Tag Archives: politics

I Thought it Sounded Familiar

Herman Cain

Herman Cain is long gone as a U.S. Presidential nominee (after giving a farewell speech quoting the Pokemon movie), but his memory lingers. And, crazily, I feel he has vindicated me.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article for Planning News which looked at the parallels between SimCity and actual policy-making, and what it might mean if people took the lessons of SimCity and applied them to actual situations. This article memorably caused me to be labelled a “drooling, mouth breathing moron” by a commenter over at The Age when one of their blogs mentioned the story. But was Herman Cain playing some SimCity when he formulated his policies?

I missed it at the time, but amongst in the coverage of this was this great article by Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post. As Terkel points out – getting all the nerdy details impressively correct – Herman Cain’s infamous 999 tax plan echoes SimCity 4‘s tax structure. Cain had a 9% corporate tax, 9% personal income tax, and 9% sales tax; this echoed SimCity 4‘s approach of a 9%commercial tax, 9% residential tax, and 9% industrial tax. I might add that these are just the default rates for SimCity, which I guess makes SimCity’s tax model more complex than Cain’s.

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Trial by Water

Back when I was writing for Planning News, I wrote an editorial about Justin Madden’s handling of the Windsor Hotel debacle. My point then was that politicians are not well served by the over-manipulation of their communication, which ends up alienating the public and cutting politicians off from legitimate sources of feedback. It has therefore been great to see that the new Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy has kept up with his twitter account and is obviously writing the posts himself rather than letting a media person do it. So rather than the usual drip feed of press releases, Guy’s account is full of obviously self-generated content that a media adviser would have probably tried to talk him out of, such as salutes to Joh Bjelke-Petersen and amusingly childish baiting of Labor politicians. To his credit, too, he has been responding directly to various tweets sent to or about him. (Update – 19/1/2011: He has now protected his tweets. I can’t see them now so I have no idea whether he’s deleted them or not).

All this is good, and an advance on Labor’s media management, which makes me somewhat reluctant to pick on things he has said. But this morning he re-tweeted this comment from the 3AW feed:

Neil Mitchell: I would take Bob Brown and put him in cage with the looters and scam artists and put him in a river .. he’s a dill

While a re-tweet isn’t necessarily an endorsement, there is no suggestion by Guy that he is posting it as, for example, an example of an unhelpful contribution to the debate. Where do we start with this?

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Tomorrow, When OMG IT’S THE INDONESIANS WTF!?!?!?!

Tomorrow, When the War Began (Stuart Beattie, 2010)

Stuart Beattie’s adaptation of John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When the War Began, about a group of teenagers dealing with an invasion of Australia, lets us see two interesting examples of Australian nationalism at work.

The first is a strange, misguided pride in local product. Beattie’s film has been greeted with generally kind reviews from local critics, and it seems Australians have been indulgent of a film that dares to do what Hollywood movies routinely do but Australian films generally don’t. This isn’t about a father and a son reuniting on a road trip through the outback, or a family confronting secrets about their past while out on a farm in the outback, or an examination of the travails of indigenous Australians in remote communities in the outback. This is about a war! And explosions! And there are fighter planes and stuff! And we made it, and it mostly doesn’t look fake!

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The Audacity of Nope

Created in honour of Tony Abbott’s ascension to the Liberal leadership, and his blocking of the ETS.

The Audacity of Nope

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W. (Oliver Stone, 2008)

Oliver Stone’s W. is a solid dramatisation of George W. Bush’s life, but Stone has conditioned us to expect something that is both flashier and more incendiary. At his best Stone is an exceptional filmmaker – his earlier political drama JFK is one of the best films of the 1990s, whatever you might think of its central thesis – and with his reputation for shooting from the hip there is no doubt many expected W. to be an extended polemic. Instead, the film is traditionally constructed and fairly measured in its tone. Judging from some of the reviews, which have generally been lukewarm, Stone might have overestimated the willingness of the public to accept a fair-minded account.

I have seen some characterise the film as almost a defence of Bush. I don’t think that’s the case; some of the reviews seem to have set up a false dichotomy between “balanced” and “anti-Bush,” and suggested that because Stone’s film is the former, it can’t be the latter. But Bush is the kind of figure about whom a fair account can still be scathing. Stone is far from defensive of Bush, but he does humanise him and mostly avoids cheap shots. Why take cheap shots when the big picture provides such a compelling condemnation?

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Stay Frosty

Frost / Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008)

Ron Howard might well be the perfect studio director. There are lots of better filmmakers around, but Howard is a studio head’s dream: talented, reliable, professional. Even a supposedly quintessentially commercial filmmaker like Steven Spielberg will deliver films that are either much better (Jaws) or much worse (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) then they ought to be given the material; Howard, however, does exactly what he is asked just about every time. Give him a light and frothy Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel script and he’ll give you Splash or Parenthood; an undistinguished action script and he’ll give you Backdraft; a popular but stupid potboiler and he’ll make The Da Vinci Code; a too-tricky-for-its-own-good Akiva Goldsman prestige drama and he’ll win you Best Picture with A Beautiful Mind; a solid space based docu-drama and it’s Apollo 13; and so on, and on. The point is, with those and other films, Howard brought out what was there. He didn’t pull rabbits out of his hat when scripts were lacking, either, but that’s no insult, because he made every one of those films impeccably: some just had more going for them than others. And so it is with Frost / Nixon. Handed an adaptation of a stage play built around two extremely impressive performances, he has delivered an immaculately made film that preserves those performances for posterity.

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I occasionally feel like I should just give up on this site and just re-register this site under the domain name www.pointingoutgreatstuffDavidBordwellwrites.com. As I said at the start of October, other writing and projects have been taking me away from the website. But I can still find time to point out something good that Bordwell has written. This time, it’s his fantastic post looking at the US election campaign, and the attempts by Republicans and Democrats to shape “narratives” around the candidates, from the point of view of one of our foremost theorisers of cinematic narrative. Head on over: it’s a great read.

A far less intellectually rigorous link between the election and films was offered by the inimitable Shaun Micallef on Newstopia:

Watching it all unfold over the last twelve to eighteen months, it struck me how similar it is to the film Trading Places. An elaborate social experiment with Barak Obama in the Eddie Murphy role, elevated to a position of great power and influence in a normally Anglo-Saxon world. John McCain is the Dan Aykroyd character: moneyed, born to rule, and forced to work with a woman he normally wouldn’t be seen dead with. In the end, the combined efforts of Obama / Murphy and McCain / Aykroyd wipe out the share value of all the stocks owned by the people who put them where they are.

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Batman Continues

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

I was not one of those who flipped for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins: as I said in a brief write-up at the time, I thought it was poorly shot and thematically muddled. But the more serious problem was just that it was too not fun. That, of course, was supposed to be the point: Nolan was taking us back to a dark version of the Batman character after the more comic bookish 80s and 90s movie version (although I can remember when Burton’s 1989 take was considered the return to a dark take on the character). However, while I applaud the concept of taking a genre project seriously, part of doing a serious superhero film is that you have to make the superhero side of the equation work also. In Batman Begins, Nolan and his co-screenwriter David S. Goyer dropped that ball through their determination to make Batman plausible as something other than a genre conceit. There was a feeling that they were ticking off explanations for things the audiences would have taken for granted: look – it kind of makes sense that he has all these gadgets, because the Wayne foundation has this big R&D branch! Look – here’s an explanation of how he can use his cape to fly! Look – here he is putting together his damn suit! We didn’t need to see that stuff, and by seeming simultaneously apologetic about Batman’s ridiculousness, while at the same time trying to make the most earnest Batman movie ever, I think Nolan came across as a little foolish. A Batman film can explore serious themes, sure, but at the end of the day it is still, as Jaime Weinman put it, about “a rich kid with no powers who decides to avenge his parents by fighting crime in a bat suit.” The best way to sell that kind of idea is to relax and have fun with it, and on that score I don’t think Batman Begins worked very well at all.

By now you have probably heard that Nolan’s sequel The Dark Knight is the ultimate descent into hell for Batman, and you are probably thinking that I would feel it suffered the same problem. It is after all, a very grim film indeed, in which Heath Ledger’s psychotic Joker wreaks widespread havoc and inflicts real and lasting harm to several major characters. Yet, oddly, despite all the carnage that unfolds, The Dark Knight is much more fun than its predecessor. And it’s the nifty trick of making such a dark film so enjoyable that makes it something really worthwhile.

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“We’ll Invade Your Countries, Kill Your Leaders, and Convert You to Christianity”

In my post on torture in 24 – which was really just a link to someone else who wrote something interesting on the topic – I touched on The 1/2 Hour News Hour, the conservative response to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Well, John Rogers’ blog has drawn my attention to a couple of clips from the show. First, Roger’s opinion (as a former stand-up and comedy writer):

It’s as if aliens tried to decipher humor from radiated cable television waves and then constructed a “comedy” show with a poor translation algorithm. It is un-joke. You could put it in a chamber with a knock-knock joke and use the resultant explosion to power a starship.

And now, in case you think that this is just because Rogers is some kind of leftie scrooge like myself, here are the clips Rogers highlighted so that you can judge for yourself.

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“Torture is a Dramatic Device”

A while back I wrote a couple of short pieces (such as this one) for the site arguing that Hollywood, for the most part, has showed a surprising reluctance to respond to the events of 9/11 by indulging in paranoid right-wing fantasies. While I stand by most of what I said then, I did forget the obvious counter-example: television’s 24.

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