Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Valerie Strauss is not an expert on documentary films

Whoops. In a rush to gloat over the exclusion of Waiting for Superman from an Oscar nomination, Washington Post in-house anti-education reform propagandist Valerie Strauss makes a pretty embarrassing error today.

Strauss writes that the pro-reform documentary's Oscar snub was due to the Academy's discomfort with its "fake scenes":
The snub to Davis Guggenheim’s tendentious film was well-deserved, given that classic documentaries are factual and straightforward, and don’t, as did 'Superman,' fake scenes for emotional impact.
Right! We should applaud the academy voters for their rigid adherence to strict "classic documentary" values!

That's a fine way to score points on a political enemy, but anyone with even a passing familiarity with the films that were nominated knows that it makes no sense. I am pretty sure that Exit Through the Gift Shop was not nominated for how "factual and straightforward" it is.

Strauss hates Waiting for Superman. We get it. But her embarrassingly context-free, evidence-free gloating here does not inspire confidence in her ability to make a good-faith argument against the film -- or more to the point, against its message of reform.

P.S. ... On the actual merits of the "fake scenes" issue, you can read this NYT post and decide for yourself how serious an issue it is to you. To me it is not nothing -- I am with the Hoop Dreams producer quoted in the post -- and also not so troubling that I'd toss out the entire film.

P.P.S. ... By the way this response post Strauss links again today, "What Waiting for Superman got wrong, point by point" is breathtaking in its arrogance. I think every one of its points is simply an arguable proposition presented as a factual error. Annoying.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton

A Week At The Airport: A Heathrow DiaryA Week At The Airport: A Heathrow Diary by Alain de Botton

Neat little essay and a gorgeous paperback, even if it does not, for me, quite put get to what it is that makes airports the weirdest and most confounding of public spaces. But it's good, though, with neatly drawn scenes and observations about the travelers and the workers who make Heathrow go. And the color photographs set throughout the text are wonderful.

View all my reviews

Resolutions, 2011

10. Get freelance work.***

9. Finish 2666.
This will be easy because it is freaking awesome and I am already 350 pages in. But it is very long, and I’m always reading more than one thing, so I am making it a resolution. Also, I sort of feel like this must be completed before June 17.

8. Make more audio stories.***

7. Continue to write fiction and send stories to literary journals.
I would say “get something published,” but I have been out of the game for a long time. A subcategory of this resolution would be something like “Get familiar with the universe of literary journals, especially online literary journals.”

6. Lose weight.***
This time I have a goal in mind.

5. Find fun and interesting ways to use the Flip camera I got for Christmas.

4. Make my website (www.robertmentzer.com) into something other than the frontpage it is now.
The problem is I don't really know what I want it to be. So this one could be a challenge.

3. Write more emails.
I miss email.

2. Floss.

1. Become a father. Be a good husband and father.

***Denotes also a resolution in 2010.