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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Fisher King Williams

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.

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.)

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/

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.


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.

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.

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.”


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.)

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.

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.


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.


  • 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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The 2020 Democratic Presidential Contenders: Invisible Primary Edition

The Democratic presidential primary is pretty damn interesting, since the polling front-runners are two men in their late 70s who might not run, four other Senators who are seen as top-tier contenders are struggling in the single digits, and the current excitement seems to be about Beto. Without knowing who’s going to run we don’t really know what openings there will be, or who will benefit from split votes.

Here are my premature thoughts on this topic. This considers how well I think they’d do as President (IE- whether I would personally vote for them over Trump), as well as political considerations in the primaries and general elections. An overall caveat is that the only way for some of the more obscure candidates to shine would be by demonstrating political talent, although someone obscure might win the primaries by pandering to the base in a way that hurts their general election odds.

I’ve split potential candidates into several categories.

The Ones To Bet On…

Joe Biden- He may be the right man for the time, largely for circumstances beyond his control. If 2020 is a referendum on outsiders, it can pay to be an insider, especially one who has remained respected even after holding a high profile for over a decade (with six terms in the Senate before that). He should be effective in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Trump really has no shot without those.

Beto O’Rourke- Best positioned for the Democrats who want to continue with the excitement of 2018. The party’s wins in the other legislative races in Texas make up for losing the state as far as his reputation should be concerned. With a few terms in Congress and the next two years as a national figure, he probably meets the bare minimum threshold for national experience.

The Paper Tigers…

Cory Booker- Not terrible, but largely generic. The Wall Street ties may be a problem in the primary, and he seems like a less impressive Obama, without a telegenic family, and without representing a significant and inspirational first. He also hasn’t acquitted himself especially well on the national stage (witness his lame ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.)

Kirsten Gilibrand- A blue dog congresswoman who became a very liberal Senator the moment her constituency changed can be painted as shameless. She seems to be trying too hard to impress the intersectional left.

Kamala Harris- Hasn’t been that impressive as a Senator. Has a lot of sound bites with limited substance/ general election appeal (IE- asking the head of ICE if he’s aware that some communities see the organization as the equivalent of the KKK.) She may be the likeliest in this group to get the nomination due to California’s early primary, and the milestone the first female President would represent.

Bernie Sanders- He’s not polling all that well for a runner-up who should have high name recognition, and is seen as the leader of a major movement. He’ll be 79 on Election Day, and has alienated much of the party.

Elizabeth Warren- Very well-positioned (a progressive with ties to the establishment, Senator from the big state next to the nation’s first primary, A woman at a time when there’s a desire to finally have a female President, expert on economic anxiety at a time of it) to run for President. Has not been that impressive as a politician. See the DNA test fiasco, as well as her reelection results (she got the same percentage of the vote as Klobuchar).

Obscure/ Tough Road But High Potential…

These are candidates I could see myself voting for in a general election, but who will have a tough time making it through the primary.

Mike Bloomberg- A former Republican in his late 70s will be a tough sell in the primaries. I’m not sure he’ll do that well in the rust belt/ sun belt in the general election. His accomplishments as a businessman and mayor have been impressive, and he could buy a lot of top-tier consultants/ support.

Sherrod Brown- A swing state Senator could be strong in the general election, but he would have to break through the pack.

Steve Bullock- A small-state Western Governor will have a tough time emerging from the primary, but can be a strong contender in the general election and have any easy time making it a referendum on Trump, rather than on national Democrats.

Amy Klobuchar- Very popular in her home state. Strong appeal in key regions of the country. Would represent a major first (first female President) without any serious baggage.

Mitch Landrieu- I’ve been impressed by what I’ve heard, and he has a potential story as a popular executive who helped his city recover from Hurricane Katrina. Not sure how he gets others on his side.

I Don’t See It…

Joaquin Castro- Has probably been overshadowed by Beto. Limited relevant electoral success. His experience is exaggerated (it seems the mayor of San Antonio has limited power compared to the city manager.)

John Delaney- His congressional tenure wasn’t impressive, and his business career suggests potential pitfalls.

Tulsi Gabbard- Can be young and exciting, but way too friendly with dictators in the current environment.

Eric Garcetti- Not sure how he stands out, especially with the rural focus of early primaries.

Eric Holder- Seems to be a less effective communicator than Obama, without any proven campaign experience and no foreign policy chops.

John Hickenlooper- Seemed to be an okay but not great Governor, who hasn’t really performed that well for his state. His family life isn’t ideal (he’s a divorced elderly man who just got married to a much younger woman.)

Jay Inslee- I don’t see how he emerges from the pack.

Terry McAuliffe- This does not seem to be a cycle for a middle-aged white guy who happens to be a former DNC Chairman. The reevaluation of Bill Clinton’s personal failings is also not going to reflect well on one of his top fundraisers.

Chris Murphy- Generic younger Senator. Seems overshadowed by Beto.

Richard Ojeda- He’s a state senator who lost a bid for Congress by more than ten points. He might have a shot at winning his state primary, but his decision to run is probably harmful to his party.

Deval Patrick- He couldn’t get fifty percent of the vote running for reelection in Massachusetts (he won thanks to an independent splitting the vote) so the decision not to run was a smart one.

Tim Ryan- There are probably better blue-collar candidates among statewide officeholders. Challenging Pelosi from the right is also not going to win a Democratic primary.

Howard Schultz- Democrats don’t really seem to be as impressed by business types, and the CEO of Starbucks seems to invite too many culture wars (not only left VS right, but mom and pop VS corporation.)

Tom Steyer- A political outsider without the fame of Trump.

Eric Swallwell- Hasn’t been that impressive as a Congressman. His biggest news item has been a gaffe about how the government can use nukes if there is opposition to gun control.

Jeff Merkley- Even if Sanders doesn’t run, he’ll have a hard time standing out.

It’s a big crowd, but it would be a mistake to settle on a favorite now. It’s better if weaknesses emerge under the high scrutiny of a competitive primary.

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A Great Winter Painting


Years ago, I went to the Musee d’Orsay, and took a photo of a painting of a winter landscape that I thought was rather interesting.

The problem is that I didn’t record the name of the painting, or the name of the artist.

Now, I know.


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2018 Election Preferences


For what it’s worth, I thought I’d list my preferences in certain elections in the upcoming midterms, if only to be able to refer to it later.

I do want Republicans to maintain overall control of the US Senate. In the Arizona Senate election, I prefer Martha McSally, as Kirsten Sinema seems rather kooky in some of her older views and disingenuous in the responses to questions about those. In the Florida Senate election, I prefer Rick Scott as he’s been doing a solid job as Governor, and Bill Nelson seems like a nonentity. I’m a Republican, so I would prefer an okay Republican to an okay Democrat. In the Indiana Senate election, I prefer Mike Braun. In the Missouri Senate election, I prefer Josh Hawley. In the Nevada Senate election, I’d go with Dean Heller. In the New Jersey Senate election, I’m very pleased that Bob Hugin seems to have a shot. In the North Dakota Senate election, I support Kevin Cramer.

There are still some Democrats I’d back. In the Tennessee Senate election, Phil Bredesen has an impressive background, and has run a moderate campaign. In the Texas Senate election, I prefer Beto O’Rourke to Ted Cruz; Cruz has done three things that pretty much disqualified him in my eyes: he attacked O’Rourke for unobjectionable comments about police shootings, he publicized offensive comments James Gunn had made as an indie director- introducing those to a larger audience, and he pushed the country into the 2013 shutdown based on a poor understanding of just what the Senate can do. While the Virginia Senate election doesn’t appear to be all that competitive, Tim Kaine should win big, as Corey Stewart deserves a massive loss for a racist and Confederacy-backing campaign. California has a jungle primary so it’s two Democrats against one another, and I think her handling of the Kavanaugh mess shows that Dianne Feinstein doesn’t deserve another six years. Her opponent Kevin de León is conventionally qualified.

For overall US House control, I do prefer the Republicans. In Alaska’s At-Large Congressional District, I prefer Alyse Galvin, since incumbent Republican Don Young does not seem well. In Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, I’d go with Lea Marquez Peterson. In California’s 48th Congressional District, I’d prefer Harley Rouda, since Dana Rohrabacher deserves to lose for his pro-Russian stance. In California’s 50th Congressional District, I prefer Ammar Campa-Najjar, since incumbent Republican Duncan Hunter is running for reelection while indicted. There is a similar dynamic in New York’s 27th Congressional District, where I prefer Nate McMurray to incumbent Republican Chris Collins. In Florida’s 27th Congressional District, I like Maria Elvira Salazar. In Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, I think Will Hurd remains a valuable voice for the country. In Utah’s 4th Congressional District, I’d like to see Mia Love reelected. In Washington’s 5th Congressional District, I’d back Cathy McMorris Rodgers for reelection. In Washington’s 8th Congressional District, I support Dino Rossi, a decent guy with a history of risky and unsuccessful statewide bids.

Some Republican Governors up for reelection are among the most popular executives in the country (Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont) so the elections aren’t considered competitive. Beyond that, in the Arizona gubernatorial election, I’d back Doug Ducey. In the Florida gubernatorial election, I hope Ron DeSantis wins, and in Georgia’s gubernatorial election, I prefer Brian Kemp. This is more about Abrams and Gillum being too progressive than the strengths of the Republicans. In the Iowa gubernatorial election, I’d like to see Kim Reynolds be reelected. In the Kansas gubernatorial election, Democrat Laura Kelly is preferable to Kris Kobach, who has done more damage to election security reforms than anyone else. In the Maine gubernatorial election, I’d prefer Shawn Moody, who has an interesting background as a former third-party candidate. In the Nevada gubernatorial election, I’d back Adam Laxalt. In the Ohio gubernatorial election, Richard Cordray seems preferable to the Republican nominee, an elderly extremist. In the Oregon gubernatorial election, I’m rooting for Knute Beuller. In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election,  I hope Scott Walker gets reelected. In the Minnesota Attorney General election, I’m glad Doug Wardley is leading Keith Ellison in polls.

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A BS Allegation Against Brett Kavanaugh

The Brett Kavanaugh hearing is one of the most interesting news items of the last decade. It touches on so many issues, involving sexual assault, male culture, how seriously we should take one allegation, media bias, etc.

On the Kavanaugh story, two journalists posted the same criticism based on an article of the Intercept.

The first is Taegan Goddard of Political Wire.

The Intercept reports that Brett Kavanaugh lied during his testimony about having no connections to Yale when he said, “I have no connections there. I got there by busting my tail.”

In fact, he was a legacy student: His grandfather, Everett Edward Kavanaugh, also went to Yale as an undergrad, as this yearbook shows.

The second is Molly Olmstead of Slate.

At one point in the testimony, when Kavanaugh was making the point that he had worked hard and earned his success, Kavanaugh told the committee that he had no connections to Yale before attending. “I have no connections there,” he said. “I got there by busting my tail.”

In reality, Kavanaugh was a legacy student. His grandfather, Everett Edward Kavanaugh, attended Yale as an undergraduate. The Intercept published a photo of a 1928 yearbook as evidence:

Looking at the transcript, he said something different. His comments weren’t about Yale, but about Yale Law School.

KAVANAUGH: I would refer you to what I said in the sealed or redacted portion about his relationship with the other two roommates, and I’m going to leave it at that. I will say – Senator, you were asking about college.

I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.

One can easily say that it’s ridiculous for a Yale undergrad to claim no connection to Yale Law School, but that isn’t the argument made here. There is a transparently false interpretation about what he said.

I’m curious as to how respectable journalists got this wrong, and what that means. Is the rush for content just preventing them from doing due diligence, or is this caused by bias of some kind? What makes this ironic and hypocritical is that it comes in the context of arguments about whether Brett Kavanaugh is too dishonest to be on the Supreme Court.

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Movies Watched in 2018 Part 6


This is a continuation of notes on films I saw this year, following Part 1Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4. and Part 5. I’m keeping track of some features of the films. and set myself a few sub-challenges. Because of a vacation to Ireland (well worth it) I figured I’d watch five Irish films, defined as films shot or set in Ireland. With the recent purchase of a John Ford box set, I figured I’d watch five of his films; there was some overlap. I had a trial subscription to the Shudder streaming service, so I thought I’d watch five films from that. While working on an article on whether “Medievals” should be a genre, I also determined I’d watch five of those, and added five directorial debuts and five Japanese films.

Movie #151/ New Movie #95/ 1960s Movie #15/ Directorial Debut #1/ Irish Film #1: Dementia 13
Francis Ford Coppola’s first film is a combination of Psycho and Rebecca, as a shady American discovers her Irish husband’s family secrets, and runs afoul a slasher. The Corman produced film is sometimes amateurish and excessive, especially with the fate of a woman swimming in her underwear, but it does have a good sense of atmosphere and details.

Movie #152/ New Film #96/ 2018 Movie #17/ Tom Cruise Film #7/ Theatrical Release #34: Mission Impossible Fallout
This is a series where I keep thinking the newest entry is the best, and the latest is no exception. It’s got excellent action set pieces and a sense of humor, with a solid focus on Cruise’s allies. The swerves might get excessive, but this is a lot of fun.

Movie #153/ New Movie #97/ 1970s Movie #11/ Japanese Film #1/ Shudder Collection #1/ Directorial Debut #2: Female Prisoner #701- Scorpion
This Tarantino favorite is a visually striking revenge saga, although quite lurid, as can be expected from a Japanese women in prison film. The direction is visually striking for a freshman effort.


Movie #154/ New Movie #98/ 1970s Movie #12/ Japanese Film #2/ Shudder Collection #2: Female Prisoner Scorpion- Jailhouse 41
The sequel to the Japanese women in prison saga is probably more creative when it comes to the cinematography, and darker when it comes to the criticism of the treatment of women. The supporting characters shine, even if some of the stories are quite messed up.

Movie #155/ New Movie #99/ 2000s Movie #3/ Japanese Film #12; Western Sukiyaki Django
This reimagining is a strange film, putting a legendary Japanese clan rivalry in the context of American westerns. There are some great moments, especially with the revelations about the world’s best gunsmith.

Movie #156/ New Movie #100/ 2010s Movie #12/ Directorial Debut #2/ Shudder Collection #3: Resolution
Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s debut is set in the same world as The Endless, and it does have a similar approach of ordinary people trying to figure out an ancient force, while also dealing with their own issues. It’s okay by itself, and as a prototype to a bigger and better film.

Movie #157/ New Movie #101/ 1950s Movie #11/ Russian Film #/ Criterion Edition #31/ The A-List #: The Cranes are Flying
This Russian drama is a beautifully shot take on the effects of war on a society, and the people who don’t get to fight.

Movie #158/ New Movie #102/ 2010s Movie #13/ Irish Films #2: The Irish Pub
This was a fun documentary on the people who run the Irish pubs, as they deal with change, the weight of history and the time commitments of a job where there isn’t any chance for vacations or days off.

Movie #159/ New Movie #103/ 1940s Movie #16/ Japanese Films #4/ Criterion Collection #32: Women of the Night
Kenji Mizoguchi’s sympathetic take on women forced to make difficult decisions in post-war Japan is often powerful, but sometimes clunky. Granted, subtlety isn’t really to be expected from this type of movie.


Movie #160/ New Movie #104/ 1960s Movie #16/ Czech Films #1/ Medieval #1/ Criterion Collection #33: Marketa Lazarová
This take on 13th century Czechoslovakia is beautiful, and gives a tremendous sense of what it was like to live in that era. I can appreciate why it’s the most popular Czech movie ever made. It’s worth rewatching to get a better appreciation of the sagas of all the side characters, who are more fully-realized than many leads

Movie #161/ 1950s Movie #12/ Irish Films #3/ John Ford Films #1: The Quiet Man
This Wayne/ Ford collaboration about an American who returns to his native Ireland is lovely (taking advantage of the setting) and fun. It can be a bit low-stakes, although the conflicts do matter to the characters, and that part is depicted well.

Movie #162/ New Film #105/ 2018 Movie #18/ Theatrical Release #35: BlackkKlansman
Man, I hope this film gets Spike Lee his first Best Director nomination. It tackles some heavy issues, but it’s a lot of fun. Great cinematography, and supporting performances. It’s clearly a message movie, but there’s enough historical material for the message to work (If David Duke goes to the Charlottesville rally, it fits a film about an undercover investigation into his organization).

Movie #163/ New Movie #106/ Silent Movie #12/ Irish Films #4/ John Ford Films #2: The Hangman’s House
This film about a judge’s daughter forced into an unhappy marriage was a bit disappointing, and often dated.

Movie #164/ New Movie #107/ 2010s Movie #14/ Shudder Collection #4/ Irish Film #5: Cherry Tree
This Irish horror film is terrible, and flawed on so many levels. There’s a germ of an idea that has potential with witches who force a teenage girl to do their bidding, but it struggles in terms of dialogue, worldbuilding, acting, and everything to do with the execution.

Movie #165/ New Movie #108/ 1970s Movie #13/ Shudder Collection #5/ Medieval #2: Mark of the Devil
I wanted to check this out since I really enjoyed The Witchfinder General, the success of which led to this film. It lacks the wit, but works as an indictment of the abuses of the time, depicted with suitable outrage. The focus on a witchfinder’s apprentice gives a different insight into that perspective, even if it goes way too far at times.

wag the dog

Movie #166/ 1990s Movie #12: Wag the Dog
This is a great take by David Mamet on politics and storytelling, with Dustin Hoffman’s producer going to an end that is sad but inevitable, and elevates it beyond memorable satire (although that part is way too believable now).

Movie #167/ 1990s Movie #13/ Medieval #3: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
The acting quality here is wildly inconsistent (Freeman’s moor and Rickman’s sheriff of Nottingham are great; Costner and Slater seem to be in the wrong movie) but it’s often fun.

Movie #168/ New Movie #109/ 1930s Movie #14/ John Ford Films #3: Judge Priest
This relatively short John Ford film about a wise judge does highlight Will Rogers’ natural affableness (we can understand how he was one of the biggest movie stars on the planet) but the story is low-stakes, and the racial dynamics are quite outdated (the black characters are caricatures, everybody loves the Confederacy.)

Movie #169/New Movie #110/ Silent Movie #13/ Fritz Lang Film #6/ German Film #6/ Medieval #4: Die Nibelungen: Siegfried
Including the sequel, this Fritz Lang fantasy saga is probably the longest silent film I’ve ever seen. The first half has astounding production design, and comes across as a dark tragic fairy tale. It’s silly and fun, and then things get twisted.

Movie #170/ New Movie #111/ 1930s Movie #15/ John Ford Films #4: Steamboat ‘Round The Bend
This was rather similar to Judge Priest, with Will Rogers in another John Ford film playing a southerner whose best friend is played by Stepin Fetchit, and whose nephew is getting married to a girl from a lower class. But it’s significantly better. A key difference is that Rogers is better suited to be a minor scam artist than a paragon of virtue and wisdom, especially with the Southern setting. There are also higher stakes with a nephew facing the possibility of hanging, and a better satire of something specific: the religious fervor of the era.

Movie #171/ New Movie #112/ 1960s Movie #17/ Directorial Debut #3/ Criterion Collection #34/ Czech Film #2: Closely Watched Trains
Perhaps the best known film of the Czech new wave, this look at the life of a young train conductor in World War 2 is pretty effective at capturing an unambitious man who freaks out due to problems with women. It’s a bit incongruous but it works to show that it’s the height of World War 2 and he’s involved in all sorts of intrigues, but all he wants to do is get laid, which functions as an effective satire of a genre that doesn’t exist yet: the teen sex comedy.


Movie #172/New Movie #113/ Silent Movie #14/ Fritz Lang Film #7/ German Film #7/ Medieval #5: Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge
The conclusion to Fritz Lang’s fantasy epic takes the series in a deeper direction, more like Sophocles, as brother and sister are drawn to a tragic final confrontation due to differing feelings of guilt, loyalty and a desire for revenge. Brilliant set design and silent storytelling.

Movie #173/ New Movie #114/ 2016 Movie #7/ Science Fiction Film #4: Passengers
I’m familiar with the film, mainly as a notable flop, and it’s worth examining why that is. There’s some stuff it does quite well (little details about the sci-fi world, Michael Sheen’s robot bartender) and stretches where things get dull. I read the screenplay before, so I had been familiar with the moment that disappointed readers, and I kept being reminded of Nerdwriter’s argument that it should have been structured differently, although there is more to the shortcomings. Fantastic production design.

Movie #174/ New Movie #115/ 2000s Movie #13: Ghosts of the Abyss
It’s a solid documentary (very impressive in 3D) about the ruins of the Titanic, which takes for granted audience familiarity with the subject matter (I didn’t remember that Bill Pullman was even in the damn film) but highlights the power of history and the iconic nature of this one tragedy.

Movie #175/ New Film #116/ 1980s Movie #12/ Directorial Debut #4: Blood Simple
This is an astoundingly impressive debut for the Coen Brothers as directors, for Frances McDormand as lead actress, and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfield. The Coens’ philosophy is fully formed, in a tragedy of cascading consequences as people without all the information make fatal decisions after a hitman gets hired by a jealous husband. Little details make the characters seem believable, like people who have known one another for years, but aren’t quite aware of what others are capable of, which informs their own decisions.


Movie #176/ 1950s Movie #13/ Japanese Film #5/ Criterion Edition #35: The Hidden Fortress
Best known as a major influence on Star Wars, this samurai saga is several excellent tales, as a princess flees her pursuers, a fallen samurai seeks redemption, and two idiotic bandits seek treasure. Excellent witty action-adventure story in its own right that balances tragedy and humor, with high-class and low-lives. Misa Uehara’s Princess Yuki is one of the best female leads of the genre, and it’s nice to see Toshiro Mifune playing a badass with nobility.

Movie #177/ 1990s Movie #14/ Directorial Debut #5: The Shawshank Redemption
One of the most popular movies ever made remains pretty damn good. The central story of two men forming a friendship in prison, and getting used to changes works so well that it hides two big secrets: the first about what someone did before they were in jail, and the second about what someone’s been up to while no one’s looking. It sets up one of the biggest reveals in film, but it’s enjoyable before that happens, even with all the messed up aspects of prison life.

Movie #178/ New Movie #117/ 1950s Movie #14/ Theatrical Release #36: This Can’t Happen Here
Bergman disavowed this early effort, which is of interest to several groups. Aficionados of his work will be curious about the seeds of his later films. Spy fans might be interested in how one of the great directors handles a Hitchcock/ Fritz Lang style mystery (and the answer is that it’s okay enough). It’s also interesting to explore in the context of the metaphor for the experience of Baltics fleeing the Soviet Union (my grandparents were Estonian refugees, and my Aunt was born in Sweden) and what this suggests about their lives.

Movie #179/  2000s Movie #14: Eurotrip
This is a lot of fun within the genre of teen sex comedies. The cast isn’t that great, but it does have some great bits (Scotty Doesn’t Know!) and takes advantage of the European setting quite well.

Movie #180/ 1940s Movie #17/ John Ford Films #5: How Green Was My Valley
This movie’s overshadowed by the injustice of Orson Welles losing Best Picture and Best Director. It remains a solid take on a young boy becoming a man, in a society that is full of love and sometimes deeply flawed. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Walter Pidgeon as a lovelorn pastor.

And a roundup…

Best Film: The Shawshank Redemption

Best New Film: Marketa Lazerova

Best Irish Film: The Quiet Man

Best John Ford Film: How Green Was My Valley

Best Directorial Debut: The Shawshank Redemption

Best Japanese Film: The Hidden Fortress

Best Film on Shudder: Female Prisoner Scorpion- Jailhouse 41 (although there are some better films on the service that I’ve already seen, including Battle Royale, November (Recent addition- Congrats Estonia!), Run Lola Run, The Host, The Descent, The Wicker Man, Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Sunday

Best Medieval: Marketa Lazerova

Worst Movie: Cherry Falls




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The Best Candidate Since Ike


An year ago, I made the argument on another forum that John McCain was the best General Election candidate either political party has had for President since General Dwight Eisenhower, so with his passing, it seems to be a good time to expand on that a little bit.

There are a few caveats here. I’m only including General Election candidates, so promising individuals who ran but did not get the nomination aren’t included. I am a Republican, so I would have a bias against Democrats, as I fundamentally disagree with the direction they want to take the country, or have tried to take the country. I’m not inclined to believe the best presidential candidate in the last 50+ years has been one of the twelve Democrats.

The obvious favorite of conservatives is Ronald Reagan, who I do think was a good President, but there was some shady business (Iran-Contra.) He also put a lot of support in astrology.

Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee for President on three separate occasions, and I doubt there’s anyone who thinks he’s in contention in the category of best nominee. Barry Goldwater held some extreme positions, and gets a lot of credit for writing Conscience of a Conservative, one of the fundamental explanations of the Republican ideology. However, L. Brent Bozell Jr. was responsible for much of the intellectual heavy lifting.

Ford was kinda bland. The Bushes had their problems. Dole cried at Nixon’s funeral. Romney was out of touch.

Within this crowd, McCain’s problems aren’t as significant. And I’m more simpatico with his generally conservative but sometimes independent political positions than with any other President/ candidate in generations. He was better at his earlier job than most nominees, and worked across the aisle to get results at issues that matter.

He did suffer a significant loss as a nominee, but his main problem was that he ran in the worst environment for a Republican since 1964. That he kept the spread to single digits is a miracle. I remember a statistic that he won every state where George W Bush had an approval rating above 35 percent.

As an aside, McCain also had one of the best campaign videos I’ve ever seen.


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