Unlocked

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

A DVD that Netflix sent me, skipping over a number of items higher in my queue (e.g., Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Joker, The Farewell, Judy,…). Well, OK.

Noomi Rapace plays Alice, a CIA agent relegated to a trivial desk job due to (allegedly) failing to prevent a terrorist incident in Paris that killed a lot of innocents. She retains her interrogation skills, though, and the intelligence agency finds that she's needed to discover the communication channels used to set up a possible imminent bioterror attack somewhere in London.

Needless to say, things go wrong, with a considerable amount of gunplay. In addition to Noomi, there's John Malkovich as the (somewhat goofy) head of the CIA, Michael Douglas as Alice's one-time superior, Orlando Bloom as (perhaps) a British ex-Marine now burglarizing apartments, and Toni Colette as an MI-5 higher up.

I liked it a lot better than Atomic Blonde, probably because its provenance does not include comic books. And everything about Noomi Rapace screams "intelligence" while Charlize Theron screams "bimbo".

A lot of action and betrayal. One flaw: you know one of these stars is going to be Revealed as the prime Bad Guy, and it gets pretty obvious who it is. ("I don't think they'd hire that person to play this role, unless…")

And of course, a bunch of shady Arabs that could be terrorists. Not in modern-day cinema, friend.

The Disaster Artist

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

The great TV drought continues. This is a perfectly decent little movie, watched via Amazon Prime streaming. Oscar-nominated for its adapted screenplay. But a best-actor Golden Globe win for James Franco; he was snubbed for the Oscar. Outrageous!

Franco plays the real-life Tommy Wiseau, who actually wrote, directed, and starred in a dreadful movie called The Room back in 2003. As this movie opens, he befriends Greg, a fellow talent-free actor bumming around San Francisco. They decide to pursue their Hollywood dreams… er, in Hollywood. Where else you gonna do it?

It helps that Tommy has access to loads of cash. (Unexplained.) He finds plenty of people willing to work, only occasionally bemoaning the incoherent plot, the brutal working conditions on which Tommy insists, and Tommy's bizarre accent. (Also unexplained, except Tommy claiming it's from New Orleans.)

Will the movie actually happen? Sure. Will it be remembered? Only as an example of how weird things can get in Hollywood. The Room is #62 on IMDB's bottom-rated movies of all time, which is sort of an achievement.

URLs du Jour

2020-02-06

  • We begin with point/counterpoint on the only senator to buck the party line in the impeachment vote. First, Jay Nordlinger on Mitt Romney.

    I believe that Romney is one of the most capable and admirable men ever to run for president. I have said this many times. I believe that the voters’ rejection of him in 2012 was tragic. But I’m glad that Utahns saw fit to send him to the Senate. He is a credit to America.

    Romney is voting to convict, on one count. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would do: I could argue either way. My colleagues have argued on either side of the question. But I do know that Romney has brass ones. He is willing to stand apart, and to stand alone, at least in his party.

    “Mitt Romney. Not one of us.” That was an ad that Obama-Biden ran against Romney in 2012. I’ve come to believe that the ad is true. Romney is not like us — not like most of us, at least.

    Jay's a fan, in other words. But…


  • … for counterpoint, let's go to… well, there's a veritable plethora to choose from, but here's Erielle Davidson at the Federalist, pointing out that Romney's Career Has Been Punishing Republicans For Voting For Him.

    Romney’s decision was terrifically predictable, and given his vote did not swing the results in either direction, the gravitas that he already assigned to his decision — in the form of two interview “exclusives” — seems a bit theatrical and self-indulgent. There’s an unshakeable self-satisfaction that Romney exudes when he goes on heavy-headed tours, demarcating to the adoring left how he is decidedly different from all the other GOP members.

    Yes, he’s different from many others within the GOP in the sense that he has no firm principles upon which to base his political decisions besides self-interest and self-importance. He is vaguely in favor of free markets insofar as he appreciates a pro-business environment, having been a businessman once. But that seems to be the extent of his political personality.

    I get that too. Not for the first time (and probably not the last), I'll invoke Jonah Goldberg's impression when he hits the mute button on a Romney speech: he seems to be saying: What do I have to do to put you in this BMW today?


  • Veronique de Rugy points out that while our pols perform for the cameras Uncle Sam Doubles Down on His Spending Addiction.

    My fellow taxpayers, this is your quarterly warning that Uncle Sam is not a good steward of your money. The Congressional Budget Office just released its most recent 10-year projections for federal spending and revenues. The picture is not pretty.

    A quick overview: This fiscal year, 2020, the federal government will collect $3.6 trillion in tax revenues. But due to its spending addiction, the government will expend $4.6 trillion. This means that the government will have to borrow $1 trillion this year alone, in order to cover a deficit of 4.6% of GDP. This is the first trillion-dollar deficit not due to a global recession.

    The money to fund the deficit comes from individual and institutional investors, both domestic and foreign. And for all the anti-China rhetoric out there, it's worth remembering that China is the second largest foreign investor in our federal debt, right behind Japan. I guess that's one Chinese import the Trump administration doesn't seem to mind.

    According to the CBO, this enormous overspending will continue and expand over the next decade, from 21% of GDP to 23.4%. Revenue as a share of GDP is projected to grow from its current 16.4% level to 18% in 2030, or $5.75 trillion. But that's not enough to cover the $7.5 trillion the federal government will spend then, hence a projected budget deficit of $1.74 trillion.

    A decent press corps would ask this of every presidential candidate: In the most recent fiscal year, 2019, the federal government spent $4.45 trillion, 21% of GDP. It took in $3.46 trillion, 16.3% of GDP. Leaving a deficit of $984 billion, or 4.6% of GDP. What should those numbers be instead, and how would you get there from where we are?

    We do not have a decent press corps. Nor do we have a large fraction of voters demanding a decent press corps.


  • Debbie Hayton writes (I think) bravely and honestly at Quillette: I May Have Gender Dysphoria. But I Still Prefer to Base My Life on Biology, Not Fantasy.

    Feelings and opinions have displaced facts and evidence in many areas of the liberal arts. This is nothing new. A more recent phenomenon, however, is the extension of this trend into the realm of biology, which has fallen victim to the idea that men can become women—and vice versa—merely by reciting a statement of belief. It is an insidious movement that combines the postmodern contempt for objective truth with pre-modern religious superstitions regarding the nature of the human soul.

    The subordination of science to myth was exemplified in the recent British case of Maya Forstater, who’d lost her job after pointing out the plain truth that transgender people like me cannot change our biological sex by proclamation. “I conclude from…the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate,” concluded Judge James Tayler at her employment tribunal. “The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

    I’m not sure where that leaves me, a British transgender person who agrees with Forstater. As I know better than most, sex is immutable. I may have transitioned socially, medically and surgically, but I am as male now as I was the day I was born (and the days I fathered each of my three children). As a scientist, I know this to be a fact. It’s Judge Tayler who’s the absolutist here: Under the guise of tolerance, he’s put the force of law behind a cultish movement that treats biological reality in much the same way that the Catholic Church once treated Galileo and his heliocentric ideas. Just like its medieval forbears, this neo-religious crusade demands that adherents chant an absurdist liturgy—in this case, “Transwomen are women. Transmen are men.”

    A sensible take. One she's being pilloried for, naturally.


  • Wired descends ever further into the Orwellian, with an article from one Josh Wilbury: America Needs a Ministry of (Actual) Truth. Of course, it wouldn't be a bad Ministry of Truth! Oh, no:

    Federal oversight wouldn’t need to mean Orwell’s ministry. Our hypothetical entity could function more like connective tissue than menacing monolith, putting private companies, governmental departments, non-profit organizations, and university researchers into close and regular contact. At a time when the Administration often behaves like a dystopian MoT, it would be important to “watch the watchmen” and create safeguards against political bias or factionalism. Authority would need to be distributed among relevant parties, lest any one group gain a monopoly on truth.

    Here's a radical idea: assume people are able to make up their own minds instead of being treated like gullible children? As much as possible, let the responsibility to sort truth from fiction be borne by individuals instead of the all-wise state.


  • And the Google LFOD news alert rang for Sabrina Giacomini's article at RideApart.com, a site for motorcycle enthusiasts, by motorcycle enthusiasts. She was quite taken aback by the activism exhibited at the New Hampshrire Statehouse the other day: Why People Rallying Against Helmet Law In NH Is A Problem. She begins with a dimwitted argument:

    On February 4, 2020, over 300 people showed up at the Representatives Hall in Concord, New Hampshire, to speak up against proposed House Bill 1621-FN. That bill would make motorcycle helmets mandatory. The main argument? “Freedom” and “choice” according to the InDepthNH journalist that reported on the story. I have a question for you: should a toddler be allowed to roam free on a busy boulevard for the sake of freedom?

    Um, Sabrina? You might not want to base your argument on the assumption that adult motorcyclists are equivalent to toddlers. Just a tip.

    What follows is impressionistic mushiness, not that different from what you've read before. Here's the LFOD invocation:

    Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian and helmets are mandatory across the country and it just makes sense to me but I just can’t wrap my head around this concept of “Live free or die[…]. I have to wear a helmet and I feel quite free and content. I also feel safe and I am actively reducing the risks of becoming a social burden if I get into a crash. It’s ok if you don’t agree and you choose to be angry with me. I’ll go have my feelings checked in the hospital for free. 

    Here's a comment I left at the site: Statistics are unambiguous: "Per vehicle miles traveled in 2017, motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 27 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in traffic crashes."

    Why doesn't every single argument you make above for mandatory helmet use apply equally well to getting motorcycles off the road completely?


  • The Hill reports, among other things on an LFOD gaffe by Mayor Pete.

    Via CNN's DJ Judd, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday after traveling overnight from Iowa, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) tried to recite New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" state motto, but slipped up and instead said, "Live or Fry." 

    When he realized the slip: "I'm still thinking of the pizza place we just left. We didn't get a lot of sleep last night."

    I suppose. Or was it a Freudian slip? Exercise for the reader.