Mike Kueber's Blog

February 26, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies #142 – Laggies, The Good Lie, About Time, Amores Perros, The Judge, and Whiplash

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:40 am

Laggies (2014) is a romantic comedy set in Seattle involving a slacker (Keira Knightley). Part of her problem is professional (she is trained as a counselor, but doesn’t feel that is her calling) and part of it is personal (she has a clique of life-time friends, but those friends don’t really speak on her wavelength). Her boyfriend/fiancé (Mark Webber) seems OK, but he is as close to the clique as he is to her.

After a friend’s wedding, Keira’s boyfriend proposes, and because she cannot think of a reason to say no, she accepts. But she immediately gets cold feet and vanishes for a week while pretending to attend an out-of-town career-development seminar. In fact, she stays in town and crashes with a high-school girl she recently befriended. The girl happens to have a cool, divorced dad/lawyer (Sam Rockwell).

The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 69%, but the audience approval was only 53%. Parts of the storyline was forced and implausible, and for too long it was unclear which man was the better catch, but in the end, Keira seems to have figured it out. I think the critics got it right and I give the movie three stars out of four.

Incidentally, regarding the title, Wikipedia says:

  • The directors have explained that choosing the title “Laggies” was a complex decision. Shelton revealed that she had never heard of the term laggies before making the film, but screenwriter Andrea Seigel insisted it was a common term for adult slackers. As the film was made, Shelton realized that no one except Seigel had heard of laggies before. However, the title stuck, although in the UK the film was released as Say When.

Put me in Seigel’s camp. I don’t specifically recall using the term “laggie,” but its meaning seems obvious. While the reference to “adult slacker” is fine, I think it more closely is associated with the term, laggard.

The Good Lie (2014) is a critically-acclaimed movie, but it is given short shrift by Wikipedia. The popular online source of information describes the movie’s plot as follows:

  • Four young Sudanese refugees (known as Lost Boys of Sudan) are helped by Carrie Davis, a brash American woman after they win a lottery for relocation to the United States.”

Even the Netflix wrapper contains a lengthier summary:

  • In this fact-based drama, a young Sudanese War refugee wins a lottery that allows him to start life anew in the United States. But adapting to his new home presents challenges — both for the ‘lost boy’ and for the American woman who’s helping him.”

Amazingly, the Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 87% and its audience at 83%, but its review of the movie provides a clue for these numbers:

  • The Good Lie sacrifices real-life nuance in order to turn its true story into a Hollywood production, but the results still add up to a compelling, well-acted, and deeply moving drama.”

In other words, the movie is a sappy, hokey, feel-good film. I almost stopped watching after 15 minutes because the storyline was so unrealistic, but by the end I couldn’t help rooting for these immigrants because of their values and their humility. Reese Witherspoon stars, but the movie is not about her; it is about the Lost Boys of Sudan. I give it two and a half stars out of four.

About Time (2013) is a British movie about a guy, dorky Domhnall Gleeson, who learns at age 21 that he can travel back in time and revise the way he behaved in the past. It is a trait that all his male ancestors also possessed. Being a dork, Gleeson uses this newly discovered ability to have numerous do-overs of romantic encounters, most especially with the love of his life, played by Rachel McAdams. The Rotten Tomato critics approve the movie at 69%, but the audience is more favorable at 81%. I suspect the audience loves the movie because of a standard successful formula of matching an ordinary, unassuming guy (Gleeson) with a beautiful, but warm and approachable woman (McAdams) – e.g., Something About Mary. I love the movie because of the aforementioned romance, but also because it prompts the viewer to think about what is important in life. I give it three and a half stars out of four.

Birdman won the Best Movie Oscar last week, and its director, Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inirritu, also won the Best Director Oscar. While waiting for Birdman to become available on Netflix, I decided to examine Inirritu’s pedigree.

He made his directorial start with his so-called trilogy of death, starting with Amores Perror (Love is a Bitch) in 2001. Amores is available on Netflix streaming. I was encouraged by the film’s Rotten Tomato ratings, 94% and 92% respectively, and I was not disappointed by the bit-too-long, triptych movie (153 minutes).

It is exactly what I would expect from someone who will eventually win an Oscar for Best Director – dark characters and complicated storyline. The triptych format allows three strata of urban Mexican life to be interwoven around the concept of personal loyalty. I give it only a solid three stars instead of better because I am not a big fan of dark films.

The Judge (2014) is a mix between a crime mystery, courtroom drama, and a character study of an estranged, successful son (Robert Downey, Jr.) trying to make up with his old, cantankerous father (Robert Duvall). Before watching the movie, I told a friend that I don’t enjoy Downey movies because I consider him to be wimpy, like James Spader, but I was wrong. He has a line in the movie accusing his brothers of being MIA from the queue when they were born that handed out testicles; Downey obviously maintained his place in said line.

The movie received mixed reviews from critics (47%), but the audience was much more favorable (73%). Count me with the audience. Both of the lead actors play flawed characters, but they are likeable. I’m not even sure why I liked Downey so much because he has so many unfavorable characteristics. Further, things have happened in his earlier life that seem irredeemable, such as losing his wife because of neglect, permanently injuring his brother’s major-league baseball prospects because of a car accident while driving high, and having his estranged saintly mother die before meeting her five-year-old granddaughter. No fairy-tale ending here. I give it three stars out of four.

Whiplash (2014) is about a kid (Miles Teller) attending a music college and being pushed by an intense taskmaster (J.K. Simmons). The taskmaster is reminiscent of tennis or gymnastic teachers who have well-documented reputations for cruelty in trying to produce exceptionally skilled performers. The movie was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and 95% of the Rotten Tomato critics like it. The audience was even more supportive at 96%.

Me – not so much. Simmons (Dr. Skoda on Law & Order) is excellent and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, but Teller is thoroughly dislikeable and unsympathetic as an arrogant, insecure kid raised by a pusillanimous, insecure dad played by Paul Reiser. I give the movie only one and a half stars out of four.

February 25, 2015

Bill O’Reilly vis-à-vis Brian Williams

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 7:44 pm
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If you depend on FOX News for your news, you might be under the impression that Bill O’Reilly has successfully defended himself against liberal attempts to paint him with the same broad brush that took down Brian Williams. As Bernard McGuirk stated this morning on Imus in the Morning, Williams was guilty of the mortal sin of “stolen valor,” whereas O’Reilly had shown unquestionably that his claims of war-zone reporting had not been embellished.

But fortunately, I don’t get all my news from FOX. I also get news from the NT Times, and the Times this morning included an article on O’Reilly suggesting that the charges of “self-aggrandizing rhetoric” by this “professional provocateur…. have since been substantiated by other journalists in Argentina at the time.”

My inclination is to agree with the Times. O’Reilly often brags about covering “war zones,” including the Falklands war zone in the early 80s. Well, the only Falklands war hostilities occurred on or near the islands, not 1,000 miles away in Buenos Aires. O’Reilly admits that he didn’t report from the Falklands because only one reporter was allowed on the Islands, and that reporter wasn’t him.  But somehow O’Reilly want to defend his “war zone” claim by arguing that the war was reported by all but one reporter from Buenos Aires. The response to that argument is that only one reporter, then, gets to claim war-zone reporting on his resume.

O’Reilly tries to work his way around this obstacle by discussing the dangerous post-war rioting in Buenos Aires. That’s fine if O’Reilly wants to claim riot reporting, but not war reporting. The riots in Buenos Aires were of local Argentinians protesting against their government for losing the war in the Falklands. Domestic riots do not qualify for war zones.

And getting back to McGuirk’s comment about Williams’s “stolen valor,” I fail to see any meaningful distinction between Williams falsely claiming his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and O’Reilly falsely claiming that he reported from a war zone. Both are suggesting front-line activity that never happened.

The Times article also pointed out fairly why O’Reilly’s faux pas will not likely lead to his demise, like Williams’s did:

  • There are other differences between the two controversies. The incident at the center of Mr. O’Reilly’s occurred more than 30 years ago; Mr. Williams’s happened in 2003. And his accusers are journalists, not military veterans as they were in Mr. Williams’s case. But the most meaningful point of distinction — and the reason Mr. O’Reilly’s job is almost certainly safe — is that he is not an anchorman, with all of the cultural weight that title carries.”

I agree. Even O’Reilly’s fans know that he is a braggart with an outsize ego. Consistent with that reputation is his oft-mentioned claim of being a Harvard man who grew up in Levittown. But while reading his Wikipedia bio, I learned that is not really true. Although O’Reilly, grew up in Levittown, he went to college at Marist, and then after a few years of teaching, he earned a Masters at Boston University. And finally, more 20 years later and after becoming a VIP, he obtained a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard.

So much for the implication that this poor Irish kid from Levittown was brilliant enough to get into Harvard. As we used to say back in North Dakota, he seems to be a legend in his own mind.

February 23, 2015

Kristof softens his approach to white-man privilege

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 9:57 pm
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NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has written ad nauseam about white privilege. Yesterday’s column expanded the topic to white-man privilege.  But Kristof’s tone appears to be softening. Instead of characterizing white men as evil, he know considers the possibility that they are merely stupid:

  • White men sometimes feel besieged and baffled by these suggestions of systematic advantage. When I wrote a series last year, ‘When Whites Just Don’t Get It,’ the reaction from white men was often indignant: It’s an equal playing field now! Get off our case! Yet the evidence is overwhelming that unconscious bias remains widespread in ways that systematically benefit both whites and men. So white men get a double dividend, a payoff from both racial and gender biases. It’s not that we white men are intentionally doing anything wrong, but we do have a penchant for obliviousness about the way we are beneficiaries of systematic unfairness. Maybe that’s because in a race, it’s easy not to notice a tailwind, and white men often go through life with a tailwind, while women and people of color must push against a headwind.”

A few months ago, I used the headwind/tailwind analogy with a friend during a white-privilege discussion on Facebook, and thought perhaps I had invented it. Now I’m thinking that if Kristof and I both thought of it, someone else probably thought of it before us. You think?

Regarding unconscious bias, who can argue against that? I’ve blogged often about the plethora of studies showing that our brains operate in a certain way, without regard to higher-level thinking. Even Kristof admits there’s not a lot you can do about it beyond being aware of it:

  • So, come on, white men! Let’s just acknowledge that we’re all flawed, biased and sometimes irrational, and that we can do more to resist unconscious bias. That means trying not to hire people just because they look like us, avoiding telling a young girl she’s ‘beautiful’ while her brother is ‘smart.’ It means acknowledging systematic bias as a step toward correcting it.”

Incidentally, a friend told me this weekend that he was recently involved in a road-rage incident in which the tough guy followed him into an HEB parking lot. My friend nonchalantly got out of his car without worry after noticing that the guy was driving a late-model Mercedes. Based on that information, he correctly presumed the guy was not going to assault him.

If the guy had been driving a beat-up car, my friend would probably still be driving.

Paul Krugman gets serious

Filed under: Economics — Mike Kueber @ 9:18 pm
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When I ran for public office a few years ago, I argued that there were two dominant problems in America that needed to be addressed:

  1. Growing debt.
  2. Growing economic inequality

My proposed answers were (1) government austerity, and (2) education. Today in his column, NY Times columnist Paul Krugman mocked both me and my positions:

  • “Regular readers know that I sometimes mock ‘very serious people’ — politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.”
  • “The prime example of recent years was, of course, Bowles-Simpsonism — the diversion of elite discourse away from the ongoing tragedy of high unemployment and into the supposedly crucial issue of how, exactly, we will pay for social insurance programs a couple of decades from now. That particular obsession, I’m happy to say, seems to be on the wane. But my sense is that there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education.”

Regarding inequality, Krugman suggests that instead of being distracted by education issues, government efforts for greater equality should focus on increasing taxes on the rich, increasing benefits (so-called investments), and thing like increasing the minimum age and facilitating more unionization.

Since reading Piketty’s book on Capital in the 21st Century, I have revised my inequality thinking in favor of more structural reforms such as what Krugman is suggesting. Free-market capitalism needs to be tweaked to produce the results that we as a country want. Results, not economic philosophy, have to be the ultimate objective.

Piketty’s book also convinced me that the most effective way of dealing with our national debt is not austerity, as Europe has tried, but rather to grow our way out – i.e., restraining the growth of spending.  But I’m not sure Bowles-Simpson equated to austerity.

Also, one mocking statement by Krugman really sticks in the craw of this life-long insurance guy:

  • “… the supposedly crucial issue of how, exactly, we will pay for social insurance programs a couple of decades from now.”


As an insurance guy, I think it is silly not to worry about how you are going to pay for insurance obligations (Social Security, Medicare) that come due two decades from now

Sunday morning talk shows

Filed under: Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:21 pm
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There was a time when I was fascinated by the Sunday morning talk shows. Indeed, I continue to routinely record them, but rarely bother to actually view them. My disenchantment with the Sunday shows makes me a bit like recently deceased reporter Bob Simon, as revealed last night on the memorial edition of 60 Minutes. During one of the Simon clips, he said that the worst 18 months of his almost 50-year career was an assignment spent in Washington, D.C. with those petty, egotistical politicians. Like Simon, I have grown tired of their preening and posturing.

Yesterday, however, I watched because I was interested in their treatment of the Giuliani story questioning President Obama’s love of America. The first show to come on was Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Todd was disgusted with the media’s extensive coverage of the story, so naturally he led his show by discussing the too-extensive coverage. Two people, both conservatives, made interesting points:

  • Michael Gerson, a former Bush-43 speechwriter and currently a columnist for the Washington Post, suggested that Republicans like Giuliani and Scott Walker have a problem communicating with the outside world after living and thriving in a world of right-wingers for so long. I’ve got that same problem myself. When I’m spending time mostly with right-wingers, my thoughts and voice get a certain edge that is smoothed out when I’m around nonpartisans. The problem is that Giuliani was at a Walker fundraiser when he made his comments, and there is an even stronger tendency there to cater to the audience. In a way, that is almost analogous to Brian Williams exaggerating to please his audience.
  • Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor and GOP national chairman echoed Gerson’s Pollyannaish comment about reaching for the middle instead of preaching your base, but also did a masterful job of refuting Chuck Todd’s suggestion that questioning the sincerity of President Obama’s Christianity had anything to do with race:
    • Todd – “This is how it comes across to some folks when there is a debate about this. Why is it that Barack Obama, the first African-American president, had questions about his religion pop up in the political conversation and didn’t happen to Bill Clinton, didn’t happen to George W. Bush. That’s a lot of his supporters hear that and think, this has some racial overtone. What do you say to that?”
    • Barbour – “I don’t know that race has anything to do with it. I would bet a higher percentage of African-Americans in the United States are Christians than of whites. I mean, of course, I come from a place where I’m very familiar with that. Very many religious leaders, very powerful leaders in the black community of my state are good Christians. So I don’t get the race question about Christianity.”
    • Todd – “I understand. I’m telling you how other people hear it.”

If I were Barbour, I would have added that I recall President Reagan being attacked over the sincerity of his Christianity because he rarely attended Sunday services.  But the crux of the matter is that any critic of President Obama must be prepared to be called a racist.

February 21, 2015

Does President Obama love America?

Filed under: Culture,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:21 pm
Tags: , , , ,



Rudy Giuliani is catching a lot of liberal flack for suggesting that President Obama doesn’t love America. According to a Politico story, Giuliani said the following at a private fundraiser in NYC for Wisc. Governor Scott Walker:

  • I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

(Incidentally, private fundraisers are proving to be a boon for political journalism. That is where Romney talked about the 47% and Obama talked about people clinging to their guns and religion.)

Of course, Giuliani is not especially relevant nowadays, so the liberal media are using his comments to attack the candidacy of Governor Walker, who, according to the Washington Post, sat spinelessly at the fundraiser where the calumny was spoken.

The NY Times in a follow-up interview had Giuliani respond to charges that he was prejudiced:

  • Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

(The Times outrageously titled this article, “Giuliani: Obama Had a White Mother, So I’m Not a Racist.”  Talk about taking something out of context.)

Giuliani also challenged reporters to find examples of Mr. Obama expressing love for his country:

  • I’m happy for him to give a speech where he talks about what’s good about America and doesn’t include all the criticism…. I want an American president to raise our spirits again, like a Ronald Reagan…. What I don’t find with Obama — this will get me in more trouble again — is a really deep knowledge of history. I think it’s a dilettante’s knowledge of history.”

Not surprisingly, this challenge has gone unanswered.

It’s impossible to know what is in someone’s heart, and Christians are frequently enjoined from judging others (judge not, lest ye be judged), but I think politics are different. Voters must make judgments in choosing who to follow.

I blogged previously about President Obama, American exceptionalism, and patriotism, and I believe Giuliana’s charge is essentially the same thing as those earlier charges that President Obama didn’t believe in American exceptionalism, or that he wasn’t patriotic because he refused to wear a flag in his lapel, or that Michelle Obama in 2008 responded to her husband’s electoral success by saying, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

Patriotism or love of country are not “all or nothing” things. Rather, they are continuums. I believe that cosmopolitan progressives are generally not as far on the continuum of patriotic love as are provincial conservatives. And President Obama is by far the most cosmopolitan progressive ever elected president of the United States.

Rudy is probably thinking, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

February 20, 2015

Evaluating art

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Mike Kueber @ 4:59 pm
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When I was a kid, George C. Scott refused to accept an Oscar for his role in Patton. Marlon Brando did something similar a couple of years later for his role in The Godfather. Both men refused to treat acting like a sporting contest, with winners and losers.

Today I was reminded of that issue when I read an article in the NY Times regarding the prospects of American Sniper winning the best-picture Oscar.  According to the article, a huge plurality of Americans (42%) think the movie should be awarded the Oscar, with the next highest movie at only 12%. This dominance of American Sniper was also reflected at the box office, where it had grossed more than the combined gross of the other seven nominated film. Despite this support, the article pointed out that sophisticated betting prognosticators give American Sniper less than a 1% chance of winning the best-picture Oscar.

So, how can the American people evaluate a movie so dramatically different than those in the movie industry, i.e., the Oscar voters?

The same sort of issue arose last week when Kanye West voiced his disappointment that the best-album Grammy went to Beck instead of Kanye’s favorite, Beyoncé. According to West, “Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé.”

When I first heard Kanye’s comment, I thought that it was silly to suggest that one person’s music is objectively better than someone else’s, especially when you are dealing with different genres. But that is essentially what an Academy Award does.

Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” But does one person’s perception of beauty or emotion power mean more than another’s?

Americans, it seems, are inclined to grant outsize authority to Academy or Grammy voters, with their elitism/expert background seen as a good thing. That is probably why the People’s Choice awards, based on mass popularity, have never caught on.

But one of the greatest singers of all-time, Elvis Presley, never won a major Grammy, which is no doubt a travesty, and the appropriate response is to refer to the title of Elvis’s 1959 album, “50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong.”

February 11, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies #141 – Force Majeure and Brian Williams, plus Gone Girl

Force Majeure (2014) is a Swedish drama about an idyllic family of four vacationing at a ski resort when they are frightened by a controlled avalanche that comes too close to them on a restaurant patio. While everyone on the patio runs for cover, the husband inexplicably joins them while abandoning his wife and two kids. When the snow dust settles, the husband has to deal with the consequences of his action. I watched Force Majeure last night, just as I was hearing about Brian Williams getting suspended for six months, and I couldn’t help feeling the similarity. Although the actions of the husband and Brian Williams are dramatically different, they both are life changing and almost impossible to live down.

The Rotten Tomato critics loved Force Majeure at 93% and the audience enjoyed it at 79%. Me, not so much. In the movie, the husband’s brother defended him based on innate survival instinct, but I can’t believe that any parent would abandon their child during a life-threatening emergency. Brian Williams’s conduct, by contrast, is not surprising at all in our fame-obsessed culture.  I give the movie only one and a half stars out of four.

Gone Girl (2014) is a psychological thriller about a guy (Ben Affleck) who becomes the leading suspect in his wife’s (Rosamund Pike from Pride & Prejudice fame) disappearance. I’m not usually a fan of this genre, especially when the star (Affleck) is an unlikeable slacker/loser. But Pike is so good that she carries the show. She reminds me of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and although this movie isn’t as good as that classic, I still give it three and a half stars out of four, which is pretty consistent with the Rotten Tomato critics score of 88% and its audience score of 88%, also.

Scott Walker – future president?

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:29 pm

About a year ago, I blogged about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s new book, called Unintimidated. In my blog I suggested that, although Walker appears competent, he comes across as simple-minded and lacking in charisma. Since that time, Walker’s presidential prospects have improved, and he is widely considered to be the leading Republican contender along with Jeb Bush.

As a leading conservative contender, you might that the liberal press would start attacking him, and you would be correct. Today’s Washington Post contained a long expose on Walker’s college and early post-college years. Two items that I found most interesting were:

  1. Walker never earned a degree and was apparently a mediocre student. Through the years, I’ve notice that politicians rarely release their college transcripts, and I assume this reluctance is based on poor performance in college. Why do people who do well in politics often fail to have the skillset needed to do well in college?
  2. Walker was a campus politician. Politicians often claim to be interested in public service (Walker does), but their history reveals that they pursue political positions, not because of public service (what possible public service is involved in student government?), but because it satisfies their ego. Although I try to avoid voting for politicians who start their career in high school or college, it is not easy to find candidates who didn’t start that early.

February 7, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies #140 – The Remains of the Day, The Edge of Love, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:08 pm
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The Remains of the Day (1993) made it to my queue partly because of I’ve become fascinated with life in historical England. But the British aristocracy has not always caught my fancy.  In fact, I recently re-watched Atonement, and noticed that I wrote the following about it in this blog more than two years ago:

  • Early on, I didn’t enjoy the movie because it involved the British aristocracy, a subject that doesn’t interest me much.”

Oh, how things have changed for me since stumbling across Pride & Prejudice ((2005). Like Atonement, The Remains of the Day is set in England from pre-WWII to post-WWII. But unlike many of the British-aristocracy movies, this one does not deal with class-focused romance and marriage; rather, it concerns an emotionally repressed butler, the estimable Anthony Hopkins and his loyal subordinate, housekeeper Emma Thompson. Both actors, along with the film, were nominated for Oscars, but did not win. The Rotten Tomato critics loved the movie at 97% and the audience was almost as favorable at 90%. I agree with the audience and give it three and a half stars out of four. The two leading characters are wonderfully interesting and the backdrop of an inept aristocracy in over its head in dealing with Germany and Hitler is fascinating.

The Edge of Love (2008) is described in a Rotten Tomatoes summary as a “beautifully drawn love story explores the bohemian underworld of war-torn London and the intimate complexities of two young couples whose lives and loves become dangerously intertwined.” Rubbish! Although Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, with his love triangle, can fairly be described as bohemian (i.e., a person who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer), there is no “beautifully drawn” love story here. Thomas, as played by Matthew Rhys, is an unprincipled, no-account drunk, and his wife, as played by Sienna Miller (now in American Sniper), is no better. Keira Knightly completes the triangle as Thomas’s childhood sweetheart who remains attracted to his charming, fun-loving ways despite getting married to an earnest, boring army officer. The person most responsible for this film’s disappointment is Keira’s mom, Sharman MacDonald, who wrote the script. As written, none of the characters are the least attractive or sympathetic and their evolving personalities are not credible. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 34% and the audience is only marginally better at 43%. I think they were both too generous and I give the film only one star out of four.

By contrast, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) has a likeable bohemian, played by Keira Knightley, and an even more likeable insurance guy, played by Steven Carell. The story occurs over the 21 days that mankind has to live after learning that a “Deep Impact” attempt to save the world had failed. During that time, new friends Knightley and Carell join forces to find his childhood sweetheart and her family. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 56%, and the audience similarly at 52%. Although the film’s storyline is sometimes disjointed, these are two remarkable characters and their blossoming relationship are so agreeable. Thus, I disagree completely with the Tomato critics and give the movie three and a half stars out of four.