I also have two brief articles in the latest print edition of Reason, dated February 2007. One is about the latest turn in the FCC's efforts to regulate speech, and one is about the possibility that the feds will try to tax virtual worlds.
1. The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade Directed by Peter Brook Written by Adrian Mitchell, from a play by Peter Weiss
"Marat, these cells of the inner self are worse than the deepest stone dungeon, and as long as they are locked all your revolution remains only a prison mutiny to be put down by corrupted fellow prisoners."
2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Directed by Sergio Leone Written by Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni, Age Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli, from a story by Leone and Vincenzoni
"In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."
3. Persona Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
It's either the original 3 Women or the original Fight Club, depending on how you prefer to interpret the story.
4. Seconds Directed by John Frankenheimer Written by Lewis John Carlino, from a novel by David Ely
The most Phildickian film Phil Dick never wrote.
5. Punch and Judy Written and directed by Jan Svankmajer
A surreal and violent take on the world's most famous puppet show. Easily my favorite Svankmajer short.
6. It Happened Here Written and directed by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo
An alternate-history tale, shot documentary-style, in which Britain falls under Nazi occupation.
7. Death of a Bureaucrat Directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea Written by Alfredo L. Del Cueto and Ramon F. Suarez, from a story by Alea
A dissident Cuban comedy. Like Kafka crossed with Laurel and Hardy.
8. Lapis Directed by James Whitney
9. A Man for All Seasons Directed by Fred Zinnemann Written by Robert Bolt, from his play
"Listen, Will. Two years ago you were a passionate Churchman. Now you're a passionate Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head's finished turning, your face is to the front again."
10. Alfie Directed by Lewis Gilbert Written by Bill Naughton, from his play
It just occured to me that this list begins with two of my favorite radical movies and ends with two of my favorite conservative movies. There's no contradiction in admiring all four.
I released another message song around this time, too: "Funky President (People It's Bad)." It was about President Ford, who had taken over from Mr. Nixon in August. Every time he made a speech, it gave people the blues. He was a nice man, but he talked a lot and didn't say anything. He was there as a caretaker after Watergate, and I think he did that. He was a good man, but I never looked at him as a president.
That last line wasn't meant as praise, but as far as I'm concerned it's the kindest thing you can say about a politician. I can fault Ford for many things, from pardoning Nixon to meddling in Angola, but I'd take a Ford over a Bush any day. Caretakers are my favorite kind of president, and it would be wonderful to have a chief executive who doesn't fret about his "place in history."
As for "Funky President," for years I assumed the song was about Nixon, who Brown infamously endorsed in 1972. I even wrote as much in an obit for Nixon in Liberty 12 years ago. (Consider this post a belated correction.) In my defense, it has some of the most opaque lyrics in the history of political songwriting. Here's a sample:
Let's get together and get some land Raise our food like the Man Save our money like the Mob Put up a fight down on the job...
Turn up your funk motor, get down and praise the Lord Get sexy sexy, get funky and dance Love me baby, love me nice Don't make it once, can you make it twice
Brown was a great musician, a great composer, and a great American, but he wasn't always a cogent commentator. The important thing is that "Funky President" is one of most danceable singles he ever recorded. If Gerald Ford inspired it, it ranks as one of the greatest accomplishments of his administration.
1976 was a terrific year for filmgoers. The three pictures at the top of this roster would be on my short list of the best movies produced in any year.
1. Seven Beauties Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller
A pitch-dark comedy about sex, fascism, domination, submission, cruelty, conformity, and machismo.
2. Taxi Driver Directed by Martin Scorsese Written by Paul Schrader
The lost bridge between John Wayne and John Hinckley.
3. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Written and directed by John Cassavetes
The oddest, least predictable gangster movie I've ever seen. Quite possibly the best as well.
4. The Outlaw Josey Wales Directed by Clint Eastwood Written by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus, from a novel by Forrest Carter
An anarchist western.
5. Television Assassination Directed by Bruce Conner
The death of John F. Kennedy as a televised dream.
6. Harlan County U.S.A. Directed by Barbara Kopple
Anyone who thinks actually existing capitalism is a product of purely peaceful trade should watch this documentary. Anyone who thinks unions are uniformly devoted to the interests of the working class should see it too.
7. The Tenant Directed by Roman Polanski Written by Polanski and Gerard Brach, from a novel by Roland Topor
Paranoia, claustrophobia -- Polanski at his most Polanskian.
8. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane Directed by Nicolas Gessner Written by Laird Koenig, from his novel
Just try to imagine a studio making this picture today.
9. Network Directed by Sidney Lumet Written by Paddy Chayefsky
No, it isn't all that prophetic; and yes, like most of Chayefsky's efforts, it's absurdly overwritten. But it still carries more laughs in any given 15 minutes than most comedies can conjure in two hours. My favorite scene: when the host of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour renegotiates her contract.
10. Mikey and Nicky Written and directed by Elaine May
Contrary to rumor, co-star John Cassavetes did not ghost-direct this film. But he sure left his fingerprints all over it.
N.B.: Once again, I'm including a movie that was technically released too early to qualify. According to the IMDb, Seven Beauties made its European debut in 1975, a year before it came to America. If I had realized that when I made my 1975 list last year, it would have appeared in first place.
The struggle between parent and child that is the explicit subject of so many bedtime stories is, in "Goodnight Moon" only implicit. Indeed, there's no parent on the scene. The story begins with the little rabbit, drawn with wonderful flatness by Clement Hurd, already in bed. It is seven o'clock. A few pages later, according to the blue clock on the mantelpiece and the yellow clock on the bed table, it is seven-twenty. Then it is seven-thirty, then seven-forty. When the "good-nighting" begins, it is not clear who is doing the speaking. The moon is rising, yet the light grows dimmer. The clocks tick on -- seven-fifty, eight o'clock.
A parent is bigger than a child, but still a person. He or she can be appealed to, as in "Bedtime for Frances," or even tricked, as in "Good Night, Gorilla." The arrangement in "Goodnight Moon" is completely uneven. Time moves forward, and the little bunny doesn't stand a chance. Parent and child are, in this way, brought together, on tragic terms. You don't want to go to sleep. I don't want to die. But we both have to.
I thought I had a knack for reading disturbing new messages into children's books, but I doff my hat to Ms. Kolbert. I'm not sure she's right that there's no parent on the scene -- the bunny's relationship to the Old Lady Whispering Hush is never clearly defined -- but nonetheless, well done.
After you've read these books a certain number of times, you start to spot little jokes and cul-de-sacs. Peggy Rathmann's Good Night, Gorilla is filled with hidden gags and subplots just waiting to be spotted on a fifth, fifteenth, or ninety-ninth reading; I presume they're there to keep the experience fresh for the parent as he's dragged through the gorilla's adventures yet another time. Once I started to notice those, I naturally began to hunt for Easter eggs in other books. Like Saussure and his anagrams, I soon was spotting them whether or not they were supposed to be there.
I'm certain, for instance, that Goodnight Moon contains a product-placement ad for the same author's Runaway Bunny. I'm less certain about the book's great unanswered question: What's going on in that dollhouse? At the end of the story the young rabbit is asleep, the old lady has vanished, and darkness has fallen everywhere -- except in that mysterious toy house in the corner, where the lights are still on. The little bunny might not stand a chance, but someone is staying up late. Or so I tell myself as my daughter reaches for another book.
It's Pat the Bunny that drives me crazy. "Judy can read her book," the text tells us, and we see not just a picture of Judy reading but a copy of Judy's tome itself, helpfully affixed to the opposite page. But if you compare the illustration to the actual book, you'll see that Judy is holding her book upside down. Obviously she can't read it. Like Lolita or "The Tell-Tale Heart," Pat the Bunny has an unreliable narrator.
But that pulls out the rug from below us. If Judy can't read, what other lies are we being told? Can Paul really smell those flowers? Can he get his chubby finger through Mummy's little ring? Why isn't Mummy wearing that ring, anyway? "Judy can feel Daddy's scratchy face" -- well, she's touching some guy's face. How do we know that's really her daddy?
What? Stop looking at me like that. I'm just trying to decipher the damn book. Its endless row of riddles keeps drawing me deeper...hidden messages in the margin...Pat the Bunny! Ever notice that that's an anagram for Buy Then Pant?
Be checked and I don't want harmony. Yes, please, police are. Ah, no! French-Canadian bean soup...
1. Hannah and Her Sisters Written and directed by Woody Allen
He's right: The Marx Brothers are a reason to live.
2. Castle in the Sky Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Everything a fantasy film should be.
3. Sherman's March Directed by Ross McElwee
A man addicted to filming everything around him makes a movie that's mostly about his troubled love life. His love life's chief trouble, in turn, is that he keeps filming everything around him.
4. The Singing Detective Directed by Jon Amiel Written by Dennis Potter
I never saw the feature-length remake of this miniseries, and I'm not sure I want to. Potter's story of a disfigured detective writer's fever dreams is best told at a leisurely pace, with plenty of time to get lost in the hero's hallucinations and memories.
5. and 6. Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring Directed by Claude Berri Written by Berri and Gerard Brach, from a novel by Marcel Pagnol
To borrow a line from another movie: "You mean, all this time we could've been friends?"
7. River's Edge Directed by Tim Hunter Written by Neal Jimenez
A punk In Cold Blood.
8. Stand by Me Directed by Rob Reiner Written by Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans, from a novella by Stephen King
It's hard to believe today, but back in the '80s Reiner made some good movies.
9. Blue Velvet Written and directed by David Lynch
"A candy-colored clown they call the sandman/Tiptoes to my room every night/Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper/Go to sleep, everything is all right."
10. Man Facing Southeast Written and directed by Eliseo Subiela
Possibly the first motion picture to name a supporting character after Philip K. Dick. Gets a special jury prize for the best use of Beethoven's Ninth by a filmmaker not named Kubrick.
1. Fargo Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
2. The Delta Written and directed by Ira Sachs
A coming-of-age story in which no one really comes of age; a brilliantly acted movie with a cast of nonactors; a film that depicts interlocking cultural worlds without the P.C. superficiality that often mars such pictures.
3. Flirting with Disaster Written and directed by David O. Russell
This screwball road movie is by far the funniest film to star Ben Stiller, but that just scratches the surface of its merits. It has a deep bench, and some of its best pleasures involve the supporting players, from Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin as aging desert hippies to Josh Brolin and Richard Jenkins as gay feds in love.
4. Bring the Pain Directed by Keith Truesdell Written by Chris Rock
The most essential hour of stand-up comedy to be recorded in the 1990s.
5. Microcosmos Written and directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou
No angels, just insects.
6. Conspirators of Pleasure Written and directed by Jan Svankmajer
Cinema's greatest surrealist since Bunuel spins a weird web of fetishes and invisible connections. A romantic comedy on bad acid.
7. Breaking the Waves Directed by Lars von Trier Written by von Trier and Peter Asmussen
A rarity at the cineplex: a nuanced look at faith.
8. The Wife Written and directed by Tom Noonan, from his play
A dark comedy, or perhaps a bleakly comic drama, about an unplanned encounter between a manipulative New Age therapist, one of his patients, and their wives. Constantly unsettling, as though the characters' mind games are spilling off the screen.
9. Paradise Lost Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
A modern witch hunt is captured on film. The result is another rarity: an investigative documentary that makes a genuinely compelling case rather than an outline of a case best read elsewhere.
10. I Shot Andy Warhol Directed by Mary Harron Wirtten by Harron, Daniel Minahan, and Jeremiah Newton
"Valerie Solanas took the elevator, got off at the fourth floor..."
11. Kingpin (Bobby and Peter Farrelly) 12. Personal Belongings (Steven Bognar) 13. Three Lives and Only One Death (Raoul Ruiz) 14. Welcome to the Dollhouse (Todd Solondz) 15. Gabbeh (Mohsen Makhmalbaf) 16. Schizopolis (Steven Soderbergh) 17. Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne) 18. When We Were Kings (Leon Gast) 19. Forgotten Silver (Costa Botes, Peter Jackson) 20. Capitaine Conan (Bertrand Tavernier)
N.B.: According to the IMDB, The Wife and Forgotten Silver technically debuted in 1995. That may well be true, but I left them out when I posted my 1995 list last year and I wouldn't want them to be lost on the cutting room floor.
Her son Stuart, who later changed his name to Traktung Rinpoche, got involved in the Rajneesh movement and lived for a while in the Bhagwan's northwestern commune. He later moved to Ann Arbor and attracted a circle of followers, including one of my housemates. I met the younger Kirkpatrick a few times, though I didn't know him well; my housemate was and is a good friend, but I didn't share his religious outlook.
Still, it was through this connection that I learned that Berke Breathed, who had invoked Jeane Kirkpatrick in several funny Bloom County strips, had sent her the original art for the cartoons. Kirkpatrick, apparently unaware of the cultural cache that Bloom County enjoyed at the time, was set to throw them out until her son the guru intervened and explained that they were actually valuable.
For those of you who don't remember them, the strips featured Kirkpatrick in a steamy love affair with the perennial presidential contender Bill the Cat. I have no idea what she thought of the peculiar pop-culture status they gave her. But I'd like to think that one or two of them eventually found their way onto her wall.
Unmarried women should not deliberately have children. Their children are more apt to experience privation and disruption. Consequently, such children are more apt to do poorly in school, disrupt society (e.g., engage in criminality), and be personally troubled. These wrongs are compounded when the child is brought into a homosexual setting....Our society already has too many children born without the benefits of marriage; Cheney's action is not only a bad example, but poor treatment of an innocent child.
Words I never thought I'd write: The most cogent response to this nonsense comes from John Podhoretz. Reacting to a similar statement by one of the Concerned Women for America, he wrote: "This is disgusting. The birth of a child is never unconscionable. Adults who say such things about the impending birth of children are."
Speaking of Podhoretz, he may be the first neocon columnist to be namechecked in a hip hop song. From Papoose's "50 Shots":
John Podhoretz from the New York Post Wanna know why Bloomberg and Al Sharpton still close I read his article questioning Why was Bloomberg surrounded by African-Americans I guess the loss of a life wasn't major He called Sharpton a race-baiting cop hater
The rhyme and meter need a little work, but it's a start. Question for the panel: If Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz formed a rap group, which one would take the Chuck D role and which one would be Flavor Flav? (I assume that Professor Griff's chair will remain empty.)
...it seems much clearer to me than to many other commenters that Brink Lindsey's TNR article is proposing an intellectual and policy alliance/debate, along the lines of the fusionism on the postwar right, not a short-term partisan political coalition to win the 2008 election. The stuff about 13 percent of the vote is mostly news-peg boilerplate. That's how you get TNR and the WaPost to pay attention. It's as irrelevant today as it was in the 1950s just how many libertarian-identified voters there are. The point is to talk seriously about policy ends and means and the role of market processes in serving liberal (in all senses of the word) values.
I'll add that just as libertarians have more to offer than a pathetic voting bloc, the left has more to offer than the pathetic Democratic Party. I really don't see much hope at all for turning the Democrats in a libertarian direction (though I'll cheer on anyone who's willing to try), but I know plenty of people who reflexively vote Democratic (when they vote at all) but are easily 80% libertarian in their own attitudes. Call them Whole Earth Catalog libertarians, Santa Fe Institute libertarians, bOING bOING libertarians. They appreciate spontaneous order, entrepreneurship (many of them are entrepreneurs themselves), decentralization, free expression, and peace. The hard-core do-it-yourselfers among them (and the veterans of the New Left) also appreciate the widespread private ownership of guns. They might not agree with everything in Brink's article, but hey, neither do I. That's fine. It's a big tent.
Another pet peeve: Why does this have to be discussed as a "divorce" from the conservative movement? A divorce from the Republican Party, sure -- my hat's off to Ron Paul and a few others in the GOP, but the Republican establishment is as hostile to liberty as the Democratic leadership, maybe more so. But there's plenty of 80%ers on the right, too, and I'm as happy to hang out with them as I am to hang out with friendly liberals, friendly leftists, and friendly counterculturalists. There are many lefts, and there are many rights. We don't have to marry any of them, and we don't have to divorce any of them either. Insert the free-love metaphor of your choice here.
SELF-PROMOTION: Speaking of movie lists, this week's poll at The Cinematheque asked for the top five Robert Altman movies. My ballot, and many others, have been posted at the site.
The December Reason included an interview with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that was conducted by yrs. truly and Nick Gillespie. That interview is now online as well.
The January Reason is not online. But if you pick it up at the newsstand, you'll see that I have one bylined contribution in it: a news brief about a UFO cover-up. No, there's no aliens or flying saucers or secret extraterrestrial technologies involved -- just regular old butt-covering bureaucrats.