Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another Criminal on the Court

Never mind that he thinks what America needs is a King, above the law and accountable to nobody. Never mind that he thinks warrantless strip searches of minors are A-OK. Never mind that he thinks Roe v. Wade should be toast. I remember when blatant conflicts of interest were enough to disqualify one from advancement on the Federal bench. Or maybe I just dreamed that.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Permanent Kleptocracy

The GOP has long assumed, with Tom DeLay, that if they can just transfer enough wealth to their constituency, by cutting services and shifting taxes to others, through earmarks, no-bid contracts, Faith-Based Initiatives, dismantling of regulatory agencies et cetera, then that wealth would come back to the them in a sort of recirculating torrent, creating a permanent majority, which because it is permanent, is totally unaccountable. The Day of Reckoning will never come, partly becuase they will always be able to buy enough media, and cut enough reporters' paychecks to ensure the public never knows the truth.

Now I doubt if The Plan has ever been formulated this explicitly, and I'm sure that for the most part the Republicans just think of it all as some sort of Godsent "sweet deal" -- what's good for Republicans is good for America or even the whole world. They're just doing real well by doing good. The list of Republican outfits that have been looting the treasury gleefully for the past five years is vast. In just the past week there have been huge stories about what graft-mills the reconstrcutions of Iraq and New Orleans have turned into, and today we learn that Bush is funneling as much as a third of the promised AIDS money to the his Christofascist cronies. They pompadoured parsons will suck up the cash, tell their flocks to just say no, launder the dough somehow and kick back to the GOP -- so it all can go around again. Meanwhile the Senate is about to install a Supreme Court Justice whio thinks that corporations can do no wrong and that waht this country needs is a king.

Josh Marshall has been reminding us of recent history -- reminding us how in 2000 everybody with a column or a TV punditry laughed when DCCC filed a RICO suit against the GOP, calling the K Street Project the criminal conspiracy it manifestly was and is. They're laughing still but the joke is getting unfunnier by the minute.

Bleak House

Various things over the weekend: I saw the marvelous Cezanne show at the National Gallery. It makes one realize how important he is to modern painting. He seems to have done everything first, and gotten too little credit for it

Also I saw Capote, a very strange and quiet little film. Philip Seymour Hoffmann is a shoe-in for the Oscar. Katherine Keener is fabulous – when was she ever not? As was Chris Cooper. It’s odd, the movie was in color but I remember it in black and white.

These things, and Bleak House on PBS were a pleasant relief from the tooth-grinding rage and toxic despair that elicited by the Junta.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ripples in the Force

The other day I watched a few thousand wankers marching around the national Mall for 'Life' -- that is for their right to fuck with your life. The assholes would have you believe that their fine-tuned consciences feel a ripple in the force each time a pregnancy is terminated, but do they care about the many-thousand actual children who die horribly every day, from easily preventable disease and starvation, or perhaps collateral damage of the war on brown terror? Not one bit. It's a very safe wager that the overlap of the Right-to-Fuck-With-Your-Life movement and any positive (that is non-prohibitionist) social activism is exactly nil.

"Abortion is homicide," read the placard in the hands of the pubescent, punked-out little shit in the next day's Express -- WaPo's abbreviated subway/toilet version. If ever a brat needed an ass-kicking there was a case of it. He's years away from being able to comprehend the issue, yet he's quite ready to congratulate himself for preaching to his betters. Here's hoping the little Brownshirt ends up flipping burgers to pay for his unprotected dalliance with some other dimwit.

The real problem with the prohibitions that Reactionairies are so fond of, is that they know they will never apply to their advocates -- that's why they advocate them. That's why they advocate them. They're rich enough to abort their daughter's mistakes, buy off Junior's coke rap, etc., --always were and will be. The bottomless banality of evil....

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Christofascism Redux

Many people who could be classified as Christians, in the archaic sense, are very moral and sympathetic people. But most of these, I suspect, think of themselves more as Baptists, Presbyterians, Mormons, Catholics etc than as "Christians." At least among those I've known, their Chrisitianity is mostly easygoing and unselfconscious, something they were born into or otherwise came by honestly. I suspect also that they are moral and sympathetic people by the happy coincidence of their upbringing and innate temperament more than through anything they drew from scripture or Sunday school. Today's Christian, especially among the Baby Boomers and their offspring, seem much more likely to have a santimonious, self-congratulatory notion of his or her religiosity, often based in a sort of off-the-rack, 12-Step style narrative about sin and redemption -- it's just another form of that narcissism so rampant among the most spoiled and cossetted children in history. 'Jesus loves me -- this I know.' These are the pod people, and we should fear them.

If you really want a scare, try driving across this country without sattelite radio as I recently did. The airwaves in the Great Flyover are, to a shocking degree, given over to "Christian" drek, in a sort of electronic Deliverance-ville. It's non-stop Foxaganda, brought to you by Christian-owned businesses and the porn-filter industry, a sobering tonic for any giddy notions of Americans as sensible and decent people. The people on these stations, and presumably those listening to them, love Bush, whiteness, money, internal combustion engines, killing wild animals, "freedom," children (but fetuses, especially other people's, more than children) and cuteness. They hate atheists, feminists, people in the coastal cities, "minorities" other people's vices and fags above all. Probably few of them are currently murderous, but you can bet it would take most a long time to wake up and smell the crematoria. They don't have a problem with domestic spying, torture, carpet bombing.

This generic Christian thinks the Ten Commandments belong in every classroom so the children can pray under them just before learning how Bishop Usher calculated the Earth's 6000 year-oldness from inerrant Biblical evidence -- not because he's prejudiced, but because he knows that these things will make ours a more moral and harmonious society. His post-literate notions of history he gets from Disney, the Hitler/Greatest Generation Channel, and Rush Limbaugh, so he can't really know that religion is at least as much midwife of atrocity as civilizer of savages. He doesn't even realize that, should his plan be attempted, people would very soon start suing and/or slaughtering one another over which commandments are The Ten. (A friend of mine who teaches "The Bible As Literature" in the English department of a southern state university was flabbergasted to discover that many of his most Christian pupils had not realized that the Good Book wasn't originally written in English.) The "Christian" certainly doesn't realize that many very Christian people would feel that the televangelist's offer to lobby God for earthly perks is a hideous, backsliding heresy, up there with the Golden Calf. One of my own spiritual mentors, Sister Saint Ferminus, insisted that we pray rightly for wisdom, grace, acceptance and forgiveness, to change ourselves, not the dispositon of the world towards us, and this has always resonated with me. On the other hand, I once saw Sister F. break a classmate's nose over some trifle, and I'm sure she'd have gladly torched any peddler of protestant claptrap.

With Jesus, as I understand him, I don't have a problem, although who knows what he was really like? Seeing the treasonous nincompoop Reagan canonized , a few scant years after he narrowly escaped impeachment, does nothing for one's faith in ancient tales. People are inclined and even desperate to project ideals onto the strangest (often the least worthy) objects. Still, "Love they neighbor as thyself," seems a fine notion to bring into the world, also "Judge not that ye not be judged." And I like the idea that Jesus wanted to free us from all that vengeful Yaweh Bibolatry, that this is the meaning of his ministry. If so, he would not be happy with the atavism of today's Christians, at least suhc as those who are trying to peddle Genesis as science. But as for "Christianity" itself -- any belief system which posits an all-powerful male entity, a Lord, as ultimate moral arbiter, will predispose its credulous to patriarchal authoritarianism (kingdoms); and if that belief system makes its essential female paragon a woman who eschews sex, it will also predispose its credulous to misogyny and hypocrisy. These are among the reasons why what is great about America comes not from the vague deistic ramblings of the Great White Founding Apostles (pax Bill O'Reilly), but rather from Voltaire, Diderot, and the raving atheist Thomas Paine -- whose invention this country is more than anyone's. Diderot captured the quintessence of the Revolutionary Spirit perfectly, "We shall have freedom when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." Now the priests, the preachers, and all sorts of religious charlatan are back in favor among the mighty, who comport themselves as kings, certain of their divine right and perfect moral purpose. Freedom will not ensue.

George H.W. Bush I: "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Christian Right Is Neither

Back when I was in grad school I used to room with some folks who hailed from Jerry Falwell country and, when home, they used to enjoy driving around Lynchburg with a bumper sticker reading "The Moral Majority Is Neither." I would have been worried that the local constabulary might plant some marijuana in my car (or just plant me in Smith Mountain Lake with concrete overshoes) for undermining the town's sanctimony industry, but I endorse the observation. Nowadays, the Moral Majority has morphed into the Christian Right, or the Christo-Fascists as some observers term the amorphous Entity, the spawn of a metaphysical miscegenation: the marriage of church and state. It would be difficult to say, from their behavior and pronouncements, what those on the Christian Right really believe in, but they do seem to universally agree that the separation of church and state is wrong.

Having grown up in an observant Catholic family, having been subjected to rigorous catechizing in several gray-stone Catholic schools, having subsequently read a fair amount of serious Christian thought, and studied at university other notions of religion and religious experience, I can say with utter cerainty that I have a better sense of Christianity than most self-described "Christians" -- most of whom seem to think that taking Jesus as one's personal Imaginary Friend qualifies one as Elect. Indeed it often seems that"Christian" as a term of proud-self description has become, in the Reign of W, of one of those Orwellian Correlatives which, in the Imperial Discourse, means the opposite of its former sense -- War is peace, freedom is slavery, integrity is bullshit, etc.

Christian, insofar as it is truly meaningful, must denote one who lives by the precepts and example of Jesus. A Christian would then be tolerant, forgiving, materially modest, if not entirely ascetic, pacifist, unsentimental, heroically scrupulous about the truth, and extremely distrustful, if not disdainful of the wealthy, the powerful and the hypocrite. But American "Christians," insofar as they have a voice in America today, are pathologically avid for violence and vengeance against offenders and enemies of all sorts, from terrorists to pot smokers and adulterers. They embrace the death penalty, the metastasis of the military-industrial complex, complete laissez-faire for the firearm industry, domestic spying, Draconian prohibitions of all sorts of private "vice", torture of war prisoners, governmental deception of the citizenry (for our own good, of course) and above all unchecked accumulation of personal wealth. (To W's Christian base wealth is one's divine right, proof that one is favored by God.) No Christian adult seems, when ethically perplexed, to consider for a nanosecond the Junior High mantra "What would Jesus do?" Christian then has become just a sort of magical or totemic designation for "our team", like Lions, Bears, Trojans, or for that matter, Blue Devils and Demon Deacons. And what is the Christian team these days? They are the Cult of Bush, the mass of "believers" who, despite all the evidence, somehow believe Bush, manifestly a stupid, venal, mean-spirited and vindictive bungler, somehow finds his guidance in Jesus. They believe, like W himself, that a man with no more qualification than his father's (highly dubious) name is God's choice for the highest office in the world. He's here to protect us from the Infidels, thank God! It's a goddam miracle, it is!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Living History: The Mark of Kaine

I went down to Williamsburg last weekend to see the Virginia Governor’s Inauguration, do some outlet shopping and escape from the banal evil of the Alito "hearings". They did the inauguration at the House of Burgesses because the Capitol in Richmond is being platinum-plated and they thought the acid baths would be unsightly to the large contributors. It was one of the worst weather days in the history of Williamsburg, reminiscent of the horrors Darwin describes in Tierra del Fuego. It started out warm and damp – I even ran in shorts about 10 AM – but then the wind kicked up and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees an hour, while the rain slid in at a great rate and a shallow angle. The Guv got sworn in and then promised to do everything for everyone in a ‘bipartisan, impartial manner’ -- thanks, no doubt to his Cold-Fusion/Perpetual Motion/Totally-Free-Lunch Initiative. Jesus wept softly in the corner of the circus tent where I and a few thousand soggy others watched this stirring speech on the Jumbotron, my soul absenting itself from the unbearable.

Somewhere in there we got the worst “Star Spangled Banner” I have ever heard, bar none. Worse than John Ashcroft and “Let Eagles Soar”, perhaps even worse than the assembled Crusaders of Congress singing “God Bless (White Capitalist) America” on the steps of the Capitol so as to show those brown heathens who refuse Jesus that our god is bigger than theirs. But – I digress. This particular perversion of the much-more-fun Anacreontic Song (17th C. frat ode to drinking and date-rape) was sung by a young black woman who thought she was Leontyne Price and Whitney Houston combined and turbocharged. Every s-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ngle note was stretched beyond recognition with throbbing vibrato while the chanteuse on the Jumbotron beamed as if she had been coked up for her toothpaste commercial audition. The anthem went on for longer than Tannhauser.

Meanwhile marching bands were staging, over on Francis Street, to march past Bassett Hall (where George Custer was married) and then to pick up the Guv in a horse-drawn carriage and process him triumphally through the monsoon on Duke of Gloucester Street. My little gang took up position outside historical Chowning’s Tavern (chosen for its mugs of fine ale and warm restrooms) and cheered as the Fife and Drum corps went by, then the entire Corps of VMI. The lads were very impressively stoic in tunics and bayonets. The parade halted for a bit, affording us a fine view of the one female cadet. Quite a cutie I might add, in a very corseted, stoic, way, even as the rain dripped off her dainty little upturned nose. After the Corps came the local Boy Scouts, in decidedly less-ordered ranks. Then every college marching band in the state trooped through providing us all with a great S&M spectacle in the form of bathing-suited baton-twirlers doing their damnedest, even as their frostbit limbs stiffened, the blood draining out of them to warm the brain and core organs. I grew faint myself in several instances.

After about 40 minutes of this it was time to go to the Green Leafe Cafe for hot toddies and thence, about the time it started snowing, to old friends' house for football, sofa and total vegetation, while the local authorities tallied the death count among the Pep Corps of Virginia. It made one proud to be an American.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Asshole of the Universe Discovered

While geographers are agreed that the Anus of Planet Earth is located somewhere in the south-central North America, they are locked in fierce debate as to whether the epicenter is in Plano, Texas, Sugarland, Texas, or Branson, Missouri. Indeed, one theory holds that it “wanders” in a manner similar to, and perhaps related to, that of the magnetic poles. But on a cosmic scale, there doesn't seem to be nearly so much uncertainty. Over six hundred light-years from earth, in the constellation Aquarius, scientists have recently discovered the Asshole of the Universe. It is, not surprisingly, quite large, about 2.5 light-years across. Moreover it is very hot, though not very bright. According to space expert E.T. Brown(who compares the Helix Nebula to "a burnin' ring o' fahr"), spectrographic analysis of the radiation now reaching Earth suggests that some of the light may be absorbed by mysterious dark matter in the area, matter at least partly composed of phenylephrine HCl, which, on Earth, finds its way into many patent medicines.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kiddie Porn

At a friend’s insistence I went to see “The Chronicles of Narnia” the other night. Having thought it was “Barnia,” I was disappointed that there was no affectionate purple dinosaur. I was consoled somewhat by the presence of Tilda Swinton, as the White Beeyatch. I wanted Evil to triumph just for her. Best line in a film so far this year: When Tilda tells the Fawn how the Turkish Delight addicted brat sold him out, “He betrayed you. For sweeties.” Tilda is just radioactive, in my book, one of the most arresting presences on the screen today.

Otherwise, I thought the film was pretty much kiddie-porn, that is, porn for kiddies, in that it celebrates “carnage” while insulating the little bastards from any moral dimensions involved. Nobody (white) really dies, and even the Lion’s “sacrifice” is a cheap deus-ex-machina trick. A perfect vehicle for future Rumsfeldjugend. The way to conquer Evil is with Force! Nobody you know will die and Evil will greet you as a liberator. And it will all pay for itself in Turkish Delight.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Magic Materialism

The American version of modernity is atavistic in its magic materialism. This is to be somewhat distinguished from the simple love of material goods and their ostentation, of which there is of course an abundance. Magical materialism is the tendency to ascribe transcendent powers to objects, organisms and potions; to believe for instance in the omnipotence of medicines and technology -- especially optimism about technical solutions for looming ecological disasters, the belief that a "war" is the most dynamic mode of amelioration, and (encompassing the simplest sense of materialism) the belief that happiness is a matter of having the right thing or things, or that a thing is a necessary and sufficient condition for happiness (in its most extreme form, addiction).

There is an aspect of magic materialism that is darker than mere consumerism or pollyanism, and that is the belief in hypnotics, black-magic material things that corrupt our moral nature. The quintessential examples are "drugs," as they understood by the Prohibionists -- which nearly all Americans are. Drugs, it is populalrly thought, cause one to steal and prostitute oneself -- though this is of course a distorted oversimplification. Sex is another corruptive thing (both cause and mode of corruption, depending), that is why the hypnotic female form must be so tightly controlled.

What magic materialism, especially American materialism, denies with its fixation on the material or fleshy, is the much more potent abstract corrupters, money and power. The free marketeers all but espouse Gordon Gekko's maxim: "Greed is good." On the other hand they tend to exonerate all motives not based absolutely directly (with video of bags of cash) in personal profit, or corrupt pleasure. They seem to have no idea whatsoever that power can be in itself pleasant and inherently corruptive. Nothing abstract, nothing that spring from man's own nature can be corrupt, they seem to think. Why, we are created in God's image! This allows the Boobosie to believe that W is more immue to the giddiness of a "war President's" absolute power than he was to the siren call of booze and blow.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Chicken Hawks

So I Metro-ed up to Ballston (the most macho town in the Universe, except maybe for Johnson City) to go to a 'Town Halll Meeting' on the Iraq "war" with Democratic Congressmen Jim Moran and Jack Murtha. Here's the main question I now have to ask: How early do you have to get there to get into this kinda thing?

About a thousand people showed up and filled up the room and an overflow room (capacity 550) with television monitors and I didn't get into either. I got home in time to watch some of it on CSPAN2. I suspect that people asked the questions I would have asked, and perhaps more gracefully than I would have. It was an interesting scene outside the meeting, a swarm of Lyndon Larouche-ites handing out glossy brochures, a few Dittoheads heckling the crowd. One of them had a big sandwichboard with a picture of an Arab man on the front, complete with Arabic writing on his head-scarf, in case our reflex bigotry hadn't already been triggered. He flapped his arms like a chicken and advised the crowd loudly, "Just get up there and go bwok-bwok-wok and they'll give you the mike."

He was a doughy supperannuated frat-boy, endlessly smug, so I shouted back to him, "You're so brave, why aren't you over there?" He hesitated for a second and then told me with great unction, "I'm a twenty- year veteran." A veteran desk-jockey I'm sure, from the thousand-yard sneer that twisted his face. Being the son of a decorated veteran, and having grown up on Army bases, I doubt very seriously that anybody who's really been in the shit feels the need to come out and call his fellow citizens cowards. In fact, I'll bet hawkishness is inversely correlated to actual combat experience.

Which leads me to this ethical question: Isn't it always wrong to advocate a war that you have no intention of fighting?

And this practical question: If you're not willing to sacrifice by serving, paying higher taxes, sending your loved ones, or doing something else meaningful, costly, painful to match the sacrifice you expect of others, in what sense are your supporting the effort? If you just talk the talk, or type the type, aren't you just lower than snake shit?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Going to a "Town Hall" Tonight.

Food for Thought: Some questions for the Congressmen.

Alice Fisher, a controversially right-wing Bush appointee with no criminal trial experience, a long history as a Bush machine operative, and close personal ties to the Tom Delay defense team, seems to be in charge of the Abramoff case. This is like John Ashcroft, former employer of Karl Rove, investigating the Plame case. Given her lack of experience and obvious conflicts of interest, why are Democrats not calling for her to recuse?

Via Mark Kleiman:

How about offering a motion to expel Tom Delay, and making the Republicans vote for or against considering it? The idea that the Congress should defer to the criminal process in judging its members' misconduct is a Constitutional travesty; the primary responsibility for the integrity of the House rests with the House.

Given that, before the invasion of Iraq, this administration never met a number it couldn’t fudge and tended to fire people like Larry Lindsey and General Shinseki, who made realistic estimates of the war cost, and given that there is a study out today, by a Nobel laureate, which indicates the real cost of the war may be as much as $2 trillion, aren’t the American people owed some realistic accounting?

Why aren’t you people telling the taxpayers that at an absolute minimum you’re spending $100,000 a minute ion Iraq?

Whether the case for war was negligent or fraudulent, it certainly disqualifies its authors from high office. If we allow these people to finish out their terms, leading us into ever deepening folly, won’t this simply tell future Presidents that they can do as they please with no fear of accountability?

Why isn’t “Hold them accountable?” a plank to run on in the mid-term elections?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Culture of Corruption -- and Amnesia

Once again the Bushites will count on our amnesiac and servile press to float the idea that the DC Culture of Corruption is just as much a Democratic operation as a Republican. Perhaps Memento- style we should have a certain transcript tattooed on their chests -- this would be the one where the power traders yukked it up over the rolling blackouts they deliberately produced in California, and peed their pants with the prospect of an Enron-Sponsored White House. An excerpt:

KEVIN: So the rumor's true? They're fuckin' takin' all the money back from you guys? All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California.

BOB: Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. But she's the one who couldn't figure out how to fuckin' vote on the butterfly ballot.

The MSM might object that these jokers were little guys, rare and insignificant bad apples, kinda like the turnkeys at Abu Grahib, but then again, in the GOP, as at Enron, the corruption seems to go all the way up the food chain. In fact, these food chains seem to be helically entwined, like DNA. Further proof of Lord Acton's wisdom, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Prom Zits

Okay, enough about the world of fictional scumbags. Here's my advice for the new year:

Say it loud; say it (and other words to the same effect) often -- watch and see if some Bushite Brownshirts have their narrow little heads explode like prom zits:

W is a chickenshit little asshole -- liar, coward, fool, and phony as a whore's orgasm. One thing that definitely didn't change on 9/11 is W; he's still the same puny, unprincipled, incompetent he's been all his life.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Best Movies of the Year

Just back from various points North including NoHo and SoHo and the first blog of the year is something to suggest that I have something on my mind besides the misfeasances of Prince Bunnypants -- find here my list of 2005's best movies, which is to say, the best ones I have seen, and I have a list of many that I haven't gotten to yet.

A History Of Violence -- Cronenburg in top form. Viggo and Maria Bello do a fine job, as does Ed Harris (of course). William Hurt is amazing -- I was reminded of another weirdly great performance of his, in I Love You to Death. Great script by Josh Olson, a drinking buddy of mine back in my LA days.

Good Night and Good Luck -- Very, very smartly done. Chilling, hard to take your eyes off. It makes one wonder if America is still big enough to repudiate a mistake. Could have used some more babeage....

As could have Syriana, which otherwise was quite excellent. I absolutely don't get the standard criticism of this film, 'too convoluted/obscure.' These critics need to lay off the Xanax or something. Yes there were four of five subplots, each of which took maybe a scene or two to foreshadow its intersection with the others. Not rocket science, entertainment for grownups.

Pride and Prejudice -- I loved the book and indeed all of JA's stuff, even Northanger Abbey, but I have no problem with this slightly Hollywoodized version. Keira Knightly finally gets a part where she has to act, rather than simply radiate, and she does terrifically. A crap scene at the very end of the film is bathetic as an even Spielberg ever did, but it's mercifully short and extraneous. Maybe the director's cut will drop it.

Bad News Bears -- a remake that's actually better than the original, because Billy Bob Thornton is actually funnier than Walter Matthau. Marcia Gay Harden doesn't have nearly enough to do in this story but she sure looks good doing it. Greg Kinnear is fine too. He and Harden were probably necessary to keep Billy Bob from eclipsing the other adults into invisibility.

The Ice Harvest -- With John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton how bad could it be? I'd hoped it would be another Bad Santa, but instead it's an oddly deadpan noir. Tonally it's got lot more in common with A Simple Plan or The Grifters than Billy Bob's last Christmas offering. Still, very fun. The few moving parts clicked neatly, like the action of a Colt Python.

The Wedding Crashers -- Brainless, gratuitous, scurrilous. Very fucking funny. Christopher Walken is his Annie Hall character grown up and given power by the Republicans. Naturally his daughter is a king-hell nympho.

Lord of War -- The best thing Nicholas Cage has done since.... (When was Cage last good?) since 8MM maybe. The dystopian evocation of Liberia is alone worth the price of admission.

King Kong -- It's big big big! It's long long long. Take some Clear Eyes. Jack Black is fab, Naomi Watts is beautiful but otherwise hardly called upon to do much. (If screen talent were horsepower she'd have sliced through gorilla, dinosaurs, Skull Islanders etc in the first five minutes.) Adrian Brody pretty much mails it in, but that's okay too. Kong is wonderfully envisioned (as are all the other CGI creatures) he even gets to underplay quite a bit. The most effective moments are when he's moving quietly, or reacting subtly. The Skull Islanders are really, really creepy -- they make Kurtz's "Exterminate all the brutes," sound like cultural relativism.

Jesus Is Magic -- Sarah Silverman is dirty and bad, dirty and bad.

Junebug -- Sexy, funny, Southern, subtly sophisticated. It adapts Sartre's phrase, "L'Enfer, c'est la famille."

Best Picture I've Seen This Year: Last year's Millions. In my all-time Top 20. The guy who made Trainspotting does a comedy about little boys who've just lost their mother, but just found a bagfull of bank loot. It's very nearly perfect, beautifully hallucinatory and often staggeringly funny. It glows from the inside with genuine Christian grace. Why hasn't it been championed by the "Family Values" people? Not enough bloodshed or hatred of sinners I guess.