The brilliant movie director Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World,” “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” and of course “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe”), here is gently spoofed by an actor for his inclination toward dark interpretations as he tells us what he thinks is going on with Waldo.
Is there a First Amendment right to sell violent video games to children and teenagers?
The California legislature said no. They enacted a law imposing a fine of up to $1000 on retailers who sell violent games to anyone under age 18. Games like the best-selling Grand Theft Auto contain explicit brutal violence and sex. The player directs his character to murder other characters with Uzis and have sex with prostitutes. The Parents Television Council reports:
The beatings are intense and the number of weapons available is staggering. One can use a baseball bat, screwdriver, machete, or even a chainsaw to attack pedestrians to get small amounts of cash. As you attack and beat innocents, blood sprays the concrete. If you wound your victim and they try to run, you can chase them by following the blood trail. You can also get quick money by hitting people with your car.
These games are rated for mature audiences by the industry’s ratings board, but that is not meaningful if a child or young teen can buy it in the store.
The federal appeals court threw out the law as invalid. They said that video games are protected by the same First Amendment rights as books and any attempt to restrict their sale was unconstitutional. They said there was no proof that these games were harmful to children.
This is a collision of two principles — our commitment to freedom of expression and our commitment to protecting children.
This week, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case. The New York Times reports that
Michael D. Gallagher, the president of the Entertainment Software Association, said First Amendment protections should apply to video games just as they do to books, films and music. Industry self-regulation is working, he said, and it is harder for minors to buy M-rated games than it is to buy R-rated DVDs.
This is a tough challenge for the Court. And it is an even tougher one for parents.
High profile director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) has everything he needs to make his ninth movie and more. Much more. It is Italy in the early 1960’s and Guido is a glamorous celebrity, a name brand, a commodity. His production team is ready, including his close friend and adviser, costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), his star and muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman), and his producers. He also has a devoted wife Luisa (Oscar winner Marianne Cotillard), a mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), a mother (Sophia Loren), a pretty reporter from Vogue named Stephanie who wants more from him than an interview (Kate Hudson), and memories of the first woman to teach him about desire Saraghina (Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas).
What he does not have is a script, or even an idea of where to begin.
Which gives him something in common with director Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), because beyond the idea of a director who has too much on his mind and not enough ideas this movie does not have anything to say. Marshall has a great appreciation for female beauty and a lot of style. That’s a great reason to watch a music video but it is not really a reason to make or watch a movie.
Marshall trots out his bevy of international beauties, and each gets a musical number, some of them stunning. Fergie’s deep, rich-throated “Be Italian” and an almost-endless chorus line of tambourine-beating back-up singers, is sheer electricity. But the only one that comes close to reaching that level is Hudson, channeling her mother, Goldie Hawn, in a spangled silver mini-dress and go-go boots.
Cruz finds some sizzle in the notorious “Call from the Vatican” number, though no one can match the late Anita Morris, whose performance was considered too incendiary (and her costume too revealing) for the Tony Awards broadcast in 1982. But the musical numbers are not up to the level of “Chicago” and the lyrics in particular cannot stand up to the loving attention given to them by these actresses. At the end, it’s as empty as its subject.
Forget the accents. Forget the anguish, the steely resolve, the iambic pentameter. All hail Meryl Streep for what she is best at — comedy. She spins screenplay straw into movie gold, turning yet another fungible Nancy Meyers saga about a beautiful and accomplished middle-aged woman triumphing over a womanizing man into a miracle of warmth, heart, and wisdom just from the power of sheer acting genius and being the truly and deeply glorious person that she is.
Meyers does have a talent for, in the words of one of her movie titles “What Women Want.” She knows that there is an eager audience for a story about a middle-aged woman who is so universally adored that even her ex-husband, the hound who left her for a gorgeous young woman (cue the slo-mo stroll in the midriff-revealing sarong) can’t get enough of her and admits that he was crazy to let her go. What could be more satisfying than that?
One of the wisest and most entertaining books ever written about movies is Stanley Cavell’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, where he discusses the power of movie romances that bring estranged couples back together. As beguiling as it is to think of the freshness of first falling in love and the pleasures of learning everything about one another, there is something even more deeply satisfying about the idea of falling in love with someone with whom there are no illusions, and especially having that someone fall in love with you. Anyone can fall in love with what we think we know or with someone we’ve seen at his or her best. But when it’s someone we’ve seen at his or her worst; that’s got to be love for sure.
Or, it can be something satisfying in a different way — payback.
Streep plays Jane (as in plain?), divorced for ten years from Jake (Alec Baldwin, perfecting the art of the appealing but infuriating male) finds herself in bed with him following a tipsy dinner when they are in New York together for their son’s graduation. She can’t resist the chance to feel pursued, validated, desired. The spark they once had is still there. And she would be inhuman if she did not feel a little triumphant about his preferring her to his beautiful young wife.
But there are (grown-up) children to consider. Being back together frees Jane to admit that she was not blameless in their break-up. It allows her to allow Jake to see her (literally) as she is, not as he remembers. And it opens her heart to some other possibilities, including the shy architect working on the addition to her house — including the dream kitchen to replace a kitchen already pretty darn dreamy.
Meyers, astutely profiled by Daphne Merkin in the New York Times Magazine, seems to be the only person in Hollywood today interested in and capable of connecting deeply to an audience of women who want more from a movie than frothy rom-coms or sex and shopping. Rare in the world of chick flicks, there are no trying-on-clothes montages or makeovers. Her movies feature capable women with good friends and loving families. The most preposterous fantasy in her films may not be the gorgeously decorated settings or even the swains in pursuit but the unequivocally devoted friends and especially children and even the prospective son-in-law — take another look at the way Jude Law’s little girls fall into instant love with Cameron Diaz in “The Holiday.” Like Jane in this film, who considers and then rejects the idea of a little cosmetic surgery, Meyers’ women start out fine with who they are and then get even more so.
Streep is what Meyers’ women want to be — supremely warm and nurturing (watch the way she keeps feeding everyone exquisite but apparently completely non-fattening meals), self-aware, and able with a little adorable struggle, to impose some boundaries in a very familiar way. She fills in what Meyers’s slightly calculating formula leaves out and makes this movie as guilty a pleasure as those chocolate croissants she whips up that make her date fall for her as we already have.