Daily Archives: August 7, 2020

A Note on Mass Murder as Child’s Play

Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I don’t believe that Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, or Carter ever used the terms “good guys” or “bad guys” in public speeches, at least not without any trace of irony. Whether this started with Reagan, the first Bush, or the second, these terms have finally become coin of the realm in the campaign speeches of both McCain and Palin, seemingly as acceptable indexes of reality. If Obama and Biden have more recently used these terms unironically as well, out of some misplaced sense of self-defensiveness, then this may rule out the possibility that I’ve been idealistically entertaining, that Obama may be the first full-fledged grownup to have run for President in several decades.

I hasten to add that calling people you want to obliterate “bad guys” is hardly the same thing as calling Hitler and/or Stalin and what they stood for “evil”. The latter is an ethical position of some kind; the former is a reference to games played (and concepts played with) by children. And not being able to tell the difference between the two — which may bear some relation to not being able to tell the difference between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs, or between any of the leaders deemed as “bad guys” and any of the civilians who would likely be the first to be hit by any bombs or missiles — is clearly related to a child’s desire to make contemporary warfare understandable in the same simplistic terms as Star Wars, thus helping to account for CNN logos and James Earl Jones intoning station identification. Read more

Happy-Go-Lucky (Vancouver International Film Festival)

Could Mike Leigh’s latest feature really be his “mellowest work yet,” as Alissa Simon maintained in her Variety review when it premiered in Berlin back in February? I guess it could seem that way if you focus on Sally Hawkins’ winning performance and factor out all the creepy characters in her orbit–including her nearly psychotic driving instructor (the terrifying Eddie Marsan, seen with her above), her pregnant sister, her flamenco dance teacher, and an incoherent tramp she encounters at one point (among others), most of whom are viewed as volatile monsters who are apt to explode at any moment. But for me this is probably Leigh’s scariest and bleakest movie since Naked, no less remote from any ordinary kind of realism (despite Hawkins’ frequent impression to the contrary) and packed with all sorts of disquiet, anxiety, and trouble. [10/5/08]

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