Out and about (July 2007)

Ezra Klein on Michael Moore’s Sicko and the relentless fact-checking that it’s undergoing by the mainstream media. Klein wonders, as I do, why a left-wing filmmaker comes under such careful scrutiny by the networks and cable news, but it’s left to the bloggers to uncover the nonsense spouted by some right-wing pundits (and/or presidential administrations). He hazards a guess:

Michael Moore elicits a very specific type of status anxiety in mainstream journalists. Moore’s product–passionate, provocative political commentary–is a close cousin of the media’s product–bloodless, boring political commentary. And Moore is a former journalist, an editor at papers in Flint, Michigan and Mother Jones. What he does is, broadly speaking, in the same realm as what they do. But there are differences between the product he puts out, and what the media offers. A major one is that Moore’s releases strike massive emotional chords with the American people, setting off weeks of heated discussion every time he unveils a film. Additionally, he is paid in the tens of million for the production of his documentaries and invited to Cannes when they’re released. Nice as the occasional invitation to the White House Correspondents Dinner may be, the two just don’t compare.

So there’s an acute desire on the part of the press to separate what Moore does from what they do, both in order to explain away his successes and to underscore their own assumed strengths (objectivity, rationality, etc). His failings may be manifold, but that hardly renders him unique. His treatment, however, is unique. The world is full of political provocateurs and public hotheads, but only Moore triggers the media’s all-too-absent obsession with factual accuracy. Ann Coulter doesn’t, and Al Franken doesn’t, and Rush Limbaugh doesn’t, and Mitt Romney doesn’t. Only Moore. Because he scares them.

A good interview with Don DeLillo.

Outer Life seems to be back to his semi-regular frequency. Here he is on Los Angeles; life, the universe, and everything; and a new system for electing presidents. Go read him.

The Cinetrix writes about Waitress, and raises some interesting questions about its setting.

Ryland Walker Knight sizes up a double bill of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and A Century and Tsai Ming-liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, and makes me badly want to see the former.

Michael S. Smith takes on the late-period movies of Yasuhiro Ozu, writing eloquently on Late Autumn and The End of Summer. A typically terrific paragraph from the latter essay:

Ozu’s seamless visual minimalism creates an appropriate, understated tapestry for his central concern. The End of Summer, as the title implies, is about the inevitability of change, the temptation to resist it, and the fading of tradition and the onset of modernity. Neon lights bring Osaka to life at night; the right angles of the city’s concrete and steel structures stand off against the curved rooftops of older Japanese temples; the imposing figures of American suitors, shot from shortly above floor level, block the doorways and crowd the halls of a traditional Japanese home; Akiko and Noriko feel bound by family strictures but desire futures of their own; a son doubts the need to merge the family business with another but also feels the pull of a new economy. And within this rubric of change, resistance, and the gradual dilapidation of traditions, another, equally vital contrast emerges between generations and between freedom and obligation. “I’m still considering whether or not I can maintain this life,” Akiko tells her sister, Noriko. Later, in one of Ozu’s beautifully static compositions, Akiko and Noriko kneel, realizing that the inherent sadness of change, and particularly of painful generational transition, can bring the unexpected, bittersweet beneficence of knowing where familial obligation ends and individual freedom begins.

Tingle Alley has stormed the barricades of Terry Teachout’s blog, offering book-reading suggestions and W. Somerset Maugham. She’s always worth reading.

The monthly comics roundup done by The Onion’s AV Club is quickly becoming essential reading for those of us who want quick, informed, intelligent criticism of new comics. This edition proves to be no exception, running the gamut from reviews of Douglas Wolk’s must-read collection of essays to John Porcellino’s collected mini-comics to the latest Superman/Spider-Man/Flash/whatever blockbuster boondoggles.

That is all.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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