Quote of the Day
“We are in real danger of being out-organized by a small number of highly motivated right wing nuts.”
-- from a Pres. Ford campaign memo written about the Reagan camp shortly after Gov. Ronald Reagan's landslide victory (66% to 33%) in the 1976 Texas primary—the greatest defeat ever for a sitting president according to author Rick Perlstein in his book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.”
Some of the groups who were funding Reagan at this juncture, and in the future, included the following:
- George Wallace’s old American Independence Party
- The National Conservative Political Action Committee
- The National Right to Work Committee
- The American Medical Association’s PAC
- The NRA
- The American Conservative Union
- The Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress
- The Heritage Foundation.
“Many of the members of these groups are not loyal Republicans or Democrats,“ the memo also noted. ”They are alienated from both parties because neither takes a sympathetic view toward their issues. Particularly those groups controlled by Vigurie [sic] hold a ‘rule or ruin’ attitude toward the GOP.” Perlstein then lambasts the Republican establishment, who didn't even know enough in 1976 to spell Richard Viguerie's name correctly.
Read the book.
Box Office: It's Idris; 'Guardians' Passes $300 Million; and Breitbart Predictions Continue to Be Wrong
Remember this prediction from Breitbart’s “Big Hollywood” last March?
Like a lot of analyses on the right-wing site, this turned out to be not exactly ... right.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” opened Memorial Day weekend and promptly finished third at the box office: $16.8 million. It wound up with a domestic total of $42.7 million—one of the biggest box-office bombs in a summer of box-office bombs.
So 0-1 for Breitbart.
And it finished second, $16.5 million, or about $3 million less than the original took in three years ago.
So 0-2 for Breitbart.
I’m not sure if this is good news for “Big Hero 6” or not. I mean, how many movies can Breitbart get wrong?
Despite lousy reviews (12% on Rotten Tomatoes), Idris Elba’s “No Good Deed” came in first with $24 million.
The bigger news, I suppose, is that “Guardians of the Galaxy” became the first movie this year to pass the $300 million mark. It fell only 22%, grossed another $8 million (good for third place), and has now grossed $305.9 domestically and another $305 overseas.
I thought the events in Ferguson would kill the comedy “Let’s Be Cops” at the box office, but it keeps schlepping along. It finished in a near-tie with “Ninja Turtles” (around $4 million) for fourth place, and has now grossed $72 million, which is more than ... well, I guess a lot of bad movies. Including “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
“Boyhood” took in another $1 million (14th place). It’s at $22 million domestic. See it.
Quote of the Day
I read this last Sunday, eating lunch outside at Cafe Presse on 12th, as has been my habit this long summer; then I reread it to Patricia when she arrived (that's also my habit). It's from Rick Perlstein's book ”The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.“ We're in 1975/76, post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, and a Senate committee run by Sen. Frank Church (D-ID, back when Ds could be from ID) is investigating what exactly the CIA had been doing with our tax dollars in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Some of the stuff—assassinations of foreign leaders, opening mail of U.S. citizens—isn't particularly palatable, but you get the feeling Americans were more upset by the latter than the former.
This is the part I reread to Patricia:
It never became any kind of campaign issue; in public opinion polls slightly more citizens disapproved than approved of the Pike and Church committees, and a majority feared they'd harmed national security.
That's why Jason Bourne is the perfect American hero. He's a CIA supersoldier who does the dirty work, then develops amnesia. He's keeps us both safe and innocent.
Quote of the Day
“How could anyone hate the Royals? It’s like hating Charlie Brown.”
-- Joe Posnanski, in his post, “Yo Joe! Unanimity, Stadium Names and Field Goals,” responding to a Cleveland reader who says over and over how much he hates the Royals.
Why couldn't Brett have hit just one more triple?!?
Movie Review: Red State (2011)
For an hour I was impressed. Unfortunately, this thing lasts an hour and a half.
I didn’t pay much attention to “Red State” and its surrounding controversy when it arrived in 2011. Maybe because the controversy arrived and the movie didn’t. After so-so reviews at Sundance, writer-director Kevin Smith created his own company, SModcast Pictures, to distribute it. Kinda sorta. “Red State,” according to Box Office Mojo, played in five theaters in March, one in August, and one at the end of September. Then it went to VOD. Then it disappeared. Blip.
Part of the problem is the one Philip Roth identified in 1961—the difficulty of making the absurdity of American life credible—but at least in one area Smith doesn’t do poorly. He gives us a version of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, but with guns guns guns. He puts us in their church. He forces us to hear their sermon. Then he gets trigger-happy. He dramatizes not only a version of Westboro but a version of Waco. Equal time, I suppose. Doesn’t work. Falls flat. Feels false.
Plus, for a movie that makes a homophobic group the enemy, it feels a little homophobic.
A vengeful God
Three teenage boys are hanging out, bored and horny, in a small Southern town. One, Travis (Michael Angarano), late for school, sees a protest by the Five Points Trinity Church and its leader, Rev. Abin Cooper (a stellar Michael Parks), at the funeral of a homosexual kid who was recently murdered. It’s Westboro’s “God Hates Fags” package with one exception: Five Points Church actually murdered this kid. We find that out later.
One of Travis’ friends, Jarod (Kyle Gallner), has found an older woman on the Internet (Melissa Leo) willing to put out. Since boys will be boys, they visit her at her trailer—sidewiping a car en route. There, they drink beer, get undressed, pass out. Drugged. A trap. When Jarod awakes, he’s in a covered cage, inside the Five Points Trinity Church, where Abin Cooper begins his sermon.
Cooper talks about the horrors of modern American society and its homosexual agenda. He preaches on Noah and the Flood: how God killed everyone but one family. He mocks softer churches that talk of a loving God. Does the Noah story sound like a loving God, he asks? God, he says, demands fear. Then he and the members of his church, nice, middle-aged folks, reveal a homosexual kid shrinkwrapped to the cross, whom they kill. Then they push him through a trap door and into the basement, where Travis and the third friend, Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun), are tied up. Then they begin to shrinkwrap Jarod to the cross.
These are intense scenes—the best part of the movie—and Parks completely sells them. He’s awful and charismatic and in some sense logical. If you believe in the Flood, why would you believe in a loving God? Jesus’ corrective notwithstanding.
The kind of preaching Cooper does is actually in Kevin Smith’s wheelhouse. I don’t think I’ve seen a Kevin Smith movie as interesting as Kevin Smith talking. YouTube has tons of these videos. He’s a racounteur. So it makes sense he’s at his best when he lets one of his characters speechify.
But then we get into the Waco portion of the story. From wacko to Waco.
A vengeful government
Remember the sideswiped car? Turns out the local Sheriff (Stephen Root) was inside, where he was giving head to another guy. Back at the office, cowardly, shaking, he tells his deputy, Pete (Matt Jones, Badger from “Breaking Bad”), to track down the other car. Pete, it turns out, is pretty good at his job. He does it. It’s at the Five Points Church, where Pete is in the process of being mollified by Abin Cooper until a gunfight breaks out between one of the parishioners and an escaped Billy-Ray, both of whom buy it. Pete buys it, too, but not before calling in the gunfight to the cowardly gay Sheriff. At which point the cowardly gay Sheriff calls in ATF Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman).
Keenan first has to convince his superior to get involved; then he has to convince him to get involved in a measured way. Apparently, the superior, whom, like God, we never see, wants to kill everyone inside—women and children included. It's the story of Noah all over again. But this is about the time my attention began to waver. I didn’t buy it. Seemed like bullshit. And why does Keenan have to convince another agent to follow these orders when he doesn’t?
It’s all scattershot and the body count mounts up. There goes Travis, who gets it in the head—ironically, from the cowardly gay Sheriff. There goes Agent Brooks (Kevin Pollack), who’s barely in this thing. He says a couple of witty lines and is gone. Shame. There goes the cowardly gay Sheriff.
We’ve got one guy left: Can Caleb survive? Do we care? There’s an odd scene, or several scenes, between Caleb and Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé), the cute, blonde Five Pointser, who is trying to bargain for the lives of the babies in contradiction to the “blaze of glory” end demanded by Cooper. Both she and Caleb wind up getting killed in cold blood by ATF agents. As always happens. Then the trumpet sounds, announcing the return of God to the world. Or so Cooper believes. It’s actually pot growers next door, playing a joke on him with a huge horn, a huge amplifier, and an iPod. (Not a bad bit, but couldn’t they hear the automatic weapons fire?) Keenan explains all of this at an inquiry that really isn’t an inquiry, where he’s both suspended and promoted. It’s supposed to be a cynical end but the cynicism is immature. There’s nothing subtle about it.
That’s always been Smith’s problem: a lack of maturity and subtlety. I get it with “Clerks”; Smith was only 24 then. Now he’s into his 40s. Time to grow up a bit.
Washington State Supreme Court Cites Washington State Legislature for Contempt
The Washington state Supreme Court is holding the Legislature in contempt for not making enough progress toward fully funding public education but, for now, is holding off on sanctions.
Here's some background on the contempt charge. Article IX, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution reads: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” The paramount duty. Washington's is one of only two state constitutions to use the word “paramount” in this regard, and the other, Florida, declares it “a paramount duty,” not the paramount duty.
However, the Washington Legislature is still not making it its paramount duty to fund education despite supreme court decisions in 1978 and 2012 to do just that. Two years ago, I interviewed Thomas Ahearne, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the more recent case, McCleary v. State of Washington, who has an amused side when it comes to himself and a combative side when it comes to almost everything else. This case is part of his combative side.
The new today made me read over the piece. I'd forgotten how colorful he is. He has great stories.
More, I seemed to remember a prediction he made about whether or not the Legislature would live up to its paramount duty. This is how the piece ends:
“Our Supreme Court has ordered our Legislature to do something that’s hard, very hard, with their public schools, and we’ll see if they do it promptly or if they drag their feet and stall,” Ahearne says. He smiles but his eyes remain combative. “I have a good guess as to what they’re going to do.”
He sounds more optimistic in the Seattle Times' link above.
I didn't even know about this.
Apparently there are 28 pages that the Bush administration redacted from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, citing national security reasons. Congressmen who have seen these pages say the redaction has less to do with national security and more to do with protecting Saudi Arabia. Both North Carolina Republicans and Massachusetts Democrats says this. They want it to go public.
You know who also wants it to go public? Saudio Arabia. “Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide,” the former Saudi ambassador says. “We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages.”
Lawrence Wright reports what he knows: about the first two hijackers, the Saudi community in San Diego circa 2000, and who helped who. And why? The why is still iffy. Thomas Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and chairman of the 9/11 Commission, thinks the ”ton of stuff“ that's still classified, let alone the 28 pages, should go public. So do many officials. Wright quotes Timothy Roemer, saying, ”The more the American people know about what happened thirteen years ago, the more we can have a credible, open debate.”
That's if the American people want to know. I have increasing doubts about this.
Screenshot of the Day
Just an ordinary shot from “The Immigrant,” which isn't a particularly good movie even if Ms. Cotillard is excellent in it. I post it midweek for anyone with sore eyes.
- Via The Independent and Karen Tischler: “Abbey Road zebra crossing live feed lets you watch Beatles fans piss off motorists 24/7.” Two things: Infamous cover, Independent? And, yes, sorry Brits, but I would totally be doing this if I were there. Barefoot. With Dave and Doug in front and Pete behind.
- Via Ken Levine: a 2010 LA Times piece by the writer of the “Happy Days” episode where Fonzie jumped the shark. Sadly, the dude doesn't quite get it. He insists the episode wasn't the moment when “Happy Days” began to decline since the show went on for six more popular and profitable years. But we're not talking popularity; we're talking about when real fans knew it was over; when the show bought into its own ridiculousness. That's why “jump the shark” is perfect. Sure, we'll buy that Fonzie can start jukeboxes with his fist and get girls with the snap of a finger. We'll buy him jumping 14 trash cans on his motorcycle. But jumping a shark? On water skis? In southern California? Wearing a leather jacket? Now you're just being silly.
- Via my friend Vinny: Three Reasons to watch (or buy) Criterion Collection movies. I have issues with Criterion. They tend to focus on the style-over-substance movies that I can barely watch, let alone rewatch (see: most of Jean-Luc Godard). But I did just buy three CCs recently—“Nashville,” “All That Jazz,” and “Anatomy of a Murder”—to add to the usual suspects: “On the Waterfront,” “Seven Samurai,” “Children of Paradise,” “Yi Yi,” “Summer Hours.” Plus these “Three Reasons” videos, which Vinny equates to popcorn, have already made me want to watch Steven Soderbergh's doc, “And Everything is Going Fine,” about Spalding Gray.
- Actor Idris Elba on playing Stringer Bell, the lack of diversity at the BBC, and what's so funny about his crotch.
- Bill Gates wants to change history by changing the way it is taught.
- What radical, left-wing site has the headline, “Obama Outperforms Reagan on Jobs, Growth and Investing”? Forbes magazine. So add that to the list of media outlets the wingnuts dismiss. Is The Wall Street Journal next?
Nothing silly about this.
A Blah Baseball Year Everywhere, Roger? Or Just in New York?
The New Yorker put Derek Jeter on its cover last week with a nice illustration by longtime contributor Mark Ulriksen. It's the classic, from-behind, baseball farewell shot. It's how we've done it ever since Nat Fein of The New York Herald Tribune captured this shot of Babe Ruth, dying, in 1948. It's also, not coincidentally, the look they give us as they exit the field: their back, their number, then gone.
Roger Angell also has a piece on Jeter in the issue and so I saved it for the weekend, assuming it was a feature. It's not. It's a “Talk of the Town” piece. Maybe Angell, in his 90s now, ready for his own farewell photo, doesn't do features anymore. Maybe The New Yorker had already done enough features on Jeter. Whatever the reason, it's short, an easy read. Angell describes Jeter's pre-batting ritual well (“the cop-at-a-crossing right hand ritually lifted astern ...”) and the extent of his celebrity. But then he gives us this:
He's not having a great year, but then neither are the Yanks, who trail the Orioles ... It's been a blah baseball year almost everywhere, and, come to think of it, watching Derek finish might be the best thing around.
A blah baseball year everywhere? I don't know, Roger. Tell it to fans in Baltimore. Tell it to fans in Washington, D.C., or Anaheim or LA. Tell it to me and my friends in Seattle, who are discussing the Mariners in August and September for the first time in more than a decade. Tell it to the long-suffering Kansas City Royals fan, whose team, Tyler Kepner reminds us today, hasn't been in the postseason since Derek Jeter was in sixth grade. Tell it to Joe Posnanski.
In fact, I think you've got it backwards. Any year in which the Yankees flounder and don't make the playoffs is an exceptional baseball year almost everywhere else.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard