Running Mates For Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders will be 79 when the next presidential term begins, so the question of his running mate will be especially important. If the guy who is currently usually polling in second place wins the nomination for a party that he’s technically not a part of, what’s his best bet for Veep? But it seems he’ll have a weirder time picking than most.

The Democratic party’s emphasis on diversity probably means that it couldn’t be a white guy. His age would mean that it should be someone ready to be President on Day One, so it should be someone with experience. He’d probably want someone who can unify the party without being so establishment that it hurts his brand (the counterargument is that Trump went with the most establishment pick possible with Pence, and that worked out fine for him.)

Speculation from his fans seems to be centered on people who aren’t politically realistic (granted, a self-declared Socialist is a strong contender for a major party nomination.) A medium post includes Tulsi Gabbard, Paul Jean Swearingen, Nina Turner, Elizabeth Warren. These selections seem unlikely. A Senator from Vermont probably won’t pick a running mate from New England. Gabbard has upset many Democrats with perceived friendliness towards dictators at a time when the party sees this as a shortcoming of the Trump administration. Swearingen is an activist who lost a Senate primary. Nina Turner is a favorite of Bernie supporters, as a woman of color who advocates for his positions, but a former state senator who lost her one race for statewide office (secretary of state) by a two to one margin isn’t going to be on a presidential ticket. Other names I’ve seen include Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator likely running for Senate, and Ayanna Pressley, a first term Congresswoman from Boston.

If Tallahasee mayor Andrew Gillum had performed half a point better in the Florida gubernatorial election, he’d be the obvious running mate for Sanders: a younger black man from a different part of the country with a campaign-friendly family and relevant experience outside of Washington, who had gotten broad support from the primary, including from Sanders’ Our Revolution PAC.

I’ve come up with six potential running mates for Bernie Sanders.

Former HUD Secretary/ San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: His run seems primed to elevate him as a potential running mate for the other white candidates. He adds youth and geographic diversity, and has Washington connections from his stint in the Obama administration, while he has also been able to avoid controversial congressional votes. He has disavowed PAC money in his presidential bid, which allows him to avoid controversies in that category.

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: She adds diversity, military credibility and midwestern appeal, with an inspirational story about joining the Obama administration and Congress after being the first American female double amputee from the Iraq war.  She considers herself unaffiliated/ deist, so she may not be the best choice for the running mate of a Jewish presidential candidate in a majority Christian country.

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Senator Kamala Harris of California: She is likely to be a top-tier presidential candidate, so there is potential for a unity ticket. Her background as a major prosecutor can be helpful in an administration promising to go after the real bad guys, and as a Senator who ran for President, she’ll have high name recognition and be familiar with national issues. This is a dicey point, but Harris just recently got married, and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so it might hurt her as a potential running mate for Sanders, whose only child was born out of wedlock.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota: If she’s able to avoid damaging her reputation in the presidential bid, Kloubchar is a strong potential running mate for Sanders and other potential presidential nominees. She has her own record as a prosecutor, and has won three terms by impressive numbers in a swing state in a politically important region. The staff stories are the biggest problem.

Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia: She just got elected to Congress by defeating Karen Handel. She’s a gun control advocate whose teenage son was murdered in a gas station altercation. This is a powerful story. Perceived inexperience will be a major problem, but there is also the possibility that Trump and other Republicans will be baited into saying something very stupid.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan: She comes from a big swing state, has a biography that gives her a different political understanding (state legislator turned Governor) and doesn’t have any Washington baggage. The big questions are how she does as Governor in the next year, and whether she’ll be familiar enough with national issues to be an effective campaign surrogate.

This may all be a moot point if Sanders fizzles in the primary, but it is an unusual potential situation that it is worth speculating.

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What’s Wrong With Green Book?

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One of the most interesting aspects of the latest Oscar race has been the arguments about Green Book. There seem to be three categories. Film twitter seems largely opposed to the film. There’s the sense that the critics are split on its artistic merits, when that’s not entirely true. It’s 80 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t great but suggests that for every critic who bitched about it, four liked it. Audiences love it as evident by the cinemascore.

Jaya Saxena of GQ listed some of the criticisms, and much of it is BS. Viggo Mortensen caused an early controversy when he used the N-word in the context of noting that it is despicable. There were some unfortunate tweets and acts by director Peter Farrelley in the past, although that has nothing to do with the artistic merit of the film. The family of Doc Shirley claims the character’s relationship with them was different than the depiction in the film, but they don’t have much support from others who knew him, and the writer of the film had interviews with the man. The views on the family touch on bigger questions on Green Book: one of authenticity, and the sense that a story was changed to create a white savior narrative.

Mark Harris wrote one of the early pieces that set the critical discussion: “Who Was the Green Book For”? He observed that the box office was weak. The official link refers to the movie as a flop.

https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/green-book-flopped-but-who-was-it-supposed-to-be-for.html

Two weeks ago, the movie arrived. The crowds did not. Following a disappointing opening on 25 screens, Green Book expanded to 1,000 for Thanksgiving weekend and finished a somewhat wan ninth. According to IndieWire box-office analyst Tom Brueggemann, its cumulative gross of under $8 million makes it “a work in progress, with a struggle ahead.” That struggle may offer a lesson that after 50 years, a particular kind of movie about black and white America has, at long last, run its course.

He then added that other films have made Green Book redundant.

What Green Book may not know is who it’s for. The portion of the white moviegoing audience that needs to be handled with this much care and flattery is getting smaller every year, and the nonwhite audience, at this point, seems justifiably wary of buying a version of someone else’s fantasy that it has been sold many, many times before; besides, it has other options. Underlying the bet that Green Book would be a crowd-pleaser is a long-outdated presupposition about the composition of the crowd — a belief that racism can only be explained to white audiences via a white character, and a concurrent belief that those white audiences are pivotal to the success of any movie. But they’re not. This weekend, two movies directed by black men, Creed II and Widows, made the top ten and handily outgrossed Green Book. While that’s not a common occurrence, it’s no longer a headline-worthy exception — and in a year that also includes Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, and (shortly) Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, moviegoers in search of black characters no longer need to look over the shoulder of a white director or co-star in order to find them. One might look at these movies as among the first to belong to a post–Get Out era, in which audiences want their views of race in America served up with slyness and/or dystopic skepticism rather than inspirational teachable moments. But even a historical drama by a white director that trafficked in exactly those moments, 2016’s Hidden Figures, did so by centering three women of color without a white character to explain “them” to a presumed white “us” (or, worse, explain them to themselves). It grossed $169 million in the U.S., a figure Green Book is unlikely to come anywhere near.

At this point, Green Book made $139 million worldwide, so the suggestion that in addition to lacking artistic merit, it failed to connect to audiences doesn’t quite work.

Folks I know have really liked it, which provides a different perspective on who it’s for. It might not connect with film twitter, but it connected with my parents, my godfather, my brothers and my best friend, an Indian-American med student. There is an arrogance in suggesting that Tony’s story isn’t worth telling, and that America should already be on-board with the left-wing critics when it comes to deeper appreciation for social ills.

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Conservative film critic Sonny Bunch considers the film fine, but unimaginative. He wonders if the backlash was due to heightened expectations about how well it’ll do at the box office.

The presumptive crowning of “Green Book” as an end-of-year front-runner — its championing by Oscar watchers like Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells and Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone; the National Board of Review choosing it as best picture of the year — rankles. In a year with envelope-pushing films like “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Roma” and “BlacKkKlansman” and “Sorry to Bother You,” one needn’t be a radical (lord knows I’m not) to feel some kinship with the generation of critics who rejected efforts by the New York Times’s Bosley Crowther to snuff out “Bonnie and Clyde” in favor of more respectable fare.

One wonders if 2018’s crop of films isn’t set to be a replay of 1968’s Oscar ceremony, one that pits a faded genre’s final champion against a new breed of prestige pictures. As pleasantly entertaining and easygoing as it is, if “Green Book” is the best, most interesting, most thought-provoking movie you’ve seen this year, I have to wonder how many films you’ve watched.

This may have changed with Roma as the obvious frontrunner. I like the Green Book, and I wouldn’t want it to win that race (I’d also be happier if Black Panther won.) But this debate doesn’t seem to be about whether a three star film gets more credit than it deserves. There is a sense that some people just don’t want this type of film to exist any more.

Two late night shows have done parodies of white savior movies.

https://ew.com/tv/2019/02/22/green-book-seth-meyers-white-savior-movie/

https://www.gq.com/story/desus-and-mero-tore-green-book-to-shreds-last-night

The reason for the focus on Tony is relatively simple. One of the writers is the son of Tony Vallelonga, so he’s going to emphasize his father’s growth. And while Doc Shirley has an arc, Tony had more growing to do.

It seems that people want a different type of movie about Doc Shirley, a musician who was a very interesting man. And there’s no reason they can’t get it. If someone can come up with a good screenplay, the financial success of this film and the likely Oscar for Mahershala Ali increase the chances it’ll happen. Black Panther, Widows, Blackkklansman, The Hate You Give, and If Beale Street Could Talk all show that Hollywood is willing to support the type of films critics want to see. Green Book isn’t taking anything away from it.

There is value to this story. It is messier than Driving Miss Daisy, acknowledging Shirley as accomplished, while showing what makes him unique. If nothing else, it has increased awareness of his music.

It also takes artistic license in the depiction of Juri Taht, a member of the Don Shirley Trio as Russian rather then Estonian, but that’s a different story.

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The Worst Review Ever

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My cat did not care for a particular brand of cat food that I got from my aunt whose cats didn’t care for it either, and she got it from a neighbor who seemed to have had the same issue.

Looking online for information about this brand of cat food, I found the worst reviews I’ve ever seen for any product ever. The least talented musicians, writers and moviemakers can be confident that no review will mention that—because of their productanimals are now in hospice care.

I do not want to write everything that has gone on in the past yr – from vets recommending euthanasia for 2 perfectly healthy cats 2 months before Freedom was introduced. The cats refused to eat the second bag. I did not know why. Well – they were suffering inflammation and more and after it was shortly thereafter they began to be diagnosed with one illness after another. Euthanasia recommended many times. I am sure it was the food. Both were 2 healthy cats. Different ages. Eating only FREEDOM for 2 months. The CATS knew it was causing problems and refused to eat it – but would eat others instead. However – it was too late – damage was already brewing inside them. I have given up a yr of my life – can’t work – to save their life. As the vets have different advice. I am now going with just hospice. Trying to keep cats out of pain. IBD, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism. The list goes on… And 2 perfectly healthy cats 2 months before.

If anything, reviews are worse now than before.

**DO NOT BUY THIS FOOD FOR YOUR PET!** Since the unexpected and untimely death of my cat this past Wednesday, I have now found 3 other people in my personal life who also lost their pet after switching to Blue Buffalo. They are owned by a Chinese company that has no animal laws or regulations or safeties! They are not even a cruelty-free company and they sell pet food! My sweet Lucy was completely healthy and happy and normal Tuesday morning. I gave her Blue Buffalo starting Sunday evening. I got home Tuesday evening from work around 7-7:30 and she was not well. Was hoping it was just a hairball. She was gone by 10:15 the next morning. She died in pain. She was drooling and had a completely blank look in her eyes. She was no longer Lucy. She was dying right in front of me. She got pancreatitis caused by this horrible food!!!

This is something to keep in mind whenever you get feedback. It can always be worse.

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The Northam/ Fairfax Mess

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Democratic politics in Virginia is a train wreck right now. It’s only been going on for a few days, starting when Governor Ralph Northam made comments about a proposed bill to expand the legality of late-term abortion that seemed to endorse infanticide if the mother wanted it. Shortly after that, someone leaked his page from a medical school yearbook, which included a photograph of a young white man in blackface hugging a member of the KKK. It seems the leaker was upset about Northam’s comments on abortion.

Early on, when the wider Democratic response was uncertain, I respected the ideological consistency of any liberals calling for Northam’s resignation. It was a stupid and unprecedented move to demand resignation for something anyone did in medical school, twenty years before they were in public office, that wasn’t a crime, but it was a bold move. It also seems shortsighted for the generation under 35 to declare that stupid things said some time ago can be disqualifying at 60, when we don’t even know what the big controversies will be a generation from now, and there are more records than ever about everything we’ve said and believed.

What Northam said then was stupid and outrageous, but there’s a middle ground between thinking racism is cool, and a bad joke in a textbook 35 years ago is cause for resignation. It should have been cause for an apology and some mockery.

However, there is a recent acknowledgement of blackface, which is seen as emblematic of other problems: the lack of roles for African-Americans for films, the lack of representation, the dangers of stereotypes. The Florida Secretary of State resigned after a blackface Halloween photo came out, although he was also mocking Hurricane Katrina survivors with his costume, and was an elected official at the time of the photo.

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Democrats have made some comparisons between Northam and the likes of Roy Moore , Steve King and President Trump, suggesting that they’re more willing to do the right thing and abandon troublesome figures. Steve King lost all of his committee assignments, leaders in the party have called on him to resign, and he already has a prominent primary challenger in State Senator Randy Feenstra.

The allegations of Moore dating teenagers as a thirty-something prosecutor came out after he won the nomination for Senate, so abandoning him would cost the party. The media didn’t release the tape from Trump on the set of Access Hollywood in 2006 until he was the Republican nominee for President. It’s convenient for Democrats to call for Northam’s resignation when there’s a Democratic Lieutenant Governor waiting to take over, just as it was convenient for Democrats to call for Franken’s resignation in a state where the Democratic Governor was able to pick a replacement, and when it could be used as a cudgel against both Trump and Moore (at the time a nominee in the special election.) Nate Silver noted the political upside in replacing Franken. In these cases, there isn’t much cost for the party for upholding principles in a way that allows them to posture in the future.

There were also plenty of Democrats who didn’t like Northam. Leftists much preferred his primary opponent, former Congressman Tom Perriello. The identity politics crowd would be happy with the elevation of Justin Fairfax, the young African-American Lieutenant Governor.

I don’t think Democrats are a hivemind, so motives vary. Some people are legitimately hurt by what Northam did, or believe his failure to address this earlier in his political career makes his current judgement suspect. But there are limited costs for calling for his resignation. Once there’s a bandwagon, there’s no bravery in it.

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There have been some good arguments against Northam’s regisnation. Eugene Volokh considers the implications for the future.

Consider what standard we’re trying to set for the future. If it’s “people who are lying today about their bad behavior from 35 years ago shouldn’t be in high office,” that may be sensible. If it’s “people who committed serious crimes 35 years ago, for which they weren’t punished, shouldn’t be in high office,” that may be sensible. (Again, I don’t believe that Justice Kavanaugh was guilty on those counts, but that goes to the particular facts related to those accusations, and not the general principle of what should have been done if the accusations were accurate.)

But if it’s “people who said or did offensive things 35 years ago shouldn’t be in high office,” or even “people who expressed racist / sexist / anti-gay / anti-Semitic / etc. opinions 35 years ago shouldn’t be in high office,” that’s a very different thing. It’s tarring someone forever for minor misconduct (again, I note that major misconduct would be a different matter), without considering whether he may have developed better judgment and better views from age 25 to age 60. It’s rejecting the possibility that people actually get wiser as they get older — that they grow up — that they improve their judgments, their beliefs, and their conduct.

And it’s potentially depriving the nation of many valuable public servants because of a dumb thing they did long ago. Northam’s specific past behavior (again, I’m setting aside the newly emerging denial, and whether it’s a false denial) may not be that common. But consider all the other things that can be blown up into similar hurricanes. Maybe some people (black, white, or of any other race) quoted some sexist lyrics. Or maybe they expressed anti-gay views, which they may now regret. (Lots of people’s minds have changed in 35 years about sexual orientation, as they have changed about what is so racially offensive that it shouldn’t be said.) Or maybe they praised people who shot at police officers, or said nasty things about American soldiers. Or maybe they told jokes about Jews or gays or Puerto Ricans or men or women, whether or not those jokes actually reflected their own serious views about such matters.

Or maybe they did things that actually risked physically harming people, rather than just offending them. Maybe, for instance, they drove drunk — poor judgment, potentially very dangerous, not something we’d want of a sitting Governor — but doesn’t it matter that it happened three decades ago rather than today?

If you want to go after Northam for his current views on abortion, go ahead. If you want to go after him because you think he’s lying today about what happened then, go ahead. But calling for him to resign because of his bad judgment (or even his racist views, if you think he actually held such views then) from 35 years ago — what kind of country would we be creating if that were really adopted as the rule?

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Robert A. George of the Daily News addressed the argument that everyone at the time knew a blackface photo was unacceptable. Except for Northam (if he was in the photo), whoever the other person in the photo was, whoever took the photo, the faculty advisor to a Med School yearbook, and any student editors.

After much fun at Northam’s expense, a serious though: A few tweets have run along the lines of, “Even in the South, 35 years ago, everyone knew that wearing a Klan outfit or blackface was racist.” Having been in college myself at that time, I started nodding.

But then I pause. EVERYONE knew that this type of behavior is racist? That means Northam must have been racist (he admits in his Friday statement that what he did was racist). It means his partner in crime was racist. But there was a compiler/editor of the yearbook, right?

That supposedly responsible person accepted Northam’s photo. — and let it go, right? Was there a faculty advisor? Did that person approve it too? My point here is that either everyone knew this was something REALLY ugly and racist OR they were doing something what they bizarrely thought was “funny” and no one stopped to think, “Oh, it’s funny, but really ugly and maybe we shouldn’t do it.” IOW, the 20/20 hindsight we have now that EVERYONE knew this was something you didn’t do might not have been as strong back then.

The rest of the twitter thread is worth checking out.

If this had been all there was to the story, Northam would have resigned. Fairfax would be Governor. This would largely be forgotten, except for the larger question of whether we’re going too far as a society in our unwillingness to forgive past offences. The main impact might be people deciding they would rather not seek public office, lest they be defined by stupid decisions decades earlier.

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But then it turned out that a woman had accused Fairfax of sexual assault. These allegations did not come out of the blue. The woman went to the Washington Post in 2017.

Allahpndit of Hot Air compared the allegations against Fairfax to those against Brett Kavanaugh.

The Post says it called people who knew Fairfax in college, law school, and socially and no one’s ever heard of him engaging in any sort of sexual misconduct. As for the accuser, the paper says they couldn’t corroborate her claim because “she had not told anyone what happened.” You mean she never told anyone until she first approached WaPo in 2017, or she didn’t tell anyone at the time and for a long time after it happened but then opened up to confidants much later? Because the latter would be the Christine Blasey Ford standard, of course.

It’s strange to me that someone who claims she was sexually assaulted would choose to tell her story for the very first time not to a friend or a spouse or a doctor or a cop or a therapist but to a newspaper. If it turns out that the accuser did tell a friend two years ago before she went to the paper, where does that leave us vis-a-vis the Ford standard?

And another question, also reminiscent of Ford vs. Kavanaugh: What’s the accuser’s motive to lie here, especially given the curious timing of her approach to WaPo? If you’re a partisan or someone who holds a grudge against a rising political star for whatever other reason and are willing to fabricate a tale of sexual assault to take him down, the obvious time to do so is before he’s installed in the important new job he’s seeking. Ford’s accusation broke big before the confirmation vote on Kavanaugh, after all. But Fairfax’s accuser waited until after his election as lieutenant governor to speak up and long before the Northam blackface scandal that’s put him on the brink of becoming governor of Virginia. Nor did she do any of the other things a motivated liar might do to put her target on the defensive, like call a media-friendly lawyer and hold a press conference laying out the assault accusation in lurid detail. There’s not even an obvious partisan motive: As noted in my earlier post, a photo exists of the accuser next to a smiling Nancy Pelosi, suggesting that she’s a Democrat just like Fairfax is.

If she’s lying, why would she lie this way, by quietly approaching a newspaper and then not forcing the issue somehow after they refused to run her story?

There are some differences with the accusations against Kavanaugh, although these do not reflect well on Fairfax. She’s making an allegation against Fairfax when he was an adult. She knows when and where the alleged assault occurred. Fairfax admits to spending the night with her. They’re members of the same political party, so this would not be a partisan smear.

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I don’t think Fairfax should be surprised that a potential bad story he was aware of would become public the moment he was seen as a likely Governor. These things don’t stay secret in the #metoo era.

It would be terrible for an innocent man to be accused of a serious crime, but Fairfax has not handled the allegations well. He has made provably false statements about an allegation he knew existed, and then blamed another politician: Richmond mayor Levar Stoney for the sex assault allegations, after initially suggesting it may have been Northam.

(Fairfax) softened his suggestion as he left the Capitol Monday night, telling reporters he had “no indication” that Mr. Northam was responsible.

But in the same conversation, Mr. Fairfax hinted that Levar Stoney, the mayor of Richmond and a potential rival to Mr. Fairfax for the 2021 Democratic nomination for governor, may have played a role — praising the acumen of a reporter who inquired whether Mr. Stoney might have been responsible.

Asked if he had any involvement in leaking the claims of assault, which first surfaced Sunday night on a right-wing website, Mr. Stoney said, “The insinuation is 100 percent not true, and frankly it’s offensive.”

Fairfax and Stoney are both African American men under the age of 40, so their similar backgrounds and career trajectories could lead to conflict.

Looking at political forums, it seems liberals suspect Republican meddling, although the fact that the party was unable to get Northam’s yearbook during the campaign suggests the insiders aren’t that talented. This is an interesting trainwreck.

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Random Thoughts on the 2019 Oscars

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  1. Black Panther just won the SAG award for Best Ensemble. This has a decent track record with the Academy Award for Best Picture, matching 11 times out of 24.
  2. Glenn Close, Rami Malek and Mahershali Ali seem to be heavy favorites in their categories.
  3. I wonder if Emily Blunt’s win for A Quiet Place in the SAG awards strategic. She wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, and Regina King from If Beale Street Could Talk is the favorite, but she wasn’t nominated for a SAG award. Voting for Blunt allows voters to show support for someone snubbed by the Academy, while also depriving potential competitors of Regina King of any momentum. If you wanted King to win, you don’t want Amy Adams, Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz to be giving a good speech.
  4. That didn’t exactly work out well for Sylvester Stallone, who was nominated for Creed in the Academy Awards but not SAG. Idris Elba won the SAG award after an Oscar snub, but the Oscar still went to Mark Rylance.
  5. This logic might also hurt Black Panther‘s chances of getting Best Picture. The Oscar race is relatively wide open, so it could just that actors weren’t able to vote for Green Book or Roma in the category. Though it does suggest A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody and Blackkklansman aren’t major contenders, since all were nominated for best acting ensemble (SAG’s equivalent of Best Picture.)
  6. As a comic geek, I would be ecstatic if Black Panther won. It’s probably the most significant work of afrofuturism in any medium, so it’s also dominant in a genre.
  7. Roma is excellent, so I have no problem with it being the first foreign language film to win the Best Picture oscar.
  8. Green Book was good, too, so I don’t mind it winning Best Picture either. The blowback seems to be based on a BS premise.
  9. It’s kinda funny how Andy Serkis isn’t with the rest of the ensemble for Black Panther at the SAG awards, even though Chadwick Boseman said he was one of them. A lot of the photos of the award have him cropped out.
  10. The moment Christian Bale appeared as Dick Cheney in the Vice trailer, he seemed assured of a nomination. That said, it’s a bit surprising that Hollywood decided to nominate a relatively sympathetic take on George W Bush, especially considering how brief it is in the context of the film.
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The Conservative Reaction to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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For much of the left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an exciting figure, and they can’t understand why anyone could be concerned about her sudden prominence. It shows a massive cognitive dissonance to realize that people on the center and the right aren’t going to like one of the most liberal members of Congress. It leads to dumb interpretations of the views of others.

Matthew Chapman of Salon compaed her to Paul Ryan, who was also elected to Congress at the age of 28.

There may not be one single reason why Ocasio-Cortez is not taken as seriously as Ryan. Possibly the media is just inherently more skeptical of ideas coming from left of center than from right of center. Possibly they are also more willing to listen to a white man than a woman of color.

The problem with this comparison was that Paul Ryan wasn’t a national figure upon getting elected to Congress. He became significant because he followed Barney Frank’s advice and picked topics to specialize in, so that within years he would be seen as a policy expert on those topics. It took him a while to be seen as more remarkable than any of the other members of congress elected in 1998. In contrast, Ocasio-Cortez became prominent the moment she won her nomination. It’s also entirely possible that she won’t be the most remarkable member of her congressional class, given all the Obama staffers who ran and won, and would come to Congress with a faster understanding of how Washington works. Conservatives like some new members of Congress, such as a Dan Crenshaw, the veteran who turned a bad joke at his expense on Saturday Night Live into a lesson on forgiveness.

She’s also made a few major gaffes. She didn’t know the three branches of government. She claimed the US spent 21 trillion dollars on accounting errors in the defense department between 1998 and 2015, when total defense since 1940 is under 18 trillion dollars (she misunderstood a study about how the Pentagon has exxagerated levels of spending.) She confused the defense spending in the military budget with the increase, and claimed a 700 billion dollar increase in defense spending for 2018. She falsely claimed unemployment was low because of people holding two jobs, when that wouldn’t affect the unemployment rate. She claimed Israel was occupying Palestine, and then admit she had no idea what the hell she was talking about.

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There are many younger and newer members of Congress who will make significant errors, especially when they get to office for the first time. She’s under a lot of scrutiny because the media and national Democrats decided to highlight her, with the implication that others are less impressive and more prone to gaffes.

The main issue with Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is that she has gotten a lot of positive media attention, and the DNC Chairman has said that she represents the future of the Democratic party. Vox had a piece about how she should be able to run for President. As a result, Republicans are eager to attack the implications of what it means that she is being treated as one of the Democratic party’s shining lights, and what it means that she has been embraced by the media and the establishment for people who aren’t excited by the political agenda of the Democratic Socialists of America. The equivalent might be the reaction of how Democrats would react if if an open member of a white nationalist forum won a Republican congressional primary in a safe-R district, and was immediately embraced by Fox News and the RNC.

There’s a bit of a feedback loop when some in the media start talking about some dumb argument against her, like when someone on twitter with a few thousand followers and a now-deleted account posted clips of her dancing in her Boston University days. This was used as an example of how conservatives reacted to her, when there weren’t many serious conservatives pushing the idea. The ensuing arguments about media bias just led to more conservatives talking about her.

 

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Movies Watched in 2018 Finished

McCain HBO Doc Main

This is a conclusion of notes on films I saw this year, following Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Part 5. and Part 6. I’m keeping track of some features of the films. and set myself a few sub-challenges with each entry. Since this is one of the last entries for the year, I figured I’d rewatch at least five films. I had an expiring HBO Now subscription, so I added five films from the service. Since I hadn’t seen The River, and wanted to watch La Bette Humaine with my train-buff dad, I figured I’d add five Renoir films. The period included October, so I added at least five horror movies, as I didn’t have time for 13, like last year.

Movie #181/ 1990s Movie #15/ HBO Now Film #1: The Fugitive
The big-budget TV adaptation is astoundingly successful. The set pieces are amazing. The central conspiracy is solid. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as a driven marshal who initially starts as an antagonist, but slowly becomes the good guy as the truth becomes revealed.
9/10

Movie #182/ New Movie #118/ 2018 Movie #19/ HBO Now Film #2/ Documentary #8: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Well made, and inspirational take on the life of John McCain. I’ll quibble a bit about some key omissions (his wife’s painkiller addiction, his first wife’s disabilities, the 1996 Veepstakes, the remarkable comeback during the 2008 presidential primary, anything McCain did during the Obama presidency) but this is a solid take on a great man at the end of his life looking at a world that is on the precipice.
8/10

Repeat Movie #1: Marketa Lazerova
This remains hard to follow, given the large cast, dream sequences, parallel cutting, and lack of a clear lead (the title character disappears for chunks of the film.) But it is impressive and beautiful, giving an impression of what it would be like to live in the harsh and uncivilized medieval Czech Republic for those caught in the crossfire of a larger conflict.
10/10

Movie #183/ 1990s Movie #16/ HBO Now Film #3: Analyze This
Last time I saw this was when it was theaters; that was a good bonding experience with my dad. It remains a funny tale of a psychiatrist out of his element when he gets dragged into a Mob dispute. This time I have a better appreciation of some of the mob film parodies.
8/10

Icarus

Movie #184/ New Movie #119/ 2017 Movie #17/ Documentary #9: Icarus
Excellent documentary by someone who was doing one thing (trying to show the effects of steroid use on himself in a semi-professional athletic endurance event) but was in the right place at the right time to capture something very different, as a new acquaintance became a major figure in an international scandal.
9/10

Movie #185/ New Movie #120/ 1960s Movie #18/ Criterion Edition #36/ French Film #: Fanfan la Tulipe
Solid and enjoyable film about a roguish swashbuckler. It’s immense fun, with Gerard Phillipe showing that he could compete with anyone else in the dashing rogue category.
9/10

Movie #186/ New Movie #121/ 2016 Movie #8/ HBO Now Film #4: All the Way
Political dramas are catnip for me, and this is one of the better HBO efforts. Cranston’s LBJ is a powerhouse performance, and the cast is solid. It gets across a flawed guy manipulating competing interests to change the world, as he betrays friends, ignores an international crisis, and pushes through major civil rights legislation.
8/10

Movie #187/ New Movie #122/ Theatrical Release #37/ 2018 Movie #20: The Old Man and the Gun
I don’t think anyone else but Robert Redford would have pulled off this role so well. It’s initially a take on a charming older criminal who is surprisingly successful at bank robberies, but becomes a bit of a study on his compulsion.
8/10

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Movie #188/ New Movie #123/ 1930s Movie #15/ Criterion Edition #37/ French Film #/ Renoir Film #1: La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast)
Dad appreciated the look at 1930s French rail. It might be a step down from Renoir’s other work of the era, produced between The Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game, but still a good take on the dark things people are capable of.
8/10

Movie #189/ 2017 Movie #18/ Best Actor Winner #6: Darkest Hour
It might be manipulative, but this take on Churchill at the first month as Prime Minister is inspirational, elevated by Gary Oldman’s transformation into the iconic figure (on par with Day Lewis’ Lincoln), a solid cast and astounding production values. Churchill might never have gone into the Underground to query the populace about whether there should be a deal with Hitler, but it fits the myth and the character.
9/10

Movie #190/ 1940s Movie #3/ Criterion Film #38: The Great Dictator
This Chaplin film’s reputation has increased recently, and for good reason. It may be a bit disjointed, but has some fantastic sequences, and an astounding dual performance as the busy Hitler-like dictator and a barber. Some points are a tad underdeveloped (the barber’s generation-long mental break) but this does include some of the high points of film. The closing speech has been shown out of context, but the build-up to it is why it works so well.
10/10

Movie #191/ 2010s Movie #14/ New Movie #124/ Best Actor Winner #7/ Best Actor Winner #2: The Revenant
It’s a staggeringly beautiful film that deserves the Best Cinematography Oscar. There is a unique visual approach in how there is a consistent down to earth depiction of characters injured and crawling, and unable to walk. The rest of it is fine.
8/10

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Movie #192/ New Movie #125/ 2010s Movie #15/ Horror Movie #1/ Irish Film #6: Grabbers
This is a fun high-concept for a monster film, as an Irish island community faces an invasion from creatures that can’t stand alcohol. As a result, the heroes have to get sloshed. The exploration of character also works, helping the final result to be a decent film.
7/10

Movie #193/ New Movie #126/ 2017 Movie #19/ HBO Now Film #5/ Horror Movie #2: It
Maybe seeing what might be Stephen King’s best-loved book in film shows how much elements of it have popped up elsewhere in his work (the kids VS vicious older bullies in Stand By Me, abusive parents of loner children in Carrie and The Stand) but it’s a decent take on friendship, coming of age, and ancient evil. It’s just not exceptional yet, although that may change with Chapter 2.
7/10

Movie #194/ New Movie #127/ 1980s Movie #13/ Horror Movie #3: Hellraiser
This horror pick is rather mixed. The designs and music work, although the style can be dated, and the motivations are kinda messed up.
6/10

Movie #195/ New Movie #128/ 1990s Movie #17/ Horror Movie #4: Ghostwatch
Excellent mockumentary that soon becomes something else. It definitely seems to have an influence on the likes of Paranormal Activity, although I appreciate how believable it is in how it depicts an initially mundane TV special, and the world that’s built here.
9/10

Movie #196/ 1990s Movie #18/ Horror Movie #5/ Best Actor Winner #8: Silence of the Lambs
We pay so much attention to Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, who may just be the best movie villain ever, that one can neglect how well the film shows Clarice Starling’s arc as an FBI cadet investigating a completely different serial killer. The pacing is also astounding.
10/10

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Movie #197/ New Movie #129/ 1990s Movie #19/ Criterion Edition #39: The Fisher King
This is a film worth exploring for a few reasons. The central story of a disgraced celebrity trying to help out a mentally ill man he wounded in the past is done well enough, especially with the visuals introduced by Terry Gillam, and the performances by Willaims and Bridges. The story is elevated by the level of care put into the allegories, and Mercedes Bruhl’s Academy Award winning performance as a woman aware that she’s become an afterthought in some man’s redemption story, and outraged about it.
8/10

Movie #198/ New Movie #130/ 2018 Movie #21/ Horror Film #6/ Theatrical Release #38: Suspiria
There is depth here in Luca Guadagnino’s more muted (in comparison to the prog-rock neon original) take on Suspiria, which ties the story of the evil cabal of witches to the German psyche in the 1970s (the situation between East and West Germany; individual guilt over the Holocaust.)
8/10

Repeat Movie #2/ Renoir Film #2: The Rules of the Game
The comedy of manners balances an absurd amount of fully realized characters with their own moral codes and understandings, all of which lead to tragedy. Can be appreciated on different levels, depending on whose story you’re following/
10/10

Repeat Movie #3: The Band of Outsiders
The crime film is still fantastic, and is probably my favorite Godard, thanks to the three astounding leads in a story about two criminals and a girl who gets involved with them, who just aren’t very good at what they aim to do.
10/10

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Movie #199/ 1960s Movie #18/ Directorial Debut #: The Producers
Mel Brooks’ directorial debut is one of the funniest movies ever made, the perfect execution of one of the best concepts for a comedy ever.
10/10

Movie #200/ New Movie #131/ 2017 Movie #20/ Horror Movie #7: I Remember You
An odd combination of Icelandic detective story and ghost story. It’s not bad, as three different stories (three friends on a secluded island, a detective trying to figure out his diabetic son disappeared, hauntings involving a decades old disappearance) intersect.
7/10

Movie #201/ New Movie #132/ 1930s Movie #16/ Criterion Edition #40/ French Film #4/ Renoir Film #3: La Chienne
I didn’t realize until I watched it that it was remade as Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street. To be more technical, the same source material was used for that one. This starrs Michel Simon, who I know more as one of the old first mate in L’Atalante, and as one of the judges in one of my favorite movies ever: The Passion of Joan of Arc. It’s a solid film, although overhadowed by Renoir’s other work, as well as Scarlet Street, which has a stronger sense of visual identity. The main distinction here is that Simon’s lead is a bit more subtle, and they’re more explicit about the pimpish aspects of the relationship between the love interest and the other guy. And there is a very dark backstory. According to wikipedia, and a piece on Renoir/ Simon’s follow-up Boudu Saved From Drowning

In the film Michel Simon falls in love with Janie Marèse, and he did off-screen as well, while Marèse fell for Georges Flamant, who plays the pimp. Renoir and producer Pierre Braunberger had encouraged the relationship between Flamant and Marèse in order to get the fullest conviction into their performances (La Chienne was Flamant’s first acting experience). After the film had been completed Flamant, who could barely drive, took Marèse for a drive, crashed the car and she was killed. At the funeral Michel Simon fainted and had to be supported as he walked past the grave. He threatened Renoir with a gun, saying that the death of Marèse was all his fault. “Kill me if you like”, responded Renoir, “but I have made the film.”

8/10

Renoir River

Movie #202/ New Movie #133/ 1950s Movie #15/ Criterion Edition #41/ Renoir Film #4: The River
Beautifully shot coming of age film, showing a somewhat ordinary British family in an environment in which everything is heightened. The awkwardness of the largely non-professional cast fits well with the characters.
9/10

Repeat Movie #4: Earth
The version on Kanopy might not be the best edition of what reviews suggest is one of the most beautiful silent movies ever made, so it’s possible that I’ll appreciate a remastered version significantly more. This still remains icky due to the endorsement of one of the worst causes of the 20th Century (the specific brand of Socialist Collectivism that led to the Ukranian famine) although the imagery is often iconic.
7/10

Repeat Movie #5/ Horror Film #8: November
Watching the Estonian film on Shudder for a second time, I got the sense of its depiction of poor people living in a supernatural world, and trying to take advantage of it in weird ways. It’s oddly sympathetic to Baltic Germans, and against the salt of the earth Estonians, but does depict struggles in a fully-realized world.
8/10

Movie #203/ New Movie #134/ 1940s Movie #18/ Renoir Film #5: The Southerner
The film that got Renoir his one directing nomination is a solid take on a family’s difficulties in farming. Often quite beautiful, and it does address both sides of the mythmaking of what it means to be American and independent.
7/10

Movie #204/ New Movie #135/ 2018 Movie #22/ Saw It In Theaters #39: The Green Book
Mostly a two-hander with excellent performances by Viggo Mortensen as an Italian-American lunk, and Mahershala Ali as an African-American singer going on a tour of the segregated South. Generally entertaining and funny with characters who slowly reveal complexity and nuance. Probably the best picture choice for those in my social circle.
9/10

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Movie #205/ New Movie #136/ 2018 Movie #23/ Saw It In Theaters #40: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Easily Sony’s best Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 2. It tells a story about an interdimensional crisis, as well as the origin of the Miles Morales Spider-Man, in an accessible way. Bonus points for all the little clever moments, and the sense of visual identity for each of the spider-people.
10/10

Movie #206/ New Movie #137/ 2016 Movie #9/ Documentary #10: I Am Not Your Negro
Weirdly relaxing take on race relations using James Baldwin’s reflections on the deaths of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. He was definitely ahead of his time given how often and how well he counters arguments that have popped up recently (IE- When Bobby Kennedy said there might be a negro President in forty years, Depictions of African-Americans in films white liberals like.)
9/10

Movie #207/ New Movie #138/ 2018 Movie #24/ Saw It In Theaters #41: Aquaman
Gorgeous in Imax 3D. It is probably the second best of the DCEU films, with a sense of fun pushing through multiple narratives (young Arthur learning how to be a superhero and learning the tragic fate of his mother, a war between four kingdoms, a raider seeking revenge for the death of his father, a dynastic clash between heirs to the throne, a battle with a secret race.) A narratively cleaner film could have made more sense, although I’m not sure any of these stories would be good enough on its own, and this was a film that made the moment Aquaman put on his classic costume seem cool.
7/10

Movie #208/ New Movie #139/ 2016 Movie #10: The Lobster
It was released in 2016 in the US, so I’m counting it in that category. Dry and deadpan look at a world where no one is allowed to be single, bad news for a guy whose wife just left him.
8/10

1800

Movie #209/ New Movie #140/ 2018 Movie #25/ Saw It In Theaters #42/ Documentary #11: They Shall Not Grow Old
This is an astounding effort at modernizing century-old footage to show what the typical World War 1 experience was like for young men in England. The Fathom events version included Peter Jackson’s explanation about the goals and process, which turns a great film into one of the best of its kind.
9/10, 10/10 (with the Peter Jackson explainer)

Movie #210/ New Movie #141/ 2018 Movie #26/ Saw It In Theaters #43: Bumblebee
Perfectly solid prequel to a film that didn’t seem like it needed one. It also works as a homage to the 80s, the era of the Transformers. The story of a teen trying to get over her father’s death sometimes falls into self-parody, but Hailee Steinfeld’s is more compelling than any of the other Transformers human leads (low bar admittedly) and it works with the action sequences, as well as the friendship with an odd alien robot.
8/10

Round-Up:

  • Favorite Horror Film: Silence of the Lambs
  • Favorite HBO Now Film: The Fugitive
  • Favorite Repeat: Marketa Lazerova
  • Favorite Renoir: Rules of the Game
  • Favorite Movie I Had Never Seen Before: Ghostwatch
  • Favorite Movie Overall: Marketa Lazerova

2018 Round-Up:

  • Favorite Silent Film: The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Favorite New Silent Film: Thief of Bagdad
  • Favorite 1930s Film: M
  • Favorite New 1930s Film: Steamboat ‘Round the Bend
  • Favorite 1940s Film: Gaslight
  • Favorite New 1940s Film: Rome Open City
  • Favorite 1950s Film: All About Eve
  • Favorite New 1950s Film: The Big Heat
  • Favorite 1960s Film: 2001- A Space Odyssey
  • Favorite New 1960s Film: Marketa Lazerova
  • Favorite 1970s Film: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  • Favorite New 1970s Film: Stalker
  • Favorite 1980s Film: Tootsie
  • Favorite New 1980s Film: Rain Man
  • Favorite 1990s Film: The Shawshank Redemption
  • Favorite New 1990s Film: Magnolia
  • Favorite 2000s Film: Children of Men
  • Favorite New 2000s Film: The New World
  •  Favorite 2010s Film: The Social Network
  • Favorite New 2010s Film: Tangerines/ To Kill a Man
  • Favorite 2016 Film: Captain America- Civil War
  • Favorite New 2016 Film: Moana
  • Favorite 2017 Film: Star Wars- The Last Jedi
  • Favorite New 2017 Film: Call Me By Your Name
  • Favorite 2018 Film: Black Panther
  • Favorite Fritz Lang Film: M
  • Favorite German Film: M
  • Favorite Directorial Debut: The Shawshank Redemption
  • Favorite Japanese Film: The Hidden Fortress
  • Favorite French Film: Band of Outsiders
  • Favorite Horror Film: The Silence of the Lambs
  • Favorite Science-Fiction Film: 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Top Five Films I’ve Never Seen Before: Marketa Lazerova, Thief of Bagdad, Rome Open City, Stalker, Black Panther
  • Favorite Documentary: They Shall Not Grow Old
  • Favorite Overall Film: The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Worst Movie: Head
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