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A Spiritual Walk Begins With “16 Blocks”

posted by kris rasmussen

Who needs to see Bruce Willis play a down-on-his-luck, tough-but-tender cop… again? That was my thought when I allowed a friend to drag me to Willis’s latest action-adventure flick, “16 Blocks.” But while “16 Blocks” has all of the typical action thriller elements–car crashes, explosions, fight scenes–it also surprised me by actually taking time to explore some deeper questions about what happens when people in power no longer value human life.

The movie begins at 8:02 a.m., when a hung over and seriously depressed NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is assigned a seemingly simple task: escorting an ex-con, Eddie Bunker (played by Mos Def in a surprisingly strong performance), to a courthouse to testify at 10:00 a.m. before a grand jury. The distance between the lock-up facility and the courthouse is (you guessed it) 16 blocks. The only problem is that when some crooked cops try to kill Eddie, Jack realizes that helping Eddie arrive at the courthouse on time is going to be a lot more difficult than he thought.

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What I liked best about this movie is that in between dodging bullets, Mosley becomes increasingly aware that he has lost his own moral compass. Should he value his past friendships on the police force more than he values the life of a mentally impaired criminal? If he confesses his own secret knowledge about the case in which Eddie is testifying, will he save a life, ruin his own, or make no difference at all? As Jack and Eddie go their separate ways at the end of the film, there is one moment in particular that serves as a great reminder that we should all find the courage to start over when we fail.

No, I am not exactly saying that we’ll be talking about “16 Blocks” at next year’s Oscars, but I am saying that this film strives to offer something beyond what this genre tends to accomplish. It offers action and adventue, with a little bit of soul.

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Prim and Prostitute for Spring!

posted by donna freitas

Apparently, early 20th century prostitutes are the inspiration for women’s fashion this coming spring. The season’s whiter-than-white baby-doll dresses making their way down runways in Europe and the U.S.–from houses like Chloe and Prada–are inspired by a book of photos, “Bellocq: Photographs From Storyville, the Red Light District of New Orleans,” according to The New York Times Spring 2006 Fashion Magazine.

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Though prostitutes, the women portrayed in the book–in photographs taken by Ernest J. Bellocq–are (thankfully) more clothed than your average Britney Spears. It is not the first time they have been the inspiration for art-lovers over the last several decades, either–most notably, in 1970 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the movie “Pretty Baby.”

The Times describes the appeal of “Bellocq’s Women” as a “mix of eroticism and innocence” and “a mix of the heaven-sent and the hellbent,” a paradoxical combination that somehow women are supposed to pull off as the temperatures rise and winter coats come off.

So now we’ve gone from prim and proper, the overwhelming theme of the last several seasons, to prim and prostitute. Will women ever escape the virgin-whore motif? Apparently not any time soon.

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Location, Location, Location

posted by ellen leventry

With homes in London, the British countryside, and Los Angeles, why would Madonna be interested in a “shack” by the Sea of Galilee? According to the The Times of London and other news organizations, the Material Girl’s representatives have been “cold calling home-owners in the picturesque mountain retreat of Rosh Pina and offering to pay any price to secure property,” because “Kabbalists believe that the Messiah will appear at Safed and walk to Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, traveling along the ravine that cuts through Rosh Pina.” Mrs. Ritchie, reportedly, plans to build a Kabbalah study center on the site.

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A woman named Shiri Havkin was approached with an offer to buy her 100-year-old ramshackle house, but thought it was some kind of joke. “The house is worth a little more than $500,000,” Mrs. Havkin told The Times, “but I would sell it to Madonna for a million dollars ….”

Buying a house in a backwater between southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights: $500,000. Buying that same house if you’re a multimillionaire pop-star: $1 million. Being present at the moment the Messiah appears: priceless.

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How the Mighty Have Disappointed

posted by

I read with sadness about the death of Kirby Puckett, the charismatic former star of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. Dead after suffering a stroke Sunday, he was only 45. Hard working, charming, exhilarating, dedicated, Puckett was one of my favorite players during his too-brief, but highly successful, major league career. Like so many others, I loved him as much for his winning smile and casual charm as for his baseball heroics–which is what made what happened after his retirement so painful for us, his fans.

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After breaking into the majors in 1984 and leading Minnesota to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, Puckett lost sight in one eye and retired in 1996. He was then voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, in 2001–but later that same year, his trouble started, or rather, became public. His then-wife accused him of threatening to kill her and told police he had a history of physically abusing her. He denied the charges, but then was hit with another accusation, this time from a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her. He was acquitted of all criminal charges but largely stayed out of the public eye after that.

Though the two stories are entirely unconnected, I can’t help but connect my feelings at Puckett’s death with the bombshell Sports Illustrated dropped today about home-run king Barry Bonds, rumored for years to be a steroids user. SI.com writes about an excerpt from a new book by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who describe in excruciating detail Bonds’s steroids regimen. Based on records seized by federal agents in a raid on the lab that administered the steroids, the book seems to leave little doubt that Bonds’s storied career has been, indeed, too good to be true.

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Lamenting the immoral behavior of athletes is a cliche by now–so trite, so last century. Yet I, forever an optimist, kept hoping the rumors about Bonds weren’t true, that somehow he’d clear his name and erase any doubts about the legitimacy of his record 73 homers in one season in 2001. And today, I can’t help feeling sad not just at Puckett’s death–whatever his misbehavior was, he didn’t deserve the lot life dealt him–but also at the fact that another champion failed miserably to live up to his public personae. I miss Puckett, but I’ve been missing him for five years now, ever since the Kirby Puckett I thought I knew was proven to be an illusion.

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