Saturday, March 29, 2008

Avenue Q Vs. Cabaret

Sometimes I wonder if the most apt comment on racism comes not from the “Everyone's a Little Bit Racist” song from the Broadway musical Avenue Q (which always seemed kind of banal to me) but from the setup for the “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” number in the play Cabaret.

Specifically the part just before the song in which we discover that the charming businessman who has been helping out the play's protagonists, Cliff and Sally, is actually an ardent Nazi Party member, and that the cute little German streetwalker with which we the audience have been encouraged to sympathize is actually a hardcore anti-Semite.

In the movie version, of course, the filmmakers choose to omit this part, preferring instead to have “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” sung by a random crowd of strangers whom the audience never really gets to know the same way we get to know the streetwalker and the Nazi Party member in the play. The result makes for a powerful moment, that's true, but alas, it's not as powerful as the same moment in the play in which “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” (the ultimate hymn to Nazi superiority) ends up being sung by people who are not strangers. People whom we the audience have come to know throughout the play. People whom we have even been encouraged to like.

True, the notion that Nazis were people too is not a new message, but it's not a popular notion either. After all, Nazis were in a sense the ultimate racists. People who took the notion of racial superiority to the ultimate limit and killed millions of people because of it. To see them as little more than fellow human beings (as opposed to devils incarnate) and worse yet, as likable human beings inevitably implies that we the audience might very well end up acting like them if we're not careful.

And yet the song makes an important point. After all, racism and other murderous prejudices have rarely been held in real life solely by unlikable misanthropes who have absolutely no appeal at all to their fellow human beings. They have been more often than not held by people that even most liberal people would find to be quite likable under most circumstances. Indeed, the notion that racism and other prejudices are only held by “bad” people is itself a dangerous concept because it implies that “good” people -- and it should be noted here that many of the Nazis did consider themselves to be good people -- have no need to examine their prejudices. That bigotry in a sense is only a valid problem for other people, preferably strangers. And that, sadly, is just not true.

I must confess that there have been many times when I've encountered real-life bigots who nevertheless proved to be every bit as likable as the characters who sing Cabaret the play's version of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” And, of course, such people have inevitably forced me to examine my prejudices as well.

In many ways, I consider this a good thing. For one cannot realistically deal with a problem unless one realistically examines how it exists in the real world. And one can't realistically examine such a problem if one insists on treating silly little ditties like “Everyone's a Little Bit Racist” as if they were genuinely meaningful.

In a sense, the Avenue Q song is correct. Everyone does tend to have their share of prejudices, racial and otherwise, and everyone does tend to favor or dislike certain racial groups for reasons that aren't exactly logical.

But there's more to it than that. Some people are more apt to act upon their prejudices than others, some are less inclined to examine or contradict their prejudices than others, and of course, some people are more inclined to use their prejudices as motives for genuinely antisocial actions. To blithely dismiss all this by singing “Everyone's a Little Bit Racist” ultimately trivializes racism.

And trivializing racism ultimately assures the type of people who would sing a song like “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” the ultimate victory.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Things You Aren't Supposed to Mention If You're a Mexican-American

1. Your relative who is a convict.
2. Your relative who is a cop.
3. Your relative who is a narcotics detective.
4. Your relative who is an illegal alien.
5. Your relative who is a naturalized citizen.
6. Your relative who was a migrant worker.
7. Your relative who went to see a curandero.
8. Your relative who got healed by a curandero.
9. Your relative who lives in a bad neighborhood.
10. Your relative who lives in a good neighborhood.
11. Your relative who is a homosexual.
12. Your relative who conceived a child out of wedlock.
13. Your relative who married a second cousin.
14. Your relative who married a first cousin.
15. Your relative who married a non-Catholic.
16. Your relative who married a non-white (especially if the spouse in question is not Hispanic).
17. Your relative who married a fellow Hispanic.
18. Your relative who used to be on welfare, especially if he or she is no longer on welfare and owes his or her departure from the welfare state more to familia than gobierno.
19. Your relative who killed his own son.
20. Your relative who saved his mother's life at the cost of his own life by stepping in front of his father's gun.

Of course, the one thing you should always realize is that most people don't really want to hear about Mexican-Americans in the first place.

After all, it's not like they ever do anything important.

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All Politics Is Loco, Parte III

I can't help wondering if the most intelligent comment I'm likely to hear concerning the current presidential campaign comes from my eight-year-old niece, who recently admitted to supporting HilLary Clinton. Why? Because HiLlary's a girl. (Those are my niece's words, not mine.)

Since my sister is a Republican, I can't help but find this comment a bit unusual. (But then my niece recently admitted that Return of the Jedi was her favorite Star Wars movie because it has a girl on the cover. I sense a trend here.) But, hey, at least my niece is honest and not afraid to break with her parents' political beliefs. I can think of many people who are far older who can learn from her.

Meanwhile, the only thing my mother and my middle brother have said about the current campaign is that it's likely to be a Democratic year. (Note: none of them think that this is necessarily a good thing.) Of course, the Democrats have managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory before. But with hardcore Republicans already damning leading Republican candidate John McCain before he has even gotten the nomination, anything is possible.

Anyway, it's going to be an interesting election year. And I'm still getting used to the notion of an U.S. presidential candidate who was born in the same birth year (1961) as myself. Gee, that makes me feel old.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

At Long Last Bourne

Actress Julia Stiles has an incredibly nice smile and it's tempting to recommend The Bourne Ultimatum for no other reason than the fact that we get to see her smile in this movie.

Of course, there is a bit more to the movie than that. However, if you're seen the last two Jason Bourne movies (The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy), you can probably guess much of what will happen, though I have to give the director and the writers credit for making the movie seem a lot less predictable than it actually is.

The plot, for what it's worth, involves former CIA agent Jason Bourne's attempt to once again find out who he really is -- and along the way, defeat a lot of nogoodniks who just happen to work for the U.S. government. It says something about how far our culture has come since the mid-70s that it no longer seems all that shocking to see agents of the CIA portrayed as bad guys. Indeed, apart from the Bond films and the Jack Ryan movies, it's difficult to think of any recent movies that portray the CIA in a good light. And that's without getting into the question (brought up by the good folks at Libertas) of how plausible it is to portray the same agency that missed 9/11 and the fall of the Soviet Union as an organization of super-efficient villains. (Anyone else tempted to cite Barzini's Law here?)

Anyway, the film itself works as an entertaining action thriller and I can't help but find it ironic that one of its biggest fans was my middle brother the arch-conservative.

Of course, it could be argued that any film that showcases Julia Stiles' smile the way The Bourne Ultimatum does is destined to be popular with Americans of all political stripes. At least that's my theory...

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the South

When I first moved to Texas from my native Michigan, I hated the South. I didn't hate it so much because it was the South but because it wasn't Michigan where all our relatives were. And I wasn't alone in my distaste for all things Southern. My siblings and I cried so much about having to live in Texas that my father promised my mother that our family would move back to Michigan if we hadn't adjusted to life in the Lone Star State within a year.

Well, we adjusted all right, but for years afterwards, part of me could not help feeling like an exile who was forever banned from his native land. As far as I was concerned, everything was better up north: the land, the people, the music, the food, the weather. I was always comparing notes with my fellow Yankees about how bad things were in the South and, of course, how better things were in the North.

It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties and able to spend a whole summer in Michigan that I realized that this wasn't necessarily so. Almost everything I hated about Dallas -- the traffic, the racial problems, the bad schools, the rude people -- could be found in Detroit, and the few advantages I enjoyed in Dallas -- cheap book stores, air conditioning, etc. -- weren't all that widespread in Detroit. Because air conditioning was not as common up north as in the south, the summers seemed a lot hotter than they had to be and the winters, of course, were a lot harsher. (Fortunately, the Northerners believed in central heating far more than they believed in air conditioning.)

I didn't realize how attached I was getting to the South until I realized one day in Michigan that I actually missed my life in Texas. I didn't kid myself that things would automatically be wonderful when I got back, but I did miss it in a way that I never thought would be possible.

I can't help but find it an odd coincidence that of the handful of women with whom I have actually fallen in love, at least six were Southern women. My best friend is a Southern woman (and gasp! a non-Catholic to boot) and, of course, the one woman I have ever got engaged to was born right here in Texas. The one time I dated a Yankee woman (actually, a Latvian immigrant who grew up in New York but I considered her a Yankee) proved a disaster. And when I got into a conversation last week with an Irish Catholic women from Chicago who insisted on badmouthing Southern women, my first instinct was not to say, “Right on.” It was to contradict her.

I'm not going to pretend that the South is perfect or that there aren't a lot of areas for improvement here in Texas. I'll never be the type of person who proudly displays the Stars and Bars or waxes nostalgic over the old Confederacy.

But I no longer kid myself that I would be happier up north than I am here in Texas. If I was forced to move there tomorrow, I'd probably learn to adjust. But it wouldn't be a process that I would look forward to.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

R.I.P. Paul Scofield

Noted British actor Paul Scofield, best known for playing Sir Thomas More in 1966's A Man for All Seasons, died Wednesday.

He will be missed.

And since I used to post on the old Cinemarati website under the user name Thomas More, I most definitely pray that this isn't an omen.

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
--Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God”

Courtesy of The House Next Door

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

Noted science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke died today.

He will be missed.

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Ginger Rogers: Single Mom

Hey, everybody, it's everyone's favorite actress Ginger Rogers playing an unwed mother in 1939's Bachelor Mother. (And here I had gotten the impression from all those Fred Astaire movies that she was a nice girl.)

Okay, seriously, the character Ginger plays in this movie, Polly Parrish, is a nice girl, and the process through which she becomes an unwed mother is more of a comedy of errors than the usual way would be. The whole thing starts one day when Parrish sees a woman leaving an infant on the doorstep of the local foundling home. Fearing for the baby's safety, she takes it upon herself to take the baby inside. There she gets caught up in a huge misunderstanding when she is mistaken for the child's birth mother and well...things escalate from there.

One subplot involves a feisty co-worker talking her into joining a local dance contest. (Though where the writers got the idea that Ginger Rogers was a good dancer, I'll never know...) Yet another subplot involves her tentative romance with a patrician character named David Merlin (played by David Niven, natch) who just happens to be the son of her boss. (And in a way, he's her boss as well.)

Since this is a comedy written during the Code era, the writers do not mention the most obvious drawbacks to being a single mother like Parrish, but to their credit, they do not pretend that the experience is a day in the park either. Even though Ms. Parrish gets help from a kindly landlady and David Merlin, she still ends up losing a lot of sleep due to an infant which is not even hers. Nor can she escape the unwanted stigma that all too often came with being an unwed mother in that era.

Fortunately, she gets a happy ending of sorts. But unfortunately, said ending requires her to play a role she never really wanted to play to begin with: that of the child's mother. More than a few of the movie's male characters have to deal with embarrassing misunderstandings too but Ms. Parrish proves to be the only character in the movie who is never truly vindicated.

Here's hoping she at least got a heck of a gift on Mother's Day. The poor dear definitely earned it.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Runaway Bride”

Oh, great. A week after my breakup with my former bride-to-be, I broke down crying halfway through a viewing of Sweet Charity. Why? Because I had just gotten to the part when Charity's boyfriend was breaking up with her and for some reason, the scene evoked bad memories.

Yet weeks later, I'm watching an episode of Doctor Who that seems calculated to push all my emotional buttons and I don't even shed a tear. (I did cry the morning after, but I wasn't exactly thinking about the episode at the time.)

The emotional buttons in question:

1. Disrupted wedding? Check.

2. Bride-to-be who has issues with her parents. Check.

3. Reminder of a past girlfriend (Doctor Who's, of course, not the bride's, though that certainly would have made for an interesting subplot). Check.

4. Torrent of endless heartbreak. Check, check and check.

And yet again, I note, I did not shed a tear.

I don't know how to explain it. I still go off when I see certain reminders of my bride-to-be though I do not go off as often as I did two weeks ago. But it seems a trifle unfair to take it out on the show and I must admit that “The Runaway Bride” was one of the better episodes I've seen. (Someday, I'll give my thoughts on earlier episodes but not right now.)

Anyway, the story proved to be very entertaining. I must admit to having a soft spot for spunky redheads and while the runaway bride of the episode's title was not hardly the brightest companion the Doctor has ever had, she was certainly one of the most memorable.

I'm not sure what to say about the not-so-subtle anti-marriage subtext (after all the romantic rhetoric about marriage in Season One's "Father's Day" episode, this episode's take on marriage seems a bit harsh). Nor do I really want to comment on the subplot concerning a deadly single mother. (Yes, another single mom. Apparently the show's writers have a weakness for such characters.)

And what's with the episode's last-minute deus ex machina? Could it be connected to a future episode?

It's interesting to compare this series' “so what?” attitude to interracial relationships to the “let's shock the bourgeois” attitude seen in Borat. Of course, it would be argued that any series that has an alien as its protagonist and Earthwomen as its secondary characters would have to have a liberal attitude towards interracial relationships lest it suffer a charge of hypocrisy. After all, who would want to watch a show that expects you to buy the lead female character mooning over an alien but has trouble depicting a relationship between a black Earth man and a white Earth woman? Okay, some people probably would, but not the type that I prefer to know.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

All the Classic Movies That I Have Seen

1. Wife vs. Secretary (1936).

It's blonde bombshell Jean Harlow as you have never seen her before, playing an ultra-efficient secretary. And, oh yes, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy are in this movie too. Gable plays Harlow's boss and Loy plays Gable's wife. All goes perfectly until Loy starts listening to female acquaintances who fear Gable is getting along too comfortably with his secretary. Suddenly Loy gets jealous and all Hades breaks loose.

Okay, to be fair, the movie is not quite as melodramatic as the title makes it seem. And I found it hard to imagine any character played by Myrna Loy having cause to be jealous of anyone, even an internationally famous sex symbol like Jean Harlow.

And yet after seeing how quickly my own relationship with my former novia was undermined by the insinuations of mi novia's parents (mi novia would say one thing and after a five-minute conversation with her parents, turn around and say the exact opposite), I find the plot of this movie a lot easier to believe than I used to.

Still, Myrna Loy being jealous of another woman...who would have thunk it?

2. Blonde Venus (1932).

No, Marlene Dietrich isn't the most convincing actress in the world when it comes to playing German hausfraus. In fact, she seems more convincing in this movie when she puts a veil in front of her face and pretends to be a Spaniard than when she plays a loving German housewife and mother.

And one has to wonder just how serious one should take a movie in which the main romance starts off as the result of blackmail. (Oh, those oh so romantic Europeans!)

Yet this movie manages to be intriguing despite itself. Among other things, it features an early appearance by Cary Grant, who plays a gruffer character than his usual persona, and a surprising number of nude scenes (none of which feature Ms. Dietrich, alas).

Since the movie begins when Dietrich's future husband catches her skinny-dipping with her co-workers in a local pond, it's tempting to see this movie as an updated version of the old Swan Maiden legend. But Ms. Dietrich never dons any type of bird outfit in this movie. Indeed, the closest she comes to such an outfit is when she puts on a gorilla suit for a musical number.

For that matter, one can see a parallel between this movie and Ibsen's The Doll's House since like Nora, Dietrich's character is forced to do something not quite kosher in order to help out her ailing husband. Word gets out about what exactly Ms. Dietrich did and the couple separate.

Do they get together again? See the movie and find out. But, given the sentimental nature of certain scenes, you can probably guess the ending long before it happens.

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TV Quote of the Week

I love being Spanish as much as I love being Irish, and I *really* love being Irish.
--Martin Sheen, Inside the Actors Studio

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

All the New* Movies That I Have Seen

1. The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)

Well, as you can see from the item above, The Notorious Bettie Page certainly had one of the most memorable posters of the last five years. Unfortunately, it was a poster that promised a more sexually enticing movie than the filmmakers actually delivered.

Which is not to say that it was a bad movie. Gretchen Mol did a great job as the title character, bringing off scenes that would embarrass the heck out of less assured actresses and managing to create a believable character out of the type of person (in this case, a pinup girl who posed for nude, seminude and bondage fetish pictures) that most actresses would be tempted to play as a cartoon.

For that matter, director Mary Harron managed to downplay some of the more melodramatic aspects of the real Bettie Page's life, depicting the abuse she received from her father and her first husband in a surprisingly subtle manner. (Indeed, if not for the way Ms. Mol's character flinched when her father asked her in one scene to stay behind, one would never guess that the two of them had been in an abusive relationship.) Then there was a poetically photographed bus trip which was almost worth the price of the movie.

If the film did have a fatal flaw, it was the emphasis it put on the controversy surrounding fetishism. On one hand, the filmmakers did not exactly side with the conservatives who were trying to suppress the type of fetish photos Ms. Page so often posed for. On the other hand, they did not exactly put the distributors of said photos in a good light either. (Indeed, the constant distinction one photographer made between the type of respectable gentlemen who bought his “dirty” pictures and the not-so-respectable people who buy similar photos from other sources would seem to indicate that hypocrisy was to be found on both sides of the controversy.)

I have to give credit to the director for not exploiting the heck out of the most sensational aspects of Bettie Page's life but I can't really pretend that the result was the type of movie that most people are going to go out of their way to see.

It was what it was. And for me, that was good enough.

2. Ask the Dust (2006)

As I noted in an earlier post, the one thing that really wowed me about this movie was Idina Menzel's performance in a scene that should not have worked but did. And it says something about Ms. Menzel's performance that though she was stuck in an unflattering role, she lingered on in my memory long after her more famous co-stars (Salma Hayek, Colin Farrell and Donald Sutherland) were forgotten.

However, the film did not revolve around Ms. Menzel's character and the minute her character ceased to be part of the storyline, the movie went downhill. To be fair, the movie was based on a John Fante novel and many critics would argue that Fante's work is not all that easy to adapt. Yet the few changes made in Fante's story by director Robert Towne did not exactly improve the movie.

The movie was about a struggling Italian-American writer named Arturo Bandini (played by Colin Farrell) and his affair with a fiery Mexican waitress (played, por supuesto, by Salma Hayek). Bandini wanted very badly to become the next Ernest Hemingway but the film made it obvious from his impoverished surroundings that Bandini was still a long way from reaching that status. Then Bandini finally managed to get a short story published in a magazine.

He bragged about his success at a nearby diner and tried to impress the pretty waitress (mentioned above) who worked there. Unfortunately, the waitress was not impressed and when Bandini tried to prove that he was indeed a published author by handing her a copy of the magazine that contained his story, the waitress responded by disposing of said magazine in the trash.

His work, however, did manage to impress Vera Rivkin, the character played by Ms. Menzel. Rivkin was a Jewish-American housekeeper who, despite being a lowly servant, still managed to have more money than Bandini. Because she had been rejected by her husband, she tried to make up for her loneliness by playing both fan and patron -- as well as would-be girlfriend -- to Bandini. Unfortunately for her, Bandini did not exactly welcome her affection, preferring his unrequited romance with Ms. Hayek's character over any possible relationship with Ms. Rivkin. One of the funniest scenes in the movie involved Ms. Rivkin's failure to realize this. Yet it was to Ms. Menzel's credit that her character managed to be far more sympathetic than either of the two lead characters.

Unfortunately, Ms. Hayek was not so fortunate. Her character's fate seemed obvious to any fan of opera or Greta Garbo movies the minute she announced her first name, and it did not help that director Towne chose to have her character portrayed as an illiterate, no doubt operating under the theory that this would make some of her actions more understandable. (The book, of course, made no mention of the waitress's level of literacy.)

Though the movie tried very hard to make some valid points about inter-ethnic relationships in Depression-era Los Angeles (pointing out, for example, the prejudice against Jews, the prejudice against Mexicans, etc.), it never quite got around to telling a compelling story. Nor did it resist promoting the same ethnic stereotypes (the illiterate Mexican, the pushy Jew, the arrogant Italian) that it was supposedly preaching against. The result was not exactly a bad movie -- I did get the feeling that director Towne meant well -- but not exactly a good movie either. And definitely not a movie in the same class as earlier Towne films such as Chinatown and Personal Best.

It was what it was, and in this case, that was not enough.

*“New” in this case meaning “made since the year 2001.”

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Mensa's Top 10 Smartest TV Shows of All Time

Well, I don't know about all time but here's the list one Mensa member made:

1. Frasier
2. The West Wing
3. Boston Legal
4. Jeopardy!
5. Cosmos
6. House
7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
8. All in the Family
9. Mad About You
10. M*A*S*H

My thoughts?

Personally, I think it would be far more entertaining to read some of the comments various Internet posters have made about this list--including the inevitable "why didn't he include this show" complaints -- than to watch some of these TV shows.

It's not that I hate "smart" TV shows. I have to admit that I'm a sucker for any TV show that has witty dialogue and especially clever plots and that at least four shows on that list (Frasier, House, All in the Family and M*A*S*H) are among my all-time favorites.

And yet...

If it were up to me, I'd write a different list.

I guess that's why I find myself amused every time a critc goes on and on about how horrid it is why more people don't like "smart" movies or "smart" TV shows. After all, most "smart" people I meet in real life generally have radically different ideas of what constitutes a "smart" movie or a "smart" TV show. And while there's a lot to be said for TV shows and movies that encourage one to be smart and clever, it seems silly to pretend that there aren't a lot of things most truly smart people would rather do besides watch television and movies all the time.

Personally, I find that there are many times when I prefer to read a book. But then that's me... always having to be the contrarian.

Just like most smart people I know...

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Movie Quote of the Week

Okay, you guys! Listen up! People paid good money to see this movie. When they go out to a theatre, they want cold sodas, hot popcorn and no monsters in the projection booth.
--Hulk Hogan, Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nieve De Nuevo

Apparently we're due to have another cold snap tonight and we might even have snow too, which would mean us Dallasites getting snow for the second time this week. I guess it's Mother Nature's way of reminding us that winter isn't officially over yet. Unless, of course, you prefer to blame Shanna Swendson, which doesn't seem just.

Anyway, I've already seen sleet come down from the sky this afternoon and I'm already dreading the drive to work tonight. And we had such great weather yesterday too.

But then if I were back home in Detroit, I'd probably be experiencing temperatures in the teens and single digits right now so I shouldn't really complain.

And yes, the word "nieve" in the title means "snow" in Spanish, just in case you tend to be a bit rusty in that language. Other Spanish words related to "snow" can be found here.

Be grateful I didn't make a joke about certain electoral victories being a sign that you-know-where has frozen over...

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Movie Song of the Week: “I'm Against It”

I really didn't want to post another song from Gold Diggers of 1933 so soon after last week. So I went with the second most obvious choice, this time from the 1932 Marx Brothers comedy Horse Feathers.

After all, it is an election year...

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

All the Classic* Movies That I Have Seen

1. Only Angels Have Wings (1939).

Cary Grant played a snarky guy who had been jilted by a former girlfriend and now had difficulty relating to any female. So totally not the type of guy I can identify with right now...

The film was one of those subtle thrillers in which the arrival of a key character was announced with a flash of lightning and a sound of thunder.

And yet in spite of it all, I kinda liked this film. If nothing, its ending was very memorable and emotionally satisfying.

Though I was kinda surprised to see Jean Arthur of all people -- an actress best known for playing homebodies like the mother in Shane and demure reporters like the one in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town -- playing a showgirl. Granted, she didn't fit the image one usually thinks of when one thinks of showgirls. (There's no way Ms. Arthur would ever be mistaken for, say, Jane Russell or Joan Blondell.) But she managed to pull it off.

I was even more surprised to see Rita Hayworth make an appearance. And though she played a character named Judy, Cary never once said the obvious “Judy, Judy, Judy” line so often attributed to him by celebrity impersonators. Yet another Hollywood myth bites the dust.

2. Holiday (1938).

Yet another Cary Grant movie. No, I don't have a thing for Cary Grant but I do admire his movies. And quite frankly, who wouldn't want to be a member of any club that has Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in it?

This movie has been eclipsed by its more well-known successor The Philadelphia Story, which is a shame. Both Grant and Hepburn gave memorable performances, and Lew Ayres actually managed to play the type of character I didn't think was possible -- an alcoholic character which was actually sympathetic.

Perhaps, it was because Ayres's character displayed a certain self-awareness about his drinking that certain characters in more recent films (Sideways, Crazy/Beautiful, etc.) have not. Ayres' character did not really ask us to pity him for his condition; indeed, he showed far more pity for his sibling (played by Katharine Hepburn) than for himself. And though we were not really told the reasons for his constant drinking (there was some hint of a riff between him and his father but it was never fully explained in detail), director George Cukor wasn't above dropping a few hints that might or might not have meant something. (For example, the way he responded to certain remarks Ms. Hepburn's character made about Mr. Grant's character.)

Anyway, the result was an enjoyable movie that really deserved to be far more well-known.

* “Classic” in this case meaning “made before 1970.”

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All Politics Is Loco, Parte II

Last night, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary and John McCain won the Republican primary.

Time will tell whether or not these victories were good things.

Suffice to say I'm not really a big fan of either candidate, nor am I a big fan of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee.

It looks like another one of those "lesser of two evils" elections this year...

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

All the Things That I Have Seen

1. P.S. I Love You (2007).

It seems like a sick joke to admit this but this was the last romantic movie mi ex-novia and I saw together. It wasn't really a comedy because there were a lot of things that happened in this movie that weren't really funny. But it was better than I expected, and I'm kinda glad I let mi ex-novia talk me into seeing it.

The movie was about a woman (played by Hilary Swank) who lost her husband to cancer and spent the rest of the movie trying to come to terms with his death. Along the way, she started getting letters that were written by her deceased spouse prior to his death. The letters encouraged her to do things that will help her adjust to life without him.

Did they work?

See the movie and decide for yourself. And yes, the storyline makes it seem like a remake of Catch and Release, but it's still worth seeing even if you're the type of person who didn't like Catch and Release. (For what it's worth, I was kinda luke-warm about Catch and Release but I enjoyed this film -- if enjoy is the proper term to use in regard to a movie about death -- a lot more.)

2. Charlie Wilson's War (2007).

The type of film that makes you really, really want to hate the Russians. Yet it's obviously more ambitious than the usual death-to-the-Commies thriller.

It's tempting to call this movie Afghan Invasion for Dummies because it seems obvious from the first frame that the film isn't exactly aimed at the type of people who would buy tickets to see The Kite Runner.

But in its own way, it manages to work, even if it seems far more comfortable with its protagonist's Clintonian activities (drinking, womanizing, etc.) than it does with the more serious political implications of its storyline.

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All Politics Is Loco, Parte I

I've been trying to refrain from posting too much political stuff on this site because I'm really not into political debates as much as I used to be. The older I get, the more I see issues in shades of gray and most often, I think of things in terms of not so much good and evil as responsible and irresponsible. That doesn't mean I don't have political beliefs. Just that they tend to be far more complicated than most people would prefer.

Anyway, I'm going to vote in the Texas primary today.

Wish me well.

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Political Quotes I Like

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.
--Lord Acton

Posterity: You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.
--John Quincy Adams

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for a good man to do nothing.
--Edmund Burke

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
--Andrew Carnegie

The price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that someday they might force their beliefs on us.
--Mario Cuomo

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.
--Malcolm Forbes

If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
--Anatole France

I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat.
--Will Rogers

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.
--Harry Truman

If you think too much about being re-elected, it is very difficult to be worth re-electing.
--Woodrow Wilson

If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself what am I? And if not now, when?

There is value in taking a stand, whether or not anybody may be noticing it, or whether or not it is a risky thing to do.
--Teresa Heinz Kerry

I believe I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans. Am I either one? Absolutely not. Ladies and gentlemen, I am an American.
--David Letterman

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Literary Quote I Like

“Hi,” I said. “Omnes mundum facimus.”

“That's all right. I don't need the magic phrase. But as long as we're on the subject, have you worked it out yet?”

I had, finally. “It's a comeback,” I told him. “To that thing people say when they don't want to be blamed for a bad situation: 'I didn't make the world, I only live in it.'”
--Matt Ruff, Bad Monkeys

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TV Quote of the Week

People who don't care about anything will never understand the people who do.
--David Boreanaz, Angel, “Not Fade Away”

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Poema de Mi Id: Parte I

For a person Mi Mejor Amiga and I once knew:

“I Never Had Time for You”

I never had time for you
When your sister hit your eye.
I never had time for you
When the bullies made you cry.

I never had time for you
When you cried yourself to sleep.
I never had time for you
When your best friend proved a creep.

Now I have made time for you
And soon I will see you wed.
Oh, why won't you look at me
And why do you turn your head?

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Más Cambios

I've added still more links this week.

1. Elenamary: my favorite blogger of Mexican-Irish descent. (Okay, the only blogger of Mexican-Irish descent I know of.) Her work is always interesting and if nothing else, I love her use of the word “Mirish” to describe people of her ethnic background. (By that logic, I should start referring to myself as “Molish” since I'm half-Mexican and half-Polish. But for some reason, that word doesn't sound as poetic as “Mirish”.)

2. John Scalzi's Whatever: a science fiction writer who always has something interesting to say, even if I disagree with it. Usually I don't, unless it involves unqualified praise of certain Journey songs. But still...

3. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database: one of my favorite sites for procrasi -- er, I mean, research.

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