February 24, 2007

Oscars

Okay, looks like it's Oscar pick time again. For the new readers, here's the annual schpeil: I love the Oscars because it combines two of my greatest loves: politics and the film & television industry. I prove the ridiculous political manipulations of Hollywood and the Academy by picking winners without having seen almost any of the films nominated.

Unfortunately, it's even more boring than usual this year, because I'm probably the tenth or eleventh person to tell you at this point how mind-numbingly obvious the big awards are this time around. Your Oscar pool is really going to come down to the lower-tier statues, and even then expect some ties Monday morning for the free lunch at Bennigan's. That said, the major awards, specially arranged this year in order of how brain-stabbingly obvious they are:

Actress, Leading: Helen Mirren, The Queen. You all understand she won this before the movie started filming, right? Seriously, the press release in the March 2004 issue of Variety was about how they're making a movie about Queen Elizabeth and it will star Helen Mirren who will win Best Actress for it in three years. If you didn't pick this one, forget about losing your Oscar pool. Expect to be fired.

Actress, Supporting: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls. See above, only with a shorter chronology. She's won every single award possible for the role; they're not going to suddenly decide to give it to Streep.

Documentary, Feature: It's a movie starring a former Democratic Vice-President. About global warming. Selected by a pool of people of whom 90% live in Hollywood. The Pope's religion, plus sports, at 11.

The Martin Scorcese Best Director Award: Oh please. They don't love Eastwood that much. I mean, I do, but I don't get a vote.

Actor, Leading: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland. This is one of the movies on the big list I plan on seeing as soon as humanly possible. Whitaker is due for an Oscar for being Forest Whitaker anyway, and he finally decided this was the year to do the role that would be impossible to not get an award for. Peter O'Toole is a legend, but he was actually right about his reservations when getting the Thalberg a few years back: there's no need to give him an Oscar at this point.

Picture, Foreign: Pan's Labyrinth. You've actually heard of it, and so have the voting members, and it's Guillermo del frickin' Toro. Next.

Picture, Animated: I'm surprised and gratified that finally this category isn't just a throwaway and all the nominees could conceivably win. However, Cars won the Annie award for best picture, and combined with The Rule ("In case of a tie, Pixar wins"), Cars it is.

Actor, Supporting: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls. The only person who has a chance against him is Alan Arkin, who has to date not won a single award for his role. Dreamgirls got snubbed for best picture, the voters want to make up for it, and Norbit made enough money to not make Murphy look like a total embarassment for it. Along with the screenplays this is the most unpredictable guess, but "unpredictable" this year is an 80% chance. I'd like to add that Murphy could have won an Oscar years ago if he bothered to take roles that actually highlighted what a great actor he is instead of the numerous moronic forgettable roles that he took for the money, and if anything I hope winning will inspire him to lean toward the former.

Picture: The Departed. Save for Helen Mirren, none of the other nominees are even going to win any of the significant awards. There's almost no way you can win best picture while not winning anything for acting, directing, or writing. Even Gladiator got an actor statue. If The Departed wasn't a good film, it would still win just by that default. I put this among the most volatile because the Academy may just decide to be crazy and pull Babel or Little Miss Sunshine out of a hat or something, but it's doubtful.

Screenplay, Adapted: The Departed. You'll notice how every other nominee on the list is nowhere else on the ballot. Borat will be the runner-up but it won't be enough to crush this year's annointed winner.

Screenplay, Original: Little Miss Sunshine. It would go to Babel if Babel was going to win best picture, but it's not, so it won't. The only other contender is The Queen, but I'm doubtful the campaign for it was better than for LMS.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:53 PM

February 23, 2007

I walked into a door

Oliver, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, suggests that stupidity was behind the original support for the Iraq war. I wish it was that easy, but that's not the case. Many smart people wanted to go to war, and took pride not only in supporting it, but mocking and attacking anyone who didn't.

People didn't support the Iraq war because they were stupid. They supported the Iraq war because they were weak. We went to war because people were very scared and very susceptible, and like most cult behavior that's exactly the type of person easy to manipulate into whatever line of thinking you wanted.

You might remember the "former liberal" movement in 2002 and 2003 at the start of the war- the people who "had the realities of 9/11 forced onto them" in an eerily cult-like sudden devotion to right-wing rhetoric. Support for the war was like a piece of literature that led to a meeting that led to entrapment and the psychological beatdown until you had no choice but to become one of the cult and suddenly hate liberals and think Ted Kennedy was a murderer and Clinton was a rapist and global warming wasn't real to survive. They got a handful of people like Michelle Malkin and Dennis Miller to be examples of how you could be successful and better off by joining up. They gave up all their old friends and thoughts so strangers on the internet could tell them how great they were for taking on the "moonbats" and the other special language they made up to speak to themselves and they really, truly, thought they were happy.

They could have been the smartest people in the world, but they were weak, scared people and they let abusive, manipulative people control them. So they could feel safe.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:17 PM

Academics

This is somewhat rhetorical, but I'll ask anyway. If Glenn Reynolds wrote a blog post saying that it's perfectly fine for Hamas, a group that is classified in the United States as a terrorist organization, to believe that all citizens of Israel are "legitimate targets" for killing and assassination because they indirectly support a "Zionist entity" that kills Palestinian citizens, would his blog-bound colleagues even remotely consider the possibility that he should still have a job on Monday? How about if Reynolds said that because he believes abortion, which while legal right now in this country, could easily "be made illegal" by a future government, it's acceptable for people to murder abortion doctors to save unborn babies?

I ask because that is pretty much what Hamas actually believes, and in fact what more extreme terrorist groups in the West Bank connected to Hamas have actually been doing. And that is actually what anti-choice terrorists believe, and have done in our own country. Reynolds' logic seems no different than arguing that detonating a schoolbus full of future members of the IDF or putting a bullet in a doctor's head is an acceptable action in the infinite war against future threats. But Reynolds would never suggest that because no one with credibility would argue those aren't murderous acts of terrorism, but more importantly because no one in the vast land of right-wing punditry would be willing to provide a blanket for saying something so obviously illegal and morally awful.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:27 AM

February 22, 2007

Oliver's short bus

I find it precious how after four years of bombing two different countries and killing thousands of innocent civilians and sending over 3,000 American soldiers to die a handful of right-wingers are suddenly pretending to care about casualty counts. And, at no less, to defend the noble position of Glenn Reynolds that illegally murdering civilians is a "more ethical option."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:49 PM

Clippin's!

Attention Los Angelinos: help a cartoonist out.

I'm getting (hopefully) a copy of my cartoon's appearance in the L.A. Times, but what I would really like is a copy or two of the actual newspaper page it appeared on. Any of you readers out there able to help out? I am positive at least a few of you are both readers of the L.A. Times and messy enough to still have a copy of Sunday's paper in your place of dwelling.

If you can provide, shoot me an e-mail at and I'll give you a mailing address to send it to. In the interests of shipping costs, I am not- repeat- NOT asking for the entire Sunday paper. I'm not even asking for the entire Current section. I would ideally like the entire, uncut/unripped page the cartoon appeared on (it was page 2 of the Current section so I'd imagine that's the cover sheet); that should easily fit in one of them orangey-like mailing envelopes with only minimal folding.

If you can mail that to me, I will happily mail back a check for whatever the postage cost says on the envelope, as well as a small signed sketch in gratitude.

Update: It appears the call has been amply met. Thanks to Tom and, of course, a handful of very gracious readers.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:22 PM

The friendly skies

I agree with Ezra that JetBlue's kneeling apology for holding their passengers on the runway for over 10 hours is commendable, but I'm a bit saddened that it's an act we go as far as to say is praiseworthy of the airline.

Truthfully, JetBlue is the iPod of the airline industry: an admittedly quality product with innovative and appealing features that is nevertheless rife with faults, but because of the friendly "happy product wuvs you" sales pitch consumers are far less likely to hold the product with scorn the way they would for, say, Microsoft. (I would say JetBlue's the Michael Jackson of the airline industry, in that they provided a product so good for so long it's led to a fanbase where a large percentage will never, never believe they're guilty of anything, but I think that's a bit too harsh and far too problematic an analogy.)

The fact is, though, that yes, JetBlue loves its customers and offers good service at great rates. It also, due to complete and inarguable incompetence, trapped dozens of people on a runway for over ten hours. Apologizing shouldn't be a pleasant surprise, it should be step one. If any other airline did this we'd be trying to set their headquarters on fire.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:46 AM

They all suck

It's annoying that many find it hard to believe that you can call the current holder of any title or status the "worst" out of all of them. When I say the president is the worst president ever, people always seem to whine that I'm just saying that it's because he's the president now. I'm not sure why there's some invisible rule that the worst ever can't be the current thing you're living through.

I'm sorry that it bothers a lot of right-wingers that John McCain has joined the chorus of pointing out that Donald Rumsfeld is the worst Secretary of Defense in our nation's history. But if you want to oppose that statement you're going to have to do a lot more than simply say that it's because his tenure was so recent.

The fact is, they're all the worst. Rumsfeld is the worst SecDef in American history. Rice is easily one of the worst Secretaries of State. Rove, for all the mystique of his dirty tricks, is a miserable Chief of Staff, having allowed unfettered corruption and leaks in what is supposed to be a period of intense internal security to pass by for the sake of electoral convenience, which ultimately failed miserably in 2006. Elizabeth Dole is the most embarrassingly incompetent leader the NRSC ever had. Christie Whitman's singular act of significance as head of the EPA was lying about the danger of the air over Manhattan post-9/11: an act that could potentially give a few million people cancer in the next two decades. John Ashcroft wasted a couple grand on ten-foot burquas while helping Rice and Powell ignore the greatest and most fatal security breach in the history of the United States to a scale so horrific and neglectful it made his successor's allowance of a few thousand people in New Orleans to drown while an entire city was wiped off the map look "not as bad." And all of this is without even getting into Bernie Kerik and Harriet Miers, who were so unfit for their jobs even right-wingers laughed at them, and Michael Brown, who at this point has become an adjective.

It is not merely the fact that these people are failures. Clinton, and Bush, and Reagan, all had people on their staff who, like the Presidents themselves, failed in tasks. But this is the first modern case of a system where these people were all practically devoted to a single, particular task and failed at it in every imaginable respect. If you want to talk about current history, imagine what the work of future presidents will be in our childrens' history books. History will be written not on the back of Bush's accomplishments but how well the 44th, 45th, and 46th presidents managed to repair every mistake he made that scarred the very stature of the United States for a generation.

The scale of ineptness, incompetence, and ignorance on the part of a handful of individuals at the seat of power who abandoned almost everything this country had going for it for the sake of a single new objective- that failed- is overwhelming to the degree far beyond just saying they're "the worst ever." These people aren't just bad, they're unbelievable. Schoolchildren will read of the George W. Bush administration in history books and not even think it was the worst administration ever; they'll actually believe what they're reading is a fucking typo.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:29 AM

February 20, 2007

And they came through the front door of the bookstore to buy it, too

Free Republic starts a conversation on the new Harry Potter novel:

More murder, torture, kidnapping, theft, voyeurism, child abuse, animal cruelty, and interracial dating from J.K. Rowling.

No comment, surely, is necessary.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:18 PM

How conveeeeenient

Straight outta "Heh, Indeed™" Land.

But seriously, it's amazing Prince Harry's service is almost never brought up in conversations among the 101st. While Barbara and Jenna are to be admired for carrying on their father's tradition of defending the bars of South America, you'd think Harry's potential deployment to Iraq may be worth a mention as well.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:11 PM

February 19, 2007

"Stand behind your president!"

Latest comic - click here!

Let's face it- President Bush having to face off a Middle East militant leader in a spelling bee with the fate of the nuclear world in the hands of the victor is just slightly more likely than all the "ticking time bomb" scenarios that people actually talk about on the news, so you know what, let's go with it.

Thank you to everyone who e-mailed me this weekend with congratulations about the L.A. Times appearance. If anyone in the L.A. area saw the cartoon, as noted before please send thankful and complimentary letters to the editor. In fact, send thankful and complimentary letters to me, as it turns out it is literally impossible to get a copy of the L.A. Times anywhere in a 25-mile radius of Washington and I have therefore not even seen the strip myself. I'm just assuming that it actually ran, and was legible, and had my name on it, and I didn't just hallucinate everything. I will by all means be happy with verification.

And buy some crap. Also, happy birthday, Atrios!

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:00 AM