- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 1999


Cruel comedy

"The usual Hollywood approach to celebrity bio is two-pronged: Freudian-ize and canonize. 'Man on the Moon' goes heavy on canonization that's its major weakness but it doesn't pretend to 'explain' [late comedian Andy] Kaufman. No childhood trauma, no Rosebud, awaits our discovery… .
"What the movie doesn't explore is how Kaufman might have been deeply pained by his multiple-man mind-set, and it also doesn't suggest the cruelty behind some of his so-called performance art. When he refuses to play Latka for a clamorous college audience and, instead, submits the few of them who remain to a cover-to-cover, English-accented reading of 'The Great Gatsby,' the scene is played as if he were asserting his right to be an artist and not just a sitcom personality. But … Kaufman regularly rebuffed his audiences, and he didn't do it because he was protecting the purity of his gifts. He did it because he probably couldn't help himself, and because flop sweat for him was just as sweet as the nectar of adulation… . 'Man on the Moon' … gives the abrasiveness of its subject a saintly glow."
Peter Rainer, writing on "Invisible Men," in the Jan. 3 issue of New York

Nihilistic killers

"This was definitely what the people of Littleton, Colo., wanted for Christmas. Eight months after the shootings that turned 'Columbine' into a synonym for 'massacre,' they had begun to put their lives back together… .
"Then along came Time magazine with what it dubbed a 'Special Report.' The report was based on a set of videos shot by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the April shooting. In these tapes, the duo swigged Jack Daniels, brandished their weapons, and tried to explain why they were about to do what they did.
"What emerged from the tapes wasn't a pair of raving maniacs or diabolical masterminds. Instead, we got a glimpse of pathetically screwed up kids, made that way, in no small measure, by a popular culture that breeds nihilism… .
"Harris and Klebold … wanted to be remembered as revolutionary figures, people who did something that changed the world.
"Students of philosophy will immediately recognize the source of [the killers' videotaped] pronouncements: Friedrich Nietzsche… . In Nietzschean terms, they were beyond good and evil. Likewise, their desire to be seen as doing something original comes straight from Nietzsche's idea of the artist as a self-creator who is unconstrained by antiquated moral norms."
Roberto Rivera, writing on "Nothing, Nihilism and Videotape," in the on-line journal Boundless at www.boundless.com

Liberal albatross

"Liberal guilt about American power … translates into a particular kind of scruple about the use of force. Here I have in mind not just the liberal assumption that the legitimacy of our use of force can come only from some international organization (as when the Clinton administration obtained U.N. Security Council authorization before occupying Haiti in 1995). Nor do I mean only that the left sees U.S. intervention as tainted if any 'selfish' strategic interest gets in the way of humanitarian goals. In addition to all that, there is a moral discomfort with the actual use of force that leads liberal Democratic presidents to cut corners, to do the minimum, and to yearn for 'surgical' or 'calibrated' ways to do it.
"This is the Bay of Pigs syndrome, the albatross of LBJ's 'graduated escalation' in Vietnam, the bane of Jimmy Carter's abortive helicopter raids on Iran, and the pattern of Clinton interventions from Somalia to Iraq to Kosovo."
Peter W. Rodman, writing on "American Power For What?" in the January issue of Commentary

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