The Private Life of Billy Wilder

Billy WilderOn this day back in 1903, John Dillinger was born. What I’ve always found so interesting about him is how he and Baby Face Nelson hooked up. Compared to Nelson, Dillinger seems almost aristocratic. Or at least not a total psychopath. Anyway, Dillinger had just turned 31 when he was killed. That seems amazing, but maybe it shouldn’t. Nelson was only 25 when he was killed. All those gangsters were so precocious!

Producer Joseph Papp was born in 1921. Fashion designer Bill Blass was born in 1922. And Freddie Prinze was born in 1954. I was going to put up a clip from Chico and the Man, but they were all awful. Here is Prinze doing some respectable stand-up:

Pa Walton, Ralph Waite is 85 today. Dianne Feinstein is 80. Why didn’t she retire this year? Kris Kristofferson is 77. I don’t really get most of his music. Except for this one:

Fucktard Brit Hume is 70. Todd Rundgren is 65, so I guess he’ll retire now. I think of him primarily for his production of Bat Out of Hell, which really is an excellent album. Three notable women all turn 64 today: Meryl Streep, Lindsay Wagner, and Elizabeth Warren. The other Graham Greene is 61. He starred in one of my very favorite movies Medicine River. The funny thing about that film is that almost no one has seen it, but those who have love it. And that’s why sellers on Amazon can get away with selling a VHS copy for $40. If you get a chance, don’t miss it.

Cyndi Lauper is 60. Bruce Campbell is 55. Environmentalist Erin Brockovich is 53. Basketball player Clyde Drexler is 51. Author Dan Brown is 49. And the boxing director Uwe Boll is 48.

The day, however, belongs to one of my favorite directors, Billy Wilder who was born on this day in 1906. He directed a number of my favorite films: Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, and (perhaps surprisingly, since no one else cared for it) The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which sadly is about an hour too short and it isn’t clear whether it will ever be properly restored. I think this trailer is horrible, but it gives an okay idea of the film:

Happy birthday Billy Wilder!

Matt Yglesias Impersonates Basil Smikle

Matt YglesiasI knew that Matt Yglesias was a smart young man, but I had no idea he did impersonations. You may know him just because I write so much about him here. I often think he is too clever and provides conservatives with policy cover on some economic issues. In particular, like most intellectuals of his age, he is none too fond of workers and unions. And he can be very silly when writing about things outside of politics. Regardless, he is a smart guy with some very good insights. He is also a white man with beard, glasses, and little hair.

This morning he was doing an amazing impression of Democratic strategist Basil Smikle on Up with Steve Kornacki:

Matt Yglesias Does Basil Smikle

On the segment, we also got a little of Josh Barro (who is rather cute with a little hair) cheer leading for Michael Bloomberg’s effort to destroy the Democratic Party. As I’ve argued a lot recently, Barro may support a more practical conservative movement, but all of his actions only serve to strengthen modern (non-practical) conservatives and harm liberals. It’s the same as with the libertarians: they think of themselves as outside the conservative movement but all they do is provide intellectual firepower for the conservative policy status quo.

But I’ll say one thing for Barro: at least he was actually on Up with Steve Kornacki during that segment.

Update (23 June 2013 7:14 pm)

Yesterday, Matt Yglesias tweeted the following:

That’s very nice given all the nasty things I wrote about him above. He is a better man than I. But in my defense, I take it as a given that Yglesias is a brilliant young man—my readers know just how much I gush about him—and quote him! But if you only read this article, you might think I didn’t like him much. But I figure people who reach the professional heights that he has must have developed a thick skin.

Jesus Reborn as Superman

Man of SteelDespite my better judgement, I went to see Man of Steel yesterday. Comic book heroes are silly. I mean, really? You have super acrobatic abilities and can echolocate so you dress up in a red costume with DD printed on the chest? Really?! It makes no sense, especially given that both the bad guys and the police want to get you. But as they say: there’s silly and then there’s silly. Daredevil may be silly, but Superman is silly. He is arguably the silliest of all super heroes. But that isn’t bad; it’s fantastic! It’s in the same league with Elvis impersonators.

What you don’t do is take Superman seriously. And Man of Steel takes Superman very seriously. Deadly serious! There is almost no humor in the movie. The “S” that Superman wears on his chest means “Hope” on his home planet. Under normal circumstances, that would have been kitschy enough to pass. But not here! The first 20+ minutes of the film is spent with Russell Crowe channeling Richard Burton at his most serious. The powers that control Krypton have brought on environmental catastrophe. But he has a really great idea: they’ll all die. But they can feel good about it because he’ll send his new baby off to earth to repopulate the race with the natives. Or something. It all involves some kind of genetic codex that for some reason was in some kind monkey skull but in what maybe was supposed to be a surprise we learn it was transferred into Superman himself. Regardless, the whole sequence is ponderous, helped along by the worst Hans Zimmer score I’ve ever heard.

If you doubt me, check out this trailer which is a perfect representation of the film:

But the most important aspect of this opening is when Superman’s mother complains about blasting him off to earth. She says, “He will be an outcast. They’ll kill him!” And his father replies, “How? He’ll be a god to them!” Did I mention that the dialog in this film is really bad? Moving on… That’s not bad all by itself. But the rest of the film makes the metaphor concrete. The most brazen example is when Superman goes to a church to talk to a priest. There is a shot (I swear I am not making this up!) of Superman on the right and a stained glass image of Jesus on the left. And the shot is held a lonnnggg time! But there are all kinds of other examples. We constantly see him with his arms outstretched as though he were suffering on the cross. Plus there is lots of talk about the people not being ready to know the existence of Superman and how he is their savior.

The film even ends with Superman destroying a satellite the military has put up to locate his ice home or whatever. It is right out of the Tower of Babel. Oh the hubris of man!

There seems to be a trend in superhero films to go this “serious” road. The last Spiderman film was more that way. Thor is necessarily that way. (And therefore should never have been made!) But this is a wrong direction to go. If Hollywood wants to make serious films, it could, I don’t know, make serious films. But films like Man of Steel simply take their silliness seriously. A more interesting thing would be to create a badass Jesus come back from the dead. I realize that would offend Christians. But if they were paying attention, they’d be offended by Man of Steel.

Afterword

There is much more to say about the film. It is deeply disturbing. I’m particularly bothered by the Superman as Ubermensch aspect of it. Even though Superman is a “good guy,” he does define his own moral universe. He has no problem breaking the law for his own purposes. He is also shown to be one vindictive son of a bitch. I would be very worried indeed if he were hanging around on the planet. If Superman really wanted to be helpful, he would do what is shown in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon. (Check it out; it’s brilliant!)

Update (27 April 2015 12:27 pm)

Oh, and honest trailer: