Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oscar Nominees

The 2005 Best Picture noms were announced today. You can read the list here. Frankly, it's a kind of a dreary list. Same as last year, I haven't seen any of them before so I can't comment on the quality of any of them.
Frequent commenter, Carrie, recently saw 'Brokeback Mountain' and review it here. She liked it. Thought it was powerful. It's the nominee that I'm most likely to see but I'm a bit leery. I thought that 'The Crying Game' benefited because critcs were afraid to not like it. Afraid that they would be seen as anti-gay. The same danger obviously exists here. That's why I've waited for the recommendation of someone I know before seeing it.
The others? I might see 'Munich'. Speilberg is one of the best directors around (even if 'War of the Worlds' left was less than thrilling). And the arguments about the movie's message are interesting. I'll probably see 'Crash'. It got great praise from my cousin-in-law.
'Capote' and 'Good Night, Good Luck' hold little interest for me. Maybe ten years from now I'll do the 00's and cover them. I enjoy watching the Oscar's every year, but I'm probably less excited about this year's show than any other that I can remember.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Should he stay or should he go?

Found this this morning on Deadspin (very funny site):

The news: Favre is kind of maybe considering the possibility of mulling the idea of the notion toward the contemplation of perhaps retiring … but he’s not sure. This breathless scoop is brought to you by Chris Mortensen, whom we’re still sure gets prank calls from a bored Bill Parcells. In the interview, Favre treats retirement like it’s the Zapruder film, something mysterious and maddening, saying he “wishes he knew where he stood” as to whether or not to retire, as if he were waiting for a committe to make a decision or something.

My prediction is that he comes back to lead the Pack to a glorious 5 win season next year.

Coal Miner's Daughter - 1980

(It begins again!) This is a good movie. It tells the life story of Loretta Lynn, literally a coal miner's daughter. The movie opens with her father emerging from a coal mine and taking his kids into the store to buy them shoes for the winter. We see a family living in deep poverty. At the store, Loretta (Sissy Spacek) first sees her soon to be husband Dolittle (Tommy Lee Jones!). He impresses her by driving a jeep up a pile of mine tailings.
Soon he comes a courting and asks her for her hand in marriage. She's fourteen. Her parents consent on two conditions, that he never hit her and that he doesn't take her far away. Both of these conditions are soon broken and they move out of state with a bun in the oven.
As they're raising children, Dolittle comes to appreciate his wife's musical talents. In place of a wedding ring, he gets her a guitar. And then a gig at some honky-tonks. And then a record. He helps her to become a music star.
She enjoys fame and his role in his life becomes less and less important. Soon he's just getting drunk to fight off lonliness. Her sucess and his uselessness emasculates him. He quits touring with her and becomes a mechanic. Try and imagine a husband (or boyfriend) of one of today's singing divas doing that.
In truth, I found his story more interesting than hers. Some of that is Tommy Lee Jones superior acting. Some was the focus of the movie. And frankly, the story idea that fame isn't all that it's cracked up to be just isn't that interesting anymore. Still, a good movie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sad News

found here. Frank Thomas signed with the Oakland A's for this upcoming season. Not really a surprise but still sad. In related news, Oakland plays the twins at the metrodome in mid-April. Think I've just made some plans.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

24 Reasons Why Women are like Fish

and more from our most recent favorite show found here.

Doogie, who?

Update: Actual article linked in title found here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The 90's in review

About time I do a wrap up from last year's movie project. Here's each year's review


Out of the 50 movies, I rated 17 as great, 9 as very good, 14 as good, 6 as fair and 4 as bad. The four bad ones? Dances with Wolves, Il Postino, the Godfather III and Thin Red Line. I agreed with the Best Movie pick six times.
Of the ten movies that I hadn't seen before, Remains of the Day was probably the best. I forced the FP Gal to watch many movies, Life is Beautiful being the best one that was newest to her. The best musical score was Shakespeare in Love. Most surprisingly good music to me was Thin Red Line.
The whole project was so much fun that we're doing it again this year. After much deliberation, I'm going with the 1980's. Same rules as before, each of the best picture nominees from each year. Should be fun!

Why divide movies left and right?

My last couple of posts have dealt with conservative and/or liberal movies. I find the intersection of movies and political philosophy interesting. And I found the sneering tone of a Chicago Sun-Times editor interesting too. The last post brought about this comment from a good friend of mine who is actively involved in the movie industry:

I'm still confused as to why movies have to be classified as liberal or conservative. Granted - a movie MAY be that way, but why do they have to be politically divided from the start? I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just really actually curious. I guess I've just never thought of them that way before (okay...maybe there are a few political satires which obviously fall one way or another but just normal run-of-the-mill-movies? Am I missing something?)

This is something I've thought about over the last week or so and I can think of three reasons:

One, a political commentator may want to act as a guide to others. Imagine a couple with kids who have few oppurtunities to go out and see movies. They think that the ads for Movie X look good. They get a babysitter and go. And then find out that the movie's viewpoint is frustratingly slanted. Knowing ahead of time could have saved them.
An example where this could help is 'Runaway Jury'. The story is about a court case involving the gun industry and whether they should be liable for gun deaths. The movie presents the 'of course they should' case, without ever showing the opposite. Knowing that ahead of time could be helpful. (I think that's the spirit of the first article I linked.)
The second reason would be to showcase the bias of the movie makers. One of the arguments from the right (which I agree with) is that popular culture is overwhelmingly presented from the left. Liberal arguments are shown as mainstream, while conservatives are shown as god-bothering crackpots. Pointing out that a movie doesn't come from a neutral standpoint is one way of leveling the playing field.
The third reason is the one I'm most comfortable with. Conservative intellectuals are very introspective about conservatism. Movies with philosophical heft give us oppurtunity to refine and celebrate our beliefs. Being able to point to a movie and say "this shows what I believe" is amazingly satisfying. I'm sure the same thing holds true from the left.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Liberal movies

Not meaning to keep harping on this, but Jim Emerson has written a follow-up column about the Liberal movies of 2005. Column might be overstating, as it's mostly a link to this column by an LA Weekly author, John Powers. The column is a list of the most obvious liberal movies of 2005 (Powers doesn't describe them as the 'best'). The list mostly attacks the movies for being insufficiently liberal. Ironic, as that's what Emerson dismissed conservatives as doing.

Powers suggests that

These days, liberals don’t even understand themselves. They’re not sure what they’re supposed to believe in — besides, of course, the monstrosity of the Bush administration.

He then goes on to suggest that even liberal movies are confused. He offers 'I (Heart) Huckabees' as an example. The FP Gal and I rented that last spring and found it vaguely amusing. It details the efforts of a confused young man to find his way in life by hiring metaphysical detectives. It was amusing in a 'boy those new agey types are screwy' way. Only later did we find out that we were laughing at the wrong parts. The director strongly believes in the metaphysics. If that's an example of a liberal movie, the philosophical left is incredible trouble.

In some ways, I find Emerson hard to turn away from. He's so perfect a caricature of everything he speaks out about. In this post he also says that liberals don't understand people who don't understand them. And then suggests that:

If a neocon thinks you don't understand him, he knows exactly what to think: You're evil and a terrorist sympathizer.

It should be obvious to him that if he'd actually, you know, get to know some of those scary people on the other side he could open up and grow some. For the record, I think plenty of people don't understand 'neocons' or the people from the right in general. I don't think Emerson is evil or a terrorist sympathizer, he's just sadly insulated.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Movie stuff

My dear old dad gave me this list of movies last week to look at. It's the top ten conservative movies of 2005 courtesy of FrontPage magazine, a conservative website. I haven't seen any of the movies listed but I wasn't particularly impressed with the description of a 'conservative movie' or with the individual movie descriptions. For instance, 'King Kong' may be a great movie, but it'll take quite a bit to convince me that it's particularly conservative.
The author, Don Feder, describes a conservative movie like this:

Let’s start with what it isn’t. It’s not about men with bulging biceps and even bigger guns. It’s not cartoonish action heroes. It isn’t revenge tales masquerading as heroism.

Conservative cinema does more than entertain; movies that do no more are visual candy. It instructs and inspires.

Conservative films celebrate virtue. They tell timeless tales of individuals overcoming all manner of adversity to achieve true greatness. They’re about honesty, loyalty, courage and patriotism. They’re concerned with conservatism’s cardinal values – faith, family and freedom.

Now all of that is probably true of movies that appeal to conservatives, but as a description, it falls a bit flat. It's just too wide open. (And I have trouble believing that King Kong really instructs and inspires more than it's 'visual candy'.) And 'virtue' is in the eye of the beholder. 'Erin Brokovich' is about an individual overcoming adversity but it's hardly a conservative film. (Though if it had stuck to complete accuracy it might have been.) As a list of movies conservatives would enjoy it seems fine. And maybe useful. 2005's movies largely fall into three categories: book adaptations, remakes/sequels and serious movies for liberal audiences.
Then I ran across this article in the Chicago Sun Times. The author, Jim Emerson, employs some useful misunderstanding.

Now, I'm not so sure these movies are "conservative," per se, or that honesty, loyalty, courage and patriotism are in any way exclusive to the right side of the political spectrum. I don't believe these particular films are even so much different from the movies openly conservative pundits have been attacking as insufficiently conservative. What you see in movies is largely determined by what you bring to them yourself, and perhaps your perception of a film has less to do with the movie's ideology than with the filter through which you interpret it.

Nowhere in the first article does Feder suggest that these virtues are exclusive to the right. And 'insufficiently conservative'? When the left attacked 'Passion of the Christ' was it because it was insufficiently liberal? And the idea of your personal filter being more important than a movie's purported message seems to be willful ignorance.
To be fair, I think that most movies are not particularly conservative or liberal. Most are meant for pure entartainment. Even the more thought provoking ones often employ a mix of right and left. 'Shawshank Redemption' was loved on both sides of the aisle for that precise reason.
Emerson follows that article with another nominee for most conservative movie, Revenge of the Sith. Not because it embodies conservative values, but because it warns neoconservatives of the dangers of 'unconstitionalitly'. What follows is a tenditious and pained comparison of the Jedi council and Republican foreign policy. A stronger argument would be that national (galactic?) healthcare with anonymous treatment for potentially embarassed mothers would have saved us all from Darth Vader. Kind of sad that a major newspaper would publish something this silly.
The lesson here should be fairly simple. Most political people want to classify things that they like/dislike to bring them in line with their viewpoints.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We're back!

And we had a great time. With the end of the honeymoon we're officially done with wedding stuff. I'm told the marriage stuff continues.

Day One
Miami. Nice and warm. Our taxi ride was exciting. We noticed some damage from Katrina. Mostly missing letters from signs, nothing major. Hit a snag with our hotel room. Found out that the hotel was filled with Penn St fans for the Orange Bowl. (Last two items related.) Walked around downtown Miami. Found out the T'Wolves were in town. Swam in the hotel pool for almost three minutes (brrrrr). Played cards and went to bed.

Day Two
Walked to a bridge and got our first view of the cruise ships. Was overwhelmed by size. Checked out of hotel. Ate at BK. Checked in at the ship. Again, very very very big. Found our room. Met our room steward (very nice guy). Toured the ship. Had safety drill. Declared 'five-meal-a-day-plan'. Started plan. Watched ship pull out of port (very cool). Continued eating plan. Met the pasta bar chef (very nice). Noticed karaoke planned for that night. Sang two songs, 'Jump Jive and Wail' and 'Your Song'. Mentioned to the crowd we were on honeymoon and surprised wife. Went to pizza bar for midnight snack (which was a theme).

Day Three
Woke up at Nassau. Went on historical/Pirate tour. Saw Queen's Staircase (very cool). Saw Fort Fincastle. Learned about Pirates and their history with the Bahamas. Was reminded of this book. Went back to the ship and laid out and read and had a wonderful time. Went back out into Nassau to do some shopping. Back to the ship to eat. Played 'Majority rules trivia' (think Family Feud crossed with the Newlywed Game). Lost but had fun. (Favorite answer-Name something sticky. A stick!) Sang more karaoke (Fields of Gold). More pizza and then to bed.

Day Four
Woke up at Cococay (Royal Caribbean's private island, er, cay). Worst ship movement of the cruise (very minor). Took launch to cay. Snorkled. FP Gal returned to beach. I returned to beach. Both amazed that I snorkled longer than she did. She was disappointed in the fish and sealife, but I wasn't. Laid out and read. Ate lunch (she loved loved loved all of the fresh fruit). Spent time in a hammock. Bought a shirt. Returned to ship. Took hard nap. Laid out some more. More food. Skipped karaoke. Watched second half of Rose Bowl (most amazing college football game I've ever seen). Pizza and then to bed.

Day Five
Woke up en route to Key West. Breakfast. Watched ship pull in. Walked around. Went to Hemingway Home. A very nice house. Not a mansion, but a nice house. Envied veranda. Petted some of the 43 cats that live there (none starving for attention). Tried to decide if admission was worth it (probably not). Walked and shopped a bit. Ate at Wendy's. Shopped. Met fellow White Sox fan at an art gallery. Back to the ship. Watched ship leave port (missed sunset!). More food. Packed. Sang 'rock-a-roke' (karaoke with ship's band). Sang 'Message in a Bottle' and 'With or Without You'. Almost sang 'Hit Me with Your Best Shot' but tragedy averted. Chatted with band (they were from Toronto). Skipped pizza and went to bed.

Day Six
Woke up in Miami (much too early). Climbed 400 flights of steps to get to breakfast. Left ship. Got taxi to airport (where flight was leaving in a scant 8 hours). Got on standby list. Played cards. Ate lunch. Checked in at flight. Smoooothly dropped that it was our honeymoon. Got last two seats on the flight (exit row seats no less). Flew back to frozen hell (Minnesota).

Had a wonderful time.

View from Stateroom 2628

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View in Miami

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View in Minnesota

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