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Klavan On The Culture

How to Ruin a Good Drug Doc with Leftist Propaganda

March 2nd, 2014 - 7:30 am
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If there’s one thing the left and right should be able to agree on, it’s the need to put an end to the so-called War on Drugs. Conservatives should oppose the War on Drugs because it empowers the government to restrict your private behavior, and we are for liberty; it unfairly targets the poor and black, and we are for justice; and it puts an undue burden on the police and we are for law and order. Leftists should oppose the War on Drugs because it throws so many of their voters in the slammer. Instead of giving dangerous felons the right to vote, as our venal hack Attorney General Eric Holder would do, we could just stop arresting people who don’t really need arresting in the first place. Presto, everyone’s happy: right wing freedom fighters, and corrupt “progressive” creeps as well.

So in theory, a well-made pro-legalization documentary like Matthew Cooke’s How to Make Money Selling Drugs should be able to appeal to right and left alike. And it would, if it were not full of unnecessary anti-Republican misinformation and propaganda.

Which, really, is a shame. It’s a clever and appealing film. It’s designed like a video game, in which you move from level to level: street dealer to supplier to drug lord to cartel king. There are some very good interviews with people who worked at most of these levels. And the film largely tells the truth about not only the uselessness, unfairness and abusiveness of the anti-drug laws but also the misery that drugs cause for so many of the people who use them. That is, it doesn’t romanticize the drug life; it just demonstrates convincingly that the laws don’t work to stem it.

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My “True Detective” Mini-Blog

February 28th, 2014 - 7:55 am

Readers of this blog might also be interested in a temporary mini-blog I’ve got going over at David Horowitz’s FrontPage Mag. The brilliant David and his likewise brilliant colleague Peter Collier and I were chatting about the HBO crime series True Detective. Many have hailed it as the next great crime show in this era of great crime shows. Me, I’m not so sure. So David and I decided I would blog for the remaining two episodes of the show, asking the question: is this thing really any good or, like, what? It’s lots of fun — though there are spoilers, so if you haven’t been watching, you might want to hold off reading. Anyway, here’s a sample and a link:

The biggest mystery at the center of the new HBO crime series True Detective is this: is this a good show or not? When the first episode ended, I thought, “I don’t know if that was great or mediocre.” Six of eight episodes in, I’m still not at all sure.

In part, this is a problem endemic to mystery stories: endings are dispositive. AMC’s The Killing had everything it took to be a great crime series — acting, atmosphere, intelligence, suspense — until the idiotic solutions rendered it second rate. The ending of Crime and Punishment secures the novel’s status as a work of genius, whereas the ending of Woody Allen’s attempt to nullify Crime and Punishment —Match Point — reveals the film as nothing deeper than you would expect from a really smart undergrad philosophizing over pizza and beer.

So we may not know the full truth about True Detective until the final hour’s close. But how’s it doing so far?

Read the rest here. There’ll be more soon.

Harold Ramis, RIP

February 25th, 2014 - 6:02 am
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Sad to hear about the death of Harold Ramis at 69. Ghostbusters, which he acted in and had a script credit on, and Groundhog Day, which he directed and had a script credit on, are, I think, genuinely classic movies. And while Stripes is probably of its time (I haven’t seen it in a while), in its time, it was pretty hysterical. Likewise National Lampoon’s Vacation and Caddyshack. There was also the just-miss Ice Harvest, an adaptation of one of the really fine crime novels of a second golden age of American crime novels in the ’80s and ’90s. I admired Ramis for seeing the dark humor of the book, even though he didn’t quite bring it off.

His best films weren’t just amusing, they also had heart — and better yet, heart without sentimentality. It’s not easy to get to heart coming out of a hyper-ironic generation of comedians — Bill Murray, Ramis’s frequent collaborator, is one of the chief among them. I’ve noticed that a lot of American comedians start out as oddball ironic outsiders and then end up making soppy “family” trash where they have to get all misty-eyed and sincere in the final scenes. Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy all come to mind. Even Murray’s done a few.

But Ramis’s great movies — Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day — are both deeply felt and even moving without ever losing their goofy, hip, ironic style. That’s very cool. I was a reader at Columbia Pictures when Ghostbusters came out. I saw it in a pre-release screening and I remember being blown away by the fact that it was scary, exciting and funny all at once. (Obviously director Ivan Reitman gets credit for that too.) Since the picture hadn’t opened yet, I wondered if anyone else would appreciate it! Apparently they did.

And as for Groundhog Day — the well-read conservative will of course have seen Jonah Goldberg’s excellent appreciation, re-posted over and over like Groundhog Day at NRO:

In the years since its release the film has been taken up by Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and followers of the oppressed Chinese Falun Gong movement. Meanwhile, the Internet brims with weighty philosophical treatises on the deep Platonist, Aristotelian, and existentialist themes providing the skin and bones beneath the film’s clown makeup. On National Review Online’s group blog, The Corner, I asked readers to send in their views on the film. Over 200 e-mails later I had learned that countless professors use it to teach ethics and a host of philosophical approaches. Several pastors sent me excerpts from sermons in which Groundhog Day was the central metaphor. And dozens of committed Christians of all denominations related that it was one of their most cherished movies.

It really is a terrific movie.

So a great career making films that not only made you laugh but touched you. Nicely done. Sorry to see him go.

Purity or Strategy: The Debate We Need To Have

February 23rd, 2014 - 8:38 am
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Last week, there was one of those mommy-and-daddy-are-fighting moments on Fox News as two powerhouse conservatives debated one of the most important issues facing the right. In one corner, was the dagger-sharp and stunningly beautiful and did I mention beautiful Ann Coulter. In the other corner, was the valiant, good-hearted and, you know, perfectly presentable in his own way Sean Hannity. No one can doubt either the patriotism or the fearlessness of these two. You may sometimes disagree with one or the other, that’s fine, but it seems undeniable that both have the good of the country first and foremost in their minds. Plus Ann’s really attractive.

You can watch the video to hear the whole thing but the gist is this. Ann thinks we have to stop “shysters” who pretend to represent the Tea Party from luring us into endless primaries against “establishment” Republicans. The thinking behind this (as I’ve heard her say elsewhere) is that there is only so much campaign money to go around and it needs to be focused wholly on defeating Democrats, winning a Republican majority in both houses and using that majority to “repeal Obamacare, repeal Obamacare, repeal Obamacare.”

Sean took a more purist Tea Party line, saying there are some Republicans who “should be defeated,” and endorsing the idea that we should primary the RINOs where we can and — my words here not his — we should end the civil war within the Republican Party by winning it for the true conservatives.

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Klavan on the Culture on the Culture

February 21st, 2014 - 5:48 am

Why is this man smiling? Could be he’s listening to the latest R.J. Moeller podcast in which the god-king of Hashtag Productions interviews Klavan on the Culture about the Culture, specifically, my new essay for the David Horowitz Freedom Center “The Crisis in the Arts: Why the Left Owns the Culture and How Conservatives Can Begin to Take it Back.” Which you can read for free here.

The podcast is available here. Or click the smile.

Sports Vs. Theater

February 18th, 2014 - 5:55 am

Over at the arts website Escape Into Life, a review of the play Bronx Bombers with some extremely interesting thoughts from my brother Scott Klavan on sports versus the theater:

Let’s face it: sports are better than theater. Every day and night, pro and amateur athletes, in major and minor leagues, take genuine risks, putting their bodies, their whole selves, out there, putting it all on the line. In sports, reputations are made and ruined in a game; healthy, seemingly invincible stars are frequently, seriously, injured and carted off the field. The crowd sits on the edge of its seat, rapt, watching to see if it’s a pass or run, if he’ll shoot or drive in, take the pitch or swing away. The audience gasps with excitement, curses in disappointment and yells out helplessly in surprise. People playing and watching remember the outcomes, the wins and losses, for many years, their whole lives. In sports, everything is spontaneous and something is at stake. Almost one hundred thousand people attended this year’s Rose Bowl. Over one hundred million watched the Super Bowl on TV, and it was a lousy game.

On the other side, today’s theater, with a finite audience and various kinds of inhibiting pressures, tends to wilt and play it safe. Producers, directors, and playwrights, afraid of alienating the remaining few who can fork over the exorbitant price of a Broadway or Off-Broadway ticket, adhere to the conventionality of political correctness, coddling their customers. In boxing, a man is hit hard, and the opponent advances towards him, trying to finish him off. In new plays, nothing much is dared or threatened. A play shoots a jab at the audience, and, before long, pulls its punch, softening even that blow. Sports has become a multi-billion dollar business. Most plays lose money; in theaters across New York, you can easily count the house.

Read the whole thing here.

The Long Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2014 - 11:10 am

I’ve been asked to repost this essay from several years back — still true:

Somewhere in the courts of celestial justice, an error was made in my favor and I got to marry Ellen. She was hitchhiking in Berkeley, California when I saw her first. Slender, movie star beautiful, nearly six feet tall. I was walking back from classes to fetch my car and I remember thinking, Look at that gorgeous Amazon! I started running for the garage, hoping to start my ancient Dodge and get to her before someone else picked her up. I had to drive around the corner to reach her, and I went so fast I clipped the sidewalk. The minute she climbed aboard, I had the odd sensation that all the jigsaw pieces of the world had quietly snapped together. I drove her home and we talked for hours.

That was over thirty years ago. What followed has been a marriage so passionate and adoring that I’m the only old married man I know who is envied by young single guys. We’ve had exactly one serious argument, twenty years past, in a moment of crisis and exhaustion. The experts say it’s wrong not to argue. But Ellen wakes up smiling every morning and I rush home to see her every night so we somehow manage to live with the disapproval of the experts.

We are frequently asked what our secret is. My wife says, laughing, “Never say no to sex.” I say, laughing, “Marry Ellen.” More seriously, we did make a conscious decision to ignore the diktats of feminism. I don’t prescribe this necessarily: to each his own. But Ellen made me the king of our household and the captain of our lives, and it worked for us. A female dinner guest was once so appalled by the way Ellen treats me, she burst out, “You cook and clean for him and serve him. What does he do?” Ellen smiled and simply opened her hands to indicate the roof over our heads and the food on our table and the happy, well-mannered children at our sides, and the guest fell silent.

Which is only to say: she made a man of me, and in gratitude, I made her happiness my northern star. I made sure she could stay home to take care of the kids and keep house when it was time for that and that she could go to grad school and to work when that time came. I tried to live up to her clearly overblown impression of my good qualities. I was faithful to her, which was sometimes hard.

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Best Commercial Ever!

February 13th, 2014 - 12:31 pm

Cadillac tells lazy French leftists to get stuffed! Love it!

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Update: And now that darned Ed Driscoll ruined it. Curse him for thinking! You’ll never catch me doing that.

Another Good Film: “Dog Days.”

February 12th, 2014 - 5:45 am
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See, on other conservative blogs, you get doom and gloom. Obama is destroying the country. The Republican leadership is feckless. Illegal immigrants are immigrating illegally. The end is nigh!

But here at Klavan on the Culture, it’s a constant celebration! Why? Because we’re far-sighted! We know that if we take back the culture today, we can take back the country tomorrow. (We know this because we read it in “The Crisis in the Arts,” which is available free online.) Also, we’ve been raiding Stephen Green‘s liquor cabinet.

But seriously, on Monday, we celebrated my friend Jeremy Boreing’s incredible achievement: the making of The Arroyo, a feature quality modern western created from the grass roots up on a micro budget. Today, we fete another grass roots movie with an outlook conservatives can applaud, this one a documentary: Dog Days.

Filmmakers Laura Waters Hinson and Kasey Kirby — who made the tremendously moving and award-winning documentary As We Forgive, about the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide — took to KickStarter to help fund this doc about street food vendors in Washington D.C. Now on the face of it, the subject might not seem that exciting. But I tell you truly, this is a charming, touching, and at times actually suspenseful movie.

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In “Crisis in the Arts,” my new essay for the David Horowitz Freedom Center (now available at the link), I give an overview of the problems confronting conservatives who want to break the virtual monopoly the left holds on America’s culture. Among my observations are these:

For those conservatives with artistic talent and ambition, this is a spectacular moment to take to the barricades.  Big Media is tottering under the assault of new technologies.  With electronic publishing and social media, books can be self-published and self-promoted.  With the new video cameras, professional-looking films can be produced on the cheap and distributed online.  YouTube, iTunes, smart phones, tablets, blogs — all provide opportunities for new kinds of work and new ways for that work to be dispensed.

But to take advantage of this moment, conservatives have to come to grips with a situation that they naturally find uncomfortable:  to wit, we are now the counter-culture.  When it comes to the arts, Radical Leftists are The Man. We need to act like the rebels we now are and stop trying to win the favor of the big studios and publishers and mainstream reviewers.  We need to make stuff.  Good stuff.  And get it out to the audience any way we can.

This is easier said than done, but one genuinely inspiring example has been set by my friend Jeremy Boreing. Jeremy’s movie The Arroyo has had theatrical showings in Los Angeles and Texas and is now available on DVD. The good people at Newsmax will help with distribution and the film is scheduled for release on iTunes as well.

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