- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Keep your leg

“I think I may be suffering from romantic-comedy Stockholm syndrome. After being repeatedly brutalized by the cynical, soul-deadening rom-coms of recent years (‘The Ugly Truth’, ‘The Proposal,’ ‘New in Town’), perhaps I’ve begun to identify with my captors and am now grateful for the smallest scrap they throw me. Formulaic plot? Bland characters? Sappy ending? Fine. Just don’t make me watch Katherine Heigl have a remote-controlled orgasm in a restaurant.

“‘The Back-up Plan,’ with Jennifer Lopez as a would-be single mother surprised by love, is by any reasonable standard a bad movie: predictably scripted, sentimental, with laughs that rarely rise above a gentle sitcom chuckle. But at least it’s not reprehensible, misogynistic, or cynical, and the lead couple isn’t made up of a shrill female narcissist and a proudly slovenly male lug. I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend this movie, but if you were tied down and forced to watch it, you wouldn’t necessarily have to chew off your own leg to get away. (If ‘All About Steve’ comes on in similar circumstances, start gnawing.)

Dana Stevens, writing on “The Back-up Plan,” on April 22 at Slate

Happy times

“According to the Los Angeles Times, people may have ‘a basic setting on their happiness thermostat.’ So don’t blame your current depression on your ex-wife, your sullen children, your forgetful old father, poor exam results, a bad hair day or a piss-poor speech by the pope.

“Depressing real-life events come and go, but your general capacity to feel gladness is fixed. This is good news for the pharmaceutical industry, but it wont do much for publishers, who continue to believe that feelings of crapness might be shooed away forever by reading the right book. I’m talking self-help, auto-improvement, personal growth: the corner of the bookshop where sad-eyed people, credit card at the ready, are to be seen lifting down copies of ‘Only One Shot: Aligning the Inner Soul with Action: How to Re-engineer Your Existence, Design a Lifelong Personal Strategy, and Rediscover the Joy of Living.’ The hardcore books always have two colons in the title.

Andrew O’Hagan, in his Short Cuts column, on April 22 at the London Review of Books

Flag flaps

“People who fly the flag today and insist that, for their generation, it’s ‘heritage not hate’ or that they’ve ‘co-opted the flag,’ give themselves too much credit. In fact, they’re participating in a process that began 150 years ago, the washing of the flag. …

“But people can fly the Confederate Flag and have a serious, evidently credible argument, about its ‘precise meaning,’ mostly because of a long historical fight to make the Civil War, and hence its symbols, about something other than slavery. Again, there’s a reason we don’t think of Abraham Lincoln as being murdered by a white supremacist. …

“Formulating the question as ‘Is Lynyrd Skynyrd racist?’ or ‘Are people who fly the Confederate flag racist?’ or ‘Can you fly the flag and be progressive?’ misses the point. The better question is … ‘How well do you know the history of the symbols you claim?’ It really is that simple.”

T-Nehisi Coates, writing on “Commemorating CHM: Remixing The Flag Of Treason,” on April 26 at his Atlantic blog

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