of carriers to right beside Iran, moves experienced diplomat John Negroponte just under Condi Rice at State (So she can become VP when Cheney steps down? Because even George finally gets that she's incompetent?) and a yes-man from the Navy into Negroponte's vacated Director of National Intelligence job. Get ready for the deadly Iran War Medicine Show.

This, as our army tries to recruit dead men to fill the under-staffed ranks.

How does the public feel about BushCheneyCo's handling of Iraq? Does the number "30" mean anything to you?

Meanwhile Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Lieberman (I-CA) talked up troop escalation (reinforcement?) in Iraq as a necessary step to war with Iran. Lieberman I get, that same old Likudnik crap that abetted getting us into Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld's war, but McCain is the less defensible case. He just isn't judgmentally fit to lead this country.

Here's hoping their POV gets consigned to the trash bin of history. It sure seems like a petering out minority opinion in post-Bush America. It's the, "blood on hands" policy option.

Almost as smart as executing Saddam Hussein and releasing it immediately on cellphone video.

Now Joe Biden tells the world he thinks even Dick Cheney has admitted to himself that they (and we the country) lost and just wants to make it President Edwards or Obama or Clark or Biden or Clinton or Vilsack's problem, make the images of the final airlift out of the Green Zone part of their historical record, not that of the villain who caused it all.

But the big steeling came today in a way one can only pray the Democratic leadership maintains through the opening next Wednesday night, when El President reveals his "plan" for dealing with his catastrophe, in the form of the letter addressed to George W. Bush from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). To quote:
Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.

And even Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who reportedly lost Speaker Pelosi's favor to chair the House Intelligence Committee by having backed the President on the Iraq War longer than she should have, is making amends to her fellow grandmother by relaying a clear public message:
The Bush Administration has claimed emergency spending is necessary because the costs of a protracted war on terror are not known. Nonsense. Both the Korean and the Vietnam Wars were almost entirely financed through the regular appropriations process - not emergency supplementals.

The White House will soon ask for over $100 billion in new emergency war spending, Adjusted for inflation, that is more than we spent in 1968, the most expensive year of the war in Vietnam. And the lion's share of that funding was done through the regular process.

There must be no more blank checks for this President, and I predict this will be the last "emergency" supplemental in the new Democrat-controlled Congress.

Has the time has come when the grandmothers will save America?

They raised the kids that had the kids -- is there any better training for it?

Will the Grandmother Party be the one with a backbone?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Guillermo's Labyrinth

One of those movies you really want to see in a theater is Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno), the new masterpiece by Guillermo del Toro.

I've seen his studio fare -- Hellboy and Blade II both visually arresting comic book genre winners, and Mimic which del Toro claims Bob Weinstein ruined -- but missed his first breakthrough indie out of Mexico, Chronos, as well as his 2001 The Devil's Backbone, which begins a Spanish Civil War trilogy in which the new release is #2. After the Hellboy sequel for Sony, he's making #3, incidentally titled 3993, "A ghost story about 'the hostages left to fortune by the past' set in 1990's Spain and with connections with Spanish Civil War in 1939."

And what really got me intrigued over this past month regarding del Toro is that he's 1/3 of the Mexican film industry's "Three Amigos", along with Alfonso Cuaron, who also straddles Hollywood and pure personal expression between Y Tu Mama Tambien and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. At a recent Charlie Rose gathering the day the Three Amigos were in town to receive their special Gotham Award, the other two cracked that Alfonso never has to worry -- one of his pictures has earned $800,000,000.

Cuaron and del Toro met when they were getting jobs directing episodes of the same series in Mexico City, later del Toro literally walked himself into Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's life after seeing his short film, and the three of them have been a support unit together ever since.

So what are the odds that Pan's Labyrinth should be playing in the theater right next door to Inarritu's Babel in the great big Century City AMC?

Meanwhile, Cuaron's Children of Men, playing in just two Oscar qualifying theaters in L.A., is set to go wide I think unexpectedly strong, per enthusiastic word of mouth of both people I know who saw it.

So I think these three guys, in the meat of their careers, are where the concentration of action is right now. These are the guys with a shot at being in the Scorsese league at his age. These are actually the guys who know how to shoot action (in the case of the older two, big studio quality action).

They cut their pictures themselves, in their homes, they come over and kibitz each other, they crit each other's scripts, they cry on each others shoulders, their families are friends. All their kids love del Toro's two-story library filled with fantasy literature and art.

And what a feel for that literature del Toro possesses so deeply. He not only understands the fairy tale, the fable form, but he's smart enough turn it in on itself, to make the central question of Pan's Labyrinth not a mere celebration of the power of fantasy, but a question of fantasy's value in a world as cruel as...ours.

I really don't want to give much away about the picture because I went into it pretty clean, having only seen one short clip from the beginning, just enough to make me sure I wanted to see it. It was what I'd call the Spirited Away moment, where a smart, bold, lonely young girl first encounters the Other Side, when you could say she first steps over. And while her encounter with that world can be read as personal hallucination, heartbreakingly so, the feast is the spectacular vividness of the encounters that makes us believe -- or desperately want to believe -- it's all real.

But del Toro's directorial control is so accomplished that the fantasy world plays thematic fugues with hardened reality, a Brechtian construction of 1944 Spain when only a few bands of rebel Republicans remained after the movement was put down by Generalisimo Francisco Franco's brutal rightwing military. The situation in the real world is pure oppression; in the fantasy world, the young girl is given tasks to perform before the full moon. If she is successful, will her life outside the fantasy world be saved?

Even more impressive than the two Amigos pics showing side-by-side at this most commercial of theaters, it was a Wednesday night and our theater was packed, all of us enthralled like we haven't been in I can't say how long with this, a Spanish-language release. Maybe Spanish is a draw for a Southern Californian audience, but in any case it was one of those rare cases of an art film as a mainstream movie experience. Big, big screen stuff.

I won't go into it but the performances are all great, from the little girl to the women you can't believe is the same one from Y Tu Mama Tambien, to the heart of darkness, Capitan Vidal himself. And ruling the other darkness, the one English-only speaker in the cast/crew, Doug Jones (Hellboy, upcoming as Silver Surfer), playing Pan and, oh most unnervingly, the Pale Man.

I'll stop right there.

It's been 24 hours since I came out of the movie, and it sure doesn't shake easily. The psycho-sexual connections, making sense of the wealth of imagery, only now seem to come to light. The conundrum of the reflecting plots, the twin plights as a full-grapple stalemate between the necessity to confront and the necessity to escape indescribable oppression, between the costs of each. The ultimate strength of the movie is how seriously del Toro takes each of those questions, and how masterful he is at making it a fully realized, harrowing journey into two worlds that are nothing but labyrinthine traps, each with their own subtleties and cul-de-sacs.

Lastly, del Toro has a charming fascination with the mechanical age, or rather that fantastic version of it some kid at the turn of the previous, the 20th Century might have dreamt on a summer twilight in a field of crickets. As with Chronos and Mimic, the mechanical and the insectual are as one. Is this recurring fetish a manifestation of his masculine voice, incarnated in this film as guiding angel? Is it the balance to Pan's labyrinth as a manifestation of hers, a conflicted maze of tween womanhood? Or is the whole movie a metaphor about saving a child, and whether fantasy saves her, saves others, saved del Toro?

It's more Luis Bunuel than Walt Disney, pits Jean Cocteau against Lewis Carroll, as I'm pretty sure all are invoked somewhere in the picture, and with its final image gives you license to decide for yourself.

This recommendation comes with the warning that there are some very lovely but very graphic scenes, I'm glad it's rated "R" so I don't accidentally take my 8 year-old.

But aside from that I'm just wondering, in the non-documentary standpoint, if Pan's Labyrinth isn't the best movie of the year?

As in, without a doubt, the most memorable journey.


Hard not to be moved by this historic moment -- surrounded by her grandchildren, a woman reading the results, and a gracious congratulations by the new GOP Minority Leader.

Nice post from Echidne.

Woman with gavel and other pix.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Politi-flicks: Salvo

John Edwards got out in front of the race for 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate last Thursday in New Orleans, invoking one of the two largest failures of current Republican Presidential policy by announcing at an unrepaired site of Hurricane Katrina devastation. While Edwards has had a lightweight tag in the past, this time around appears to be different, and the Primary calendar itself could favor him enormously.

Far from appearing lightweight or "me, too" on foreign policy, he came out strong on Sunday's interview by George Stephanopoulos against the reported "surge" strategy, referring to it by the more Vietnamesque term of "escalation" and, most stunningly, pinning it squarely on vocal GOP proponent Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Watch Stephanopoulos do a doubletake as Edwards boldly frames "the McCain Doctrine."

Edwards reveals himself as having something his previous top 'o ticket running mate John Kerry sorely lacked -- and Rudy Giuliani can't seem to keep to himself -- a plan to win the Presidency.

By going after GOP frontrunner McCain and in such a classy way (referring to his once-colleague as his friend with whom he just adamantly disagrees) he undercuts McCain when it hurts the most -- early.

The timing could not be better, with McCain continually seeming to erode his own "straight talk" brand by courting Bush fundraisers and Christian Conservatives in ways that alienate his more moderate former fans, but before any other potential candidate (Hillary? Barack?) has taken a stand against McCain's Presidential aspirations. Edwards does it by inference, deftly and, it would seem, fairly.

There's a firestorm soon to come. Whether it's complemented the long-prophesized crash of the housing or stock market, a sudden shoot up of oil prices or another natural disaster for which the currently corrupted sectors of Administrative government are ill-prepared to handle, the stage is set for a potential crisis in U.S. military command, specifically the Commander-in-Chief.

He may think he's Harry Truman but he never served in the military, didn't work his way up from an indigent background, and didn't end World War II. He wants to believe it was his Secretary of Defense who lost the plebiscite on November 7th, 2006, but the country made clear it was voting against his own policies, his own judgment, his own inability to make the right decisions to lead our great nation. Does Bush think those GOP Senate and House candidates all lost their elections because they were bad candidates? Of course not. They were cut so Congress would stop enabling him.

Given the tenor of the country, one expects Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid went home over Christmas and realized the full support of their constituents there and Democrats, Moderates, and even some Traditional Conservatives nationwide, to go ahead and make changes without apology. Lift Minimum Wage, protect Social Security, weed out executive corruption and, most of all, end the debacle in Iraq. So if they're not steeled now, they never will be.

But even if they maintain their recently reconstituted backbone, they're up against Presidential authority over our military and setting foreign policy agenda. And as far as America is concerned, there is no more pressing foreign policy item than our military in Iraq.

So the questions for President George W. Bush are:
(a) How well can he sell his reported plan for a 20-minute national address prior to the January 23rd State of the Union, and
(b) How well does he think he has to?

If Bush thinks he has to sell the plan but fails, will he still execute his authority to the utmost limits of what he and his men believe a Constitutional challenge will support?

Edwards made the opening salvo; two days later here's Keith Olbermann with his first Special Comment of the New Year, on the leaked story that Bush's speech will cast the word "sacrifice" in the starring role (hello, Daily Show montage).

Here's a sample, if choice moment:
Your citizens, the people for whom you work, have told you they do not want this, and more over, they do not want you to do this.

Yet once again, sir, you have ignored all of us.

Mr. Bush, you do not own this country!

Buckle up, America.

You're about to live in interesting times.

As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Brilliant 20

This Jill who blogs Brilliant at Breakfast loves figure skating, the Mets and blogs from the Left.

What's not to like?

But what's especially to like is her end-of year "Brilliant 20 of 2006," which includes a lot of excellent personalities I managed to cover during the past year. #1 is an especially great choice.

Illustrated with photos as well, which is more than I can say for Nettertainment.

Hello 2007

As far as warfare goes, I'm looking forward to 300.

I wasn't looking forward to 3000.