I've been gathering thoughts on this for awhile; here are some observations:
1. I think there's been a loss of focus here. This case is about the death of an unarmed 17-year-old who shouldn't have died, and about how the man who shot him should've been arrested and was not. With all of the various media sideshows, it can be easy to forget that, but that's what happened and that's what this is about.
2. Is the case about race? In many ways, yes. Even if George Zimmerman didn't go out that night thinking "I'm gonna shoot me a black guy," the fact is, if you're black in this country, you have to worry a lot more about someone being "suspicious" and shooting you than if you're not. It's not "playing the race card" to say so, it's just the truth.
3. The smear campaign against Trayvon Martin is one of the most disgusting, hateful things I've ever seen, and it's 100 percent evil to its very core. Think about the thought process here: We have bloggers seeing the story of an unarmed 17-year-old being shot and killed, and they feel the need to investigate his tweets, his old pictures, his school disciplinary record, and everything he's ever said or done, to prove… what? That he deserved to die? Is this now a conservative value, to question the notion that a dead black kid could conceivably have been innocent? I don't believe the notion that conservatism equals racism, but when people jump to that conclusion, this sort of thing is the reason why.
4. Great point by Spencer Ackerman: "Can any of our teenage years withstand this type of scrutiny? Mine can’t."
5. I've frequently heard the question asked: "Why so much attention to this case? Why aren't we concentrating on [so-and-so case where white people were the victims?] The biggest reason the Martin case is in the news that is that we know who the shooter is but he hasn't been arrested. Most other recent homicides cited in such examples, either the perpetrator has been arrested, or the case remains unsolved.
6. There was absolutely nothing wrong with President Obama's comments on the case, and if you think there was, that says a whole lot more about you than it does about him. He didn't try and convict Zimmerman, or even call the case an injustice, nor is he "leading a lynch mob." He said Trayvon's death was a tragedy, that he'd like the investigation to lead to justice, and that if he had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. How that justifies the Drudge headline "Obama enters racial fray" is beyond me.
7. Then there's the conservative assumption that Democrats will use this case to push for gun control, which would be true except that the Democrats have attempted no such push nor shown any indication that they will. In fact, gun control has all but disappeared as a national political issue, as Democrats appear to have concluded that the issue is not a political winner. None of those fears about Obama taking away everyone's guns as soon he got into office ever came to pass, although I'm sure it's right at the top of his agenda for the second term. That said, it might be time to rethink "stand your ground" laws.
8. "But Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton!" I'm no fan of Sharpton, but he's actually broken several stories in this case, including interviews with Martin's family. He's certainly covered the case much better than his MSNBC colleague Lawrence O'Donnell, who interviewed an empty chair last week. And again, even if Sharpton were injecting himself into the case for pure self-indulgence and fame-whoring, doing so wouldn't be a bigger tragedy than Martin's death itself.
9. Fox News' initial impulse was to ignore the case, and their second was to talk about it, leading to Geraldo Rivera blaming Martin's death on hoodies. The first instinct had its merits, I guess.
10. Geraldo later later doubled down by tweeting that "most minority moms back me because they want their sons to live long and prosper," which I guess is true in the sense that Vulcans are a minority.
11. Of course, it was horrible for the New Black Panther Party to put a bounty on Zimmerman's head. But that said- can the media please stop paying attention to the New Black Panther Party? They're not real, and they have no following. They're four or five idiots who play dress-up and appear regularly on Fox News as human straw men. Let's start treating them like the Westboro Baptist Church or the LaRouche people, and stop giving them airtime.
12. Yea, Spike Lee, might not want to talk for awhile. Tweeting Zimmerman's address- not the correct one, it turned out- was the stupidest thing Spike has done since "She Hate Me."
13. "But George Zimmeran was Hispanic!" So what? Does that make Trayvon Martin any less dead?
14. Reasons Mitt Romney should name George Zimmerman his running mate: He's from a crucial swing state, he has the opportunity to appeal to many demographics, with both white and Hispanic ancestry and a Jewish-sounding last name; he's tough on crime; he has impeccable credentials with gun owners; right-wing blogs are full of praise for him; he's very good at pissing off Al Sharpton; unlike Romney, he has no history of publicly supporting tax increases, abortion or gay rights, and he'd be the second consecutive Republican vice president to shoot a man and not go to jail.
Unfortunately for Mitt, it looks like Zimmerman is a Democrat.
15. Even if every right-wing charge were true: That "the left" had exploited the case for personal gain and/or gun policy, even if they'd "played the race card," even if this proved every single charge ever made about liberal bias in the media- it wouldn't matter as much as the fact that an unarmed 17-year-old is dead.
"Mirror Mirror" is the first of two revisionist "Snow White" films arriving on screens this year, and while it sports fine chemistry between its leads and a unique, creative look, it's considerably uneven and not especially memorable.
Directed by "The Cell"'s Tarsem Singh, "Mirror, Mirror" sports that the elaborate production design and visual world-building that's typically associated with the director.
It's certainly competently directed, although the script (credited to Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller) is poorly paced and not especially clever.) It periodically drops in snarky, satirical dialogue that doesn't fit, and most attempts at humor fall flat.
The new film follows the usual beats of the familiar Brothers Grimm story and the 1937 Disney version. Snow White (Lily Collins) is a princess locked up in the castle by her evil stepmother (Julia Roberts), who she battles with the help of the Seven Dwarves, on the way to winning the heart of the prince (Armie Hammer.)
Roberts plays a full-on villain for once, and in the process sucks most of the oxygen out of her scenes, using an English accent that comes and goes. She's playing evil but it's really not that far from her usual performance- the evil queen really wasn't that much more loathsome than Roberts' character in "Eat Pray Love."
Lily Collins is a true find as Snow White, and by far the best thing about the movie. The daughter of Phil Collins and an actress best known for playing Sandra Bullock's daughter in "The Blind Side," Collins lights up the screen in every scene she's in. Her chemistry with Hammer- the former Winklevoss who was born to play a live-action Disney prince- is very good as well. Hammer also has the advantage of not spending half the movie behind grotesque old-age makeup, as he was in last year's "J. Edgar."
The supporting cast is taken up mostly by talented actors- Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner- not getting a whole lot to do, although the dwarves (led by Cosmo Kramer's old sidekick, Danny Woodburn) have some moments. And Disney legend Alan Menken is a welcome name in the credits as the composer.
Despite the strong Snow White, good love story and competent direction, "Mirror Mirror" is ultimately a bit too slight. However, it's unlikely that the more action-oriented "Snow White and the Huntsman," coming this June, will improve upon it.
Directed by Tarsem Singh
My rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
"Anchorman 2" is a go, as Will Ferrell announced on "Conan" Wednesday night, while in costume as Ron Burgundy:
Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd are all much bigger stars than they were in '04- David Koechner, not so much- so expect the budget to be higher. Adam McKay will again direct.
I explore a longtime pet peeve in my latest Philly Post column.
The most important feature of contemporary conservatism isn’t distrust of government, or belief in free markets, or dislike of taxes, or devotion to a large military. It’s hatred of liberals. Much of the time that hatred manifests itself in ways that are relatively harmless, like Rick Santorum cursing out a New York Times reporter (the media are all liberals, don’t forget) and then celebrating his courage for having done so (“If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republican, is the way I look at it,” he said). But at other times, the conservative hatred of liberals is manifested in far uglier ways, and this is one such case. When they saw liberal outrage at Trayvon Martin’s killing, some (not all, but no small number either) conservatives just couldn’t keep silent. If liberals think this was a terrible thing, then they are just going to decide that it wasn’t. And trying to assassinate Martin’s character was about the only way they could think to fight back.
A great piece by Tom Ferrick, a former Inquirer columnist, on the awful, imitation-Huffington, boobies-slideshow-dominated Philly:
The problem with Doing dumb stuff is that you draw dumb people.
I don't know the average IQ of the folks who dip into philly.com, but to judge from the comments section on the site I'm guessing low 80's. To be fair, not all of those who comment are morons; some are psychopaths, others are chronic misogynists and a large number of them are haters. Whenever they read the word "black" or "African American" their hands shake, they foam at the mouth and they take to the keyboard to spew. At times, the comments section on philly.com resembles a virtual Klan meeting.
Anyone who is sane, reasonable or mildly intelligent runs the risk of being verbally raped by commenting on the site. The trolls rule, man. Not a good thing. It scares away good people and just leaves the droolers.
Salon's Mary Beth Williams on that awful article (and upcoming book) about the mom who bullied her daughter into losing weight:
So that’s how you get a book published, ladies. Just write an article about what a mean mommy you are, get a lot of sexy media attention and hate mail for it, and watch the bidding war commence! That way, we can be intergenerationally negative toward females — the “fat” little girls we put on diets, the daughters we call “garbage,” and the mothers who behave in such frosty, neurotic and controlling ways toward them. Want a bestseller? Try being a contemptible bitch.
My two sons have their first post at their new blog here.
A great story from Spencer Ackerman.
"The Hunger Games," the first big mega-adaptation of the post-"Harry Potter," nearly post-"Twilight" world, is an at-times wowing, but ultimately frustrating cinematic translation. Those who know and love the books while likely enjoy the movie, but likely won't mean a thing to people (such as myself) who haven't read the books.
The film, the first in a planned series, is based on Suzanne Collins' popular young adult novels and is directed by "Pleasantville" and "Seabiscuit" veteran Gary Ross. The screenplay, written by Collins, Ross and "Shattered Glass" director Billy Ray, is apparently quite faithful. The fans of the book sitting behind me - mostly teenaged, but not all female- were alternately gasping, cheering and weeping throughout the running time.
Set in a dystopian future, the fascistic government of what used to be the United States is getting set for its annual "Hunger Games," in which two teenaged entrants from each "district" enter into a woods-like area, in which they fight for the death. It's like a demented, fight-to-the-death version of "Survivor," in which the entire competition is broadcast worldwide as a reality show.
The best thing "Hunger Games" has going for it its lead character and the actress playing her, Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen. This is no Bella Swan, a whose entire existence is passive; Katniss is a compelling character who makes things happen, rather than just having them happen to her. She's a compelling and multi-layered character, played by an actress who showed in "Winter's Bone" and even in "X-Men: First Class" that she's a major screen presence and talent. Which is more than I can say for just about everyone else in the film.
Katniss' love interest is played by Josh Hutcherson, who starred as a 10-year-old in a wonderful, little-seen 2005 film called "Little Manhattan" and played the son in "The Kids Are All Right," but here is never more than bland. Liam Hemsworth, as an earlier love interest, doesn't make much of an impression either; nor do a slew of big-name actors in small roles, from Stanley Tucci to Donald Sutherland to Elizabeth Banks to (?) Lenny Kravitz.
Woody Harrelson, in a performance that places a distant third among movies he's appeared in in the past three months, sports a laughable blond wig, but that's nothing compared to the bizarre facial hair worn by the "game master" character, played by long-forgotten "American Beauty" actor Wes Bentley. Toby Jones, meanwhile, appears to be wearing Will Ferrell's haircut from "Zoolander."
But that's not even the biggest problem. The movie's story is told poorly, too slowly and with little momentum. Not only is the 142-minute running time a bit much, but this is one of those films where it hits the two-hour mark and you can't see even the hint of an ending coming.
I also didn't care for a second about the competition itself, probably because it's not hard to guess who wins. Of course, it doesn't help that the filmmakers keep changing the rules, for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
The Japanese cult film "Battle Royale" (2000) told nearly the same story much better, and was much more brutal too; "The Hunger Games" is surprisingly bloodless for a movie that's about a group of teenagers savagely murdering one another for sport. Then again, even then we wouldn't be able to see it; the movie's action and fight scenes are shot in an incoherent, shaky-cam mess. I expected more from an experienced, quality director like Ross.
If nothing else, "The Hunger Games" reminded me of the "Watchmen" movie, a super-faithful adaptation that fans of the book loved and understood, but wasn't especially interested in speaking to anyone who was a novice. I came out of the movie more interested in the possibilities the ending set up for the future than in anything that had actually happened as part of the plot.
I tee off on those ridiculous Alexandra Pelosi segments in my latest Philly Post piece.
I look at that and other recent cases in the new Dealerscope Week in Electronics Retail Crime column.
I review the new iPad at Gadgetell.com.
In my latest for the Philly Post, I look at the similarities between Red Sox and Phillies fans.
"Seeking Justice" is an utterly ridiculous Nicolas Cage thriller that probably wouldn't even make a top ten list of the most utterly ridiculous Nicolas Cage thrillers of the last five years. That's a testament to how generic and forgettable it is, and also to Cage's propensity for making lots of movies in that genre.
With a title, and premise too, that sounds like it could've been a 1990 Steven Seagal film, "Seeking Justice," directed by middle-brow veteran Roger Donaldson, more resembles a latter-period Liam Neeson revenge film, with Cage playing the part instead.
Set in New Orleans but missing the delightful, anarchic nuttiness of earlier Cage picture "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," "Seeking Justice" stars the actor as Gerard, an English teacher whose wife his raped earlier in the film.
Waiting in the hospital, Cage is a approached by a mysterious man (Guy Pearce) who offers to kill the perpetrator, no questions asks, and not even for money. Why he'd need to ask permission is unclear, but the rest of the film finds Cage doing battle with a shadowy consortium of vigilantes, a sort of cross between the Guardian Angels and the Church of Scientology.
The premise is silly and the execution poor, and the characters' motivations rarely make sense. In particular, the movie has next to no interest in the wife character; she's raped and then the movie just sort of forgets about her. That she's played by the worst actress of her generation (January Jones) is only part of the problem.
"Seeking Justice" is just as bad as most of what Cage has been doing lately, but doesn't offer any of the campy delight of "The Wicker Man" or "Drive Angry."
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"
One of those movies that's about exactly what its title says it's about, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" extends- pardon the pun- a wide net. It's one part romantic comedy, one part nature travelogue, one part globalization parable and one part cynical, "In the Loop"-style British political satire. In all, it's inoffensive but rather forgettable.
Ewan McGregor plays an English fisheries expert who's brought in on a cockamamie scheme by a billionaire Yemeni oil sheik to import thousands of fish from England to his homeland. Emily Blunt is the employee of some sort of financial consortium who is facilitating the deal, and the two later develop chemistry.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," directed by Lasse Hallstrom, was adapted from a popular-in-Britiain novel that I gather was a much sharper political satire on the page. One character, an advisor to the prime minister played by Kristin Scott Thomas, seems like she stepped right out of "In the Loop," and is far and away the most interesting character in the movie.
Still, you can tell the material has been significantly sanded down- the movie doesn't have a whole lot to say about globalization or East/West relations, and there's next to no cursing or sex.
The romance between the two leads is sweet, but ultimately not very memorable.
"Casa Di Mi Padre"
Well, don't ever say Will Ferrell stayed safe or didn't take any risks. He stars in this entirely Spanish-language comedy as a Mexican rancher who gets caught up in the drug trade.
The film, directed by Matt Piedmont, has one joke and its one that gets tiresome quickly. But the movie has a whole lot of laughs, mostly because it stays wholly committed to the bit. A parody of telenovelas and Mexico-set Westerns of the past, the film is just 84 minutes.
There's also a standout supporting that includes both male stars of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" (Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna), as well as Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and gorgeous newcomer Genesis Rodriguez.
"Casa Di Mi Padre" won't join the list of Ferrell's best films, but it's very funny and a worthy diversion.
"Jeff Who Lives at Home"
I saw this one last fall at the Philadelphia Film Festival; my review from back then:
The latest from Mumblecore auteurs Mark and Jay Duplass isn't a whole lot better than the rest of their work. Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Judy Greer are three funny and likable people not given a chance to be funny or likable, and the film's ending is especially embarrassing.
The St. Louis Park Patch has a great idea- a March Madness-style bracket of the most famous people from the town where I grew up.
The Coen Brothers, who are in the tournament separately, have to be considered favorites, while the most intriguing first-round matchup is between former NHL player Erik Rasmussen and my friend, musician Dan Israel.
I'm happy to share that our son, Jonah Levi Silver, was born on Friday, March 9. He was seven pounds and two ounces, and mother and baby are fine. Noah is thrilled to be a big brother.
Here is Noah's blog post welcoming Jonah, who will now be his co-blogger.
Trust me, Jeffrey Goldberg makes sense.
Check out this amazing atmosphere for an MLS match between the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers this week, which looks quite a bit like a major European match:
Paul Waldman, as always making sense:
The message is always the same: Obama and the blacks are mad, and they're coming for you. Yet people like the Breitbart folks and Limbaugh have two problems. First, they're running out of material. There aren't any more shocking revelations to be had. The best they can do is try to make mountains of racial resentment out of the most innocuous molehills, like the fact that Obama supported Derrick Bell's effort to diversify the faculty when he was a law student. And second, by now anyone who can be convinced that Obama is a secret Black Panther never thought otherwise. The guy has been president for three years. Americans are pretty familiar with him. He hasn't actually started herding white people into concentration camps, and it's an awfully tough sell to tell people that he might any day now.
No. Please. It would make no sense. The time for a veteran QB was three years ago, in Brett Favre's first year, when they had every championship piece in place except for a quarterback. Now, they're far from them and need to get younger and think about the future.
Paul Waldman on a pretty ridiculous Chuck Todd piece:
The truth is that the New York/Washington media doesn't ignore the "heartland," they pander to it relentlessly. The Diane Sawyers of the world may not shop at Wal-Mart, but they'll never tire of telling you that the people who do are the real Americans, the backbone of the country, the people dripping with "values" and small-town virtue, the ones who look you in the eye and give it to you straight, the ones who care for their neighbors and love their country. If I had a nickel for every time the New York/Washington media explained to me the moral superiority of the heartland, I'd drive a couple of Cadillacs and have friends who own NASCAR teams.
I'm very proud of blogger and my fellow Twins fan Aaron Gleeman.
Noah blogs about his last days of only-childhood.
Great, great "Dadspin" piece by Drew Magary. My philosophy is, get your kid every Sandra Boynton book, and then call it a day.
Pam Geller, stupidest person on Earth.
John Cook makes a great point:
The trolling-outrage cycle is ruthlessly efficient—the outraging entity, under constant pressure to seek attention by fomenting outrage, foments outrage. The outraged entity, under constant pressure to seek attention by being outraged, is outraged. The outraging entity counter-charges that the outraged entity is unfairly biased—”You weren’t outraged when so-and-so said such-and-such!” The outraged entity calls for a boycott of the outraging entity. The outraging entity accuses the outraged entity of censorship. And so on. All this happens nearly instantaneously now, with Limbaugh and Media Matters (and their various cohorts) locked in a sort of perverse mindmeld, each anticipating and reacting to the others’ preprogrammed routines.The late Andrew Breitbart's career was based, almost entirely, on exactly that. And while I don't have much sympathy for those who were openly thrilled at Breitbart's death, the guy's name was synonymous with partisan viciousness. Must the guy's fans clutch their pearls when people reacted to his death with... partisan viciousness?
This is kind of brilliant:
It's the least convincing apology-for-calling-a-woman-a-slut since Isaac of "The Real World: Sydney":
Yes, a local news station really did this:
A few personal notes:
- As most of my friends are aware, next Friday is the scheduled arrival of our second child. After all the difficulty last time things have gone much more smoothly this time, for which we are very thankful. Noah is very excited to be a big brother, and to add a co-author to his blog.
- Last week marked my five-year anniversary of working at North American Publishing, and day to day I'm enjoying it as much as ever. Next month will see the launch of a new website, part of the existing TechnologyTell, that will feature pop culture blogging and commentary by myself and others, including my movie reviews. More on that as the launch gets closer; this is shaping up to be an incredible movie year, and I'm excited to dive into it.
- In addition, I recently began writing for Philadelphia Magazine's Philly Post blog, and will become an official weekly contributor later this month. I'm happy to be sharing the space with such Philly journalistic luminaries as Liz Spikol, Tim Whitaker, Steve Volk, Dan McQuade, Quizzo master Johnny Goodtimes, my NAPCO colleague Brian Howard and even my onetime elevator-mate Larry Mendte.
- I've got another writing project that I'm not allowed to talk about, but all in due time...
- This blog, it's hard to believe, will mark its 10th anniversary in May. I have a couple of things planned- a long-needed relaunch and a switch to Wordpress (if I can figure out how to do that). I also have a personal writing project here that I'm going to undertake this summer, most likely.
So with all that, I'm not expecting a whole lot of sleep to happen in the next few months. Thanks for reading, everyone.
This interview with Jeffrey Goldberg makes me so, so glad that Barack Obama is president.
It's in the right place, appears to have a decent package in place, I like the design… let's do it. Not that they were ever in danger of leaving anyway.
My latest Philly Post article marks my return to election theorizing, probably against my better judgment.
The biggest surprise from Sports Guy's sit-down with the president: since 2008, Simmons has grayed more than Obama has:
Yes, he was an asshole, yes he lied about people and ruined lives. But I'm still sorry Andrew Breitbart is dead. He was only 43 and a father of four, and it's always sad for someone to go at that age.
I can also give Breitbart credit for resisting elements of gay bashing and birtherism on the right, as well as his Internet vision, even though I'm no fan of any of the things (Drudge, Huffington, the "Big" sites that he produced) that he had a hand in creating.
He once wrote in to complain about one of my North Star columns. That was Breitbart- he never minded punching down. He'd just as soon go after some schmuck with ten Twitter followers as the head of Media Matters.
Filmdrunk's Vince Mancini on "Project X":
Not only does it flunk the Bechdel test, it practically compliments the examiner on her tits and asks for a sandwich afterwards (I can not WAIT for the Jezebel review, or for Ebert inevitably high-horsing its dangerous glorification of binge drinking, for that matter)