The Political is Personal, and Occasionally Cinematic.

Over in the Movie Bonanza post, Trooper York refers to some people whom he will not part with his money–or even attention–for. His last response is worth quoting in full:

I don’t really get mad. I just refuse to waste my time on people I detest because of politics or something they have done in real life. Like Woody Allen or Roman Polanski. I can get through my life just fine without giving them any of my money. There is currently a move to rehablitate Polanski, I wonder how that will go.

But Robin Williams and Sarah Jessica Parker are the King and Queen of the Dammned.

I was going to say that I’m not particularly that way, although it is true that I’m pretty strict about avoiding giving Microsoft money. But individuals? I don’t generally feel it.

I have enough unpopular ideas that, were I to enforce any sort of ideological purity, I’d never be able to watch or buy anything. But are there limits? Well, I won’t go to see Michael Moore any longer, but that’s because he’s convinced me that he’s actually a bad person. I actually wish some of the ideas he promotes had as eloquent a voice in someone less vile. (So, there’s a rule: If you want me to stop purchasing your wares, simply exult in treating others badly.)

Now, Roman Polanski is an interesting case. Troop is right that there are forces trying to rehab him. It doesn’t seem to be in dispute that he drugged and raped a 14-year-old girl, and whether her mother set them both up is rather irrelevant to that. The girl (now a woman in her 40s) has forgiven him, but perhaps that’s not really relevant. It’s easy to say, “Yes, Polanski is worthy of censure.”

But what does that mean? OK, no more going to Polanski movies. Well, I think I’ve been to one (The Ninth Gate) without knowing it was his. But does it mean, say, we don’t watch Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby? Forever, or for a few years, or what?

What is it we’re trying to accomplish? Or are we not trying to accomplish anything, and this is just the one remnant of “polite society” left? “We have few standards, but we don’t watch movies by rapists.”

Polanski’s aberrations are not his art, unlike the previously mentioned Michael Moore. He doesn’t exult in raping 14-year-olds, I don’t think, and he certainly doesn’t film that. I probably would have gone to see the Leni Reifenstahl movie had Jodie Foster managed to make it, but I don’t think I’d have gone to see a Reifenstahl movie, had she made one in recent decades. Her art was her undoing as well. Polanski seems to me (by contrast) to be an ethically weak, drug-addled celebrity of the sort we excel in creating here.

I don’t have anything conclusive to add, really.

Except maybe: Forget it, Troop, it’s just Tinseltown.

Lorenzo’s Snake Oil

I have mentioned here before, I think, that I am a fan of snake oil. Maybe not. But I am.

One of the reasons we’re in the current health care mess is that doctors lobbied very successfully to lock their trade down and to enlist the government’s help in beating the tar out of anyone who might compete.

This was a long battle, going back into the middle ages, actually, but fought particularly fiercely in the past two centuries. You can see casualties in likely geniuses such as Ignaz Semmelweis and likely quacks such as Wilhelm Reich. My great-grandmother used to cure tuberculosis patients–I’m not sure how, since she stopped early in her life when they threatened to throw her in jail for it.

Let that sink in for a bit: She was threatened with jail for curing TB. She didn’t charge for this, and her patients were people who had been sent out west by the doctors to die. Even so, she was a big enough threat for the local medical establishment (100 years ago now, mind you, and in a relatively small midwestern town) to leverage the force of the government against her.

Here in California, I believe it’s illegal to say you can cure anything.

I’ve had some interesting run-ins with snake oil.

This diet, for example, saved one of my kid’s life. It was fascinating because at the time we had a doctor who clearly cared–went out of his way to care for a child he knew was consigned to a shortened life of seizures and ineffective (and harmful) medications. He was a very good man, I think, and yet he resisted, strongly, even so much as trying the diet.

His resistance persisted well into the diet being successful.

Let that sink in for a while.

Anyway, this same doctor, in trying to dissuade us, brought up Lorenzo’s Oil. We hadn’t seen it–still haven’t, actually–but people kept referencing it, and curiously they all had different stories about what happened at the end. This doctor, for example, insisted that Lorenzo died in the movie.

So it was interesting to me to read that Lorenzo had just died at the age of 30.

I’ve seen a lot of this–it’s not hard to find people defying conventional medicine. It’s also not hard to find people hawking snake oil. Part of the Nanny State Americans accepted over half-a-century ago was the transfer to the government of the power to decide how to handle their bodies. (Unless it’s an abortion, of course.)

But while doctors can peddle drugs that have success rates about at the level of placebo (and some even perform worse!), and can physically harm you as long as the treatment conforms to some legal principle, non-doctors are thrown in jail (or threatened) for being successful.

I’ve done some treatments that worked for me, and I used to engage in debates about “scientific” principles and the like, but of course, all that I really care about if I have a health problem, is getting rid of that problem. I don’t care if I’m cured by a placebo effect or not. Hell, I’d prefer the placebo effect, since side-effects tend to be pretty low.

But I suppose that’s another freedom we won’t be getting back.

Sex And The City: Men vs. Women

I mentioned in an earlier post that I never really referenced SatC as a “chick” show, since it’s parodic enough that the women therein don’t remind me of any real women I know, and that I might go see the movie.

But the movie has a 4.3 IMDB rating which is suspiciously low. That’s Uwe Boll territory. Ed Wood-land. When you get a movie like this, you can tell a lot by the demographic breakdown on IMDB. The two ratings SatC got more than any other are 1 and 10: This usually suggests motivations other than just a normal moviegoer’s interest. People are politically invested in seeing the movie succeed or fail.

What’s interesting to me is that while men rate the movie around a 3, the women rate it only at 7-ish. (With ratings inflation, 7 on IMDB is a so-so score. Watchable, probably forgettable or highly flawed.)

And what’s even more interesting (to me) is that the women’s numbers fall of with age: Young women like it more than 30-somethings, who like it more than the 40+ crowd.

Feel free to interpret the data as you see fit.

Meine Dispatcher Tells Me There’s A Problem With Deine Kable?

The Cable Guy is here (shut up, he’s just fixing the cable) because I plugged in a TV into the HDMI port and got no audio. And then, when I plugged the old TV back in, certain channels came in scrambled.

It only happens with the HD channels coming through the component port, and only some of the channels. He’s baffled.

Me, I think it’s DRM. Somewhere in the “who’s got permission to do what” logic, they’ve screwed it up. Of course, this guy has no chance of figuring that out (if it’s true) since it’s buried somewhere in the logic of the cable box. The analog ports are all supposed to be open anyway, since older TVs don’t conform to any protection schemes.

But that’s just the paranoid rantings of someone who’s been banging his head against copy protection aimed at paying customers while the thieves run rampant.

In The Queue

Having listed the movies that are coming out this summer, I notice my own queue contains only one potential film on that list.

Son of Rambow, about some young outsider kids who make their own sequel to (presumably) “Rambo”, including doing their own stunts, etc., and who have to deal with the popularity making the movie brings.

If I can, I’ll see Refusenik, about the fate of Soviet Jews.

I may see The Fall, which was inappropriately previewed during Prince Caspian. I didn’t care much for The Cell, though it was undoubtedly striking. I just think you can have striking visuals and a coherent, compelling plot.

And the last one? Sex in the City. My grandfather loved that show. He died in his ‘90s a few years ago, and went from the Depression and Hedy Lamarr to the raunchy antics of Sex in the City in his lifetime. I got him the first season on video, but I don’t think he ever knew how to work the VCR.

As with most shows I watch, I’ll watch the first season or two and then lose interest. SatC was no different, but I did enjoy the show when I did catch it. I didn’t really think about what it “meant” because it wouldn’t have occurred to me to relate to it beyond a very basic, human level. And the show was cleverly written and reasonably sound dramatically.

Did it encourage promiscuity? Is it a bad role model? Meh. Remember “The Love Boat”? That was pretty much a show that was nothing but an assortment of people getting around to having sex, most of it casual. And the sex solved all their problems.

The beauty of having women act like gay men (as The Simpson’s described it) is that you have an excuse for nudity and titillating sex scenes that, let’s face it, if they were gay men, would really turn off the straight male audience.

I guess the other side of this is that, week after week, there was a strong undercurrent of unhappiness among the four women. They were always vaguely–or not so vaguely–unsatisfied by their lives.

So I never could see why anyone would want to take them as a role model.

Still, funny show. Come to think of it, sort of like Seinfeld.

Summer Movies

A site called First Showings has a list of a bunch of summer movies.

The first five have come out: Iron Man, Speed Racer, Prince Caspian, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Sex in the City. (Cliff’s Note Reviews: Great, Awful, Pretty Good, OK for the nostalgic, and OK for chicks.) And, for those keeping score, I’ve seen just Iron Man and Caspian.

There are a lot of cringe-worthy titles remaining on the list. A lot seem like they might be really horrible or possibly really great, but most will land squarely in mediocrity-ville. For example, the Get Smart cast looks as good as it could possibly be, but is it likely to recapture any of the magic of the series?

I can’t think of a single comedy remake in my lifetime that has worked. Not a one, unless you count the campy update of Brady Bunch–which was a spoof, not a remake. I may be overlooking one, mind you, but mostly, they’re just not funny.

I think the Hellboy sequel will be better than the original. Just a hunch. And the original was not great.

There’s a scene in Ratatouille where a food experience takes one of the characters back to his childhood, and reignites the passion he once had for food. When I was a kid, I absolutely loved trailers: There’s always something hopeful about an upcoming movie that used to excite me tremendously–though keep in mind that they used to make a lot fewer movies (and TV and games and…) so to have a movie preview that actually piqued your interest was quite thrilling.

I’ve seen many previews in recent weeks and only one gives me that Ratatouille experience of throwing me back to my childhood is, fittingly, the Pixar film Wall-E. It looks like a gentle yet slapsticky film of little dialog and simple themes. And the trailers make me laugh. (Pixar has a tradition of having original material for the trailers, and it’s usually top-notch.)

Anything you’re looking forward to this summer?