The new Tom Cruise movie is really two films in one. The first is a story of reckless hubris on the part of a man who had a good life and abandoned it to become a drug smuggler. The second is a calumny of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Although there are moments of skilled filmmaking in American Made, ultimately, both fail.
It’s become a familiar question: Where are the Muslim voices of protest against the violence and misogyny of Middle Eastern culture?
For many people, the 1970s were a time when things began to fall apart—the era of Jimmy Carter, earth tones, the oil embargo, drugs. Yet as a new book reveals, “the Me Decade” was also, at least in certain safe American enclaves, a pre-digital world of fun, happiness, and strong families.
Sting-Ray Afternoons, the new memoir by Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin, is about growing up in the American Midwest in the 1970s. It is filled with memories of 1970s things: ugly sports stadiums, Shakey’s pizza parlors, Adidas tennis shoes, remote-less televisions, tacky furniture, cheap toys, and processed fast food. Yet for all its time-stamped cultural detritus, the book could be describing 1950s, or even 1920s, America. The reason: Rushin is the middle child (of five) of an intact family, which is a template for love, creativity, and diversity. Rushin’s father Don was a traveling magnetic tape salesman in Bloomington, Minnesota for 3M, and his mother Jane a stay-at-home mom.
The first person I ever knew who wanted to tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus was my mother. It was 1986 and my father, an editor at National Geographic, had erected a 10-foot statue to the explorer in the small backyard of our suburban Maryland home. Mom didn’t like the way Columbus dominated the half-acre, even if the basin at the foot of the statue attracted some nice birds.
Early this year, the composer Philip Glass turned 80. Several celebratory concerts have taken place, and in the fall, there will be a debut of a new Glass work. Piano Concerto No. 3 will be performed at the Jordan Hall of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. The New York Philharmonic is scheduled to open its 176th season with the New York premiere of his Double Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra.
Glass’s popular works have made him the most famous living classical composer. Known by rock fans and regular folks as much as by lovers of orchestral music, he has written many movie soundtracks, including the soundtracks to The Thin Blue Line (1988), A Brief History of Time (1991), and The Hours (2002). Glass is famous for minimalism—a term he doesn’t like, preferring the phrase “repetitive chord structures.” His music is beautiful and mesmerizing.
Detroit, the new film from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (2009’s The Hurt Locker), is actually three films. The first is a documentary-style dramatization of racial tensions in Detroit in 1967 that led to riots and fatalities. The second film is a horror movie in the style of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The third film is a standard courtroom drama.
Unfortunately, Detroit, which is powerful for its first half hour, sinks under the weight of those
Some of the most amazing things about Dunkirk, the lauded new movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan, are the things that are not in the film. Dunkirk dramatizes what was considered at the time a massive failure — the 1940 evacuation of 300,000 British troops from France at the beginning of World War II. In Dunkirk the film there’s no cute, sarcastic hero like in American action films (Christopher Nolan is British). There are no lingering torture scenes, a specialty of American sadist Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, the faces of the villains in Dunkirk — the German forces — are never seen. There are no ridiculous stunts that defy physics and common sense. There’s very little Computer Graphics Images, the gleaming special effects technology that makes so many modern films look like plastic. There’s no happy ending, but there is an astonishing, tear-inducing climax that is one of the best defenses of the West and freedom ever committed to film. These omissions, along with rich cinematography, the brilliant use of music, terrific actors and a general tone of understatement combine to make Dunkirk—a story of survival and stirring patriotism in the face of evil—a truly great film.
Every year in early May, tens of thousands of people gather in Ocean City, Maryland, for Cruisin’ Ocean City, a weekend dedicated to vintage cars. For four days, Coastal Highway is jammed with classic Camaros, souped-up Corvettes, 1940s Fords, and thousands of other bold, gleaming cars. The cheering, drinking, peel-outs, and general revelry have gotten so ecstatic and voluble that there’s talk of moving the event to earlier in the year, when fewer partiers would be able to attend.
Looking through Automobile Design Graphics: A Visual History from the Golden Age to the Gas Crisis, a recent coffeetable volume published by Taschen, it becomes evident why Americans, and particularly American men, love vintage cars. On the one hand we have the nostalgia factor, a yearning for a time when U.S. manufacturing turned out quality goods at a good price, gas was cheap, and political correctness and environmental hysteria had not quashed the fun of going cruising in a sporty car.
In a larger sense, these cars resemble a kind of timeless artistry—bold archetypes that transcend a particular place and point to the power of beauty.
Between 1975 and 1978, one of the more unusual transformations in the history of rock and roll music took place. Bruce Springsteen, a successful and hugely popular singer and guitarist, changed the way his music sounded.
The reasons why reveal a fascinating focal point where leftist politics, depression, Catholicism, and American fiction collide. Springsteen, who recently released a biography called Born to Run, is a liberal elitist and social justice warrior who is worshiped by the Left as a savior. How he got to be that, and how American literature and his battle with depression influenced him, are much more fascinating than a simplistic political reading of the man born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1949.
H.L. Mencken, one of the great journalists of the 20th century, once said that “Half the sorrows of the world, I suppose, are caused by making false assumptions.”
Look no further than a recent article in Politico for proof that the Sage of Baltimore was right. Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty, two reporters for the web site, have crunched a lot of numbers to come up with a thesis.
It goes like this: Media bias is caused not by how people think, or the fact that reporters get hired based on pre-existing ideology; it’s caused by the atmosphere in which reporters are enveloped. That is, reporters are liberal because of the ambient liberalism of the cities in which most of them live and work. Like soldiers stumbling under a mustard gas attack, writers go to New York or D.C. as freethinkers, only to turn into political hacks and cultural ideologues.