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Screen Shot: ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’

Though it’s a bit too clever and it lacks depth, this weekend’s romance starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams is fine for a weekend matinee. The Time Traveler’s Wife does a nice job of setting a serious tone for two loners in love, who diligently work at their relationship, which is saddled with a handicap that he’s frequently out traveling in time, a fact which is beyond his control. That’s it, really, which ultimately bogs the film down, since he cannot change the facts of reality and he doesn’t do anything terribly interesting outside of building his relationship with her, whom he meets when she’s a young girl (which mimics the couple in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). They meet in a meadow, gradually earn one another’s trust, and McAdams and Bana hold one’s attention. The attractive couple’s captivating interplay dominates the refreshingly adult-themed movie. The hook is that time travel is merely another relationship obstacle to be navigated. Whether these two indomitable souls make it work creates a certain low level of tension, which keeps The Time Traveler’s Wife from exploring something deeper. Seeing Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana (two favorites actors) in strong screen performances is its best reward.

Movie Review: ‘The Lives of Others’

With the rising threat of an American government-controlled society, I’m adding my 2006 Box Office Mojo review of the most powerfully accurate film about totalitarianism in recent years: The Lives of Others. I am including my DVD notes.

Read the review here.

Back from Boston

Back from Boston and catching up. I gained new knowledge in several lectures and courses, visited with friends and family, and I met some of my classmates for the first time. More on OCON later—I know I’m still behind on posts—and other stuff. I did see a movie, which I recommend: Public Enemies. Not a great film, and it’s directed by Michael Mann, who tends to portray villains as heroes and vice versa, but it’s a solid gangster movie, not too graphic, and the Marion Cotillard character holds it together. Johnny Depp plays Chicago gangtser John Dillinger with a bit too much of an ‘Elvis‘ impersonation for my tastes and Christian Bale is fine but underdeveloped (he plays the good guy), though he does pull off the movie’s most emotional scene, in which his policeman character reclaims his own moral authority from an incompetent government agency.

The role of government continues to expand. President Obama’s at it again with another attempt to nationalize an American industry—this time, the medical profession. In six months, he has quasi-nationalized banks, insurance companies and the automotive industry and his health care reform, such as and whatever it is, will undoubtedly move the nation toward economic fascism. Having written about medical policy for 15 years and having been on the forefront of protecting individual rights in medicine, I see that legislation to control each American’s medical treatment is coming. The showdown is likely to be the most crucial political battle since slavery. And socialized medicine is exactly that, so this is urgent.

One of the nation’s least important—yet overhyped—battles is the Watergate dustup, which at least gave us a decent president, Gerald R. Ford. I recently read his off-the-record thoughts and memories in Write It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford by Thomas M. DeFrank. Covering the tense days before the former Michigan congressman became President of the United States when Richard M. Nixon resigned in August of 1974 through President Ford’s final days, DeFrank’s unique arrangement with the 38th president results in recollections and conversations that are often fascinating. President Ford was a pragmatist and he wasn’t around long enough to shape the direction of his Republican Party—which buckled to the religionist faction in 1978—or the nation. But, whether he was confronting Communists over the U.S.S. Mayaguez, refusing to bail out New York City, or granting a pardon to a disgraced former President Nixon, which was the unequivocally proper course of action, President Ford emerges as the best president of the late 20th century. Though he briefly served in the White House before narrowly losing to a “born-again” Christian fundamentalist named James Earl Carter, Jr., Jerry Ford was a great American and a good president. Write It When I’m Gone (he actually told DeFrank: “Write it when I’m dead”) shows an ambitious, deliberative and thoughtful man who generally understood the nation’s founding principles and government’s proper role. Jerry Ford’s razor-thin loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976 reminds us of the power of one’s political choices to shape history and our future.

Mixed Media

I’m pressed for time—I’m planning to attend this year’s Objectivist Conference (OCON) in Boston, which starts in a few days—and I know I’m backlogged on posts. I have to report that Fox’s third Ice Age installment is harmless and happily dialed down, so it’s suitable for smaller kids.

Sid the sloth has something of an identity crisis and thinks he’s a surrogate mother, so he’s off and wandering into a subterranean world of dinosaurs and, sparing the details, the regulars are back in action and re-bonding when one of them has a child. The series’ innocuous theme that a loving family is made, not born, comes through with fine results and an adventurous new character. Recommended for young families and those with low expectations. Again, it’s not disgusting and the 3D technology works very well. Scrat’s back in the picture, too, falling for a female equivalent and forgetting about the acorn for a while.

I will probably write a review of Warner Bros.’ My Sister’s Keeper, one of the best movies this year if you can stand its subject: a young girl dying of cancer. More on this picture by Nick Cassavetes later but the well-made movie is poignant, thoughtful, and honest. I also saw two movies at the Los Angeles Film Festival: The Stoning of Soraya M, an indictment of Iran’s Islamic fundamentalism, and an absolutely dreadful attack on a great American business, Dole Foods, called Bananas. I’m still thinking about Soraya M. But the anti-capitalist latter movie, thoroughly discredited by a judge’s ruling, is a disgrace to the L.A. Film Festival, which should have shown this trash the door.

I’m reading interesting new books and I am working on several writing projects that I am enjoying. For now, I’m off to OCON 2009 but not before I happily endorse my favorite new pop album this summer: Lionel Richie’s Just Go, a collection of 14 new tunes, mostly ballads. It’s an infectious batch of romantic piano songs, with strings, synthesizers, and softly manipulated vocals, and I’m finding it irresistible. The perfect summer album. I have more to say later—on the loss of Farrah, Michael Jackson and more—and look forward to posting.

Movie Review: ‘The Proposal’

This weekend, The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock offers a sorely needed respite from the worsening news of the nation.

The Disney comedy is defined by what it is not: it isn’t an endless stream of vulgar jokes. It isn’t an assault on the senses. It isn’t another asinine star vehicle. Though it also is decidedly not among the greatest movies made, The Proposal, featuring Craig T. Nelson (The Family Stone), Mary Steenburgen (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) and Betty White (The Golden Girls), and co-starring a young actor named Ryan Reynolds, is a delight.

Miss Bullock portrays a hard-headed, Canadian-born businesswoman who, like most hardworking immigrants to America, is the victim of our arbitrary immigration system. She forces her secretary (Reynolds) to agree to marry her to avoid deportation, though she treats him (and everyone else) like dirt. The put-upon assistant to the boss from hell makes his own terms and conditions and the odd non-couple are off to his warm family home to keep up appearances and escape detection by a suspicious official. Yes, it’s sort of silly. But affable Ryan Reynolds balances his rising young New Yorker against her cold fish and his character’s disinterest in Miss Thing adds comic chemistry.

Their ridiculous arrangement juices the movie’s screwball sensibility and it’s good to see Sandra Bullock in a decent role again. After a week of Obama fatigue, with the President doing to a housefly what he’s doing to capitalism, do yourself a favor and say ‘yes’ to The Proposal.