Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ralph's world // Steeling myself

after an epic series of mutual flakeouts, Laal and i finally saw "An Unreasonable Man" at IFC on Monday. this is the Ralph Nader doc, which has unfortunately closed by the time you are reading this. too bad, b/c it was really fucking good.

Ralph Nader is a fascinating guy, obviously. we all know him as our friendly neighborhood spoiler, or so many would have you believe, in recent elections. but this guy's public advocacy career is intense. seatbelts, airbags, warning labels on prescription drugs, lead vests in x-ray rooms, etc., etc. one guy in the film says that if only Nader's name were emblazoned on all these items, people would have a much harder time slagging on him for his recent presidential runs.

the movie is straightforward and talking-head-based, but Nader's story is too fascinating for it to matter. there's some really great early-career shit, i.e., the story of how Nader was harrassed by General Motors. apparently after he published his auto-industry expose, "Unsafe at Any Speed," GM wanted to discredit him so bad that they sent prostitutes to approach him in supermarkets. he resisted these advances and apparently every other one; the movie makes the claim that Nader has never had a romantic relationship.

for the first 2/3 of the film, Nader is lionized by pretty much everyone who comes onscreen, but then shit gets ugly and much harder-hitting. as everyone knows, the 2000 election lost him a ton of friends and allies. but there's unbelievable footage of the various folks who turned against him after Bush was elected. one of the most intense cases is Michael Moore, who's shown speaking at a 2000 campaign rally saying how despicable it is to settle for the lesser of two evils when there's an idealist like Nader on the ballot. in 2004 he's singing a very different tune. same goes for Susan Sarandon and Bill Maher, not to mention a coalition of former Nader's Raiders, his whistle-blowing pals from the early days.

it's really intense to watch all this betrayal and then to think about how you might have acted similarly. i don't agree with all the people who call him megalomaniacal, but i'll admit that i'm still somewhat afraid to actually check "Nader" on the ballot. i saw him speak in 2000 and was deeply moved but i was swayed by my peers' argument that a vote for him was a vote for Bush. i think even more highly of him now, but i'm not sure i'd vote for him. it's a real tough call that's been endlessly debated by folks a lot more politically aware than me.

Nader's a real hardline guy. there's one section where he's coming down on the idea of personal loyalty, saying that no one should let "mawkish sentimentality" get in the way of political ideals. he can sound extreme, but watching the movie, you can't help wondering how amazing it would be if someone like him could get elected. i'm curious whether anyone will step into his no-compromise shoes or if the small but impressive foothold he's gained will just slip once he's gone.

anyway, it's a really, really powerful movie. there's just no one else like this guy.


in lighter matters, i've just finished "Toxic Bachelors," my first Danielle Steel novel. Laal, Joe, one Sloane O. and myself decided to do a book club thingie, which has since disintegrated, but the men of Stay Fucked persevered and finished the damn thing. obviously it was selected as a joke, but i have to say i sort of loved it.

it's basically about the taming of these three playboy dudes, following them as they all meet their soulmates within one pivotal year (yeah, right). it's formulaic as hell, and hilariously wooden, but i gotta admit that i cried in certain spots. basically there's this psychotherapy sort of message running throughout, i.e., everyone has baggage that makes them afraid to commit and they have to confront that shit head on before they can really have a meaningful relationship.

to use a Nader term, it's mawkish shit, but hey, in my experience, it's pretty much the fucking truth. maybe Danielle Steel writes books like this to assure women that men are really very transparent and their problems reducible and manageable. but i think men basically *are* like this, i.e., governed by baggage. or maybe that's just me.

anyway, i'll shut the fork up now. but i liked the book. even if i hid the cover behind my bag every time i read it on the subway. you should see the pic on the back: it's Steel leaning out of a red VW bug, wearing some ludicrous hat and fur. pretty garish shit.

just to give you a taste, one of the main characters is named ... Gray Hawk. maybe i'll dig up some quotes for the next post.


Ayler continues to be it. liking the spooky sparseness of "Witches and Devils" a gorgeous session from '64.

saw "eXistenZ" and that totally ruled. Cronenberg is a master of splat humor combined with body horror and weird postmodern psychological conundrum. it's textbook sci-fi, but with the absurdity frontloaded and directly addressed. Jude Law is hilarious as a dorky P.R. dude. see this one. anyone seen "Videodrome"? i hear great things.


Anonymous said...

what a friendly book club

eXistenZ was funny, I started watching videodrome once but the sticking-needles-in-debbie-harry's-ear part freaked me out and I had to stop

Phil Freeman said...

Once you see Videodrome, you probably won't like eXistenZ as much (or maybe you will, since you saw it first). Videodrome is brilliant, Cronenberg's best movie.