Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Crash" was a terrible movie. Apparently, I am the only one who thinks this.

Congratulations to the cast of "Crash," who took home the Screen Actors' Guild award for best performance of a cast in a motion picture. I actually mean that somewhat sincerely, because the actors in this movie were not the problem. They did the best they could with what they had.

On discovering this morning that "Crash" has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, I felt I had to break my silence. This was, I thought, an embarrassingly terrible movie. There was no subtelty, no craft, no art, no scale- it was 2 hours (or whatever) of high pitched over the top maudlin melodrama. The best that can be said, and has been said, is that the picture is "earnest" and "sincere." (I think A.O. Scott of the NYTimes said that when he lambasted the movie (thankfully)- but I'm not entirely sure; still, someone said it.) Earnestness and sincerity are lovely qualities, and lovely qualities in a movie- but when coupled with ham-fisted writing and downright terrible directing, these attributes- which worked fairly well for Spielberg in "Munich"- sink a film like a lead weight.

I'm sorry. I know this picture was about race, and about racism, and about how we're all a bunch of racists, and about how there are only like 14 people who live in LA, and they're all racist, or something. No but seriously, it's true that there haven't been any good movies lately that have taken on the issue of race in America. But I sure as hell wish "Crash" hadn't stepped up to this particular plate. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" had more impact than "Crash." "Crash" is a movie that could have, and perhaps should have been made in the 1960's, when we were coming out of an era of institutionalized racism, and the blatant ways in which everyday people are everyday racist in their everyday lives needed to be beaten into people.

Now, however, we need a real movie with a real critical eye and real analysis that deals with race as a pervasive and ongoing issue in the US. This movie tries, but falls woefully, horribly short. By reducing those "everyday people" to an ensemble of cliches, the people who made this movie missed an opportunity to say something new and interesting; something that resonates.

There was not one character in this movie that didn't play into collective stereotypes and thus render the directors and writers either not particularly insightful or almost racist in their own right. And adding a little "depth" hardly mitigated this effect. For instance: Sandra Bullock as the rich DA' s wife. (I wasn't aware that DAs did so well in this town, by the way. Maybe I should look into that line of work). She grabs her pocketbook when she sees a black guy and complains that the hispanic dude fixing her locks is a gang member. Come on. Give me something more than that. Ok- she's got anxiety issues. Another cliche that doesn't give her any sort of depth of character. And Matt Dillon as the racist cop. Oh- he loves his father. He's so real.

For christ's sake- can't we have a new look at racism in this country that doesn't involve rich women and cops? And Ludacris as a "reverse racist" carjacker? And Ryan Phillipe as the young cop with the heart of gold? And whoever that dude was as the black screenwriter who isn't "black enough?" Come on. Jesus.

And yet, lots of very intelligent people, whose taste I respect and often share, loved this movie. Really loved it. It touched them. It was new, it was deep, it resonated. So, is it me? Have I turned into such a film snob that I can't appreciate a movie that doesn't deal in irony and subtle glances? Maybe.

I would honestly like to hear (or read) what others thought about this movie. I hate asking "please respond" questions like this because generally people don't actually respond, but I'd truly like to know. What am I missing? Why did everyone like this movie but me? (and A.O. Scott of the NY Times? And my husband?)

***Update: Carina Chocano of the LA Times hated it too. Thank god.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's Security, Stupid.

EJ Dionne pens a clear-headed, brilliant WaPo column explaining why the Dems have never listened to or reacted to Karl Rove as they should- and how they'd better do so this time, or risk losing another election:

"What Democrats should have learned [from Rove] is that they cannot evade the security debate. They must challenge the terms under which Rove and Bush would conduct it. Imagine, for example, directly taking on that line about Sept. 11. Does having a "post-9/11 worldview" mean allowing Bush to do absolutely anything he wants, any time he wants, without having to answer to the courts, Congress or the public? Most Americans -- including a lot of libertarian-leaning Republicans -- reject such an anti-constitutional view of presidential power. If Democrats aren't willing to take on this issue, what's the point of being an opposition party?
Democrats want to fight this election on the issue of Republican corruption. But corruption is about the abuse of power. If smart political consultants can't figure out how to link the petty misuses of power with its larger abuses, they are not earning their big paychecks.

And, yes, the core questions must be asked: Are we really safer now than we were five years ago? Has the Iraq war, as organized and prosecuted by the administration, made us stronger or weaker? Do we feel more secure knowing the heck of a job our government did during Hurricane Katrina? Do we have any confidence that the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies will clean up their act if Washington remains under the sway of one-party government?"

The answers? No... hella weaker... heck NO... HELLS NO!

C'mon, Dems. Get your shit together. If you lose 2006, you may lose me.*

*Of course I don't really mean that- where would I go? But it sounded... threatening.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In case there was any lingering doubt.

From the Human Rights Watch synopsis of its 2006 report:

"In his introductory essay to the World Report, Roth writes that it became clear in 2005 that U.S. mistreatment of detainees could not be reduced to a failure of training, discipline or oversight, or reduced to “a few bad apples,” but reflected a deliberate policy choice embraced by the top leadership.

Evidence of that deliberate policy included the threat by President George W. Bush to veto a bill opposing “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” Roth writes, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s attempt to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the law. In addition, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that the United States can mistreat detainees so long as they are non-Americans held abroad, while CIA Director Porter Goss asserted that “waterboarding,” a torture method dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, was simply a “professional interrogation technique.”

“Responsibility for the use of torture and mistreatment can no longer credibly be passed off to misadventures by low-ranking soldiers on the nightshift,” said Roth. “The Bush administration must appoint a special prosecutor to examine these abuses, and Congress should set up an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate.”

Indeed. But of course, they won't. This White House and GOP controlled Congress will never thoroughly investigate their own.

And for those contrarians tempted to write this off as political accusation, remember that this administration has QUOTED Human Rights Watch's statements against nations that committed human rights abuse- when it served their purposes to do so. When HRW (much like Amnesty International a few months ago) attacks us, though, it becomes partisan lies. Of course.

Fuckers. God, what bullshit.

See also:
HRW Website
New York Times Article

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I take back everything I said!

Well, not really. I'm still trying to figure out what I want this blog to be, if anything at all. But in the meantime, I've got some downtime and Lizzie's meme was so tempting and... well, here goes:

Two parts of your heritage:
1. French Huguenot
2. Leon Trotsky (so Russian-Jewish) (hells yes I said Trotsky, mofos)

Two things that scare you
1. flying in small planes (oh Lizzie, we're so alike)
2. a conservative Supreme Court

Two fears you overcame
1. flying in large planes
2. driving

Two of your everyday essentials:
1. 1/2 hr in the morning to read on-line news before starting billable work (of course I don't always get it...)
2. string cheese

Two things you are wearing right now
1. wedding ring
2. sweater that looked much more attractive online than on me

Two things you wore too much this year
1. my fat jeans
2. my "Northwestern Law" sweatshirt

This year's favorite bands or musical artists
1. Amadou et Mariam
2. Kanye West (does it matter that he was my favorite last year too?)

Two things you want in a relationship
1. a Democrat
2. humor

Two of your favorite movies of the year
1. Cache
2. The Constant Gardener

Best movies of all time
1. Annie Hall
2. Breakfast at Tiffany's

Two things you hate
1. Dick Cheney
2. George Bush

Two of your favorite hobbies
1. singing
2. traveling

Two things you learned this year
1. How to draft the representations and warranties section of a merger agreement (exciting stuff. seriously)
2. That my current job is very far from being my dream job (see #1)

Two accomplishments you are proud of
1. getting honors on my master's thesis (which I wrote in French for a French university- how did I do that?)
2. passing 2 bar exams in 1 year

Two things you want really badly
1. To figure out what exactly this "dream job" of mine is, and to start taking concrete steps toward the getting of it
2. For my cat to stop shitting on the goddamn bed

Two places you went this year (I'm going to assume this means "within the last 12 months")
1. Mali
2. Las Vegas

Two places you want to go on vacation
1. India
2. Ethiopia (yes, I still do, M. Noix. Although Mongolia would be... crazy, too)

Two things you want to do before you die
1. Feel satisfied that my career (or the bulk of it) was spent changing world conditions for the better
2. Live abroad again (just for a year or two...)

Two ways that you are stereotypical of your gender (these are Lizzie's, but they're exactly what I would have said, so I'm leaving them...)
1. I cry easily.
2. I overanalyze.

Two things that make you stand out
1. My completely wonky-ass nose
2. That my engagement ring is NOT a diamond, goddamn it.

Two things you normally wouldn't admit
1. I fantasize about getting a nose job, even though I never really would
2. Ummm... I umm... fart a lot

Two goals for the new year
1. Write that article on cotton subsidies and Mali (I really am gonna, really I am... no really)
2. Be good

Thursday, January 12, 2006

La grippe

Ill. Ill ill. Illin'. Came to work today- why? Am thinking about quitting the blog. No, that's not a reason for everyone to try and convince me otherwise, but I've stopped feeling as though it serves any constructive purpose re: channeling my anger. If I lived in DC, if I had some sort of "in," I'd love to make this a political blog. I live on the other side of the country, though, and so my political commentary consists of my regurgitating snippets of news articles and entries from bloggers who REALLY know what they're talking about. And otherwise? I could make it a "what's wrong with Stephanie Klein" blog, but... yawn, really. Right? Right. Besides, I'm tired of being mean. Even if I'm right when I'm mean, I'm just fatigued by the whole enterprise. I'm not funny enough consistently enough to make it a "humor" blog. I could do a "slice of life" blog, but there's not enough in my life at the moment that merits any slicing. Work is... fine. Married life is good. Friends are far away, but that's the beauty of email. I lived my exciting bohemian life about 5 years ago. I want to write about that, but it's too painful and frankly, I'm not talented enough of a writer to do those times any justice.

So I think that's it. I may change my mind, when I have a mind and not a seething, aching flu-ey brain, but I doubt it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Feline Fret

Our cat keeps pooping on our bed. Help.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Via Wonkette:

Did anyone catch this? Who else is reporting on it?

Bush could bypass new torture ban
Waiver right is reserved
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff January 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.
After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said. (Boston Globe)

You have GOT to be kidding me.