Senator Kennedy Dies

Massachusetts Sen. Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy has died in his home state at the age of 77. Elected to the United States Senate in 1962, the late Sen. Kennedy was an ardent advocate for socialized medicine in America, carrying the torch for decades through major compromises with religious conservatives, such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who co-authored the historic legislation to enact socialized medicine for children, and former President George W. Bush, who led numerous efforts to expand government intervention in medicine.

The goal of government-controlled health care had long been held by Sen. Kennedy, who, with the late President Richard Nixon, is responsible for creating Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), which reject the concept of an insurance contract for paying claims in favor of a cartel model for rationing health care. Kennedy authored the HMO Act of 1973, which forced all U.S. employers with over 25 employees to offer an HMO. The government-mandated health plans practically eliminated the market for traditional medical insurance within 20 years. Today, Kennedy’s HMOs and their corollaries, Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), controlled by state-regulated health care cooperatives such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, dominate the so-called market for health insurance.

Last year, the senator endorsed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic Party presidential campaign, and he has steadfastly supported the Obama administration’s campaign to enact total state control of the medical profession. Kennedy reportedly died of cancer at his home in Massachusetts.

Tribute Film Classics Presents: ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ Score

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Tribute Film Classics (TFC)—composed of John Morgan, Anna Bonn, and William Stromberg—is proof that not everyone in Tinseltown chooses to ‘go Hollywood’. These diligent musicians recently released another exquisite recording, the complete Erich Wolfgang Korngold score to the 1937 Errol Flynn classic adaptation of the 1882 Mark Twain novel, The Prince and the Pauper (available from this vendor).

Here’s what I wrote in an online column about TFC when they started up last year:

“One need not be a fan of the literary-themed pictures to enjoy the first two recordings … definitive compact disc editions of composer Bernard Herrmann’s scores for Mysterious Island and Fahrenheit 451. The CDs alone are impressive.

“Besides the score for Francois Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of a novel about a totalitarian regime that bans books, Universal’s Fahrenheit 451, TFC offers the complete 61-track score for Mysterious Island. The release includes entire cue cuts, with notes by TFC principal William Stromberg, who conducted the Moscow Symphony Orchestra’s performance, and TFC co-founders Anna (Mrs. Stromberg) Bonn and John Morgan. Their approach is admirably meticulous.

“The 1961 adventure classic, Mysterious Island (Columbia Pictures), based on the novel by French writer Jules Verne, features two Union prisoners of war (POWs) who escape in a hot-air balloon during the American Civil War. They drift to the titular fantasy isle, encountering giant creatures, a volcano, an earthquake, a honeycomb and another famous Verne character, Captain Nemo (Mr. Verne’s Mysterious Island is a sequel to his 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

“Mr. Herrmann’s memorable music accentuates the movie’s thrills and the accompanying 32-page booklet is more intelligent and informative than most books, with time stamps and notes on chords, instruments and scenes. That doesn’t really do this labor of love, which must be seen to be appreciated, justice. The same caliber of top production values is present on TFC’s booklet for Mr. Herrmann’s complete Fahrenheit 451 score, which includes notes from author Ray Bradbury. Both CDs are a rare accomplishment in today’s movie-related products: they take motion pictures—their artists, scores and history—seriously.”

So does The Prince and the Pauper, recorded in Moscow, Russia. It is another outstanding accomplishment.

Screen Shot: ‘District 9’

An unusual film, District 9, opens this Friday. Sony’s alien-themed movie is full of blood and gore, with the usual horror elements. Depicted in a grainy, pseudo-documentary style, the first third of the picture is satirical, with interview snippets that backtrack on an alien visitation that hovers a mothership over Johannesburg, South Africa, depositing a bunch of sick, unwanted extra-terrestrials in the slums.

The plot concerns Wikus, an almost idiotic but decent bureaucrat who is assigned to infiltrate the encampment of the title, evict the aliens, and appease the city’s racially mixed population—all of whom appear to be united in wanting the aliens booted out. Something goes wrong, of course, and near-imbecile Wikus becomes transformed by the experience. Literally.

So does District 9, which until then feels like an odd, cynical short. Disparate plot points—an ominously powerful United Nations type authority, Nigerian thugs, and a government-controlled health care system with the ethics to match—combine for what’s practically an old-fashioned buddy action thriller. Enter a whiz kid, add dark humor, genetics and weapons, with a father-son bond, and you get Alien Nation meets Enemy Mine meets The Fly.

Once the action picks up (“Go! Drive!”) and world government stooge Wikus and an alien named Chris calculate mutual self-interest and take on the automatons, things get interesting. By the time a bug-eyed alien sputters in subtitles to “go down and initiate the binary commands,” you know it isn’t the typical sci-fi horror pic. District 9, which is not for the faint-hearted, feels unfinished, and it doesn’t exactly take off (not with Wikus at the core), but this strange planet earth offers food for thought about who’s human, who’s not, and the forces that alienate us.

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.