Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ranting On...Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump
One of the unwritten rules of American politics is that it's not fair to attack the president's family, particularly the president's children.  Pretty much any time a candidate goes after their opponent's children it's considered universally bad form.  From Luci Johnson's poor grades to Susan Ford being blasted for wearing jeans to a young Chelsea Clinton being ridiculed for her appearance by Mike Myers and Rush Limbaugh, being a president's child, specifically a president's daughter, cannot be a particularly easy road to travel.  So it would be understandable to look at the stories this morning out of Germany of Ivanka Trump being booed at a summit as being inappropriate, something we shouldn't tolerate.  But if you look a wee bit deeper, you see that this is the exception, not the rule, and publicly protesting or disapproving of Ivanka Trump is not the same as in the past.

One of the reasons that it's important to remember that we have "hands off" treatment from critiques from the media for First Daughters is that the role of First Daughter (or First Spouse/Son/what-have-you) is inherently apolitical.  Up until Ivanka Trump, no first daughter has had a prominent role in the president's White House, nor has she been a prominent spokesperson for her father.  There are exceptions, of course, and this has started to change somewhat in recent campaigns (look at how Chelsea Clinton paid a more public role in her mother's campaign in 2016), but by-and-large First Children are just people that happened to be related to the president.  They were not commonly sent as ambassadors of the country (usually if they went abroad, it was with POTUS or the First Lady, more obviously political figures), and they didn't talk much about public policy.

As a result of this, criticism of them felt unfair, and frequently, unfortunate.  Oftentimes it focused on the way that they dressed, behaved in public, or their appearances.  Considering the harsh glare of a spotlight they didn't invite, and their generally younger age (most recent First Daughters have been under, say, 25, including President Trump's two youngest children), it didn't seem fair to hold them to the same standards as their parents.  Indeed, making them news at all felt a little bit of a problem, because the focus should be on their parents, specifically their father (sorry, I wish I could say parent here, but we've yet to have a female president, much to many of our chagrins, so I'm not tailoring the gender).

Ivanka Trump, though, is different, and it's hard not to see the ways that she obviously diverges from past First Daughters.  For starters, she's considerably older than most women in this role-the last presidential daughter to be 35+ while her father was in office was Maureen Reagan.  As a result, you can't really claim "youthful indiscretion" when she misspeaks or pushes herself into the spotlight-she knows what she's doing here.  Were the press going after her younger sister Tiffany, who is 23 and seems to shun most political conversations so far, I'd say this was a case of the media or the public being unfair, but Ivanka Trump knows what she's in for going in front of a crowd.

This, of course, wouldn't invite her to be booed, but she also is not simply someone who happens to be the president's daughter-she's now an Assistant to the President, married to one of the president's closest advisers, and (by choice) a representative of his administration.  As a result, she owns the things he does because he's her boss now.  Publicly defending her father may seem like a natural instinct, but she's choosing to use her father's political clout to further her own career here-that comes with responsibility, and as a result she now owns his comments, particularly about women and family care, which is where she has focused most of her comments during the Trump administration.

As a result, one could argue that booing her for essentially misstating her father's positions felt like a natural reaction.  Going before a very informed, important audience at a summit discussing women's issues and throwing out easily-dismissed pablum like her father having hired thousands of women or that, in the Trump household, she learned that she could be anything she wanted without barriers, feels pretty tepid.  After all, give my own father a billion dollars and I wouldn't have had too many barriers growing up myself, and her father's employment of women doesn't dismiss his treatment of women, considering the over a dozen sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him or the fact that he paid his female campaign employees one-third that of their male counterparts, not to mention his disparaging comments on the campaign trail about the appearances of Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton.  As President Trump's "ambassador to women," which feels like what Ms. Trump is, dismissing that as a flight of the media and only holding up his treatment of her, his own daughter, as the standard we should use borders on the imbecilic.

It also says something the position that President Trump is putting his daughter in here.  Ms. Trump's trip abroad included meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of our most important allies.  She was on a panel that included Merkel, Christine Lagarde (Director of the IMF), and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands-powerful women, ones who serve as critical emissaries of their countries or organizations.  That Trump chose his daughter, rather than a Vice President, Secretary of State, or a key adviser of his (one could imagine Condoleeza Rice or Hillary Clinton being on this panel under past administrations) speaks to both the dearth of women in Trump's cabinet and how Ivanka Trump plays a very critical public role as the president's "outreach" to women's issues.  One could argue that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley or SBA Administrator Linda McMahon (two of the only four women in Trump's cabinet) would have been more appropriate choices for a trip to Germany and a panel on female entrepreneurship, but Trump chose his daughter.  As a result, she needs to be held accountable for his actions on this subject, and if she denies or misleads the audience, booing or challenging her seems only appropriate.

Ms. Trump clearly wasn't ready for a conversation of this magnitude, nor one could argue worthy of meeting a world leader like Chancellor Merkel (it feels like Trump, Pence, or Tillerson should have filled that role considering Germany's crucial alliance for the United States), but she chose to do this, and the president approved of it.  Much like her father, even though she might not be ready or qualified for the position she's attained, she's an adult choosing to sit in this high-ranking office, and with that comes responsibility; the American public should not tolerate a learning curve for the White House.  Ivanka Trump is not simply a First Daughter any longer-she's now an assistant to the President and an ambassador of his abroad.  With that, she has to accept the responsibility of everything her new boss does, even the stuff that is worth booing over.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ranting On...Losing Weight for the Wrong Reasons

Recently, I went on a few dates with a guy I really liked.  He was cute, funny, interesting, and the kind of person you knew you wanted to get to know more, and not just "an on-paper guy that you couldn't think of a reason not to go out with even though he was intensely bland."  Three dates in, I had decidedly developed a crush on the guy, and was excited about how easy it was to converse with him-despite near constant communication (in-person, phone, or textual) for a week, I kept having new things I was learning about him and things that I wanted to share/know.  In short, I was very excited where this was going.

And then, came, the dreaded "so we've been going on a couple of dates, and I think we should have a talk" line, the one you know might come up before you have the "boyfriend" conversation, but you sort of hope you didn't have to do.  He said, quite kindly, that he really wanted to be friends (and I really did and do too, which is rare in these circumstances as usually at that point I'd be happy if they just lost my number), but he just didn't see me that way.  I felt a little heartbroken, more so than I probably should have after only a week's worth of dating, but then I decided, since this was on the phone and not via a text, and because he seemed like a genuinely nice guy and not the sort of person who was going to deal with "you're too clingy" as the excuse when I asked him to explain himself after three dates (I hate it when guys use reasons that are happening during the breakup as examples of things that caused the breakup, when that axiomatically can't be the reason), so I decided to just ask him, "what about me don't you like?"

This is a braver question for me than you might realize.  I am generally someone who likes dealing in blunt assessments of situations, but when it comes to guys, I tend to be a bit more passive than I probably should be.  I'm the planner, generally, the organizer, but in terms of demanding things for myself-let's just say it's not my strong suit, which is odd because I've gotten better at that in virtually every other aspect of my life.  And thankfully, he didn't give me a pablum answer.  I prodded a little, admittedly, emboldened by asking the question, but he eventually said "you're heavier than I expected, and dress kind of frumpy for your weight."  It was a dagger through the heart, but it was an actual answer, which is exactly what I wanted.

Now before you get on your high horse here and proclaim "that's unacceptable," know that I didn't think that for one instance (well, maybe for an instance, but I got over it).  For starters-we all dump people for less than reputable reasons.  It might not be their weight (but if you pretend you haven't dumped someone because of their looks and you've been single after the age of 25 for longer than a year...you're lying), but it could be their personality or their ambition or their hygiene or their demeanor.  Secondly, I pressed for an actual, truthful answer-I didn't want a "you're really nice, but not the right guy for me" routine, particularly since guys tend to like me way better in textual/phone conversation than in person, so I knew that something was getting lost in that transition.  And third, it provided me with something I could actually work on.

I'm not really someone who looks in the mirror and sees a fat person, even if it's always what I know is there at this point.  For years, because of issues I can discuss in a different post, I simply didn't look in the mirror all that often, so it wasn't really a problem that I had.  And secondly, I'd been thin for the first 22 years of my life or so, so it wasn't something I generally expected to see there when I did dane to look in a mirror.

But I know that my weight is what it is, and I'm not okay with it, but I've never had the drive to take care of it in a major way.  Perhaps it's because my doctor isn't as insistent as she should be that I cut back or that it is addressed (though I know, based on personal experience when I do lose weight, that she's hoping I take care of it).  Perhaps it's because I genuinely don't notice people's weights unless they are at an extreme of some sort; I'm the last person to notice when a friend is pregnant, for example.  Or perhaps it's because weight isn't really a thing I care about with someone I'm dating, so I just don't think about it that much in terms of dating (I'm not saying I'm not shallow here because I can be, I'm just saying weight specifically is not one of the dealbreakers for me).

But it clearly is for other guys, and may be the code I have been trying to track in why guys can fall over themselves for me online, but not in person.  I used to think it was because I wasn't using recent enough photos, to the point where I would send a photo saying "this is a live picture of me" so that they knew exactly what they were getting, but the weight issue is probably not as apparent on my dating profiles as it should be, certainly in comparison to myself (plus, I tend to lose first from my face, so from the chest up I always look about thirty pounds lighter than I actually am).

This is all well and good (and you may be wondering what the meandering point is here, other than a Sunday train-of-thought situation), but the problem is that if I were to lose the weight now (and I do, indeed, plan to lose the weight now), it will be entirely because of this one guy and his opinion of me.  Now, it's not some delusional trap to try and get him back (that ship has sailed), but it is going to be for a man like this guy.  It's going to be for the next guy that liked me online, but then saw me in person and thought I resembled a bowling ball a little too closely.

But you tell someone that you're losing weight for a guy, or to get more dates with men, and they act like the world ended.  Seriously-I already have enough trouble telling people I want to lose weight and they pronounce "but you don't need to" so fast it's like a muscle reflex, but you add in that "the only reason that I'm doing so is because I want guys to like me" and suddenly you have self-esteem issues that need to be solved, and please have some cake while you take care of them.

The reality is I probably have self-esteem issues (again, another article), but that's not the problem in this specific case.  I don't really have a problem with being fat from my own standpoint, but I sure as hell have a problem with being single.  Now while someone should like you for you, and eventually it is a problem if you're basing your relationship on the superficial exclusively, it's foolish to pretend that the initial parts of relationships aren't based on baiting a hook.  Particularly in the gay world, where everyone seems to be living at a gym and where sex frequently comes first, and then you decide if you want to date, it's very, very hard to be overweight, particularly considering your competition.  I'm a cute guy who is smart, caring, funny, has interests and a good job, gets along with my family, and am (based on surveys) a pretty good kisser.  I can't be taller, but other than that I'm aware that I would be considered a catch...except for my weight.  If that's what's standing between me and a happy relationship, even if society says I shouldn't have to I'm willing to jump that hurdle.

So yes, I'm going to begin a weight loss regiment starting tomorrow, complete with food reductions, increased gym time, and a better sleep routine.  My doctor will absolutely be happy, my clothes will likely become more fashionable, and I will in general probably have more energy and a happier approach to life.  But I'd be lying if I said I was doing it for any of those things-I'm doing it so the next time a guy I really like dumps me, it'll be for something other than my weight.  That might not be healthy or what "you're supposed to do," but it's my new reality.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

OVP: Foreign Language Film (2007)

OVP: Best Foreign Language Film (2007)

The Nominees Were...

Beaufort, Israel
The Counterfeiters, Austria
Katyn, Poland
Mongol, Kazakhstan
12, Russia

My Thoughts: So far, if you've been following along, 2007 has been a bonanza of "category-bests" for me.  I've been watching as field after field yield some of the best slates we've come across in the Oscar Viewing Project, including Cinematography, which I'd argue is the best lineup we've yet assembled in any category in all of the years of the OVP we've done.  Knowing some of the upcoming nominees, this is likely to continue with future categories, but Foreign Language Film is sadly not in the same pantheon of 2007.  In fact, it's one of the weaker lineups of movies I've encountered in the Oscar Viewing Project, so while there are some movies to enjoy (and I admittedly have to pick a winner), read on knowing that insults are about to be launched.

The most traditional film of the group, in terms of this category, would surely be The Counterfeiters, which focuses on the most prominent subject here, World War II, specifically the Holocaust.  The film   centers around a Jewish master-counterfeiter, forced during World War II to try and forge the British Pound and the American Dollar while in a concentration camp, in order to bankroll the Nazi war effort (against his will).  The movie itself is occasionally compelling, and definitely tells an untold chapter of the war, but it feels very rudimentary compared to, say, something like In Darkness, which came a few years later and bordered on a masterwork.  This is merely a finely-crafted, handsome production that tells its tale well, but doesn't really rise above in the way you'd expect (or hope) the Best Foreign Language Film winner to do.

Katyn occasionally peters toward greatness in a way that The Counterfeiters never can, though it isn't remotely as consistent of a film.  The movie, also about World War II (in this case the Katyn Massacre), is one that was clearly very personal to director Andrzej Wajda (his father died in the attacks), but is narratively unfocused and lacks a real center.  There are moments that are fascinating (the performance by Danuta Stenka being a particular highlight), and arguably has the most compelling clip of any of these movies where a man is driven to his death by being forced to lie, but by-and-large it reads more as a series of random well-acted scenes rather than a whole plot or movie. It doesn't even have the "short story" feel of a Mike Leigh film-it just feels like a picture that got lost in bad storyboarding.

Our third film about war (and no, its not the last one in a year that didn't care much for variety) leaves the 1940's behind and instead moves to the turn of the century, where the Beaufort Castle is under siege.  The problem with Beaufort as a film (I told you-I'm not wild about any of these pictures) is that the first half has very little to say that's new to the world of cinema.  "War is hell" is a mantra that never entirely loses its potency, but if you can't find a new way to encounter it, the film drags ferociously.  In the second half, the picture improves greatly, particularly when it points out the nasty political ramifications of staying in a war that neither side's government wants to be fighting anymore.  The arbitrary nature of dying for a cause that no one believes in becomes a nasty and eye-opening moment in the film, and the second half of the movie captures that, particularly in light of the fact that this was during the height of the anti-war movement against the Bush administration (it's easy to see why this got nominated).  Oshri Cohen's solid performance adds to the film, and by the end you've almost forgiven the first hour for wasting your time.

One more film about war, but here we have to travel back a millennium or so to the age of Genghis Khan.  Mongol is one of those movies where you can figuratively see producers ruining a picture.  The film itself is cool, with battle scenes, cinematography, and some magnificent costuming on-display, enough so that you'd normally forgive a lapse in the plot because everything seems to pop with a "wow factor."  However, the plot is disastrously repetitive, to the point where I felt like I was watching the same twenty minutes over and over again, and the characters remain completely two-dimensional.  The film never rises above the clearest of problems (we know that Genghis Khan wins), creating side stories that are more riveting or "unknown" to those who aren't students of history, and in a bid to make sure every dollar spent is seen on screen, the editing makes the film far too long.

Though none of these movies impress on an "Oscar-winning" scale, 12 is the only one that crosses from poor to truly awful.  The movie, way too long at 160 minutes, is a Russian retelling of Sidney Lumet's masterwork 12 Angry Men, but lacks none of that film's strong acting, sharp editing, and claustrophobic directing.  Instead, we get a series of caricatures (including two principle characters that feel like they've been borrowed from a scenery-chewing zoo), and the ending is one of the worst I've seen from a serious movie, where the film hearkens away from being a legal drama and more into a piece of action-movie propaganda in favor of Vladimir Putin.  Even in 2007, before Putin was as hated as he is now by American liberals, it's surprising that Oscar gave the film a pass.

Other Precursor Contenders: Awards ceremonies like the Goyas and the Cesars aren't good representatives here since it's typically honoring the main films of a specific country, so I usually only count the Globes amongst the awards bodies we check-in with for Foreign Language film.  The HFPA wisely chose none of these nominees, with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly being picked over 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, The Kite Runner, Persepolis, and Lust Cauton.  It's also worth noting that The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (Portugal), Days of Darkness (Canada), The Unknown Woman (Italy), and The Trap (Serbia) were on the January shortlist but didn't get the nomination.
Films I Would Have Nominated: I know the Academy disqualified it, but it seems ridiculous that Taiwan's Lust Caution couldn't have been a submission, particularly considering that it's better than every single one of these movies.  The more unforgivable sin for AMPAS, though, is that 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, which was eligible from Romania, wasn't counted.  The film is a marvelous, minimalistic look at social classes and intensely better than every single one of these pictures, to an almost comical degree when you consider they were competing for the same prize.  That it was eligible and wasn't nominated is heartbreaking, especially considering it could have so easily held up the high standards 2007 imposed on other categories.
Oscar’s Choice: Given a banal lineup, Oscar took the easiest choice of The Counterfeiters.
My Choice: As I said, I don't love any of these movies, but will probably copy Oscar and pick the same, as it's the solidest overall picture of the five.  I'd follow that with Beaufort, Katyn, Mongol, and 12 way in the back.

Those are my thoughts-what about you?  Does anyone really like one of these movies, or at least like it better than The Counterfeiters?  Why won't AMPAS lighten up a bit when it comes to Lust, Caution?  And even ten years later, is anyone else still steamed that 4 Months... didn't get its due here?  Share your thoughts below!

Past Best Foreign Language Film Contests: 20082009, 2010201120122013, 2014

Thursday, April 13, 2017

5 Thoughts on Tuesday's Election

Tuesday night, while it wasn't the stunning battle-cry that a win would have been, Democrats had to have been pretty pleased with the results of a special election in Kansas.  The district, a Republican stronghold that Donald Trump won by over thirty points and which the previous incumbent, Mike Pompeo, easily won with 31 points, delivered a single-digit victory for State Treasurer Ron Estes over a political unknown.  That's equivalent to over a 20-point swing, something that the Republicans simply couldn't afford going forward with if it were to become a nationwide mood.  However, frequently people take the wrong things away from special elections, so I wanted to put in my two cents on what this does (and doesn't) mean for Democrats going forward.

Rep-elect. Ron Estes (R-KS)
1. Special Elections Mean Something...Except When They Don't

One of the things you're going to hear a lot of in comings days is "the Republicans are worried," which is probably accurate.  Despite what President Trump tweeted yesterday morning, the reality is that Tuesday night was an ominous sign; the Democrats had a no-name candidate, zilch money, and managed to get within 7-points in a district that Republicans crushed it in in 2016 (and that Republicans, not Democrats, had to spend money).  However, special elections aren't necessarily indicative of what happens in the following congressional election-more often than not they are products of their own race (since there's no national narrative informing the race).

Look, for example, at the 2004 elections.  Earlier that year, two Republican House seats in relatively red districts had gone for the Democrats, one in Kentucky (electing Ben Chandler) and one in South Dakota (electing Stephanie Herseth).  And yet, later that year the Democrats got walloped in red states, losing a number of Senate seats (including one in South Dakota), and watching the House Democrats have a net loss of three seats.  Other factors in this race (namely that Chandler and Herseth were particularly good candidates, both of whom managed to make it through the 2004 elections unscathed in the general), were more important, and so reading into the fatigue over Republicans in these districts would have been poor use of tea leaves.

That said, special elections can indicate the national mood is moving against one party.  The Senate election of Scott Brown in 2009 in deep-blue Massachusetts, for example, wouldn't have happened in a normal environment (even against Martha Coakley).  Surprise victories in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Illinois in 2008 showed the country was ready for a Democratic president again, even in hard-to-grab districts.  So the special elections can matter, but shouldn't be taken as validation on their own.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
2. The Win Didn't Happen...Except for Recruitment

The bigger victory for the Democrats last night, however, was in terms of recruitment.  Looking at a complete unknown like James Thompson nearly making it to Congress will surely make ambitious state legislators, mayors, and local aspiring politicos in more palatable districts take a second look at running in 2018.  That this could be the year that the Democrats are able to not only win big, but perhaps regain the majority against Trump would be a huge recruitment tool.

This probably won't just limit itself to the House.  In 2014, a year that was clearly looking like a major year for the Republicans, Rep. Cory Gardner jumped into the Senate race at the last minute, assuming that the once-invincible Sen. Mark Udall could be taken down (he was right, and it paid off in a big way for he and the GOP).  Heidi Heitkamp did the same thing in 2012.  While Democrats don't have a lot of opportunities, I suspect that people like Reps. Ruben Kihuen and Kyrsten Sinema may be more inclined to make a jump toward the other end of the Capitol, as will a number of Democrats exploring gubernatorial races if the atmosphere doesn't change.

This isn't something to take lightly; recruitment is critically important to winning or losing a seat.  It's likely that Gardner and Heitkamp were the only people that could have won those seats in those years, even with a favorable environment  Recruitment also can work backwards-in 2014 if the Democrats had managed to keep Tom Harkin, Max Baucus, Tim Johnson, and Jay Rockefeller around to run for another term, they may well have the Senate majority right now.  A retirement from someone like an Ileana Ros-Lehtinen or Peter King on the Republican side could be a huge issue for holding their seats in an unfavorable environment.

Jon Ossoff (D-GA)
3. Jon Ossoff Now Needs to Win

It's one thing to claim a moral victory, but you don't get to govern on moral victories, so the Democrats will need to sink a basket to prove this momentum is real.  This probably was never going to be possible in Kansas-4, but Georgia-6 is another story entirely.

An open primary where the top two finishers advance to the runoff (provided no one hits 50%), the Democrats are pinning all of their hopes on Jon Ossoff, a political newbie who has managed to raise unfathomably large sums of money ($8.6 million, which outperforms most Senate candidates), and is polling very well.  The 50% marker, though, is tough in a district Rep. Tom Price won handily in 2014, though hardly impossible as Hillary Clinton only lost the district by 1.5%.

The problem here is that this is the sort of district the Democrats need to win if Nancy Pelosi is going to become Speaker of the House in 2019.  It'll be difficult to make the argument that they have a legit shot of winning a house of Congress back if they can't pick up a seat this marginal.  Admittedly, it's a seat with a Republican bent, and expecting a 20-point swing is obscene, but you really only need Ossoff to outperform Clinton by 5-points (reasonable) to get there.  If the Democrats can't take this (either in the initial election or the runoff), I wonder if talks of a wave may be premature.

DNC Chair Tom Perez (D-MD)
4. Tom Perez is in a Bind

Democrats were criticizing DNC Chair Perez all over social media Tuesday night, and potentially with good reason.  Thompson was within striking distance here, and neither the DNC nor the DCCC spent a dime on the race (though I did read they sent some volunteers at the last minute).

Perez has a difficult rope to walk going forward-he's being tasked with winning back at least one house of Congress in 2018, but will have to do with finite resources.  Spending them on a sharp-red district, one that would be difficult to defend in 2018 even if they had pulled off the miracle Tuesday night, is arguably a waste of money.  But the Democrats are clamoring for a "50-State Strategy" and it cannot be lost in the conversation that Thompson was a Bernie Sanders supporter, a branch of the party that Perez needs to win over (and that is leery of him after he beat Keith Ellison for the post).  Perez, who plans to spend an enormous amount of money in Georgia once the runoff begins, perhaps needs an Ossoff victory more than anyone, as it'll look terrible if he ends up losing a seat that he spent on, and Democrats can point to KS-4 as a missed opportunity.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
5. Paul Ryan's Job Just Got Harder

While on the surface Paul Ryan's job just got easier (he now has an establishment Republican to rely upon in getting legislation passed), in reality this is a tough sell for him, because he has to balance the Freedom Caucus and moderates who are going to be increasingly unlikely to take risks if they aren't getting much reward or are putting their careers in jeopardy.

Republican moderates have to be seeing Tuesday night as a warning sign-a 20-point swing may be something that Estes can afford, but people in marginal districts (or ones that Hillary Clinton won) certainly cannot hemorrhage that many Trump supporters or see their numbers that depressed.  The AHCA, tax reform, even infrastructure will become a tough sell if the Republicans cannot guarantee that people like Erik Paulsen or Darrell Issa are safe with their Clinton-supporting bases.  Expect a lot more defections from Republicans against Trump/Ryan if this becomes the new normal, particularly if Ossoff wins.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Stop Turning Everything Into a Franchise!

I am about at my wit's end when it comes to franchise culture in Hollywood.  I keep seeing sequel after sequel after sequel, followed by reboots and prequels and offshoots.  It feels like certain franchises refuse to die until they have exhausted all outcomes...and it feels terrible.  Even series that I genuinely like (say, Harry Potter) feel exhaustive and not as special as they once were because they cannot let those series die and exist on a shelf.  Part of me wonders if this is just the way it will be-series after series never ending but we're forced to endure until everything we loved about it is gone, and we can't even get a nostalgia high from the product.  I am reminded of this with investigations into two different series that, while seemingly disparate, both have fans calling for them to reinvest their time and energy into one last go-around: Community and Big Little Lies.  However, in my mind, only one of these two series should be allowed to continue.

Big Little Lies is the show that's been far more in the news, so I'll start there (spoiler alerts are coming if you're not caught up yet).  The show captured the Twitter zeitgeist, particularly toward the end, with brilliant pieces of work from Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, and a whodunit that stayed pretty well under-wraps despite being adapted from a popular mystery novel.  The final episode, in a rare circumstance, ended up being the finest of the series in my opinion, and a number of people were hoping that, considering its excellence, it should come back for a second season.

I think this is a moronic idea, and it's indicative of the foolishness of sequel/prequel culture.  The reality is that while a sequel can never really damage the original, a second season of a series can decidedly put a tarnish on the initial one.  Look at the jump in quality between the first and second season of Desperate Housewives.  I love that show, and will defend later seasons (particularly 4 and 7, which were both excellent), but one could make the argument that it was never better than its initial mystery.  The same could be said for Big Little Lies, a show that doesn't have a comedic crutchh (and the disadvantage of not being bound to a book) to lean upon.  Keep in mind that DH ended on a cliffhanger, but Big Little Lies tied up every major mystery on the show.  Yes, there are questions left ("what does Celeste do as a single mom?" "does Ed ever find out about the affair?" "how is it that everyone in Monterey can sing so well?"), but by-and-large the major mysteries had a satisfying resolution, something almost unheard of in modern television, which stretches and stretches in order to hang onto a hit show as long as possible.

We should treasure that, rather than hoping for lightning to continue to strike.  Look at series like The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family or Grey's Anatomy-once deeply relevant, now just hollow shells hoping to cash in with quantity rather than quality on syndication deals.  Have we gotten so bad that we've forgotten that a series can genuinely be good from beginning to end?  That having a vision for the end result of the series is the point of watching art?  Television is episodic in nature, but stories like Big Little Lies are meant to have a finish, just like a movie is meant to have a finish.  That we got a strong one, with solid resolution, is a testament to good writing and should be cherished and left alone-the show wasn't meant to be a series, and we shouldn't force it to be just because we love it.

The same cannot be said for Community, which despite six seasons never really got the ending that it needed.  Putting aside #andamovie for a second (and what that would mean), the show after Season 3 never quite gained its mojo back.  A quirky, smart, funny comedy that nevertheless had peaks and valleys, the show became about the unlikely families we form with strangers in college, and the unhealthy attachments we sometimes form in order to stop maturing or moving on.  The series revisited that briefly in the final moments of Season 6, when Abed and Annie depart for California, leaving Jeff, the Dean, Chang, and Britta all behind at Greendale, passing onto the next chapter.  It would be a fine ending, except that there are major, major plotholes still left unresolved, and the ending felt cheap compared to what you normally get from a series finale.

For starters, it's not appropriate in my mind to end the series without having a significant callback to Troy, Shirley, and Pierce.  I know Pierce "died" and such, and them leaving abruptly shows the harshness of life when people who are essential to your daily existence one day just leave without any connection to you again, but it felt inauthentic that, especially in the day-and-age of social media, these people didn't stay a part of each other's lives in a more meaningful way.  Closure, acknowledging that they would always remain friends even if they weren't always constantly connected, felt like a heartier ending.

Plus, the script is right there to discover-Troy, Abed, Annie, and Shirley return after enjoying success in their own lives, perhaps for a class reunion of sorts, and in the process, they start to notice phantom things happening around the campus, perhaps clues to Pierce, who died so strangely (dehydration?) being still alive.  The show could end with them discovering Pierce, still alive and crazy, and then having them realize that it's okay that they grew apart, but still will always have each other.  A few cameos from fan favorites, and you'd have a polished ending that felt truer to the actual series and its characters (it's hard to imagine Troy or Shirley letting Annie and Abed leave without coming back to say goodbye).  And it would be an ending, not an extension or sucking the faucet dry.

Because that's what we need, and what we need to acknowledge should happen in movies/TV.  Not every show is meant to be The Days of Our Lives, continuing until the end of time in an endless loop-no one wants their favorite shows to become hollow shells, almost insufferable.  We need to start inviting back the art to TV and movies, and only extending products that feel like they can naturally continue without risking alienating the original product.  And that doesn't include Big Little Lies, a wonderful miniseries that will stand up to rewatches if you're missing Renata or Madeline...but shouldn't need a second season for you to continue to adore it.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

What Democrats Should (and Shouldn't) Run for President in 2020?

First off, I want to apologize for the lower than normal amount of posts in April so far.  I've been having a surprisingly busy last week or so between life, work, and tackling a couple of goals around my apartment, so I haven't had as much time for the blog.  However, you can expect a full slate of twelve articles this coming week as I'm parking myself in front of a computer right now and writing them all (including the finale of a long dormant series).  Until then, though, I figured I should reward your patience with a look at the 2020 Democratic Party contenders.

Now, in this regard, don't get used to me talking about 2020, because I abhor discussing races this far out as a general rule.  For starters, I think that the newly-elected candidates should be given a chance to actually govern.  The media's focus on the next election rather than holding our current officeholders accountable has long been a pet peeve of mine, and even if I didn't vote for the incumbent president, that doesn't mean that I'm a complete hypocrite on this, even if it might soothe my wounds to start fantasizing about the day when he might leave office.

Secondly, predicting presidential races nearly four years out is an absurd task.  Occasionally you can make sense of the nominees; people like Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton, if you'd told me six months after the previous election that they were the next cycle's nominees, I'd have nodded and said "makes sense."  But just as frequently people like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump come along and I'd have laughed you into the next room for predicting such a thing.  Politics is sometimes an industry that rewards the most-likely-successor and occasionally she gives in to a completely new name.

Finally, even if we want to presume on the nominees, predicting the presidential race three years from now is impossible.  Democrats may be salivating at Trump's dour approval numbers, but approval numbers this early in a presidency mean nothing (unless you're Jon Ossoff, in which case you're probably feeling appropriately cocky right now).  Don't believe me?  Just ask Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who had abysmal moments in their first terms that surely would have meant them losing reelection...except of course they won in landslides.  Conversely, Republicans shouldn't be particularly sure here either-George HW Bush and Jimmy Carter both seemed like very likely winners for second terms mostly because of a thin bench from the opposition, only to have to endure that most odious of presidential retributions: a reelection loss.

So the focus here is not on who will win or even who will run, but instead on 21 names in the Democratic Party that I think should run, shouldn't run, or where I'm undecided.  Most of these names are politicians being floated for higher office, some are just ones I wanted to insert into the conversation preemptively.  Feel free to chime in in the comments with names I missed or who you're hoping joins the conversation.

(Note: I'm listing each group of seven in alphabetical order-I might call out my favorite candidates, but I'm not ranking since, as I've said, it's way too early for such things)

(Second Note: You'll notice I lean a little heavier into electability than you normally would on a personal list like this.  This is for two reasons: 1) as a rule I agree with most of these people on most issues, and I think that conversations that start with "not a true liberal" in this hyper-partisan age are unproductive and 2) successful presidential challengers usually win based on being deeply electable-Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, for example, were moderate Southerners who were very likable when they first ran. As a result, I'm going to be putting a little bit more emphasis on public persona than if I were to just, say, "pick" the president rather than assume that he or she has to win two very difficult elections to get to that position)

Candidates I Hope Will Run

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)

Age in 2020: 54
Why I Hope She Runs: On the list of candidates that I'm hoping will run, you're going to see a lot of names of people who probably won't make a go of it.  Much like 2004 where I ended up sitting for Wesley Clark in the primary, I anticipate 2020 being a year where I'm more voting "against someone" than voting "for someone" in the general as our bench isn't that exciting.  The lone exception there is Gillibrand, who has proven to be a strong leader for women's issues, the environment, and has started to emerge as a foreign policy voice in the Senate.  Arguably she's Hillary Clinton without all of the baggage or stigma, and has been positioning herself as the perfect foil against Trump.
What Holds Her Back: One of the bigger issues that Democrats need to address between now and 2020 is that they will need to either win back the Obama Midwestern/Great Lakes states (principally Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) or take a crack at FL/NC/AZ, which have become friendlier for Democrats but not reliably so.  A New York liberal senator isn't exactly a recipe to solve either of those two problems.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (NH)

Age in 2020: 62
Why I Hope She Runs: Hassan barely won her Senate election in 2016, but she did win and as a result she's one of the only women in history to have held a Senate seat and been governor.  That dual experience could come in handy if the Democrats are able to run on a revolving slate of staffers in the Trump White House (so far, there's no indication that that couldn't happen).  Hassan also has been pretty impressive in Senate hearings so far-frequently finding her way into headlines, and finding quick ways to differentiate herself from the Trump administration while still maintaining an aura of moderation in a purple state.  That sort of balancing act will be handy in a presidential primary.
What Holds Her Back: Does she want this?  I honestly think that if I were running a theoretical Joe Biden 2016 presidential race that I would have gone with Hassan over an Elizabeth Warren as a running mate in part because she feels like one of the under-tapped talents in the Democratic Party.  But in an already crowded field, can she differentiate herself quickly enough?

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Age in 2020: 60
Why I Hope She Runs: Admittedly Klobuchar is on this list in part because of home state pride, but it has to be said that she's an attractive candidate on paper (another candidate who would have been better on a Biden ticket in 2016 than Warren).  She's turned what could be a tossup seat into an easy victory for the Democrats, as she's wildly popular in the Gopher State.  She's a former prosecutor, so she's sharp in a debate but comes across as very personable (it's easy to see her playing well in Iowa or South Carolina).  And she's quirkier than you'd expect from a Midwestern senator, which may play well as Democrats are accused of being out-of-step with the average voter (arguably Trump's most successful line-of-attack in 2016).
What Holds Her Back: Klobuchar has had over a decade to distinguish herself on the national stage, but has never really taken that leap from Senate workhorse to Senate show horse, the latter of which she'll need to be in a primary that could be littered with big names like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and potentially even her fellow Minnesotan Al Franken.  If she can't find a way to become part of the noise headed into at least the 2018 elections, it's hard to see where the room is at the table for her candidacy.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO)

Age in 2020: 67
Why I Hope She Runs: If you didn't see McCaskill coming on this list, well, welcome to my blog (I'm an enormous fan).  McCaskill may be one of the older names on this list, but she'll be younger than Trump or Hillary was this year when 2020 rolls around, and she's arguably one of the ballsiest and most tenacious members of the Democratc Party (again-I would have skipped Warren entirely if I ran a Biden 2016 campaign and just had Hassan, Klobuchar, and McCaskill on my list-I'll engage in the comments if you'd like to talk about which would have been the better running mate).  McCaskill has won a tough battlefield a couple times now in Missouri, so she'd be able to translate those skills to places like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and I suspect that she's at least thinking about this with surprisingly liberal votes on the Gorsuch nomination.
What Holds Her Back: For starters, she's nowhere close to a sure thing to win in 2018, and she has to win reelection to be a contender in 2020 (just ask George Allen and Roy Barnes what putting the horse before the cart got them in presidential politics).  Secondly, it's hard to picture the Democratic Party going with someone as moderate as McCaskill, even if it might be in their best interests.  If Hillary Clinton was considered too moderate in 2016, I cannot fathom McCaskill emerging unscathed four years later.  Still, Donald Trump broke a number of "you're not allowed to say that" rules in the GOP primary in 2016-McCaskill could do the same in 2020.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR)

Age in 2020: 64
Why I Hope He Runs: If I'm going to get a true, died-in-the-wool liberal, I want one that will be able to resonate with younger voters and actually get them to come out, and one who seems to have at least a grasp on bipartisanship because one-party rule until they lose is a terrible system.  Merkley fits that bill arguably better than anyone else if I'm forced to pick a very liberal senator, and he has been making rather impressive waves in the media (that Supreme Court filibuster surely didn't hurt), as well as reaching out on a more national stage.  He also has won a difficult election before (beating an incumbent in 2008), something few blue-state Democrats can boast.
What Holds Him Back: It's hard to see how Jeff Merkley enters the national stage in a way that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren don't already.  Admittedly, if both pass on the White House, I could see this being his opening, but otherwise-is there room for a third hyper-liberal senator in this race?  How does he distinguish himself even if he's ultimately the most talented politician of the trio?

Sen. Chris Murphy (CT)

Age in 2020: 47
Why I Hope He Runs: Murphy has fast-emerged as someone to watch in the Democratic Party.  His views on gun control proved that he can make a national moment for himself, and his continual push on liberal issues makes me think that he wants to jump onto a national stage, though perhaps not as soon as 2020 given his relatively young age and safe seat.  Still, he'd draw a stark contrast to a 74-year-old president (the same contrast many expected between Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio in 2016), and even though he's from a blue state, he's not a stranger to winning tough elections (he had to take out a long time incumbent to get into Congress).
What Holds Him Back: I cannot stress this enough, but Democrats have had their hearts broken by New England liberals one too many times at this point, and even the ones who seem different end up failing us in the end.  Murphy will have multiple other chances to run if he so chooses-would he really want to take an on incumbent?

Rep. Adam Schiff (CA)

Age in 2020: 60
Why I Hope He Runs: I'm not wild about members of the House running for POTUS, but Schiff has impressed me enough in recent weeks that I would entertain this possibility.  He's got a pretty interesting perch to challenge Trump by proxy for in the next two years on House Intelligence (and the Devin Nunes fiasco only helped Schiff in terms of making him appear bipartisan), and as a result he's one of the few Democrats who won't have to fight to be in the news or for partisans to rally to his side.  Plus, he's very smart and can shore up a weak point Democrats frequently have in presidential elections-military/foreign affairs.
What Holds Him Back: Partially it's the House thing, but more so it's the fact that he won't be able to trumpet any of his views on liberal hot topics like student loans, climate change, and criminal justice-he'll just be the Trump watchdog, and Republicans may have a field day if the House Intelligence committee chair goes onto the top of the national ticket.  Still, though, if I were to pick my true dream ticket for 2020, it'd probably be McCaskill/Schiff at this point.

Candidates I Hope Won't Run

Gov. Jerry Brown (CA)

Age in 2020: 82
Why He Might Run: Because Jerry Brown always runs for president.  Seriously-is there any other living credible candidate (he's been governor of the most populous state in the country for almost sixteen years!) who has run for president as often as Brown who hasn't become the nominee?  Brown has never given up on his dream, and while he surprisingly sat out 2016 (I was sure he'd make a play against his nemesis the Clintons), he's still chatting away about running in 2020.
Why I Don't Want Him: Jerry Brown is too old to be president.  At 82, I might buy him if he was the incumbent, but making a first-round pass just doesn't fly here.  Brown arguably has the voting record that could get him elected, but his age combined with his abysmal track record at making plays for federal office (three failed presidential races, two Senate losses) makes me think that this was never in the cards for the perpetual governor.

Sec. Julian Castro (TX)

Age in 2020: 46
Why He Might Run: Castro honestly has nothing else to do but run for POTUS at this point.  As a former mayor who has no obvious paths to higher office (it'd take a miracle for a Democrat to win a Senate or gubernatorial campaign in Texas), he was really counting on Clinton winning to either be her running mate or get a promotion in her cabinet, thus helping to keep him on the national stage.  Since he doesn't have those things, and since he represents a burgeoning voter bloc in the Democratic Party (no other major Latino candidate seems destined to run in 2020), he might see an opening.
Why I Don't Want Him: Secretary of HUD and Mayor of San Antonio are not good enough qualifiers to be able to take on Donald Trump in 2020-I want someone with statewide experience, preferably a senator, who knows how grueling the national spotlight can be.  As someone who sees that Castro has a lot of potential it troubles me that he doesn't have an obvious way up (I feel the same way about Jason Kander in Missouri), but putting him on the national ticket is too big of a risk.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (NY)

Age in 2020: 62
Why He Might Run: While his father was the perpetual Hamlet on the Hudson, his son has always felt more likely to make a play for national office.  Andrew Cuomo is a very powerful figure in a high profile state, and as Donald Trump's governor, will be able to draw POTUS into public arguments more easily than your average politician.  Additionally, he'll have an enormous donor base to tap into, and it's likely he'll still be the incumbent in 2020, so raising money in NYC may be tougher than it seems for anyone who isn't Cuomo.
Why I Don't Want Him: I know I said up-top that I would largely disregard policy.  Well, that can't quite stop me in some cases, particularly with Cuomo, whose viewpoints on too many issues I find divergent from my own.  More importantly, I think his sort of monied, Wall Street-style approach to politics is going to alienate the same left-leaning crowd who wouldn't go for Clinton in 2020.  If you think Jill Stein can gain with HRC, imagine someone as entrenched on the subject as Cuomo.

Sen. Al Franken (MN)

Age in 2020: 69
Why He Might Run: I actually get this, and of the seven names listed here this is perhaps the only one I could see me changing my mind on in a primary.  Franken has fast emerged as a national hero for some parts of the left, using his bully pulpit to take on the likes of Jeff Sessions and unabashedly go after Donald Trump.  That's going to endear him to the primary crowd who is looking for some sort of hubris against the president.  Franken also has the comedic and improv skills to go toe-to-toe with Trump in a debate, and as a two-term senator you can't really argue that he doesn't have the qualifications even if he also comes from the "celebrity" camp.
Why I Don't Want Him: I think one of the things that the Democratic Party will need to deal with in 2020, provided that the political environment still somewhat resembles the current atmosphere, is that they have a burning desire to see Trump humiliated.  No politician will be able to make Trump look like a moron faster than Harvard-educated, SNL-trained Al Franken, but that's not what I want.  I'm looking for a candidate that can beat Trump, not humiliate him.  I'm not convinced that another candidate that appeals to the backrooms of the DNC but not necessarily the heartland is the way to go here.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT)

Age in 2020: 79
Why He Might Run: It's often said the best way to predict if someone will run for president is if they've already run.  Sanders, at this point, has already run and tasted what second place is like.  It's hard to imagine him passing on millions of fans across the country, particularly when he would arguably start the 2020 election in a leading position.  While his age is a deterrent, in terms of actually running I'd bet solid money that Sanders would make a play for the White House once again in 2020.
Why I Don't Want Him: Sanders is too old and too liberal to win the White House, and it's doubtful that Donald Trump is the best Republican candidate to go against him (Sanders was always going to be a better Democratic foil to someone like Ted Cruz than a Republican who can lean into populism like Trump).  Sanders also proved to be a bitterly bad team player in 2020, and I don't need that in the primary in 2020.  Having Sanders in the race will mean that there's the risk of the "Bernie Bros" staying home again, something the Democrats (clearly) cannot afford.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA)

Age in 2020: 71
Why She Might Run: In hindsight (always a 20/20 proposition), Warren was the candidate the Democratic Party wanted in 2016, but she wasn't ready or brave enough to run.  A more palatable politician than Sanders, her stances on the issues make her hard to topple in terms of straight liberal politics, and she's more than willing to put herself out there to attack Donald Trump.  Warren may have wanted to wait, assuming Clinton was invincible, but in 2020 she starts as arguably the frontrunner for the nomination (if I were a gambler, I'd bet on her for the nomination), and it's very, very, very hard for a politician of her level to turn down a chance at the ultimate promotion.
Why I Don't Want Her: For all of her attributes (she's a smart woman), she is not a great retail politician.  She was helped in 2012 by a national wave and Scott Brown not being the finest politician either, but it says something to me that her approval ratings aren't great even in ocean-blue Massachusetts.  Plus, she's not great on the stump and she's not a great team player (I want a presidential nominee in 2020 who's willing to take the baton up-and-down-the-ballot).  It's hard to imagine her beating Trump, quite frankly, a task I can envision multiple other people on this list pulling off.

Oprah Winfrey (IL)

Age in 2020: 66
Why She Might Run: Because if Trump can do it, why can't other billionaires?  Winfrey sits here in part as a proxy for other names like Bob Iger, Howard Schultz, Mark Cuban, and Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom have made rumblings about running for POTUS in 2020.  It's not the craziest idea-if Trump's election issued the dawn of the "are you not entertained?" portion of American politics, it may make political sense to fight fire with fire, bringing out another billionaire to test his endurance.  And it's hard to argue that Winfrey doesn't come with a legion of devoted fans.
Why I Don't Want Her: Because I don't want the presidency to become a reality show.  I don't like the lack of experience Donald Trump brings to the White House-it is arguably the thing that troubles me the most about his position.  I'm not a hypocrite on this front-I don't want someone who can simply buy their way to the Oval Office to be able to do so.  I have a lot of respect for Winfrey as a person and entertainer, but I don't trust her with the nuclear codes or handling international affairs.

Candidates I'm Undecided Upon

Vice President Joe Biden (DE)

Age in 2020: 77
Why I Hope He Runs: Because I love Joe Biden.  Biden has been arguably my favorite politician since I was a teenager, and that will never change.  His "Uncle Joe" persona may have been a major miss for the Democrats in 2016 (it's hard to know if he would have beaten Trump, but it's likely that he would have been our best candidate), and he clearly wants this.  I said up-top that Jerry Brown is the man who has pursued the White House more than any other living non-nominee, but I might need to amend that statement to include Joe Biden.  His age won't be a huge factor if he's healthy considering he's not that much older than Trump.
Why I Don't Want Him: Biden's skills on the stump are legendary, but occasionally infamous, and while you might think that gaffes aren't as significant in a post-Trump era, they still matter and will still be used against him (just look at the "basket of deplorables" line on Clinton).  Plus, combining his age and the Democratic Party's desperate need to go into a younger direction, I just don't think Biden should be the nominee unless it's clear he's the only one who will help us to win.

Sen. Cory Booker (NJ)

Age in 2020: 51
Why I Hope He Runs: It's hard not to like the handsome, social media-adapt, life-saving junior senator from the Garden State, and don't think that Democrats haven't noticed.  Booker has graduated to a very prominent role in the party, getting a primetime spot in 2016 without having run for president (or being related to someone who did), something only Elizabeth Warren can also boast.  Booker is affable and deflects criticism extremely well.  Personality-wise, it's hard to see two such different public figures as Trump and Booker.
Why I Don't Want Him: Booker's politics are a little murky on issues that Democrats need to hold their ground on (specifically education), and his personality could come across as phony or cloying much more easily than most of the other people on this list.  He clearly wants this (I'd guarantee he's running in 2020), but I'm worried he might be the Democratic Marco Rubio-he doesn't seem to have as grounded of principles as the likes of Warren or Biden.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH)

Age in 2020: 67
Why I Hope He Runs: Occasionally the solution to your problem is to go to the most obvious source-if you're having trouble winning in Great Lakes states, pick someone who already has done that and run him.  Though there are other Democrats that come to mind, the only one who seems destined to run for POTUS is Brown, who has managed to be both a hyper-liberal and represent a light red state.  That's a difficult balancing act, and Brown has proven several times to be a fighter so tough elections are not new territory for him.  He's already getting buzz from the grassroots-could he be a more electable Bernie?
Why I Don't Want Him: I'm not entirely convinced that geography is what will help us win Wisconsin and Pennsylvania back-I think it's an attitude toward the voter.  As a result, I believe that Brown is perhaps too liberal to win a general election (I think, quite frankly, that the best candidate for the Democrats is a social liberal/economic technocrat, but that person doesn't really exist), and may just be a good-on-paper candidate.  Plus, like McCaskill, he has to clear 2018 first.

Sec. Hillary Clinton (NY)

Age in 2020: 73
Why I Hope She Runs: Because she won the popular vote in 2016, and because I've wanted Hillary Clinton be president since I was old enough to read.  And because half of you reading had your heads explode with joy when you saw her name.
Why I Don't Want Her: Because in 2016 she managed to lose to the most controversial candidate for POTUS in at least a century-she's had her shot.  And because half of you reading wanted to vomit when I suggested her as a candidate.

Gov. Roy Cooper (NC)

Age in 2020: 63
Why I Hope He Runs: Cooper is an interesting candidate as he's one of the few age-appropriate Southerners left in the Democratic Party, and as a result might be able to translate well to places like Florida, Georgia, or North Carolina as the Democrats lose some of their strength in typical swing states like Iowa and Ohio.  Cooper will have plenty of chances to run in with the unpopular state legislature in the state, and is one of the few governors nationally who give off indications that they could run nationally AND be good candidates.
Why I Don't Want Him: It's very early in his tenure, and if his focus is more on state issues his profile may end up too moderate to ever survive a primary (or even be approved for the second spot on a ticket).  I think Cooper is a name that should probably be bandied about more, though, even if he ultimately decides against running as Democrats will need to use his mold to start winning back purple states.

Sen. Kamala Harris (CA)

Age in 2020: 56
Why I Hope She Runs: There aren't a lot of superstars in the party if you've been able to parcel that out from this list.  Harris is one of the few emerging ones, after taking a pretty quick trip to the Senate in 2016.  It's still early, but it's clear that she's starting to cut a progressive mold more in the line of Kirsten Gillibrand than Elizabeth Warren, and is working her celebrity well to get traction on issues but not losing sight of her being a freshman senator.  That shows political moxie, and as a result she may be the most impressive member of the recent freshman class.
Why I Don't Want Her: It's arguably too soon for her to run, and it's not clear that a California lawyer is going to be who the general electorate wants to rally behind.  More importantly, though, is that Harris is not a good retail politicker-her speeches are frequently stiff and she's been somewhat lucky in getting opponents who can't compete on her level in a blue state.  I want to see her actually best a major player like Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump before I back her for this office.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO)

Age in 2020: 68
Why I Hope He Runs: Governors from swing states are in short supply for Democrats, but Hickenlooper, twice elected in Colorado, is the exception.  A businessman who seems to be more beloved inside the Beltway than well-known outside of it, I continually see him talked up as a candidate with potential by political insiders.  Though I haven't seen that skill, part of me wonders if he just hasn't had the opportunity to show it.  There's room for a left-of-middle pragmatist governor in this race (I don't see one running).
Why I Don't Want Him: Hickenlooper has gone to the right on some issues that could haunt him, particularly when it didn't feel like he had to go there.  Additionally, his electoral margins were underwhelming (even if he did indeed win), and my gut says that he'd make a better running mate for an up-and-comer like Harris or Booker than someone who makes sense on the top of the ticket.

Monday, April 03, 2017

OVP: Teresa (1951)

Film: Teresa (1951)
Stars: Pier Angeli, John Ericson, Patricia Collinge, Richard Bishop, Peggy Ann Garner, Rod Steiger
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Motion Picture Story)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

One of the truly great mysteries of the Oscar Viewing Project that I'm going to have to figure out at some point is what the precise difference between Best Motion Picture Story and Original Screenplay was.  It's not a case of semantics here-the categories existed concurrently so it's not a Best Art Direction/Production Design situation.  They seem to have roughly the same goal, so I genuinely don't know how to judge them.  We've got a few years before I start to investigate the 1950's in the Oscar Viewing Project (we aren't close to finishing any of those years in the near future), but it's still a puzzling situation.  If you know the difference, please illuminate me below in the comments.  Until then, let's get into one of the Best Motion Picture Story nominees: Teresa.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film centers on Phillip Cass (Ericson, who is weirdly good-looking by modern standards in this movie, to the point where he'd likely have been a bigger star today than he was then), a young man dealing with PTSD and a lack of purpose after coming back from the war in Italy.  While he was away in Italy, he fell in love with a young Italian woman named Teresa (Angeli), who is shy and a little unsure, but genuinely steadfastly in love with him, even if she wants a traditional life with him and can't understand the stress he's dealing with after the war.  The two struggle to find a place for themselves, particularly in the shadow of his lazy father (Bishop) and domineering, critical mother (Collinge).

The film runs the gamut from being quite good to being, well, quite bad on a regular basis.  As this is Fred Zinnemann, the love stories may be the best part.  Watching Phillip and Teresa fall in love, it's a beautiful thing; we don't get one upper-hand situation, as both are learning about themselves in addition to falling in love with the other.  The writers are smart enough to keep Phillip from being the "all-knowing" man compared to Teresa, and it's fun to watch the naïveté play out onscreen, as that's something that rarely happens as writers need someone to be the expositional eye for the audience.

The film tries, in vain, to make the PTSD work, but it feels like (considering the length of the picture) there's one too many cooks in the kitchen here and perhaps it should have been left on the side in favor of the strange relationship that Phillip has with his mother.  Patricia Collinge doesn't overplay her domineering mother (this isn't a Lelia Goldoni in Bloodbrothers situation), but it's not clear at first that that's what is holding Phillip back, and quite frankly it's a more interesting commentary.  Yes, people struggle with multiple problems at once, but movies don't always have time to sort through all of those things, and it feels like the PTSD and his toxic family life are cured in the same full swoop by Teresa giving birth.  All-in-all, the second half of the film suffers even though there's mountains of potential in this particular tale.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Has anyone seen Teresa, and if so, what are your thoughts on it?  If not, anyone have any opinions on Ericson (an actor I'd never heard of before this picture) or the tragic Pier Angeli?  And again-what is Best Motion Picture Story?!?