Girl with a Pearl Earring

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

I had this pegged as a snoozefest, as history-based melodramas tend to be. Instead I was pleasantly surprised. It's not new (from 2003), but Mrs. Salad loooves Mr. Darcy, aka Colin Firth.

It is a fictionalized guess at the backstory behind Vermeer's titular painting. Griet, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a Puritan peasant girl in Delft. Economic necessity gets her work in the Vermeer household; they are also in continual danger of declining economic status should the painter's patron (Tom Wilkinson) lose interest, a matter of great concern to Vermeer's wife and mother-in-law.

Colin Firth plays Vermeer, a typical obsessed moody genius. He notes that Griet is not only beautiful (duh, Scarlett Johansson, remember?) but also has a natural artistic eye. Gradually she gets drawn into his orbit as assistant and model. And… well, you've probably seen the painting.

Surprise: Cillian Murphy in a small role where he is not a slimy villain.

Usually I don't notice cinematography. But I did here: it's very good. In fact, I thought while watching that the cinematographer made a conscious effort to make his shots "painterly", if that's a word. So I checked on IMDB and was gratified to note that the movie was Oscar-nominated for cinematography. And this article seems to confirm my guess about the cinematographer's aims.

Suggestion: if you can swing it, watch as a double feature with the documentary Tim's Vermeer.

The Phony Campaign

2015-08-16 Update

PredictWise has dropped Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee below our 2% probability threshold, while the Democrat field was widened to (again) include Martin O'Malley.

Could it be that Jeb Bush's impressive phony hit counts are real, not merely a Google glitch? Although shedding nearly a million hits since last week, he's still maintaining a comfortable 8-to-1 lead over Hillary:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 3,420,000 -930,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 413,000 +3,000
"Donald Trump" phony 372,000 -137,000
"John Kasich" phony 204,000 -22,000
"Joe Biden" phony 159,000 -1,000
"Martin O'Malley" phony 152,000 ---
"Bernie Sanders" phony 127,000 -17,000
"Scott Walker" phony 121,000 -38,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 103,000 0

  • Bernie Sanders' phony scores really should be higher. Steven Hayward of PowerLine reports that Bernie's stump speech includes

    “Men, stand with the women and demand pay equity. There is no defensible reason why women are making 78 cents on the dollar. That has got to change.”

    … and notes the Free Beacon report from last year:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats, was the worst of the gender pay gap offenders in the previous analysis. He remains near the bottom of the list, with the average female salary $21,730 lower than the average salary received by men in his office.

    Sanders' supporters sputter that Bernie's gender gap does not take "area of employment, hours of work, and time in the workplace" into account. No doubt that's true; the point being that neither does the 78 cent figure Sanders demagogues about.

  • I should point out that PredictWise still gives Hillary the highest odds of becoming our next president. (49% probability as I type; next highest is Jeb at 37%)

    I can hear you saying how can that possibly be true? Especially after the week she's had. Perhaps the answer is best summed up in this Daily Caller article from Derek Hunter examining the belief system of MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski.

    While discussing Clinton’s claim that she never sent or received any classified material that was classified at the time, Brzezinski said, “If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I would vote for her.”

    Then Brzezinski went on to say, “But this is to my point of candidates pretending things don’t exist. So you’re going to tell me something doesn’t exist and I’m going to believe you. And you think the American public is that stupid? That’s very insulting!”

    Yes: Hillary insults Mika's intelligence with her obvious dishonesty, but she'll vote for Hillary anyway.

  • George F. Will opines: "Trump A Phony Republican And Vulgar Candidate". Begins:

    In every town large enough to have two traffic lights there is a bar at the back of which sits the local Donald Trump, nursing his fifth beer and innumerable delusions.

    I wouldn't know about that myself, but I will defer to Mr. Will's expertise.

  • Okay, so we had to say buh-bye to Rand Paul this week. I resemble Steven Landsburg's reaction: "the biggest disappointment of this camapaign season has been Rand Paul"

    I just saw Senator Paul on Fox News, where he made four substantive statements, one nonsensical, one innumerate, one economically illiterate, and one evasive to the point of dishonesty.

    So, yeah, disappointing from Paul. Other candidates do that and are doing just fine, though.

  • We'll take a short break from politics to note Joseph Epstein's review of Carolina Israelite by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, a biography of Harry Golden. Pretty much forgotten now, Golden led an interesting life, bouncing back to prominence and influence after a nearly four year stint in a Federal penitentiary for stock fraud. This leapt out:

    The story is told of the conductor Herbert von Karajan getting into a cab, and when the driver asks where he wishes to go, answering: “It doesn’t matter. They want me everywhere.” So, too, with Harry Golden. The speaking engagements poured in. Adlai Stevenson was pleased to have him draft speeches for him in his presidential campaigns. John Steinbeck and Henry Miller—a strange combination—were among his admirers. A friendship earlier made with Carl Sandburg, who also lived in North Carolina, deepened. The two men one day sat down, Ms. Hartnett notes, to compile a list of great phonies of the day, on which appeared the names Norman Vincent Peale, Bernard Baruch, Cardinal Francis Spellman, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Cecil B. DeMille. Not a bad selection. The only names prominently missing, of course, were those of Carl Sandburg and Harry Golden.