A.O. Scott, writing for the New York Times, takes on the assumption that Hollywood is ruled by liberal elites. Willing to stipulate (if not entirely endorse) the notion that Hollywood has historically been ran by left-leaning folks who create movies that view the world with liberal sensibilities, Scott opines this is clearly changing. As always, the driving force behind this change are box office receipts. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ clearly showed the appetite for movies targeted to more conservative audiences and the cavalcade of right-leaning hits continue:

Last fall, "The Incredibles" celebrated Ayn Randian libertarian individualism and the suburban nuclear family, while the naughty puppets of "Team America" satirized left-wing celebrity activism and defended American global power even as they mocked its excesses. More recently we have learned that flightless Antarctic birds, according to some fans of "March of the Penguins," can be seen as big-screen embodiments of the kind of traditional domestic values that back-sliding humans have all but abandoned, as well as proof that divine intention, rather than blind chance, is the engine of creation. …The objection to such message-hunting, whether it seeks hidden agendas of the left or the right, and whether it applauds or scorns those agendas, is always the same: it's only a movie…Should movies like "Emily Rose," released by Sony, and "Just Like Heaven," from DreamWorks, be interpreted as peace offerings in the culture wars, or as canny attempts to open a new front in the endless battle for the soul of the American public? Will liberals now have a chance to complain, as conservatives have for so long, that Hollywood is ideologically biased and out of touch with its audience? Will we ever be able to sit back and say, "It's only a movie"? I hope not. The arguments we are having among ourselves are too loud and insistent to be drowned out or silenced in the false comfort of the movie theater.
But was Hollywood ever the bastion of liberalism that some critics claim? Movies like “It's a Wonderful Life”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” all were wildly successful while advocating notions of Americans that seem to be appealing to conservatives as well as liberals. Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle writes about the impact of the nuclear bomb on cinema. A sense of festering dread and “human impermanence” that was the result of the constant threat of nuclear annihilation crated a culture that sought the comfort of normalcy, a feeling moviegoers sought in the dark, warm rooms of the cinema. The Bomb-movie-era, according to LaSalle, fed off the growing nihilism of film noir which lead to a soullessness bred from spiritual dread. Perhaps it isn’t political inclinations moviegoers seek but popular art that speaks to who they are and aspire to be. Something that has occurred with growing infrequency. Perhaps this isn’t about politics at all.

William Faulkner saw this all coming. In his Nobel banquet speech in 1950, upon winning the prize for literature, he criticized the current trend in writing as no longer being about "problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?" He said that the writer "must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid. ... Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion."

He could have been describing movies, as well, especially movies in the decades since he spoke. "Lust without love" and victories "without pity or compassion" have become the province of popular entertainment, while movies featuring "defeats in which no one loses anything of value" are the province of independent film. But across the board, a faith that life is big, important and meaningful is missing from movies. It's what's missing, period.


Bill Bennett in trouble for touching the subjects of race and abortion. From early emails I can tell this controversy isn't going to go away. (it's a bad excerpt, one that taken out of context is tough to spin: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down")

I think the fuller context of the conversation changes the dynamic of the quote changes, regardless this is a chance to plug one of the my favorite books of the past year Freakonomics. We covered Levitt a while back, and it's his theories that are really the genesis of this conversation. Read the book, open your mind, and debate his ideas.


M.Scott Peck has died.
Experts say gas isn't going to get cheaper anytime soon.


Cindy Sheehan post on DailyKos about her arrest today.
Time askes How Many Mike Browns Are Out There?

(Answer: enough to cause a few restless nights)


Andrew Sullivan calls Pat Tillman's mother a "more credible" Cindy Sheehan. Did you know one of Tillman's favourite authors was Chomsky? A searing story about the death, and subsequent cover up, of a hero.
The Right-leaning blogsphere has taken Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish to task for his emotional meltdown on Meet the Press. Today Broussard met Time Russert again, and he held his own.

Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man's tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding? What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man's mother's death? They just buried Eva last week. I was there at the wake. Are you kidding me? That wasn't a box of Cheerios they buried last week. That was a man's mother whose story, if it is entirely broadcast, will be the epitome of abandonment. It will be the saddest tale you ever heard, a man who was responsible for safekeeping of a half a million people, mother's died in the next parish because she was abandoned there and he can't get to her and he tried to get to her through EOC. He tried to get through the sheriff's office. He tries every way he can to get there. Somebody wants to debate those things? My God, what sick-minded person wants to do that?
Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect magazine has a list of the "Top-100" public intellectuals. They're trying to whittle the list down to the Top-5. Now these lists are really just an excuse to debate and discuss, so I'd like to hear you thoughts. First, some folks have to be eliminated from the list. Francis Fukuyama, largely debunked. Send him home. Now. Christopher Hitchens, ditto.

My picks (which are avowedly very American-centric)

James Q. Wilson-even though he's generally/historically connected with UCLA (a 2nd tier university for those of you in other countries) his work with crime has impacted the lives of millions of Americans. He's also a very "public" man in that his theories have trickled down to common folks like me. Almost everyone knows (at least in passing) his "broken window" theory of crime prevention.

Fareed Zakaria-he's helped the common man and the policy maker better understand the Middle East. Obviously, ME studies is a "growth" industry for thought workers, so he's a celeb. in a hot vertical. He makes my list.

Vaclav Havel-is what we call in the business a "5-tool" intellectual. Writes, speaks, and wins elections. Gives a voice to a generation and demands that that voice be heard. Big ups for the H-Man.

Bill James, the former solder who created Sabermetrics. He's revolutionized the way sports fans see and understand the game of baseball. Students of his school of stats have gone on to become the GM's of the Oakland A's and the Los Angeles Dodgers, further changing the game, this time from the management side.

Lastly, I chose Lawrence Lessig. His work to free culture clearly as wide reaching ramifications in the digital age against a backdrop of growing corporate hegemony.