Friday, December 28, 2012

Just Misérable?

I'm not a fan of musicals, so I won't render a judgment on the new (and endlessly promoted) Les Misérables movie. But this passage from a review by Slate's Dana Stevens probably captures its essence: "In the “I Dreamed a Dream” scene—the standalone set piece that will no doubt become the movie’s Oscar audition tape—[Les Misérables tries] to fuse raw emotional immediacy with the mechanics of virtuoso ballad-belting. Anne Hathaway’s big song, delivered in extreme close-up in a single, very long take, is deeply felt and impeccably delivered. ... [But] as the camera reverently gazed through the alabaster pillars of Hathaway’s teeth, all I could think about was the proximity of her tunefully vibrating larynx. She nails the song, no doubt about it, but it’s a performance that, to me, is too much about the awesomeness of its own nailing. (And it doesn’t help that Hooper’s camera won’t stop asking is she nailing this or what?)"

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Tis the season for madness - yet again

ALTHOUGH TWO PEOPLE were tragically killed by a deranged, 22-year-old shooter at that Oregon mall on Tuesday, it could have been much, much worse. I thought we had dodged a bullet from the assault rifle of another madman incubated by the nation's out of control gun culture. That was wishful thinking. Today, yet another 20-something gunman killed at least 27 people at a Connecticut elementary school. Some 18 of the victims were kids between the ages of 5 and 10. Whatever problems each of us have, they pale in comparison to the outcome of this senseless massacre. I cannot begin to imagine what the parents of those slain school children are going through right now, just over a week from Christmas. It's an American nightmare. There's not much to say beyond asking: how high does the body count have to go before this country implements responsible but stringent gun control?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The coronation, again

AS RONALD REAGAN would surely say, "There they go again." As you've probably noted by now, the political media has already called the 2016 presidential election: It'll be Hillary Clinton by a landslide. The sheer ridiculousness of this prediction is self-evident. What we can say is that the pressure on Hillary to run is enormous, and will only increase next year when she steps down as secretary of state. And yes, as the near certain Democratic front-runner, Clinton would probably be a formidable candidate in 2016 if -- and that's a big if -- she chooses to run. That, of course, doesn't mean she would win, let alone cruise to victory. Lest we forget, Hillary was all but coronated Madam President until a fellow named Obama flexed his ambitions. And yet, as Howard Kurtz rightly notes, the media seem to believe that all Clinton has to do now is "plan her inauguration." Kurtz outlines what's missing from these stories: "(a) She is largely insulated from partisan attacks as secretary of State. If Hillary gets in the arena, she’ll start getting pummeled and those approval ratings will come down. (b) Even if Barack Obama is popular in 2016, asking the voters for three Democratic terms in a row is going to be a heavy lift. (c) Hillary was a lousy candidate in 2008, when the press also pronounced her inevitable. (d) She will be 69 and may decide not to run. So why are so many writing and chattering about Hillary Rodham Clinton four years out? She’s good for traffic—and is a heckuva lot more interesting than the fiscal cliff." Will Hillary run? Maybe. But I'll believe it when she actually pulls the trigger.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Girl power, defender of the realm-style

In Shakespeare's Henry VIII, the character Anne Boleyn famously said, "I would not be a queen, for all the world." In real life, the historical Anne Boleyn did indeed become Queen of England as the second wife of Henry VIII. She gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, whose gender greatly disappointed Henry. However, the second monarch of the House of Tudor would have had a baby himself had he known what was coming five centuries thence. Kate Middleton, as the entire world now knows, is pregnant. We've also just learned that the British Commonwealth has jettisoned the rules that give boys precedence over girls in the royal line of succession. Slate's Alyssa Rosenberg welcomed the change: "So if this royal baby is a girl, Will and Kate won't have to get to work on a boy immediately—or ever." We see which way the stream of time doth run, indeed.

Fiscal reality check

Yet another definition of madness: The parade of pundits on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News opining (with a straight face) about the "fiscal cliff" negotiations in Washington. None of the usual suspects are economists (they just play them on TV). That means they: (a) have no idea what they're talking about, or (b) are badly parroting authentic policy experts (like Ezra Klein) who do. Remember, just a few weeks ago half of these talking heads were predicting Romney would win the presidency, perhaps in a landslide. Just saying.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The burden of beauty

Rula Jebreal (pictured at left) is drop-dead gorgeous. Though her name was faintly familiar, Jebreal's loveliness was top of mind when I first spied her on MSNBC discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum. Aha, I stupidly assumed, another beautiful celeb with questionable intellectual credentials (think Angelina Jolie) using her celebrity to spotlight a pet issue. I should have known better. So I Googled her to learn more -- and ended up on the road to Damascus. Jebreal, 39, is an award-winning journalist and novelist with duel Israeli and Italian citizenship (she was born in Haifa, Israel, to an Italian father). Right -- that Jebreal. Oops. Per Wikipedia, she has a masters in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Bologna. Jebreal became the first foreign anchorwoman in the history of Italian television, winning awards for coverage of the Iraq War (including the International Ischia Award for Best Journalist of the Year). She worked as a journalist in Italy for 12 years, earning a reputation as a tough interviewer. Her first novel "Miral," written in 2003, sold millions of copies worldwide, and was eventually made into an award-winning film. Oh, and Jebreal is fluent in five languages: Italian, English, Arabic, Hebrew, and German. In short: She is no air-head. That honor belongs to me for assuming that she was. Even in 2012, men reflexively tend not to take beautiful women seriously. Hopefully, bright lights like Jebreal will slap some sense into us. And, ladies, please use a two-by-four. Lord knows we deserve it.