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Follow the Dark Knight

I don’t even like action movies. Or at least, not any of the recent ones. I walked out of Casino Royale. I hated Ironman. I don’t even want to see the trailer for Saw II. Too many blood, bros, and bimbos and it all starts feeling like the same rehashed plot. Given my recent history with action movies, I was prepared to be seriously let down by Dark Knight.

I was fully enthralled. Dark Knight is life boiled down to a damn operatic game of chess. Scene by scene its one calculated action after another as Batman and Joker fight to check the other’s king.

Dark Knight just remade the superhero genre. It will transform superhero films like the Matrix transformed action films. Dark Knight is the ultimate superhero film because it managed to sum up all the superhero film that came before it. In a sense, its the superhero film to end all superhero films. Therefore, if the next superhero film wants to be original it will have to square itself with the message of Dark Knight and then take that message farther.

As The Joker says, its not about the money, its about the message.

The message: Follow the Dark Knight.

What I've Heard About...because you only really listen to what your friends recommend

1. Order of Myths (from the Sundance Film Festival) opens Friday, July 25 at IFC in New York.

other screenings in other places

2. Bamcinemateck Animation Weekend is Here

3. Wall-E still rocking.

4. The new X-Files film opens tomorrow. Like the Simpson’s movie, you don’t have to have to be updated on the TV show to enjoy/understand the film.

5. More Animation at the Rooftop Film Fest on Friday. Short films plus beforehand listen to music and hang out at the block party. After the films head over to the free open bar after at Matchless. $9 for the show though.

6. A Parade of Pink Elephants

Disney took a cue from Dali and slipped a surrealist montage into Dumbo

Dali exhibit is up at the MOMA. Fantasia and a surrealism-inspired short is playing at the MOMA tomorrow, Friday, July 25, 2pm. If you miss it, you can still catch Dali’s 1929 film Un Chien Andalou. Don’t miss the beginning - the famous shot happens in the first minute of the film.

The MOMA is doing a month-long tribute to the Coen Brothers. All their great films, except unfortunately O Brother Where Art Thou .

Recommendations: Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and of course, No Country For Old Men.

The Daily Digest

1. Christian Bale arrested. Police were nice enough to wait until after London premiere of Dark Knight.

2. President Bush:
"Wall Street got drunk...and now its got a hangover"

more at ThinkProgress

3. Former advisor to George H.W. Bush schools the Bush Administration on diplomacy: 'Don’t talk about 'do we bomb [Iran] now or later?'…' By using such language 'we legitimize the use of force…and may tempt the Israelis'

Former advisor to President Jimmy Carter said 'I don’t want the public to believe a preemptive attack can be justified'

4. Barack Obama: "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon"

5. Bush Administration thinks power plants do not emit CO2, therefore they should be further deregulated.

6. McCain Campaign Ad: Obama is the reason gas prices are rising, says McCain

7. David Brook's OpEd, The Culture of Debt

8. And one from the backfiles, Naomi Klein's fantastic article on Obama's economic ideology. Liberals be alarmed.

Top Ten Film's That Make Me Want To Live Liberally

Brooke's List:

1. JFK
2. American Beauty
3. Pan’s Labyrinth
4. There Will Be Blood
5. Wall-E
6. American History X
7. Full Metal Jacket
8. The Outlaw Josie Wales
9. Hearts and Minds
10. The Matrix

MaZhira’s List:

1. Amistad
2. Bambi
3. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
4. Wall-E
5. Brave New World
6. Jesus Camp
7. Independence Day
8. Desperado
9. The Patriot*
10. A Day Without Mexicans

*Z’s reasoning is “Mel Gibson is a wacko, if he can star in a movie based on freedom it restores my faith in a nation that allows everyone to voice their opinions no matter how hate-filled they are.”

The Myth of the 2nd Amendment

The real mindtrip of Star Wars is that it’s set in the ethereal shrouds of "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." By opening the lens to the crazy possibilities of the past, George Lucas offers an extraordinary thought experiment. What if the world was like that? What would that mean?? Like whoa, how did the present times become so drastically different from the past?

Hmm, yes, speculation is fun but it is still a part of the same fantasy donut that is Star Wars. The mythology of Star Wars
is light years away from practical reality.

The mythology of the 2nd amendment however hits closer to home. In Arming America, Michael Bellesiles posits that American gun culture is an invented tradition, developed in one generation after the civil war. He links the development of gun culture directly to the development of the gun industry.

This would mean the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on owning a hand gun is not a part of the American tradition. Bellesiles scoured cultural, political, and legal documents and lays out his argument for how the federal government betrayed the original intent of our American republic by arming America with the liberty of individual gun ownership. He shows that our supposed tradition of gun ownership is more myth than history.

Six Little Known Facts About the History of Guns in America
1. Many settlers didn’t own guns. Those who did were poor shots. Most times when people hit something they have hit it by accident.

2. Gun technology didn’t fully develop until the Civil War. There were only three gun manufacturers in the U.S. before 1820, and even then the artisans could only make parts of guns. Artisans had to import gun locks from Europe.

3. The final product was unreliable. Thus, before the Civil War, the military used guns mainly as defensive weapons. Soldiers would shoot once, cast the weapon aside as they took out their other arms (most commonly pikes or swords) and charged. In reaction to this practice, artisans created the bayonette (a rifle with a pike attached) so that soldiers would at least hold on to their guns for the duration of battle.

4. There was a gun shortage. Guns and ammunition were not to be wasted. Government and citizens worried who could get their hands on this new technology.

5. In preparation for the civil war, the government cut a deal with domestic gun manufacturers. Whatever guns these manufacturers made, the government purchased. After the war ended, manufacturers had to find other customers.

6. At first western magazines had no articles about guns, hunting, the militia or the military until three years after its first publication in 1834: "in its first three years, 1834 to 1836, this magazine published thirty six issues and 356 articles there was one article on hunting, one on a shooting match, and four on Indian wars – and not a single other article on any gun-related theme."

The story behind Bellesiles’s book rivals the drama and controversy inside its pages. Upon release, his book was given critical praise and even awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for his contribution to American history. A violent smear campaign ensued, and in the midst of the storm the Columbia board voted to rescind Bellesiles’s prize for “academic misconduct.” Controversy. The dispute centered on three paragraphs and a chart which Bellesiles’s critics claimed were misleading. In response, Bellesiles stood by his research and analysis: "I challenge anyone to show how the revised paragraphs addressing probate materials undermine in any way the thesis or logical structure of this book." History News Network issued a chronology of the Bellesiles controversy.

Independent publisher Soft Skull Press has issued a revised edition.

Our gun culture shapes the way we perceive violence. They twist our morals. Guns are for our protection. Samuel Colt named his gun The Peacemaker. They penetrate pop culture. Think westerns and The Myth of the Frontier. Do guns make men? Historian Richard Slotkin describes this ideology as "regeneration through violence."

So where is the regeneration of Sean Bell, Iraq, Threat Level Orange, or Grand Theft Auto IV? All I see is desensitization through violence.

The Daily Digest

1. Along with some journalists, attorneys and other organizations, the ACLU is suing the government.

Check out this video of a conversation with ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, The Nation's Chris Hedges and Human Rights Watch's Dinah PoKempner

2. John McCain’s top economic advisor Phil Gramm weighs in: "We’ve never been more dominant. We never had more natural advantages than we have today. We’ve sort of become a nation of whiners."

3. Journalists report Obama raised $30 Million in June; McCain raised $22 million. Some are underwhelmed, some are questioning the numbers.

4. Josh Bolotsky calls it "Obamadodd"

5. Democratic Campaign for the Congressional Committee releases its blueprint for ad marketing.

6. The Horror, the Horror, Iraq was for Oil, a Bill Moyers essay

8. Iran shows a missle test on TV. Washington reacts by preparing to deploy part of its antiballistic missile shield.

9. Lawrence Lessig: Obama’s vote on FISA is not surprising, but he did self-swiftboat

10. Veteran Affairs bans voter registration drives, making it difficult for veterans to vote

11. Psychedelics are again being considered a good medical alternative. The new scientific theory: take whatever makes you feel good.

Lunch at the Century Foundation

Today The Century Foundation hosted the first of three summer brown bag luncheons. Their lovely upper-east side building brimmed with bright, young, progressive, public-policy minded teens and twenty-somethings all eager to listen to a four-person panel discuss our country’s current economic conditions. Forecasts were grim across the board. Economic mobility is an elusive ideal, activist Amaad Rivera explained. Tamara Draut, Director of the Economic Opportuity Program at Demos painted an analogy: While our parent’s generation rode through the job market on an escalator, those entering the job market today will find themselves riding on a moving walkway. Journalist Daniel Brook zeroed in on the ever widening wealth gap. Our economy is unsustainable.

Hard words to swallow for young idealists such as myself. But of course, give the bad news first and save the glass of hope for last. Veteran journalist Jeff Madrick provided the rallying call: what we need is not idealism but pragmatism. "Vote, keep voting and don’t give up. Remember your vote counts," he concluded.

The Century Foundation is a great resource for young people, and their events are well managed and stress-free. I recommend going to the next luncheon. It will be on the impact of the youth vote. Bring your lunch, get a free drink and cookie and get some pragmatic advice. For webcasts and more information, check out their website .

Blogging Liberally: Daily Round-Up

1. Speculating on Obama’s running mate, Republicans are calling former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt their ultimate VP nightmare. Meanwhile a new poll ranks Gephardt 2nd most favorable running mate. #1 is Colin Powell.

2. Big Brother update: The government is illegally holding certain public records as "state secrets." On the hopeful side, Chief Judge Vaughan Walker just issued an opinion that leaves the case for telecom immunity somewhat undermined.

3. "President Bush Boosts Porn Industry With Economic Stimulus Plan” Supposed to generate jobs, the stimulus plan instead has generated demand for erotica.

4. Living Limbaugh: $400 Million Contract, Gulfstream, Scented Candles, And The "Business" Of Hating Liberals

5. Box office superheroes are a disappointment, some say. superheros

6. According to latest polls, campaigning in Montana is paying off for Obama.

7. Netroots activist Darcy Burner needs help. She's getting some, plus many compliments on her t-shirt.

8. "That's the most stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life." Stephen Baldwin on Fox News – endorses McCain, then unendorses himself.

9. Faceless couple attends Wimbledon. Other faceless people have been spotted. It is still unclear whether this gig is part of a new ad campaign or a grassroots protest.

10. Oil is at $146 a barrel.

11. is now a t-shirt and more historical than you might guess. Paul Thomas Anderson took Plainsview's milkshake speech straight out of a transcript from a 1924 congressional hearing on the Teapot Dome Scandal.

American Tradition and the Gonzo Talent

Screening Liberally Big Picture
by Brooke Olaussen

Pop culture has immortalized Hunter S. Thompson as Dr. Gonzo blazing through Las Vegas in a red Cadillac – trunk brimming with drugs, mind bubbling with fear and loathing. How well does pop culture remember Thompson’s quest to document the death of the American Dream?

Thompson’s 1970 bid for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado is perhaps less-well remembered. For his campaign he developed his own logo: a two-thumbed fist (think black power) clenching a peyote button (think freak power). Thompson offered a thorough restructuring of power. The second proposal of his platform for sheriff read as follows: "Change the name of Aspen to Fat City. This would prevent greedheads, landrapers, and other human jackels from capitalizing on the name of Aspen." He also offered humor.

And did you know that this anti-Christ trained in the Air Force? It was, however, a short stint. "In summary," his commanding officer reported before recommending him for early honorable discharge, "this airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy."

Hunter S. Thompson was so visionary, so mad, so titillating articulate that upon reflection he seems bred from ethereal waters. Yet, Thompson’s greatness came not from broadcasting a new, different, freakish American culture, but just the opposite. He understood and believed in the tradition of the American political system so deeply that he sought out a vision of America in which the American Dream was attainable. In this call for intellectual revolution he was far from alone.

Alex Gibney’s new documentary Gonzo: The life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson propels you into the aura of Thompson and the forces of his times. It’s Thompson’s alter-ego Gonzo synergized with the last 50 years of American political history.

Everything you could want in a documentary film is in this one. By bringing you the mood and life-force of Gonzo, the film enchants, both visually and philosophically. The multiplicity of voices/interviews, footage, photographs, and songs transports you into the scene, as if like Alice you stepped through the looking glass. The soundtrack, Johnny Depp’s narration of Thompson’s writing,and interviews with friends and family guide you through Thompson’s wonderland. Those interviewed include: illustrator Ralph Steadman, fellow journalists and friends Tom Wolfe and Tim Crouse, historian Douglas Brinkley, his Rolling Stones editor, an ex-Hell’s Angel’s leader, his first wife, second wife, his son Juan Thompson, and even Pat Buchanan.

Click Read More for, well, more.

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