- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not so Christmas-y

“I mainly started having an issue with [‘It’s a Wonderful Life’] once I became a fan of [Frank] Capras other works. Whenever I think of his career overall I consider ‘Its a Wonderful Life’ sort of on the outside. Maybe even more so than the ‘Why We Fight’ series.

“Much of this has to do with its acceptance outside of general classic Hollywood film, which has to do with its holiday movie status. There’s not much need for it to be set at Christmas, and with such a setting it actually comes off as a minor rip-off of the concept behind ‘A Christmas Carol’ (the fact that Lionel Barrymore was known for playing Scrooge on the radio adds to the reminder of Dickens). Never mind that it is based on a short story originally published as a Christmas card (Philip Van Doren Sterns ‘The Greatest Gift’), I wish it hadn’t turned into something people primarily think of in terms of the holiday.

“Why couldn’t it be as unassociated with the holiday as ‘Meet John Doe,’ which also involves suicide plans on Christmas Eve? We dont have to and can only watch ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ on Halloween. Yet heres the rub: The fact that ‘Its a Wonderful Life’ is set at Christmas has made it into necessary viewing by all Americans and may in turn have been the gateway for young people to get into classic cinema, Capra, James Stewart, etc.”

- Christopher Campbell, writing on “5 Movies That Could Be Better if Not Set At Christmas,” on Dec. 22 at Spout

Not so fake

“Obviously the story [of ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’] is bizarre, that’s why I made a film about it, but I’m still shocked by the level of skepticism. I guess I have to accept that people think I’m full of [nonsense]. But I’m not clever enough to have invented Mr. Brainwash, even the most casual on-line research confirms that.

“Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind if people believe me or not, but the films power comes from the fact its all 100 percent true. This is from the front line, this is watching an art form self-combust in front of you. Told by the people involved. In real time. This is a very real film about what it means to ‘keep it real.

“Besides, if the movie was a carefully scripted prank you can be sure I would’ve given myself some better lines. I would’ve meticulously planned my spontaneous off-the-cuff remarks. I love that famous Jack Benny comeback to a heckler - ‘You wouldn’t say that if my writers were here.’ But Ive always wondered - did his writers tell him to say that?”

- Banksy, as quoted in an interview with A.J. Schnack on Dec. 21 at All These Wonderful Things

Not so historical

“This was not just a way of reading (or misreading) history. The focus on human rights had large practical consequences. From Jimmy Carter onward, this tenet came to be invoked as ‘the guiding rationale of the foreign policy of states.’ Almost never used in English before the 1940s, ‘human rights’ were mentioned in the New York Times five times as often in 1977 as in any prior year of the newspapers history.

“By the nineties, human rights had become central to the thinking not only of liberals but also of neoconservatives, who urged military intervention and regime change in the faith that these freedoms would blossom once tyranny was toppled. From being almost peripheral, the human-rights agenda found itself at the heart of politics and international relations.

“In fact, it has become entrenched in extremis: nowadays, anyone who is skeptical about human rights is angrily challenged to explain how they can condemn Nazism - as if the only options that exist in political thought are rights-based liberal universalism or out-and-out moral relativism. The fact that those who led the fight against Nazism understood the conflict in quite different terms, with Winston Churchill seeing it simply but not inaccurately as a life-and-death struggle between civilization and barbarism, is not considered relevant.”

- John Gray, writing on “What Rawls Hath Wrought” in the January-February issue of the National Interest