Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Vista Right-Wing Conspiracies of 2007

Ok, folks. It's that time of year again. Time for the top conspiracies of 2007. As in years past, the rules remain the same: conspiracies should be relevant to current events of 2007, plausible but not necessarily true, and ranked in order of general meaning and influence.

Ready? Here we go.

10. Clocking in at number ten is Michael Vick's dogfighting conspiracy. This was a literal, legal conspiracy, and Vick was sentenced to 23 months in jail for it. Perhaps the idea of a real "conspiracy" in the legal sense stretches the spirit of the conspiracy awards; nevertheless, the fodder this provided for Late Night comedians surely makes it deserving of a nod in at number 10.

9. At number nine, we give the award to Hollywood in general, who finally found it the year to cash in on America's love affair with conspiracy, what with at least five big movies on the topic: the by-the-book finale to Bourne's Conspiracy, the politically glib Charlie Wilson's War, the inarticulate and both right- and left-wing paranoid Shooter, the based-on-a-true-story Breach, and the intriguing whistle-blower corporate conspiracy of Michael Clayton.

8. At number eight, another literally legal conspiracy, this one, with more ominous...and possibly political...overtones. That is, the Fort Dix conspiracy, charging six foreign-born muslims with a plot to attack the New Jersey army base with automatic weapons.

7. Was Don Imus REALLY fired because he was about to reveal a 9/11 conspiracy (and not because of that nappy headed ho remark)? You decide.

6. In a sign of his lame-duckness, the Bush Administration factors into events much less in 2007. Nevertheless, rumors that Bush plans to cancel the 2008 election still abound, making us all feel better that Bush still has some power left to tap in the anxiety and irrational fear of our psyches.

5. Perhaps the best covered conspiracy by the press this year was the Jena Six conspiracy, in which six black teenagers were charged with beating a white teenager. Was this a racist conspiracy against the black defendants, or was it a reverse-racist conspiracy against the white victim? The answer is in the eye of the beholder.

4. Thank God for Hillary Clinton's campaign. It has revived for us perhaps the best conspiracy of all time. What conspiracy is that? Why, it's Hillary's "vast right-wing conspiracy." Once again in operation, without skipping a beat, her vast-right-wing conspiracy even has its own new book out to derail her campain, nevermind a entire nation of blogging pundits who made their names on her conspiracy-minded feelings, ready to rally Republicans should she be the nominee.

3. And let's not forget Barack Hussein Obama, whom right-wing conspiracy theorists, as well as ordinary voters, would like us to believe is a muslim plant, here to undermind the Christian order of the United States.

2. Finally, 2007 reveals the ulterior motive behind the war in Iraq: - it's all part of the conspiracy to drive oil prices to over $100 a barrel and stoke the profits of international oil conglomerates. And this conspiracy was promulgated this year by that most off-the-rocker conspiracist of all, Alan Greenspan.

1. But for the number one conspiracy of the year...we have the first #1 conspiracy from the world of technology. Brought to us by the master of technological conspiracy, Microsoft. Why, it's Windows Vista, of course. Many argue that there's been no real change from Windows XP, except to introduce more personal data collection and allow the NSA to have access to your computer. Why, some people think Vista is so bad, it can only be explained as part of a conspiracy by Microsoft to boost sales of Apple (as part of a plan to avoid anti-trust investigation by the Justice Department?) Why, Vista has been such a disaster that users are migrating back to XP in droves, a phenomena that Apple certainly wasted no time making fun of. But perhaps the best explanation for Vista is that it's part of Microsoft's overall strategy to drive up price points for licensing Windows and the amount of RAM and processing speed needed to operate computers.

So there you have it. Ten conspiracies that make 2007 a year worth forgetting. And now...on to 2008, the Presidential elections, and more great new conspiracies to make our hairs stand on end.

Monday, December 03, 2007

2008 Oscar Predictions

It's a little early but I'm lining up my early predictions for best film. These will be updated as the award season goes on.

One thing I'm struck by - early in the year there did not seem to be many Oscar-worthy contenders. More and more these quality films are being saved for release in the few weeks before award nominations begin. Perhaps the only Oscar-worthy films from early this year are Zodiac and Hairspray. Personally, I did not find Hairspray likely to make the cut but I throw it in as the only comedy/musical of note this year.

What's striking about this year, in fact, is that all the Oscar contenders this year are in fact hard-hitting, often bloody, testosterone driven dramas. The type of gritty-realism we used to see in the Seventies. Those worthy of the cut are truly outstanding films from today's auteurs working at the height of their talents. There are not a lot this year, but those there are are a tough lot to choose from.

Here, then, is my early list:

"Zodiac" - Fichner's tone poem to the 1970s sleuthing out of a serial killer is pitch perfect, and his best movie to date. This should propel him into Best Director ranks. Coming out early in the year, it may be forgotten, however, at Oscar time.

"3:10 to Yuma" - director James Mangold offers this post-modern interpretation of an old-fashion Western morality tale without a wasted beat or line of dialog. As good or better than Unforgiven, it's a perfect little movie in almost all respects: if only it didn't have such good competition, and get a bit lost at the box office.

"Michael Clayton" - Clooney turns to writer/director Tony Gilroy to deliver this year's adult thriller. The "Erin Brochovich"-style tale of corporate badness is a bit thin gruel, but like our other contenders, the art of cinema language comes back into vogue in this film with verve. Not the best movie, but with its crowd-pleasing bow it could make a "Crash"-style appeal for the most votes.

"No Country for Old Men" - the Cohen Brother's masterpiece is the most richly textual movie of the year. This is my favorite of the list. A tough movie with a nihilistic that Hollywood rarely rewards...but with this yin to Fargo's yang, the Cohen Brother's achieve a kind of iconic movie significance that only a rare film in a great while achieves. If it isn't nominated, it would be the travesty of the year.

The final film to make the cut I would not yet have seen - with American Gangster and Lions for Lambs both going down at the box office, and the small but critically acclaimed "Once" lost in the springtime memories, my money is on the yet-to-be-released "There Will Be Blood" by the amazing director of Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson.