I had two more parts to that series, didn't I? Um, I'll try to get on that, but more pressing writing needs have come up lately. Sorry about that.
3. Thank goodness for Milk.
Mr. Hero asked me an interesing question this morning while we were discussing the nominations: "What are the Important movies this year?" Of the five Best Picture nominees, The Reader is Important in that way Holocaust movies are always Important, but not Important in a timely way. Frost/Nixon might have seemed more Important if the Democrats weren't firmly in control of Congress and the White House. But as it is, the movie is a nice history lesson, not an Important call to the world today. Slumdog Millionaire could be considered Important if anyone besides Brad and Angie cared about brown orphans in foreign countries. As it is, it's just a feel-good movie, and if it feels good, it can't be Important.
But Milk, we are so lucky to have Milk! A slain gay activist is always an Important story, especially in a year when the troglodyte freaks voted against gay marriage in California. So if Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are duking it out for Best Picture (which is what I expect) and split the vote, will the most Important movie of the year slip through? It just might, and that worries me. No, I haven't had the opportunity to see Milk yet, though I hope to before Oscar day, and it might be a terrific film, but I have a feeling that if it pulls off an upset, it will be because it's Important, not because it's good.
2. Whither The Dark Knight?
Fanboys are in a tizzy today, because finally, this year was going to be the year when a summer popcorn blockbuster broke into the top categories instead of being relegated to the tech category slums. But not so much. The highly anticipated nominations for Adapted Screenplay, Director, and Picture didn't pan out for The Dark Knight. Instead, as conventional wisdom has it, TDK's spots in those categoeries were taken, nay stolen, by The Reader, that artsy, Holocaust, Oscar-bait movie that TDK fanboy, Kris Tapley, calls "pornographic."
Perhaps we should try a little perspective. First off, if this hadn't been a generally weak year for movies, no one would have even gotten their hopes up for a movie based on a comic book. Second, I understand the disappointment, but not the surprise. If folks who pay attention to awards are truly shocked that Harvey Weinstein got a Best Picture nomination for his movie The Reader, they must have been willfully blind. The first rule of awards season is never bet against Harvey Weinstein. I thought everyone knew that? Third, and I don't know how to say this delicately, so I'll just rip the bandaid right off--The Dark Knight isn't that good a movie. The script is a mess. For a movie to get the big nominations, a tight, focused script helps a lot. And don't try to argue that the Academy doesn't like crime mysteries with intricate plots. When movies do that kind of story well, like two of the best movies of the '90s, The Usual Suspects and LA Confidential, they win screenplay Oscars. I'm sorry fanboys, but you're just going to have to wait for something better to come along.
(Does The Hobbit have a release date yet, by the way?)
(Sorry for the long break from blogging, but I suspect that at least for Oscar Season, I'll be around more.)
As I get them prepared, I thought I would share five things I find interesting about this year's Oscar nominees. (For a complete list of nominees, you can look just about anywhere, but here's the official Academy site.)
1. Does the Academy have a problem with brown foreigners?
For a long time, the Academy lived under a cloud of racism, with everyone assuming the members were too old and too white to vote for actors who weren't white and spoke the King's English. It was 24 years between Hattie McDaniel and Sindey Poitier and another 26 years until Denzel Washington. But then it looked as thought things might be changing with wins and nominations for Hallie Barry, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, and others. And for years only world superstar Sophia Loren could claim an acting win for a foreign language film, but then Roberto Benigni won, and last year all four acting awards went to non-Americans, including a foreign language performance from Marion Cotillard.
So perhaps the explanation for the Academy's oversight of Slumdog Millionaire in the acting categories is that they like minorities and foreigners now, but not foreign brown people? Especially when the names are hard to pronounce--actually, Dev Patel is pretty easy, but who's counting? Speaking of Patel, he did receive a Supporting Actor nomination from SAG, but Oscar voters decided to go with Michael Shannon, who reports claim is the best thing in Revolutionary Road, so maybe it was the right choice. However, it is awfully suspicious, and rare, for a movie to recieve 10 nominations, including Best Picture, without reaping a single acting bid. After all, how many movies are 10-nominations good without having, you know, good actors?
. . . that went well. All of my readers suck. Not one single suggestion for what I should blog about. Oh well. Maybe next week I'll do some kind of election wrap up, and I've been thinking about books and reading again, not too mention Oscar season is starting up. So never fear, even though my faithful readers let me down, I won't let them down, and I should be blogging again next week.
I think that BBW blog took a lot out of me, and I just can't think of what to write about next. So, dear readers, I'm taking suggestions. Post a topic in the comments or PM me with a brilliant topic you're just dying to see me blog about.
Once upon a time, when I was young and naive--oh, about a couple of years ago--I thought the American Library Association was a wonderful group looking out for libraries and performing a great public service with Banned Books Week. But then I started seeing evidence to the contrary, mostly from Nat Hentoff and the Annoyed Librarian, and my opinion changed drastically. It turns out the ALA would much rather spend its time debating the evils of the Iraq War than promoting the profession, and "banned" books is a misnomer by their own admission. Not only that, but when they do tackle library issues, it is generally with a decidedly leftist bent.
In 2007 at the ALA's midwinter meeting in Seattle, the Social Responsibilities Round Table sponsored a vote on a resolution condemning the Iraq War. I'm happy to tell you that the resolution failed to pass. Why am I happy? It's not because I support the Iraq War, although I do, but because it has nothing to do with American librarianship. The ALA wasted time on something wholly outside their purview while there are real problems like the fact library school education is a joke. I spent half of graduate school drunk and got straight A's, and it's not because I'm an exceptionally good student. So what other issues has the SRRT tackled in recent years? They have discussed impeaching President Bush, as well as homosexuals and the Boy Scouts, and SRRT has task forces about feminism and the environment. Perhaps if they want to be "socially responsible" they could address early childhood literacy or the elimination of library media specialists in a lot of public schools. I know it's not as flashy, but it would be library related and responsible.
But the ALA does focus on books once a year and that self-congratulatory orgy known as Banned Books Week starts today. The ALA takes great pride in their defense of intellectual freedom and attempts to stop book banning. Only, books aren't banned. Across the country, books are sometimes challenged, which generally means someone finds a book age inappropriate and asks for it to be moved to a different department, or parents object to assigned school reading and ask that their children be allowed to read something else. So why is it still called Banned Books Week? According to their website, ALA partners with other groups and they could not change the name without approval from the others. Fair enough. But the ALA's statement doesn't end there. They claim no one wants to change the name because, "a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or a group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted." Generally when a book is "restricted," it's moved from Children's to Young Adult (I'm sorry, Teen Services--I guess some in the library world can promote name changes) or YA to Adult. Depending on the library, this could mean that a minor would not be able to check out the book without parental permission. (At my library, parents decide what age level books their children 15 and under can check out.) But what books get challenged and why? One recent brouhaha surrounded the book The Higher Power of Lucky featuring a 10 year-old girl and marketed as a children's book. Here's an excerpt:
Sammy told of the day when he had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked '62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
Is it so unreasonable that parents may find this objectionable for their 5 year-olds? At library school, they pounded into our heads that librarians do not serve in loco parentis, and yet when parents are asked to choose the age level their children should be reading and that the books in that age level should be age appropriate, the ALA screams that this is an infringement on a child's right to read.
The ALA's belief in people's right to read whatever they want at any age doesn't stop at the border, either. (Actually, it depends on which border, but more on that later.) Last year the ALA's president publicly denounced a Catholic school in Canada because that school decided that the His Dark Materials series was unsuitable for middle schoolers. 1 How the American Library Association feels it's appropriate to tell Canadian school libraries what books they should have is beyond me. Also, is it really so awful that a Catholic school would choose to move a series of books that promote atheism, by the author's admission, from their middle school to their high school? (From what I understand, Catholic schools in Canada are tied to the government, so it's a bit different than in America. That doesn't change the fact that I don't know why the ALA was commenting on it in the first place.)
The ALA doesn't take it's crusade to every corner of the world, however. You see, the ALA seems to have a soft spot for commies. They did virtually nothing to support librarians in the Soviet Union and today the organization is turning its back on Cuba. 2 In 2003, Cuba had an old-fashioned book burning. On the pyre one could find the works of people like George Orwell, Vaclav Havel, and Pope John Paul II. The ALA also has turned a blind eye to librarians currently in Cuban prisons. One such librarian is Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (June 8 column) who has so far served five of his 25 years in prison for operating an independent library in his home. What was so terrible in his little library? For one, a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. that detailed the ideas of civil disobedience. The Cuban government decided Carrillo's library would literally be excellent fuel for their fire, and a judge ordered his collection incinerated. However, the ALA refuses to defend imprisoned Cuban librarians because they aren't really librarians. 3 Those stalwarts of professional standards refuse to offer support to anyone who didn't get drunk at an ALA accredited school for a few years. People like Carrillo risk their lives and freedom to supply books to their countrymen by operating their own libraries, but the ALA is hung up on a technicality. Additionally, the ALA feels as though it would be inappropriate to defend these independent Cuban libraries because some of their support comes from the US government. 4 Without American intervention, the average Cuban would never be able to read something like The Power of the Powerless, and somehow that's a problem for the intellectual freedom-loving ALA. If the ALA is going to stick its nose into international affairs, wouldn't jailed librarians and book burning be the natural place to start?
If you go to a public library this week, chances are you will see displays and posters celebrating people's freedom to read, all thanks to the enlightened and brave folks at the ALA. Just remember that the freedom to read includes your child reading about drunken rattlesnake dog scrotum, because Bush sucks and anyone named Castro is a-okay since they never lock up gin-swilling accredited librarians.
1. The ALA is upgrading their website at the moment, and this statement is no longer available there. You can read the Annoyed Librarian's take on it here.
2. Sadly, I learned about this article today, but I could not read the full text online. If I'd waited to have the article sent to me, I would have missed Banned Books Week. I would also like to read a book I discovered on the topic today, but again, couldn't access, [i]Not Seeing Red.[/i]
3. Again, this information is not available at the moment on the ALA website. This Nat Hentoff article explains it well.
4. This is another ALA website problem that is covered in the above Hentoff article.
Why was the Republican Party formed? In large part, the original Republicans and the GOP's first president, Abraham Lincoln, were for abolition. It's odd to think that the party of small government first became famous as the party which held the union together and forced states to end slavery, but such is history.
But somewhere along the way, the party of Lincoln lost the support o the people they were founded to set free, until we now play identity politics and over 90% of blacks vote for the party that once supported segregation in the South. Why? Perhaps that first move with a strong federal government led the black community to expect more from the federal government than the Republicans ever showed again. Perhaps they were fed up with Republicans supporting local control when local control in the South meant subpar schools and separate bathrooms. Or perhaps they fled to the Democratic Party under FDR like so many did and just decided never to come back.
Whatever the case, race seems to be one of the factors everyone wants to talk about in this presidential race. Usually it's about how only redneck whites stand between Obama and history. But I think there's much more to it than that. With a country split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, if Obama loses, it's going to be in part the white Democrats who are the rednecks, not the racist Republicans, who put McCain over the top. (Of course, few people want to talk about the fact that McCain may have genuine appeal to moderate Democrats that has nothing to do with race.) Also, it seems impolitic to discuss the fact that some blacks will vote for Obama because he is black, which is no less racist. And the one thing you won't hear anyone talk about, except maybe Ward Connerly, is the fact that Obama is every bit as white as he is black, but our check-one-box-only mentality is a can of worms unto itself.
The real point is when did we become so divided by identity politics? Why can't each person make decisions without influence from the group? Why did it come to light during the Supreme Court affirmative action case that a University of Michigan official asked if Cubans count as Hispanic, because, "Don't they vote Republican?"
Heaven knows I don't have answers, but it seems to me that if we continue to shy away from the questions we will never get anywhere.
[size="3"](This blog was largely inspired by the Sept. 29, 2008 article "A Ticklish Position" in National Review.)
Not that I'm hoping to strike up another health care conversation with squid(), but my mother recently told me something interesting about her health insurance. We get our insurance through our hospital at a truly affordable rate, and we've both been very pleased with it for the 5 years we've had it. (How many people can say they have been happy with their health insurance for 5 straight years?) In a few months, mom will be hitting the magical age of 65. At that point, her insurer will pay her money if she comes to work out at their gym. You heard that right--she will get $10 a month if she works out there 5 times a month. How genius is that? She gets in shape, they have less of a chance if having to payout for medical problems, and she gets free lunch money.
We talk a lot about preventitive medicine in this country, and this sounds like one of the best ways to promote this that I've ever heard. Anyone else have ideas?
(PS I'll try to get around to race later in the week.)
I just want to let everyone know that I should be back to blogging soon. I spent most of this past week without power or internet, but I'm now up and running again.