Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Eye of the beholder...

'The Passion of The Christ' is opening in the rest of the world and people of other nations and religions are speaking up.

From this story:

It seems that many viewers not only see a strong anti-Jewish message -- they think it's part of the film's appeal.
A Jordanian Muslim woman says she was moved to tears when she saw the movie at an Amman theater.
She says the movie "unmasked the Jews' lies."


(and)
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat saw the movie over the weekend in the West Bank.
He compared the pain Jesus endured during the crucifixion to the suffering he said Israel has inflicted on Palestinians.


And more from Palestinians.

The portrayal of a prophet in a film is forbidden under Islam. But many Palestinians, locked in conflict against Israel, say they hope "The Passion" will rouse angry emotions against Jews by Christian audiences around the world.

I hope this isn't true...

(meanwhile)

French Roman Catholic bishops have officially denounced Mel Gibson's controversial film....

At least it was not banned in France.

(and)

A religious scholar in Kuwait issued a fatwa demanding the banning of the film ... saying anyone who has seen the movie must “repent”.

I wonder if the controversy will continue when Monty Python re-releases The Life of Brian?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Net Escape...

- Patriot Boy writes an open letter to the Wal-Mart Execs and asks why they won't carry Robert Greenwald's documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War - which they consider 'inappropriate for Wal-Mart.' - but have no problem carrying Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will.

- New-Clear photos.
A woman named Elena recently passed through and took a bunch of photos of the dead zone and ghost town of Chernobyl. Her English is as about as good as my Russian but her message is clear and the photos tell a haunting story.

- A journal for the dogs; welcome to Joop's Dog Log.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Book forthcoming...

The guys over at Spinsanity have announced a forthcoming book in August titled: All The Presidents Spin: George W. Bush, the Media, and the Truth
.

Spinsanity is one of the best sites at being critical of people on both the left and the right. And they definitely try to get above all the spin and find the facts to back up their research. I appreciate that they have been equally scathing toward Michael Moore as they are toward Ann Coulter. And for this reason I trust their research.

However, I find the plug they wrote for their book somewhat dubious.

All the President's Spin will provide the definitive non-partisan account of the Bush administration's unrelenting dishonesty about public policy. The book will demonstrate how the White House has broken new ground in using misleading sales tactics to promote its policies and manipulate the media.

Got that? The definitive non-partisan account of the Bush administration's unrelenting dishonesty about public policy.

I wholeheartely agree with the 'unrelenting dishonesty' part but I'm left of center. It seems to me that someone in the Bush administration (or a conservative who supports Bush) would most likely find Spinsanity's statement a partisan one.

Obviously, a supporter of the Bush administration would not use the word 'dishonesty' even if it were the case but it all comes down to an emphasis on the facts. What someone on the left finds dishonest in Bush's Whitehouse someone of the right might define as not dishonest at all but simply 'a focusing on' or 'an emphasis on' a different aspect of a particular case.

For instance, to take a recent example, Richard Clarke has told the press that the reason his recent testimony is so different than it was months ago when he worked for the White House is because he was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done and to play down the negative aspects. Was Clarke being dishonest then? Is he being dishonest now?

It depends on your definition of dishonest. It seems to me he was simply spinning the facts for his boss.

Maybe he was just being disinginuous.

Part of what I'm trying to say is that the concepts of 'truth' and 'dishonesty' are all in the eye of the beholder - or the critic.

Anyway, we will have to read Spinsanty's book to find out what they have concluded about the Bush Administration and public policy.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Blogs of note...

Here are a couple new blogs. Well at least newer or new to me.

Kevin Drum (aka Calpundit) has an excellent new Liberal leaning blog for Washington Monthly.

A good Right Wing blog is Powerline.

Look, Noam Chomsky has a blog now.

If you're into evolution, biology and all those things Creationists deny then there is a fine new blog that has cropped up called the Panda's Thump .

A good movie blog I've started to read is Out of Focus.

If you're into cookies and news (hey, who isn't?) The Daily Cookie is fun.
Political game...

He said
She said
They said
We point fingers
We point back

- This is a game. It's called the '9/11 Blame Game' and you can play too so long as you blame anyone except the terrorists for their actions.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Backbone trail...

The LA Times has a good informative article on hiking the backbone trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Almost every weekend I run one or two of the many trails they mention - many of which criss cross the backbone trail. The trail itself stretches 60 miles over fire roads and steep single track sections from Ventura County at Pt Mugu down to the Pacific Palisades at Will Rogers State Park.

The article gives away a few unknown trails that are relatively remote (for being so close to a major city) but they don't give away the real secret spots - and either will I. You'll have to find them yourself.

Still on some of the trails they mention I will see less than 5 people in an hour on a weekend. In some cases I see more people on trails in Colorado. It's a beautiful area that should be explored more. I encourage you to get out there.

The article also provides a pdf file map of the backbone trail.
First Passion Now Dead...

How appropriate is it that a movie about the death of Christ is finally supplanted by a movie about Zombies?

What I've been enjoying are the headlines used to proclaim this fact.

Zombies Drive Jesus From Top Of Box Office (MTV)

Zombies nail top spot (Ananova UK)

Flesh feast tops Christ (Winnipeg Sun)

'Christ' falls to zombies as 'Dead' rises to top spot (Hollywood Reporter)

'Passion' overrun by zombies (NY Daily News)

ZOMBIES ZAP 'PASSION' (NY Post)

--------
No 'Hix Nix Sticks Pixs' in the bunch but still fun.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Ill Logic...

- 'I'm sorry Miss but that Oscar could be used as a weapon'.

Oscar-winning director and producer (Chernobyl Heart) Maryann DeLeo missed her flight out of Durango [Colorado] on Monday because she wanted to carry the Oscar she had won only two weeks earlier onto the plane.

"I've never held an Oscar, but I'm told it has a heavy base," [Security spokesman] said. "If you held it upside down, you could inflict substantial damage with it."
I admit it would not be a terribly logical thing for an Oscar winner to do," he added.



- "You're Fired"™ ?


- Mis-pro-noun-ced words

"I came aacrossed some bob wire in the Artic and I thought it was a blessing in the skies."
"It's none of my bidness but it's a doggy dog world so don't take it for granite."
"Irregardless of what you say I've pulled my chester drawers out so often I'm getting carpool tunnel syndrome."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Google local...

Google Local is up and running.

Here are some places in my neighborhood.

Here are my two favorite video stores; One A Video Store Named Desire and what's cool is that the price for a rental is $1.00 for every video and DVD. The other one is Cinefile , which has the best indie / foreign / way-out-in-left-field selection [plus DVDs from other regions] in LA.

Right next to it is LA’s premiere Art House theater Theatre; The Nuart.

A fine used bookstore I frequent is Wilshire Books.

You like art architecture and photo books? The best and biggest store I know of in the Los Angeles area is Hennessey & Ingalls.

A cool comic book store that few know about is Comic Ink.

You want a good chiropractor go here.

I used to work here when they offered beer every Thursday to the hard working staff.

Now for a good beer I have to go to the Father's Office.

You want a good place to hike so you can work off that beer go...wait it's not on Google local. Hmmm... okay... [one moment]... go here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

No laughing...

Let's not laugh at the expense of other people's troubles.

A Hartland man was treated at a Pittsfield hospital after he nailed himself to a cross.
(...)
Police said the man appeared delusional and told them he had been "seeing pictures of God on the computer".
(...)
Lt. Pierre Boucher said the man took two pieces of wood, nailed them together in the form of a cross and placed them on the floor. He attached a suicide sign to the wood and then proceeded to nail one of his hands to the makeshift cross using a 14-penny nail and a hammer.

"When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911,"


------
I hear you laughing!
Queens needs a poet...

The New York Times reports that the city of Queens is searching for a poet laureate.

Queens has been the home to many famous writers/poets/musicians including Paul Bowles, Simon & Garfunkel , Joey Ramone and some who lived there a while like Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac.

Joey of course wrote the lines:
Sitting here in Queens, eating refried beans ...
No Christmas cards to send, Daddy likes men,
Daddy's telling lies, baby's eating flies.


But today they need help finding someone to fill those shoes. So far, nine would-be laureates have submitted work, with titles like: "Christmas Week Depression," "Domestic Violence," and "I Read My Poems to My Dog."

- One poem, titled "Queens," includes the lines:
There are five colleges
Traveling is easier
Living near two airports.


- Another is about traffic deaths on Queens Boulevard: "
Traffic lights heretofore largely ignored
Receive more respect from jaywalkers.


- Another translated poem by a Chinese American
You are ever taken with jamming,
Filled with burning thirst
Ever being repaired
Ever being damaged and jolted.


-----
Someone please move to Queens hang around for five years, write some poems and you can certainly become the poet laureate.
corrected 3/18
Serving the voters...

California Representative Henry A Waxman has prepared a long record of the statements of the Bush Administration leading up to the war with Iraq.

To read it you will have to check out a pdf file. It's good stuff.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Spain...

I was saddened by the terrorist bombings last week in Madrid and as time went on I got angry too but I didn't write anything because reactions to such an event are obvious; what could I add in the way of opinion to an atrocious act? What can anyone?

But now after last weekends elections in Spain I feel the need to answer what seem to me absurd claims by numerous Right leaning and some Left leaning commentators who seem to think that a victory for the Socialist party was a victory for Al Queda and the Terrorists.

In opinion after opinion many more wild conclusions are made.

If we follow the logic there are only three places to go with this kind of thinking:

1) The voters want to stay isolationist and want nothing to do with sticking their noses in other parts of the world. This is the closest from which one can make a logical argument. A full 80% of Spaniards opposed the war in Iraq and no doubt many didn't want their government spending money and putting soldiers in harms way for a war that they didn't believe in. However, one would have to directly link the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism to buy the argument that Spaniards don't want to fight terror. [And remember even the Bush Administration has not tied Iraq in with Al Queda or terrorism - the war was about Saddam not disarming his WMD.]
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of the incoming Socialist government has said nothing about not fighting terrorism. He has simply said he will pull troops out of Iraq in July, which is about the same time power is to be handed over to a new Iraqi government anyway.

2) The voters are afraid of terrorism so rather than tackle it head on they have become a bunch of 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' and voted to put their head in the sand. This - while sort of funny - is ridiculous on all levels. First, if in fact they voted because of the terrorist attacks it seems that the reaction was not one of ignorant isolationism but one of a way of telling the government to stop lying to them. A perfect example is that many felt that the Prime Minster Azner used the terrorist attacks for political gain by blaming them on the ETA. What's more if after seven years the government was unable to prevent such an attack then maybe it was time for them to go. More importantly, I see no reason to believe that the Socialist government will loosen security. [And besides aren't socialist governments traditionally known for being somewhat totalitarian and tough?]

3) A voter for the Socialist party was a vote for Osama and the terrorist. I wish I was making up this piece of illogic but read this piece. What really set me off was this sentence by Roger Simon who writes:

"...this time [the Spaniards] are not under the flag of Generalissimo Franco. This time, ironically, they rally behind the words of a man, Osama bin Laden."

This is clearly the most disgusting and possibly cynical view on the election. In order to believe it you would have to be convinced that the Spaniards on election day pulled the lever and said, 'I'm voting for Osama and Al Queda today because I want more countries to suffer.'
In short, what this view says is that the Spanish people are stupid and that they maybe deserve what they get. This, of course, leads to the conclusion that maybe some of these foolish writers half wish for more terrorist bombings in order to justify their claims. I don't think that is really the case but obviously they haven't thought their views through. Of course, they are reactionaries so I wouldn't expect them to think too deeply on the subject.

The question that some ask is what does Al Queda (or the terrorists) think of the election? I can't imagine that they think the Socialists will just sit back yawn and let them come into the Spain to wreck more havoc. And while the terrorist act may have been because of Spain's entry into the Iraq war how can we be sure that any act the Spaniards or anyone else does will not have a counteract? The terrorists are scum of the earth criminals who will stop at nothing to attack so it doesn't matter if the government is Right or Left. So why should a country buckle under to a government they don't want?

Spain did not vote Socialist because they blamed their government for the terrorist acts. Nor did they vote to send a message to the terrorists that it's okay to do more attacks. More to the point the people of Spain did not go into the voting booth and vote Socialist because of terrorism. It is certainly more nuanced than that. Nobody can know what motivated each and every voter but it seems to me that as Claude Salhani sees it, "Spaniards have chosen to send a clear message to their elected leaders. The message is: 'Stop lying to us.'"

--------
There a great comment about the feeling of people during the election here.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Kurosawa epic for kids...

Seven Samurai the video game!

Seven Samurai 20XX, a PlayStation 2 game made with the cooperation of the filmmaker's son, Hisao, will be released March 23, which would have been his 94th birthday.
(...)
The company was intrigued by the plot of 'Seven Samurai,' about a group of warriors who agree to defend a small village from roving marauders. But the film's 16th-century feudal setting limited the graphic possibilities, and Sammy executives feared that Kurosawa's extended buildup to the action would strain 18-to-24-year-old attention spans. "We had to put more action in there," said Brian Glazebrook, the game's producer.
(...)
Most of that action consists of hacking up enemies with a sword, and game designers added fighting to the beginning of the story, when players must recruit six more samurai. The company also shifted the setting from medieval Japan to a futuristic landscape filled with a dizzying variety of robotic-looking foes designed by the French comics artist Jean Giraud, who works under the name Moebius.

"We're doing the same thing that the film industry did with 'The Magnificent Seven, " said Steve Fowler, a Sammy product manager, referring to John Sturges's 1960 western remake of Kurosawa's epic. "You could have put it in feudal Japan, but you couldn't have had all those cool explosions."


-------------
What would Mifune say?

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Festival news...


I just received a post card in the mail today letting me know that a new film festival is cropping up in Taos New Mexico called Taos Picture Show April 1st-4th in place of the older festival which went out of business after nine years.

If anyone is familiar the now defunct Taos Talking Pictures Festival was a full fledged well respected festival that specialized in world and independent film. Each year they had big name festival guests, tributes, an amazing media forum and a unique prize for the best film: the winner received five acres of land.

This new festival is substantially pared down with 16 new films and videos from nine countries. All of which will be shown in one location. This, to me, is great because the festivalgoers can actually manage to see all of the films - plus this new format gets away from the 'best film' competition game, which is just too much sometimes.

The good news is that two friends of mine who were part of Taos Talking Pictures - Kelly Clement and Jason Silverman - are the programmers for this new festival so the films will definitely be high quality.

I attended the old festival about half a dozen times and always had a great time because Taos is a good town with real down-to-earth people and a fine arts community (and some cool bed & breakfasts). It also has the Taos Pueblo which has been inhabited for over 1000 years by Native Americans.

Hey, the movie pass is only $100. Get yourself to Taos and celebrate cinema!

Friday, March 12, 2004

Net Escape...

- Take the 'opening lines of a book' quiz.
(I managed to get 7 correct - call me Ishmael).

- Watch the Bush ad remix.
(...because he speaks awesome Spanish)

- Enjoy the particularly odd and fascinating art of Maggie Taylor.
(Dreamlike images made using a flatbed scanner in place of a traditional camera).

- What time is it? Check out the Human Clock.

- Into Music? Let these guys sing your lyrics for you.
(Here's my contribution to the music world.)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Land of no taxes...

Welcome to the wonderful world of no taxes.

Parents and students are crying foul over the West Contra Costa [California] school district's decision this week to eliminate all sports, libraries and counselors from its six high schools after voters failed to approve a special parcel tax.

The 35,000-student West Contra Costa Unified has a history of severe financial troubles over the last 13 years, including bankruptcy and state takeover. The district serves a mixture of poor immigrant families and affluent suburbanites
(...)
On Tuesday, the five-member board unanimously approved $16.5 million in cuts for the start of the next school year, laying off 200 employees, including all high school counselors and librarians, and forcing 39 elementary schools to drop music instruction. Eliminating the athletic program in the fall will save $500,000 a year.
(...)
School board member Glen Price said that voters were probably not aware of how severe the cuts would be if the parcel tax failed.


-------

You can’t throw money at a problem – but how does taking it away make it better?

-------

Added at 12:10pm

This isn't directly related but worth mentioning:

The Senate dealt a surprising election-year rebuke on Wednesday to the White House goal of new tax cuts as it narrowly backed a new rule to require at least 60 votes to approve any tax cuts in the next five years.

Four Republican senators — Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine — joined Democrats in the 51-to-48 vote.


---------

Let's hope sane and practical policies like this prevail.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Film Professor Elegy...

I just learned that one of my favorite college professors, Roland C Jones, has died.

For over thirty years he had been an English professor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado but one of his passions was film so he began to teach a couple film history classes.

Back in the late 1980's when I attended the school I was a history major but I loved film so much that I used to sneak in and monitor his class. Then in my final year I needed a few credits to 'officially' graduate so I chose his 'Introduction to Film' class. Everyone wanted to take the class and it was completely full with a waiting list but – knowing my passion for film – he let me in. (Later he recommended me for the Telluride Film Festival student program, for which I will always be grateful).

Roland attended every one of the 30 Telluride Film Festivals and each year we would try to meet-up at the park in the center of Telluride - with some of the other Fort Lewis students who had been in the program - and talk about the latest movies, the latest cinematic trends and what we thought of the festival. But time was always too short and like all festivals we were always on the go. I only saw him twice in the last four years.

The Class
While Roland certainly taught a good chunk of the standard film canon (yes, he showed the film Rashomon) he also championed many films and filmmakers that don't usually get highlighted in film studies classes. Privately he had reservations about Citizen Kane but loved the early John Waters films. He once asked me if I thought that Citizen Kane was really that good of a film.

Of note, Roland chose silent comedian Harold Lloyd over both Chaplin or Keaton. He also loved the enigmas that were in Antonioni's Blow Up. But the film he really championed was Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising a 45-minute underground film classic made in 1963. Roland had managed to get the actual film print from Anger after bugging him for years to get it. Anger finally relented and gave a print to Roland and to this day Fort Lewis College has one of the few prints of the film [I don’t think UCLA officially has a print]. Roland was proud of this fact to such an extent that he would show the film to us twice in a row.

If you've ever seen Scorpio Rising you can understand how radical this is. The film is primarily about members of a biker gang getting ready for an initiation. But it is the formal aspects that make the film so good. It consists of 13 provocative and humorous scenes accompanied by 13 rock songs from the period. The film simultaneously embraces and warns us about the dangers of group mentality – from the occult to Nazism to Christianity. In Anger's world one should be wary of all even though they may seem appealing.

In many ways the film was a precursor to music videos and was a notable influence on the way that Martin Scorsese used music in his early movies. It's a challenging film that in time has become one of my favorites.

Roland seemed to get a kick out of showing a film that would occasionally bothered and offend some students. I can remember him telling a few upset students that since they were younger than him they should be more open minded to radical cinema. I would sit back and laugh.

In the 1990's he told me that he had even gone to a more radical extreme by showing Derek Jarman's Blue, which is a 77-minute film consisting of only a blue screen and a voice-over by Jarman about his blindness from AIDS and impending death. Roland told me that the class didn't warm up to the film too much but he felt it was important to show it since it really pushed the envelope of cinema.

Roland also was a big supporter of the New Wave films, which started in 1960 with the Nouvelle Vague movement in France, lead by such directors as Jean Luc Godard (Breathless), Francois Truffaut (The 400 Blows), Resnais (Hiroshima, mon amour) et al which in turn influenced Hollywood's most radical (some say best) period with such films as Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider.

Roland also advocated his own idea of 'new wave' by making a list of 10 things that make a film a new wave including, 'the film must have non-traditional heroes, the film must be anti-establishment, the film must have a precarious ending, etc'. He felt that all of these aspects spoke to the contemporary world we lived in and he was always on the lookout for current films that displayed these aspects.

The books we used in the class were Gerald Mast's A Short History of the Movies and Stanley Solomon's The Film Idea, which has one of the best analysis' of the film Rashomon. Two books I still consult on occassion.

I'll miss the chats I had with Roland up in Telluride. I'm sorry we could not have had a few more conversations about the present state of film. Our tastes were quite different but I always enjoyed his unique take on film and what he considered important and vital as well as just trashy and fun.

He will be missed but the films he taught won't soon be forgotten. I hope some of the other students remember him and think a little about what they experienced and learned in his classes.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Photos of the year...

The Missouri School of Journalism named its 61st annual pictures of the year international contest winners.

James Nachtwey was named Magazine Photographer of the Year (MPOY) for an unprecedented eighth time.

Nachtwey is an amazing photographer. If you want to know more check out an excellent documentary on him titled War Photographer. It’s available on DVD.

There are dozens and dozens of great photos on the POY site. The photo winning pages are here.

The list of winners is here.

Here are some good photos

Harrowing and bloody

Can I play?

Walking to School

I want service now.

Showdown with Mr Moose

I give up!

Good shot

Hillary why are you under...never mind
Encounters...

A vodka cranberry* and a Sam Adams can do wonders for your mood as well as bring out a little truth. Whatever that is. But it can also go a long way toward altering the memory banks. Such is the case with my memory of the fellow bloggers whom - thanks to a tip from Emily of 'It Comes in Pints'** - I stumbled upon last Friday at The Encounter @ LAX.

Who were these people?

A friendly, talkative bunch they were but with no notebook in hand, or pen to do the napkin jot I had to rely on postings by those other bloggers with better memory than I to get the links.

The political spectrum was covered; libertarian, right wing, in between somewhere, yuppies of zion and even one who knows a thing or two about extra terrestrials. [Many others were present but they were at the other end of the table so I'll assume they covered the rest of the spectrum].

No shouting ensued, no chairs were broken, no one threw up and the bar closed at 11! The punk days are certainly behind us. All this civility made me want to drink a little more - but then I would have most likely forgotten the entire night.

Anyway, on the next encounter I'll try to figure out the parking in advance, get there on time and be sure to have everyone repeat their names slowly.

Nice to meet you all. Chow for now....

-----
*Note to self: Cape Cod.
** I'm told to say it like with a thick Scottish accent.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Political movies...

There are many political movies out there. Some are outright liberal such as early indie film Salt of the Earth or the work of directors like Stanley Kramer (The Defiant Ones) whose work today is a bit dated. Others are outright conservative such as many John Wayne vehicles (The Alamo) or recently The Patriot, which is lousy but conservative to the core.

Some movies have a dual message like Apocalypse Now, which due to the combination of screenwriter (conservative) John Milius and director (liberal) Francis Coppola manages to simultaneously embrace and condemn the nature of war.

But whether conservative or liberal the message of a movie with political aspirations is not too difficult to comprehend; Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront is very obviously an anti-union (some would say due to the time period anti-Communist) film. On the other hand To Kill a Mockingbird stands up to corruption and racism quite admirably - if not a bit obviously.

But sometimes a movie's message is in the eye of the beholder and can be championed by both conservatives and liberals of advocating their message. Such is the case with Preston Sturge's Sullivan's Travels.

When the film came out in 1941 America had been dealing with the worst depression in its history. Sturges - a comedy director who had the hottest critical and financial streak of any director in the history of Hollywood - cranked out a film about the Hollywood film industry that dealt with the issues of the day.

The film is not overly political but seen today it has been championed by as diverse a political spectrum as Gore Vidal and The National Review. The plot of the film deals with a comedy director - played by Joel McCrea - who has decided to make a message picture (titled 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou') rather than just another dopey comedy. He figures the only way he can accurately make a message movie is to go out on the road dressed as a hobo and experience what it is like to be poor.

His producers and agents implore him not too and they follow him around for a while - in a big bus - until he shakes them. Despite a couple setbacks in escaping his entourage he comes upon a beautiful woman - Veronica Lake - who falls in love with him and tags along with him on his adventure.

His noble efforts work pretty well for a while but then everything goes terribly wrong. He gets back to Hollywood and - in a bleeding heart liberal kind of way - decides to go out one last night and give money to the homeless. This turns out to be a bad move because he gets mugged by an ungrateful homeless man. And what's worse - due to a convoluted Hollywood plot twist - McCrea ends up in Southern prison on a chain gang where he is faced with serious problem.

There is a scene late in the film where McCrea and the other prisoners end up in a church where the black preacher tells the mostly black congregation not to shun those less fortunate than themselves and make room in the front pews for the prisoners. Then McCrea learns a lesson that makes him realize how wrong he was in interpreting what it is audiences want when they see a movie - basically they don't want a serious message picture.

The movie's final few scenes can be interpreted as conservative since Sturges seems to be telling us two things; one - being a bleeding heart will only lead to trouble and two - serious message pictures are the last thing people want to see during a depression.

But I'm critical of that view. While the first charge is a bit dubious - good samaritans do occassionally get robbed - the second charge - to my mind - is exactly what Sturges has done. He has given us a comedy that sneaks in messages about the plight of homeless people during the depression, struggles of prisoners on the chain gang as well as given us a moving scene about forgiveness with a very anti-racist tone.

I think the conservative reading of the film (readers of The National Review put it in their all time list of Conservative movies) is a bit cynical since it seems to view message movies as ineffective and something that could possibly lead to danger.

Preston Sturges - whose politics were more liberal than conservative - realized that message movies only preach to the converted. Yet - like anyone - he wasn't above politics. With Sullivan's Travels he was able to make us enjoy a movie as well as contemplate its message. In short, make a message movie that doesn't seem like one.

- It's a little like when mom ground up vitamins in honey to get us to take our medicine.

Does the movie have a conservative message or a liberal one? I've told you what I think. Now it's up to you to decide.

Anyway the DVD of Sullivan's Travels is available from The Criterion Collection.
--------
A list of all time Conservative movies from The National Review can be found here.

A list of all time Liberal movies from Turn Left can be found here.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Net Escape...

- I’ve just been alerted to the fact that Vincent Gallo is selling his film equipment on Ebay.

- The Guardian has a glossary of Aramaic terms to be used in the movie theatre.
"Da'ek teleyfoon methta'naanaak, pquud. Guudaapaw!"
"Please turn off your mobile phone. It is blasphemous."


[I can’t vouch for the accuracy].

- Have you ever had someone draw you a map? Here's a small collection of them.

- You want cool photo galleries go here.

- Yes we know you can whack a Penguin and fling a Cow but now you can throw a car.

Wasting time has never been more fun... has it?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Marketing the President...

It's a sign that we live in a world run by PR hacks and Marketing mavens when President Bush's election campaign ads get touted by the news like the latest blockbuster movie.

The early Box Office returns don't look good.

It's good to see that he is getting criticism from families and firefighters for politicizing 9/11.

The ads are even being dissected by the experts.

These are the things we do to avoid actually talking about issues in this country.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Passion Car Wash...

This is too funny not to pass on:

[The] New Britain police received an anonymous call early Saturday morning that a woman had driven a Chevrolet Lumina into the brook at A.W. Stanley Quarter Park. Police said the driver, whose name has not been released, is in her 40s, married, and has children.

"She drove her vehicle partly off the bank. Just the front of the car was in the water," said Sgt. Darren Pearson. "According to the officers on the scene, she told them she was attempting to reenact a scene from the movie, ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ which she said she had recently seen."
(...)
Although police could not say which specific scene motivated the woman, they believe she was attempting to be baptized.


I don’t normally do this but comments on both Atrios and Fark over this incident are quite good so I’ll post a few.

- Which scene was that? The car chase with the Apostles, where Thomas is leaning out the window shooting at the Pharisees?
(Funky16Corners)

- I haven't seen the film, but Jesus drove a Chevy Lumina?
(Craig in DC)

- That woman is obviously nuts.
Jesus was clearly driving a Malibu.
(Sharp Left Turn)

- Hmmmm ... Drive-Thru Baptisms ... now there's a great business idea! Especially if it's combined with a car wash ... all you have to do is leave the windows open.
(Brooklyn Girl)

- "I will wait at the Fords in the desert until word comes from you to inform me."
2 Samuel 15:27-29
(Unfreakable)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Kidnapped or just left...

What is the truth with Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's departure?

The early reports from left leaning news outlets was that he was kidnapped.

The US Administration then vehemently denied he was kidnapped.

The truth seems somewhere in between.

- The US has a long nasty history of removing democratically elected presidents. Currently I'm reading All The Shah's Men which is an excellent account of the CIA's overthrow of Iran's elected president Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. Mossadegh was actually a reformer who refused to be bullied by the US or Britain who had all but ruined the country with their support of petty dicators. He was seen as a threat to the US because he nationalized Iran's oil. That usually will not win you US support.

The book's focus is both on the history of Iran and the Middle East but also explains the way that the US's actions laid the groundwork for the rise of fundamentalism and dicatatorial rule in the entire region - all of which have led to today's terrorist threats.

- Aristide's removal is not on the scale of this and it remains to be seen if he was really 'kidnapped' or forced out. But given our long history of overthrowing governments in the past this action seems suspect.
Sports...

Gee and we wonder how he hit all those home runs.

Maybe it's time for golfer Davis Love to consider needlpoint or something less stressful.

Goooooaaaaaaaall...whoops!

As a Denver Bronco fan I'm not too pleased with this trade - the leagues best running back for an above average defensive player. Who are they kidding?