Thoughts on some movies I’ve seen in the last ~2 months.

Seen for the First Time

  • The Big Lebowski – I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. It should have been funny, but was just tedious.
  • Slumdog Millionaire – Fascinating, both in its exploration of poverty in India and in the theme of showing how seemingly small and unrelated events can all contribute to someone’s future.
  • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – Had its moments, but overall was pretty much a standard superhero film.
  • Clerks 2 – Kevin Smith seems to hit about 50/50 with me. I loved the first Clerks, hated Mallrats (except for the “Jedi Mind Trick” payoff), liked Chasing Amy and Dogma, but Jay and Silent Bob was mostly annoying (though it had its moments). Clerks 2 was mostly gross-out humor wrapped around a Broken Aesop in which the happy ending is for the indecisive guy to let the a—hole make his decisions for him.
  • Battlestar Galactica: The Plan – They did a decent job of trying to pull together a consistent story from elements that were originally unconnected, but it still ended up playing too much like a clip show — especially the segments in the Colonial fleet. The segments on Caprica worked much better, though I did find it interesting that they re-cast the Cylon infiltrators as a tiny, isolated guerrilla force rather than the tip of an iceberg of espionage. It relied way too much on the audience remembering what happened in the series.
  • Liar, Liar – Pretty much what I remember from the previews, except longer. Funny. Worth seeing at least once.
  • Synecdoche, New York – A metafictional examination of living life vs. imitating it that doesn’t quite live up to the scope of its ambition…but then, part of the point of the movie is that it can’t. (Note: not a good choice for watching while eating.)
  • Evil Dead 2 – Nice camera work, but I’m not a horror fan. Also, this makes absolutely no sense as a sequel, but works just fine as a remake. You can explain Ash’s actions at the beginning with evil-enforced amnesia, but the timeline with the professor’s discovery of the book just doesn’t mesh with the first movie. I posted some thoughts on Army of Darkness last week.


  • Up – Second time, watched in a second-run theater. Holds up, even without 3D. Bring tissue.
  • Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero – still a better Mr. Freeze movie than Batman And Robin. Not that it would be hard.
  • Coraline – Third time, but first time on small screen or in 2D. Still works, though of course not nearly as impressive visually. Still, great animation & story. Kind of like Up in that way.
  • Conan the Destroyer – The first movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger was very good and holds up well almost three decades later. This one was almost self-parody.

California is an interesting state. We just re-elected Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 55% to 39%, but also re-elected Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein 60% to 35%. All but one of the remaining state offices went to Democrats (some by larger margins than others).

The Governator is talking about a mandate. Politicians always do that when they win. 55% is a bit shaky, but with ~15 percentage points between him and Angelides, he’s at least more justified in claiming it than a certain Republican winner two years ago who only had a three-point lead.

Meanwhile Congress has returned to its natural state—namely, with at least one house controlled by the party not holding the Presidency—as the Democrats have taken back the House for the first time in 12 years. There’s an analysis in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the Republicans’ mistake was in focusing too heavily on their base over the last few years and alienating the center.

Schwarzenegger is actually a good example of this. He’s a Republican, but a moderate one. During the 2003 recall election, the Republican party actually ran a second candidate, Tom McClintock, because Arnold wasn’t Republican enough. Admittedly you can chalk some of it up to name recognition and charisma, but the moderate Schwarzenegger not only won the recall handily, he had no problem holding onto the office this year when California voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, practically guaranteed to be the next speaker of the House, promised “to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history” [note: originally linked to Forbes] and run things in a more bipartisan way than the Republicans have for the past 12 years. I’m jaded enough to say I’ll believe it when I see it, but encouraged enough that I think there’s at least a chance they will.

The real shocker, though, is Donald Rumsfeld stepping down as Secretary of Defense. I think it’s long overdue—this administration has generally rewarded loyalty over competence, and I’ll agree with many that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been mismanaged. Here’s hoping Robert Gates, if confirmed, does a better job.