Monthly Archives: January 2020

Top 15 movies of the 2010s

Okay, so we’ve gone over what the top films of 2019 were, and we’ve gone over what actually makes for great art. So given that it’s 2020–and by consensus the start of a new decade (yeah I know there is no year zero, but Christ was likely born in 6 or 7 BCE and it’s just as arbitrary to say the first decade had only nine years as to say the decade doesn’t begin until 2021…the fact is this is where the majority lies). So what are the top films of the 2010s?

As anyone who has been with this blog for the last decade will know some years I have trouble making a full Top 10, and some overflow but only with middling entertainment value, few reaching to level of great art. But it is a decade list and we should admit that there are more than just 10 films to honor. That being said, I’m going to group someone of them because my praise of them stems from a similar source.

So let’s get this list going with

#15: Les Miserables
Ideally, this movie should be higher. It appeals to a need to be both charitable in a personal sense, oppose tyranny when it comes up, but to also deal in the real world as best we can. Excellent messages of virtue all around. The problem is that upon repeated viewing it becomes clear that Hooper only realized how to film a musical about halfway through the movie, spending too much early in production with just letting the camera stay on one actor singing for far far too long to be comfortable. Also, sadly, what he did learn about the proper way to film a musical (as seen in such songs as Stars and Master of the House) was quickly forgotten as filmed the second worst film of the 2010’s—Cats. (In case you’re wondering, The Counselor is the unchallenged worst film of the 2010s and in all likelihood of all time).
14. The Age of Adeline
Snobs may have not been completely infuriated by the previous pick, but this one likely is setting them seething. I don’t care. The film may not have the pretentiousness that is so often praised by critics but is superbly acted by Blake Lively (whose range as a serious from The Town to A Simple Favor is always underrated because of her stunningly beautiful face). Compared to a lot of movies it is a quiet film about what really matters in life, and how things we may even complain about are truly blessings.
13. Destination Wedding
Never have I seen two actors carry a movie entirely. Only two actors speak for the entire film. This wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on stage, but on film it is essentially unheard of (discounting endless college films and snobby crap that no non-critic should ever waste a millisecond of their time on). But Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder manage to hold a whole film with only their dialogue and a few establishing shots. And the direction is half the joy, as many directors could not pull off having seemed natural, entertaining, or anything other than tedious. But this film is wonderfully entertaining as it honestly deals with the modern cynicism about relationships without sacrificing a faith in the timeless truth of love.
12. A Star Is Born
It took four attempts at making this movie before they made a good one. I’ll be honest, when it was first announced I was unconvinced, they had made three godawful films with this plot before why would the new one be any better. And then Lady Gaga. And then it is the directing debut of Bradley Cooper, in a film starring himself. A bad story with an annoying pop star directed by someone who was on what appeared to be a vanity project. And then the trailer interested even jaded old me…and then the movie. For once the husband was not despicable only pitiable, for once the starlet’s love for her husband was endearing and not pathetic and leaving me screaming “Leave his worthless ass.” For once they did what they meant to do, talk about how stardom is a fickle mistress who will just as soon destroy you as raise you up without making me despise all the characters involved. But now that we’ve made a good version can we never remake this movie again in my lifetime—I’ll probably be dead by the 2070’s so nothing before then.
11. The Accountant
The 2000s were a time when Ben Affleck did literally any film that would pay him money. Some were endearing in their own way (Jersey Girl and The Sum of All Fears) and others were abominations that should have never been filmed and should still be wiped from the face of the Earth so that future generation may never know of their worthlessness (Gigli, Daredevil, Surviving Christmas, Pearl Harbor, Bounce, Reindeer Games, Boiler Room…you get the idea). Thankfully the 2010s reminded us that this was the guy who wrote Good Will Hunting and made us cry in Armageddon (don’t lie we all cried before we learned a cynicism for Bay movies). And while we’ll soon deal with his directorial genius, let’s look at what is possibly his best film not directed by himself (Affleck might be the best Batman, but his performance in The Accountant is better). In The Accountant, Gavin O’Connor gave us a great mystery, a thrilling action piece, and an understanding of how autism actually presents seldom seen in Hollywood. It is thrilling and insightful at every turn and offers us not only the Accountant’s struggle to do the right thing while wanting to be a part of a society he can’t fully integrate into, but also the redemption of two separate FBI agent as they work with Affleck’s character to achieve some small measure of justice in the world.
It is touching, exciting, and intriguing all at once.
Let’s crack the Top 10 with
10. Glass.
I don’t think I include Unbreakable in the best films of the 2000s, and I don’t necessarily regret that, Unbreakable, while a beautiful film was inherently only the first part of a story. And I’m not including Split here either because it was a bridge piece that set up this final movie. But Glass is what turns these otherwise good but not great films into a perfect trilogy. So many of M. Night’s films are about finding your place in the world (The Sixth Sense, Lady in the Water, Signs) but Glass uses the modern obsession with comic book characters to relate the struggle of these larger than life characters to real human beings who are held back by fears of what they can accomplish. And while Glass may have set up a larger universe which we may never return to, as much as we might want, the theme of Mr. Glass’ initial plea about how terrible it is to not know your place in the world is resolved not just for our three central characters. And is what was needed more than any further discussion of the conspiracy that kept those with abilities down (certainly without ethics, but not entirely without logic to their purpose). And further, we see there is dignity and even greater purpose in the role of those who are not the extraordinary but in what would usually be considered the role of the sidekick, as it is those who believe without powers, who do more to harm the behemoth of the conspiracy than the superheroes and villains ever could.
9.Knives Out

Daniel Craig is a good Bond. He is great as Benoit Blanc. In possibly the best murder mystery since Agatha Christie (that sounds like hyperbole, but trust me it isn’t) Knives Out holds the promise of a new private detective that will become a part of the collective conscious right up there with Holmes, Poirot, Wolf, Marlowe, and Spade. Every line is a masterpiece of wit and mystery, and you’re not sure who killed who, who is even dead, and what is going on in-between laughing your ass off at the insanity of the characters and their well-crafted lines. With any luck, several Blanc films will grace the best films of the 2020’s list, but for now, let us revel in the genius of the first film that closed out the decade.
8. The King’s Speech/Dunkirk/Darkest Hour
I’m grouping these three together because they basically all have the same theme central theme: individuals dealing with extraordinary situations, and all three use the backdrop of Britain in the Second World War. Sadly, three great films about the virtues of the British people (notably about the nobility, the commoners, and educated gentry that straddles the two, i.e. most of Britains classes) should have the backdrop of Britain committing economic suicide and destroying the union that the WWII generation fought to create (but it’s a time when America is also opting for self-immolation, so it’s not only a flaw in Britain at present). None the less all three demonstrate that the correct attitude to problem is to face them with a personal virtue and determination to follow what you know is right even when the world and those in it seem to be against you.
7. Motherless Brooklyn
It is a film that has nearly unparalleled directing, writing, and acting. Probably if Ed Norton hadn’t burned so many bridges in Hollywood it would be recognized for the genius it has this year beyond. But as it stands it both balances a personal story of redemption with a startling accurate critique of current corruption by using real evils of the past as an example we should learn from. If all movies were this good I would never be disappointed.
6. Widows
I honestly fail to see which current social problems this film did not at least touch on. Racism, personal and structural. Political corruption and graft. Misogyny. The need to establish connections with other people to survive. And it does it all without becoming preachy or pedantic. Between this and Motherless Brooklyn Hollywood has a new standard by which to judge all movies that comment on society’s ill. If you cannot do it with the entertainment factor of both of these films don’t bother.
5. The Town/Argo/Live By Night
Ben Affleck’s personal life seems to be an endless mess. Ben Affleck the actor is good. Ben Affleck the director is a godsend. The three films are very different in tone and theme but all three show a director who knows how to tell complex stories, make characters of questionable character sympathetic and endearing, and how to give powerful messages about the nature of virtue through the lack of it, the price of redemption, and the necessity of balancing intellectual and emotional needs in both our lives and on film. I look forward to every film that Affleck directs and wish there were more of them.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
This is a difficult one to say exactly where it goes. It’s hard because it really shouldn’t be view outside the nature of the Dark Knight Trilogy, so it becomes a little difficult to fit into a decade review of films as the other two films were in the previous decade. That said, let’s try and look at this film as a stand-alone. It offers one of the most enduring messages of any of the Dark Knight movies, in that it shows the flaws of those who listen to Bane’s progressive/populist drivel and how those who spout such nonsense often don’t believe in what they say, just in playing to the ignorant masses. How different this decade would have been if people had actually listened to this message.
Further, the movie is the most character-centric of the Dark Knight films, showing Bruce dealing with his role in Gotham and the world and how his attempt to hide from life behind the cowl was not a long term solution to bigger issues.
And for this, it is still the strongest part of the trilogy and should be appreciated on its own.
3. Inception/Interstellar
Okay, so I’ve put all four of Nolan’s films for this decade on the list. Like Snyder and Affleck he is simply a director I will implicitly trust for the moment. Someday he might give a subpar film, but it was not this decade. I put these two films together not just because they both are science fiction tales, and not just because they both challenge us to think about reality in a different way, but because they show very clearly that for all the intellectual knots we can tie ourselves into it is connections to others out of love that will usually be the things that save us from the problems in our lives.
2. Winter’s Tale
This one might seem to be the odd one out to be this high on the list. Most of these films people might admit that they have exceptional acting and directing they just might think there are other, more pretentious, films that should be in the top list (usually because they believe what critics tell them). But Winter’s Tale flew under the radar. Terribly marketed, poorly understood, and just comes off as cheap fantasy to anyone who isn’t watching closely. However, this film takes a small portion of Mark Helprin’s beautiful novel and puts the dense philosophy on film. And when one takes the time to watch this movie you will realize it is not just a beautiful love story, but a stirring film about spirituality and hope, about how everything in existence happens for a reason, and how it bends inevitably toward growth and eventual perfection.
1. Man of Steel/Dawn of Justice/The Snyder Cut
Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan did for stupid and crappy comic book stories what the bards we collectively call Homer did for stupid and crappy campfire tales. They made the mundane into true art. And while Nolan’s genius was more for the last decade Snyder gave us three great films of philosophical depth that in many ways outshine the Dark Knight Trilogy.
And I get that putting a movie that hasn’t even been released yet is a bit of cheat, but the fact is that everyone with a brain knows that the actual Snyder Cut was vastly superior to the shit Justice League that the studio released and that everyone involved in ruining Justice League from Joss Whedon all the way to the WB executives should, in a just world, be subject to tortures usually reserved for the Inquisition.
But from Man of Steel, a film that tore apart the evils of Plato’s Republic, Dawn of Justice which showed the evil inherent in the beliefs of Nietzsche, and from the few clues to the real Justice League we can see that the film was supposed to be an attack on the isolationism of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Few directors would tackle one of those in a film, but Snyder kept all of his comic book movies, one after another, challenging heavy philosophical questions. He gave us superheroes who weren’t the comic book cutouts that did what was needed for the plot, but rather real human beings (even the aliens) for whom the plot followed their character development. We were treated to a Lois Lane who wasn’t just a hanger on to Superman, but a woman whom we could believe earned a Pulitzer. A Superman who wasn’t the dumb big blue Boy Scout but a virtuous man who struggles with the consequences of his choices in trying to right thing. A Batman who is understood to be mentally unstable, because stable people without superpowers don’t do this kind of shit, and who have very real PTSD issues from all the crap he’s faced. They were films for serious adults, and critics bitched that it wasn’t the mindless superhero crap Disney was putting out.
Regrettably, neither the critics nor the public want films that both entertain and cause us to think at the moment, and so these films will not get the credit they deserve. But they are still the best the decade had to offer.

On the flip side, I feel I should also discuss the worst of the decade. And that’s a toss-up.
On the one hand, there is The Counselor, in my mind the single worst film ever made. Conversations that make no sense, characters all spouting off like they’re drunken sophomore philosophy students, Cameron Diaz sexually molesting a car (and my soul in the process). It was just a terrible film at every level.
But slightly above that is what Disney did throughout most of the decade. The early Marvel films not owned by Disney weren’t great but they weren’t completely terrible. But once Disney took over they became bland, formulaic, and just a series of cheap quips and explosions. And not that Star Wars was ever great art, but the extended universe novels offered a road map for character development and depth, but not once did I see the words Mara Jade or any other suggestion that Disney wanted to offer us anything other than mindless shit. Perhaps if the entertainment industry wasn’t such a blind monkey-see-monkey-do kind of business the I could have been fine with Disney releasing some dumb crap and other studios giving me something to sink my teeth into, but it isn’t that way and Disney showed you can make money with the bland formula (but only for a while, a caveat they haven’t learned) and thus every other studio wants to repeat the same thing leaving comparatively little diversity for those of us who got tired of the formula early on. And for that, they have created the worst thing in entertainment for the decade. And the unquestionable cuteness of baby Yoda and baby Groot won’t make up for that.

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The Importance of Art and Culture in Politics

I have recently engaged in several arguments with a few people over the values of art. Some have complained about why I would waste time on blogs  The Snyder Cut and some have told me they think Shakespeare has no value. Both viewpoints are silly. Now, most people will concede the importance of art for entertainment purposes in their own lives, and maybe for having a message so long as it is entertaining and the message is clear, again in their own life. But art, in almost any form, has far more important functions than just the personal entertainment aspect, it is, as Faulkner put it “It [creating art] is his [the artist’s] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” (Faulkner was talking specifically about literature, but I don’t think he would disagree with having his words applied to all the arts). Specifically, in the context of this blog, art serves to aid in both an understanding of ethics, politics, and philosophy in life.

Art is important for both political and spiritual reasons. Why?  Because ideas have consequences.  Major ones.  And the single most efficient way to convey ideas is through art.  High brow or low, it doesn’t really matter.  Art is ideas, and ideas have consequences.  So, caring about even movies and books you would like to dismiss as silly or trite is an important issue in life.  But this brings up a few issues.  What is the purpose of art?  What makes good art?  How deep should we dig with a work of art?  And finally, why it’s important to look at art as more than just mindless entertainment but rather as a tool for the mind.

Let’s first deal with what the purpose of art is.

The Purpose of Art

As far as I can figure out there are three purposes to good art.

The first is catharsis. The second is what I can only call the ethical or mythic purpose. The third purpose is the philosophical. I will get into exactly what each of these is in a second but I would say that there are many good works of art that exhibit at least one of these purposes, there are a good portion of works that demonstrate two of these, and of course, the rarest of all are the works that can fulfill all three purposes. (And then there is, of course, the question of how well they fulfilled all of these, but we’ll get to that later).

The first purpose is catharsis. Catharsis is a psychological reaction to art that requires an emotional response. We smile. We grip the armrest in anticipation. We laugh. We cry. We scream in fright. We cheer and applaud. We have a strong emotional reaction. In other words, we’re entertained. There is a release of emotion. I dare you to find me a competent piece of art that doesn’t spark some kind of positive emotion. I say this because disgust and revulsions are not catharsis, even though they are the only sane reactions to most works of modern “art” (I use the word very loosely in this case). We may be angry at some movies or books, but if it is righteous indignation then it is a correct recognition to injustice and helps to stoke this virtue in the right sort of way. But emotions like revulsion or disgust are not as psychologically healthy as laughing and crying, and even sometimes anger, are. I would say that any work of art (music, books, film, paintings) should have to meet this requirement or it’s not really art. For instance, a novel that is long-winded and boring, has dull characters, and no enjoyment isn’t art—it’s a waste of paper, no matter what any intelligentsia hack critic says. If it is not taping into the emotions, at the bare minimum if it is not entertaining, then it is not art.

Art that simply covers this area of enjoyment would be the meaningless pop music we listen to, the quickly forgotten sitcoms and action films we see, and the cheesy romance novels some people read. Anything put out by Marvel would be a good example of this; it has no depth, no real insight in characters or society, no grand questions of life, but it is entertaining. And for what it is, that’s fine (but as we’ll get to later, it doesn’t mean that it only impacts is at the entertainment level.)

The second purpose provides a set of clear and simple rules for people and society to live by—ethical guidelines to follow. I call this also the mythic purpose as much of mythology wasn’t so much to explain the workings of the universe, it was to provide examples of archetypal heroism, the standards of ethics of how we should all live our lives. What is right and what is wrong. How should we act and who should we put up as a moral model. The ancients had Achilles, Odysseus, and Theseus. Nowadays we have Superman, Emma Swan, and Frodo. Just because I call this the 2nd level doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more sophisticated than the first level (there are some comedies that serve no purpose other than entertainment that are much more complex and sophisticated than a comic book which does serve the 2nd level purpose). At its best this type of art raises questions about what is right and leaves you for quite a long time in a gray area before offering you any resolution or answer, forcing you to take the chance to think for yourself about ethics and morality—hopefully a habit you use after you have left the work of art behind. And when it forces this self-reflection art begins to move into the third level.

The third purpose is the philosophic purpose. Literature has a habit of raising questions not just of ethics (and by extension politics) but also questions of metaphysics (Revolver, City of Angels, Winter’s Tale), epistemology (Inception and The Matrix), and aesthetics (Portrait of Jenny and more poems than I care to list). The Grand Big Esoteric questions that reality and life are based on. And it’s not just in movies. Go look at Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” it’s not a coincidence that God, the divine intellect, is depicted with a robe that is flowing in the shape of a brain. Might not seem like much now, but in a day when biology and anatomy were on questionable legal ground showing the brain as the seat of intelligence is a heavy philosophical point.

In this respect, Art can make us ponder the meaning and definition of existence and life. What is it all about? (Again, just because it tries to ask big questions doesn’t mean it’s any good…look at any piece of crap directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who should be legally barred from ever getting near a camera).

So yeah maybe all movies aren’t that third level of philosophical genius (but really how often do we get that?), but, still, they are relevant. Why? Well for two reasons. First no one is ever going to have enough life experience to cover all possible situations they could come across. The ability to live vicariously through the situations found in art is one of its greatest benefits. In fact, when dealing with the issue of politics you need to know history, you need to know philosophy and you need to know psychology…and when it comes to psychology in addition to actually having experience with people, and maybe taking a psychology course or two, you need art to understand people (especially the masters like Shakespeare, Helprin, Hugo, Hawthorne, Whitman, Tennyson, and Faulkner). Thus art, any kind of art, becomes necessary to understanding politics (the primary purposes of this blog). And as cinema is the primary form of art in this era, I would have to be a damned idiot not to discuss any film that has relevant philosophical, political, and ethical implications.

So, those are the purposes of art.  And for the purpose of art in terms of its social implications and dealing with the fact that ideas have consequences we first have to deal with what makes art good and great.

What is Great Art?

And before we can fully discuss why it is such an important feature, we need to set down some ground rules of how to judge art and decide what makes great art. “But it’s all a matter of opinion”, “it’s all subjective” “you like it but I don’t and you can’t argue that something is good because it’s just the way I feel” some will claim—nope, yes there is personal taste in what you may find enjoyable, but that doesn’t change what is great and what is not—I personally love some truly terrible books and movies, but I don’t for a minute think they’re great; conversely, there are works that I can recognize as great but which have little impact on my taste for them. There are standards that separate the works of Shakespeare, Beethoven, Michelangelo from all the rest and it’s not just personal taste. Whether you enjoy a work of art or not does not determine if it’s great.  So, let’s start with the three purposes of art.

  1. It provides entertainment.
  2. It offers ethical examples.
  3. It offers philosophical discussion.

Now, these 3 purposes lead to 4 different qualities that art needs to be judged by. And these 4 qualities are not just my ideas, you will see these qualities if you review the works of Aristotle, Sidney, Shelly, Faulkner, or Barzun when they discuss what makes great literature, I’m just highlighting and distilling their points. It’s important to have an actual way to judge good art because otherwise, you have to deal with that liberal, post-modern BS that art is purely personal taste or that “well you simply don’t get it.” If you ever hear those words be careful. Sometimes it’s true, Shakespeare for instance, to fully understand Shakespeare takes a lot of time and effort to learn the medium and language, but if you don’t understand the intricacies of the humor, the tragedy and the passion almost always come out if performed by an even remotely competent actor and director. Which is why the first criteria of any art form is that:

1.  Great art creates catharsis; effectively it mixes High Tragedy and High Comedy flawlessly. Good art will leave me with some kind of emotional reaction. With great art basically, I should be crying, either from having my heart ripped out and stomped on or from laughing so hard I’m hyperventilating or on the rarest of occasions because I am struck with a sense of awe…preferably all in the same work. Yes, there is a certain education level required to understand any work of art, but anyone with even a basic level of education listening, seeing or hearing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Michelangelo’s David, Shakespeare’s “St. Crispin Day’s speech” can’t help but be moved. If it doesn’t entertain at some level for someone, it’s not art, but to be great art it must not just entertain it must provide catharsis. This is the flaw of all modern visual art, modernist writers (E.E. Cummings, Pound, H.D., Salinger), and just a disgusting host of pompous movies as the only emotional reaction they cause is disgust or revulsion (and that’s when they cause an emotional reaction at all). If you have something to say but can’t bring it to an emotional level, we have philosophy and journalism and commentary for that—art is by definition something that causes emotional reactions. It can cause mental stimulation, but it MUST cause an emotional reaction to be art, and must provide catharsis, swelling of uncontrollable emotion, to be great art.

Now, this is the part that can be most influenced by personal taste.  As I said already education can have an effect on your enjoyment.  But, so can life experiences.  If you see something in a bad mood, go in looking to have a terrible time, or go in looking for something other than what the work is meant to give you, you might not get the catharsis that a person in the right frame of mind would get.  That’s the reason why so many great novels are ruined by bad high school English teachers—instead of teaching with passion they force-feed words down students unwilling gullets, turning art into streams of meaningless words.  Works that have moved souls for generations do not stir the being of students forced to read it from a teacher who doesn’t really care…but that doesn’t mean the work doesn’t cause catharsis to those open to it.  So, for this criteria more than most we have to look not so much to our own reaction but to the reaction of others, if we don’t particularly feel catharsis because even if it doesn’t move us if it moves a large numbers of others then we have to say that for whatever reason it didn’t move us, it still met the criteria of causing catharsis in others.

2. Great art has a deep understanding of the human psyche. It is accurately said that all good drama is character drama, and good character drama comes from understanding how people actually act. If characters don’t act realistically there can be no suspension of disbelief and thus nothing to do with point one. This is a bit harder to see in forms of art that aren’t literature, theater or film, but this understanding is there. Look at a Waterhouse painting and you will see the wheels turning in the brains of the people depicted there, listen to a Copland piece of music and you will hear the characters and people they represent and how well Copland understood them. The best art reveals something about the human psyche that reveals truth about yourself. Again, back to Copland’s music, the “Fanfare for the Common Man”, for example, reveals not only the greatness that a human being is able to achieve but upon reflection offers us a reflection of the person we should ourselves strive to be. By contrast, a painting by Picasso shows no understanding of how people think or act. There is none of the humanity that one would see in a Raphael, none of the complexity that exists in a Rembrandt, just chaos. And yes, chaos is an aspect of humanity, but it is not the only one.

And this is often the problem of the more pretentious and useless works of liberal drivel (and the little the alt-right produces).  They portray people as these terrible cookie-cutter images that act for motivations that no person has ever felt because these liberal and populist loons don’t actually understand what motivates people.

The other thing to keep in mind here is that you are not the world.  Just because you wouldn’t do something a certain way does not mean that a character is acting in a way contrary to human nature.  The ignorance involved in the hysteria over a character with severe PTSD, which was tied to the death of his mother, being triggered when someone says his mother’s name is just bizarre —  that’s how people with PTSD react.  Just because a work of art actually portrays behavior uncommon from how you would deal with things does not mean it doesn’t have a clear understanding of human nature.

3. Great art must understand how to use the tools of the medium in a skillful way. This is a twofold requirement. It needs to look or sound good depending on the medium. It needs to at some level capture real-life accurately—visual art needs to look as close to a photograph as possible (with deviations from reality only for the purpose of meaning), film and literature needs to accurately capture realistic human experience (again only deviating for theme). But I said this was twofold, the second is the complexity factor. Faces are easier to draw than hands, but the artist who can do both is great, simple tunes like happy birthday may have melody but demonstrate nothing of the complexity of a Beethoven concerto, anyone with a video camera can film something, but it takes great skill to make it have meaning beyond a record of what is happening. Great art has a complexity to it, even when it is simple (look at the levels of some Shel Silversteen poems if you want complex but simple). For poetry, that means the use of language. For music, it means the mixture of the instruments to create melody. For painting and sculpture, it means the ability to create life-like representations mixed with symbolism. The more complex the art form the more elements that have to be mastered. This is the technical aspect. A person may have written deep and powerful lyrics and mixed it with superb music but if they can’t sing, the song is probably not great art (Bob Dylan is the artist I’m thinking of here…he is in the Top 5 of 20th-century poets…but he is not a great musician.) Why must art be technically accurate? Well because art, and especially great art, has layers. You’ll notice that the first two qualifications I had for great art match up with the first two purposes of great art. Well, it is in point 3 and 4 that we get the third purpose of art, the philosophical purpose.

What do the layers of meaning and content have to do with philosophy? As you know, philosophy is the study of reason and the truth (I mean real philosophy, not the hack excuse you get in Philosophy Departments which seem to have abandoned the search for truth and instead sought out in a search for the most convoluted bullshit). Life is not easily understood. The facts are all there around us, but they do not put themselves together on their own. You have to search for meaning in all the little breadcrumbs left for you by the universe and human civilization (especially since I believe there is a higher-order to existence, then looking for the patterns and themes becomes especially important because nothing is a coincidence and there is meaning in everything). And art that includes these layers is what can train your mind to see these patterns and small details that lead to a greater understanding.  Even in the research of the social sciences like economics or politics, there is as much an art as there is a science to looking at data and deducing the motivations and causes of the reports and stats you see.  Without the understanding that comes from seeing the depth of art, you can’t fully understand how humans interact even in the dismal sciences.

Aside from the psychological, moral, and philosophical benefits that art provides this is probably the most important function that art serves—it trains us in how to think. So why didn’t I list this in my three purposes of art…well because I’m not sure most artists think about this when they’re writing. They may be intentionally hiding a message under layers (as Shakespeare hid his pro-Catholic politics under layers of metaphors, tragedy and comedy, character development, and universal themes) but he didn’t think “I’m going to write something that will train people to think.” I don’t think the majority of artists have this thought when they create their works…they may pat themselves on the back for how skillfully they hide a theme, but I don’t think they view the layers qua layers as an end in and of itself. Granted, recently, modernist and post-modernist hacks have done this but, with one exception, I can’t think of anyone who has done that and is any good. The exception to this might be T.S. Eliot who intentionally wanted his readers to wade through the layers of obscure references to make them think about what he was saying…but given that his message was the modern world (i.e. all those hacks) are dead and lifeless and without humanity, he kind of is the exception that proves the rule.

However, I can think of artists who do come up with complexity for the sake of complexity and thus ruin art by doing it. James Joyce and Herman Melville come to mind. Melville, for instance, had a perfectly wonderful 90-page novella about a man bent on vengeance against a whale; it had human drama, stirring lines, and ethical statements. The problem is that Melville never wrote that book, instead, he wrote a 300-page monstrosity that has pages upon pages of information about whale blubber and sailing and harpooning and the history of Cetology at the time of the book. Within all this boring muck is embedded an even more dreary philosophy on the nature of epistemology and some metaphysics. And it quickly becomes one of the most overrated hack works in the history of human civilization. (A basic rule I find for art: the more meaty and in-depth the philosophy you’re dealing with, the more catharsis and emotional reactions you will need to hold your audience. If you’re going to raise in-depth points of epistemology I better be seeing Keanu Reeves in a black trench coat dodging bullets or Leonardo DeCaprio spinning tops and running through dreams, otherwise, just write philosophy and ignore the art because as dry as epistemology can get, it’s better than whale blubber.) But the worst ever in this category of absolutely putting style and layers ahead of content is James Joyce. Joyce wrote Ulysses attempting to write a book that no one would understand. He failed, people got it, though it didn’t really say much. So, then he spent 20 years writing Finnegan’s Wake, and succeeded. No one understands what that thing is about, probably not even Joyce. Frankly, there is no point. In music, you should look at Mozart, technically complex and detailed harmonies, but no meaning, just notes. In visual arts, you see this in 18th-century portraits and 19th-century realism—all very lifelike, all very dull and meaningless. For the film counterpart to this look at the worst of Orson Wells, who valued pretty camera shots over plot, characterization, theme, dialogue, but he had some nice shots. All of these value style over substance, which is what makes them inferior works.

This is an important part of art as it is a process that teaches people to think at deep levels, but the process should never be more important than the message.

4. Finally, great art must have an underlying hopeful, positive, and ethical philosophical base.

I start from the premise that the universe, human nature, and civilization are more or less is intelligible, reasonable, ethical, and leading to continuous human progress and evolution.

This comes from my conservative and spiritual beliefs. As such, for art to be great it must mirror these philosophies—it must mirror the truth. There is an Aristotelian principle that art should capture life as it is (my second and third requirement) and as it should be (this requirement). If you are a conservative in the vein of Burke and Adams to Coolidge, Goldwater and Reagan you believe that life has a purpose. That human beings can rise above whatever their present condition through force of will, self-education, and the goodness of their humanity. You believe that freedom is the highest of all virtues in human society.  That the good society seeks to balance justice, order, and equality and not sacrifice any of those three at the expense of the others.  That the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Moderation, Fortitude, Justice, Faith, Hope, and Charity are what should lead a person, and the political virtues of a rule of law, limited government, free enterprise, and liberty should lead a government.

And art, great art, MUST reflect these values.

Or again, as Faulkner put it:

“The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

Why?  Because ideas have consequences.  Most people do not constantly question and reassess their ideas.  So offering small little ideas here and there against what a person might usually believe is like holding a magnet near a ship’s compass.  It won’t immediately take you off course, but after several days you’re nowhere near where you want to be.

Literature, film and paintings need heroes, poetry and music need passion for what is right and good and true…or at least the tragic absence of these things. Nothing else is worthy of being called great art. And any form of art that contradicts these principles can’t be great because it’s endorsing a lie. Now rationally since we don’t know all the minutia of the truth of human existence (if we have a vague idea that it’s in the direction of hopeful, ethical, rational, etc.) we should be willing to give a wide latitude for a variance in belief so long as it does not depict the world as utterly chaotic (the works of Picasso) irrational (the works of Joyce), dreary (the works of Mozart), that humans are inherently evil (the works of Dickens) or that life is pointless (the works of Camus). So, to review, great art must cause a cathartic experience, understand the human condition, show great skill of the form, and point to a higher ideal. There can be good art that meets two or three of these requirements. There can be enjoyable art that meets one or two of these requirements. There can be endless debate about whether or not a work actually meets these requirements. But there is no great work of art that does not meet all four of these requirements. Now we can get on to discussing why art is important to live in a political and sense….

A Question of layers

But we always have to be on guard to give any work the right amount of attention.

Art is something that no person who wishes to think deeply (be it politically or spiritually) can long avoid. One of the often-overlooked reasons that art is important is because of the skills it teaches us. It teaches us to think, to examine to look deeper. No, I don’t mean the philosophical skills. Yes, good art raises philosophical questions of life, ethics, politics and attempts to answer these questions or get us to answer them for ourselves. But I’m talking about something deeper. The peeling away of the layers of meaning one after the other, the stripping away of the surface meaning and even the meaning after that…the analysis of small details, and word choice, and metaphor and symbolism.

Right about now most of you are rolling your eyes. You’re thinking back to your high school English class and your English teacher telling you that the cup on the table, or whatever random and meaningless detail they want to focus on, was supposed to be symbolic of some major political upheaval and you just stared at the page thinking ‘is she on drugs?’ Let me get something out of the way, your reaction was likely not one of ignorance or stupidity…most English teachers are terrible at their jobs. I’m an English teacher and I can tell you without a moment’s hesitation, most English teachers are hacks. They really are. A disturbing portion of English teachers just want to pile onto their students endless heaps of obscure crap and modernist shit that they think is oh so deep…and why do they think it’s deep because they have been taught by other terrible English teachers that anything you can’t understand is deep and meaningful so they parrot what they have been taught and teach crap that amounts to nothing. They believe because they can’t understand it, it must be great. Don’t believe me? Go listen to an English teacher talk about their favorite work. Four times out of five they trying to justify the fact that they don’t get it by saying it’s just so damn wonderful because they don’t get it. And because they believe it is great they search for meaning where there is none, and since they believe it is great they create meaning where there is none. But they have this theory because they misunderstand great art. Art is supposed to be difficult and art is supposed to make you think…but what they misunderstand is that just because you don’t get something on the first round doesn’t make it great…it’s only great if there is something underneath all the work. For instance, both T.S. Eliot and Herman Melville do not give up their depth easily…but where Eliot has some rather harsh and pertinent critiques of human civilization buried under obscure references and complex metaphor, Melville only has pompous musing about knowledge buried under whale blubber. The ideas have to be valid if you’re going to bother hiding them under layers. And then these terrible hacks get into the problem of thinking that everything written must have layers upon layers. Yes, Shakespeare is the greatest writer ever because he hid a pro-Catholic plea to the Protestant rulers of England under universal themes of the human condition under complex character development under rich and exciting plots and great comedy under rich metaphor and language…but just because Shakespeare could master that many levels to be perfectly balanced at all time, that doesn’t mean that it’s in every book or work of art. Sometimes a rosebush is just a rosebush in a story and not a complex symbol for the imprecise use of symbols (and sometimes it is), it depends on the author.

Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot have layers…Stephen King not so much. And in between those two extremes is a whole lot of layers of authors who use different amounts of layers—the intelligent person realizes this and doesn’t try to force more layers on something than it deserves.  And this often has to do with the intent of the artist, they will often signal in some way how deep they want you to go, but you have to get used to a lot of art to recognize those signals.  But back to the central point, good art has layers upon layers, and it does not yield its answers immediately to the first passerby who only gives it a cursory review. Great painting should require hours of study, great music should require multiple listenings, great literature should require you to read it three, four, five times over. Each time finding some new idea, some new detail, some new insight, some new thing to apply to your life or your understanding of the world. Because that is what good art does. It’s important because it is training for life not just to dig through these layers, but to recognize how deep to dig and recognize when you’ve gone too far.

I sense eye rolling again, stop it…This kind of art is important for life because life is not simple. Life does not give up its answers easily—even when they’re staring you in the face. The problems in life for most people come from the fact that they only look at the first level of things. And politics is often the same way.  Real solutions are not simple ones.  Yes, saying that we’ll get rid of the bad politicians through term limits, but when you peel back the layers and look at the data that this has never once led to better legislation in ANY legislative body it has ever been tried in begins to tell us that the problem runs deeper and can’t be solved with feel-good statements like “drain the swamp.”  The same is true of any solution in politics it takes time, research, comparisons to other policies, looking at patterns, at history, at human nature…and this is what analyzing great art teaches us to do, to look for the deeper level and go the extra step in our thinking.  It allows us not to be comfortable with the shallow hack politician who offers catchphrases because our mind has already been trained to look through their words to the deeper meanings.

Why the discussion of art is important.

“Politics is downstream from culture.”—Andrew Breitbart

Before his name became a byword for everything he fought against, Andrew Breitbart realized that the culture wars were more important than the political ones.  Why?  Because the way culture moves determines how politics will.  And unlike every failed attempt to change culture in history which traditionally is thought to only ban things it didn’t like or scream at them—which never works because it only makes the government more powerful thus giving your enemies the power to put you down when they grab the reigns and it makes that which you’re attacking cool for being attacked—Andrew realized you have to confront the ideas head-on.

You have to talk about the ideas being pushed in culture.  You have to offer high-quality alternatives, and you have to defend those alternatives when they are of superior quality but being attacked for the very reason that they do support ideas that those who do stand for virtue support.

Now some will claim that we should not waste our time with popular culture, but that ignores two very important facts.  First that everyone from Plato and Aristotle to Shakespeare to Breitbart realized that it was popular culture, not the distant works of the intelligentsia, that drive culture and thus drive politics.  The second is the lie that popular culture cannot be great art.  Homer was once popular culture.  Shakespeare was once popular culture.  Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Oscar Wilde…all once-popular cultures.  Granted not everything popular is great, but just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s not great.  Thus, we need to look at popular culture because it is where the most influence comes from, and where the greatest works are born.

The number of times liberals and progressives have used culture to further their ideas are so numerous and well known, it doesn’t need to be bear repeating.

But it’s not just the variations of the modern Left, but the return of fascism and fascism’s “useful idiot” populism are there too but less known.

So, what do we see in pulp culture from the other side?  We see shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones which glorify absolute monsters as our main characters…and people try and defend why they love the shows…gee I wonder if treating the ethically deficient as heroes in a story has any effect on culture…I mean it’s not like we would ever put a sociopath of that level in charge of the country, oh wait we did, we elected Joffrey (I realize that is unfair, the Trumps are far worse than the Lanisters).

It’s not like the reboot of Star Trek which turned Kirk from a great leader in the mold of Horatio Hornblower into an inept sex-crazed James-Dean-wanna-be had any effect on what we were looking for in a leader.

The modern obsession with horror films at record numbers helps both the left and alt-right as it helps to stimulate the fear that both sides feed on, but the high levels of zombie survival tales, exemplified by The Walking Dead make some very fascist lessons, like all people not in our tribe our bad, the others cannot be trusted, free trade and relationships built on trust are always disastrous, and of course, might makes right.

And of course, it’s not like a movie that questions the one good thing from Hobbes, the part that Locke and the Founder realized needed to kept around, that is, the Leviathan—the government monopoly on the use of violence—to ensure the stability of society not breaking down into chaos, was questioned and the heroes were shown to be the people who didn’t want to follow legitimate government control on the use of force.  No, he has America in his name, so to hell if his actions are against the very foundations all government since the Enlightenment.  (The other series had the decency to admit that such vigilantism makes our characters “criminals” or showing those with power coming to talk to those in power.)

Nor should we overlook the fact that the villains are showing that getting away with it makes it right in How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, and dozens of others.

And dare we talk about the love of idiocy that is reality TV.  Christianity used to be a religion of thinkers and philosophers from Augustine to Aquinas to Dante to Milton to Adler, it has a rich and distinguished history of depth and reflection…and what is put by culture as the pinnacle of Christianity: a bunch of braindead hicks who make duck calls.  The most inane and worthless version of a great tradition lauded as the best and the depth and richness the religion deserved all but ignored.   Do you think this valueless, ethic-less, brainless manifestation of Christianity being put up by numerous different sources helped these so-called Christians, modern-day Pharisees, tell themselves that voting for the deal that would gain them the world at the cost of their soul was a good one?

And those are just a handful of the major examples. The smaller subtler forms are everywhere.  In pandering to the lowest common denominator to try and get every last penny the media has ended up seeking the to the lowest form of perversion: populism and fascism, and all the lies that this entails.  They’re small things, but when an incorrect belief system is reinforced a million different tiny, almost unperceivable ways they do lead up to a death of a thousand cuts for the truth.

There has always been very little that actually speaks to the best in humanity…but now it seems to be attacked.  Granted no movie is perfect, but it now seems that if a movie is actually hopeful and speaks to the best in humanity it is attacked mercilessly (Winter’s Tale, Hancock, Tomorrowland, Age of Adeline, Firefly, Wonderfalls) while movies that speak to the worst in humanity but with far worse flaws are allowed to pass or are even praised (Mad Max, Star Trek reboots, an endless train of teen-novel movies with heroes just as detestable as their villains).  I’m not saying we shouldn’t recognize the flaws in a film, we should, but we should view the work as a whole and balance nitpicking flaws against thematic greatness.  We should think about the films as more than just brain candy—brain candy is nice, but to give our brains only a diet of candy will rot them.  And it’s especially unforgivable when the work that can be both entertaining and deep when if you only take the time to think about them so many films can reveal layers upon layers of depth and when you see the depth you see the quality and easily forgive little things in plot.  (Oh by the way, if you had a bad English teacher you probably think plot is important.  It’s not.  The only thing less important is setting—in serious literature be it in print or on film, theme and character are the most important, plot is merely there to make sure that theme and characters have somewhere to go.)

And these are the works that we as individuals not only need to look at at a deeper level, but which we need to encourage others to do the same, because while most people’s conscious minds don’t run through the philosophy, their subconscious does run through.  Ideas have consequences.  And the idea of popular culture does run downstream into politics, and if the core ideas of progressivism and fascism are allowed to stand as the “great” enjoyable films and anything with depth is attacked and ignored not because it’s lacking in quality but because deep down those who want those progressive and fascist ideals at some subconscious level understand that these are a problem, and those who are just followers understand that these works promote an ethic that requires them to think and act and not just follow.*

Full Circle

So, we return to the question of why care about comic book movies like Dawn of Justice?  Because those are the films that reach people.  Because those are films with the ethics that we need to get more into the consciousness of the culture, those are the work that not just entertain but move us, that provide catharsis and thought.  They are the great works and they need to be treated as such.  To just treat everything as “I enjoyed it” or “I didn’t enjoy it” is to both insult the work of artists and to insult your own brain which is capable of so much more.  Yes, there are some works that can be dismissed as enjoyable or not…but to not treat each work with the level of depth it deserves is to either admit the shallowness of your own mind and your surrendering culture and thus politics to that shallowness, or to willfully not give the work the thought it deserves which means you are actively working for the effects such an action results in overtime.  And that may seem like a rather sweeping suggestion, that something so small can have such great results…but no single raindrop thinks it’s responsible for the flood, and yet those small little drops add up to a deluge.  Small acts of thoughtless behavior by numerous people over long periods of time do add up.  You know that’s true.  And this is one of those small acts we must all work to stop in our own lives and do what we can to convince others to do the same.

*A note here.  If the movie attempts the right ethics but isn’t just flawed in the nitpick stupid way of some very good film, but DEEPLY flawed like those Atlas Shrugged movies where they are so bad they should never have been filmed, those you don’t need to defend.  Real trash should be treated as trash.  Minor nitpicky shit in the face of thematic genius should be discarded.

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Best Movies of 2019

Source: Wikimedia commons

So it has been a weird year for movies. Long stretches of nothing, the end of two vapid franchises owned by Disney, probably the last intelligent superhero film for another ten years (unless we get the Snyder Cut). As usual, most lists of top films have a long string of pretentious crap that is all style and no substance and which no human being will ever watch…here I look at real movies. Overall the horizon doesn’t bode well for the future as most studios are going more and more for simplistic films made by committee: But still, there were some stand out films.
Up first the honorable mentions.
Jojo rabbit —I’ll be honest this one might deserve more but I didn’t see it because the marketing made it look pretty indifferent to the evils of Nazism. That and Johansson is a terrible actress that seldom makes decent films. I have been told however that it is quite damning to Nazism and will see it when I’m sure the studio will be getting a far lower portion of the ticket…they should not be rewarded for such an inept marketing campaign.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood—Quentin has one theme “violence is destructive to a sense of identity” so when for the first time I didn’t see that theme in this movie I was left a little rudderless in how to interpret it. The best I can say is he’s depicting the lie that Hollywood likes to tell itself about itself, but I’m not sure that’s what he was going for. I’m not sure about anything about that film other than the last 10 minutes were horrifyingly entertaining.
John Wick 3–Ugh. I’m not going to say that the series jumped the shark, but this was significantly below the last two. They might still pull out of this tailspin, but I’m withholding judgment.
Serenity—An under-appreciated film. Not as good as The Matrix, Dark City, or Revolver but still entertaining and hold a modicum of metaphysical depth.
Murder Mystery—A silly Netflix film and possibly only the third or fourth watchable Adam Sandler film, but still fun.
Happy Death Day 2U—You’d think this would have just been stupid, but it was rather touching.
Doctor Sleep—I would have preferred if they had ignored that godawful Kubrick film existed (but I am impressed with the production department being able to recreate the Overlook so perfectly), but it was still fun.
Last Christmas—Not the best Christmas film ever, but it was sweet and more in line with the meaning of the holidays than a lot of Christmas films.
Dumbo—Live-action remakes for Disney are hit and miss. But Dumbo built on the original film, dropped the weird psychedelic elephants and questionable crows, and built on some real human character development.
So let’s get to the top 10 (really 11 because we have a tie)
10 tie. Charlie’s Angel—I know this got bad reviews but clearly, only idiots reviewed the movie. It is far funnier than any of the previous films, with better character development and actual wit instead of dumb sight gags.
10 tie. Bombshell—Holy shit were things bad at Fox. And given that there do not seem to be any lawsuits against the movie that suggest it’s all essentially true (or at least true enough to avoid defamation)…which is horrifying. The FoxNews building probably needs to be burned to the down to get rid of that kind of evil.
9.Pokémon Detective Pikachu—PG Deadpool. Nothing more or less. The simple trick for all movies is to make sure Ryan Reynold is not encumbered by the laws of reality.
8.Aladdin—It’s better than the original. Smith’s genie is more relatable and his jokes will not age as poorly as Williams’ have. They fleshed out the character and surprisingly improved on the story. Yeah, Jasmine’s solo felt a little forced when all the other songs didn’t stop the action, but all it really did is make me wonder why we didn’t get “Home” for Beauty and the Beast. Regrettably, between a Mulan staring a communist shill for human rights abuses or A Little Mermaid directed by an inept hack, Aladdin is probably the last good live-action Disney film.
7.Jumanji: The Next Level—Somehow they managed to make the story seem fresh and not formulaic. And again we see that Jack Black is hideously underused an actor with range (who knew?)
6. The Good Liar—Okay, it’s pretty obvious by the previous picks that this has not been the best year for serious films, but this film is a winner. I can’t talk about it too much because this is one of the rare films where spoilers really do matter. But Mirren and McKellen do a fabulous superb job of playing each other.
5. Frozen II—I honestly feel this is the first Disney film that is clearly marketed someone other than children (I’m not counting Pixar films for the purposes of that statement), but with moments ridiculing the naiveté of youth, questions mortality the need for self-discovery, and the need to “Do the Next Right Thing” no matter how much you lose in life—especially when you have lost everything—was thematic material unquestionably not geared to young children. This had teens in mind, and I appreciate Disney venturing into deeper waters. (Maybe by the third film Disney executives will have the guts to admit that Elsa is gay.)
4.It: Chapter II—I’m not entirely thrilled they changed the ending, but I get why the Ritual of Chud would have been difficult to put on film. I would have preferred to see the spider and Bill save his wife (and there are rumors that a much longer directors cut is coming), but I can still say without hesitation that this is probably the best we’re ever going to get for this story being on film. All the actors, young and old, brought depth and humanity to their characters and didn’t let them become the stiff cardboard cutouts of that abysmal TV miniseries.
And then we get to the top 3 which I feel are more than just enjoyable but true art.
3. Knives Out—This is one of the best comedies and best mysteries in years. As if Agatha Christie wrote slapstick. Rian Johnson needs to stick to writing films like this and The Brothers Bloom because his talents are wasted on second rate sci-fi. Not only is Craig perfect as the Southern gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc, but Chris Evans for the first time in a long time acted in his performance as the arrogant Ransom. Every actor was perfect in this movie, even typically second-tier actors like Don Johnson were great throughout. It is a mystery with a giant hole, like a doughnut, that has to be filled (and that bizarre statement will be hilarious after you’ve seen it). I am pleased that Johnson has already said he has a second Benoit Blanc film planned. Please let it come sooner rather than later.
2. Glass—Probably the last intelligent superhero film for the foreseeable future (unless we get the Snyder Cut), this film completed the Unbreakable Split Glass Trilogy and offered us a satisfying conclusion to both Bruce Willis’ hero and the evil of the Hoard from their respective films. Returning to M. Night’s core theme of finding one’s place in the world and its importance in being happy in life. Certainly, there were a lot of loose ends that I wouldn’t be sad if M. Night worked into a two or three-season show for Hulu or Prime…but the story of our three central characters and their respective character arcs were finished perfectly.
1.Motherless Brooklyn—Finally what is in my mind the unquestionable best film of the year. Best Actor. Best Director. Best Script. Best Picture. A story of a 40’s PI with Tourette’s Syndrome having to solve the murder of his mentor. It is both historically accurate in showing the corruption of government building in the post-war theory, and also wonderfully gives us a villain in the person of Alec Baldwin playing a corrupt New York developer turned politician who plays to nationalist, racist and populist themes…sound familiar but Baldwin’s character is actually quite intelligent, so it’s not entirely you know who (but Baldwin probably still deserves the award for best-supporting Actor). At every turn, it works to show some of the worst and best of humanity and offers hope even in terrible situations.
And I know I usually do the worst of the year. It’s Cats. We all know it. I can add nothing to the mountains of disdain already heaped on this monstrosity of a film.  It should have never been made.  I really wanted to put Star Wars or Avengers as the worst films of the year for Disney just vomiting out mindless drivel, cheap jokes, and explosions…but no, Cats is quite possibly the worst things Hollywood has ever created sans The Counselor.

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Headlines for the Week

News & Opinion

Come Watch the Russian-Republican Propaganda Machine in Action

Women Should Have the Freedom to Discriminate against Men

Exclusive: Unredacted Ukraine Documents Reveal Extent of Pentagon’s Legal Concerns


The Unseen Consequences of Occupational Licensing

Leftist YouTuber ContraPoints Explains Why Cancel Culture Mobs Should Drop the Pitchforks

On Foreign Policy, Trump Is No Reagan

India’s Dark Path To Hindu Nationalism

There’s Only One Real Question in Trump’s Impeachment

Humor

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2019 was an ‘eventful’ — bad — year

Prominent Evangelical Magazine Calls For Removing Trump From Holy Trinity

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A new year…in which I return to blogging…

So it’s a new year and a new chance to improve our lives. Granted every day is that. So since we’re in a looking back sort of mood let’s start off with making the first and probably most important resolution for the whole year:

EVERY DAY IS A NEW START

If you have a goal you want to meet during the year. And you fail to meet it for one week, guess what start again.

Every culture in the world has observed the basic premise that we all fail at doing things, but it is the process of starting over that and getting better, doing it again, finally succeeding no matter how much you have failed that defines true success.

Starting weight loss resolutions is probably silly in the middle of winter when your body is making brown fat to keep you warm (which may be helpful in the long term but in the immediate you’re not going to shed the pounds)

But you know what instead of pointless bullshit like losing weight (yes it is pointless because being healthy is what you really want, and you know the easiest way to be healthy, to fill your time with something meaningful not just going to the gym and watching what you eat).

So let’s focus on some important things:

Call an old friend

Read at least one book a month

Find a charity to help with

Engage in your faith more

Journal

Say something nice to at least one person a day

Get a new hobby

Take a vacation

Or in my case, get back to blogging.

Quite frankly just pull out one of those sappy posters on life advice and do as many of them as you can.

Do things that actually fill your time instead of just passing it.

And again just accept you will fail to meet your new goal for a day, a week, a month. It doesn’t matter if you go a whole month screwing up everything you hoped to accomplish, the only thing that matters is if you start again.

For me this year is about being more positive, about planning ahead more, and about getting shit actually done. Far too often I have an idea at the last minute, that leads to stress and negativity and it means I never finish anything. This post, for New Year’s resolution was actually written in August. It’s a lot easier this way. I can write about what’s on my mind, go back and add things as they come up and am not desperate to come up with something to fill up space. It also forces me to talk about things that are more timely, not just reacting to whatever stupid and other pointless story is in the news but to focus on what really matters.

Other than that here are some other pieces of good news from over the last week to keep you in a good mood.

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