Thursday, October 2, 2008
Debates and public perception
The late Molly Ivins is given the credit for the great line: "Debates are like stock car races - nobody really cares who wins; they just come to see the crashes."
That is particularly true this evening, when we have a couple of folks who have been known to give their brains a few minutes off while their mouths were already engaged.
There's playoff baseball tonight, but this should be better. At least for those of us with strong stomachs.
I recommend you watch, but as for the pundits afterward, I consider that completely optional. In 1988, after Bentsen-Quayle, I watched several pundits on several channels tell me I hadn't seen what I just saw. Nothing happened, no blows were landed, no damage was done. That was the conventional wisdom for about five minutes.
Only later did the phrase "deer in the headlights" begin to sneak into the conversation, and somebody somewhere figured out that "I knew Jack Kennedy. I served with Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." was a line that will be repeated in every obituary of Dan Quayle when those things finally get written, God willing many decades from now.
Speaking of public perception, I'd like to recommend a movie from this year now available on DVD entitled Baby Mama. On my gmail account, the little annoying headline link sometimes gives a review and a percentage from RottenTomatoes.com, and I find those percentages almost completely useless. If I always disagreed with them, I could use them as a guide by betting against them, but sometimes a movie I love like Wall-E will get a very high 96%, while the truly awful new Batman movie The Dark Knight got a 97% rating.
Baby Mama got a 62% rating, much lower than some comedies I walked out on this year, including the dreadful Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Let me say that 38% of critics are completely useless. Baby Mama isn't the greatest movie ever made, but it's a terrific romantic comedy. It has everything you want, characters you can root for and root against, plot twists and turns, love found, love lost and a happy ending.
Oh yes, and laughs. Lots of laughs.
Unlike their recent SNL skits where Tina Fey plays the clueless Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler plays either the competent Hillary Clinton or the astonished Katie Couric, in Baby Mama, Tina is the smart, successful one and Amy plays the white trash bimbo hired as a rented uterus. Both the main stars do great work, and there is a great supporting cast, including Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard and Sigourney Weaver. Let me give a special shout out to Romany Malco as Oscar, the doorman who gets to first point out that Poehler is in fact Fey's baby mama, and Steve Martin as the hippie billionaire who runs a company very much like Whole Foods, where Fey's character is a vice president. Martin can be hit or miss, but this may be his best in a supporting role since he played the dentist way back in Little Shop of Horrors.
Of course, perception is very personal. You may not enjoy it as much as I did. Still, a 62% rating for this compared to an 85% for the awful Forgetting Sarah Marshall and 78% for the execrable Burn After Reading shows that there is a large percentage of people being paid to review films that really should find other work.