- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

Movie mobsters

“The American fascination with the mafia seems never to abate. This is a rare instance in which Hollywood has regularly fed an American appetite with sophisticated fare. Just in the past few months, the superbly crafted ‘The Sopranos’ finally got what was coming to it with an Emmy award for best drama; [Martin] Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ (1990) was released on DVD; and AMC ran multiple showings of ‘The Godfather’ trilogy. …

“[A]s Tony Soprano wistfully and nostalgically reminds us, contemporary mafia life is but a shadow of the family of the old world. When American audiences think about the glory days of the mob, they are apt to think of ‘The Godfather’ trilogy that repeatedly points, and then takes us back, to the Sicilian roots of the mob. …

“American audiences are attracted to such portrayals for many reasons, not least of which is that ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Goodfellas,’ and ‘The Sopranos’ are remarkably well-crafted. But Americans can treat these productions as a form of entertainment precisely because the mafia and organized crime operate at the margins of most American lives.”

Thomas Hibbs, writing on “The Mafia, Misunderstood,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Late-night success

“In a world where exploding TV choices and technology are allowing consumers to create their own prime-time schedules, one of TV’s oldest formats — the late-night talk show — has proved remarkably adept at keeping and attracting viewers. In fact, these shows have come to represent one of the rarest and most valuable of commodities in the digital world: programs that viewers faithfully make an appointment to view. …

“Part of their success clearly lies in comedy’s ability to say things that traditional media sources aren’t saying about the news of the day. Indeed, these programs are also proving to be increasingly important sources of news and political discourse for Americans. …

“In effect, late-night talk shows are a unifying element for a society where the mass market isn’t as massive as it once was.”

Michael J. Wolf, writing on “The Lure of Late-Night Television,” in the Wall Street Journal yesterday

Punk truth

“Everyone knows conservatives and Republicans are ridiculous squares — button-downed establishmentarians in blue blazers and deck shoes, terrified by anyone who challenges their supine submission to authority.

“Everyone knows this. Which is why it came as a shock to so many that Johnny Ramone, the legendary Ramones guitarist who died on Sept. 15, was a self-described Reagan Republican and fan of George W. Bush. …

“To the extent that conformity is encouraged or discouraged by particular political movements, the right is now more ‘punk’ than the left.

“The left espouses group identity; the right promotes individualism. The left holds everyone to be a victim in need of assistance from the authorities; the right wants the authorities to leave everyone alone. …

“For at least the past 30 years, everything the marketers of hip have brought to your living room, your car stereo, your movie screen has delivered the same political message: Liberals are hip, conservatives are square. Even as Johnny Ramone’s guitar shook the mortar from the walls of the nightclub down the street, the broader American culture swallowed this message.”

Andrew Cline, writing on “I Wanna Be Sedated,” Tuesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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