Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sectarian violence in Iraq and Afghanistan has erupted with a vengeance: over 80 people dead in different bombing incidents.

Politically, the week was dominated by Barack Obama's speech about race. It was fascinating to see the reactions. Tavis Smiley, for example, was deeply offended by Obama's speech, because Smiley felt that Obama did not give credence to the four century history of oppression that black people have suffered in this country. (Obviously, Smiley has not been reading The New Republic, where every week someone dissects Obama's background and upbringing, to discuss the fact that Obama was not raised with black people: he was raised by his white mother, who was separated from his African - not African-American, but African - father by the time he was born, and his mother then left him with her family, a white family. Obama does not have the experience of being in an African-American family, and the history of oppression since slavery is not a history that Obama shares. So Smiley's outrage is a smack in the face to Obama's actual upbringing.) Jim Lehrer, for example, was offended that, in referring to his grandmother, Obama used to term "typical white woman", because (Lehrer said) "there are no typical white women". What: for Jim Lehrer there are only typical black people? Typical Asian people? But whites are still so special? And so Jim Lehrer is offended on behalf of Obama's grandmother (a more patronizing bit of sophistry i've yet to encounter).

What's funny is that the reaction to Obama's speech reveals a lot about what people think about race. And about what they think the "place" of black people in America is at this time.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an obituary: William L. Hayward died on March 9, 2008 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Times went on to mention the fact that Hayward's mother, Margaret Sullavan, and his sister, Bridget, also died in circumstances which were ruled suicide (in both their cases, from an overdose of medications). The Times obituary mentioned that he had been married and divorced three times, he was survived by his sister Brooke, and his two children, Leland and Bridget, and a grandchild. Brooke Hayward (of course) remains very much alive, and has been married to Peter Duchin for many years.

Have been thinking about New Directors, and last night watched Amy Heckerling's "I Could Never Be Your Woman" with Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd, and "Imaginary Heroes" which was on WNET-Channel 13. "I Could Never Be Your Woman" wasn't bad, it certainly was better than a lot of what passes for romantic comedies nowadays, and it has a performance by Michelle Pfeiffer that is really exceptional: unrestrained and uninhibited. She really lets loose here, and she's delightful (as opposed to movies like "White Oleander" where she's trying so hard to be serious). "Imaginary Heroes" was the kind of movie which i might have missed altogether, it's another one of those dysfunctional-suburban-family sagas ("The Ice Storm" and "Ordinary People" are paradigms) and it's all a little angsty and drab. But i was glad it was on TV, and i finally saw it: the acting was good, there were some good bits. Actually, there are moments when the actors are more than good, when Sigourney Weaver or Jeff Daniels break through and provide a moment of genuine emotion. But "I Could Never Be Your Woman" is an example of a movie caught in the tentacles of distribution now, and so it's gone straight to DVD. It's a pity, because it's a little fanciful (what with Tracey Ullman playing - literally - Mother Nature) but it's still fairly bright. And Michelle Pfeiffer really is terrific.


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