Books & Culture • Movies

Six Conservative Principles Hidden in the #MCU

Marvel Studios on Saturday announced “Phase Four” of its blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films at the San Diego Comic Convention. Moviegoers can look forward to many more heavily hyped, CGI-driven adventures with their favorite superheroes for years to come. 

Last weekend, my son insisted that before I could watch “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” we had to prepare by first watching the new Avengers movies and the earlier Spider-Man movie, “Homecoming.” Something struck a familiar chord. Did the screenwriters of the Marvel movies slip in conservative messages like subversive Disney artists used to sneak in naughty images in the animated reel? Could it be that from deep within the belly of Hollywood’s fortress of liberalism, a band of conservatives used their craft to spread real conservative messages into the American zeitgeist? 

Consider these six plot points that advance some right-leaning notions:

1) There is nothing so dangerous as the self-righteous zealot willing to employ any means necessary.

Thanos convinced himself that the entire universe was overpopulated to the point that it could only be saved by wiping out half of the population. One is reminded of Paul Erhlich’s alarmist 1968 bestseller, The Population Bomb, which many have noted, “contributed to a wave of population alarm” and led to draconian population control measures including forced sterilizations, coerced abortions, and laws restricting family size in countries such as China, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.  

Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s, that 65 million of them would be Americans, that crowded India was essentially doomed, that the odds were fair “England will not exist in the year 2000,” and that “sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come.” By “the end,” Ehrlich meant “an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.” The New York Times noted that the population of the planet has since doubled with no mass starvation. Yet the current global warming doomsday predictions bear a striking resemblance to those of Ehrlich’s. Humans, it is said, cause climate change. Therefore, the solution to climate change is that we need fewer humans, suggested Paul Ehrlich who, 50 years later, is still channeling his inner Thanos.

2) The powerful love to exempt themselves from their own policies.

Thanos’s grand plan to solve overpopulation involved disintegrating half of everyone by choosing them at random regardless of wealth or social rank. Everyone, my son astutely observed, except Thanos himself who never considered making his own life subject to the random chance of universal genocide. Instead, Thanos planned a bucolic retirement on his own planet with a cabin and a farm. One is reminded that America is ruled by an elite that does not wait in the security lines for commercial air travel, send their children to public schools, and pays the low rate of 15 percent capital gains tax instead of the much higher income tax burdens it uses to keep the middle class from transcending its station. 

3) There’s nothing so ugly as self-pity. 

In “Endgame, we find the hero Thor has spent five years wallowing in self-pity on a couch with a beer in one hand and a video game controller in the other. All this self-pity led the god of Thunder to develop a wicked beer gut and an ugly drinking problem. 

Similarly, when Peter Parker in “Far from Home,” lashes out at the character Happy Hogan over the series of failures and bad luck that made his current situation seem hopeless, Happy snaps him out of the funk by asking, “What are you going to do about it?” 

The ability of the hero to overcome injury, bad luck, and unfairness make for a compelling movie. Audiences and people in real life grow weary of self-regarding stories of victimhood. Sharing and support groups need to wait when there’s real work to do.

4) As Jesus would say . . .

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The principle forms the core of the Christian faith but also makes a compelling storyline. 

Over and over again, the heroes risked themselves sometimes succumbing to a permanent death as the fetching Black Widow (played by Scarlet Johansson) who intentionally sacrificed her life for the mission. Similarly, Iron Man willingly sacrifices his life to win the final battle with Thanos. Other times, the series called to mind the resurrection promised by Jesus as in the case of Spider-Man, who was restored to participate in a final battle between good and evil in “Endgame. 

5) Teaming up without identity politics. 

As the viewer watches Peter Parker mix with his high school contemporaries, one might briefly wonder about the ethnic identity of MJ or his best friend Ned. East-Asian? Latina? Pacific Island? Does Flash Thompson have some subcontinent origin? The movies cast these actors into a totally organic and authentic melting pot without attempting to pigeon hole any of the ethnic identities. 

The upgraded diversity is accomplished without a hint of grievance or inter-cultural conflict. Listening to the Left, one would think that racism in America was on the rise. In fact, workplace discrimination complaints have been in a long-term decline since peaking in the mid-1970s. One author recently acknowledged that “Americans are becoming less racist and homophobic,” according to new research. What would happen to the modern Left without racial divisions and grievances? They may get to find out as Americans increasingly find themselves melting together as friends and neighbors.

6) Capitalism rocks! 

In a world in which government planned the fairness of outcomes, a comic-book writer would not have given birth to a multi-billion-dollar empire. At the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel treats fans to a brief tribute to the late, great Stan Lee. The father of Marvel is shown rubbing elbows with the top stars in Hollywood in the costumes of the characters he created in the 1960s and 1970s. Phrases like, “exploitation,” “greed,” or “selling-out,” have no place in the tribute which shows a joyful Lee thrilled by the nakedly capitalist triumph his creations achieved. 

In a world in which the entire mainstream media seem to share a single leftist script-writer, it’s an encouraging sign that a few bands of rebels in Hollywood can find a way to slip in a counter-counter-cultural message in a fun yet compelling story. Part of this might be out of necessity. Movies with preachy leftist themes flop. Hurray capitalism!

Photo credit: Daniel Fung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hollywood • Movies • Post • Progressivism • The Left

What If Thanos Snapped the Wrong People?

Avengers: Endgame” is about to soar into theaters nationwide. We know this because a new trailer drops almost weekly and we all are about to lose our nerdy minds.

Based on the events of last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” we surmise that the perished half of the universe Thanos, the Mad Titan, wiped out with a snap of his Infinity Gauntlet-clad hand will be restored. Heroes, villains, and others neither heroic nor particularly villainous who were lost in his act of extreme interplanetary makeover will live again. Or so goes the theory from the geek brigade of which I am proudly a member.

Since I first saw “Infinity War,” I’ve been nagged by a singular question: What if Thanos snapped the wrong people?

Put another way: What if the son of Saturn’s moon got a little out over his skis? What if he had been more calculated about it, more discerning, and less willy-nilly, at dusting half of the living beings in the whole cosmos?

What if Thanos had taken a more nuanced approach? Would we be viewing the most diabolical villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in an all new light? Dare I say, a positive one?

Last we saw Thanos he was enjoying a sunrise post-obliteration, reading the newspaper, sipping coffee, and perhaps having a morning constitutional. Just a regular Joe doing his morning routine. So have we misunderstood him? Thanos seems like a reasonable guy, so why didn’t he just get rid of all the murderers, rapists, and IRS auditors in the galaxy? I can think of no single objection that could possibly be raised against this proposal. He could have snapped the world into a better place.

Why get rid of Peter Parker, T’Challa, and Groot when you could instantly evaporate all the Justin Bieber fans? Wouldn’t that make the galaxy great again?

Why not just get rid of all front-runner sports fans who only root for their team when they are winning? Like people living in Connecticut and rooting for the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Lakers.

Thanos could have snapped the always obnoxious actor Chris Evans without snapping the actual Captain America character. Evans recently said that was willing to alienate half of the MCU’s audience in order to trash President Donald Trump and his supporters. With Evans’ contract now up with Marvel, I have a hunch that Thanos may handle this problem for us in “Endgame.”

Thanos showed us tears when his daughter Gamora had to go, giving us a glimpse of an alienated father who is carrying a terrible burden. It’s not a job that I envy. At the very least we can agree that the snap should never have been random, the Infinity Stones should have been used more strategically. More scalpel and less slapdash intergalactic paintball of death.

Like why not start with MSNBC, Jar Jar Binks, the Teletubbies, and ISIS?

Then maybe move on to the people who think there should have been an all-women Ghostbusters . . . snap! Or how about all the people at the gym who annoy you? The selfie zombies, the bro-herd who-high five for no reason, anyone swinging a Kettlebell, people without deodorant, and all the creepers hitting on women who just want to be left alone . . . snap!

How about Little Rocketman? Or bearded hipsters? Or grown men wearing sandals with socks? Where is Thanos when you need him? Snap, snap!

How about that guy who posts stupid, unoriginal, unfunny memes on Instagram all day? That coworker who always says, “This ain’t my first rodeo!” right before screwing up everything he touches. How about every human participating in the rapid proliferation of electric pay-per-minute scooters and then leaving them uncharged littered across America’s cities? Snap, snap, snap!

A case definitely could be made that the only flaw of the snap was the randomness of it all. Thanos is vilified because his techniques don’t poll well with media. The right ideas but the wrong approach. Had he just snapped Phish, Abba, and Hamas, he would be hailed as a hero.

Thanos even tried to reason with the Avengers but they just wouldn’t listen. Couldn’t they all have compromised on snapping something together? A true statement of bipartisanship. Like eradicating nearly all the DC Extended Universe characters (except for Wonder Woman, of course).

How about we snap those tedious sports reporters who always asks the most obvious questions—“What’s it gonna take to win tonight, coach?” Snap. How about the NFL refs that blew the Saints-Rams NFC Championship game? Could we do something with the monochromatic late night hosts? All of them. Snap. The SJWs who see Twitter as their woke mafia hunting ground? That guy who keeps telling you “You’d love soccer if you’d only give it a chance.” Triple snap.

Mooches, welchers, bad-tippers, and that ignoramus who thinks his electric car is morally superior to your gas car—even though the electric car depends on fossil fuels for charging.

What about the guy who microwaves fish at the office? I think you get the point.

Maybe with “Endgame,” the Avengers can find it in their hearts to give Thanos a mulligan? A do-over. After all, Doctor Strange even said there’s only one scenario out of 14,000,605 possible future outcomes in which the Avengers defeat Thanos. But in this scenario, maybe they don’t have to?

Maybe they can let Thanos re-snap the universe is a less haphazard way, perhaps beginning with people who have “Coexist” bumper-stickers on their car but ruthlessly cut you off in traffic.

Or even simpler, just snap all the people who can’t take a joke.

Photo Credit: Art by Jim Starlin from a photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Hollywood • Movies • Post • Religion and Society • Terrorism • The Media

A Great Movie About Jihad

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Hotel Mumbai,” which arrived in theaters late last month, is an Australian production “based on true events” that may have faded from memory or were not known in the first place. For the record, in 2008, Islamic jihadists launched a series of attacks in Mumbai, India, that claimed 166 victims from many nations.

As the movie opens, jihadists in small boats make landfall, guided by a Pakistani-based controller, codenamed “Bull.” The well-equipped team targets a train station, restaurants, and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where most of the action takes place. The portrayal is very authentic with the terrorists, who invoke Allah as they throw grenades and gun down innocents young and old, male and female. This realism, unfortunately, tapers off with the various guest characters in the hotel.

These include the naïve American ordering a hamburger, the malevolent Russian who served in Afghanistan, and an elderly woman who wonders about a Sikh waiter’s beard and turban. The portrayal likely understates the bravery and suffering of hotel guests and the story neglects the real heroes.

The Indian special forces, known as the Black Cats, are late to the scene but quickly take down most of the terrorists. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in “True Lies,” “they were all bad,” but the most important member of the death squad gets no screen time at all.

Daood Gilani, born to a Pakistani father and American mother, made five trips to Pakistan to train at camps operated by the terrorist organization called Lashkar e Tayyiba (LeT), which coordinated operations with Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. Gilani in 2006 changed his name to David Coleman Headley to ease travel to India. Between 2006 and 2008, he made five trips to Mumbai, giving his handlers key intelligence on the targets, including videos.

“Hotel Mumbai” does not reveal that the Chabad House Jewish community center was a primary target and the victims included Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum. Neither does the movie show that Headley, busted in 2009, got a sentence of only 35 years. The Indians, by contrast, hanged Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist the Black Cats managed to capture alive.

As the film notes, the Pakistan-based mastermind of the operation has never been caught. Any sequel will have to wait but the takeaway is clear: If you only play defense against jihad, many innocent people are going to die.

If “Hotel Mumbai” inspires any great American filmmakers, they might try the actual events of December 2015, when Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik gunned down 14 innocents and wounded 20 others at an office party in San Bernardino. The movie could show the terrorists’ meticulous planning and chart the back stories of the victims. The action could show local police taking down the terrorists in a ferocious gun battle. This victory was achieved with no further loss of innocent life, and before the pair could carry out their planned attacks on schools and freeways.

As Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather,” people might like a story like that. On the other hand, with the American movie industry dominated by the Left, such a film won’t be coming to the big screen any time soon. In today’s political climate, viewers might expect a movie with Ku Kluckers in MAGA hats attacking an LGBTQ convention at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Frustrated film viewers might track down a copy of Richard Grenier’s 1982 novel, The Marrakesh One-Two, in which wealthy Arab oil interests tap filmmaker Burt Nelson to make a movie about Mohammed and Islam, the equivalent of Hollywood biblical epics. “The Arab world depicted with murderous realism,” said the first-edition endorsement from U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who served in the mid-1970s as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The model here is “The Message,” (1977) by Moustapha Akkad, starring Anthony Quinn and subtitled “The Story of Islam.” Akkad made millions on the “Halloween” horror movies but was killed by a terrorist bomb in Jordan in 2005. You can’t make up this stuff, and any film about Islam entails a certain risk.

The “Hotel Mumbai” filmmakers knew that but went ahead anyway. The film is certain to draw protests from CAIR, Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and possibly some squeamish Republicans. Even so, everybody should see “Hotel Mumbai” to learn about “true events” and because it may be the most realistic portrayal of jihad to date.

Photo credit: Bleeker Street/ShivHan Pictures

Big Media • feminists • Free Speech • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture

Memo to Amazon: Free Woody from #MeToo Jail

It’s time for a jailbreak. Every year from 1969 to 2017, auteur filmmaker Woody Allen released a movie. Every single year. Many of them were masterpieces. “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” and “Match Point” are among what I consider his works of genius. Not all of Allen’s films were great, but his volume of good has no peer. No Hollywood figure is responsible for a more consistent run, or a more awarded run of films than Woody Allen. Allen’s writer-director career begins with “Take the Money and Run” and ends with 2017’s “Wonder Wheel.”

Thanks to almighty Amazon Studios, Allen’s run may be over for good.

There’s an old saying that in order to be funny you have to be willing to watch yourself die. Nothing imbues a Woody Allen film quite like the duality of existence and death, and Jeff Bezos is navigating Styx dressed like Charon.

It could be said that Allen made the mistake of signing a multi-movie deal with Amazon, and when #MeToo hit, politically correct Amazon got skittish about releasing any Allen movies. So there sits his 2019 unreleased picture “A Rainy Day in New York,” gathering dust on a hard drive somewhere in a dark server farm.

Not, it should be noted, because Allen faces any actual #MeToo allegations. He doesn’t. And it’s not because of Allen’s relationship with his wife of more than 20 years, Soon-Yi Previn, who recently unleashed a well-earned rebuttal to the decades of slander she has endured.

Amazon is claiming it cannot find distribution to release the film in theaters, but in reality, they could just release it on their Prime Video streaming service.

The premature burial of “A Rainy Day in New York,” is because, way back in 1992, Allen faced an allegation of child molestation from his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, by former partner Mia Farrow. To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. Could it be released in 2019? Let’s not hold our breath.

Allen faced down that allegation in 1992, he strongly denied it, it was investigated and he was never charged. The accusation was absurd and never went anywhere. (Read Moses Farrow’s account of what happened and why the story falls apart under scrutiny.) It was likely the means by which a vindictive and spurned former partner, Farrow, attempted to sabotage him.

But apparently to Amazon, the accusation is enough to find Allen guilty. That’s the message Amazon is sending by burying “A Rainy Day In New York,” starring Jude Law, Selena Gomez, and Timothée Chalamet. Amazon is also saying a deal is not a deal, and that it will bow to the whims of the outrage machine and stand for nothing, including due process.

Allen’s career spans a lifetime and the sheer number of awards he, his actors and others associated with his films have been nominated for and/or won is mind-boggling. It numbers well over 100 by now. His career is staggering and quite frankly peerless.

No other director has made more actresses’ careers and written such brilliance for them to shine. In 2014, Cate Blanchett became the seventh actress to win a major Oscar thanks to starring in a Woody Allen film.

That’s an insane number of Oscars, never mind these are in just two categories—Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. No other director’s work with female stars even comes close to Allen’s. With this in mind, Allen himself even said he should be a #MeToo poster boy. Many of those stars stand with him now. Some, such as Mira Sorvino, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Allen’s film “Mighty Aphrodite,” has come out stating she will never work with him again. That stance earned her some #MeToo credibility, but the fact is Allen was unlikely to cast her in another film anyway. For her part, Blanchett has taken the sensible stand that social media should not be anyone’s judge, jury or career executioner.

#MeToo is trying to sweep Allen’s entire career under a cheap but quickly delivered with two-day shipping Amazon rug. Even though he doesn’t even face a real #MeToo accusation, and the one allegation against him is decades old, flimsy, and may be based on his former partner’s ulterior motives.

Is Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York” any good? We don’t know, and that’s the point. Amazon knew about the allegation against Allen when it signed that multi-movie deal with him. Nothing about that allegation has changed. The only thing that has changed is Ronan Farrow’s central role as the #MeToo lodestar, and the fact that he was involved in the 1992 accusation against Allen by his sister. No facts about that singular, unproven, and vehemently denied accusation have changed at all.

Amazon’s actions are a form of censorship. Typically, censorship involves government action, and this isn’t that. But given Amazon’s enormous power as one of the FAANG corporations (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) that control everything and collectively gather and hold our personal data on what we buy, what we watch, and what we think, it effectively can destroy  careers—including the career of the most prolific and awarded writer-director in Hollywood history.

If Amazon can destroy Woody Allen’s career, whose career can it not destroy? Something similar has happened to comedian Louis CK.

Apparently, it’s now quaint to point out to Bezos, and to others in media and Hollywood—many of whom are undoubtedly terrified to cross anyone as powerful as Amazon Studios—that “innocent until proven guilty” means something. It means when you face a charge, and face it down as Allen did way back in 1992, it should not destroy you decades later.

Woody Allen was doing a film festival movie promotion a few years back and was asked, “what is your relationship with death?” His answer he said, “remains the same… I am strongly against it.”

It’s past time Amazon released “A Rainy Day in New York.” Art shouldn’t be held hostage.

Photo credit: Getty Images

America • Big Media • Conservatives • Democrats • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture

On the Corner of Hollywood and ‘Vice’

Hello, I’m the movie narrator from “Vice,” the controversial Dick Cheney biopic starring Christian Bale. Are you upset that your liberal family tried to drag you to see this film when you really wanted to watch “The Mule”? Dude, that’s a holiday bummer.

Well, I’m here to help. What’s better than a movie review? A movie summary. So here goes.

TITLE CARD

We first read a disclaimer explaining that if there are any mistakes in “Vice,” it’s because the Cheney family is so darn “secretive.” Hey! That’s a great excuse for the New York Times! Make a note of that.

INT. NIGHTCLUB—NIGHT

Drunk young white women are dancing like maniacs in a club because they’re too dumb or distracted to understand politics. The nerve! The movie claims their apathy is caused by economic inequality.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

EXT. PRAIRIE—DAY

We see a young Dick Cheney high up on a telephone pole, fixing a line for the power company.

Whoops! One of Cheney’s co-workers has fallen and broken his leg. The others surround him. “Get back to work!” shouts their boss—a future Trump voter, no doubt. They do, leaving him on the ground writhing in pain. Typical red state behavior, am I right?

INT. HOME—DAY

After getting arrested twice for drunk driving, Cheney listens as his girlfriend Lynne tells him to straighten up and fly right. She gives him a feminist speech about how she “can’t go to a big Ivy League school or run a company or be mayor, that’s just the way the world is for a girl.” If you believe Lynne Cheney played the victim card here, I’ve got land in Wyoming to sell you.

INT. WHITE HOUSE—2001

We flash forward to 9/11. During the terrorist attack, Vice President Cheney gives orders to shoot down any planes that appear to pose a threat. He claims he has presidential authority, but refuses to call President Bush to confirm. Is this the way it really happened? Hey, don’t ask me. Remember, Cheney was too secretive.

INT. WHITE HOUSE—1970s

In a flashback, we see Cheney beginning a lifelong friendship with Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom would serve as chief of staff for President Gerald Ford. When Cheney asks Rummy, “What do we believe?” he is literally laughed out of the room. Because, of course, Republicans have no beliefs beyond the accrual of raw power. Make a note of that.

INT. WHITE HOUSE—2000s

Fast forward to the George W. Bush Administration, where Cheney holds court with his foreign policy advisers. After polishing off a danish, he tells them to “go pick up” and torture a Muslim cleric based in Milan who, it is implied, is a peace-loving innocent bystander.

Later, President Bush is shown giving an Oval Office speech to the American people announcing the liberation of Iraq. His leg is jiggling nervously under the desk. Meanwhile, an innocent Iraqi is shown jiggling his own leg as he hides under a desk with his family while bombs drop around him. That’s called moral equivalence. It’s a Hollywood favorite.

EXT. WYOMING—DAY

After Cheney suffers a heart attack while running for Congress, Lynne gives a campaign speech attacking “bra-burners” in New York City. “You know what women in Wyoming do with their bras? We wear them!” she says to an audience of shirtless men. Crazy red staters, am I right?

INT. REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION—1980

It’s now 1980, and Ronald Reagan is running for president. He leads an “unlikely revolution of the super rich and white conservatives,” according to the movie, including those angry about civil rights. At the convention Reagan says, “make America great again!” Subtle.

INT. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES—DAY

Rep. Cheney votes against a holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The movie fails to note that President Reagan signed the holiday into law on November 2, 1983. Hey, you can’t cover everything in two hours.

INT. BEDROOM—NIGHT

Now Dick and Lynne Cheney engage in a Shakespearean colloquy in their bed. The audience is reminded that they’re power-mad monsters driven by a modern Lady Macbeth. Another lazy Hollywood trope.

You get the picture. “Vice” plays fast and loose with other historical facts, such as the victorious Gulf War, which is barely mentioned, and George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, which is never mentioned at all.

It also gets the little things wrong; there is no “George Bush Senior,” for instance, and the name is “Mary Matalin,” not “Matlin.” A typo in the credits? Unheard of. But don’t hold us accountable. Remember, Cheney was very secretive.

INT. FOCUS GROUP—DAY

Finally, there is a scene during the end credits where a focus group is disrupted by a Trump supporter who physically attacks an innocent “libtard.” Just in case you didn’t get the message over the previous two-plus hours.

So that’s “Vice.” Now you can tell your friends and family that you saw it—what’s one more lie?—and go buy your ticket to a more accurate, fact-based film. Such as “Mary Poppins Returns.”

Photo credit: Annapurna Pictures

America • Defense of the West • Germany • History • Hollywood • military • Movies • Post

Remembering the Patton Speech That Helped Win the War

World War II history is rich with some of the finest, most historically significant speeches of the 20th century. President Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks; General Dwight Eisenhower’s ordering of the D-Day Normandy invasion; and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Never Surrender” address to Parliament’s House of Commons.

There was another, however: General George Patton’s speech to the Third Army—an address that I believe sits atop the greatest military speeches in American history.

Memorialized by George C. Scott in the opening scene of the 1970 film “Patton,” its eloquence was its imagery of brutality—its urgency in its promise that the soldiers were guaranteed to witness death in war.

The film featured a PG-13 rated version of the general’s original speech, given numerous times in the months leading up to D-Day. The speech, in its mostly original form, can be found here.

World War II officially ended in the Summer of 1945, but Europe was won Christmastime 1944. Speeches don’t win wars, but they are crucial to the morale of soldiers and their sense of duty. This singular, motivational oration embodied Patton’s strategic genius, as well as his unrelenting rejection of neutrality and excuse-making.

Words Into Action
Here are excerpts, as written for the biopic (toot-my-own-horn brag here: I can cite the speech verbatim, by memory):

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooters, the fastest runners, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.

This is the moment Patton links the American soldiers to our Revolutionary Army—whose efforts and sacrifices brought forth the greatest nation in world historyand he linked them, as well, to the other great American armies that came before World War II.  

. . . Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating.

As strong an individual personality as Patton was, he had an innate grasp of the truth that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. He knew that every man was responsible not only for himself but for all others in his unit.   

Now there’s another thing I want you to remember: I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.

Patton had earned the nickname “Old Blood and Guts,” because he produced more results in less time and with the fewest casualties of any other general, Allied or Axis, during the war, according to Patton biographer Alan Axelrod. As the general had once remarked, “nobody ever defended anything successfully; there is only attack and attack and attack some more.”

All right, now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel. Oh . . . I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere.

His men knew he would fight to his death, alongside them on the battlefield.

Winning the War
Nine days before Christmas 1944, the Wehrmacht launched a last-ditch military offensive, at the Battle of the Bulge, and it was effective, killing thousands and trapping another 6,000 in the area of Bastogne, Belgium.

Patton’s proposed campaign of leading the Third Army into Bastogne over the course of just 48 hours was met with looks of incredulity from his fellow generals and commanders. Patton never underestimated the Nazi’s will to win; the blitzkrieg of the Bulge was largely influenced by Germany’s desperation, and Patton understood that a desperate enemy was a dangerous enemy.

Patton had long respected the prowess of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, his contemporary of the Third Reich, and acknowledged that the Allies, severely battered and depleted from the Bulge, could still lose the war on the European front. Old Blood and Guts knew death or capture was guaranteed for the 6,000 Allied soldiers if he and his men didn’t arrive in time. Imagine the pressure Patton and his men must have felt; they faced uncertainty as to whether they could relieve, and if they didn’t relieve in time, they themselves faced certain death or capture. No Hollywood film can replicate the real-life—and understandable—fear those men must have felt.

But despite—or, maybe, in spite of—the apprehension and unpredictability, the general and our boys did it. They spent their Christmas holiday moving 100 miles across France, over two days, to relieve Bastogne—just as Patton had said would happen. It was the most ground covered in the shortest period of time up to that point in our military history.

The victory ensconced General Patton, in my humble opinion, as great an American as any who has ever lived. Could General Douglas MacArthur, who commanded the Southwest Pacific during Bastogne, or General George Marshall, who led operations in the Pacific and elsewhere throughout Europe, have led the Third Army to victory? Certainly. This moment, however, was Patton’s destiny, and his moment of redemption, since he had developed a reputation for lacking discipline, due to a 1943 incident in which he slapped and mocked shell-shocked Allied soldiers.

The Nazi armed forces were the most vicious and sophisticated our military had ever faced. Had the Bastogne relief occurred a day or two late—even, perhaps, an hour or two late—it is very possible that the Allied forces would have been forced into surrender. At that moment in our history, in the West’s history—in world history—the side that outfought the other side would reign supreme.

Defeat was never an option for Patton. I’ve never served in our military, and I only know war to be Hell from history and stories from veterans I know and admire. Conversely, though, that kind of Hell seems to conjure almost superhuman intrepidity within our fighting men and women. We Americans enjoy our many freedoms because of these heroes and heroines, and we owe it to all of them to fight to preserve the liberties they risked—and gave—their lives to defend.

Americans, as General Patton said, love to fight. And fight we will to maintain American greatness and exceptionalism.

Photo credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture

Ultimate Take: ‘Die Hard’ Is Not a Christmas Movie

Let’s put this silly debate to rest, once and for all. To insist that a mere action movie is actually a Christmas movie is nothing more than edgelord-y internet troll-ism at its worst. Obviously, “Die Hard” is not a Christmas movie but, rather, an action movie that just so happens to take place during Christmas. Children know this. That legions of American pundits struggle to agree with the obvious is, therefore, cause for great concern.

If they are wrong about something as easy as this, what else are they wrong about? Hmmm?

But, you might say, how can one know for sure whether a film is or isn’t a Christmas movie? Isn’t it all intensely subjective or at least inescapably fuzzy? Isn’t art “open to interpretation”? And who am I, anyway, to be telling you that some movie isn’t a Christmas movie—the Grinch? Ebenezer Scrooge?

Isn’t a movie like “Die Hard”—replete with Christmas music as part of its soundtrack, several Christmas trees and decorations, Santa hats, and references to Christmas—squarely a Christmas movie? And even if not obviously a Christmas movie, at least on the edge of being so classified?

In fact, no. It isn’t—at all.

Coming to the correct conclusion (that “Die Hard” is not a Christmas movie) will require a bit of rigorous thinking, which is a lot to ask around the holidays, but bear with me. Here’s the test we should use to discern the answer to the question, “What is a Christmas movie?” If we abstract the movie from Christmastime, does it lose its raison d’être? In other words, if we take a movie out of Christmastime, is its essence damaged to the point where the movie’s message(s) and theme(s) become unintelligible?

Using this test, we can come to common sense conclusions about what is and isn’t a Christmas movie. “Elf” and the “Santa Clause” trilogy clearly are; if they took place in July, they would make no sense, and the movies themselves would be destroyed. Setting the titles aside (a rather lowbrow, though not wholly invalid, way of classifying movies, to be fair), can one imagine “Elf” making any sense if Buddy were scurrying around a country that had no tradition of Christmas? What about if Scott Calvin just had family troubles—as so many families do—and he hadn’t killed Santa in the first “Santa Clause” movie? Then it’s most likely just a feel-good family flick with a message about coming together rather than a movie about believing in your specifically Christmas-related dreams. And a future “Saw” film set on Christmas Day? Obviously not a Christmas movie because of the reasoning just laid out but also because it’s self-evidently insane to say the date during which a movie is set is determinative of its Christmas status.

But “Die Hard”? Clearly not. If the movie happened near Halloween, or on St. Patrick’s Day, or even someplace that doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all (like Iran), the plot would not be affected in the slightest. John McClane would remain a “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf—er”-shouting, bad-guy-thwarting, gun-toting, shoeless divorcé badass.

And that’s okay. What makes “Die Hard” great is that it’s a great action movie. Nothing more, nothing less. Trying, even in a well-intentioned way, to inflate it to fill a role it plainly wasn’t meant to fill only cheapens the film. Not everything great has to be tied to other great things (like Christmas); it’s more than fine for them to be separate. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

“Die Hard” is just an action movie that (1) happens to be set around Christmas and/or (2) has some incidental Christmas trappings.

That’s it.

Further, it seems extremely likely that the genre “action” is mutually exclusive of the thematic principle “Christmas.” Can anyone name another “action” movie that can even remotely claim the modifier “Christmas” and so be dubbed a “Christmas action movie”? Any examples seem to be so few and far between (and probably are also horrendously bad as cinema if they do exist) that exceptions would prove the rule: We see so few “Christmas action movies” that it’s probable that they’re an in-principle impossibility.

Don’t shoot the messenger on that one; blame the nature of Christmas and the feelings and sentiments it evokes: feelings of welcome, love, and humanity’s future redemption by the sacrifice of the Incarnate Son of God. Say what you will about “Die Hard,” but the only way to bill it as a Christmas movie is to offer strained, esoteric interpretations that could, if applied freely, transform even the most superficial romcoms into deep works of eternal import.

For an example of such a clever, and totally unwarranted, interpretation, a friend of mine noted recently:

[“Die Hard” is a] Christmas movie, but not just because RUN DMC’s hit plays in the background. Nakatomi Plaza is Israel, teeming with sinners. John McClane is the redeemer—his appearance out of nowhere—obvious allusion to a virgin birth—surprises Hans Gruber—obvious stand in for Herod—and provokes a murderous hunt for the McClane. McClane then redeems the hostages in the penthouse[,] casting Gruber into a herd of swine[,] sending them running off the edge of Nakatomi Plaza.

I appreciate the effort, but that’s too clever by half. Similar interpretive moves would transmogrify “The Emoji Movie” into something akin to Dante’s “Inferno.” Accepting such “deep” readings of movies leaves us open to seeing sublimity where there is only many, many bullets and lots of swearing—and no real reason to think otherwise.

As the saying goes, “Let’s be open-minded—but not so open-minded that our brains fall out of our heads!” That goes doubly when Bruce Willis himself—the star of the film!—is on record as saying that “‘Die Hard’ is not a Christmas movie!” (And triply so when Bill Kristol, whose punditry batting average is atrocious, disagrees with both Willis and “the masses.”)

So, go ahead and raise a glass of eggnog to “Die Hard.” I would never say that watching a non-Christmas movie during Christmas should be off-limits. But we should all be mature enough to recognize when a film clearly isn’t one.

What we can do, however, is join Justice Potter Stewart, who in discussing how to define pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) famously wrote, “I know it when I see it.” We all know (even if it’s only deep, deep down) a Christmas movie when we see one, and “Die Hard” ain’t one.

No amount of “nerd takes” will change that obvious truth.

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Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox

America • Donald Trump • History • Movies • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Resistance (Snicker)

Go See ‘Death of a Nation’ This Weekend

Yes, of course you want to go see Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie! And you’re right. Inviting friends, neighbors, family to go with you and then meeting with them over dinner or drinks to discuss “Death of a Nation”afterward would be a splendid idea. You need to know and the people close to you need to know what the Left is up to and where they are coming from. The film nails it for you and for them.

Because the Left has lately been calling everyone they are opposed to “fascists” you and I need a clear and precise understanding of what fascism is. In fact, Americans today need to understand fascism as urgently as Americans needed to during the 1930s when Hitler and the other Axis powers posed a looming threat to liberty—and to life. The situation really is that urgent.

D’Souza has done the heavy lifting for you. He has done the research and has managed to present what you need to know in a way that will capture and keep your attention. This part of the film alone is worth the price of the ticket.

But wait, there’s more. The film elegantly portrays the deep connections between American Progressivism and the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini. The people I talked with after we saw an advance screening of the film were stunned by this part of the story of American Progressivism.

Unless you have done some hard digging which was in addition rewarded with good fortune, you won’t have even have heard about this. This chapter in the history of Progressivism and fascism has been systematically suppressed and buried deep. Take it from me, you can pay attention to this part of the film with confidence and an open mind; you are getting the story straight, and you can track it down for yourself if you want to. Once you know about the hidden story, you can find the evidence because the evidence is abundant. In fact, one good discussion of this can be found in my book Common Sense Nation.

Oh, yes, of course, what about the title, you ask. Good question. The Progressives are fiercely dedicated to creating a new Progressive America. What would that mean for the United States of America you and I know and love? Death, of course.

Go see the movie. You’ll be glad you did.

feminists • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture

An Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Movie

Don’t get me wrong—I just loved to death “Ocean’s 8,” Steven Soderbergh’s all-female spinoff from his cash-machine Dubya-era “Ocean’s 11” trilogy remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic. As I settled in with a glass of white wine (what else?) at a bar-cum-recliner seats local movie house, I reveled in the designer clothes, the glam setting (New York’s celebrity-packed Met Gala plus some Vogue magazine and Cartier), the expensive jewels, the gourmet eats, the to-die-for Manhattan apartments, the bevy of cameo-role A-listers (Kim Kardashian, Anna Wintour, Serena Williams) all playing themselves. What was there for a girl not to like?

The plot revolves around a highly successful heist from the Gala of a $150 million diamond statement-necklace carefully schemed by Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of the supposedly recently deceased Danny Ocean of the trilogy, and her seven female sidekicks.

So what if the necklace in question, every time it appeared on camera, looked like so much cheap glass? So what if Lou (Cate Blanchett), Debbie’s much-vaunted partner in crime and the sidekick equivalent of Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan to George Clooney’s Danny in the trilogy, had hardly a thing to do? I loved all those zany criminal chicks in their cool high-heeled boots, although my very favorite was Sarah Paulson as Tammy, the suburban mom/stolen-goods fence.

I was even willing to put up with feminist bloviation like this from Refinery29:

It’s no coincidence that this blockbuster with a powerhouse female cast ends the way it does. “What I love about these characters is that in their own way, they represent women who want economic empowerment, and women who want to forge their own path, and who maybe haven’t been allowed to do that for whatever reason,” Olivia Milch, who co-wrote the film with director Gary Ross, said in an interview with Refinery29.  “And that is not necessarily how you might interpret a popcorn heist movie, but I do think that there is a message of what are the options available to women, and how we sort of how we have to make our own way in the world, and create for ourselves opportunities that we want, when they’re not afforded to us.”

A number of films released in the aftermath of the collective reckoning in Hollywood and beyond around issues of sexual harassment and assault have been labeled “#MeToo” movies. But “Ocean’s 8” feels like the first “Time’s Up” movie, in the sense that it directly alludes to what women can achieve when they have true, long-lasting economic freedom and security.

Because women can’t achieve “economic empowerment” unless they steal stuff. They’re too dumb to, say, start successful legitimate businesses on their own.

But the tell about “Ocean’s 8”—what reveals it as the ultimate chick flick that could emanate only from the brain of a chick—is the scrambled mess that its plot turns into. It’s an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez movie.

By the end of the film (and I hope I’m not revealing any spoilers), in order to shove the clunky theft stratagem along without police detection, no fewer than 14 people have been recruited into a heist plan that is supposed to involve just eight carefully selected and vetted experts. The probability of a ratting-out by latecomers whose split of the take isn’t so great rises exponentially.

Furthermore, while diamonds may be a girl’s best friend and certainly pretty, they’re things, not cash, and as Danny Ocean could have told his baby sis, they need to be liquidated, like all non-cash assets, in order to be worth anything at all. That means, if they’re stolen, they need to be fenced. And fences don’t pay market; they buy at deep discounts.

A $150 million necklace suddenly becomes, as the “Ocean’s 8” gals belatedly realize, maybe an $85 million necklace. “Ocean’s 8″ solves that problem by introducing, minutes before the movie’s end, a deus ex machina—or, more properly, a latro ex machina—who obliges our all-girl crime team by heisting a gazillion dollars more in additional diamond jewelry from the Met Gala. So—who’s going to fence that, especially since it all (sorry—spoiler!) turns out to be the centuries-old patrimony of European nations that employ, you know, highly trained detective forces whose personnel may be a bit more incentivized than the lazy insurance investigator whom Debbie Ocean bamboozles? “Economic empowerment” might have to wait for our girl gang once Interpol gets onto the case.

But who cares? Look at the furs, fun new hobbies, fabulous apartments, glam careers, trips to Paris, and nice new boyfriends that the “Ocean’s 8” ladies get without even having to work too hard for that swag? That’s what makes “Ocean’s 8” the ultimate chick flick—because it’s about what chicks ultimately want.

Photo credit: Barry Wetcher/Warner Brothers

Administrative State • America • Deep State • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Law and Order • Movies • Post • Republicans • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Left • The Media • Trump White House

Putting Crime—and the Left—on Ice

A young man is thrown into a jail cell full of haggard prisoners. They are sitting on benches around a central bucket that serves as their latrine. Silently, they indicate to him the rules of the house: Everyone sits still with his mouth shut, looking toward the cell door. Every now and then, a guard checks through a peephole to see that the inmates are obedient.

Some time later, the young man is taken from the cell. The guards perp-walk him down the hall, reminding him of the rules: “Hands behind your back! Head down! No talking!”

They shove him into a brightly lit room that contains, in one corner, a shower stall, and in the other, a chair and a desk and a uniformed officer. “I am your interrogator,” the officer says. “You will tell me of your counter-revolutionary activities. I will hear every one.” The young man begins to reply, “I’m not a—  I don’t have any— ” —at which point the officer shouts, “No talking!” and rushes over to him. “I will tell you when you are ready to talk about these things,” the interrogator purrs, then starts punching him in the kidneys.

Thus begins several days of beatings, some conducted in the shower so as to wash away the blood. By and by, the poor man is indeed “ready to talk.” As soon as he signs his confession, his tormentor compliments him on his fortitude, shakes his hand, calls him “comrade” and wishes him “all success” in the camps. Then the officer tucks the confession into his desk and gets set for his next victim.

That sequence is from “Coming Out of the Ice,” a 1982 British film based on the memoirs of Victor Herman, an American born in Detroit to Ukrainian immigrants. The boy was 16 when, in 1931, his pro-Communist father took the family back to the Soviet Union. There Herman ran afoul of the authorities, resulting in the treatment described above and in even worse suffering in the frozen hell of the Gulag Archipelago, the system of Soviet labor camps that stretched from one end of the country to the other.

“Coming Out of the Ice” is available on VHS, DVD, and on YouTube. It doesn’t appear on most lists of movies dealing with Communism and anti-Communism, perhaps because it is a foreign-made film. Although it features two American stars (John Savage as Herman and Willie Nelson as a countryman Herman met in the Gulag), it was never released here in theaters. It appeared on television instead. But it’s no cheesy “Movie of the Week.” It’s better than all but the very best of its genre, right up there with “The Killing Fields,” “Eleni,” and “The Prisoner.” It’s remarkable not only for the cold light it shines on Communist atrocities but for the warm empathy it shows toward the ordinary people who were caught up in them.

Herman’s story is unusual in that it has a happy ending. After his 10-year term in labor camps was up, he remained an exile in Siberia but married a Russian woman there (portrayed by English actress Francesca Annis above), had a family and—after more than four decades of subjection to Soviet authority—was allowed to return to the land of his birth, bringing his wife, his two daughters, and his mother-in-law with him.

Unequal Enforcement
My point in telling his story is to remind everyone of what hard-Left law enforcement looks like. It is evil, not just in its brutality but in its raging partiality. For a Soviet in the hands of the law, everything depended on where he stood politically. Check out the scene where Herman’s party sponsor, sizing him up as a “counter-revolutionary,”
turns in an instant from warm cordiality to ice-cold malice. Consider how it would feel, being in thrall to such people. Then look at what is going on in America today.

Impartial enforcement of the law? Think of how our deep-state apparatchiks went from playing the Three Wise Monkeys with Hillary Clinton to playing Inspector Javert with Donald Trump. Respect for freedom of speech? Watch how the Left behaves when a conservative speaker comes to a college campus or when a corporate employee, whether high or low, commits a thought crime. Concern for human rights? Never forget how liberals lionized Fidel Castro, from the day he took over Cuba until the day he died, despite a record of savage cruelty every bit as horrible as that suffered by Victor Herman in Russia.

Listen to how liberals talk now, whether it’s Madonna musing about blowing up the White House; Andrew Cuomo saying that if you are “right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay,” you “have no place in the state of New York”; Peter Fonda tweeting, “We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles”; or Maxine Waters calling for Trump officials to be mobbed wherever they go, to show them “they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Reason for Worry
As today’s Democrats lurch farther and farther leftward, it begins to appear that the only limit to the expression of their malice is the limit other people place on their power. Hence the enormous importance of our keeping them out of power until their party comes to its senses. God help us if the Democrats regain power without such a reformation, for if they do, their notorious softness on crime might easily be superseded by unprecedented rigor in handling that particular class of people the Left hates more than it hates any mere murderer: namely, us “deplorables.” As Charles Hurt argues, “a new civil war is already upon us.” And as Michael Walsh writes, in this war “there can be only one winner.”

What can President Trump do, beyond what he is already doing, to keep that “one winner” from being the Left? What can the rest of us do, beyond what we are already doing?

Those who’ve been following my work at American Greatness know where I’m going with this. But consider a recent development.

When a local crank shot up the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five people, the usual suspects of the Left immediately blamed President Trump, saying his habit of demonizing the press had made the massacre, or something like it, all but inevitable.

For his part, the president had this to say (emphasis added):

Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs. To the families of the victims there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event. Horrible thing happened. When you’re suffering, we pledge our eternal support. The suffering is so great, I’ve seen some of the people, so great. My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. 

“Everything in our power”? How about building a gallows for the Annapolis shooter, and marching him to it right quick? How about going beyond mere rhetoric about crime and taking practical steps to ensure that no one can live for long after doing what that shooter did?

Punishing the shooter is Maryland’s business, of course, but federal interference prevents Maryland from punishing him with the full force of the law. Removing that interference is where Trump comes in. He’s already appointing people like Neil Gorsuch to the federal bench, and that’s good—but it’s only a small step in the right direction. What we need, what’s long overdue, is a giant leap.

The Case for a Constitutional Amendment
It would require a constitutional amendment to get swift and certain enforcement of the death penalty past the activist precedents of the Supreme Court. So? What’s so impossible about that? We’ve already amended the Constitution 27 times. The most recent such proposal to be approved, the 26th, sailed through Congress in 1971 and was ratified by the states in a matter of months. (The 27th, on the other hand, was proposed in 1789 and took more than two centuries to gain ratification. Let’s try to avoid that!)

I’ve made a case for the gallows in more than a dozen articles here at AG. Start with this one and read the rest in sequence. In them, I’ve tried to answer any and all objections readers might have.

As you read, consider this: Were Trump to make an issue of capital punishment now, leftist leaders would take it as conclusive proof that he is a Nazi at heart. “Hanging people? In this day and age? Who but a Nazi would even think of it?” Their voices would be loud, strident, hysterical, vituperative—almost involuntary. They’d be foaming at the mouth. They just couldn’t help themselves.

Meanwhile, how would the Democratic rank and file respond? Check these two entries in my AG series, and you might glimpse just a chance that the response of ordinary people would differ from that of their leftist leaders. Indeed, it might differ a lot. As I pointed out in this piece for National Review:

Unlike some other parts of Trump’s agenda, the quick restoration of law and order would be eagerly embraced by many of the very people the Left pretends to champion. Just consider that the voters of California, who backed Obama twice and went for Hillary by almost a 2-to-1 margin over Trump, also rejected (as they had done already in 2012) a proposition to abolish capital punishment, approving instead a ballot measure aimed at speeding up its enforcement.

Why do I keep pounding this drum? To save lives. And as I pointed out more than a decade ago, there’d be other benefits, too:

I believe a really hard campaign against crime, if carried through to victory, would destroy liberalism’s power for a generation or more. Specifically, actual enforcement of the death penalty, to the point that thousands instead of dozens of killers are put to death for their crimes, has the potential to break apart the entire culture of gangsterism, cowing not only murderers but also the robbers and rapists who rely on the threat of murder—and thus making today’s crime rates a thing of memory. And in the peace that followed, people would never forget nor forgive liberalism for the fact that the mayhem they’d suffered for decades had been indulged, shepherded and enabled by liberal dogmas.

Some may have grown accustomed to those decades of mayhem. But millions of us have not, and in any case, crime is not the only issue at stake in the current crisis. If we really are in a new civil war, and it really is imperative that the Left lose this war, then all legitimate weapons at hand should certainly be used to defeat the Left. Calling the gallows down on murderers is certainly one of them.

Photo credit: The Denver Post via Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Featured Article • History • Hollywood • Movies • political philosophy • Russia • The Culture • The Left • The Media

Politics, the Arts, and ‘The Fiery Angel’

In my new bookThe Fiery Angelout this week from Encounter Books, I make the following contention: that the arts have more to teach us about foreign and public policy than all the schools of government put together.

“Homer,” I write, “has more to teach us about governance than Harvard, and always will.”

To Homer, I go on to add Aristotle, Aquinas, Ravel, Bram Stoker, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Dante, Virgil, Mozart, and Beauty and the Beast. Indeed, the entire thesis of The Fiery Angel (a companion volume to 2015’s The Devil’s Pleasure Palace) can be summed up accordingly: “We proceed, then, from the premise that the past not only still has something to tell us, but it also has something that it must tell us, if only we will listen. That while we stare intently toward the future (the will-o-the-wisp of the Left), it is to the past to which we should be listening—for it alone holds the sum total of the human experience in its dusty, bony hands.”

That is to say, the solutions to our present-day ills can be found in our history; our ancestors, from the Greeks and the Romans to the 19th and 20th centuries, had exactly the same problems, and the solutions they found (whether they worked or failed) have been conveniently recorded for us in not only the pages of the histories that have come down to us, beginning with Thucydides and Herodotus, Livy and Tacitus, but also in the works of art (sculpture, painting, poetry, fiction, plays, operas, movies) that accompany them.

We understand, for example, that the events detailed in Livy’s History of Rome are largely mythic, but that does not invalidate them. Similarly, the speeches that Tacitus puts into the mouths of Tiberius and Germanicus he basically invented. So what? None of this lessens the lessons to be imparted and learned not only by the readers of that time, but today’s as well.

As an example of the arts’ predictive powers, I present an excerpt from Chapter Three, “The Raft of the Medusa,” which opens with an account of the geopolitical situation in the spring of 1986, with the Cold War at its height—yet also in its last days.

***

Quick: would you rather read a think-tank white paper from around the time of the Reagan–Gorbachev Reykjavik summit in 1986, assuring the Boston–Washington corridor that the Soviet Union would remain the only other superpower indefinitely, and that its stability was vital to the balance of power, or watch “Rocky IV,” released in 1985? Which better predicted the events of November 1989?

Consider, for example, this review of Strobe Talbott’s 1984 book on arms control, Deadly Gambits. Talbott, then a writer for TimeMagazine—he later left to join the Clinton administration as deputy secretary of state, and parlayed that into becoming president of the Brookings Institution—undertook in a widely unread book to contrast the arms-control policies of the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan administrations, to the latter’s detriment, of course. This concluding passage from the contemporaneous New York Times review provides a flavor [emphasis mine]:

Mr. Talbott, who is diplomatic correspondent at Time, had previously written “Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT II.” What is striking about the two books is that “Endgame” was about how President Carter and his top aides—Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, and Defense Secretary Harold Brown—were directly in charge of the arms control process. “Deadly Gambits” shows how President Reagan, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Mr. Weinberger, and the three different national security advisers, had little to do with making arms control policy because they lacked the intellectual tools or interest in the subject.

He is particularly mocking of Mr. Reagan, who, Mr. Talbott writes, liked to give speeches on arms control, “but behind the scenes, where decisions were made and policy was set, he was to remain a detached, sometimes befuddled character.” Mr. Talbott says that even though Mr. Reagan presided at 16 meetings of the National Security Council on strategic arms talks, “there was ample evidence, during those meetings and on other occasions as well, that he frequently did not understand basic aspects of the nuclear weapons issue and of policies being promulgated in his name.”

The Soviet Union’s collapse began five years later with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Cold War ended two years after that. There was no nuclear exchange between the Russians and the Americans. Containment, technological superiority, and firmness of purpose at the highest levels of American and Western foreign policy for 45 years had worked—and the end came just after Reagan left office.

Talbott’s career checked all the boxes of the American foreign-policy establishment, including education (Hotchkiss, Yale, Oxford, where he was Bill Clinton’s roommate); youthful attention as translator of Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs; top-tier American journalistic experience (Time); service in government and at a prestigious Beltway think tank. And yet his record on all the major foreign-policy events of the past several decades was dismal, mirroring that of most of his conventionally thinking colleagues in both journalism and academe. If this is what specialization achieves, then let us have less of it.

A far more significant international event in the history of the Cold War endgame took place over two weeks in April 1986, when the great Russian-born virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz made his first and only return to the land of his birth. The pianist’s visit was skillfully negotiated by Peter Gelb, a grand-nephew of the violinist Jascha Heifetz, who was then with Columbia Artists Management Inc., the leading music-management agency in the country; Gelb later became the general director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

The opening was provided by a cultural-exchange agreement that had been concluded between Reagan and the Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, at their Geneva summit on November 21, 1985. Gelb contacted Bernard Kalb, a former journalist who was assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the Reagan Administration, and suggested that a Horowitz visit be the first of the exchanges. The trip was jeopardized several times, particularly in the wake of an incident at Spaso House in which the piano in the residence had its strings slashed by someone on the household staff after the ambassador, Arthur Hartman, had hosted an informal concert by a leading refusenik pianist, Vladimir Feltsman. (Feltsman emigrated to the United States in 1987.)

It took a personal letter from President Reagan, hand-delivered to Horowitz’s residence on East 94thStreet in Manhattan, and guaranteeing both the pianist’s safety in Russia and that of his custom-shipped personal Steinway piano—without which he never performed—for the exchange to be solidified.

As it happened, the visit was bookended by two major news events. The first was the American air assault on Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya on April 15, 1986, in retaliation for the terrorist bombing 10 days earlier of the La Belle discothèque in West Berlin, in which two American servicemen were killed. The second was the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl on April 26. Their noses out of joint over Reagan’s actions against a then-Soviet ally, the Russians gave the pianist and his entourage a chilly reception at the airport and boycotted a dinner in his honor at the Italian embassy in Moscow. The Chernobyl accident, meanwhile, took place on the Saturday before Horowitz’s final U.S.S.R. concert, but word of the disaster did not leak out until the visitors had decamped.

I was privileged to witness the entire Russian trip. This is what I wrote in Time Magazine of the concert’s significance at the time (issue of May 5, 1986):

The first recital provoked an unprecedented near riot. As the security gates in front of the Moscow Conservatory swung open to admit the pianist’s chauffeured Chaika, hundreds of young people burst through the police lines and stormed the Conservatory’s Great Hall. Plainclothes and uniformed guards managed to grab a few of them, sending several sprawling, But many, perhaps most, raced past astonished ticket takers and ran upstairs to the balcony, where they crouched in the aisles and stood should to should against the walls. In a country that takes special pride in preserving public order, romantic exuberance rarely overwhelms regimentation so publicly. It was fitting for the occasion.

In an unconscious echo of Rocky’s “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change” speech at the end of his winning bout against the Russian champion, Ivan Drago, Horowitz had this to say about the Soviet Union and the Russians:

Before leaving New York City, the pianist had been sanguine about his chances of success, both as a musician and as a cultural ambassador. “I am not a Communist, but I can understand their way of thinking better than most Americans,” he declared. “We all know there is good and evil everywhere. I was brought up to seek the good. In the Soviet Union today, the good is the music they produce. I hope that by playing in the Soviet Union, I will make the good better. Music inspires. It does not destroy and kill.”

The sentiment may have seemed naïve at the time, but in retrospect, how right Horowitz was. Despite being completely apolitical – Horowitz was sometimes childlike in his appetites and pleasures, a man whose often puckish exterior masked the barely controlled, and sometimes uncontrolled, fury of his playing – he was correct in several of his assessments. For one thing, he did understand the Russians better than most Americans; he certainly understood them better than Talbott, and better than most members of the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, who consistently viewed the Soviet Union through prisms of their own self-advancement and continued employment.

***

Three and a half years later, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union itself disappeared shortly thereafter.

***

Did Horowitz effect all this himself? Of course not. Each event was a piece in the mosaic. But his was more catalytic than most: what the Horowitz concerts demonstrated to the Communists was that they could not succeed even in something as simple as controlling the entrances to the Tchaikovsky Hall in the heart of Moscow. Yes, the security men counter-attacked during the battle on the stairway, pushing and shoving a few students down the stairs and into the surging crowd. But the students were not to be denied, and in the end, neither were the East Germans, the Poles, the Czechs, the Hungarians, and finally even the Russians.

Therefore, the argument must be made, and taken seriously, that the study of the arts belongs every bit as much in the realm of public policy as, say, the study of political “science” (a term that reeks of Marxism, since there is no more that is “scientific” about politics than there is about history) and arguably more so. For one thing, storytelling has been around a lot longer than the Kennedy School of Government; for another, its track record in predicting and ameliorating various catastrophes throughout history has been much better. Certainly better than all the wise men whose gaze floated from their navels to the Kremlin and back again, and yet never saw the end of the Soviet Union coming.

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America • feminists • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture • The Media

Ryan Gosling, Incel Prophet

On April 19, a 25-year-old man plowed a rented van into a crowd of bystanders in the middle of downtown Toronto, killing 10 and seriously wounding many more. Initially many assumed it had been another attack inspired by the radical Islamist ideology of ISIS or al-Qaeda, as these groups had pioneered the new terrorist method of vehicle ramming attacks. The truth, as it turned out, was far stranger.

The man behind the wheel apparently carried out his horrific and monstrous attack, not due to political, racial, or religious motivations but rather due to the simple fact that he was unable to form romantic and sexual connections with women.

In a bizarre Facebook post that, understandably, caused many to question its authenticity when it was first reported, the killer declared he was beginning an “incel rebellion” against the “Chads” and “Stacys.” He then went on to praise the “supreme gentleman” who in 2014 killed six and wounded 14 others in Isla Vista, California. That shooter had justified his rampage on the misogynistic pretext of avenging his fragile ego against the women who had sexually rejected him.

Since the Toronto attack, the word “incel” (short for “involuntary celibate”) has gone from being a niche term used on Reddit forums that promote pickup artist ideologies and on some of the darker and more obscure corners of Twitter to being discussed in detail by mainstream media outlets like CNN, the BBC, and Fox News.

While many analyses have focused solely on the toxic online “manosphere” subculture that apparently coined the term, with its open hatred and contempt for women, in an attempt to understand this new phenomenon of “radical incel terrorism,” these tend to be both reductive and superficial. The actual origins of the new and very real phenomenon of incel terrorism are far older and far stranger than most people realize. These origins are best understood, not by scrolling through the archives of toxic message boards, but, like most things in life, through art. In particular: cinema.

In fact, the real origins of incel terror predate not only the term “incel” but also the Internet itself. In 1989, a 25-year-old man in Montreal used a Mini-14 rifle (the same weapon used years later by a notorious Norwegian mass-shooter) to kill 14 female students. In his suicide note, he claimed he had committed the massacre as an act of revenge against “the feminists” whom he claimed had “ruined his life.” But while the perpetrator of the École Polytechnique massacre himself seems to have been the first attacker employing terroristic methods to openly proclaim the misogynistic motivations for his crimes, the real godfather of incel terrorism may be older and stranger still. None other than the notorious Unabomber himself: Ted Kaczynski.

While the enigmatic and brilliant (if evil may be said sometimes to be “brilliant”) Kaczynski is best known for his manifesto “Industrial Society and its Future” in which he argues, not entirely unconvincingly, that: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race” his real motivation may have been, at least in part, more similar to that of “incel terrorists” than is commonly understood.

Though possessing a genius-level intellect, Kaczynski was emotionally detached, socially awkward and seemed to find great difficulty managing relationships with other people, especially women. Kaczynski, though now in his 70s, according to everything we know, is still technically a virgin. One of the main events, according to his brother, that preceded him taking up occupancy at the remote cabin in which he would build his mailbombs was a rejection by a woman for whom he had expressed romantic interest. This rejection, apparently, was so traumatic for him that he flew into a rage and posted obscene and misogynist post-it notes defaming the woman in question all over their shared workplace. Still, even if misogyny itself was not the direct motivation for Kaczynski’s bombings, his life of romantic frustration and social humiliation punctuated by an outburst of terroristic violence bears all the hallmarks of the “incel” condition that seems to have motivated men like the Toronto van driver.

And it is these very lives of social and romantic frustration, not the bombastic and misogynistic rants found in online message boards, which are the real root of our so-called “incel” crisis. Lives that come into sharper focus when we observe them through the lens of a film projector and, ironically enough, many of the films of Ryan Gosling.

“Blue Valentine” Sets the Stage
On the face of it Gosling—a handsome, famous, and successful movie star—may seem an odd avatar to represent the face of a movement preoccupied with misogyny and embodied by personal failure. Yet Gosling’s film roles are a catalog of characters who exhibit all of the trademark characteristics of the socially isolated, alienated and emotionally stunted young men who comprise incel culture.

The films “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Blue Valentine,” “Drive,” and “Blade Runner 2049”—in particular—stand out as films in which Gosling’s character is, if not a literal incel, then at the very least a spiritual one. It is surely also no coincidence that these films happen to represent some of Gosling’s most impressive performances. The last three, in particular, symbolize a kind of apotheosis of what we can perhaps describe as an emergent “incel cinema.”

“Blue Valentine” the 2010 romantic drama in which Gosling starred opposite Michelle Williams in a hyper-realistic and genuinely heartbreaking portrayal of the slow death of the protagonists’ marriage, is the first of these three. Gosling’s character, Dean Pereira, is an ambitionless but uber romantic high school dropout who becomes infatuated with the beautiful and career driven med-student, Cindy, who is presently in a relationship with a fellow student named Bobby. Bobby is a confident and arrogant college wrestler who treats Cindy with contempt, illustrated by his cavalier decision to have unprotected sex with her without her consent while she is submissively braced against a wall. Thus, he is the quintessential embodiment of what the Toronto van terrorist would describe as a “Chad” which, in the incel lexicon, is a term used to describe socially confident and sexually successful “alpha males.”

To make matters worse, at least from the incel perspective, although Cindy breaks up with Bobby after this mistreatment she later discovers, while she has begun dating the charming loser Dean, that she has become pregnant with Bobby’s child. But upon receiving this news Dean, naive romantic that he is, tells Cindy that this doesn’t matter and that he will be happy to marry her and raise Cindy’s unborn child as his own. Dean, therefore, becomes quite literally, a “cuck”—a slang term for “cuckold” popularized as an insult during the 2016 presidential campaign in reference to anti-Trump conservatives who, in the estimation of their critics, appeared to be happy losers. “Cuck” is also a term used commonly by the incel community as it serves to highlight some of their deepest anxieties about women. In particular, they fear being manipulated into supporting a child that has been fathered by another man—a man who the woman in question, presumably (at least in the strange world of incel logic,) would vastly prefer to the submissive and low-status “beta male” with whom she has “settled” most likely for financial reasons.  

The film then transports us five years into the future, Dean and Cindy are married and are busy raising Cindy’s daughter, whom Dean loves deeply and treats as if she were his own. Dean works as a house painter and nurses a beer gut while Cindy has a well-paying job as a nurse in a local doctor’s office. Though Dean seems more than happy with his current situation and also seems to love his wife as much as ever, Cindy is obviously profoundly unhappy with Dean’s lack of achievement and ambition. Their relationship, in spite of Dean’s best if pitiful efforts, proceeds to fall apart. In the end, Dean is forced to leave in a heartrending sequence as his young daughter trails behind, urging him to come back.

“Blue Valentine’s” brutally realistic portrayal of a failing relationship serves as the perfect vehicle to illustrate the anxieties and paranoia of the men who view themselves as incels. It is a portrayal which earned it a glowing and characteristically merciless review from the notorious manosphere blogger “Heartiste” who praised it in the following terms:

Blue Valentine does the best job to date of any movie at illuminating the crass functioning of the mating market and the competing, and mutually alien, desires that animate men and women. It’s a dark and claustrophobic reminder of the fragile contingencies which sustain love. If the movie makes the phalanx of women leaving the theater uncomfortable, it’s only because it hits a little too close to home.

“Drive” and the Real (Sexless) Hero
A year after “Blue Valentine” was released to unsuspecting audiences who probably expected a conventional romance story, Nicolas Winding Refn’s  “Drive” hit theatres. Although each of the films possesses plots and settings that are superficially dissimilar from each other, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to view “Drive” as a kind of esoteric sequel to “Blue Valentine.”

Set in an anonymous Los Angeles, “Drive” chronicles Gosling’s protagonist, a part-time stunt driver who manages to remain nameless throughout the entire length of the film, as he fights to save a woman and her son from a vicious crew of mobsters.

Gosling’s character, known only as “The Driver” is an emotionless and solitary individual without any real family or friends, save his mechanic. He is a man whose only real interest is driving, whether behind the wheel of a stunt vehicle, a race car, or while moonlighting as a getaway wheelman for criminal heists. This is his only real interest, that is, until he encounters his beautiful neighbor Irene and her young son, with whom he proceeds to develop a close and affectionate yet notably platonic relationship. This relationship is cut short, however, when Irene’s ex-convict husband Benicio is released from prison.

Her husband then finds himself under pressure to hold up a pawn shop in order to repay a debt he owes. Out of sympathy for the family’s plight and his obvious romantic infatuation with Irene, Gosling’s character magnanimously offers to help, by manning a getaway car. The heist goes south though and Benicio is killed, leading to a car chase which reveals a web of intrigue involving a million dollars in cash, a network of angry mobsters who want it back, and a plot to kill Irene and her son lest they become potential witnesses. The rest of the film then evolves into a hyper-violent chronicle of the Driver’s quest to save Irene and her son.

The most interesting, and for our purposes relevant, aspect of the film’s story, however, is the relationship between Gosling’s seemingly emotionless Driver and the object of his affection, Irene. In contrast to the character he portrayed in “Blue Valentine”—an individual who was passive, almost contemptibly desperate for his wife’s love, and who wore his emotions on his sleeve—Gosling’s Driver is painted in entirely opposite colors. The Driver is mostly silent (aside from the occasional, savage explosions of physical violence), possesses seemingly unflappable confidence, and is almost wholly emotionally vacant.

If one wishes to indulge in an apocryphal reading of “Drive” as the esoteric sequel to “Blue Valentine,” it makes sense to interpret the character of the Driver as merely an evolved form of the very same character Gosling played in “Blue Valentine.” They are separated chronologically by perhaps only a few years. With the good-natured and naïve Dean, having had his heart broken and family destroyed by a divorce he didn’t want, heading out West in search of a fresh start, emotional solitude and perhaps the pursuit of a kind of unconscious death wish. With nothing left to lose he is able to reinvent himself as a stunt driver and part-time criminal who spends his free time either alone or seeking out new and creative ways to flirt with the death he secretly desires. Until, of course, he meets Irene. Another pretty blonde damsel in distress who, like Michelle Williams’ character in “Blue Valentine,” is also a troubled single mom who seems to prefer, or at least formerly preferred, the company of cruel or unreliable men. Nevertheless, after her ex-con husband is killed in the botched robbery attempt there would seem to be an opening to a potentially redemptive romance for both of them as it becomes evident that the romantic feelings are now mutual.

If “Drive” had been merely a standard Hollywood film and not one of the finest existing examples of contemporary “incel cinema” this would be the place in the story arc to begin the romantic relationship which would eventually blossom into a satisfying, climatic emotional payoff for the audience. But, of course, this doesn’t happen. Instead, although the emotional connection and romantic chemistry felt between the two protagonists only continues to grow, it is never actually realized. This is a true-to-life “incel” romantic endeavor. The closest the protagonists come to expressing their love for one another is in a memorable and, strangely dreamlike, elevator scene. In which Irene and the Driver share a tender kiss right before he beats a mafia hitman to death with a hammer.

Even after the climax of the film, in which the Driver liberates Irene from the threat of assassination once and for all by finally killing off the nefarious mafia boss, no romantic resolution is to be found. Instead of claiming the just reward for his heroism, which potentially included both a new life of love and happiness with Irene as well as the million dollars contained in the suitcase, the Driver, wounded and bleeding, simply gets into his car, pauses, and then drives off into the distance while the mournful synthpop sounds of Electric Youth’s “A Real Hero” plays in the background.

“Blade Runner 2049”: The Apotheosis of Incel Cinema
What separates Gosling’s portrayal of the modern incel condition—with its alienation, lovelessness and deep loneliness—from the reality of the same is the utter lack of misogyny contained in his performances. Even “Blue Valentine,” the film that comes the closest to presenting a potentially negative view of the female lead refuses to indulge in the simplistic and juvenile cheap-shots which would come naturally to the frequently pathologically resentful denizens of online incel forums. Instead, these films present the female lead, in spite of the obvious anguish her actions inflict on Gosling’s character, as a deeply conflicted and ultimately sympathetic figure.

Understanding Gosling’s performances as non-misogynistic depictions of the incel condition is a bit misleading, however. A better way to understand them, perhaps, are as post-misogynistic performances. It is an almost zen-like condition most acutely displayed in the Driver’s strange, detached confidence. It is the kind of confidence that can only be acquired when one has ceased to desire; a thousand yard stare of the heart, if you will. This kind of detached heroism doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of love and empathy, however. In fact, it seems somehow to heighten them, but not necessarily in the traditionally romantic way, as we can observe in Gosling’s most recent, and most complex film, “Blade Runner 2049.”

“Blade Runner 2049,” is the story of a replicant (cyborg) played by Gosling called K, who is assigned to hunt down and destroy renegade members of his own synthetic race. It is truly the apotheosis of incel cinema. Though it was lambasted by various feminist critics, most of these critiques unfairly relied on an uncharitable hermeneutic of suspicion in which the film’s complexities were reduced to some kind of latent and simplistic misogyny. Although the film does address uncomfortable truths about the reality of modern sexual relations, ultimately—like Gosling’s other work—it is a profoundly post-misogynistic film.

Gosling’s K, much like the Driver, is seemingly detached, socially alienated, and alone. The only emotional connection K seems able to form is with a holographic female companion named “Joi” who seems to love him unconditionally and is also able perfectly to embody traditional male ideals of femininity. Joi, of course, only exists as a digital file, while the film’s other female lead, and main antagonist, “Luv” is all too real.

Luv, like K, is also a replicant. Although there is a potentially telling bit of sexual tension between Luv and K upon their initial meeting, this quickly devolves into a mutual antagonism and competition as the film’s plot progresses. One of the more interesting, and frequently underappreciated aspects of Luv’s character is her preoccupation, which was obviously quite personal for her, with helping the Wallace corporation discover a method by which replicants could somehow “naturally” reproduce.

Thus, it is difficult not to interpret Luv as a kind of obvious avatar for the modern career woman, locked in brutal competition with her male peers, represented by K but still desiring natural female ends. Peers who in times past would have been obvious candidates for romantic partnership have now been transformed by cutthroat professional competition and by the new requirements of the global neoliberal marketplace into rivals. This competition is exacerbated by the naturally unfair biological clock to which Luv, and by extension, the class of modern career women she represents, are subject. Hence Luv’s obsession with discovering the key to a natural method of replicant reproduction.

During the rising action of their conflict, Luv defeats K and then proceeds to crush under her heel the device to which K had downloaded his beloved Joi’s personality. Thus, for K the only woman he could genuinely love in a physical sense crushes the only feminine ideal that could ever bring him joy. She literally crushes his Joi. It is evident that much of Luv’s contempt for K stems from his obvious preference for pursuing a romantic relationship with a hologram over her. This is a transparent allusion to modern female disgust with male consumption of pornography, a common complaint of which being that it frequently leads men to develop bizarre and unrealistic expectations for their relationships with women in the real world.

A better reading of Joi, however, is as a representation of the male desire for a traditional femininity which has now been rendered archaic by neoliberal market forces as well as having been deconstructed and revealed to be oppressive under the lens of contemporary feminist theory. K, in strikingly incel fashion, is thus revealed to be incapable of developing romantic emotions unless he is confronted with a reality (or, in this case: an illusion) which approximates traditional ideals of femininity—ideals which simply no longer correspond with the real world. This has the result of rendering both K, and the modern incel which he represents, unable to love women as he finds them in the post-industrial societies produced by neoliberal economic conditions and progressive ideologies. This is illustrated clearly in a remarkable and disquieting scene in which Joi hires a prostitute for K who is then able to have sex with her, but only once Joi’s own ideal image is overlaid onto the prostitute’s body.

Lest one be tempted to read a superficial right-wing subtext into the film’s storyline, it is later revealed that K’s fixation with traditional feminine ideals has a profound dark side which is traumatically revealed to him after his initial defeat by Luv and the resulting death of Joi. In perhaps the film’s most iconic scene, a battered K is seen walking across an abandoned walkway when he encounters a giant holographic advertisement featuring a sexually alluring Joi who tells him that he “looks like a good Joe” the very same name K’s Joi had formerly insisted was his real name when it was revealed that K might not be a lab-born replicant after all, but instead the miraculous offspring of a human and replicant pairing. This revelation is crushing to K, calling into question, as it did, the authenticity of Joi herself and, also, the traditional feminine ideal she represented.

The climax of the film’s battle of the sexes between K and Luv takes places on a dark abandoned beach on which they engage in a brutal fight to the death and during which Luv declares triumphantly: “I’m the best one” after giving K a final, violent kiss. K, though severely wounded by the encounter, ultimately triumphs, however, drowning Luv in the rising tide.

The film ends with K safely delivering Deckard, the original Blade Runner played by Harrison Ford, to the daughter he had been separated from since her birth—a daughter he was forced to abandon in order to save. While Deckard hurries inside to reunite with the family he thought he had lost, K, though it was his own selfless heroism that had reunited Deckard’s family, must wait outside, finally at peace with the reality that he will never be able to enter this realm of interpersonal love for which he had so long been pining.

This morose ending is what truly unites “Blue Valentine,” “Drive,” and “Blade Runner 2049,” all of which end in a similar fashion: with the protagonist, whether due to his own decisions or those of others, unable to enter into the promised land of domestic life and love their protagonists seemed so much to desire. These endings, of course, are a direct echo of the end of the classic 1956 John Wayne film “The Searchers,” in which a grizzled and world-weary John Wayne is unable to enter through the doorway separating him from the civilized, domestic harmony his heroism helped to make possible.

Gosling’s performances prophetically illuminate the spiritual struggle of so many lonely, loveless young men living in the shadow of neo-liberal society, many of whom have given themselves over to poisonous, self-destructive forms of resentment which can, in rare but high profile cases, manifest themselves in brutal, misogynistic violence and terrorism. Perhaps Gosling’s characters can offer these young men an alternative narrative that, while recognizing the suffering caused by their social isolation, rejects their misogyny and self-loathing in favor of heroism and love. It is not a sentimental or romantic love, however.

The hard truth may be that many of these young men may, for one reason or another, like Gosling’s characters, simply be too personally damaged ever to be reconciled to a healthy romantic and domestic life. Life is, after all, a tragedy and not a morality play. In the end, the truth may be, for many of the troubled young men of the early 21st century, that, as Deckard tells K in “Blade Runner 2049”: “Sometimes, to love someone . . . you gotta be a stranger.”

America • History • Hollywood • Movies • Post • Religion and Society • The Culture

Twin Beds? What Twin Beds?

When choreographer Agnes DeMille was interviewed for a documentary about her famous uncle Cecil B., she had a wonderful story to tell about the “Hays Office,” the body charged with enforcing Hollywood’s Motion Picture Production Code. She had been hired by her uncle to provide a bit of pagan titillation for DeMille’s production of “Cleopatra.” Her job as one of the Egyptian queen’s court dancers was to get the Roman visitor Marc Antony into the mood for some serious international monkey business. So Agnes offered her impression of an historically authentic Egyptian dance.

“Oh, no, no,” Cecil told her. “This won’t do. There’s no sex, there’s nothing, there’s no excitement. This wouldn’t seduce anybody. This wouldn’t seduce me.”

“He turned to the censor,” Agnes recalled, “the censor who was there to see that we didn’t do anything so dirty it wouldn’t be allowed on the screen. He said, ‘Would that arouse you?’ And the man said, ‘Hell, no.’ Cecil said, ‘I want the kind of dance we had in ‘Sign of the Cross’—a lesbian dance.’ I said, ‘I thought that was one of the funniest things I ever saw.’ And he said, ‘Well, baby, that’s the kind of humor we’re looking for.’”

The Sign of the Cross” had been released in 1932, two years before “Cleopatra.” The Hays Office, which was created in 1922, had gotten things pretty well tamped down by 1934, so the latter film was indeed less dirty than the former, if perhaps no less hilarious. Agnes DeMille’s anecdote about the profane Hays Office censor is pretty funny, too. But the contrast between Will Hays’ prim demeanor and the cigar-chomping way in which his minions did their jobs, droll as that may be, is not what most people think of when they hear about the Motion Picture Production Code. They think of twin beds.

Quick, Smug, and Surly Response
Whenever anyone suggests that maybe Hollywood might consider dialing back the raunch just a wee bit, twin beds are sure to come up.

“WHAT! BACK TO SEPARATE BEDS?” That’s the headline of an ad the ACLU once ran in Daily Variety after a Catholic prelate asked filmmakers to consider returning to the old Production Code.

The Left’s response to such suggestions has always been quick, smug and surly. Here’s liberal columnist Tom Teepen in 1995: “Hollywood caved to political pressure in the 1920s and created its own moral cop, the Hays Office, which promptly undertook to mislead American youth into supposing the standard marriage format was twin beds separated by a lamp table.”

And the response has always been wrong. Here’s blogger Adam Bulger in 2016: “The Hays Code split Nick and Nora Charles’ marriage in two. In their 1934 movie debut ‘The Thin Man,’ the booze-loving sleuths nursed hangovers from the shared comfort of a king bed. When they returned in 1936’s ‘After the Thin Man,’ Hollywood censors forced them into separate twin beds.” Of course, no one who has seen the “Thin Man” films has ever thought for one minute that Nick and Nora weren’t getting it on. But you needn’t be a “Thin Man” fan to know this idea—that Hollywood was ever obliged to present a picture of sexless marriage epitomized by mandatory twin beds—is nonsense.

Neither the Production Code nor the toothless guidelines that preceded it say anything about twin beds. The guidelines advised “special care” in depicting “first-night scenes” and a “man and woman in bed,” and the code decreed that “the treatment of bedrooms must be governed by good taste and delicacy.” Perhaps some Hays Office munchkin at some point interpreted that provision as requiring separate beds, thus giving rise to the “twin bed” legend. Perhaps the legend is pure myth. But anyone with eyes can see that such a rule was not widely observed.

Consider this episode: A harried businessman comes home late at night, tired and dejected. Leaning over the dresser, he looks into the mirror. On the wall hangs an embroidered cartoon his wife gave him when they were courting. “George Lassos the Moon,” it reads. George’s sleeping wife awakens, and he walks over and lies down beside her. They kiss, and he pours out his troubles to her, and she lifts his spirits by telling him they’re going to have a baby: “George Bailey lassos stork!”

That scene, played with special care, taste, and delicacy by James Stewart and Donna Reed in Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” takes place on a double bed—a minor detail, perhaps, except that it makes liars out of those who propagate the “twin bed” myth.

Subtle Innuendo Follows
A king-sized marriage bed figures more prominently in another well-loved film, John Ford’s 1952 romance, “
The Quiet Man.”

An Irish-American prizefighter (played by John Wayne) retires to his birthplace in Ireland. Meeting an attractive local maiden (Maureen O’Hara), he greets her without waiting for a formal introduction, thus scandalizing the natives. When her brother calls him out on it, the prizefighter scoffs: “I said ‘Good morning’ to her.”

“‘Good morning’!” the brother shouts. “Yes, but it was ‘Good night’ you had on your mind!”

What the quiet man has on his mind is matrimony. Furnishing his new home, he carries an enormous bed frame into the cottage; nearby, his intended observes these preparations, peeking wide-eyed over a fence.

“Is that a bed or a, or a parade ground?” another bystander asks her. “Ah, a man would have to be a sprinter to catch his wife in a bed like that!”

The couple get married, but the bride’s spiteful brother refuses to hand over her dowry, and the newlyweds argue about it on their wedding night. Telling him to go collect her dowry, she runs into the bedroom and locks the door; enraged, he kicks the door open and forcibly kisses her. Will it be a marital rape? No, he picks her up and throws her on the bed, collapsing it, and then stalks out to sleep in the parlor.

The next morning, friends who are unaware of this contretemps arrive with the bride’s furniture, which they’ve wrested from her brother. While the couple are outside helping to unload the cart, one of the well-wishers carries a cradle into the bedroom and sets it down, then stares at the demolished bed, getting entirely the wrong idea of how the wedding night went. “Impetuous! Homeric!” he exclaims, a line of dialogue often drowned out by the audience’s laughter when the film was shown in theaters.

The marriage continues unconsummated for some time. In one scene, the wife finds her husband planting a garden. “Roses!” she says. “Are you planting roses? Fine farmer you are! Not a turnip or a cabbage or a potato on the place.” To which he retorts, “Or children.” When he sees how this crushes her, he softens. “Sorry,” he tells her, and offers her a wildflower from the lawn.

They bear with one another, and everything turns out right at last. In perhaps the happiest of all Hollywood’s happy endings, the members of the cast take a cinematic curtain call, each bidding farewell to the audience in turn. The lovers appear last: They wave goodbye to us, then she whispers in his ear, and they go jolly-trotting into the cottage, where their king-sized bed and the cradle await them.

“Let’s Go Back There Sometime—Soon”
Consider also another major family film from that era, William Wyler’s 1956 Civil War story, “
Friendly Persuasion.” In it, a Quaker couple played by Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire take a literal roll in the hay.

Egged on by a friend, the husband has purchased a pipe organ, a musical instrument the wife regards as a plaything of the devil. “Jess,” she says, barring the door as he tries to carry the organ into the house, “I forbid thee to have this instrument!”

“Forbid, Eliza?”

“For thy own sake, Jess, I forbid.”

“Eliza, when thee asks or suggests, I’m like putty in thy hands, but when thee forbids, thee is barking up the wrong tree.”

She puts her foot down: “I don’t know what’s come over thee, Jess Birdwell! I’m warning thee, if thee takes that instrument into the house, I go out. Thee make thy choice. Thee can have that instrument or thee can have thy wife. But both, thee cannot have.” Undaunted, he carries the organ into the house, and she gathers up her shawl and her Bible and moves out to the barn.

Next morning, dawn finds the two of them strolling from the barn toward the house—arm in arm, leaning on each other, with bedding in hand (pictured at the top). “And thee promises to put the organ up in the attic right away,” she says, “and no playing on First Day, or when visitors are here.” He submits to these instructions, and then points at the barn, saying, “Let’s go back there sometime—soon.” She’s a bit scandalized by the idea, but, all the same, she smiles and takes his hand.

Just then, a neighbor shows up, and she grabs the bedding and hurries into the house. Neighbor Sam, who is the instigator of the organ purchase, had visited the house the previous evening and thereby accidentally learned of Eliza’s lonely vigil in the barn. He asks if Jess is getting rid of the organ.

“Nah,” Jess says.

“Well, how’d you bring her around?” Sam asks.

“Reasoned with her, just reasoned with her,” is the reply.

The two friends go out to the barn to inspect a new mare that Jess has traded for, and there Sam sees a lantern, a rose in a vase, and Jess’s pocket watch, all on a barrel next to a bed of straw. “‘Reasoned with her,’ eh? ‘Just reasoned with her’!” And Sam all but falls down laughing as he hands Jess the watch, tucks the rose behind his friend’s ear and brushes straw off his back.

So much for the idea that Hollywood used to paint a picture of sexless marriage.

Romance of this sort was featured even in children’s films—for example, in “The Court Jester,” a 1956 Danny Kaye vehicle set in medieval England. Early in the movie (which film critic Leonard Maltin calls “one of the best comedies ever made”), Kaye and the lovely Glynis Johns are sheltering a royal orphan who has been marked for death by “Roderick the Tyrant,” a usurper who has seized the throne after murdering the true king and all his other heirs.

Circumstances throw the two freedom fighters together with the infant in a woodland hut, where she is impressed by his tenderness toward the baby. As they turn in for the night, a rainstorm confines them to the cramped quarters, making them share a bed of straw. Overcome by her beauty, he proposes marriage to her on the spot. She accepts, and they kiss, but they agree to postpone further activities until the tyrant is vanquished—which, in due course, he is. And with the infant on the throne and the lovers united, Kaye brings the curtain down, singing, “Life couldn’t possibly better be!”

What the Production Code Really Said
All of those bedroom scenes are intensely romantic without being in the slightest degree pornographic. They are highlights—not of foreign “art” films or of scandalous, “daring for their time” exceptions to some otherwise prevailing prudish standard—but of top-rated, mainstream American movies that were popular in their own day and are acclaimed as classics now. And they all were created in accord with the Production Code’s requirement that “the sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld.”

The Code was full of such regulations:

  • “The sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.”
  • “Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively.”
  • “In general, passion should so be treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser emotions.”
  • “No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious faith.” (The pipe-organ sequence in “Friendly Persuasion” might be seen as violating that rule, but instead it shows how flexibly the rules were applied. For all its humor, the film’s look at Quakers was loving and respectful, not contemptuous. Avoiding such contempt was what the Code intended, and what it accomplished.)
  • “The history, institutions, prominent people and citizenry of other nations shall be represented fairly.” (It evidently didn’t occur to the Hays Office to require that America’s own history, citizenry, etc., be represented fairly. The rabid anti-Americanism that flourished among 1960s radicals and persists among many multiculturalists today is something a previous generation never anticipated.)

Those rules generally are no more than what any conscientious filmmaker would follow on his own. They were devised and were observed for decades by the film industry itself, for its own good and for the good of the public. But then the rules were thrown away, and so we have gone from Capra, Ford, and Wyler to . . .  what? The Farrelly brothers? Cretin Tarantino?

The Production Code couldn’t be revived today. As conservative film critic Michael Medved has pointed out, structural changes in the movie business “now make it altogether impossible for a handful of executives to impose a self-policing scheme on the entire industry.”

But when today’s cultural mandarins dismiss every call for restraint by talking contemptuously about twin beds, they are perpetuating a lie. They are defending the indecent extreme to which we have now come by invoking an opposite extreme that never really existed.

Photo credit: NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Economy • Government Reform • Hollywood • Law and Order • Movies • Post • Progressivism • The Constitution • The Courts • The Media

American Greatness at the Movies

Reviewing the movie “Little Pink House” for the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote the film “succeeds neither narratively nor visually.” So, there you have it. The Times has spoken: you don’t want to see it.

Then again, maybe you do. After all, the Times is ground zero for political correctness. A positive review of this movie in the Times is about as likely as the Times editorial board championing the Tea Party movement back in the day.

“Little Pink House” tells the story of Kelo v. City of New London. My wife and I saw it this weekend, and she encouraged me to give you a friendly heads-up about our experience. Though we were keenly aware of the hideous outcome for Susette Kelo because we followed the Supreme Court’s terrible decision in 2005, we were so caught up in the action of the film that our spirits lifted during the scene when Kelo got the news the Court had put her case on its docket.

But of course, as we know, the justices did not serve justice. What the Court served up instead of justice was “social justice.” It turns out that putting “social” before “justice” empties justice of its meaning—and “Little Pink House” makes that case in compelling human terms.

Catherine Keener plays Susette Kelo. Kelo only wants to keep her house. She seeks fair treatment by her city and eventually justice from the Supreme Court. Jeanne Tripplehorn plays the college president and political climber who leads the effort to evict Kelo and her neighbors and to tear down their homes in the name of social justice. Kelo reluctantly agrees to become the face of the fight to save the neighborhood. The Tripplehorn character is the face of the politicians and the bureaucrats who plot and maneuver against the homeowners. Both portrayals are outstanding.

In the film, the mayor of New London tells the homeowners their only chance to save their homes is to take the fight to the people. Have you ever had to fight city hall? This is how it plays out. You only have to fight city hall because you have found out they are planning to do something to you. You only have a chance if what they are planning affects your neighbors too, and if you and your neighbors can succeed in making a public issue of it.

In the film, government at every level, from the city council to the governor and finally to the Supreme Court, works together against the homeowners.

My wife and I were reminded of another brilliant film, “13 Hours.” (If you haven’t seen it yet, prepare to be dazzled.) Just as the narrative drive of “Little Pink House” prepares you for justice to be served in the end, “13 Hours” builds in you the urgent dramatic expectation that the cavalry will arrive with flags flying and bugles blowing just in time to save the heroic band of Americans in an impossible fight.

In both movies, it is the government that lets the Americans down. But American greatness is not missing. The Americans fighting injustice in “Little Pink House” and the Americans fighting the jihadis in “13 Hours” shine brightly. You will be inspired—and entertained.

It’s worth recalling that the Supreme Court was divided on Kelo by a vote of 5-4. John Paul Stevens—who recently wrote an editorial calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment in the New York Times—wrote the majority opinion. Stevens believes the government should be able to take your guns and your home. How astonishing that such a man could have sat on the Court, charged with upholding the Constitution! Joining Stevens in the Kelo decision were Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. Dissenting were Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

And here is what the New York Timeseditorial on Kelo had to say:

New London’s development plan may hurt a few small property owners, who will, in any case, be fully compensated. But many more residents are likely to benefit if the city can shore up its tax base and attract badly needed jobs.

So, the Times liked the decision (which did not reap the benefits the editors predicted) and did not like the movie. No surprises there. The Times is always reliably politically correct—and just as reliably wrong.

America • Big Media • feminists • History • Hollywood • Movies • Post • Pro-Life • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Media

The Times, They Are A-Changing

A young woman buttonholes a musician with whom she’s recently had a one-night stand—“a stupid experiment,” as she later calls it. She has to remind the young man who she is, because he can’t even remember her name. Then she tells him: “I’m going to have a baby.” As she stares into his eyes, his face goes blank and he replies, “Congratulations,” as if he were merely a friend of the family.

Whether this response diverts her to Plan B or simply confirms her in the course she has already chosen, we don’t know. But her next words are: “Don’t worry. I’m not going to cause you any trouble. I just want you to find me a doctor—an address, you know?”

And so he does. This being 1963, it takes some doing: a rendezvous on a deserted street, a walk up a dark corridor in an unheated building, a “finder’s fee” to a shady character. At one point, the unhappy pair looks up his parents for help raising the cash the procurer wants. All unawares, his folks dote on her as a prospective daughter-in-law, and they give him some money thinking it’s for a night on the town.

At every step of the way, she keeps staring at her single-shot lover, and we can see her heart-chilling while he keeps her at arm’s length as the “solution” to their “problem” draws near.

Finally, she goes into an empty room with an old woman who lays out a blanket, a flashlight and some medical instruments on the floor, while the girl stands stiffly at a window and starts undressing. But he, alarmed that he’s found her a butcher instead of a “doctor,” breaks in on them, and she, turning and looking upon the blanket, the flashlight, and the instruments, screams, “Oh God, no!” and collapses in his arms. The abortionist and her procurer high-tail it as the young lovers embrace for the first time in the picture.

That’s the first half of “Love With the Proper Stranger,” an early effort of movie producer Alan J. Pakula, with Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen in the starring roles. It’s a fine film, totally down to earth, with excellent performances all around. But what’s the moral of the story?

Suppose the young woman had been able to look up an abortionist on her own, in the Yellow Pages rather than on a deserted street, with a “Dr.” in front of his name and a waiting room with comfortable chairs and nice pastel prints on the wall and a stack of ladies’ magazines to read? Would that make her lover’s blank face and the chill inside of her and the instruments and the scream all go away?

Some women don’t think so. If you don’t know any such at home, church, or work, you can get in touch with them online at Feminists for Life or at your local crisis pregnancy center.

My own experience with such things is limited to an attempted private adoption. The effort failed when the girl in trouble found out her boyfriend had cheated on her and decided to abort their baby out of spite.

To the Altar, Go!
The alternative to abortion isn’t always a trip to the altar, but it has been often enough. That may not be the best way to enter wedlock, but millions of happy marriages have started out with seven-month babies. Such marriages were frequent even in the Puritans’ New England.

Historian Marvin Olasky writes that in colonial America, unwed mothers “had high expectations of marriage” by the time they gave birth. Shotgun marriage “was common and did not carry disgrace. . . . Where fathers resolutely refused marriage, courts in Virginia and other colonies ordered payment” of child support. Social stigma fell largely “on a father who would not do the right thing, not on the mother. Abandoned unwed mothers were not shunned, and court records show them marrying other men of the community.”     

Abortion, on the other hand, was rare in the days before modern medicine made it relatively risk-free. The more common anti-life course was the concealment of pregnancy and the secret murder of the newborn. Olasky reports “the existence in both America and England of many ballads about infanticide,” songs such as “The Cruel Mother,” whose protagonist gives birth in secret to bastard twins, kills them and buries their bodies.   

“And then she said she would go home,” the lyric goes.

As she was in her father’s hall
She spied those babes a-playing at ball.
“Oh babes, oh babes if you were mine
I’d dress you up in silks so fine.”

“Oh mother dear, when we were thine
You dressed us not in silks so fine.
You took your penknife keen and sharp
And pierced us babies’ tender hearts.”

Then as always, however, cruelty was a forte of men. Olasky found a case from 1652 in the Archives of Maryland in which a bondservant named Susan Warren testified that her master, a Captain William Mitchell, had seduced her and, perceiving “she bore a child by him, he prepared a potion of physick overnight,” mixing it in a poached egg. He brought it to her in bed and “bid take, and she requesting to know for what, he said if she would not take it he would thrust it down her throat, so she being in bed could not withstand it.” The abortifacient made Susan “break into boils and blains, her whole body being scurfy, and the hair of her head almost fallen off.”

Olasky writes,

Susan Warren survived, but the baby was stillborn, and a grand jury indicted Mitchell for having ‘Murtherously endeavoured to destroy or Murther the Child by him begotten in the Womb of the Said Susan Warren.’ It could not be proven that Mitchell had murdered the child, but he was convicted of ‘adultery, fornication, and murtherous intention,’ fined five thousand pounds of tobacco, and required to give a bond for his future good behavior. Lord Baltimore forced him to resign as a member of the governor’s council, and he was forbidden to hold any public office in Maryland. Susan Warren received a whipping for fornication but was freed and discharged from any further service to Mitchell. Court records show Mitchell in repeated trouble thereafter.

Olasky comments in a footnote that the Maryland chronicler saw Mitchell’s actions “as a natural result of his beliefs: he made ‘a Common practice by blasphemous expressions and other-wise to mock and deride God’s Ordinances and all Religion, thereby to open a way to all wicked lustfull licentious and prophane Courses.’”

The Revolution Was Televised
When the modern 
sexual revolution was just getting started, when JFK had several years of secret philandering still ahead of him and Teddy had yet to meet Mary Jo, Hollywood actually turned out more than one film that sounded a cautionary note on the trend of the times.

In the 1959 weeper “The Best of Everything,” three Manhattan working girls get anything but the best. An aspiring actress dies in a fall from a fire escape while stalking the director who used her and dumped her. A guileless secretary throws herself from a playboy’s speeding sports car when she learns he’s taking her to an abortionist, not on an elopement. The heroine (Hope Lange), a rising figure in the publishing world, fares better. She’s able to fend off her boss’s under-the-table patty-fingers easily enough, but when her fiancé jilts her for another woman, then proposes to make her his mistress, she goes on a bender in the company of a co-worker who, luckily for her, is the only decent guy in the whole picture.

“Make love to me,” she begs him, but he puts her to bed and sits up all night watching over her. Naturally, true love ensues. Attention, frat boys: Only a scoundrel takes advantage of a girl who’s had too much to drink.

Where the Boys Are” from 1960 is even more explicit in its counterpoint to the revolution. The heroine (Dolores Hart) starts out preaching free love to her college classmates but learns better by the end of spring break in Fort Lauderdale with, again luckily, no lasting harm done. One of her friends isn’t so lucky. Passed from man to man, the girl ends up seeking death by walking down the center of a busy road at night. (Hart showed what she thought of the ’60s sex scene when, at the height of her success, she left Hollywood to become a nun.)

Alan Pakula, who as producer, director, or writer was responsible for such liberal movie milestones as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “All the President’s Men,” may have conceived “Love With the Proper Stranger” as an appeal for abortion’s legalization, but the story it tells is hardly a pitch for abortion itself. (Spoiler alert: the tale has a happy ending, an ending that involves courtship and marriage.) It’s not surprising that when Pakula died in a 1998 traffic accident, polls were showing American women increasingly opposed to legal abortion, with a corresponding devotion to sexual virtue, marriage, and religion.

Perhaps that trend has stalled in recent years, but today may be a watershed in favor of a sexual counterrevolution that is long overdue. Disgust with the workplace piggery of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, et al., and revulsion at the “hookup culture” (misnamed the “rape culture”) now prevailing on college campuses, may finally put paid to the era of “peace, love, dope.”

The Weinsteins of this world— the spiritual heirs of Maryland’s Captain Mitchell—may worry that the party’s over for them. But the rest of us can take heart. Abortion-weary, divorce-ridden and AIDS-plagued, our country may yet stumble past its “stupid experiment” with easy sex.

Some of us may even find a happy ending, just like in the movies.

Photo credit: Paramount/Getty Images

America • Big Media • Democrats • History • Hollywood • Law and Order • Movies • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Media

The Lion in Water: Some Facts About ‘Chappaquiddick’

Way back in July 1969, reporter Leo Damore covered Senator Edward Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick caper for the Cape Cod News. As he showed in his masterful Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up, everything Kennedy said about the incident was a lie.

Ted Kennedy rode his brother John’s coattails to win a seat from Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate in 1962. The next year, JFK was assassinated and brother Bobby fell to shooter Sirhan Sirhan in 1968. That led to speculation that Ted might be a contender for president by a simple process of family succession. For the full story, read The Kennedys: An American Drama, by Peter Collier and David Horowitz.

In July 1969, Senator Kennedy came to Cape Cod for a regatta and stashed brother Bobby’s “boiler room girls,” in a cottage on Chappaquiddick Island. The film version of “Chappaquiddick” plays this covert hook-up like a ’60s beach flick with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello and viewers won’t spot a single navel. Ted (Jason Clarke) slips away from the drunken bash with the beautiful Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). Viewers don’t see what’s going on in the black Oldsmobile, but it is possible to guess.

Spooked by a cop, Kennedy roars away and promptly drives off a bridge into Poucha Pond. The senator somehow gets out and one of his first thoughts is “I am not going to be president.” The senator leaves Mary Jo in the car, where she dies, and does not report the accident until the next day.

As the film shows in great detail, Ted deploys squads of heel-clicking sycophants to control the press, the police, the hearing, the medical examination, and the handling of Mary Jo’s body. He gets off with a tap on the wrist. Family scribe Ted Sorensen (Taylor Nichols) pens Kennedy’s explanatory television speech, which as another handler explains is “all bullshit.” At the funeral for Mary Jo, Joan Kennedy tells husband Ted, “go fuck yourself.” Viewers may agree, but this does not wrap the story.

“You will never be great,” family patriarch Joe Kennedy (Bruce Dern) tells Ted. As the film explains in text, Joe died four months later, and Ted went on to become the “lion” of the U.S. Senate. The takeaway is that the drunken control freak who left Mary Jo Kopechne to die did eventually become a great man. As Millennials should understand, even liberal Democrats of the time never thought Ted Kennedy was great.

In fact, it wasn’t even close.

There is hardly a personal tragedy in the husk that [Kennedy] has so patently become, because there never was enough of a nut inside it for even a squirrel to nibble on,” wrote Henry Fairlie in an October 18, 1987, New Republic piece headlined Hamalot: The Democratic Buffoon-in-Chief.” Fairlie found “little evidence that any wheels are turning inside his skull,” and “every image that the Democrats have to overcome—that they overtax the Middle Americans, try to meet social problems only with a proliferation of programs, are the junior partners of vociferous but marginal interest groups, look too carelessly at the credentials of the Third World movements and leaders, and neglect the security of the nation and of the free world—is kept alive by this buffoon.”

The buffoonish profile came through in the 1988 Saturday Night Live skit “Dukakis After Dark,” with Phil Hartman playing the beer-swigging Kennedy hitting on Kitty Dukakis. On the other hand, the ladies’ man did show a more serious side.

In 1984, Senator Kennedy sought help from the Soviet Union, then headed by the KGB’s Yuri Andropov, an old-line Stalinist. Kennedy offered to lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet boss would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. The gambit failed, and Reagan won in a landslide over both the Democrats’ Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro and Communist Party USA candidates Gus Hall and Angela Davis. Davis may now be seen in a pussy hat leading marches in Washington.

Senator Edward Kennedy’s collusion with Russian and American Communists would make a great movie but don’t look for it any time soon, if ever. Check out this headline from the July 6, 2017 People magazine: “A Kennedy Who Could Be President: Rep. Joe Kennedy on Potential Campaign and Un-Glamorous Hyannis Port Holidays.”

As Ted Kennedy explains in “Chappaquiddick,” it’s all about family.

Photo credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

America • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Media

The Real ‘Resistance’ Emerges as the Hollywood Left Founders

Four pillars of the American Left together explain its stranglehold on our culture: the Democratic Party, academia, the media, and Hollywood.

The Democrats are a mess. Failing the dramatic upset they predict in the November midterms, their fate will be sealed—for another cycle, anyway.

The media, too, is suffering. Americans do not trust what they read or hear from the mainstream press. The alternative media soldiers on, despite the mainstream’s best efforts to mock and dismiss it. And while academia remains a stubborn and formidable beast, Hollywood demonstrates again and again that it will be the last pillar of the Left to fall.

Although the first big blow to the influence of left-wing celebrities was Trump’s decisive victory over the NFL protests, Hollywood remained resilient. The onset of “#MeToo” led to a sort of distracting Hollywood cannibalism. Critics on the rightward end of the spectrum felt no compelling need to mount an attack on institutions that were already consuming themselves. Yet Hollywood was banking on appeasing the critics of industry-wide hypocrisy with sacrificial tokens meant to show now they really meant business when it came to equality and justice.

Hey, Funnyman! Be Funny! 
The crown jewel on the garbage pile of Hollywood leftism is Jimmy Kimmel, whose banal commentary on events continues to prove ever more tedious and affected. Whether he’s 
threatening Fox News hosts, shedding fake tears as he is pretending to be an expert on gun control, or declaring that his son having a heart condition makes him more of a medical expert than actual doctors, ordinary people saw sheer stupidity rather than the heroics that his fellow leftists reported after each of these displays.

So, naturally, Kimmel was invited to serve as the host of the Academy Awards for the second consecutive year. His rants supporting gun control, praising “diversity,” and leveling baseless criticism at President Trump were about as shocking a plot twist as the unmasking of the villain in an episode of “Scooby-Doo.”

As Hollywood’s denizens took a break from the hard work of raping each other to lecture middle America about how to behave, their hypocrisy finally met with the reception it deserved: silence. Nobody cared. Just as with the NFL, the American people responded by hitting these phony concern trolls where it hurts the most: the ratings. The 90th Oscar ceremony was the least-viewed in history, racking up just 26.5 million total viewers—a 16 percent drop over the previous year’s show.

Perhaps that was the true catalyst for a slow rise in a real “Resistance” and pushback against the status quo in Hollywood that we see coming now from both the average moviegoer and producers within the industry.

Life and Death at the Box Office
The remake of the 1974 cult classic “Death Wish,” starring Bruce Willis, may be one example of the kind of resistance we need. The film was subject to the baseless charge of “bad timing” in the wake of the Parkland shooting (as if the director, Eli Roth, could have anticipated the massacre). Other critics said they didn’t like the film because 
it wasn’t political enough, and because it didn’t preach why guns are bad. The first charge is absurd—the film is political. It’s just that the reviewer didn’t like the political message. The film is dedicated to socio-political themes, and the climax even serves as an argument in favor of owning guns. Politics only count, in the eyes of Hollywood, when the point they are advancing is one that the Left supports.

Audiences were oblivious to the critics and their Rotten Tomatoes rating of 17 percent. The audience approval rating was 81 percent. Is there a better example of the disconnect between the groupthink of Hollywood and the attitudes of most Americans?

But an action film remake, holding all the usual appeal for a wide audience, was not the only film to defy the Left’s hatred and perform well. Faith-based films, the Left’s absolute favorite target for scorn and ridicule, have exceeded expectations in the last few weeks, with the biographical dramas “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” and “I Can Only Imagine” outperforming their competition and smashing box office expectations. “I Can Only Imagine,” based on the best-selling song of the same name by the band MercyMe, performed exceptionally well; it grossed over $42 million on a $7 million budget, and earned a rare perfect score of A+ from CinemaScore, becoming one of fewer than 80 films in history to receive such a grade from the nearly 40-year-old publication.

Parker and Stone’s Apostasy
But if the revolt by audiences wasn’t enough, then the slow but sure shift of some of Hollywood’s own producers has definitely sent up alarm bells through their gated communities. First, it was the “
coming out” of Republicans Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the long-running animated series “South Park.” The show has garnered a reputation as extremely politically incorrect, making fun of conservatives and liberals alike; but when the object is humor, the creators acknowledged, tired jokes about President Trump had quickly become “boring” as they were overdone. Though the creators fess up to being politically right of center, they bow first to comedy. Trump jokes were axed because they were stale; not because they assaulted a sacred cow.

But Parker and Stone also one-upped the monolithic entertainment Left by showing them how performance art is really done. Their bold “coming out” as Republicans happened as they both received an award from the left-wing organization “People for the American Way Foundation.”

After being handed the “Freedom Award” by an organization whose mission is to “Defeat Trump and the Right Wing in 2018,” Parker and Stone took to the stage and declared, twice: “We’re Republicans . . . no, seriously, we’re Republicans.” This just goes to show that true masters of the comedic art are funny no matter what their politics are and, moreover, their politics are not evident in their art. There is no way People for the American Way would have awarded those guys a “Freedom Award” had they known their political leanings, but that there was sufficient ambiguity about their leanings to garner them this award is instructive.

As radio host Larry Elder described it, their revelation was met with “nervous laughter” from the progressive audience. It ought to have come as no surprise. Tedious leftists are no more funny than tedious conservatives are, but it’s difficult to be anything other than tedious if one is a leftist today.

Roseanne’s Return—With More to Come?
Given this, what could be funnier than trolling an entire audience of tedious leftists? The revival of the sitcom “Roseanne,” aims to find out. Starring comedian Roseanne Barr, the politically-charged nature of the premiere and the overwhelmingly positive response of audiences garnered “Roseanne” widespread attention. The show promised to avoid clichés and to confront familial divisions over politics with honesty.

Barr’s own political leanings have been hard left for a long while. She even ran for the presidential nomination of the Green Party in 2012. When she lost that nomination to ultra-leftist Jill Stein, Barr then ran as the nominee of the equally left-wing Peace and Freedom Party, with notorious leftist and anti-Bush activist Cindy Sheehan as her running mate. She received 67,000 votes overall, roughly 0.05 percent of the national tally.

Despite this, Barr has also tired of tedious leftism and argued for a need to move the needle away from the predictable and polarized responses of exhausted partisan debate. She supported Trump in the 2016 election because he was the outsider. She then took her support for Trump a few miles further with the revival of her sitcom. In the premiere of the reboot, there was absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever as to the political leanings of the main character, Roseanne Conner: She is now a firm Trump supporter, who frequently makes fun of liberals, feminists, fake news, and other easy targets.

The only thing left was to sit back and wait for the ratings to come in, and they did not disappoint. The season premiere was viewed by a stunning 18.2 million, exceeding all expectations. It performed almost as well as the Stormy Daniels interview on “60 Minutes,” which greatly underperformed its own expectations. The show’s resounding success had echoes of the ratings success of another sitcom that defied liberal norms before it was canceled for its political beliefs, Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing.” Now, Fox is reportedly considering reviving that show.

A beast as large, as powerful, and as well-funded as Hollywood will not be defeated easily. But in these episodic victories for the common sense opinions of ordinary Americans, we can begin to see what America might look like if Hollywood would concern itself with actual entertainment again as opposed to sermonizing. It’s a much funnier and happier place. Here’s hoping they might recall it.

Photo credit: Gotham/GC Images

Big Media • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Hillary Clinton • Hollywood • Law and Order • Movies • Post • The Courts • The Left • The Media

Presence of Malice

In the ongoing saga that is Washington, thousands of government emails go missing and a strange dossier charts a bevy of bedwetting prostitutes. The cast of this tale features, among others, a former FBI boss, several shadowy Russians, an American Soviet scholar with a short-wave radio, and a British spy we might call Agent 00$6.95.

The tale also stars FBI lovebirds trading texts about a secret society in the Justice Department and a mysterious “insurance policy.” By all indications, this policy was to be claimed in case a real estate developer named Donald Trump should actually win the White House. Which he did. The story ought to make for a blockbuster movie. Except that it would be a remake. In 1981,Absence of Malicealready dramatized some of the story’s key themes.

Down in Miami, union boss Joey Diaz has been murdered, but the authorities have no suspects. So prosecutor Elliot Rosen (Bob Balaban) goes looking for somebody to frame. His target is liquor distributor Michael Gallagher, son of a deceased gangster, played by Paul Newman in probably his best performance.

Rosen leaks a fake story that Gallagher is under investigation in the Diaz case. Reporter Megan Carter, played by Academy Award-winner Sally Field, consults Davidek, the paper’s attorney, played by John Harkins. As he explains, “as a matter of law, the truth is irrelevant. We have no knowledge the story is false, therefore we’re absent malice. We’ve been both reasonable and prudent, therefore we’re not negligent. We can say what we like about him. He can’t do us harm. Democracy is served.”

Carter discovers that when Diaz was killed, Gallagher had taken his Catholic friend Teresa Peron to Atlanta for an abortion. When that becomes public, Peron kills herself.  

“Couldn’t you see what it meant to her?” Gallagher says. “Didn’t you like her?”

The stricken Carter then outs Elliott Rosen as the source of the leak. Gallagher, his business and reputation now in ruins, makes a plan.

He tells District Attorney Quinn he will find out what he can about Diaz if Quinn will publicly drop the investigation. At the same time, Gallagher makes anonymous donations to Quinn’s campaign for mayor. Rosen thinks it’s a bribe and leaks the story to Carter. Enter James A. Wells, assistant U.S. attorney general, wonderfully played by Wilford Brimley.

“You call what’s going on around here a leak?” Wells says. “Boy, the last time there was a leak like this, Noah built hisself a boat.”

They can talk it over there, or the marshal would hand them a subpoena “and we’ll go on downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury.” Rosen can’t prove that Gallagher intended to bribe Quinn to drop the investigation. The innocent Gallagher is duly cleared but the damage is done.

“We can’t have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons,” Wells says. “It ain’t legal, and worse than that, by God, it ain’t right.”  For the alert viewer, the parallels jump off the screen.

Deep State insiders leak information because they hate Donald Trump. So does the establishment media and, as with attorney Davidek, the truth of their fake stories is irrelevant to their purpose of harming the president.

The movie involves an actual crime but the investigation of Trump is based on allegations that Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election. To date, there is no evidence for this allegation but the investigation continues, with former FBI boss Robert Mueller leading a squad of Hillary Clinton supporters.

It was already known that Russia intervened in U.S. elections by running their own candidates. Former CIA boss John Brennan even voted for one of them, the slobbering Stalinist Gus Hall.

Hillary Clinton’s gross negligence with classified information and her destruction of evidence are actual crimes, but the FBI let the former first lady off the hook and set about framing Trump. That explains Hillary’s recent monologue in India.

“I win the coast,” she said. “I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product. So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.” Her target audience was Robert Mueller, her insurance agent working three shifts to depose Trump and, somehow, install the woman who “won” all the good parts of the country.

The probe may be legal under the independent counsel statute, but as James Wells said, by God it ain’t right, and democracy is not served.

Elliott Rosen said, “I’m not quitting.” But Wells told him, “You got 30 days.” In similar style, President Trump fired “Leakin’ James Comey” and Jeff Sessions fired corrupt Clinton crony Andrew McCabe, but that hardly ends the story.

Nellie and Bruce Ohr, James Strzok, Lisa Page and many other Deep State insiders need to testify, under oath, in front of congressional committees, a grand jury, and quite possibly a criminal court. That’s the dialogue the people need to hear. Some producer could make a film and title it “Presence of Malice.” Odds are, a lot of people would go see it.

America • History • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture

Celebrating American Greatness in the Shadow of 9/11

Something really interesting has been going on over at Malpaso Productions, Clint Eastwood’s movie production company. The three most recent films Eastwood produced and directed comprise a trilogy with a theme worthy of our attention.

The theme emerges most clearly if we begin with “Sully,” the second film in the series. “Sully” tells the story of “the Miracle on the Hudson.” On Jan. 15, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles managed to do the impossible. US Airways Flight 1549 from New York’s La Guardia Airport slammed into a flock of geese right after takeoff, causing both engines to fail. The successful water landing on the river next to Manhattan saved the lives of all 155 people on board—and averted another disaster for the city similar to the one on 9/11.

9/11 is subtly evoked throughout the film, and the very first moments brilliantly establish the connection between 1/15/09 and 9/11/01. (Please allow me to pass over how the film begins without further comment. I don’t want to spoil it for you when you watch, or re-watch, the movie.)    

“Sully” tells the story of a miracle, and is itself a kind of cinematic miracle. This is filmmaking at its best. Like Captain Sullenberger managing to do the impossible, Clint Eastwood manages to do what most directors won’t even attempt because it is simply too difficult. He tells a story we all know, tells it as it actually happened, and succeeds in making a great film. He even makes a film in Hollywood that celebrates America!

Eastwood makes it very clear to us that he is celebrating America. At the close of the hearings that are part of the investigation into the forced landing on the Hudson, one of the investigators tells the Sully character, brilliantly played by Tom Hanks, that no matter how many times they run the numbers in simulations, they can’t get what happened to happen. There is, she says, an “X” factor and you, Captain Sullenberger, are that “X” factor. Hanks’ Sully adroitly turns her compliment aside, pointing instead to the professionalism of his crew, the behavior of the passengers, and the response by the professionals and by the citizens who simply happened to be in the vicinity who rushed to help.

That is as close as the Sully character and Eastwood come to filling out the meaning of the “X” factor, but clearly we are meant to understand that “Sully” is not just about Sullenberger. Eastwood drives the point home by ending the film with documentary footage of the Americans who survived Flight 1549 celebrating together what happened on that day.

The first film in the trilogy, “American Sniper,” also returns us to the real world at the end of the film with actual footage of a very different kind of celebration. Great numbers of Americans and many American flags line the funeral procession of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Kyle saved countless lives, and became a legend among U.S. forces. That made him a prime target of the enemy, placing him in greater and greater danger through four tours of duty in Iraq, only to be murdered at home by someone he was trying to help.

Like Captain Sullenberger, Kyle’s astonishing skill puts him far beyond the ordinary. Yet, in keeping with our theme of American greatness, the film is not titled “The Chris Kyle Story.” It is, the title tells us, the story of an American sniper, told with the brilliance we have come to expect from Eastwood.

In the third film, Eastwood goes all the way.

“The 15:17 To Paris” tells another well-known true story of American greatness. Three young Americans on vacation in Europe subdue a jihadist on a speeding train, saving everyone on board. Once again, we are in the shadow of 9/11. “15:17” has elements of the story of United Flight 93 on 9/11 when a heroic band of Americans on board rushed the jihadis who had taken over the airplane.

There are some very interesting differences between “15:17” and the other two films in the Eastwood trilogy. Sully and Kyle are heroic men of astonishing gifts and abilities. The three Americans in “15:17,” Anthony SadlerAlek Skarlatos, and especially Spencer Stone, who displayed astonishing bravery and survived miraculously, are American heroes, yet they are also the boys next door in your hometown.

In working through the theme of American greatness, Eastwood’s trilogy brings it back home to us by showing us that we cannot just rely on our Sully Sullenbergers and Chris Kyles. In the end, American greatness has to come down to you, and me, and the American who lives next door or is in the seat next to us. Eastwood drives that point home in how he ends the film.

“15:17” closes with actual footage of the three being honored in a parade in their hometown of Sacramento, California. Like “Sully” and “American Sniper,” “15:17” returns us to the real world—but with another big difference. The actual heroes being honored are also the actors in the film. Eastwood chose to have the three Americans play themselves, and very successfully too. It might be said of a decision like that one, “You have to work up to a thing like that.” Indeed.

See them all and be part of celebrating American greatness.

America • Big Media • First Amendment • Free Speech • Hollywood • Movies • Post • The Culture • The Media

And the Oscar Goes To . . .

The best acceptance speeches are the most gracious ones. I will be grateful if those are the only speeches actors and directors deliver at the 90th Annual Academy Awards.

I will be grateful if, instead of having to listen to my colleagues use the lectern to lecture my fellow Americans; instead of having to hear condemnations of the president, which is the cheapest way—the most sheepish way, too—to elicit applause from a crowd of intellectual sheep, who howl like wolves and dress like penguins; instead of having to wince if (or when) the host, whose many acts of charity I can attest to and whose love for his infant son is a testament of devotion, politicizes the show with partisan attacks, I hear graciousness and gratitude. I will be grateful to watch the show without having to look away when a winner uses the occasion to inveigh against the supposedly imminent destruction of the First Amendment—and the need to destroy the Second Amendment. I will be grateful if the winners exercise their freedom of speech by excising politics from their speeches.

We need a break from the fighting words of one side, even though this war is more real than rhetorical, what with the shooting of a Republican congressman and the calls to shoot to kill the president of the United States. We need the nominees and winners to do what they do best—act. We need them to act like they are modest and grateful, not mendacious and graceless. We need them to entertain us, not enrage us.

If they want to send a message, let them forgo Western Union and instead travel the Union. Let them see the country not as a sea of red to their seacoasts of blue. Let them see the country for what it is, neither a series of gated communities nor a surplus of rusted—and abandoned—factory gates, but a nation more proud than pitiful; more patriotic than prejudiced; more resilient than resentful; more determined than despondent. Let them start by taking the time to stop, to stop telling us how we should live when their lives are mostly the trifles of the rich and famous—not the troubles of millions in Middle America.

If they would stop, we might all stop to see how no one is immune from the vagaries of life. We might see how no man or woman, not even in Malibu, can cheat time or escape death. Indeed, some celebrities are all but dead on the inside; dead, not because of the evil that they do, but because of what the evil of addiction does to them. We might, then, see that the difference between the alcoholic and the addict is more a matter of money than of morals. If anything, the opioid addict—the military combat veteran battling chronic pain—has a greater claim to sympathy than the movie star who absolves his sins with absinthe (or bottles of apricot brandy).

I was that celebrity, until I saw the light of my own life almost fade to black. I am no prodigal son, but I am very lucky to have parents of such prodigious kindness. Their love sustains me—it sometimes surprises me—because it is unconditional, which is rare in a town where everything seems to have some codicil or condition. Perhaps that explains their love for each other, though they are no longer married to one another, because they have a bond stronger than any contract. They know who they are, two souls with no urge to profit themselves by trying to gain the world.

They are smart enough to know that character counts more than a character-count of bile; that posturing is a spineless pose; that it takes backbone to stand up—and speak out—when it is easier to say what others want to hear; that there is no award for decency, but there is a kingdom for the few who are good.

Maybe the princes and princesses of Hollywood will recognize that fact before they prance and preen on the red carpet. Maybe they will show some maturity by thanking moviegoers, instead of thinking of themselves as exempt from giving thanks. Maybe they will recognize, too, that their contempt is itself contemptuous; that they can say what they want, and I want all Americans to have their say, except when it comes to saying “fire” in a theater where I (please, God) draw a crowd. But there comes a time when a theater must close, because ticket prices are too high and the heights of modern culture are too low to keep filmmakers in business.

The timing may be right, but do not expect actors to use their time to concede their wrongdoing. Do not expect them to have second thoughts, when their first thought is certitude and their certainty leaves no room for doubt. Do not expect them to speak of the indivisibility of the nation, when they seek to sow division nationwide.

Now is not the time for awards. Not when show business is politics for beautiful people, whose words are as vacuous as their ideas; whose grand idea is to have ideas; whose ideals are far from ideal; whose beliefs are too hard to believe.

Now is the time for those of considerable means to show contrition—to be sorry—for mistaking the extremism of their vices as virtues in the defense of their ideology.

Use your time wisely, and avoid this waste of time.