I’m not the only one who has seen Mad Max and thought “worst possible scenario for civilization.”
Mad Max is as bad as it could possibly get:
No social contract to rein in excess.
The 99% fighting for survival.
Perpetual war over fuel oil.
Women being tyrannized by men.
The earth scorched, barren and toxic.
Law serving only the powerful.
Mel Gibson being the lone voice of reason.
Alright, I don’t have to hit you over the head with it: welcome to 2012 (except for the Mel part).
The Conservative agenda is upon us.
Which brings us to the Progressive agenda.
… which is what again?
In the last decade we’ve lost Paul Wellstone & Ted Kennedy to death, John Edwards and Anthony Weiner to scandal, Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson to electoral insanity. And we’ve wound up with the most conservative Congress since the era of the Robber Barons of the late 1800s.
For those unfamiliar with the Robber Barons, Wikipedia defines them as “big businessmen (who) amassed huge fortunes immorally, unethically, and unjustly” during the “Gilded Age.” Very few of today’s rich would define themselves like that. They made their money the new-fashioned way – they invested it… then took their profit just in time to leave others holding the bag when the investment turned sour. At least some of the old time Robber Barons built railroads.
Conservatives are right about this: America was founded on the freedom to profit. Adam Smith’s 1776 publication The Wealth of Nations, in which he espoused the inspired guidance of the “Invisible Hand,” was as key to America’s fundamental philosophy as The Constitution.
The Constitution, however, threw Adam Smith one little curve in the clause that assigned the U.S. Congress the right to “regulate” interstate commerce. The Robber Barons solved that problem by bribing politicians; today’s Robber Barons do it by bribing wanna-be politicians.
Still, that Constitutional clause is what today’s Republicans and Tea-Baggers think they’re fighting. That and the bit in the preamble about “promote the general welfare.” Problem is, the “regulating” clause pertains to the government’s right to dole out tax money (or tax favors) and after a couple Centuries of bellowing about how government has no business tampering with business, the Conservative wealthy have only proved their willingness to bite the Invisible Hand that feeds them. Or feed from the Invisible Hand that should be biting them.
The Invisible Hand first started getting mixed up with The Invisible Handout early in U.S. history in the form of tax relief and subsidies. It kicked into high gear with the building of the railroads in the 1860s. It continued through the discovery of oil. It continues to this day.
Government subsidies for businesses are as old as commerce itself. Subsidies for the poor are a relatively recent phenomenon. The rail subsidies resulted in over-expansion that helped cause the Panic of 1873 – the greatest depression in the U.S. until the Great Depression. The implementation of the Social Security Act of 1935 helped get us out of the Great Depression. For 150 years, the wealthy have held their hands out with no shame. Yet shame is how the Conservative wealthy have manipulated the poor into feeling undeserving of support at even the most basic level.
Today’s Barons – Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Philip Anschutz, the Koch brothers – are “amassing huge fortunes immorally, unethically, and unjustly” and perfectly legally because they control the lawmakers. That would be bad but what makes it worse is they are doing it by trying to force a male-dominated social agenda on women, destroying the planet, shaming the poor and putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the 99% of the rest of us. Their vision of a future includes no social contract to rein in excess. Excess is their goal, law that restrains that goal is their enemy and law that subsidizes this goal is their power.
So let’s review: breakdown of the social contract, fuel wars, growing disparity between ultra rich and the rest of us, attempt to subjugate women, law serving only the powerful…
The Mad Max apocalypse may not be around the corner but you don’t have to see the movie to see the road we’re on.
Liberals and progressives had better get their act together pretty damn quick.
Before Mel Gibson becomes the lone voice of reason.
There were some really good movies this year. Unfortunately, many of them will receive no recognition from the Academy.
As an Academy member, I can’t tell you the movies I nominated for Best Picture. But I can tell you what movies I think should’ve been somewhere on everyone’s ballot. Following – in alphabetical order – are those you really ought to see that you’re not likely to hear Bill Crystal talking about on Oscar night.
1) ANONYMOUS– A movie that wasn’t about a coming apocalypse from director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow). Who knew he had it in him to make an uber-smart film about Elizabethan theatre and the playwright who gave us 37 of the greatest plays ever written – Edward Devere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Rhys Ifans is amazing. Vanessa Redgrave is, well, Vanessa Redgrave. It got thrown a Best Costume bone but I put it here among the totally ignored because Ifans, Redgrave and the movie really deserved to be among the year’s bests. Maybe it was the title?
2) CARNAGE – Roman Polanski didn’t have an Edward Albee play to work from but this story of two couples whose lives and relationships are dissected over a red-herring “incident” is a fascinating look at modern parenting, modern marriage & self-righteous deception. Well worth seeing if only for performances by the two female leads, Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet.
3) CORIOLANUS – Shakespeare or Devere, this contemporized version of the Bard’s tale of a warrior without a cause is worth seeing just for the scene where Vanessa Redgrave (her again) shows herself as the ultimate smother mother. Ralph Fiennes knocks it out of the park as both star and director.
4) A DANGEROUS METHOD– David Cronenberg brings a fantastic cast – Fassbinder, Vigo and not-just-a-pretty-face Keira Knightly – to a riveting story about Freud vs Jung: let the grudge match begin. Yes, sexuality is a tough subject (violence, on the other hand.... don’t get me started). This deserved to be a multi-category nominee.
5) THE FIRST GRADER – Never heard of it? That’s ‘cause it deals with Africa. Story about an old man who was tortured in a war no one ever heard of who is determined to learn how to read. No special effects, no stars, no box office appeal whatsoever. Just a beautiful story about triumph of the will.
6) MARGARET – OK, it helps to know what an Upper West/East Side privileged teenage Jewish girl is like. But Anna Paquin and the rest of the cast present a story of moral ambiguity that only someone like Scott Rudin would have the guts and intelligence to produce. Don’t expect to understand it, just appreciate the complexity and depth and brilliant performances by Paquin, Jeannie Berlin and J. Smith-Cameron.
7) RAMPART– Not easy to watch, no likeable characters and not easy to follow. Just Woody Harrelson and director Oren Moverman (The Messenger) re-teaming in a character drama with a James Elroy script. If those elements don’t work for ya, how about Robin Wright as sexy as you’ve ever seen her? Hot doesn’t begin to describe.
8) SENNA– I don’t understand the exclusion of this one from Best Documentary consideration. It wasn’t just a popular documentary, it was a GREAT documentary. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this as a Best Picture candidate (probably not a nominee but a possible candidate). The story of a matinee idol race car driver has amazing footage and a powerful narrative.
9) IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY – I wouldn’t want to watch it twice but watching it once is an experience. Angelina has learned how to make a movie. Prediction: someday she’s gonna put it all together in a Schindler’s List/ Killing Fields kinda film that’s gonna win it all.
There were others that got one or two second-tier nominations but should’ve been candidates for more:
1) BEGINNERS – Yes, Chris Plummer was brilliant and deserves the Best Supporting Oscar. But the movie was brilliant. One of my favorites of the year. One of those movies I’ll never get tired of seeing.
2) DRIVE – I wasn’t among those to declare it one of the year’s best but it certainly deserved more than a Best Sound Editing nomination.
3) THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN – The reason this movie wasn’t considered as good as Rango or Puss in Boots (both of which I liked) is…? I had no history with this character but can’t wait for the next episode.
4) WARRIOR – A sensitive movie about an angry ex-Marine who winds up fighting his brother in a bloody Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) championship? Tom Hardy is especially good as the pissed-off Marine. I love Nick Nolte but there were better Supporting Actor candidates who went unnoticed.
5) RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – I went in a skeptic and came out a believer. An entertaining out-of-the-box plot, with decent dialogue and a big heart make it more than watchable. Wish there were more indies this watchable. It got a nomination for Best Visual Effects.
And the Saddest Non-Nomination of the year goes to:
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 – Which part of THE MOST SUCCESSFUL and respected FRANCHISE IN THE HISTORY OF MOVIES doesn’t the Academy understand? This series of movies will be watched, admired and remembered long after the world has forgotten Hugo & Warhorse (no disrespect – just picking on the two biggest). Sure deserved better than just a Best Makeup, Art Direction and Visual Effects nominations.
Share your thoughts if you have a moment between now and February 26.
Anything and Everything that has Nothing to Do with the Movies
Sometimes, we go to a movie to get away from the world and sometimes we go to see what’s going on in the world. This blog will offer comments on the world, the movies and their occasional overlap.