2015/02/27

The Kingsmen


Ah, thought I recognized one of the names in the credits. The Kingsmen is based on the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen). Extreme, over the top violence, but as the heroes (Colin Firth plays the mentor to Taron Egerton) are quite mannerly and very rarely get their hair so much as mussed, it's easy to follow the story anyway. Samuel Jackson puts a lot of gusto into his role as the maniacal villain and Sofia Boutella plays a very deadly and acrobatic minion/lover of Jackson's.  

2015/02/18

Conservative comedy


Good piece in The Atlantic about conservative humor and how conservatives can't seem to produce any popular comedians. One example of conservative attempts at humor kind of jumped out at me as I remembered a liberal comedian commenting on this general viewpoint just a short while ago.
“What’s the deal with Harry Reid?” [The host of The Flipside, Michael Loftus] asked in a recent episode. “You either hate him or you hate him, am I right? The man is in the business of telling people how greedy they are, and how they don’t pay their fair share, and he lives in the Ritz Carlton … This guy is literally Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
I immediately recalled an observation from the liberal comedian Russell Brand:
Some people say I'm a hypocrite because I've got money now. When I was poor and I complained about inequality people said I was bitter, now I'm rich and I complain about inequality they say I'm a hypocrite. I'm beginning to think they just don't want inequality on the agenda because it is a real problem that needs to be addressed.

Which means that conservatives like Loftus set up a “Heads I win, tails you lose” kind of situation for critics of income inequality with this “observation” on “hypocrisy.” Combine that with the comment on the former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Republicans now have the Senate Majority, so Reid is now the Minority Leader), that “You either hate him or you hate him...” and we have a very sour, mean-spirited “joke” that you have to be a really, really hard-core conservative to appreciate.
On a further note, I don't recall any particular hypocrisies from Mr. Burns. I always saw Mr. Burns as just an greedy elitist who wants to rip everyone off. There may very well have been hypocrisies on his part, but I don't recall any.


Update: Rush Limbaugh gives us a marvelous example of real, genuine hypocrisy. During the time when Democrats controlled the Senate and were considering filibuster reform, Limbaugh though such a thing would be an example of evil, unmitigated tyranny. Now that the GOP is in charge of the Senate, filibuster reform is just a good, All-American thing to do.  

2015/01/30

Birdman


Figured I'd better hurry up and see Birdman before it disappeared from the theaters as it was already down the three showings a day and was in one of the very back theaters in the cineplex. Glad I did! The hero (Michael Keaton) has super-powers (Flight and telekinesis), but he doesn't appear to have ever used them to fight crime or evil. He appears to have just used them as aids to his acting career. The fun part of the film is seeing the actors lead these really interesting, dramatic lives away from the stage. Do actors in real life actually lead such stormy lives offstage? Eh, probably not, but it's fun to think they do.

2015/01/04

West Philly Families Solidarity March


By Sachio Ko-yin
                                                                                           January 3 2015

You couldn't drive down Baltimore Ave. Police blocked off the street, and down marched an army of children and their parents, wielding umbrellas, kazoos and tambourines.  At least half the marchers rode on shoulders and backs. They held up signs reading, “Black Lives Matter” and “Kids for Equality,” then veered off into Clark Park chanting, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

A parent spoke at the end, braving the rain with no umbrella:
“When we were planning, someone asked us, ‘What do we want from this march?’ I thought about it, and realized I want to see you, to meet you. I want to know who else in this community is raising their children to stand up for justice, with the values of activism, against racism and police brutality, for involvement in their community.”



About 40 minutes before the march began, we gathered in the sanctuary of Calvary Church (48th and Baltimore), a room  full of some 100 parents and children and community members. The agenda was simple: Introduce your family to the families around you, and then, find someone you haven’t met yet, and share a hope for your community.



I saw many parents and younger children, but I also heard local high schoolers who were outraged at the verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the Eric Garner case. They came today to express themselves. Their plan was to report back to their class about what marching was like.

An organizer invited parents and children up to the microphone for the speak-out. “Ok, now we can say what’s on our minds, for about 30 seconds. But please remember this is for children, so please keep it short and simple.”



One parent said “I often feel like my life as a parent and my life as an activist are at odds. But for me, being here today, I want my family to meet your family. We are here to dispel the myth that we live in a post-racial society.”

Speakers shared their concerns about racism in society, gentrification, stop and frisk, and defunding of schools. There were songs like ‘From Ferguson to New York, I’m gonna let it shine.’

And there was a 4.5 minute ‘Noise-In’, where everyone raised their tambourines and kazoos for justice for Black Lives Matter, followed by a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin, for Michael Brown, and all victims of racist police brutality.



Then it was time to put on coats, get umbrellas ready, hold up colorful signs, and funnel out the door to take over Baltimore Ave, to sing and chant for justice and for conscience, as community and as family.

2014/12/13

Exodus


Pretty good! Exodus reminds me of Noah, earlier this year. Generally, both movies stick close to their source, diverging now and then to have the story make more sense. Naturally, the Ten Commandments by Cecil B.DeMille, starring Charlton Heston (1956), didn't have Moses engaging in any sort of romantic subplots, so I thought the part of Exodus where Moses marries a woman from Midian (Zipporah was played by Maria Valverde) was an attempt to jazz up the movie for today's audiences. Nope, I went to one of my bookshelves after getting back from the movie, checked my Revised Standard version of the Bible (1952) and, sure enough, Moses escaped Egypt, went to Midian, got married and they had a son. Then he returned to Egypt and started pressuring the Pharaoh to release his Hebrew brothers and sisters. I liked that the movie made Moses the adopted brother of the Pharaoh and an honored aristocrat in the beginning of the movie before he ran off to Midian. Makes sense and makes the whole conflict between hm and the Pharaoh more direct and personal.

And no, it's true that Moses was not historically a white person but he's played here by a white actor (Christian Bale). The director says he needed investment money to start with and needed viewers later, so he needed a “bankable” star. I decided to take the ethnicity of Moses as one of those ”suspension of disbelief” things, y'know, where Superman chats with Green Lantern on the surface of Mars, and where you accept the premise so that you can then concentrate on the human drama, the relationships between the characters, the cool special effects, etc. And I agree that any time is a good time, any time is a bad time, to start introducing diversity into movie casting. There's no reason why 2014 is any better than 2024 or any worse that 2004 or vice-versa.

Saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 last week. Recommend seeing parts 1 and 2 in a reasonably close-together fashion. Mockngjay part 1 will probably come out on DVD or on one of the cable channels when Part 2 is about to show, so it shouldn't be difficult to do that. .




2014/12/09

The torture report


The torture report, well, the redacted summary of the 6,000 page full report anyway, makes clear that the second, subsidiary, justification for torture made during the G.W. Bush Administration is complete poppycock. The first justification concerns morality and is premised on the “ticking time bomb” scenario where a single person can suffer torture now or a lot of people can suffer an exploded bomb within a short time period.

The second justification is one of effectiveness, that torture can quickly and effectively elicit truthful answers in time to prevent terrible things from happening. It's the second justification that's squashed utterly by the report. Even people in the CIA, at the time, could see that the US wasn't obtaining any worthwhile information that couldn't have been obtained just as quickly by using a gentler approach. The Intelligence Committee reviewed 20 claims of torture having prevented a “ticking time bomb” scenario and found them all to be without foundation.

The report demonstrates that the CIA's torture program was out of control and that the CIA frequently lied to superiors and failed to even conduct any sort of internal assessment of whether torture was effective or not. Claims that the program was effective rested on lies and wishful thinking, not on any sort of factual basis.

What does it all mean? A society that tries to become a better society has no use for torture. Torture has a corrupting effect on its practitioners as the report documents. Torture has no benefits to balance or to justify its evil effects, not even if we agree that war in general is justified.

2014/11/21

Interstellar


An okay flick. If I were having a big party and wanted to keep something showing on the TV so that guests could wander by, watch a bit and then wander off, it'd be good for that. The FX and scenery are certainly good and the plot sufficiently long and drawn-out that no one would miss much if they were to get distracted. Certainly an attractive cast, with Matthew McConaughey as the hero, Anne Hathaway as the lone female among all the males in most of it and Jessica Chastain as the hero's grown-up daughter, certainly makes for plenty of eye candy.

My initial idea was to see Ouija as that has Bianca Santos in it, who is the star of Happyland, a series on MTV. But Ouija is only showing once per evening, after 10:00, so I figured I wouldn't see the horror flick after all. No biggie, I saw a few horror movies as a teenager but haven't seen any for many, many years. So I saw no need to break the pattern. Happyland is pretty cool though, a behind-the-scenes look at a Disney-ish amusement park.