Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brief Thoughts on Looper

Am I the last person to see this film? The best sci fi movie I've seen since Minority Report. I'm really surprised this didn't get more critical props here at the end of year awards orgy. It's an original take on an old and simple question: if you had a time machine, would you go back and kill Hitler? Except it's not actually Hitler, but instead some future Hitler. And the bigger question is what it would do to you to try.

There are dozens of ways they could have screwed this up, especially by following the usual cliches of sci fi noir. But there's a refreshing lightness here, setting much of the action in a farmhouse and corn field, as if this were Field of Dreams gone disastrously wrong. And the acting is impeccable, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young "looper" (a hit man given the task of executing people sent back from the future so as to conceal all evidence of their deaths) who will eventually become the old Bruce Willis. Who would have thought JGL, most famous as the kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun, could have become the young Willis with so much tough guy cool and so few seams? I also loved the inversion of the Back To The Future rule about not meeting your "other" self during time travel. Let's just put them in a diner for a tense (and armed) conversation slash stand-off. Great identity questions here. If you met your future/past self, who would "you" be? And would you like yourself, or recognize a common interest? Are these two men the same people, or does time erode our identities and make us into entirely new people? Plus, it kicks ass as an action flick. All around, just loved this film.

Update: Forgot to mention, but Looper also comes across as something of a critique of Ayn Rand/Ron Paul. In the near recent future, when economic inequality has exploded, vagabonds wander begging through cities and cornfields, the government seems nonexistent, organized crime has become rampant, and everyone trades with gold and silver bullion that they horde rather than bank, the natural result is the rise of a bloodthirsty, mutant dictator. Sounds about right.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rubio Tuesday

Lots of discussion in the last few weeks about the GOP's rather lame effort to "re-brand" while making as few substantive changes as possible to their rather extreme ideological agenda. Rubio has been taking the brunt this week, thanks to his front-man role on immigration and his risky call to answer Obama's SOTU tomorrow night. In particular, Josh Marshall and Ed Kilgore have had interesting posts on whether Rubio is the Republican "Wes Clark," a guy adored by party pragmatists for addressing one glaring party weakness but lacking the ability to cover numerous other gaping wounds.

As much as I like the comparison, consider me unconvinced. Simple reason: ideology is overrated in determining American electoral outcomes. Not that it doesn't matter. In a close election, ideological extremism can obviously have an impact. Obama was vulnerable in 2012, and a less insane GOP could have fielded a stronger challenge than a Romney with a FOX anchor chained around his neck. As it was, that was (actually) the best they could muster. But that's in a close year. If the economy is weak at all in 2016, this is anybody's game, especially given the difficulty of a party hanging onto the White House for more than two terms. Economic growth 6-12 months prior to the election and time in office are most of the game. The latter cuts to the GOP no matter who they run, and the former is likely to improve (to Dem advantage), but can't be taken for granted. Meanwhile, the Dems have one clear successor to Obama in Hillary--but what if she doesn't run? Or gets another blood clot that's even worse? With a down economy and/or a Clinton withdrawal, the GOP could win even without major ideological concessions. And they could do it with a guy like Rubio who certainly looks the part and seems to have some political chops--more than Wes Clark did, I'd say, although, as some of you may remember, I was an enthusiastic Clarky back in 2004.

So Rubio, whose politics are basically just George W.'s (reactionary on everything except Hispanics), may be a gamble for Republicans, but he's also much less of one than the chaos of challenging the conservative movement's righteous and unwavering claim on absolute truth in all things, American-public-be-damned. I suspect he's making a pretty decent play, both for primary and general, especially given the lack of compelling alternatives in the GOP field.

Update: GULP!