Archive for May, 2004

4th District Candidate Nadine Thomas

Just a quick link to Nadine Thomas’s campaign site. Nadine Thomas is one of the Democratic candidates for the 4th district Congressional seat abandoned by Denise Majette. I like her economic positions quite a bit, but a clearer stance on the war in Iraq would probably be helpful.

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More Georgia Politics

Many bloggers have been commenting on Zell Miller’s creepy speech (comparing the torture photos to showering in gym class) at the Georgia Republican Convention, but to my mind, the bigger news at the convention is a passing comment by one of Georgia’s Republican candidates for US Senate, Johnny Isakson. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Political Insider,

Isakson, working to dispel that dreaded tag, “moderate,” echoed Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe’s words that he was “outraged by the outrage” of Democrats over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

As Rusty points out, the Senate GOP candidates are trying to flash their conservative credentials right now, but such dismissive comments should not be tolerated. Rusty couldn’t find a specific transcript, and I’ve just started looking, so far without success.

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The New Jerry Lewis

Michael Moore apparently received a twenty-minute standing ovation after a Cannes screening of his new film, Fahrenheit 9-11 (IMDB). Wonkette’s entry is snarkier than mine, though to my credit, I came up with the Jerry Lewis bit before I read her entire entry. Drudge (shudder) has the full scoop on the enthusiatsic reception of Moore’s film.

Update: Reviews of the film have been intriguing thus far: GreenCine links to Peter Brunette’s indieWIRE review. Brunette notes that

This time around, Moore drops the zaniness and high entertainment value evident in “Bowling for Columbine,” in favor of an elegiac approach that is less funny but ultimately, maybe, more politically effective.

Here’s hoping that Miramax can find a way to distribute the film before this fall’s election. I’m guessing that the Cannes buzz will do nothing but increase the film’s profile and that we’ll see the film pretty quickly.

Meanwhile A.O. Scott, in an article on the film’s buzz, notes that Moore’s influence can be measured in Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me. Scott adds that it’s now easy to forget that Moore’s humorous, didactic, populist filmmaking style is relatively new:

Fifteen years after “Roger and Me,” which took on General Motors, this style of filmmaking seems so familiar, so naturally suited to populist finger-pointing, that it is easy to minimize the originality of Mr. Moore’s first film and the discomfort it caused. For a long time, the ethics of documentary filmmaking, especially about weighty social and political issues, had been essentially journalistic. The films, even when their intentions were polemical, strove to be objective and rigorously impersonal. In the cinéma vérité rule book, the on-camera presence of the director was forbidden, and when documentarians did appear in their own movies it was in the role of self-effacing narrator or interviewer.

To a certain extent, I think Scott’s right. Many early critics didn’t even regard Roger and Me as a documentary (Errol Morris faced similar problems with The Thin Blue Line). And Moore certainly departs from the cinéma vérité style of filmmaking; however, even in cinéma vérité documentaries (such as Barbara Kopple’s amazing Harlan County, USA), the presence of the director is clearly in evidence beyond a mere “narrator” or “interviewer.” In general, though, Scott’s piece illustrates just how much Moore has been able to contribute to documentary filmmaking.


Beautiful Day in Boston

The Boston Globe and Daily Kos have images. Also check out The New York Times article.

John Scalzi has some advice for couples getting married.


Playing With Time

My modem is far, far too slow to view the films at home, but Playing With Time looks like a fascinating experiment in “cinematic” time. The clips use time-lapse and slow-motion photography to show events that cannot be seen by the human eye. There’s nothing particularly new there; in fact cinema’s origins are somewhat based on the sceintific attempts to capture movement in time, but that doesn’t mean that these films aren’t cool to watch.

Note: On a quick scan through Blogdex (as well as the Playing With Time website), it appears that this project has been around for quite a while. It’s part of a touring musuem exhibit and includes detailed instructions on how to direct your own time-lapse movies. More discussion at Metafilter.


Copper Green

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is becoming even more disturbing. According to a report by Seymour Hersh, Donald Rumsfeld encouraged the type of “interrogation,” including using physical coercion and sexual humiliation, conducted in the Abu Ghraib prison. Hersh writes:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

The article goes on to explain that Hersh’s source, a high-level intelligence officia, said that President Bush was aware of the program. In general, this article offers a scathing review of Rumsfeld’s pursuit of the “war on terror,” as well as the reconstruction of Iraq. Particualr criticism is reserved for Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who shared Rumsfeld’s approach to the war. Hersh adds that

When it came to the interrogation operation at Abu Ghraib, he said, Rumsfeld left the details to Cambone. Rumsfeld may not be personally culpable, the [anonymous Pentagon] consultant added, “but he’s responsible for the checks and balances. The issue is that, since 9/11, we’ve changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism, and created conditions where the ends justify the means.”

Finally, the article explains the source of the motivation for specifically using sexualized, specifically “homosexual” forms of humiliation, a 1973 book called The Arab Mind by Rapahel Patai. The article further suggests that the photographs themselves might have had a practical purpose: it’s possible they were to be used to blackmail prisoners to spy on their fellow inmates rather have the pictures appear in public.

There’s so much awful information in this article, it’s difficult to know where to start. I’ve already signed the petition demanding Rumsfeld’s resignation, and this news only solidifies the belief that he should resign. It’s pretty clear, as the article suggests, that the behavior here has “lowered the bar” for this war and future wars in terms of following the Geneva Convention. Since September 11, we’ve seen the logic prevail that “the ends justify the means,” and as Abu Ghraib illustrates, that belief can have devastating consequences.

Sign the petition demaning Rumsfeld’s resignation. Article via Atrios.


Six Degrees, Reality TV Style

How weird. I went to college with this guy. Talk about blurred realities.

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Linklater To Adapt Dick Novel

While surfing IMDB, I learned that Richard Linklater is planning to adapt (more info here) Philip K. Dick’s trippy drug/schizoprenia novel, A Scanner Darkly, with Keanu Reeves playing police officer Fred Arctor, who is also Bob, a notorious drug dealer. Because the film is in pre-production, its status is liable to change, but with Winona Ryder and Robert Downey, Jr. also among the cast members, I’m guessing this film is well on its way.


Blair Witch Links

Collecting links for my article on the cycle of “video-oriented” horror films (Blair Witch, The Ring, Dawn of the Dead 2004). Right now, I’m finishing up the section on Blair Witch, and just wanted to point to some of the film reviews:

I may add a few more links later, but my use of mainstream reviews (NYT, Salon) is intended to track the Blair Witch “phenomenon” more than to supplement my interpretation of the film.


Super Size Me Blog

Morgan Spurlock, the director of the popular new documentary, Supersize Me (IMDB), has a blog. In one recent entry we learn what it’s like to be a guest on David Letterman.

Super Size Me is Spurlock’s documentary in which he eats nothing but McDonalds meals for one month while interviewing experts on the obesity problem in the US. Over the course of the film, Spurlock gains something like 35 pounds and sees his cholestoral level skyrocket.

Note: edited for typos.

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Baghdad Blogger: The Movie

So, it wasn’t my wittiest entry, but I did predict there would be a movie based on Salam Pax’s blog back in August of 2003. Now it’s really happening. Media group Intermedia is currently searching for a screenwriter. It’s interesting how the film is being pitched, too:

“He’s like a Nick Hornby in the middle of a war,” Scott Kroopf, chairman of the company’s film division, told film industry website

In general, I’ll be interested to see how the film industry portrays this war, and it seems promising to see a film made from Salam’s perspective.


Movies in Atlanta May 13-19

Here are a few links to upcoming movie events in Atlanta. I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to see, but this looks like a great weekend for independent and international film in Atlanta. Cinema India appears to be kicking into gear at the High Museum this weekend, with Anything Can Happen and I Have Found It among the featured films. Georgia State University’s Cinefest will be screening Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia on May 13. Next Thursday, May 20, documentarians Steven Channing, Rebecca Cerese, and Cynthia Hill, will be screening February One, about four college freshmen, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” who challenged segregation by staging a sit-in at a North Carolina Woolworth’s. The screening is part of Atlanta’s IMAGE Film and Video Center and will be held at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Site.

On a related note, the Atlanta College of Art will be featuring the work of Darren Weik, whose work investigates the use of violent images in movies and on television. Weik’s show runs through May 16.

Finally, as part of their Mondo Movie Nights, the Starlight Drive-In (on Moreland, a few miles south of Little Five Points) will be screening The Road Warrior and Soylent Green, perfect for the drive-in experience. One of my final entries on the original Blogger version of the chutry experiment recounts my experience watching David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at this drive-in.


Glowing With Vivid Intensity

I’ve just learned that Trinh Minh-ha will be giving a public lecture tonight (Thursday) in the J.W. Jones Room at Emory University’s Woodruff Library at 7 PM. Skip (or tape) the Frasier finale, and instead listen to one of the most important and exciting filmmakers working in documentary film today.

Side note: In the same issue of Art Papers, my colleague at Tech, Philip Auslander, has an article on iona rozeal brown, whose work considers Japan’s appropriation of hip hop.


Manuel Maloof Turns 80

Via Jen at the Atlanta Desk, Manuel Maloof, owner of Manuel’s Tavern, a hangout for Democratic politicians (and other locals) here in Atlanta, just turned 80. Maloof also served well as Dekalb County CEO, as Jen’s post suggests.

Manuel’s is one of my favorite Atlanta bars. In fact, it’s where I had my MA graduation party back in the day.

Update August 10, 2004: Many of you will know by now that Manuel Maloof passed away in early August. Maloof is someone who genuinely made a difference in the local political scene. He will be missed.


Democratic Candidates for US Senate

After Shan’s comments about Cliff Oxford, I’ve decided to do a little research on some of the prominent Demcoratic candidates for Zell “Deficit of Decency” Miller’s US Senate seat. The Athens Banner-Herald has an article mentioning Cliff Oxford’s announcement that he’ll run for Senate, but it was written before Oxford’s messy divorce and charges of violence toward his wife recently became public knowledge. Oxford admits that he is partially at fault for the failed marriage, but denies any violence against his wife. Complicating matters, his ex-wife has come out in support of Oxford’s candidacy. I’ll be honest, I don’t know where I stand on his candidacy. I’ve heard several endorsements of Oxford (Jimmy Carter, in fact, encouraged him to run), but I can’t really support Oxford if these charges are true.

In the meantime, I’m going to link to the homepages for several of the key Democratic candidates. I’m not ready to make an endorsement just yet. My current representative, Denise Majette, is a little too moderate for my tatses. One of the other leading candidates is Mary Squires, currently a Georgia state senator in Duluth. While I disagree somewhat with her stance on gun control, her position would likely play better in Georgia than mine. Finally, Shan mentioned Jim Finkelstein, who isn’t as well known, but seems to have a well-rounded platform. If anyone else out there has a link to a (Democratic) candidate’s homepage, let me know, and I’ll be happy to add it. Again, I’m not ready to endorse just yet, but once I learn more, I’ll make a decision soon.

Update: Here are links to Leigh Baier, Jim Boyd, and Cliff Oxford. I’ve just noticed that my blog entry (and comments) are higher ranked on Yahoo than Oxford’s official site. This may be true of other candidates as well, but for now, I’ve just checked on Oxford, so I’m going to try to be a little more careful about how candidates are represented here, though I’m not quite sure how I’ll do that.

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