Darkest Hour

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Why yes, we did watch two Winnie-the-C movies within the span of a couple of weeks. Good catch. This one is much much better. Gary Oldman, playing Churchill, grabbed the Oscar for Best Actor. It also won for "Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling" (because you probably couldn't tell that's Gary Oldman). And it was nominated for four more Oscars, including Best Picture.

This movie is set around the events of May 1940, roughly spanning the time between Churchill's becoming Prime Minister (May 10) and Dunkirk (starting May 26). In between is a lot of political skulduggery and uncertainty about the war. Churchill's own Conservative Party machinery doesn't like him much, but they're forced into making him PM due to pressure from Labor opposition. That doesn't stop people like Neville Chamberlin and Lord Halifax from advocating a negotiated capitulation to Hitler's "peace offers".

Churchill undergoes a crisis of self-doubt. Does he really want to preside over what might be a disastrous Nazi invasion of the sceptred isle?

Well, we know what happened. The movie makes things "more interesting" by having Winnie meet with a random sample of British citizens on the Underground to Westminster. This almost certainly never happened. Still, it was in keeping with Churchill's actual personality, as opposed to the previous movie's made-up cowardly persona.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 2014 movie had been stuck in my Netflix DVD queue for a long time. Finally, the day came when my queue monitor said: get it, or delete it. So I got it.

I am kind of a Lawrence Block fan, especially of the novels involving his alcoholic ex-cop unlicensed-PI protagonist Matt Scudder. There was a previous Scudder movie in 1986, 8 Million Ways to Die, starring Jeff Bridges as Matt. Not quite right. Liam Neeson is a much better choice. And here he is!

Matt picks up his cases by chance; in this case, it's from a fellow addict that just happens to have a drug-kingpin brother. Whose wife was kidnapped, ransom paid, wife returned. But in pieces. Ick!

The kingpin (hey, isn't that Matthew Crowley?) is adverse to getting the cops involved (for obvious reasons). And he's more interested in revenge than justice, anyway. Matt starts investigating, and (of course) gets into a lot of seediness, moral depravity, and violence.

I was also happy to see book character TJ show up. The kid playing him is "Astro"; in addition to being an actor, also a rapper.

Bottom line: it was OK, but there are inevitable problems in translating a good mystery novel into a movie, and this movie doesn't solve all of them.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:9 combines the Proverbialist's oral obsession with (as seems to be a Proverbs 11 theme) good news for the righteous:

    9 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
        but through knowledge the righteous escape.

    This could be the premise for a pretty good movie, although it would probably be better if there were more gunplay, less talking.

    Those interested in the 'godless' topic should feel free to purchase today's Amazon Product du Jour via the link.


  • Hooray, there's Kevin D. Williamson content at NRO: Venezuela’s Future — and Ours

    Progressives will consider the case of Venezuela or North Korea (the American Left’s longstanding admiration of Castro’s Cuba, and its celebration of Hugo Chàvez only a few years ago, has been memory-holed) and say that the problem with those countries is not socialism but a lack of democracy, political violence and instability, etc. But repression on the Venezuelan model is not extraneous to socialism — it is baked into the socialist cake. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro (and Castro!), Chàvez, Maduro, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Shining Path: No ideology is that unlucky. Violence and oppression is not something that just happens to accompany efforts to impose political regimentation on the economy — which is to say, on private life — but is an inescapable accompaniment to it.

    The Venezuelan case is a textbook example of the evolution of socialism. While the Soviets and the Maoists had intricate five-year plans, Venezuela had essentially one big plan: Use the profits from state-run oil companies to fund a massive welfare state, and use the leverage thus gained to fortify support for Hugo Chàvez and his political party until they achieved power sufficient to move Venezuela’s assets and its people around like pawns on a chessboard. The problem is that people are not chessmen. Chàvez et al. turned out to be pretty poor chess players, but even if they had been grandmasters, it would not have been enough. Economies cannot in fact be controlled and managed in the way that socialists imagine, something that is much better understood today (thanks to our deepening appreciation of complexity) than it was when Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek described the limitations of central planning in more qualitative terms.

    And, as Hayek said: the worst always get on top.


  • David Harsani's column at the Federalist observes: The Real World Is Starting To Resemble Twitter, And That’s A Problem.

    The next phase of our ginned-up national moral panic will contain public shunning and harassment in their private lives of people we disagree with. If that’s the way society is heading — a divorce — by all means do this thing right. In the United States, even the pretend oppressed can kick the imaginary Nazi out of their establishment, as we saw when the co-owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia booted White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from her restaurant.

    Certainly politicians don’t deserves safe spaces from peaceful protest or even confrontation (of course, spitting at Republicans is not peaceful). You want to make their lives miserable, humiliate them, and show everyone how principled and right-thinking you are, by all means stop them from having those chimichangas. That’ll teach ‘em.

    But don’t fool yourself into self-idealization. You’re no budding MLK. No matter what you think of Trump, you’re still an insufferable a–h-le. You’re a member of a tribalist, blindered mob, imbued with a false sense of certitude that allows you justify incivility. That is to say, you’re like a Twitter troll made real.

    I have a better than average Twitter experience, I guess. Because I keep all the obnoxiousness on my blog.


  • But speaking of Red Hen and Sarah Huckabee Sanders… Nick Gillespie at Reason lays out The Libertarian Case FOR Serving Sarah Huckabee Sanders (and Other People You Disagree With).

    […] Sanders wasn't forced from the Red Hen by an angry mob—she was asked to leave by the property owner, who was exercising freedom of conscience. Just as libertarians wouldn't want a Christian cake baker to be forced to endorse a same-sex wedding by preparing a cake for it, we shouldn't force a restaurant owner to serve a government official involved in policies the owner believes are immoral.

    The Red Hen's owner is free to deny service to Sanders, so too is everybody else free to criticize that decision. As cruel as it may seem for conservatives to destroy Red Hen's Yelp rating, recall that liberals played this game, too (remember Memories Pizza?).

    I'm wondering if some of the trendy eateries down Portsmouth way will start giving their prospective patrons ideological purity tests at the door. "Open borders, yes or no? No? Away with thee, bigot!"


  • But as Nick asks: remember Memories Pizza? Jim Treacher does! Red Hen, Memories Pizza, Whatever.

    You may not think [Red Hen proprietor Stephanie] Wilkinson has the right to do this, but I disagree. A restaurant should be able to eject anyone, for any reason. Even if I disagree with the reasons. Hell, especially if I disagree with the reasons.

    And our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters on the left feel the same way, except when they don't. Discrimination is bad, except when it makes them feel good.

    Aren't double standards wonderful? Isn't it marvelous that the same people who tried to destroy Memories Pizza, just for giving the wrong answer to a hypothetical question, are now standing up for another business owner who actually refused someone service on moral and ethical grounds? Isn't it great that they don't care how hypocritical and outright insane they look to everybody else?

    The current landscape is littered with Calvinball rules, dictated by the tribalists. Fun on the comics page, not so much in real life.


  • OK, enough politics. At Language Log, Victor Mair is in Germany, and is fascinated with their Long words. Specifically:

    The first day I was here, in the afternoon I went out for a walk. After taking about 50 steps from the front door of my hotel, I saw this lettering on the glass facade of a nearby building:

    "Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät".

    My feet were glued to the ground. I just looked up at that big, long word and pondered. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself. "How would we say that in English?"

    "'Law Faculty' or 'Faculty of Law.'"

    That made me even more unwilling to move on.

    I sometimes peruse alternate translations. Google makes this easy.

    WASH HANDS BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK
    LÁVESE LAS MANOS ANTES DE VOLVER A SU PUESTOR DE TRABAJO

    Or:

    HARD HAT AREA
    CASQUE DE SÉCURITÉ OBLIGATOIRE

    Much more often than not, the English will be shorter than the alternate. Xenophobe that I am, my conclusion: English is better than other languages, full stop.