- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Sequel hits

“If you feel like spending a couple hours watching a sequel to a hit movie about an impervious machine that doesn’t stop until it gets what it wants, you have two choices: ‘Terminator 3’ and ‘Legally Blonde 2.’ … [T]he two franchises have plenty in common. Besides being built around scarily focused protagonists — a cyborg assassin and a superachieving sorority gal — both movies are reasonably well-crafted but wholly unnecessary sequels.

“The original ‘Terminator’ was hardcore action fantasy par excellence, part stalker flick, part sci-fi adventure — unabashedly a boy movie, but hard and lean and unpretentious, with a love story at the center of the action. The first ‘Legally Blonde’ was the apex of the chick flick. … By putting both movies in release at once, Hollywood has created a sex split at the multiplex. Ironically, a much-promo’ed fight scene from ‘T3’ reduces the box office duel to a single image: old cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger and his newest nemesis, the small, blonde bombshell T-X (Kristanna Loken) bashing each other’s faces into walls. (If only the two studios had pooled their resources to make ‘Legally Blonde Terminator 3.’)”

Matthew Zoller Seitz, writing on “Legally Arnold,” in the July 2 issue of New York Press

Back-seat liberals

“The vast politico-cultural gulf that separates most [reporters] from martial ideals often produces portrayals of military work that are twisted in one fashion or another.

“I observed this media-military gap myself when I filed reports from Iraq. There was, for instance, a story I sent to the Los Angeles Times describing certain of my interactions with the 82nd Airborne’s infantry commander, whom I characterized as an impressive leader.

“An editor back in L.A. refused to run the article without inserting a sentence at the end warning that this positive assessment may have been influenced by the fact that I was embedded with U.S. troops myself, and therefore perhaps too sympathetic to their point of view.

“I was unreachable in the desert after sending the report in, and knew nothing of this outrageous attempt at back-seat editorializing. Thankfully, my magazine staff fought on my behalf and managed to get the offensive disclaimer watered down to a relatively innocent half-sentence attached to my conclusion.”

Karl Zinsmeister, writing on “Jayson Blair’s World, and Iraq” in the July/August issue of the American Enterprise magazine

Subversive ‘Harry’

“There is an awful moment in every child’s life when he realizes, all at once, that his parents are not omnipotent. In ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,’ that moment lasts 870 pages: the much awaited fifth installment in the continuing saga of the young wizard presents a sustained disenchantment of author J.K. Rowling’s hyper-enchanted world. …

“A central theme of ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ … is what Hannah Arendt called ‘the banality of evil.’ As Isabel Paterson wrote in ‘The God of the Machine’: ‘Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.’ If the agents can’t quite be cast as virtuous, they are nevertheless doing ‘good’ by their own lights. …

“While most parents celebrate anything that gets adolescents to put down the remote and pick up a book — a powerful bit of magic in itself — others are concerned that the series celebrates the ‘dark arts.’ An Australian school is only the most recent to have banned the bespectacled mage. Perhaps parents and teachers who relish unquestioned obedience are right to be concerned about Harry Potter, but their focus is misplaced. It is not the magic, but the morality of Harry Potter that is truly subversive.”

Julian Sanchez, writing on “Eichmann In Hogwarts,” July 2 in Reason Online at www.reason.com

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