Sunday, December 18, 2005

Citizen Kane: Sixty Four Years Later

Recently I watched Citizen Kane, the 1941 landmark movie that was written and directed by the late Orson Welles. He also brilliantly plays the leading role in this timeless classic.

This is not the first time I watched this picture, but its the first time I was able to watch it by choice. Huh? Let me explain. I was forced twice to watch this movie over the years. The first was back in high school, and the second as part of a college class. Let me tell you something straight away. Setting aside the fact that as a teenager and young adult I had an attention span that lasted as long as it took to type this sentence, being forced to watch anything gives you a different perspective then if you choose to watch.

Watching it now by choice and without the shortcomings of youth it was a whole different experience. When I think of the word "Rosebud", it suggests many things to me on an emotional and intellectual level. The search one goes through in life for meaning, the longing for simpler times, the dwelling on an event or events that were forever life altering. This man of power and wealth and influence was thinking of something so simple on his deathbed, that it staggers the mind. That sled represented the cross-roads of his life, and when you finally know what "Rosebud" means, it brings the whole first scene into sharp focus.

What would have happened to his life had he come back from playing with his sled and there was nobody to take him away? What would have become of him? I think we all face these events in life where things come into sharp focus. What would have happened if I had called her? Or if I had not fallen? Questions such as these we all face, and that's why this movie is brilliant.

It makes the timeless point about money not buying happiness. About the longing for simpler times in our lives, and about the choices me make for good or ill. Certain movies have that timeless quality about them because they don't speak only to the era they were made in, but speak more about us as human beings. Era's change, decades go by, technology changes the lives of society but humans will always be humans.

We live in an era where filmmakers believe in the theory of the lowest common denominator. Lets take generic people in to see generic films that concentrate on the eyes more than the mind. If they would only realize that the "eyecandy" is secondary to story then we would have more wonderful films. Citizen Kane succeeds and is timeless because it stimulates the brain, and makes you ask questions about your own life.

Shame we hardly ever get that from the films of today.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Manufactured Controversy: The War on Christmas

Sometimes you read, hear or watch something in the media that makes you shake your head and wonder what planet these people live on. Tune in to just about any conservative radio show, Fox News or any number of other conservative websites and you can find out there is some kind of "war on Christmas".

Funny, those are the only places this "war" exists. Everybody I know and the things around town you see smacks of the holiday season. The stores, the advertising, and all that goes with it. Do people really give a second thought when they read an ad worded "happy holidays" or "merry X-mas"? I think its fair to say that the overwhelming majority of people do not ever give it a second thought. Watch or listen to people like Bill O'reilly and you would think there is some kind of leftist plot to kill Christmas. Sounds tailor made for a new animated Christmas special. We can name it "O'reilly Saves Christmas"

So what's really going on here? The answer is quite obvious. The Republican party is mired in scandal after scandal, the war in Iraq is going very badly, the budget deficit is growing ever larger and cuts are being made in student loan programs to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%. Our health care system is broken, and the people in power have no answer to the rising cost of health care, nor for the 47+ million people who can not afford coverage of any kind. The south is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the news from the gulf region is not encouraging.

With an election coming up for Congress and Republican control in jeopardy the conservatives are trying to divert attention from the important issues that our country faces. So this month its the "war on Christmas". Fox News gives more attention to this phony war then any of the meat and potatoes issues I mentioned above. Next month it will be another manufactured war I am sure, like Intelligent Design or Gay marriage. To keep the folks on the right angry and voting the conservative talkies have no choice but to keep hitting their listeners over the head with this stuff. If you give them any time to think they may realize how bad things are and abandon the Republican party.

Will this strategy work for them? Only time will tell....