Why Just Pot?

With Washington and Colorado leading the charge with marijuana legalization, it seems like not a day goes by that there is some story in the press about another state considering some form of legalization. New York, Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Maine, Oregon, Alaska, Massachusetts — the list keeps growing. Now that Washington and Colorado have broken the ice, and polls show that the issue is no longer toxic for politicians to have nuanced, reasoned positions on, reform seems to be unstoppable. If that is the case, then good. Marijuana prohibition has been one of the most stupid, costliest set of laws this country has ever had. But, if keeping marijuana illegal is such a bad idea, what about other drugs, like heroin or LSD? If legalization of marijuana recognizes that using the drug is a personal choice that government has no business prohibiting, then why not end prohibition for all illegal drugs? Continue reading “Why Just Pot?”

The Empty Balcony: Rush

Racing is a popular sport, but at the same time, it’s very niche. The sport can be opaque, which is surprising about something with a premise as simple as seeing who’s the fastest around a track. But, like all things that human beings get ahold of, a simple premise becomes complicated over time. Rulebooks get thicker, jargon becomes more and more unintelligible to the uninitiated, and the barriers to learning how to appreciate a sport like racing grow too high for many casual observers. To many people watching on television, racing, especially on road courses, looks like a bunch of cars making turns with little context available beyond what’s coming from the announcers. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Rush”

The Empty Balcony: Stick

Stick movie posterThe 1980s were a tragic decade for people who used to be cool. The ’80s put Eric Clapton in shoulder pads, Miles Davis in sequins, and, in Stick, a vanity project from 1985, Burt Reynolds in a pink jacket. It wasn’t just that pop culture stalwarts such as these men merely looked bad in the ’80s — everything the previous decades’ stars seemed to do was an epitaph to former glory, wrapped up in a decade where the prevailing styles in everything from fashion to music to film was pastel mediocrity. (A fun topic for barroom conversation is trying to picture how those who didn’t survive the ’60s and ’70s would have handled the ’80s. Imagine Jimi Hendrix with Jheri curls or Jim Morrison recording a solo album aided by a drum machine and a salad bowl full of cocaine. Not pretty.)

That’s not to say the ’80s were devoid of great art. The examples are too numerous to mention. But I am saying that in comparison to other decades, the ’80s exist, in my memory at least, as a neon nightmare.

Enter Stick, a Burt Reynolds’ acting and directing vehicle with a screenplay by Elmore Leonard, adapting his own book. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Stick”

Voting Rights

This past week, a state judge in Pennsylvania issued a ruling invalidating the state’s voter ID law, saying that the law does not further the goal of assuring free and fair elections. The judge, Bernard L. McGinley, is absolutely right. The Pennsylvania law, like many others that have been passed, proposed, or failed to pass throughout the country, are not designed to deter voter fraud. They are designed to make it harder for certain demographics that reliably vote for candidates from the Democratic Party to vote. Continue reading “Voting Rights”

Shitty Movie Sundays: White House Down

White House DownThank goodness for Roland Emmerich. If it weren’t for filmmakers like him, we’d all be stuck watching Terrence Malick and David Lynch films. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not picking on Malick and Lynch for no reason. They’re great filmmakers, as are too many others to mention. But when I thought of great filmmakers whose work is a real slog to get through, those two names popped into my head. You lucked out this time, Werner Herzog.

My point is, there is film as art, and film as escapist adventure. Roland Emmerich resides fully in the latter, his main concern being spectacle. Because of that, his movies require no effort whatsoever to enjoy. And I do mean they require no effort. If a viewer puts effort into his movies, by doing something silly like figuring out how to resolve plot holes, or think through character development that Emmerich couldn’t be bothered with, then enjoyment will not be had during a Roland Emmerich feature film. He embraces in full the ethos behind the big-budget shitty movie (different from the low-budget variety, but still related). His box office numbers prove that most of humanity seems to, as well. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: White House Down”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Act of Valor, or, Yvan Eht Nioj, or, Stop Shooting! My Neighbors Are Trying to Sleep!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines propaganda as “chiefly derogatory information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view [emphasis theirs].”

Act of Valor, a United States Navy-sanctioned and aided Hollywood film, that the military has also used for recruitment purposes, meets every part of that definition. It is definitely biased, most assuredly misleading, is used in jingoistic fashion to promote the cause of a particular country, and is, despite this government’s greatest public ambitions towards being otherwise, very derogatory. This movie sucks, too, but as much as I try to raise my liberal hackles at this awful mess, I can’t really give too much of a shit. It’s a recruiting film trying to disguise itself as an action flick, and I do not care. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Act of Valor, or, Yvan Eht Nioj, or, Stop Shooting! My Neighbors Are Trying to Sleep!”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Killing Season

Two men, gladiators in an arena, fighting to the death. It’s a story as old as empire. Which also means it has been put to film more times than can be counted. Killing Season was billed as the first on-screen pairing of Robert De Niro and John Travolta, a pair of Hollywood legends. Whether they’re on equal footing is not worth debate. But, if these two heavyweights were going to be in a film together, it would have been nice if it was a film that was not instantly forgettable. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Killing Season”

The Empty Balcony: Kill List

Kill List, Ben Wheatley’s intense film from 2011, is impossible to classify. After having seen it, it continues to exist in my memory as an attack on convention, and an attack on my innate need to shove a film into this or that genre. It would be easy to just write that the film is a British crime drama, but nothing about this film is easy. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Kill List”

The Great Pot Experiment

It is now legal to buy and sell cannabis in Colorado. The gradual legalization of pot that began with the medical marijuana movement has moved into its next stage. The goal has always been legalization, and now that the drug has gained widespread, though not universal, acceptance, it is good that states like Colorado and soon Washington are acting as laboratories, showing the rest of the country how legalization works. Continue reading “The Great Pot Experiment”