Some constructive criticism of ‘Waiting For Superman’. I’m anxious to see this film.

“According to this piece in The Nation, “In the Finnish education system, much cited in the film as the best in the world, teachers are – gasp! – unionized and granted tenure, and families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and health care, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results in school.
“In fact, even student teachers have a union in Finland and, overall, nearly 90% of the Finnish labor force is unionized.
“The demonization of unions ignores the real evidence.”

Thanks to Miriam.

Arthur Penn 1922-2010

Penn was best known for ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, but my favorite is ‘The Chase’ (1966). Penn clashed with the producer, Sam Spiegel, and wasn’t happy with Spiegel’s re-editing. And it didn’t do well at the box office – too bleak and cynical at the time, and seen as too browbeating and melodramatic today. But Lillian Hellman’s screenplay survived Spiegel’s last-minute rewrites – it’s vicious genius. And it had a dream cast – Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, E.G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, Robert Duvall, Janice Rule, and a small army of brilliant character actors.


The best article I’ve read yet on whatever the hell the Tea Party thinks it is, courtesy of Matt Taibbi in this week’s Rolling Stone.

“Of course, the fact that we’re even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter’s unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party’s incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms. They returned to prominence by outdoing Barack Obama at his own game: turning out masses of energized and disciplined supporters on the streets and overwhelming the ballot box with sheer enthusiasm.
“The bad news is that the Tea Party’s political outrage is being appropriated, with thanks, by the Goldmans and the BPs of the world. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that those interests mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That’s the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It’s just that it’s a lot of noise, and there’s no telling when it’s ever going to end.”


At some point, we’re going to have to admit that Olivier Assayas is a very important, world-class filmmaker. It would be a shame if we needed twenty or thirty more years to appreciate ‘Irma Vep’, ‘Demonlover’, ‘Boarding Gate’, or ‘Summer Hours’. What, you’ve never heard of them? Alas, my point.

“Over the past quarter century or so, Assayas has emerged as a mainstay of what might be called the middle generation of post-New Wave French auteurs — filmmakers who still labor in the shadow of a heroic band of ancient young rebels, many of whom have shown remarkable, even maddening longevity. Erich Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, part of the groups that burst out of Cahiers in the late 1950s and early ’60s, died this year, at 89 and 80. Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda and Alain Resnais are all still around, in their 80s, as is Jean-Luc Godard, perpetual imp and inscrutable sage of le cinéma français, who may or may not show up to collect an honorary Oscar in November.
“Assayas, a slender, silver-haired man of 55, with a feathery voice and a slightly nervous manner, is part of a consciously late-born cohort. He is the author of a slim memoir called “Une Adolescence dans l’Après-Mai”— Mai being the talismanic month in 1968 when to be young and French was very heaven — and has a skeptical, post-’60s approach to politics and art. His films — there were 12 features before “Carlos,” as well as shorts and documentaries — are cerebral and personal but also highly eclectic and sometimes characterized by a cool, sleek eroticism. They fit into established genres, and yet they don’t. “Carlos” is a globe-trotting thriller; “Late August, Early September” is a tale of 30-something romantic indecision; “Cold Water” is a coming-of-age story; “Irma Vep” is a behind-the-scenes comedy about moviemaking; “Clean” is a melodrama of recovery. But in each case the stories veer away from expectations, and nearly every scene carries nuances that thwart assimilation.”

Middle East

(With apologies to James Carville), It’s the Settlements, Stupid.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday there will be no peace deal with Israel unless the Jewish state stops settlement construction in areas the Palestinians claim for their future state.”

“There is no question that the settlements are the most difficult obstacle to overcome in any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. That was always the point: Israel’s settlement policy was designed to create facts on the ground that would make it next to impossible to return land seized from the Palestinians in any negotiated deal. And that’s precisely what has happened.
“Yet while there are a wide range of opinions over what to do about the settlements, how many of them should be dismantled, and how many more should be built, there is one undeniable fact about which there is no debate. According to international law, all of Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories —all of them—are illegal.
“Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians living under military occupation, Israel has absolutely no right either to build settlements in captured Palestinian lands or to transfer Israeli citizens to occupied territories. Although Israel is a signatory to that treaty, it rejects the notion that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian land it currently occupies—an interpretation of the treaty that no other country in the world, not even the U.S., shares. Indeed, in 1999 the United Nations voted unanimously in a closed-door session of the General Assembly that Israeli settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.
“In case there were any doubts about the U.N. decision, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in another unanimous declaration, also found that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories were illegal. In a 2004 ruling specifically targeting Israel’s Separation Barrier, which the ICJ declared to be in violation of “the Fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant Security Council resolutions,” the court found that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank “have been established in breach of international law.”
“Even the Israeli High Court has acknowledged the fact that “Israel is not the sovereign in the [West Bank] territory and that its administration there is temporary.” As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem notes, this is a tacit admission that Israel is in occupation of Palestinian land, meaning that all relevant international treaties governing the administration of occupied territories, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, apply.
“Of course, none of these rulings have had any effect either on Israeli policy or on the policy of Israel’s chief patron, the United States. The U.S. ignored both the U.N. and the ICJ declarations, not because it disagreed with them—it did not—but because they “disrupted” the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.”