Monday, March 08, 2010

Hurt Locker Wins Best Picture; The Crazies; Iran's Ahmadenijad Becomes a 9/11 Truther

Hey! Did everyone have a good weekend? Mine was good, but a little crazy. Things that I did, but in no particular order, included hanging out with friends a couple of different times, rocking out with the band, attending Ciera's guitar recital out at La Frontera (Ciera is my little cousin), and going to see The Crazies. I also tried to watch the Oscars last night (or at least part of it), but I just fell asleep intead.
It was my mom's birthday last week and Jeff's birthday last week. So I got together with Mom and Dad to celebrate Mom's birthday, have lunch, and go see Ciera perform. And then one of the first songs that Ciera played was Let It Be, which was a song that Jeff was especially fond of. So it felt like I was celebrating both Mom and Jeff's birthday again on Saturday. It was a good thing.
In terms of The Hurt Locker winning best picture, I still tend to think that it was a really good movie, but not a great film. By this, I just mean that it was a good action/thriller movie, but I really didn't think it had anything to say that I haven't seen before in movies. I've already seen at least one movie about the Iraq War which produced a much stronger emotional and intellectual resonance for me than Hurt Locker (i.e., In the Valley of Elah), but Hurt Locker may be the most entertaining Iraq War movie that's come out so far. At any rate, Kathryn Bigelow seems really cool, and I'm glad she got an Oscar. I haven't seen all of the movies that were nominated, but I think that Bigelow was probably as deserving as any of the directors who were nominated (in a side note, I think about Kathryn Bigelow and Linda Hamilton and I realize that James Cameron really has a thing for strong, powerful women. And he's depicted a lot of strong women in his films over the years as well).
Anyway, Ryan and I were discussing the merits of the Oscars a couple of weeks ago, and I had to admit that the Oscars probably don't really do that great a job of memorializing the movie that was truly the best in any given year (I'm not really sure which movie I thought was the best in this particular year, and I didn't see all of the nominated films), but I still do think that the Oscars do a decent job of sort of catching movies that are both pretty good and which represent something that caught the attention of our cultural consciousness at the time that the movie was released. In this regard, I think that The Hurt Locker was probably a pretty good pick. There have been other movies about the Iraq War which came before Hurt Locker, but Hurt Locker was one of the first Iraq War films which presented audiences with a few questions about the nature of America's involvement in Iraq, but also contained a depiction of a highly competent, admirable hero who manages to successfully navigate his way through a lot of dangerous situations. In short, Hurt Locker was about the Iraq War, but it seemed more about giving Americans someone to cheer for (i.e., the non-policymaking soldiers who are just out there doing their best in the field) than about simply asking grim, somber questions about the war. I think American audiences were ready for that kind of a movie.

In terms of movies that I watched this weekend, I went and saw The Crazies. The Crazies is a remake of a 1973 George Romero movie of the same name (which it seems like I've seen, although for the life of me, I can't really remember it). This new remake was better than I expected, to be honest. [mild spoilers follow] At its heart, The Crazies is really just another form of zombie movie. Where The Crazies tends to stand out a bit, though, is in the fact that the movie actually doesn't put the zombies v. survivors struggle at the heart of the movie. Instead, the real horror of The Crazies comes from the struggle between the survivors and the creators of the zombie pandemic, which turns out to be, of course (spoiler, sort of), the U.S. military. The movie pulls a sort of neat trick by showing that the zombie type of infected people can be fought and dealt with, but the real horror comes from a government which has not only created the epidemic, but which ends up being utterly merciless and ruthless in containing its spread. Of course, not so subtly, by the end of the movie you're wondering which "crazies" the movie's title is really describing. Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, and Joe Anderson all put in some pretty strong performances and create believable, intelligent characters that you actually care about. Not movie of the year, perhaps, but not a bad flick. Anyway, I liked it.

And I guess it was only a matter of time. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now aligned himself with the ranks of the so-called 9/11 Truth movement, joining the ranks of a small (but possibly growing) number of Americans who have purported that the September 11th attacks were not really foreign attacks against the U.S. at all, but were, in fact, secret operations carried out by the U.S. government against its own people in order to create a false pretext justifying the invasion of Middle Eastern countries by U.S. forces (they sort of gloss over the fact that the 9/11 attacks didn't actually even justify the invasion of Iraq- the U.S. government sort of lamely admitting after the invasion that it never really had any credible evidence that tied Iraq to 9/11 in the first place).
Just for the record, I find the whole 9/11 conspiracy thing to be not only misguided, but sort of offensive. When I first read the claims of the 9/11 truth movement, I found them to be alarming, so I sort of looked them up and did a little research. it didn't take much looking before I realized that just about all of the claims that the 9/11 Truth movement were making were based on flimsy, false, or very questionable evidence that was coming from politically motivated sources (i.e., fellow conspiracy theorists) with very thin credentials and little credibility. Any evidence that was produced to refute the claims of the 9/11 Truthers was immediately brushed aside as having been produced by the same system which had produced the conspiracy (creating, of course, a system of internal logic which only chases its own tail and which is insulated to any source of outside information).
The 9/11 Truthers are determined to create a conspiracy around one of the most widely documented, well studied, best understood terrorist attacks in modern history. There have been numerous studies of the tragedy, from the standpoint of security concerns, building damage and engineering failures, aviation concerns, emergency response concerns, and so forth and so on (starting with, but definitely not limited to, the findings of the 9/11 Commission), and there have even been books published with the specific purpose of debunking the non meritorious claims of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Almost none of this has mattered to the conspiracy theorists a single bit. With a religious-like fervor, they've continued to ignore or attack any information which didn't fit into their worldview, and they've gone on to advocate positions which are built upon foundations of fabricated or misconstrued evidence.
Why do I think that 9/11 Truthers engage in conspiracy building? Well, I think there are a lot of reasons, both personal and political, but there's probably not a one-size-fits-all explanation. Some of these people had a big axe to grind for one reason or another with our government before they ever got involved with the 9/11 Truth movement. Some of these people have a natural aversion to anything that they see as authority (e.g., the government). Many have a desire to create a reality for themselves where they know with absolute certainty that they're important, patriotic heroes in a struggle to defend American citizens from their own government. And then there are those who sort of just get caught up in the movement because their family, friends, and/or loved ones are fervent believers, and social pressure ends up leading them to adopt the beliefs of those around them.
Anyway, why would I care at all what these people are saying? Well, for one thing, for some reason, people who intentionally ignore glaring factual evidence while simultaneously, rabidly advocating their own extreme viewpoints- well, these are the sort of people who just annoy me (and these conspiracy theorists are always absolutely certain of the truth behind their claims. I have to say that I'm almost never certain of anything in the same way that the 9/11 Truthers are convinced that they absolutely, clearly understand the intricate details and secrets surrounding this supposed 9/11 conspiracy). Maybe it's the lawyer in me, or more likely, I've just always been this way, and this is one the reasons I become a lawyer in the first place, but I have little tolerance for zealots who ignore evidence and who don't seem to care about the viability and credibility of the claims that they bring to the table.
Second, when people are willing to ignore reality, especially in a situation where a bunch of people have died, I think that puts us into a very dangerous situation in terms of ethical responsibility and respect for human life.
One of the situations that I've always thought was most analogous to the 9/11 Truth Movement was the case of people who seek to deny the occurrence of the Holocaust. These people claim that the Nazis didn't really been commit genocide against the Jews in the concentration camps of Europe during World War II. The Holocaust deniers claim that the Allies made up this story to justify the creation of Israel and to create false moral authority for the nation building and restructuring of countries that occurred in the wake of the war. President Ahmadenijad, who sees Islamic Iran as a natural enemy of Jewish Israel, has long been known to be a very public holocaust denier. Ahmadenijad thinks that by denying the Holocaust, he can essentially undermine the moral justification for the creation of Israel following World War II (Israel having been created on formerly Palestinian land as a new homeland for Jewsish Holocaust victims and as bit of indirect punishment against the Palestinians for siding with the Germans in WWII). As with 9/11 Truthers, Holocaust deniers have no problem ignoring photographs, documentary evidence, and eyewitness testimony while using mischaracterized and fictitious "evidence" of their own to support their claims.
The Holocaust deniers, mostly for reasons related to politics, religion, and ethnic pride, have no problem turning a willfully blind eye toward genocide and steadfastly refusing to accept any lessons that might have been paid for through the sacrifice of millions of murdered Jews.
And I guess that's the same reason the 9/11 Truth movement bugs me. It seems not only disrespectful, but almost obscene to refuse to learn anything from the tragedy of 9/11. I'm not sure what we can learn from such a tragedy, but I know that the first step in learning anything from it is to acknowledge how and why it actually happened. I just think we owe it to the thousands of people who died to at least try to understand how and why the 9/11 attacks happened. Hopefully we can use this knowledge to prevent the same thing from happening again, but at the very least, it seems like we at least owe victims a historical record which is free from the politically and personally motivated distortions of a bunch of conspiracy theorists.
It just seems like it's hard enough for us to learn the lessons of history and to pay proper respect to victims of events like this without people using those events to fabricate fictional storylines that they can be at the center of (as the heroes who are railing to counter this fictitious conspiracy).
And now we can add this new development to the list of reasons to be annoyed with conspiracy theorists- they're writing the political script for crazy political despots who seek to absolve our enemies of any culpability for the atrocious crimes that they've committed against us.
It's bad enough that we sort of lashed out and invaded a country that really had nothing to do with 9/11 (i.e., Iraq) in its aftermath, but now Ahmadenijad and the Truthers would create the fiction that we were never even really attacked by an outside force in the first place.
Hey, conspiracy theorists! When you've got Mahmoud Ahmadenijad in your corner- a man who violently oppresses his own people, advocates the destruction of Israel, and denies that the holocaust ever happened (mostly so he can justify a unilateral strike against Israel)- well, when you've got a man like that in your corner, you might want to start questioning exactly what kind of corner you've painted yourself into in the first place....

There are more than enough bad things out there that are actually happening. There are plenty of very questionable things that the U.S. government has done and continues to do to foreigners and its own citizens without having to fabricate a conspiracy theory (renditions? domestic wiretaps? torture? the near total suspension of civil rights as provided by The Patriot Act? etc.). I don't know why these conspiracy theorists can't go pick a legitimate cause and put their time and energy into something that's grounded in reality.

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