Marvelously Selfish
June 17, 2009

Kazan on Directing Edited and with commentary by Robert Cornfield (Knopf, 368 pp., $32.50) If anyone wants to make the case for Elia Kazan as one of the outstanding twentieth-century Americans, there is a famous text to call in support. I refer to A Life, Kazan's autobiography, published in 1988 at 848 pages (it was cut to make it a reasonable length), and one of the most forceful and engrossing books ever written about a life in the arts or show business.

What We Can Do In Iran
June 16, 2009

Massive cheating or not? A new kind of coup d’etat or not? How do we interpret this strange election whose results were announced by the press affiliated with the secret services and militia--even before the polls were closed? Considering the absence of international observers, considering that the election officials demanded by Ahmadinejad’s rivals were chased from polling places with billy clubs, and considering the climate of terror in which the whole process was steeped, it is hard to come down on one side or the other with much certainty. Nevertheless, three things are quite clear. The fi

Ghost In The Machine
May 27, 2009

Why was Terminator: Salvation so dull? And why, in particular, was Christian Bale's John Connor so emphatically uninteresting? explains: Like in the franchise itself, history has been changed, and the original script for Terminator: Salvation ended up getting gutted.... The biggest change came when [director] McG flew to the UK to talk to Christian Bale about starring in the fourth Terminator movie. The director wanted the Batman star to play Marcus Wright, the cyborg protagonist of the script. But Bale focused on another part: John Connor.

Pelosi's New Defender
May 20, 2009

Who said the following in defense of Nancy Pelosi? The CIA has a very bad record when it comes to - I was about to say 'candid'; that's too mild - to honesty. . .  Director Panetta says the agency does not make it a habit to misinform Congress. I believe that is true. It is not the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency to misinform Congress. But that doesn't mean that they're all giving out the information. That would be Arlen Specter. Amazing what the prospect of a contested Democratic primary will do to a guy.

The Cheney Fallacy
May 18, 2009

Former Vice President Cheney says that President Obama's reversal of Bush-era terrorism policies endangers American security. The Obama administration, he charges, has "moved to take down a lot of those policies we put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years from a follow-on terrorist attack like 9/11." Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney's criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong.

The Movie Review: 'Star Trek'
May 08, 2009

I am not a Trekkie. It’s important that this be clearly established before we move on. Yes, as a boy I was a fan of the original “Star Trek,” to the point where I could distinguish a Saladin-class Destroyer from a Ptolemy-class tug--an admission I’d be loath to make if my wife weren’t already bound to me by marital vows, two children, and a large puppy. But I never cottoned to the subsequent Trek series and bailed out on the movie adaptations shortly after the Enterprise started rescuing whales in the mid-80s. I am not, in other words, someone who approached director J. J.

Night of the Living Bushies
May 06, 2009

The depiction of Barack Obama that has emerged from some quarters of the American right is that of a Bush-like figure. He is irresponsibly running up deficits and covering them up with budgetary gimmickry. Under the guise of healing rhetoric, he ruthlessly pressures fellow partisans in Congress to toe the line. He is "filling White House ranks with former lobbyists," and his administration is devolving into general incompetence. And he has given unprecedented, Rove-like power to his political Svengali, David Axelrod.

Small Change
March 04, 2009

Dick Cheney is never known for his good cheer, but, when Politico interviewed him recently, he sounded especially dour on the subject of Barack Obama's intentions vis-a-vis counterterrorism. In what seemed like a direct slap at the new president, Cheney warned that national security is "a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business ... and we're not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek." While Cheney didn't come out and say so, he sounded pretty convinced that Obama was planning a civil-liberties bender.

Tom Perrotta On The Evolution Of Tracy Flick
February 16, 2009

Hillary Clinton got Flicked. Sarah Palin and Kirsten Gillibrand, too. In fact, it's now fair to say that any ambitious female politician with the ability to make men see starbursts--or at least whose hair is blond--will invite comparisons to Tracy Flick, the hyper-driven and not a little bit demented student body president Reese Witherspoon made famous in Election. Rare is the character who receives a second life as a cultural phenomenon--and that fate was particularly unlikely in Flick's case. The film made just under $15 million when it disappeared from theaters in the summer of 1999.

What Obama Could Learn From Reagan
February 10, 2009

I joined Walter Mondale's campaign as his issues director in June 1982, and I vividly remember the excitement that gripped most Democrats at the time. Ronald Reagan's approval rating had fallen below 40 percent, and party professionals believed that the failure of his economic plan to produce a turnaround all but guaranteed huge trouble for incumbent Republicans--political scientists predicted Republican losses of up to 50 House seats. It didn't work out that way, though: Republicans dropped a relatively modest 26 seats in the House and held steady in the Senate.