Lincoln
Armond White
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A conservative guide to undercut disingenuous pop politics
(Review Source)
Conservative Film Buff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)

I love all these films so it was hard to rank them. But yeah, I stand by this. For now.
I retain the right to rearrange these at will.

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  4. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  7. The Terminal
  8. Bridge of Spies
  9. Jaws
  10. Hook

...plus 12 more. View the full list on Letterboxd.

(Review Source)
Armond White
The Netflix lemmings howl as the legendary director prepares to take a stand for cinema.
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
Lifestyle *Lincoln showcases Steven Spielberg in homework mode. It’s the product of a drudge staying up all night hoping to pass his Oscar exam. But Lincoln won’t win any Oscars, and doesn’t deserve any. It’s a hopeless bore that, in an attempt to humanize an icon, turns him into a mere politician.The film has a couple of very strong points but otherwise it’s a near total write-off and a waste of your time. Its best aspect is the wonderful lead performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the finest actors living and an artist who never ceases to challenge himself. Most actors would have been so excited by the prospect of playing Honest Abe that they would not have been able to resist playing the role as if all the angels of History were singing a backup chorus at every moment. But while he was living his life, Lincoln was just a man, one with a thin, wispy voice, a sadly nutty wife (Sally Field, who can’t resist hamming it up) and humble surroundings. By being so gentle and restrained, Day-Lewis makes you lean forward to hear every word and marvel at Lincoln’s judgment.But Spielberg and his screenwriter, Tony Kushner, otherwise flounder. Intent on avoiding cliche, Spielberg keeps swerving around the most dramatic moments. For instance, when the film begins (with a gritty battle scene of Union and Confederate soldiers wrestling in mud that unfortunately has a vaguely comical aspect), Lincoln has already given the Gettsyburg address, and we hear only portions of it recited from memory by the soldiers he is speaking to. This encounter with black Union troops seems forced and improbable, not least for the weirdly casual, even dismissive, way these ordinary soldiers treat their president. Wouldn’t they be even a little bit intimidated?As the film goes on the big majority of it takes place in 1865, when Lincoln is persuaded that his Emancipation Proclamation had no legal basis because state laws can’t simply be overruled by executive fiat. To formally abolish slavery, Lincoln’s Republicans fight to pass the 13th Amendment during a lame-duck January session of Congress. The Republicans have won in a sweep, but not all of them want to outlaw slavery, so the party sets about rounding up votes from the institutionally racist Democratic party. Democrats who have lost their seats in the November election, Lincoln’s aides reason, no longer have any reason not to vote with their consciences and are free to do the right thing for its own sake. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/11/9/spielbergs-boring-lincoln-like-cramming-for-the-oscar-final/ previous Page 1 of 2 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
PJ Media Perhaps Dana Milbank can stop trashing a private citizen long enough to note that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is wasting the Senate's time during a major crunch time.In an interview with his home state newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid let slip that after watching Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln as part of a small group President Barack Obama invited to the White House, he has invited the director to screen the film about the first GOP chief executive for all the senators—Democrats and Republicans, as well as their spouses.The Senate Democrats’ leader first saw two-time Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis’ stunning portrayal of Lincoln along with the movie’s cast and crew at the White House and since has seen it again. He said he found Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery a true-to-life dramatization of what still occurs in Congress."For me, that's what I do," Reid told columnist Norm Clarke in an exclusive interview that appeared in the Las Vegas paper over the weekend.Laughing out loud at that one. Harry Reid, you're no Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln did things; Reid stops things from happening. Like, federal budgets. And votes on the president's fiscal cliff offer.Pols who do decide to attend the screening can look forward to seeing the 16th president drop f-bombs. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/harry-reids-senate-to-screen-lincoln-during-fiscal-cliff-crisis/ ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Django Unchained Official Trailer #2 (2012) - Quentin Tarantino Movie HD', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Despite asinine comments by Quentin Tarantino, who has called our present criminal-justice arrangements “slavery through and through,” and Jamie Foxx, who has boasted that “I kill all the white people” in the Tarantino-directed Django Unchained, the movie isn’t especially inflammatory about race.The title character, an ex-slave, doesn’t kill all the white people. In fact, his best friend and co-hero is a white, European dentist turned bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar as the dapper but terrifying Nazi colonel in Inglourious Basterds. Moreover, one of the chief villains of Django is played, in a surprise, by Samuel L. Jackson as a house slave who despises Django with a fury that makes him a perfect match for the wicked plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) for whom he works.Mostly, the movie is an incredibly violent, incredibly long, and often very funny popcorn picture with its roots in both spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s and blaxploitation movies of the 1970s. The quintessentially Tarantino moment comes when racist whites seeking to kill Django and his dentist friend form a posse of rough riders with bags over their heads (presaging the Ku Klux Klan) in 1858. The vigilante group (including former Miami Vice star Don Johnson as an easily outsmarted plantation boss and Jonah Hill in a cameo) falls into squabbling over a dispute about the craftsmanship of the bags. It’s a hilarious disquisition reminiscent of the argument about Madonna in Reservoir Dogs or the details of dining at a French McDonald’s in Pulp Fiction.Other scenes in the movie may remind you of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Searchers, but the closest resemblance is to.... Blazing Saddles. Just as Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little joined forces as equals and shocked racists in Mel Brooks’ 1972 comedy (which was co-written by Richard Pryor), Waltz and Foxx make for a fine pair of gunslingers who don’t care what haters think of their friendship. They wander the South getting in and out of trouble as they search for Django’s wife (Kerry Washington), who is being tortured at the evil plantation run by Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). Django, a former slave, has received his freedom and a new job as bounty hunter courtesy of King Schultz (Waltz), who needs Django’s help in recognizing three men whom Schultz will receive a hefty fee for killing. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Where The White Women At? - Blazing Saddles', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/12/28/the-weird-al-yankovic-of-cinema/ previous Page 1 of 2 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
PJ Media Iranian media had a visceral reaction to Ben Affleck's movie Argo, about the rescue of State Department employees during the Islamic Revolution, winning Best Picture at the Oscars last night."In the era that politicization in Hollywood was very strong, and every awards and festivals in Hollywood had paid much attention to the anti-Iranian movie ‘Argo’, the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, unveiled the bare politicization in Hollywood," Mehr News Agency reported.Noting that "most movie critics" picked Lincoln as the best film of the year, Mehr said the choice of Argo "revealed that Hollywood insiders are sacrificing quality and artistic cinema to political slogans and distortions."The Iranian regime mouthpiece claimed Michelle Obama's presentation of the Best Picture Oscar proves Argo was a political choice."Hollywood has been an instrument for the US politicians to use it for their political purposes, not based on reality, but one-sided and distorted, to present to the world," Mehr wrote. "Interestingly, in the current Academy Awards ceremony, presence of Michelle Obama was even surprising for the audience. One of official Hollywood reporters for the Oscar ceremony considered the attendance by President Obama’s wife to give the award for the best picture as ‘unexpected’ and very ‘surprising’.""This ‘unexpected’ and ‘surprising’ move by the US media and Hollywood activists showed the bare Hollywood scandals and politicization of the 85th Academy Awards ceremony." class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/tehran-regime-offended-by-pick-of-anti-iranian-movie-at-oscars/ ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Lifestyle We live in an era of disposable pop culture. All around us we see vapid reality series, uninspired (and uninspiring) music, movies that are little more than retreads of other bad ideas, and starlets who are famous merely for being famous. Of course, this stuff is not necessarily bad in and of itself -- in fact, mindless pop culture can make for some great "guilty pleasure" moments.  var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': ''Hell's Kitchen': Nedra's Hilarious Fear of Farm Animals', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); The truth is, when any form of entertainment achieves excellence, we notice. Television programs like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, music by artists such as Mumford & Sons and Zac Brown Band, and films like Lincoln and Les Miserables attract attention because they raise the bar in their genre.The idea of excellence as something for which to strive goes back to the Bible. Jewish and Christian believers alike are aware of the admonishments in Scripture to give our all. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon advises:Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)And the Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Colosse:And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.[...]Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:17, 23-24 (NIV)Walt Disney felt the pull to achieve excellence, in part because his name was on every product the studio created. He once said, "Anything that has a Disney name to it is something we feel responsible for." He instilled the value of excellence in his staff as well -- he once hailed his staff as "the ones who insist on doing something better and better." A sign on a construction wall from my last trip to Walt Disney World expresses this value.Over the course of the next couple of pages, we're going to take a look at how this value of excellence shows up throughout Disney culture. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/5/17/how-disney-culture-values-excellence/ previous Page 1 of 5 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Ed Driscoll Yet another Blue on Blue incident, as Lee Daniels, The Butler’s director attacks Hollywood racism, claiming, “Hollywood would not allow me to make a black drama:”The director claims he met resistance to the film's financing, in part, based on the notion that "black" films don't sell in the modern marketplace.It’s bull ... that our movies don’t make money,” he said, then added pointedly that he thought industry types didn’t protest the point for reasons of cowardice and self-protection. “It’s politically incorrect to scream racism at the studios in Hollywood. People fear for their jobs,” he said.Daniels felt insulted that Hollywood suits could dictate how much money he would need for his film given his track record. Left unsaid is that some of the biggest, most respected names in Hollywood struggle to get their films produced. Even Steven Spielberg said his Oscar-winning Lincoln almost didn't make the big screen due to the new challenges facing dramatic film productions.Perhaps if Daniels had decided to make a film about Alfred the Butler, he might have had a chance attracting the interest of Hollywood’s studios. As producer Lynda Obst wrote in recent book Sleepless in Hollywood, historically-themed movies (perhaps with the exception of explosion-heavy World War II movies) are exceedingly difficult to launch in what she calls "The New Abnormal" of postmodern Hollywood. In fact, as Obst noted, anything that doesn’t have the following in its title or cast will be an uphill struggle to get made in 21st century Hollywood:BatmanSupermanSpider-ManStar TrekStar WarsJames BondMission: ImpossibleThe Avengers (and/or their individual superheroes)HobbitsPixarIn other words, Hollywood wants big budget comic book or sci-fi franchises to help increase the odds that the $200 mil or more that they’re going to sink into a movie -- plus advertising and distribution -- will result in a hit, or at the least, avoid becoming a spectacular, Heaven’s Gate-level studio-destroying bomb. This is a very different -- and as Spielberg pointed out, an increasingly high risk model for the studios. (Witness all of the implosions this summer, perhaps a billion dollars' worth.)In the old days, each year Hollywood studios would make one or two zillion dollar spectacles (think David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago, Darryl Zanuck’s The Longest Day, or Kubrick’s Spartacus), lots of midrange medium budget quality productions, and plenty of cheapies. Today, as Obst writes, Hollywood films come in two, exceedingly schizophrenic, flavors. On the high-end, Hollywood produces superhero, science fiction and action films, typically part of a franchise such as the Batman, Superman, Star Trek and Avengers movies. And lots of low budget independent movies. Many of the latter are films that were independently funded as The Butler was, develop buzz, catch on as crowd favorites at a film festival like Sundance, and then Hollywood picks up the distribution to urban art theaters, cable TV, and DVD.But if The Butler’s director wants to insist to the world that the town that went all-in to elect Barack Obama, and made superstars of Will Smith, Bill Cosby, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Sidney Poitier, Halle Berry and other black actors and actresses is a hot bed of racism, as veteran screenwriter William Goldman once wrote, have fun storming the castle.Or as Roger L. Simon writes today in his PJM column, “The race card is a perfect example of this division and why this movement should be extinguished. Anybody who plays the race card in our country today is less than pond scum. It has become the 21st century equivalent of accusing someone of witchcraft in seventeenth century Salem. Anyone who uses the race card should be considered a pariah automatically. It’s almost always projection.”Though upon further consideration, perhaps Daniels has a point. Until Hollywood solves not just its inherent racism, but stops giving a pass to Communism, totalitarianism, anti-Republicanism, domestic violence, and its hatred of its domestic audience (aka, oikophobia), then I’m prepared to boycott its product as it rolls off the assembly line. I think I’ll start with The Butler…Related: "Reagan Biographer Blasts 'The Butler' for Maligning President's Race Record;" its coverage of the JFK era also sounds rather shaky as well. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2013/8/15/butler-director-sees-hollywood-racism/ ]]>
(Review Source)
PJ Media Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'plan 9 from outer space (trailer)', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Sometimes Hollywood serves up some pretty indigestible fare. Some films, such as Howard the Duck (1986), are impossible to swallow—so terrible they become synonymous with “bad cinema.” (Who can forget Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoon depicting "Hell's Video Store," its shelves stocked solely with copies of Ishtar (1987)?)But not every bomb reaches such heights of notoriety.  Here’s a list of movies that are every bit as bad—and leave “real men” with extra heartburn. They degrade the genres that “real men” love best.10. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)All right, this utterly dreadful sci-fi schlock is, admittedly, no stranger to lists of worst movies ever. And justifiably so. Written, directed and produced by the world's least talented filmmaker, Edward D. Wood, it’s a bijou of awfulness. What twists the knife in this celluloid sacrilege is the sight of Bela Lugosi, one of Hollywood's greatest horror stars, shambling through what was to be his last appearance on the silver screen. Rather than try to sit through this sad excuse for a film, better to watch Tim Burton's engaging biopic Ed Wood (1994), which tells the story behind the movie. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/11/27/10-tinseltown-turkeys-that-make-real-men-choke/ previous Page 1 of 10 next   ]]>
(Review Source)
The Federalist Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The Fourth of July shouldn’t be about celebrating warfare or revolution, it should be about celebrating exceptional American freedom.
(Review Source)
John Nolte
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Director Ava DuVarney’s third feature film is impressive on many levels. Yet, given its potent subject matter, other than a few scenes, “Selma” is emotionally flat and uninspiring. This is especially surprising in the wake of the George Zimmerman and Michael Brown incidents. You would think a reminder that the American Civil Rights movement was once driven by Christian righteousness as opposed to lies, racketeering, and nihilism, would stir your insides. The drama centers around a specific landmark event in the American Civil Rights movement: the 1965 50 mile march from Selma to Montgomery — the heart of then-Governor George Wallace’s segregated Alabama — to protest poll taxes and other un-American policies designed by degenerate racists to keep black Americans from enjoying their Constitutional, God-given right to vote, and by extension, to determine their own futures. The march and the behind-the-scenes battle that made it a reality was fought by many (young, old, black, white, Christian, Jew) and led primarily by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelwo). The history behind the history was an emotionally agonizing journey for the impossibly young preacher (King was only 36 at the time) that took him to President Lyndon Johnson’s Oval Office, to
(Review Source)
John Podhoretz
| 6:59 "Selma" | 14:23 "Spotlight" | 17:36 "Straight Outta Compton" | 31:30 "Hamilton the Musical" | 42:00 "Nixon" | 44:00 "Primary Colors" | 47:50 "Lincoln" | 53:40 "Hail, Caesar!" |
(Review Source)
John Hanlon
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
In honor of both the Democratic and the Republican political conventions, doctor we take a look at 10 great political movie speeches. In preparation for Donald Trump’s acceptance speech tonight at the Republican National Convention and the Democrat’s convention... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/10-Great-Political-Speeches-in-Movies-1-270x400.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
(Review Source)
John Hanlon
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
In honor of Independence Day on Monday, we take a look at 10 great movies about American patriots from the past dozen years. On the 4th of July, it’s important to recognize the strength and resolve of the American spirit. At times, it may seem that Hollywood takes that idea... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Movies-American-Spirit-270x358.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
(Review Source)
John Hanlon
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is a different film than one would expect from the brilliant filmmaker responsible for unforgettable films like “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Unlike those two features, buy information... <img src="http://www.johnhanlonreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Lincoln_Poster-105x88.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
Uncategorized Culture The 2013 Academy Awards are now on the books, and the only question left is: which of these movies are actually worth paying money to see? TAC has answers: Argo Winner of Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay: Noah Millman feels Argo backfired as a campaign ad, and misfired as a film. Scott McConnell on the other hand, explains what Argo got right on Iran LincolnWinner of Best Actor and Production Design: Millman was “carried along by the universally excellent performances,” and dives into the tension, dramatic and historical, of the film. AmourWinner of Best Foreign Language Film: Eve Tushnet found Amour a “totally compelling, emotionally devastating movie,” and felt it was misunderstood as pro-euthanasia shilling because it was “a portrait, not an allegory.” Life of PiWinner of Best Director, Cinematography, Original Score, Visual Effects: Rod Dreher found Life of Pi to be “mostly wonderful, and certainly one of the most visually stunning films any of us had ever seen.” He discusses the “provocative religious message in the movie” in a spoiler-filled consideration (you have been warned) and finds “as a Christian I don’t share the film’s pantheistic worldview, but I found it philosophically engaging all the same.” (Update): Noah Millman adds to the list with a consideration of Life of Pi‘s multiple stories, and what stories mean to us in art and faith. Zero Dark ThirtyWinner of Best Sound Editing Noah Millman gives Zero Dark Thirty a deep, thorough consideration and concludes “Don’t go to this movie to learn whether torture was necessary or not to get bin Laden. Go to this movie to understand why we – not just the Bush Administration or the CIA, but much of America – embraced torture.” The Sessions Noah Millman finds The Sessions “a sweet little film … a heartwarming story, and one would have to be a churl not to cheer Mark on, particularly since he is so self-deprecatingly charming throughout,” but “I suppose I’ll have to be a churl,” giving a through-going consideration of all the film’s many merits along with its shortcomings. Beasts of the Southern Wild Eve Tushnet “can tell you it is worth it. The things you’ve probably heard already are true: This is a lush, heart-wrenching fable about a little girl and her daddy, in a rural Louisiana enclave barely clinging to the high side of environmental apocalypse,” then gives the movie a thorough consideration. The Master Millman “still can’t make up my mind what to think about Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, which I saw last night. Not that I’m not sure it was a great film – I know what I think of it. I’m just not sure what I think about it,” ultimately concluding “Something has finally been mastered, but whether it is Dodd or Quell, or the language of self-mastery itself, I couldn’t say.” SkyfallWinner of Best Original Song, and Sound Editing: We didn’t review “Skyfall” per se, but Stephen Tippins, Jr. gave James Bond himself a through review in a recent issue, finding the double-oh agent to be more than a glamorous womanizer, rather “defending the West against itself.” Django UnchainedWinner of Best Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay: Rod Dreher didn’t review Django, exactly, but rather explains why neither he nor The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates plan to see it at all, despite Rod expecting he would enjoy it. Follow @joncoppage// <![CDATA[ !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs"); // ]]> ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Driven by the wishful thinking that the political Zeitgeist is moving in their direction, pundits on the right sometimes project their own ideological leanings onto new movies or television shows, celebrating their supposedly libertarian or conservative orientation. They seem to believe, notwithstanding a director’s stated liberal views, deep inside he or she is actually a believer in the power of free markets or traditional cultural values. Hence, while I enjoyed seeing “Avatar” in 3D, I found it difficult to buy into the notion promoted by some libertarians that the film provided a powerful defense of property rights. What I saw was what the director intended the movie to be, I think: a fierce attack on corporate power and a salute to third world indigenous politics with a strong anti-Western bias. So I will refrain from labeling the new Chilean movie “No” a libertarian masterpiece or implying that its director, Pablo Larrain, is a secret fan of Friedrich Hayek. But then, the main protagonist in this film is an advertising executive who unlike his counterparts in “Mad Men” is portrayed as an agent of progress, one who not only wins a battle against a bunch of aging Marxists but who also leads a marketing campaign—celebrating individual freedom and the joys of consumer society—that helps topple a military dictator and give birth to a thriving liberal-democracy. So if Jean-Jacques Rousseau would have loved “Avatar,” my guess is that Milton Friedman would have probably enjoyed “No.” “No” is one of those docudramas that, not unlike “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo,” and “Lincoln,” was “inspired” by real events, which means it combines truth with fiction. In this case, the truth is the national plebiscite that took place in Chile in 1988, in which voters were asked to decide whether military dictator Augusto Pinochet should stay in power for another eight years (a “Yes” vote) or whether there should be an open presidential election a year later (the result of a “No” vote). It is also true that a marketing team employed by the anti-Pinochet coalition produced commercials to encourage the Chileans to vote “No” and that the ads ran during the 27 days of the campaign in which each side had 15 minutes to present their position nightly on state-run television. But “Rene Saavedra,” the character of the advertising executive in the film, played by Gael Garcia Bernal (who starred as a young Che Guevara in “The Motorcyle Diaries“) is a composite of members of the pro-“No” advertising group. Which means that his personal story is fiction, although the director’s decision to shoot the film on low-definition tape used by television news crews in Chile in the 1980s creates a sense that we are watching a documentary from that era. The apolitical Saavedra works for an ad agency making commercials for Chilean soap operas and Coca-Cola, raising a son on his own. When his left-leaning activist wife gets beaten up by police during anti-government demonstrations, Saavedra is approached by a member of the opposition who asks him to help run their campaign. He reluctantly agrees but finds himself confronting strong opposition from the hard-line leftists who dominate the opposition forces, including his wife, when he proposes that the “No” campaign should be run in the same way he sells, well, soap operas and Coca-Cola. What the Communist activists have in mind is old-style political propaganda, while Rene insists on launching a campaign that embraces the symbols and images of American pop culture and consumerism, or what Rene refers to again and again as “happiness,” the notion that freedom is synonymous with choosing your political representative as well as your consumer products, an idea contrary to the values of both the military dictatorship and the Marxist politicians. The irony is that after launching an advertising campaign that promotes nationalist and militaristic themes a la fascist Italy, the marketing team of the pro-“Yes” faction—headed up by Rene’s former boss at the advertising agency—decides to incorporate “happiness” too, injecting humor and jazzy music into their campaign. But it’s very difficult to sell an old and brutal general as a pop-culture symbol; if anything, that kind of strategy only helps to demonstrate that the values of political and economic freedom, youth and optimism, are not compatible with those of a military dictatorship. There is nothing cool about death squads. While the film doesn’t dwell too much on the political background of the Pinochet era, it did remind me of the debate taking place in Washington at the time, and in particular the thesis promoted by former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. who in her “Dictatorships and Double Standards” essay lashed liberals who idolized Communist figures in Latin America (like Cuba’s Fidel Castro) even as they urged the U.S. to isolate and punish authoritarian right-wing figures like Pinochet. She argued that a form of constructive engagement with the Pinochets of Latin America could prove more effective in driving them from power. And indeed, the free-market reforms Pinochet and his American-trained economic advisors (some of them taught by Friedman) had initiated helped create the foundations of an America-style consumer society where advertising agencies and the “happiness” values they promoted could flourish, a political-economic environment in which the pressure for liberalization was relentless and eventually forced Pinochet into retirement. That, unlike Pinochet, the Castro family has not allowed Cubans to vote “No” may be a reflection of the totalitarian nature of Communism. But one wonders whether U.S. diplomatic engagement with Cuba and its bombardment by American businesses would not help propel economic and political change there, too. Leon Hadar, a Washington-based journalist and foreign policy analyst, is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Alan Jacobs wonders when fiction was “king” and suggests that it was quite a while ago, having long since been displaced by new media. Well, the king of those new media was cinema, and we’re now a good thirty years into worries about the death of that medium. Can movies still matter? Cue A. O. Scott: By the end of this year, The New York Times will have reviewed more than 800 movies, establishing 2012, at least by one measure, as a new benchmark in the annals of cinematic abundance. The number (determined by this newspaper’s policy of reviewing everything that opens for at least a week on a commercial screen in Brooklyn, Manhattan or Los Angeles) has ballooned over the past decade. The sheer quantity of movies in theaters has now reached a level not seen since the heroic age of Classical Hollywood. But instead of breaking into a chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again,” much of the film world has been shuffling to the sad beat of a funeral march. He starts off blaming this mournful chorus simply on age – “The afterglow of your unique, youthful experiences — the kisses and cigarettes and cups of espresso that followed the movie, as much as the film itself — cast a harsh, flat light on the present, when you sit at home watching a DVD with a cup of herbal tea as your spouse dozes next to you on the couch. But don’t blame Hollywood for that!” But then he admits that there has been meaningful change in movies themselves: This is not to say that the sense of loss is not real, or that the changes that create it are inconsequential. Film as a medium — a photochemical process that magically marries the physical and the ethereal — is quickly being displaced by digital cinema, and the implications of this shift are still being explored. There are filmmakers, critics and archivists who have rallied in defense of the beauty and utility of celluloid, while others celebrate the flexibility and low cost of the pixel-based way of doing it. As in every other domain of digital culture, anxiety and enthusiasm go hand in hand, and cherished customs and artifacts are threatened. What if people stop going to the movies, and surrender to the hypnotic lure of portable screens and endless streams? Where will we find the beauty and spectacle, the glamour and emotion we remember so fondly? Look around! And yet the astonishing cinematic bounty that surrounds us contributes, in its own way, to the malaise. The movies are too much with us, late and soon. If there are so many films, then how can any one film count? If the audience is so fractured and distracted, how can the interesting arguments develop? But the thing is, they do — about “Lincoln” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” about “The Master” and “Argo,” about “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Amour” and “Holy Motors” and a dozen more in this year alone. That’s a pretty wild party, even if some of the guests insist on calling it a wake. Yes, it is a wild party – but it’s not the same wild party it was in 1939 or 1979. And that’s fine. Movies do not have the same place in the culture they did when they were the principal form of mass entertainment. Nor do they have the same place in the culture they did when a single film could appear to symbolize everything, good and bad, about an era. I thought “The Master” was a great film, and I, frankly, liked it better than “Apocalypse Now.” But it would be insane to suggest that it, or anything produced in 2012, “matters” in the way that “Apocalypse Now” did. But so what? “Mattering” isn’t all that matters. Significant revivals in art forms that have lost their cultural centrality can still affect the culture profoundly. When Alexander Pope wrote, you had to read him – if you were literate, you simply had to. Wallace Stevens, by contrast, wrote his verse in a time when poetry had lost its throne, long since displaced by other art forms – the novel, the opera – with greater cultural resonance. Plenty of people still read poetry, of course – but Stevens had nothing like the audience that Pope had. But did he matter? Of course he mattered! He mattered enormously! He had a massive influence not only on subsequent poetry but on the sensibilities of all kinds of writers. The pictures may have gotten small, but that doesn’t make them irrelevant, much less dead or dying. There is no contradiction between saying that this was a great year for film and that films don’t have the immediate cultural reach that they did decades ago. We don’t judge the health or beauty of a garden merely by the size of its blooms. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
This past week, I finally got around to seeing Steven Spielberg’s film, “Lincoln,” which I was expecting to be bored and annoyed by (I don’t much like Spielberg when he’s being noble and serious), but wasn’t. Instead, during the movie I found myself carried along by the universally excellent performances (not only by Daniel Day Lewis but by a host of supporting players, most especially Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln) and, yes, by the general “uplift.” But from very early on in the film, something troubled me, a trouble that gnawed at more and more as the film wore on, and has dominated my thinking about the film since leaving the theatre. What troubled me is the same thing that I intuited might be the issue with “Zero Dark Thirty,” namely, that the imperatives of good dramatic storytelling drove the filmmakers to tell a more morally-problematic story than necessary. Harpers Weekly cartoon from January 1865, courtesy of HarpWeek (http://www.harpweek.com) “Lincoln” is the story of the passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, and a portrait of the character of President Lincoln as seen through the struggle to achieve this landmark reform. Right from the beginning, we are presented with the determination by the President to pass the amendment as swiftly as possible, before the new Congress is seated. Why does he need to move so swiftly? The incoming Congress, after all, will be even more Republican-dominated than the outgoing one. Well, according to the movie, as we learn from Lincoln’s gentle questioning of a pair of citizens who have arrived to petition for redress of a parochial grievance (there’s a dispute over who properly owns a toll in Missouri), a portion of the support for abolishing slavery derives from the conviction that abolition would hasten the end of the war, because, so they say, if the slavery issue were resolved then the South would have no reason to keep fighting. If, on the other hand, victory were achieved before passage of the amendment, then popular support for abolition might evaporate. The first half of this isn’t problematic. The historical record shows that Lincoln believed that abolition would strengthen the Union position and demoralize the South, and for this reason the Republicans had been preparing the ground for the amendment since 1863. The state of Nevada was created in 1864 in order to assure there were enough states to ratify abolition. Maryland abolished slavery in 1864. And, of course, Lincoln won reelection in 1864 on a platform of unconditional surrender and abolition. All this is before the events of the movie. It seems to me that the reason why Lincoln believed abolition would demoralize the South is that it would reveal how united the North was in its aims. The South would therefore despair of convincing the North to agree to a negotiated peace, and would therefore agree to unconditional surrender rather than continue to fight with a view to getting somewhat more favorable terms. The idea, though, that the country would simply turn its back on abolition if it achieved total victory on the battlefield seems strange. After all, in reality after victory the Republican Party not only didn’t retreat but advanced further down the road of racial equality, passing the 14th and 15th amendments. So why this plot point suggesting that Lincoln had to pass the amendment in early 1865, or the cause of abolition might be lost? Why, after moving slowly but steadily in a more radical direction over the course of the war, does Spielberg’s Lincoln suddenly fear delay? Although it doesn’t entirely make sense, this plot point is crucial to the story because it generates urgency, a ticking clock. And to ratchet up the tension and create a “turning point” moment, the President is shown manipulating the clock. He agrees to receive a peace delegation to win the votes of conservative Republicans for the amendment, but he delays that delegation’s arrival in Washington so as to prevent the prospect of peace from draining support for his amendment. The crucial “long dark night of the soul” scene is the one where President Lincoln revises a message to General Grant, from originally telling him to escort the commissioners to Washington to telling him not to do so, because, in the end, the war must be about ending slavery. The President then tries to keep the commission a secret and, when word leaks out and threatens to scuttle the vote on the 13th amendment, he frames a lawyerly response to suggest that there is no peace commission, when in fact there is, without actually lying. (The peace commission is outside the city, and the President says there is no commission “in the city, nor is there likely to be.”) Again, the details about the President’s lawyerly evasion are accurate, but the context of the actual peace negotiations (and I strongly encourage clicking through to that particular link) was quite different. Rather than debating whether it was worth continuing the war to end the scourge of slavery or seek peace immediately, the President was always determined both to seek peace and to achieve emancipation. The variables in play were the pace of emancipation, the nature and amount of compensation to slaveowners, the leniency to be shown towards those who took up arms against the government – and on all of these, the President was prepared to be very magnanimous (among other things, because he recognized slavery as a stain on the national honor, and not merely a sectional problem). But from the beginning, the biggest non-negotiable was an unwillingness to recognize the CSA as a legitimate government in any way. (Which, by the way, was the real moral question of the war from the Northern side: whether war to preserve the Union was legally and morally right, or whether it wouldn’t have been better for Washington to negotiate a severing of ties with the Slave Power rather than fight to bring it to heel. The South was fighting to achieve independence, and they sought independence in order to preserve slavery. I have no patience for pro-Confederate revisionism because this truth is unavoidable, but must be avoided to make the moral case for secession. The North, by contrast, was fighting to keep the South in the Union against the South’s will. The justice of that fight will remain a great question to debate. I happen to think the Unionists have the better part of that argument – but I recognize that there’s another side.) It was this question of whether receiving the commissioners would constitute recognition that resulted in a brief hold-up, and not concern about passage of the 13th amendment. And while the President recognized that it was advantageous to get the amendment passed by the outgoing Congress, he knew that the incoming Congress was even more likely to pass it. The true stakes with the vote, in other words, and with the President’s lawyerly denial of the commission’s presence in the city, were not especially high. And the true stakes of the peace commission related to the conduct of the war. Handling it well, as Lincoln did, would unite the North more firmly behind the war effort, and demoralize and divide the South. Handling it poorly could have done the opposite, prolonging the conflict even further, and even further embittering the aftermath. Departing from the historical record in this way is fine on one level – “Lincoln” isn’t a documentary. But what might appear to be mere changes in emphasis actually have broad implications that should be disturbing. If President Lincoln was selling the 13th amendment as a war measure, but in fact believed the opposite – that peace was potentially at hand, and if it came prematurely it would scuttle the prospects for abolition – and actively hid the prospects of peace from Congress and the people in order to ensure his goal of abolition, even at the potential price of a prolonged war, then the President, regardless of whether he actually lied, deceived the nation on a fundamental question of war and peace to achieve a moral aim: the end of slavery. And you have a big movie moment – that scene with the telegraph operators where Lincoln changes his mind about receiving the commissioners. But if, as was in fact the case, it was unlikely peace was at hand, but the President was going out on a limb to try to see whether there were any prospects for peace on terms his party could accept and, if not, to set the terms of the end-game most favorably to his side; and if the timing of the passage of the 13th amendment was helpful but not essential either to the cause of abolition or to the conclusion of the war; then the President’s lawyerly deception of Congress during the vote on the amendment was just clever politics. But, unfortunately, if you embrace this reality, the tension drains out of your movie. I don’t want to overdo my point. I’m not saying that “Lincoln” is “bad history,” or that you shouldn’t see it. Among other things, it prompted me to take a look into half-remembered or previously unread books and articles about the period to see if I was remembering my history right. But it’s telling that I’ve read so much in the press about the revelation that President Lincoln engaged in routine corruption to grease the wheels of legislation (which is certainly true, and important to understanding how politics worked before civil service reform) and so little about the ways in which the movie implicitly treats deception in questions of war and peace. We may have become more scrupulous about the former, and more cynical about the latter, with the passage of time. I’m not convinced that speaks well of us. (A final aside: would Lincoln have considered backing out of his repeated promise, and the promise of his 1864 platform, to abolish slavery in order to achieve peace, even as late as 1865? I doubt it. The principal source for the claim that President Lincoln considered backing down on emancipation is Confederate Vice President Stephens, who claimed the President said at Hampton Roads that the Emancipation Proclamation would no longer be operative if hostilities ceased. Lincoln also advised the Southern states to voluntarily and prospectively ratify the 13th amendment, pursuant to rejoining the Union, but, according to Stephens, did not demand abolition as a condition of surrender. Needless to say, his account is disputed, among other things because it contradicts numerous public statements by the President to the contrary, not to mention his party’s platform, not to mention the fact that he had just shepherded the 13th amendment through the House. Since the Southern states demanded recognition of their independence at Hampton Roads, all this negotiation was beside the point, so I tend to agree with David Herbert Donald that whatever Lincoln said at Hampton Roads was intended to undermine the CSA’s morale and encourage unconditional surrender, and that there was no actual possibility of abolition being abandoned as a war aim.) ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Well, I suppose not obligatory – nobody’s making me write it – but this is a year where there is a modest amount of drama in the “Best Picture” category, and it’s also a rare year where I’ve seen almost all the major-category nominees. So I should probably say something. This, then, is something. This is a funny year in which there was a large number of worthy films and no single film that is obviously a “Best Picture” film. Compare “12 Years a Slave” to last year’s “Lincoln.” I found Steve McQueen’s film to be far more interesting than Spielberg’s, but also much less-satisfying precisely because McQueen seems aggressively uninterested in providing the satisfactions of a traditional narrative. Or compare “American Hustle” with “Silver Linings Playbook,” David O. Russell’s 2013 nominee. His newer film is much more ambitious, much more complex – and much more of a narrative mess. That makes it more interesting in many ways – but also much less of a “Best Picture” type of film. Both of these films make you think about what they are doing even as you experience them. They don’t exactly carry you along. But that “on a great ride” feeling is a big part of what people love about the movies. So I think both “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle” have a wall to get over to win Best Picture that another film – which I liked less – doesn’t. That film is “Gravity.” Compare “Gravity to last year’s “Life of Pi,” another technically-pathbreaking, spiritually-oriented film about an individual adrift in a hostile environment. “Life of Pi” had a metafictional frame that contained the “message” of the movie, while the main story was a frankly fantastical one. That metafictional layering was clearly intended to make you think, even as the story of the boy and the tiger had a visceral power. “Gravity,” by contrast, keeps you rooted in the experience of the film itself; the “message” is the weakest, least-interesting aspect of the film. That slightness might hurt it, of course; “Best Picture” films are supposed to be important. But I’m betting not. Best Picture is expected to be a contest between these three films, with the other six nominees as dark horses. I have a hard time seeing “American Hustle” win. I definitely preferred “12 Years a Slave” to “Gravity,” but I recognize the substantial technical achievement of the latter. (That long “shot” toward the beginning of the film deserves an Oscar all of its own.) There’s some talk that they may split the Picture and Director honors, Cuarón winning for Director while “12 Years a Slave” wins for Picture, but the funny thing is that what I liked best about both films was the direction, while other elements (particularly the screenplays) struck me as relatively weak. If I were voting, from these nine films, I’d probably vote for “12 Years a Slave,” which is a consequential, powerful but flawed film. There are individual scenes that are going to stay with me forever, even if the film as a whole felt like less than the sum of those scenes. But if I’m predicting, I’d predict “Gravity.” My thoughts on the rest of the “Best Picture” nominees: “Captain Phillips” (which I wrote up here) has stayed with me more for the performance of Barkhad Abdi than for anything else. “Dallas Buyers Club” is the only “Best Picture” nominee I haven’t seen. “Her” (which I wrote up here) has a great production design and a set of really compelling performances, but it is so, so sad, and not, ultimately, in a cathartic way. “Nebraska” (which I took two cracks at, here and here) hasn’t stayed with me as powerfully as I thought it might have. I still think Bruce Dern gave a great performance, and I did love June Squibb, but I worry that the film wasn’t a challenge for Alexander Payne – that it took him places that, mostly, he already knew. “Philomena” I haven’t had a chance to write up, other than in passing in my post from yesterday on religious films. I don’t have too much to say about it; it’s a sweet little film, well-written and well-structured. It certainly benefitted from low expectations on my part; it didn’t sound like something I’d like, and lo and behold, I liked it. I’m sure it’s thrilled to be nominated. “The Wolf of Wall Street” I also haven’t had a chance to write up – and I should. DiCaprio’s performance is technically amazing – that scene where he has to get out the door, down the stairs and into his car while unable to stand up because he’s taken too many quaaludes is a comic tour de force. And Scorsese is absolutely in control of his film. But I found myself falling between the “love” and “hate” camps with respect to the film, in a place of relative indifference. Why? Two reasons. First, the film is too short. I’m entirely serious. People chortled when Thelma Schoonmaker said it was really hard to edit the film down from four hours, but I felt like I could see what she meant. They managed to preserve all these set pieces, but I felt sometimes like multiple peripheral characters never got defined, or got lost, because there wasn’t time to let us understand who they were. And I assume that’s because too much was left on the cutting room floor. The second, more important reason, though, is that Jordan Belfort just isn’t a very interesting person. His story is a boringly self-aggrandizing one. This isn’t really a story about Wall Street, because Belfort was a petty criminal who just made it much bigger than you’d ever expect. It’s like, what would happen if Ricky Roma from “Glengarry Glen Ross” somehow made hundreds of millions of dollars. So, he’d be a jerk on a colossal scale. What else? Not much else. Now, for the other categories: Best Director: Cuarón, for “Gravity.” He’ll get this one whether “Gravity” gets Best Picture or not. Best Actor: Everybody says it’s McConaughey’s to lose, and since I didn’t see “Dallas Buyers Club,” I can’t really venture an opinion. Of the other four nominees, I would probably pick Bruce Dern. Best Actress: Everybody says it’s Cate Blanchett, who has swept every prior award this year. I saw “Blue Jasmine,” but haven’t written it up. I thought she was fantastic, and single-handedly saved the film from being kind of unbearable. I would certainly vote for her. Best Supporting Actor: Everybody says it’s Jared Leto, and again, I didn’t see “Dallas Buyers Club,” so I can’t say. I’d vote for Michael Fassbender from the other four nominees, but I wouldn’t be upset if either Barkhad Abdi or Bradley Cooper won. Best Supporting Actress: I predict Lupita Nyong’o. I’d also vote for her, even though I adored Jennifer Lawrence and think June Squibb is a hoot and a half. Best Original Screenplay: this will probably go to “American Hustle,” and I’m not sure how I feel about that because I feel like the screenplay has loads of marvelous stuff but also real structural problems. On the other hand, it’s a much more interesting screenplay than “Nebraska,” and I actively disliked the writing of “Blue Jasmine” – so maybe I’d vote for it after all. Or maybe I’d vote for “Her,” just for sheer cussedness. Yeah, I’d probably vote for “Her.” I wish I could write in “All Is Lost” – a screenplay with essentially no dialogue. Just for total cussedness. Best Adapted Screenplay: this will surely go to “12 Years a Slave,” which I’m not thrilled about since I think the screenplay is the weakest part of the film. I would probably vote for “Before Midnight.” I really hope “The Act of Killing” wins Best Documentary, because that film knocked me flat – it was by far my favorite film of the year. Would have written it up except Eve Tushnet got there first with the best headline ever (and an excellent review under it). I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve seen none of the Foreign Film nominees. Technical awards: “Gravity” should take the lion’s share of these: Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing and Mixing, Visual Effects. People say it will also win Best Score; I admit, I don’t remember the score. I do remember the score for “Her,” which drove me nuts, and which suited the film perfectly, so I’d vote for “Her.” “Gravity” might also win Best Production Design, but I would definitely vote for “Her.” Costume Design I would vote for “American Hustle;” I don’t really have a view on who will win. What else? Makeup? Feel free to tell me your own predictions in comments. I can still change mine for the pool up until Sunday night. ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Lou is up in Toronto while I’m covering Fashion Week until Friday. Lou seems to be having a good Festival: He loved “Argo,” “Cloud Atlas” and “The Master” though he thought David O. Russell’s latest was like “I Heart Huckabee’s” – the kiss of death. He also says Bill Murray has a good shot at an Oscar nomination for playing FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” I wouldn’t rule out Murray, and of course this is the kind of role that’s precision-engineered to get a nomination, but after a lot of strong performances he’s still only got one Oscar nom, for “Lost in Translation,” when he easily could have been nominated for “Rushmore” and “Get Low.” The ugly fact is that Murray has a strong reputation for being “difficult” and may have annoyed enough people on enough sets that his colleagues are disinclined to vote for him. As for Richard Gere as a Bernie Madoff-ish financier coming unglued in “Arbitrage,” which opens Friday — there is no way this is an Oscar-level performance. It’s a completely ordinary turn as a completely ordinary character in a completely ordinary movie. Oscar noms usually go to larger-than-life figures. I predict Joaquin Phoenix gets nominated as a cult fanatic for “The Master,” plus Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” John Hawkes as a quadriplegic for “The Sessions” and Brad Pitt as a serial killer in “Killing them Softly.” Suddenly there’s only one slot left. Someone from “Seven Psychopaths” might be a contender because it’s a Martin McDonagh movie, plus Denzel Washington figures to be a contender as a pilot who survives a plane crash in “Flight,” and then there are December performances that could be interesting — such as Murray as FDR, Russell Crowe in “Les Miserables,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained” and Paul Rudd in “This is 40.” I hasten to add that I haven’t seen any of the films I’ve just mentioned except “Arbitrage,” but there is absolutely no room for Gere to get an Oscar nod for a movie that’ll be forgotten by November.]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
CSPAN3 with whiskers. Talky, boring, endless, airless. Almost the entire movie is set in January of 1865 as Lincoln’s men jockey to round up support for the 13th amendment. It’s wonky to the max, with the added non-bonus of a lot of Sally Field histrionics as the nutty wife and a lot of would-be soaring monologues by screenwriter Tony Kusher that don’t soar. Steven Spielberg is so determined to be unpredictable that, on the night Lincoln is shot, Spielberg never shows us what happens. Instead, he’s in a different theater, where one of Abe’s kids is watching a show. Bizarre. Avoid, avoid.]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is such a bore I can’t imagine it’s going to win anything, but on the other hand Daniel Day-Lewis will certainly be nominated. Does he deserve to win? Well, it’d be his third win and he’s still relatively young so I don’t think the Academy will go that far. But I doubt Denzel Washington is going to win for “Flight” either. Who else is there? Anthony Hopkins gets nominated for “Hitchcock” but it’s a fairly broad spoof so I don’t see him winning either. Bill Murray is terrible as FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” He won’t get nominated. Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook”? He doesn’t deserve it, but could get nominated thanks to the magic pixiedust of Harvey Weinstein. Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master”? Wouldn’t be the worst choice on Earth but the general reaction to that film has been hatred. Maybe some underdog comes in at the last minute? Or someone from “Les Miserables” or “Django Unchained,” both unseen by me? Dunno. I think “Life of Pi” gets Best Picture and Best Director nominations. The Academy loves Ang Lee, and this is a really beautiful film. Okay, it’s corny. That never stopped the Academy before. Thanks to Harvey’s efforts, “Silver Linings Playbook” gets Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and (I assume) Supporting Actress nominations. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent and may very well walk off with the Oscar. “Argo” gets Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) nominations. I can’t see it winning because it turns into a cheesy Lee Marvin movie at the end. I don’t see “Lincoln” getting a Best Director nom because the movie’s not very good and the Academy has shown before that it isn’t crazy about Spielberg, but I guess the overpraise by critics will give it enough steam to get an entirely umerited Best Picture direction. I hope not. I don’t see “Skyfall” getting any Oscar love, and I doubt “The Dark Knight Rises” will, but I hope it sneaks into the Best Picture list and I think it has maybe a 25 percent shot. ]]>
(Review Source)
Debbie Schlussel
Blog Posts Movie Reviews Simon and the Oaks [Simon Och Ekarna]“: At the beginning, I thought this would be an interesting movie. A Swedish kid from a wealthy Jewish family is sent to the country to live with his friend Simon and Simon’s gentile family when the Nazis invade the country. But, after that, nothing really happens. We’re shown that the Jewish dad keeps trying to seduce the gentile mom, and that the gentile dad resents the wealth and generosity of the Jewish dad. And then, very late into the movie, we learn something new about Simon, who is the kid raised by the gentile family. It still isn’t interesting. A total tease and waste of time wrapped in classy costumes and cinematography. In Swedish with English subtitles. ONE MARX ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
Because an irresolute and small-minded age applies its own neuroses backward to history, because actors love to portray internal torment, and because we fancy ourselves so sophisticated that we know the official story of the past to be a ruse, movies about important historical figures have become less inspiring and “more human,” at times even iconoclastic. In 1988, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ presented a very modern Nazarene wracked with anguish about whether he could carry on with his duty, delivering a casual, vernacular Sermon on the Mount from a dusty slope scarcely more elevated than a pitcher’s
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(Review Source)
Armond White
Hillary Clinton acknowledges her Lincoln/Obama tutelage. When film critic Hillary Clinton, in the October 9 debate, raved about having seen “the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called ‘Lincoln,’” saying it was “a master class watching president Lincoln get the congress to approve the 13th amendment,” she confirmed a suspicion I’ve long had. Spielberg’s film always struck me as less than “wonderful.” Rather, it was a murky, visually dark glorification of political chicanery, deviously designed to be a celebration of Barack Obama as a political and cultural icon who is already placed on a pedestal (with just as much alacrity as he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize) alongside Abraham Lincoln. For National Review Online readers, here’s how I sussed out the first move by Spielberg (a big Hillary Clinton donor and fundraiser) into political propaganda (originally published in City Arts, November 16, 2012). ***** “You begin your second term with semi-divine status,” the 16th president of the United States is told in Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln. The evidence of that status is in the film’s mythifying visual style that presents Abraham Lincoln as an icon — silhouetted, spectral, sculptural. The people around him, such as white and negro Union soldiers relating their Civil War experiences of the 1865 Jenkins Ferry massacre during the film’s introduction, are also made into myth. (These weary men have already committed the Gettysburg Address to memory — a presentiment of the schoolboy’s homework in Minority Report.) Spielberg’s intention to line up with “the right side of history” turns the film into cult-of-personality deification. It’s on the side of power — which makes it one of the weirdest pieces of supposedly democratic Americana ever to come out of Hollywood. The story in Lincoln dramatizes the president’s efforts to install a 13th Amendment to the Constitution that would abolish slavery. His struggle is more than politically correct; it is presumed inarguably correct, which takes the movie outside of history, outside of dramatic immediacy. Watching Lincoln is very much like observing a flesh-and-blood diorama. Everything is soon to be settled (within two and a half hours); there’s no emotional suspense.  (function($){ var swapArticleBodyPullAd = function() { if ($('body').hasClass('node-type-articles')) { var $pullAd = $('.story-container .pullad').addClass('mobile-position'); if (window.matchMedia("(min-width: 640px)").matches) { if ($pullAd.hasClass('mobile-position')) { $pullAd .addClass('desktop-position') .insertBefore('.article-ad-desktop-position'); } } else { if ($pullAd.hasClass('mobile-position')) { $pullAd .addClass('mobile-position') .insertBefore('.article-ad-mobile-position'); } } } }; $(window).on('resize', function(){ swapArticleBodyPullAd(); }).resize(); })(jQuery); The trick Spielberg needed to pull off was to make the characters’ moral choices dramatically compelling, analyzing ethics in politics (those pragmatic procedures that deemed the Emancipation Proclamation “a military exigent”). Yet that’s where the film becomes dodgy — open to accusations of merely being a civics lesson, or worse: Spielberg’s equivalent to Richard Attenborough’s still-born hagiography Gandhi, rather than a companion piece to his thrilling, brilliantly analytical masterpiece Amistad. In Amistad, Spielberg cannily transformed the issue of slavery into the intricacy of law; human endeavor and spiritual struggle were historically modified into argument and principle. The Amistad characters Cinque the African (Djimon Hounsou) and John Adams the political forebear (Anthony Hopkins) grappled with the fact of slavery. This time, slavery is anthropomorphized. The introduction’s two docile and truculent black soldiers patronizingly prophesy modern attitudes; Lincoln himself (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) describes slavery as a “disease” that distances it into abstraction. Lincoln attempts to dramatize mere rhetoric. Despite high-flown language, it turns the experience of human lives into platitudes, homilies, and predetermined theorems. For a lesser filmmaker, the prevarications in Lincoln would be disastrous. But Spielberg’s innate filmmaking resources consistently provide rhythmed imagery that is by turns conventional (as when Lincoln’s aides race to get his disingenuous communiqué​) and daring (as when Lincoln dreams of his forthcoming struggle as an eerie ship voyage). The film is always something to look at. Congressional arguments are composed to show the vitality of faces and individuals — the elite body politic — like period versions of Francesco Rosi’s courtroom scenes in Hands Across the City and Salvatore Giuliano yet without Rosi’s worry about literal political corruption. Spielberg’s vibrant style just barely offsets the mundanity of parliamentary debate. The fact that Lincoln’s drama comes from predictable dialectic, rather than an in-the-moment philosophical conundrum such as Amistad, reveals its insufficiency. Lincoln tilts toward magniloquence, using important-sounding words and an exaggeratedly solemn and dignified style.  Spielberg shrewdly chose the histrionic Day-Lewis to impersonate Lincoln, with twinkling eyes and a wily, high-pitched voice that humanize the icon. Day-Lewis’s long face is given built-in hollows and shadows that match the Lincoln Memorial and postage-stamp figures while also suggesting mysterious depths. His every close-up suggests historical reverence. But this immortality contrasts with the fascinating, mortal portrayals by Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, and James Spader as W. N. Bilbo — all three of whom act through their flesh, courtesy of Janusz Kaminski’s portraitist lighting that suggests the grain of historical painting animated by fluid camerawork. At one point (“It’s too hard”), Fields’s transition from agony to aggrieved diplomacy is as much the director’s triumph as the actress’s. Spader’s grungy agitator feels lived-in, while Jones enlivens the cliché of a congressional hack — his toupéed role reaches back to a key idiosyncratic characterization in D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. With Lincoln, Spielberg assumes his place in the descent of American cinematic mythmakers, following Griffith and John Ford, a fact already evident — and earned — in Amistad. Here it’s done self-consciously. Not because it’s impossible to portray Abraham Lincoln any way other than worshipfully but because Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner (adapting a book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin) manipulate Lincoln into becoming a contemporary political paradigm.  Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner manipulate Lincoln into becoming a contemporary political paradigm. Without clarifying the intricacy of the 19th-century Republican party and the different principles of early Democrats, Spielberg and Kushner claim Lincoln as their model autocrat — always the smartest man in the room — which becomes a form of adoration. Thaddeus Stevens even refers to Lincoln as “the purest man in America.” Distinct from the cultural myth in Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) that was widely shared in less jaded times, Lincoln presents a new-style giant (a storyteller of superhuman probity and only fleeting moments of the most admirable self-doubt). This version is probably influenced by the current hunger for a great leader whose outstanding talents must be either prefabricated or whose failings go ignored in order to answer a desperate contemporary need for power.  Here’s how Lincoln prevaricates: scenes in which black characters show flawless nobility and strength (whether as a silent, pious gospel chorus entering the Senate chambers or as unimpeachably dignified servants); scenes in which white politicians focus on issues with little motivation beyond hectoring opposition. These convenient and very modern political defects prevent Lincoln from achieving the historical reach of Amistad or the miraculous suasion that made Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’s change-of-heart scene so moving.  When Lincoln proclaims, “We’re stepped out upon the world’s stage now, the fate of human dignity is in our hands. Blood’s been spent to afford us this moment. Now! Now! Now!” the stage metaphor exposes playwright Kushner’s smugness. Lincoln fully exposes Kushner’s pedantic tendency. Speechifying characters (especially Lincoln) display conceited literacy, over-stating their differences (their career positions) but never embodying the passions that made Michael Apted’s Wilberforce biography Amazing Grace such a remarkable drama of moral inspiration. Kushner’s self-congratulatory approach to the 13th Amendment doesn’t enliven our sense of personal conviction and political maneuvering. Even the powerful “Molasses to Rum to Slaves” trading song in 1776, the Declaration of Independence musical, more clearly outlined America’s practical and political functioning. Both Amazing Grace and 1776 worked as ideational histories; Lincoln merely fantasizes. The political manipulation and the idolizing of a single politician force Spielberg and Kushner into the weird position of displacing the moral rigor that distinguished their collaboration on Munich. When Lincoln bases his notion of equality on Euclidian principle, referencing a 2,000-year-old secular book as his foundation then praising “a great invisible strength in a people’s union,” Kushner’s vagrant communist-sympathy comes into play. The platitude is barely disguised by Lincoln’s out-of-nowhere wish to visit the Holy Land, “where David and Solomon walked.”  As with Angels in America, Kushner is partial to formula, prescription, disquisition — the pageantry of rhetoric. But Spielberg thrives on movement and imagery, and there isn’t enough to keep Lincoln from bogging down in verbiage. It frequently resembles the self-pleasing sophistry favored in this era of punditry and hero-worship.  But cinema’s most memorable political histories have always been films like Young Mr. Lincoln, Amistad, and Amazing Grace, which attain the ineffable by honestly clarifying history and daring that Capra-esque link between dramatized conscience and delineated principle. That’s what stirs one’s soul in Albert Finney’s conversion scene in Amazing Grace, which found the perfect symbols and actions to express the passion of ideas. Lincoln weakens from the current political era’s disingenuous pageantry of rhetoric.  In the popular fashion, Spielberg and Kushner fall back on the “great man” theory of history. Their iconography is vague, a fantasy where equality is learned through logic — not experience or faith, because in this film’s view no human beings can be taken on faith (as when Lincoln says he doesn’t know any black people). The film’s one-dimensional, anachronistic black characters indicate Spielberg’s and Kushner’s progressive elitism; they never absorbed the richness of Jonathan Demme’s slavery-era Beloved. This dream of Lincoln, fitted to the solipsistic subjectivity of the political moment, lacks Amistad’s beauty and historical clarity and instead sets forth a “semi-divine” (that is, nonspiritual) view of political heroism. The fantasy of glorified expediency might well be retitled “Dreams from My Father.”  — Armond White is the author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World and, most recently, New Position: The Prince Chronicles. ]]>
(Review Source)
Michael Medved
http://www.michaelmedved.com/wp-content/uploads/Lincoln_Review.mp3
(Review Source)
Plugged In
DramaWar We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewHere there be dragons. So wrote the old cartographers on their parchment maps, sketching fantastical beasts with fins and fangs. They were fearsome and horrible, these monsters, able to swallow ships and devour cities. Perhaps Abraham Lincoln, a voracious reader, ran across one of those maps one day—a map made when the world's worst dangers lurked in its blank spaces. Maybe he smiled. Maybe he thought of how much better it would be were these the real monsters—so horrible and so beautiful and so far away. How preferable they'd be to the ones that stalk our streets and devour our families and consume our nation's very soul. The year is 1865, and Mr. Lincoln has had his fill of dragons. One is named War—a gluttonous beast that has fed on the country for four sickening years. Hundreds of thousands have died at its feet, lost in its bloody maw. America's forests and fields are covered in corpses. The streets are alive with the cry of mothers and children, mourning the beloved dead. Another is called Slavery, a demon that's torn at the country since its inception and before—mocking its hypocrisy, decrying the duplicity of its declaration that "All men are created equal" when so many live in chains. Now, finally, Lincoln feels the time is right to slay a monster or two. The rebellious South is exhausted and ready to plead for peace. Slavery may, with a little luck, be wiped out through an act of Congress—the 13th Amendment. But there's a catch: End the war, and the Confederate South will insist on preserving slavery. Free the slaves, and the South will have no incentive to make peace. "It's either the Amendment or this Confederate peace," William Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, tells him. "You cannot have both." We know how this story ends. We read it in the Constitution, hear it in the ringing words of civil rights advocates, see it engraved on the tombs of soldiers and sewn to a field of blue on a flag that now boasts a full 50 stars. Lincoln is the story of monsters, the man who slew them, and the price he paid to do so.Positive ElementsLincoln led the country through the bloodiest conflict in its history and, while so doing, reversed a horrific evil that had plagued it from its inception. And while Daniel Day-Lewis' layered portrayal of the United States' 16th president informs us that Lincoln was a more complex character than we sometimes want to believe, we also observe a host of reasons why Lincoln was so successful then and so revered now. We first see Lincoln visiting his troops, listening patiently as soldiers recite his own Gettysburg Address. Indeed, the film makes a point of stressing Lincoln's almost boundless patience—enduring the petty requests of constituents with a kindly smile, chuckling off his cabinet's combustibility, absorbing the occasional sideswipe from his political friends and foes with grace, even when he has to force it. His style is not to dazzle with brilliance, but to guide and cajole; he spins yarns to illustrate his point, disarming his opponents with self-deprecating humor. Some consider Lincoln's patience and down-home style to be a political liability, and we hear how Lincoln can seem to dawdle on almost every decision that needs to be made. Every decision except one: the 13th Amendment, which Lincoln wants to speed through a lame-duck session of Congress in less than a month. In his rush to pass the thing, he utilizes every trick in his arsenal to get the work done. (More about those "tricks" later.) Amazingly, as he drives toward his goal, Lincoln never loses sight of his family. He dotes on his little boy, Tad, and during the House of Representative's critical Amendment vote, the president is not pacing in his office. He is with his son. He, with very few exceptions, does his very best to help his wife Mary, who's been driven practically insane by their boy Willie's death two years earlier. He encourages her to stay strong—put on a brave face for his sake and for the nation's. He struggles with whether to let his oldest boy, Robert, join the military or keep him safe at home for Mary's sake. (Lincoln eventually allows it, knowing Robert would be ashamed for the rest of his life if he didn't serve.) Lincoln shows grace, pardoning a 16-year-old soldier for an act of cowardice. He shows courage, making horrifically difficult decisions that risk alienating his friends, his supporters and even his wife.Spiritual ContentAmerica during the Civil War was a deeply religious country. And everyone, it seems, tried to enlist God to their side. "Congress must never declare equal those whom God created unequal!" thunders New York Representative Fernando Wood. Thaddeus Stevens, a powerful congressional abolitionist, retorts that such talk insults God. When an African-American servant tells Lincoln she's sure the Amendment will pass—that God will see to it—Lincoln quips, "I wish He had chosen an instrument more wieldy than the House of Representatives." A worried father named Preston Blair pleads with Lincoln to open the door to peace "in the name of gentle Christ." African-Americans raise or fold their hands in thanksgiving when the Amendment passes. We see and hear people asking for God's blessing or guidance. Lincoln talks about his longing to visit the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of David and Solomon. Mary chides Abe and herself for not being necessarily fit to take such a spiritual pilgrimage, seeing as how they're taking a buggy ride on Good Friday. Lincoln tells a humorous story about a parrot who was taught to say, "Today's the day the world shall end, as the Scripture has foretold." The punch line? The owner eventually shot the parrot, thus "confirming" the Scripture. We hear hints that Mary tried to commune with Willie after he died. (In real life, Mary was fascinated by an unmoored spirituality in vogue at the time and held séances in Willie's room.) She half-jokingly refers to herself as a soothsayer.Sexual ContentWe see Mary in a state of partial undress, wearing her undergarments. Stevens shares a non-marital bed with his African-American housekeeper. (The vibe is that of an old married couple—companionable, not passionate.)Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentThe film opens on a battle scene; people are stabbed with bayonets, beaten and pushed deep into the mud to drown. The sequence isn't bloody, but it vividly conveys the horrors of war. Toward the end of the war, Lincoln visits a battlefield strewn with corpses. One mangled body has its torso splayed open, devoid of organs. We see a city burning. When Lincoln visits wounded war vets, his son Robert follows orderlies pushing a cart that's dribbling blood along the way. The conveyance stops at a huge pit filled with human limbs, and the orderlies unveil the cart's contents—newly amputated legs and arms. They dump the contents in the pit as people begin to fill in the hole with dirt. When Robert and his father get into an argument, Lincoln slaps him across the face. Lincoln is shown on his deathbed, a bloodstained pillow beneath his head.Crude or Profane LanguageOne f-word. Four or five s-words. Bigots hurl derogatory terms for African-Americans several times, including the n-word. We hear "b‑‑ch," "p‑‑‑," "h‑‑‑" and "bloody." God's name is combined with "d‑‑n" more than a dozen times. Jesus' name is abused once.Drug and Alcohol ContentSeveral characters are shown drinking (wine, beer and other presumably alcoholic beverages) and smoking (mostly cigars). Preston Blair's wife instructs a servant to get him drunk during a long journey so he'll be able to sleep. Lobbyists seem inebriated in a scene or two.Other Negative ElementsRemember those "tricks" Lincoln uses to push his Amendment through Congress? Well, politics can be a dirty business, and not even our most revered president escapes the muck here. From the beginning, Lincoln admits that the Emancipation Proclamation (enacted two years earlier) required some serious contortions to legally justify it. Amendment 13 will clear up any potential illegality … but to get it passed he has Seward hire some underhanded "lobbyists" to help garner the votes needed. These lobbyists are forbidden from using money to outright bribe anyone, but they're free to offer jobs in exchange for "yes" votes. When that's not enough, Lincoln resorts to other means. He (in a roundabout way) tells one congressman that he'll have him booted out of Congress unless he votes "yes." He perpetually sidesteps rumors that he's entertaining peace offers from the Confederacy—but in fact he is. On the morning of the vote, the opposition demands the president respond to rumors that there's a Confederate delegation in town. Lincoln says there is no delegation in Washington, D.C., "as far as I know." It's true, but only semantically so: He stalled the delegation outside town. When one principled adjunct refuses to deliver that message to Congress, Lincoln gently takes the missive out of his hands and gives it to a less scrupulous messenger. Lincoln tells an off-color story involving a British bathroom and a picture of George Washington. He threatens to send Mary to the madhouse.ConclusionHistory has frozen Lincoln into something like the American conscience: kindly, principled, winsome, idealistic. And he was, indeed, all of those things. But through that lens we lose sight of how politically savvy and shrewd he was. Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is indeed a dramatization, but the sorts of steps we see Lincoln take here are not fiction—not according to historians. And portions of the screenplay are based on a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin. Lincoln didn't rise above the game: He played it with the best of them. And when Thaddeus Stevens, both his ally and critic, chastises him for his seeming lack of a moral compass���his willingness to compromise, his occasional obfuscations—Lincoln rebuts him, naturally, with a story. He relates how as a backwoodsmen, he learned it was sometimes necessary to deviate from true north in order to evade a swamp or gorge. If you plow straight on toward your goal regardless of obstacles that might terminate your trip forever, Lincoln asks, "What's the use of knowing true north?" Lincoln, then, like the country he led, was both an idealist and a pragmatist. Were his actions admirable? Appalling? Perhaps a bit of both. And just as Lincoln got his own hands muddy to pass that invaluable 13th Amendment, his onscreen character feels a bit muddy to those of us used to seeing him as a gleaming marble statue. A postscript: Did Abraham Lincoln really spout the s-word? Did his colleagues use the f-word? This film places those foul words (and others) into the mouths of its historical characters, but James McPherson, a Lincoln biographer and consultant on the movie, says, "The profanity actually bothered me, especially Lincoln's use of it. It struck me as completely unlikely—a modern injection into Lincoln's rhetoric." The Hollywood Reporter reports that McPherson says he emailed his objections to the screenwriter after reading an early draft, "but I see that that language made it in the movie anyhow." David Barton, who has appeared as a history expert on Fox News, CNN and other outlets, furthers McPherson's point by saying, "There are records of [Lincoln] confronting military generals if he heard about them cursing. Furthermore, the f-word used by [W.N.] Bilbo was virtually nonexistent in that day and it definitely would not have been used around Lincoln. If Lincoln had heard it, it is certain that he would instantly have delivered a severe rebuke."Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
(Review Source)
Plugged In
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A few years years ago, I went out on a limb and wrote a blog that included a list of many of my favorite movies. To make the grade, the films had to be both entertaining and family-friendly. I titled this blog, “A Few of My Favorite Things” and began with an introduction in which I admitted publishing such a compilation was risky. I was fully aware that not every film on my list would resonate with some of you, our readers. Most of you who commented were kind, but as expected a few of you thought I was a few fries short of a happy meal. For instance, a person named Jake commented: Soul Surfer??? For those who want to lust after half naked women!! To Save a Life??? I got the impression that sex before marriage is okay, as long as you don’t abort the baby!! Like I said, I knew I wasn’t going to please everyone. By the way, not only did I screen Soul Surfer, I was even in Hawaii for some of the filming (yes, a rough assignment, but someone had to do it!). While there were definitely some women wearing swimsuits, that’s a hard thing to get away from in a surfing movie. And with To Save a Life, my colleague Paul Asay wrote: The final product is polished, professional and one of the best Christian films I’ve seen. I guarantee you those words would not have been written for a film endorsing sex outside of marriage. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I’m ready to roll out “A Few of My Favorite Things, Part 2”—a list of 50 films I’ve liked since the original list of 30 was published in March 2012. Most, but not all of the films listed below have been reviewed by Plugged In. I’d encourage you to use this list in conjunction with our reviews. Nearly every film has a content concern or two. Even The Peanuts Movies with its perfect score has Lucy calling Charlie Brown a “blockhead.” I’ve been doing this long enough to realize we have readers who’d prefer their young children not hear any sort of name calling. I get it. Again that’s why I recommend you use this list in conjunction with our reviews. Incidentally, in light of the potential criticism you may be wondering why I’d do lists like these at all. Good question! For one thing, as we head into the Christmas gift-buying season, some of you are looking for gifts/stocking stuffers. Furthermore, I think that question was answered last time so please allow me to reprint what I said back in 2012: So, by now, I think you get my point: We hesitate to offer the “Plugged In List of Family-Friendly Movies” because we know that somebody, somewhere, will feel we let them down. That said, I regularly have friends and acquaintances ask me about flicks I personally like. (It’s similar to a physician being approached with a “Hey, doc, I got this pain in my arm and was wondering …”) So, even though I know that this list will not be without some controversy, I’m going to be brave and jot down a few titles of films that I’ve found encouraging and inspiring. Instead of Plugged In’s list, let’s call this “Bob Waliszewski’s List of Family-Friendly Movies!” And please note that, as with all films, age-appropriateness comes into play. So with all that said, here’s my most recent alphabetized list of favorites: 42The 3356 UpThe ArtistBearsBelleBeyond the MaskThe Book ThiefCaptiveChasing MavericksCinderellaThe Drop BoxEverestFar from the Madding CrowdGod’s Not DeadThe Good LieGrace UnpluggedHooveyHundred Foot JourneyInside OutInstructions Not Included JerusalemLes MiserablesLincolnA Long Way OffThe LunchboxMan of SteelMcFarland USAMirror MirrorMoms’ Night OutMr. HolmesMuppets Most WantedMy All-AmericanNot TodayOctober BabyThe Odd Life of Timothy GreenOld Fashioned Patterns of Evidence: The ExodusThe Peanuts Movie Return to the Hiding PlaceRogue SaintsSaving Mr. BanksSeasons of GraySon of GodUnbrokenUnconditionalWar RoomWhen the Game Stands TallWoman in GoldWoodlawn Okay, Jake (and everyone else), give me your thoughts. I promise you there are no half-naked women in any of the above! ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
birdmanboyhoodcalvarycaptain americadawn of the planet of the apesinterstellarinto the woodsnightcrawlerselmathe imitation gamethe theory of everythingwhiplash This has been a year when audiences flocked to the likes of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I,’’ “Transformers: Age of Extinction,’’ “Guardians of the Galaxy,’’ “The Fault in Our Stars’’ and “Gone Girl.’’ What did The Post’s film critics prefer? Lou Lumenick and Kyle Smith sat down to hash out their own top picks: Lou: We’ve been working together on the movie beat for nearly 10 years, and we’ve only matched our top choice twice. This year, at least, each of our No. 1 films of the year are somewhere on the other’s list. Kyle: Didn’t you call “Boyhood” a gimmick movie? I thought “Birdman,” which is styled to look like most of the movie is a single take, was the ultimate in artifice for its own sake. In any case: Both made your list! Viva the gimmick! Lou: Well, “Edge of Tomorrow’’ on your list is also a stunt — it’s the first Tom Cruise movie I’ve liked in years, plus it’s got a badass Emily Blunt. I suspect “Boyhood’’ and “Birdman’’ are strongly written and acted enough they would have worked without being stunts. Kyle: “Birdman” is not only one take, it’s one-note. Spare me the showbiz-is-agony woe. But I agree that “Boyhood” would be equally great if different actors played the kid over the years. The scene in which the mom — heartbreakingly good work by Patricia Arquette — cries when she sends her boy off to college might be the best of the year. “I just thought there would be more,” she says. Indelible. Another great parenting film was “Interstellar,” which yielded the profound thought that the reason we’re here is to make memories for our children. Lou: I think the emotional content was too much for some of our colleagues, who were complaining about the “incomprehensible” physics while claiming to understand Jean-Luc Godard’s inscrutable “Goodbye to Language.’’ Another celebration of out-of-the-box thinking — in physics and an unconventional marriage — can be found in “The Theory of Everything,’’ with super performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Kyle: A surprisingly uplifting movie considering the hero spends most of it in dire straits. Given two years to live in 1963, Stephen Hawking is still cracking jokes, still enlarging our sense of wonder. Another movie that caught me unawares and made me cry was Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam.” The very word “Vietnam” is synonymous with folly and dishonor, yet this doc shows how, with ingenuity, tenacity and courage, US forces saved thousands of Vietnamese from the barbarians at the gates as Saigon fell in 1975. I would love to see this important, seldom-told story get the full Hollywood treatment. Lou: We’ve got a couple of great movies this year about real-life war heroes who meet unhappy ends. “The Imitation Game’’ has a fantastic Benedict Cumberbatch as closeted genius Alan Turing, who invents the computer to defeat the Nazis, only to end up prosecuted for his homosexuality. And then there’s your favorite, “American Sniper,’’ the first movie I’ve seen with Bradley Cooper where he actually disappears into the character. Kyle: Yes, he embodies the character — physical, taciturn, focused. The film’s director, Clint Eastwood, continues to be a puzzlement. Half the time his military movies amount to Howard Zinn anti-American propaganda, like “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” And yet “American Sniper” is anything but. It’s a mature, thoughtful, sober work — the capstone to his directorial career, the best military movie since “Black Hawk Down” and a tribute to the warrior class that is the guts of this country. Lou: At the other end of her career, Ava DuVernay arrives as a major filmmaker with “Selma,’’ an epic telling of the ’60s voter rights struggle in Alabama with a terrific David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. politically outmaneuvering Tom Wilkinson’s Lyndon Johnson. The marchers’ confrontation with cops on the bridge is the most powerful scene in a movie this year. Kyle: It reminded me of “Lincoln.” Many long, slow, quiet, dimly lit scenes. Both King and Abe deserved more exciting films. I much preferred the complex mind games in “Calvary” and “Whiplash.” The former is a devastating parable about the issues facing contemporary Catholicism, the latter a thrilling exploration of the pain that may be involved in attaining true mastery of craft. Lou: Hope you mailed your “Calvary’’ review to your No. 1 Catholic fan, Philomena Lee! I do think “Whiplash’’ is well worth seeing for J.K. Simmons’ mesmerizing performance as an abusive music teacher, though I question making him a role model. Another dark character I loved was Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy TV cameraman in “Nightcrawler,’’ debuting director Dan Gilroy’s blackly hilarious mash-up of “Network’’ and “Ace in the Hole.” Kyle: It was amusing, but Billy Wilder was 10 times as caustic. The “serious” movies in general disappointed me this year, but I enjoyed a bunch of summer blockbusters. The new “Apes” movie was smart, eerie and gripping, and the second “Captain America” was nearly the equal of its predecessor — funny banter, sinewy action, well-drawn characters, a pleasingly complicated plot and one of the most ingeniously designed exposition scenes ever — Toby Jones explaining it all as a Nazi ghost speaking through 1970s computers. Lou: To me, “Captain America’’ was an interminable one-joke movie — Robert Redford collecting a paycheck playing a Nazi. Meanwhile, the unlikely collaboration between the Mouse House and Stephen Sondheim has turned out what may well be the best Hollywood musical so far this century — the deeply subversive “Into the Woods,’’ with fantastic singing by Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep. Just don’t bring the kids, PG rating or no. Kyle: Another one about the agonies of parenting. I venerate Sondheim, but the big-screen version is a bust. All I want for Christmas is for somebody to greenlight the “Wicked” movie already. Lou: Don’t hold your breath. I almost forgot to mention Lukas Moodysson’s “We Are the Best,” a delightful comedy-drama about aspiring punk rockers in 1980s Stockholm. Kyle: Time to get on out of here. I have to go convince my 6-year-old that “Big Hero 6” isn’t the greatest movie ever. Lou: And I have to buy a “Frozen’’ doll as a fifth birthday present for my granddaughter — who dismissed “How To Train Your Dragon 2’’ as a “boy movie.’’ Lou Lumenick’s Top 10 1. “The Theory of Everything”2. “Interstellar”3. “Selma”4. “We Are the Best!”5. “The Imitation Game”6. “Birdman”7. “American Sniper”8. “Nightcrawler”9. “Boyhood”10. “Into the Woods” Kyle Smith’s Top 10 1. “American Sniper”2. “Boyhood”3. “Calvary”4. “Whiplash”5. “The Theory of Everything”6. “Edge of Tomorrow”7. “Last Days in Vietnam”8. “Interstellar”9. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”10. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Share this:FacebookTwitterGoogleFacebook MessengerWhatsAppEmailCopy ]]>
(Review Source)
Hugh Hewitt
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Those are the words of an Israeli bus rider on learning of another bus being bombed a by terrorist in Tel Aviv Wednesday. The United States is striving to bring about a cease-fire, with Secretary Clinton shuttling between Jerusalem and Cairo, though it seems clear that Hamas has the present ability to end the battle simply by ending the rocket attacks, each and every one of which is an act of terror by any standard recognized by any civilized nation. (Israel’s response, in sharp contrast, is proportionate, lawful and moral –the response of a nation defending its citizens against unprovoked attacks.) For many Americans watching the march to war unfold, and not just between Irsael and Hamas, or between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border in the north, but also the looming confrontation between Israel and Iran, the violence and death of innocents that accompanies it seems so extreme that the demands for a stop grow and inevitably get directed at the one party that is reasonable, which is Israel. The very best quick take on the real dynamics at work here –Iran being at the center of the war– is from Lee Smith. It is complicated, and it is very likely that a much bigger war is on the offing. It is thus a good time for Steven Speilberg’s Lincoln to appear in American theaters and to be greeted with all the praise any critic can muster. Many of the critics have missed the film’s key point, such as A. O. Scott in the New York Times, who concludes that “the genius of ‘Lincoln,’ finally, lies in its vision of politics as a noble, sometimes clumsy dialectic of the exalted and the mundane.” In fact the genius of Lincoln the man, reflected in Lincoln the film, is that he knew that “all men are created equal,” and that a government which recognized that fact, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth,” and that to prevent that perishing he would employ war and all of its horrible violence to defend the country so established. Actor Daniel Day Lewis does a masterful job of transporting Lincoln over the centuries, especially his resolve to preserve the union whatever the cost. The film ends with Lewis playing Lincoln giving his Second Inaugural Address with its terrible resolve on full display: Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Israel is waging a just war against terrorists who do not want peace with the Jewish State but its annihilation. Israel will not agree to be driven into the sea, and so the war will go on until the terrorists are defeated and removed, and reasonable, peace-loving Palestinians replace them and seek a state, not an extermination. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have no doubt already seen Lincoln, and we have to hope they understand his greatness was his resolve to do right even at terrible cost, not to broker any peace deal he could obtain. Previous: Vince Flynn on The Last Man and the War We're Leaving In Afghanistan Next: Entrepreneurs On Thanksgiving Eve ]]>
(Review Source)
Hugh Hewitt
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A fascinating two hour conversation Monday with former Vice President D**k Cheney and Lynne Cheney, mostly about her wonderful new book, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, a conversation which also covered many other subjects.  For your listening pleasure: Audio: 05-19hhs-cheney-1 05-19hhs-cheney-2 Transcript: HH: Special show today. In studio with me, Lynne Cheney, the author of James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, and her husband, the former vice president of the United States, the Honorable D**k Cheney. Welcome to the Cheneys, it’s great to have you both here. And congratulations, Mrs. Cheney, this is a remarkable book. LC: Well, I appreciate that, Hugh. HH: I don’t have to say that, even though I worked for you long ago and far away. And Mr. Vice President, you’ll forgive me if I begin with a couple of questions for Mrs. Cheney about the book. DC: I wouldn’t have it any other way. HH: All right, you began as a member of the Bicentennial Commission, which served, I think, from 1983-1991. And I think this may be the most lasting legacy of that commission, because not a lot came out of it, right? Not a lot is remembered, but here in one volume is this remarkable man. And so I gather you fell in love with him during that time? LC: Well, I began to understand how significant his achievements were, how magnificent they were, really, and to juxtapose that with how seldom or how often, rather, he was left off the list of the founders. Maybe he’d get added on at the end, but he was under-appreciated for the many things that he accomplished, shaped the country we know. HH: And Mr. Vice President, during these many years she’s been writing James Madison, did you grow to love him more or hate him after listening to this all the time? DC: The truth is, Hugh, she never let me look at it until it was finished. HH: Oh, she didn’t talk about Madison the whole time? DC: Well, she did, but in terms of my being able to review anything, that was verboten. I got to read it when it was done. HH: Could you tell when she was thinking about the book by asking you a question, perhaps, about how a member of the House might become a member of the Executive? DC: Well, interesting story. Here’s a good…we wrote a book together called Kings Of The Hill, and I was a junior member of the House, and Lynne was the accomplished author, and she did the research on the book at the Library of Congress. And we’d come home at night, and she’d show me what she’d written. And I would say but I was there, and that’s not how they do it. It didn’t work out all that well. Eventually, we got the book done, but we agreed we’d never do one together again. HH: Oh, and so as you were going through the writing, when you a question that had to do with the particular expertise of Madison, either as a cabinet member or member of the House, or in the Executive, would you just bring it up with him on the sly? LC: No, I tended to ask D**k questions more about either the history of the Congress, for example, how many speakers have become president, or I would amuse him with the stories of how we got a vice president, which was not ever a thought to be a very necessary office. HH: Right, the Page 188, this really brings home Madison’s role. He ghosted President Washington’s inaugural address. He ghosted the House’s reply to it. He wrote Washington’s reply to the House’s reply, and then he wrote Washington’s reply to the Senate’s reply. So four out of five, that is kind of remarkable. LC: Well, it really is. I think it’s symbolic of how his voice echoed throughout those early days when the new government under the Constitution was getting underway. You know, it was bouncing, his voice was there bouncing off every wall. HH: Mr. Vice President, you’ve had some fine writers. Did you ever ghost write like Madison DC: No. If I had, we wouldn’t have gotten in as much trouble as we did. No, he was a remarkable man, and I am tremendously impressed with what Lynne’s done, and I love the book. HH: I want to start a little bit at the beginning of his life, Mrs. Cheney. On very…Page 5, you write, “Madison’s time of extraordinary accomplishment came after years of intense focus, deep concentration, and nearly obsessive effort, behaviors that describe most lives of genius from Sir Isaac Newton’s to Mozart’s to Einstein. I mean, he worked and worked and worked. It’s not a very encouraging thing for a biographer to begin with, because you have such a pile of work to go through. LC: Well, that’s interesting. He does have thousands of pages of paper. 30 volumes of his papers are published and online, which makes research much easier than it would be otherwise, but there is a ton of it. That’s for sure. Some people have questioned whether Madison qualifies as a genius, you know, and I think it’s because we don’t understand, we haven’t got a clear definition of what a genius is. The one I accepted is that a genius is someone who changes the domain in which he works. You know, that’s what Mozart did. He changed music forever. That’s what Einstein did. He changed physics forever. And Madison changed government forever. So that’s why I call him a genius. And he also exhibits that trait of genius that I think we don’t often recognize, which is, as you mentioned, really hard work. We tend to think of genius as kind of a spark from Heaven or something that is innate and that you’re born with. And sure, you have to be smart. But genius comes after decades of hard work in almost every care. HH: Now tonight, you’re going to be at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, tomorrow night at the Reagan Library, and on Wednesday at the Hoover Institute up north. Tonight’s program is at 7pm, tomorrow’s program is at 6pm at the Reagan Library. And I’m going to replay this broadcast, I’m pretty sure, on August 24th, which will be the bicentennial of the burning of Washington. LC: Very good. HH: And I, I think probably, I want to put this as the start, I could easily talk to you for three hours. You spent a very moving chapter on that, and there are some parallels in this book which are eerie, because you’re writing about the destruction of Washington, and of course, you were both in Washington when Washington was attacked. And there is this subtext here. There are some remarkable parallels in this book. LC: No, both D**k and I thought about the War of 1812 and the burning of Washington in the summer of 1814 as we took off from the South Lawn of the White House on the night of September 11th by helicopter, because you could see the smoke from the Pentagon. How do you remember it? DC: Oh, I do. We hadn’t even commented on the fact that the last time Washington had burned, in effect, was in the War of 1812. And you couldn’t help but be impressed as obviously that night of 9/11 as we lifted off, we’d lost 3,000 people that day and all of the trauma and turmoil of 9/11, to be able to fly over the Pentagon and see where it had been hit. And they were moving us to a remote location for safety so the President and I wouldn’t be in the same location. HH: One of the things that came through, Madison wanted to return to Washington as soon as possible. You detail this, and I’ll come back to this a little bit later. You counseled President Bush against doing that, did you not? DC: I did, and he wanted to come back in the worst way, but I wasn’t the only one. The Secret Service also felt that. We, at the moment that it came up the New York Trade Center had been hit, and then I was evacuated from my office because there was a plane headed for the White House. It turned out to be the flight that hit the Pentagon. But all of a sudden, we knew Washington was under attack as well as New York. The President wanted to come back to Washington, and I strongly recommended that until we found out how big the attack was, how long it was going to last, what else was out there, I thought it was important for the two of us not to be in the same location. He was on Air Force One, he was safe, he could relocate anyplace in the country, and eventually went to Offutt Air Force base out in Omaha, but it was very important for the two of us to stay separated, so that one strike wouldn’t take out the both of us. HH: Lynne Cheney, as a historian, you’ve got a unique perspective on that period of time in 1814 when the White House is burned and Washington is under attack, because he rides to the front lines. And of course, they would never let a president or a vice president, or any member of the cabinet get near that, although both of you went to war zones, and President Bush and Mrs. Bush went to the war zones, and Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Gates, obviously, but they just ride their horses. And he almost rides right into the British, something of which I was wholly unaware until I read James Madison: A Life Reconsidered. LC: You know, Jefferson had his reputation somewhat besmirched by having ridden out of Monticello as the British were coming up from Charlottesville, and people, you know, assumed, or how shall I say, cast aspersions on his character because he hadn’t somehow stayed all by himself and fought the British. It was a ridiculous charge, but I’ve wondered if Madison might not have had it in mind when he rode out to Bladensburg where the battle was. In some ways, it was foolhardy. You know, Lincoln did the same thing. I was reading a Lincoln biography the other day, and it said that Lincoln was the first president to expose himself to enemy fire. It’s not the case. Madison certainly did. It was a brave thing to do, though, you know, considering how important the president is, maybe foolhardy. HH: Is there anything underway that is planned to commemorate the 200th anniversary, do you know? LC: Well, you know, in McLean, where we sometimes are in Virginia, they’re having community celebrations. I don’t think there’s a big national effort underway, but it’s odd. And you know, my interest in Madison has gone back a long way, but D**k and I now live, well, within a stone’s throw of Dolly Madison Blvd., And right across the street, right across Dolly Madison Blvd. is a house, an old house that’s been very well preserved and taken care of called Salona, where Madison is supposed to have spent the first night after the British burned Washington. Down the road a little way is a farm called Rokeby, where we know Dolly Madison spent the first night. HH: But I’m getting ahead of my story a little bit, your story, but I spent last Labor Day Weekend in Ohio at the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie at the request of Governor Kasich. LC: Wonderful. HH: And one man put together that, a guy named Dave Zavagno of Universal Medical System, just willed it into being. And they had 11 tall ships. But it really wasn’t, and four thousand boats came out. They intended to recreate the Battle of Lake Erie, and they threw Dunkirk in. But it was an amazing thing. But no one’s paying much attention to the bicentennial. And when we come back from break, we’ll talk a little bit about maybe that’s because Madison hasn’t had his due paid to him, that so much is paid to him in James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney. It is posted at Hughhewitt.com. — – – – – HH: I’m going to be in trouble. I’m going to tell that story, actually. During the break, Mrs. Cheney turned to Vice President Cheney, who is in my studio, and said I knew Hugh Hewitt when he was totally blonde. And the Vice President I knew you when you were totally blonde. And so that was really, that was pretty good. I actually must, full disclosure, I worked for Mrs. Cheney at the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1985 and ’86 when she began her tenure there, and never met the then-Congressman, now Vice President Cheney. He was around a lot, but you were working on the Hill on something called Iran-Contra. DC: Among other things. HH: Among other things at the time. DC: And that was a big one. HH: It was a busy time. Back to this new book, James Madison, A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney, is in bookstores everywhere, a bestseller. Both of the Cheneys will be at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda tonight at 7pm, at the Reagan Library tomorrow night, Tuesday night at 6pm, and at the Hoover Institute up north if you’re anywhere in the Bay Area on Wednesday night. And it’s an extraordinary book, and I have spent the last five days with it and couldn’t put it down. Let’s go back to a couple of things. We were talking about his capacity for work. And he did so much study, Lynne Cheney, and you chart that even before he went to Princeton, he was steeped in the classics, and he had this amazing Scots tutor. And then Princeton was from 5 in the morning until 9 at night. And we don’t get many public servants anymore who are that prepared for office based upon their classical education, do we? LC: You know, I think he was inspired by the times in which he lives, partly. I mean, you’re right. We don’t. Education has not yet recovered from the 60s, I think. HH: Well put. LC: And I worry that it may never. But I also think that the enormous effort that men like James Madison put into the founding was partly inspired by the fact that they knew they were about to be involved in a world-altering event. You know, you just would be inspired to read and study as much as you possibly could. HH: I’ll quote your book. “It’s hard to imagine a more thrilling time to come of age than in the years leading up to the American Revolution.” LC: Exactly. HH: It would call for this great genius. But these deep habits of study are still, I just keep coming back to that. Mr. Vice President, you spent 35 years beginning in the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1970 through the vice presidency and still active in public life after the vice presidency. How many men have you met that have this kind of, and women, this kind of attention to the work and fun of them, or work ethic when it comes to public work? DC: Well, I’d like to say a lot, Hugh. I’m reluctant to compare anybody in effect. Madison was such a singular figure. It’s like how do you compare somebody to Abraham Lincoln. And it’s almost, if you see a portrayal of Lincoln, you know, when they did their recent movie on Lincoln, Daniel Day Lewis, great actor, but still, it’s such a, we all have such a well-developed sense of Abraham Lincoln because we’ve heard so much about him, it’s difficult to portray him in any sense. And I look at Madison, and the wide variety of things he was involved in as the first president to fight a war under the Constitution, the author of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, secretary of state, there is no end to what he did. And it’s hard to come up with anybody else who could match that. HH: Eight years as secretary of state before he became president, is that good preparation to be president, being secretary of state? DC: It might have been then (laughing) HH: (laughing) Any comment on that, Mrs. Cheney? LC: (laughing) No, interestingly enough, when Madison was running for president in 1808, Jefferson released all of, well, not all, but 100,000 words of correspondence from the State Department to show how hard Madison had worked, and how well he had defended America’s cause. I don’t think now that you know, if you released 100,000 words from the State Department, people would just fall over in boredom. I think that the qualifications then were recognized by those who are voting in a different way than they would be now. HH: One of the fascinating parallels between that time and ours is that in the aftermath of the burning of Washington, there was a Congressional inquiry. It lasted three months, as you detail in James Madison, A Life Reconsidered. They exonerated Madison completely, because he had warned of what was coming, and John Armstrong, his secretary of War, had failed to execute. But they moved with rapidity in three months, and they issued their report. Not much like the post-9/11 Commission, was it, Mr. Vice President? DC: No, it really wasn’t. It was such a totally different era. I think about the 9/11 situation, we had a problem in terms of looking at 9/11, partly because we had the ongoing war on terror. And the more we focused on criticizing what had just happened with respect to 9/11, and forced the agents into a position where they ‘d spent all their time 24 hours a day, trying to defend themselves against that earlier miss, the less time and resource we had devoted to the next attack, and preventing the next attacks. So you had to strike a fine balance. HH: And do you expect now that the Benghazi investigation will yield anything of use? DC: I certainly think it will. I think we don’t have a full accounting, yet. I think there’s no question but what they were not prepared for it, and they should have been. Everybody expected to be hit on 9/11. We did after 9/11. That was a date that al Qaeda would try to point out or emphasize. And they’d done absolutely nothing to prepare for it. When it came, it was very badly handled, and I felt, frankly, they totally misled the country about what had happened, because it didn’t track with the narrative they were peddling at the time for political reasons in the run up to the election, that they got bin Laden, terrorist problem solved. HH: I’ll come back to that in a moment, but I want to go back to James Madison for a moment. I am dumbfounded. I did not know that he had epilepsy. And I have taught the Constitution for 19 years at Chapman Law School, I’ve read pretty much every biography of all the founders. I did not know James Madison had epilepsy. How often do you encounter that, Mrs. Cheney, in talking about the book? LC: Well, it’s almost universally the case. David Mattern, who’s at the Madison Papers at the University of Virginia, cited that as one of the really important scholarly contributions that the book makes. People have known before that there was this letter at Princeton in which Madison writes himself a draft autobiography. He said I had a constitutional liability to sudden attacks somewhat representing epilepsy and suspending the intellectual functions. But it’s either been dismissed, or Madison has been called a hypochondriac, because he talked about these sudden attacks. But mostly, I think, scholars have looked it and said that’s just too difficult, I’m not going to get into that. But I was fascinated. HH: And you tracked down Dr. Orrin Devinsky at NYU’s, it’s it Langone Medical Center? LC: Um-hmm. HH: And he helped you through this. And then you chart how these attacks would come on. For example, in the middle of the Ratification Convention… LC: Exactly. HH: …he falls prey to them. And I’m fascinated by, I know some people with epilepsy, and it can sometimes leave you debilitated for a day or so. He was back on his feet in two days contending with Patrick Henry again. So it’s remarkable. You understand him much more fully. LC: Exactly. Well, he’s often portrayed as sickly, and again, as a hypochondriac. In fact, he had these episodes. He had these sudden attacks. But between them, he was remarkably fit and ambitious. And he worked arduously. I sometimes laughed to myself thinking of the trips he took, you know, a thousand miles with Lafayette on horseback and in carriage, a thousand miles with Jefferson, and then the regular trips back and forth between where the capital was at that moment, Philadelphia or New York or Washington, to Montpelier, and how difficult that was. I wondered if the people who call him sickly could make the trips. — – – — HH: They’ve both been my guest in the past, because both are prolific authors. And one of your most recent books between the two of you is Heart, Mr. Vice President. You came on after you wrote Heart. And I thought about that when reading about Lynne Cheney’s description of James Madison’s treatment of his epilepsy. He even erased, he began, you said, in retirement, to write a self-portrait. And he included details of his, this was very scholarly. I mean, this is top drawer stuff about his epileptic episodes, and then you erased it and took it out. You, on the other hand, have done the opposite of Madison. Your health issues dating back to the time that you took over as Secretary of Defense all the way through most recently the publication of Heart, you’ve adopted the opposite, which is to tell everyone everything and let them decide. DC: Right, well, I almost had to, given the way we work these days. And it is relevant, frankly, who’s, if you’re in a senior position, if you’ve had serious health problems. Before I could be confirmed as Secretary of Defense, my doctors had to certify to the Senate Armed Services Committee the status of my health, what the forecast was going forward. Before George Bush picked me to be his running mate, he had his doctor, Denton Cooley, talk to my doctor, John Reiner, and the two of them decide whether or not they could recommend that I would be able to serve as vice president. So it was out there. It wasn’t a secret by any means. I’d had five heart attacks since I’d had that first one. And I got to the point where at one point the Cleveland Clinic had me up to a conference to use my case to tell the story of what’s happened over the last 40 years to heart care. We’ve reduced the incidents of death by 50%. That’s an amazing story. But they had me up, because I’d had virtually everything done to me that you could do to a heart patient. And it’s a story that I think people find reassuring. I get called all the time by folks who are wrestling with this disease. One out of every four Americans will have some form of heart disease during the course of their lives. So it’s a great story. We had a lot of fun doing it. I learned a lot from my doctor. I wrote the personal aspect of it as a patient. He wrote as the doctor, and tells the history of all those developments, cholesterol-lowering drugs, stents, implantable defibrillators, the things that saved my life that didn’t even exist in 1978. HH: Lynne Cheney, aren’t you amazed that James Madison made it to 85, given all the things they treated him? I mean, they bled him. The best advice he got that you record is Washington telling him moderation and good books, exercise and relaxation. Washington was concerned for his younger friend. LC: You know, it’s sad to read about health treatments in the 18th Century. When you know, not only bleeding, but people were taking mercury and swallowing antimony. I think the herbal remedies were probably less damaging, but you know, they were doing almost the exactly wrong thing, as bleeding was the exactly wrong thing to do. So it’s sad to read about that, and yes, it is amazing that Madison made it so long. The founders, though, and this is interesting to think about, most of the founders did live pretty long lives. And you kind of wonder, maybe having a really satisfied life and being able to look with satisfaction on what you’re doing every day, and look back with satisfaction when you’re old, maybe those things contribute to longevity. HH: Well, it’s those days on horseback, too. You have one anecdote in James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, after debating James Monroe, following a Lutheran service and a couple of fiddles, he rides twelve miles in the cold and gets frostbite in the middle of a Congressional campaign. LC: You know, the founders understood the importance of exercise. I think that Madison being studious had to have it brought home to him more than perhaps others did, but they understood that, you know, I think John Adams said move or die, you know, that especially if you have a sedentary profession, if you’re a scholar, is how they would put it, you have to get up and move. You have to get out and exercise. HH: Now in terms of the hard work, he also had some advantages in life. You two come from Wyoming and from families, from both of your autobiographies, of very little substance and position. He comes from that, what did you call it, the tangled, someone called it the tangled cousin gentry, the great tangled cousinry of Virginia’s, I mean, everybody knew everybody and everyone. So he was in the fray from a very young age. 24? Is that when he began? LC: Let’s see, he was at the convention of 1776. He was born in ’51, so yes, 24, 25. HH: 24, 25, and Mr. Vice President, you got to be the youngest chief of staff in the White House at the age of 34? Am I right about that? DC: Correct. HH: And so and like him, you served in the cabinet, and you served in the Executive as vice president, he served as president, and as a member of the House. Those are, should that kind of background go into a presidency before we put someone into it? DC: Well, I thought it was pretty good training to be vice president, obviously. I can’t say that it’s essential. I’m, certainly, I’m more comfortable if I am voting for somebody who has that kind of experience, but Abraham Lincoln had no relevant experience, hardly any, had served one term in the House. HH: That’s a pretty good rebuttal. — – – – – HH: Mrs. Cheney, he had an idiosyncratic theology. And you speculate this may be because, and I thought this was fascinating, some Christians believe that epilepsy was the work of evil spirits. And would you expand on how you worked that through? It was a fascinating, better than any scholarly kind of conversation I’ve seen about idiosyncratic theology before. LC: Well, the notion was that anyone who had epilepsy or seizures somewhat resembling epilepsy was evil, possessed by the Devil, someone who certainly wouldn’t do well in the afterlife. And this was held with a great deal of certitude by Christian orthodoxy, which Madison found not only in his home, but at Princeton in the person of John Witherspoon, the notion being that you know, God had allowed miracles to happen in order to buttress early Christianity. And it was a great subject of dispute in the 18th Century, whether miracles could be accepted, because they were irrational. One particular miracle had to do with Christ throwing the Devil out of an epileptic boy. And that story, partly because Christians were so concerned about the onslaught of the Enlightenment taking people in another direction, the story of that boy was just fiercely held to be the story of epilepsy, that it was possession by the Devil, and it would take the divine force of Christ to throw the Devil out. Well, this was extraordinarily discouraging to a young man who had had his first seizure. And Madison went through a period of great despondency. His letters are full of worry not only about his mortality, but about his soul. And then suddenly, one day, it just ends. He writes a really moving letter to a friend of his on these subjects, and he’s quite morose and depressed, and then it ends. And I think it came about at the same time that he’s learning to exercise, walking around the mountains, taking long horseback rides. Having taken his health in hand, he decides to take his soul in hand. And he determines that no one should have to believe what other people tell him to believe if they think it’s wrong. HH: Now I know on good report that at least one member of the Supreme Court listens nightly to the show, and I’m hoping that all members of the Supreme Court before they decide Hobby Lobby read James Madison, Hobby Lobby, of course, the key free exercise case of the last 20 years. And the framers’ attachment to the religious liberty, as you articulate it, as he embodied it, and as he defended it, is so absolute. It should be an easy case for them. They ought to decide for the freedom of conscience if they know anything. And did you walk away from this process saying boy, they all, this was the given between Jefferson and Madison. They would fight forever for this proposition. LC: Yes, and you know, I think it’s important to understand, as you just explained, it doesn’t just mean freedom of religion. It means freedom of conscience. HH: Yes. LC: It means intellectual freedom. You know, that you are free to follow the truth wherever it leads. You don’t have any restrictions imposed on you from the outside. And Jefferson and Madison, I think Madison leading the way, really, were totally committed to this notion. HH: You know, this lack, or this orthodoxy that is descending on the country, Mr. Vice President, your colleague, Secretary of State Rice, withdrew from Rutgers. She was not even invited to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, though she had grown up in Birmingham and was a block away or a couple of blocks away from the bombing that took the four little girls. This left wing orthodoxy is really suppressing conversation, and it’s exactly what your wife writes about, they fought so hard to keep the liberty of conscience alive. DC: Right, and I think it’s a tragedy. To be able to, for a college or university to take somebody like Condi Rice, who’s been Secretary of State, whatever you might think of her views, I mean, she obviously supported the same policy I did that was objected to, that undermines the whole notion of free inquiry and what our universities ought to stand for, regardless of what particular ideology they may or may not support. So I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve reached that point where political correctness is so dominant in so many areas where it really shouldn’t be. HH: You write, I also did not know until I finished James Madison, Mrs. Cheney, that he helped Jefferson frame the approach at the University of Virginia. He was quite… LC: Yes. HH: I had no idea. LC: That was Jefferson’s project, but Madison was a most willing participant in it. Both of them placed heavy emphasis on the importance of education for the citizenry. You can’t, what was Madison’s wonderful image? He imagined liberty and learning, each leaning on each other for their mutual regard. You couldn’t be, you can’t be successful as a republic with a free citizenry choosing their representatives if people aren’t educated. They’ll be misled by demagogues, they will be unable to make rational decisions. So education was crucial. HH: One of the amazing things is at the age of 24, he does go to the 1776 convention, and there he sees the great Patrick Henry, who becomes, after I finished your book, I have this image of to the right of him, Jefferson, behind him, Washington, linked arms with him, Hamilton, and on the other side screaming at him, Patrick Henry. And he saw as a young man that Patrick Henry had great flaws. I assume, Mr. Vice President, when you were a young person in power, you would say the same, but you were not able to say so either, when you’re the chief of staff at the White House at 34. DC: Well, I did have strong views, but I basically kept them to myself. Occasionally, I’d share them with the President, but on a, only a one-on-one basis. HH: What was your opinion of Patrick Henry at the end of this process, Lynne Cheney? LC: You know, that I’d like to know more about him. The picture that, you know, I wrote the book trying to understand the world from Madison’s perspective, totally aware, of course, that he had flaws as every other person does. But from Madison’s perspective, he was kind of mystifying. He was able with these flights of oratory to bring so many people around to his way of thinking. It is most amazing, though, when you think about the Virginia ratifying convention that Madison, the man whose rhetoric had no flourishes, who made his case with simple logic and straightforward speaking, Madison defeated Patrick Henry and brought the Virginians around to ratification of the Constitution. — – – – – HH: I thought I knew a lot about this, but I…here’s a detail. It’s a short segment. He didn’t like to campaign. He lost his first election, second election of the House of Delegates because he, “refused the custom of swilling the planters with Bumbo,” meaning he wouldn’t get them drunk. And he didn’t, he just hated that, but he got around to learning retail politics, didn’t he? LC: He absolutely did. He never lost another election. HH: Well, that is pretty…and he ran against Monroe, and Mr. Vice President, you’re the historian of the house, did two members of Congress ever run against each other, both of whom became president again? DC: Not that I can think of, Hugh. I don’t know who it would have been. HH: Yeah, I tried to run down my memory of that. Monroe was someone who was his opponent, and I’ll direct this to you, Mr. Vice President, who then became his ally. How often does that happen anymore? DC: Well, it’s happened from time to time. I mean, we’ve had relationships, people talk about Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan coming from totally different parts of the political spectrum, but being able to come together on important issues such as reforming Social Security, as we did back in the 80s. So it’s happened from time to time. Wartime, I think what FDR did, for example, as he put together his cabinet for World War II, and with Knox and Stimson, Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy. Those were, to some extent, similar situations where you reach out to the other party, take somebody’s perspective, and then make them part of your own operation, and with that, build bipartisan support for whatever policy you want to pursue. So it’s been done before, but I can think of other situations where it’s awful hard. Obviously, today it would be very hard to put that kind of thing together. HH: When we come back from break in the second hour, Mrs. Cheney will talk with specificity about the period of time leading up to the adoption of the Bill of Rights. But that’s was heated. That was, people were dueling each other. But you’ve also lived at the center of vicious attacks on your family. You’ve lived at the center of politics since 1980. You’ve been in D.C. this long. Is it as bad now as it was then, you the historian of that period of time? LC: I think what surprised people is that it was as bad then as it is now. We tend to think of the founders as sitting around and having polite conversations and arriving at weighty decisions quite easily. But it wasn’t the case. We had the politics of personal destruction at work. There were terrible rumors, whispering campaigns about Dolly Madison, portraying her as a woman of loose morals. There are some, it’s a really interesting time, the 1790s especially, because it was so turbulent, and there was so much vituperation. HH: Oh, and they were crafty. When we come back from break, we’ll talk about this. But Madison took the newly-drafted Constitution of the Continental Congress and got them to sign it unanimously, even though it wasn’t unanimous. There were tricksters on both sides. — – – – HH: To give a quick summary, Mrs. Cheney, he not only went to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1776, he then served on the Council of State for Patrick Henry, one-ninth of a governor. Then he goes up to the Continental Congress and he serves from 1780 to 1783. Then he goes back to Virginia and helps get the Continental Congress together to allow the Articles of Confederation to be amended, starts the Annapolis convention, gets Philadelphia going, I mean, it’s so remarkable. Yet at one point you write, suddenly, he was everywhere. And do you think anyone gets that? We talked a little bit about this last hour. But Jefferson has his love, I mean, no one, Richard Norton Smith told me at the Nixon Library a couple of weeks ago on the 20th anniversary of President Nixon’s state funeral that no one has gotten more love from American historians than Jefferson. LC: Oh, that’s pretty interesting. HH: And so much has been written about him. Nothing for poor Madison. LC: Now I think part of it is that, well, you know, I got my PhD in English and literature, and the question that people always ask in literature is why in Paradise Lost is the Devil more interesting than God? And you know, I think there’s something human about liking the flamboyant and flawed character over the person of solid virtue. And Jefferson was that flamboyant and flawed character. And Madison was the steady person, the person about whose personal life there were no rumors. Dolly had her share, but Madison, none. So I think that Jefferson’s personality has attracted historians to write about him, even though I find Madison every bit as interesting as you get into the details of what he accomplished. HH: He was not a soldier in the war. Having trained for the militia, he suffered an epileptic bout. LC: Yes. HH: He was quite a marksman. He could shoot a good-sized head at a hundred yards, I believe you said. LC: And this is no mean feat with 18th Century weaponry. HH: But he, after suffering one of these fits, he withdrew from the militia and instead went into the public service. He goes up to the Continental Congress, and here’s the most astonishing small fact. Some books have big facts like he had epilepsy, and some books have small facts. The cost of his boarding for the first six months in Philadelphia was $21,000 dollars. LC: Yeah. HH: How in the world could that be? LC: Well, because such inflation had set in. The demand for sugar and bacon and such things, of course, sent prices through the roof, as did the fact that the Congress had no money to pay for these things. And so the inflationary pressures were huge. Madison was helping out the people in his boarding house. When they were out of money, he was begging his father for money at all times. $21,000 dollars is pretty remarkable. HH: How formative is his experience in the Continental Congress, which is toothless, it is toothless, to his later urging of a vigorous presidency? LC: Well, one of the things I think that it resulted in, he saw in the Continental Congress how useless it was to expect the Congress to be able to wage war. You know, they were saying okay, light horse Harry Lee, go north. The Congress was saying this, telling Washington he has to go north. And then, you know, the British would appear maybe a little to the south and be a little frightening to people in Philadelphia, and they’d say no, no, no, send light horse Harry south. The Congress was not a good commander-in-chief collectively. So at the Constitutional Convention, when Madison had an opportunity to make sure that the president would be the commander-in-chief, he took advantage of it. The proposal was to, in listing Congress’ power, to say that it was in the power of Congress to make war. And Madison leapt to his feet and changed it from make to declare so that the president would be the commander-in-chief. And what an historic intervention that was, and how good for the nation it was as well. HH: Mr. Vice President, you are known to have defended a strong executive, the unitary executive. And as this book unfolds, I’m sure now you’ve read it, you know, you owe that to Madison, then, to his interventions repeatedly. DC: Yes. No, I though Lynne’s just cited the critical one. I go back during my time there, we had the big debate how much authority should the Congress have, Congress versus the president. That was true when we were talking about Vietnam, when we were talking about Iran-Contra, when we were talking about the first Gulf War, whether or not we had to go back to the Congress to get authorization, and how much they were going to be involved in actually supervising, running the war. So it was huge. I can’t imagine what our lives would have been like, or how much our future would have been adversely affected if they hadn’t changed that one phrase, is they’d left it that the Congress was to make war. HH: There is an argument now made by good men like Mark Levin, who you guys both know, and that we need to reconstitute a convention to have the Liberty Amendments considered. That scares people like me for fear that the left is better at this than we are, and that they will run away with it. What are your thoughts on such a thing, Mr. Vice President? DC: I’m very, very cautious about suggesting amendments to the Constitution. You know, we’ve suggested them over the years. I’ve been around when the 25th Amendment was adopted to provide for the president to fill the vice presidency when it was vacant and so forth. So there have been occasions when it was appropriate, but to sort of run out immediately and say we need a Constitutional amendment, no matter how worthy the basic principle might be, I’m just, I proceed very cautiously. I’m one of those who thinks a session of Congress where they don’t accomplish very much isn’t necessarily a bad session of Congress. HH: Mrs. Cheney, you quote Patrick Henry in the anti-federalist debate at the ratification convention as saying the document is squinting towards monarchy. Many people, our friend Levin among them, and others, Rush and others, would say we’re squinting towards monarchy now, that this president, President Obama, and we always are very respectful of him, but we have our disagreements, has in fact unmoored the office from its ordinary restraints, not in foreign affairs, but domestically. What do you make of that? LC: Unmoored the office from the Constitution. Unmoored the idea of what the framework of our government should be from the document that’s in the Archives. There’s this whole new theoretical mindset that the document in the Archives is too restraining, and that to meet the new times, we need to have in mind a different constitution, one that will allow the government to, for example, to recognize that there’s a right to welfare, to recognize that there is, one I was reading about recently, a right to gender equity sex education. Basically what this means is anything but abstinence education. So you know, this whole idea that there are all these new rights that aren’t in the Constitution, in my opinion, and you know, one of the big mistakes is inventing the right to privacy, which results in the right to abortion. These rights aren’t in the Constitution. If we want these things, we should as a nation or as states pass laws. But we shouldn’t have rights invented that President Obama hands down from above, or that justices sitting on the bench promulgate. HH: On the last day in office, James Madison vetoes an improvements bill, because he believes it to be an excess of the authority of Congress. And he understood the war making power, and he used it vigorously. But Mr. Vice President, he did not believe in a Congress that took to itself the powers to the state. So that’s a proper, it’s an originalist understanding. DC: Yes. HH: What do you think of the critique of President Obama and presidential powers? DC: Well, I think, I’m a big advocate of a strong executive, obviously. The minority report in the Iran-Contra study is, lays out that whole philosophy and theory. I really feel as though Barack Obama is ignoring the law in many cases, and going far beyond what was ever intended. I mean, he’s all by himself sort of routinely changes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, if it suits his will. I think much of what’s been done is, does in fact skate up to the edge of violating the Constitution in terms of what the way he’s interpreted his executive power. HH: Even as in the Madison book, Jefferson wrestled with the Louisiana Purchase. And you detail this so beautifully. You quote Henry Adams as saying along with the Declaration and the Constitution, the Louisiana Purchase are the three greatest things in our history. Jefferson didn’t know if he had the Constitutional authority, and Madison said of course you do. He took that implied power, because he said of course a country can acquire territory. But he worried about Congressional power. So it’s being an originalist that matters most. LC: Well, yes. I think Madison was quite satisfied that the Congressional, that the Executive’s power to conclude treaties meant that the Louisiana Purchase was fine. But you’re right. At the end of his long career in politics, he saw a bill that he didn’t mind the purpose of. He thought internal improvements would be a fine thing. But he had advised the Congress that if that’s what they wanted to do, they needed to get an amendment through the Congress and ratified by the states. And they hadn’t done that, so he objected. — – – — HH: When we broke off, we were talking about, I found this fascinating, when Madison went to Congress, during the Revolutionary War, they had no money, and they were trying to raise money, they wanted to raise a million and a half bucks a year. And so they have to try and get the states to agree, because they don’t have any taxing authority. And they first suggest we’ll do it by value of property, but the states don’t trust each other, as you recount. So Madison comes up with the idea let’s do it by population. And then he suggests, let’s count the slaves, which will add more money to the Virginia total – two slaves for one person. And the Northerners say no, four slaves for three people or whatever. And it’s all about a tax head. It’s got nothing…but then that became the basis for the infamous, as you say, the justifiably infamous, three-fifths clause. I never knew any of that stuff. Did you when you began? LC: No, and it is interesting, because it came up in a relatively innocuous context, you know, how much of the tax burden should each state pay according to its population. But they settled on three-fifths to determine taxes. They actually never got the tax through. But when the issue then came up at the Constitutional Convention, three-fifths was a natural number for them to fall back on, though by this time, it wasn’t about taxes. By this time, it was about counting population in order to determine how many representatives the state got in the Congress. HH: Well, it’s fascinating how a small conversation in an unrelated area becomes one of those great historical divides about which people have been arguing where did it come from for years. Excellent work. During the interregnum between the end of the war for independence and the Constitutional Convention, he goes back to Virginia, and he’s a legislator. And in fact, he’s an extraordinary legislator. You quote one of his colleagues as saying he has astonished mankind, and by means perfectly constitutional, has become almost a dictator in the Virginia legislature. And he’s doing this, as you say, he is not an orator. He’s just, how does he accomplish…all the code revisions he does, he does not only the remonstrance on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, but he just rewrites all the laws of Virginia. How does he get that done? LC: Well, he got about half of it done. And he did it, I think, by working harder than anyone else, and then making perfect sense when he pointed out what laws, what needed to be revised about the laws. He finally, though, did run up against a wall, and only got about halfway to where he wanted to go. That experience in the Virginia legislature was essentially frustrating for him, because the solutions were so obvious, and the ability to get anything accomplished was so difficult. It really helped him, influenced him in thinking that the problem the Constitutional Convention had to address was the states. It was in the states, he called them the evil states, where minority rights were being suppressed, where property rights weren’t sufficiently recognized, where Rhode Island would issue money, thereby depreciating the currency, and then pass a law saying merchants had to accept the depreciated money in payment of debts. So the Virginia legislative experience was not all positive. It was one of the things that led to his frustration with how the states had controlled the confederation. HH: Clearly all coming into Annapolis, where they have a convention in 1786. And not many people show up, but Hamilton and Madison show up, and you use the word nudge, or maybe they used it. Both Hamilton and Madison were nudging their friends to get a real convention going. LC: Exactly. HH: And not really above board. LC: No, I mean, their purpose was not to have an entirely new form of government developed, but to revise the Articles of Confederation. They were supposed to figure out a way to do that. Later, James Wilson in the convention, though, I think made it clear that this wasn’t as treasonous as you might think of. You know, they’re given one mandate, and they do something entirely different. Wilson said I think we should feel free to propose anything, but to determine nothing. In other words, the Constitution that they proposed wasn’t the law of the land until the people ratified that. Now that may have been rationale, but I like it. HH: It was good backwards thinking, I thought. One of the great asides, and you have many wonderful asides in James Madison, the new biography, is about Monroe. And I’m going to ask the Vice President who this reminds him of. One of Monroe’s colleagues is described as nature has given him a mind neither rapid nor rich, but made up for it with a habit of application which no difficulty can shake, nor labors can tire. Now I actually think that’s complimentary, and it reminds me of someone. But does it remind you of anyone? LC: Say no. HH: A habit of mine, it could get you in trouble. A mind neither rapid nor rich. It reminds me of Ike. DC: Really? HH: Only because, I did a lot of work on Eisenhower. He’s a very smart guy… DC: Right. HH: But he wasn’t quick. He wasn’t fleeting. But he was as dogged as could be. DC: He was, but I always had the feeling he was smarter than he ever got credit for. HH: Well, Fred Greenstein thought that, too. DC: Yeah, and I actually have discussed it with Fred. I was at a conference at one point where he was talking, and he did that second book on Eisenhower. And I’ve spent a little bit of time on Eisenhower, especially as a war time leader, and the way he managed the politics of the war – Churchill and Montgomery, and he had a terrible job in some respects. And he pulled it off. HH: Yeah. DC: …very successfully, when you think about his military mission. And then his time as president, I think we’ll increasingly, he’ll be perceived as one of the more successful presidents. HH: You see, and I don’t want David, who listens, who was a good friend, to think I’m saying his grandfather was other than bright. He was. But his habit of mind was not rapid. I mean, I get the idea from Madison of a lightning intellect, Lynne Cheney. I mean, he could grasp anything at a moment, and I don’t know how many people we’ve had like that. LC: Well, that’s true. I think he could. But he had also studied and read about how to be a successful politician. I mean, that wasn’t the topic of the book, but he was reading all the time. And he had a series of lessons that he set out for himself. And one of them, one of the keys to being a successful politician, he wrote down, was lesson envy, lesson envy. In other words, don’t act too smart. You know, don’t act like your mind is perceiving so quickly what other people only arrive at later. Don’t make yourself a target by you know, being like Hamilton. Another of Madison’s secrets, one that he wrote down, was to display your wisdom sometimes by saying nothing. You know, this was not a lesson that Hamilton ever learned, but Madison knew from the beginning. HH: I made a note, I don’t know where it is in here, that you complimented him on his modesty, and noted that this was not an attribute of modern politicians, that he was not, that this is not an age that allows people to sit back that way, actually, because if you do, and maybe Mr. Vice President, you have a comment on this? If you don’t say anything, the endless noise machine will fill in the blanks, right? DC: Right, but I had the experience as a young intern in a governor’s office in Wisconsin. We were having a meeting, and I don’t remember the issue now, but his staff is gathered around, and they relayed the issue out. And the answer immediately seemed obvious to me, and I stated it. And everybody sort of looked around a little bit, and then they went back to their discussion. And after 30 minutes, they all ended up in exactly the same place. But the lesson that taught me is sometimes you’ve got to let folks work on the problem, chew on it a bit before they’re ready to come to some discussion, some final conclusion, and that listening was enormously important, and when to intervene, and not always being the first one out of the gate with the answer was more important than being quick to solve the problem — – – – – HH: Let me run down very quickly, from 1786-1791, five years, Madison persuaded Washington to come to the Constitutional Conventional. He kept the notes of the Constitutional Convention, which Lynne Cheney, you call a project voluntary and arduous, also invaluable. He developed the Virginia plan. He gave way when he had to. He compromised on issues of equal representation in the Senate. He came up, you mentioned it earlier with declare not make war. He opposed having Congress select the president of the United States. He enhanced presidential power by slipping in the right to appoint judges, ambassadors, public ministers. Then he goes to Congress and gets Congress to adopt the Constitution in draft form to send to the states. Then he goes to Virginia and duels famously with Patrick Henry after writing 30, how many of the Federalist Papers? He wrote 29 of the Federalist Papers, including at one stint that you detail this in the book, 22 essays in 40 days. He wrote Famous Number 10 on faction, Famous 51, If Men Were Angels And The Separation Of Powers, Famous Number 14 about novelty is not bad. This is a prodigious five years. This is, then he could have quit. LC: Right. HH: And he still hadn’t, he hadn’t spent a day as president or secretary of state, yet. LC: You know, it’s such a rich time, it’s hard to know where to start commenting on it. But certainly, it is a refutation of this idea that somehow he was sickly and lacked energy. HH: Yeah. LC: I was talking to a college audience, and I said his feat with the Federalist Papers, that interval amounts to writing a ten page paper every other day for more than a month, which you know, that’s pretty hard. But what you wrote becomes immortal. You know, it’s not just a passing thing, gets the words out on paper. It’s really remarkable. HH: He has a friend, I believe it’s Nicholas, urges him to have the Federalist bound and he’d take it to the Virginia Constitutional Conventional, because his friend says no one will know anything. And I’m wondering, Mr. Vice President, if that’s your experience. Madison was warned by his friend. No one will have a clue. They’ll be elected to ratify or not ratify a convention. They’ll show up. No one will have done any homework. They’ll all, just a couple of people will run the deal, because they’re prepared. DC: Not everybody reads the bills, Hugh. I learned in a contemporary problem in the National Intelligence Estimate was done on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, and then it’s sent to the Hill. It’s classified. For a member to read it, they have to go to the classified spaces, the Intel Committee, and sign in, read it and so forth. Before all that hoorah back in 2002 when we were getting ready to authorize the President to use force, the total number of members of the United States Senate who actually read the NIE? Six. HH: That is exactly what Madison’s friend had warned him about. DC: Right. Exactly. HH: …is that no one is going to read the NIE of the day, which was the Federalist Papers. DC: Yeah. HH: He also practiced retail politics, and I’m sure this is familiar to you. When he was working for the ratification to get elected to the convention, he stopped to see John Leland, about whom I’d never heard until I read your book, Lynne Cheney. “One of the most influential of Virginia’s Baptist preachers who happened to live between Fredericksburg and Orange, he needed to do something about their opposition. Leland had mastered the use of reason and argument in his preaching, and in 1788 alone had baptized 300 people in Virginia’s waters. Second only to his dedication to saving souls was Leland’s determination to see religious liberty prevail.” Madison was hardly a Baptist, but you record one account has the men sitting under a shady tree for hours as Madison worked him, and he got his support. LC: Right, and convinced him that he was indeed, I think he probably also told Leland some of the things he’d done anonymously to advance the cause of religious freedom. But you’re right. At the end of the meeting, Leland was on his side. HH: Now Mr. Vice President, when you had to work members of Congress to vote for something one way or the other, you couldn’t take credit for it often, could you? DC: Correct, although I had an advantage, Hugh, in a sense that one of the nicest things ever happened to me, I’d been in the House my career, then elected vice president, and of course, the Vice President has an office on the Senate side. As I was sworn in, Denny Hastert, who was then the Speaker, and Bill Thomas from California, who was chairman of Ways and Means, came to me one day and said look, we know you’re going to have an office in the Senate, but we think of you as a man of the House, because that’s where I’d spent my career. We want you to have an office on the House side of the Capitol. And Bill Thomas stepped forward, and he said the chairman of Ways and Means has two offices in the Capitol. You pick the one you want, and that’ll be your office, and I’ll take the other one. And that’s what we did. And I picked the old Rostenkowski space that was just off the Democratic Cloak Room, just off the floor of the House. It drove them nuts. HH: Well, to keep an eye on them? DC: Absolutely. It drove them nuts, but that was my space on the House side for the six years that we had control of the House. HH: Oh, that’s very neat. DC: And it was a, one, I loved it, but two, it was a great place to have sort of recognition that I had in fact been the number two in the House leadership on the Republican side. It was a big advantage for me. — – – – – HH: War and peace, America, were very much on the minds of James Madison at the Constitutional Convention, and that which he writ large then came back to in fact empower him when he was the president of the United States, the first wartime president under the Constitution. He had to fight back against Henry, saying that the government squints towards monarchy. And he replied weakness will invite insults. The best way to avoid danger is to be in a capacity to withstand them. And Lynne Cheney, that’s got to have, when you read this, it’s the debate of the last fifteen years, isn’t it? LC: Yes. HH: It’s the same debate. LC: When my daughter, Liz, was reading this, that is the passage that seized her attention as well. And it was a lesson that Madison learned. In the early days of the republic, he, like many people, thought that armies and navies were not only ruinously expensive, that they were a threat to liberty. You know, they could be turned against the citizenry. But as he began to understand the threat to the nation that Britain posed, he became very glad that some of his early votes against warships for example had been defeated. The frigates in the War of 1812 made everyone very proud. We had better ships than the British. Far, far fewer, but we were a mighty force, even though small. HH: You did a fine job. Only 19 ships, and you did a fine job of recounting not only the Battle of Lake Erie, of course, Ohio played a central role, and I want to make sure everyone knows that, but the Constellation and the Constitution, you also had a funny, little aside, which I thought I’d ask the Vice President about, about how the Navy worked everyone. LC: Oh, yes. HH: On November 26th, 1812, Captain Charles Stewart of the USS Constellation demonstrated the political savvy for which the Navy would become legendary. Hosting a party aboard the ship for Washington dignitaries, including members of Congress who were soon to vote on a substantial expansion of the Navy. So Mr. Vice President, is that familiar? DC: As a former Secretary of Defense, there was a piece of traditional wisdom in the building. When there’s a tough problem that needs to be addressed, or a policy that needs to be adopted, the Army will sign up, they’ll do their level best to deliver. The Air Force will sign up and then go do what they want to do. And the Navy will say hell no. That’s the way I was taught as the Secretary of Defense to anticipate how the services would react. HH: It is a, but it is a marvelous…that is very funny. That is so funny. Once they got it approved, the first session of Congress, Madison has to campaign for the House, and he gets it. And he goes up there, and he’s made a promise to his constituents, more than 200 amendments were proposed by the ratifying conventions. And you know, as a Con Law professor, I know I’m going to make them read this, because I’ve tried to make them read Catherine Drinker Bowen’s book for years. And it’s a 1966 book… LC: With no footnotes. HH: And it doesn’t work. With no footnotes. It doesn’t work. LC: Yeah. HH: They won’t, they don’t believe it. Now, they’ll believe it and they’ll get what the Bill of Rights is – 200 different proposals to chain the Constitution. Madison promises to take care of it. And he drives the House. LC: Yes. HH: And I didn’t know this. I thought it was a done deal. You bring out the record. He drives the House to do this, and no one else, and that’s when it gets to dueling time and fisticuffs. And why such a fight? LC: Well, Madison had shared the idea of many at the Constitutional Convention. A Bill of Rights hadn’t occurred to them, because in the Constitution, no rights were given over. You know, very limited number of things was the Congress allowed to do, and certainly, they were not given any authority over a freedom of speech, or freedom of religion, or freedom to gather. None of that had been ceded, nor given over. So Madison didn’t think, and most people at the Constitutional Convention didn’t think a Bill of Rights was necessary. It soon became clear, however, that in order to bring unity to the nation, we should adopt a Bill of Rights. And Madison very carefully crafted the Bill of Rights so that by prohibiting the government from ever violating freedom of speech, it didn’t imply that there were other freedoms that they were free to violate, very, very carefully crafted. HH: And proving he’s a natural rights guy. He fully believes in natural rights, and I wish some of my colleagues in the academy would read this and take to heart the fact that they were done this way. Fisher Ames is one of his opponents from Delaware. Is it Delaware, Fisher Ames? LC: No, Massachusetts. HH: Massachusetts. And Fisher Ames writes, Page 189-190, “Madison derives from nature an excellent understanding, but I think he excels in the quality of judgment. He is admirable for his inestimable talent. So reasoned is he, remarkably methodical, he’s a studious man devoted to public business, and a thorough manner of almost every public question that can arise, or he will spare no pains to become so if he happens to be in want of information.” Mr. Vice President, this quality of judgment, what do you think he means? DC: I’m not sure. I…obviously dealing with a very different set of problems than we sometimes deal with today, but it clearly was crucial in terms of his ability to function. HH: He made, according to Mrs. Cheney, no attempt to practice oratory, which given how often he spoke, 124 times in the first Congress, was probably a mercy for all involved. Have you mde a practice of oratory? DC: When I first went to the House, we just adopted the rule where you could get up and have special orders, you know, and it was always a tradition of speaking at the outset. I didn’t make a single remark on the floor of the House until as a member of the Ethics Committee, we were prosecuting a case against a member of the House. I rarely talked. One of my highlights was I’m leaning over the brass rail at the back of the chamber one day. I’m a freshman, and one of the older members came over and put his arm around me. And one of my colleagues, it might have been Newt, was down in the well of the House castigating the Democrats and so forth. And this Congressman put his arm around me and said Cheney, you know what I like about you? And I said what’s that? And he said you’re the only member of your class that doesn’t drool when he speaks. And I took that as high praise. LC: That’s so bad, D**k. HH: That is so… LC: That’s so bad. DC: It’s a true story. LC: D**k, you’re sharing entirely too much. DC: True story. HH: When…that’s very bad. LC: Hugh, can I just interrupt for a second? HH: Please. LC: One of the things that scholars have often said about Madison in giving a totally false picture of him is that he was so painfully paralyzingly shy that he didn’t speak very much when he first went to the Virginia convention. Well, you know, it was wisdom. It wasn’t shyness. When you’re the new guy on the block, as D**k’s guy makes clear, D**k’s colleague made clear, it is a good idea to keep your mouth shut and listen for a while. HH: Absolutely. He also announces his retirement, and John Adams writes to his very shrewd first lady, Abigail, it is marvelous how political plants grow in the shade, never believing for a second that Madison was going to leave the scene. Mr. Vice President, do you, does that ring true with you? DC: Yes, I think it does, absolutely. And some of the most effective people were the ones never made a floor speech, or rarely made a floor speech, did their business in committee or out on the cloak room quietly moving around, getting agreement on the key issues that they needed to work on. — – – – HH: And I could really talk to both of the Cheneys endlessly about his book, James Madison, but what you ought to do is go, if you’re in Southern California, to the Nixon Library tonight. They’ll be over there at 7:00 tonight, or to the Reagan Library tomorrow night at 6pm, or if you’re up north, or anywhere they go to listen to them talk about. I also understand there’s a YouTube video in which the Vice President is interviewing Mrs. Cheney about the book. And that’s supposed to be very amusing. I didn’t watch that, because I didn’t want it to screw up my own question set. I was afraid you took all my good questions. I want to close by talking about Dolly, and this is only three minutes, so I’m just going to yield the floor to you, Mrs. Cheney. She’s remarkable. And she’s funny, quite pretty, he made us, she said of Gilbert Stuart. And she was recklessly brave when the British invaded Washington. LC: And she was beautiful. Madison fell in love with her when he saw her walking down the street in Philadelphia. He wasn’t the first. It was said that men were stopped in their places by Dolly’s passing by with her, she was taller than Madison. She was probably 5’ 8”. She had dark hair, pale skin, ruby red lips, the whole package. And he fell in love. They were married not long after he asked a friend to introduce them. HH: Aaron Burr. LC: I know. You know, that just shows you. HH: Were you going to omit that by purpose? LC: Yeah, well, to show you how small the 18th Century was. HH: Yes. LC: You know, everybody knew everybody. He’d gone to college with Aaron Burr, and Aaron Burr introduced them. They were married a few months later. She was an amazing asset to him, because she was so hospitable, and she made everyone feel as though she loved them, and everyone loved her in turn. In those days, the Congressional Caucus picked the presidential nominees, and the members of Congress were generally miserable. Washington was a new city. They were all living cheek by jowl, crowded into boarding houses, so Mrs. Madison opened their home on F Street. They were one of the lucky people who had a house. And she entertained, she had people come play cards. They sniffed a little snuff together. She and Henry Clay shared a snuff box. She dressed dramatically. She knew she was part of the entertainment wearing pink satin with ermine trim and a white velvet turban with peacock feathers. People not only respected Madison after Mrs. Madison had brought them in, they had warm feelings toward him. And there’s contemporary testimony that at Dolly’s hospitality was indeed a factor in his being nominated for the presidency in 1808. HH: Wow, it’s a great portrait of her, and I’ll close, though. The job of president, he complains to Jefferson about how Congress won’t support him in the war, and Jefferson writes back, I’m looking for it and I can’t, what can you expect of a body with 100 lawyers? LC: Exactly right. HH: And so I guess some things do not change in Washington, the small things, but also the usefulness and the wonderful entertainment that Washington recommended of good books and exercise. Lynne Cheney, you’ve contributed to that. Mr. Vice President, thanks for coming back. Mrs. Cheney, it’s great to see you again. The book, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, linked at Hughhewitt.com. Go see them at the Nixon Library tonight at 6pm, or at the Reagan Library tomorrow night at 7. We’ll post the transcript and the audio of this to share with the world. End of interview. ]]>
(Review Source)
Hugh Hewitt
Richard Norton Smith joins me in hour two today to discuss the movie Lincoln and second terms. I’ll also discuss his wonderful tours of presidential sites, PresidentsandPatriots.com. ]]>
(Review Source)
Hugh Hewitt
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
HH: Jon Meacham is back with us. He is of course the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion, which we talked about four years ago. He has a brand new book out, and it’s a wonderful book. Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power. It’s in bookstores everywhere right now, it’s linked over at www.hughhewitt.com. Jon Meacham, welcome back, it’s good to have you. JM: Thanks for having me back. HH: This is really a magnificent book, and my compliments to you. I did not want to like Jefferson. I’ve never liked Jefferson. I don’t know if you’ve run into that much, but those of us who are self-styled Hamiltonians just prepare not to like him, and yet you’ve made him sympathetic. JM: Well, I appreciate that. I do run into that. You know, he’s had a rough about 50 years, 40 years, as Hamiltonianism sort of became more respectable after Eisenhower ratified the New Deal in many ways. You know, we have arguments about big government and small government, but it’s really a matter of degree not of kind, as you know. And so Jefferson has had a rough time. Part of it, also, is that there have been so many wonderful books where Jefferson comes off badly. HH: Yes. JM: So whether it’s David McCullough or Ron Chernow, and I just thought that someone needs to step in and make at least a modest brief for the old boy. HH: Well now, I would summarize the case against Jefferson as that he was somewhat paranoid, he was a slave owner, of course. He took advantage of his slaves, as you discuss in detail with Sally Hemmings in the course of the book. He was an anti-anti-federalist in some respects. And there was lots in the indictment, Francophile and Anglophobic, and all the other things. But I begin by saluting you, because what I didn’t know, and I thought I’d read pretty widely, is how deeply acquainted with grief he was. And I will point out to the audience that by the time he was a relatively young man, he’d lost his father young, but he lost not only his mother, but his oldest and closest sister, Jane, his wife, Patty, three children, and his best friend when he was a young man. I mean, he’d lived in a sort of state of constant sorrow. JM: You know, the scene the weeks after he loses his wife are truly remarkable, because his friends outside Albemarle County were hearing rumors that he was suicidal, that he was so bereft. And you know, as you say, it was a compounding problem. And death was, as we all know, far more common then, and people lost children, they lost spouses. But even with that as an accepted reality, Jefferson, I believe, had far more contact, as you say, with death, and therefore, with tragedy. And part of my argument in this book, and it’s the one thing on which Gordon Wood and I strongly disagree, Gordon Wood, the great historian at Brown, has written that Jefferson had no tragic sensibility whatsoever. HH: Oh. JM: I think that’s wrong. I think that he was an optimist, but I think he understood that the world was never going to fully conform to what we wanted it to be. And in that sense, I think he and Hamilton had more in common that perhaps either one of them would have wanted to admit. HH: Well, long before he becomes president, he has built up a very tough skin. When I was reading the letter that arrived to him in Paris when his daughter, Lucy, died of the whooping cough… JM: Yeah. HH: I thought to myself, wow, another hammer blow. But he’s not reduced to despondency at that point. JM: Well you know what he does is he orders his youngest daughter, Polly, to be brought to him at that point. Patsy is with him, the woman who became known as Martha Jefferson Randolph, and he, by losing yet another child, his reaction was I’d better seize every familial moment I possibly can. And so he begins this immediate, long, complicated correspondence with his relatives in Virginia about how to get young Polly to France. And history is determined in that instance, because the woman, the young teenager who ends up accompanying her is Sally Hemmings. HH: And it’s a beautiful sequence as well, because she is given over to the care of Abigail Adams when she arrives in London. And I was thinking in that, in terms of their later falling out, how he could have ever fallen out with Abigail Adams after she showed the kindness to his daughter that she did, and very touchingly portrayed. I don’t know how much time you put into the family history here, but that’s the part of Jefferson, I think, that you’ve made accessible to people who read Dumas Malone and some of the other dry political histories that don’t quite get the full fabric of his life. JM: Well, I appreciate that very much. My goal, and the reason I do this, is I believe that the great figures of the past were men before they were monuments. And the more we can know about them, the more we can appreciate their humanity, their sins, their shortcomings, their flaws, their failings, the result of that appreciation should not be disillusionment with the past and thus, despair. But I find it somewhat inspirations, because if even Thomas Jefferson, with all of the shortcomings that we all know about, and everyone else of his generation, if even he, with all that, could leave the world better off than it was when he found it, then there’s hope for all of us, and there’s hope for the present time as well. And I’m not being homiletic or 4th of Julyish, not that there’s anything wrong that that, but I do think that one of the points of biography, and as Emerson said, there’s properly no history, only biography, one of the points, I think, has to be to remind ourselves that we have been led through storm and strife by flawed individuals who were just as flawed as the leaders of our own time. HH: And part of the effort of biography, I think it was Leon Edel who said it’s the search for the figure in the carpet. And the figure in the carpet here is extraordinarily complex. And lest anyone thinks that Jon Meacham has papered over Jefferson’s warts, let me say, he comes across as paranoid, as a philanderer, in fact, I’m shocked that he attempted to seduce his very good friend’s wife. JM: Isn’t that amazing? HH: Yes. JM: You know, one of the things, and I don’t mean to interrupt your train of thought, but quickly, one of the things that puzzles me about the centuries, literally, the two centuries of denial about the Jefferson-Hemmings connection, is it’s predicated on this idea that Jefferson was not driven by sexual appetite. What we have, when you do a fair-minded reading of his own letters, of his own account of his own actions, from his very earliest days in Williamsburg at William and Mary, all the way though, trying to seduce the wife of a friend whom he’d been left in charge of when the husband went off to do Indian negotiations, Maria Cosway in France, this was a lusty, appetite-driven man. And the idea that at the age of 40, when his wife died, that suddenly he would just like a switch turn that appetite off, I find to be beyond reason. HH: No, and I think in recovering that, it makes much more sense of who the individual is. Buried deep in your notes, Jon Meacham, and I read these, Jefferson was a man of appetite who appreciated order, and that ability to carry on a long term liaison with his late wife’s enslaved half-sister under circumstances he could have largely controlled, would have suited him. Now you buried that pretty deep, but I think that’s actually very profound. JM: Thank you. I think it is. I think that he, what we don’t know about Sally Hemmings is we don’t know what she looked like. We have very few physical descriptions, no images. But we do know this. We know that she was his, Jefferson’s wife’s half-sister. And therefore, either in manner, in physical appearance, in affect, in some ways, she may have reminded him of the woman he loved so much. And the Hemmings family was a highly, this is a seemingly crazily anachronistic thing to say, but in terms of the culture of enslaved people at that time, they were a privileged group at Monticello. The overseers, who were white men, who were employed to run the slaves, it was made very clear to them that the Hemmings were of a different order, that they were beyond the authority of the overseer. They reported directly to the family. And so I think before we cast retrospective moral judgments on people, I think we have to remember this was a very odd world driven by desire and denial, and almost impossible to recover. HH: I also want to point out, though, if you put Hemmings to the side, he was a hound. He went after married women again and again and again. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen that communicated quite as fully as in Jefferson: The Art Of Power. Are you catching a little criticism from the Jefferson lobby for doing so? JM: No, you know, I’m not. In fact, the only thing that’s puzzled me, and the book’s been out about eight weeks, I guess, and the only criticism that I found surprising, and I’m having done five or six books of these, so you’re sort of ready for anything, is this idea that somehow or another I let him off the hook on slavery, which I appreciate what you just said a minute ago about no. I think he’s totally complicit and not only indicted before the bar of history, but convicted. HH: No, I don’t think you let him off. – – – – HH: Jon Meacham, there is one reference that I recall from my notes where Andrew Jackson sent Thomas Jefferson a note on the occasion of the Louisiana Purchase, and he was very thrilled. Did they have much communication? Were they friendly at all given that they are your two biographical subjects? JM: You know, it’s funny, I’m just working on a separate little essay about that. They weren’t particularly close. If you think about white society in the late 18th century, early 19th Century, basically Jackson came from about as low as you could come from, and Jefferson came from about as high as you could come from. And there’s a great deal of class prejudice in Jefferson’s view of Jackson. This is based mostly on a conversation in 1824 with Daniel Webster at Monticello. Now Jefferson, like all politicians, like all people, tended to tell the person he was talking to what he thought they wanted to hear. And Webster was no Jacksonian. But Jefferson did express great concern that Jackson himself had the makings of being an American Bonaparte, which was one of the great fears… HH: Oh, interesting. JM: …great fears that Jefferson always had. You mentioned quite rightly that Jefferson was paranoid about the return of the British, and the return of a kind of monarchical rule. But as President Nixon taught us, you know, even paranoids have enemies. And they did come back in 1812. HH: Talking about that, then, that paranoia, it extended to every aspect of his political life. He always thought that the British were around the corner, that Hamilton was in the next room, and that Washington was about to throw him over. Is that a personality defect? Or is this in the case where the politics of 1774 were justified, that sort of suspicion of people with whom, I mean, Burr turned on him. Burr tried to detach the country. JM: Burr tried to detach the country. You know, again, I think it’s kind of an easy argument for me to win on this one, because they burned Washington in 1812, or 1814. They did come back. And when you think about it, why on Earth wouldn’t they have tried? I mean, here’s this weird coastal republic that barely won the revolution to begin with. You know, if the fog and the wind had been different in New York, if two or three other things had happened in the revolution, they wouldn’t have lost North America in any event. And so they must have, and they were. They looked at this odd defeat of theirs as something that could be remedied, and they tried. And we won a ratifying victory that ended, actually, next week we celebrate the anniversary, the Battle of New Orleans on January 8th, which was once as important as July 4th, which gives you some sense. I mean, it was known as Andrew Jackson Day. And so Jefferson, I believe, had excessive but not unfounded concerns about the return of a monarchical system to the United States. And he worried that Hamilton was the means by which that could happen. He worried that Washington could be a tool in the hands of Hamilton, somewhat of Adams. He was a little softer on Adams, because he and Adams had come up together so much, and the personal relationship, you mention, though their bitterest fights were over. And when you think about it, let’s put ourselves back in 1798-99. The Alien & Sedition Acts are passed, the president of the United States has the power to deport anyone single-handedly. They’re prosecuting newspaper editors. Now I know most politicians ever since have wanted to do that. But it was a moment where the civil liberties that the white American establishment thought they had won, and successfully both won in 1780-81-82, and then ratified their hold on in 1787, and ’89 with the Constitution, were in jeopardy. And Jefferson worried about that. HH: And he had right to believe that Hamilton would have brought back a son of the monarch if he could have. Hamilton made the monarchical speech at the Convention, and Madison told him about it. And so there’s reason, but it was in every aspect of his life, as you communicate so well. I also want to tell people a coming impression I did not have previously of Jefferson. He hated confrontation, extremely sensitive to criticism, but unfailingly gracious. And he never contradicted anyone, taking the example of Ben Franklin. Those are aspects that you know, I read a lot of Dumas Malone years ago, I really didn’t capture from the classical biographies. JM: It’s really interesting. His advice, and he repeats it to his children and his Godchildren and grandchildren, never contradict anyone, because as you say, it has its roots in Benjamin Franklin, because as Jefferson put it, no one’s ever changed their mind because you said they were wrong. And John Adams, who as we all know, if John Adams had it back, he would have written the Declaration of Independence. And he just didn’t think the document was going to be quite as important as it was. He resented the rest of his life that Jefferson had, “turned the Declaration into a theatrical show and run away with all the glory of it.” But even Adams believed that Thomas Jefferson had risen farther and faster as a politician because he did not stand up in legislative assemblies and give speeches telling his opponents they were wrong, because, as Adams put it, no one ever said oh, well, you’re right, you know, of course you’re right and I’m wrong, and I’ll vote your way. What Jefferson did, he was a back room guy. HH: Right. JM: He was a boarding house guy. We’ve just seen this, quite powerfully depicted, in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Thomas Jefferson was very much like Lincoln in his capacity to leave no fingerprints as he exerted his political will. And I believe, you know, go to Monticello. Go look at the inventions, look at what he liked to do. What did he like to do? He liked to invent things – dumb waiters, buttons where doors would open, but you couldn’t tell who opened them. Even his inventions were about control at a remove. HH: I think you did a find job, by the way. I’ve been to Monticello a couple of times, and once got to go up on the second floor because of the intervention of some friends. And you got to spend the night there. It’s the most amazing house in America. It is so full of his genius. Everything reflect it, and in his dying days, as you captured that alcove in which he laid, and how he would…it’s just very, I think you’ll spur sort of a pilgrimage back to Monticello if it’s fallen by the wayside. And Jefferson really has kind of been eclipsed in the last 20 years. JM: He has, and it’s been, I think going to Monticello is as close as any of us will ever get to having a conversation with Jefferson, because it’s very much, it’s lovingly preserved, the archaeology, the scholarship that goes on at the foundation there is first rate, without peer in presidential sites. They’re very honest, they have done remarkable work. And what you see, and what, you know, when you do what you and I do most of our time, and you live in the present, and you comment on the present and you think about it. It’s getting harder and harder, because of the nature of American life, to go back to a place where an American president feels as though he’s just left the room, you know? HH: Right, right. JM: We don’t have that with President Reagan except at the ranch a little bit. You know, you don’t, you’ll have it with President Bush at Kennebunkport. HH: It’s very powerful at the ranch. I broadcast from the ranch this summer, and it’s very powerful there, but it’s hard. It has not been encroached upon, and there is the benefit of space at Monticello. – – – – HH: This hour, I’m spending more time on Jefferson’s personality. In the second hour, I’m going to talk most about his politics and his political legacy. Jon Meacham, one of the things that I did not know about that I was struck by was his relationship with Dabne Carr. I’d long read about the letter of Peter Carr and things like that, but I didn’t realize the intensity of his friendship, or how losing your closest friend, and truly your intimate could actually change your life significantly, and it surely did sear him. JM: You know, they wandered Monticello together as young men. They found a place where they would like to be buried, with the promise that whoever died first would bury the friend, and then would follow. Carr, of course, married a sister of Jefferson’s, becoming a permanent part of his family. There was a kind of, you know, we all have, I think, in a phrase of Robert Penn Warren’s, a friend of our youth who seems to embody what we want to be, or to complete us in some way at a moment when all the world is young, and all possibilities are green, and the world’s glittering prizes lie before us. And that’s what Dabne Carr represented to Jefferson. And one of the things we have to remember, and it’s hard, is how remarkably exciting and enervating that era was intellectually for young men like Thomas Jefferson, like Dabne Carr, like George Washington, like James Madison, like Benjamin Franklin, who was a little older. But the enlightenment, the European enlightenment, this idea that society was not vertical, coming down from kings and priests, but was horizontal, that people were responsible for their own destinies, their own souls, their own educations, all of this was unfolding. And for Jefferson, this adventure, this thrilling intellectual adventure, was unfolding with Dabne Carr. HH: Also, a very strong father who dies when he is quite young, a very strong mother, I was thinking of MacArthur’s mom, and wonderful sisters who are very strong. And then he marries a very strong wife. There aren’t very many pale characters in his life. JM: No, no. He was totally accustomed to powerful women. You know, Mrs. Jefferson, his mother, has gotten kind of short shrift through the years in terms of history in a way that I don’t think is fair. And I follow the scholarship of Virginia Scharff and Susan Kern, who’ve done really remarkable work in recent years trying to recover Jane Randolph Jefferson, Jefferson’s mother. Part of the problem is he didn’t mention her much, but you know, George Washington didn’t mention his mother much, either. There was just a kind of, John Adams didn’t mention his much. You know, there was a kind of reticence, a cultural reticence. And there was a fire at Shadwell, the house in which he grew up. And so any letters they exchanged were destroyed. My strong sense of her is that you know, she lost her husband when her oldest son was 14, and she kept a very large, complicated, complex plantation going, and raised a man who became one of the leading figures in the history of the world. So not bad. HH: Yeah, remarkable woman. Also, remarkable portrait of Williamsburg for any of us who love it have been there. In the early years of his young adulthood, when he is under the tutelage of the governor, George Wythe, Dr. William Small, he sought out influential, older men who befriended him probably because of his genius, and took him in. And it really conveys, as you mentioned earlier, the spirit of the times before it all went to hell in a hand basket. JM: It’s true. He was very good at cultivating mentors, which is a pattern for most great leaders. What does set this apart, as you say, is Jefferson was in Williamsburg at a very fortuitous moment. It was the center of Virginia politics, there were active theatres, there were print shops, there were book shops. It was the place to be in Virginia if you were intellectually engaged, if you were politically ambitious, if you were well off. And Jefferson was all those things. And what he did was he took advantage of the fact that he was related to everyone in Virginia three times over, and became very much a habitué of the House of Burgesses. He learned politics as a student. He watched the debates, he watched Patrick Henry argue against the Stamp Acts. He had dinner quite often at the governor’s palace there on the green that’s still there, and was the bright, young man of his generation. HH: He watched Patrick Henry win and then lose. JM: Yeah. HH: And when I come back from break with Jon Meacham, I want to explain the significance of that, very artfully done. – – – – HH: Back to Patrick Henry, Jon Meacham. Everybody knows give me liberty or give me death, but Patrick Henry wins and then loses, and Jefferson observes this in his young career. Tell people the significance of that episode. JM: The great moment, it’s during the Stamp Act debate. It’s before the give me liberty or give me death speech, which was in Richmond. This is back in Williamsburg. And Jefferson is standing at the door of the House of Burgesses. He’s still a student, not a member, and watches Henry give a marvelous attack on the King and the power of taxation. He, as Jefferson put it, Henry seemed to speak as Homer wrote, and was totally transported by this. And Henry represented in that time, in the early 1760s, mid-1760s, represented a more aggressive faction in terms of breaking away from British authority. So he carries the day, he passes these harsh resolutions, but then he makes a fatal mistake. He rides back to Louisa County. He goes home. And Jefferson shows up at the house the next day, the last day of the session, Henry’s already gone, and he finds a cousin of his going through the records, trying to find a parliamentary maneuver to overturn the vote the day before, and reassert the power of the more moderate faction, which they find. And Jefferson learned in that moment that it doesn’t matter how eloquent you are, or how charming you can be. If you don’t master the ways and means of the legislative body of which you’re a part, you’re going to loser. HH: A rule that would serve him again and again and again throughout a long career. Now tell us, there are two people in the book who play back stories that I’m very intrigued by, don’t know much about. One is Patrick Henry. You describe him as Jefferson’s nemesis, but I’m not quite sure why he became his nemesis. Why? JM: Henry was more of an opportunist, I think would be a fair way to put it, than Jefferson was. Henry was much less polished, not as well educated. He became, ultimately became the leader of the anti-Federalists opposing the Constitution that Jefferson’s friend, James Madison, had spent so much time working on. He opposed Jefferson’s bill for religious liberty in Virginia, which led Jefferson to say that, to Madison, that we much pray devoutly that he might drown. So that sort of shows a certain skepticism. He believed in the efficacy of prayer. He just didn’t want it done in state places. So they were simply rivals under the same flag. HH: Well, I was wondering, because I believe Henry was the governor before Jefferson… JM: Yup. HH: And Jefferson’s governorship, as we’ll talk about next hour, was flawed and much criticized. He was very sensitive about it. Did Henry criticize him as governor? JM: He, well, Jefferson believed that Henry had put in motion something that troubled Jefferson the rest of his life, which was after a governorship which was marked by the British invasion of Virginia, Patrick Henry used a middleman to introduce resolutions of censure against Jefferson, which enraged Jefferson no end, and in fact, haunted him the rest of his life. He hated that. He hated that failure. My own argument actually is that he was about 40-41 years old at that point. He’d just lost his wife, he was about to lose his wife. It was a terrible moment, but when you look at the lives of great men, many of them have in midlife some cataclysmic disaster from which they learn. You know, Bill Clinton lost his election as governor. Ronald Reagan lost his way before he found GE. HH: Sure, Richard Nixon lost the presidency and the governorship of California, yeah. JM: Precisely. Goes on…it’s actually a very interesting game to play, and I call it the Dantean principle, because Dante wrote The Divine Comedy saying that he had reached the middle of his life’s journey, and he found himself in a dark wood wandering. And I think a lot of great men find themselves in a dark wood wandering, and Jefferson always blamed Patrick Henry in part for his own troubles. HH: What’s interesting about that, if he really resented using a middleman, that is, if I recall correctly from The Art Of Power, that’s what Jefferson did to Justice Chase. Didn’t he use a middleman to launch the impeachment of Chase? JM: Oh, yeah. Now let’s, I’m sure you don’t share this, but I think all of this, the rest of us always dislike in others faults of ourselves that we see in them. HH: Okay, so it’s not even consciously hypocritical. He just is learning from his adversary. The other fellow I mentioned who’s in the back here is Benjamin Rush. And I would like to read a concise biography of this man, because he’s everywhere in the revolutionary era, and finally knitting the broken bones between Adams and Jefferson. JM: Totally. Rush is a fascinating guy. He’s a patriot-physician. He was the great matchmaker in American history. Without him, we would not have that 158 letters between Adams and Jefferson. It’s probably the greatest correspondence in American history. I think of Benjamin Rush as the world’s best Cyrano de Bergerac. You know, he told Adams, oh, Jefferson really wants to make up with you. Then he told Jefferson oh, Adams really wants to make up with you. If you need a date for the prom, hire Benjamin Rush, because he’ll find you one. What Rush did, and was one of the leading physicians of his time, he used to write these long, long letters to Jefferson offering diagnostic help, which were fascinating to read. And I excerpt some of them. He was an early enlightenment figure, incredibly important physician in the history of American medicine, based in Philadelphia, and was a politician who looked on the life of the Republic almost as a physical body that required health, that required, I don’t want to kill this metaphor too much, but required exercise. He believed that Adams and Jefferson, by being in opposition to one another late in their lives, that that was potentially dangerous to the health of the Republic, because it was an infection, and it should be cured, which was a really interesting, I think, recovery of an idea that I had lost track of, actually, in the last four or five years. But when the founders, all the way through Jackson, really, into the 1850s, when they talked about corruption, they weren’t talking about money necessarily in the way we think of it. They were talking about it in terms of the body, the physiology of the Republic, because they saw the Republic, they saw the country, they saw the American experiment, as a living thing that required care, it required nurturing, it required protection, required shelter. And Rush was a critically important architect, I believe, of that idea. – – – – HH: Two things in this quick segment, Jon. One is that he was a wonderful grandfather. Now this is something you never think about Thomas Jefferson wandering Monticello with his grandchildren, and ordering them with one word or even a glance. JM: Nope, absolutely. He was an indulgent grandfather to his white grandchildren. He would show up with a frock that a girl had mentioned she might want. He was very attentive in terms of playing games with them, in terms of reading to them. Part of this was he believed, there’s a political and philosophical element to this as well as a familial one, which is that he really believed the family was the great central unit of society, and out of that, from that unit radiated the neighborhood, the county, the state, the country. Without a strong family, without a virtuous family, he believed that republicanism, lower case r, was in jeopardy, because if we didn’t like each other, there was very little chance we would ever make the kinds of mutual concession of opinion necessary to make a democracy work. And so this idea of sociability, the idea of affection, the idea of neighborliness wasn’t just some kind of gauzy thing to him. It was very much about the survival and success of American liberty. HH: I saw that arrayed when he was trying to encourage Madison to live next door to him as Monroe did, so that he could encourage that. But last minute of this hour, he was ambivalent about Washington. JM: Yeah. HH: Quoting him here, “His mind was great and powerful, Jefferson said about Washington, without being of the very first order,” and then remarking on his most tremendous wrath. JM: He was, yeah, absolutely. You know, there’s a wonderful scene, Gilbert Stuart described Washington as having the eyes of a man who if he had been born in the wilderness would have been the fiercest of the savages. And so I think Jefferson absolutely captured something about Washington there, did not like his temper, had been on the receiving end of his temper. And also, remember, basically Jefferson had lost the fight for Washington’s soul to Alexander Hamilton. So that was always a difficult issue for him down the decades. HH: Very quickly, do you think he felt that Washington’s physical courage overshadowed him, especially given the record in Virginia as governor? JM: Oh, absolutely. He believed that Washington was a kind of untouchable figure because of his bearing, because of his horsemanship, because of his military valor. And as you say, Jefferson spent his life running away from charges that he had run away from the British. Now my own view is if he’d stayed and gotten arrested, what good would that have done? – – – – HH: And I want to do in this hour, Jon, if I could, sort of a quick march through his official career, beginning with the assignment to write the Declaration of Independence, through his governorship, through his time in the Continental Congress, in France, just to give people a sort of taster’s course in the life of Jefferson, which is why Dumas Malone fell into it and never got out of it. But let’s start with how did he come to write the Declaration, and John Adams’ role in that? JM: He was assigned to a subcommittee with Adams, Benjamin Franklin and a couple of others. The Declaration, the act of the Declaration was not seen as particularly important. John Adams thought that the authorization for the state governments to reorganize themselves, which was passed a couple of weeks before, was the more significant document. Adams told Jefferson he should write, he, Jefferson, should write it. Jefferson said why, you’re my senior, eight years older, and Adams said well, one, I’m from Massachusetts, which was seen as too progressive, too aggressive, and if a Massachusetts document came out, it might force the middle states, the colonies that were on the fence a little bit, might keep them from going and joining the move for independence. And, Adams said, much to his credit, and you’re ten times the writer I am. And Jefferson accepted that, and worked hard on it. It was improved by Franklin, improved by Adams. I don’t think it was particularly improved on the floor of the Continental Congress in Carpenters Hall where it was edited. But the key phrases about the equality, all men are created equal, all of that came from Jefferson’s pen. HH: Now flash forward 50 years later. Jefferson and Adams die on the same day, in one of the better known anecdotes of American history. And Adams dies saying Jefferson survived, when in fact Jefferson didn’t survive. But what a, was it John Quincy Adams who said this was providential, that they both died on that day? JM: Yeah. HH: And it really is a remarkable fact of American history. JM: Oh, if you wrote an historical novel, your editor would say take it out. HH: Yeah. JM: …because you’re gilding the lily. It was also the beginning, interestingly, I think, of one of the first moments of founders chic, you know, that we go through sometimes. People say we’re in one right now. I think it helped the country four or five years later, as the first nullification movement, as the first steps toward disunion over tariff policy and slavery policy began to unfold, you had the sense that the Union had been consecrated somehow. And I’m a religious guy, so I don’t mind speaking in those terms, that there was something sacred about the United States because of this joint apotheosis, in which Adams and Jefferson had both gone to their fathers on the same day, on the anniversary of the moment at which they had undertaken and risked their lives to put this remarkable experiment in liberty in motion. HH: Now interestingly enough, I’m also a man of faith as you are, and you deal gently with Jefferson on this. On Page 122, you write that, “He had come to believe that the apostolic faith was superstitious.” And you move on. You don’t make it a huge issue for him. He was always rather discreet about his, I think, flat-out atheism. Some people would say it’s agnosticism. What do you think, Jon? JM: No, I don’t think it’s atheism, because he believed, he wrote that he believed in a creator God, so that knocks atheism out. He believed in a state of rewards and punishments in a future existence for deeds undertaken or committed in this life, which is remarkably, it’s a remarkably specific philosophical vision that the soul is not, the soul has a consciousness that exists beyond time and space. And then he did believe, in the more deistic way, to use the phrase that’s thrown around most of the time, that the sum of all religion is to do good to one another. My own sense is that what makes, what moves him from being the poster child for atheism, and I think atheists who claim him are just as wrong as Evangelicals are who try to re-baptize him. What moves him from atheism to a more interesting place, I believe, is this sense that the soul of man is immortal, and would be treated in a future life, in a future existence, for its conduct in this. He believed, he wrote John Adams about this, that they were going to be sitting up there, that they are sitting up there right now, looking over, seeing how their successors are doing. God knows what they make of it at this point. But that’s a more interesting view. HH: Let me speak up for Hitch, who was 70 times a guest on this program… JM: Yeah. HH: …and wrote the small biography. I believe it was he who argued he would not have counseled Thomas Paine the way he did about not publishing, I believe it was from Hitchens, don’t publish your letter on atheism, don’t do that, and that he often wrote in a way that would allow him to get along and avoid the charges of atheist in colonial history, but that he was an enlightenment man through and through, and a skeptic. So if Hitch were here, how would you, would you anticipate him saying no, no, come on, Jon Meacham, he’s an atheist. He’s an atheist. JM: Of course, and Christopher, with that brilliant accent, would win, of course, because he always did. And I miss him, as you do. But I don’t see how Christopher could be right, could be totally right given that none of us, as Queen Elizabeth said, can make windows into men’s souls. So here’s my evidence. Thomas Jefferson went to church. Thomas Jefferson carried an Episcopal book of common prayer around with him. Thomas Jefferson, on his death bed, repeated Lord, now let us now, Thy servant, depart in peace according to Thy will. How, therefore, do you make a complete case for his absence of some kind of faith in a transcendent reality? HH: All right, let’s move on, then, to the republican, small r, attempt to reclaim Jefferson now. And he is a fan, he is much appreciated by the Tea Party. And he’s much appreciated because of some quotes here and there. But he was a big believer in executive power, and I begin Con Law almost every year by pointing out that the most significant contribution to American history that Jefferson made was not the Declaration, but was his decision to take Louisiana when it was offered to him, and to do so without any authority. And I didn’t even know until I read Jefferson, your book, that for a time, he has counseled a Constitutional amendment to authorize that purchase. But then oh, we’d better get it done. That’s not a constitutionalist approach. JM: No, and in fact, this actually helps your lectures this next term, because it’s what I call Thomas Jefferson’s Claude Rains moment. He was, after proposing a Constitutional amendment to specifically authorize the purchase, because it was not an enumerated power, he’d built his life attacking Hamilton for broad construction. What does he do? He’s shocked, shocked to find that anyone would suggest we needed a Constitutional amendment, because he got a letter, let’s see, the 2nd or 3rd of July, 1803, he learns about the purchase. It’s another providential moment, because it’s the 4th of July, there’s the largest party in White House history that 4th. Then the 21st, 22nd of August, he gets another letter from France saying Napoleon is rethinking this deal. And that’s when, by the 23rd of August, 1803, Jefferson is writing letters saying I think we must not stumble upon Constitutional niceties. HH: Yeah. JM: And so he absolutely abandoned it. In that, plus his orders to Commodore Dale, in fighting the Barbary pirates, where he basically authorized a war without reference to Congress, and got a retrospective approval for those orders. That was early. That was 1801. HH: He was Hamiltonian when he needed to be Hamiltonian. JM: Well, what my conclusion is, is that he used Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends. HH: That letter that he sent out about the Constitutional amendment, people have to read this letter. But it’s sort of, in the modern context, it’s when you hit the recall email please button, because he did not want that letter to go around. I’ll come back in order, though. But after the Declaration is written, he then serves in the Continental Congress, and having been Virginia governor as well, and learns in both of those offices that you’ve got to have executive authority, that it does not work to have a weak executive, something that I think Republicans in the House of Representatives are learning right now, that you know, you get a strong executive with W., you’re going to have to live with one with President Obama. JM: It’s, you know, it’s a remarkable thing. I’ve been out talking about this, obviously, a lot. And you know, people who are outraged by President Bush 43 will stand up and denounce the imperial presidency. And I’ll say how did you feel about Franklin Roosevelt sending destroyers to Winston Churchill? How did you feel about Abraham Lincoln suspending habeas corpus? One man’s imperial president is another person’s bold executive who’s using the powers of the office to create opportunities that must be created. So whenever one denounces an imperial presidency, they have to be careful, because power is about what it is used for, not necessarily, I don’t think you can denounce power as in intrinsic evil. It’s about how we use it and what we use it for. – – – – HH: Jon, before I go back to the timeline of his career, and take us to France, there is a rather extraordinary letter that he writes in 1786. You reprint it at Pages 201, 202 and 203. I think it’s the longest excerpt anywhere in the book, that he writes to his mistress, I think you would call her. JM: Yeah. HH: Tell people about this letter, because I’d never seen it before, and it’s really quite remarkable. JM: Oh, the head and the heart letter? HH: Yes. JM: It’s remarkable. It’s one of the longer pieces he ever wrote, period, which is sort of interesting. It’s a debate, as its title suggests, between his head telling him he should not be falling in love with a married woman, and his heart which tells him he should. And as only Thomas Jefferson could do, it’s almost as though this was a think tank guy writing a love letter, because he uses American revolutionary history as illustrations. It was not the most romantic of letters, but it’s revealing, because it shows that what was critically important to him was, in fact, the history of his own country. So he talks about oh, the ungovernability of the heart, which is a lot like the ungovernability of the confederation congress. HH: Yes. JM: So it’s sort of funny, actually. HH: It is. Why did you put so much of it in? JM: Well, I put so much of it in because I think you, it’s as though you’re talking to him, right? I mean, it’s as though, it’s as close as you can come in a book to embedding some video of a conversation with him. It’s a sustained piece of dialogue with himself. And one of the things, this is as a dork, a fellow dork, you will appreciate this. One of the things I found in the difference in researching Andrew Jackson and researching Thomas Jefferson is I think the rise of the novel in the early part of the 19th Century fundamentally changed both diary keeping and letter writing in the sense that in the 18th Century, people were much less narrative in there, much less descriptive in their communications. HH: Oh. JM: By the time you get to 1830 or so, people are mentioning what the weather was like, whether there was a bottle of whiskey on the table, whether there was, who was in the room, whether there was a fire going. And I think that what happened in those decades, I can’t prove this, but my sense is what happened was people were reading novels, and were beginning to see their own lives in theatrical terms. And Jefferson rarely did. He doesn’t physically describe many things. He has some travel descriptions and travel writing and all that. But the head and the heart letter is the one place where you can imagine, I think, sitting down and just listening to him debate with himself. HH: Oh, he unbuckles. Now what was his voice? In the new movie of Lincoln, which you referenced last hour, Daniel Day Lewis pitches the voice where we have been told Lincoln’s voice ought to be pitched. But I’m not sure I know where Jefferson’s, he’s not a public speaker. I’m not sure if he has a mellifluous voice. But where is the register? JM: The register is low. He disliked, it did not carry well. I think he would have sounded like a Virginian, with not quite a Tidewater guy, about would not have been aboot, as it is sometimes now. But he had to lean into him. He’s sort of the Daisy Buchanan of American politicians. You know, he always, in the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes Buchanan’s voice is being full of money, and she whispered so that you would lean in closer to her. He used his voice, he used his eyes, he used his hands all as weapons in what was a long, almost nine decade long charm offensive. He wanted to make people love him without their quite knowing why. And I think that’s one of the secrets of his political success. HH: He was quite, as you communicate, solicitous of other people’s good opinion, and extremely sensitive to criticism. Does that go to a basic insecurity? JM: Well, I don’t know anyone who likes criticism. And so I certainly don’t know any politicians who do, unlike writers, you know, who welcome it. So I think there’s something about the instinct to perform, the instinct to make oneself conspicuous, which is an interesting letter. Jefferson wrote George Rogers Clark, William Clark’s older brother, who was the original explorer that Jefferson wanted to send west as early as the 1780s. Clark was being kicked around for a defeat in the, militarily. And Jefferson wrote, “You must realize that when you have made yourself conspicuous, there will always be those who will try to knock you down.” And he might as well have been writing about himself. Now he could be philosophical about it when others were being upset about criticism. He was not particularly philosophical about it when he was upset. And he was acutely sensitive to it. But I think that’s part of the same continuum. You know, again, you interview these guys all the time. I’m yet to meet, no kidding, even our modern presidents who pretend not to read the papers, uh-uh. Everybody reads everything. Everybody has some sense of what other people are saying. HH: Oh, I’ll have to tell you about Nixon sometime from the years ’78-’80. He never read a thing, but that was because it was probably so awful. JM: Right. HH: He never touched it. Tell me about, since you’ve written about Jackson and Jefferson, after the break, I’m going to ask you about the art of this. But if you had time to spend with either of them, say, at the peak of their powers, who would you prefer to be in the company with? JM: That is a fabulous question. I’ve been asked about every possible question on this subject. I have not been asked that. You know, all in all, I hate to say it, Jackson is more interesting on that level, because he was so self-made. That is, he pulls himself with no education and no advantages. He willed himself into becoming the most powerful president in history. Jefferson had more advantages, and so I would want to hear more about Jackson’s struggles. At the same time, I would probably get a much better meal at Monticello than the home of Jackson. HH: And Jackson, of course, was dueling all the time. I learned that from your book. Jefferson, there’s not a whisper of a duel in these many decades of public life. JM: No, no. He was, he just, he was not a temperamental man. And insofar as the emotional storms ebbed and flowed, and they did, one of the things we haven’t mentioned is he had stress migraine headaches all his life. The first one we know of was when a young women refused his first marriage proposal as a young man. He had one after his mother died. He had one after his wife died. He, at critical moments in the presidency, he would become debilitated by this horrible, horrible headache. And so there was a lot going on in there, you know, but there was, but he had mastered that critically important classical virtue of projecting calm amid the storm, which is one of the great qualities of leadership. – – – – HH: I’m fairly certain we share a friend in common, Jon, Richard Norton Smith. JM: Yup. HH: And Richard once told me the reason he would not take up the task of writing a biography of Richard Nixon is that he would, he was afraid he would fall in and never get out. You’ve done that twice now with Jackson, but I think even Jefferson must appear to be a daunting task compared to Jackson. Am I right about that? JM: That’s right. HH: And so how did you steel yourself to do this where many, many other biographers have gone before you? And the paperwork is so immense. JM: It’s true. The key thing, and you’ve been enormously kind in mentioning it, what I wanted to focus on was his political life, his skills and education as a politician in part because I think he would have been reluctant to hear us talk about the things we have been talking about the last couple of hours. I believe that his tombstone, which lists the authorship of the Declaration of the Independence, of the Virginia statute for religious liberty, and the founding of the University of Virginia, is one of the great acts of misdirection in American history. I call it the Keyser Soze tombstone, because it doesn’t mention his presidency, it doesn’t mention any of the political offices he held. Often, this is held up as a Cincinnatus-like virtue of humility. I don’t think so. What I think it was, was he knew that his political battles, like all political battles, were going to be forever contentious. And it would never really be contentious to have been the author of the idea of human equality, if not this application, the founder of an institution devoted to enlightened education, and liberty of conscience. I think that he knew that those were three achievements that would travel well through history. His political career was going to be bumpier. And you know, a lot of shrinks will tell you it’s the thing you don’t mention that’s often the most important. HH: Yeah, I can’t imagine he did not put the Louisiana Purchase on there, because it’s such a significant event for the unfolding. And he must have known it at the time. His opponent, Hamilton, wrote that fame is the highest ambition of the noblest minds. And clearly, Thomas Jefferson wanted to be famous and admired from the very first day. In fact, you quote one letter in here, let me find it, where’s writing about his salaries in France. He writes to Monroe, “I will pray you to touch this string, which I know to be a tender one with Congress, with the utmost delicacy. I’d rather be ruined in my fortune than in their esteem.” JM: Yeah. HH: And I thought that was very revealing, Jon Meacham. JM: Isn’t it? Yeah, I did, too. You know, fame, for them, meant reputation, not necessarily celebrity, although they’re obviously connected. And he believed that we would still be sitting here talking about him. I mean, that was very much his anticipation. You don’t, one of the things, I think, about the Adams-Jefferson letters is anyone who thinks those were the first drafts? HH: Ha. JM: I think are crazy, because these brilliant, Ciceronian essays about things…and they knew that we would be writing about it. They knew that we would be talking about it. Monticello itself, one of the fascinating things, and I had not seen this point made elsewhere, and so I made it, you know, Jefferson is one of the few politicians, the only politician I know of who commemorated, memorialized his enemies in his own house. He had… HH: The bust. JM: …the bust of Hamilton, a bust of Adams, many portraits of Washington are still there. And I think it was because Jefferson was building a national culture. He had cast himself in the role as a translator of old world culture into the new world. But when you go through the house, and you see the Lewis and Clark artifacts, and you see the portraits of the other great founders, many of whom, with whom he disagreed, I mean, I promise you, if you go to Jimmy Carter’s house, there’s not going to be a bust of Ronald Reagan. There’s not going to be a bust of Everett Dirksen in his opponent’s house. So it was a remarkable sense of national history, and of national story. HH: Do you think he was an order of magnitude smarter than all but say Hamilton? JM: And Franklin. HH: And Madison, of course, too. You’ve got some pretty smart characters running around in this period of time. But was Jefferson head and shoulders over them? JM: What I think, Jefferson was a little bit like Bill Clinton in the sense that he was, when he focused on something, and when he immersed himself in an issue, whether you agreed with him or disagreed with his conclusions, you knew he had absorbed the essential facts of the matter. Jefferson, I think, was one of the great crammers of all time. You know, he would become interested in something, he’d buy a bunch of books about it, he would read it, he would become a semi-expert on it. In many ways, he was the ultimate liberal arts graduate. – – – – HH: I’ve got to go back to that one…how did you organize this, Jon? JM: Well, I went…the papers were critically important. The Jefferson Papers Project, based at Princeton under the editorship of Barbara Oberg, is one of the great scholarly projects in American history. I believe they’re on Volume 40, and it’s 1802. And so it’s as thorough as it can be. So the papers are there if you have the wherewithal to stick with them. And then they were very generous in giving me transcripts of papers that have not yet been published in their series. So that was important. The other thing that’s important about biography that’s actually somewhat easier than writing broad, narrative history, is chronology is your friend in biography, because you want to experience events as your subject experienced them. So if you simply know, if you have their calendar, if you have their memorandum book, if you have their letters, as we do with Jefferson, then you can walk through those days in a way that actually makes you feel, I think, if you’re doing it right, that you’re with them, because we know how the story turned out. They didn’t. And the critical thing, the hardest biographical thing, I think, is suspending one’s sense of how it all ended, and then reading back into the unfolding events, a kind of nature of everything being foreordained. Nothing is foreordained. HH: It’s still a remarkable achievement. Before we run out of time, I want to throw into the presidency, beginning with the election of 1800, and the fact that, as you just said, he didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Aaron Burr turns on him, it goes through these many, many, many ballots. And it’s, distance is working against him, intrigue is working against him. Remarkable way to begin a presidency, and sort of a lesson to us all that these are not terribly tumultuous political times compared to that. JM: Well no, there was 37 ballots in the House, and yes, you had the vice presidential candidate basically leaving himself open to being elected president. You had the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia preparing to send the militias to Washington. You had in what I think is a little noted point, and I made as much of this as I thought was responsible, this brief movement to make the secretary of state/chief justice, John Marshall, the acting president for a year until they could settle everything. I think that, as much as anything else, was part of what drove a wedge between Jefferson and Marshall. When we think about… HH: Oh, that was interesting. Go ahead. JM: Sorry, oh hell… HH: The family intervenes in the interview, but that’s okay. JM: That was the family. That’s Mary Meacham, age 8. And God knows what. Don’t do anything on the phone. Sorry. You should have seen Jefferson’s children when the phones were going on. It was awful. It was awful. HH: But Marshall was his great nemesis during the presidency, and during the Burr trial, and allowing the subpoena to be issued. But you think it goes back to his making a play for the presidency? JM: I think it certainly didn’t help. Let me put it that way. Jefferson, I mean, remember. This is what he’d done. From 1769 until 1809, 40 years, he had almost perpetually been in public office, or thinking about it. This was the second time he’d run for president in what had been the only, and there had only been two elections in which anyone besides George Washington had run. So this was not a man who was uninterested in the office. There’s actually a wonderful exchange where Madison pretty clearly, in 1796, Jefferson has, at least in conversation, said to Madison, you know, if I come in second, and under the rules at the time, become vice president, I’m not so sure I want to do that. And Madison writes a letter saying it will be very important to you and to the country for you to accept the second place, even if you don’t come in first. HH: Yup. JM: So this is a ferociously competitive man, a man who wanted to direct the destinies of the country, because he believed he was best suited to do it. He believed that the fate of human liberty, I mean, it sounds sort of remarkable to say it in that sense, but he really believed that we were the world’s best hope, as he called it. Lincoln later said we were the last best hope. But for Jefferson, we were still the world’s best hopt. HH: He never recoiled fully from the slaughter of the French Revolution, did he? At least you don’t communicate that, almost a necessary evil on the road to that liberty you’re talking about. JM: He believed, you know, I think he had a harder time tearing himself apart from the reign of terror, because he had seen with his own eyes, and felt with his own fingers, what it could have been. That is during the storming of the Bastille, in the early days of the revolution, before things went terribly wrong in the reign of terror, he was there. And they were very much involved. And I think if he had been away, my own theory, if he had been in the United States watching the whole thing, then it would have all been more clinical. But I do think that he was very slow to recognize the excesses of the revolution. I will say this, and I believe this as strongly as I believe anything about Thomas Jefferson. His interest, his consuming interest, was the survival and success of the United States. And the French foreign minister says, and I put this quotation on one of the spreads in the book, that the American minister to Paris, Thomas Jefferson, is chiefly interested in what is good for his country. And his opinions about the French Revolution are interesting, but they’re not dispositive, because he never made, and I defy anybody to find a decision he made as secretary of state, as vice president, as president, that was pro-French without it also being, in Jefferson’s view, good for the United States. – – – – HH: I want to thank Jon Meacham, my guest this hour and last, for spending so much time talking about his new book, Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power. Let me close with one of those funny things. Readers get struck by different things, Jon, obviously. And I made a note, I can’t believe that Jefferson said nothing when Hamilton was killed. I was thinking of Churchill. When Neville Chamberlain died, he went to the floor of the house, broke down in tears. It was his great adversary. He didn’t have much respect for Chamberlain, but he nevertheless understood him to be a patriot. That’s what I didn’t get, one of those things about Jefferson, that there might have been a cold part in his heart for anyone who opposed him. JM: Totally right. It was one, I was disappointed twice on that front. One was when Hamilton died, and the other was when Washington died. You wish, you know, biographically, I was sort of hungry for the letter, the tribute, the oh, though we disagreed, we were fellow warriors in the cause of liberty. Nothing. Later in life, some warmer words, but you’re right. There was a very cold place, particularly on the Hamilton question. You know, the politics of New York were very complex. John Adams, if it makes any difference, was meaner. He called it a public frenzy that the grief for Hamilton was such that somehow or another it would have ongoing political effects. But you know, Thomas Jefferson, and the reason I think all these men are interesting, was flawed and sinful. And that was one of the things where he did not do what he ought to have done. And I wish he had. I will say this, at least the reconciliation with Adams gives us some model of civility through the ages. But even that was too hard, really, when you think about it. When you really think about what separated them, it was, they were probably overreacting. At the same time, in Thomas Jefferson’s heart and in his mind, he really believed that these men were not as devoted to the cause of liberty and the cause of the country as he was. HH: In his defense, he did keep the promise of Paris vis-à-vis Sally Hemmings and her children. Where do you go next, Jon Meacham? We’ve lot less than a minute. What do you do after you’ve done Jackson and Jefferson? JM: Well, I have an ongoing project of writing a biography of George Herbert Walker Bush. We’ve been talking for a long time, and doing interviews. It was supposed to be published after, as only President Bush could put it, he was paws up. I’m happy to report, from the word from Houston, is that this latest crisis is heading in the right direction, and that he is on the mend. So we just need to, I’m going to go see him in a couple of days… HH: Oh, I look forward to that. Oh, that’s very interesting. They say they put the harps away. JM: Yeah. HH: Jon Meacham, congratulations, magnificent book, Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power. End of interview. ]]>
(Review Source)
Hugh Hewitt
(”Lincoln” is briefly mentioned in this.)
HH: This is a special treat for me, because I am spending a lot of time today with N.T. Wright. N.T. Wright is the former bishop of Durham in the Church of England. He is one of the leading scholars of the Bible in the world. He is now serving as the chair of the New Testament and early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. And he has a brand new book out, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story Of The Gospels, which is linked at Hughhewitt.com, which along with Simply Christian, I think will become must reads for almost everyone who concerns themselves with these subjects. Bishop Wright, welcome, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show. NTW: Thank you. Very good to be with you. HH: It is a very interesting time to be speaking with you as Holy week opens, and with the elevation of Francis in Rome. On the latter, do you have a reaction to his election and his early statements? NTW: Well, I haven’t seen very much of what’s been going on, because I’m extremely busy at the moment with trying to finish a different book. But it was extremely exciting, really, to watch the election of a pope from the Americas for the first time ever, and particularly a pope from the third world for the first time ever, if Argentina still counts as the third world, which I suppose it does. And certainly his opening statements about the importance of the poor, and the Church’s focus on the poor, sounded as though that really is absolutely at the center for him rather than simply being one of the things which we all know is important. For him, it is, it seems to be absolutely a center. HH: You also will be surprised, Bishop Wright, I think, when you read his inaugural homily, to find him talking about in every period of history, there are Herod’s, who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women. Given how in your new book how God became king, the third part of your book is all about that. And it’s really quite eerie to have been reading his sermons while having been preparing for this interview and reading How God Became King. NTW: Well, I’m grateful for the tip. I need to go online and get that homily. All I heard was little bits that were reported on our news bulletins, and as usual, the journalists just give you a quick soundbyte, and that’s it. HH: I think you will find that first homily, it’s linked at my website, to be quite amazing. NTW: All right. HH: Let’s dive in, then. NTW: Sure. HH: Are you at all weighted down by the fact that, really, millions of people read your books and look to you for inspiration? Does that burden you? NTW: I don’t really think about that too much. Most of my time is spent, actually, thinking about the book that I’m currently trying to write. And as soon as that one’s finished, I move on to the next one. From time to time, it is a bit scary to think of people reading stuff that I write. I very much doubt it’s in the millions, but it’s certainly a significant number. And the way I deal with that is that every Sunday morning, I pray for the people who read what I’ve written, and especially for any clergy and preachers and pastors who are using stuff that I’ve written in order to preach and teach people, because that’s a really, you know, that’s a big thing. If I got something wrong there, and they’re teaching people from it, then we’re all in trouble. So I do pray regularly for the people who do that. HH: And do you mind, or do you welcome the comparisons which are everywhere with C.S. Lewis? NTW: Oh, I think it’s a facile comparison in many ways, but I think it’s just that for some reason, C.S. Lewis was very important to me when I was young, and I mean, that’s so familiar to people, of course, but in my case, I remember taking to heart his comments about what you have to do if you’re going to be a Christian writer. He had this wonderful advice. He said first, you have to be sure what it is you want to say. And second, you have to be sure that you say exactly that. Now that sounds easy, but actually, it’s not. And I have struggled, and sometimes, I hope I’ve succeeded in a measure to follow his advice. But I still, when I read him, I think you know, here is a master. I disagree with him on several issues, but his writing style is just so extraordinary that I should be so lucky to get anywhere near it. HH: Well, you do, and How God Became King has much of that winsomeness in it. Now this is the most recent of many books by you, and I always ask authors who produce many books, you know, it’s your most recent, so it probably represents your most mature thinking, or the evolution of where you are. But it isn’t your favorite child. And do you have a favorite child among all those books? NTW: Somebody asked me that the other day, and it depends, really, on how I’m feeling at the time. Right now, the favorite child that I have is the one that is struggling to be born, which is the enormous, big book on St. Paul, which I am still, I am fiddling with the footnotes at the moment, and the bibliographies and stuff, so it’s basically written, and it just needs to be polished off. It should be out later this year, and I find great satisfaction in that. But as I look back, actually, I do find How God Became King a very exciting book to have written. And I’m kind of surprised in a way that I hadn’t said it before, because now it all seems so obvious to me. And yet I’m aware, and this is the point of the book, obviously, that an awful lot of people simply haven’t looked at the Gospels like this. And I think we should. The other one that is really a big favorite child of mine is the everyone commentary on Acts. I haven’t written much about Acts before, but when I wrote that commentary, Acts For Everyone, it was enormously exciting. I was like going into retreat. I just had the whole of the book of Acts in my head for as long as it took to write it, and all I had to do is sit down at the desk, and it was like turning on a tap. I just couldn’t stop. It was a very exciting, exhilarating time. HH: Oh, wow. Now the opposite question, those who write many books and essays have a few spokes that they’ve thrown. Is there one you wish you could recall that you wish you hadn’t written? NTW: Now that’s an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before. There’s some essays that I think well, I didn’t really nail that one. But essays kind of go out into journals, and they get quietly forgotten. I think some of the early volumes in the everyone series, I was just trying to get into the style and the groove for that, and so I guess the Mark and Luke books, particularly, one of these days, I probably should go back and redo them. It won’t be anytime soon, because I’m not sure that it all worked as well as it might have done. Yeah, that’s actually quite a tricky question. I think as well, I have learned a huge amount in the last twenty years. My book writing has really been in the last 20 or 25 years, I really got going when I was in my late 30s, early 40s. And some of the stuff that I’ve learned in between does make me want to go back and do a quite fresh edition of the big book called The New Testament And the People Of God, because of the lot of stuff that if I was writing that now, I would put in and make more foregrounded than it was there. The problem is I don’t have the time to do it, and it would result in the book growing to about 800 pages, which I don’t think I particularly want to do. HH: Well, the reason I asked that is because when I finished How God Became King, I said to myself wow, I’ve begun to think about the Gospel writers as biographers. And biographers look back at their corpus of work, and Andrew Roberts is a friend, and he said you know, Salisbury is too long, or this is too…and William Blake’s Disraeli, I think of these biographers, and some things they would want to do differently. And you’re a writer, and you’re a biographer of these Gospel writers, in many respects, and you wonder if they knew now what they didn’t know then about how the Church would use their work, what would they have done differently? NTW: Yeah, now that’s a fascinating question, and I suppose they can be jolly grateful that they didn’t know the messes that we would have made, or they would have been tearing their hair out and saying is it any point in us starting at all, because of course, the culture has changed so much. And they could take so many things for granted, that their readers and hearers wouldn’t need spelling out, which we do need spelling out. You know, we just do things differently, and we think of things differently. And so little things which they could hint at, which their readers would pick up straight away, we have to spend ages looking things up in dictionaries, and doing the historical background in order to gain one flicker of insight. So as things change over the years, that’s bound to be the case. HH: I’m talking with N.T. Wright. Bishop Wright’s new book, How God Became King, is linked at Hughhewitt.com. Bishop, we have about a minute and a half to our first break. NTW: Okay. HH: Let’s, could you just give us a quick summary of canon creed Gospel dilemma? NTW: Okay. I grew up in a Church which said, and still says, the creeds day by day and week by week. And in the creed, you get this statement that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. And there’s a skipping over of a lot of material there, straight from Bethlehem to Calvary, if you like. And of course, the Churches here does something similar, that we go from Christmas to Easter with only really Lent and a little bit of Epiphany in between. And the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, don’t do that at all. They spend a lot of time precisely on the material between the one and the other. And so there’s a kind of a mismatch. And I suspect that for that reason, a lot of Christians haven’t really known what all that stuff in the middle is all about. And that, in my mind, goes with the question of what the Christian life is all about in between, if you like, the baptism and the funeral. Once somebody gets converted, what are they supposed to be doing between then and when they die? — – – – HH: Bishop Wright, I’m using Mozart as my breaks in and out today. NTW: Very nice. HH: …because of what you wrote on Page 157. I want to read it for the audience. You wrote, “As I read the Gospels, and think of what the Church has done and hasn’t done with them, I’m reminded of the wonderful scene in Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus. There, the cynical, old court composer, Salieri, contrasts his own operas, telling and retelling great tales of legendary heroes, but through stale and tedious music, with Mozart’s astonishing ability to take characters off the street and create something truly magical. He is taking ordinary people,” says Salieri, “Ordinary people, butlers and chambermaids, and he has made them gods and heroes. I have taken gods and heroes, and made them ordinary.” So Bishop Wright, how is that what the Church has, explain what you then went on to write about. NTW: Well, I think when we read the Gospels, often we make Jesus just another teacher, maybe a very fine teacher, but basically somebody who’s telling us good advice about how we should live, about what the meaning of life is, and so on. And then people read a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and especially in Churches which use a lectionary and work through the Gospels, as my own Church does, you get maybe ten or twelve verses on a Sunday morning, and the preacher will get up and turn that into a nice, little homily about how you have to behave this week, or maybe how you should order your prayer life, or about the problems of the world or something. And we all sort of think yeah, okay, fine, that’s what that’s about, and we go back to doing whatever we were doing. And meanwhile, I can see Matthew, Mark, Luke and John going about their business saying no, you don’t understand. This is explosive. This is something breaking in. This is something which turns the world upside down and inside out. And you just turn it into little bits of stuff. And so I’ve, going back to Mozart, I have the image in my mind, imagine you go to a concert hall, and the concert master says okay, this week, we’re going to have bars 22-53 of the 2nd movement of the Jupiter symphony, and the orchestra plays just those 20-odd bars, and then the concert master says okay, that’s all, come back next week, and you get the next 20 bars. And you think no, this is an amazing symphony. I want to hear the whole thing, because only then do we realize just how powerful and life-changing it is. So I think there’s a sense of domesticating what is in fact an extremely explosive and extraordinary narrative. And I think many Christians have just never even realized that it’s like that. HH: You know, I’m going to give away the end of the book here, How God Became King. One of the things you recommend is something you did in the Durham Diocese, which is to, during Holy Week, in fact, convene the Church and read the entire Gospel. Now I must tell you, as a Roman Catholic Presbyterian, and I can explain that later, I always dreaded Passion Sunday, because you had to stand up for the whole doggone passion. And you know, you’re a little kid, and you’re sitting there, you say I don’t want…so the idea of the whole Gospel, how did it go over with the congregation? NTW: I think they loved it. They wove it into the liturgy, or rather, they wove the liturgy into it so that each Sunday, I think actually, I think it was through Lent, I just can’t remember the details now, but it was one of the Churches in the city of Durham that pioneered this. And they began with, it was Luke that year, so they began with the opening of Luke, and they just read that straight off. Then they had the first hymn, and then they read the next bit, and they did the confession and absolution, then they did the next bit, and then they said the intercessions or whatever, and so it went. And it took a few weeks, actually, but they got through it. And so they timed it so that of course, the great passion story happens, then, on Good Friday, and the Easter story on Easter day itself.  But so by the end of the sequence, they had actually lived through the whole of the Gospel story, and they had, as I said, woven the liturgy, the stuff that you would normally have as the framework for the Gospel reading instead, that became the filler in the sandwich, and the outer bits of the sandwich was the Gospel itself. That was hugely creative and innovative, and it’s the kind of thing that does a bishop’s heart good, actually, to think that your parishes are coming up with creative ideas like that. HH: I will tell every pastor and priest out there that if they get to the end of How God Became King, they will be rewarded with some very concrete, practical suggestions on how to introduce these elements into their worship. But now here’s my one overarching reaction before we go to the specifics, Bishop Wright. I am a dualist. I go to Mass on Saturday, and to my Presbyterian Church on Sunday, and I’ve had the benefit of both for many years, and a great theologian in Mark Roberts, who’s a friend and a pastor. So I actually don’t, I was finding it a little alien as you talked about the dichotomy between the creed and the canon in the Gospel. And I began to ask myself whether or not Catholics, especially those who say the Rosary, they always say the Apostle Creed, and then it’s immediately followed by the Our Father, and they reflect upon the mysteries of the Gospel, which are themselves, for example, the mysteries of light include the arrival of the Kingdom. Or in a liturgical setting, you get the Nicene Creed, but you only get it after you get the Psalm and the Responsorial Psalm, the Old Testament, the Epistle, and the Gospel. So maybe the disintermediation between canon, creed and Gospel doesn’t happen among the more liturgically rigorous? Is that possible? NTW: Well, it might. I mean, it still can, because it depends whether the teaching is framed by the creed or by the canon. The creed is never designed as a teaching aid, but in many traditions, and in seminaries and in Churches where they have teaching programs, people say well, we want to teach people what the Faith is all about, so let’s go to the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed, and so you will talk about God, and we’ll talk about Jesus, and we’ll talk about the Holy Spirit. But one of the key things, then, is if you ask the question when does the Kingdom happen, when does the Kingdom of God happen, and for many, many people, many, many Christians, the Kingdom of God means either when we go to Heaven when we die, or something that will happen at the very end of time, because the creed says He will come again, and His Kingdom will have no end. And so people often imagine that the Kingdom is something which will happen only in the future. And this is really the burden of the song throughout my book, of course, that in the Gospels, Jesus is inaugurating the Kingdom. He’s launching the Kingdom on Earth as in Heaven in the present. And so I think however much people get the Responsorial Psalm and the Old Testament and the whole thing, and I love all that, that’s great, I’d much rather have that than not, if they’re still thinking in their heads and their hearts that actually God isn’t in charge, we’re still waiting for that to happen, then they’re missing out on something which is really central to what the four Gospels are trying to tell us. HH: Why do you think so many faithful Christians have missed that message of the Kingdom of God being present? We have a minute to the break, Bishop. NTW: I think in our own day, it’s partly because in the Western world, the 18th Century enlightenment taught us to think of religion and spirituality as something private and only personal, and not public. And so that the idea of God being in charge was quite offensive, and still is offensive to many people, because they think that means a kind of ecclesial totalitarianism where you get priests with a hotline to God, telling us all what to do and making us all afraid. And for two hundred years, Western culture has been in severe reaction against that. So that is precisely the message of theocracy that people do not want to hear. — – – HH: Bishop, I love great writing, and in great writing, there is always great metaphor. And in How God Became King, there are two. I’d call them killer apps, actually. The four speaker, and the disassembled car. And so at the beginning, before we plunge into what each of those speakers is or is not playing, and at what level it is amplified or distorted, would you explain the four speaker metaphor? We’ll come back to the car later. NTW: Yeah, I’m not a great electrician or whatever, but from time to time when we’ve moved house, one of the things we ask ourselves is okay, we have an electronic sound system. It used to be a record player, and then it was tapes, and now it’s CD’s, and we want that in the living room, and where are we going to put the loudspeakers? And if you have one of those really sophisticated sets that’s got four loudspeakers, so you have one more or less at each corner of the room, you have to get them lined up and positioned, but you also have to get them turned up to the right volume, depending on where you’re going to sit and so on, so that you get the proper balance. And I’ve used that as an illustration, because if you imagine, those speakers are designed to make you feel as though you’re in the middle of the orchestra. If you listen to orchestral music, you’ll the violins over to one side, the basses over to the other side, the brass somewhere else, the woodwinds somewhere else, and so you’ll be able to feel spatially where you are in relation to them all. Now if one of those speakers becomes unplugged or switched off, then the whole music is going to be distorted. There’ll be things you’re meant to hear but you’re not hearing at all, or maybe only very faintly through the other speakers and so on. And I’ve found as I’ve used that illustration many times in speaking before I finally wrote it down, and it was interesting, something I think that most of my audiences were able to get hold of and understand. And part of my point, then, is to say that there are various themes in the Gospels which need the relevant speaker to be turned up to the proper volume. Otherwise, we just won’t get what’s going on. NTW: No, no. HH: and if I can add a note of explanation, the four speakers are not the four Gospels themselves. They are four themes. NTW: That’s important. Thank you. HH: So the first one, the four Gospels as the climax of the story of Israel, but you note that this speaker is kind of turned off, because those creeds don’t mention Israel at all. NTW: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, it’s interesting, you’ve mentioned twice an earlier book of mine, Simply Christian. When I was writing that book, I thought to myself well, what we’ll have to have in the middle of it is a section on God, a section on Jesus, and a section on the Holy Spirit. And then I realized that actually, in order to get the Jesus section, I had to have a whole extra chapter on Israel, because unless you get the story of Israel firmly in your head, in other words, basically the Old Testament story and then what comes after that, you just don’t understand why Jesus is who He is. And of course, the four Gospels knew that very well, and they tell the story in such a way as to make it clear. This is the climactic chapter in a much longer story or novel or drama or history, which they assume that their readers will know. HH: And that the Church today has failed to tell in its full implications for the Gospel. NTW: Well, I think that’s right, because I mean, a well taught Christian to this day will no doubt know the story of Abraham, of Noah, of Moses, of David, and those of us who went to Sunday School still have got all that kept somewhere in our heads. But it’s not usually seen as a continuous narrative running up to and climaxing in the story of Jesus. It’s usually seen as a book of prophecies and illustrations and moral lessons and so on. And to be sure, it’s all of those. And that’s not wrong. But what it is much, much more is a single narrative of the way in which God’s plan was working its way out. And that’s the narrative that comes to its head in the story that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are telling. HH: That’s the first speaker. And at this point, I was to introduce that at one point, you say the so-called Gnostic Gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas and the rest, are simply in another world. I thought to myself, using your analogy, it’s like the person through the flat wall who has turned up their speakers very, very loud, and they’re interfering with their music. NTW: Yes, that’s very good. I’m grateful for that. Next time I speak on it, I will use that. But that’s exactly right, that it is interfering with the music. And somebody who’s just recently produced a book called, is it the New Gospels or something like that? I’m not sure. Or no, the New, New Testament, trying to make out that actually, we need to get all those other books in there as well. In fact, they will pull away from what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are doing. — – – HH: Bishop Wright, the second speaker in the analogy of the four speakers playing four themes which have to be balanced in Christianity’s story is about the story of Israel’s God coming back as He always promised in the person of Jesus. And you write that modern Churches amplified this part, this speaker, because of two reasons, the rise and the threat of the new Biblical criticism, and of the new atheists. I want to play for you an exchange. I’ve hosted a lot of debates about God over my years on the air, and they’re collected in an e-book called Talking With Pagans. And the most memorable of all those exchanges occurred with Richard Dawkins when he and I did this. RD: Do you believe Jesus turned water into wine?  HH: Yes.  RD: You seriously do?   HH: Yes.  RD: You actually think that Jesus got water and made all those molecules turn into wine?  HH: Yes.  RD: My God.  HH: Yes, my God, actually, not yours.   RD: I’ve realized the kind of person I’m dealing with now. HH: And so, that sort of perfectly encapsulated for me what you were talking about. When you run into Dawkins all the time, the tendency is for someone in my business to turn up the volume. NTW: Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly right. And it’s very revealing. I’ve only met Dawkins a couple of times, but you know, he has lived all his life, or most of his life, in a world which is just the utterly secular world, where any sort of God is just not wanted on stage, thank you very much. Actually, it isn’t a modern world, that. It’s ancient Epicureanism in modern dress. I don’t know whether Dawkins realizes that or not. But the idea of banishing God away from the world so that He’s got nothing to do with it. And then we overreact, and this is why you rightly say the loudspeaker has been turned up too loud. Christians overreact by saying yes, God is so big, He can do anything. He’s great. He does this, that and the other. And we forget the very specifically Jewish way of telling the story of God in the world. And this is actually very poignant. It’s a story that people don’t really know. But if you look at the book of Ezekiel, there at the beginning of the book of Ezekiel, it says that the people in Jerusalem, and the priests in the Temple, have been so badly behaved, and so idolatrous and so wicked, that God is actually leaving the Temple. And we have to realize that the Temple in Jerusalem was always designed not to be just like a big Church on a street corner somewhere, but to be the one place on Planet Earth where the living God chose to dwell personally. It was his own residence. And so the idea He would leave and go somewhere we don’t know where, it terrifying. And of course, Jerusalem was destroyed as a result. But then the prophets like Isaiah, and the great prophet, Isaiah, 40-55 particularly, basically says He’s coming back. And you’ll see Him come back, and you’ll rejoice and celebrate because He’s coming back. And He’s coming back to be king. And the New Testament is written to say yes, and He did it, and it looked like this. It looked like Jesus of Nazareth coming back, and coming…and He came to be king. And so we don’t realize that this idea of a personal God who has long been awaited is actually returning, but He’s not returning in a blaze of glory and flashing fire. He’s returning in and as a human being. And that gives to the whole idea of who God is, a much more focused image and picture than we, certainly than I got growing up as a regular Churchgoer, or that I knew from my own theological training. HH: Now what’s very fascinating about this, because I am afraid to turn down the volume of that second speaker because of the noise out there. And a friend of mine, I consulted three people when I was getting ready to talk to you, and I asked, they’re all great fans of yours. One of them, Steve Tem, sent me this question which fits right here. In applying the wide angle lens of the new creation, the Kingdom of Heaven, does Bishop Wright sense any risk that a message of personal sin and salvation is weakened? What is the message? I.E, is our traditional evangelical understanding of the Roman road string of salvation verses still valid? And how would the Bishop communicate that message to my unbelieving neighbor who wants to know why I am a Christian, and why he or she should become one? And if we turn down the volume, I’m adding this on, don’t we give up on that neighbor? NTW: No. I mean, if you’ve got the volume turned up too loud, then you won’t be able to hear the nuances in the music. You know, you’ll just blast everybody out and make the whole room shake. But you won’t actually be able to distinguish the oboes from the clarinets from the basses from the violins, going back to the orchestra again. And it’s the nuanced reading of the New Testament which will actually appeal, because people don’t know it. Christians don’t know it, and atheists certainly don’t know it. And so the atheist simply thinks that you and I believe in this big bully in the sky who is coming to get you, and will occasionally do funny tricks like changing water into wine, that basically He’s a distant God who has got a very severe moral program for us, and He is capable of doing anything He wants, but we don’t normally understand it. And this is a very un-Jewish vision of God. This is a combination of older pagan views of God. And part of our trouble in the Western world today is that we’ve forgotten that there are many different meanings to the word God. And clearly, Dawkins has one vision of who God is in his mind, and it’s quite different from what you find in the New Testament. So we have to turn the volume down so that instead of people just hearing us thundering on about God, God, God, we say no, wait a minute, we’re talking about the God we see in Jesus. Now let’s just calm down and look more closely at this. And you see, this fits, because one of the things we learn when we do that is that God isn’t a big, thundering bully, that God is like Jesus. Michael Ramsey once said, great Archbishop Michael Ramsey once said that God is Christ-like, and in Him is no un-Christ-likeness at all. That’s part of what it means to believe in the incarnation. St. John put it like this. No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father has made Him known. Now we’ve shouted so loud, God, God, God, that people have heard the God of late Western imagination, not the God of the Bible. HH: When we come back from break, I’m going to ask Bishop Wright in our short three minute segment before hour two, what about the Hitchens problem, because my friend, Christopher, was my guest 70 times on this radio show, and I don’t think I made a dent, and we did not shout. And so the question is what do you do with what the Roman Catholic Church would call the invincibly ignorant, because the speakers don’t matter. — – – HH: Bishop Wright, did you know Hitch? NTW: No, never met him, or his brother, either, who is still alive. HH: Yeah, I’ve talked with Peter on the air… NTW: Right. HH: But Hitch was a friend, a journalist friend. NTW: Right. HH: And 70 times he came here, and I never made a dent, or at least he said he never had a dent made. What happens there to your idea of balancing the speakers? NTW: Well, nothing in what I’m saying implies that if we do our homework and get it all right, everybody in the world is going to keel over and say oh, I get it now, fine, okay, I’m going to become a Christian. It’s much more complicated than that. Paul addresses this question in 2 Corinthians 4, when he talks about the God of this world blinding the hearts of unbelievers. And there’s a deep mystery there. And I think part of the problem is that again, in our modern world, modern Western world, we have assumed a sort of 18th Century rationalism which says if I only explain this clearly, everyone will understand and believe it. And the trouble with that is that yes, I can explain it clearly, but if it requires a whole worldview shift, then people perhaps are never going to get it, because they like the worldview the way they’ve got it. And unless something happens to jolt them out of that, then they may well just not want to change at all. HH: Now I’m not going to ask you whether you think Hitch is up in Heaven or down in Hell, but I do want to say to people that you deal with the problem of Hell in How God Became King, but in an interesting way in that you just urge people a more sophisticated version of it. But you do believe in Hell, correct? NTW: Well, it depends what you mean by Hell, like it depends what you mean about God. Let’s put it this way. I do believe that all humans have the chance, if they choose, to dehumanize themselves by, the Bible has this word idolatry, worshipping idols. If you worship that which is not God, you stop being a genuine human, little by little. And I believe that after death, if somebody has made that choice, no I’m not going to worship the true God, I’m going to do my own thing, I’m going to worship whatever I want instead, then that choice is, as it were, ratified, and that God will not, as it were, change the rules of the game at the last second so that you don’t have to suffer the results of the choices you’ve made. Now if that’s a way of talking about Hell, then fine, okay. My fear is that our picture of Hell often is actually a pagan picture. They believed in Hell in the ancient pagan Roman world. They had a lot more in ancient classical mythology about Hell than there is in the New Testament, curiously. And what happened in the Middle Ages was that people got hold of that vision of Hell, and they made that a huge, great bogey monster to beat people up with. And so there’s been a natural reaction against that by people who realize in the New Testament that the picture is a bit different from that. — – – HH: Bishop Wright, when we closed the last hour, we were talking about Hell. And during the break, I grabbed an email from my friend, Mike Regele, great fan of yours, and he said you know, ask the Bishop about Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, And The Mission Of The Church, the section in which he says, “Just as many who were brought up to think of God as a bearded, old gentleman sitting on a cloud decided that when they stopped believing in such a being, they therefore stopped believing in God. So many who were taught to think of Hell as a literal underground location full of worms and fire decided that when they stopped believe in that, so they stopped believing in Hell. The first group decided that because they couldn’t believe in childish images of God, they must be atheists. The second group decided that because they couldn’t believe in childish images of Hell, they must be universalists.” What’s the implication of that for understanding what happens? NTW: Yeah, I kind of liked that sentence. I’d completely forgotten I’d written it. It must be nearly ten years ago now. The implication is that we mustn’t mistake the image for the reality. This is the sort of point C.S. Lewis loved to make, that we have been fed all sorts of picture images, and sometimes they become difficult for us, for whatever reason, to accept. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reality. And as far as I can see, the reality is that after people die, the sort of creatural being they become depends on certain things that have happened during this life, and that one of those options is, as I was saying just before the break, that people, if they worship that which is not God, that’s what the Bible calls idolatry, but to be a genuine human being, that is to be made in the image of God, you have to worship the true God, the one we see in Jesus, the one we know in Jesus. And so you have the choice. Either you become a more truly human, a renewed human indeed. Paul talks about being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the Creator in Colossians 3. Or you become a creature that is becoming progressively less and less genuinely human. And I think Hell, if you want to use that word, is the result of what happens when a creature decides effectively to dehumanize themselves and become a creature which is a very sad and lost being altogether. HH: When Jesus in the Gospel says there will come a time when I will separate people in the burning lake, and into those who are coming with Me, what’s he trying to communicate, Bishop Wright? NTW: Which passage are you having in mind here? HH: The sheep and the goat. NTW: The sheep and the goats. Okay, well, Matthew 25, the sheep and the goats, it’s actually a very interesting passage. It seems to be a parable, and so as in all parables, you have to be a bit careful not to take everything as a literal description of something that’s going to happen. When Jesus tells the story of the sower sowing seed, this isn’t an advice about how to run your farm. It’s got quite other levels of meaning. However, it’s very interesting that in the sheep and the goats, the people who end up as being the sheep on one side of Him are the people who have served Him in the persons of the poor and the needy, and the people in prison and so on. That’s actually a bit scary for many Christians, because many Christians are taught that the one thing that means you’re a sheep, not a goat, is that you have made a decision, that you’ve said a prayer, that you’ve asked Jesus into your life, et cetera. There’s nothing about that in that passage. It’s simply about whether you have looked after the poor and the homeless and the needy and the prisoners and the hungry, and so on. And so many Christians actually shy away from it for a bit, because they say hey, that sounds like justification by works. So this is why I say we’ve got to be a bit careful. That passage isn’t the be all and end all of a Heaven and Hell picture. It’s actually a challenge to the Church to be the Church by discovering where Jesus is hiding in the persons of the poor. I think the new Pope will be quite keen on that. HH: Oh, I think you’re absolutely right. In fact, he is quite keen on that. But Bishop Wright, last question on Hell, because I want to get back to the four speakers. Is that, in your understanding after a lifetime of study, because this is a few kind words for Hell here, does it involve pain? NTW: It’s a funny thing. I don’t know what the word pain would mean if somebody has passed form this world into a new one. However, everything that we know about pain makes you want to say yeah, our idea of pain is probably as close as you can get to it. But just like people say will there be pets in Heaven, or will there be this or will there be that, the answer is all our language about the future is a set of signposts pointing into a fog. They are true signposts, but they don’t actually tell you exactly what it’s going to be like when you get there. So we do, we have to be careful. But yes, the sense of utter loss, utter sorrow, utter pain in dimensions that we find it very difficult to imagine, I think that’s what we’re talking about. HH: Now I want to, as we go back to the four speaker analogy, I urge my listeners who missed the first hour to understand that Bishop Wright is not talking about the four Gospels. He’s talking about four themes of a complete understanding of Christianity, which all must be interwoven if you’re going to understand the music, if you’re going to appreciate the music. And we covered the first two speakers in the first hour. The third speaker, Bishop Wright, is the Gospels represent the life of the early Church, and that it’s a real story of Jesus in the person on Earth at a particular time. But you think we’ve overamplified this as well. NTW: Yeah, I think what’s happened is that we have often said well, the Gospels are basically our instruction kit. This is Jesus telling us how to behave, and so we read the Gospels as that. And the danger with that, again, is the music gets distorted. The Gospels are the story of something which happened uniquely. It’s an event, a set of events to do with Jesus, as a result of which the world is a different place. Now as a result of that, we do have a set of new tasks which we have to get on with, a new life which we have to lead, that if we simply read the Gospels as oh, here’s a book of moral instruction, then it can come across as oh, my goodness, it’s Jesus just giving us a bunch of rules, now what are we going to do? And then we miss the whole thing, which in the technical terms, is the eschatological meaning, that is that some great even has now happened which has transformed the way the world is. So then, I mean, my parade example of this is with the Beatitudes. When Jesus says blessed are the meek and the poor in spirit, and the peacemakers, and the hungry for justice people, and the mourners, He’s not simply saying here are the rules for how you are to be. He’s saying I am going to make sure that the world is now to be run by and through people like this. In other words, the blessing is not just on the meek and the poor in spirit, it’s through the meek and the poor in spirit. This is how God becomes king. HH: I also have to pause and compliment you on a real eye-opening device, to understand that the Gospel writers were writing about Jesus in much the same way that a Brit would be writing about the Battle of Britain years down the road as a myth, not as something made up, something that happened, but with story and element of teaching, and goal built into it. IT’s just, it had never occurred to me that’s a marvelous analogy. NTW: Yeah, yeah. And I guess you in America, you tell the story of your Civil War. I mean, I haven’t seen the movie Lincoln, which I gather won some awards recently, but when Americans see the movie Lincoln, they are seeing part of their own history from 160 years ago or whenever it was, 150 years ago. But they’re also reliving a myth, a true myth, about the nature of American society. HH: I think I can say with great certainty you will be captivated by the performance of Daniel Day Lewis as the sorrow… NTW: Right. I’m sure, yes, yes. HH: Now back to this third speaker, then, the foundation documents that are these Gospels, they are not neutral reporting. By the way, your media criticism and mine matches up about 100%. There is no such thing as neutral reporting. NTW: Sure. HH: All stories are told from the point of view, and modern scholarship, Biblical scholarship, overstates the idea that differences in accounts equal a credibility assault. Can you expand on that for people? We have a minute to the break. NTW: Yeah, I mean, if you read four different newspapers reporting a football game that you were actually present at, or that you weren’t present at, but a football game anyway, you hope that the four different newspapers are going to tell you who scored the goals, and what the end result was, and who was sent off for bad conduct, or whatever. And if between those newspapers you discover that they’re getting events in a different order, or that the results of the game is different, you say I can’t trust these newspapers. I wonder which, if any of them, is telling me the true story. Now people have come to the four Gospels and they’ve said oh, my goodness, there is something which happens in this Gospel which doesn’t appear at all in that one, so maybe we shouldn’t trust them. And people have said I tried to work out the resurrection stories, how many women went to the tomb, and who ran where, and which people they met, and it didn’t seem to fit together. And so maybe can’t trust them at all. And of course, in fact, the Gospels are doing something much more complicated than reporting on football match. The Gospels, which most people now assume are written about 30, 40, 50 years after the time of Jesus… HH: Hold onto that though, Bishop, I’ve got to go to the break. NTW: Okay. HH: We’ll come back and talk about what they’re doing with Bishop N.T. Wright. — – – HH: Bishop Wright, when you were talking about, when we went to break, the Gospel writers had a much more complicated story than merely reporting the results of a football game. And as a result, these discrepancies, or these differences in account, are simply not significant. NTW: Well, they’re significant in that they tell you which angle of vision the people are looking from. They’re not significant in the sense that they should make you say therefore, they’re all making it up. It’s a very complicated business, but I spent several years some while ago studying the Gospels to write my book, Jesus And The Victory Of God, which then, there’s a simple version of it called Simply Jesus, which is recently out. And again and again, I find that the Gospel writers are not so much like four reporters telling you about the same football match. They’re more like four historians today telling you about, say, your Civil War, and looking at it from very different angles, from different perspectives. But actually, it is the same story underneath. HH: Yeah, four biographers really made it make sense for me, because you know, Allistair McGrath just came out with a new biography of C.S. Lewis… NTW: Yeah, I’m halfway through reading it right now. HH: And it’s probably, and so there’s a new biography with a new bed of material, and it’s different from every other biography that came up. NTW: Yeah. HH: But the other ones aren’t bad. They’re different. NTW: Yeah, that’s right. And I mean, in that case, McGrath does take issue with some of the previous biographers like A.N. Wilson, but basically, it’s the same story. You know, he has the same chap going to the same places and writing the same books. HH: Now the fourth speaker turned on in the room that is the orchestra of Christianity being played is the story of the Kingdom of God, you write, clashing with the kingdom of Caesar. I quote you now. “It is only when we take fully into account The Gospels writer’s belief that Jesus was involved in the ultimate batter against ultimate forces of evil that we can begin to see how their combination of kingdom and cross, and looking wider at the incarnation kingdom, cross and resurrection begins to make sense.” Now I’ve got to ask, this is a battle which brings you perilously close to politics. Are you afraid of that? NTW: No. I would be afraid of not coming perilously close to politics, because that would imply that Jesus was not actually Lord of the world. When I grew up, there was an old Christian saying, if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. And I believe that very firmly. And within my country, anyway, we have officially, and most people don’t believe it, but we have officially a way of acknowledging that God is God and Jesus is Lord, and that we are all supposedly subject. But of course, most people take no notice of that. HH: Now there are many, many political battles from which to choose, and here I must ask your opinion both about abortion and about same sex marriage. To begin with, do you think they are both objectively evil? NTW: Well, objectively evil, it’s interesting, the Roman Catholics used the word objectively to mean people may not feel it like this, but actually something so wrong with creation. I do believe that God made male and female in order to be the means of procreation and recreation and all the rest of it. And so it seems to me, and it has always seemed to me from both the world of nature and the world of Scripture, that the idea of same sex marriage is actually a contradiction in terms. Marriage is something between a man and a woman. And it’s something that results in children being created and families being brought up that way. So the same sex marriage, it seems to me a contradiction in terms, however much a secular state may want to make arrangements. We had a thing in this country called civil partnerships which enabled couples of the same sex to have the same legal rights as married couples. But to call it same sex marriage, it just still seems to be a contradiction in terms. Abortion is a difficult one, because there are always, and the moral theologians know this better than I do, there are always the hard cases about when somebody, when the mother’s life is in danger and that sort of thing, or in the cases of rape, imagine a 13 year old girl being raped by somebody. Does she have to go ahead and have the baby and all that sort of thing. So there are hard cases, and hard cases make bad law. But I have tended to take the view over the years, as I know many of my colleagues in the Church of England do, that basically abortion is at the very most, it could be the lesser of two evils. But normally, it is an evil and should be resisted. HH: Now here comes my Catholicism – the cooperation with evil doctrine. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a friend of mine, comes on a lot, and he has a book, Render Unto Caesar, in which he spends quite a lot of time saying look, abortion is not just one of many evils. And other Christian writers, like Robert George of Princeton, and Timothy George at Beeson, they argue that things like redefining marriage isn’t just another political debate. So when we come, in your book, How God Became King, to the idea that Church and world are not going to get along, is there a priority of where they need not to get along, in your view, Bishop Wright, that begins with those two issues? NTW: Yeah, that’s a nice question. I mean, part of the difficulty of beginning with those issues is that what we’ve seen over mean years is the rich world arguing about sex, while the poor world is desperate for justice. And one of the reasons that I often resist being drawn into questions about issues to do with sex and reproduction and marriage and family life is that for most of the world, these look like Western luxury issues, and please can they talk about the really important things. You know, there are people dying in Syria as we speak. HH: Yes. NTW: Because of all sorts of issues of justice and injustice, that we bombed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq over the last ten years. And we’re sitting here talking about sex? You know, what is this about? So I think we need to get a global perspective, and when we get that global perspective, some of the issues that loom very large in my country as well as yours, really do, I think, be need to put in the shade by the real issues that are out there of people, millions of our brother and sister human beings, who are either starving or being murdered or whatever. Those are the real big political issues. And so as a matter of politics, I think we have to say let’s actually reorder the order of questions that we’re going to deal with. HH: Well, that’s why I go back to Archbishop Chaput, who says 55 million abortions, and to the issue of marriage, which I call one of the weight-bearing walls of Western civilization, and I’m not, you know, we will disagree about Iraq forever, and it’s an interesting conversation. But war is clearly at the top of that list. Where do you put the abortion and the marriage issue relative, for example, on the 10th anniversary… NTW: I mean, this is rather like saying which of your children would you like to see murdered or sold into slavery? Of course, if you have lots of children, you don’t want any of them, you want all of them to be healthy and flourishing. So I want to see a world, a society in which wisdom and justice and upright living flourish and are supported and are sustained right across the board. But it is noticeable that in the Western world, we have got fixated on some particular issues, which I think are very important, and I’ve given a lot of attention to them. And when I was an active bishop as opposed to a professor, which I am now, I was constantly working in those areas. But I do think we do need to get our priorities organized, and I think it’s not just, I mean, I only mentioned Iraq because the 10th anniversary has just happened just in the last 24 hours. So it’s been in the news again. But issues of global poverty, of global climate, and what we’re doing to the planet and so on, these, I think, are massive issues. And we’re in danger of pushing them off the agenda in order to talk about our favorite topics. — – – HH: We were talking about the collision between the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated and the world, the political Herod’s that run it, and Bishop, I want to return to that for a second, because here’s a really difficult question for a journalist. You and I fundamentally disagree about the invasion of Iraq. I believe not only was it a just war, but that the world is much better off for having it occurred. But I don’t want to talk about that with you. But how do you recommend, when you have, I obviously have read and deeply admired your work, and esteem you, but I think you’re wrong. And you obviously don’t know me, and don’t know what I think, but you’ve already stated that you would…how ought then you and I to talk about a subject like the Iraq war? NTW: Oh, we ought actually then to be able to find a common language in which we can discuss the rights and wrongs. I mean, I’m not a pacifist. Let me say. There are some of my friends like Richard Hays in Duke Divinity School who I agree with about a great many things, he is actually a pacifist. He would say that war is never the right option, and that we must always work for other options. That has never been my position, and it isn’t my position now. But it’s a discussion that Richard and I can have. And we frequently do have that sort of discussion. But there are all sorts of ways in which you can have the discussion. One of the risks that is happening in our present world is that we’ve forgotten how to have the really difficult discussions. And so what we tend to do is we lob verbal hand grenades over the fence at one another. Oh, you’re just a liberal, oh, you’re just a conservative, you’re just a reactionary, you’re a this or that or the other. And that’s, we have lost the art of saying now where is the common ground? What do we agree on here? And then how do we go forward from there? And I would love to have that conversation. It’s obviously impossible now… HH: Right. NTW: On this program, but so I used to say in Durham, I believe in the authority of Scripture. I believe in the appropriate authority of tradition. I also believe in the appropriate use of reason. And I don’t see a lot of reason out there in my country, certainly, at the moment. HH: Now I am very guilty of throwing hand grenades, because that’s my business. But as I read through How God Became King, verbal hand grenades, I only stopped once and said whoa. It’s on Page 166 when you write, “Listening to the sub-Christian language on display among those exultant at the killing of Osama bin Laden in the early summer of 2011 was an example of the right wing tendency. Anything that advances the worldview of Fox News is assumed to be basically Christian, wise and automatically justified.” Wow, you pulled the pin there, Bishop. NTW: Well, I was sitting here in the same room that I’m in right now talking to you when Osama bin Laden got killed. And I went onto various websites to see and measure the reactions. And I, the thing that I said, I was actually on a radio show not long after that, and it occurred to me how would it be, there are convicted Irish Republican Army terrorists who have murdered people in Ireland, and have fled to America. And they are being looked after and kept safe in towns like Boston and so on. How would it be if the British government moored an aircraft carrier somewhere off the Massachusetts coast, and sent in the SAS to take out some of those terrorists who are being sheltered in America? I suspect that your State Department, well, they wouldn’t let them get near for a start. But you might have something to say about our going after another sovereign state, and using, doing something on their territory. I appreciate that Pakistan and Boston are not exactly the same sort of place. However, at the moment, the extradition treaty between Britain and America is ridiculously one-sided. You can point the finger at somebody in the U.K., and we have to extradite them whether we want to let them go to your courts or not. There’s a guy who’s been in prison in Texas for years on that basis. We don’t have the ability to do reverse extradition. So you know, it’s that kind of problem that I think we should talk about. Obviously, this isn’t something that comes up in the book. HH: Right. NTW: But there are major issues of global justice going on here, and I don’t think anyone gains by our refusing to face them. HH: I agree, and in fact, I am so encouraged that the new Pope has in fact thrown a number of these verbal grenades into his first week in office, because it’s going to be very… NTW: I think that’s good. I haven’t heard. What’s he been saying? HH: Oh, he’s been talking about global economic stewardship, the protection of the environment, the protection of the poor. Now as a capitalist, and as someone…have you ever read Arthur Brooks’ The Path To Freedom, Bishop? NTW: No, I haven’t. HH: The Road To Freedom? Arthur Brooks is a devout Christian man, and he writes about why capitalism will raise the poor up. I doubt that the Pope has read that, either. But when we come back from break, we’ll talk about how to have these conversations, especially when Caesar’s coin is involved. — – – HH: And to my friends who are listening who want me to engage in a political discussion with the Bishop, forget it. I don’t get a chance to talk with one of the great world theologians, and to do that, what I do every day. I want to go back to the book, Bishop, if I might. NTW: Sure. HH: There is a passage that you talk about in John 12, where Greeks come and they want to gawk at Jesus. And thunder is heard. And you tell the story, and you come to this conclusion, Jesus is no mere tourist attraction for pilgrims to come and gawk at. Jesus is to be the true world rule. I had never read it that way before, but I guess you’re trying to communicate stop, look, listen at what happened in this passage, and what it says for today. NTW: Yeah, well, that’s right. And that’s so again and again in all of the Gospels, and perhaps particularly in John’s Gospel, that of course, it’s easy for people just to gawk and say oh, isn’t he interesting. But what’s going on there is it’s the revolutionary moment at the heart of all human history. I think this is something that’s very difficult for us to get our heads around in the modern Western world, in Britain or America, that actually world history reached its climax with Jesus. And everything has been Jesus shaped, whether it knows it or not, since then. We tend to think, we in the modern world, we, actually, world history reached its climax in the 18th Century with our new technologies and democracies and so on. But actually, that way, danger lies. And the Gospels constantly say no, it’s all about Jesus. HH: Now on Page 149, not long thereafter, you write that you’d wished you’d had more courage when translating the Caesar’s coin excerpt when you did your translation of that. It’s a remarkable admission. But would you expand on that for the audience? NTW: Yeah, when they show Jesus a coin, and because they say, you know, should we pay the tax or shouldn’t we pay the tax, and you need to, people need to realize that this has been a major political issue in Palestine in Jesus’ day. When Jesus was a little boy, there were riots, and people were crucified for refusing to pay the Roman tax, because they said we don’t believe in being ruled by Rome. And to pay this tax is a sign that we are being ruled by hated, wicked, Gentile foreigners, and we don’t want that. We want to be free. So shall we pay the tax or not was like me saying shall I fill in my tax form every April, which we have to do. This was a major political issue. And so Jesus realizes that they want to skewer Him on which side He’s on. And so He plays a trick on them, and so He says show me the coin. Who’s head is this on the coin? And they say Caesar’s. And then He uses a very cryptic phrase, and it’s like a riddle. It’s like a joke. It’s not a political philosophy. It’s like just a quick, sharp one-liner. And I think the way that you might translate it is well, you’d better pay Caesar back in his own coin, hadn’t you, because of course in English, pay somebody back in their own coin means give as good as you get. If Caesar is being mean to you, you just be mean back to Caesar. But if he’s holding a coin there, and somebody is saying should we pay the tax, and He says pay Caesar back in his own coin, it could sound as though He’s just saying okay, pay him the tax then. And I think it was a deliberate double entendre as a way of playing a trick back on them, because they were trying to play a trick on Him. HH: So how would you advise people to understand what Jesus is saying there vis-à-vis the government? NTW: I think He’s, the sting comes in the tail, because the next thing He says is pay God back in God’s own coin. And then, of course, people have pointed out well, if this is Caesar’s image on the coin, what does it mean to pay God back in God’s own coin? Well, we as humans are made in God’s image. So the answer is that actually, God’s Kingdom always trumps Caesar’s kingdom. And the way to be part of God’s Kingdom is to give God your whole self, which is made in His image. And that is the way to something much bigger, which will then relativize the question of whether you pay this tax to Caesar now or not. HH: Now here is the interesting problem. I think that my friend, Wayne Grudem, who is a very distinguished, systematic theologian, would agree with everything you just said, but that in application, he has a great book out on Christianity and politics, which I’ve interviewed him about, in application, I doubt you two would agree in practical political terms one out of ten issues, maybe three out of ten issues. I don’t want to overstate it. So what’s a Christian to do? NTW: A Christian ought to think, to talk, to pray. One of the curious things about this sort of NATO world we live in, the North Atlantic world, is that there are some things on which we absolutely agree foundationally, and other things on which we really don’t. and we in Europe have dozens of different political philosophies sloshing around. You in America have one or two, and part of the problem that I see as an outsider, and I stress as an outsider, though I do some to America quite a lot, is that you’re much more polarized now as a society than you’ve ever been in my lifetime. And it’s usually, that’s very dangerous, because people then bundle up issues together, and they think that if you check this box on this side of the page on this issue, you’re going to go all the way down with that, so that if you’re pro-gun, you must be anti-gay, or vice versa. And most issues just don’t come away clean like that. They’re more complex. And so people oversimplify the world, and we do that in Britain as well. It’s just we do it on different issues from what you do. And it seems to me as part of the Christian task is to think more thoroughly through the issues, and to do so in dialogue, in dialogue with people you disagree with. And I’ve always done my best to do that. HH: And how often do you immerse yourself, for example, in conservative periodicals like the Weekly Standard or Commentary Magazine? I don’t know what the equivalence would be. NTW: I don’t read at the moment. My job is to study and teach the New Testament, and I have some bright graduate students who are throwing excellent work at me. And I’m reading what they’re writing. I do not have much time at the moment to immerse myself in the political issues. When I was bishop of Durham, I was a member of the House of Lords in the U.K., and so I was constantly coming up against all the many political issues that we were dealing with then. But that’s, but in the last three years, I’ve had to concentrate much more. I actually live in the 1st Century rather than the 21st, trying to understand the New Testament as best I can. HH: I hope on your list of to-do’s is a memoir, Bishop Wright, because I think that would have been a fascinating chapter. — – – HH: In our last hour together, which I will play next week, I will cover with him his theory of forgiveness. But Bishop, this is a three minute segment, which is a bridge segment. I’m coming up with Dr. Larry Arnn, and we’re going to talk about Thucydides. NTW: Sure. HH: So what I really want to ask you here, just a couple of personal questions. Whom do you read for fun? What do you read when you don’t want to be N.T. Wright anymore, and you want to put the 1st Century away? NTW: Well, you mentioned that new biography of C.S. Lewis by Allistair McGrath. I’m halfway through that at the moment. There’s a very interesting, you mentioned a memoir. I haven’t actually thought of writing a memoir, but you never know. But I’m reading at the moment the political diaries of a British politician, you won’t have heard of him, called Chris Mullin, who for most of his career was a back bencher. But he was there all through the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown years, and very, very interesting stuff through the 1990s and then through the last ten years. And so that’s been fun. I read poetry from time to time. I’m very fond of the world of the Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail. Oh, what else is on the go? HH: Do you read any novels at all? Do you read thrillers or anything that’s just sort of throwaway? NTW: Well, I read novels on holiday occasionally. I find that when I’m working in the sort of work that I do, my brain is quite taken up with lots of complicated issues. And it’s a funny thing. When I was a bishop, I actually tried to read novels sometimes, and I found it was very difficult because most of my life was taken up with trying to understand complicated human situations in this parish or this person’s life. As a pastor, you’re constantly thinking into complex human situations. And I didn’t want to spend my leisure hours doing that as well. HH: And I don’t know that you have an iPod, but if you do, what is on Bishop Wright’s music playlist from iTunes? NTW: Oh, I have all sorts of things. I go from Sibelius and Bach through to the Beatles and Joni Mitchell and Jersey Boys and Mozart and Schubert, and quite a bit of jazz. I’m very eclectic, musically. HH: And if we dip back and we had the camera on you when you were a teenager, would you have been the bad boy ever? Or were you always the studious scholar, theologian in the making? NTW: I was never a particular studious scholar. I was looking for every opportunity to get out there and kick a ball or hit a ball. I played all the sports that were going, and I played as many musical instruments as I could get my hands on as well. I played the guitar and the piano and the trombone, and things like that. So music and sport were the foundation of my life, and I just managed to do enough schoolwork to get into Oxford University by the skin of my teeth, and then took off academically after that. HH: So at what age did the light go on saying this is what I’m called to do? NTW: Oh, I knew from about the age of seven that I was called to be ordained, to be a priest and a preacher. It never occurred to me until I was at Oxford as a student that I might actually be, that there might be such a thing as academic theology, and that it might be for me. But there was a very definite moment when I was listening to a lecture, and the guy said we need people who love Jesus, and who love Scripture, and who have half a brain to get in there and do the work. And I remember thinking, oh, my goodness, what a wonderful way to spend your life. HH: I’ll be right back with Bishop Wright, and we’ll talk about that. How God Became King is linked at Hughhewitt.com. —- – – HH: Bishop Wright, we go to the end of the book here, and I want to read this. “When we step back from our own personal anxieties and awareness of guilt, we recognize that the world as a whole needs, longs for, aches and years for, cries out for forgiveness, for that collective global sigh of relief that means that nobody needs seek vengeance ever again, that nobody will bear a grudge ever again, and that the million wrongs with which the world has been so horribly defaced will be put right at last, that in God’s ultimate new world, there will be no moral shadow, no lingering resentment, no character warped by another’s wrong.” You know, you build to climaxes in books, obviously. Were you building to this climax of forgiveness? NTW: I don’t remember how that bit got written. Is that in the very last chapter? HH: Yes, it is. It’s on Pages 271 and 272. NTW: Yeah, okay, okay. Well, I’m looking at the chair in which I was sitting when I wrote that, but I don’t remember how that actually came about. I guess I wrote that a couple of years ago now. But that theme of forgiveness has been a major theme in several of my books. In Evil And The Justice Of God, for instance, where I go into it in more detail, the nature of forgiveness, and vis-à-vis the nature of evil. And for me, this idea of global sigh of relief, of God putting everything right at last, is such a wonderful vision. And of course, for the individual Christian, one of the ways in which people often come to faith is realizing that they are guilty, and that God is holding them to account, and that because of Jesus, God is forgiving them. And you asked me in one of the earlier segments about that, and that is, of course, absolutely at the heart of the personal Gospel. But I think what people often don’t realize is that that very personal, very hugely important, central thing is something that God intends to happen on this global and cosmic scale as well. And the Psalms are full of that, this sort of sense of delight because God sorted the whole mess out. And I just exult in that. HH: Now I wonder how you maintain your hopefulness, and your hope of the forgiveness, against the backdrop, as we said in the earlier segment, of chemical weapons being used in Syria, of a North Korean despot who has starved his own people, of massive, just terrible things around the world, almost a crescendoing of evil, and the almost near-certainty that nuclear weapons will be used, if not in our lifetimes, then shortly thereafter, Bishop Wright. How do you maintain that? NTW: My hope is not built on observation of stuff that is going on in the world at the moment. My hope is built firmly on the fact that three days after He was crucified, Jesus of Nazareth rose again, bodily, from the dead. That is the basis of everything. I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I simply believe that Jesus rose again, and that what God did for Jesus at Easter, God will do for all His people at the end, and God will actually do for the whole of Creation at the end. St. Paul is very emphatic that the whole Creation will be set free from its bondage to decay, to share the liberty of the glory of the children of God. That’s a wonderful hope, and it’s built on the resurrection of Jesus. So that’s the framework of hope. Now of course, between now and then, humans have plenty of chances to mess stuff up, and we regularly do. But I don’t think, you know, if I may say so, I don’t think it really helps if we simply point the finger at North Korea and Syria, and other such places, because certainly we in Britain have gone around the world getting things wrong, and I daresay other imperial powers have gone around the world getting things wrong. And often, it’s very difficult to see ourselves as others see us. But there are many parts of the world that look at my country and your country, and if they make a list of the things that are wrong in the world, that’s where they start, I’m afraid. You know, that’s the reality. Now you and I might say well, hang on, actually, they’re getting that wrong. We are not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution. But we have to realize that if we want global peace, if we want justice, if we want people to understand one another, we have to look in the mirror and say actually, Britain and America are not everybody’s favorite countries right now. HH: Of course, but then I think back to, not the current Pope, but the last one, Benedict, when he went to Regensburg, and he tried to give an academic discourse on why Islam and Christianity were going to have trouble. NTW: Yeah. HH: And it became kind of a nightmare for him and for the Church, because he was trying to make theological points. And I just look at the world and say there are some theological systems, much less political systems, which are not reconcilable. And so against that backdrop, Bishop Wright, and I want to, I’m going to use a question that was suggested to me by our friend, Mark Roberts. If Christians take seriously the thesis of your book, what difference is it going to make in the way that they live every day? For example, teachers, lawyers, politicians, bankers, what do they do differently in light of this, and in light of the fact that there are other systems out there which are going to absolutely reject and destroy what they believe in? NTW: Yeah, of course, and that has always been the case. I mean, Christianity was born into a pluralist world with massive cultures that have their own agendas, et cetera. And the disciples of Jesus found then, as serious disciples of Jesus will always find, that they have to live against the grain of lots of bits of the surrounding culture. And that’s obviously been a problem for your country and mine, that we’ve sort of assumed that we are vaguely or semi-Christian countries, and so we’ve forgotten that we actually have to live against the grain. And it’s now becoming a bit more apparent. And the Gospel of Jesus doesn’t say that everyone else is as wrong as they could possibly be, because we believe that God’s image is reflected in a measure in all humans, even though we sin and get things wrong. So the Christian has to find, and it varies from case to case, from person to person, from place to place. It’s a matter of the freedom in the spirit to discern, to think through what my responsibility here in this situation is now, today. And there is no one size fits all, of course. The one size that does fit all is Jesus and the Holy Spirit and Scripture, and so on. But within that, God has a million different things for His people to do. And a teacher in one school won’t have the exact same agenda the teacher in another school has, so it’s impossible for me simply to say okay, here’s what you must all do, except to say we all have to pray for wisdom and discernment, recognizing that we are easily deceived, and we are deceived by ourselves, we are deceived by our surrounding cultures. HH: Now Bishop, I promised last week that I would reveal the second great metaphor in How God Became King for me. NTW: Yeah. HH: And that is of the disassembled car. NTW: Oh, right. HH: And I’d like you to give the short version. People really need to read it in its full to get the impact of it, though. NTW: This is, I’m used this image once or twice. I’m assuming that you’re talking about where I say that this is what happens when somebody goes to a theologian looking for a word of advice, and they just get a bunch of footnotes. HH: Well, when you take your car in because something is wrong, and you come back, and it’s all been disassembled. And they know exactly what was wrong with it, but they took it apart. NTW: Yeah, that’s right, that, yeah, the image is basically when you leave the car in the garage, and you come back at the appointed hour, and there’s all the bits of the car all over the floor, and the mechanic is quite excited because he says I found the bit that was wrong, and hey, look, it’s that. And that’s a really interesting think you have there, and that carburetor, that’s fascinating and so on. And the guy says, but I need to drive to work tomorrow morning. How am I going to do that? And my, what I’ve seen in the Church and the theological colleges and so on so often is people who spend all the time taking the Bible apart and analyzing this or that dogma or whatever. But people actually need to know how to pray, how to live, how to be wise and holy tomorrow. And so we have to be able to put it back together. And you asked me a while back about C.S. Lewis, and that’s one of the great things that I take from C.S. Lewis, that he could analyze things, but it would always come back to something which comes out sharp and clean about who we are, and where we are right now. HH: Have you seen examples of Churches taking seriously the Kingdom of God as you understand it, and living it out? And what happens? How do they look different? We’ve got about a minute to the break. NTW: One of the joys of my life in Durham was that there were many Churches, and it’s a very poor area of the north of England, where they were doing this very seriously, where people would combine the ministry of prayer with the ministry of working with the poorest people around, with people who were suffering from severe disabilities, with communities where the banks are shut and the shops had shut because there was just no money around, and the Churches actually rolling up their sleeves and doing that stuff. And this isn’t an either/or of either preaching for conversions or working with the poor. The best Churches always do both. — – – HH: You know, Bishop, one of my, the questions that Mark Roberts suggested that I bring around to your attention is that we Americans, we don’t do royalty, and we’re kind of proud of that, and as a result, the whole notion of kingdom is sort of foreign to us. To what extent might that explain at least in the United States the reticence to pick up the language of the Kingdom of God? NTW: Yeah, the funny thing about that is, of course, that a 1st Century king would be completely different from anything that we’ve had in Britain for the last hundred, two hundred years, and the culture is entirely different. We have a constitutional monarchy, which is completely unlike what you would have had in Rome or in Herod’s court or anything. In fact, if you want to see what somebody in a major court looks like, you probably do better to go to the White House than to go to Buckingham Palace. Now I know that you elect one every four years or eight years or whatever, so that’s a bit of a cheap shot. But I think we all actually have problems with Jesus’ notion of king. And of course, there were many people in Jesus’ day who were fed up with King Herod, who were fed up with Caesar, and who would have quite happily thrown the whole thing over. And yet Jesus chose to use that image, so it isn’t a question of some cultures today understanding what a kingdom is and others not. It’s a question of actually do we believe that God is actually in charge? Or is God simply there to provide a bit of a spiritual backup when we feel a need of it? The danger, when people say to me what you’ve just said, I’m not accusing you of this, but I know some people who mean this, is that they don’t actually want God to be in charge of the world. They think we should be in charge of the world. And they just think God should be there to give us a pat on the back and a smile, and to forgive us our sins, and to look after us after we’ve died. And the Kingdom of God is bigger than that. HH: What’s interesting about that, Bishop, is I know you don’t much care for Fox News, but one of the things that people worry about is Christianists. Andrew Sullivan, with whom I’ve had a very memorable exchange on this program, always accuses Christianists of wanting to take over power and impose the Kingdom of God. And of course, people like me, who are non-establishmentarian types, want nothing to do with fisher religions or doctrine. But what you just suggested could scare a lot of… NTW: Exactly, but that’s because people don’t understand Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom. Jesus said the Kingdom of God looks like the meek and the poor in spirit, and the humble, and the broken-hearted, and the hungry for justice people. And the thing is this. The Kingdom of God has been going ever since, because the power brokers and the bullies think that that’s how you do power. Jesus actually said, it’s a famous saying in Mark 10, which people often, then, quietly ignore. He said listen, the rulers of the age of this world do things one way. We’re going to do it the other way. If you want to be great, you must be their servant. And if you want to be the number one, you must be the slave of all, because the Son of man didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Now we’ve forgotten that, and so then when people say what I just said, then people get scared and they think hey, this is theocracy, this means bullying Christians who think they know what’s right imposing it on the rest of us. But the answer is no, it’s not like that. It’s a matter of the people who have this hunger in their hearts to feed the hungry, to work for the poor, to work for peace and justice. That’s what the Beatitudes are about. By the time the bullies have realized what’s going on, the meek and humble have gone out there and built hospitals and started schools, and are looking after the dying and the sick. And that’s what the Kingdom of God looks like on the ground. HH: And Bishop Wright, do you recommend that people who are looking for that Kingdom involve themselves in politics? There’s a criticism in How God Became King of the neo-Anabaptists who say not for me, I’m not getting my hands dirty. NTW: Yeah. Yes, some people need to do that. It would be terrible to think that we hand it over, the business of running our democratic countries, to people who by definition were not Christians. If we said Christians shouldn’t do that, that would be terrifying. Now it’s very difficult. Christians in politics face very difficult questions and challenges. And I know many people in that position. And they have to make compromises, and sometimes it’s very agonizing for them. But in the real world of making things happen, that’s how it goes. And I would much rather have as many Christians in there as possible than say no, no, it’s a dirty business, we’ll leave it to the atheists. HH: Now an exegetical question. The Kingdom of God is referenced a lot in the first three Gospels, less so in John. And then Paul is basically not writing about it. What happened? NTW: What happened was that Jesus was launching something, and Paul was taking it forward. Jesus was launching this Kingdom project, it’s been launched by the time Paul is up and running, so he isn’t launching the Kingdom of God. Jesus had already done that. He’s putting it into practice. But Paul is out there in the gentile world, the non-Jewish world, and they don’t know the phrase Kingdom of God, which is a Jewish phrase in the 1st Century. It goes back to the book of Daniel, to the Psalms, to Isaiah. But Paul instead talks about Jesus as kurios, which means Lord, which is for them a Caesar word, and as christos, which is Messiah, which is a king word. So he’s talking about God doing what he’s doing through King Jesus, who is the Lord. So Paul has translated the notion of God’s Kingdom, which is Kingdom of God, from the Gospels, into the language which is now necessary if the project is to go forward. HH: Now I want to switch to one of the topics that you deal with quite extensively in How God Became King, which is the shortening of the story to the beginning and the end, and the way especially, this resonates with me with my experience in American Evangelicalism, both Roman Catholic and Protestant varieties, is Jesus came, believe in Him, you’re saved. And you know, we’ve got lots of friends in common, I’m sure, who were saved in such a fashion. Our friend, Mark Roberts, went to a Billy Graham crusade as a young man, became saved. Are you saying that the old Christian phrasing, believe in Jesus and you will go to Heaven when you die, that that isn’t true? NTW: No, of course it’s true. But it’s not the whole truth, and that isn’t actually the way in which the New Testament usually puts it. It’s very interesting that when you believe in Jesus, of course in the New Testament, you would get baptized, you would become a member of the Church, and you would be assured that God would raise you from the dead on the last day. Interestingly, they don’t talk very much about going to Heaven when you die. That’s something we are much more worried about than they were. Of course you have the dying thief on the cross next to Jesus in Luke, Chapter 23. Jesus says today, you will be with Me in paradise. Yeah, fine, okay. Paul says my desire is to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Yes, that’s fine. That’s what we believe will happen to Jesus’ people, those who believe in Him and trust Him and belong to Him, after they die. But I note, I mean, I’ve just quoted two out of the three or four instances in the New Testament. The New Testament doesn’t encourage us to focus on that as the main substance of the message. The main substance of the message is listen, this world has a new boss, and He’s called Jesus, and he died on the cross to take away all the evil, including yours and mine, and He rose again to launch this project of new Creation, of the Kingdom of God. And that’s the thing we ought to be signing up for. And to have the main message about something after that, about what happens after our death, sort of cuts the nerve of the challenge and vocation that we ought to be responding to in the present. — – – HH: Bishop, C.S. Lewis lived through the War, and so he had a perfect experience of human suffering close hand. You were a bishop, which meant that you had to enter into people’s lives at a level that most theologians don’t get to, the level where suffering is there in very real ways every single day. How do you press through that? NTW: Oh, my goodness, it’s a huge one. It depends entirely on who they are and what the particular problem is. I’m in regular touch at the moment with a former student whose mother is dying of cancer, and she, the former student, is being blamed by the mother for not looking after her and all sorts of things. So I mean, I’m quite close up as a pastor still to some real issues of human suffering. All one can do is find ways back to the foot of the cross. The cross is the point where the living God came into the middle of the mess of pain and shame of the world, and took its weight upon Himself. And that goes way beyond anything that we can analyze or even fully understand. But I just know that those who find their way back to the cross and the story, however they do it, listening to Bach’s Matthew Passion, or looking at a picture or whatever, will find that somehow, the God who loves them more they can imagine will meet them there. HH: Now Bishop, driving around right now all over America are hundreds of thousands of people who don’t know what that means. What do you think, how do you explain to them what that means? They’re un-churched. 85% of Phoenix, one of my biggest markets, don’t go to Church. NTW: Yes, it’s a strange thing, that somehow, the image of the cross, which most people still have an idea what that’s about, is about a human being who came as the living presence of the God who made the world, into our world, in the middle of history, and somehow reaches out His arms, it’s a very graphic image, He reaches out His arms to East and West and North and South, to rich and poor, to young and old, to male and female, and He says come to Me if you’re having a rough time, and I’ll sort it out for you. And that image of the cross, millions and millions of people, even if they don’t really understand anything much more, haven’t heard very much more about it, that can actually speak to them enough to get them started on the way of following this Jesus and finding out just who He is and what it means for them. HH: Towards the end of How God Became King, you write, “I have written about this elsewhere, but it is perhaps worth reiterating it. If you belong to Jesus, the Messiah, if His spirit dwells in you, if you are a worshipper of the one true God, maker of Heaven and Earth, then however you feel at the moment, whether you are sick or healthy, handsome or jaded, you are simply a shadow of your future self. God intends to transform the you you are at that moment into a being, a full, glorious, physical being who will be much more truly you than you’ve ever been before.” Do you have trouble making postmodern people believe, or even begin to accept the premise? NTW: Actually, I think postmodern people find it easier than modern people. Modernists, like Richard Dawkins, who we mentioned in an earlier segment, just find all that stuff rubbish and incredible, and they think that the present world is all that there is. I think one of the gains of postmodernity is that that’s all been shaken up. And people now realize maybe there are different types of reality, and maybe one of the things that the living God is going to do is to take the present world and transform it into some wonderful, radical, new way. And that’s the promise which the New Testament encourages us to live off. HH: But at the same time that that promise is out there in the postmodern world, there are a thousand products for sale in the supermarket shelf of spirituality, Bishop Wright. NTW: Of course, and that was so in Jesus’ day as well. The thing that makes it different is of course, Jesus’ own resurrection. And that’s why I come back again and again. None of this makes sense, none of this is really that believable, unless you say that actually, Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead on the third day. And that’s why I wrote a big book about the resurrection a while back, and why my book, Surprised By Hope, deals with it a lot, because without that, we’re just whistling in the dark. If it wasn’t for the resurrection of Jesus, I think I’m not sure what I would do. I would probably go and be a music critic, or something like that. HH: So all parts of this week, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the resurrection, they’re all necessary, but you can’t leave any of them out? NTW: Exactly. That’s exactly right. You can’t have the one without the other. The story, that’s why it’s a story. If we try to turn it into a set of detachable doctrines, we’ll get it wrong. That’s a modernist trick. We have to learn to live with the whole story. And as we read the story, and most people have got access to a Bible in some way, shape or form, read the story of Jesus in the Gospels, and you’ll find that it becomes your story. — – – HH: Bishop Wright, I want to thank you for spending so much time with me. The book, How God Became King, is linked over at Hughhewitt.com, and I always take a moment and say to an author after a long interview, is there anything that in my blindness I missed that I ought to have pointed out about the book? NTW: I don’t think so. We’ve covered the main things in it. I think perhaps it’s just this, that the Gospels are more like a play which are inviting us to become characters in it than they are like a novel which you just read and think oh, what a funny story, and that something, there’s something there about the way that Christians read the Gospels. Instead of just thinking oh, well, isn’t that interesting, we ought to be saying wait a minute, this can become out story, that we need to be involved in this. HH: Now you recommend Ignatian spirituality exercises at one point, which surprised me. NTW: Well, they’re not for everybody, but there are many people who would gain and profit enormously from that. HH: Now I want to close with two questions from my colleagues who helped me prepare. One, Mike Regele, wrote to me, if I were interviewing the bishop on a political show in America, I’d want him to discuss how he thinks what he is saying about the Kingdom of God should challenge our political thinking in a quest to be faithful Christians. And he goes on to quote your book, Evil And The Justice Of God. NTW: Yeah. HH: Evil then consists, actually, it’s from Surprised By Hope, evil consists not in being created, but in the rebellious idolatry by which human worship and honor elements of the natural world, rather than the God who made them. The result is that the cosmos is out of joint. Instead of humans being gods, wise vice regents over Creation, they ignore the Creator and try to worship something less demanding, something that will give them a short term fix of power or pleasure. Boy, that’s grim, Bishop. NTW: Yeah, it is, and the world gets grim. The world has many grim sides to it. I mean, I’m basically an ancient historian before I was anything else. And I’ve studied the worlds of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and they are grim. And interestingly, the ancient Greek world of Athens in the 5th Century B.C., was a democracy. We believe in a democracy, and I believe in democracy. I don’t want to live in a non-democratic system. But there’s a danger that we’ve idolized democracy itself, and imagined that as long as people vote, this is going to make for the best of all possible worlds. And I think when you realize what it means for God to be king, you realize that even democracy has to be answerable to something other than just the will of the people. Then ultimately, if you just have the will of the people, that collapses into a form of atheism. HH: and then my friend, Steve Tems, it’s just perfect, wrote to me, but when and to what extent should the Church engage with, employ and even adopt worldly kingdom needs to achieve Heavenly kingdom goals? Are there limits to that engagement? What would the bishop’s guidelines for such engagement look like? And what competing kingdom values shape those guidelines? NTW: Well, great question, and it would take about a week of five hour seminars every day to begin to tease that out. The answer always has to be to go back to Jesus Himself, and to see what Jesus is doing as well as teaching about what it looks like to live in the Kingdom. It’s very interesting, people have great assumptions about this, but the Gospels are not always saying exactly what we might expect them to. And ultimately, one of the things which I love about the Kingdom of God, and about the Bible itself, actually, is that it’s a way of opening us up in freedom, in the power and presence of the spirit, that we have to do our thinking. We have to read and think and discuss and pray. There is no hand me down about this. The whole thing is designed so that each generation has to do its own homework, and figure out riskily, dangerously, prayerfully, humbly, how to live wisely in the time and day we find ourselves in. HH: And Bishop Wright, I want to conclude on a personal note. You’re 64. You’ve had this prodigious output, this influential output. But a lot of people out there are tired, and they think “I’m going to retire and lay down.” It doesn’t sound like you’re retiring, but I know there must have been times in which you were discouraged or tempted to do so. What’s your advice to people who are just weary? And how long ought they to plan on being involved in this Kingdom building? NTW: That’s a great question. I, for some reason that I don’t understand, I seem to have been blessed with high energy levels, and people sometimes comment on that. And so it seems to me much is expected of those to whom much is given. I want to go on using the energy that I’ve been given to do the work that I’ve been given to do as long as I reasonably can. I don’t know whether that’ll be another five years or what. We’ll see. But people are very, very different. Some people, I know some in my family, just have a different metabolism to me, and God doesn’t ask us to go charging off doing stuff that we’re not suited for. There are a million different levels of task that are necessary in the Kingdom, not least is prayer. I’ve mentioned prayer a few times this afternoon talking to you, and prayer is just so important. And anyone can do that, whatever sage and age they’re at. And that’s really the foundation of everything. So we’re all different, and I believe in freedom. I believe in vocation. I believe in people thinking through what it means to be the person that God wants them to be. And that’ll always be different. But prayer will always be at the heart of it. HH: Then let me conclude with this question. How do you, N.T. Wright, pray on a daily basis? NTW: I get up as early as I can, which usually is about half past five in the morning, I make myself a very large pot of tea. I then follow through the Anglican order for morning prayer, only instead of the readings set from the Old and New Testament, I have my own system of readings from the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. So that is normally, it takes quite a bit of time. And then I pray on a daily basis for some people, on a week basis for others, and so that is for me how I start the day. If I don’t start the day like that, I feel peculiar for the whole of the rest of the day. And then in the evenings, I use the shortened form of evening prayer before I go to bed. And that doesn’t usually have much in the way of sustained readings, because by the time I get to there, I’m usually quite tired. HH: Bishop N.T. Wright, thank you so much for your generous time. Thanks for your work, and for especially How God Became King: The Forgotten Story Of The Gospels. Have a wonderful and a Happy Easter. NTW: Thank you, and the very same to you and your listeners. It’s been very good talking to you. HH: Thank you, Bishop Wright. End of interview. ]]>
(Review Source)
Armond White
Once again, filmmakers Epstein and Friedman distort cultural history to advance social-justice clichés.
(Review Source)
Christian Toto
linda rondstadt sound of my voice

The stunning and wildly unpredictable life and career of recording artist Linda Ronstadt is presented in a gripping new documentary.

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” packs the expected concert

The post ‘Sound of My Voice’ Nails Ronstadt’s Voice, Grit appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.

(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Linha de Passe” is briefly mentioned in this.)

Toronto 08 — Day 3 capsules

ZIFT (Javor Gardev, Bulgaria, 2008) — 5

Roommate Robert Parks talked me down a bit from my initial skepticism about this black-and-white film, which has weaknesses as plain as a Balkan s**t joke. It’s obviously overdone stylewise, it obviously takes the kitchen sink approach. But I don’t think a film this … accomplished, in its way, can be as easily dismissed as Michael Sicinski does. There’s more to ZIFT than post-Commie misogynist Guy-Ritchie posturing. For one thing, I’ve had friends from Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia tell me that broadness, extensive vulgarity and obsession with sex (sample: “instead of using your ass to think with, why not play a patriotic song with it”) is a feature of all Balkan humor — pre-, during- and post-Communism — as opposed to the drier Polish-Czech style of Commie-era humor. Also, Gardev is parodying two different things — film noir and Soviet kitsch — that are both hyperstylized, over the top and covers for brutishness. Soviet kitsch in particular was notorious for not leaving anything to the imagination or un-pounded-in. So surely bluntness is to be expected and even demanded. There’s ideas and ideals here — a kind of brutish pessimism that is in fact also the worldview of film noir — sometimes badly and always baldly done though they may be. For an example of what the film does right, look at the scene where the protagonist prostrates himself before the rebuilt Sofia, right after a confessional encounter in a church (it has the power of Winston Smith learning to love Big Brother). For an example of what the film does wrong, look at the intercutting of a sex scene between two humans and footage of preying-mantis sex, with a voiceover helpfully explaining the linkage. For an example of what the film apparently does wrong but which I can’t dismiss, consider the GILDA song ripoff scene, which features an actress in an identical black dress but who is neither singing nor acting in the sexual way Rita Hayworth was. But who is also singing a different-themed song — “put the blame on the moon” — to a much slower tempo and a different arrangement. Whatever else might be said of that scene, it is not a failed attempt to achieve what Charles Vidor and Rita Hayworth did.

LAST STOP 174 (Bruno Barreto, Brazil, 2008) — 8

I was prepared to dislike this movie as an unnecessary desecration in a world where the great BUS 174 already exists. I wouldn’t have seen it at all had a high-buzz title been playing at this hour. But to paraphrase Chris Berman — This. Is. Why. We. Watch. The. Films. LAST STOP 174 grabbed me and won at least my confidence right away with two crime scenes — one of a baby being stolen by a drug dealer from his junkie mother, the other being a boy finding his mother’s dead body in a restaurant robbery. Both scenes are taut, brutal and without a shred of sentiment. Though I still think BUS 174 is the better film, Barreto and (more importantly, I think) writer Braulio Mantovani find a way to give interest to a fictionalization of hijacker Sandro’s back story: via the Dickensian move of creating two characters named Sandro in the Rio slums and having their fates intersect. Mantovani also wrote CITY OF GOD and the upcoming ELITE SQUAD, making him apparently Brazilian Cinema MVP. And what those three films have in common (and BUS 174 too) and what was absent from LINHA DE PASSE and so many other social-realist slum-set movies, is that Mantovani-written films do not sentimentalize their criminal protagonists: one exhibit being the scene late in LINHA DE PASSE where the criminal brother hijacks a rich Brazilian’s SUV but neither takes the vehicle nor his goods, instead chasing him away (the wuss!!!) after making him answer “do you see me” (and then walking away himself). It’s crime as social protest, which is bovine scatology. Mantovani’s criminals (and policemen) are the product of a brutal world where morality is a vice, but they are also brutal in their own right and by their own choice. “Most criminals are deprived” and “most deprived people are not criminals” are both true statements, but only the first is guaranteed to be remembered in the typical liberal-leaning “poor criminal” movie. Sandro is both a victim and a victimizer — and mostly of people who are just as much victims as himself. My favorite scene in LAST STOP 174 has Sandro rob a minister (BTW: it’s intriguing that in both this fest’s Brazilian movies, religion plays a significant role, and in both cases, it’s evangelical Protestantism, not Catholicism). What this scene understands deep down, and dramatizes, is something that foreign-policy doves will never get — not merely that force works, but that force is a matter of will, not means. One who is not feared can never plausibly threaten. In all these ways, Mantovani, in LAST STOP 174 and elsewhere, gives us “both/and” rather than an uplift of liberal saccharin.

FLAME AND CITRON (Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark, 2008) — 4

Now to completely contradict myself — I think this film is a thinned-down rehash of BLACK BOOK, but one that manages to drag out and overstay its welcome. It goes on about 20 minutes too long, stringing out the set pieces and confrontations — was one thing about the last scene involving Citron believable?, was how they managed to escape a Danish police roundup believable? But the specifics surrounding Carice Van Houten’s performance and “insider” role at Gestapo HQ are set aside, FLAME AND CITRON centering instead on its eponymous central characters, both assassins for the Danish Resistance. But other than that, the elements are the same: compromised Resistance figures, not-so-bad Germans, botched or incompetent Resistance actions. It’s often effective, mind you. But the physical contrast between the two assassins comes across as too cutesy, like Mutt and Jeff, when it’s actually realized on the screen. One general point worth making about films today. During the post-film Q-and-A, Madsen said he doesn’t like “heroes unsprinkled” with flaws, and that he wanted to show heroes not acting heroically. Prescinding from the specific example of the WW2 resistance used here and in BLACK BOOK … is there anything more commonplace, easier, less brave and more cliche in this day and age than that sort of “sprinkling” of heroism, demythologizing the past, showing hero’s flaws, etc. It long since ceased to impress me, per se. “There’s no just or unjust any more, only war” is one line too many.

HUNGER (Steve McQueen, Britain, 2008) — 9

More than any other film here — good, bad or indifferent — I am curious how well this film will do on US screens. It’s a Northern Ireland “Troubles” movie, about the 1981 hunger strike by IRA terrorist Bobby Sands,  and that genre usually manages to pull them in. But HUNGER is also a stylistically eccentric movie, albeit a brilliant one. For one example, it starts with a prison guard for about 2-3 minutes, who brings us to one IRA prisoner whom HUNGER follows for about 3-5 minutes, who joins another IRA man for the movie to follow the two of them for the next 15 minutes or so. Then we get a scene involving a bunch of the terrorists, which, apparently incidentally, produces our first glimpse of Sands, perhaps 25-30 minutes into the movie. For another, the first act (and this film segments itself into three acts as clearly as anything not involving a curtain ever has) has very little dialogue, but then the second act is like a free-standing one-act play between two characters who sit at a table and talk, for what feels like 20-30 minutes. And then we get the third act, which is the hunger strike that is the film’s selling point (finally). It’s a constant pleasure, though it’s not a conventional one, to follow a movie that you can’t figure out and aren’t ten steps ahead of, even when you already know the basic story as I do. Visually, the film is simply astonishing and confident in ways few first-time directors are. A quick example from the very beginning: we see a man eat his breakfast, not from the usual POV but via a closeup of crumbs falling on his lap napkin, with the sound of toast crunching on the soundtrack. OK, that avoids cliche, but more importantly, by using such a low view early, it sets up and makes it not an affectation the “rat’s eye POV” for a scene a minute later where it’s absolutely essential psychologically. The sequence and juxtaposition, more than the angles per se, show McQueen has “seen” and “heard” his movie before he made it (his expressive use of sound is simply sensational throughout).

Other reasons I like HUNGER so much: (1) similar to my praise for LAST STOP 174, are that it neither pushes the easy-but-false Troubles-history buttons that never fail to aggravate me nor does it sentimentalize the IRA (the few scenes outside Maze prison should disabuse all the Irish pub bravado of North Americans); (2) the feces-smeared prison walls are made into works of abstract expressionism, which is both inherently visually arresting but also dramatically believable (what else can guys with nothing else to occupy them do once they’ve decided to desecrate the walls that way); (3) while it isn’t an apologia for rubber-hose tactics, HUNGER makes it quite clear how difficult they are to avoid, most particularly in a scene of barbering, when dealing with determinedly obstreperous prisoners (and thus how stupidly demagogic it is to show a picture and point); (4) the second act consists of a lengthy semi-debate between Sands and a priest-friend (we’ve already learned that these “Catholic” terrorists are hardly religious) that shows the priest giving as good as he gets while realizing at the end that some things are not in his hands. But at the same time, the scene shows McQueen (here’s that concept again) having the directorial confidence to turn this film over to his two actors, if that’s what is required, and not try to tart it up for the sake of showing off. And like the directorial choices above, it reinforces our confidence in him, that when he’s being showy, he’s not doing it to show off.

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Toronto 2012 capsules -- day 8In "TIFF2012"

TIFF -- Day OneIn "Nuri Bilge Ceylan"

September 8, 2008 - Posted by | Bruno Barreto, Javor Gardev, Ole Christian Madsen, Steve McQueen, TIFF 2008

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(Review Source)
VJ Morton

Toronto 08 — Day 2 capsules

THREE MONKEYS (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey, 2008) — 6

Ceylan’s films dance on the edge of my tolerance for narrative ellipsis and emotional lassitude. His formal mastery is evident from the very first shot of THREE MONKEYS, of a car driving in the dark that eventually becomes the equivalent of an iris shot without actually being an iris shot. The sound design is again incredible — both naturalistic and expressive (example: a knock at the door late in the film). Ceylan doesn’t simply blanche out the color and give us a succession of sepia-grayscaled images, as if actually filming in a thunderstorm, but he counterpoints it at key moments — splashes of red like the curtains at a key mother-son confrontation, and having the foreground be in the washed-out style while in the background is a window with a conventional picture-postcard color scheme. This film has GOT to be seen in the theater. In a review of CLIMATES now in the cyber-ether, I called Ceylan the Turkish Antonioni. (And as Antonioni did, though less radically than in L’AVVENTURA, Ceylan begins THREE MONKEYS with a character whose sole function is to lead us to another character.) But as with Antonioni at times, at the end you realize that all this style just hides the thinness of the story, the badness of the acting, and the fact that all the There there is another Come-Dressed As (Again) The Sick Soul of Europe movie. The actors are so glum and Ceylan lavishes so much on the enormous facial closeups of their dour solemnity that you just lose interest in this story — a love triangle with some filial anger and a political subtext that experts on Turkish politics will no doubt get more out of than I. And far too much of the events in THREE MONKEYS happens offscreen — most annoyingly a death, and a jail deal neither the end (did it come off — who knows?). Seemingly every significant event is seen only in its effects or only hinted at. It’s all re-action shots without any action. I’m giving this film a guarded recommendation because a great director so obviously made a great work for us to look at. But equally obviously a weak writer didn’t give us much to watch.

LINHA DE PASSE (Walter Salles, Brazil, 2008) — 3

Take ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, transplant from Italy to Brazil, replace boxing with soccer, give us pointedly ambiguous endings (more on that in a minute), toss in symbolic details like clogged drains, and voila — Landmark-ready masterpiece. And I don’t even like the original ROCCO. Both films involved a matriarch and several children taken different paths in The Slums of the Big City. The things is (and this was true even of the 1961 Visconti film) Warner Brothers made this movie a half-dozen times in the 30s — with James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Ralph Bellamy, and maybe another brother. But they did so with a lot more verve and energy than these symbolic ciphers. In LINHA DE PASSE, the brothers are defined by a single trait — criminal, religious guy, sports star, kid w/an absent-father complex. At the end, we’re intercutting between the endings of the five stories and my only thought is “DW Griffith was so awesome.” They’re all ostentatiously unresolved (labor pains have started in the pregnant matriarch, but she’s not even on her way to hospital). As for two of these endings — how can one take seriously any moral ambitions of a film that ends with a boy of about eight driving a bus around Sao Paolo and a robber chasing his carjack victim off having said “do you see me” and then walks away from the loot himself. The schematicism of LINHA DE PASSE would even be tolerable if it had a tighter narrative (CITY OF GOD looks better every year now, doesn’t it). Instead details and moments are tossed around like pinwheels and are scattered thus at the end — mom puts a picture of the father under a boy’s pillow, but does he see it?; mom leaves the kid at a neighbor’s to prevent him from riding on buses and skipping school, but our next view he is on a bus and we never see the neighbor again; the issue of the soccer player’s age and a fake ID keep him off one team, on the next team it’s never even brought up; the soccer player can only get on one team by offering a bribe, he promises to meet it, and then … Movie over.

35 RHUMS (Claire Denis, France, 2008) — 2

To heck with a black man winning a major-party presidential nomination. The real advance for civil rights this year is 35 RHUMS, where blacks prove they can be as dreary and boring in a Claire Denis movie as white people can. This has something to do with a mostly-black circle of friends centered around a father-daughter pair living together (he’s a train driver, though we first see him wasting a day trainspotting — about the last meaningless hobby I would think a train driver would have). Ceylan above at least makes it clear what we’re supposed to feel, though his success in making us do so is variable. But Denis is too uninflected (but not deadpan — that would risk being funny) to hold my interest. One measure of unspecificity: I never figured out or remember being told if these people were from West Africa, Equatorial Africa or the West Indies. Another: We get a dead body that I thought was a friend’s until I thought it wasn’t. J. Robert said I’m just not the target audience for the latest Denis exercise in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Only instead of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot happened, it’s more Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’s the point. It’s generally clear what happens, but I never could figure out what I was supposed to get out of it other than counting the rum shots, like in DROWNING BY NUMBERS, only Denis gives us (or me anyway) less emotional involvement than Greenaway did. I was sparked a little whenever the Tindersticks music accompanied the train barrelling through the tracks, viewed from the front of the first car. And the same during the Commodores song that accompanies an improvised party that plays like a short version of FRIDAY NIGHT — a pickup while stranded by traffic woes in Paris. In these moments, 35 RHUMS gets some gracefully seductive moments of the kind BEAU TRAVAIL consisted purely of. But then we’re in Germany for an explicable diversion having less to do with the paper-thin story, I suspect, than with Denis getting financing from the Hamburg regional government. The title comes, by the way, from a legend that at the beginning isn’t explained. At the end, when the lead character is asked about (the still unexplained) it, “did you invent it,” he says “maybe.” That’s it. How ooo-la-la French. How hollow.

THE BURNING PLAIN (Guillermo Arriaga, USA, 2008) — 6

Looking over my viewing notes, it’s clear my initial 7-grade was too generous, I still may be pretty much alone in liking this film at all (Mike walked out and Jeremy hated it), but dagnab it, it was such a relief to see a movie on this day with lots of events, where people behave like normal people and it isn’t so obviously sketched out. Or rather … BURNING PLAIN is sketched out (this is by the screenwriter of AMORES PERROS, 21 GRAMS and BABEL, after all) but the sketch isn’t what you think it is. Arriaga uses his reputation well, taking advantage of the fact we’re primed to expect stuff to come together at (say) one road junction and to search for parallels (which the film does offer). BURNING PLAIN really does work as a straightforward narrative — taut and tense. To speak vaguely — this latest Gotcha Twist fooled me completely while making everything “make sense” in retrospective. But it neither adds up to much nor seems like something that will gain richness on second viewing because what Arriaga did tends to collapse the two main stories into one pat point about a redemptive second chance. As for the performances, Claire Danes is brilliant, in the best-written role; Charlize Theron isn’t, in the most actressy role (resorting to haggardizing herself physically at key moments); and the fact Kim Basinger is credible in a non-sexpot role at all is remarkable.

DETROIT METAL CITY (Toshio Lee, Japan, 2008) — 9

Yeah … I was surprised too. But I busted my gut laughing harder at this movie than I think I ever have for a movie in a language other than English (i.e., one where stylish verbal humor is pretty much out the window). One word of warning, though: one must have a very high-tolerance for the sort of hyperactive acting and humor seen on those Japanese game-show highlight clips … which is an acquired taste. The comparisons with SPINAL TAP are easy, though DETROIT METAL CITY isn’t a mockumentary per se despite its being filled with pop-culture parody and absurd music lyrics (this is where you’d love to speak Japanese. You probably can’t translate “the bigger the cushion / the sweeter the pushin” into Japanese very well either).

Detroit Metal City is the name of Japan’s top death-metal band, but behind the makeup, lead singer Sir Krauser (sample dialog: “this is good practice for when you’re slashing men’s throats”) is a simpering dweeb who wants to make syrupy happy poppy love songs, called “trendy music” in this movie. Imagine Jerry Lewis’s NUTTY PROFESSOR character turning into Marilyn Manson for the general gist (indeed it occurred to me while watching DMC that Julius Kelp’s turning into Buddy Love is what made his childlike-simpleton not so annoying and thus the movie Lewis’s best Martin-less effort). Like SPINAL TAP, there’s lots of musical parody, and not just of death metal. DETROIT METAL CITY also has fun with the Japanese appropriation fetish, with fanboyism (implicitly) in all its forms, with other music genres like DJ-rap, bubble-gum “Tiger Beat” pop and grrrrl groups (the funniest non-DMC music is a feminist dis of DMC by such a group). Indeed, the ideal audience for this movie is someone generally knowledgeable about metal music but not a fan of it (e.g., me). Also like SPINAL TAP, this film has a great role for the manager, who stubs her cigarettes out on her mouth and who fruitily chews over every line, like the bad guys on Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl or the 60s Batman TV show. Some of the other comic highlights: the explanation for a moptop haircut, “the devil is sending the worst punishment ever” and what makes you lucky at a death-metal concert.

One of the film’s surprising strengths is that it never runs out of comic ideas, even when it’s tying up plot strings. For example, the end of the second act is precisely defined and the film seems to have nowhere to go but to have Sir Krauser return to the Japanese small-town he came to Tokyo from. Once it arrives in the countryside, Lee finds a way to get new laughs with a new set of plot points that begin with … seeing an unlikely character wearing a DMC shirt (before we get the inevitable showdown with the Gene-Simmons-played American death-metal champion). But there’s also a maybe unintentional but actually quite profound undercurrent about Satanism, like Satan’s rebellion itself, being the sort of absurd pose about which CS Lewis (quoting Luther and St. Thomas More) said should be laughed at rather than obsessed over (and traditional religion, of a Japanese variety, plays a small role in the third act). If DETROIT METAL CITY can find American distribution, and it seems like an eminently “sellable” movie, there’s no reason it shouldn’t take a place alongside SPINAL TAP in the cult-comedy pantheon.

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Toronto 08 -- Day 2 gradesIn "TIFF 2008"

Toronto -- Day 2 GradesIn "TIFF 2006"

TIFF -- Day OneIn "Nuri Bilge Ceylan"

September 6, 2008 - Posted by | Claire Denis, Guillermo Arriaga, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, TIFF 2008, Toshio Lee, Walter Salles

4 Comments »

  1. Wow… an Electro-Woman and Dyna-Girl reference.

    Comment by Adam Villani | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. Electra-Woman, I guess.

    Comment by Adam Villani | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. bud did you see an alternate cut of THE BURNING PLAIN that featured Claire Danes. I did not spot her in this film.

    There was a twist in this film?

    Comment by Alex Fung | September 12, 2008 | Reply

  4. Jennifer Lawrence was so awesome that she not only convinced me she was Mariana and [spoiler elided], but she also convinced me she was Clare Danes.

    Comment by vjmorton | September 12, 2008 | Reply


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(Review Source)
VJ Morton
(”Linha de Passe” is briefly mentioned in this.)
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Toronto 08 — Day 2 grades

THREE MONKEYS (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey, 2008) — 6
LINHA DE PASSE (Walter Salles, Brazil, 2008) — 3
35 RHUMS (Claire Denis, France, 2008) — 2
THE BURNING PLAIN (Guillermo Arriaga, USA, 2008) — 7
DETROIT METAL CITY (Toshio Lee, Japan, 2008) — 9

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September 6, 2008 - Posted by | TIFF 2008

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VJ Morton
(”Linha de Passe” is briefly mentioned in this.)
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Another TIFFing Mess

I’m now up in Canada, and in fear of being hauled before one of the Human Rights Commissions for all of my various thought crimes. Hopefully, nobody at Canuck Big Brother Central is reading this, because this is where I will be for the next two weeks. Warning to my film-geek buds: I’m ducking out at the first sight of the Thought Police.

Thu 4
* 630pm SOUL POWER (Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, USA)
* 900pm WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Ari Folman, Israel)
mid JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri, France)

Fri 5
915am THREE MONKEYS (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
* 245pm LINHA DE PASSE (Walter Salles, Brazil)
630pm 35 RHUMS (Claire Denis, France)
830pm THE BURNING PLAIN (Guillermo Arriaga, USA)
mid DETROIT METAL CITY (Toshio Lee, Japan)

Sat 6
915am ZIFT (Javor Gardev, Bulgaria)
* 230pm LAST STOP 174 (Bruno Barreto, Brazil)
600pm FLAME AND CITRON (Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark)
930pm HUNGER (Steve McQueen, Britain)

Sun 7
115pm UNSPOKEN (Fien Troch, Belgium)
300pm YOUSSOU NDOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE (Chai Vaserelyi, USA)
600pm THE SILENCE OF LORNA (the Dardenne brothers, Belgium)
900pm GOMORRAH (Matteo Garonne, Italy)

Mon 8
900am THE OTHER MAN (Richard Eyre, Britain)
300pm ASHES OF TIME (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong)
615pm TERENCE DAVIES TRILOGY (Terence Davies, Britain)
915pm GOODBYE SOLO (Ramin Bahrani, USA)

Tue 9
945am THREE BLIND MICE (Matthew Newton, Australia)
1215pm KISSES (Lance Daly, Ireland)
400pm OF TIME AND THE CITY (Terence Davies, Britain)
530pm TOKYO SONATA (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan)
900pm THE BROTHERS BLOOM (Rian Johnson, USA)

Wed 10
900am HAPPY GO-LUCKY (Mike Leigh, Britain)
noon A CHRISTMAS TALE (Arnaud Desplechin, France)
315pm SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Danny Boyle, Britain)
* 715pm LES PLAGES D’AGNES (Agnes Varda, France)
930pm SKIN (Anthony Fabian, Britain/South Africa)
mid MARTYRS (Pascal Laugier, France)

Thu 11
945am HOOKED (Adrian Sitaru, Romania)
* noon A WOMAN IN BERLIN (Max Farberbock, Germany)
315pm GIGANTIC (Matt Asselton, USA)
645pm CLOUD 9 (Andreas Dresen, Germany)
1015pm STILL WALKING (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)

Fri 12
900am CHE (Steven Soderbergh, USA/Spain)
245pm PRIDE AND GLORY (Gavin O’Connor, USA)
600pm CONTROL-ALT-DELETE (Cameron Labine, Canada)
800pm ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE (Takeshi Kitano, Japan)
1030pm EASY VIRTUE (Stephan Elliott, Britain)

Sat 13
900am THE WRESTLER (Darren Aronovsky, USA)
115pm ADAM’S RESURRECTION (Paul Schrader, USA)
345pm EDEN LOG (Franck Vestiel, France)
545pm WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU (Brian Goodman, USA)
mid CHOCOLATE (Pracha Pinkaew, Thailand)

* Second choice film for that time slot.

There’s a lot of unknown quantities in this festival — 24 films, a majority of the 47, are director first-viewings for me. Another seven are by directors whose work I have seen but rarely or never liked (Salles, Barreto, Farberbock, Kurosawa, Denis, Desplechin, Kitano — though several of those cases are samples of 1 or 2). That’s almost the same as the number of directors (8) who have ever scored a Top 10 film for me (Ceylan, Leigh, the Dardennes, Boyle, Pinkaew, Wong, Kore-eda, and Soderbergh). By comparison the same figure of “ever having made a previous Top 10” for the 2007 fest was more than twice that, 17 — Ozon, Maddin, Rohmer, Bergman, Loach, Baumbach, Van Sant, Miike, Herzog, Ford, Greenaway, the Coens, Andersson, Olmi, Lee, Jordan, Argento. And that was “going into the fest,” thus not counting high-buzz titles like the Cannes-winning 4 MONTHS, SILENT LIGHT and ATONEMENT (3 of my 4 faves, as it turned out). As a result, this festival his mopre of a “unsure/discovery” feel than an “confirming the expected awesomeness” feeling that 2007 had.

Although there’s a lot of second choices in there, I’m not crushed by any of them. Of the missing first choices, only UNCERTAINTY (McGehee/Siegel) and the old film 32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD (Francois Girard, which I’ve never seen) disappoint me that much. And those two films were replaced by just about the two strongest-on-paper/-on-buzz second choices I had — LINHA DE PASSE (an Actress prizewinner at Cannes) and the latest Agnes Varda (LES PLAGES D’AGNES). I’m more disappointed by the excellent buzz surrounding HURT LOCKER, Kathryn Bigelow’s contribution to the Iraq War Genre, about which I’ve heard good word (or rather, bad word of the right sort from certain people), but which I just can’t fit in without ripping everything up and starting from scratch.

Also, I won’t be seeing a lot of the highest-profile films to the casual moviegoer — the Hollywood fall-prestige titles in the Gala Program (like the Coens’ BURN AFTER READING, Demme’s RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, THE DUCHESS, and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH). This was deliberate — they had no screenings (or just one in the last-named case) that passholders like myself could get into. I could (try to) buy a ticket for cash, but my reaction is “I’m already paying hundreds of dollars for the pass, so if you’re not gonna give me a chance to see this film, you must not want me to see it. There is NO way I’m paying you extra, you money-grubbing sunsuvvbi….

(Victor calms down)

Also, there is no way I will watch RELIGULOUS for compensation that does not involve four digits before the decimal point.

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September 4, 2008 - Posted by | TIFF 2008

1 Comment »

  1. Also, there is no way I will watch RELIGULOUS for compensation that does not involve four digits before the decimal point.

    Funny, I’m not religious at all and yet I feel the same way. Maybe Maher secretly is really trying to bring us all together.
    .
    .
    .
    .
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    Nah, he’s just a smarmy tool.

    Comment by Steve C. | September 4, 2008 | Reply


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Linsanity
Plugged In
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Movies NAMED CROSSWALK'S #6 MOVIE OF 2016! With a riveting first half and probing questions about family, Lion's careful attention to life’s cruelty balanced with an inspiring tenderness and optimism make it a strong 4 out of 5.   Synopsis It’s tricky to tell a true story well, but director Garth Davis and screenwriter Luke Davies find great success in adapting the tale of Saroo Brierley from his book A Long Way Home. Saroo (the enchanting Sunny Pawar) is a five-year-old boy from a small Indian village whose big heart and humor outmatch his tiny frame. When he gets separated from his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) at a train station, he mistakenly boards a train which takes him over a thousand kilometers from home. He doesn't speak the dominant language, nobody has heard of his hometown, and his surroundings are not friendly to lost children, but he manages to survive long enough to find his way to an orphanage. 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(Review Source)
Crosswalk
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Movies Call 2016 many things, but on the entertainment front, be sure you recognize it as the year Andrew Garfield helped bring Christian characters back to the mainstream. The star of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Social Network carried two of Crosswalk's Top 4 movies in 2016, both times playing Christians with strong convictions, albeit from very different backgrounds and time periods. Word is that these experiences made 2016 something of a spiritual journey for the actor himself. Christian characters also show up in other spots on our list this year, from movies about culture-changing African-American female mathematicians to documentaries about Australian bands responsible for many of your favorite worship songs to a couple of our Honorable Mentions. We fell in love with all of them. You'll find timely themes of adoption, dreams, sacrifice, courage, hope, conviction, family, love, joy, communication and faith below, too. 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With beautiful animation, lovable characters, and a touching story about the bonds of family, this sequel is one of the best movies you'll see this summer. 4.5 out of 5." Here because: It's no secret we have a soft spot for Pixar movies. Inside Out was our #1 last year, and seven films from the studio have made our annual list going back to 2006. Dory only barely swam onto our list, however, since, as you'll see below, several of our panelists championed other animated fare. In the end, though, the themes of finding family, creating paths for the lost to find their way home, and recognizing the strengths in our disabilities won us over in typical Dory fashion! ~Shawn McEvoy See Also: Did You Catch These Cool Parenting Tips in Finding Dory?   9 CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Susan's nutshell review: "'I'm going, but I don't want to see "my friends" fight,' said my companion. The battles are epic and the quips keep coming, but this dark story opens a wound in Team Avengers that may never completely heal. By all means see it, but expect to come away a little heart-heavy. 4 out of 5." Here because: Can we prop up this film about Marvel superheroes fighting each other without putting down the one about DC superheroes fighting each other? Sure can! Civil War featured superior writing, including clear motivations from characters acting in ways and with beliefs true to how they have been portrayed for several films now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone was given time to shine, and whether you were on Team Tony or Team Cap, you could still understand the points the other side was desperate to make. Not many superhero movies offer fun and creative battles and a real-world context and post-movie talking points all while remembering to sweeten everything with humor. Civil War reminds us: you may be powerful and you may even be right, but if you aren't strong, smart, humble or forgiving enough to achieve unity, everyone loses. ~Shawn McEvoy See Also: Captain America: Civil War - Best Ensemble Super Hero Movie Ever?   8 HILLSONG: LET HOPE RISE Shawn's nutshell review: "Writing worship music is hard! So is serving the Lord at times. What's easy is sitting back for the experience of Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, where we're invited not only to praise Jesus, but to get an intimate view into what it looks like to be authentic, unapologetic, hopeful Christians in a world longing for God. 4.5 out of 5." Here because: I remember the noise I made when I first heard there was a documentary being made about a worship team. I remember making a similar noise when the film had trouble finding a distributor. And then when Let Hope Rise finally came to theaters, I remember afterwards standing at my kitchen counter and tearfully telling my family I hadn't done enough with my life. The testimonies are inspiring, the effort and difficulty in creating biblical worship are astounding, and the worship itself glorifies God right there in the theater. May all believers be the subject of such a documentary about living out their calling. ~Shawn McEvoy See Also: Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is a Theatrical Worship Experience   7 LOVING Susan's nutshell review: "When two simple people who simply want to live in peace find themselves in the middle of a landmark Supreme Court case, their story unfolds with quiet grace, highlighting their commitment. Loving is not just the name of the featured couple in this biopic, it perfectly describes their story. 4 out of 5." Here because: For a movie that goes out of its way not to be emotionally manipulative, it speaks volumes that in its final moments I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, and tears welling up in my eyes. Loving is based on a true story of an interracial couple in the late 1950s American South sentenced to prison for co-habitating as man and wife, despite having been legally married in Washington D.C. It's about their legal battle but even more so their romance, and a life of quiet nobility. Director Jeff Nichols strikes an understated tone, finding power in intimate moments, never grand ones. Loving is about the people who weren't Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it's a landmark elegy to them. ~Jeffrey Huston   6 LION Debbie's nutshell review: "With a riveting first half and probing questions about family, Lion's careful attention to life’s cruelty balanced with an inspiring tenderness and optimism make it a strong 4 out of 5." Here because: Lion is a journey so captivating, a story so deftly told, you will hardly believe that it actually happened. Tell the average person there may be as many as 800,000 abandoned children living on the streets of India, and the enormity of the suffering can overwhelm the mind. Yet Lion humanizes that suffering with the profound true story of one of those children. Five-year-old Saroo falls asleep alone on a train and ends up hundreds of miles from home and living on the streets of Kolkata. He isn't old enough to tell anyone where he's from or even who he is. Yet he becomes one of the fortunate ones, ending up in an orphanage from which he's adopted by an Australian couple. 25 years later, Saroo is plagued with anxiety over the family he lost and begins a quest to find them, piecing together what little he can remember about his earliest years. As complex as this character is, Saroo (played brilliantly by Dev Patel and newcomer Sunny Pawar) shines as one of this year's most emotionally moving characters. ~Stephen McGarvey See also: A Lost Son Searches for Home in Lion   5 ARRIVAL Susan's nutshell review: "This thinking person's alien movie is less about creatures from space and more about how humans communicate. Arrival cleverly and unexpectedly takes what you think you know and turns it on its head. It may not touch your heart, but it will provide plenty of material for after-movie conversations. 3 out of 5." Here because: It's the sci-fi movie 2016 desperately needed. First, Arrival turned the "alien movie" genre upside-down by making the central plot not about fighting for survival, but about language and communication. The personal narrative of Louise Banks, played so beautifully by Amy Adams, is highlighted by tender and smart storytelling techniques, which we've come to expect from director Denis Villeneuve (whose Prisoners made #9 on our 2013 list). Perhaps most significantly, Arrival accomplishes what films of this genre always should: it offers a fresh exhortation to humanity's struggles and weakness, using the power of the otherwordly metaphor. Like classic sci-fi from the '50s and '60s, it reminds us that the greatest danger to humanity will always be our own inner capacity for evil. Arrival speaks to our current world, one with more capacity for communication than ever. Will we use our mighty resources with patience and perseverance? Or will we continue to talk at and past one another, setting down the pen as we reach for the sword? ~Debbie Holloway   4 HACKSAW RIDGE Christian's nutshell review: "Old-fashioned in the best sense of the word—focusing on duty and patriotism—the film also feels contemporary in its post-Saving Private Ryan approach to war footage. Those who can endure it will find that Hacksaw Ridge pays off handsomely. 5 out of 5." Here because: What if, a year ago, I'd told you that Hollywood pariah Mel Gibson would direct a drama about the horrors of World War II's Pacific theater with a hero who was all at once a real person, a conscientious objector, a non-weapon-carrying medic and a Bible-quoting Seventh-Day Adventist... and this film would receive standing ovations at secular film festivals and be praised by both pacifists and war hawks alike? How in the world was THAT pulled off? Much of the credit goes to Andrew Garfield for his nuanced portrayal of Desmond Doss, and to the admirable beauty of the real Doss's own convictions. ~Shawn McEvoy See also: Freedom of Conscience on Hacksaw Ridge: A Story for Our Times   3 HIDDEN FIGURES Christian's nutshell review: "This film never comes across as a lecture as it tells the story of three African-American women employed as 'human computers' by NASA during the 1960s overcoming sexism and racial prejudice. It's instead an example of formulaic filmmaking done right—inspirational, enjoyable and educational. 4 out of 5." Here because: Much like Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures is a movie that makes you genuinely wonder, "How have I never heard this story before?!" The best advancements civilizations make with their societal issues come when they are building toward something, in this case, the race for space. In such times where every hand is essential for pulling on the rope in one direction, we simply don't have time to get tied up in that rope due to ridiculous differences. The cream always rises in true meritocracies. But Hidden Figures isn't just about socieites or organizations learning to give their people - all their people - a chance to shine. It's about how these chances must be tirelessly fought for, sometimes loudly but always respectfully and often creatively, by incredible, courageous individuals. ~Shawn McEvoy See Also: Get the Girl to Do It: The Important Message of Hidden Figures   2 LA LA LAND Debbie's nutshell review: "Even more original and ambitious than it looked in the trailers, La La Land is a mixture of nostalgic musical numbers and compelling drama. While its leads have fantastic chemistry and the story draws us in, the song and dance numbers are occasionally jarring, landing the film at 3.5 out of 5." Here because: We think La La Land will and should win Best Picture; only a painfully-crafted, master work of faith could have bested it for our #1. This colorful, relatable, bittersweet film was everything we've been whining about not getting in film today. It's somehow both original and nostalgic as it chronicles the highs and lows of life, pondering what it is that makes dreams come true. Do we commit to dreams of art, or to love? Can we even hope to reach our artistic dreams without a lover to believe in and inspire us? Can we have it all, or do dreams require sacrifice? And how is that question answered when timing also has its part to play? The cinematography is inspired - at times light and color deliver punches, at times darkness becomes a soft blanket. The jazzy melodies that run and repeat through this film are pitch-perfect. La La Land has everything! Now, some do take aim at the ending; some complain it's not a true or complete musical, and some rightly note that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are not Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly. But if you've ever performed at all... or dreamed, or loved, or wondered, you'll be thinking about (and humming the tunes from) La La Land for a very long time. Damien Chazelle is fast becoming one of our favorite directors for what he has done here and in Whiplash (Honorable Mention on our 2014 list) with extremely low budgets. See Hollywood? We audiences don't require so much after all. ~Shawn McEvoy See Also: Why So Many People Loved La La Land... or Not   1 SILENCE Debbie's nutshell review: "No bit of Silence is an accident or an afterthought. This Martin Scorsese adaptation of a Japanese novel by Shûsaku Endô is difficult, slow and lacking in a traditionally satisfying resolution, but its strength as an adaptation and the powerful filmmaking and performances warrant 4 out of 5." Here because: [SPOILERS AHEAD] The title is no misnomer; this soundtrack-less movie (it instead features an "ambient soundscape") breathes in the quiet landscapes of 17th-century Japan. The audience is similarly silent, pondering the tests of life when God is, likewise, silent. Silence is truly a tale of "faith in its rawest form. Christians have long been enamored with the idea of 'glorious martyrdom,' but Silence quickly disabuses its viewers of any such notions. Like [Andrew Garfield's Father] Rodrigues, or maybe Peter if you need a biblical example, many Christians believe they are ready to suffer and die for Christ. Yet, when the time came, both men apostatized. Stripped of their pride and dignity, both thought themselves beyond the reach of God, only to discover God was still there. He had not only foreseen their betrayals, he had died to forgive them. How many of us would have the courage to rebuild a broken faith? How many of us would have the strength to endure? That is the great and terrible message which haunts every moment of Silence" ("Does Scorsese's Silence Promote Gospel or Blasphemy?"), and which earns it a place as Crosswalk's #1 Movie for 2016. ~Ryan Duncan & Shawn McEvoy See also: Scorsese's Silence: Prepare to Wrestle with Some of the Deepest Questions of the Christian Faith   HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order) Each panelist's Honorable Mention is a film that was highly-rated on his or her personal list which didn't end up making it into the overall Crosswalk Top 10. I expected FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS to be funny, and it was. I didn't expect it to be such a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the power of love. The fact that Florence (Meryl Streep) had no talent didn't stop her from doing what she loved. Meanwhile, her husband (Hugh Grant) and accompanist (Simon Helberg) loved Florence enough to make her dream come true, no matter what it cost them personally. It was hilarious and beautiful and sweet, filled with bravura performances and impressive keyboard skills. Florence's singing was off-key but her heart rang true and so does this delightful film. ~Susan Ellingburg JACKIE: A mesmerizing masterpiece of biopic risk-taking, director Pablo Larraín paints a psychological (rather than biographical) portrait of Jackie Kennedy in the days following JFK's assassination. It's a dramatization more pensive than narrative; expressionistic, not literal. Natalie Portman goes full Method in her transformation. Through her, Larraín's aesthetic comes alive, grieves, and resonates. Plus, these two refuse to peddle in sentimentality. Jackie is a singular immersion into the fragile yet resilient psyche of an iconic figure in the immediate aftermath of an American tragedy. ~Jeffrey Huston While not entirely emotionally satisfying, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a stirring and cathartic ode to grief, family, loss, and Massachusetts. The enthralling classical score, heartfelt performances, and lovely landscapes (and seascapes) make this a film to remember, if not one to casually enjoy with friends on a Friday night. It contained some of the most poignant - and most tragic - cinematic moments of 2016, and it's hard to find many flaws in the filmmaking. ~Debbie Holloway I’ll admit MOANA is fairly formulaic; the film gives off a bit of the typical princess/hero vibe that Disney is known for. It's certainly not as memorable as the wildly successful Frozen, or the hopelessly endearing Tangled. And yet, despite the familiar tropes of a hero's quest, Moana is a delightful version of the typical contemporary princess tale, beautifully set in the mythologies of native Pacific Island traditions. The main character is one kids can look up to and the secondary characters are colorful and hilarious. The animation is so thrillingly and painstakingly rendered that it's practically impossible to tell the difference between some scenes and actual video footage of the gorgeous islands they represent. This current golden age of Disney films has given us so many brilliant throwbacks to the classic Disney movies we all loved as kids. The makers of Moana should be proud that their work can take an honored place in that respected hall of fame. ~Stephen McGarvey QUEEN OF KATWE: In a year of fiery, acclaimed documentaries about the African-American experience, Disney's gentle, based-on-actual-events story of an African girl (no America here, and what's more, no "white savior" character through whose eyes we might have seen the story) who becomes a chess champion was largely overlooked by audiences. That's a shame. Adding to the vibrant, visual delights and triumphant storyline of director Mira Nair's film is a Hollywood rarity: Christian characters depicted as gentle, kind and admirable. ~Christian Hamaker Some have called it "The Case for Christ, 33 A.D." or "CSI: Jerusalem," but such monickers are too easy. RISEN is the Resurrection story we all treasure witnessed from an imagined but acceptable point of view - that of a Roman tribune tasked by Pilate with making sure Yeshua's tomb stays sealed and the populace remains at peace. Ah, yes, Peace... and what of Peace? Is there any way to come to know it via our own ambition, for us or for Joseph Fiennes' Clavius? What does doggedly tracking down Jesus Christ and his disciples do to a man? How can anyone ever be the same at the end of such a trail? Like the Gospels from which it takes its cues, Risen holds up to repeat viewings; I've seen it five times and continue to find it captivating. ~Shawn McEvoy On the surface, ZOOTOPIA appears to be just another kid's movie about talking animals, but take a closer look, and you'll discover so much more. Zootopia is a funny, thoughtful film about prejudice, labeling and fear, and their consequences on a society, particularly when exploited. This may sound like a tall order for young audiences to handle, yet thanks to some clever storytelling, animated wit and spot-on voice casting, the movie never gets lost in the message. Plus, sloths? Working at the DMV? These jokes practically write themselves. ~Ryan Duncan   OUR PAST WINNERS 2015: 1 - Inside Out; 2 - Spotlight; 3 - Room 2014: 1 - Selma; 2 - Calvary; 3 - The Grand Budapest Hotel2013: 1 - 12 Years a Slave; 2 - Gravity; 3 - Frozen2012: 1 - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; 2 - Lincoln; 3 - Les Misérables2011: 1 - Hugo; 2 - The Help; 3 - Moneyball2010: 1 - Inception; 2 - True Grit; 3 - The King's Speech2009: 1 - Fantastic Mr. Fox; 2 - Up; 3 - Star Trek2008: 1 - Wall-E; 2 - The Dark Knight; 3 - Slumdog Millionaire2007: 1 - Ratatouille; 2 - Amazing Grace; 3 - The Bourne Ultimatum2006: 1 - The Pursuit of Happyness; 2 - The Nativity Story; 3 - United 93 / World Trade Center2005: 1 - Cinderella Man; 2 - Because of Winn-Dixie; 3 - Batman Begins   CRITIC'S CHOICE We also asked each of our panelists to name his or her selections for the various categories below. RYAN DUNCAN, Culture EditorBest Animated Film - MoanaBest Family Film - ZootopiaBest Date Movie - Kubo and the Two StringsBest Action Flick - DeadpoolBest Film with a Faith Theme - SilenceBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Risen Favorite Male Performance - Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw RidgeFavorite Female Performance - Emma Stone, La La LandMost Disappointing - (tie) The Nice Guys & Captain FantasticMost Pleasant Surprise - ZootopiaI Laughed - Hail, Caesar!I Cried - Silence SUSAN ELLINGBURG, Film CriticBest Animated Film - Finding DoryBest Family Film - Finding DoryBest Date Movie - PassengersBest Action Flick - Star Trek: BeyondBest Film with a Faith Theme - Patriots DayBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Risen Favorite Male Performance - Simon Helberg, Florence Foster JenkinsFavorite Female Performance - Meryl Streep, Florence Foster JenkinsMost Disappointing - The FounderMost Pleasant Surprise - Money MonsterI Laughed - Florence Foster JenkinsI Cried - Patriots Day CHRISTIAN HAMAKER, Film CriticBest Animated Film - Kubo and the Two StringsBest Family Film - LovingBest Date Movie - The Light Between OceansBest Action Flick - Hacksaw RidgeBest Film with a Faith Theme - Hacksaw RidgeBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Last Days in the DesertFavorite Male Performance - Ewan McGregor, Last Days in the DesertFavorite Female Performance - Natalie Portman, JackieMost Disappointing - Rules Don't ApplyMost Pleasant Surprise - Finding DoryI Laughed - Central IntelligenceI Cried - Hidden Figures DEBBIE HOLLOWAY, Film CriticBest Animated Film - Kubo and the Two StringsBest Family Film - The Little PrinceBest Date Movie - La La LandBest Action Flick - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemBest Film with a Faith Theme - Queen of KatweBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Silence Favorite Male Performance - Sunny Pawar, LionFavorite Female Performance - Michelle Williams, Manchester by the SeaMost Disappointing - My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2Most Pleasant Surprise - Keeping Up with the JonesesI Laughed - Bad MomsI Cried - Manchester by the Sea JEFFREY HUSTON, Film CriticBest Animated Film - MoanaBest Family Film - The BFGBest Date Movie - La La LandBest Action Flick - 13 HoursBest Film with a Faith Theme - SilenceBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Miracles from Heaven Favorite Male Performance - Casey Affleck, Manchester by the SeaFavorite Female Performance - Amy Adams, ArrivalMost Disappointing - Suicide SquadMost Pleasant Surprise - Hidden FiguresI Laughed - TrollsI Cried - Loving SHAWN McEVOY, Managing EditorBest Animated Film - Kubo and the Two StringsBest Family Film - Hidden FiguresBest Date Movie - La La LandBest Action Flick - Captain America: Civil WarBest Film with a Faith Theme - SilenceBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Risen Favorite Male Performance - Andrew Garfield, SilenceFavorite Female Performance - Emma Stone, La La LandMost Disappointing - SingMost Pleasant Surprise - Hillsong: Let Hope RiseI Laughed - Florence Foster JenkinsI Cried - Queen of Katwe STEPHEN McGARVEY, Editor-in-ChiefBest Animated Film - MoanaBest Family Film - Hidden FiguresBest Date Movie - La La LandBest Action Flick - Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryBest Film with a Faith Theme - SilenceBest Faith-Based Film (i.e. 'Christian Movie') - Hillsong: Let Hope Rise Favorite Male Performance - Andrew Garfield, SilenceFavorite Female Performance - Emma Stone, La La LandMost Disappointing - Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeMost Pleasant Surprise - 13 HoursI Laughed - TrollsI Cried - Lion   OUR MOST POPULAR REVIEWS OF 2016 The films you the audience wanted to know about  - and clicked on - the most. 12. The Light Between Oceans, by Christian Hamaker 11. Miracles from Heaven, by Susan Ellingburg 10. The Young Messiah, by Jeffrey Huston 9. Zootopia, by Ryan Duncan 8. 13 Hours, by Susan Ellingburg 7. Suicide Squad, by Jeffrey Huston 6. God's Not Dead 2, by Christian Hamaker 5. Ben-Hur, by Susan Ellingburg 4. Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, by Shawn McEvoy 3. Top Films of 2015, by Editorial Staff & Film Critics 2. Risen, by Ryan Duncan 1. Deadpool, by Christian Hamaker Finally, we'd like to thank you for your readership (and viewership of our video reviews) in 2016, especially as we kicked off our new format for text reviews, including star ratings and defined sections to make it easier for you to find what you need to know about any film. Speaking of which, three films in 2016 were given perfect 5-star ratings from our reviewers: Hacksaw Ridge (by Christian Hamaker), Florence Foster Jenkins (by Susan Ellingburg) and Moana (by Ryan Duncan), so it was good to see each of those films represented here! It was an excellent year at CrosswalkMovies.com, ChristianMovieReviews.com and the CMR Facebook page. If you enjoyed this article or our regular reviews, please be sure to share them with your friends and family! From one set of Christian movie fans to another, thanks for a great year, God bless, and let us hear your reviews of the films listed here! googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Publication date: February 9, 2017 ]]>
(Review Source)
Michael Medved
http://www.michaelmedved.com/wp-content/uploads/LION-Final.mp3
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
“How can you not be for more diversity?” a friend recently asked me when I was explaining my opposition to the #OscarsSoWhite movement that exploded over the last two awards-season cycles in response to the lack of minority actors nominated for Academy Awards. Perhaps I am no longer on the side of liberal progress and no longer care about racial representation in film. Or perhaps it’s not an either/or dichotomy. I recognize the value of racial representation and I think that the #Oscarssowhite activism has been counterproductive to that cause. Why? Because the Twitter movement was simply counterfactual. In the 21st century, roughly 12 percent of acting nominees at the Oscars were black and the proportion of African-Americans relative to the rest of the population, according to the decennial census, is also 12.2 percent. If discrimination exists in Hollywood, I agree with African-American director Spike Lee (who received an honorary Oscar last year), who said it happens in casting rooms and at studios and to blame the Oscars is an act of misdirection. #Oscarssowhite slacktivism has largely damaged its credibility, by lacking nuance in its analysis, by going after the wrong targets, and by a lacking appreciation for the progress that has been made. This is an awards body that has helped jumpstart the careers of such minorities as Taraji P. Henson, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Terrence Howard, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Demian Bichir, Sophie Okonedo, and Jennifer Hudson by awarding them with honors when box-office receipts and other awards bodies weren’t. If you look at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs) for example, out of all these actors only Jennifer Hudson was nominated. Consider also that Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman have been nominated 12 times by the Oscars and neither has been nominated once by the BAFTAs. Aside from the issue of the #Oscarssowhite activists drifting further and further away from the image of racism they claim exists, there’s also the issue of appearing to not acknowledge the accomplishments they have had. When Selma was nominated for Best Picture without a Best Director nomination for Ava DuVernay, it was enough to spark an outrage—but Selma was never a lock for best director or best actor. Ralph Fiennes was nominated for countless awards for The Grand Budapest Hotel and was widely acknowledged to have hit a high-water mark in an already distinguished career, but there wasn’t a school of advocates to rally around his exclusion with the political firepower of there was for Selma lead David Oyelowo. Similarly, Selma had as much buzz as Nightcrawler or Gone Girl, both of which were left out of the Best Picture fold. If the advocates of Selma felt so stiffed, would they have been willing to trade places with those two films and give up their Best Picture nomination entirely? Does it not appear ungrateful to complain about a Best Director snub when so many excellent films didn’t even get Best Picture? ♦♦♦ This past year resulted in a grand victory for this class of activists as seven actors of color were nominated for the Oscars. Moreover three of the nine nominees for Best Picture (Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and Fences) were largely “black stories” and one other (Lion) was a story set in the Third World. But to think that this will get sensible discourse about the state of movies and race back on track is naïve. The strange thing about the new brand of liberal activism is not just that it demands that films pass some liberal test but that it is considerably more picky and arbitrary when it comes to which films pass that muster. In the same year that Selma was championed as “the liberal choice,” the gay biopic The Imitation Game was dismissed as Oscar-bait (a term liberal film critic Mark Harris has rallied against for marginalizing films that are feminine) for being a “white biopic.” Keep in mind that “The Imitation Game” was so effective at depicting the struggle of mathematics pioneer Alan Turing that just two years after its release, the British government posthumously pardoned an entire generation of men and women who had been convicted under the criminalization of homosexual acts. And then there are those like Arab actor Amrou Al-Khadi, who wrote an article in the Independent threatening to quit acting if La La Land won best picture: Moonlight NEEDS to win Best Picture. Not only because it is a cinematic feat that is to La La Land what Frida Kahlo is to paint-by-numbers, but because it sends an urgent message. A message that we’re ready to empathise with any story, no matter how far away they are from us, and how much they defy our systemic misconceptions. Al-Khadi’s view of movie-awards season as an all-important cultural battleground is by no means an isolated one. TV and film criticism is now dominated by writers who view their role as policemen of diversity and expositors of social justice issues.  A recent AV Club episodic review of the TV show Black-ish in which Chris Brown got a guest starring role begins: “F**k Chris Brown. F**k. Chris. Brown. I know, we live in a world where Casey Affleck can win an Oscar and Sean Penn can beat Madonna and go on to have an illustrious career, so why shouldn’t Chris Brown be able to guest star in a sitcom as a rapper trying to expand his career with sponsorships? Well, because f**k Chris Brown. F**k Casey Affleck. F**k Sean Penn.” Reviewer Ashley Ray-Harris goes on to discuss the burden of a black show not to cast a serial domestic abuser, and it’s an interesting read. It should be noted, however, that nowhere in the text does Ray-Harris ever get around to reviewing the TV show. Fellow A.V. Club reviewer Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya’s review of the Documentary Now! parody of Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia includes a take on white First World privilege and her coverage of the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt posits the chipper titular character as a PTSD victim and uses her word space to educate her readership about the coping process for trauma. While readers will respond with differing opinions about just how tenuous Upadhyaya’s connections are to the intent of the source material, it’s relatively clear that at one of the internet’s most trafficked websites for television criticism, using art as a means to preach about social justice is more the rule than the exception. It’s in this cultural climate that routine negative Oscar campaigning has turned into a new form of hit piece that judges a film by its progressive merits. La La Land was particularly vulnerable because it wasn’t a black film that came out in a year when the uproar for black representation was impossible to ignore. Washington Post critic Emily Yahr aptly pointed out that La La Land was getting backlash from all corners as a frontrunner, but it should be noted that some of the hits were intensely political. One of the criticisms was that Ryan Gosling’s character “whitesplained” jazz to Emma Stone, as if it is no longer acceptable for a person of any race to appreciate jazz and make it their life’s ambition to become a great jazz musician. In his Fusion piece “La La Land Might Win an Oscar but it has some Bizarre Racial Politics,” Jack Mirkinson writes: In one scene, he takes Mia to an empty jazz club where, in front of an all-black band, he explains the power of the music to her in mystical and rather torturously written terms. Beyond the male condescension inherent in the scene, the use of a white man as a portal into what is, unambiguously, a black art form lands with an uncomfortable thud. The actual black people playing the music in the scene are not asked to share their thoughts. These kinds of criticisms once again imagine that a filmmaker needs to create their art in such a way to safeguard against racial criticism. And although Mirkinson does an excellent job of portraying the nuance of the situation, being sure to note the film’s strengths alongside its weaknesses, the criticism gets much more severe in Geoff Nelson’s “The Unbearable Whiteness of La La Land,” which makes the absurd argument that the film is an abomination because it treads on “white nostalgia”: La La Land isn’t the escapism America needs right now, it’s a regressive effort at time travel with no sense of shame for America’s many historical sins. Chazelle engages in the most dangerous type of cultural production: to have an audience feel without thinking: If you are wondering what kind of extremely specific pedagogical value Nelson expects Chazelle to imbue in his film, Nelson clarifies: How many in a La La Land audience would be unable to vote, live in their neighborhood, marry their partner, work in their job, attend their school, if Chazelle’s film were successful in landing them in 1940s Los Angeles? Where do LA’s Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, when thousands of white folks organized themselves into street gangs to assault people of color, fit in Chazelle’s reverie? Or what of the historical record of housing discrimination, whereby 80 percent of 1940s Los Angeles real estate was off-limits to buyers or renters of color? When Gosling’s character wishes the public to remember the history of jazz rightly, it’s no wonder so much else must be redacted to suspend disbelief. To Nelson, failure to address these issues, regardless of narrative relevance, is synonymous with guilt, or at the very least “unbearable whiteness” judging by the title of his essay. For a film that never actually takes place in the past, calling it misguided historical fiction is an odd label, though it also opens the question of how restrictive Nelson would be of historical fiction that isn’t specifically about the civil-rights movement. In an essay for Vox last week, critic Jaime Weinman declared what many of us have already known for a while: Film criticism has entered a new era where it is now standard to assess a filmic work by its socio-political implications in addition to its merits. Weinman doesn’t pass judgment so much as state it as simple truth: “Whether it’s superficial or perceptive, today’s pop cultural criticism can’t seem to ignore social issues.” If cultural criticism has really reached a point of no return, it bears remembering that calling on films to be responsible also demands a higher level of responsibility from the critic in turn.   This involves being aware that complaints are really tacit demands. When a critic says “I’m disappointed that this film did X or Y,” they really mean “by the power vested in me as a critic, I demand Hollywood  should make efforts to X and Y.” Statements along these lines that don’t take into account the context and logistics that go into making a film amount to noise at best and propaganda at worst. The call for plurality in films is noble, but we also need to recognize that there are many ethnicities and classes that are underrepresented in a way that isn’t particularly proportional to the current level of critical outrage. Conversely, there are multiple ways to make a progressive or thought-provoking film outside the narrow definitions of right and wrong suggested by the new socially conscious era. Weinman’s excellently researched piece reaches a curious conclusion: And in a strange way, this new turn of criticism, this emphasis on the politics behind art, may be better for a work’s reputation than criticism that ignores politics. … If critics hate your favorite movie enough to call it a menace to society — well, at least they’re taking it seriously. In other words, Weinman argues that all discourse is good in the way that all publicity is good. The problem with this argument is that collective space in the zeitgeist is a zero-sum game when it comes to everyday consumers of art. Talking ad infinitum about the Oscars’ lack of diversity eliminates any chance for any other pertinent issues to claim headline space. The story of Moonlight winning at the Oscars could be so much more than the tired “black film”-beats-“white film” narrative. It’s worth noting that Moonlight director Barry Jenkins cites the 2000 indie film George Washington film as a direct inspiration for his debut film, and he didn’t even know David Gordon Green’s race when he saw it. Would a mutual appreciation of the contributions of both filmmakers be something that flies in today’s climate? I sure hope so.   Orrin Konheim is a freelance journalist and entertainment blogger in the Washington, D.C. and Richmond markets. His work can be found at http://sophomorecritic.blogspot.com. ]]>
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Drama We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.Movie ReviewHome is more than four walls and a roof. It's more than where you sleep, eat, wash your hair. There's something spiritual about home, something impossible to define yet impossible to replace. And even when you leave that home, a bit of it follows you wherever you go. For 5-year-old Saroo, home isn't so much a place as a collection of people. His mother. His older brother, Guddu. His tiny baby sister. They make up Saroo's whole life, part of everything he knows. Every day he and Guddu dive into a broader world beyond, that of rural India, stealing bits of coal to sell for bits of milk. Every night he comes home for a smile, a laugh, a bit of hurried dinner before his mother and brother dive back into the dark, working to provide for the family. One night, like most nights, Saroo begs his brother to let him come along. Guddu, like most nights, refuses. "You're too small to lift bales," "I can lift anything," Saroo protests. He hoists a bicycle off the ground to prove it, his tiny biceps straining at the effort. Guddu relents. "OK, fine," he says. And so they tromp off into the night. Before long, Guddu's carrying little Saroo in his arms, the little boy too tired to stay awake. When the two boys arrive at their town's small train depot, Guddu gently places the boy on a bench, realizing that it was a mistake to bring him along. Guddu will go on alone. "You wait here," Guddu tells Saroo, the little boy's eyelids weighted with sleep. "You don't go anywhere." Saroo sleeps. When he wakes up, it's the dead of night and the depot is deserted. "Guddu!" Saroo calls. He begins to wander. He slinks onto a train, where long years of poverty have taught him to hunt under seats for loose change, crusts of bread, anything that might be of use. But the work is tiring and tedious. Soon, Saroo slumps into another seat and dozes off again. When he wakes up, the little boy feels the train move and rock beneath him. He looks out the window, sees the green and brown of India zipping past. Panic. Terror. Saroo screams for Guddu, for Mum. They don't answer. No one does. The train is decommissioned, deserted. He's alone. And this huge, metallic snake slithers through the countryside, carrying him farther and farther away from home. Finally, the snake slides into Calcutta. Saroo's a thousand miles from where he started, though he can't know that. He begins asking for help. But when people ask him his mother's name, he only knows "Mum." When he tells them where he thinks he's from—Ganestalay—no one has ever heard of it. He doesn't even know what direction he came from, what train he took. Saroo is lost, hopelessly lost, in a land of strangers who care very little about the fate of a 5-year-old boy. Home is more than a place. It's people, and Saroo has lost all that home is. Positive ElementsSaroo may not be able to, as he brags, lift everything. But what he lacks in stature and toughness, he more than makes up in emotional durability. Saroo survives his first night in Calcutta … and many, many nights afterward. Along the way, he gets a bit of help to find a better place—first from a kindly man at a café, who notices the urchin mimicking his every move; then from a skilled care worker, who goes on to place Saroo with Australians John and Sue Brierley. The Brierleys adopt Saroo and give him a new home, one filled with televisions and refrigerators and even a boat. They care deeply for Saroo as well as their other adopted child, Mantosh. But While Mantosh is a troubled boy (who grows into a troubled man), Saroo returns his new family's love and becomes a source of constant pride. "From the moment you came into our lives, you were all that we could've hoped for," says Sue. But when a now-adult Saroo goes off to a multinational hotel management school, he begins to feel the insistent, unquenchable pull of his birth home—to find his mother and brother again. And given the circumstances in which he left them, Saroo's search is completely understandable. [Spoiler Warning] But Saroo keeps his search secret from his adoptive parents. He later says he hid it from them because he didn't want them to feel as though he was "ungrateful," or that he didn't love them as much as his birth family. But when he does eventually tell them, they're incredibly supportive. "I really hope she's there," Sue tells Saroo. "She needs to see how beautiful you are." Spiritual ContentIndia is a place of incredibly diverse spiritual beliefs. In Saroo's hometown, we hear what sounds like an Islamic call to prayer. In Calcutta, we see evidence of Hinduism. Little Saroo stumbles across a Hindu idol surrounded by offerings. He clasps his hands in front of the idol, as if asking for pre-emptive forgiveness, and takes a bit of food left before the idol. People pray in temples, and Saroo runs across what almost seems like a religiously tinged opium den, where men surrounded by candles seem to be either in a stupor or asleep. He's introduced to a man named Rama, who clarifies that he's "not the god." (Rama is revered as the seventh avatar, or incarnation, of the Hindu god Vishnu.) While the religious affiliation of the Brierleys is never explicitly detailed, there are occasional hints that Saroo's adoptive parents are Christians. Sue talks about how "blessed" their family has been. And she talks about a "vision" of seeing a "brown-skinned child" across a field when she was 12. "That was the first time in my life that I felt something good," she says. "I felt good. And I knew it was guiding me, and I knew it was going to be fine." A deceased Indian child is said to be "with God."Sexual ContentAs an adult, Saroo meets a fellow hotel-management student named Lucy, with whom he has a sexual relationship. They're shown kissing and in bed together, clearly in a prelude to sex. It's suggested that they're both unclothed in their bedtime interludes, though nothing critical is shown. Saroo and Lucy appear to live together for a time, and he takes her home to meet his parents. The disturbing threat of sexual trafficking lurks throughout Saroo's childhood. After he gets lost, he's seemingly befriended by a young woman who tells him she's going to introduce him to Rama. "He is a very good man," the woman assures him. "He helps everyone. He will help you, too." When Rama comes, he seems nice enough, even as he stares at the boy and asks him to lie down with him for a moment. "I want to take you to a really nice place," he promises, "And from there we're going to look for your Mum." But when he's alone with the woman, Rama says instead, "You've done well. He's exactly what they're looking for." Saroo becomes suspicious and runs away. In an orphanage later, a mentally ill boy, who's terrified, gets dragged away by guards in the middle of the night. Why? It's unclear, but the boy seems to know and fear what's coming, and I wonder whether perhaps his troubles stem from what happens during these midnight abductions.Recommended ResourceA Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About SexKevin LemanEven the bravest parents feel timid about discussing sex with their 8- to 14-year-olds! This resource offers reassuring, humorous, real-life anecdotes along with reliable information to help you with this challenging task.Buy NowViolent ContentWe sometimes see people, both adults and children, try to harm themselves, hitting their own heads against walls or on tables or with their own fists. Saroo's adoptive brother, Mantosh, throws a violent fit his first day with the Brierleys. And we get a sense that Mantosh's childhood was filled with similar tantrums, perhaps brought on by his own past demons. Street urchins are roughly rounded up by security guards. Saroo almost gets hit by a bus. We hear about a child who was struck by a train.Crude or Profane LanguageWe hear one misuse of God's name.Drug and Alcohol ContentMantosh appears to be a drug addict. Sue frets at one point that after finishing a temporary job, Mantosh will be "flush with cash" and "back on the hard stuff." People smoke cigarettes. Characters drink wine, champagne and beer in various scenes. We learn that Sue's father was an alcoholic.Other Negative ElementsLittle Saroo and Guddu steal to help feed their family. There are also some difficult, conflicting messages offered about the adoption of people like Saroo—messages that may bother some viewers. But those messages are used to illustrate the much more positive message that Lion eventually lands on, which I'll unpack more below.ConclusionWhat is home? What is family? These are questions that nearly tear Saroo apart. He loves his Australian parents, and he's deeply grateful for everything they've given him. But memories of his past—the mother and brother that he mistakenly, unwillingly left—pull at him incessantly. Saroo imagines the fear and horror they must've felt when he disappeared, the sadness that perhaps they experienced every day he wasn't with them. He wonders whether that home—the home he left in India—might be his real home after all. He wonders if Guddu, not the troubled Mantosh, is his real brother. And as much as he loves his Australian mother and father, as grateful he feels toward them for all they've given him, he wonders whether his relationship with them is simply a substitute for the bond Sue and John longed for with the biological children they didn't have. "I'm sorry you couldn't have your own kids," Saroo one day blurts. "What are you saying?" Sue asks, in disbelief and perhaps a hint of horror. "We weren't blank pages, were we?" Saroo says. "You weren't just adopting us, but our pasts as well. I feel like we're killing you." "I could've had kids," Sue reveals. "We chose not to have kids. … We wanted the two of you. That's what we wanted. We wanted the two of you in our lives." Saroo woefully, almost tragically, misunderstands the nature of adoption—the beautiful bond between mother and child, biological or adopted. Saroo thinks Sue and John saw him as a bargain-basement substitute for a "real" son. And for a while, he sees Sue and John as substitutes—gracious, wonderful substitutes, perhaps, but substitutes all the same—for his "real" mother. But the concept of home and family isn't something solely based on blood, Lion shows us. It's about care and memory and intentionality and, most of all, love. And love is something that the Brierelys shower upon Saroo—even though he doesn't fully comprehend their motive for doing so. Though the film doesn't connect the dots between the Brierleys' affection-filled adoption of Saroo and God, the jump isn't a big one to make. Whether parents are able to have their own children or not is beside the point: Adoption is never a backup plan. Rather, adoption is God's plan—a plan to bring people together in a sacred collection … a collection we call home. Lion is a gripping, moving, inspiring film that's high in heart and relatively low in content. While there are moments of sexuality, tension and sometimes troubling family relations, the movie's characters find themselves and each other. And, in so doing, they inspire those who watch their stories unfold—especially Saroo's lionhearted journey.Pro-social ContentObjectionable ContentSummary AdvisoryPlot SummaryChristian BeliefsOther Belief SystemsAuthority RolesProfanity/ViolenceKissing/Sex/HomosexualityDiscussion TopicsAdditional Comments/NotesEpisode Reviews]]>
(Review Source)
Plugged In
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were rolled out early this morning. And for the next several days, the entertainment world will be wholly reactionary. Who got in? Who didn’t? Who got snubbed? Meryl Streep again?! We at Plugged In will be thinking and talking about the Oscars over the next month, too. But for now, here are some quick snapshot reactions. Family Friendly? Not Quite. But: Oscar loves its edgy, adult fare. Typically, the derby for Best Picture is dominated by R-rated movies. But this year, for the first time since 2012, PG and PG-13 films outnumber them. Hidden Figures is rated PG. Arrival, Fences, La La Land and Lion are all PG-13, joining the R-rated Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. And it’s not just the MPAA ratings that make this crop of nominees encouraging. For the last couple of years, the most honored films have been rather grim. Last year, Spotlight (about the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal) and The Revenant (about a guy who was mauled by a bear) duked it out for Best Picture honors (Spotlight won, but both took home plenty of statues). The year before, the dark dramedy Birdman was the buzz of Tinseltown. The year before that? Well, no one’s going to mistake 12 Years a Slave for a fun crowd-pleaser. But this year, the light-but-layered musical confection La La Land leads all contenders. Indeed, its 14 nominations tie Titanic and All About Eve for the most noms ever. Down the ballot, Lion gives us a gripping, emotional and ultimately heartwarming story about a man’s search to find his birth mother after being accidentally separated from her 20 years before. Hidden Figures is a rousing inspirational flick, shining a spotlight on three unsung heroes of the U.S.’s early space program and illustrating how excellence and integrity can combat institutional racism. And if you read our reviews of even the R-rated films up for honors, you’ll find that they, too, have their merits. For instance, Hacksaw Ridge—Mel Gibson’s admittedly bloody return to directorial relevance—is a hard movie to watch, but its hero is a man of faith who, despite refusing to carry a gun in World War II, wins the Medal of Honor. No More #OscarsSoWhite: For two years running, the Academy has come under fire for honoring solely white nominees in its acting categories. Not so this year. Ruth Negga’s understated powerhouse performance in Loving propelled her to a well-deserved Best Actress nomination. Denzel Washington, always a perennial contender, scored his seventh Oscar nom for Fences. (He’s won twice, for Glory and Training Day). Heavy favorite Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) joins Dev Patel (Lion), a British actor of Indian descent, in the Best Supporting Actor category. A trio of African-American women are up for Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Fences, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures and Naomie Harris for Moonlight. Oh, and here’s a little bit of trivia for you: Davis, who gave I think the performance of the year in Fences, became the first black actress to score three Oscar noms. Perhaps this is the year she’ll win one. No Pixar? If the acting nominees were fairly diverse, the same could be said in the animated feature category. Disney subsidiary Pixar has long dominated this category whenever it’s had a major film in contention, and make no mistake: Finding Dory was a major film, earning more than $1 billion worldwide. But it was shut out of Oscar’s animation derby. Instead, two films from Disney proper—Zootopia and Moana—joined Focus Features’ Kubo and the Two Strings, the dreamy Japanese fable The Red Turtle (a film completely without dialogue) and the French-made My Life as a Zucchini. I’ve argued for years that animated films are as good as they’ve ever been. And while I still say that Pixar sets the standard by which all others are judged, perhaps this is a sign that the rest of the entertainment world has caught up to the studio. Academy Voters and Film Fans Still Don’t Live in the Same Universe. Sure, some big-budget blockbusters snagged technical kudos from the Academy this year. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the year’s biggest movie, was nominated for two awards, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Doctor Strange and even Suicide Squad scored a technical category nom or two. But when it comes to Oscar’s biggest categories, you’ll not see a blockbuster in the running at all. Arrival, a clever science fiction tale starring Amy Adams, is as close as it comes among Best Picture honorees, earning $95.7 million during its run thus far. La La Land is next with $89.8 mil. While these films will surely see their grosses grow in the wake of the nominations, this year’s Oscars won’t go down as an example of cinematic populism. ]]>
(Review Source)
Plugged In
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Those Oscar voters have it made. To choose the best of the best based on sheer aesthetics—the writing, the acting, the cinematography—feels easy compared to the task set before us. In this category, we have to factor in ethics, morality and worldview, too. Sure, maybe a given film looks amazing. But what does it actually say? And how, exactly, does it say it? How do you balance a fantastic message with troubling content? No wonder this category is often our most controversial. And this year, even though all five of our picks were also on the Academy Awards short list for Best Picture, promises to be no different. Be sure to check out our full reviews before seeing any of these films. Because this category inherently fosters plenty of discussion, we’re eager to know what you think. Vote for your favorites, or tell us what you think we missed. We’ll tally up your votes. And on Feb. 24, we’ll let you know what you chose, as well was what our official top pick is. Arrival: The aliens have touched down. In 12 gigantic ships they hover just above the ground at strategic points around the globe. And every 18 hours, a doorway opens at each craft’s bottommost point to let curious government officials and scientists in for a face-to-face meeting. But what do these mysterious creatures want, as they glide in a hazy mist behind a transparent wall? Where do they come from? And how do they even communicate? If you’re looking for Independence Day-like bim-bam-boom, you won’t find it here. This is a more thoughtful alien “invasion” pic. It’s well written and compelling, and it prompts viewers to think less about the faraway stars and more about the things we value deep within. This is smart sci-fi, with a few moments of peril and one unfortunate f-bomb to mar its puzzle-it-out impact. Hacksaw Ridge: What? An R-rated movie on a Plugged In list? Indeed, Hacksaw Ridge is one of the year’s most graphically violent movies. But the violence underlines just how heroic Desmond Doss actually is. Doss signs up to “fight” in World War II despite the fact that he refuses to carry a gun. Deeply devout and scarred by violent moments from his past, he’s vowed to never hurt another human if he can help it—even when he’s an active participant in one of the war’s bloodiest conflicts. Hacksaw Ridge marks director Mel Gibson’s return to relevance, and it packs in as many overtly spiritual themes as some of the Christian films we’ll be talking about tomorrow. Hacksaw Ridge blends both outlandish courage and amazing piety in an unbelievable true-to-life story. It’s not a film for everyone, of course. But for those who watch, it has something powerful to say.  Hidden Figures: There’s a reason why Star Trek called space the “final frontier”: It’s really, really hard to get there. And no one would’ve made it into space if it hadn’t been for a lot of really smart, dedicated men and women whose feet never left the ground. Hidden Figures chronicles the stories of three of them—African-American women who had their own special obstacles to overcome. Working for NASA in the still segregated state of Virginia, Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson must deal with blacks-only bathrooms, whites-only coffee pots and a thousand other forms of constant, corruptive prejudice. But instead of taking to the streets, these women engage in a gentler but no-less-effective fight for equality—one in which equality is earned one gracious step at a time. Language is the biggest drawback in this PG movie, but the message it offers is an important one. “There’s more than one way to achieve something,” Mary tells her husband, and it’s true. This story reminds us all that change—real, viable, important change—can sometimes be achieved just like our parents always said it could: Through hard work, patience and a tireless pursuit of justice. La La Land: Ah, Tinseltown. A mythic place of big dreams … and bigger disappointments. Mia and Sebastian know about both. She’s an aspiring actress. He’s an aspiring jazz pianist. Both harbor huge hopes. Both have known little but artistic frustration. So what happens when they find each other? And what happens when they get a taste of the success that’s been so elusive? Can they have it all—their career dreams and romance? This lovely, old-fashioned musical (nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars) hits a few content bumps along its Hollywood freeway, namely a smattering of profanity (including a lone f-word) and some mild sensuality. But for the most part, it steers clear of severe, film-wrecking gratuity, and it’s hard not to kind of fall in love with Mia and Sebastian as they fall in love with each other. Lion: When Saroo was just 5 years old, he was accidentally swept away from everything he knew and loved. He fell asleep on a deserted train. And, when he woke up, he was more than a thousand miles from home. In the midst of that tragedy, the boy was lucky: Adopted (eventually) by loving Australian parents Sue and John Brierley, Saroo found a new home. Twenty years later, Saroo—now a young, thoughtful man—finds his thoughts returning back home, his first home, and the mother and brother whom he left behind. Lion is a gripping, ultimately heartwarming story of a man who goes in search of family and finds more than he ever expected. The film comes with its share of cautions: Saroo and his girlfriend have a sexual relationship (though we don’t see anything explicit), and as a young child, Saroo narrowly escapes a human trafficking ring. But it’s a beautiful movie nevertheless. It tackles adoption in a complex, realistic and affirming way and speaks to the longing we all have: the desire to be loved and to have a place that we can call home. Movie synopses by Paul Asay, Adam Holz and Bob Hoose. ]]>
(Review Source)
Plugged In
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The Oscars are nearly here. And we all know it wouldn’t be the Oscars without some Oscar-centric controversy. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag has been replaced, according to some, with #OscarsSoMale. A recent study by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that of the 109 films released in 2014, women received fewer than 29% of the speaking roles. “That breaks down to 2.5 male roles per female role,” notes ABC News reporter Joi-Marie McKenzie. Now, this discrepancy is real, and I’d love to see more and meatier female roles on the big screen. But it’s interesting that folks are talking about this controversy now. Looking at this year’s Best Picture nominees, strong women sit at the heart of the majority of them. And as we’ll see, they don’t need to have the most lines to be at the center of the story. We’ll start with Arrival, the deep-thinking sci-fi thriller starring Amy Adams. When a bevy of aliens comes to earth with unknown intentions, it’s up to Adams’ brilliant linguist Louise Banks to figure out what they want. I think Adams’ should’ve received an Oscar nom for her multidimensional work here, playing not just a committed language expert, but a loving, sacrificial mom, too. Fences did spawn an acting nom (and likely award) for Viola Davis, who plays Rose Maxson, longsuffering wife of Denzel Washington’s problematic protagonist, Troy. While Fences is Troy’s story—his internal battle with his own soul and the toll it takes on the ones he loves—Rose is its moral core, the character with whom we, as an audience, must sympathize. Near the middle of the movie, Troy tries to justify why he stepped out on Rose. “It’s not easy for me to admit that I been standing in the same place for 18 years,” he says. “I been standing with you!” Rose thunders back. “I been right here with you, Troy! I got a life too. I gave 18 years of my life to stand in the same spot with you!” Blistering. Rose might’ve stood in the shadow of Troy’s oversized ego and insecurities, but this is no weak woman. Hidden Figures gives us not one, but three strong women (played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe). These unsung heroes of the early space program worked in a place and age where racism was an overt, everyday reality for virtually all people of color. But through grace, perseverance and flat-out talent, they eventually received a measure of the recognition they deserved. Like Arrival, the heroines in Hidden Figures are wives and moms. And while the story doesn’t devote as much screen time to home life, it does take the opportunity to show us how important their families are to them. The love story La La Land, meanwhile, focuses on a girl and boy, both big dreamers who fall in love. Male protagonist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) receives plenty of screen time, but La La Land really feels like the story of Emma Stone’s Mia and her quest to be a movie star. And she’s the one who eventually faces with the movie’s central choice: whether to pursue her acting dream wholeheartedly or give it up for a chance at love. Next, both Lion and Moonlight have unquestionably male protagonists, but women shape them into who they are and, in many ways, push the story along. In Moonlight, Chiron’s lifelong template is set, in large part, by his drug-doing mother, Paula. We see the character (played by Naomie Harris) slowly fall deeper and deeper into the clutches of crack cocaine. She’s abusive and neglectful, and Chiron—who has plenty of other issues—suffers the life-changing wounds of that relationship. The fact that he makes it to adulthood at all may be thanks to Teresa (Janelle Monáe again), a mom-like figure who steps it up just at the right time. Finally, Lion is all about motherhood—and one young man’s quest to find his own mom. Saroo was accidentally whisked away from his biological family in India as a little boy after falling asleep on a deserted train that carried him more than 1,000 miles from home. He had a happy childhood, thanks to his adoptive parents, John and Sue Brierley (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman). But his desire to find his birth mother again powers the story … and leads to some wonderful revelations about the power of family and the beauty of adoption. Now, all these films have problems, and some have significant ones. I don’t want to minimize those. Nor do I want to minimize the apparent gender inequality in the movies generally being made. But from what I can see from this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees, the message is clear: This year, at the Oscars at least, women rule. ]]>
(Review Source)
Kyle Smith
Another indication that the Harvey Weinstein scandal isn't going away: namesake firm The Weinstein Company (TWC) has been issued a subpoena by New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman, reported Deadline.com, wants information on "settlements, complaints, investigations and pretty much everything else inappropriate that TWC knew about or participated in." (That sounds awfully broad, but Schneiderman isn't known for his subtlety.) "If sexual harassment or discrimination is pervasive at a company, we want to know,” Schneiderman said. Police in New York, Los Angeles and London are also investigating the company after several women stepped forward to say they had been
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(Review Source)
Debbie Schlussel
Blog Posts Movie Reviews Sing – PG: This animated movie is funny, cute, entertaining, and enjoyable for families, as well as adults. It’s a lot of fun and manages to fit in snippets of a lot of current, recent, and much in the past songs and hits. It features a charming world in which all of the characters are animals and they assume the characteristics and emotions of humans. My one reservation with this was the tired, stale, old caricature of a father and husband as an uncaring, lazy oaf and out-of-touch idiot. That’s the last kind of sexism still allowed in Hollywood. Matthew McConaughey is Buster Moon, the koala bear owner of a glamorous old-time theater. Times are tough for him. People don’t want to see the kind of entertainment–bands and other fare of yesteryear–that he books and presents on his stage. As a result, his checks are bouncing, the bank is calling, and he’s desperate to do something to get some money and survive. He must keep things going at the theater, for which his father washed cars with his own fur in order that his son, Buster, would be able to live a better life. So Buster comes up with the idea of having an American-Idol-style talent competition for a $1,000 prize. However, his absent-minded, klutzy, old lizard (with a glass eye) assistant accidentally makes some typos, and fliers go out all over town for auditions and the chance to win a $100,000 prize. Soon, a bunch of various talented animals from different walks of life are at the Moon Theater, singing their hearts out. There is a gorilla, who badly wants to be a singer and pianist, but his father and family members are robbers and thieves in a gang, and they look down on his legit aspirations. Then, there is a pig who is the mother to many piglets and the wife of an oafish, bumbling, insensitive, unappreciative husband (that’s the tired, sexist, anti-male Hollywood narrative I referred to earlier). And there’s a female porcupine punk rocker who wants to break away from her doubting boyfriend’s shadow. There’s also a shy elephant (whose mother and grandfather have Black accents and are voiced by Black actors, but she has a White one and is voiced by a White actress). Don’t forget the mouse who does a mean Frank Sinatra impression. And there are others. As Buster auditions and then rehearses these various characters for the talent show, he gets caught up in a web of lies and problems, like the electricity going out, and the water, too. He also has to avoid Russian mobsters after one of the other characters. Very cool is the “squid lighting system.” As I noted, the movie is charming and a lot of fun to watch. Other big names (such as Reese Witherspoon) also voice the characters. Great holiday entertainment that will actually entertain the whole family, including the adults. THREE REAGANS ]]>
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Movies The Oscars are the most prestigious and highly watched award show in entertainment right now. Whether you love Hollywood or hate it, there’s no denying the night draws a large crowd, and creates platforms on which artists proudly speak. In the past, many Christians have chosen to forego the awards for personal or political reasons. However, all that may change now that the official nominations have been revealed. Not only do the proposed films speak to the high level of tension facing our society today, but many have crossed the threshold into spiritual territory, asking new questions about God, faith, and human purpose. Here are a few thoughts on the 2017 Oscar Nominations,   Best Picture Nominees Arrival Hell or High Water Lion Manchester by the Sea Moonlight Hacksaw Ridge La La Land Hidden Figures Fences googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); What should particularly interest Christian viewers about this year’s Best Picture nominations is that one film centers on the life of a Christian soldier. Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss, a devout Christian who refused to fire a gun in WWII but nonetheless saved countless lives as a medic. Though the film was hailed by critics, it faces stiff competition against La La Land, which appears to be the favorite to win. Other notable entries include Hidden Figures and Fences, both of which explore the effects of poverty and racism in America society.          Best Actor Nominees Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea Ryan Gosling – La La Land Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic Andrew Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge Denzel Washington - Fences As with Best Picture, Hacksaw Ridge makes itself know with a nomination for Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss. Ironically, this is the second time Garfield has played a persecuted believer this year, as he also starred as a Portuguese monk in Martin Scorsese’s historical drama, Silence. Denzel Washington also snagged a nomination for his performance in Fences, which is encouraging news as Washington has never been shy on speaking about his faith.   Best Actress Nominees Isabelle Huppert – Elle Ruth Negga – Loving Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins Emma Stone – La La Land Natalie Portman – Jackie Meryl Streep caused quite a stir during this year’s Golden Globes when she delivered a speech calling Donald Trump to accountability.    “Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence, and when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” Though many hailed her speech as the highlight of the night, some Christians felt Streep should not have used her spotlight to engage in political rhetoric. Regardless, Streep earned herself another Best Actress nomination for her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins, one of the earliest movies to receive rave reviews in 2016. Still, she’ll have to beat out hopefuls Emma Stone and Natalie Portman for their roles in La La Land and Jackie respectively.   Best Animated Movie Nominees Zootopia Moana Kubo and the Two StringsMy Life as a Zucchini The Red Turtle Though often seen as a throwaway category by most critics, this year’s nominations for Best Animated Feature have demonstrated a surprising amount of depth and commentary. Per usual, Disney leads the charge with box office hits Zootopia and Moana.The first, tells the story ofa rabbit police officer trying to solve a case of missing mammals, and tests its audience with questions about race, profiling, and police culture. The second, taking on the studio’s familiar princess tropes, follows the journeys of a young Polynesian girl while challenging the viewer to ponder the consequences of greed and forgiveness. Last, but certainly not least, is Kubo and the Two Strings the new stop-motion film from Laika studios which hopes to break Disney’s stranglehold on the award. To view a full list of this year’s Academy Award nominees and categories, simply follow this link!   What movies do you believe should have been included in these categories? Be sure to leave your comments in the space below! googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); *Published 1/24/2017 ]]>
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Movies It's Oscar season and Crosswalk's Shawn and Steve talk about their favorite films from 2016. We've just released our own Top 10 list - go to CrosswalkMovies.com to check it out.]]>
(Review Source)
Crosswalk
(”Lion” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Movies Just in time for Oscar weekend, Shawn and Steve from CrosswalkMovies.com explain why each of these 10 fabulous movies from 2016 has something to offer the Christian audience. Let us know your favorite, and what you think should have made the cut! Click here for the full text version]]>
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