Hail, Caesar!

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

A fun movie from the Coen brothers. Really took too long for me to get around to watching it.

It's the tale of a few days in the life of the Hollywood studio of Capitol Pictures, which is in the business of churning out all kinds of early-50's movies: religious epics, musicals, dramas, comedies, you name it. Overseeing it all is Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin; he's got his eye on everything, moves his stars around movies like pieces on a chessboard, and is always ready to quash some scandal before it can erupt in the gossip rags. Eddie is considering a job offer from Lockheed, and you can see it's tempting to jump out of his world of high-pressure in service of frivolity.

Specifically: one of the stars of the religious epic Hail, Caesar!, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), has been kidnapped by a group of Communist screenwriters. The studio is also trying to transition cowboy-movie star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) into a more serious flick; the problem being that he's got no idea how to act, or how to lose the oater accent. He's a nice guy, sure, but his new director, Laurence Laurentz, is flummoxed about how to deal with him.

And DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), an Esther Williams-type star of swimming musicals, has a bun in the oven, another potential scandal. Also, she's finding it extremely difficult to fit into her mermaid-tail costume.

Alden Ehrenreich, in case you forgot, and who could blame you if you had, played the young Han in Solo this year. He's much better in this movie.

Also, if you watch it, keep an eye out for Frances McDormand in a brief but hilarious scene. I didn't recognize her until I looked her up at IMDB.

I think there's a underlying religious theme here, but I didn't feel like thinking too hard about it.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson notes the latest in the ongoing struggle: Democrats vs. the Constitution. (It's billed as a "NRPlus Member Article", but I have no idea what that means to non-NRPlus peons.)

    Having taken control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats face an enormous and perhaps insurmountable political barrier to achieving their agenda. It’s not the Republicans. It’s the Constitution.

    “Kill the Constitution” would not be a winning campaign slogan for the Democrats, and you will rarely hear an American politician running against the Constitution as such. But it is the Constitution and the American constitutional order — not Senator McConnell — that currently vexes them.

    When your goal is power over as many people as possibile, you can't let a little thing like Federalism stand in your way.

  • Jonah Goldberg's column (via AEI) concerns Jeff Sessions and Trump’s strange definition of loyalty. Bottom line:

    This is all one piece of the broader tapestry of what Trumpism always boils down to when put to the test: a cult of personality. Support of the man is more important than support of anything else, including Trump’s own agenda. I disagree with Sessions on quite a few things, but the notion that he isn’t a conservative is silly. More importantly, the idea that he’s not a conservative — or a man of integrity — simply because he wouldn’t display blind loyalty to the president is grotesquely unconservative.

    Sessions resigned from the Senate to become attorney general because he thought he could accomplish important things. Trump had him fired (he refused to even talk to Sessions personally) because at the end of the day, the only truly important thing in Trump world is Trump.

    I should note, like a good sometimes-libertarian, that Sessions made us sometimes-mad. Reason's Jacob Sullum lists 8 Ways in Which Jeff Sessions Sucked. What, only 8?

  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) notes a slight problem for professors at state universities who irk a sufficiently litigious community: UC Davis law professor subjected to open records request over criticism of financial groups.

    As with many of these incidents, this story begins with an outspoken professor’s criticism of a powerful industry group. This time, it’s University of California, Davis School of Law professor Dennis J. Ventry Jr.’s opposition to a free tax filing service offered by financial services companies such as Intuit and H&R Block. He argues that these services scam low-income taxpayers, and that Congress should reject company lobbying efforts to make the service a permanent Internal Revenue Service program.

    Ventry’s writings earned him an open records request from the companies’ trade coalition “seeking everything Mr. Ventry had written or said about the companies this year, including emails, text messages, voice mail messages and hand-jotted notes,” according to the Times. UC Davis “estimated that it spent 80 to 100 hours complying with the request,” which “generated 1,189 pages of documents.”

    Looking for a silver lining, there's the Streisand Effect: going after Ventry makes the Intuit/Block ripoff more widely known.

  • Via Marginal Revolution, an article in "Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review" by Robert Laszewski (the title of which might lead you to think: Longest Article Ever): What Neither the Republicans Nor the Democrats Understand About Obamacare.

    Republicans have seemingly never understood that Obamacare has worked well for low-income people who get the biggest premium and out-of-pocket subsidies. It has worked well for those eligible for Medicaid in the states that have expanded it. And, it has been critically important for those with preexisting conditions. And, that three deep red states--Nebraska, Utah, and Idaho--voted last week to expand Medicaid clearly says that even in the reddest states what people want is health insurance security not only for themselves but for their neighbors.

    But what Democrats have never been willing to admit is that the program has been devastating for the middle class--those who get no subsidy, or a relatively small subsidy--for the way it has wrecked their individual health insurance market.

    But, dumb as they are, the Democrats were able to figure out how to make the pre-existing condition thing a workable campaign issue.

  • For Granite Staters, Michael Graham of NH Journal has The Midterm Numbers You Need to Know. Well, you may not actually need to know them. But he brought out this interesting factoid from my very own Congressional District:

    “The Democrats did an unbelievable job of drilling down into the lower-tier GOTV universes,” Greg Moore, Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, told NHJournal. “Net-net, they brought out 320,000 of their folks and the conservatives brought out 260,000.

    “To put that into perspective, [Republican] Eddie Edwards in the NH-01 race got 6,000 more votes than Republican Frank Guinta did in 2014–and Guinta won by 9,000 votes. Edwards lost by 24,000.”

    I have considered myself only nominally Republican for a number of years, but I'm registered that way. And (as an anecdotal data point) I got a lot of mail asking me to vote for the Democrat, Chris Pappas. (I might have got a GOTV phone call, but I'm not sure about that; I hardly ever answer the phone unless caller ID is clearly someone I want to talk to.)

  • And Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center has more facts, these concentrating on spending: The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s financial advantage over the GOP is enormous. Just one I liked:

    Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office through October 31 (the last report filed before the election) show that the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s three statewide political action committees — the New Hampshire Democratic Committee, the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the Committee to Elect House Democrats — outspent their Republican counterparts by $3 million. The Democratic PACs spent $4.09 million. Their Republican counterparts — the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, the Senate Republican Majority PAC, and the Committee to Elect House Republicans — spent just $1.1 million.

    Pretty sad. But (as Steve MacDonald points out at GraniteGrok) when Republican "leaders" are sounding just as economically stupid as Democrats, it's tough to work up a lot of sympathy.