Friday, February 10, 2006

Krazy Kats

If you want the best roundup on the Danish cartoons, a topic that seems more important in the grand scheme of things than local - by which I mean national - politics (you know, things like destroying the Republican party and impeaching the President - important to be sure, but nowhere near as important as drawing a line in the sand against those who would outlaw laughter, especially mocking laughter) then you've got to read Sully.

Keep scrolling. It's all good.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Funny Business

Two great articles about the Danish cartoons and the violence that erupted in their wake (a wake that rolled along quietly for months until someone gave it a little help).

In the right corner, Claudia Rossett. I happen to agree with most of this, despite the fact that I'm a bleeding heart liberal and a pacifist (until someone really pisses me off).

If there was ever a moment when the left could agree with the right (who am I kidding? I mean show up the right) it is in rejecting the fundamentalist attitude that places the delicate sensibilities of some above the free speech rights of all. It's an attitude not unknown among our American fundamentalists, which may explain why Bush's State Department and its dependents abroad are making statements like this. Nothing like playing both sides in the War on Terror!

In the left corner, Digby. His apologia for Muslim fury and his indictment of Western indignation at that fury is food for thought. Nevertheless, the violence the cartoons have engendered is beyond the pale and gives creedence, sadly, to the idea that we are involved in a "clash of civilizations." If we are, better to get it out in the open.

Finally, I wonder if it has occurred to any of the outraged Muslims currently boycotting Danish products, setting fire to Scandinavian embassies, or issuing death threats to cartoonists and their publishers, that a prohibition on ridiculing the powerful – even the holy – is one of the reasons most of them live under tyrants? I know I enjoy being able to belittle our little tyrant, Shrubya, without fear of being beheaded. Spied on, yes. Beheaded, no.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Top Ten of the Last Ten

I hate "to do" lists. But I love "to love" lists. (Did you just throw up in your mouth a little? Good. I was joking.) But I do love, love, love the movies. I have since my dad let me stay up past my bedtime in the third grade so we could watch Woody Allen's Sleeper. My top ten list always changes. Here is the latest version.

(I also love to hear what other people who love movies love. Feel free to leave your Top Ten in the comments section - or simply suggest additions to mine - and I'll discuss them here.)

THE CELEBRATION (for film students, there is Before The Celebration - BTC - and After The Celebration - ATC)

GUMMO (There were 60 people in my film school class; 2 of us liked it, everyone else hated it with a white hot hate, but Gus Van Sant is on our side. His review convinced me to see it. It ended: "I wish I had made this movie." What a perfect criterion for judging a film!)

NAKED (How a movie about a smart-arse can so brilliantly propagate an atmosphere of millenial doom is beyond me. I love this movie. I'm terrified by it. I wish I had made it. And maybe I will!)

BOTTLE ROCKET (Sometimes you watch a movie and you think it's one thing, and then at the last second the director does something, say he pulls a shot into slo-mo, and it forces you to instantaneously re-evaluate the film's tone and meaning, and it becomes a whole lot deeper than you thought. This is one of those.)

RUSHMORE (I want to sell a t-shirt that reads: "No, it was the handjob." Although picking out one favorite line from this film full of great lines is nearly impossible.)

THE KINGDOM (OK, this was a Danish TV series, but I watched all four one hour episodes in one sitting, then rewound the tape and watched it again, so shut up)

LOST IN TRANSLATION (I wanted to hate this movie, as I wanted to hate her previous film The Virgin Suicides. All I need is for the daughter of film royalty, who happens to be rich, pretty and popular, to also be a brilliant director, but she is and whenever I can't decide which DVD to pull down from my shelf, I watch this and am never disappointed. It's as close to perfect as a film can get.)

FIREWORKS (Takeshi Kitano's best film, though his recent Zatoichi is a close second. Incredible use of editing and visual suggestion. Kitano is also the star, and his performance is one of the finest ever captured on film.)

RATCATCHER (This film is stunningly shot, beautifully written, and the performances are so real it makes you wonder where Scottish casting agents find their actors, and where Hollywood casting agents don't.)

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (If Godard were Mexican and liked sex as much as sexual politics, he might have made this movie.)

THE LIMEY (Soderbergh proves that narrative film still has a few tricks left up its sleeve)

THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD (By a Guy from Winnipeg, a city whose fierce climate breeds genius apparently.)

GHOST IN THE SHELL (If you've never watched anime, start here. The ideas in this film, copied - sort of - in The Matrix and other futuristic flicks, still keep me up. One of the most prescient films ever made.)

CLOSE-UP (By Abbas Kiarostami; the movie is older than ten years, but was released here only recently; a neo-realist post-modern meta-docu-ficiton about film and the culture of fame. In Iran.)

I know that's more than ten, but this is my blog, not yours, and I didn't major in math. If you want mathematical precision, you can read something else.

His Name is Shi Tao

More on the Chinese journalist sentenced to ten years in prison with a little help from your friends at Yahoo. Amnesty International is on the case.

The greatest hope for increased openness and democracy in China comes from the internet. It can provide tools not just to members of the Politburo, or the business class, but to ordinary citizens. And though the internets threaten the very survival of this (or any) authoritarian regime, it would be suicide to bar the door. The market dictates that the internet be admitted. And that means free speech and open debate must be admitted along with it.

At least that was the idea.

Who expected American tech companies, most run by right (make that left) thinking Liberals from sunny Sunnyvale and other West Coast Edens, would in fact bolster the longevity of tyrants by voluntarily de-democratizing their revolutionary applications?

Oh well. As Sergio Leone might say, Per Qualche Dollaro in Piu. I have asked those of you who Yahoo to stop. I ask again. You have other choices (so far). And even if other companies have signed the Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry, none have assisted the Chinese secret police in prosecuting a journalist. Only Yahoo can claim that dubious distinction.

It's up to you to make them pay.