What Movies Tell Us

The following was written as a series of comments by an anonymous reader of this site. It was based on a survey of the candidates in Wednesday's News & Observer. It is being republished in one post with the author's permission.

What movies tell us:

Terri Tyson lists her hobby as "watching classical film videos" but then her favorite film (the serious acid test of local politics) is "Saturday Night Fever." Besides explaining her hair style, what can this mean?

The Scientologist-starring flick (rated R for strong language, sexuality/nudity and some drug content) is described as "a hopelessly naive film that appears to have no discernible sense of irony." Need I say more.

What movies tell us. Part 2.

Jim Ward goes international with his choice of "Monsoon Wedding" as his favorite flick. Shot in only 30 days in India and in three languages, everyone agrees that this film is something special.

Although detractors have noticed that the movie is a sari-knockoff of Robert Altman's 1978 "A Wedding" with no real new ideas. Praised by those whose memories are short, "Monsoon Wedding" should have been seen as an homage and a borrowing but it was misseen as original, as something it clearly is not.

What does this say about Ward and his choice?

What movies tell us. Part 3.

Dianne Bachman, who lists no political party and no religion, does list "Seabiscuit" as her favorite movie.

Identifying with a horse is one thing, but what is really going on here is a glimpse at the fabled "state of the art transportation system" that Bachman fails to describe over and over while she mentions it over and over. Now we have a clue to what that system might be -- horses!

Yes they are, within a limited set of numbers, friendly to the environment and recyclable -- even in some cultures edible!

The problem and the gift of horses is not only related to half-baked political ideas either -- horse shit.

What movies tell us. Part 4.

Thatcher Freund chooses Brit Twit Wit Evelyn Waugh's novel made into a miniseries, "Bridehead Revisited"

Never mind that it's not a movie but an interminable 540 minutes of vanishing -- and anti-democratic -- aristocracy. Some see this film as a tedious if beautiful Anglo-Catholic soap opera for wannabe Oxfordians, but I see it as the too too precious lives of people with no jobs, who spent their charmed lives as dillatantes.

Close to home, Mr. Freund?

What movies tell us. Part 5.

Bill Strom chooses the most unlikely of books to be written, an uplifting story of hope by Stephen King set in a prision over an adult's lifetime, `The Shawshank Redemption."

King is known for his fast pacing horror, but here we get the slow tale told not by the hero or even from his point of view. This film is loved by critics, but generated few paying viewers.

The problem: slow complex work over time is a hard sell. Especially with no romance or car chase scenes.

Can a candidate that is not that showy but is deep and grows with familiarity also be a leader?

The movie says yes, but it's a movie -- not reality.

What movies tell us. part 6.

Lawyer Sally Greene chooses the best (or second best if you like me have a soft spot for "Woman of the Year") Tracy-Hepburn movies, "Adam's Rib" in which the romantic duo of lawyers end up in court over a woman's right to choose. In this case, choosing to shot her cheating lout of a husband. Not Hepburn shooting Tracy, although he deserved it for his alcoholism and neglect, but folks of another class.

The film is stagey by today's standards. Not spontaneous but well thought out. But the message is clear, don't mess around with feminist lawyers -- even in a romantic comedy.

Other women in this race have claimed to be "tough" and "brave," but this movie choice warns to keep an eye out without having to say any of that.

What movies tell us. Part 7.

An Italian romantic comedy/fantasy, "The Queen of Hearts," in which one scene involves a talking roasted pig's head may be the choice of Doug Schworer. I say may because there are at least 9 movies called "The Queen of Hearts." The Italian (in English) 1989 film is the most recent film of this title.

Schworer who likes to say that he is new to politics and is 'the different candidate' has had trouble saying exactly how he is different. This film, if it is indeed this film, ends with the end of fantasy as it runs head on into reality. A life in a coffee shop that is barely scraping by.

McSwain and Freund might be instructed by Schworer's choice.

I would beware of someone who puts their trust in a talking roast pig's head though.

What movies tell us. Part 8.

It is probably wrong of me to admit that I love "Brazil." That could mean that I would not be as tough on Cam Hill and his favorite movie. On the other hand, why I love "Brazil" is a reason for caution. This confusing and confounding film set in an extremely dystopic future has elements of Kafka, Orwell, and Monty Python. We are talking dystopia as in no hope, NO HOPE. It's 1984 (as in Orwell). It's Kafka (as in the Trial). But the silly Pythonisms distract you from any sense making that might offer warnings.

Things that seem offhand are very deep. Things that seem silly actually are important. Like say, gas-powered leafblowers -- one thing that Cam railed against last time out.

"It's A Wonderful Life," the choice of Andrea Rohrbacher, has not had a simple life. After being a hit then being neglected, it entered the public domain and belonged, for a short time, to us all. Not that we took all that good care of it. First off, it became too familiar. Then it was colorized and recopyrighted. Causing even Capra the great populist to complain about too many liberties being taken. Then using the music in the sound track, it was taken back out of the public domain into private hands.

The uncertain life of "Wonderful Life" is not unlike that uncertain politics of Rohrbacher. She's endorsed by the Sierra Club where she has served for many years as an officer, but also by CAN hardly an historically environmental group despite their man Ward's fern.

What are Rohrbacher's true colors? A simple black and white?

The second longest favorite movie, if you count Freund's miniseries choice as a movie, is Rudy Juliano's choice of "Lawrence of Arabia" at 227 minutes.

Lawrence was a creature of British intelligence. That's intelligence as in MI5 not as in Shakespeare. A spy who was not who he appeared to be. He was also the public creation of an aggressive publicity campaign in the form of reporting by Lowell Thomas. And we might blame Lawrence for our Mid East troubles today; he did set up the Saudi royals afterall. There are many other questions about Lawrence -- his politics, his sexuality, his social isolation, his literary work, his sanity.

Juliano, himself, is not an man without questions. Not the same as Lawrence, but one wonders if he is a spy and where his loyalties might reside.

What movies tell us. Part 11

Mike McSwain looks toward an edenic past of slackers, rock and groupies with his choice of "Almost Famous." He and many folks watching the movie -- even director, Cameron Crowe -- hardly realize that rock was already a stylized mess by the time you get the music of the late 70s. No wonder that flacid crap was overrun by disco. Crowe championed Peter Frampton fercrissake! Talk about bad choices.

But you can hardly blame McSwain for that. The movie is about, in the McSwain case and the Crowe case, a guy who is much much younger than the folks he is admiring, writing about and trying to be laid by. It's about the naive youth getting his eyes opened to the complexities of a kind of adulthood. Not true adulthood, but a kind of adulthood. A stiffled one. One not grown by too many wise years beyond those of the aspiring awestruck lad.

Not overall a bad choice to describe an election in a small southern town.

What not answering questionairres tells us. Part the last.

Woodrow Barfield has written much on computer mediated reality. So much so that basic realities escape him. All of life is to him a movie of a sort. He claims to be campaigning only by direct contact with voters. No one has yet met him.

by Gregor Samsa



When the subject is hair, I must speak out. I am a member in Long Standing (and of long hair) of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists http://www.improb.com/projects/hair/hair-club-top.html I am too aware of the unkind and unfair treatment given to our members, male and female. It is a cruel price that we pay, but we pay it proudly. The LFHCfS focuses as much on what is under the hair as on how luxuriantly we wear it. That means sometimes letting remarks at parties (overheard during a campaign stop) about old hippies etc to flow off our backs no matter who makes them.

I think that the movie reviews should probably be taken in the spirit in which they seem to have been written -- with offense to all regardless of gender as near as I can tell.

My LFHCfS entry is listed on http://www.improb.com/projects/hair/hair-club002.html for those who must check facts (Winston?).

I agree comments about the physical appearance of a candidate shouldn't come into play and yes women face an unfair double standard in politics and on the evening news and elsewhere. In reality though appearances of candidates did not come into play in the election.

I think the election reallly did have clear messages about what the voters wanted though - and it had nothing to do with hair style or physical appearance.

I think the current round with carolina north will only perpetuate similar results to the last election.

20,000 parking spaces, NO school sites, and no specific description of how mass transit will get people to the site.

How does candidate Tyson respond to this development or expect this will affect future elections?

Mens' hairstyles have frequently been the subject of political comment. For example, there's Gehard Schroeder and Ronald Reagan (hair colouring), andJohn Kerry (too French looking).

And what about Al Gore's angst ridden beard period? Or Clinton 42 and the infamous LAX haircut?

Ms. Tyson is correct that the hair should have been off limits. Women indeed face a double standard when running for elective office. I have never heard much of a male candidate's hair (or lack thereof), ties, etc.

At the same time, few people would have the self-control to pass up the opportunity that Ms. Tyson provided. I guess that is one of the perils of honesty in the political arena.

I don't know if I agree that this movie affected dance, dress, and music for 20 years. But, if so, thank God the 20 years are up!!

You raise a good point, Terry. When I ran, my lifestyle was apparrently more interesting than my platform to the Independent. Their vapid coverage really hurt my campaign. (Thankfully, in retrospect.) We should stick to the issus, but everyone wants to know about "character." Those of us in the public arena have to get accustomed to a greater level of scrutiny. (Right, Cam?)

It was particularly unfair coming from an anonymous writer. (I still wonder who Gregor is, and why he won't use his real name.) I have stopped allowing anonymous guest posts like this one, and I invite any reader to suubmit posts for consideration - with their name attached. And as always, if you think the authors is full of it, please join the conversation and say so.

see.. LiBs live in a fantasy----like Hollyweird

Terri, probably one reason nobody defended you is that they don't have your guts. Speaking of which ... I really admired your outspoken, directness during the campaign. I loved what you said about nurturing businesses -- how we should, how we don't. A lot of people would shy away from taking an obvious pro-business stand in a Chapel Hill election and say something like, "I'd like to see more landscaping in front of stores." I'll admit, I would have preferred you avoid the school merger issue, but at least you were right out there about taking a stand.

P.S. I think your hair looks great.

I just want to add that even though it may not be completely equal opportunity, the author of this piece did criticize every candidate in that race. The scathing wasn't reserved just for Terry. In my mind, this makes it slightly more fair.

As my earlier post said, I thought the movie commentary was witty and somewhat true. If it was worth nothing else, it was at least funny. I hope that Chapel Hill and those who aspire to serve it haven't lost their sense of humor; however, Terri and Ruby have made an important point here. There are certain members of our community who criticize candidates with insulting and often false accusations. It's not bad that we allow this, but the victims do not receive the opportunity to defend themselves. The Indy was most guilty of doing this during the election. It might have been most practical to publish the voting guide the Wednesday before the election, but it made malicious comments about candidates and they had no opportunity to defend themselves before the election. It seems to me that there is a distinct line between appropriate and inappropriate comments. If a negative comment is publicly made that would damage a person's reputation beyond the political realm, then it ought to be inappropriate. (Especially if the comment is false--then we call it libel!) I guess it was naive for me to expect Chapel Hillians to afford this courtesy to those who offer their service, especially in a race as local and personal as the Town Council. Running in the election was a rude but necessary awakening for me. If any of you out there are idealists or share these sentiments, run for the Chapel Hill town council: it teaches you why moral people aren't politicians.

Now that the dust has settled after the recent Chapel Hill Town Council election, I am writing to express my disappointment over the petty and personal comments that were directed at me during my campaign on this website.

My choice of favorite movie, “Saturday Night Fever” was a real and honest answer, not a answer made up to sound “politically correct”. This was ridiculed on this website by an anonymous writer. The movie was extremely popular and affected dress, dance, and music in our culture for over 20 years.

I took a stand against school merger during the campaign and was criticized for having that as my only issue. I had lots of issues, but by far merger got the most attention. I was pleased that someone on this site pointed out that my advocating against merger was similar to the Town Council taking positions on many non-local issues, most recently Iraq and the Patriot Act.

Of all things, the anonymous writer made fun of my hair ! This was the most sexist and frivolous insult that I’ve encountered. When women run for office, their ideas should be discussed, not their hair.

I was also disappointed that some people in the political arena who know me and know my record of community service over the years did not criticize those who insulted me.

Terri Tyson

Gregor, come back! My real favorite movie is Time Bandits. No, its The Usual Suspects. Actually its Reanimator.

What if all the candidates favorite foods were revealed? Jello?

Great commentary. If I had known someone would do something clever with favorite movies, I would have put alot more thought into it. Some of the depictions are a little exaggerated, but who doesn't pick and exaggerate details on this website?

Thumbs up. I dig it.

Finally, now I can leave the house......


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