Friday, May 26, 2006

The Proposition

The Proposition is a frustrating film. It's beautifully shot, compellingly violent and dusty, and set in a relatively-exotic, unexplored locale. It's got some pretty powerful performances, and some damn fine dialogue. And it's a Western.

So why didn't I love it?

Guy Pierce, I blame you.

Don't get me wrong - I think you're a pretty dependable actor. Loved you in L.A. Confidential. Ditto, Memento. Not so much in The Time Machine, but that wasn't really your fault. As good as you are, though, you just don't have the innate gravity to nail the man-of-few-words-and-many-bullets archetype you attempted to embody here.

That's The Proposition's main failing - we never connect with the central character of the story. There's nothing there to make us connect with him. Because of this, his actions at the end of the film fail to resonate - and that's FRUSTRATING. Because the tale this movie tells is mythic.

It's the 19th century, in the middle of the dry and untamed Australian wild. Guy Pierce and his younger brother have been captured by the local British Captain of the police, and the Captain offers Pierce a galvanizing Proposition: He's going to hang Pierce's younger brother in nine days time - on Christmas day - unless Pierce rides out into the Outback and murders his older brother; the one that got away.

That's truly mythic stuff - the kind of simple, morally-grey territory that great Westerns are made of. One brother set against the other for the life of the third? Hell, yes.

But because we never connect with Pierce, the movie's central struggle becomes, essentially, irrelevant. More interesting are the relationships between the Captain and his stalwart wife, and between the Captain and his own men. The fundamental disconnect of the film reaches its frustrating peak when we finally meet Pierce's older brother. He's a fascinating character - philosophical, well-read, intensely devoted to his family, and a stone-cold, psycho-killer. He's a living contradiction, and if the film had focused on him, it might have achieved a sort of exaltedly pulpy, mythopoetic grandeur. As it is, The Proposition is still a remarkably engaging, off-kilter film.

Fans of Unforgiven and The Searchers owe it to themselves to seek this one out. Flawed it may be, but it's still the best Western we've seen in some time. We're left wanting an anti-hero that truly grabs us, but we're also left with stunning sunsets, brutal gun and knife fights, and the sort of shifty, untrustworthy characters that make the Western such a great genre.

Sorry Doesn't Walk The Dog! Sorry Doesn't Spread The Mustard!

Read it in the NYTimes:

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, two leaders badly weakened by the continuing violence in Iraq, acknowledged major misjudgments in the execution of the Iraq war on Thursday night even while insisting that the election of a constitutional government in Baghdad justified their decision to go to war three years ago....

But in an unusual admission of a personal mistake, Mr. Bush said he regretted challenging insurgents in Iraq to "bring it on" in 2003, and said the same about his statement that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." Those two statements quickly came to reinforce his image around the world as a cowboy commander in chief. "Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people," Mr. Bush said. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner." He went on to say that the American military's biggest mistake was the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, where photographs of detainees showed them in degrading and abusive conditions. "We've been paying for that for a long period of time,"

Yes, we have. And rightly so. Call me a weak-kneeded liberal if you will, I practically invite you to do so. Our actions at Abu Ghraib were reprehensible and inexcusable. Our actions at Guantanamo, for that matter, have been similarly reprehensible.

I understand full well the need to "specially interrogate" certain prisoners. What I do not understand, endorse, or tolerate, is the rampant abuse of power and of low-threat prisoners for fun/photo-ops.

It is nice to see that Bush understands taunting murderous terrorists to try again might not be the safest/best/sanest thing in the world to do.

....Mr. Blair tried to focus on the current moment, saying that he had heard the complaint that "you went in with this Western concept of democracy, and you didn't understand that their whole culture was different." With a weak smile, he suggested to Mr. Bush that those who voted in Iraq had amounted to "a higher turnout, I have to say — I'm afraid to say I think — than either your election or mine."

Well, Mr. Blair, it's impossible to deny the painful truth of that observation. We bold champions of democracy don't seem all that concerned about the exercising of our civic duties.

On a final note, can we agree to stop editorializing in these sorts of news stories? This article's author slathers on the 'descriptive' details until we're browbeaten into accepting a 'tone' for this press conference. To wit:

....Speaking in subdued, almost chastened, tones....Mr. Bush said, his voice heavy with regret....The news conference, in the formal setting of the East Room, was notable for the contrite tone of both leaders....

Having seen portions of the conference, I'm disinclined to read any chastened tones, heavy regret, or contriteness there. Those sorts of emotional modifiers have no place in a news story of this kind. Leave the skewing of opinion to the blogosphere.

X-Tremely X-Cited

X3 opens today.

So far, reviews have been predictably mixed. Most inexplicably to me, many critics seem to be focusing on changes that the filmmakers made from comic to screen.

This seems fairly unjust, considering that both prior X films played haphazardly with character and continuity. Rogue isn't anything like she is in the comics, really. All of X2 was a cinematic remix/reworking/retelling of Chris Claremont's "God Loves, Man Kills" graphic novel - a classic of the artform if ever there was one, so I'm not sure why mucking about with the details of Dark Phoenix (especially when the original tale includes aliens, other worlds, and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't fit thematically with the films in the series) is a big deal.

None of the reviews matter, of course. There's a 90% chance I'm going to be in love with this movie, sight-unseen. Go and catch X3 this weekend, and come back on Monday morning, when Codemorse will be hosting its first-ever "Dissect-a-thon." We'll review the film, talk honestly about the good and the bad, discuss the perils of franchise filmmaking (along with the rarely discussed joys of franchise as well), and generally stir things up.

I've been waiting twenty-something-years to see my favorite super hero on the silver screen; come back Monday to discover whether my soul was crushed by the limitations of movie makeup and wire work, or whether Kelsey Grammer's interpretation of Hank McCoy made me weep for joy like the Super Sized nerd I am.

Taking the Left Back from Michael Moore

It's about time.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Witness the Glory that is Principal Firebush

Volokh on a roll today. Just play the video. Awesome.

Beyond Our Borders

As always, Codemorse stands for shameless self-promotion. If you're a regular visitor to the site, and you haven't yet done so, why not scroll down the links sidebar to Codemorse's Assorted Writings and check out some of the pieces I've done for other sites?

There's something for the whole family to enjoy - from the politically charged "Some Thoughts on V For Vendetta" (perfect for ruining next Thanksgiving at the relatives'!), to my overlong but still self-judged best-written Hulk and Crossroads Appreciations (Ralph Macchio! Nick Nolte! Sweet Jebus! The Talent!), to my quasi-Philosophy-101 musings on "Fifa Soccer" - a rambling and probably-drunkenly-penned missive for everyone from lil' cousin Mikey to Possibly-Drug-Addicted Uncle Mitch.

Above the Law?

Greatest post of the month on Volokh Conspiracy regarding suggestions for the upcoming Congressional hearings on the freezer raid:

WARRANTS: Not good enough for us, too good for you.

Playing Politics with (the) Justice (Department)

Andy McCarthy takes Hastert to task on the money in the freezer issue:

You may have thought the Republican congressional leadership had run out of feet to shoot themselves in in their mind-boggling quest to place themselves, in the public mind, squarely on the side of coddling corruption rather than ridding themselves of a disgraced member. Nope.
This morning's NYTimes reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert is demanding that the FBI agents who were involved in the search of Rep. William Jefferson's office "should be taken off the case." Earth to Speaker Hastert: THE AGENTS WHO CONDUCTED THE SEARCH ARE NOT ON THE CASE.

Portraits In Rage: Behold, A Pale Horse

From the National Republican Congressional Committee website:

Howard Dean. Hillary Clinton. Ted Kennedy. Nancy Pelosi.

The radical, left-wing Democrats are fighting desperately to gain control of Congress this November. They want nothing more than to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House in 2006 and Hillary Clinton President in 2008.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is rallying Republicans to join them today to stop the Democrats' momentum. A Democratic controlled Congress means higher taxes, fewer jobs and weak national security. Americans deserve lawmakers who
will represent their values in Washington.
I want Hillary Clinton in the White House like I want to eat nothing but living maggots for the rest of my life. Which is to say, not at all.

But, I mean, come ON. The four horsemen of the apocalypse? Not only is that ridiculously inflationary rhetoric, it also doesn't make much sense. Aren't the Four Horsemen spiritual embodiments of God's will? Don't the Republicans want God on their side?

And since one of the four horsemen is "War," shouldn't that, like, appeal to a lot of those Homeland Security Moms?

And who's who? Is Howard Dean supposed to be "Death?" "Famine?" Pestilence?"

And will there be action figures? Personally, I'd like to see a Nancy Pelosi doll wrapped in white, packaged together with a 'crop-wasting' kung fu grip feature.

(link courtesy of oliverwillis)

Lost! Ahhh! Finale! Greatness!

Lost is the best show on television since Firefly. It's fun, smart, mysterious, frustrating, and engaging.

Tonight's finale was suitably mindblowing and exciting stuff, and the ending...with a pair of researchers in an artic location noticing the electromagnetic pulse...Well, it hints at all sorts of possibilities for the show.

But the most interesting thing it hints at?


Yes, that appears to be Jack. Jack-who-is-currently-on-an-island. Jack who apparently is also, simultaneously, somewhere very, very cold. How is this physically possible? Close-watching fans will recognize the further emergence of one of Lost's themes: duality and twins.

The wait until October is going be be agonizing.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anatomy Of An Annoying Conservative

I've been attempting for some time now to rationally justify my dislike for self-proclaimed conservative commentators. Visceral loathing is fun, but when it isn't backed up by actual thought and reasoned opinion it becomes the verbal equivalent of vomiting on someone.

This is especially true when not all conservative commentators operate in a bewilderingly irresponsible manner. Take, for instance, our own Jabawacefti (Jabs, as we've affectionately monikered him). While his positions on foriegn policy and national security are often in direct opposition to my own, he takes care - and dare I say pride - in laying out rational reasons for his opinions, and rarely resorts to the sort of cheap tactics that many other attention-seeking commentators use like trash buckets at a chicken wing-eating contest. He's a good guy, in other words, who just happens to believe different things than I do.

So, why is it that so many conservative commentators irk me? Let's take two recent commentaries and try to figure it out together. Brace yourself - this is long though also (I hope) interesting/provocative.

First up, here are some excerpts from Stanley Kurtz's comments on the Davinci Code. Take it away, Stan!

This movie is a salutary kick in the teeth for conservatives.... the
fact remains that when it comes to exercising influence on the fundamental levers of American culture, conservatives remain in a pathetically weakened position.

Reason #1: Everything is war.

Conservatives are in "a pathetically weakened position." This is only the first of multiple battle/war/fight references to come in what is, essentially, a six paragraph article. This wouldn't bother me in the slightest, except that it appears they're at war with me. More on this further down below.

Reason #2: Conservatives are always the embattled, underdog minority.

The conservatives are underrepresented in film! They don't control Hollywood the way that they control Washington! Something must be done! Narnia and the Passion of the Christ and Spider-Man and Star Wars and Crash and The Aviator and Gangs of New York and the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong etc, ad nauseum are not enough! There were at least four "liberal" films released last year and we were forced at gunpoint to see and discuss them! They must be destroyed!

Does that sound ridiculous to anyone else?

I may not be a professor of “symbology,” but I have taught at Harvard
and studied religious symbolism. So I feel in a particularly strong
position to reveal the entirely unsecret conspiracy against patriotism,
tradition, and religion hiding in plain sight on our movie and television
screens, in our universities, and on the pages of the mainstream
Reason #3: The Great Liberal Conspiracy

I, for one, eagerly await the revelation of the above-mentioned conspiracy. It is, after all, an enormous portion of conservative mythology. If one were feeling "cheeky," one might suggest that this idea of a monolithic, liberally controlled popular culture is eerily similar to the idea of a secret sect of Jews that control banks, or of a white-haired Illuminati that pulls the strings of big business. In other words, crazy talk. But in seriousness, what's this conspiracy all about? What is the goal of the media conspiracy? I await Kurtz's answer with baited breath.

Conservatives have forgotten just how precarious our position is. One
cable news channel, talk radio, and the blogosphere do not an invincible army make. It only seems that way because we also have nominal control of the reigns of power. But lose our foothold in government, and conservatives are up a creek. The other side controls the levers of cultural power in this country, and we are the enemy in their eyes (and on their screens).

Reason #1 again: This is WAR, Mrs. Peacock! Where's our army? They are the enemy! They have come for your children!

I've never met Stanley Kurtz, but I'd like to assure him that he is not "the enemy" in my eyes. In fact, I encourage Mr. Kurtz to live his life in any way he sees fit. I encourage him to take his children to movies that he finds appropriate, and to educate his children as to what he and his wife feel are appropriate values. I encourage him to continue to spend his money on films like "Narnia" if he enjoys them, because economics dictate that a successful product begets more of the same.

I also encourage him to extend that same courtesy to me. If I want to take in the Davinci Code (and I don't - Lord, that movie looks like the cinematic equivalent of a sewage-enema), that's my business and my choice.

Why have Democrats been so angry? It’s because their taken-for-granted cultural superiority has been called into question by 9/11, the return of patriotism, a tough foreign policy, and the open defense of the sort of traditional values they thought were on the way out.
Reason #4: Massive Over-Generalization and Stuff-n-Nonsense
Reason #5: Abuse of the term "traditional values."

Here's where I realize that Mr. Kurtz and I would likely remain on opposite sides of a dinner party. First, I'm not sure what a "taken-for-granted cultural superiority" means, precisely. That's not me being coy, that's just the truth. In fact...this paragraph doesn't make a lick of sense to me. How does a terrorist attack question cultural superiority? Aren't they in entirely separate realms? Should we even be discussing, say, Pink's new album in the same sentence as 9/11?

More importantly, what's this "return to patriotism" thing about? When did patriotism disappear? Where did it go? Was it on vacation? And there's that "traditional values" thing again. What traditional values, Kurtz? Free Speech?

This portion of Kurtz's screed also helpfully illuminates the most loathesome of tactics: painting an entire spectrum of political thought with one big brush. Yes, Kurtz; all Democrats are opposed to "traditional values" (whatever they are) and have not found the true light of patriotism the way that you have. Frankly, this sort of talk is all-too similar to the sort of extremist religious claptrap espoused by radical Muslim terrorists. But don't take my word for it - according to Kurtz, "the battle" (Reason #1!) is only beginning:

The battle is radicalizing. Big Love and The Da Vinci Code
are far more direct and brazen attacks on tradition than we might have
anticipated just a few years ago. Conservatives are the targets, and
Hollywood is aiming and shooting repeatedly. Give credit to Tom Hanks, by the way. As producer of Big Love and star of The Da Vinci Code, he is clearly one of the captains of the not-so-secret conspiracy.
The not-so-secret conspiracy. There it is again (Reason #3!). Who knew that Tom Hanks was in league with dark forces? And what is Hollywood doing to conservatives? They are brazenly and directly attacking. They are aiming and shooting repeatedly. Everything is war.

And did you notice something? For all Kurtz's talk about teaching at Harvard and studying symbols, he never tells us what this conspiracy is, what the Davinci Code's place is within said-conspiracy, or what this conspiracy aims to do. He just lobs a loogie and takes off.

To help conclude our exploration of why these people bother me so much, let's ask Michael Long about music:

On first glance, rock ’n’ roll music isn’t very conservative. It doesn’t
fare much better on second or third glance (or listen), either....For
conservatives who enjoy rock, it isn’t hard to agree with the opinion Johnny Cash expressed in “The One on the Right Is on the Left”: “Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land / Just work on harmony and diction / Play your banjo well / And if you have political convictions, keep them to yourself.” In other words: Shut up and sing.

But some rock songs really are conservative—and there are more of them than you might think. Last year, I asked readers of National Review Online to nominate conservative rock songs.

Reason #6: Hypocrisy, or, Having Your Cake And Eating It, Too

So...Keep your political opinions to yourself is a sentiment that conservatives agree with? Then why, exactly, is Michael Long writing an article on the politics of songwriting? If "Don't go mixin' politics with the folk songs of our land" is an admirable maxim, why is Mr. Long asking people to nominate "conservative songs"?

What makes a great conservative rock song? The lyrics must convey a
conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values.

Reason #7: Bewildering Self-Deception (and the return of Reason #5)

What skepticism of government do conservatives like Mr. Long adhere to? I'd been under the impression, frankly, that skepticism of government was something to chastise liberals over. Is it the same skepticism that's allowed government under Bush to swell to a size unseen since FDR? Is it the skepticism that's forgiven the transformation of a three trillion dollar surplus into a three trillion dollar deficit? Is it the same skepticism that's encouraged the "party of small government" to forward initiatives constitutionally banning gay marriage? To push for the teaching of Christianity in public schools? To tell a woman that she can't decide the fate of her pregnancy?

Are those "traditional values?" Has the idea that "traditional values" may mean different things to different people entered Mr. Long's mind? Is he really so self-satisfied as to presume that what he considers moral/right/acceptable is applicable to all, or that what he considers immoral/wrong/unacceptable is equally applicable? It's one thing to say that you don't like gay marriage. It's another to actively work to forbid anyone from engaging in it because it creeps you out.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” says a lot with a little. It seems so jarring, so goody-two-shoes today not because it asserts old-fashioned values
but because it assumes them: It is, however unlikely, a song about wanting to be married. Note what Brian Wilson and Tony Asher do not say: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have sex? These cultural mores have got to go!” They don’t even say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do this without our parents finding out?” No, these are kids who accept that there is a place and time for everything, and that some urges are best delayed—even if we don’t see any good reason past faith to do so.

They are looking forward—something rarely done anymore—to a time
when what they want comports with the rules they trust, rules more important than an impulse or a wish, rules that preserve civility and order and life.Get this: They’re looking forward not only to the carnal pleasures of being married but also, one assumes, the entire set of joys and responsibilities that marriage brings. Who knows if kids really felt this way in 1966? Maybe a lot of them didn’t—but maybe a bunch did. Perhaps a few still do. And if they do, wouldn’t it be nice?

Reason #8: The Politicization of everything.

Why does "Wouldn't it be nice" have to mean anything political? Ordinarily, I'm content to let protest music be protest music (see, for example, Neil Young, Eminem, Bright Eyes, Green Day) - overt about it's political bent. What's nice about this tact is how it allows me to buy albums I want to hear and not purchase other albums I don't support or agree with. For me, it means that I own more Steve Earle than I do Toby Keith. It doesn't mean that Toby Keith should shut the fuck up about his opinions because the existence of his record offends and repels me.

Reason #9: The Ignoring of Reality

"'Wouldn't It Be Nice' was not a real long song, but it's a very 'up' song.
It expresses the frustrations of youth, what you can't have, what you really
want and you have to wait for it."

That's Brian Wilson, quoted in a 1996 interview. You can find it HERE. "Wouldn't it be nice," as written, isn't about the thrill of waiting for the "carnal pleasures" of marriage - it's about the frustration of wanting to sleep together, and of having to wait til' marriage to do so. That doesn't mean it isn't romantic - because it is. It's a gorgeous piece of pop music, welded to the sort of simple-smart lyrics that look ridiculously easy to write but are, in fact, almost impossible to do well. Ira Gershwin lyrics.

But it's not a hymn to marriage. It's a musical ache of longing for something you aren't allowed to have yet. Age is an obstacle to be overcome in the song, not something to be treasured. Wilson may recognize a need to wait for marriage, but that desire stems from a regretful adherence to socially accepted norms, not the celebration of them.

Reason #10: The fight is all.

I don't think anything I've written above is particularly offensive. I do think that some of it is opinion, and some of it is simple fact. What I know is that none of it matters to the sort of commentator I find so distasteful. The fight is all. Whether or not the Davinci code poses any actual threat, a threat must be created. It is not enough, apparently, to be fighting an ideological war with religious extremists (and to be doing so using ideologically blunt instruments). No, we need a second war for our short attention spans. The Culture War.

Well, we don't need your war, Colonel Kurtz. We don't need "conservative" songs identified (wrongly) for us. Responsible adults understand that "culture" involves a variety of viewpoints, attitudes, fashions and fads. We have met the "enemy" already, and he is us.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sam Elliot Watch: Ghost Rider Edition

Ghost Rider is a pretty goofy character to me. Admittedly, there's something inherently cool about a guy with a flaming skull on a Harley, but the upcoming film adaptation wouldn't particularly interest me at all, save for one thing:

Sam Muthafunkin' Elliot.

I'll see anything the man does, regardless of apparent merit or quality. Few actors fall into that hallowed category, and it's an odd bunch: Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton (Tombstone, featuring the both of them, is Nirvana), The Rock, Sean William Scott, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Kevin Kline.

I don't claim to understand the reasons why i feel compelled to seek out every piece of trash these people make, but compelled I am.

Check out Sam Elliot's latest piece of trash right HERE. He's sure to be the best part of the movie, and he's sure to occupy approximately fifteen minutes of screentime.

To Be Young (and Dumb)

Rich Lowry cites the disrespect showed Condi Rice and Senator McCain at the Commencement ceremonies of Boston College and the New School respectively:

McCain’s speech was largely a self-effacing account of his own folly as an arrogant, know-it-all youth. Students who heckled and turned their backs on the senator as he delivered this message must recognize irony only when it appears on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The point of turning your back on someone is to demonstrate a fundamental disrespect. Students at BC were far and away better behaved than the New School mob, but some of them did the same to Rice. It is a gesture appropriate in response to a member of the Klan, but when applied to McCain or Rice, it says more about the protester than the speaker.

It’s not surprising that students are sophomoric, even if, as graduates, they are supposed to be beyond that. But faculty at both schools joined in the agitation. The opposition to Rice at BC was jump-started by a faculty letter, and some New School faculty turned their backs on McCain. It is these sort of professors who set the tone at top colleges. They act like a medieval guild protecting a monopoly on thought. Dissenting points of view send them into an angry, defensive crouch.

What is it about hearing a viewpoint different from your own that is so difficult to bear? What I liked about liberals and Democrats (back in the day) was that they appeared so openminded.

What I find most irksome about the New School "protests" is that some of them were not merely content to disagree with him. They had to show the man open contempt and disrespect. This is the man who spent years tortured for putting himself in danger while fighting for this country. That behavior is simply disgraceful. And I hope more people call them out on it.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." -Albert Einstein

Who Do You Stand With?

As you've probably gathered from the flood of tv advertisements, X3: The Last Stand opens this Friday. Faithful readers already know that X3 features codemorse's single favorite sci-fi/comic book character of all time - Dr. Henry McCoy. As such, I'm sorta salivating-at-the-mouth to see this puppy.

The film's central storyline revolves around the creation of a "cure" for mutation, an allegorical device with more than a few applications to the real world. As always, Professor X maintains a Martin Luthor Kingish stance of attempting peaceful compromise. And Magneto continues his Malcolm Xian campaign of mutant rights, by any means necessary.

Who's side are you on? Were they to develop a "cure" for homosexuality, or for atheism, or for religious belief, or for something as simple as dissent, would you take the path of peaceful resistance? Or would you take up arms?

I'd like to believe that I'd follow Xavier. But then, we'd all like to believe the best of ourselves.

My favorite internet film critic, Vern, has seen the film. He liked it. Given that both he and "Moriarty" have both given the film a thumbs-up, I've got no doubt that I'll enjoy it. Go see the film and ensure that the Beast continues to make cinematic appearances purely for my pleasure.

Dr. McCoy was quite the ladies man - questions of bestiality apparently never entering these ladies' minds.

American Idle

Slate has a column up on why American Idol is "good" for pop music.

I suppose the author and I have a difference of opinion on the definition of "good," but you can't deny the appeal of the show. Either way, the show's a juggernaut hit that's become inescapable and, for those of us who could frankly give a shiite about the show, it's an interesting window into the mentality that accepts Taylor Hicks' epileptic seizure-dances as somehow equal-to the songwriting and delivery of artists who actually, y'know, write their music.

Not that song stylists and interpreters can't be artists in their own right. Nat "King" Cole is a god to me, as is that corny country showman Garth Brooks - neither of whom wrote much of their own stuff.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Codemorse Collides With The Towering Inferno

My newest review is up at, and this time I tackle Irwin Allen's 70's disaster-fest, The Towering Infereno.

As always, a brief excerpt:

Every generation needs a Tower of Babel story. We seem to have a need to tell and retell that particular tale of man’s hubris and God’s wrath once every few years. The Toweing Inferno is yet another reiteration of that story, told in the dull omnipresent oranges and browns of the 70’s. Everything in this movie is orange. Or brown. Or orange and brown. Everything orange or brown catches on fire. Panic, death, and mild 70’s lite-rock ensue. That’s the plot, served up in the proverbial nutshell.

Read the whole burning enchilada right HERE.

Hot Women = Successful Protest?

Apparently, there is a novel theory on the matter.

As noted, it's utterly juvenile. But we can't all be intellectual and sophisticated all the time here at Codemorse.

For the record, about three years ago, I walked along with an "anti-war" protest in New York (merely to observe) and found at least some of the anti-war American women to be moderately attractive. Which (and I confess a certain shallowness here) made the protest itself seem more appealing, if only a little bit.

There were, of course, a substantial number of aging hippies who looked like they had been waiting at Woodstock for the last forty years for another chance to protest something. And their looks reflected that.

Reaching to Make a Point

I'm as big a fan as any of arthouse sex flicks, but I think sometimes the people producing it are a little untethered from the world in which most of us live.

John Cameron Mitchell has made a movie about sex purporting to be a slap in the face to our current President:

"It's a little bit of a cri de coeur to us, a little bit of a call to arms" against the prevailing conservatism, he told a media conference, adding that his country was living in "the era of Bush, which is about clamping down, being scared."
The 43-year-old, whose previous work was "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," about a transsexual rock singer, said the film was his own small act of defiance against Bush.
"If you can't do elections you might as well do erections," he said.

If I had a penny for every time...

It Was The Time Of The Preacher?

From AICN:

I don't know good this information is, but I was at a comic
convention in Dublin recently where Glenn Fabry was signing. I asked about the Preacher movie and he said that it wouldn't go ahead, that nobody wanted to do it. He then told me that days previous he had gotten a call from somebody from HBO looking for Garth Ennis' phone number. A few hours later he got a call from Garth saying that the producers from The Sopranos want to turn Preacher into a HBO TV series. There was no word on Garth's response to this.

There is not way that HBO will make a Preacher series - especially after axing Carnivale. But we can dream, can't we?

Oh, yes. We can dream.

Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, who's possessed by the spirit of a half-angel/half-demon and goes on a roadtrip across America, looking for God - who's abandoned Heaven and humanity. He's joined by his ex-girlfriend and an Irish vampire, and the series is marked by a savage wit and an intense intelligence as it dissects America from the POV of an outsider. It's a love letter to all things Great and Terrible about our country, and a kick-ass rumination on faith, duty, responsibility, and honor.

I recommend being all spur-of-the-moment, and picking up the first trade paperback, Gone To Texas, which collects the first issues of the series, and is like a shot of whiskey wrapped around a silver bullet and shot directly into your head.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Upcoming False Dawn

Since George W. Bush has dismantled the Conservative movement (temporarily), there is an increased focus on the liberal vs. progressive struggle. George Will highlights the same, along with Peter Beinart:

Beinart worries that "the elections of 2006 and 2008 could resemble the elections of 1974 and 1976, when foreign policy exhaustion, and Republican scandal, propelled Democrats to big gains." If so, those gains will be "a false dawn." The country will eventually turn right because, "whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought."

Why Do They Hate Us?

Heck, it's just part of the curriculum.

At this point, it should not come as a surprise that the Saudis are teaching hate in their schools. But what I find most ironic is that this is the stuff with the hate supposedly extracted.

Hate in the schoolbooks. We've got a long road ahead of us.

Do the Papal Shuffle


By punishing a powerful conservative ally accused of decades of
pedophilia, Pope Benedict XVI has proven that the Vatican's oft-stated
commitment to crack down on abusive priests has real teeth. And that in turn, makes Catholic returnees to Mass look a little smarter.

A senior Vatican official has confirmed to TIME's Jeff Israely the news (reported earlier today by the National Catholic Reporter) that just before Easter the Vatican essentially forbade Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, 86, founder of the powerful Legionaires of Christ movement, all further public appearances, including the celebration of the Mass.....

....The move amounts to a major statement because the Legionairies,
which Maciel founded in 1941, have been one of Catholicism's most vital and successful forces in the last few decades....But even as Maciel's institutional star was rising, un-saintly allegations about him were surfacing. In 1995 the Hartford Courant reported that nine of his former students had lodged intra-church complaints that he had molested them over three decades, in one case starting when the accuser was 12 years old.

....The new sanctions against him, which TIME's source said will be
publically announced within days "in light of the magnitude of the case," the Vatican confirmeed Friday morning in a one-page communiqué, settle the matter. They fall short of laicization, or removal of Maciel from the priesthood. But they still quallify as a triumph of papal principle over loyalty.

A triumph? I guess so.

Maybe I'm overly-cynical (and feel free to tell me so), but this doesn't seem like a triumph. It seems like the next evolution in the "Priest Shuffling" game that Benedict's predecessor was so fond of. Maciel's still a Priest - and he can still run his fast-growing sect. It's the equivalent of Disney's board of directors telling Eisner that he can still run the company, but that he can't make those cute little intros to "The Wonderful World of Disney" anymore.

Pedophilia is creepy and wrong. Those who've actively engaged in it should not be reshuffled out of the public eye. They should be dismissed from the Church for violating the sacred trust which congregants place in their leaders.

Shiite's Mighty Mighty - Just Letting It All Hang Out

From ABC:

I have been to Iraq nine times since the American invasion three
years ago, for a total of about 10 solid months. (My wife is counting.) During that time, I have seen bombs and blood, I have seen rebuilding and restructuring, and I have seen death and democracy. So what have I heard? That's easy: Lionel Richie.

Grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere mention of his name.
"I love Lionel Richie," they say. Iraqis who do not understand a word of English can sing an entire Lionel Richie song.

Who doesn't love Lionel Richie?

Laughable or not, I actually believe that it's cultural permeation that will win us the war in the middle east. Connecting to the peoples of Iraq through such admittedly-silly entry-points as a mutual love for "Say You, Say Me" and "Easy" is going to make our job of democratization, well....easier.

Pop culture isn't just something one uses to sell minivans and soda pop (much as Mtv would like you to believe otherwise). The power of pop is its undeniable ability to cross cultural, ethnic, social and economic barriers to form actual ties between peoples.