Feel like this kind of hits all the bases. Ultrasmarmy cultural conservatives making sweeping arguments when they even admit that they have no knowledge of the details; dour, lecturing feminists who are so desperate to be relevant that they will toss out any and all liberal values to make their point; some Democratic politician openly defending censorship because that’s what they were doing back then. Man was this country in a bad place back then. Oh, and a metric ton of unproven assertions trotted out as fact, mainly about youth violence, that somehow doesn’t mention all those guns lying around. This really has it all!

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Here’s the whole movie for you freeloaders out there:

The Plot: Whales!

What Doesn’t Work: This is one of the weirdest things ever to be inserted into a Star Trek movie, or any mainstream movie:

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It’s really weird that a Star Trek movie had time for several minutes of an experimental short film in the middle of it. On the one hand it’s different and strange in a way that some people like. On the other, for an experimental film, it’s pretty simple to understand and decode. Why go avant-garde if you’re going to keep it so simple? It’s ultimately sort of a shallow gesture, trying to give people a feeling of unearned sophistication. After a few watches for me it’s just, why is this here? Aside from Leonard Nimoy liking it, I have no idea.

The soundtrack also kind of sucks. Worst one in the original batch of films, and the lack of either James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith as a composer is felt here. I particularly dislike the bit of jazzy ’80s music when they’re first walking the streets of San Francisco, it jars more and more as I watch the film. There’s too much whimsy here and elsewhere, and while it doesn’t kill the humor, it’s just kind of precious and annoying. It’s what I imagine a bad Eddie Murphy movie from the era would be soundtracked to, like Best Defense, perhaps.

Also, is Sarek really such a big deal that he can walk into any room he pleases? Actually, I take it back. I’m not going to be the one to tell him no.

What Does Work: Star Trek is not often that great at comedy. This is an exception. The middle part of the film finds some great fish-out-of-water gags without making “modern” San Francisco seem unrealistically crazy. I actually quite like its take on mid-80s SF, what with its blue collar feel, checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurants, furious cab drivers, one last punk rocker, passive-aggressive doctors, and beautiful idealists. Quite a lot has changed, but it feels pretty credible as a snapshot of the time, if a bit less scuzzy than it actually was.

I guess it’s well-known that Eddie Murphy was supposed to play this role. I like a lot of Eddie Murphy’s output during this era but I think it would have been a bad move, because I’m not sure they would have been able to resist overdoing it and having him basically do his act for the movie. And while the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies did have him mixing drama and comedy quite well, there’s no way it wouldn’t have been distracting stunt-casting, with Murphy probably taking over the movie. Plus, Shatner and Hicks have a nice, understated semi-romance that I really do like and wouldn’t want to lose. I don’t really think the most-quoted scene in the movie would have worked with Eddie Murphy:

httvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEflt_tFRa4

This is not a very deep movie. There are no profound ruminations on death or duty. It’s just a fun comedy with a pro-ecology message, and that’s fine! I actually think it’s a great change of pace, and one of the things I really do respect about the original cast run of movies is how they weren’t repeating themselves. Each movie is different, has a different look and feel, different themes. They’re not always great but at least there was some suspense as to what you were going to get. Now you know at least 25% of what you’re going to get from each movie, which makes it less fun to me.

Legacy: It’s generally regarded as good, full of solid character moments and quality comedy, if a bit on the light side. I’d argue it’s underrated, actually. It’s light and dismissed a little for it, but it works well for what it aims to be. Making good comedy is HARD! Nimoy didn’t exactly hit a home run with The Search For Spock but this is a major step forward for him as a director. They say that comedy is easier to direct but harder to write, and he definitely has a stronger script with this one, but I also think it is well-directed. There’s a nice use of framing with some of the gags, like the huge Yellow Pages ad. Mostly, though, the jokes are verbal and he keeps out of the way of the dialog, with a nice, minimalistic style. It’s exactly the right approach, and requires a certain lack of ego that a lot of directors don’t have. And look, much of this is silly, but it doesn’t matter one damn bit. It’s funny and lively throughout.

Also, good movies are hard to review, but good comedies are the hardest, because what can you say a lot of the time, other than, “It’s funny!” There’s a nice character arc for Spock, I guess, and the ending is also really damned satisfying. That’s all.

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I don’t really get how if you’re a Democrat running for president and you want to be a great one (as I imagine they all do), you get the notion that the way to do that is through bipartisanship. Setting aside Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for the moment, in the last 100 years you have exactly two periods of this, the last two years of Woodrow Wilson’s second term and the last two of Harry Truman’s first term. Both times it was really, really bad. Wilson fought Republicans so hard on the League of Nations that he had a stroke, though it’s pretty fair to blame much of that on Wilson himself. During the divided period under Truman Taft-freaking-Hartley passed over his veto. Both periods were pretty much the same in terms of Congressional Republicans blocking virtually all of the president’s domestic priorities, though in Truman’s case they did work with him on foreign policy. At any rate, it was pretty much “Hell no!” both times. Clinton was perhaps a little different in that he actually did get a lot of wins from negotiating with Republicans, but that was because he was willing to accept a number of right-wing ideas in order to make himself more popular. Theoretically this was supposed to trickle down to Democrats in general but it never really did. After all, they were one of the sides he was triangulating from.

Look, I’m not here to make the case that Bill Clinton was a horrible president whose true horribleness only became obvious years after he left office because we’ve done that many times before. Why I am here is to make a simple point, which is that there really is zero precedent for a Democratic president to convince a Republican Congress to substantially adopt a center-left program. Just none. Democrats have historically been willing to deal with Republican presidents to advance a center-right program but that’s irrelevant to the discussion.

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Quite apart from what’s going on on social media, the real reason why people on the internet are such assholes is that they’re all chasing after the same small pool of ad money, which means chasing clicks, which means that there’s every incentive to blow up every little infraction into a world-ending calamity because that’s what gets clicks. Why did we care about that poor woman who made an unfunny joke before flying to South Africa? I don’t know but it was all about clicks. And honestly, as heinous as Gamergate was, that was all about clicks too. Who really cares about some stranger’s dating habits? But it got clicks. I get that this is a pretty basic insight, but it’s something I need to remind myself of a lot to explain things. And honestly, thanks to the internet it’s become really, really easy to rile people up about things that don’t matter but just push buttons. Not that it’s all that, you occasionally see something positive go viral, and definitely there have been times where the internet aimed for the right targets and forced governments or businesses to make changes. And yet, the internet is what it is, and unless the entire economic model of it fails (which is certainly a possibility), it’s unlikely to change.

I do interact a lot with people in their early 20s and even though I’m only a decade older I do feel like an old fogy a lot of the time. Like when I tell them what the internet used to be like. It’s not like everything was better ten, fifteen years ago–when there was even less money but much less competition for it–but it really was a different place before “clickbait” became a thing. That was more a symptom than a cause, but then even the good people started writing just a little bit toward that format and then…

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Yes, I know that expression has long passed its sell-by date, but there’s really just no better way to put it. Reality keeps presenting us with this weird echo of eight years ago and while I can appreciate the artfulness of it, come on, it’s just not any fun. Consider:

  1. The 2008 election coined the obnoxious “game change” series, even though Obama was strongly expected to win thanks to then-new data models and events didn’t change that. Even though it gave birth to that horrible term it also refuted it. But in 2016 Clinton was strongly expected to win throughout based on the same mathematical models that worked solidly the last two elections, but lost largely due to last minute game change-y bullshit.
  2. Obama entered office with huge popularity which came to Earth pretty quickly as Republicans quickly formed a grassroots (ish?) movement to oppose him. Trump entered office with historic unpopularity and the grassroots opposition began even before the inauguration.
  3. Obama restored American standing in the world and its diplomatic relationships simply by not being Bush, and though while Trump has done some specific things to bug other countries like withdrawing from Paris, he’s put that standing back in the toilet mainly because he’s an obnoxious shit who can’t quit social media.
  4. Obama got Democrats bogged down with health care which, while ultimately successful, dragged on for much too long and sapped Democrats’ popularity. Trump got Republicans bogged down on health care, got nothing, and sapped Republicans’ popularity.
  5. Obama spent endless time trying to win over the half-dozen or so least conservative Republicans to support major planks of his agenda. Trump has barely even tried to entice conservative Democrats outside of a couple of photo-op type events. It’s as though he’s barely bothering to show he tried. (Though he and Obama have the same amount to show for it, I suppose.)
  6. Republicans won a fluky Senate victory in a very liberal state because Democrats nominated an unusually awful candidate, and while I would certainly not say it’s a certainty or even much better than even money, it’s certainly a strong possibility that the reverse will happen soon.

All I can say is that, while I appreciate the effort involved in creating such a perfect thesis-antithesis pair, with its many bizarre resonances and fascinating turns, I’ve had enough. You can do better, reality.

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They really don’t exist. Some people can be both heroes and villains at various points of their lives. I’ve read arguments that Aung should give back her Nobel Peace Prize but I disagree–she earned it. (Henry Kissinger didn’t earn his, but that’s another story.) And having a rightful Nobel winner commit crimes against humanity is instructive. It is an American culture thing generally but it is stunning nevertheless how often our elites (theoretically the wise ones who went to fancy elite schools and traveled the worled) continually fall into the trap of finding foreign leaders who they either irrationally elevate into pure heroes carrying forward the Western tradition or completely irredeemable monsters. Typically the latter impression follows the former, but if you assume that all of them have at least a little bit of each in them, then you avoid this whiplash. It is a little less exciting to live in the real world than a fantasy world of stone-jawed heroes and scheming villains, but it might mean fighting fewer wars for reasons nobody can explain.

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I was going to do this long post about Clinton surrogate failson Peter Daou but life is too short. He blames all supporters of Bernie Sanders for everything bad of course. It’s sort of a con game though. While most people were uninspired by Hillary Clinton, quite a few did invest a lot of hope in her. I’ve always respected that, even if I didn’t much care for Clinton myself. But being as there will never again be a Clinton on a presidential ticket (and I firmly believe this, regardless of whether Chelsea ever does go into politics or not), modestly talented but hyperloyal-to-the-Clintons people like Daou no longer really have much reason to exist in the Democratic Party, and while it would be in the interests of the aforementioned people-who-invested-huge-hopes-in-Hillary for this class to be gone, they’ve managed to keep the 2016 grudge going by othering Bernie Sanders and finding a (for lack of a better term) mass audience by making Clinton-Sanders an ongoing us-versus-them thing, with “us” including the leech consultants that bankrupted the DNC and destroyed Clinton’s candidacy. Of course, Sanders himself is not blameless in all of this–his pretensions of going by being an independent democratic socialist instead of the more prosaic but entirely accurate label of FDR Democrat do say a lot about the man. Like a lot of white straight liberal Boomer men, he wants to see himself as much more radical than he is, though in all fairness this is usually from a baseline of neoliberal centrism at best, not from a genuinely progressive worldview such as Sanders’s. Anyway, this is a surprisingly slick con job by people who only really want to save professional circles that should most definitely be destroyed. And which, ultimately, most likely will. I somehow doubt that Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillbrand is going to be contracting with Peter Daou in 2020.

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I kind of wonder why nobody ever proposes banning foreign lobbying. I assume it’s because Members of Congress enjoy being wined and dined by foreign lobbyists. But a ban seems like a pretty easy populist argument that is also a good government argument. Foreign lobbying means that other countries aren’t using the State Department to communicate their positions and interests to us, and they should be doing that. That Donald Trump seems to prefer foreign lobbyists to the State Department really says a lot. I don’t think all of them are necessarily as crooked as Michael Flynn. But ultimately this is just a way around a well-working process with accountability, which invariably means corruption as a result of the opacity. Sort of like the opacity which keeps us at war for some reason year in, year out…just a coincidence, I’m sure.

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