Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln is a transcendent movie about a transcendent figure who is the nearest thing to a god America ever produced. Perhaps in a thousand years President Abraham Lincoln will be the only thing for which America is remembered. And with this definitive film about him Daniel Day-Lewis owns the role for all time. An incomparable movie.

Often, movies of this type come off as too much hagiography, but I hardly think that’s possible if the subject is Lincoln, a singular man for whom our praise can never be enough. And Spielberg deftly gives us the proper amount of holy worshipfulness to shroud the character, while at the same time allowing us to see him as, yes, a human being who struggled with doubt, and who was fully aware that to accomplish great things he had to do some unsavory business.

Abraham Lincoln towers over all other presidents and, indeed, over all other Americans who have ever lived, because he was singularly aware not only of his times, but of himself. “Are we fitted to the times,” Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln wonders, while now in retrospect we understand that Lincoln fitted the times to him, and more importantly, more than any of our founding fathers, helped to create America – the United States of America – and define our place in the world and our place in history.

I grew up loving the study of history, and in that study came to feel that Abraham Lincoln may have been the greatest man who ever lived. I also became a fawning fan of Steven Spielberg, whose Close Encounters opened my young eyes to the meaning of awe and wonder. And then there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, who astounds me with his talent and who always devastated me in the climax of his version of The Crucible. So mix all those things together and no one should be surprised that Lincoln was my most eagerly anticipated film of the year.

This is one of Spielberg’s crowning achievements, surely to take its place alongside Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. And if anyone else ever tries to portray seriously Lincoln the man, that portrayal will be judged according to the standard set by Day-Lewis, and the movie by the standard set by Lincoln.

Best Bond ever

007

Daniel Craig is the best James Bond because he’s made 007 dangerous again.

Sean Connery was cool, Roger Moore turned into a cartoon character, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan had the misfortune to appear in the franchise when it was tired and unwilling to do what was necessary to make it fresh again. But Craig added real danger to his icy cool portrayal, and sent Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace to a whole new level that the franchise hadn’t experienced before.

Full disclosure: While I grew up with Bond movies and liked most of them, I was never a huge fan of the franchise. But the Daniel Craig era turned me into a fanboy. I loved that they made Bond more about his physicality and brainpower than drowning us in a cacophony of unbelievable gadgets, flying cars and exploding pens.

The latest, Skyfall, may be the very best in the 50 year old series. Javier Bardem is now one of the best of the Bond villains, and Bond fans will love all the clever shoutouts to the touchstones of the past. There’s your Aston Martin. There’s your Q. There’s your shaken, not stirred. There’s your “Bond, James Bond.” But it also has the new elements firing on all cylinders – a real story, Judi Densch’s M, physical action scenes that show us Bond is not indestructible. He struggles – he’s not some kind of comic book superhero. But even when Bond pulls off a physical feat that’s beyond the physics of the real world, like falling into a waterfall and surviving, or jumping onto a train car that’s just been ripped open, they add a little touch of Bond coolness. For example, after jumping onto the aforementioned train in the midst of its destruction, he adjusts the sleeves of his jacket. That’s Bond.

But this Bond also suffers real consequences. He really gets wounded when shot. And while he can be cool and emotionless, there are events that bring his emotions to the surface, with devastating results. In Skyfall, we get to see what it takes to really hurt James Bond to the core.

Go see it, it’s worth every moneypenny.

Thank the gods all this campaigning is over. COUNTDOWN TO THE MIDTERMS!

I’m a political junkie. I’m also a partisan but I love the game itself just as much. I like seeing the strategy, the chances campaigns take, the feints, the little games they play with the other guys as much as with themselves. So election night is very much like the Super Bowl to me.

Obama winsEven better, I was called in to KFI to help cover it. I provided reports for KFI news as well as anchoring newscasts for iHeartRadio and the other Clear Channel stations in L.A. It’s like a sports nut being given the opportunity to cover the big game right down on the field.

One of the things that struck me was looking up at the TV monitors and seeing election coverage interspersed with ads for Spielberg’s Lincoln movie. It was like a wormhole through space-time, with a black president on one end and the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation on the other.

All in all, a good night for Democrats and progressive causes, with some high profile races going their way. President Obama won decisively, of course, but also Tammy Duckworth, Clare McCaskill, Elizabeth Warren and others. Tea Party favorites like Allen West, Todd Akin, Scott Brown and Richard Mourdock were sent packing. Gay marriage won the ballot in Maine and Maryland (and maybe Washington). A gay marriage ban went down in Minnesota. In California a couple of high profile ballot initiatives broke in the progressives’ direction. Democrats gained seats, adding to their majority in the US Senate while the House stayed in the GOP’s hands.

Recreational pot won in Colorado and Washington. Massachusetts fully legalized medical use.

A massive voter suppression effort in Florida seems to have kept the outcome there in doubt, but in the end it didn’t matter, as Mitt Romney failed to win the battleground states he had to win to stay alive.

Dick MorrisMany pundits predicted it was going to be a long night, with the election results not known for days or even weeks. I had a feeling they were wrong – my personal prediction was that Obama would win and we’d know by midnight on the west coast. As it turns out I missed it by about three and a half hours.

The campaign MVP award has to go to Bill Clinton, who once again helped propel Barack Obama to a convincing victory, just as he did with his barnburner convention speech in 2008. Runner up MVP award goes to Joe Biden – a tireless campaigner, a happy warrior, and an old school politician who nevertheless wears his heart – and sometimes his tongue – on his sleeve.

Once again, pollster and analyst Nate Silver shamed his detractors.

And Dick Morris and Donald Trump embarrassed themselves. As usual.

Were you paying attention?

Obama and Christie

I hope the parties were paying attention. Americans like our politicians to relish bipartisanship to get things done as much as they relish the political jousting in campaigns. Barack Obama and Chris Christie didn’t change their campaign stances, but they didn’t let it stand in the way of working together with gusto when Americans needed them to.

And it’s not even much that they worked together because they had to… No, they seemed to be happy about working together. Not happy for the storm, not happy that it was such a historical catastrophe for so many because of lost lives and destroyed homes, but happy to be able to bring their individual star power to the table, cut through bureaucratic BS and actually accomplish the things their constituents needed them to accomplish.

Congress, please take note. Obstruction for the sake of obstructionism is practically treasonous as far as I’m concerned. It’s why you have historically low approval ratings – so, you know, TAKE A HINT, DAMMIT!

Castle goes to the final frontier

Castle goes to the final frontier

Castle is a fluffy crime procedural that is immensely enjoyable because Firefly’s Nathan Fillion is the lead.

Last night’s episode was set at a sci-fi convention, giving the writers an excuse to do some more Firefly shoutouts (we usually get a couple per season), but there were also some nice gags aimed at other great sci fi shows. And Fillion got to do a damn good Shatner impression. (See it below, along with a Picard.)

Castle made fun of the fictional “Nebula 9” show because it was “canceled more than a decade ago” and “only made 12 episodes.” He dropped a “shiny!” on us too. And when giving examples of “good” sci fi shows, he listed Trek, Battlestar, and “that Joss Whedon show.” The guest star who played “Captain Max” was an utter hoot, and all in all it was probably the most enjoyable episode of Castle ever – a love letter to sci fi fans.

Side note to the producers of Saturday Night Live – it’s time to let Nathan host.

Warning: I am an organ donor

Organ donor

My California driver license specifies that I’m an organ donor. So if you get my heart, you’ll never love anyone like you love Olivia Munn. If you get my you know what, it’s always had a mind of its own. If you get my brain, that dark shape with a shark mouth that you’ll dream about every night represents angst, I think.