Oval Office Thunderdome: Electoral Shenanigans

This could have been a headline on November 7th, 2012:

Romney Wins the Presidency 286-252 Despite Losing Popular Vote

How is this possible? It’s easy when politicians are willing to engage in trickery. Let me explain. Last week, the Virginia Senate made news by advancing Senate Bill 723. The bill is aimed at changing the way the state allocates its electoral votes in presidential elections. Currently, the winner of the popular vote statewide wins all of the state’s 13 electoral votes. In the new legislation, electoral votes would be allocated based on who won the popular vote in each congressional district, with the state’s two at large votes (based on U.S. Senate membership) allocated to the candidate who won the most congressional districts. Continue readingOval Office Thunderdome: Electoral Shenanigans”

The Empty Balcony: End of Watch

End of WatchGritty New York City cop dramas are stylistically different from gritty Los Angeles cop dramas. It’s only partly due to setting. It would be hard for a film to ignore the differences between the coasts, but as far apart as the Eastern Seaboard and SoCal are, geographically and culturally, these differences are not what set cross-continental police flicks and television series apart. Just doing a loose word association, when I think NYC cop drama, my first thought is Law & Order and all of its iterations — police procedurals that follow detectives. After that I drift back to films from the past like The French Connection, Serpico, Fort Apache the Bronx, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Across 110th Street, even Bad Lieutenant. These films represent my own personal biases, but they all adhere to a palate of sorts that is broadly representative of New York City cop films.

Across the farmlands, the plains, the mountains and the deserts, Los Angeles has been building its own mythos regarding the LAPD on film. After decades following the cop as superman (think Lethal Weapon, Cobra, etc.), that model looks set to be replaced by episodes of Cops. I’m not joking. Some of the best work regarding LAPD officers of late hasn’t involved huge explosions and guns that never run out of ammo. It hasn’t been the lone detective doggedly pursuing the impossible murder case. It hasn’t been buddy movies. It’s been the uniformed officer. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: End of Watch”

The NRA Can Eat a Bag of Dicks

The National Rifle Association has done a fine job of making a fool of itself since the Newtown massacre. Just the other day a new commercial hit the airwaves. It consists of simple visuals with a voiceover attacking President Obama. Here’s the text of the ad:


Are the President’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. But, he is just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids, and gun free zones for ours.

This ad hits some great notes. The tax language communicates to the right wing that this ad is for them, while calling the President an elitist is a classic frame used to attack liberalism. Finally, the NRA has been attacking gun free zones as part of the problem, arguing that if staff are allowed to be armed, school shootings would never occur (ridiculous). But it’s the main message of the ad that has set off so many alarms. Continue reading “The NRA Can Eat a Bag of Dicks”

The Empty Balcony: Dredd

“Let’s finish this.” Really? Still, it’s good. Trust me.

Blink and you would have missed it. Dredd, written by Alex Garland and directed by Pete Travis, went in and out of movie theaters so quickly this fall that by the time I realized it had been released, it was already gone. Maybe it was a failure of marketing, maybe it was a lack of interest in the characters, maybe it was just fatigue after a summer filled with overwrought comic book adaptations which kept viewers away. And, it has to be said, maybe it was the hard ‘R’ rating the film earned. Whatever the reasons, one or a combination of all of these and more, Dredd was a flop. Which is too bad, because it was the best of the comic book films released this year, and one of the best comic book films I’ve ever seen. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Dredd”

Which Guns Go?

This video points out some of the absurdity in proposed weapons bans in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. The video’s creator is not in favor of weapons or magazine bans of any kind, it seems, and points out that at least one proposal, on magazine size, is functionally useless. Well then, he has made a very strong argument that soft measures are pointless, so it’s time to get draconian. Continue reading “Which Guns Go?”

The Empty Balcony: Runaway Train

1985’s Runaway Train is a very unique film. It’s American made, filmed in the white wastes of Alaska, but in a blind taste test, cinephiles would swear it was a Russian film. The film stock, the cinematography, set designs, costumes, etc., all scream that the film was made on the other side of the Iron Curtain. That’s not by design, but a result of the film being helmed by Andrei Konchalovsky, who, until the 1980s, was a Soviet filmmaker. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Runaway Train”