Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Picks, Libya Fallout and Bully Tactics

Gilda and I have been frantically trying to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films before tonight’s telecast. We did a fairly good job of it, so here are picks for the golden statues for the top awards:

Best Actor: Colin Firth of The King’s Speech

Best Actress: Natalie Portman of Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale of The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo of The Fighter

Best Director: David O. Russell of The Fighter

Best Picture: The Fighter

Crisis at the Pump: Forget about the precipitous rise in oil prices because of the upheaval in Libya and other Middle Eastern fiefdoms. We have to focus our attention on the real crisis in Arabia—how will Muslim potentates be able to import Western values if their access to Beyoncé, Usher and Mariah Carey is cut off?

One of the more interesting stories to come out of the turmoil was the report on how Muammar el-Qaddafi’s sons engaged in a game of one-upsmanship, spending countless millions to party with entertainment from the likes of the aforementioned performers ( Are Beyoncé, Usher and Mariah Carey so hard up for cash they would dignify despots with their talent? Even for a million dollars? Keep in mind, the millions they were paid did not come out of the Qaddafi family’s pockets. They were paid with money ripped off from the Libyan people.

It’s just another sad commentary on the shallowness of some of our “stars” and a value system that plays to the tune of the highest bidder.

Bully Tactics: Speaking of shallow, it’s hard to evince any sympathy for Charlie Sheen, the raging and enraged star of Two and a Half Men. He’s placed himself in the mold of Mel Gibson with his rant about show creator Chuck Lorre’s birth name, Chaim Levine. (At least in Sheen’s case the apple has fallen far from the tree. Gibson seems to be following in his father’s anti-Semitic footsteps, whereas Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen, is the darling of liberals.) One can only surmise Sheen was expressing a not so veiled anti-Semitic comment, though he denies it. It is hard to imagine any other explanation, given the long history of bigots who dredge up birth names to cast aspersions on their targets.

I admit I have occasionally watched Two and a Half Men during its eight year run. I’ve laughed at some of the humor. But I never really was comfortable with its comic take on life. I’m turned off by humor that derives its punch line from insults and offensiveness. I’m turned off by a character that extols drunkenness, conniving, insensitivity and a mostly misogynist attitude. He’s not too kind to his brother, either.

For the most part, Sheen’s character is a bully, someone who takes advantage of the weak and defenseless. I don’t know Charlie Sheen’s political orientation, but his bullying tactics on the air and in his personal life smack too much like the politics being engaged in by Republicans on the federal and state levels. I’m particularly incensed by the choices Republicans are making. For example, last year Arizona eliminated a Children’s Health Insurance Program that covered 47,000 low-income children without coverage. Another 310,000 childless couples lost Medicaid coverage under the state’s budget. In the proposed federal budget approved by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, funding would be cut for a host of programs that aid women and children ( I don’t know how many of you actually click on the links I provide, but this last one is important. After reading the editorial, I challenge anyone to explain the term “compassionate conservative” with a straight face.

I’m all for cutting wasteful programs and imposing a fair tax system. But I just cannot understand, or accept, the GOP’s stance on de-funding programs that help the disadvantaged. How can they claim to be pro-family when all they do is cut programs that help struggling families? How can they do that at the same time they support tax relief for millionaires? How do they sleep at night?