Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Willard Mitt Romney beat back Newt Gingrich in Florida by outspending him 5:1, hiring a new debate coach, repeating his "God Bless America" speech ad nauseum and, of course, by incessant bold-faced lying regarding the President.

Willard bought his Republican Presidential Primary win in Florida with $15,000,000 in ads (between his campaign and his SuperPAC). He spent, roughly, $21 per voter. What interesting is that 92% of all the ads for this race were negative -- and only 0.1% were pro-Romney:

The bulk of the ads were run by Mr. Romney and his PAC, Restore Our Future, which spent a combined $15.4 million on television and radio advertising in Florida. That compares with $3.7 million for Mr. Gingrich and his allies, according to an analysis by a Republican media strategist not working for either candidate.

The tone and content of the commercials were almost as lopsided. Of all the spots that ran in Florida for the last week, 68 percent were attacks on Mr. Gingrich, Kantar Media found. Only 9 percent were favorable toward him.

Ads assailing Mr. Romney accounted for 23 percent of the political commercials that were broadcast. Yet less than 0.1 percent were pro-Romney, Kantar found. That sliver of a figure was because of one ad the Romney campaign broadcast in Spanish, which featured Mr. Romney’s son praising his father’s leadership abilities.

That's right, the only pro-Romney ad wasn't even broadcast in the English language.

So what's Willard's "positive" vision for America?:
And I'm going to stand and defend capitalism across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we're going to get hit hard from President Obama, but we're going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.
"Stuff it down his throat." You kiss your wife with those lips, Willard? I mean, unless you're a dyed-in-wool Obama hater, what's to like about this guy?:

When Romney ran for the presidential nomination and lost in 2008, the share of Americans who saw him positively never topped 30 percent. By last month, that number had dropped to 24 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Romney took a beating last week in South Carolina over his business career at Bain Capital and his taxes -- and so did his image among voters. A Washington Post poll released Tuesday, three days after Romney lost the South Carolina primary, found a 17 percentage-point drop over two weeks among independent voters who viewed Romney favorably.

That's right, Willard Mitt Romney. The more you see him, the less you like him.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Game of Anticipation

Now that I've read four and a half George RR Martin A Song of Ice & Fire books, being just about in the middle of the one that came out late last year, it's strange to look at the new HBO teaser trailer (#2, with a lot more imagery) for Game of Thrones Season Two.

On the one hand, I'm so incredibly super-psyched to see these characters made flesh again. Tyrion, Danys, Jon, Robb, even fucked-up Cersei (as played so well by Lena Headley), and now Melisandre (being played by Black Book's awesome Carice Van Houten) and fucked-up Stannis.

On the other hand, these characters are like ancient history to me now. When Season One ended after the 10th episode, I was so insanely eager to know what happened to next to these characters, I read A Clash of Kings which is the basis for this upcoming season, and it's a doozy. If they get all the plot in and pull off a huge mother of all battles, it could be the best season of TV since The Wire.

But then I read A Storm of Swords, which the series creators/showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss say is too big for one season and will be split in two. And A Feast for Crows, the slower one that opens up new character veins in entirely fresh locations, and pissed off some diehard fans by splitting in half the simultaneous chronological events with popular characters that Martin held for the fifth book, the one I'm currently reading, A Dance with Dragons.

So I'm 3,500 pages down the road in this epic saga from the events that will kick off this new season in March. Some of these characters...well, they're almost like ancient history.

I will say this: if you love Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, as the Emmy and Golden Globe voters did or maybe even more, this is the season for you. We left with his father making him Hand of the King - the job in which the last two holders have died while serving, Jon Arryn (who's suspected murder sets off the whole series and plots) and Ned Stark (who everybody thought was the series lead for the run). Thus far the only power Tyrion's had is as much of his family fortune as his father allowed. Now he has real power.

I'll also say that my favorite book, the third, A Storm of Swords, lives up to it's name. It's not just the violence, it's all about the costs of war, not just to the characters but to the land, the people. The ending is like, three corkscrew twists that blow your mind to pieces. And while I'm so glad they'll take two seasons to tell the whole story, it's painful to think that's maybe three more years away.

So here's to the return of the champion series. As excited as I am for the March return of Mad Men, the rich world of Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce is not really a fair match for the massive tapestry of Westeros and lands beyond.

Winter is coming. Just in time for Spring.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weird Cool 3D

I've always been a fan of stereograms, those 3D photos from the 19th century where two similar but slightly different images are viewed through a set of lenses on a small handheld contraption, giving a stereo effect.

Now the New York Public Library Labs has created the online Stereogranimator, which turns these original stereograms into vibrating stills creating a 3D effect. For example:

Not perfect, but I do like how it gives body to the images for something of a "you are there" feel.

Weird and cool enough?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mitty Mitt Mitt

Ah, Mitt. Seems you may have removed Newt Gingrich's rationale for the GOP Presidential nomination tonight -- Newt is not the greatest debater since Lincoln-Douglas after all.

As for your own rationale, that somehow you have the phenomenal business acumen that will make you a better President than Barack Obama...not so much:
  • You claim you have not even seen the campaign ad with your own voice saying you approved it. Not exactly stellar detail-oriented CEO work -- it's impossible to imagine Steve Jobs, for instance, making that same mistake. Might even be a campaign finance law violation.
  • You finally release your taxes after claiming your campaign's personal finance disclosure form was enough...and it turns out you lied left accounts off of that form.
How bad is it?
A review by the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau found that at least 23 funds and partnerships listed in the couple's 2010 tax returns did not show up or were not listed in the same fashion on Romney's most recent financial disclosure, including 11 based in low-tax foreign countries such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.

The campaign has stressed that Romney has paid all required U.S. taxes on his foreign funds.

Many of the funds are affiliated with Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm Romney ran for 15 years. Several others are apparently unrelated offshore entities with mysterious names such as Babson 2006-1, which is based in the Cayman Islands, and Barracuda Investments, which has an address in Dublin, Ireland, but appears to be solely owned by Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm based in San Francisco.

Again, is (a) lack of attention to major (not minor) details ill-becoming of a CEO and downright dangerous in a President, (b) an attempt to obfuscate for some yet-to-be-uncovered reason, meaning we'd have an untrustworthy President or, worse, (c) you're some kind of crook, and one who would immediately under investigation upon taking office.

So what's the great rationale for a Mitt Romney candidacy now, other than generic Republican Obama hate?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SOTU 2012

President Obama's State of the Union address last week managed to make the Republicans seem very, very small. All they can do is squawk about "class warfare" where Obama says "fairness," what was always the Bill Clinton position - play by the rules, fair is fair. Here's the highlights as chosen by Talking Points Memo:

On the GOP side, wha???:
The nationwide survey of registered voters shows that only 26 percent of respondents believe Romney has strong principles, while 61 percent believe he will say anything.
From Rupert Murdoch's very own Twitter handle, it appears that Romney may be losing the biggest GOP Primary of all -- the Murdoch Primary:

Romney's tax returns might kill his chances. See Republican establishment panic now!

Maybe Rupert is realizing what I've been saying all along, that Romney is a terrible General Election candidate (and is doing more poorly that he should be with his own party) and is choosing to go with the most entertaining possibility, the one that will stir things up, get ratings for his outrageousness and fire up the viewing base all the way to his own destruction:

“By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” he said. According to Newt, the base would be used for “science, tourism, and manufacturing” and create a “robust industry” modeled on the airline business in the 20th century.

From there, Gingrich suggested moving towards a Mars mission by the end of the next decade. He proposed setting aside 10% of NASA’s budget in prize money for private research into interplanetary exploration.

“I accept the charge that I am grandiose,” he said. “Because Americans are instinctively grandiose.”

Obama last night was a relief after the antics of these nerve-wracking crazies.

Lastly, there was the moment where he embraced now Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who resigned from Congress in a very moving official ceremony today:

It's not that hard to make Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) cry, but this is one I felt with him.

Here's to a triumphal return, a few years down the line.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I'm liking the way Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is making his choices:

Go, Vermin!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Too Moving

It isn't a huge surprise that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is stepping down from her Congressional seat to focus on recovery from the gunshot wound that nearly took her life a year ago this week. It does seem like a shame, and it is difficult not to be moved by the video she created to announce her decision:

The nature of her recovery is on display for all to see. Lots of cuts, possibly due to aphasia. Gotta hope that her seat stays blue in the special election and again in the Fall, that she has a magnificent recovery however long it takes, and that we get her back in public work again no matter how far into the future.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More Popcorn, Please

For those of us on the other side of the aisle, and for late-night comedians everywhere, Saturday's South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary results could not be better. Newton Leroy Gingrich, a race-baiting legend-in-his-own-mind, a man with whom his former colleagues have bad reviews, a serial adulterer and griftician, beat the supposedly "electable" Willard Mitt Romney. Across all income groups -- except voters earning more than $200,000/year. Not exactly a Man of the People. Along with Iowa now having moved from Romney to Rick Santorum's win column, more bad news for Mitt:

Just a week ago, Mitt Romney's lead over Newt Gingrich was 23 points. And now in the wake of the stunning South Carolina Newtmentum result (Romney didn't drop, but Newt surged), Gallup's Sunday national poll tracker puts Romney at 30 and Gingrich at 25.

Hell, his marginal tax rate is probably higher than his lead now. The key South Carolina takeaways, from Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics:

1) There is no good news buried in here for Mitt Romney.
2) This is worse than George W. Bush’s loss to John McCain in New Hampshire.
3) Analysts are kidding themselves if they say Romney is the inevitable nominee.
Fred Barnes, conservative columnist, says Romney needs a Big Idea. But unlike Barack Obama, who's big idea of One America began at least two years before he ran (with his national introduction speech at the Democratic National Convention), Romney is not coming into this campaign with any big ideas, just his now cracked aura of capability and electability. As Michael Walsh asks at The Corner, "What's the Rationale Now?"

With Newt’s big win tonight, the glaring weakness of Mitt Romney now stands revealed for all to see. Hopefully including Mitt. Because if this wasn’t a wake-up call for Team Romney, he’s a totally hopeless candidate.

All along, I’ve thought he was a pretty hopeless candidate, with too many weaknesses and very few political strengths. Stripped of his Iowa “win,” his record as a candidate is basically 2–4, with wins as Massachusetts governor and, this cycle, in the New Hampshire primary (as a semi-favorite son), but losses to Ted Kennedy, McCain, Rick Santorum, and now Mr. Newt.

This loss is a bad one. Not only did he blow a sizable (and, as it turns out, illusory) lead, he finds himself right back where he started this campaign, stuck at around a quarter of the vote. If that’s “electable,” the GOP is in serious trouble.
Now the Gingrich campaign is cocky and energized:

Kevin Kellems, one of Gingrich's top advisers, said that "Gov. Romney’s campaign is now showing real signs of being off-balance and nervous. There must be a reason for it."

When asked for specific signs of anxiety in the Romney campaign, Kellems responded by email, "among others, Gov. Romney's inability to answer basic questions about his taxes without bouncing around the podium like an overcaffeinated high-schooler being put on the spot by his parents."

And Romney is starting to "take the gloves off" on the way to the Florida Primary vote a week from Tuesday:

He called Gingrich a “failed leader” as Speaker who “had to resign in disgrace” and criticized his work as a highly paid consultant for Freddie Mac in his years out of office. “He said he was just a historian there,” Romney said. “I’d like him to release his records there.”

For frustrated Romney fans, the Newt attacks couldn’t come soon enough.

“Tell it it to him in the debates!” one person shouted as Romney began his attack monologue.

“Take the gloves off, Mitt!” another hollered.
Newt's crowd is a bit more...Confederate. At last night's victory speech:
Newt: ...Just think about how radical he would be in a second term.
Audience: No more years!
Newt: So I have a proposal (interrupted)
Audience: No more years!
Audience: String him up!
What's going on here is that Romney is a politician of a Republican mode that doesn't really exist anymore, trying to run as the type of Republican which has ascended ever since Reagan was elected - the Southern Convervative Republican. George W. Bush, with all his time in Texas, could play it; Romney cannot. On one hand, he really believes all the lies and trash he spew, in which case he's really no better than Newt. On the other, he's saying what he thinks he needs to say to win, which means he's untrustworthy and, in essence, following rather than leading.

My only word of caution to those on the Left who are gleeful at the prospect of a Gingrich nomination, be careful what you wish for because that does put him atop one of the two major U.S. political parties, meaning there's still a chance he could be our next President, i.e. in the case of a disaster.

On the other hand, as I don't see Romney having the same core integrity Obama has in 2008 during his long bout with Hillary Clinton for the nomination, I don't think the long Primary process benefits him. It keeps him from being able to pivot early enough to more centrist rhetoric and tarnishes him with working class Americans due to the nature of the attacks.

Aside from his fundamental problems as a candidate, Romney's side may have made a fatal error when their SuperPAC went hard after Gingrich in Iowa TV ads. Not only did Romney turn out not to win Iowa (when the dust cleared), it made Newt change his rhetoric from "speak no ill of a fellow Republican" a la Reagan's 11th Commandment to total attack.

And that's the one thing Newton Leroy knows how to do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

That Laugh

I've written about Mitt's nervous laugh before, when he's under pressure or faced with antagonistic questioning, but it turns out he's a man of many laughs, as TPM has collected:

I'm expecting that nervous laugh on display with Bret Baier to come out when the Michael Scott candidate cracks in a debate against Obama.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Out of the Hunts

I've read a number of predictable analyses of why former Utah Governor John Huntsman failed to connect with Republican voters in any way that could earn him enough votes to be a meaningful Primary challenger to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. I've read that his "words were conservative but his music was liberal."

I get that his belief in science, i.e. of Climate Change, is an anathema to his Party's electorate, as is his having served in China in the Obama Administration, even speaking Chinese in a GOP debate.

I understand that he never had the organization that Willard has. I've believed from the start that this was mainly his training for the 2016 campaign, assuming Willard fails to beat Barack.

I see that Stephen Colbert, not on the Primary ballot, was outpolling Huntsman in South Carolina. Colbert claims he scared Huntsman out of the race.

Here's why I think John Huntsman was such a dud as a candidate, at least this time around:
  • Intellectualized Voice: Yes, Barack Obama is a very smart guy, a book reader, a.k.a. an intellectual. But, to a lesser extent than Bill Clinton, he turns his intellectual notions into understandable, even moving ideas that can galvanize a crowd. From his underwhelming candidacy announcement on, Huntsman never seemed to have the common touch.
  • Lack of Leadership: I commend Huntsman for taking a firm stand against Willard's slam of his having served as a diplomat under Obama, his smart invocation of non-partisan service, but he had numerous opportunities to stake the moral high ground in a number of debates where the other candidates and the audience were out of line. Most notably, there was the debate where the gay soldier was booed by the audience. What a great moment that could have been for Huntsman to show moral leadership and distinguish himself from the rest of the candidates. Blown.
  • Weakie: He just doesn't seem all that virile. More Adlai Stevenson than Dwight D. Eisenhower. Americans want a certain masculine reassurance in their President. For example, what Hillary Clinton had that Huntsman does not.
It'll be interesting to see how Romney's 1950's-style masculinity compares to Obama's 21st Century version.

May the most manly man win.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Split Decision

The 69th Annual Golden Globes were held tonight in Los Angeles and in an odd year that's produced a number of very good films and great performances without producing an obvious frontrunner for the big Oscar crown (although The Artist has had that buzz for awhile), the Hollywood Foreign Press delivered a rather tantalizing split decision.

In my mind, the eventual Oscar for Best Picture could go to The Artist, The Help, The Descendants or Hugo. For awhile -- before it was released -- there was a general feeling that Steven Spielberg's The War Horse was built for the prize, but it's not had the reviews, word of mouth or box office needed to make that a reality, and recently was left off of some key guild award lists.

For the record, here's the top-tier award winners tonight:
  • Best Motion Picture — Drama: “The Descendants”
  • Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical: “The Artist”
  • Best Director — Motion Picture: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
  • Best Actress — Drama: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
  • Best Actor — Drama: George Clooney, “The Descendants”
  • Best Actress — Comedy or Musical: Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
  • Best Actor — Comedy or musical: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist
  • Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
  • Best Screenplay: Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Is The Descendants the timeless classic its producer thought it was in his speech tonight? Is Harvey Weinstein unstoppable this year with The Artist, a crowd-pleaser, if not doing Descendants type box office? Can Martin Scorsese's Hugo, also with the weaker box office, sneak in there (it really feels like a classic) and take the prize?

Then there's The Help. Classic Hollywood middlebrow take on an important historical moment, filled with fine performances and a rare female-dominated cast for a picture this size. Could Viola Davis break past Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams in their pitch-perfect historical recreations and, with Octavia Spencer looking like a frontrunner now for Best Supporting, lead the team to victory, even without a Best Director nomination?

Which one is that most compelling combination of spectacle and sentiment that makes a "Most Picture?"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mr. Entitled

At what point does somebody disqualify himself from the Presidency of the United States by nature of his own sense of entitlement?

Evidently, anyone who criticizes predatory capitalistic practices that enrich the amoral few at the expense of the working many is simply envious:

The only times we can talk about income inequality, according to Mitt's very words in this video, is in "quiet rooms." Does he mean quiet backrooms where the real political deals are made, over cigars and cognac? Or quiet, padded rooms where dissenters disappear into?

Credit where credit is due: a SuperPAC supporting Newt Gingrich just released this devastating documentary, featuring real people who lost their jobs when Mitt Romney's Bain Capital took over the companies they worked for and made hundreds of millions in overburdening the companies with debt through to bankruptcy -- heartbreaking human tragedy by people who only envy the lives they had before Mitt:

Here's to hoping Mitt enjoys a quiet room in his La Jolla estate where he retreats after losing the General Election to the sitting President
in a landslide.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All the Way

Shame is the best art movie I've seen since Exit Through the Gift Shop, but a lot more minimalist. It's a film by director Steve McQueen, originally an installation artist in England, who's got a tremendous eye and a way with getting actors to commit. His first movie, which I did not see, similarly starred Irish/German actor Michael Fassbender (Magneto!) and had a one-word title, Hunger, with Fassbender as real life figure Bobby Sands, Irish nationalist who died on hunger strike in a British prison. That one looked too grueling to me. This one has a lot of nudity without the emaciation.

Brandon lives in NYC and has a super power: his gaze. Without seeming to do anything but focus his attention, his unwavering gaze, on a pretty young woman on the subway train, he can charge her erotically, to the point where her arousal turns into shame, and a chase, a predator and object of desire.

We see him, intercut with the subway as it all starts, getting out of bed and walking through his stark, stylish NYC apartment after having had sex, his shoulder's broad, penis flopping, long shot where we can see his bare feet to patterning hairline, shadowy figure emphasizing the feral. Sex is, after all, what we have in common with the beasts. Brandon the beast, as are all the other bodies he couples with, seen in beautiful silhouettes and appreciation for human form, in extended take foreplay-to-coitis, in fast-cut electroshock reaction to tortured moments of real human feeling.

Brandon is, as they're treating the movie in PR, a sex addict, and while the movie takes that seriously as a heart attack, this is no after school special. In fact, the question of whether Brandon has learned anything is open to the last frame, and I think it's meant for us to go deep in ourselves, what we believe is possible about our own capability to break out of those mechanisms we use to block feeling because, as the movie makes clear in both elliptical and visceral ways, feeling so often is about pain.

So this (incredibly well built and well-hung) sex addict (in a successful job) in Sexhattan is seducing or buying or onlining it every free moment, even in the stall at work. He seems to assume he's covering his tracks well enough, or maybe not being seen unless he so wills it, but when his sister, Sissy, comes to town, everything starts falling apart, and Brandon's addiction is exposed at work and to her.

McQueen's eye is brilliant, with surfaces reminiscent of Michael Mann's great L.A. version in Heat, but much more in mastershots, often one long Steadicam or static take with actors improvising dialogue, or sex, almost like a cinematic play, unfolding unbroken, in real time before us.

There's man times when it's reminiscent of Antonioni, where the architecture of the modern city traps the characters in defined spaces, or dwarfs them, trapped and alienated, from their own souls. There's a bravura tracking shot, something like ten blocks of jogging at night in the city, ending up at 32rd & Madison Square Garden and a broken sign that shows the lengths our addict is going to escape his shame. But as we all know, New York City is at all times the city of where fornication never sleeps.

James Badge Dale is very different than he's been in that I've seen before, playing Brandon's married hound dog boss, Nicole Beharie makes a huge impression as an office fling, as does Lucy Walters on the subway in a what's essentially a silent film performance. All the actors seem completely natural to the world, noir, distanced, darkly glamorous, almost sci-fi noir. And, yes, they're great to look at.

Fassbender carries every scene, so completely committed to every revealing inch of the role, running a slow burn gamut that leads him all the way down to hell. Several times in the movie he hangs his head (in shame, of course) so low that, shot from behind, he appears to be the headless man. Man lowered below the beast, because he knows of his sin.

But it's Carrie Mulligan who breaks out completely in this. As Sissy, the ne'er-do-well sister just looking for love and shelter but getting ditched and burned at every turn, nowhere in sight is that prim core that's even in her character in Drive, let alone An Education. She there's naked, flawed, the most human thing in the movie. She sings an almost unbearably slowed down version of "New York, New York," revealing a hell of a voice and holding an infinite close-up, her eyes breaking our hearts, and her brother's.

What is it they share? What has caused him to run away from even her, and her to run to everyone? It's only obliquely referenced, just enough of a hint, but you can use your imagination. There's an element of horror Shame, that thing that at times makes it closer to Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom than Last Tango in Paris, that the past hints at and the present dreads.

Because Shame equals loneliness, and loneliness is it's own shame. A cycle of love and pain. Shame, as my mother liked to say, one of the great twin gifts that a parent gives a child.

The other being guilt.

The Really Important Race

New Hampshire was a foregone conclusion -- how about this year's Academy Award for Best Picture, as often predicted by the Director's Guild of America nominations? Announced today, this year's DGA nominees, per Sasha Stone:

Midnight in Paris
(Sony Pictures Classics)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
(Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

The Artist
(The Weinstein Company)

The Descendants
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

(Paramount Pictures)

The semi-surprise here is Woody Allen and the big surprise is David Fincher, with the first in a pulpy trilogy, and not the first version either. The other surprise is that Steven Spielberg's work on The War Horse didn't score a nomination, even though (far afar, admittedly) it appears built to win awards.

Can The Artist really win Best Picture? Wonderfully clever and evocative, I feel like it's a bit too much of a novelty film. Midnight in Paris and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be surprises to me as well.

Unless The Help can sneak in (a safe and respectable compromise candidate) my gut tells me it comes down to The Descendants vs. Hugo. The Descendants does not play as well with older audiences (i.e., a disproportionate segment of the AMPAS membership), but it's the most straightforward of the potential winners. A coming of age for director Alexander Payne. But is it too indy? Is it Billy Wilder enough?

It hasn't been a horrible year for pictures. There's some really good, entertaining, interesting work. My pick would be The Tree of Life, but the DGA snub for Terrence Malick means it's too esoteric to win the crowning prize. But it's not a year that's produced a clear Best Picture to fight about.

I've been saying for awhile that Hugo is the stealth candidate to win. It's big and moving and about movies even closer to the beginning than The Artist, a much deeper, richer historical value. And it could, justifiably, be the first 3D movie to win.

Don't be surprised if Georges Méliès (1861-1938) comes out on top.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Juice It Up

Raw cannabis as miracle healing vegetable. Former skeptical doctors speak:

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Early Counter

Not only were Newt Gingrich and other GOP Presidential nomination rivals going after frontrunner Mitt Romney this morning, but the Dems are softening him up on the most important issue of all: trust. Per David Axelrod on ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos":

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's clear you think that's going to be a vulnerability for Governor Romney. But coming out of Iowa, coming out of the debate last night, going into this primary here in New Hampshire, are you more convinced than ever that he's going to be the nominee?

AXELROD: Well, I don't know what the answer is to that. I mean, it's clear there are a majority of Republicans who are resistant to him. He only got a quarter of the vote in Iowa. This is essentially his home state. He has one of his homes here, and he was the governor of the neighboring state. So we'll see how this process goes.

But his fundamental problem is one of trust. I don't think conservatives trust him and I don't think moderates trust him. And you saw last night him shifting on a whole range of positions from abortion to China to taxes.

Interesting to hear Axelrod echoing Gingrich on the 25% for Romney as an Iowa Caucus "win.: There's a continued Democratic defining of expectations to Mitt as a way to show how little his own party supports him, as DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Talking Points Memo:
“He’s coming off what at some point probably wont even be defined as a win in Iowa where fewer voters came out for him than came out in 2008.” She added that anything less than 50% in New Hampshire should be interpreted as a sign of weakness given his close ties to the state.
She also had a memorable line regarding his "job creator" claim that I'm sure the DNC hopes becomes a new meme for Romney:
“Mitt Romney, I think, is more of a job cremator than a job creator,” Schultz said. She added: “He was a corporate buyout specialist at Bain Capital. He dismantled companies. He cut jobs. He forced companies into bankruptcy and he outsourced jobs and sent jobs overseas. That’s not a record to write home about, that’s not a record to be proud of, and it’s something voters need to know.”
Axelrod essentially said the same thing, but in a way that chips away at Romney's trustworthiness:

STEPHANOPOULOS: He also started to take some fire last night on his tenure at Bain Capital. And something you, Democrats, the Democratic National Committee, have really been hitting hard all through this campaign so far. He's not backing down at all. You saw him last night, Governor Romney saying his team at Bain Capital is responsible for creating 100,000 jobs. Do you have any qualm with that number?

AXELROD: Absolutely. Not me, forget about me -- every independent fact checker who's looked at it, including the Associated Press last night, after the debate, said he can't back up that number, and his campaign has conceded --

STEPHANOPOULOS: He says that net-net--


AXELROD: I know he says it's a net-net number, and he said I'm a numbers guy. The problem is that neither he nor his campaign can furnish any evidence to support that.

But let's talk about Bain and let's talk about what it was and what he did. His partner said in The L.A. Times, our job was not to create jobs, our job was to create wealth for our partners. And here's what they did. They closed down more than 1,000 plant stores and offices. They outsourced tens of thousands of jobs, and they took 12 companies to bankruptcy. And on those bankruptcies, he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars. He says this is the real economy, this is the model for the country. I don't think those are the values that people want to animate our economy. He's not a job creator, he's a corporate raider. Those aren't the values that we want to lead our economy.

Party support. Expectations. Trustworthiness. Values.

This serves the purpose of fighting back against Romney's constant attacks on Obama without dragging the President into the mud too early.

And if he really is the inevitable nominee, nice to soften him up early before his self-definition has taken root in the media -- or with the American people.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Live Free or Die Follies

Fun continues in New Hampshire is Willard Mitt Romney is confronted by Occupy questions at his rally:
“It seems that the U.S. is a great place to be a corporation,’’ the man said, “but increasingly a desperate place to live and work.’’

“Where do you think corporations’ profits go?’’ Romney asked.

“It goes to the 1 percent of Americans who own the 90 percent of stocks,’’ the man responded and continued to press him.
...and college students boo anti-gay marriage bigot Rick Santorum from his stage:

A midday event in front of a gathering of college students here turned into a testy exchange in which Mr. Santorum compared allowing gay couples to marry to polygamy, apparently equating the two as equally undesirable.

“If you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that O.K.?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Mitt's tax plan gets checked and turns out to raise taxes on lower middle class Americans while giving huge windfalls to the rich:
The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers — part of a series of analyses the group has done of the GOP candidates’ tax proposals — and found that the plan constitutes a major tax cut for wealthy Americans. But compared to today’s rates, Romney proposes effective tax increases for people making less than $40,000.

Above that level, Romney’s plan cuts taxes at greater rates for wealthier people. The average millionaire would thus pay $145,568 less in taxes in 2015 than they do today. Taken altogether, that makes the plan a budget buster, meaning greater deficits or deep cuts to federal programs.

A new website called Romney the Liar is up, sure to be a fun one-stop fact check for journalists who care to start checking up on Wild Willard's wild claim.

Meanwhile, as the follies roll into N.H., the President is on the job helping young people get summer jobs themselves. Compare the President's record to Romney's role in job creation at Bain Capital, using Romney's own methodology of only counting companies that created jobs under Bain's management and not those he closed or outsourced:

No contest.

Now or next November.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Back on the Job

Happy New Year, and while the GOP scramble themselves into three different constituencies in Iowa, President Barack Hussein Obama is back to work in Ohio with the latest mother of all Congressional recess appointments, hung up in the Senate by silent hold since June, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This is the Bureau architected by Elizabeth Warren, the now highly popular Massachusetts Senate candidate -- made a star by the very Republican House members who treated her so rudely in committee hearings (karma kickback). Even current Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is bucking his party in fear of Warren and coming out in favor of Obama's recess appointment, which has outraged Republicans by coming during their "pro forma" sessions that technically prevent recess appointments without fulfilling the intent of the law.

And that's not all -- Obama's adding recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board that have been held up by the same silent, unaccountable Senate hold. Romney calls all this "Chicago-style politics at its worst," which is a Conservative meme used whenever Obama is assertive, as opposed to when they call him weak or unfocused. But procedure is generally a losing argument against policy, especially a popular one, and the GOP can only win with it amongst their own. Who in this video is actually doing his job?:

Obama's 2012 was greeted with an initial up day in the stock market, and the day after he set the fall election stage by clearly declared the intractable GOP Congress as his foil. He's not even bothering with Mitt. The fly is batting his wings furiously in his web.

By the time the spider turns to him, the fly's buzzing will seem tiring.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Willard Mitt Romney may end up squeaking out a win in Iowa with the smallest winning percentage in GOP history (worse than Bob Dole's 26% in 1996), but it's going to be cold comfort. He's not feeling like a leader, more like a shill, who's has yet to be fully challenged over his bald-faced lies about his eventual opponent, a President who kills terrorists with efficiency and is presiding over a slow but clear recovery.

While I have no love for Rick Santorum's political views, he deserves credit for his late surge to second, almost first place in Iowa. Massively outspent, he did the retail politics right, visiting every single county in Iowa. Will the evangelicals nationwide coalesce around him as they did in Iowa? Or is Romney simply the next in line, which is always the GOP nominee? With the Bush political team behind him, the most professional organization and all the money in the world, including Mormon money, it's hard to imagine he won't be debating Obama next fall.

Bye-bye Rick Perry, who had tons of dough but screwed the pooch spectacularly. Michelle Bachmann says she'll go on but she won't have the money or organization -- then again, not much of what comes out of her mouth is ever true.

As for Newt, who a few weeks ago said it would be hard not to imagine him as the nominee, the fall has been swift and swiftboated by the Romney PACs, and I think it will be irreversible.

Ron Paul, of course, will keep going with the most committed volunteers and supporters of the bunch. If they GOP establishment doesn't treat him right, it could be all the way to a third party candidacy, giving Obama that landslide I've been predicting.

Any chance Mittens would make Ron his Veep?

Monday, January 02, 2012

A Coupla Flicks

Happy 2012. I'll open the year by mentioning two movies I've seen over the past week that were both terrific experiences, for wildly different reasons: The Descendants and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (a.k.a. MI:4).

The former was made for a fraction of the cost of the latter and features, to my eye, zero special effects. It's what should be a small movie by today's standards but it feels big, due to the Hawaii locale, some key shots of some very important (to the plot) land in Kauai, and the care with which the moments unfold. All that, and George Clooney.

It's interesting to me who loves and does not love the movie. Although it's the closest thing to a traditional drama (or maybe "dramady") amongst the movies I've seen this year, none of the senior citizens I've spoken with about it really cared for it. Also, it's not as impressive on a screener as it is in the theater, as it's all about small significant moments, detailed expressions, the communal theatrical experience pays off with different audience members picking up different touches at different times, laughter building, shared sympathy during the tougher moments.

I took my 12-year-old, who's growing more sophisticated in his movie tastes, and we both enjoyed it, and both had the same favorite character: Sid. He's a guy who tags along with Clooney and his daughters as they go to hunt down the man who Clooney's learned has been sleeping with his comatose wife prior to her life-threatening jet-ski accident. Sid is an iconic laid-back Hawaiian surfer dude, always smiling, always on his own stoner wavelength, with some of the best lines in the movie and a little secret of his own. Everyone seems to agree that it's great to see Beau Bridges again, as Cousin Hugh, a lynchpin of he plot/sub-plot convergence around a land deal that Clooney and family are being forced to make due to changes in Hawaiian property law.

As for Tom Cruise and company, SEE IT IN IMAX. There's nothing like climbing the side of the world's tallest building, in Dubai, with special agent Ethan Hunt and a gigantic floor-to-ceiling screen. The key stunt sequence was actually performed by Cruise in the location, no joke, and it feels different than a CGI greenscreen fest.

I've seen MI:1 (directed by Brian DePalma) and MI:2 (a rather neutered John Woo) but missed MI:3 (J.J. Abrams). I found the first one to have exciting moments and an interesting false-flashback twist, with the opening credits, a suspended Cruise scene and the climactic helicopter-in-Chunnel sequence being the best parts, but the second one did not even feel like a Mission: Impossible story -- there was virtually no teamwork, lynchpin of the weekly series. Aside from Thandie Newton, not much to recommend it. This one appears to be the big winner of the series.

What makes the new one work is the emphasis on teamwork (it's even underlined at the end), great casting of Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner and, thank the cinema gods, the inspired choice of Brad Bird as director. This is Bird's first live-action feature, but he made my favorite (hands-down) Pixar movie, The Incredibles, which recalled and spoofed 1960's James Bond-style spy thrillers as much as superhero tropes. Unlike some action directors, Bird doesn't over-cut the exciting stuff. As I'd say for David Fincher, the camera is always in the right place. There are touches that seem to be his, like a fluttering glove stuck to the side of the Dubai building, Ethan tossing a tip on a table, little things that make it more fun and more real.

While I can't claim to be an expert in this movie series, what struck me was that, as in all good adventure movies, the best laid plans go awry and inspired improvisation has to save the day. What feels different about this one is the understanding that cutting edge technology will almost always have kinks -- it comes with the territory, no room for grousing, just try and move on. It starts with a Russian pay phone that delivers the mission message to Hunt but doesn't self-destruct on time until Hunt gives it a smack and includes loss of wireless signals, botched mask-making, trying to do a retinal scan on the side of a moving train.

This is essential the Silicon Valley experience, something Bird is close to due to his time up in NoCal at Pixar. As a colleague of mine once said, "It's not cutting edge software unless it crashes."

That spirit gives the movie it's moxie. And the IMAX chase through a desert sandstorm doesn't hurt either.

Here's to more good flicks -- along with more aggravating politics -- in 2012. Thanks for reading in 2011, and I hope you'll keep returning to Nettertainment to ride it out, as long as I'm posting.

PS: They finally caught Omar!