Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ranting On...Randy Bryce

Cathy Myers and Randy Bryce (both D-WI)
I am a solid, unwavering Democrat for almost all intents and purposes, but I'm also unusual for a Millennial Democrat in that, in many ways, I don't act like a solid, unwavering Democrat, particularly when it comes to the old cliche "Democratic voters fall in love, Republicans fall in line."  In this respect, I almost always "fall in line," as while I have an abiding respect for many of the people I vote for, I almost never vote with my heart.  I'm someone who has never gotten swept away by the most loquacious or liberal candidate in a race.  Despite voting in all three primaries, I wouldn't have dreamed of voting for Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, or Bernie Sanders; quite frankly, I wouldn't have even made the argument that any of them would have made good presidents.  I didn't even vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries when virtually all of my friends were Team Obama (though I obviously voted for him in the general, because like I said I "fall in line").  I'm hoping to cast my ballot this weekend and will be voting for a candidate I believe in in several competitive primaries, but also one that I think will win the general election.

I say this because I'm struck by the reaction to Randy Bryce's recently-unearthed past arrests in Wisconsin, and how predictable but disappointing the reaction from Republicans and Democrats has been.  Bryce, for those who don't spend every waking moment devoted to politics, is a candidate nicknamed the "Iron Stache" who made a name for himself with his viral ads about being a blue-collar worker who has been abandoned by Speaker Paul Ryan, in whose district he's running.  It was an interesting approach, and thanks to Democrats frequently thinking with their hearts and not their heads, despite this being a lost cause (Ryan wasn't going to lose to Bryce, and perhaps more pointedly, he wasn't going to be outspent by him), Democrats showered Bryce with campaign donations, millions of dollars on a race that was never going to be winnable.

And then, suddenly, it became so when Paul Ryan decided to call it quits.  I'm not convinced this was due to Bryce at all, but instead because Ryan clearly had come to detest the negotiations with the Freedom Caucus, and perhaps more importantly, he was going to struggle to stay on as leader or Speaker in November when he lost many establishment nominees but none of the hardliners who cause him so many headaches.  Rather than watch his once promising career go down in yet another agonizing defeat (the first being his loss for the vice presidency in 2012), he headed to the exits.  This had nothing to do with him winning another round in his Wisconsin seat though-that was secure.

It's important to remember that because once Ryan left this race, the seat became less of a symbol and more of a real threat for Democrats to actually win.  While Donald Trump won the seat by double digits, Mitt Romney only took it by five, and Obama won it in 2008.  It was briefly held by the Democrats from 1993-95, and in comparison to some of the other competitive races that have flipped in the past year (as well as looking at competitive races for the fall), this became less of a "symbolic" place to put money and more a seat that could legitimately help the Democrats win back the House.

This should be good for Democrats, but thinking with their hearts instead of their heads, they thought Bryce needed to get the credit for chasing off Ryan, and have continued to treat him like the frontrunner, showering him with another $1 million this past quarter, and endorsements from the likes of Bernie Sanders.  As a bystander, it's like watching a car crash in slow-motion as Bryce won't win this seat because, quite frankly, he's a terrible candidate.  Yes, he put together great viral videos, but that won't mean a damn in a general when he's not running against Paul Ryan, but instead Bryan Steil, a Member of the State Board of Regents who doesn't come with Ryan's baggage but does start with the upper-hand in a district that is Republican, but not insurmountably so.  This is a completely different ballgame, because suddenly Bryce is now the biggest celebrity in the crowd, and he can't stand up to the limelight.

Bryce, after all, is not some savant politician or even a promising newcomer-he's on his fourth race in six years, after losing contests for the State Assembly, Racine School Board, and State Senate in 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively.   He's been arrested nine times, and while some of those won't matter as much as others (the marijuana & protesting charges are pretty easy to dismiss), his DUI and failure to appear in court charges are going to be a tougher sell to the general public that he's the right counter to bring back morality in the age of Donald Trump.  He had unpaid child support when he joined the race, but was still paying for fake Twitter followers at the time.  Considering that Democrats are going to need to win suburban women in Milwaukee County to take this district, it's going to be so easy to have Bryan Steil run ads saying Bryce cares more about being a celebrity than taking care of his son.  Anyone who doesn't see that is naive, blinded by their own partisanship, or just plain stupid.

The problem here is also that the Democrats have a decent candidate in the primary should they choose to back her.  Cathy Myers is hardly the first choice I'd make in this district (I'd probably go with Peter Barca, who held this seat in the 1990's and is a longtime member of the State Assembly), but she's got the profile of someone who could win here.  She's a local officeholder (she's in her second term in the Janesville Board of Education), a woman in a year where female candidates have done well, and is a solid fundraiser, albeit nowhere near what Bryce can command.  She doesn't have a criminal record, and would be a better counter to Steil, as while she has baggage (she's arguably too liberal for such a district), it would be easy to see him having to run this on a political, rather than a personal level, and considering the Generic Congressional Ballot right now, that's a fight Myers could gain the upper-hand.  Neither candidate is guaranteed this seat, but I'd argue that Myers is the only Democrat that could actually win it.  We can't beat Paul Ryan, but we can win his seat; I just hope Democrats remember that he's not running before they waste a golden opportunity by backing a sure loser instead of a potential winner.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tab Hunter, and 18 Remaining Stars of Hollywood's Golden Age

Tab Hunter
A few years ago, I did a series of articles where I (for some reason that was likely related to a TCM screening or perhaps just my love of classic cinema nostalgia), I went through the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Stars" list comprehensively taking a look at my interactions with the stars, and which stars I was surprised to see on the lists, which stars I was happy were on the list, and which stars were still living from the list.

I was reminded of that this week when Tab Hunter, at the age of 86, passed away.  Hunter was hardly what one could consider a "master thespian," but was certainly a proper movie star, and one of the few Golden Age headliners of his era.  The blond Adonis, who would later lean into his camp factor with pictures like Polyester and Grease 2, gained a second act in his career when he wrote a bestselling memoir called Tab Hunter Confidential, and became one of the few men of his era to actually come out of the public during his lifetime.  In honor of Hunter, I thought it would be fun to revisit the articles I wrote a few years back with a look at specifically the actors and actresses who are still alive who were nominated for the list, including the three stars who actually made the Top 25: Sidney Poitier (#22), Kirk Douglas (#17), and Sophia Loren (#21).  Without further adieu.

The Living Actors...

Kirk Douglas (1916-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Douglas would receive a trio of Oscar nominations in his career, all for Best Actor, but would lose every time (he probably came the closest to winning for 1956's Lust for Life).  Douglas would deservedly win an Honorary Award in 1996 from the Academy.
Most Known For: Living forever?  Hopefully that's the case-it clearly helps your star exponentially to have some longevity around it.  Douglas has been one of those great, enduring links to Hollywood's classical age, and still frequently does interviews & appearances, oftentimes with his famous son Michael or his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones.  During his career, of course, he was perhaps best known as Spartacus.
Is He Still Working?: He is not-Douglas retired in 2004, with his last film being an independent film called Illusion, though I always think of his last film being Diamonds, where he reunited with his Young Man with a Horn costar (and lifelong pal) Lauren Bacall.
My Favorite Performance: I'd pick either his iconic work in Spartacus, a truly spectacular feat of movie star-quality, or his sleazy performance as Whit Sterling in Out of the Past.
Glaring Miss in His Filmography: Though I'm slowly working my way through Douglas' filmography, as he was a star for so many years, I'd say Lust for Life would be toward the top of the list, as would Paths of Glory, both pictures I'll get to hopefully soon.

Sidney Poitier (1927-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Poitier received two Oscar nominations in his career, winning Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (becoming the first black man to win Best Actor).  Poitier also won an Honorary Award in 2002.
Probably Best Known Today For: Being an iconic and celebrated figure in the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and along with Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, and Harry Belafonte, being one of the very first black movie stars (he's also Ambassador from the Bahamas to Japan, as he actually has dual citizenship with both the Bahamas and the United States-random fact!).  Poitier is one of the most widely-respected actors in the industry, and one of its most enduring stars.
Is He Still Working?: Poitier quit acting in 2001, with the television movie The Last Brickmaker in America-his final theatrically-released film was 1997's The Jackal with Richard Gere & Bruce Willis.
My Favorite Performance: I know that some like to quibble about how Poitier never received an Oscar nomination for In the Heat of the Night, but part of me thinks it was more to do with vote-splitting (he also had Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and To Sir, with Love out that year) than racism.  Still, he certainly deserved an Oscar nomination for his iconic Virgil Tibbs.
Glaring Miss in His Filmography: I've never actually seen the movie that landed Poitier his Academy Award.  For whatever reason Lilies of the Field has never made it to the top of my queue, though I've seen a lot of Poitier films through the years.

Dean Stockwell (1936-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Stockwell has received one Oscar nomination, for 1988's Married to the Mob (he lost to Kevin Kline).
Most Famous For: The career of Dean Stockwell is a fascinating one, as he is one of those rare child actors who went on to have a very strong career as an adult, though in this case in character actor parts. Starting acting as a cherubic-faced youth in movies like Gentleman's Agreement and Anchors Aweigh, he eventually became a hit actor as an adult, dropped out of acting to get involved in the hippie subculture, reappeared in the 1980's in the art house cinema of David Lynch and Wim Wenders, and is most well-known today for playing Al Calavicci in Quantum Leap and Brother Cavil in the revival of Battlestar Galactica.
Is He Still Working?: Absolutely, and in a variety of different pictures (including Max Rose with Claire Bloom and Jerry Lewis, the late actor's final picture).
Glaring Miss in His Filmography: I've actually seen a few Stockwell pictures, and thought he was terrific if terrifying singing Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" in the exceptional Blue Velvet.  I'll go with his Oscar-nominated work as my missing piece, though I have always meant to watch the revived Battlestar Galactica.

Max von Sydow (1929-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Two nominations, one for Pelle the Conquerer, and another one for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (he lost both).
Most Famous For: Being a titan of acting.  He is frequently referenced by people who want to name check someone of great acting gravitas.  He is particularly well-known for his work in the films of Ingmar Bergman, but also has appeared opposite Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Susan Sarandon in recent years.
Is He Still Working?: Absolutely.  He's been in a bit of a blockbuster mode lately, with appearances in the Star Wars and Game of Thrones franchises (the latter winning him his second Emmy nomination).  He'll next be seen in Kursk with Colin Firth and Lea Seydoux.
Glaring Miss in His Filmography: I would do myself a disservice here if I didn't mention that I love von Sydow's work and he is one of my most beloved performers, particularly his films The Seventh Seal and Winter Light (Bergman being one of my all-time favorite directors).  Of the films I'm missing from von Sydow's filmography, I'd probably say The Emigrants would be the most egregious.

The Living Actresses...

Claire Bloom (1931-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: For her long and illustrious career on the British stage, as well as her many tabloid romances.  Ms. Bloom made her stage debut at sixteen opposite John Gielgud and a young Richard Burton, whom she had a passionate love affair with (Burton claimed he loved two women before Liz Taylor-his wife Sybil and Claire Bloom).  She would perform on in the West End for decades, and continue having tabloid-worthy relationships, including marriages to Rod Steiger and Philip Roth, as well as affairs with Laurence Olivier and Yul Brynner.
Is She Still Working?: Yes!  She actually appeared recently in the Best Picture winner The King's Speech, playing Queen Mary in the film, and will be playing Salvador Dali's sister in Spain's Miss Dali.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: With Bloom it's hard not to pick her first international starring role in Limelight, where she plays a suicidal ballerina in the only film that features both Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Ann Blyth (1928-Present)

Oscar Nominations: 1 nomination (for Mildred Pierce)
Most Famous For: Portraying the selfish daughter from hell in Mildred Pierce.  Her work opposite Joan Crawford won her an Oscar nomination early in her career, and she eventually went on to become a major star of musicals, at one point being a rival for Kathryn Grayson at MGM.  She eventually moved completely away from the cinema, instead starring in a series of television guest spots, including a memorable turn as a potential murderer opposite longtime friend Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote and as an actress with a secret on The Twilight Zone in "Queen of the Nile."
Is She Still Working?: Blyth quit working in film after her role in The Helen Morgan Story with Paul Newman.  She quit television in the 1980's, though she does occasional do interviews still.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've actually seen Mildred Pierce and The Great Caruso, the two most important pictures in her filmography, so maybe Brute Force with Burt Lancaster, where she plays a woman dying of cancer whose husband is in prison.

Doris Day (1922-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Despite a dazzling career and being a major public draw for fifteen years, she only received one nomination in 1959 for Pillow Talk (she would lose to Simone Signoret).  Every year, though, like clockwork, the rumors spread that she'll win an Honorary Award.
Most Famous For: A Box Office superstar, she was all the public could demand from the mid-1950's to the mid-1960's and starred in a string of romantic comedy hits.  Even today her name is extremely well-known with audiences (even if her movies aren't necessarily) and everyone knows her as one of America's Sweethearts.
Is She Still Working?: No-while she did some TV appearances in the 1970's on her eponymous show, Day retired from movies in 1968 in With Six You Get Eggroll costarring alongside Brian Keith and a young Barbara Hershey.
My Favorite Performance: I've seen many Doris Day films through the years (my mom was a big fan of hers), so I'm going to go with a childhood favorite right now in Calamity Jane.  It doesn't age particularly well (some of the songs are pretty sexist), but the music and sets and in particular Day are incredibly game and "Secret Love" is heavenly (and an oddly resonant coming out song for anyone who reads between the lines).
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: There's a few options here, but since I've seen some of the biggest pictures of her career, I'm going to go with one that intrigues me most: Move Over, Darling, where Day is united with James Garner and Polly Bergen.  The film was a huge hit and kept the lights on at 20th Century FOX after Cleopatra (not to mention I want to see how Day does in a role that was originally intended for Marilyn Monroe).

Olivia de Havilland (1916-Present)

Oscar Nominations: De Havilland would receive five Oscar nominations during her career, winning twice in 1946 and 1949 for To Each His Own and The Heiress, respectively.
Most Famous For: Certainly her best-known film is Gone with the Wind, and her work as Melanie Wilkes continues to be a career high-point.  Perhaps she's best known today as a last link to the classic age of Hollywood, which was highlighted once again when she sued Ryan Murphy regarding Feud where she was upset about her life being dramatized, though really she should have been angry at how awful Catherine Zeta-Jones was in portraying her.
Is She Still Working?: De Havilland still makes public appearances and does interviews (she became the oldest person ever to be named a Dame Commander by the Queen last year), but she has been away from cinemas for decades.  She did a spattering of TV work in the 1980's, including winning a Golden Globe for playing Dowager Empress Maria in a TV movie about Rex Harrison, but her final film performance was opposite Beau Bridges & Ursula Andress in The Fifth Musketeer
My Favorite Performance: I'm going to go cliche with her bravura work as Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, though I've always had a soft spot for her work as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I have never seen The Adventures of Robin Hood, which is one of the few classic films of that era that I haven't caught yet that I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing, and I believe that it's actually toward the top of my Netflix queue, so we'll be getting there pretty quickly.

Rhonda Fleming (1923-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being the "Queen of Technicolor."  Along with Maureen O'Hara and Arlene Dahl (the latter of which oddly wasn't on the AFI ballot list, though she would have been eligible and is still alive, so clearly being a red-headed movie star is good for your longevity-hooray for Julianne Moore!), Fleming's red hair made her a major motion picture star, and one that photographed particularly well in Technicolor, which was very in fashion during the height of her fame.  Her best known films are probably from the 1940's, when she had supporting roles in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound and the brilliant Out of the Pastbut she was a bigger headliner in the 1950's when she appeared opposite Dana Andrews, Ronald Reagan, Burt Lancaster, and Kirk Douglas.  Like a number of women on this list, she was an ardent Republican in her personal life, particularly as an advocate for school prayer.
Is She Still Working?: No-her most recent film would be 1990's Waiting for the Wind with Robert Mitchum, her Out of the Past costar.  She still frequently makes appearances, though, and has participated in the Turner Classic Film Festival.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've seen Spellbound and Out of the Past, so I would probably go with the classic Western Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday.

Mitzi Gaynor (1931-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being Krusty the Clown's go-to name drop?  Just kidding (Simpsons reference!).  Gaynor was in fact one of 20th Century FOX's biggest stars in the 1940's and 1950's, starring in a number of hit musicals.  While she could boast costarring roles with Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly, it was with Rossano Brazzi, a little-known Italian actor, that she enjoyed her biggest and most enduring cinematic success.  The movie?  Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, with Gaynor as the main character of Nellie Forbush, forever washing that man right out of her hair before a very enchanted evening.  She also had one of the most famous numbers in Oscar history (though she wasn't nominated for or even in the film) when she got one of the longest-standing ovations in the history of the ceremony for her performance of "Georgy Girl" in 1967.
Is She Still Working?: While she no longer acts, she frequently is featured in documentaries chronicling the Golden Age of the musical, and actually won an Emmy for her 2010 documentary "Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle!"
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've come to really admire Gaynor's work over the past couple of years, but somehow am still missing her most famous performance, as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

Marsha Hunt (1917-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Her politics.  You may be wondering where all of the Hollywood liberals are after so many conservatives highlighted on this list, but you're about to get one in Ms. Hunt, a star for both Paramount and MGM in the 1930's and 1940's who watched her career unravel during the 1950's as part of the blacklist.  Hunt was a vocal advocate for free speech and freedom to petition, and refused to denounce her activities protesting Congress on behalf of the blacklist...and therefore didn't work for most of the 1950's, extinguishing her career.
Is She Still Working?: Not really.  She made two random appearances in those films that only seem to exist on IMDB recently, but hasn't regularly worked in film since 1971's Johnny Got His Gun with Timothy Bottoms and Donald Sutherland.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I'm going to go with Born to the West, starring an extremely handsome John Wayne in his twenties, which gives Hunt an unusually robust screenplay to work with for a love interest role in the 1930's.

Angela Lansbury (1925-Present)

Oscar Nominations: 3 (for Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Manchurian Candidate, as well as an Honorary Oscar she won earlier this year).
Most Famous For: Lansbury has enjoyed an incredible amount of succcess throughout her career, principally on Broadway (she has won five Tony Awards) and on television (as J.B. Fletcher on the long-running CBS show Murder, She Wrote).  Of course, Lansbury has had a plethora of film roles as well that have become part of her own personal lore.  Her work in John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate and Disney's Beauty and the Beast would be toward the top of the public consciousness.
Is She Still Working?: Yep!  She's in the hunt for her 19th Emmy nomination for the BBC's Little Women and will be seen later this year in Mary Poppins Returns.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Here I've seen enough of her work (I've even seen her on-stage) to have a favorite performance (The Manchurian Candidate, though honestly I've loved almost everything-she's a personal favorite) and have all three of those Oscar-nominated roles done, so I'll go with the comic classic The Court Jester, which I have for some reason never gotten around to and in which she plays Princess Gwendolyn opposite Glynis Johns (who like Arlene Dahl didn't quite make the cut of the 250 finalists for the AFI Award, but is also still alive at age 94 and would have been eligible).

Piper Laurie (1932-Present)

Oscar Nominations: 3 (for The Hustler, Carrie, and Children of a Lesser God)
Most Famous For: We'll continue the list of actresses that you've actually heard of with Piper Laurie, who did make her first screen appearance in 1950 (just making the AFI eligibility cutoff), and who is most known to film audiences as the mother from hell in Carrie (oddly enough, Angela Lansbury arguably plays the cinema's other most famous mother from hell on-screen).  Laurie also was Paul Newman's love interest in The Hustler, and got a Best Actress nomination for it and was Catherine Martell on Twin Peaks.
Is She Still Working?: After an eight year absence, Laurie will be on movie screens once again later this year opposite Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Jason Leigh in White Boy Rick.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I cannot believe I am admitting this, but I have somehow never seen The Hustler, one of those great films from the 1960's and one of the most important roles of Paul Newman's (and of course Piper Laurie's) careers.  I should get on this quickly.

Gina Lollobrigida (1927-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Look at the picture to the left and I'll give you one (err...two) guesses.  Lollobrigida was the Italian sex symbol, a counterweight to the American Marilyn and the French Bardot.  She did make a handful of films with the leading men of the era (Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Frank Sinatra), but quite frankly it was her incredible beauty and her bizarre change in careers late in life (she became a journalist, and eventually managed to land an interview with Fidel Castro of all people in the 1970's) that made her a household name.
Is She Still Working?: She is not acting, but she does still stay in the papers, recently auctioning off $5 million worth of jewelry to benefit stem cell therapy.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I don't know if I've ever actually seen a Lollobrigida film, so I would probably make it a bit of a marathon to catch up.  I'd start with her Golden Globe-winning work in Come September with Rock Hudson, follow it with her Esmerelda opposite Anthony Quinn in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and finish things with her Solomon and Sheba with Yul Brynner, which has the distinction of being King Vidor's final film.

Sophia Loren (1934-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Loren received two Oscar nominations in her career, winning for Two Women in 1961 (the first person to win for a foreign-language film).  She would go on to win an Honorary Oscar in 1991 for her body of work.
Probably Best Known Today For: For starters, thankfully being alive and still working (the only woman on the Top 25 still with us).  Loren's most recent film is Rob Marshall's Nine, but is probably best known for her enduring beauty.  Consistently considered one of the most striking and attractive women in the history of cinema, she was a major star at the height of America's fascination with foreign language cinema. (Completely Random Aside-I once had a car that I named after Loren because the car was so brother still drives it).
Is She Still Working?: Other than a random voice spot in Cars 2, Loren seems to have ended her career with Nine.
My Favorite Performance: Is it terrible to say Houseboat?  I genuinely loved this movie as a kid, and it's the sort of film I suspect I'd still adore as an adult.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I am going to go with Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, which unites Loren with one of her favorite directors (Vittorio de Sica) and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Rita Moreno (1931-Present)

Oscar Nominations: One nomination (which she won for-Best Supporting Actress for 1961's West Side Story)
Most Famous For: For thoroughly enjoying life in Ame-RIC-a.  Moreno starred in one of the great American musicals in 1961, taking over the role made famous by Chita Rivera on Broadway and becoming a household name as a result (as well as an Oscar-winner).  Though at that time she had been featured in three of the best-loved musicals of all-time (she was also in Singin in the Rain and The King and I), she didn't star in a lot of high-profile films again (a Latina actress in the 1960's frequently had to rely on stereotypical roles, which Moreno refused to partake of).  Instead she forged a bold multi-platform career, winning an Emmy, Grammy, and Tony in the 1970's to complete her EGOT.  She is best known from this period for her work on The Muppets and The Electric Company (with Morgan Freeman).  Moreno also had a pretty spectacular personal life, being romantically involved with both Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley during her career.
Is She Still Working?: Absolutely-she can be seen on Netflix's critically-acclaimed One Day at a Time as Lydia.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've seen her three iconic musicals, so I'm going to go with The Ritz, which earned Moreno a Tony Award on Broadway and a Golden Globe nomination on film.

Margaret O'Brien (1937-Present)

Oscar Nominations: None, though she won the Juvenile Academy Award in 1944.
Most Famous For: Being one of the biggest child stars on the planet.  Margaret O'Brien was to the 1940's what Shirley Temple and Judy Garland were to the 1930's.  She even appeared opposite Garland in the most famous of O'Brien's movies: Meet Me in St. Louis, where she played Tootie.  O'Brien was a major star, but couldn't jump to adult roles like Garland, whom she is oftentimes compared to, and instead only made the occasional television or film appearance.  If you ever want a fun story, read about O'Brien's Oscar and how she lost it for some fifty years before it finally returned to her.
Is She Still Working?: I think so-it looks like she has a relatively long recent IMDB cast page but it's not entirely clear if these are just clips of her in her youth or her actually playing a role.  If the 2017 movie where she stars opposite Mickey Rooney in a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde actually exists, I need to see it immediately.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I'd probably go with the film that made her a star, Journey for Margaret with Robert Young and Fay Bainter, as I've seen (and loved) Meet Me in St. Louis before.

Jane Withers (1926-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being insufferable.  Or rather, playing insufferable, in the Shirley Temple classic Bright Eyes, where Withers plays her bratty nemesis.  Withers became one of the biggest stars of the late 1930's, joining Shirley Temple as a major box office draw despite being a child star, and then eventually going into supporting roles, like her work in Giant (she and James Dean were good friends) and eventually commercials, taking on what would become her most famous role for the Baby Boomer generation: Josephine the Plumber in the Comet commercials (for comparison's sake, think of Flo from the Progressive commercials and her ubiquity).  And continuing our streak, she was in several episodes of Murder, She Wrote and appears to be politically conservative.
Is She Still Working?: From what I can tell her most recent work would be voiceover contributions to The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its direct-to-video sequel, so I'm going to go with no since that was 16 years ago, though who knows-she may still be willing to give it a go.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I think Bright Eyes, Withers' most noted work, would probably have to be at the top of the list.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Book Club (2018)

Film: Book Club (2018)
Stars: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson
Director: Bill Holderman
Oscar History: It's not that kind of movie.
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

4 Oscars, 6 Emmys, and 12 Golden Globes.  If we go to the nominations, it's 13, 16, and 39, respectively.  The women of Book Club have created so many film and television memories through the years, honestly, they could have filmed their actual book club and I would have shown up to watch it.  This seems to be the attitude of most of the people I follow on Twitter, who were thrilled to be attending Book Club even if it didn't actually look any good.  The fact that it got made at all is interesting, and proof, perhaps, of Hollywood having missed the boat a bit when it comes to counter-programming.  Book Club is a genuine hit at this point, and proves that you don't have to have an English accent to storm the box office against blockbuster giants (these four women's British contemporaries like Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith regularly get to lead their own summer comedies).  That said, this is a film review, and it's important for me not to just ask "is this fun?" but also "is this good?"

(Spoilers Ahead) The film centers around four lifelong friends: Diane (Keaton), Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Bergen), and Carol (Steenburgen) who get together every single month to read a book, and because Hollywood demands we have to have a hook in order for four beautiful older women to talk about sex & relationships, the book club pick is Fifty Shades of Grey.  Thankfully this isn't a huge part of the film itself (only Steenburgen seems to indulge a bit in EL James erotica, and that's less central to her subplot than the trailers would suggest), as it would feel a bit ageist to have a bunch of worldly women focus entirely on being shocked by S&M, but it is indicative of the pretty uninspired thinking that screenwriters Bill Holderman and Erin Simms bring to this movie.  For it has to be said-Book Club, for all of the promise of its legendary stars, is not very good.

The film's central problem lies in it being too predictable, and feeling a bit too much like an original movie you'd catch on cable (in many ways it reminded me of Wild Oats from a few years back, which premiered on Lifetime).  There's nothing unique or special happening here.  Candice Bergen is the only person doing something original here, and the only character whose story I wanted to learn more about as the film progressed.  Bergen breathes life into her character, a stately judge who is trying to start dating again, and finds at least some under-explored facets of aging; watching her ex-husband introduce "the love of his life" is a cruel scene, particularly when you consider that he's not meeting some harlot, but instead a genuinely nice younger woman.  There's also the frayed dynamic between her son, who is clearly more like his dad than his mother, and herself, and the way that Bergen tips her hand that she needed to be a more absent mother in order to have her successful career, and the resentment that builds from such a decision.  That's great stuff, and while heavy for a comedy, Bergen makes it work.  The rest of the cast, though, doesn't have that luxury and doesn't expand their characters beyond two dimensions.

Fonda, for example, is phoning in her role as a sexy nymph who let a man get away-she could do this in her sleep.  Keaton's performance as a mother rediscovering love is the same role she's been playing for twenty years.  It would have been genuinely interesting if they had messed around with these parts, for example, and not had them play their own public persona (imagine Fonda as the neurotic mother or Keaton as the lusty single gal), but that's not really what people are buying tickets for; like the Dench/Smith films, they want to see the star they know-and-love, and they don't want them to stretch too much.  As a result, this is a film that feels instantly disposable, which is a damned shame as these actors are too talented to discard.

Ocean's 8 (2018)

Film: Ocean's 8 (2018)
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden
Director: Gary Ross
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

While I don't have the free weekend I was expecting, I do want to get a few reviews that have been sitting around my "To Do" list out in the next few days, so expect a couple of peaks at movies you've probably already discussed, but I still want to put on the record.  The first of these reviews is Ocean's 8, the recent spinoff of the Clooney/Pitt/Damon revival of the Rat Pack pictures (man, originality is dead, ain't it?) which gives the franchise an entirely female remake as Sandra Bullock (playing Debbie Ocean, sister to George Clooney's Danny Ocean) takes over as the heist ringleader, this time attempting to steal a diamond necklace from the Met Gala.

(Spoilers Ahead) There are only a few genres I'd genuinely say that I like pretty much every time, but heist pictures are probably toward the top of the list (for the record, film noir, westerns, and anything where Vincent Price plays a villain would be the rest).  There's something wonderful about seeing the intricacies of a con being perpetrated, and indeed that's the best part of this film.  These are talented actresses, and even the ones that aren't known as great actors (specifically Awkwafina and Rihanna) are compelling enough presences offscreen that they're fascinating to watch, and as a result seeing them sashay around pickpocketing, wearing crazy-awesome's a dream.  Plus, it helps that everyone here is genuinely funny-the Ocean's pictures are about the comedy, and that was why in my opinion the remakes genuinely were better films than the originals with Sinatra & Martin, a clear case of the original not being that great (it was just cool).

This is to say that I'm usually pretty forgiving with heist pictures, but Ocean's 8 can only stretch that love so far by casting actors I admire and being in a genre I am susceptible to before I have to admit-it's not very good.  I know there was a lot of conversation about this coming from the stars of the film (Mindy Kaling and Cate Blanchett, specifically), decrying male critics for not understanding the audience want for a film like this, and while I am a male critic, I will say that I'm pretty much the target for this as a gay man; I get far more excited seeing Cate Blanchett or Anne Hathaway's name on a call sheet than George Clooney or Matt Damon's.  The problem here isn't the actors, it's that the script is too soggy, routine, and bereft of intimacy to really have us care about any of these characters.

That feels like the only way to really explain how, say, Bullock, who is consistently one of our most charismatic modern movie stars, seems to be on auto pilot most of the film.  Perhaps they should have figured out a way to get Clooney to cameo (I was so sure that'd happen), because she tows the line pretty hard between mourning and revenge, and as a result her Debbie is kind of a downer, and it makes the film heavier than it needs to be.  The comic relief is supposed to come from her motley crew of performers, but they're a mixed bag.  While some are fun (I loved Rihanna's energy as Nine-Ball, even if she's given virtually nothing to do except be Rihanna), Helena Bonham Carter doesn't feel like a person that could exist in reality.  Of all of the characters, her Rose is the one that should be WAY more fun (kooky designer completely out-of-her-element), but in order for her to be this successful, she'd surely have to know how to deal with diva actresses.  That every time she speaks it feels like there's a tick-tick-tick going on in her head, as if HBC herself is wondering whether or not she should be surprised or pretend to be surprised by what is happening, is staggeringly bad, particularly from an actress who is more-than-capable of landing a strange character.  The only supporting player that's truly fun is Anne Hathaway, who is doing a marvelous sendup of the Hatha-hater character people invented around her, and pretty much steals the movie as a spoiled, air-headed actress.

Without more commitment to the characters from the writers or actors, the film falls apart.  It's still fun in doses, and there are some great lines here-and-there, and these stars are too big of STARS for this to be a complete slog, but honestly you leave almost instantly forgetting this existed, and if you remember it all you just recall the lost potential.  Ocean's 8 is a paint-by-numbers heist movie with a world-class cast, which is a damn pity in a summer that has been too generic at the movies.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

5 Things I Learned While Buying a House

Hey blog friends-sorry for the delay in posts over the past few weeks (or at the very least, the minimal amount of them)-I have been purchasing and then moving into a new house and have been enjoying/enduring the realities of being a first-time home owner.  This has left me behind in literally every other area of my life, something I was planning on correcting this upcoming weekend...until a family member graciously volunteered to help me paint my basement, which was an offer of which I couldn't remotely refuse his help.  As a result, I might be back to TMROJ getting regular articles by next week, or it might be a week and a half, but that's coming as I want to finish up an OVP, get through the 2018 reviews that I haven't done yet, and maybe have some opinions/trivia articles for this upcoming political season.

As of now, though, I wanted to write a little bit about some of the things I learned along the way of buying my house and moving into it.  My friend Brian has asked multiple times "when are you going to write an article that isn't about politics or movies?" so this is partially to acquiesce him on this (valid) complaint, and as a result here are five things I learned while shopping for a new house.

1. Everyone Has an Opinion on Everything

I actually figured this one was coming when I first started buying my house, but was still unprepared for the fervor of people wanting to share their opinions about how and what I would purchase.  People genuinely became offended, for example, when I decided not to go with their realtor of choice, even though I was picking mine for a very specific reason (I got extra money from him, so it made sense, plus our initial meeting went super well and he was someone who I could be direct with, which was important to me).

Everything, though, was on the table in terms of people having opinions on what I should do.  When I went through my list of things I wanted from a house (my realtor said he'd never seen such an organized To Do List of what I wanted, which I'm still not sure was a compliment but I took it as such), I once sat through thirty minutes from coworkers saying it was either too much house or that I wouldn't find a house like this in my price range.  I heard a lot of complaints from people telling me that I didn't need a fourth bedroom (jury's still out on whether that was a good idea, but I'm liking it so far), saying that I can always upgrade to my next house, but I didn't care.  I sort of justified it saying "as long as it's within the price range of what I can afford, I can have exactly what I want" and had to eventually either stop talking to certain people until the house was purchased because the discouragement was becoming overwhelming.  I feel like this is a subject that is pretty easy to share your opinions on (I'm sure I'll do the same in the future), but I need to remind myself not to judge what people are looking for in a home, as that's personal & will only weigh in on questions they're asking.

Because, to use an old TV Guide phrase, there is a "cheer within a jeer" here-when you need advice, you can find it.  I needed to fix something in my garage, and somehow every person I know has a "garage guy" (if nothing else, I learned that everyone in my life has a secret cabal of handymen I was unfamiliar with until now).  If I can't pick out a paint color, people will happily browse through the Lowe's site with me for an entire lunch period, perusing colors to put into my library.  And people inevitably have an extra hose or lawn mower or area of expertise that they want to provide that you simply don't have yet, welcoming you into home-ownership.  While the opinions on what I was buying were occasionally overwhelming, the help on actually living in a house was (and is) a godsend.

2. There is No Such Thing as a Perfect House

I still don't entirely know how this happened, but I ended up with everything on my list for roughly the price I wanted.  I had watched Househunters and seen how people had to make sincere sacrifices in what they wanted, but by-and-large this had everything I wanted on my list: right bed/bath count, a fenced-in backyard, a two-car attached garage, and was in one of the four cities I wanted to live in (I wanted to stay in a swing district, okay?).  All-in-all, it had it all, and I was (and am) very happy with my decision...

...but, like, I'm learning quickly there's no such thing as a perfect house.  After living in an apartment for so many years, it's a weird juxtaposition to know that I can actually replace things I don't like in the house, which is a bit daunting.  For example, after two quick uses I've learned that I don't like my stove and want an electric one (I have also learned that people have OPINIONS about electric vs. gas stoves), and hate my laundry room sink (it's too shallow for any practical uses).  I don't know that in my entire 34 years of existence I ever thought that one of the first things I'd want to change in a new house would be a stove and a laundry room sink (the latter of which I've made it my entire adult life not needing), but here I am budgeting out what it would take to replace these items.  I've also found that things that I didn't think I cared about at all I love in the opposite direction.  I genuinely didn't notice the skylight in my bathroom until the day I signed the closing papers, despite having been there twice before this, and yet it's arguably my favorite thing about the house.  You can get a moon view of the bathroom during the middle of the night if you time it just right, and you don't even need to turn the light on during the day.  Plus, you can hear the rain as you sleep-it's lovely.  The point is-even perfect-on-paper houses develop their own personality once you start living in them in a way I never really felt when I lived in a rented space.

3. Apartment-to-House Living is Weird

I have now been living in my house off-and-on for a month, and consistently staying there for about two weeks.  As a result, I'm starting to learn things that I never noticed or had become accustomed to in an apartment that are completely different in a house.

For starters, I never noticed how much sound and unavoidable light there is in my apartment complex until I lived in a house and there was none.  Eleven years of apartment living (preceded by four years of living in a dorm) had given me a bit of a tin ear for noises in the neighbor's unit or outside on the balcony.  I became used to the rushing of someone else's late-night shower or their laundry machine humming or the occasional "awkwardly loud romantic encounter" happening next door to me.  Plus, the hallway light is always on in an apartment and your bedroom is inevitably next to a street lamp, so you never have your house properly dark at night.  It wasn't that I lived in a particularly noisy or weirdly lit apartment building (I've lived in four apartments, and my last two were relatively quiet), it's just that there's literally no noise in your own house, and when it is it'll throw you off because there shouldn't be noise.

It's weird, too, because while I never really befriended my neighbors, I saw them all the time.  We would get our mail at the same time, ride the elevator together, and for some reason there was always a teenager in my lobby, waiting in the chairs next to the mail (not the same teenager, mind you, but there was always one there for reasons I am still confused by-who are these teenagers, and why are they hanging out in an apartment lobby for fun?).  This isn't the case in a new house.  While I've run into some instances where I've spoken to the neighbors (and I occasionally have to step a few feet into their yard to mow the lawn which always feels like an invasion of privacy even though it's only momentary), it's bizarre how little community you have from not sharing the same property.  I don't miss it (I'm an introvert and I like my space), but I didn't realize how accustomed I'd become to apartment living until I wasn't there anymore.

4. The Projects are Overwhelming, But I Like It

I am a creature of habit, and diligent about my list-keeping.  Even now, I'm mentally making a list of which articles I want to write next for the blog when I have a few spare minutes.  But in a house, the lists and projects never end.  This was spouted off as a cliche, and since I loathe cliches I simply nodded politely, but honestly-I don't foresee a point where I will be satisfied with every aspect of my house at the same time, even though I intend to try.  As I'm so new to the place, nearly every day I'm making a mental (or in some cases, typed) list of things I want to change, usually small things like getting a new shower caddy or putting up a picture in the bathroom.

I will admit that my mild OCD about wanting everything to be finished, or at least have a theoretical finish, made me worry that I would kind of hate this aspect of home ownership, but I've grown to love it.  There's so much potential, and the house in many ways feels like an extension of my creativity in a fashion I have never felt before when it comes to design.  My apartment decor was notable for, well, not existing, as I almost never had photos or personality in the rooms of my house, but now I have a vision of what I want the finalized version of the house to be, and while that will surely change as my life alters, I am staggered by how much I genuinely like taking care of the house and yard (with the exception of painting-I love the end result of painting, but I loathe and despise painting in a way that I didn't think was possible for a chore, and will either beg help from friends/family to get the rest of the house painted or save up to have someone do it).

5. It's Fun to Start Looking into the Future

Buying a house is sort of fifth or sixth billing when you think about achievements over the course of a lifetime.  Marriage, Children, First Job-these are the headliners, and buying your first house, while a huge milestone, sits somewhere along the lines of losing your virginity in terms of "ranked" milestones in a person's life.  That said, it's a huge milestone when you do it, and one that's particularly important to me in my life right now.  I have been saving to buy this house for years, and been gearing up for this moment for so long that in many ways I feel like I've been looking at events in my life as either pre-house or post-house, and post-house stuff has always felt so far off, but now is blanketed before me.

For starters, I think that I will be getting a dog by the end of the summer, as soon as I can ensure I can afford it (expenses with a house is a completely different article, one I probably won't get to, but suffice it to say there were a bevy of surprises there too), and as a result I will be responsible for another living being for the first time in my life.  Trips that I wanted to take (specifically one to Europe and seeing all fifty states) are toward the top of the list now as well, and I feel like I have a deadline of when I can start looking at retirement, even if it's thirty years off (literally that's as long my entire lifetime, but as "fully owning your home" is one of the checkmarks I know I want in eventually retiring, starting that process is a big deal).  Even things that had little to do with owning a house, like going full-speed into my weight loss regimen or finishing the re-write of my novel, feel much more possible in a space of my own and more in reach.  The idea that you worked hard to accomplish something and then it happened is a powerful tool to believe that other things that felt distant or improbable could suddenly become part of your life, and I'm excited to start conquering those realms from my new home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

5 Thoughts on Last Night's Primaries

With primaries in seven states, last night was arguably the biggest election night between now and November, and will be our last primary (period) for a few weeks as weirdly no state has any races in July.  I'm attempting to get this done before I head to work (and will not be able to write tonight as I close out the last chapter of my life as an apartment-dweller), so enough dilly-dallying (you know how this goes if you've been around, and if not, welcome & start exploring!).  Without further adieu, my five thoughts on last night's elections...

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
1. Joe Crowley Becomes the Democratic Eric Cantor

In by-far the biggest political upset of the year so far, House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley lost last night by a wide margin to activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist who just one year ago was a bartender in the Bronx & is now headed to Congress as (most-likely) the youngest woman to ever serve in the body.  It's hard to underscore what a big victory this was for Ocasio-Cortez, who had to take on a man who has run the Queens Democratic Party with an iron grip for decades, and who most people assumed was next-in-line to take over as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  While Crowley didn't have the national name ID of Eric Cantor, it's impossible not to note the similarities here, as both men were seen as the future of their party while the actual citizens begged to differ (and before you say that's bad news, remember that the Republicans got a tsunami in the wake of the Cantor loss, albeit one that came with a price in the form of Donald Trump two years later).

In a night with a number of Democratic challengers to incumbents, Crowley was the only one to fall. Diana DeGette & Elliot Engel both easily won their races (to the point where you could argue the threat of them losing was overblown), while Carolyn Maloney took hers by a fine if underwhelming 17-points.  Yvette Clarke barely won hers, and quite frankly probably would have lost if people knew there was more of a possibility of her losing considering her underwhelming performance on the campaign trail.  Crowley could be a harbinger of things to come, but honestly there's not that many races left to embolden challengers; almost every filing deadline has passed, and the only obvious spot on the House map with a Democratic challenger who could be trouble for an incumbent is MA-7, where Rep. Mike Capuano is clearly vulnerable (and probably about to call his nephew Captain America (aka Chris Evans) to come campaign with him as he'll need the help).  It has to be said, though, that in the wake of Crowley's loss Cynthia Nixon, who has the support of Ocasio-Cortez & was at her victory party last night, surely got a bump as the 28-year-old future congresswoman's win likely scared the crap out of Andrew Cuomo.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
2. Nancy Pelosi is in Big Trouble

The larger message of last night-Nancy Pelosi has a problem.  If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been banging my head against a wall struggling with the Democratic Party in their calls for civility against protesters who are now going to restaurants and public spaces to follow around key Republican leaders (peacefully, I might add).  I texted this last night, and it bares repeating "Nancy Pelosi picked the wrong week to defend Sarah Sanders & criticize Maxine Waters."

Crowley's loss should be a wakeup call to Pelosi that she is no longer in-touch with what her party wants, and you can only sustain leadership so long before you become irrelevant if that's the case.  I like Pelosi, but even I have my limits, and they're being reached when you can't realize your base is begging for you to be harder on the president, while you're calculating what will play best in Grand Junction & Duluth as if it's still 2005.  Pelosi is smart, and I wouldn't count her out (Boehner made it through most of his first year even after the 2014 midterms basically told him he wasn't in-line with the GOP anymore), but she's got a massive problem on her hands, and it's unlikely that Steny Hoyer or Jim Clyburn will be able to last even if she does after last night.  Arguably the biggest winner in the Democratic leadership is Linda Sanchez, who may well have secured her spot as Pelosi's strongest challenger (or the candidate that could most easily become a consensus candidate for moderates and liberals alike if the Democrats win the majority, or quite frankly even if they don't).

President Donald Trump with Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC)
3. Donald Trump Takes His Wins

It's hard to put into words all of Donald Trump's struggles while in public office, but one of the more under-written ones has been his inability to get people actually elected to public office.  His endorsements for Luther Strange (then Roy Moore), Rick Saccone, and Ed Gillespie ultimately did nothing, with Strange even losing his primary.  Last week, though, Trump helped out Katie Arrington when she shocked Mark Sanford and avoided a runoff in South Carolina, and this week that continued, with an easy win for Rep. Dan Donovan (who crushed Michael Grimm, a candidate taking a page out of Trump's playbook while losing in large part because he couldn't secure the president's endorsement), and Gov. Henry McMaster, a close Trump ally, emerging victorious in a closer-than-expected runoff.  Trump is not shy about proclaiming victory even when it's not his (he took credit for Crowley's loss last night, for crying out loud, and if anything Crowley lost more because of him than in spite of him), but these are both tangible proof that he can at least use his podium to help in Republican primaries.  I'd expect in the coming weeks for him to perhaps stretch this power, as there are still a number of competitive primaries still on the map where his endorsement would mean a lot (AZ Sen, MN Gov, GA Gov, AK Gov, & WI Sen all come to mind).

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
4. Democrats Embrace Self-Funders

I have to say on a night where Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was making a shocking win for Socialists (it has to be said this is by-far the best night Bernie Sanders has had all season), the Democrats also showed a weird affinity for self-funders last night, which feels deeply discouraging after we've railed against Trump for doing the same thing for nearly two years.  Weeks after JB Pritzker defeated local office-holder Daniel Biss in Illinois, Democrats picked three self-funders in Colorado, New York, and Maryland.  Probably the biggest of these is Colorado, where Rep. Jared Polis is now the favorite to become the first openly gay governor of a state after defeating State Treasurer Cary Kennedy.  Polis, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, spent over $6 million in the race, a discouraging sign for a party that has in recent years embraced small-dollar donations in a big way, but at least he's a former officeholder.  In Maryland, Dave Trone (after losing the primary in a neighboring district two years ago), defeated State Del. Aruna Miller after spending over $10 million of his own money (Trone founded the Total Wine retail chain).  Miller was poised to be the only woman in the state's delegation, and without her Maryland is now likely to be the largest state in the country without a woman in its delegation (its biggest competition will be Tennessee).  Finally, in New York, Perry Gershon put nearly $600k into his race to defeat local officeholder Kate Browning in NY-1, setting him up for a potentially competitive House race in the general.

All of these men might have progressive platforms, but I do think it's discouraging that the only major party that actually wants campaign finance reform finds self-funding of races (basically buying off races and making it so that only millionaires can afford to be in Congress) a bit of a bummer.  I'd prefer it if people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose income level is more in-line with the average voter, were the norm & not an anomaly in Congress.

Attorney General Drew Edomondson (D-OK)
5. Should Oklahoma Democrats Be Excited?

Lost in the Crowley/Ocasio-Cortez drama of last night was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser in the Sooner State.  Oklahoma's main event was the gubernatorial primary for its open seat, as unpopular Gov. Mary Fallin is term-limited out of office headed into November.  The Democratic primary went largely as expected, with former Attorney General Drew Edmondson easily winning over State Sen. Connie Johnson, and the Republican primary ending in an expected runoff, with Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (perhaps too tainted by his roles in the Fallin administration), coming in third to Oklahoma City Mayor Mike Cornett & mortgage banker Kevin Stitt.  But where the shock was was in turnout; numbers differ a bit on this, but turnout percentage was well over 100% lift for the Democrats despite Edmondson being a foregone conclusion in his race, and nearly a 2:1 lift for turnout for the left against the Republicans.  While this doesn't guarantee victory (Oklahoma is a ruby red state), it does show potential.  Keep in mind that Fallin succeeded a Democratic governor (Brad Henry), and states like Oklahoma have a fairly recent history of voting for Democrats to the governor's mansion even as their entire congressional delegation remains red.  Combine that with an unpopular outgoing governor, a blue wave, a top-tier Democrat in Edmondson, and a sure-to-be-nasty primary between Stitt & Cornett, and you could have an interesting sleeper headed into November here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Why Republicans Deserve a Taste of Their Own Medicine

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR)
I turn 34 this week, which means that I am neither particularly old nor particularly young.  Most of my life, though not quite all of it, could qualify as recent history, particularly if you counted my time as an adult.  So it's worth noting, in Pride month, that when I turned 18, I could not legally be gay and join the military; that right wouldn't be afforded to me until I was 27.  While I could legally have consensual sex with another adult man in my home state of Minnesota, if I crossed Lake Superior over to Michigan, that would have been a crime (as it would have in 13 states at the time).  I couldn't legally get married in Minnesota until I was nearly 29-years-old, and would have to wait another two years before I could get married in every state.  And it was another year after that before I could legally adopt in all fifty states...or just over two years ago, if you're keeping track at home.  I still can be fired for being gay in South Dakota.  Or Texas, Louisiana, and Arizona.  I can get turned down for an apartment in Alaska or Florida for being gay.  And thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, pretty much anyone who wanted to could turn me down for a wedding cake if they so chose.

I say these things not just to show the importance of Pride, but more to show that up until very recently (and in some cases, still currently), people thought it was 100% fine that I was legally discriminated against, certainly most elected officials did and many members of the Republican Party.  Mike Huckabee, for example, spent almost his entire public career trying to take rights away from me, and has referred to me as "aberrant, unnatural, and sinful" and decried when gay people he served for decades in Arkansas finally got the right to marry.  John McCain has spent most of his adult life trying to tear down the rights of LGBT people, claiming to be an ally but almost always siding with hate; a longtime public servant who has rightfully championed his military service, he didn't see the need to protect his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in uniform when given the chance before the floor of the Senate.  These men took different tacts, claiming "their religion" or "states rights" excused their behavior, but they watched as gay citizens, people they swore oaths to serve, were denied basic rights in this country, and didn't think anything of it.

I say this because the Republican Party is losing its mind over the treatment of several key figures in the party, specifically Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kirstjen Nielsen, and Pam Bondi, all being forced to leave restaurants either by angry protesters or by, in Sanders case, by the management of the restaurant.  All of these things were done in response to the Republican Party's heinous, disgusting treatment of immigrant children, putting them in cages and ripping them from their mothers.  But I think the shocking thing for the GOP might just be that they realized that their actions have consequences, and perhaps they had the briefest of tastes of what their laws have done to disenfranchised peoples their entire careers.

I don't really support the right of refusing service to pretty much anyone, but I do think that if the law is going to be used to discriminate against gay people, it should very much be used to discriminate against those who hold down LGBT people.  Religious liberty laws are frequently touted as "necessary" to preserve the first amendment, but if that's the case, someone should be allowed to state that Sanders' lying and her administration's caging of children go against their religion, and therefore she doesn't have the universal right to eat in their restaurants.  Sanders, in fact, has less of a leg to stand on in this argument than someone who is black or Muslim or transgender; they didn't have a choice in being part of a minority group, while Sanders chose to behave repugnantly and strip others of their rights and humanity.

The thing that I find so shocking in all of this is that Sanders doesn't, and likely never will, understand that what she experienced for two seconds is the thing she regularly inflicts on people across the country on a daily basis without so much as a whisper of consideration.  The same can be said for her father or someone like Meghan McCain, who both decry the treatment of these Republicans without acknowledging that their families have done this to minority groups like the LGBT community for decades.  When I am asked to have sympathy for these people by "the tolerant left" who want to still find a middle ground, to understand where they're coming from, this illustrates perhaps why that may just be impossible-Sanders or McCain or Huckabee are too privileged and unaffected by discrimination to understand that the policies and party they support have made infringement on others so normal that we think of it as "public policy" not shocking or abnormal or unacceptable.  If they can't understand it when they are treated just once the way that LGBT, persons of color, immigrants, and religious minorities are treated in this country every day, there is no hope for empathy from these individuals.  We won't connect with them, we simply need to outnumber them.  And eventually we'll have a Congress that will ban Sarah Sanders from being denied service at a restaurant while also protecting an aspiring gay couple shopping for a wedding cake and a Muslim gun enthusiast who wants to go to a gun range.  Until then, if they want to discriminate against people they clearly hate under the guise of "religious liberties," then they deserve to also feel the brunt of such hateful laws.  This isn't abandoning the moral high ground-it's just claiming fairness.  Until we have equal rights for all peoples, truly all peoples, then Sarah Sanders doesn't deserve to have equal rights either.  If she's standing in the way of her own equality just to spite gay people and immigrants, then I think it's more than fine that she gets denied a night out.