Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quick Movie Review - The Debt

The Debt - Thumbs Down - also SPOILER ALERT

This is a movie about some Jews hunting a Nazi death camp doctor (Jesper Christensen.)  Sounded promising, but the weird title should have been a red flag. 
Jesper Christensen
Helen, Launching 1000 Ships

Helen Mirren, who I used to think was kind of hot, looks just awful as an old lady who conspires with her spy buddies to lie about killing the old Nazi to avoid the shame of a failed mission.  The lie gets out of hand, and the shame bothers them to different degrees over the years.  Mostly I picked it because I'm a Helen Mirren fan.
Helen's First Movie
Helen Back in the Day
Helen in 2011
Here Helen sports a facial scar that ironically looks like something a German general might have. The Debt uses the same flashback format that fans of Cold Case will recognize.  Helen only plays her character as an old lady. 
Q: Who goes for the face with a knife?
Otto Skozeny, Actual Nazi
(Sword duelling wound)
Helen's character, Rachel, as her younger self is played by the hot chick from The Help (Jessica Chastain.)  The younger characters are a MMF love triangle of Israeli spy/commandos. 
Hot Jessica Chastain
The leader (Marton Csokas) looks like Greg Brady's much more handsome older brother, and the other guy (Sam Worthington) looks like a brooding high school athlete. 

My wife opined that Csokas is much sexier than Worthington.

Marton Csokas
Hot chick and brooder are in love, somehow, in a mutually unrequited sort of way.  We are supposed to discern that Brooder has some special WW II emotional damage baggage he's carting around from all of the unsubtle hints that the film keeps bashing us on the head with. 

Chastain, Contemplative
BMOC is more emotionally tough and opportunistic, not to mention smooth, so natch he hooks up with Hot Chick when she looks vulnerable, and natch she gets "with child."  Oh, Fate, you cruel, constructed master.

The old folks are not very interesting, and their motivation is so weak as to be distracting.  Lots of movie cliches.  So if you enjoy movies where you can figure out what will happen next, you might like this.  But I doubt it.  I'm not completely averse to predictable plots.  But when the obvious turns are dragged out for faux suspense I start to look at my watch and wonder when the pace will pick up.  Really, here the most interesting character is the Nazi doctor, but he's not worth two hours.  It's too late for me but you can still save yourself.  Rent one of the Bourne movies instead.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Insincere Economic Debate

In today’s NYT, Nobel prize economist Paul Krugman once again makes his plea for people to please please please understand that the biggest economic problem facing the country is unemployment.  He despairs that this is so while the government and the media and much of the population obsess over the increasing national debt of the US.  Why won’t they see???  How can everybody be so blind???

Paul misses the point.  Everybody knows that the national debt is not a real problem.  Everybody knows that, but not everybody cares.  And many of the people who do care waste their time trying to convince people who already know that they are right that they are right.  Silly.  Missing the point.

The folks who don’t want the national debt enlarged are the very rich people.  The people who already have a lot of money.  They don’t care about unemployment because it doesn’t affect them.  They believe that they are right not to care about unemployment if it does not affect them because they have an understanding that democracy works best if everyone votes for their own self-interest.  Since these people don’t see that unemployment affects them negatively, they don’t see any reason to vote to pay for solutions to other peoples’ problems.  They are voting for their own self-interest.  And fixing unemployment ain’t it.

As far as the politicians who claim that “solving” the national debt “crisis” is the way to create jobs and restore the middle class, they are just lying.  Not in a bad way.  It’s their job.  They’ve been elected by banking, financial, and business interests to keep the Wall Street economy intact.  And of course to do their job properly they need to keep getting re-elected.  And since it turns out that to do that this year a certain amount of lip service needs to be paid to solving unemployment, their lips are appropriately in gear.  A big part of a politician’s job is to serve the needs and whims of rich folks while keeping the regular folks feeling satisfied with less.  Not all the regular folks, just about half.  The rest they can bad-mouth.  Rich folks control most politicians, in case you hadn’t noticed, and rich folks don’t really care if you have a job or can afford your house or medical care, as long as you work cheap for as long as they need you and then go away with no fuss when they don’t.

As far as the money goes, or “monetary policy” if you’re a fancy pants, if you have a lot of money then you want it to stay valuable.  If Ben Bernanke continues to print more of it, then it might become less valuable.  Hence we see very angry opposition to quantitative easing.  Well, all of us who are not rich should thank God for Ben, because without quantitative easing we would all be scrounging for potato soup.  But I digress.
Paul, Mr. Krugman, please understand that this is not an honest debate.  It is three-card monte.  It is smoke and mirrors.  It is snake oil.  The real debate is how to stop these elected con men from fooling our fellow citizens with their laundry list of red herrings and bogey men.  National debt, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, homosexuals, abortionists, people who say “Happy Holidays,” unions, public school teachers, “illegal” Mexicans, and of course Barack Obama.

It’s not a contest of ideas. It's beer and circus. It’s class warfare by maneuver.