August 2nd, 2011

the light goes out

quiz time. glasses off.

in a recent paul krugman piece on the manufactured crisis, he states: "the problem with american politics right now is republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse." (rt @skygak)

last night i watched swing kids for the first time in years. the movie's a lot about compromises. and arvid (the under-appreciated frank whaley) says to peter (robert sean leonard), after having been kicked out of a nightclub for failing to compromise and play just one german song at the request of nazi officers (and then giving an impassioned anti-nazi speech): "it's not just one song. or that song. don't you see?! any time you go along with them, any time you try to help them, it just makes it easier."

are there parallels?

herr müller writes:

we must all take responsibility for what is happening to our country. if those of us who have a voice do not raise it in outrage at the treatment of our fellow human beings we will have collaborated in their doom. it is not good enough to raise these voices in our homes. many americans do this.
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    django reinhardt
let it be written. i. am an ass.

speaking of swing kids

having read my pet critic ebert's scathing review of swing kids, written in 1993 as it was released to theaters, i think the problem is that he was comparing the movie to one that he wanted to see, say inglourious basterds, and finding fault with it simply because it was not that movie, rather than reviewing the movie for what it was.

what i think he missed is that the film was meant to dramatise how average everyday people, not crusaders, respond when the systems of power they have little or no control over begin to operate in ways they know are wrong and oppressive. especially what artists and art-lovers, pacifists to boot, who simply want to live and enjoy life, do when faced with a situation where force is dominant, force used by those who are working toward evil ends. does a person succumb to the pressure to belong to the dominant group, like thomas? or just go along, like frau müller? does a person give up in the face of seemingly futile resistance, but still refuse to be corrupted, and commit suicide, like arvid? or does a person stand up and resist, even if it's unlikely to accomplish anything, like peter?

and the film also confronted the question of human evil. how can anyone who has a soul that recognizes and appreciates the pure joie de vivre of swing music act as a force of evil? yet thomas does.

sure, the film's not as gritty as it could have been and the compromises ebert mentions dilute the focus, but it's far better than his review suggests. no, it's not schindler's list, not the story of a great hero who saved many lives; it's the story of some ordinary people in an extraordinary situation and that's important too.
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    sing song swing