Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Flicks Files: Grace Is Gone (2007)

I'll just say it: I didn't sleep a wink after watching this movie. It was that disturbing, and without any visible violence. Grace Is Gone is a story about a man who learns that his wife, a soldier serving in Iraq, has been killed. He needs to tell his young daughters, but he just can't face doing that, so he takes them to an amusement park instead. The whole movie is about this poor man trying to find the nerve to tell his daughters their mother is dead.

The man, Stanley, is played by John Cusack, who somehow manages to look not much like himself, although the only obvious differences are nerdy, conservative clothes and glasses. A strict father type at the beginning of the movie, we watch him disintegrate and become very fragile during the course of the film, in an incredible performance.

The story is told with no varnish, no artificial sentiment, and very little background music, all of which makes it seem painfully real. Cusack's performance is heartbreaking, although the presence of his familiar Hollywood face still makes it seem too much like fiction. I found I had to remind myself that this kind of thing is happening to real people all too often, just so I wouldn't make the mistake of thinking "it's just a movie."

Throughout the film, I willed Stanley to tell his daughters what he had to tell them, but at the same time, it was so easy to see why he just could not. The older daughter suspected, the young one, not at all.

Cusack became one of my many progressive heroes earlier this year, after I learned that he had worked hard to bring War, Inc., a satire about war profiteering, before the American public. Through blogs and other media, he’s been actively raising the issues of corporate control of our military and the loss of our constitutional rights. All of that gave me more reason to be fond of an actor I've always liked anyway, and in the past few months, I've rented several of his movies that I had missed.

It was months ago that I added Grace Is Gone to my Netflix queue, but it took me this long to be able to face it, because I knew what the story was about. Funny, because I’ve been looking forward to War, Inc., but I guess it’s easier to deal with tough issues through anger and cynical humor than it is to face the human cost of the individual lives destroyed in this war for oil.

I won't say Grace is Gone is an easy or fun movie to watch, but I think it's important. The movie avoids political preaching in favor of sympathy for the bereaved family, so the question I'm going to raise now is my own: how have we allowed so many to make this sacrifice just for oil and corporate profits? It's such a crime.

Grace Is Gone receives the “Pass the Popcorn” rating in the black cat rating system, indicating that it’s well worth watching, although in this case, you may lose your appetite.

Crossposted from Progressive Blue.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Writing Poetry for Obama/Biden!

I bet when I was busily supporting John Edwards in the primary, you never knew Obama would bring out my poetic side, right? Well, it's a big surprise to me, too, but apparently he does.

See, I entered a haiku poetry contest about the presidential election on Associated Content.

Come read my haikus.
Unless your name is McCain,
You won't regret it.

Well, I can't reprint those ones here, because the contest entry was exclusive for AC, but I can think of a few more. Just give me a minute here...

Joe Biden is swell.
McCain, on the other hand,
Can just go to hell.

And it rhymed, too! I don't know if that wins you extra points in haiku, or demerits. A few more...

Beggars on the streets.
Folks out of work all over.
McCain doesn't care.

Lipstick on a pig.
Maybe Cheney looks better
with feminine side.

Civil liberties
Were stolen by Bush/Cheney.
I want them back now.

Barack if you please
Bring economic justice.
People are waiting.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

War, Inc. - Trailer

A few minutes ago, I mentioned John Cusack's well-justified outrage and his new movie, War, Inc. Well, here's the trailer. Enjoy. Due out on DVD on October 14th, in case you weren't lucky enough to live in one of like 2 cities it actually played in.

Campaign Slogans for McCain and Obama and places I've visited lately in cyberspace

A friend was pointing out to me the racist subtext in the McCain/Palin campaign. Apparently we're supposed to want to save the pretty white woman from the scary black man. You can tell if you watch the ad where they claim "lipstick on a pig" was about Palin. Anyway, as a result I wrote this blog post about the real top ten campaign slogans of McCain and Obama on Progressive Blue.

Some readers may remember I was not initially thrilled with Obama, but the scarier his opponents get, the more he grows on me. Let's save America this time, OK?

Another friend forwarded me this commentary by Deepak Chopra. He says Sarah Palin is the "shadow self" acting out in opposition to the hope offered by Obama. Might be a good way to frame it for anyone who's into New Age stuff, but not politics.

I also just have to give a shout-out to my close, personal MySpace friend (yeah, right), John Cusack, who is clearly mad as heck and not going to take it anymore. I've been reading his blog, and I have to say, it's kind of nice to see this much outrage from someone who has enough celebrity to possibly get his voice heard loudly. His new movie, War, Inc., which seems to have been basically censored by corporate movie distributors, since it never made it to many cities, is due out on DVD soon. It's a satire about war profiteering. Really looking forward to that.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Top Ten Liberal and Progressive Blogs

Top Ten Liberal and Progressive Blogs
Do you love the kind of group blog where likeminded folks have a good time talking progressive politics? Here are the best liberal and progressive blogs on the web.
View more »

Yes, I wrote this article, and yes, our own Progressive Blue is in there, and yes, I'm shamelessly self-promoting.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

EENR blog is relaunching as Progressive Blue

EENR blog, which I work with as a member of the editorial board, is in the process of relaunching as Progressive Blue. We believe this name more clearly reflects our mission to support the progressive agenda and help elect progressive candidates. Come visit!

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Top Ten Video Blogs

I've just published a list of my top ten favorite video blogs on Associated Content. I submitted this in response to one of their Calls for Content, which means I had a contract with them to write it as an exclusive, so it won't be posted here or on any other blogs. Click the link to take a look.


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