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"Imagine getting stuck on a ski lift with Dr. Phil for nearly two hours. "

[ 4 ] January 6, 2008 |

Clicking through Orr’s top-10 list I saw his review of Guy Ritchie’s Revolver. I didn’t really investigate it other than skimming what seems to be the charitably lukewarm NYT review; even knowing nothing about it having been on the shelf for two years, seeing the horrifying credit “written by Luc Besson” was enough to keep me well away from the theater. And hence, I had no idea that it turns out to be a pretentiously-cut gangster movie overlaid extensively with…reams of pretentious New Age horseshit. Without meaning it as a joke. It seems to fall into the category of “almost but not quite bad enough to warrant Netflixing”:

Gradually, one begins to suspect that this movie thinks it has Something Important to Say and, unfortunately, it does. (A spoiler follows, though trust me, this is something you’ll want to know before deciding to shell out your eight bucks.) As the film progresses, Green’s homily-spouting voiceover becomes ever more intrusive before ultimately blossoming into a full-blown attack of schizophrenia in which he bickers, Gollum-like, with his own dark side in a stopped elevator. The lesson, you see, is that his only real enemy is his ego, and not the fellow with the gun waiting outside the elevator to kill him.

And, indeed, when the doors open the anticipated showdown is less climax than coda, as the newly enlightened Green strolls right past his would-be assailant, who is paralyzed by his own insecurities. For viewers thick (or incredulous) enough not to get the message, Ritchie helpfully provides, as the credits roll, a series of brief psycho-spiritual testimonials in which luminaries such as Leonard Jacobson and Deepak Chopra explain, “The ego is the worst confidence trickster, because we don’t see it.”

Wow–so it’s sort of Smoking Aces meets Johnathan Livingston Seagull, in dead earnest. And the sad thing is, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was pretty entertaining, although certainly one can see many signs of potential for unimaginable wankery in it.

The Ending

[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

The first two hours of There Will Be Blood are unassailably outstanding; if you don’t think it’s one of the best American pictures of recent years I don’t know what to say other than that tastes differ (i.e. mine is good.) Not only is Day-Lewis exceptional as always, he has a director with an eye to match. The ending will be much more divisive even among people who otherwise admire the film; see, for example Christopher Orr. But, granting that I loved the pretentious-on-paper Raging Bull homage that concluded Boogie Nights and don’t even dislike the plague-of-frogs ending of Magnolia, like Yglesias I didn’t find it particularly objectionable. There is a powerful internal logic to the last sequence; more than anything, Plainview can’t accept abjection, and his revenge makes sense (although I need to see it again before being sure about the bowling-alley sequence.) I did think that the penultimate scene was by far the weakest in the picture; it went on to long and the twist is an overused one. But it’s a trivial weakness given the overall virtues of the film. And it’s a nice recovery for Anderson; although both Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love had significant virtues (the latter actually holds up better for me) he hasn’t been this fully in command of his exceptional talent since Boogie Nights. I can’t wait for his next one.

UPDATE: Interesting thoughts from Glenn Kenny.

But It’s Everybody’s Fault!

[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

A good point by Nick Confessore — when “centrists” call to get “beyond partisanship” and find “real solutions to our problems,” they’re generally Democrats who know that 1)it’s cool to hate Democrats and 2)the both parties are always equally to blame for everything no matter who controls the relevant veto points.

McCain Tongue Bath Watch

[ 36 ] January 6, 2008 |

Mark Halperin awarding the GOP debate to St. McCain:

To his advantage, he stayed above the fray…

Whoa, whoa, whoa…so he “stayed above the fray”…while he was relentlessly insulting Mitt Romney? What the hell? What’s even funnier is that Halperin goes on to use McCain’s getting in the fray as another point in his favor:

Seemed to relish his engagement with Romney over immigration, slipping in a sharp jab over his rival’s fortune, and got in another zinger by twisting Romney’s message of change into a glib attack on the governor’s flipflopping history.

Only on the Straight Talkitude Express can somome stay “above the fray” while cutting his opponents to shreds with timely zingers! God, if McCain wins this is going to be a painful 10 months.


[ 0 ] January 6, 2008 |

Whew, looked like the Racist Nicknames had it in the bag there for a bit, especially after Hasselbeck responded to the missed chip-shot by throwing another awful pass (admittedly, I must have missed the rule change that now permits receivers to be tackled before the arrival of the ball, but you can’t throw that into double coverage), but it turned around quickly. Not that I’m counting on anything yet…

NFL Playoff Picks

[ 42 ] January 5, 2008 |

Guaranteed between 0-100% accurate!

  • Washington v. Seattle. The Seahawks are a little tough to evaluate because their schedule was so bad, but since they’ve won 3 playoff games in two years I’m not terribly worried about it. I know the Redskins are motivated by tragedy, but it’s hard to win in Seattle and I think Seattle’s pass rush will turn the 36 year-old Cinderella back into a pumpkin. Seattle (-3)
  • Jacksonville v. Pittsburgh. I’m strongly disposed to take any points the Steelers are getting at Heinz, and generally reject “momentum” (cf. above.) In this case, however, the momentum has a good reason; the Steelers seem to be pulling fans out of the stands to play on their offensive line, which is going to be a serious problem against the Jags. And Gerrard has quietly turned in an outstanding season. Jacksonville (-2 1/2)
  • Giants v. Tampa Bay. Giants fans seem really confident about this, for reasons that escape me. I don’t read much into the Giants’ small-sample road record this year, and still think it will be tough to win a playoff game on the road. And it’s not just that Jeff Garcia is a much better QB even at 37 than Eli “But I’m Related To Famous Quarterbacks! Really!” Manning, but that Tampa Bay’s secondary will largely take away Manning’s one NFL skill (his ability to throw a deep ball) and demands low-mistake, precision passing (which is a problem because Manning doesn’t have that game.) Tampa (-3)
  • Tennessee v. San Diego. Straight up, I think the talent differential between the teams is beyond the reach of even Norv Turner to fuck up. But I think the Titan defense will make this a little closer than most people expect. Tennessee (+10)

Don’t Take My Word For It

[ 0 ] January 5, 2008 |

The Clinton campaign is arguing that Obama is too “progressive” for their tastes, with a little too much background in community activism. Indeed. Obama just doesn’t have the Joementum! for Mark Penn, Union Buster.

A couple points in response to this thread:

  • Archpundit has a response to questions about the difficulty of getting the interrogation videotaping bill passed here: “It was fought tooth and nail Kevin. The cops and prosecutors were adamantly against it for some time including the Democratic Cook County Prosecutor. I swore reform was dead after the commutations, Obama pulled it off. It was an incredible sight. The end result was truly amazing. The police groups hated the idea and they hated racial profiling legislation — he passed both without angering them, but by working with them, listening, and showing good faith. I never thought it would pass with Democratic State’s Attorneys opposing it, strongly even — but he pulled everyone along and did it pretty quickly.”
  • I agree wholeheartedly that Obama isn’t “the second coming of JFK.” If you’re looking in increase the chances of a presidency with negligible, center-right domestic policy achievements combined with an ruinously idiotic war, Clinton’s your candidate (although, really, the comparison is unfair to her as well.)

Obama’s Legislative Achievements

[ 55 ] January 4, 2008 |

An important piece by Charles Peters about Obama’s work in the Illinois legislature, including working to compel both houses of the legislature into passing a law requiring videotaped confessions — the kind of civil liberties protection that it’s very difficult to get legislatures to initiate. As Hilzoy pointed out, this has often been true at the federal level as well. He’s sponsored important and generally good legislation on important but low-profile issues, as opposed to doing stuff like sponsoring idiotic and unconstitutional flag-burning legislation. When you combine this record with a stunning ability to mobilize new voters, progressive backers of Clinton against Obama should have a very uphill struggle on their hands in trying to persuade progressives to back their candidate.

Romney Hack Watch

[ 36 ] January 4, 2008 |

Not that his supporters could mount anything but the most feeble arguments, but claiming that Obama won Iowa (approximate percentage of white people: 106%) because someone wanted to vote “for someone like them” really is idiocy beyond the call of duty.


[ 8 ] January 4, 2008 |

Former Obsidian Wings blogger Andrew Olmsted was killed in Iraq. His courage was admirable, and sincerest condolences to his friends and family.

9/11. And May I Say Also , 9/11!

[ 0 ] January 4, 2008 |

As regrettable as it is that McCain is likely to be the GOP nominee, watching Rudy’s self-paradoic self-immolation will provide considerable amusement. Elsewhere, I also have to ask how Giuliani’s strategy of running token campaigns in the first two states could possibly make any sense.

Obama/Iginla ’08!

[ 0 ] January 4, 2008 |

As I turned to my distraction from inane television punditry, it occurred to me that we could see not only the first African-American president but the first NHL MVP of color in 2008. Clearly, Iginla was robbed of the ’02 MVP because of the grand cosmic plan! Everything is falling into place!

Seriously, even I skipped most of the first period to watch Obama’s speech, and I concur with the emerging consensus that it was superb. And not surprisingly so — it guarantees nothing, but he has the best political skills of any major Democrat since Bill Clinton. More generally, tonight’s events push me closer to being unambiguously pro-Obama. First, I think having lost Iowa Edwards can’t actually win; the best he can do is to stay strong enough to hand the race to Clinton, which remains the least desirable outcome. And second, his ability to mobilize new voters is a huge asset, especially since he’s also more progressive than the at least one of the two other major candidates.

And, of course I have to join Becks in saluting the U.S.’s supremely rational electoral system and the wisdom of giving the first vote to the fine citizens of Iowa…

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