Saturday, August 27, 2011

King Memorial inspires posting a progressive Jefferson quote

"I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
from an 1816 letter, and memorialized, in abbreviated form, on the Jefferson Memorial
good words to live by, even if from a southern states rightist who lauded the farm and the prairie and derided the city and urban life

Monday, August 22, 2011

No time to be a luddite

Hey, fellow journalists.

Wanna be afraid. Very afraid? More afraid than being called into the office, feeling you're about to miss air, inadvertently deleting your work product?

Check out this story on web analytics,, and the totally straight faced comment by the dude who says 'and since we know how well the future is going to play out.....'

Yes, it's a brave new world indeed. Confidence in predictions. That'll get you far.

Anyone interested in racoon stew? Now that's something I can predict for the future with confidence.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sarah's Key

In the years since ‘Mississippi Burning’ was released, historical fiction has rightfully received a great deal of criticism. The liberties that Hollywood has taken with history on screen are legion, creating whole cloth out of the tattered fabric of seminal events. While a subject of great concern, let's leave this for another discussion at another time.

Other than the well awarded German drama ‘The Lives of Others,’ it’s hard to come by a film that respectfully incorporates history on a grand scale into the arc of the story.

Yet Sarah’s Key manages to be respectful, dramatic, and even realistic, without slinking back to maudlin or even seeming overwrought. It's tough, but not brittle.

Working through the present, in the form of a bold American magazine writer working for a small French publication, Kristin Scott Thomas takes the role created by novelist Tatiana de Rosnay, and provides meaning and purpose to her work as a journalist, while delving into the difficult questions that challenge, provoke, and often divide.

Scott Thomas wants extra space in her magazine to cover the story of the 60th anniversary of the little told Vichy French government’s round up of Parisian Jews at the Vel d’Hiv velodrome in July 1943. Over the course of her research, told through the film’s second story, and shot beautifully on different stock, she documents the repeated horrors inflicted on the Jews taken in, locked up, and then sent off to Nazi death camps.

But within the grand story, she becomes transfixed by one particular drama, involving a 10 year old girl, and her 4 year old brother, two victims of the Holocaust who manage to not appear on either death documents, or transfer documents, or anything else Scott Thomas unearths.

And within that research, and that back and forth of the story from at first 1943, to the present, we are provided a range of human emotions and characters, and a story that traverses time, continents, and even families.

Sarah’s Key will appeal particularly to those who feel compelled to bear witness on these kind of works. It goes much further, though, as a story of love and faith, of the human desire to learn the truth about history and family, and as a film that wisely avoids cliché even when that opportunity abounds.

This is one of those rare films in which the total of the film is far great than the sum of the individual performances, as impressive as they are, particularly that of young Sarah.

Though fiction, Sarah’s Key speaks to universal questions, acknowledges pain, suffering, and loss, and manages to take events from long ago in a world far away and make them engaging, and interesting, for our exceedingly modern world.

Cowboys and Aliens

This is just one of those times where the drapes just don’t match the carpet, where the steak ain’t anywhere near as good as the sizzle, and where all the hype in the world just won’t budge this turkey forward.

There’s a reason I’m mixing metaphors, and Cowboys and Aliens is certainly high among them.

There is a lot of promise in a premise as positive as we have with Cowboys and Aliens. It’s a smart concept, as far as out-there film ideas go, but it seems like they included everything and the proverbial kitchen sink in order to make this work. From your two respected hunk-o-rama’s (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford), to your royal babe in waiting ( Olivia Wilde), to a decent supporting cast, all set in the picturesque desert of northern New Mexico, there literally isn’t a thing this film doesn’t have.

Except for a story that defies disbelief, and sustains attention.

This film starts off simple enough, and within moments, we’re somewhat glued to our seats, after Craig dispatches a team of ruffians who awake him from his alien induced siesta.

But soon after, the comic nature of the alien attacks far exceed the intended level of humor. Craig and Ford, as the wealthy cattle baron who runs things in town, play everything straight. And when they saddle up and ride out to take on the evil aliens, you’re rooting for the good guys, but you’re not quite sure why.

This film includes virtually every western caricature known to man (and woman), up to including a kid and a dog in a posse. While Ford’s character does make light of this, it’s about the only intended laugh in this film. All else comes at the expense of the film, and that’s no way to make and present a summer blockbuster.

Sure, the good guys win in the end, though not without sacrifice. It’s a bit gorier than most of this genre, but after Alien and all that’s followed in this genre, little should surprise or disgust. There are subtle attempts to present rural western life as a bit more integrated than what is shown in a standard western, but it’s also 2011, and even modest efforts at historical accuracy are to be expected, even with a plot as outlandish as an alien invasion for precious items found (apparently) only on earth.

You’ve got to really hold a torch (or equivalent) for Ford and Craig to be willing to spend two hours, and 12 bucks, sitting through this unintended parody.

Even with Spielberg and Howard and Grazer listed as producers, and two separate credits for writing and story, this film falls under it’s own weight.