Long break. Very long. And it's good to be back.
Before I get into anything substantial, over the holiday I saw four movies and read a book that I'd like to give my opinions on.
The first was Sleuth starring Michale Cain and Jude Law. This was a remake of the 1972 Film starring Sir Laurence Olivier and (ironically) Michael Caine. I've not seen the original, but after seeing the performances or Cain and Law, I'd really like to. I highly re-commend this based mainly on the witty verbal banter that goes on between the two leads as each tries to put the other in his place. It's dry British humor and polite insults at their best. Really great stuff. And it's also interesting as it takes place entirely within a single setting (a single SET, even) and possibly with the smallest cast ever filmed, outside of a stand-up comedy routine. Very interesting and if you (still) have Netflix, if well worth a spot in your queue.
The Second was The Invention of Lying starring Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Jonah Hill. (Side note: DW went to grade school with Jennifer Garner. For real!) An interesting high concept film, that imagines a world in which humans (except for ONE MAN) are incapable of lying, and people's words are always taken at face value. What it lacked in production value and dynamic performances (despite a very talented cast, which also included Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Jefferey Tambor and Christopher Guest) it made up for in what I consider to be a fairly profound philosophical exploration of what we consider knowledge, how dogma forms, and the nature of humanity well beyond the fairly trivial deceits that we use to simply get through the day without killing each other. One thing I found particularly apt and amusing is that before the main character learned how to lie, there was NO RELIGION. And after he "invented" lying, he almost immediately (albeit inadvertently) started Religion and the belief in God and heaven. (And almost immediately the irreverent humans started asking questions and picking it apart. In any case, it was an amusing and had some pretty profound statements about humanity and religion (and it REALLY does a job on MARKETING!) and for that reason believe that it's well worth giving a chance. (Again, one for the Netflix queue.)
Third was The Muppets, starring Jason Segal, Amy Adams and (of course) Kermit the Frog and Company. OK, so I saw with my kids, but I also saw it as a 38 year old kid who to this day still counts Jim Henson amongst his heroes. I haven't seen ALL of the Muppet Movies over the years, but I've seem most and aside from the the original Muppet Movie (and apparently the Muppet Christmas Carol, which I haven't seen but I've been told is one of the best renditions ever done) most have been crap. This one? Well, this one took me back a bit. I'm only slightly ashamed to say that I shed more than a single tear hearing
Finally, we saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer. Holy shit, what a fucking trip! AWESOME movie, MUST SE. In fact, it was so good that I plan to see the original Swedish version. Mara gives a performance the likes of which you will likely never see again, immersing herself in the character on a level that I would not have imagined was possible. She deserves an Oscar, but (as usual) the Academy will likely fuck her over in favor of a more bankable starlet. But seriously: SEE IT. It's brutal, raw, in-your-face and AMAZING. Shoot... I may even go back and read the book!
Speaking of books...
Over the break I read Killing Lincoln, by (of all people) Bill O'Rielly. And while it may seem an incredible oddity for me to endorse ANYTHING by that buffoon, I have to admit: It made for one HELL of a read! Yeah, I was aware of a couple of historic inaccuracies, but overall I found it to be very balanced (even objective!) from a political standpoint and, for the most part, present a very conventional, non-revisionist view of the historical events being depicted. (Hey: It was Bill O'Rielly, not Glenn Beck!) It's reads more like a novel than an historical text, and does an amazing job of really putting you on the ground, in the taverns and saloons, on the battlefields and into the halls of power, where the events of history played out for better and for worse. I'd never thought I'd say it, but...
Bill O'Rielly did a fantastic job with this, and it is well worth giving it a read.
You will come away with a greater appreciation for the Civil War, and for what Lincoln, Grant, Lee, the Soldiers, the Slaves, the North, the South and Lincoln himself were facing during these times of trial.
Now, having read this, it got me to thinking...
Where the hell does all this HATE all this RAW, VISCERAL, unfiltered and unadulterated HATRED of President Obama come from? From the Right, I mean. Seriously. What has this man DONE to justify this level of blood-boiling HATE?
While it's been largely lost to myth, one of the things that most people forget is that Abraham Lincoln was HATED, really hated and reviled by many, MANY people in this country during the Civil War, and immediately after and leading up to his assassination. And really, regardless of how we in our modern and relatively progressive world might look back on the issue of Slavery, if you put yourself in the South at that time, one can see WHY so many felt this way. Beyond the mere economic upheaval that abolition would bring about, these people's very ways of life were being turned upside down: Blacks as equals. Black VOTING. Blacks marrying white women, even! Holy crap: One day, one might even run for president! We can laugh now, but when one considers the Country that Lincoln was endeavouring to Govern (and were it not for his untimely death, rebuild) it is easy to understand where those feelings come from.
Fast forward almost exactly one hundred years to Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. Again, arguably the most partisan and divided this country had been since the Civil War and through to today. And again, regardless of how you feel about Jim Crow and segregation, it it not difficult to appreciate how profound that legislation was, and the impact it would have on what so many people considered "normal, moral and decent" for so many years. We may shake our heads now, but in there shoes one can see why Johnson "lost the South for a Generation." (Actually Lyndon, it's been THREE so far, and counting!)
And fine... even when progressives and liberals are on the "winning side" (which is merely to say the RIGHT one, which history has shown us to ALWAYS be on) it's not hard to appreciate where the bitterness comes from when looking at someone like Lincoln, Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson. What I DON'T understand is how these same people (generationally speaking, the Right / Conservatives) can find the same (or even a greater) level of hatred for a guy who HASN'T DONE ANYTHING.
(And not doing anything, in this case, is a reason for LIBERALS to dislike him, rather than Conservatives!)
Example: We're watching TV and the Kennedy Center Honors are up next. And my Mother says to my Father, "Well, we don't need to watch that, unless you want to see Obama jigabooing it up on stage."
OK. Now I KNOW that my parents are Conservative Republicans, but really? "Jigabooing?" Jigaboo isn't even a VERB! It a NOUN. And it's second to "Nigger" as arguably the most racist and hateful noun in the dictionary! Look... You can support whichever candidate you want, but I doubt my mother could even articulate WHY she hates Obama so much. I mean... she's not racist. *cough, cough* And, as I and a thousand other bloggers have already pointed out: OBAMA HASN'T DONE ANYTHING!
He hasn't freed the slaves! He hasn't reversed a hundred years of lynching and segregation!
Shit: He hasn't even brought about low-cost health care!
(Or stopped the previous administration's policies of torture, rendition and murdering American Citizens without trial! Again: A reason for LIBERALS to hate him, but Conservatives are he ones who STARTED that shit! They should LOVE this guy!)
And I've asked this question before: Absent racism, what explanation IS THERE to justify this level of hatred form the Right? What has Obama ACTUALLY DONE that is so offensive to them? Seriously. And they wonder why all we're left is:
1) He's black.
2) He's a Democrat.
3) He's the President.
And that's two out of three things he has in common with Eighteen other presidents, few of which (three or four) were anywhere near as reviled as much as this man. But to be fair... this country ISN'T going to tar itself apart and fall into civil war over Obama's policies. So... I just don;'t get it.
THANK YOU , Bill O'Rielly (of all people) for driving home that perspective.