Thursday, December 29, 2005

Munich review
Justice is a funny thing. As a people, we humans are still overly obsessed with getting even.
Vengeance is a long-time standard dish in the commissary of film fare. From great Westerns like Hang 'Em High or The Outlaw Josey Wales to the Kill Bill movies to the recent Chan Wook Park "Vengeance" series from Korea, my cinematic upbringing has been heaped with piles of revenge movies served cold.
Getting even is a power play. It's about making your adversary powerless. More than just the killing itself, it's about the moment when you hold the power and your opponent does not. The trick is, vengeance is not necessarily in the interests of justice.
The killings at the 1972 Munich Olympics were horrific, to be certain. And the act was reprehensible beyond any stretch of the imagination. Israel was beset on all sides by enemies, and had the extra disadvantage of having displaced the Palestinian people, who were never taken in by any of their neighbors. The Palestinians turned to terror in the mid to late 1960s, igniting the international firestorm that continues to this day.
Steven Spielberg's latest film, Munich, isn't about the attack at the Olympics, though the incident is painstakingly reproduced. It's about Israel's systematic assassination of the 11 Palestinian leaders who were suspected of masterminding the Munich plot.
Led by Eric Bana's Avner Kauffman, a team of well-meaning dilletantes systematically tracks and eliminates the people assigned them by their handlers. None of them are Mossad -- this is an unofficial mission that can't be traced back to Israel. Each of them has a specific skill which can aid the group in accomplishing their mission.
There's the hotheaded driver, Steve (Daniel Craig, in yet another remarkable performance); the gentle toymaker turned bombmaker, Robert (Mathiew Kassovitz); the precise antique dealer/documents expert Hans (Hanns Zischler); and the ever-worrying 'cleaner' Carl (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) whose job it is to make sure they leave no trace at each killing.
Each person aches for vengeance for their nation -- and for themselves. But, one by one, they begin to question their mission. Are the killings just? Are their targets guilty? At what point do they cease being soldiers and begin being murderers?
To his credit, Spielberg never answers any of these questions. It would be far to simple to say that their targets were terrorists and needed to be eliminated (Look no further than our current administration in Washington to see how the short-sighted policies of vengeance have served us.). Instead, Spielberg shows how absolutely mammoth his cojones are by showing us reality: vengeance serves no one.
No killing has ever filled the void of a lost loved one.
No execution has ever brought real comfort to a crime victim or their family.
No amount of killing will ever bring peace.
To say that Munich is a step forward for Spielberg is an understatement. This is not only the smartest, most mature movie he's ever done; it's also the most ethically flexible he's ever allowed himself to be. He doesn't preach at all. In fact, if you want to see Munich as a straight-forward revenge movie you can (for the most part). There's ample reason to hate the targets of the squad. But there's also enough gray area that the audience, like some of the assassins themselves, might see things differently.
The movie is sparse and devoid of artifice. Spielberg himself is barely visible, if at all, in the finished product. He directs so subtly that you'd never know this is the same guy who made Always and E.T.. The only thing that matters is the performances, and damn, what performances. I've been a fairly vocal supporter of Daniel Craig since Layer Cake. He's excellent. Geoffrey Rush? Amazing. Hinds? Kassovitz? Unbelievably good. Of course, the centerpiece of the cast, and the lynch pin of the entire movie is Eric Bana. Bana hasn't been this good since Chopper. Too few people realize how absolutely amazing he is in pretty much EVERYTHING (including Hulk, naysayers. Shut up.).
I know it's not the feel-good holiday movie you've been looking forward to, but Munich is important cinema. It's not only the greatest film from the most talented filmmaker alive, it's an impressive thing to think over and discuss after you leave the theater.
I'll be talking a wee bit more about Munich soon...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This X-Man's X-Rant on X-Mas
OK. What gives?
When exactly did it become a capital crime to wish someone a Merry Christmas? (I'd like to note that this sentence originally contained no less than three F-bombs. But, in the interests of this message being passed along -- as several of my rants have, I'm keeping it somewhat family friendly.)
The big topic of conversation in this 'burg of late has been all about how "Happy Holidays" has replaced "Merry Christmas" because it's more politically correct. What's up with that? Since when is it wrong to be nice to someone?
People are actually AFRAID to say Merry Christmas to people now. People are so damned afraid to offend someone that they don't feel comfortable using what's become a secular phrase to wish them well at the closing of the year. Christmas has a religious antecedent and some form of religious connotation, but it's not a religious holiday. Not any more.
I realize that there are other holiday celebrations going on. Every single world culture has a year-end gift-giving holiday or festival. Every single one. The idea to celebrate the year's blessings by gathering with family, or by giving of yourself to others, is universal. The Japanese didn't have a name for their tradition -- it was simply called "Year End Gifts" until they appropriated the Christmas tag.
Christmas, as a term and as a concept, has outgrown Christianity. It's fully established itself as a secular holiday. Yes, there are religious roots to the name and to the holiday itself. But, it's grown beyond that. Let's face it...when Sears published the first Christmas Catalog and ushered in the age of commercialism, Christmas began pulling away from its sacred origins.
Heck, Santa Claus hasn't been a religious figure for nearly a century. How many people do you know who actually know the story of St Nicholas? But, every single person who doesn't know the Christian myth of St Nick can recite the lyrics to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". See what I'm talking about? The holiday has lost its holy luster. It's truly a secular day, which means that EVERYONE can take part. Hell, I know a Jewish person who puts up a Christmas tree every year because she enjoys the decorations. Another symbol bites the dust.
Christmas isn't the property of Christians any more. I'm hereby claiming the holiday on behalf of the secular majority. I'm hereby reclaiming the Christmas Spirit on behalf of mankind. I've drawn a line in the snow, and I'm daring you all to cross it.
There's nothing uniquely Christian about wishing for peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind. Especially not how the Religious Right sees Christianity at this point. So, I'm taking those principles from them. They don't believe in them, so they hereby cede claim to the Christmas holiday and the Christmas Spirit.
If someone happens to be a Christian and wants to actually feel that Christmas Spirit, more power to 'em. In fact, I'd encourage that, as it might inspire other Christians to actually begin adhering to the principles that they were supposed to believe anyway. Charity and peace and good will are fantastic ideals. Too bad the Fundies don't believe in them.
Don't be afraid to wish someone a Merry Christmas. Or a Joyeux Noel. Or a Happy Hanukkah. Or whatever. Claim a holiday, and live the holiday spirit. Not just through December, but throughout the year. Every day is cause for celebration, and occasionally, it takes a special day like Christmas to rekindle that fire in our hearts.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's Podcast Time!
Kevin's Constant Columbus podcast is now available on iTunes and Yahoo's podcast directory!
Click here for the official site

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Bush Administration Acting Like Children

So here we are, the United States of America, the supposed leader of the free and civilized world, acting like a bunch of toddlers at day-care....,1283,69800,00.html?tw=rss.TOP

Does everyone remember the days of Clinton and Gore and the start of what was to become the Kyoto Accord, setting a precedent of clean-air standards? Does everyone also remember the Bush Admin. refusing to comply because of what they saw as damage to the economy? WTF?!

"Naw, we don't want clean air so long as I've got my truck,' the Texan said. "I think that what our economy needs is free trade and lots of coal fired power plants to speed things along!"

I remember a bumper sticker I saw the other day, "Somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot."

Well, now the Bush-led government is at it again. 10,000 delegates met in Montreal to discuss further standards when Kyoto expires in 2012. Again, the Bush-ers sat to the wayside refusing to even enter into preliminary discussions! I keep seeing a child pouting in the corner because it is not getting what it wants. Anyone else? Am I alone here? WHEN ARE WE GOING TO JOIN IN THIS THING AND CLEAN OUR WORLD UP?! HUH?! The US produces the largest amount of pollution on the planet and we are kind enough to share with everyone, though we want nothing to do with the cleanup!

I am not a earth lover by any means. I buy plastic, I do not recycle.... But, I walk to work everyday, I do not litter, I make do with what I have now instead of adding to the crap piling up. I am just angry that Bush is not more ecologically minded. 'Go ahead and drill in the nature preserve, ruin it. We need that extra 1% of domestic oil it will supply....' I hear his idiotic voice in my head, preaching his nonsensical blubber!

OK. Enough for now. I am just becoming more and more upset with every word I type.

Have a good day, might as well start sucking on a tail pipe!

Kevin W.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Podcasting In Columbus

Hello everyone. I am using this blog to promote my upcoming podcast, ConstantColumbus. It will feature local music in and around Central Ohio with reviews, interviews, live recordings and show calendars.

Please check out the rough demo and send comments a flying!

Also, keep and eye out for another podcast that will be featuring Movies. Your humble host Adam Bic will be co-hosting and heading up this project. Keep looking for it!

Kevin W.