The Art of Power and House of Cards

Art of Power - Thomas Jefferson

All too will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind, let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty, and even life itself, are but dreary things. And let us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions…but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans: we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.  – Thomas Jefferson, 1st inaugural address, 1801

Such measured, unifying, moderate words from the same man who also remarked of his political rivals, the Federalists and Monarchists, “Their leaders are a hospital of incurables and as such are entitled to be protected and taken care of as other insane persons are.”  Sounds like big government socialism to me!  Taking care of the insane, indeed!

These are but a few of the engaging, enlightening, entertaining, astounding words taken straight from Jefferson in Jon Meacham’s masterful biography, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.

I swear to god by the end of this magnificent tome where Meacham describes Jefferson’s granddaughter in a dreamlike state wandering the vast empty rooms of Monticello following her grandfather’s death, I too was swept up in an all encompassing reverie where Terrence Malick was directing the story of Jefferson’s life and the images from Jefferson’s earliest memory of being lifted upon a pillow to a slave on horseback to his final moments with yet another slave dedicated at his bedside – all of his life – flashed before me in a cacophonous stream-of-consciousness scored by Micheal Nyman.

This biography is that intimate…that transportive…full of excerpts from letters, diaries, reports both second and first hand from those closest to him, from family and friends, from foreign diplomats, from rivals and scoundrels, even from his own slaves.  Continue reading

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The 85th Annual Academy Awards Predictions and Drinking Game

A popular host and popular films in tight races should give Oscar a ratings boost this year.

A popular and potentially controversial host and popular films in tight races should give Oscar a ratings boost this year.

The 85th Annual Academy Awards aired Sunday Night, February 24th, 2013.  Below were my predictions for the winners in the major categories.  The actual winners were filled in after the Oscars were announced.

PRE-SPIN:

Here’s hoping  first time host Seth MacFarlane treats the gig as if it will be his one and only shot and goes for the jugular.  Great mock-musical numbers seem inevitable, but his usual brand of gross and absurd insult pop-mockery comedy will more than likely be criminally toned down unless he adopts a devil-may-care attitude and taunts the producers.  I have a  hunch the guy will take things surprisingly seriously (with polished laughs and one or two insults that fall flat) and there will likely be far too many Ted gags.

With MacFarlane as host and an unusually tight race in some of the major categories, this could be one of the more interesting years to watch.  Argo seems the odds-on favorite despite some historical precedence working against it.  I still think Silver Linings Playbook could upset and score Best Picture and Director, but I’m not betting on it, and my heart belongs to Lincoln.  Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor are especially tough calls this year. 

POST-SPIN:

  • Seth MacFarlane was okay…but Daniel Day Lewis got the biggest laughs of the night
  • The overall telecast was painfully long (even more so than usual) and kept alive only by the live Tweeting I followed (thanks @PattonOswalt, the fake @Michael_Haneke, et al!)
  • There were a few genuine surprises (Christoph Waltz, Quentin Tarantino and Ang Lee) though none that I could say I was actually pleased by
  • Ann Hathaway gave the most disingenuous speech
  • Jennifer Lawrence gave the shortest, cutest speech
  • Weird guys with long blond hair rocked the tech categories
  • Affleck got all teary-eyed as a winning producer making it sound like getting snubbed for a directing nod or staring in Gigli were akin to having overcome genuine hardship #HollywoodProblems
  • I scored 16/24 (okay, but not great) in my family Oscar pool

And now check out The Spin on my Predictions and the Winners: Continue reading

Side Effects May Include Smirks, Butts on the Edges of Seats, and Oh No She Didn’t’s!

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, you sly dog, you!

Everyone is Side Effects talks in hushed, measured, careful tones even when angry or sad… or acting. It’s as if Soderbergh had the entire cast tranquilized. Everything about his camera and framing is measured as well. The opening shots (with Thomas Newman’s best score since American Beauty playing on the soundtrack over innocuous credits) echo Hitchcock’s Psycho. We’re in a city…we’re zooming in on a building…a window…slowly we enter a room… there’s blood on the floor…and clues. Shots, tight, not lingering. Not wasting a moment. And then…three months earlier…the title card announces.

After that hint of suspense, Soderbergh tranquillizes the audience. We think we’re watching some topical drama about the dangers of prescription drugs and societal malaise during the Great Recession. Pretty, thin little Emily (a perfectly cast Rooney Mara) looks like a strong wind will blow her away. She suffers from depression, and her husband (a cavalier and charming Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison where he served a short term for insider trading. Emily, struggling to cope, slams her car into a wall and then goes under the watchful care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, appropriately arrogant but empathetic) who thoughtfully tries to find the right cocktail of medication to get her through her “poisonous fog.” He even takes care to contact her former psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Seibert (a deliciously cold Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Continue reading