PowerLine -> Today in Sexual Harassment + Al Franken: The movie

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PowerLine -> Today in Sexual Harassment + Al Franken: The movie

Daily Digest

  • Today in Sexual Harassment
  • Loose Ends (31)
  • Tweet of the Day
  • Springtime for Marx and Germany
  • Al Franken: The movie
Today in Sexual Harassment

Posted: 21 Nov 2017 03:23 PM PST

(Steven Hayward)I didn’t think the morning news that Melissa Gilbert has accused Oliver Stone of sexual harassment way back in 1991 (I’d kinda forgotten who Melissa Gilbert is, and Oliver Stone is best forgotten on general principle), but then I saw the news that came out later that Pixar’s major creative force, John Lasseter, is “taking a leave” from the animation powerhouse because of the usual problem:

John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and one of the most powerful figures in the entertainment industry, acknowledged Tuesday that he had crossed the line with employees. He is taking a six-month leave of absence.

Lasseter sent a memo to staff apologizing for making employees feel disrespected or uncomfortable, Variety has confirmed. . . His name has continued to be mentioned privately, with a number of former Pixar employees telling Variety that he has behaved inappropriately and describing a culture at the company as “toxic” and “sexist” for women.  . . Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October, however, some female employees have begun to discuss how Lasseter’s behavior has crossed boundaries, describing it as creepy.

Lasseter isn’t quite the Hollywood presence that Weinstein was, but I have long held to the axiom that only Pixar should be allowed to make children’s movies, as their offerings were so far superior to the formulaic Shrek fare of Dreamworks, IMHO. The Dreamworks stable of kids movies always try too hard to make subtle nods to the parents and almost invariably have an annoying baby boomer music soundtrack. Pixar movies are consistently more original. This just isn’t debatable.

A reminder of how the next Oscar night is shaping up:

And here, a special schadenfreudetastic moment—Kevin Spacey defending Bill Clinton on . . . Charlie Rose. It really doesn’t get better than this:


Loose Ends (31)

Posted: 21 Nov 2017 09:45 AM PST

(Steven Hayward) The Financial Times has an interesting article on Chinese universities, and especially how the authoritarian regime would like to exert better control over foreign-funded universities and branch campuses. The government is going to place trusted Communist Party members on the board of trustees on all these joint-venture universities, and make them vice-chancellors as well.

This passage, in particular, stands out:

“This changes the nature of the game and has ominous potential [consequences] for academic freedom,” one of the people said. “The first line of control is self censorship. The next line is [more] overt.”

In other words, the Chinese are modeling themselves after American universities!

 Germany sub-alles? Angela Merkel is unable to form a government, and may call for new elections. The sticking points between her and her potential coalition partners sound familiar: immigration, and energy policy. Her potential right of center partners wants to restrict immigration and back away from green energy nonsense, while her potential left of center partners demand open immigration and a pledge to abandon coal-fired power as well as Germany’s remaining nuclear power. Good luck with that. Apparently, a coalition with the new Alternative for Germany Party, which went from zero to 95 seats in the Bundestag in the last election, is not even being remotely considered. Merkel’s survival as chancellor is in doubt, like Theresa May in Britain. (Though ironically Merkel’s sudden weakness may help bail out May, as May’s government can now demand a better Brexit deal. Merkel was clearly intent on punishing Britain for its temerity in rejecting the EU.)

Great. Just what we need. Parliamentary instability in Germany in a time of populism. Maybe the supposedly “gridlocked” American system isn’t so bad after all. At least we get an administration that can function.

 Finally, about the brewing Capitol Hill sexual harassment scandal, in which millions of dollars have been quietly paid out to settle harassment claims. Anyone care to make book on whether Joe Biden was one of the figures involved? Rumors are starting to circulate. . .

I’ve been thinking about coming up with a 1 to 10 Weinstein Grossness Scale to calibrate the problem of male predation. Here’s a first draft:

  1. Flirtatious emails/texts.
  2. Lame pick up lines at a bar.
  3. Wolf whistle on the street. (Hard-hat optional.)
  4. The Joe Biden (uninvited hugs and general grabbiness).
  5. The George H.W. Bush (pinching/patting derriere).
  6. The Full Franken (uninvited kiss).
  7. The Roy Moore (stalking teenagers).
  8. The Ted Kennedy-Charlie Rose maneuver (turning up without pants).
  9. The Louis C.K. (ick).
  10. The Clinton-Weinstein maneuver (aka rape).

Tweet of the Day

Posted: 21 Nov 2017 08:47 AM PST

(John Hinderaker)The tweet of the day (it was yesterday, actually) comes from Dan McLaughlin. So many have been swept up in the tide of sexual assault and harassment accusations that it is hard to keep track of them all, but arguably the second most consequential figure implicated so far (second only to Bill Clinton) is John Conyers:

John Conyers settled charges of sexually harassing staffers during the time his wife was in prison for taking bribes on the Detroit City Council.

The perfect Democrat power couple.

— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) November 21, 2017

Via InstaPundit.


Springtime for Marx and Germany

Posted: 21 Nov 2017 07:24 AM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)I suppose it was inevitable, given the left’s re-enchantment with Communism, but I still found news of the 2017 film “The Young Karl Marx” jarring. The American Film Institute will be showing the movie as part of its “European Union Film Showcase” next month in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Here is how the AFI describes this German/French/Belgian co-production:

Following his documentary I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, Raoul Peck takes on the story of the formative friendship of Karl Marx (August Diehl) and Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske). From Germany to France to England, the young thinkers pursue justice for the working class, who toiled under obscenely exploitative conditions to enrich their employers (including Engels’ father, a mill owner) during the peak of the Industrial Revolution.

Peck crafts an accessible biopic about these two larger-than-life thinkers, taking them down from their historicized pedestals and allowing viewers to relate to them as young strivers disrupting an inequitable status quo through the power of persuasion and organization.

Official selection, 2017 Berlin International Film Festival. DIR/SCR/PROD Raoul Peck; SCR Pascal Bonitzer; PROD Nicolas Blanc, Rémi Grellety, Robert Guédiguian. Germany/France/Belgium, 2017, color, 118 min. In German, English and French with English subtitles. NOT RATED

I had thought Marx was “taken down from his historicized pedestal” 25 years ago. The left is striving to restore him to that platform. This film strikes me as part of that effort via “an accessible biopic.”

It’s a fine strategy. Students can now claim close familiarity with the founder of Communism without undertaking the laborious — and if we’re talking about Das Kapital, nigh impossible — task of reading him.

Young Marx will be portrayed by August Diehl, a 42-year-old German actor best known in America for playing SS-Sturmbannführer Dieter Hellstrom in Inglourious Basterds. Diehl may not be as good looking Gael García Bernal, who portrayed Che Guevera in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” but he’s a damn sight better looking than Karl Marx.

Che is chic. Maybe now Karl Marx will be too. T-shirts of him are already being sold.


Al Franken: The movie

Posted: 21 Nov 2017 05:40 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)I have written a lot about Al Franken on Power Line over the years. I posted this review of the Doob/Hegedus documentary on Al Franken in September 2006. The movie was a complete and utter commercial bomb (domestic gross: $102,990). Just about no one saw it. As Franken rides out the scandal deriving from recent disclosures of his past behavior, I thought back to the film. A.O. Scott reviewed it for the New York Times. Stanley Kaufmann reviewed it for the New Republic, writing: “This film by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus forces us to make some decisions about him. For myself, I find him generally gross, in person and in manner.” I thought some readers might find this of interest, however slight, in the context of the recent disclosures. Before the Scott and Kaufmann reviews appeared, this is what I wrote (slightly edited):

Last week I received a DVD screener of Al Franken: God Spoke on the condition that I post a review on our site between September 6 and September 13. The film is scheduled to open in theaters on September 13.

I watched the film over the weekend and again last night. It’s hard for me to believe how bad it is. Directed by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus, the makers of The War Room, their new film might more aptly have been titled The Bore Room. Although Franken made his name as a comedy writer for Saturday Night Live, the film provides additional evidence to support my view that Franken hasn’t been funny since the expiration of the Al Franken Decade in 1990.

I have been a fan of Franken for a long time. In June 2005 I was given a press pass to attend the Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis where Franken was the featured speaker. The fundraiser was held on the west bank campus of the University of Minnesota within shouting distance of where I had first seen Franken perform with his former comedy partner, Tom Davis. The film shows Franken in 1977 performing the same skit on Saturday Night Live with his parents that I saw Franken try out in Minneapolis in the summer of 1976 at the Dudley Riggs Workshop.

What kind of a documentary is God Spoke? It feels like a 90-minute vanity production cum campaign video, geared to promote Franken’s apparent candidacy for the Senate seat currently held by Norm Coleman. In that respect, however, the film closes on an extremely sour note. Franken is at the wheel of his car driving from the airport in Minneapolis and musing on some advice given to him by Minneapolis attorney Tom Borman. In an early scene in the film, Franken is seen telling his favorite joke (from Buddy Hackett) before a Minneapolis audience. The final scene shows Franken reflecting on Borman’s statement that his parents (wisely) thought Franken should stop telling that joke at political appearances. Franken is incredulous and unhappy about the advice.

Whereas The War Room portrayed the inside of a successful presidential campaign, God Spoke appears to be a study in failure, though no one knows it. The film opens with Franken promoting Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them before an appreciative audience. Thereafter it’s mostly downhill with Air America. God Spoke portrays Franken’s involvement with the debut of the liberal radio network, Franken’s coverage of the 2004 Democratic and Republican conventions in 2004, Franken’s campaigning for John Kerry, Franken’s disappointment on election day, Franken’s announcement that he’s thinking about running against Norm Coleman and Franken’s related move from New York back to Minneapolis.

At what appears to be an Air America planning session for a meeting with investors, Franken is asked what Air America is to be. “It’s about answering the fuckheads,” Franken says. On his first Air America show in March 2004, Michael Moore is Franken’s in-studio guest; together Franken and Moore interview Al Gore by telephone. The film shows Franken exulting that his ratings for the first month of the show beat those of Rush Limbaugh in New York.

The network’s financial difficulties are intimated by reference to a missed payroll, but the abject failure of the network’s lineup to generate an audience remains a deep secret of the film. The film portrays Franken hinting darkly of network difficulties deriving from the “active intimidation” of advertisers and leaves it at that. “Less is more” seems to be the spirit with which Doob and Hegedus approach the story of Air America’s difficulties and disappointments.

The film includes a kind of “Man from Hope” element, showing Franken returning to the house he grew up in for a look around and reminiscing about his father. It also shows him on one of his USO tours impersonating Saddam Hussein to entertain the troops in Iraq. It is an unfunny sequence that appears to have been edited to show the troops laughing uproariously over Franken’s routine.

Doob and Hegedus work hard to portray Franken in a flattering light, but ninety minutes with Franken is about eighty minutes too many. Franken does not wear well; he comes across as a boor and a profoundly ugly man. Doob and Hegedus have blundered into the truth, though I can’t for the life of me imagine why they think an audience would want to pay to see it.


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