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Falling Down in Los Angeles Traffic

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:57 pm - January 19, 2012.
Filed under: LA Stories,Movies/Film & TV,Post 9-11 America

Yesterday, while pumping gas, I saw a woman melt down when unable to fill her Lexus SUV with gas. I silently mocked her. Today, I sympathized with her.

Maybe she had had the kind of traffic I did today and the challenge of self-serve gasoline was the straw which broke the proverbial camel’s back. Driving to meet my friend at the Century City Mall (where we were slated to see The Iron Lady), I changed into the left lane on Santa Monica Boulevard to pass a slow moving cement mixer, but failed to advance in traffic when cut off by a slow-moving delivery truck — which later tried to turn left onto Beverly without first changing into the turning lane.

Road work then slowed my progress further. Leaving the parking garage after watching the movie, I was stuck behind a woman who couldn’t figure out how to use the automated exit machine. And I couldn’t back out because the driver in the car behind me wasn’t aware of the problem.

Because of road work, I avoided Santa Monica Blvd on the way home only to find traffic moving to a crawl on Olympic. I so appreciated the scene at the beginning of the 1992 Michael Douglas movie Falling Down when his character, stuck in traffic, simply turns off his car’s engine and walks away.

Screenwriter Ebbe Roe Smith must have experience many journeys like the one I experienced today.  Sometimes, you really just feel like turning off the car, leaving it in the road and walking away.

The Iron Lady: Great acting, flawed storytelling

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:28 pm - January 19, 2012.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV,Strong Women

Just got back from seeing an early show of The Iron Lady with a conservative friend.  Both of us agreed that the film lacked a political agenda and indeed largely put Margaret Thatcher’s conservatism in a positive light.

The problem of the film was not its politics, but its storytelling.  It seemed more an exercise in acting than a appreciation for a strong woman.  The filmmakers didn’t put that most successful prime minister into the context of her times nor seem to have any notion of narrative structure.  Indeed, the story of this great Briton’s life was lost in the framing device, that of an old woman experiencing mild dementia.

The frame overwhelmed the picture.  Director Phyllida Lloyd just spent too much time on two or three days in the life of a declining octogenarian–more than half the movie (or so it seemed).  The details of Mrs. Thatcher’s biography, played as if mere episodes from her memory, with few placed into a context which helped explain her times, her rise and her accomplishments.

All that said, Meryl Streep was brilliant in the title role.  At times, it seemed we were watching vintage clips of the Iron Lady herself.  And you did believe she was a doddering old woman.  Good acting, certainly, but true to Mrs. Thatcher’s actual state?  Unlikely.

The rest of the cast was uneven.  Jim Broadbent was fine for the aged Denis Thatcher who appeared in hallucinations of a befuddled old lady, but he didn’t appear any younger in the scenes set during his wife’s turn as Prime Minster.  That said, Harry Lloyd who played Denis in his younger years was first rate — and indeed looked a lot like a silent star with a similar name–Harold Lloyd (but imdb has him as a descendant of Charles Dickens and not the acrobatic thespian).

The movie is well worth your time if you want to see the full range of Streep’s talent, but will provide little help in understanding the greatness of the most successful post-war British Prime Minister.

Distraction Journalism

Some supposedly well-informed writers attempt, at the dawn of this election year, with an apparent straight face, contend that the incumbent president “as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name.”  They get away with this because our supposedly even-handed legacy media choose not to report stories which, if they had occurred while there was a Republican in the White House, might generate real headlines.

And now when the president decides to kill a pipeline project which would require no additional outlay of federal funds, but would create jobs, reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and thus decrease our energy costs, the folks at ABCNews have chosen to dwell on what was once called the “politics of personal destruction.”  As Conn Carroll puts it in the Washington Examiner:

There is only one story all conservatives should be talking about today: President Obama’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. Like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, they should be contrasting Obama’s opposition to profitable, privately funded infrastructure, with his unequivocal support for taxpayer funded boondoggles like Solyndra and high-speed rail.

Instead, we are going to be talking about one of Newt Gingrich’s ex-wives, who gave a devastating interview to ABC News earlier this week, which they reportedly will air tonight.

Our friends at ABC aren’t just going after Newt.   They’ve also produced an empty and biased atory on Mitt Romney and Tax Havens. (Via Glenn Reynolds who has a lot of good links and commentary on the hit piece.)  Wonder if this was timed to distract from the Keystone Pipeline decision.  I mean, heck, Obama had until February to make up his mind.  Think maybe he did so now when the focus is on the contest for the Republican presidential nomination?

And isn’t ABC the very network that brought on a former Clinton official who, in a recent Republican debate (as our reader V the K put it) bombarded “Republican candidates with questions about social issues” so they could claim “Republicans are obsessed with/only want to talk about social issues”?

Take a gander at Yahoo!’s front page:
No mention of the pipeline decision. Or of the dribble of news about Solyndra and the politicized funding of “green” technology companies.  Solyndra isn’t the only such company facing financial problems after receiving federal cash.

Seems the only way to promote the image of a scandal-free Obama administration is to focus on the past misdeeds of and sensationalized reports about Republican candidates.

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin’s analysis helps us see why the White House announced the decision this week (instead of waiting to give the project more serious consideration):

If it were not for the three-ring circus (apologize to circus owners everywhere) in the Republican primary, today would be really rotten news day for the White House. As suspected, the decision to put off the Keystone XL pipeline is turning into a mini-disaster, even in Democratic ranks.

Read the whole thing!