Monday, April 26, 2004


Playing Your Opponent's Game

In sports, there is a term called "playing your opponent's game". It's also commonly known as "not controlling the tempo" or "going against your strengths." It happens when a team or individual goes away from their best qualities, the qualities that got them to where they are and starts playing to their opponent's strengths or at least in a style their opponent is more comfortable with. A fast break team goes half court. A football team that loves to pass suddenly hands the ball off four times in a row, and so on and so forth.

The Democrats are getting dangerously close to playing by the Republicans' rules. All the news from the Kerry camp lately has had to do with the Iraq war, with the relative merits of Kerry's military record as opposed to Bush's and the different fine points of each candidate's national security positions. These are certainly important issues in the campaign, especially since the Iraq Occupation has moved into a new, deadlier phase. But the momentum the Kerry campaign took through the Democratic primaries wasn't built solely on opposition to the Iraq war. If Kerry is serious about defining himself as an alternative to the Resident, he must relentlessly hammer away at not just Iraq or military service but at the following points as well:

1) Even if the economy recovers, Americans have less real income and fewer high paying jobs then they did under the Clinton administration.

2) Bush has done more for elite special interests--and conversely, less for most middle-class Americans--than any president in the past century.

Add these two talking points to the arsenal and it should all but the most diehard right-wing Republicans wonder just what the President has to offer America for the next four years--other than a probable military draft, a stagnant economy, more foreign conflict and probably, no freedom of abortion choice.

Liberals Can Cheat Too

If anyone out there knows the name of the small town Texas newspaper that ran the seriously underreported story about rape allegations against Bush when he was Governor, please let me know. My own search has turned up nothing, but before I run with it in my blog, I'd sure like to back up some of the facts. While I'm liable to believe that Bush and his cadre are capable of just about anything, an unsubstantiated allegation like that can get a guy put in jail in this era of the Patriot Act, and I've long maintained that I'm too pretty for jail. You have the email address...feel free to drop me a line.

Man On Fire - Two Pretty Good Movies for the Price of One

Man On Fire is the new Denzel Washington starrer that finished atop the national box office this past weekend. Dakota Fanning (the cute moppet from I Am Sam), Christopher Walken and Marc Anthony co-star in this story of a down-and-out former "counterterrorist" hired to play bodyguard to the daughter of a wealthy Mexican industrialist and his wife living in Mexico City.

The movie can be neatly divided into two almost equal halves: the first half introduces us to Washington's character of John Creasy and the family he's hired to protect. There is a lot of bonding with the daughter, (named "Pita") and a lot of jagged editing and camerawork designed to mirror the tortured state of Creasy's mind. Creasy is a man who has goodness in him, but he only really knows killing, and his inability to reconcile this within him leads him to attempt suicide. It's not spoiling anything to say he fails (after all, Washington's name is first in the credits) and he makes an effort to give us all to not only protect Pita but act as a surrogate father to her, as her parents seem to be all too busy jetsetting and nightclubbing.

The second part of the movie, while featuring all the same characters, is darker in tone and extremely violent, more in the spirit of a Charles Bronson or Dirty Harry movie than the PG-13 material that has come before it. There is a kidnapping, some torture, an explosion, corrupt cops, a sexy, intrepid reporter and of course, Christopher Walken, who may have appeared in every movie released this year (I'm just kidding, but was that him as one of the centurions in Passion of the Christ?). If you allow yourself to become obsessed with logic, some of the events of the 2nd half of the movie may strain believability, but all of it is entertaining, largely because Washington is one of those few movie stars that brings a certain integrity, intensity and vulnerability to every role he plays. He carries the movie and drags the audience along with him over the plot's weaker points, although the script is stronger than in most action movies, largely owing to scripter Brian Helgeland's (Mystic River) ability to write subtle dialog that trusts the actors.

I saw Man On Fire for free, but it is totally worth full price admission at most theaters, although whether you ever want to see it again will depend on your comfort level with violence and with children being put in harm's way. This movie is a good appetizer for the summer movie season lurking right around the corner.

I will review Kill Bill: Volume 2--just as soon as I can find time to see it!