Pan's Labryinth

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This movie got uniformly rave reviews from both critics (96% on the Tomatometer) and movie buffs (#41 on IMDB's top 250 films of all time). It won three Oscars, and was nominated for three others.

The premise is stunningly original. A little girl, Ofelia, is taken with her remarried pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather. Their new home happens to be a portal to a supernatural fairyland, which Ofelia proceeds to explore.

That doesn't sound so bad! But—oops!—it's set in 1944 Fascist Spain. The stepfather is a cruel and sadistic brute, a captain working to put down the resistance, and Ofelia's new home is also an army outpost. Both the natural and supernatural worlds are filled with dangerous monsters, ready to pounce at the slightest mistep, and outbreaks of sudden explicit violence and death.

So there you go: it's very dark, and not for the kiddies! Might not be for you, either, if you prefer movies where all the good guys wind up OK at the end.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 12:09 PM EDT

I See a Licensed Psychic in Your Future

You may have noticed that:

  • Libertarians love to rail against abusive occupational licensure laws, sold to the public under the guise of consumer protection, almost always a tool used by entrenched interests to enlist the power of the state in supressing competition. Milton Friedman devoted a whole chapter to the topic in 1961's Capitalism and Freedom. I mean—Lawzy me!—how else might the great masses be saved from the depredations of unlicensed interior decorators, florists, sign hangers, hair braiders, or horse teeth floaters?

  • And we Granite Staters also enjoy picking on our southerly neighbor, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pointing out (among other things) their lackluster law enforcement, everyday political corruption, spendthrift government, and absurdly hysterical overreaction to pranks.

  • And of course any story involving the self-serious preying on the superstitious and gullible is interesting on its own merits.

So this story from the Boston Globe's intrepid Salem, MA correspondent is a veritable perfect storm of blogging goodness.
The [Salem] City Council unanimously passed an ordinance last night to license palm readers and fortunetellers who have been in Salem for at least a year, pass a criminal background check, and submit a résumé showing at least five years of experience.
Yes, quite literally almost a license to steal! But—wait a minute—it turns out that's not enough for …
… a group calling itself the Witches' Public Awareness League, made up of several locals who have for years offered psychic readings for a fee, said the proposal isn't enough to stop interlopers who show up during the busy Halloween season and steal their business.
Get outta town, you interloping witches! Those are our marks! The entire article is full of gems. One more:
While it imposes new standards, the ordinance will allow more palm readers and fortunetellers to operate in Salem, by lifting a cap that limits the number of licenses to one per 10,000 residents. Passed more than a decade ago, that limit allowed only 12 official psychics. Some Wiccan business owners have since plied their trade unlicensed, because there were no penalties.
Well, thank goodness all that's changed now. (Via Granite Geek who asks the obvious question, so I don't have to: "Shouldn't they have foreseen this?")

Last Modified 2007-06-15 12:34 PM EDT