Thursday, December 28, 2006


Since my Iraq Study Group broke up I’ve been sort of at loose ends. It started as a book group that met twice a month to share pics of our grandkids and discuss our readings. In fact, we’d only just finished Marly & Me before taking up Iraq. But this time afterwards everybody agreed the group needed a break. So I asked my friend Bob what he’d be doing during our hiatus and he said he might be tied up for awhile, but did I realize how many "good" movies there were to see?

I was insulted at first, I was hoping he’d take the hint and find me work. But he told me, relax, I was probably better off not getting the DoD on my resume just now, and had I seen "The Good Shepherd"? Well, I thought that was odd, even though he used to head the CIA. But when he asked if I’d report back on "The Good German" and I said, sure, of course, he could count on me, he looked around and, seeing no one watching, slipped me an envelope. He wanted me to look into some suspicious activity. Hollywood, they were at it again. We all know the media can’t be trusted to point out the "good" we’re doing in the world. So what was going on? Bob asked me to get to the bottom of it and make my findings public.

I don’t have to tell you, he had given me quite a list. This year alone had produced four notable ‘good’ films. Along with The Good Sheperd and The Good German, there had been A Good Year with Russell Crowe and a British PBS deal called A Good Murder; and that didn’t take into account The Good Life, a movie with Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton and Zooey Deschanel that’s due out next year. Not to mention last year’s Good Night & Good Luck. My first thought was George ‘Do-Gooder’ Clooney was behind this, since he was a common thread, so I called him. Right off, he admitted it. He was only interested in making ‘good’ movies. But I said, "George, this looks media-wide to me."

"I don’t control the media," he opined. ("Opining" is a favorite smart alec Liberal way of replying according to Bill O’Reilly.) It was a denial which, you’ll agree, coming from the "Sexiest Man Alive," is as good as him tacitly saying he does control the media.

But what was the idea, was this a whitewash? Was Hollywood trying to wrap itself up in ‘goodness’ to get America to believe it was not a tool of the insurgents, or terrorists, or communists, or whomever it was who’d gotten us into so much trouble around the world lately? "I really couldn’t say," Mr. Clooney lied, and then said he had more urgent business to attend to, world hunger or some genocide to help stop. As Don Rumsfeld would say, "My goodness!"

Finally, I went to see these films, The Good Shepherd and The Good German, or The Good German Shepherd as some wags have put it. I was surprised, it was like watching movies from the good old days, when America was the bastion of all that was right and good. Both films harked back to WWII, the last really ‘good’ war, where ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were clear as night and day. (By the way, another film simply titled "Good" is due in 2008 with Viggo Mortensen. Again, about the rise of National Socialism).

Then it hit me. It was a classic case of misdirection. The abundance of ‘good’ movies all concealed the same thing – the absence of ‘great’ movies, the movies Hollywood was no longer making! Sure, The Good German was ‘good’, but it was no Casablanca, or The Third Man. And neither was The Good Shepherd.

Where had all the great movies gone, movies like The Great Escape or The Great McGinty, The Great Santini or The Great White Hope? Or even the not-so-great great movies like The Great Impostor or The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure?

So America, this Holiday Season when you’re deciding which movies to take the family to see, take your time. Like the extended shopping in this era of ‘gift cards’, it pays to wait. And be patient with our president, who’s also weighing all his extremely limited alternatives. Maybe revisit a great old movie, like It’s A Wonderful Life, or White Christmas (with that great song, "I’m Dreaming Of A Way Forward"). And relax. Things will (eventually) get better. For example, they already have a great movie coming out in 2007, The Great Buck Howard with John Malkovich.

Peace & Happy New Year.

Yours Truly,

Big Jim "I Wished I’d Never Gotten Involved In That Recount" Baker

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