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POLITICS: The Cure for Clintonitis January 22, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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The Cure for Clintonitis

Obamapride_large

 

Photo by justinfeed

Quit girding yourself for disappointment, liberals, and wait a little while to judge the new Chief.

By Aymar Jean Christian

I went to D.C. for the Inauguration because I like controlled mass hysteria. I didn’t go to see anything (I watched it on a giant TV like everyone else) but to be around other people who were going absolutely Obama-crazy. It was a magical experience, and I got just a little hysterical.

Now it’s day two and it’s time to bitch! Well not really. It’s still too early to bitch. No one is so cynical as to begrudge Obama at least a half-week holiday. Besides, polls seem to indicate Obama may be the most popular newly-elected president since Kennedy, so who could be pissed?

Still, I sense the grumblings already, including from so-called unnamed “liberals,” according to CNN, who might already be concerned Obama isn’t moving fast enough on an Iraq withdrawal. Combine this with Rachel Maddow still grumbling about Warren’s bland invocation on Tuesday, and you have the beginnings of an inevitable liberal backlash. I adore Maddow. She is probably my second favorite person on the political scene right now. But she’s being silly. 

I think the problem is liberals are still suffering from Clintonitis, defined as the pain of being a Democrat and getting punched in the face at least once a year through left-sanctioned “compromises” like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. After eight years of hardline conservative rule, liberals are uppity and defensive. They still accept the supposed truism that America is a “center-right” country. Oh yeah? Let’s transport back to the 1930s and 1960s and test that thesis out.

Everyone is anxious for the first Obama betrayal. What will it be? Iraq? Gay rights? The stimulus bill? The signs are everywhere. Already Obama has said he will “consult” with military advisors about the Iraq timeline. Then there’s Rick Warren. And of course those tax cuts and rebates in the stimulus package. Some of these will be problems for liberals, and some of them are Clintonitis. On one hand, a commander-in-chief cannot stick to a strict 16-month withdrawal plan—that’s an estimate at best. Yes, tax cuts are a Bush policy and the last rebate was completely unsuccessful, but the bill is far from signed.

It is important for everyone in America to realize right now Obama is not the triangulating Clinton. Remember, a Clinton actually lost an election this year. This is a different time and a different politician. Obama’s politics are about reaching across the aisle for things that are less significant—say, an invocation—as a way to neutralize discontent when he refuses to compromise on more important issues, like Iraq. This is very different from openly defying and even pissing off the left for political gain—poor Sista Souljah!—as Maddow accused Obama of with Warren. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, DoMA, welfare reform and many other Clinton policies were political compromises almost explicitly crafted to scorn the left. But let’s remember at least two of those are already on Obama’s chopping block. 

I hope I don’t keep reading new reports about the left being worried about a potential Obama betrayal. How about waiting for an actual one? Obama has 100 days to enact gutsy, important legislation. I will judge him based on that. Tuesday was my last day of hysteria for at least four years.

 

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FILM: Queen Kate January 14, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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Queen Kate

By Aymar Jean Christian

Before writing this I started writing down the actresses I think qualify as “great.” I wanted to get some generational parity, so I started with the oldies (but goodies). You know the names: Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, Diane Keaton, Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, Anne Benning, Vanessa Redgrave, Catherine Deneuve, Julianne Moore, Kristin Scott Thomas. It’s a short but ample list.

Go down in age and the list gets shorter and more hesitant. I started with Kate; that was a lock. I quickly added the other Cate. Then, my mind started to hurt. Both Kate and Cate have had a consistent stream of solid work for about ten years. Nicole Kidman is great, but she is often a bit too Grace Kelly to me; Charlize Theron too, but Æon Flux and Hancock are pretty damning. Halle Berry has yet to recover from Catwoman. Penélope Cruz has had a good run of late and is getting there. Everyone else had a “?” next to their name, as in, maybe they will be great, maybe not: Angelia Jolie (she’s very close), Anne Hathaway (a ways to go), Reese Witherspoon, Keira Knightley, Amy Adams, Sophie Okonedo, Kerry Washington, Queen Latifah, Renee Zellweger.

Depth of character definitely comes with age, and it takes a few years for young actresses to grow out of the adorable, Doris Day, everygirl rom-com roles to meatier fare.

This is what makes Cate and especially Kate so remarkable. At such young ages – Cate and Angelina are approaching 40, but Penélope and Kate are both under 35. These actresses are already grabbing roles that are grown-up and display wisdom and depth typically unavailable to young actresses.

Winslet was in her early twenties when she tackled Rose in Titanic, and that role was breezy compared to her heavy lifting in Hamlet as Ophelia and in Sense and Sensibility.

After the juggernaut that was Titanic, for most Americans, Kate disappeared for awhile, doing smaller and darker movies like Iris and Quills, excelling in both. But, I would argue, Kate came back and reached her current stride with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, teaching young people like me that, hey, she can act.

She has a God-given gift for being instantly lovable and yet melancholic and pitiable. I thought this was all she had to offer, until I saw Romance & Cigarettes, in which she plays a working class tramp. Winslet owned the movie and was uproariously funny, baudy, gross and boundless. I then thought she might just be a “great.”

She proved me right with Little Children, a hilarious and sharp film in which she dresses down and plays someone plain and pathetic. This wasn’t new territory, but it was the first time she had a full movie to play out the type. She was stunning, in a dull way.

Finally 2008 brought her luck and two theater-busting roles. Revolutionary Road, on paper, is another bland script about how the suburbs and the American family are hopelessly empty – really, “hopeless emptiness” is in the script…twice. But Kate brought such rawness to the role, such desperation, existential angst and yes, even humor (the audience I saw it with almost cackling) that she once proved her stripes. The Reader is a gutsier movie, and in it Winslet plays a gutsier woman. Her performance is brilliant: vulnerable yet opaque, emotive yet stern and always forceful. Playing a Nazi (okay, SS Guard) is hard; making us sympathize with one, near impossible.

I hope in her next role she plays something ridiculous, like an aging Latino tango instructor – following of course the footsteps of Cate Blanchett, who played Bob Dylan, and Meryl Streep, who played an old Jewish rabbi. Keep proving me right, Kate.