Friday, December 31, 2010

10 Best DVDs of 2010

Ann and Stan, teaming up again to look back on 2010 in DVDs.



1) (tie) "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" -- the two films of 2009 came out on DVD in 2010. These are the bookends, two directors -- Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron -- working at the top of their craft.

mark ruffalo


3) "The Kids Are All Right." Lisa Cholondenko directed and co-wrote this film which has the sort of life that's been missing from the screen since "Flirting With Disaster." Annette Bening and Julianne Moore head up the cast as a happy couple with two teenage children, one of whom wants to meet his biological father which sets off all that follows. And that father? Played by 2010's DVD MVP Mark Ruffalo. Rufalo was one of the few bright spots (Mark Wahlberg was another) in the dreary "Date Night" and he was second only to DiCaprio in "Shutter Island." But it was in this film that he really got to strut his stuff and show how he's quickly become the best actor of his generation. And Bening and Moore are at the top of their game as well.


Salt

4) "Salt." The best action film of the year. Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt -- a CIA agent who may be a Russian mole. And she's got everyone after her. You know she's going to kick butt, the fun is in figuring out just how. Not since Sigourney Weaver have American films had such a believable action heroine.

5) "The Blind Side." A moving film with strong performances and none stronger than Sandra Bullock's. Hopefully, enough time has passed so that we can let her performance speak for itself and not get distracted by the personal obstacles she had to overcome after receiving her Best Actress award at the Academy Awards.


Tetro

6) "Tetro." Fathering one of the country's most talented directors, Sofia Coppola, doesn't appear to have thrown the master, Francis Ford Coppola, into a panic. Instead, he appears reborn with this moody and intense study of two brothers (Vincent Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich).

7) "Zombieland." If you're like us, this is one of those films you repeatedly avoided thinking you'd come back to it when there was nothing else left. If that's how you played it, you were, no doubt, as surprised as we were when you finally watched this one and realized it was an instant classic. Woody Harrelson has never been so good onscreen (and that's including his amazing performance in 2007's "The Walker").

8) "Shutter Island" -- starting with the classic film "Goodfellas," Robert DeNero became parsley in Martin Scorsese films -- so much so that his absence for over a decade and a half hasn't even registered. Leonardo DiCaprio has been Scorsese's alter-ego on film and it's given the films new life. "Shutter Island" is spooky and and haunting and unlike anything we normally expect from "Mean Streets" Scorsese proving that, unlike many peers, he hasn't ripened and been reduced to self-parody.

Dear John

9) "Dear John" -- There aren't a lot of good weepy films. There's "Splendor in the Grass," "Dr. Zhivago," "The Way We Were" and, for the most part, just a lot of wanna-bes. So this Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried film wasn't one we were expecting much from, even with Lasse Hallstrom directing. Like all good love stories, you end up wishing the leads weren't so damn noble but that's what makes it so poignant. One of 2010's most underrated films.

10) "Inception." With a story too similar to John Woo's "Paycheck" and a cast whose best scenes feel like they were left on the cutting room floor, the only thing "Inception" has going for it is the look. We still think that's strong enough for it to land at number 10.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, December 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, Kurdistan beefs up security ahead of New Year's Eve, IVAW announces a February event, and more.
December 25th, KRG President Masoud Barzani issued the following statement, "I would like to reiterate the importance of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in Iraq and call on the federal government to make the protection of Christians and religious sites a priority. We will always defend the rights of the Christian community and we repeat that the Kurdistan Region is open to embrace the displaced Christians." It's a fairly clear statement.

And Christmas did take place, was publicly celebrated in the KRG. They beefed up security, there were no known attacks on Iraqi Christians. Nathan Deuel (Daily Beast) reported from Erbil, "It's Christmas morning in northern Iraq, and the parishioners of St. Joseph's Church are emerging from their homes into the bright desert sunlight. With two Iraqi friends, I drive along narrow avenues decorated with twinkling lights and the occasional inflatable Santa. We pass a clutch of men wearing bright sweaters, pressed slacks, and loafters. A trio of women breaks into tight smiles; one is wearing a red skirt with a band of white snowflakes. We round the corner, and we're surprised to see that a shimmering tanker truck is blocking the road to the church. Frowning men in uniform wave their arms. As one of the largest Christian centers of worship in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq, the church is a potential target. We're urged to park down the block. But high security is better than nothing at all."

How is Barzani able to do to that over three provinces and Nouri can't even secure the city of Baghdad? In what world does that make sense?

Janet Ritz (Huffington Post) interviewed Qubad Talabani, the KRG's US representative and the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Excerpt:

In Iraqi Kurdistan, nationalism is the common belief in a distinctly pluralistic society where the Kurds have opened their gates to Iraqi Christians seeking refuge from extremist violence.
"We've had this welcoming policy [to Iraqi Christians];" Mr. Talabani explains; "we've probably settled in Kurdistan 12,000 to 15,000 Christian families and, regrettably, hundreds of thousands have left Iraq altogether. Those who've chosen not to leave Iraq have resettled in Kurdistan."
They've shown the same tolerance toward other religious minorities. Problems, when they do arise, are cultural in nature. Mr. Talabani was candid about the challenges faced by women in their rural regions, with crimes of honor killings and female genital mutilation, on which, he said, Kurdistan, unlike other parts of the Middle East, reports and has begun work to stop. It won't be easy. In the male dominated culture that exists in the rural areas, he points out that it will take religious leaders and village elders to change the practices. There's been some progress in those efforts, including a statement by the Kurdish Islamic authority to condemn the practices, but, as he said, "we can't shy away" from the problem. There's more work to be done.


Long targeted throughout the endless and illegal Iraq War, Iraqi Christians have faced a new wave of persecution which began October 31st with the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Attacks have continued in Baghdad and Mosul forcing many Iraqis to flee. Some have gone to the KRG, others have left the country. J. Lee Grady (Charisma) looks back at the "Top Spiritual Trends of 2010" and notes, "The Open Doors organization says the 'religicide' of Christians in Iraq today is similar to what happened to Iraqi Jews in 1941." Maria Mackay (Christian Today) reports:

Barnabas Fund recently received a letter from an Iraqi archbishop warning that Christians were too afraid to leave their homes. The very real threat of being killed in broad daylight is making it difficult to do the very practical things like shopping and, more importantly, going to work.
The international director of Barnabas Fund, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, said: "It is like living in a prison camp. You could leave the house but you don't know what is going to happen. Because of the targeted attacks, there is a chance that Christians venturing out to work or onto the streets will be attacked or killed. The fear is effectively leaving Christians stranded in their homes."

Sunday AFP reported, "Iraqi Christians who survived the deadly storming of a Baghdad church attended a special Christmas mass on Sunday in France, where they were evacuated following the attack. [. . . Elish] Yako said at least five of the wounded have returned from France to Iraq and six are still in hospital, while others have applied for asylum. France has said it also plans a second evacuation flight for a further 93 Christians." Nick Vinocur (Reuters) reports on the sour grapes of Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (the lack of leadership currently at that organization was never more obvious) and the UNHCR over France taking in victims ofthe October 31st attack. The two go down to the whine cellar and emerge with a chardonnay of green-eyed bitchery. Bitter Becca Heller, IRAP, whines that it's just not fair to everyone that France took in Iraqi Christians. Grow the hell up. A spectacular attack on a house of worship resulted in France offering medical help and asylum. It's not at all surprising, it's not 'discriminatory' towards others. It was spectacular attack like nothing anyone was prepared for or expected. France's offer was not at all different from those reaching out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Little whiny asses need to stop their carping. Instead of whining over what someone else did, maybe the two organizations might try doing something of their own. Because what the world's seeing is the United Nations repeatedly stating that it is not safe to return to Iraq but unble to halt the forced deportations of Iraqi refugees in Europe back to Iraq. And IRAP? The US-based organization has had no impact on US policies. So instead of whining over what the government of France did -- a noble thing to reach out to any community after an attack -- the two organizations might try sobering up, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on a real issue.
Monday Reuters reported a Dujail roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 "Christian woman and wounded her husband." That alone makes Becca Heller and company look like idiots but why stamp a fool with "IDIOT" on the forehead just once when you can do so repeatedly? BBC News reports that Baghdad was slammed with bombings targeting the homes of Iraqi Christians today leaving 2 people dead and fourteen wounded. Michael Christie and Matthew Jones (Reuters) note the number injured has risen to "at least 16" and note "Iraqi Christian leaders say they fear Sunni Islamist al Qaeda wants to drive them out of the country." David Batty (Guardian) offers this perspective, "The grenade and bomb attacks came a week after Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida threatened a wave of violence against Iraq's beleaguered Christian community." Xinhua adds, "The attacks occurred in different parts of Baghdad at night, the first roadside bomb exploded near the house of a Christian in the Ghadeer neighborhood southeast Baghdad, killing two and wounding three, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Al Jazeera notes, "Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Baghdad that the ten explosions took place outside as well as in the yards of Christian homes across Baghdad. She said the attacks were 'not simultaneous but clearly appeared to be coordinated'. The attackers used a combination of grenades and simple homemade bombs. In at least two cases, police arriving on the scene found additional unexploded bombs." Jacques Clement (AFP) reports, "The attacks started at 7:30 pm and continued over two hours in six different parts of the capital as the Christian community still reels from a massacre at a Baghdad cathedral on October 31 in which 44 worshippers and two priests died." BBC News provides this analysis: "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad said the bombs were not big by Baghdad standards, but the message was clear. He says that the Islamic militant group affiliated to al-Qaeda which said it carried out the deadly attacks in October had warned that there would be more to come." John Leland and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) quote Noor Isam stating, "We will love Iraq forever, but we have to leave it immediately to survive. I would ask the government, 'Where is the promised security for Christians'?" Yeah, where is that security? Why is it so difficult for Nouri to deliver on what he promised? Especially when Baghdad's been walled off into sections and checkpoints? (Checkpoints Nouri's considering eliminating.)
In other violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack left three people injured and that 1 man was shot dead at his Kirkuk home.
Yesterday, Saman Basharati (Rudaw) reports that 1,000 peshmerga (Kurdish forces) have been sent to the city due to rumors "of a military coup" and "This is the first time since 2003 that a top Kurdish official has acknowledged the threat to Kurdish politicians of a military coup." Today Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) reports that security is being beefed up in Kurdistan ahead of New Year's Eve out of concern that attacks may be planned, " It remained an oasis of relative calm while the rest of Iraq descended into sectarian bloodshed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. There are few blast walls protecting buildings from bomb attacks and residents can stay out after dark and frequent restaurants and clubs. It has become a gateway to investing in Iraq, with shopping centres, hotels and a booming real estate sector." Meanwhile the conflicts between Iraq's neighbors Iran and Saudi Arabia continue as Iran's state-run outlet Press TV works overtime to encourage a Shi'ite - Arab split. Press TV reports that Fawzi Tarzi, a Moqtada al-Sadr acolate, is isnisting that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism in Iraq and quotes the Iraqi National Alliance's Mohammed Hussein stating, "We should seal our borders with Saudi Arabia to hold the flow of terrorism." And Iran's state-run media also serves up Wisam al-Bayati (link has text and video) with the assertion that Saudi Arabia is "snubbing" Iraq's government out of Baghdad because many in it are Shi'ite.
For realities about Iraq, an upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event should provide many:

February 25, 2011

9:30-10:30 am

Busboys & Poets,

Langston room

14th & V st NW

Washington DC

This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past.

What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?

How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?

Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:

Geoff Millard (IVAW)

Hart Viges (IVAW)

Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)

Richard Rowely (Big Noise Films)


Meanwhile two papers weigh in that the US needs to leave Iraq. The editorial board of the Orange County Register argues, "We argued from the beginning, nearly eight years ago, that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and the prolonged U.S. occupation seems to have led to an Iraq that is more shaky than stable and has serious tolerance problems, leading, for example, to most Iraqi Christians fleeing the country. For better and for worse, however, it is time to allow Iraqis to handle these Iraqi problems. The U.S. should continue to withdraw troops on schedule and allow historians of the future to weigh the pluses and minuses of our misadventure in Iraq." The Pensacola News Journal's editorial board opines, "Frankly, we figure the future of Iraq lies in an increasingly authoritarian government that, while mild by Middle East dictatorship standards, will hopefully also be reasonably secular and relatively democratic. Meanwhile, the terrorists will continue to set off bombs, the Shiites and Sunnis will continue to scratch and claw for power, and the Kurds will try to stay out of it under independent governance. For the United States, the best outcome will be if Iraq keeps arm's-length from Iran and succeeds in greatly expanding oil exports, which frankly we believe was the point all along, no matter all the rhetoric we were spoon fed about spreading democracy, etc."

"We want to end the war now!" hollered Barack Obama to the Cult of St. Barack at the many tent revivals during the 2008 Democratic Party primaries. He used double speak and made promises he had no intention of keeping -- as Samantha Power pointed out to the BBC in March of 2008 -- and he's become the War Hawk Supreme and fraudlent in so many ways. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan examines who Barack allows redemption for and whom he refuses it to:
I believe prisons should be rehabilitative and not punitive, but was justice served and did Michael Vick pay his debt to society for his horrendous crimes? Is he redeemed? Of course, what he did was heinous and inhumane and thinking about it fills me with disgust, but our president is not similarly conflicted. On Sunday, from Hawaii, Obama reportedly called Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Eagles and huge donor to Barack Obama and other Democrats to "thank" him for giving Vick a "second chance."
Hmmm -- "Second chances" are almost miraculous for some people and impossible for others. One similar call could take Mumia off of death row, or pardon railroaded defense attorney, Lynne Stewart, or get Pvt. Bradley Manning out of his inhumane imprisonment (this list could fill a book, I am afraid, so I'll stop now).
Also, a study by the Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment, for example, found that up to 60% of ex-cons in New York was still unemployed one year after release. Stats on this are difficult to find, like most statistics on unemployment (which only count those that are receiving unemployment checks, or applying for them), but I am almost 100% sure that 100% of the 60% are not Michael Vicks or fictional, Gordon Gekkos, looking for multi-million dollar salary scores after incarceration. Most certainly, many of these "ex-cons" looking for work didn't commit as heinous of a crime as Vick did, either, but that's something we can only speculate on.
Lastly Jeff Gates (at Dissident Voice) wonders why money continues to be poured into the wars when it could address energy needs:
With the U.S. humbled in Iraq, mired in Afghanistan and in danger of being drawn into Iran, is it time to replace aggression with development and firepower with solar power?
With extremism the new enemy, what's our best defense? What if the U.S. projected its power by defending against the indignities of energy poverty and illiteracy?
Absent a strategy for addressing the roots of human indignity, it's not clear that the war on terrorism can be won. Energy poverty is a war we know how to win.
Parents of children using solar-powered LED lights report how their grades improve when they have light for studying. While that's not enough, it's a good start.
Can the U.S. afford not to embrace a solar defense? If not literacy, what is the best long-term defense against extremism? For $12, a solar-powered LED system can power a desk lamp and a phone charger.

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