Yet Another Collection of Seemingly Random Observations

I’m about to head off to do another on-location video, up in Brooklyn this time around, followed immediately by a week-long vacation on the Jersey shore. So on the one hand, I’m not likely to be making regular updates here for a while, and on the other, I’m so busy getting ready that I don’t have a whole lot of time to go into a lot of detail on anything. Still, there are a few things I at least wanted to make mention of before I headed out; consider these topics of conversation during my absence.

AshcroftFirst, I’m clearly disappointed at the recent federal court decision — split along party lines, naturally — allowing Ashcroft’s secret police to duck any sort of accountability for the wave of detentions following the events of September 11th. This despite previous evidence of abuses in several of those cases. Most chilling is a particular phrase in the court’s opinion: “America faces an enemy just as real as its former Cold War foes, with capabilities beyond the capacity of the judiciary to explore.” So basically, they’re just abdicating their responsibility to keep a check on the executive branch. As Mark Danner of The New Yorker stated in a Frontline interview, “Terrorism has become the new Communism.” Danner’s point was that terrorism is being used as an ideological justification for the exercise of power abroad, but there’s undeniably a domestic parallel as well: As in the McCarthy era, the regime seems ready to use the “terrorism” label to basically do whatever the hell they want. And now the courts have come out and given them free rein to do their worst. The case will be going to the Supreme Court, but since they’ve already proven themselves to be in Bush’s back pocket, I’m not holding out hope for any change in this decision.

U.S. SenateNext, three cheers for Senator John McCain and the Senate Commerce Committee for attempting to right the idiotic decision of the FCC to effectively monopolize the major media. (You hear that? I’m applauding a Republican. You may want to make a note of the date...) It remains to be seen what’ll happen once this goes out to the Senate at large, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.

RumsfeldAnd finishing out the political commentary, I can’t say I’m surprised at the revelations that Jessica Lynch’s story was distorted to drum up patriotic fervor, both in the troops and at home (that whole evil regime thing, remember?). What I am — or, rather, was — surprised at was the media’s readiness to accept the party line so completely. At least the Post is starting to call into question the policy of using “unnamed sources” as the primary provider of major stories — and thereby removing accountability. The “unnamed source” still has value, but I know I’ll be looking twice at any story that cites them, particularly if the source is affiliated with the current administration. Then again, I don’t give the stories much credibility if the affiliated sources are named, so I’m not sure what the net effect is here.

MoviesMoving away from the political arena, I saw a pretty good movie the other day: The Kid Stays in the Picture. It’s basically a visual audiobook (and in fact, portions of the film’s audio track are excerpted from the audiobook recording) of Robert Evans’s memoir, narrated by Evans himself. And while it is a fascinating (if one-sided) look at one of Hollywood’s most famous (or infamous) producers, I found it more valuable as a crossover between filmmaking and graphic design. Here you have a movie where the visual content is composed largely of old photographs. But what directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen have done is digitally separate foreground, midground, and background elements to create a series of three-dimensional pans. It really has to be seen to be appreciated. And that’s only one example of the remarkable design work that went into this thing. As someone who started out in design (okay, started in desktop publishing, but worked my way through design into video production), I give it my recommendation.

And finally, no matter how much credit you give to a director, I’m frequently reminded of how much filmmaking is a collaborative art. I’ve just been on a John McTiernan viewing streak: Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October. I’d always remembered Predator as a better-than-average action picture, but in looking at it again, I have to revise my assessment. Everything from the cinematography, to the casting, to the score was substandard, or even laughable in some cases — the only remarkable thing was the creature itself (or perhaps, the film debut of a certain Minnesota governor). Frankly, I give more credit to the much-maligned sequel — at least Danny Glover can act. But comparing it with the other two films — where McTiernan was teamed with superior casts (Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery), great composers (Michael Kamen and Basil Poledouris), and one of the greatest action cinematographers out there (Jan de Bont) — is a night-versus-day proposition.

Remind me that if I ever make it big, I need to give credit where credit is due.

Well, that’s all, folks! I may be able to drop a note here and there, but otherwise, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.


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