Archive for January, 2012
I never really thought about Hollywood as being as sleazy as this, but then I’ve always been naive about the twisted underbelly of our culture:
Just as the sordid but ongoing saga of filmmaker and convicted pedophile Roman Polanski fades once again from the headlines, stories of child abuse in Hollywood have erupted again, with an unprecedented frequency. Of course, if you don’t know where to look for this sort of news, you might never have heard a thing.
This paints a dismal picture of Hollywood for outsiders, but rings familiar bells for those of us who cover the industry. As child stars, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland were given amphetamines to help them keep up with hectic production schedules on their hit MGM films, which began a string of substance addictions that plagued Garland for the rest of her increasingly sad life. Then there’s screen legend Errol Flynn, whose interest in underage girls led to a 1943 trial for statutory rape, where his acquittal perversely burnished his reputation as – the phrase can only be uttered with savage irony – a “ladies man.”
More than any other business, Hollywood is a place where talent, youth and beauty are exploited, with a premium paid for all three. It’s also an industry that’s learned to shield itself from criticism by celebrating its venal and amoral customs with skilful self-parody, so that proud mea culpas from selfish sociopaths have somehow shifted the focus from actual predators and criminals thriving in the background.
And why they’re so good at it.
The woeful state of the commentariat in this province can be summed up in new words: Murry Mandryk. At once the chief political reporter and columnist in our newspapers of record, this guy is utterly bereft of a worthwhile opinion on virtually any subject. Once in a while, he gets a barb in there, as John Gormley has pointed out in his book, but generally, his efforts are the journalistic equivalent of eating a rice cake. Sure, there might be something useful in there, but why bother indulging?
Mandryk’s latest contribution to the “on one hand, on the other hand” genre takes on the controversial pipeline debates. He doesn’t provide an opinion on the actual merits of either the Keystone XL or Northern Gateway. No, he just feels people should “chill out” and have a “thoughtful dialogue” on oil policy or something. Mandryk is completely oblivious to the idea that debates are often driven by the loudmouths, the screamers, those who actually have an opinion. To wit, if it weren’t for the likes of Ezra Levant, Peter Kent, Joe Oliver and Stephen Harper, the current scrutiny on the regulatory process wouldn’t be occurring today.
Mandryk finds this unseemly and simplistic. He’d rather have us talking about why we aren’t processing our oil in Canada. Well, at risk of simplifying a “complex” idea, in the unlikely event that a new refinery could ever be built in this country due to the regulatory environment, existing facilities already have the established supporting infrastructure. We wouldn’t need just a new refinery; we’d need brand new pipelines to ship the refined products to market. So there’s that.
No wonder fence-sitters like Mandryk are spewed out of Dante’s Inferno like cold coffee. They’re so lame, even the Devil doesn’t want them.
Anyway, here’s my letter to the editor on the subject.
Once again, Murray Mandryk misses a golden opportunity to contribute to ongoing public debates by criticizing the tenor of the arguments rather than the substance.
Mandryk feels that Canadian critics of President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL project application are being hypocritical when they also denounce foreign influence in the regulatory process on the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat.
This is a false equivalence. Canadians and their government officials can and should support projects that could positively impact the economy, no matter where they are situated, provided they meet regulatory standards. Moreover, when foreign nationals try to subvert our regulatory process through a ballot-stuffing scheme that would make a Chicago politician blush, our government is right to call them out on it. This is a perfectly consistent viewpoint, one that promotes Canadian opportunities while asserting our sovereignty.
In addition, Mandryk does grudgingly admit that the “ethical oil” stance does have its merits, if only it wasn’t being championed by such obnoxious brutes as Ezra Levant. But at least Levant had the wherewithal to actually develop an original argument that is clear, cogent and relevant, which is more than one can say about any of Mandryk’s laughingly described “opinion” columns.
Finally, Mandryk thinks we should have a “thoughtful dialogue on how to better address oil policy issues.” Wake up, Murray. We’re having that dialogue now. Just for once, try to take a position in the debate at hand instead of whining about how others should “chill out.”
UPDATE: The StarPhoenix published my letter and, for once, they actually did a reasonable editing job, capturing all the snark while making it less stupid-sounding.
Kaley loves skinny skiing, going to bullfights on acid, and making fourteen bucks the hard way, or so I’m told.
I was struggling on whether or not I should go see The Iron Lady. One one hand, I had heard the movie hardly touched on Margaret Thatcher’s political career and focused mostly on her reflections as an old, senile woman (see Virginia Postrel’s take). On the other hand, Meryl Streep’s performance has the Oscar buzz, and even Thatcher’s own confidantes were impressed by her uncanny performance. I figured at least we could appreciate good cinema and that, if nothing else, would make our date night salvageable.
Boy, were we wrong.
Yeah, Meryl Streep’s performance was terrific, uncanny, etc. And Jim Broadbent was endearing as her cute, doting, whimsical husband, as he is in every film in which he appears.
The rest of it, cinematically, was a disaster. Reports that the story was essentially about an old woman reflecting on her life were bang on, but no one mentioned the maudlin scenes, the puzzling score choices, or the rambled editing straight out of the Oliver Stone School for Edgy Film Makers, circa 1994.
As pointed out elsewhere, there were plenty of events which were jumbled or completely false throughout the film, but that happens in all biopics. Yet, here we have the first dramatic take on a major public figure, and we have no idea what she did. She’s shown to be a reviled leader in Britain, but if you didn’t know anything about her career, you’d have no idea why the feelings were so intense and heated.
The entire 1980s was shown in a montage. I’m not kidding you. Her relationships with the titans of the age — Reagan, Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II — were briefly shown on screen, if at all. There was no mention as to her trip to Poland which successfully lent support to the Solidarity movement. We don’t hear the name of her biggest political opponents, Labour leader Neil Kinnock or the president of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill, who wasn’t even in the film. It’s like these huge events just … happened, as if she had nothing to do with them.
The whole point of the movie seemed to try to instill the idea that Margaret Thatcher should feel regret or guilt about her career or something. Now, of all the qualities of Lady Thatcher one can think of, good or bad, regret or guilt are probably the last to come to mind. Yet, throughout the film, she is harangued by the ghost of her dead husband who constantly reminds her how she supposedly abandoned them in pursuit of her own selfish political ambitions. And in case you missed it, they even had the scene where her children were crying and banging on her car window just before she left to serve her first term in Parliament. Fuck off, really.
What would have been interesting is if we were able to see how Thatcher developed her resolute moral compass in politics, statesmanship and economics. Instead, we are treated to a young Margaret Roberts idolizing her father — a greengrocer and local mayor — at a political rally, where he is proclaiming much of Thatcher’s later philosophy to his supporters.
Is that it? Was Thatcher such a fervent free marketer because she loved her dad? Could there be a more patronizing portrayal of a powerful woman?
In fact, the whole movie does nothing but confirm old anti-feminist stereotypes. The message is that any woman who has gotten ahead in their career has done so at the expense of their family.
It is said that politics is a man’s game, and nothing in the film does anything to refute this. Take the scenes in Parliament, showing men screaming and throwing their fists in the air in an incomprehensible clamour. What this tells me is that the film’s writer and director clearly don’t have the first clue about politics, debate or rhetoric. These women claim to be feminists, but when given the opportunity to show a strong woman taking on and defeating men at their own game, they fail miserably.
Instead, while Thatcher is shown making an apparently futile attempt to refute the nefarious charges of the opposition, the audience misses out on the charm and the razor wit of the woman who took on the socialists and won.
I would have loved to see Meryl Streep play out Thatcher’s last stand in the House, as seen here:
The only indication we have of Thatcher’s ability was during a scene in the doctors office, when the aging baroness reprimands her caregiver for asking her how she feels. It’s the thoughts and ideas that matter, she says. Thoughts become words, words become action, and so on. I’m afraid, however, that the film makers meant this to be an ironic statement, as was film’s title (no pun intended).
I can only wish that some principled producer out there has seen this film and recognizes the opportunity in creating a biopic worth watching. Maybe Kevin Costner could repeat the effort he made in Thirteen Days, the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bad accents and overly dramatic sequences aside, this particular film was fascinating in that it gave a blow-by-blow account of the infamous game of chicken played between Khrushchev and Kennedy.
There ought to be an alternative to this dribble. Thatcher deserves at least that much. Hell, you already have a proven actor who could handle the part. After all, if Michael Sheen can play a British prime minister twice within a few years (especially since one of these films is more asinine than The Iron Lady), there’s no reason why Streep can’t do the same.
(And any film using a chronological flashback on Thatcher’s life would have to be based on Claire Berlinski’s terrific “There Is No Alternative“, a must-read for all political junkies.)
In short, don’t waste your money on this waste of an opportunity. While Streep is amazing, the film production is amateurish, the history’s bogus, the story is bereft of meaningful information, and the message is insulting to women.
You’d be better off watching something more worthwhile, like The Muppet Show.
The Better Third picked tonight’s Femme. She’s getting a little older — and she’s sleeping with a creepily older man — but Catherine Zeta Jones is just as sexy as the time when she was forcibly disrobed and sexually assaulted at swordpoint by a stranger wearing a mask.
The proposal for the stupid goddamn windmill at Saskatoon’s landfill got a face full of reality today when it was announced that the estimated costs were far more than city councilors (though not a few residents) were expecting.
Despite the opposition from Montgomery residents on the potential health effects of the proposed wind turbine, the biggest issue was always economics. Only $500,000 was blown on this ridiculous venture (so far), so we should count ourselves lucky it wasn’t worse.
As I had pointed out a little while back, the SRC report on the local wind resources was a shoddy attempt to show that some background feasibility work had been completed. And the report still came back as showing that the landfill would have been a sub-optimal location for power generation. Yet the RFP still went out.
City of Saskatoon “sustainable electricity manager” Kevin Hudson is “disappointed” at this outcome and blamed “stringent” “safety expectations” on the lack of bids on the project by snake-oil salesmen wind turbine suppliers.
The city’s utility services general manager, Jeff Jorgenson, feels that “although the cash flow for the proposed wind turbine would still be positive for the City, the project is no longer considered to be a good financial investment.” Hey Einstein, cash flow (such it would have been) isn’t the same thing as economic viability. It was never a good financial investment because if it were, the project feasibility report would have been made public.
(Keep in mind, Jorgenson also oversees the city’s atrocious public transit system, so his viewpoint on the value of public utilities in this town may be considerably divergent than that of the average citizen.)
But our surprisingly still-employed enviro-zealots at City Hall aren’t done yet:
Considerable consultation and research was utilized in planning this component of the Green Energy Park. It will remain useful information as City engineers gained valuable knowledge in alternative energy generation as they continue to look for safe ways to profit and save the environment at the same time.
Question: Did “considerable consultation” include consulting the community located right beside the “Green Energy Park” before a half a million dollars was squandered? Follow-up question: Why is it the city’s job to turn a profit? Follow-up follow-up question: Why is it the city’s job to “save the environment”?
In other words, quit trying to be a hero at your kids’ schools’ show-and-tell events with my money.
The Better Third and I went out and caught Young Adult on New Year’s Eve at the cheap(er) theatres. A very good movie, we enjoyed it a lot more than the sarcastic hipster darling Juno, the last outing for the Jason Reitman–Diablo Cody collaboration, and it was more entertaining than Reitman’s achingly dull Up in the Air.
The hot, beautiful and talented Charlize Theron deserves the bulk of the credit for the final outcome of the film. She was able to walk the fine line between various stages of bitch, slut, cutie, psycho, and other Hollywood stereotypes. She was absolutely gorgeous in the film but still came across as an ugly, ugly person. That’s tough to do. I can’t imagine another actress pulling this off.
An Oscar nomination should be on its way.
Without further ado, here’s Charlize.
Patton Oswalt was also very good in the film, but I’m not going to post his photo. Look it up yourself, pervert.