Tuesday, March 20, 2007

To Fulfill These Rights

The voting rights bill will be the latest, and among the most important, in a long series of victories. But this victory--as Winston Churchill said of another triumph for freedom--"is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society--to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.

But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.

For the task is to give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other American to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities--physical, mental and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness.

To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough. Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in--by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.

- Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965

How true, and how unfortunately unrealized even 40 years later.

View the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Movie: 300


Arthur Millar's graphic novel comes to life in thi-wait, sorry too cliché.

Arthur Millar's graphic novel becomes a movie in this...well...movie. Full of gore, action, shouting, and even a narrator, this movie was sold out, cramped when I finally got in, and full of high expections. And it met 'em.

300 is all about atmosphere. The movie looks and feels exactly like a graphic novel - the camera acts more like a still life for half the shots. The rest use slow motion to capture the feel of different panels. They reflect perfectly on the genre - blood is everywhere and captured in full spray, with bodies flying from the impact, capes flowing. I came in expecting the slow motion to get contrived and tired, and though it was applied liberally, I wouldn't change any of it. The lighting is also extremely well done - you can almost see the pencil lines where shadow would be drawn in. It was like watching a picture book, only one with Dolby Digital and a 50' screen.

The acting, for the most part, was good. Gerald Butler, as Leonidas, tended to shout a lot - more than necessary - and was a slight bit too flippant when he was in a joking mood. However, when the warrior king was introspective and reserved, as he had to be in some key parts of the movie, he looked the part. He also looked the part when fighting, which was about half the movie. And since the atmosphere relied heavily on appearance and how you carried yourself, he did a marvelous job. Lena Headey, as the Spartan queen, does a fantastic job of showing the placid, hard front of her people's values, and the inner emotion she has to hide.

The dialogue was mediocre, in a grand fashion. Everything that was said was sweeping and huge, and every third word was either "Sparta" or "Spartan". And of the other 2 words, one was usually "Honour" or "Duty". But the script was good enough not to interfere with the action or the atmosphere, and the grandiose nature was almost needed.

In short, this movie was gorgeous, grand, and had some of the best action I've ever seen. The Persians were given a bit of a fantastic streak to make it just that much more legendary. The rest of the movie's aspects were good enough that you won't notice anything wrong with 'em, and the focused parts - namely, the camera - are absolutely awesome.

Rating: 300 9.0/10

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Departed

Well, I have a blog. Let's try a movie review!

Movie: The Departed


Having heard good things about this movie, I stuck it near the top of my "To See" list. After it won an Academy Award, well, that kinda clinched it. And man, was it worth it.

The movie offered little paradigm-changing aspects, and was nothing ground breaking. It's merit, though, rests on simply how well it was done, as well as some innovative little quirks. The acting was exceptional; both Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio captured the duality and conflicts of their characters, and Jack Nicholson was right at home as a mob king. The entire movie was surprisingly believable, the story was complex and engaging, and it dealt well with the themes of loyalty and identity. The confrontations between the characters - which happens a lot with a story of symmetrical moles - were tense and would've had me on the edge of my seat, if I weren't lying on a couch.

Some of my favourite aspects, though, were the little touches with the music and editing. The movie had a ton of quick little cuts that set up the mood and caught the eye - a scene with DiCaprio's character, frantically packing a bag, has bits of footage simply taken out, so his hand jumps around. The music, too, was often cut mid song, coinciding with a scene change, and then after a few seconds immediately continued. As the climax is approaching, the heavy music cuts out with a scene change to the police headquarters as Damon's character makes some key decisions - and half a minute later, the tension is built and the chase continues, with the music blaring.

There are a couple contentions against the movie that I can think. One is its length - you think the movie is 15 minutes in before you see the title flash - although I paid attention all the way through. Also, its focus on Irish American life and customs, though adding realism and depth, makes the film less accessible to everyone. It also did not quite deal with its theme of father/son relationships as thoroughly as one might hope - it started out strong, but started to fizzle out later on.

Rating: With everything said and done, it's been a while since a movie has held my attention so raptly for so long, and made mob dealings seem real. And the editing kicked ass. 9.5/10.