Thursday, July 08, 2004

A few links

  • The big story going around the blogosphere: a credible story (multiple sources, top writers in the byline) in TNR posits that the Bushies are tightening the vise on Pakistan to capture Osama bin Laden during the Democratic convention! Will Bush's breathtaking cynicism never cease to amaze?

  • The always interesting Neal Gabler has a good take on Fahrenheit 9/11 and the media's specious obsession with "balance". Also, this lengthy breakdown of Fahrenheit 9/11 is well worth checking out. (Thanks to the Experiment for the link.)

  • I promised to post this link,'s the big NY Times story on Giant Robot, the cultish Asian-Am hipster/geek mag. Eric Nakumura even gets his mug captured in full color.

  • Tuesday, July 06, 2004

    Spider-Man 2 (Raimi): A-/B+

    You know that terrific scene in Kill Bill Vol. 2 when Budd buries the Bride alive? Confined in that cramped 2'x 8' wood coffin, the Bride, short on air, wakes up, remembers Pai Mai's lessons and tries to punch her way out. It's an oppressive, suffocating scene, and that same claustrophobic discomfort pervades the first half of Spider-Man 2. Except in Spider-Man, the confinement is all emotional and psychological.

    As the sequel opens, we find Peter Parker a prisoner of his Spidey tights. No time for work, friends, school, or family -- his life has been subsumed by his guilt and sense of responsibility. It's a crackerjack set-up, the most convincing depiction of what it feels like to be a superhero ever put on the screen. Raimi shoots scenes tightly, often indoors and in cramped quarters, while Tobey Maguire plays Parker with just the right amount of befuddlement and frustration, that self-doubt always bubbling near the surface. Raimi creates this palpably oppressive air so that when Parker finally dons the red & blue tights and swings across the city, it's exhilarating. Like the Bride breaking out of her coffin, the open spaces liberate Parker and the viewer like a shot of pure oxygen. The movie asks you to share that same feeling of freedom and relief that Parker feels as he surfs the concrete jungle.

    In orchestrating a perfect movement between entrapment and exhilaration, Raimi makes a sequel that stands markedly superior to the accomplished original, no small feat. In the original, I kept wanting to see less of Spidey himself; the webslinger's rhythm always seemed a little off and the effects were lame. His appearances felt obligatory, as if Raimi were contractually mandated to deliver Spider-Man appearances at 20 minute intervals. And the Green Goblin was little more than a bomb-throwing goon on an airbike. In the new and improved version, because Parker gets so beaten down (and the viewer with him) when Spidey gets into action, it's just an awesome feeling. I felt liberated with PP. (And when Spidey loses his powers, that oppressive feeling of aridity returns.)

    Not only does the rhythm feel right, the action scenes here are just phenomenal, with the first Doc Ock/Spidey encounter on the skyscaper ranking among the best I've ever seen. There's unsurpassed fluidity of movement and spatial clarity in the shots, coupled with the explosive force of Doc Ock's killer tentacles. That menacing sound of metal to pavement when Doc Ock unleashes those tentacles is an achievement in itself. As for Doc Ock, I can't believe they turned one of Spidey's lamest villains into a compelling, powerful nemesis. Big props to the dignified Alfred Molina, the MVP of 2004, and Spider-Man 2's technical team.

    Is it perfect? No. The movie loses some momentum from the perfect first half as Kerryesque speechifying drags it down, and JJJ becomes an obnoxious sideshow rather than needed comic relief. But those are quibbles. This is the best superhero movie ever made, fully living up to the best of the Lee-Ditko Spider-Man comics.

    One request: Venom, not Green Goblin II, for Spidey 3.

    terrorists v. insurgents

    The administration doesn't want to make any distinctions between anti-American Arab groups, designating them all indiscriminately as "terrorists" (what more do we need to know except that they all "hate freedom"). It's a good thing these guys can sort it out among themselves. Best news of the day, after the Edwards selection: Iraqi nationalists threaten to kill Zarqawi for wrecking havoc in their country and killing civilians.

    Arab nationalism and jihadi terrorism do not necessarily go together.

    Johnny Sunshine vs. Darth Vader

    Whew. Close call on the Veep choice. Last night, I was in the doldrums just thinking about a Kerry/Gephardt ticket.

    Short take: shows Kerry's willingness to see the campaign as much bigger than himself by choosing the guy everyone wants instead of the guy he's most comfortable with. Also, he must know that picking Edwards will expose him to compare/contrast pieces like this one that deride his plodding campaign style and dour visage in favor of the sunny, pretty Edwards with his mesmerizing speaking skills. As usual, Wil Saletan has the best take on the Edwards selection.

    Was the Gephardt rumor a psyche job? I called it here a week ago, and the American Prospect raised the possibility today. Again, if this is a ploy, the Kerry campaign is absolutely brilliant.

    Compare and contrast: Dick Cheney caught lying again. The Dems should repeat that devastating clip from the Daily Show that shows Cheney denying that he ever said that Saddam was involved in 9/11, then showing him on Meet the Press alleging exactly that. What a fucking scumbag.

    There's this whole idea that Kerry needed to pick a guy with "gravitas" to counter Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney?

    Let's recount what Dick Cheney has done shall we? Here's a Top 5 Worst Cheney Moments (and I'm not even counting such egregious statements as "Reagan proved deficits don't matter", or "go fuck yourself".):

    (1) Brazen lies to justify a badly managed war. Cheney continues to assert a Saddam/Al Qaeda link, even when his primary evidence for making such a specious assertion, that Mohammed Atta met an Iraqi spy in Czech earlier in 2001, had been completely discredited (cell phone records place Atta in Florida; the spy in question was not in Czech either).

    (2) If you don't tell me what I want to hear, I'll make up the facts myself. Cheney spearheaded a special intelligence office that created and shaped their own intelligence to justify their intentions of invading Iraq. Characteristically, little man Cheney refuses to take responsibility, shifting the blame to the CIA.

    (3) Petty political payback jeopardizing national security. Cheney's office is likely involved with one of the most reprehensible actions I've seen from the U.S. government: the leaking of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity as petty retribution for her husband exposing the lie that Iraq bought yellowcake in Niger.

    (4) Bigshot money men over the public good. Cheney's energy policy is all about enriching Big Energy campaign contributors.

    (5) Dick Cheney, Big Pussy. Cheney, that squacking chickenhawk, furiously tried to pop out babies in a desperate effort to get draft deferments.

    Hypocritical, sanctimonious, paranoid, secretive, incompetent, deceitful, extremist, and just plain wrong, Dick Cheney is, without a doubt, the most vile man currently holding high public office in this country. Edwards is an incredibly smooth speaker and polished debater. But all Edwards needs to do is call out half of Cheney's evildoing and Dick would be toast.