I can’t discuss his take on Letters From Iwo Jima, which I haven’t seen, but I think Charles Taylor has a good take on Clint Eastwood here. I didn’t know that A.O. Scott — who I think is an excellent critic — had argued that with the passing of Altman Eastwood was America’s greatest filmmaker, but as I’ve argued before I think that’s crazy. More controversially, I pretty much agree with his take on Unforgiven too:
That’s a depressing prospect: It’s as if, with Altman’s maverick crapshoot approach to filmmaking out of the way, American movies can return to the static genre familiarity that his films made look unutterably square.
Eastwood’s films — in which well-worn genre conventions are rendered with the slow, heavy solemnity that is often taken as a signal that art is being committed — offer the comfort of seeing B-movie tropes become respectable objects of critical contemplation. For all the talk of Eastwood’s originality, nearly everything he has gotten credit for as a director has been done before, and done better, by other filmmakers — filmmakers who may have won some critical favor in retrospect, but who have never managed the transition to respectability that Eastwood has.
The moral complications that his Unforgiven supposedly injected into Westerns, for instance, were present in the 1950s Westerns directed by Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher (to say nothing of the later work of Sam Peckinpah). Eastwood’s lumbering, inflated Million Dollar Baby couldn’t match the sweat-and-liniment haze of small-time boxing captured so indelibly by Robert Wise in his 1949 film, The Set-Up. And you can find some of what Eastwood is getting at in his currently playing Flags of Our Fathers (the movie that, along with Letters From Iwo Jima, comprises his World War II diptych) in Mann’s Men in War (1957) and in Samuel Fuller’s grungy combat films like Fixed Bayonets! (1951)
Right. It’s certainly not that Eastwood lacks talent, and Mystic River proves that solemn and middlebrow can be perfectly effective if executed well. Unforgiven is a good picture, a very well- turned and entertaining genre piece, but claims about its originality are indeed absurd. Gender switch or no gender switch, however, the sheer density of cliches in Million Dollar Baby becomes intolerable, especially given how leaden and pretentious it is. But it’s not just that his best movies aren’t nearly as good as Scorsese’s best, say, it’s that he’s made movies that Joel Schumacher would be reluctant to sign for — not only is Absolute Power risibly bad, it doesn’t fail in the interesting way one might expect from our Greatest Living Filmmaker. I don’t really understand the magnitude of the praise being heaped on him.
I should say that I take a somewhat more charitable view of what GFR is arguing than Matt does here. I don’t think she’s arguing that I oppose Clinton because I’m a man in some reductive sense. Rather, as I read her she’s claiming that 1)the male dominated pundit class is not likely to have representative views of what Democrats think of Clinton, and 2)people’s judgments can never be fully abstracted from their social circumstances. Both of these points are, I think, correct. How would I evaluate Clinton if I had experienced an enormous amount of sexism in my life? I have no idea. I make the best judgments I can based on what I know, but that’s not an all-seeing or infallible perspective (to put it mildly.)
Having said that, I endorse the rest of Matt’s post. Yes, Clinton is infinitely preferable to any possible Republican nominee. Absolutely, liberals should counter the inevitable deranged media and conservative attacks (whatever combination of sexism, obsession with her husband, and the general triviality of our political discourse) that Clinton has likely to face. But none of this means that she should get the nomination. As Matt says, “In Clinton’s case, you would need to convince me that there are some important issues where she’s likely to make a better president than would the available alternatives, and/or that she has some clear electability edges. And I don’t really see it.” On both metrics, I think she’s clearly worse than Edwards or Obama, and compared to Richardson is no better on substance and less electable. And it’s worth noting that, despite a few bits and pieces here and there, Garance hasn’t made this case either. We may all be missing something, but it’s up to Clinton’s defenders to make the case.
“It’s not comedy that’s in my blood. It’s selling out!”
The editors of Lawyers, Guns & Money do not necessarily endorse the sentiments of all of our fine advertisers. On an entirely unrelated note, I thought this post was interesting.
Matt is right about this. In addition to the fact that it’s contrary to progressive interests to have Penn advising people, there’s the additional issue of what it says about Clinton’s priorities that she would hire him in the first place. Clinton wants her head pollster to be somebody whose specialty is giving catchy names to wholly arbitrary groups of affluent people as a justification for throwing progressive policy initiatives under the bus. This says something important about her judgment, and what it says is obviously not good.
Prof. B has a good post about the strange plan in Texas to pay $500 to have babies and give them for adoption. She hits the most obvious problem: Honey, $500 isn’t even going to pay for the extra groceries you’ll eat during a pregnancy. Let alone the prenatal care, if you’re not insured or on Medicaid, or the cost of the birth. Senator Patrick, would you agree to take care of a neighbor’s dog for nine months for a measly $500?”
So, yeah, that doesn’t seem likely to change much behavior. But there’s also a practical problem with the law: how do you know they were going to get an abortion? Give application forms only at clinics. But how do you know they really wanted an abortion and weren’t just coming to get the 500 bucks? You get the idea.
This kind of thing often happens the other way, as forced pregnancy advocates come up with various wedges to try to water down abortion rights. “But what if abortion is used as sex selection? To kill fetuses with the gay gene?” Back when we had abortion trolls, they often brought it up as if it were definitive objections. The problem is, though, that even if these choices are always immoral there’s no way these distinctions can be drawn in legislative enactments. Once you assume that most women will be smart enough to lie or stay quiet if asked their motives, how do you prove that women are getting abortions for bad reasons? Presumably, one suspects, by creating doctor panels, which given the impossibility of evidence in most cases will be ineluctably arbitrary. The choice, as always, is really simple: ban all abortions, or trust women with the ability to make choices (understanding that some will be ones you wouldn’t agree with.) The criminal law is too crude too accommodate efforts to ensure that abortions are obtained for specific reasons, even if we could agree on what they are.
Most of what I had to say I already said yesterday, so I think I’ll outsource the rest to Jane Hamsher. I only hope that in a similar situation I would have a fraction of the courage that either possesses. You can see the press conference here.
The conservative blogger has died after what by all accounts was an immensely courageous 5-year battle with lung cancer. My father’s mother (who, incidentally, was also not a smoker) passed away from lung cancer when he was 13, which is a powerful reminder to me that this could happen to anyone. R. I. P.
The main question about this upcoming Edwards press conference would seem to be how awful it’s going to be; I certainly hope fervently that the news will be more benign than seems likely. Even if Elizabeth is ill once again, I’m not sure that it will end John’s campaign–every family is different, of course, but I wouldn’t want my unfortunate hypothetical spouse to put off a pursuit of her dream job to care for me full-time almost no matter how sick I was (although a presidential campaign is evidently pretty sui generis in terms of the time it takes away from family.) Anyway, I’m not going to even think about how this will affect the race until we know about Elizabeth’s health. Let’s hope she’s well.
…doesn’t seem promising.
Great stuff from Eric Boehlert on the latest NYT hit piece on Al Gore. As he says:
Where the Times went so wrong was that after it discovered there was, in fact, very little serious debate within the mainstream scientific community (i.e. “the middle ground”), the paper still plowed ahead with its controversial thesis and tried to fool its readers by suggesting, very high up in the story, that there were deep rifts among “rank and file” scientists — “the centrists,” as the newspaper called them. If that were true, the Times article, written by William Broad, would have been brimming with rank-and-file scientists questioning Gore’s facts. It was not.
Instead, as blogger David Roberts noted, the article had “all the hallmarks of a vintage Gore hit piece: half-truths, outright falsehoods, unsubstantiated quotes, and a heaping dose of innuendo.” The article also had all the hallmarks of a journalist approaching a topic with an already confirmed belief and then working backwards trying to prove that point by selectively quoting sources.
The Times piece did prove that the newspaper was willing to cast a very wide net to locate sources with scientific affiliations who expressed doubts about An Inconvenient Truth. No offense, but if an emeritus professor from Western Washington University was the most prominent critic the Times could find (the prof’s the first person quoted in the Gore piece), I’m guessing Gore is on pretty solid footing. (Another critic prominently quoted by the Times isn’t even an environmental scientist.)
See here, here, here, here, and here for detailed analysis of the article’s obvious scientific shortcomings. In short, the article has been thoroughly demolished.
No offense intended to Dave’s alma mater, but that’s what you call manufacturing a controversy.
Shorter Verbatim Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser: “My favorite bumper sticker as of late is one that states, “Bumper Stickers Are Not the Answer.” I bought a bunch of them just because I thought it was funny. However, sometimes bumper stickers are the answer, they can tell you oodles about the person in front of you and warn you to avoid the person or just make you laugh. A good laugh is nothing to sneeze at and frankly, neither is an early warning system that tells you that the driver in front of you lacks critical thought, is emotionally fragile, or just has a wicked sense of humor when you see a bumper sticker that says something like this: “Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?”"
Um, I think this is one of those times when commentary is superfluous, except to say that I guess drawing broad psychological inferences based on bumper stickers might be slightly less unreliable than basing such inferences on someone’s socks.