Archive for category Movies

Restaurant Scenes

When Tomorrow Comes
Five Easy Pieces @50: The Diner Scene | Best Classic Bands

The bottom photo is Jack Nicholson in his famous restaurant scene from Five Easy Pieces, made in 1970. Nicholson plays a failed, or self-defeated, concert pianist working a series of blue-collar jobs. It’s fait to say his character has a lot of repressed anger over his life and his family situation.

He wants toast, which isn’t on the menu, and which the disinterested waitress refuses to serve him. Nicholson gets increasingly frustrated and angry as he tries to order it through a variety of maneuvers. Eventually, furious beyond all proportion to the problem, he insults the waitress and explodes in rage, leaving the restaurant.

The top photo is from a less well-known movie, When Tomorrow Comes, from 1939. Charles Boyer is a famous concert pianist who also, as the film will out, has a difficult family situation.

Here, he’s trying to order a couple of slices of American cheese. Similarly, the restaurant doesn’t serve cheese except on apple pie, which Boyer detests. He’s also a little frustrated, and asks the waitress, slyly, if he can order the pie, and just take the cheese. Unlike Nicholson, Boyer doesn’t insult the waitress – who clearly wants to help but doesn’t know how – and instead is aided by Irene Dunne, also a waitress in the restaurant.

The 1930s were a tough time, and even in 1939, the economy hadn’t really recovered. Dunne’s character makes a rousing speech at a union meeting, encouraging the reluctant waitresses to strike. But there’s nothing of Nicholson’s nasty, vicious rage or the impatient indifference of his waitress in When Tomorrow Comes, probably because it’s more melodrama than psychodrama.

But one can’t discount the temper of the times, either. Nineteen thirty-nine was an angry year, like 1970, but people were more hopeful and felt less powerless. Nicholson’s temper tantrum is what people do when they feel they have no choices. Boyer is mature enough not to take his home situation out on innocent bystanders. Indeed, anyone acting like Nicholson in 1939 NY would have been carted off to jail, if not Bellview.

Five Easy Pieces was probably the better film. When Tomorrow Comes is entertaining, but it wasn’t even the best Boyer-Dunne melodrama of 1939. That would be Love Affair, later remade as An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, emphatically not remade as Sleepless In Seattle. Both Love Affair and Five Easy Pieces got Oscar nominations for Best Picture, and for Leading and Supporting roles. But Boyer is more pleasant to watch, especially since his character doesn’t insist on destroying every life he comes in contact with, including his own. He just wants some cheese.

No Comments

Operation Finale

“Our memory reaches back through recorded history. The book of memory still lies open. And you here now are the hand that holds the pen.

“If you succeed, for the first time in our history we will judge our executioner.”

With these words, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sends the special Mossad unit off on its mission to Buenos Aires, to capture the Architect of the Final Solution and retrieve him to Israel to face justice, or at least as much justice as this world has to offer.  It is an arresting, energizing moment in Operation Finale, Oscar Isaac’s film treatment of one of the Mossad’s early high-profile successes, and a defining moment itself in Jewish history.

The quote is especially apt, as much of the criticism of the movie revolves, wittingly or not, around the distinction between history and memory, and blurring that distinction in the name of art and commerce.  Some of these compromises are valid.  Others are unfortunate because unnecessary; the real operation had plenty of tension in real life.

There are more recent accounts, but Isser Harel’s The House on Garibaldi Street still captures most of the key operational details, as well as its flavor and atmosphere.  In it, the then-head of the Mossad recounts the tip that led to the investigation, as well as the operational difficulties of working in a country far from home with a language barrier.  Harel, for instance, ran the operation from diners, on a rotation known to the operatives, where they would meet and pass messages.  The movie shows this briefly, but misses an amusing and potentially fatal error – the cafes that Harel had a “back room,” but by Argentinian custom, that room was almost exclusively used by women, making him stand out like a sore thumb and forcing a change in technique.

Also amusing was the difficulty that the team had in obtaining reliable transportation.  Car after car broke down or had tire problems, or some other mechanical issue.  They couldn’t rent or buy an expensive car for fear of attracting attention, so they were stuck with a series of lemons that might fail them at any moment, up to and including the decisive drive to the airport.  Instead, we just see a lot of greenbacks changing hands for a couple of local cars.

There were multiple safe houses, with compromises made in choosing each one.  There were questions about the safety of the route to the airport, and the possibility of using a shipping container was discussed, but during the operation as a backup, not in the initial planning as shown.  And there was considerable concern about the diplomatic fallout with Argentina, all of which was justified by later events.

Isaac chooses to forego all of this real-life drama for what amount to three major historical compromises.  First, El Al, which loaned the plane to Mossad, didn’t require a signed statement by Eichmann that he was going of his own free will.  Second, there was no last-minute frenzied escape at the airport, hotly pursued by Nazi-infested Argentine police.  Third, and related Graciela Sirota was not tortured in an effort to discover their location.  To varying degrees, these historical compromises serve memory.  They also, to varying degrees, do a disservice to the movie.

The conceit that El Al required Eichmann to sign a statement in order to permit the Mossad to transport him sets up an interrogation thread after Eichmann’s capture and removal to the safe house.  Strictly historically, the Israelis who were charged with babysitting Eichmann did suffer psychologically from having to deal with him, and did end up slowly bending the strict minimum-contact rules that were initially imposed.  Those were the result of 10 days in close contact, not a need to extract a statement.  But the narrative thread serves another purpose, essentially moving Eichmann’s eventual defense from the trial into the safe house.  To that extent, it’s perfectly good filmmaking.  The memory of what Eichmann claimed remains the same, the story line is just compressed.

The other two compromises – offshoots of one invention, actually – are less defensible.  The Israelis expected that Eichmann’s family would be loath to go to the police with a missing persons complaint, precisely because his presence in Argentina was under an assumed name.  Giving a plausible reason for his kidnapping would mean blowing his cover. But it also means that while there was a surreptitious low-level search, there were none of the resources available that a full police investigation would have had.  No close calls with people staring in windows, no mad dash to the airport after a hair-breadth escape, no police chasing down the airplane as it took off.  This is pure cinematic dramatic invention, when drama would have been better-served by honing in on the operational issues.

The last incident – the torture of Graciela Sirota – happened, but the movie places it in the context of the chase.  In fact, Miss Sirota was tortured and left with a swastika tattoo in June 1962, after Eichmann’s execution.  It was part of a larger antisemitic backlash against the local Jewish community, and both its occurrence and the police indifference to it prompted a broad reaction in Argentinian society, isolating the antisemitic elements, and forcing the government to take action against the groups responsible.  This is all chronicled in “The Eichmann Kidnapping: Its Effects on Argentine-Israeli Relations and the Local Jewish Community,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 7, No., 3, Spring-Summer 2001.  So in this case, even the memory is somewhat garbled.

If the reader has made it this far, he probably thinks I didn’t much like the film, but I did.  The character development is first-rate.  The head-butting between Eichmann and Oscar Issac’s Malkin fulfills Israel’s promise to let Eichmann have his say.  For those who don’t know better, one form of suspense about the outcome is as good as another.  So the movie is good, as a movie.  In its important parts, it’s even pretty good as memory.  But it could have been better at both those things, and still better as history.


No Comments

The Summer Game in Fall

The Saturday night movie was “Trouble With the Curve,” the latest Clint Eastwood offering.  A rom-com with professional complications and a baseball backdrop.  You can’t screw up baseball – the owners have proven that, try as they might – but you can make a predictable, formulaic rom-com, and that’s what they’ve done here.  It’s not exactly paint-by-numbers, but they’re not painting the corners, either.  The characters are, for the most part, barely one-dimensional and overplayed, at that.  Even the final, dramatic showdown between pitcher and catcher misses an obvious trick.

The movie aspires to be a sort of anti-“Moneyball,” with Clint playing an aging scout who thinks his eyes and ears can tell him stuff that the kids’ computers can’t.  That baseball is cruel and unfair won’t be news to fans.  But that it compounds the normal cruelty of high school athletes may come as a surprise to some.  The games are what they are, but the action for the scouts isn’t in the results, but the process.  The reason you need scouts for high school is that any major league prospect is going to so outclass his competition that the results at that level don’t suffice to distinguish between prospects and true star power.  But remember, in “Moneyball,” the whiz kids weren’t using SABRmetrics to scout high schoolers, but under-valued major- and minor-leaguers.  So the portrait of baseball resembles an Escher drawing – the details are right, but they’re placed in a world that doesn’t exist.

Clint and Amy Adams as his daughter turn in nice performances, as does Justin Timberlake, and while neither of the two younger actors has the resume of Eastwood, they can hold their own on the screen with him.  Eastwood is smart enough to know that actors bring their body of work with them to whatever new roles they play, and some skillful use of some footage of a younger Clint helps allude to the outside-the-rules Eastwood that we all remember.

Two, maybe two-and-a-half stars.  As usual, the real game is better.

Especially when your childhood team is finally playing meaningful ball in September.  In this case, that’s the Orioles.  September 2007 was magical here, and I was working a block away from Coors Field.  I got to see a couple of Rockies wins during that stretch, saw the play-in game against the Padres, and saw the two NLCS wins against Arizona, including the clincher that sent them to the Series.  But there’s nothing quite like seeing the team you rooted for as a kid go to the playoffs.

I subscribe to the radio broadcats at something like $15/year, and Joe Angel is back doing the games after a purgatory in Yankeeland.  In fact, even as I write this, I’m listening to the Orioles broadcast, and watching the Yankees play the A’s on TV.  Would that it were the other way around, but TBS seems to have some sort of contract that requires them to show Yankees games.

On the rare occasions that the Orioles have been on television it’s been fun to see Camden Yards full again,and the ads for local brands that I had forgotten about, like High’s Ice Cream.  Camden Yards was the first of the retro ballparks, and still one of the best, with the warehouse in right field, and the Bromoseltzer Tower in past center.  It replaced one of the other trendsetter parks, Memorial Stadium, which doubled for the Colts, and really long-time Orioles fans watched a lot of games there.

So one thing that’s been a little disheartening is the crowd cheers.  In Memorial Stadium, there was a guy name “Wild” Bill Hagy who used to lead a cheer from Section 34, spelling out “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” with his body as the crowd shouted out the letters.  There’s even a blog named for it.  Now, it’s basically the same soundtrack as here in Colorado, so it’s probably the same soundtrack as most parks these days.  I know “franchise” implies a certain uniformity of product, but I don’t think that means that the experience has to be the same at every ballpark.  You want to think there’s something different about your team, that just because the players are interchangeable these days, doesn’t mean the teams are.

You like to think that the team’s success is the payoff for all those old fans who’ve suffered through 15 years of losing seasons, and then you realize that by definition, there just aren’t that many who will stay interested through that kind of a spell.  And when you talk about a cheer they haven’t used in 20 years, you sound like the guy 20 years ago who was reminiscing about how hard it was to pick up the ball against the white shirts in center field in Memorial Stadium.

But you know, who cares?  O-R-I-O-L-E-S!

No Comments

How Would You Sell The Tea Party?

Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, I got to his essay, “True Colors: Hair Dye and the Hidden History of Postwar America.”  He argues that the difference between Clairol’s “Does She or Doesn’t She?” and L’Oreal’s “Because I’m Worth It,” is the difference between 1950s and 1970s feminism.  Moreover, even when the two product’s pitches had essentially merged (Gladwell was writing in 1999), their buyer’s different self-images lingered on.   Smart ad men know they’re selling more than a product, they’re selling an experience, or an image.  Sometimes, that image or dream ties into a larger social change or movement, and that that’s both a reflection and an agent of that change:

This notion of household products as psychological furniture is, when you think about it, a radical idea.  When we give an account of how we got to where we are, we’re inclined to credit the philosophical over the physical, and the products of art over the products of commerce…

“Because I’m worth it,” and “Does she or doesn’t she?” were powerful, then, precisely because they were commercials, for commercials come with products attached, and products offer something that songs and poems and political movements and radical ideologies do not, which is an immediate and affordable means of transformation.

Far from trivializing a political, social, or economic movement, commercialization can help make it personal and accessible, and therefore less threatening and more familiar.

We’ve seen a couple of Tea Party movies, one explicitly so, (Atlas Shrugged), and one implicitly (Robin Hood).  Thus far, I’m aware of only one commercial that implies a Tea Party presence, the Starbucks commercial with the angry old loner who yells at town halls, which would be a bit like L’Oreal selling “Because I’m worth it” using Nurse Ratchet or Gloria Steinem, who quickly became a caricature of herself.

It may be that we have to wait until the Tea Party sees more success, in winning hearts and minds if not yet national elections, before companies are willing to bet their products’ success on its messaging. But just as feminism succeeded in making the political personal (and more destructively, the personal political), and as environmentalism succeeded in making small actions and then products green, the Tea Party might get farther by doing something similar for its own themes.

It’s not wise to choose your political message based on the products it might sell, but certain themes will sell better than others.  We can search forever in the tall grass of social history to discover how much of feminism’s public appeal was based on opportunity, and how much drew from raging against The Patriarchy, but there’s no question that positive sells.  Ilon Specht may have been angry when she wrote, “Because I’m worth it,” but the slogan expresses liberation, not anger.

To be sure, it faces some hurdles in doing this.  If the theme is fiscal responsibility, most families already need to spend less than they make.  If it’s personal liberty, the government’s probably a tougher customer to disobeying rules, tougher than most companies. And to the extent that it dwells on what used to be, rather than what might be, its message is nostalgia, and the only products it will sell are baseball and Coca-Cola.  You want to get people to invite your ideas into their homes, you need to be relevant to how they’re living their lives today, and want to be living them tomorrow.

So, what products do you see as being right for capturing the Tea Party ethos, and allowing people to internalize it?  Which themes are best suited to commercialization?  And what messages should go in their commercials?  How would you write such a commercial?


, , , ,

No Comments

Atlas Shrugged – Part I

Susie and I went to go see Atlas Shrugged last night over at the Aurora 16.  I’m not a big fan of saying something just to hear myself blog, so I’ll limit myself here to comments that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere before.

The consensus – that the acting seemed good, the fidelity to the book about right, and that the writers picked the right parts to hold onto and the right portions to let go – seems about right to me.  The budget – a mere $10 million, shot quickly to retain the rights – should also be kept in mind.

That said, the movie could have benefitted from slowing down in a couple of ways.  Dagny’s entrance in the book – riding the train, taking control of a muddled situation on the line, musing about promoting Owen Kellogg – would have made the scene with Kellogg work better.  It’s ok to make Midas Mulligan disappear after introducing him to a really pompous-sounding John Galt.  We don’t need to know him, and we don’t know Galt.  But Kellogg isn’t a Producer, he’s a potential producer who right now is just a competent guy.  Dagny needs him because the line is falling apart all over the country, and that’s the only context in which we’re going to care about him either.

We’re told that American infrastructure is disintegrating into dust with footage from a train wreck and an opening scene that looks like it was pulled from the Kobe, Japan earthquake.  A scene where Dagny has to basically take control of a side-tracked train would show it to us, which is what movies are supposed to do.  I know $10 million doesn’t leave a lot for on-location shooting.  One of the reviewers’ favorite complaints is that the move spends too much time with people talking in offices.  But that’s true of all boardroom and courtroom dramas, including a couple of my favorites, Executive Suite, and Sabrina.

One complaint that I had about Atlas Shrugged the book is that I don’t think Rand really articulated what drives the Carnegies, Vanderbilts, and Fords to build.  She has her stand-in for them, Hank Rearden say that his only purpose is to make money.  I think this slightly misses the mark, that Arthur Brooks’s “earned success” is closer, and that making money is largely a by-product of that success.  You’ll hear that from any number of wildly successful businessmen.

The movie actually captures this notion better than the book, in a brief scene where Rearden turns down an offer for the rights to his metal, “Because it’s mine,” in a way that the iron mines and foundries weren’t.  Those were all managed by him, but his contribution is his metal.

Most reviewers will also allow their impatience with the subject matter to cloud their judgment about the movie as a whole.  There’s almost nothing to be done about that.  It’s an inherently political movie as much as an inherently economic one.  Wesley Mouch, in announcing his czar-like plans for the country’s economy, sounds almost exactly like Obama.  I’m afraid that too many reviewers will assume that the dialog was written with current Democrats in mind, without realizing that it’s Obama who sounds like Mouch.

That openning scene with Dagny would also have let us see her listening to Richard Halley’s music on her iPod or iPad3.  The train, finally on track, speeding off into the dark towards New York, to what Rand described as his “heroic” music, would not only have given us insight into Dagny’s character, it would have given the lie to the idea that only the industrial is beautiful to industrialists.

The overall per-screen take for the weekend was pretty good, (via the Charlottesville Libertarian) and hopefully, good enough to get it some additional screens this weekend when the acid test of a word-of-mouth movie comes.  (The movie’s website had actively promoted “demanding” the film, which had resulted in a more screens being added at the last minute, including one in Omaha and one in Lincoln.)

Harmon Kaslow, the movie’s producer, has said that he needs $100 million in box office to justify making Part II.  I hope he gets it.

No Comments

The King’s Speech

This is a movie about courage.  OK, it’s also a movie about love, friendship, responsibility, and heroism.  But first and foremost, it’s about courage.

We all know the story about how Edward VIII abdicated the throne for American Wallis Simpson, in favor of his brother (Colin Firth) who would become George VI.  It was a good trade for Britain.  Nazi sympathizer Edward would rootlessly and pointlessly travel the world as the Duke of Windsor, while George would go on to hold the Empire  together during WWII, if not afterwards.

What people don’t remember, although it was painfully obvious to those who heard him speak, was that George was a stammerer.  A major handicap for a prince whose main function was to speak at public events.  A serious morale-killer for a nation who would look to him to boost spirits and to, as George puts it, “speak for them.”

Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the current Elizabeth II’s mother, would seek out the help of one Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist with experience helping shell-shocked WWI veterans overcome their own stammers.  His methods involved a sympathetic ear and friendship with his patients as much as physical training, and some of the films funniest moments come from the comedy of manners that results from a friendship between royalty and commoner.

George, never meant to be king, never trained to be king, and plagued by private self-doubt about his ability to carry out his duties, watches in horror as events move him closer to the crown, and to a position whose one duty he seems incapable of fulfilling, in an hour when much rests on that one responsibility.  The courage that he shows in facing it down stands in stark contrast to Edward’s abdication of it, long before his formal abdication.

The performances are stellar, all the moreso since they have to overcome what we do know of the current set of royals, and present us their parents and grandparents.  For those of us who only know the Queen Mother as the short, plump presence next to the Queen in the Royal Box, Carter shows us an early middle-aged woman, still young enough to be vivacious, but with some of the steel that she would show later on. Ironic then, that after we know what she thought of Edward, we see her with her children, Elizabeth and Margaret, not knowing that for her family, the worst is yet to come, and that she’ll live to see it.

None of us will every have George’s responsibility, but Firth’s portrayal allows us to identify with the head of the British Empire in his struggle to connect with people like ourselves.  Yet it’s in no small measure Logue’s insistence on friendship rather than submission, that allows us to see the Prince, and then the King, as a human being rather than a human flag.  Rush brings a dignity and a humanity to the role of an everyman who knows his place, but refuses to be intimidated by royalty.

As historical pictures do, the film plays fast and loose with some of the surrounding facts.  In the movie, Elizabeth approaches Logue in the 30s; in fact, most of Logue’s work would be done by the time George took the throne.  While it explains the C.V.O., it leaves us with the impression that it’s a knighthood – in reference to some by-play earlier in the film – when in fact, CVO is short for “Commander of the Victorian Order,” where only recipients of the two higher ranks, Knight’s Cross and Grand Cross, are knights.  There’s a scene where a BBC official, having only just met the King, shakes hands with him, which I believe would be most unlikely.

But these are quibbles.  Logue was there with George, alone, as he makes his crucial September 3, 1939 speech upon Britain’s entering the war, and was there with him for his subsequent speeches, as well.  Listen to the record of the actual speech, and you’ll hear it in a wholly different way.

In an era when a president speaks over the people in service of his ambition, it’s important to remember a time when a king spoke to his people in service to his country.

No Comments

True Grit

Definitely not your father’s True Grit.

I hadn’t even seen the John Wayne original from 1969 until TCM showed it on Wednesday evening.  (Like most people, I still haven’t read the original Charles Portis book on which both movies are based.)  But seeing the two in such proximity has some advantages and disadvantages.  Unlike many, I don’t have old memories of the original to fall back on, only a recent side-by-side comparison.  Given the film-making of the time, the attitudes, the position that The Duke held in the national pantheon, the original can only suffer by comparison.

Much has been made of the fact that John Wayne’s only Oscar was for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, but Cogburn comes across to me as much less complex a character than, say, Tom Doniphin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  By the time of True Grit, Wayne’s career was already near the end of his career, and the Oscar has the feel of a career award.  Despite himself, Wayne is less cantankerous and curmudgeonly, and more avuncular.

There’s none of that with Jeff Bridges.  Bridges is a tough, ornery, all-business (when he’s not drinking) Cogburn.  When Wayne says he robbed a high-interest bank in New Mexico, we forgive him because he’s The Duke.  When Bridges says it, we forgive him because he a tough SOB who’s proven his worth.

In the confrontation between Cogburn and the Texas Ranger LeBeouf (Glen Campbell in the original; Matt Damon in the remake), Wayne by far gets the better of it.  In the remake, Damon’s LeBouef is verbose, but not the borderline-clownish that Campbell’s was; the tension between LeBeouf and Cogburn is much more evenly matched, much more serious, the anger much closer to the surface.

Hallie Steinfeld also plays a more serious, more persuasive Mattie Ross than Kim Darby.  Just as tough, but called on the manage both Cogburn and the Cogburn-LeBeouf relationship in a way she doesn’t in the first movie.

On the whole, a grittier Grit, closer to the bone, and closer to the novel.

UPDATE: Lori Horn reminds me that the scenery in the original is breathtaking.  True enough, given that the scenes in the “Indian Territory” were mostly shot in southwest Colorado, in the San Juan Mountains.

No Comments

Roger Ebert in 3D

A few weeks ago, Roger Ebert argued in Newsweek that 3-D movies are a terrible idea, a waste of a perfectly good dimension.  Some of his arguments are technical (3D needs to be brighter), some reek of resentment that someone would make money on an idea (at least 2 1/2 of them), and some are things that people have been complaining about ever since “Jaws” (story is taking a backseat to gee-whiz).  His complaints about the surcharges for substandard product may have some merit. Audiences will get wise to this, and studios and theaters will start advertising “In Real 3D” to distinguish from multi-plane 2D.

Here’s the complaint that has merit:

8. I CANNOT IMAGINE A SERIOUS DRAMA, SUCH AS UP IN THE AIR OR THE HURT LOCKER, IN 3-D. Neither can directors. Having shot Dial M for Murder in 3-D, Alfred Hitchcock was so displeased by the result that he released it in 2-D at its New York opening. The medium seems suited for children’s films, animation, and films such as James Cameron’s Avatar, which are largely made on computers.

There is a risk that the technology becomes ghettoized, and that people simply don’t take 3D films seriously because they’re associated with pap.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the technology itself is flawed, only that, like animation, it develops a barrier to acceptance in serious movies.

Ebert’s enough of a historian to hark back to all the other advances in movie technology:

9. WHENEVER HOLLYWOOD HAS FELT THREATENED, IT HAS TURNED TO TECHNOLOGY: SOUND, COLOR, WIDESCREEN, CINERAMA, 3-D, STEREOPHONIC SOUND, AND NOW 3-D AGAIN. In marketing terms, this means offering an experience that can’t be had at home.

He then goes on to plump for 48 frame-per-second film, which apparently offers a transcendent experience.  I have no doubt that 48fps is much, much better than 24fps, and I’m all for fitting theaters with it and handing film out like candy to directors and cinematographers.  Although proposing another technical fix because you don’t like the one being handed out – one which would also, incidentally, command a surcharge of its own – seems a little peevish.

But the long list of technologies suggests another answer, which is that filmmakers just don’t know how to use 3D properly yet, so it remains a toy. 

Color required an adjustment, as well.  (Remember the controversy about Turner’s colorization, because the b&w films were shot with a certain depth-of-field, and colorizing them confused the eye?)  Casablanca didn’t need 3D?  Apparently, it didn’t need color, either, but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would be inconceivable without it.

The eye can fill in the third dimension?  There’s plenty of evidence that audiences were expected to fill in the colors for themselves, too.   Any number of films contain references to the color of a girl’s dress or of a car.

Ebert argues that since all the planes are in focus, the eye isn’t sure where to go.  That’s a technique issue that directors can solve over time, also analagous to what happened to color.

I could easily see a war picture featuring a room-to-room search and clearing of a building.  You don’t think a scene like that would be enhanced by 3D?

We see in color, we see with the periphery of our vision, we see in 3D.  There’s no reason that directors can’t figure out how to use 3D properly, just as they have previous technologies.  We won’t get another Casablanca, but by the time Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, we weren’t going to get another Casablanca then, either.

No Comments

Movies & Parliaments & CFCs, Oh My!

Boy, you don’t see that very often.  TCM is usually the paragon of accuracy, but they just credited some actress named, “Celeste Holmes,” when they meant Celeste Holm.  Yes, she’s been married 5 times, but not to anyone named Holmes.  I’ve never seen them do anything like that before, especially with an actress who’s not only still alive, but still working.

It also turns out that, contrary to popular mythology, beagles do not like blueberries.  At least one beagle doesn’t.

I’m the last person on this and several other planets to realize this, but the Internet is, quite simply, the most amazing tool ever devised by the mind of man.  Thirty-fice years ago, my father took me to a movie, a cartoon.  I remember exactly one thing about it: something standing on a keyboard, saying that it was going to commit suicide and “go to that big typewriter in the sky.”  Now 35 years ago, when you got to the theater at 12:30 for an 11:45 showing, you walked in, sat through the last half, and then sat through the first half, eventually uttering the words, “this is where we came in,” and left.  That scene, the one with the suicidal something standing on a typewriter, was where we came in.  So it’s also where we left.  So it’s also the only thing I remembered.

I won’t say it kept me up nights.  Lots of other worries to do that.  And B.I. that would have been the end of it.  But I would google the phrase every once in a while, and maybe some keywords like, “typewriter movie cartoon.”  Nothing.  Until finally, something.  Which something is available streaming on Netflix.  So I watched until I got to the scene I remembered, shouted “Aha!” in joyous triumph.  And then I said, “this is where I came in,” and left.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the un-repealable sections of the Senate’s Health Care Assimilation.  Let’s be clear – there is no such thing as an un-repealable law.  Parliaments can’t bind future parliaments, and Congresses can’t bind future Congresses.  The Democrats are claiming that this is merely a routine alteration in Senate procedure, as opposed to Seante rules, but in either case, the courts are unlikely to intervene.

But there it is in black and white: any attempt to repeal the rationing panels will “not be in order.”

Not so fast there, Slots.  When the Republicans have retaken both houses, presumably the Senate and House parliamentarians will rule that their repeal measures are out of order.  The chair will so rule.  Or the chair will rule the other way.  One side will move to over-rule the chair.  At that point, all hell will break loose, but a vote will be taken.  If the Republicans try to overrule the chair, then the Dems will try to grind process to a halt to avoid a vote.  If the Dems are ruled against, the chair had better be damn sure he has the votes before making the ruling.

As of 2005, the chair can be overruled by a majority vote:

Appealing Rulings of the Chair. By House tradition, the presiding officer’s rulings on points of order raised by Members are seldom appealed. As a result, the House has a relatively large and consistent body of precedents based on rulings of the chair. If the chair’s ruling is appealed, the full House decides by majority vote whether to sustain or overrule this ruling. Because this vote is viewed as a serious test of the chair’s authority, it is typically settled along party lines, with the majority sustaining the chair. In contrast to the Senate, there are only a few situations when the House’s presiding officer does not rule on points of order.

In the Senate, the presiding officer’s rulings on points of order raised by Senators are frequently appealed. The full Senate votes on whether to sustain or overrule the ruling. Under Rule XX, the presiding officer has the option of submitting any question of order to the full Senate for a majority vote decision. He is required to submit questions of order that raise constitutional issues, and those concerning the germaneness or relevancy of amendments to appropriations bills, to the full Senate. Senate votes on appealed rulings of the chair, and on points of order submitted to the full body, often turn on the political concerns of the moment rather than on established Senate practices and procedures. As a result, the Senate has a smaller and less consistent body of precedents than does the House. Yet, because the Senate usually operates informally, it is a more precedent- than rule-regulated institution.

There’s a scene in Barbara Tuchman’s, The Proud Tower, where the Speaker of the House forces a debate on the so-called, “silent quorum,” where the minority could prevent a quorum by just refusing to answer the roll.  It’s transcendent political theater, with a Texas congressman whetting his knife on his boots, other representatives storming the podium, congressmen vocally denying their presence.  In the end, Speaker Thomas Reed (R-Maine) had his way.  If this bill passes with such a provision, I for one would feel cheated if I didn’t get to see a similar scene play out on C-SPAN.

This is why it is critical that Republicans not just wash back into office on a wave of popular anger of what the bums have done.  They have to win with a mandate to roll this thing back.   They have to go in having made it politically palatable to vote that way, and they have to tie Obama personally to this legislation, and keep tying him to it.  The large jump in Rasmussen’s “strongly disapprove” rating for Obama was almost certainly a result of the first cloture vote.  The Dems aren’t operating inside a Beltway Bubble, but in an underground steel-reinforced titanium Beltway Bunker.  But if the Republicans don’t promise to undo the damage, it may well end the party within a few election cycles.

Now it’s the CFCs.  Funny, but about 20 years ago, a friend of mine named Ron Bailey wrote a book called, Ecoscam.  The one credible threat that the enviros were tossing around was CFCs and the ozone hole.  We did ban CFCs, and while it’s take a while for the last of them to waft their way up to the upper atmosphere, there to interact with radiation and destroy ozone, by 2000, CFC levels had begun to decline.  Along with the earth’s temperature.

I don’t know if Prof. Lu is correct.  But I do know that the jokers over at CRU were making it up, and that NASA was covering for them.  I’m not willing to pay Physics Reports $31 to see a paper I’m not qualified to review.  But it’ll be interesting to see what the scientific reaction is.  So far, it’s all been blogs and newspapers.  Eventually, we’ll see whether or not the establishment has learned the right lessons from Climategate, or whether they try to pretend that this paper, along with their own malfeasance, never happened.

No Comments