- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Dead decade

“Few recent movies have had such wildly different effects on their audiences as ‘Far From Heaven’ and ‘Down With Love.’ Most people either loathed or adored Todd Haynes’ reverent recreation of the glossy melodramas of the 1950s. I’ve heard filmgoers rave about Peyton Reed’s pop homage to Doris Day’s early ‘60s sex comedies, and others say they walked out in disgust. And some people are simply baffled by both. …

“[B]y making costume pictures set in the ‘50s, lingering over the accoutrements of the period as if over the drawing rooms of Brideshead or gleefully romping through glistening and shamelessly bogus ‘New York street scenes,’ [the directors] are saying that the ‘50s, too, are gone. Over. As irretrievable as the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s England and the plantations of Scarlett O’Hara’s Georgia. …

“In their oddball, covert way, both ‘Far From Heaven’ and ‘Down With Love’ make a more radical assault on the fantasy of the ‘50s than more overt attacks like ‘Pleasantville’ do. They say to us: We’re never going back there. It’s not an option. So let’s play dress-up because now that is all this will ever be — a game, a performance, a show, a costume picture. The ‘50s are finally dead.”

Laura Miller, writing on “Burying the ‘50s,” in Salon at www. salon.com

Mirror, mirror

“Last year a younger teacher respectfully approached an administrator to discuss the direction in which he was taking the school. Meaning to be helpful, she sincerely warned, ‘You are going to cause us to lose some really good, strong teachers.’ The administrator responded, ‘I’m not worried about it. It will clear out the riffraff!’

“It is difficult to imagine any sensible administrator using such terminology to describe teachers who simply worry about the present undermining of educational standards; attempt to maintain order amongst the chaos; and believe in a knowledge-based curriculum.

“More and more, it appears, though, that we do not live in sensible times, guided by sensible leadership. We do not have sensible curriculum, sensible testing, or sensible plans for accountability. Without sensible foundations and insights, irrational and foolhardy stances can be taken by such administrators in public schools. Government education lacks the common sense, and the courage, to look into a mirror. It will never willingly appraise its image — noticing the glaring flaws, warts, wounds, as well as the look of cruel, conniving intent upon its face.”

Linda Schrock Taylor, writing on “Cull the Riffraff,” Tuesday at www.lewrockwell.com

Political farce

“If [Michael] Moore is known for anything, it is for walking into corporate offices, hunting down CEOs, and asking them to justify some business abuse — layoffs, say, or pollution. Confrontation seems to suit him, especially the sort that prompts humor. …

“Some reviewers are put off by Moore’s aggressiveness. But what’s really shocking is how often his technique fails. …

“Often Moore can’t get to the upper echelons of a corporation or government. Then he winds up confronting a security worker or desk clerk, as the cameras roll. In ‘The Big One,’ for instance, he tried to get Payday candy bar company executives to discuss layoffs. Security guards push him out the door, and Moore gets persnickety, challenging and mocking them. And so in the name of confronting the powers that be, Moore winds up annoying underpaid security guards. The point of this, I would assume, was lost on many viewers, not just me.

“These examples might not matter; they could all be chalked up to a joke, except that Moore thinks of what he’s doing as political. Here he inherits the New Left’s conflation of ‘guerrilla theater’ with politics. … Generating a humorous buzz doesn’t shake things up so much as symbolize powerlessness.”

Kevin Mattson, writing on “The Perils of Michael Moore,” in the spring issue of Dissent

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