Our crack staff of thinkers, bloggers, jugglers, spies and clowns is taking off for vacation. We’ll all one of us be back after Labor Day with more observations on politics, movies, sex, books, sex and politics. And sex. Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer.
It’s time for PJTV’s Klavan on the Culture again. And I know what you’re thinking. You look at my fabulous lifestyle and sigh, “Gee, I’d like to be a pundit too!” But hold the phone! It’s not as easy as all that. Here I am in miniature Youtubian form to explain the basic principles that can make punditry work for you.
Visual background guy Justin Folk sticks my head on various bodies while various pundits stick their heads elsewhere:
Am I the only movie buff on earth who missed this film entirely? It came out in 1998, while I was still living overseas, so maybe that’s why. But if like me, you’ve never seen or heard of it, it’s good! Really good! Immensely fun, smart, creepy and cool.
The most important thing I can tell you about the movie: don’t read any descriptions of it before you watch! No fooling. Almost all of them contain huge spoilers. The one in Leonard Maltin’s movie guide – a book I like, especially for older films – is horrible and basically tells you the end of the picture in the first sentence. Len! Love you, dude, but WTF?
As for the rest, it’s a classic thriller set-up: a guy wakes up with no memory and finds himself a suspect in a series of murders of prostitutes. And that’s when things begin to get weird. What’s so great though is that they never get weird as in the TV show Lost or a film like Stay where pretty soon you realize things can’t be explained except by resorting to some version of “it’s all a dream.” There’s something happening here and the film plays completely fair in letting the story behind the story unravel.
Top-flight cast too: Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt and more. That’s Ian Richardson being spooky-looking in the picture.
Anyway, forgive me if everyone else on earth has seen this. It really took me by surprise: popped up on my Netflix recommendations; I thought it was terrific. I got the Director’s Cut by accident – usually I find the DC self-indulgent and overlong, nowhere near as good as the one pounded into shape by the cynics and bean counters at the studio – but this time I thought it was excellent, though I haven’t seen the original.
Definitely worth watching.
Question: What’s the difference between a Federal Jobs Creation Program and Kim Kardashian’s wedding?
Answer: Kim Kardashian’s wedding creates jobs.
I have no idea who Kim Kardashian is. I say this advisedly. It might sound like a boast. After all, I could’ve googled her before I started writing, but I didn’t, so maybe I’m proud of my ignorance. Be that as it may, the simple fact is I’m completely clueless as to why Kim Kardashian is a celebrity.
Thus when I asked my wife why helicopters were buzzing round and round above my house this past Saturday, I was not terribly enlightened at being told that Kim Kardashian was getting married somewhere in the neighborhood. And later, at a dinner party that night when someone remarked on the constant and irritating presence of the choppers, I sounded more knowing than I was when I said, “Must be Kim Kardashian’s wedding.”
It was at this point someone at the party said scornfully, “That wedding cost ten million dollars! That’s obscene in these hard times with so many people suffering!”
Is it obscene? Really? Unless Kim Kardashian is famous for robbing banks, I don’t see why. Assuming she made her money honestly, then every dollar she has was given to her freely by a public who thought she was worth it. She, in turn, freely decided it would be worth it to her to spend that freely given money on her wedding. And because there was no force in operation other than free human desire — the public’s desire to see Kim Kardashian do whatever it is she does for a living and Kim Kardashian’s desire to get married in high style — every single dime spent on that wedding helped create a job — if by a job, we mean a task someone does because someone else wants or needs it done.
Consider it. No money was taken at gunpoint during the making of this wedding. No power was exerted over others. No jumped-up prince of a middle man decided what should or shouldn’t be eaten or drunk or spent or by whom. No useless government department was formed, taking capital out of the economy. No time was wasted by officious bureaucrats who don’t have any reason to do their job efficiently or well. Not at all. Kim, God bless her, wanted — I don’t know what — flowers, let’s say, by the thousands, and so Flora the Florist set to work providing them in return for her daily bread. Kim wanted a cake the size of the Ritz, or whatever, and Charlie the Chef got to work on that. Even the annoying helicopters were freely paid for by someone who, I guess, wanted aerial photos of the nuptials. And the photographers earned their keep because people who want to see the pics will freely buy whatever magazine they’re in.
In truth, the economy was more stimulated in my little neighborhood this weekend than it has been anywhere in the country during the entire Obama administration.
Well, this is pretty much everything you could ask for in a summer popcorn movie: mindless fun from start to finish. And if you’ll forgive my writerly prejudice, I think much of the reason for this lies in the script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Brilliantly condensed without being rushed, smart without leaving behind the audience, and so engrossing its implausibilities are irrelevant, it’s almost a textbook on how to deliver a crowd pleaser that doesn’t insult the intelligence.
It’s basically a new Planet of the Apes origin story, tracing the whole business back to one genetically-altered chimp named Caesar who becomes too smart for our own good. Great special effects, some visually stunning action scenes. A wise decision to concentrate on backstory and motivation and leave the big set pieces for the end. And best of all, you don’t really know who to root for, which gives the picture a little more edge than the usual piece of entertainment.
The biggest negative: James Franco, who stars. He can be good, but he phones this one in and it’s annoying. On the other hand, the painfully beautiful and charming Freida Pinto (pictured above) from Slumdog Millionaire provides some thinking man’s eye candy. And Andy Serkis – the actor who created Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Kong in the 2005 King Kong remake – is just terrific as Caesar. The guy is having a kind of career that never existed before and is clearly great at what he does.
An all around good time.
When looking for insights, the old hands are so often the best. Norman Podhoretz – the great editor of Commentary magazine from 1960-1995, when the torch was passed to his son John – weighed in at the Wall Street Journal over the weekend with an op-ed headlined, “What Happened to Obama? Absolutely Nothing.”
No white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) “non-threatening,” all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?
And so it came about that a faithful scion of the political culture of the ’60s left is now sitting in the White House and doing everything in his power to effect the fundamental transformation of America to which that culture was dedicated and to which he has pledged his own personal allegiance.
I disagree with those of my fellow conservatives who maintain that Mr. Obama is indifferent to “the best interests of the United States” (Thomas Sowell) and is “purposely” out to harm America (Rush Limbaugh). In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.
But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president’s attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it. That is why my own answer to the question, “What Happened to Obama?” is that nothing happened to him. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.
A fearless and grounded description, without fake psychologizing or feverish speculation or, indeed, the sort of clenched anger that can cause you to miss what’s right in front of your face. This is how you get to be one of the Big Boys. Read the whole thing here. It’s worth it.
I happened upon Rick Perry’s speech this weekend in a manner typical of myself. I had just turned the TV on to program my DVR to record some obscure foreign cultural something-or-other when the Texas governor appeared onscreen to announce his candidacy for president. I had never seen Perry speak before. I’d asked my knowledgeable friends about him. Some loved him; some said he was a twit. I sat down to watch to see for myself. Here is what I saw.
The speech started out uncomfortably. I was put off by the mawkish tribute to the fallen Navy SEALs at the beginning. Our hallowed dead are worthy of every honor, but there was something ever-so-slightly unpleasant about a politician attempting to harness our grief and pride in order to serve a moment of career self-advancement.
Then came Perry’s life story. His childhood on a cotton farm in the tiny town of Paint Creek, Texas; his wooing of the childhood sweetheart who became his wife; his graduation from Texas A&M; his stint in the Air Force. I hadn’t heard it before and was interested and favorably impressed.
Next there was the red meat indictment of the current administration for its abominable failure on almost every score. I like red meat as much as the next man and I joined the crowd’s applause from my sofa. After all, Barack Obama’s failure is so abysmal and complete that he’s turned even the killing of Osama bin Laden into an asterisk. It can’t be told often enough.
This article in last week’s Hollywood Reporter laid out the team that will be tackling the Homelanders movie:
Miles Chapman has been hired to pen Summit’s adaptation of Homelanders, a young-adult book series by Andrew Klavan. Screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, best known as the showrunners of TV’s Smallville, are working with Chapman in developing Homelanders and, while no deals are made, are in talks to make their directorial debut on it.
Lorenzo Di Bonaventura is producing while Di Bonaventura Pictures’ David Ready is exec producing.
The books, described as The Bourne Identity crossed with Disturbia, centers on a high school student who wakes up to find himself tied to a chair, not knowing where he is or how a whole year has passed. After he manages to escape, he embarks on an adventure to find out why terrorists and the authorities are after him.
Summit and the filmmakers are inserting a sci-fi element to the story.
You can read the whole thing here. And yes, of course, I’d already heard about the “sci-fi element.” I don’t know what it is, but I’m assuming it’s to avoid confronting the whole Islamo-fascist part of the story. That’s Hollywood, folks, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. But the creative team is top-notch, and I have high hopes they’ll make a good film notwithstanding.
Again, I’m writing this in an Amtrak station on an iPad so forgive me for not providing links and so forth. I’ve been following this story about Kathryn Bigelow making a movie about the killing of bin Laden to be released just before the next presidential election. They’re probably already writing the scene in which Obama rappels down the side of a mountain in the Kush to take out his target. I can’t help comparing this with the embargo that has been put on “The Road to 9/11,” which Bill Clinton didn’t like and which has therefore not been released on DVD, or more recently the trouble given to the mini-series about The Kennedys. And of course there will never be a film celebrating George W. Bush’s truly gutsy call in surging to win the war in Iraq. The left works overtime to keep its stranglehold on the narrative. They are vicious and dishonest in the fight. They censor and they blacklist. But in the end, I have to ask, where are the conservative billionaires committed to the culture, committed to fighting back, truth against lies? Where are the funding and political support and protection for films with a conservative bent? The left knows the culture counts over time. We don’t.