Charlie Wilson’s War, with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-nominated
performance as a maverick CIA officer.
** SURVEY USA POLL OF CALIFORNIA SHOWS BIG LEADS FOR OBAMA AND CLINTON OVER MCCAIN. The latest Survey USA robopoll of California, completed a week ago, shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by whopping 27 points, 61% to 34%. Hillary Clinton leads by 23, 58% to 35%.
Meanwhile, I hear that the California Republican Party convention in San Francsico is going about adopting a hard right platform today. Good luck with that.
** BIG OBAMA LEAD OVER MCCAIN, BIG CLINTON DEFICIT IN SWING STATE IOWA. The new Des Moines Register poll shows Barack Obama with a big lead over John McCain in swing state Iowa, 53% to 36%. Conversely, Hillary Clinton runs well behind McCain, 49% to 40%.
Obama wins independents by a large margin over McCain in Iowa. But McCain wins those independents by a similar margin over Hillary.
After finishing third in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses behind Obama and John Edwards, Clinton’s campaign criticized Iowa and its caucuses as unrepresentative.
** HE’S BACK. Ralph Nader announced his candidacy for president this morning on Meet The Press. The Republicans’ favorite lefty — the famed consumer advocate is widely regarded as having siponed enough votes to cost Al Gore the presidency against George W. Bush in 2000 — got 2.7% of the vote in that election, running as the Green candidate. Next time round, Nader garnered only 0.3% of the vote in 2004, finding it hard to get on many state ballots. Nader’s relationship with the Green Party has become problematic, and many Greens want former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, as their standardbearer.
** NEW YORK TIMES OMBUDSMAN RIPS HIS NEWSPAPER’S JOHN MCCAIN STORY. The public editor, or ombudsman, of the New York Times, whose charge it is to render judgements on controversies involving the paper, sharply criticized his newspaper for its sensational story strongly implying a past affair between the Western senator and an attractive, much younger female lobbyist.
Wrote Clark Hoyt: “The newspaper found itself in the uncomfortable position of being the story as much as publishing the story, in large part because, although it raised one of the most toxic subjects in politics — sex — it offered readers no proof that McCain and Iseman had a romance.”
The paper did raise some interesting questions about the relationship between McCain, former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Washington lobbyists, suggesting that he’s not beyond their blandishments. But the story led in sensational fashion with the imputation of an affair. Absent that, it was a bit of a snorer.
Of course, it was not absent that. And the upshot is that the nation’s most powerful newspaper was rocked by the McCain campaign.
** STARTING TO LOOK BACK AT HOLIDAY MOVIES. It’s Oscar weekend. And we haven’t even looked at the holiday movies. Yet.
Ordinarily, I would have done this around the, well, Christmas and New Year holidays. But with the, hah, genius of American politics kicking in, there was no time.
Above is a video clip of the estimable Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymoour Hoffman, always very good, in his Oscar-nominated performance as maverick CIA officer Gust Avrakotos in the only hit political movie of the year, that NWN fave, Charlie Wilson’s War.
About America’s successful covert take-down of the late Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Which, as the irony of life would have it, emboldened our then new Islamic fundamentalist friends to perform certain other feats that we now think of as “blowback.”
Important point: Keep paying attention.
Oh, best NWN movie of the holiday season? Charlie Wilson’s War. With Mike Nichols directing, Aaron Sorkin writing the screenplay based on George Crile’s best-selling book, and a cast of Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman et al, it was as good as a I expected. And I had high expectations.
Other holiday movies, ah, did not quite meet expectations. One I discuss a bit below.
Others to come on this Academy Awards weekend.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my picks in the only movie awards that I actually have a vote in, the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Which also equate to most of the top Oscars, which will be awarded tomorrow night.
** GETTING REAL IN CLINTONVILLE. Most, although hardly all — those would be my longtime, more future-oriented — sources, around Hillary and Bill Clinton are simply in shock over the slow but steady shattering of her candidacy at the hands of Barack Obama.
From the New York Times: Morale is low. After 13 months of dawn-to-dark seven-day weeks, the staff is exhausted. Some have taken to going home early — 9 p.m. — turning off their BlackBerrys, and polishing off bottles of wine, several senior staff members said.
Some advisers have been heard yelling at close friends and colleagues. In a much-reported incident, Mr. Penn and the campaign advertising chief, Mandy Grunwald, had a screaming match over strategy recently that prompted another senior aide, Guy Cecil, to leave the room. “I have work to do — you’re acting like kids,” Mr. Cecil said, according to three people in the room.
Others have taken several days off, despite it being crunch time. Some have grown depressed, be it over Mr. Obama’s momentum, the attacks on the campaign’s management from outside critics or their view that the news media has been much rougher on Mrs. Clinton than on Mr. Obama.
The first five minutes of The Golden Compass, likely to win the
Oscar for best art direction.
** GOLDEN. As successful and fun and satisfying an adaptation of a long and complicated best-selling book that Charlie Wilson’s War turned out to be — hail Aaron Sorkin (disclosure, my little consulting with The West Wing was after NBC bounced him) — The Golden Compass adaptation turned out to be far more problematic. This should have been the great holiday movie in America. Yet it was not.
Most unfortunately so, because all the makings were there — including a fantastic cast which included Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, Daniel Craig and spirited young English girl Dakota Blue Richards — for a classic.
The film was still quite good, if unfortunately choppy and questionably edited.
Let’s see. Remove actual ending of the book and hold for next movie in the series? Eh, maybe not.
Nevertheless, though The Golden Compass has grossed “only” $70 million at the US box office, it has done $335 million at the global box office. Making it a major hit. And that’s before it opens in Japan next month, and Japan is traditionally a huge market for fantasy and science fiction.
I’ll have more thoughts about this later.
** NEW PODCAST. I talk about the road ahead after Wisconsin and Hawaii.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel.
You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil closed at $98.91 per barrel on Friday, after hitting a record $101-plus per barrel on Wednesday. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
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