Sunday, April 23, 2017

Five One-Minute Film Reviews

Over the past month, I've been catching up on movies. As is usually the case, there were surprises good and bad. I'll start with the most disappointing and end with the best of the batch:

1. Fences
Denzel Washington is my favorite actor; that hasn't changed. My personal policy is to see every film he makes. That has not changed, either. With the critical acclaim surrounding "Fences," and the clips I had glimpsed, I couldn't wait to watch the movie.

It was a bit of a let-down. Obviously at first a stage play, the script was so dialog-laden that I felt a vague headache stirring about fifteen minutes in. The movie was too long, the characters too long-winded, and Washington's character was less than likeable, to put it mildly. I suffered through it, but I'll never watch it again. Instead, I'll await the next Denzel Washington movie.

2. Manchester by the Sea
First of all, Casey Affleck deserved his Academy Award. His portrayal of a man broken by bad choices and life's cruelty is superb. But, come on--is being depressed for two hours really how you want to spend movie night? Add this one, also, to my list of Never See Again Movies. It was like watching an individualized version of Schindler's List (another movie I'll never see again). Too relentlessly sad to be worthy of my time.

3. Patriots Day
Things are starting to look up, movie fans. Although we all know the terrible true story of the Boston Marathon bombing, the film managed to build suspense and hold my attention throughout. Mark Wahlberg, another of my favorite actors, gives an outstanding portrayal of a Boston cop in the thick of the drama. I'd watch this one again.

4. Kong: Skull Island
A friend chose this movie from the theater marquee as her birthday treat, so I went in with absolutely no expectations beyond two hours of boredom and misery. What a pleasant surprise instead to watch a film with an original twist on a very old plot, a rocking soundtrack from the 60s and 70s, a quality cast with performances to match, and stunning special effects beyond compare. I liked how the director incorporated so many elements of the original King Kong film, giving them a modern spin. Definitely a go-see.

5. Beauty and the Beast
Disney is never junk, and this movie is one of its better offerings in recent years. The plot closely follows the animated film from the 90s, the actors (including voice-overs) do a great job, the special effects are captivating, and the "tale as old as time" holds up beautifully. I was waiting to see what the much-hyped "gay moments' would entail. As I suspected, they were only mildly suggestive and will fly over a young child's head. Now can we all just agree that "gay is good" and move on with our lives? I'm weary of having sexual orientation shoved in my face at every entertainment turn. Other than that, this is an exquisite production that will be a classic favorite for years to come.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Incoming Roar - Mark Steyn

"The Incoming Roar" by Mark Steyn is an important article, quite sobering reading because it is so bluntly accurate. I don't know what it will take for Western civilization (such as it is) to wake up to the ominous reality we are facing.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Action, At Last

The Democrats and the dinosaur media hate him with almost hysterical fury, but the man knows how to make a decision. President Trump wasted little time in sending a strong message to Syria's master butcher Assad that formerly symbolic "red lines" are now very real and are to be crossed at one's own peril.

It's not like the world is becoming any safer as the free world watches and waits in vain for the bad actors to improve. Speaking as just one American, I'm grateful. I'll take decisive action over a lofty lecture any day of the week. The strike on Syria's air fields was a game changer; any leader who may have been considering challenging Trump's presidency--or attacking the United States--now has reason to pause for long thought. Finally, a president who isn't afraid to act instead of talk.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Tuning Out

I'm entirely sick of the news of the day;
I wish it would all just go quickly away.
I'm tired of Russia, I'm weary of Putin,
Now we hear Susan Rice has been snoopin'
The media spins and twists so well, Trump is the worst of the world, so they tell--
But Assad and Kim Jong create living hell,
So how do we deal with the "woe-is-us" theme?
Nothing is ever the way it may seem.
If news that we're hearing today is all "fake"
Then hearing or watching it is a mistake. 
It's time to tune out and read a good book--
I'll watch news again when it's worth half a look.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Officer Down

The late Pc Keith Palmer of the U.K.
Every murder is terrible. Yet the murder of police officers is especially horrifying to me. As is true of the military, cops are people whose job it is to put their lives on the line for us every day. When one of them loses his or her own life while protecting us, I feel a quiet fury unlike any other emotion.

Pc (Police constable) Keith Palmer was a fifteen-year police veteran. As is usually the case in these atrocities, Palmer was also a husband and father. His end-of-watch came quite unexpectedly this morning, as he suddenly was called upon to stand in the gap between unfathomable evil and the Parliament of his country. Officer Palmer succeeded, at the cost of his life. He was a courageous man whose soul deserves more than peaceful rest. Like noble officers everywhere who die in the line of duty, Keith Palmer is entitled to fierce justice. May it arrive swiftly.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Karma Trainwreck

Oops -- wrong way!
With the ongoing, exhausting drumbeat of Russian interference in last fall's presidential election, the media and the Democrats have been relentlessly working to diminish the Trump presidency into a burden the American public no longer wants to carry. Even Richard Nixon was not nearly so beseiged as Donald J. Trump.

But as the adage goes, "Be careful what you wish for..." Fighting back in a tweet-storm, President Trump accused former President Obama of "wire tapping" him. While the initial accusation was predictably treated by the elites as the ravings of a lunatic, something very interesting does appear to be afoot. And it now involves Obama as well as Trump.

Those who believe in the law of karma believe that both the good and the bad we do in life comes back to us--sometimes with startling rapidity. We have no way of knowing where this increasingly deep rabbit hole of accusations will lead. But I'm willing to hazard a guess that it won't be in a direction the Democrat machine had hoped.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Faith in Action

 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

 ~ Psalm 91

I watched the movie Hacksaw Ridge last night. Based on the life of Desmond Doss, it's a remarkable story from many perspectives, most notably the determination of one man to stand by his principles at any cost, his inspired courage under horrifying circumstances, and the power of faith in action against terrible odds. In the midst of such towering drama, there is the underpinning of a sweet and timeless love story.

Mel Gibson directs, and as might be expected from his previous war films, the battle scenes are brutal to watch. But Hacksaw Ridge is not simply Braveheart with rifles and grenades. Doss was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor; he refused to touch a rifle. This fact alone is a departure for Gibson, who has built a career playing and directing violent action heroes. Yet there is a gritty realism in the battle scenes, a frightening sense of being on the battlefield, that Gibson's previous work does not approximate. This is a riveting historical story, and the directing does not get in the way of telling it.

Hacksaw Ridge is nominated for several Academy Awards, and tonight we'll find out if it won any of them. But awards are far beside the point. What Desmond Doss accomplished in the battle for Okinawa is nothing if not miraculous. What besides divine providence could have protected a weaponless man who stayed behind alone on a dangerous battlefield that was overrun by the enemy and risked his life to rescue more than seventy wounded soldiers? It's a rhetorical question that summarizes an outstanding movie.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What's in a Name?

"I see but one rule--to be clear."

~ Stendhal

Even for our contentious political times, there is an inordinate amount of mud-slinging going on. The heights of hysteria among the anti-Trump media and left-wingers is startling in its naked ferocity. Demonstrators hurl all manner of epithets, but it's reaching a level of incoherence that's quite stunning in its stupidity. Most notable, to me, is the incessant name-calling.

On a daily, almost minute-to-minute basis, media broadcasters, political opponents, Hollywood celebrities, academics, and lefty protestors accuse Trump of being fascist, racist, sexist, or xenophobic.

That's a ton of nasty adjectives being tossed about. Do the accusers understand what the words actually mean? Using the primary definition in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, let's take a look at these favorites:
1. Fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
But President Trump celebrates the individual, especially small business owners. He has already started to reduce governmental burdens upon them by decreasing regulations. As for suppressing opposition, he's largely ignoring it. I don't see the criminals from the Berkeley riots being rounded up and thrown into prison camps. The real fascists are the protestors burning cars, breaking windows, injuring people, and attacking anyone who disagrees with them. Now, there's "social regimentation" for you.
2. Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
I have known very few people in my lifetime that fit this description, which is surprising considering the everyday prevalence of this slur. I don't believe the president is a "racist" in the definitive sense of the word. Today, anyone with a differing viewpoint is promptly labeled "a racist." It's become a one-size-fits-all insult, to the point that the term "racist" is now essentially meaningless. That is too bad, because it's an important concept that should be clearly understood in its ugly, evil entirety.
3. Sexism: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; esp.: discrimination against women.
You would have a hard time proving this one by President Trump's UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of Education Betty DeVos, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and first female winning presidential campaign manager and now Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. Not to mention his respectful closeness with his daughter and advisor, Ivanka.
4. Xenophobia: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.
If President Trump were xenophobic, he wouldn't have built worldwide business relationships with countries spanning the globe from Indonesia to Mumbai, from the Philippines to the Dominican Republic. What he does fear and hate is terrorist attacks on our country. It is a stubborn fact that the active terrorists most intensely focused on killing us are radical Islamists. Yes, he hates that. If that makes him xenophobic, I guess I am, too. So are most Americans. That's why Trump's president now.

Reasonable adults can differ without being insulting to one another. Meaningful debate requires a knowledge of the facts, emotional maturity, and solid critical thinking skills. Highly recommended, too, is a close relationship with a good dictionary.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Easy for You to Say

I suppose many of us have been following the endless explosion of news over the past few weeks. Aside from becoming weary of the media's mass hysteria and the ongoing spitting matches between "journalists" and the new president, I've heard enough bad grammar and inaccurate word usage that I'm surprised my teeth aren't ground down to stubs.

Below is my list of the "Top Ten Clangers" heard and seen in video, audio, and print:

1.  "Take a listen" 
What does this mean? How do you "take" listening? You don't! You just "Listen." If you're inviting others to join you, maybe say "Let's listen." But listening can't be taken.

2.   "Pundint"
It's "pundit," only one "n"--even many of the pundits say "pundint," proving they don't even know what they are (which is not surprising).

3.  "Waiting on"
This is increasingly used instead of "waiting for." Tables in a restaurant are "waited on." Customers in line are "waited on." If you're waiting for someone to arrive, or if you're waiting to watch a news clip, you are "waiting for" the person or thing.

4. "Old adage"
An "adage" is an old, time-honored saying that has entered general usage in the language. It is, by definition, old. When you say "old adage," you're saying "old old saying." I'm too old to waste that much time double-speaking.

5.  "Then" vs. "Than"
I see this more often now, also. "Better then," instead of "better than." It occurs in print often enough that I know it's not a typo; the writers really don't know the difference. Neither do the editors, which is more sad than amusing.

6. "Acrost"
I hear this more often than I see it, so maybe it's a verbal tick the speaker picked up in childhood due to regional pronunciations. But if you're working in media, you should know that the word is spelled and pronounced "across."

7.  "Expecially"
Yes, I often hear this from the same speakers that say "acrost." I know they mean "especially," but shouldn't they learn how to say it correctly? Especially if they are broadcasting?

8.  "Ek-cetera"
From the Latin "et," which means "and," and "cetera," meaning "the others," there is no "K" sound anywhere in this common term. The familiar abbreviation is "etc."--not "ekc."--so I do not understand the insistence on "ek" upfront.

9.  "Nuc-U-lar"
This one makes me crazy. There is only one "U" in "nuclear"! Try it this way: say "new"--good, stop! Now immediately say "clear"--New + Clear = Nuclear. Easy!

10. "It's" vs. "Its"
This is my all-time pet peeve in print. "It's" is a contraction of "it is"--it is NOT the possessive form of "it." "Its"--no apostrophe!--is its own word and is the possessive form of "it."