The Oscars & The NCAA

But the easiest way to demonstrate relevance would have been to hand major trophies to two of the year’s most-loved films: Black Panther and A Star Is Born. When it came time for the two biggest awards of the evening, those movies were nowhere to be found.

This from writer David Sims, hits on the continuous ambiguity that is the Oscars. It is hard to know who the awards are for, and why certain movies continue to be selected in spite of the complaints that are made against them. I have not watched Green Book, so in a sense I probably do not get to complain. Regardless, it is still a confusing pick considering the complaints  from the Shirley family and the other films that came out this year. Free Solo, Roma, Black Panther, First Reformed, Minding The Gap and others all seemed to be lost on the academy. The Oscars continue to mystify me, as this year they tried to branch out and show that they were changing when in the end they really were not that different.

How valuable is an Oscar? Well in terms of money it seems to help a great deal, however its ability to reward merit is slightly skewed. When looking at the Oscars, it is important to remember that the voters are a specific group of people who have specific tastes. Not everyone has those tastes and that is okay. If you do not like the movies that get selected, ignore the show. Many terrific people (Alfred Hitchcock) and movies (reference the list) never get the recognition they deserve.

Justice demands the removal of artificial barriers to fair compensation. Here’s another one: Just organizations do not reap billions of dollars from mainly poor kids and then grant them fewer rights and more obligations than their peers.

This article from David French points to something I highlighted in a Michigan Review Article last year. After Zion Williamson went down with another knee injury, I continue to struggle to see how and why the NCAA should be allowed to function the way it is.

The athletes are not fairly compensated for the revenue they produce, and they cannot even work minimum wage paying jobs that any other college student would be able to if not for NCAA rules. I am fine with these athletes not being professionals, so long as they are also not barred from competing professionally whenever they want. The idea that they have to spend years in college to develop is absurd. Professional teams should be responsible for development academies, not colleges who should focus on academia and future employment.

 

AEI Conference Reflection & Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The AEI conference was very enlightening, as I got to hear from many fascinating speakers regarding political discourse as well as where much of the best policy research is leaning towards. There was a fascinating dialogue between current AEI President Arthur Brooks and Professor John A. Powell that did a great job of outlining how we can have a political discussion, which is vital for more people to here.

Some panels were better than others but another panel that stood out was a panel on the American World Order and a career panel were both very helpful for young college students. It created for fascinating thought and discussion which I appreciated immensely.

Much of what the conference suffered from was repetition, and in constant mentioning of the ideas that we are “divided” and that we need to find the “humanity” in others. This is not news to people who read this blog and to the people who go these conferences, but I recognize the value of mentioning it and making sure people do not forget it.

Also the timing for this conference could not have been worse. Right in the middle of midterms across the country in Berkeley put unnecessary stress on me and many others, This problem could have been avoided with more conferences or having it earlier in the semester. That aside, it was a great conference and I highly encourage those of you who know nothing about Arthur Brooks or AEI to watch his movie The Pursuit when it comes out on Netflix.

I can’t say that I regret any of my actions. In many ways this has been the best time of my life.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Melissa McCarthy has shown a tendency to play one-off comedic characters, which makes her role in this film that much more surprising. She does an amazing job of giving Lee Israel humanity and pain, allowing for us to sympathize with a serial forger. This movie is shockingly melancholic at times, and sometimes that works to its detriment. Regardless, McCarthy is a stand out and this film has a fascinating character for a fascinating story. 8.5/10

 

The Old Man & The Gun, A Simple Favor, and Ezra Klein vs. Andrew Sullivan

I was on a long plane ride this morning so naturally I watched movies.

The Old Man & The Gun – Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek are great, as this film takes on a fascinating life of its own. It reminded me a lot of No End In Sight, another love story with a charming bank robber. Robert Redford’s Forest Tucker is more entertaining and more fun than Clooney was in No End in Sight, and his old man charm create for some hysterical moments as people get robbed without even knowing it. My one problem with this film is that it seems to be content with allowing these two great leads to just be themselves. While that is in many ways a strength there I would have appreciated more risk in making this film. Regardless, this is a fun movie to see, especially if you are looking for a fun, relaxing, and charming film. 8/10

A Simple Favor – Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively make this movie better than it has any right to be, as there characters and personalities play off of each other in exciting and tantalizing ways. Unfortunately, much of the plot becomes confusing and downright obscure, as it tries to hard to sub-verse the genre of “gone missing” films. It has moments of great humor and insight, but it just lacks clarity. Worthwhile for the two leads, but other than that I would skip. 6/10

Also Ezra Klein and Andrew Sullivan duel it out on this fascinating podcast, and it is absolutely worth a listen, especially if you want to see where political debate is heading. I think both make good points, but I generally side with Sullivan. That being said, he at times makes straw-men of views that fall apart, and Klein rightly points this out. Nevertheless, it is a very interesting interview, and one I highly recommend.

Game of Thrones Quote #5 & Robert Sapolsky

The following post contains spoilers from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire.

It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love (A Storm of Swords, 776).

Sansa grew up singing the songs of her grandmother and believing that a beautiful prince would sweep her off her feet and marry her. Now, through death and a failed marriage, she has come to realize that in this world, no one will want her for who she is. This is a bitter pill to watch her swallow, and her character arc makes it all the more moving.

Throughout the first book A Game of Thrones, it was really hard to care about Sansa’s complaints. Her constant pettiness and ignorance was frustrating to read, and each time she complained I found it to be insufferable. However, her experiences have caused her to grow immensely, and in many ways she is one of the strongest characters in the story. She refused to let the horrible men in her life take away what mattered to her, and she remained dignified throughout.

Now it is depressing to read her realization of what she is and how she is viewed by others. She will never be as happy as those songs, but in a sense she is a better person because of it. Sansa was a character in desperate need of a wake up call, but this feels to harsh to for anyone to deal with.

We have been alluding away at the ideal of the self with recent scientific discoveries.

While I must admit I have not read a book by Robert Sapolsky, his arguments made on a few podcasts about why free will is an illusion are incredibly intriguing. My favorite of these was on an episode of Radiolab, in which the crew reexamined a case of someone who changed after a brain surgery. It is a genuinely shocking story and I highly encourage everyone to listen to it.

Most recently, he had an interview with Ezra Klein, in which he discusses stress and how it should be seen as a fault in machinery not as in a fault of the user. It is seriously fascinating stuff.

I guess it intrigues me because the narrative seems to be subject to so much abuse. Why do my actions matter if they are all pre-determined or not controlled by me? It is certainly reasonable to believe people would use this narrative to run amok, claiming that none of this is in fact their fault. However, I think this explanation could help in a lot of ways as well. I was born with a language learning disorder, and I blamed myself for my faults. It took me time to figure out that my handwriting was bad not because of a fault of my own, but because I had an impairment, that my interactions could feel awkward because of my ability to comprehend.

How then can we attempt to make a balanced explanation while also valuing the sanctity of humans themselves? It is a tough task, but I tend to think we should try to explain why we have certain behaviors and not act as though we are sole contributors to our own faults. Anyway, I hope to read his books at some point and have more to say on the subject!

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs & Howard Schultz

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – In a movie that is anthological in structure, some stories work better than others. That being said, there are a lot of very fun stories, full of the crudeness of man the Coen Brothers are known for. Liam Neeson and James Franco’s respective stories both standout, and the ending is one that will surely leave when you stop watching. This is one of those movies that I liked the more I thought about it afterwards, but for me it still does not live up to its potential. The breaking up of the stories allows for some creativity, but also takes away from the film’s success. It is worth watching but that unfortunately takes away from the score. 8/10

Finally, the hallmark of fanatical centrism is the determination to see America’s left and right as equally extreme, no matter what they actually propose.

I feel a little silly arguing with this piece, as Paul Krugman has accomplished more in Economics than I can hope to accomplish in any other field. That being said, his characterization of “radical centrism” and Howard Schultz’s thought process are fairly disappointing in my view, and lend itself to some criticism.

I do not think that Krugman is being crazy when he calls out “centrists”. There is absolutely a growing group of people (albeit still very small in comparison to those on the political extremes) who hate everything about party politics. These people use terms like “identity politics” and “virtue signaling” to describe the behavior of these other sides, rather than try to engage in what they are trying to say. While there are plenty who I seriously enjoy who feel this way and there are those who have genuine reasons to interpret both sides in this light (Sam Harris, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan, etc.) there are those who most likely do not know what they are talking about in the hopes of appealing to everyone (“The Podcast bros“).

However, his ultimate argument is wrong. The idea that Howard Schultz’s consideration of running is somehow doing undue harm to our system is slightly absurd. To me, rather than telling Schultz he is apart of a dangerous American ideology, maybe try to figure out what he is appealing to that maybe people who would vote for him like. That would be significantly more productive than yelling at him to take a seat and run within the system. People can run for President, and while if I were him I would not run, he has the money and power to make that choice himself. He may be a welcome change to the two-party elections of old, and even if he is not a genuinely good politician, at least he can add an option.

Also here is a piece from Bret Stephens on the subject that is much better than Krugman’s.