Wednesday, December 19, 2012

i guess I think too much like an engineer

The Republicans in the House are trying to pass an extension of the Bush tax cuts that would only apply to incomes of $1,000,000 or less. I have two comments about this. First, anyone who says that the Republicans are voting for a tax increase is being unfair. A tax increase is coming and there is nothing the Republicans can do to stop it. The law was passed years ago. All the Republicans can do is try to limit the damage and this bill a reasonable attempt.

Second, why don't they first try the bill they actually want? I mean, I know the Senate would probably never pass it, but if I were in the House, I'd say: look, what we think is the best thing to do is to make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Let's send the Senate that bill. When the Senate rejects it, then we send our compromise bill. If they reject that, then they can take responsibility for raising taxes on all Americans.

I'd do the same thing with the spending cuts that are scheduled to happen. Pass a bill that undoes the spending cuts for military spending and leaves the rest alone. The Senate will reject it, but then when the military has to drastically cut back, there would be no question whose fault it was.

Why don't the Republicans just send their preferred policies to the Senate as bills and let the Senate reject them? Make it crystal clear what the Republicans wanted and what the Democrats rejected. None of this behind-the-scenes negotiations and the he-said-she-said accounts of what happened. Let Americans know what the Republican proposals are in their bills, out there for all the world to see, and let the Democrats reject those proposals, out there for all the world to see.

Monday, December 17, 2012

movie review: the unexpected CGI journey

When I saw The Hobbit --An Unexpected Journey I was surprised at how empty the theater was on a Sunday afternoon at a move based on a children's story. After the show, I was no longer so surprised.

Martin Freeman is very good as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen is tremendous as Gandalf. The rest of the acting is good, although I don't think much of the casting and/or makeup. Richard Armitage who plays Thorin Oakenshield just doesn't look dwarfish and neither do several other of the dwarvish company. And then there were the elves, who have a short scene or two. I never thought Peter Jackson did a good job casting the elves in the Middle Earth movies. Regardless of acting ability --and some of them were very good actors-- to my eye, they all look more like they belong on a sheep farm than in an eldritch forest.

The story is a bit schizophrenic because it tries to be about two heroes: Bilbo and Thorin, each with their own nemesis and their own plot arc. That seldom works out well for a drama. It certainly doesn't work well in this movie but we don't yet know how Jackson will pull off a 2-hero climax in a single story because The Unexpected Journey doesn't really have a climax; it's just the first part of a 3-movie story. Maybe Jackson can make it work, but given how he did in the first movie, I have my doubts.

This movie really is just the first part of a longer story. It doesn't make a complete story on its own and the ending, was abrupt and, er, unexpected. Although to be honest, I had been ready for the move to end for about 45 minutes by that time. 

And I have to say that there were too many CGI fight sequences and they were too long. Peter Jackson just doesn't have a good sense for balancing the story with the action. He showed this weakness both in King Kong and in The Return of the King, both of which were actually made boring at points with too much CGI action.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of CGI action sequences. When you have a movie with a ridiculously over-done hack story like The Avatar or a pathetically bad story and worse acting like Dragon Wars, then long drawn-out CGI sequences can make the movie better. But when you have a great story and great acting like Peter Jackson did in the Bilbo half of An Unexpected Journey, then the action sequences seem like an interruption of the story. You want to get back to Bilbo and Gollum, not waste time with a ridiculous scene of dwarves running through a goblin cave trying to escape a giant goblin with a goiter the size of a large shoulder bag.

To force in all of that CGI, Jackson had to cut down on scene-setting. The journey all seemed to happen within a couple of days. They would jump from one action scene directly to another with no intervening work to mark the passage of time. It was quite exhausting, and not in a good way.

All in all, a pretty disappointing effort.