Month: July 2006
About that Bush veto..
No, I didn’t dissapear. That’ll come in about a week when I’m on vacation. Meanwhile, nothing new I’ve seen really merits a strong review one way or the other. THIS, on the other hand…
So, by now you’ve heard Dubya actually managed to find a form of Government spending he WON’T sign off on. Unsurprisingly, it involves a big sopping-wet asskiss to the anti-science, anti-freedom and anti-American “religious right.”
Let’s get the basics out of the way, in the event that not everyone is versed in this business since, after all, not everyone expects a political aside on a movie blog. In simplest terms, “Stem Cells” are cells that don’t have any “identity” yet. Thus, they take on the properties and function of whatever cells they are inserted among, meaning that they can potentially be used to grow back vital tissues that do not naturally regenerate: Like brain matter lost to parkinsons or alzheimers, or dead nerves of paraplegics. You can get these stem cells from various sources, but thus far the richest supplies tend to come from ultra-early-term embryos which are BURSTING with the aforementioned “blank” cellular material. Since, logically, you have to bust-up said early-term embryos to get the material, this is naturall opposed by the self-described “Pro-Life” lobby which holds the religious belief that personhood and all the rights attendent there-to exist from the moment of conception.
Got that? Okay, so… there’s basically two ways to get Embryonic Stem Cells in the necessary quantities to perform the research to discover how much they can actually do. Way #1 is to get them from the “excess” embryos created and then frozen as byproduct of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF, aka “test tube baby”) clinics. Despite the fact that these byproduct-embryos are innevitably destroyed anyway, this still hacks-off the anti-choice crowd. Way #2, still mostly theoretical, is generally called “thereapeutic cloning,” and would involve using cloning to manufacture hundreds of identical embryos to procure a stable line of cells. This REALLY hacks-off the anti-choice crowd, and is also in murky legal-waters given the hundreds of knee-jerk “cloning BAD!!!!” laws passed across the planet in reaction to Dolly the Sheep.
Anyhow, back before 9/11 the first “big” thing Dubya got to do as president was sign off on what would be the immediate future of this science. As he’d largely run and won as an open comrade-in-arms of the anti-choice lobby, it could be safely assumed science and medicine were NOT going to win any ground. His faux-Solomonic decision: No cloning, no more new IVF harvesting, you can ONLY work with the lines you’ve already created. Or, to put it in broader terms: “Feel free to try and finish the building, but it’s now illegal to buy or make new bricks.” In fairness, this applied ONLY to Federal (read: taxpayer) funded research, and private companies were free to do as they want (and have, for the most part.)
Skip ahead to this week, and new largely Democrat-backed legislation to expand the Federal funding for the research makes it’s way to the executive branch. This is, lets be honest, the Democrat equivalent of the Gay Marriage Ban: No one is expecting to “win” or for him to sign, the point is to get the prez and everyone else to declare a solid stance on the issue; primarily so that the Dems can make an issue of it in the November elections, hopefully forcing Republicans up for re-election to have to explain to their parkinsons, alzheimers and paralysis-afflicted constituents (and their families) why they’re party doesn’t want to help them find cures.
So, it’s a political shell-game on both sides, and anyone can see that. That being said, here’s why I’m pissed off…
Look, as a fiscal Libertarian I generally feel the Government shouldn’t be funding all that much with tax money, and does so WAY too much right now. However, since we do after all live in the real world I understand that A.) sometimes it’s unavoidable and B.) if we’re going to federally fund anything, medical research ought to be right at the top of the list. As we DO already fund medical research, basic ethics dictate that we should do so fairly and in 100% in the spirit of the laws of the United States. If we are going to make decisions as to what should and should not be funded in medical research, we MUST make them based ONLY on matters of law and practicality: Is the research LEGAL and is the research PRACTICAL. That’s all.
And that’s why, while President Bush has the full right to veto the bill, which he did; his reasons for doing so both stated and implied should NOT have been the deciding factor, and should NEVER enter in to policymaking. President Bush vetoed the bill because he has a RELIGIOUS belief that there are such things as souls, and that embryos have them, and thus “destroying” embryos to get stem cells is “murder.” The president has the right to live his life by these beliefs. He does NOT have the right to force me, you, or anyone else in America to live our lives by these beliefs. Bottom Line.
Mr. President, this is not Iran. This is not Saudi Arabia. This is not Afghanistan under the Taliban. This is not a nation of rule-by-religion. This is AMERICA. We are a modern nation. We are THE modern nation. We are a nation that helped pull the world, kicking-and-screaming, out of the Dark Ages and into Enlightment. When we make law, we make it on the basis of FACT and REASON… not FAITH. Whatever beliefs you hold or do not hold in your own life, When you take pen in hand to chart the course of the future for ALL Americans (indeed, all the world,) you owe it to them to act as a thinker… not a believer. When you took the stage this week and vetoed this bill, openly stating that you do so because of YOU’RE religious belief that embryos were sacred, surrounded by women holding actual infants in a staging that’d make TED KENNEDY shudder at it’s manipulative smugness, what you did was spit in the face of Thomas Jefferson, and flip the bird to Thomas Paine.
What kind of precedent does this set, after all? What the president has done, just like in the Terri Schaivo debacle, is to decree that the Government can ban or de-fund things for ALL citizens in order to comply with the religious doctrine of SOME citizens… so where does that end? Do we next ask the government to bust-up the Beef industry because American Hindus believe cattle are sacred? Do we limit the lumber industry because Druids wish to protect the souls of trees? Will we restrict the fashion industry from making skimpy clothing for women because Muslims dislike the public baring of female skin?
One thing is for sure: IF the Republicans actually do lose the House or Senate in November… THIS will be the reason a lot of voters give for showing them the door.
Today is a great day to be an American.
“Cleanflicks” has bitten the dust.
A federal judge in Denver, Colorado has handed down a ruling that (duh) the Utah-based movie editors and their like have been violating the laws of the United States, and have to cease.
I don’t have to explain to you why this is a major victory for freedom. The good guys won, the bad guys lost, and The Faithful can take a walk. This round goes to the REAL Americans.
REVIEW: Pirates of The Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest
NOTE: Review will contain as few spoilers as possible, please continue to exercise caution.
Watching a big event movie that’s also a big fantasy/action sequel is always kind of an unusual experience for movie geeks, because it affords “us” the chance to see the mainstream audience “geek out” over something. When something like the first “Pirates” becomes a big deal, “everyone else” starts embracing their inner nerd, keeping track of the franchise mythology in their heads, gasping at the return of characters thought departed (in one way or another) and excitedly chatting with friends about “what’ll happen next” once the film reaches it’s “to be continued” climax. That the “pop culture phenomenon” of the series owes more to Johnny Depp’s whacked-out performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow than it does to the increasingly dense, increasingly fanciful and increasingly creature-laden “The Mummy,’ only with water” storyline is eventually not the point: Audiences are packing theaters for an action film about sea monsters, magic treasure chests and scheming British naval traders, and that only bodes well for the genre.
Wisely departing from the lengthy set-up of the previous film, “Dead Man’s Chest” presumes the likely audience fore-knowledge of the series’ style and mythos and barrells at full sail through a plot that could charitably be called convoluted and more properly described as a dense pack of double-crosses, secret agendas and multiple story-threads. Lingering plot issues from the first film are tied up, while new ones take their place to be continued in the third (final?) installment next year.
Summation of plot would be kind of self-defeating, then, because the “story” keeps going with new twists and rewirings as the film progresses; so to describe “whats going on” would give away the whole chase and with it the whole film. Suffice it to say that the new story largely concerns Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) a centuries-old cursed pirate who roams the sea in a submersible ship called The Flying Dutchman, crewed by damned souls who’ve chosen servitude to Jones over drowning at sea and have become, like Jones himself, half-man/half-fish monsters. Jones is chasing Jack Sparrow, who apparently owes him such servitude, while Jack is trying (and failing) to use a magic compass to find the fabled “Dead Man’s Chest” which he believes contains the key to holding Jones at bay. Meanwhile, back in Port Royale, Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Kiera Knightley) are shanghaied into service by a villianous trader named Beckett, who forces them at penalty of death to chase down Jack and retrieve the magic compass for his own (likely) nefarious ends which seem to have something to do with the enroaching dominance of the seas by British trade companies.
The reason this all works, in spite of itself, is among the reasons that the first film was so surprisingly “not terrible,” given the history of films based on theme park attractions: It understands, within the strictures of it’s PG13 rating, that the whole fun of making half your characters Pirates means that they DON’T have to obey any kind of moral or even logical code. Thus, double-crosses, sudden changes of heart or moments of outright uncouthness that would be un-do-able in any other film are here quite welcome: They’re PIRATES, after all.
To charitable, all of the double-twists and surprises and revelations tend to serve at the behest of creating situations where various characters can clash swords with one another, or be tossed into an impossible escape, or flee an army of monsters, or do battle with a giant squid, or whatever… but thats not the same thing as saying it’s not all interesting. On the contrary, jerked around by the invisible hand of fate in the name of a bigger, wilder ride, the series’ characters are made to undergo various degrees of situational evolution: Bloom’s Will Turner shows ample skill at the art of deception, for example, while Depp takes the perilous risk of plumbing for depth in the studiously-shallow Jack Sparrow. Even newcomer Nighy as the simply incredible Davy Jones goes an unexpected route, delivering a seething, internalized and inquisitive supervillian played with as much subtlety as can probably be managed within a character who has an octopus for head.
But it’s Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan, until now the series’ (literal, at times) moral compass, who’s got the biggest “didn’t see that coming” personality shift out of the main cast; taking a murky and ULTRA dark character turn in the third act that’s garaunteed to throw fans for a “did that just HAPPEN!?” loop just in time for “to be continued.”
Two summers ago, the big surprise of the season was that a movie based on a decades-old theme park attraction and that EVERYONE had already decided was going to “suck” turned out to be a great popcorn-muncher diversion. Now, two years later, the big surprise seems to be that that great popcorn-muncher diversion may have had the makings of a grand fantasy/adventure series.
FINAL RATING: 8/10
Memo to Keira Knightley: If in the next few months you see one or more 12 to 16 year-old girls coming toward you on the street at great speed and looking REALLY angry with you… Run. Don’t think, just RUN.