- - Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spinach films

“A study conducted in 1999 … had people pick three movies out of a selection of 24. Some were lowbrow like ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘Mrs. Doubtfire.’ Some were highbrow like ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘The Piano.’ In other words, it was a choice between movies which promised to be fun and forgettable or would be memorable but require more effort to absorb.

“After picking, the subjects had to watch one movie right away. They then had to watch another in two days and a third two days after that. Most people picked ‘Schindler’s List’ as one of their three. They knew it was a great movie because all their friends said it was. … Most didn’t, however, choose to watch it on the first day. …

“Many studies over the years have shown you tend to have time-inconsistent preferences. When asked if you would rather have fruit or cake one week from now, you will usually say fruit. A week later when the slice of German chocolate and the apple are offered, you are statistically more likely to go for the cake. … With Netflix, the choice of what to watch right now and what to watch later is like candy bars versus carrot sticks. When you are planning ahead, your better angels point to the nourishing choices, but in the moment you go for what tastes good.”

David McRaney, writing on “Procrastination,” on Oct. 27 at You Are Not So Smart

‘Fair Game’ lies

“[Valerie Plame] did quit her job at the CIA (according to the film, it became impossible for her to continue in her nonproliferation work) but ‘Fair Game’ is at its weakest when it is supposed to be at its most harrowing. Essentially, the climax of [‘Fair Game’] shows [Joe] Wilson and Plame’s marriage nearly falling apart because they argue about how many media interviews to accept.

“It may be unfortunate that publicity necessitated the end of Plame’s career, but it also bestowed upon her a new and highly profitable job — Being Valerie Plame. She and Wilson each sold memoirs for considerable sums, sold their story to the movies for still more, and she now earns a living as a paid speaker. Perhaps the single most ludicrous scene is the one in which [actor Sean] Penn’s indignant Wilson, who has been all over television trumpeting his version of events, tells her that Vanity Fair is interested in doing something with the couple. [Actress Naomi] Watts’s Plame treats this as an absurd, even offensive suggestion. Unmentioned is that they did both appear in a larky, glamorous Vanity Fair spread.”

Kyle Smith, writing on “Plame and Fortune,” on Oct. 31 at Commentary magazine

Honest politics

“The fight going on in the media, the one that so offends [Jon] Stewart’s sensibilities, is happening because the healthy flag of open partisanship is being planted where once the dishonest but oh-so sober and thoughtful flag once few — the same flag that allowed an Uncle Walter to help lose a war and condemn millions to slavery and death with what I’m sure would be the Jon Stewart-approved tone of declaring Vietnam lost.

“Stewart simply could not be more wrong about what’s best for politics in this country. The media’s baby steps out of their partisan closets and the declaring of an open war for their side is one of the single … healthiest things to happen to our politics in decades. Because it is honest.

“MSNBC is staffed with a legion of beclowned fools, but Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann deserve credit for not hiding behind the cloak of lies found in the words ‘objectivity,’ and I will take 50 openly honest left-wing MSNBC loons … over any ONE of those who refuse to remove that cloak, namely the Stewart-approved PBS, ABC, NPR, and CBS.”

John Nolte, writing on “In Which I Defend Keith Olbermann From Jon Stewarts Sanctimony,” on Oct. 31 at Big Hollywood