2015: The worst year for movies

Elementary Politics

Okay, 2015 was not the absolute worst year in the history of film (the 70’s had some abysmal entries as well) but it is certainly the worst in recent memory.

It was the year of the spy (4 of them actually watchable).
It was the year of the overhyped and utterly vapid blockbuster with entries like:
Avengers: Age of Great Directors Phoning It In
Jurassic World: The Unbreakable Heels
And of course
Star Wars: J.J. Should stick to making TV

And even on the more serious side of things the selections were often lacking.   Joy which should have been a great story of American entrepreneurship and the trials of bringing a new product to market was just a soap-operaish cheap reproduction of the misery of Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness (only with more misery).  DiCaprio had some fun with a bear, but otherwise the film was dull no matter…

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by | January 9, 2016 · 12:03 pm

Departments to Eliminate: The Department of Agiuculture

 

Old joke: An employee at the Dept of Agriculture is crying in the employee cafeteria. A co-worker comes by and asks him what is wrong and why is he so upset?
Answer: My farmer died!

Without question the Department of Agriculture needs to be dismantled. It’s not a particularly large Department. It only runs at a $149 Billion a year which, in the era of a $18 Trillion debt, is cheap. But the fact is that its $149 Billion spent on what is unquestionably the most useless Department in the Cabinet. If the Republicans are serious about cutting the budget and lowering the debt then killing this department is unquestionably a symbolic must (populist however love this boondoggle and don’t think about killing it–Teddy, looking at you).

What few legitimate functions the Department does serve could easily be taken up by the private sector or state governments with greater efficiency and lower costs (and on a few of those private sectors ones, the Federal government could actually make some money by leaving the issues to the private sector).
Don’t believe me? Well let’s take a look at all the divisions of the Department.

Agricultural Marketing Service: As the name suggests it’s government trying to control the market in agriculture. Oh, and this is also the agency that does a bang-up job monitoring bacterial contamination in food (I fail to see how a private agency driven by a good old fashion profit motive competing with other private companies for the same purpose couldn’t do a better job here than government workers who by definition are less qualified and less accountable than their private sector counterparts. You get rid of worthless things like this and the inept FDA I will bet you Safeway, Walmart, Whole Foods, Costco will all immediately create business to do their own checking which will compete with each other and keep each other honest…not to mention the fact that profit motive dictates that customers dying quickly of contaminated food and thus don’t buy more products).

Agricultural Research Service: Research funding into how to make agriculture more effective. Yeah definitely something for the private sector to be doing as by definition research for private business should be on the dime of those businesses not the tax payer.

Animal and Plant Health Service: This division does a lot of wonderfully useless things. My favorite being enforcing the Honeybee Act which prevents honeybees coming into the US from outside sources (and the way the law reads it doesn’t just mean Africanized honey bees)…didn’t I read somewhere that the bee population is down in the US?  Yes I did...but then I read how private sector fixed this problem all on their own (a problem which probably was partly the fault of the government). Makes you wonder how this divisions stupidity may have effected a species that did quite well on its own.…

Center for the Nutrition Policy and Promotion: These are the geniuses who come up with the food pyramid that’s heavy on starch (and you wonder why the nation is so fat), and likes to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat like a good intrusive government. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that these are also the idiots who have a hand in coming up with the asinine BMI chart that says everyone but size 0 supermodels are obese.

Economic Research Service: Just the word economic in any branch of the government sends chills down my spine. But basically all this department does is collect numbers. Oh and waste tax payer money while collecting numbers, they do that too.USAgri-orgchart

Farm Service Agency: I don’t know a whole lot about farming, but I do know that if there needs to be regulation of farming at some level it shouldn’t go beyond the state level. There is no conceivable reason why we need a federal branch looking into how farms are run.  None.  Absolutely none.

Food and Nutrition Service: A bunch of welfare handouts that should at least be handled by state governments not the federal government. In an ideal world those state governments would roll those programs themselves back to nothing, but one thing at a time.

Food Safety and Inspection Service:
This is this the organization that incompetently looks after the safety of our food along with the FDA (not only do they suck at doing their job, it’s two different agencies that suck at doing this). Trust me if we broke this and the FDA up into two private companies that bid to get the contracts to ensure the safety of food (trust me the supermarkets will invest heavily in these businesses to ensure they never have to make another recall and the bad press that comes with those) then we would have better food and less tax dollars being stolen from us.

Foreign Agricultural Service: WTF? This is the organization that makes international deals for US produce. Why don’t farmers and private traders make these deals? Because government likes to get its stupid fingers into EVERYTHING. I seriously doubt there will be any disasters (and probably fewer starving people in Africa) if we get rid of this waste of an agency.

Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration: This group supposedly regulates the market and encourages competitive trading practices. Read that sentence again. Only the government thinks that it can regulate and increase competition at the same time despite the fact that they are patently opposed to one another.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture:
More wasted dollars on research that the private sector could do just as well.

National Agricultural Statistics Service: More number collecting. But a different number collecting group than the other number collecting group in the USDA that is wasting your money. Because why waste you money on one agency that does nothing, when you can get two agencies for the price of two (or twenty knowing federal accounting).

Natural Resource Conservation Service: Because companies and private farmers don’t know how to run their farms for long term profit…oh wait they probably know how to do that better than the government.

Risk Management Agency: More trying to control the market through regulation. Don’t private companies and co-ops have their own risk management? Why do we need to double up on the tax payer’s dollar?

USDA Department for Rural Development: Again this is the private sector’s responsibility, not the governments.

And finally
The Forrest Service: First off, why is the Forrest Service not under the Department of the Interior? Secondly with heavy regulation, could we again spin the costs for this off to a private company to tend the forests, make deals with loggers to thin the forest (which needs to be done more if we’re going to avoid these yearly massive fires we have) and shoulder the burden of those massive forest fires.

So private companies that run things for less and with better results to replace the FDA and Forrest Service and maybe a hundred people to enforce regulation via heavy fines for violators now under the Department of the Interior. Shouldn’t cost more than a couple million (maybe even a profit when you figure we’re going to be leasing all that forest land out at a healthy fee).

There is nothing legitimate that this Department does that cannot be done by the private sector. And there is a lot that just doesn’t need to be done. And even more that is being done that shouldn’t. I still can’t figure out which of these useless branches is giving out subsidies to grow tobacco or not grow wheat, but I do know that we give out $20 Billion every year if farm subsidies. Here’s money to grow tobacco which we can then sue the tobacco companies for selling. Here’s money not to grow wheat so we can artificially raise prices (a prime cause of hunger in the third world). Here’ money to grow corn to be turned into ethanol the most worthless alternative fuel in existence because when you factor in the energy and gas required to harvest that corn it comes out to not only being expensive but costing more in fuel than it can produce (government efficiently at its finest). Oh and that’s acreage going to grow corn for ethanol that is not being used to feed people.

This is without question the most useless Department in the government and it needs to go away forever.

So why do I bring this up? I mean this isn’t all that timely a point. Well I bring this up because recently Ted Cruz listed 4 Departments he really feels need to be eliminated…now while I would probably cut it down to only 5 Departments (and give me some time I will detail exactly how I would like that done), Teddy only listed 4 Departments (Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Commerce)…but not the most reviled of all Departments, the one even more useless than Education, Agriculture? Why would any conservative ever not put Agriculture as one of the first things they would love to kill. Well the answer is Teddy isn’t a conservative, he’s a populist, and in this case a populist pandering at the moment to farmers in Iowa.

 

 

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The Big Short: Best Movie of the Year

Elementary Politics

Big short“Whenever you hear ‘subprime’, think ‘shit.’”–Margot Robbie

So at the very end of the year I get a valid pick for Film of the Year 2015: The Big Short

Honestly this should have been part of a trilogy of films. The Big Short detailing the corruption and stupidity of the banking industry, a film details the corrupt abuses of power by the government that sued, harassed, bribed and intimidated banks to make these bad loans in the first place, and finally a film going over the gross stupidity of people who bought houses they couldn’t afford. The three pillars of the market collapse. But we only got this film. (The film does point out that a lot of the people buying are idiots, and that the government had already agreed to a bailout long before the collapse…but the focus is on the unspeakable incompetence of the banking industry).

Regrettably the…

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“Feeling Shifted by Trey Gowdy Is Not a Platform!” & Other Fun Facts

The Collision Blog

On Saturday morning I awoke to a changed world. I felt the shift, the pull of the earth into the darkness of a widening black hole eager to swallow us. The sky was black, and as my neighbors embraced each other for the coming end, I let out a tearful cry to the heavens…

Just kidding.

I mean, you would have thought that’s what was happening. In reality, Trey Gowdy was just confirmed as the “special guest” who would be campaigning with Marco Rubio. We’ve known for quite a while that Trey was a fan of Rubio, but I guess for some it was like having an interest in someone they knew was interested in someone else, and then falling apart when they learned their person of interest was engaged to another woman.

It’s like a group of teenage girls who have just been broken up with; half of them cry into their journals and eat a…

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10 Reasons Donald Trump Should Be Our Next President

A World Come of Age

It’s become a common theme online recently to make fun of Donald Trump, the current front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. I wondered if we could look past the socially acceptable thing of criticizing him to look at every legitimatereason he would make a great President. In order to do this, I created 10 list items and thenfilled them in with reasons to support Trump.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Let me know if you agree!! I filled them in with as many reasons as possible!

Thanks all and please click here tofollow my blog on Facebook!

Cheers,

Jacob

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The Greatest Christmas Film: The Bishop’s Wife

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

The story of Episcopalian Bishop and the problems he is having in trying to balance family, the normal pressures of his job, and the added pressure of trying to build a cathedral. In desperation he makes a prayer for help. Enter an angel named Dudley played by Cary Grant. Which is good because Dudley does want to help. It’s also bad because Dudley is a bit attracted to the Bishop’s Wife…and well if being an angel wasn’t enough, it’s an angel played by Cary Grant…how much do you want to bet it was not entirely platonic feelings on the side of the Bishop’s wife (not that she would even consider cheating on her husband, but even she observes that this “something wicked” in the time she spends with Dudley).

One of the Bishop’s other problems is the rather vicious rich old woman who has the money he needs to build the cathedral but is demanding unreasonable and selfish concessions for it. And they’re not subtle about how much we should dislike this woman. In one of the first scenes she is openly hostile to the Bishop’s dog…in movies as in real life, if you don’t like dogs you’re as evil as it gets (I understand if you’re not a dog person…but to openly dislike dogs is about as clear a sign as I can see that you don’t have a soul.) But put her in a room with an angel and even he can melt her hard heart. She is only one of the people whom Dudley’s company alone brings them back to faith and redemption.

But this is only one of a multitude of miracles that Dudley performs in the movie. (I really tried to find footage of him decorating a Christmas Tree in only a few seconds but it doesn’t seem to be up on YouTube…go watch the movie, it’s a nice scene and decent special effects for a 1947 movie). For all the headaches he gives our dear Bishop, he does his job and leaves when his role has been finished…although maybe not in the way expected.

But more than just being a feel good movie set at the time of Christmas with an angel, this movie is the greatest Christmas film for it’s last scene. I quoted above the sermon that Dudley wrote for the Bishop. It is short and simple. And it culminates in three simple sentences:

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

I can think of no movie that more clearly and beautifully states the theme and purpose of Christmas than these words. And it is this beautiful sermon that raises it from simply a great film to the greatest Christmas film yet made.

(Oh, and don’t for a second even bother with that horrendous remake The Preacher’s Wife.)

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The 2nd Greatest Film of Christmas: Scrooged

Scrroged.JPG“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we… we… we smile a little easier, we… w-w-we… we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!”

Stapled dormice, TV censors who swear like a sailor, the Manson Family Christmas Special, L.A. slimeballs, cats and dogs watching TV, Mrs. Santa Claus with 11 fingers, the Ghost of Christmas Present being guilty of multiple counts of assault, the night the reindeer died, Russian vodka poisoned by Chernobyl, five pounds of veal, the solid gold dancers, Operation Reach Out and Operation Out Reach, and Chinese food…all the things you look for in a Christmas movie….or not…

This is one of the six or seven movies I know every single line of by heart, and could probably transcribe a full copy of the screenplay with a very high level of accuracy. Since it came out 23 years ago this movie had been watched every Christmas in my family (sometimes more than once during December) and it never gets old.

So why do I love this movie so much when I have a general distain for A Christmas Carol? Well, first off, it’s funny. Really funny. Watching the Ghost of Christmas Present hit Bill Murray with a toaster oven never gets old. I can’t even begin to rattle off the jokes of this movie, because there are just too many to pick from. In its own right, even without any considerations of Christmas, this is one of the funniest movies ever made. Really, if you have missed this film, that is pretty close to a crime. I don’t know how but before the end of this week you need to see this movie. (Your life jut might depend on it) You will laugh.

Second, and more importantly, unlike Dickens, who had no understanding of Christmas. Read this, the 2nd to last paragraph of A Christmas Carol:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

Notice what’s missing? Scrooge seems to get nothing out of this change…only a mocking laugh at those who saw a change in him and didn’t believe it. (And the line “as good a master” just bothers me, although I’m sure if I lived in late 1800’s London I would find nothing wrong with the phrasing…but still.) Why did Scrooge change? The fear of death, of hell, of being forgotten…not because of good for its own sake, no what glimpses Dickens might give as Scrooge changing are more rationalizations and excuses…Ebenezer Scrooge changed for fear of damnation, not because of good as its own end, or even the benefits it brings. In the “classic” version of the film, Alastair Sim as Scrooge makes the most ethically abhorrent line at the end “I have no right to be so happy.” If you’re a good person you have every right to be happy the moment you have changed your course in life. But not for the dark and miserable ideas of Dickens.

Scrooged does not fall into this trap. No. Not only do we see Murray’s character showing remorse and the desire to change even during the Ghost of Christmas Past, but Bill Murray’s character in his last speech makes it quite clear why you want to embrace Christmas.


“It can happen every day…you’ve just got to want that feeling. And if you like it and you want it you’ll get greedy for it…you’ll want it every day of your life, and it can happen to you. I believe in it now! I believe it’s gonna happen to me now, and I’m ready for it. It’s great! It’s a good feeling…it’s better than I’ve felt in a long time! I’m ready….have a Merry Christmas, everyone.”

Certainly more understanding than anything in Dickens. Certainly, not just a better argument, but a more accurate one. When we are the best we have in us, it gives us happiness.

And unlike all the other versions which wait only until the Scrooge character is at the end of his life, here the Ghosts come to a man still in his prime, who can still make up with the love of his life and who has time to truly embrace his newfound realization.

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The Greatest Films of Christmas #3 It’s a Wonderful Life

wonderful life.jpg“Remember no man is a failure who has friends.”

Besides the fact this movie has Capra’s usual bizarre caricature of rich people (anyone with Potter’s attitude and traits would not stay wealthy for very long let alone George Bailey’s entire life) this is a great film.

Long before cheap sci-fi took up the concept of the butterfly effect, this story asked how much do we affect the lives of those around us. And George Bailey seemed, even in his less happy moments, to always be a force for good in life.

If I really have to summarize the plot for you…well, that’s just sad. If you haven’t seen this movie go out and see it right now.

The point you are supposed to get out of this film is not only that life is precious and worth living, but that we all improve the world around us. Every little choice, when made with the right frame of mind, looking for the long term rather than the short term (as George did in trying to stop the run on his bank), thinking of others equal to how much you think of yourself, of standing up for what it right and opposing what we know to be wrong, and forgiving ourselves our mistakes when we are less than perfect—every little choice affects the lives of others in ways we can never see and with results we can never know. Now, the very lives of everyone in the town we live in probably doesn’t depend immediately on what choices we make…or at least we think it doesn’t…but does it need to be a whole city before we worry about our choices. What if the choices we make only affect a dozen, or half a dozen, or even only one other person (although I doubt any of us have such little impact)? Even if only one, think about the power that our choices have, think of how much we are worth if we can make the world better for only one other person.

Let me go off on my New Age tangents for a second. An often overlooked point of George Bailey’s life is how important his antagonist, the cartoonish Mr. Potter was. Without Potter George would have left Bedford Falls, he would have gone to college, probably been a mid-level architect, never married Mary, never been the person who fought to help those around him, never been the great man he was. Destiny put in his path a force that would bring out the best in him rather than let him steer toward the mediocrity of what is considered success by the standards of the hoi polloi. So next time you run across someone you really hate…ask yourself, have they been placed there to bring out something good in you…and are you letting that good portion come out?

On the other hand, while not a major point, I just need to point out that this movie perpetuates one of the worst spiritual lies of all time. It suggests that humans become angels when they die. I believe angels do exist, but in no religious or serious spiritual belief on Earth have angels ever been human.

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Best Films of Christmas #4 Love Actually

MV5BMTY4NjQ5NDc0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjk5NDM3._V1_SX640_SY720_.jpg“But for now, let me say – Without hope or agenda – Just because it’s Christmas – And at Christmas you tell the truth – To me, you are perfect – And my wasted heart will love you.”

Ignoring that there is probably someone for each of us whom at some point in our life we have wanted to do that card thing for someone we love with all our hearts who may not love us back for some valid reason or another…

As far a Christmas romance films go there is none better than this film. Panned by critics loved by real human beings who have some semblance of real taste. This movie isn’t just about romantic love, or the good feeling we experience at Christmas. This movie is about every kind of love. First Love, just sex, unrequited love, newlyweds, friendship, star crossed love, the love of parents for their children, for siblings, new love and even the darker side of love: lost opportunities and betrayal. Love. Not since Plato’s Symposium has there been a work this explicitly about love.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”

And it is.

The scenes at the beginning and end of this film looking at the meetings of people at the airport is probably the sweetest and most touching moment of not just this film, but of any film, to a great deal because it’s real. It highlights how we tend to focus only on the negative in our lives, almost to the complete exclusion of the good in our lives…and this is the season to remember the good. And to remember that we are loved.

And learning about love is this movie’s central premise. That we need to “get the shit kicked out of us by love” should be a morning affirmation for each of us. The pain, the hurt, the suffering…it’s all worth it. It’s worth telling the person you love that you love them even if you know they can’t reciprocate. It’s worth risking your position and stature to go for the person you care for. And it’s certainly worth pissing off whatever fascist variant of the TSA the country you are in just to express how you feel. (Oh and it’s never worth betraying someone or not taking a chance. Never.) It’s worth crossing oceans “just in cases.”

Now if only David Cameron could deliver a similar speech…

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Best Films of Christmas #5 An American Christmas Carol

dvdxmascarolamerAs I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of the Christmas Carol story. Why? Because it shows the naïve and twisted view of human nature and society that only a socialist like Dickens could come up with (Honestly, with a cast of hundreds I think the only character he ever wrote that I liked was Sydney Carton…and Dickens killed him).

So here we have a TV version of the Christmas Carol, staring the Fonz as our Scrooge set in early Depression East Coast America. What makes this so much better than the original?

First off it shows that the Scrooge mentality is just bad business, which it is. It shows that the mentality of foreclosing and miserly hoardings is not actually good capitalism but rather shortsighted foolishness. In the first few scenes his version of Bob Cratchit suggests he should invest in a granite quarry to help stimulate the local economy and given FDR’s new programs it won’t go under again like it did a few years ago. Our Scrooge, Ben Slade in this case, fires his employee…for making a good business suggestion. Yeah, this guy is a genius of finance. They also show that Slade’s mentor is partly responsible for driving him to his bad business habits in not encouraging him when he tried to bring innovation and modernization to his mentor…so you can see where he picked up his traits of looking at good business ideas and just dismissing them out of hand.

Its better because it shows him losing his love is what drove him away from people not vice versa which makes a lot more sense when one has an understanding of human nature. Also it shows him as having been an orphan which makes his desire for material security far more understandable (maybe not forgivable, but in the original story Scrooge is from a well off family but not loved, which psychologically makes little sense that he would become a miser being raised in such an environment).

Further Slade is not the preposterous exaggeration that Scrooge was. He does have feeling for others, going as far to give books to the local orphans (this is before the ghosts) to try and encourage them that they can make anything of their own lives (while not toys, it certainly doesn’t indicate the sociopath the original Scrooge was). This Scrooge may be a petty businessman and a short term thinker who is a stickler for rules and immediate payment…but he is not a complete sociopath.

And finally there is the ending. Rather than that bizarre original ending where Scrooge works his way into the Cratchit family (because that makes sense), Slade seeks to truly leave a mark and adopts a child from the orphanage he had once been saved from with the hope of not repeating the same mistakes that were made in his upbringing. Far more hopeful and far more tender.

Only one version of a Christmas Carol to go…

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Why I hate Star Wars…and you should too…

Wait…Timpf says this and she gets death threats…I say this and I get agreement on Tumblr. I was expecting more hate over this.

Elementary Politics

star wars So many things are wrong in this picture

Regrettably we are being treated to another addition from the Star Wars universe. As you can tell I do not exactly have a high hopes that this addition will be any good…why because none of them have been any good. Okay, put the gun down and stop searching for my home address at least long enough to hear me out.

So let’s star out with episodes 1-3 because we can all agree that these three. I think we can all agree that if Disney ever decides to remake anything in this franchise it should be these three and announce this with a press conference that consists of the only the following statement: “We are remaking the prequel trilogy of Star Wars. Jar Jar will be in it. He will die in the first ten seconds. You’re welcome.” But those weren’t the…

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The Best Films of Christmas #6 The Family Man

This unusual take on It’s A Wonderful Life’s look at how the world would be different without you. Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage), the president of a powerful Wall Street firm, is actually quite content with his life. He has just about everything he ever wanted, he has a job he loves, he is admired and respected by his coworkers and friends, he even knows how to appreciate the small things like witty banter and snowfall, he has no debilitating psychological problems. He’s single, but he justifies it with, “I took the road less traveled.” But after he intervenes to save the lives of innocent people in a corner store hold up…he makes the mistake of telling the robber (who appears to be an angel in disguise, played by the always great Don Cheadle) that he doesn’t need anything, he has everything he wants. He wakes up to find what life would be like if he hadn’t become a powerful executive but instead had married his college sweetheart. Managing a tire store, kids, living in Jersey. A slight difference to his worth is that unlike George Bailey the world at large seemed to have gone exactly the same…except that part around him. Him, his wife, his kids, it’s those small things. The things that matter and actually make up a life.

Half the fun is watching him adjust to his new middle class life. His adorable daughter who is convinced this man who replaced her father is an alien made to look like her dad…but it’s okay because he can make chocolate milk and has promised to not plant stuff in her brain. And then there are all the mistakes that he makes out of ignorance of what he should know about his alternate life. But of course the main highlight is him falling in love with his wife all over again, and making her love him, not just the memory of who she thinks he is.

And while we know he will finally learn what he was missing in not having a loving wife and a family we kind of do feel sorry for him that he has lost everything he has earned. Yes, because of the liberal media, we have an image of Wall Street execs as these heartless monsters who live to crush those below them. We all know when we stop to think logically that people on Wall Street are no better or worse than their middle and lower class counterparts (they have morons to geniuses, monsters to saints) but we seldom see the good depicted in the media. But it’s refreshing to see Jack Campbell depicted as not just human, but a good man, even before his switch. He knows people’s names and talks with them like equals, gives free advice, he even has an assistant whom he seems to encourage her to constantly insult him to keep him grounded…and, of course, moves to saves people’s lives when he is under no obligation. The movie has the great point that money isn’t evil nor a job unfulfilling…but even those are nothing compared to the joy of true love and a family.

This of course is the only good film ever made by director Bret Ratner…how such a terrible director created such a great movie, I’m not sure., but he did.

I know we could both go on with our lives and we’d both be fine, but I’ve seen what we could be like together. And I choose us.

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Best Films of Christmas #7 Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Amends

buffyamends.jpg

Angel: Buffy, please. Just this once… let me be strong.
Buffy: Strong is fighting! It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together. But if you’re too much of a coward for that, then burn. If I can’t convince you that you belong in this world, then I don’t know what can. But do not expect me to watch. And don’t expect me to mourn for you, because…

Huh? Buffy? Christmas? Has the Conservative New Ager gone more insane than usual?

This episode was called “one of the most explicitly religious hours of television ever aired” by the entertainment editor of The Weekly Standard…so clearly I’m not the only Conservative who thinks this.

(There is a fascinating lack of YouTube clips to choose from so I will quote liberally here).

But why is it a Christmas story. Well, for starters it takes place on Christmas Eve. But a lot of TV shows have their cheesy, shallow, lip service Christmas episode…why does this one stand out. Well first of all because, like most Buffy episodes it’s not cheesy or shallow.

Shallow doesn’t usually include lines like:

Look, I’m weak. I’ve never been anything else. It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It’s the man. […]Am I a thing worth saving, huh? Am I a righteous man? The world wants me gone!
Buffy: What about me? I love you so much… And I tried to make you go away… I killed you and it didn’t help. And I hate it! I hate that it’s so hard… and that you can hurt me so much. I know everything that you did, because you did it to me. Oh, God! I wish that I wished you dead. I don’t. I can’t.

“You’re weak. Everybody is. Everybody fails. Maybe this evil did bring you back. But if it did it’s because it needs you. And that means that you can hurt it. Angel, you have the power to do real good. To make amends. But if you die now then all that you ever were was a monster. Angel please the sun is coming up.” “Just go.”

Angel, the vampire with a soul, taunted by a tarted up version of Satan, is tempted to lose his soul…Angel instead tries to kill himself by waiting for the sun on Christmas morning. Convinced the world is a better place without someone as flawed as him. The words of his beloved Buffy cannot convince him otherwise…and that’s where that quote I put at the beginning of this blog picks up. Because, in what may be the only sign in the Buffy universe that there is a benevolent God, a Christmas miracle occurs. A freak snowstorm blotting out the sun in a California beach town that had only been in the high 70’s the day before.

Why is this a Christmas story? Because the Christmas story is one about how each of us is worthy of redemption and can make amends. It’s a message that there is good in all of us, even when we ourselves might not see the good. And it is a story about the fact that God wants us to find that good in ourselves because he definitely believes in us. And that is shown in this episode which is probably the best episode (top 5 at bare minimum) of this wonderful TV show.

 

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Best Films of Christmas #8 Ben-Hur

“And I felt his voice take the sword out of my hand.”

This is a great film in it’s own right, and the only film on this list to depict the nativity. That alone should establish its credentials as a Christmas film…but there are of course some other reasons why it should be considered a Christmas film. One of the magi as a main character, love, redemption, forgiveness and peace on earth to men of goodwill. And my favorite depiction of Christ, one where a director is not arrogant or foolish enough to try and depict him or his words by a direct shot but only trying to show his affect on those around him … (my second favorite film depiction would be the one where the Captain of the Enterprise portrayed him…but it’s a distant second.)

But this is just a great movie. Wyler shows skill that most directors could only dream of. A battle of wills in the rowing scene which could have been tedious but thanks to good direction, acting and music turns it into one of the more tense and enthralling scenes in film history. Several moments that will always make me cry …and of course the greatest action sequence in the history of film: the chariot race.

If you are not versed in classic film I will give you a really quick run down. Judean nobleman Judah Ben-Hur is betrayed by his childhood friend the Roman Tribune Messala and condemned to a Roman slave galley. He prays to God, quite sacrilegiously, that he is allowed to live to have his vengeance. God seems to constantly grant his prayer (sometimes by convenient chance, sometimes by direct intervention on the few times that Ben-Hur happens to run into Jesus). His quest for vengeance against the man who wronged him eventually and quite unintentionally turns into a path to redemption and religious conversion.

I’ve heard people critique the acting ability of Charlton Heston, for those who do I suggest they watch this movie carefully. A sense of betrayal conveyed in a slight hand gesture. A sense of peace in a look. And redemption in only a change in facial expression.

Oh, by the way, never read the book. I have seldom encountered a book as god-awfully boring as Lew Wallace’s tedious work. It’s only a few hundred pages but the pace at which it progresses would make you think it was a Russian novel.

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Best Christmas Films #9 A Charlie Brown Christmas

charliexmas1.jpg“Dear Santa Claus, how have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? I have been extra good this year—so I have a long list of presents that I want. Please note the size and color of each item and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: Just send money. How about 10’s and 20’s? […] All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”

So besides the fact that when Sally Brown grew older (not necessarily up) she ended up living campaigning for Bernie Sanders…what makes A Charlie Brown Christmas still a timely Christmas tale?

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I love that tree

For me it’s Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. It’s simple and plain, but it is perfect. Not flashy, not bright, but a symbol of the holidays chosen for the right reason, “it seems to need a home” “I think it needs me.”… Charlie Brown, in one of his few moments of being the voice of reason, sees that that all the foibles of the Peanuts cast need to be ignored and the simple reasons for the holiday, the simple joys and loves need to be embraced.

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