Sunday, June 7

Lions for Lambs: If you don't STAND for something, you might FALL for anything

I finally saw Lions for Lambs. One of things I like about getting DVDs from the library or through Netflix is that I can watch some of the extra stuff on the DVD and I did enjoy watching the interviews with the actors.

I really enjoyed the film. It's a thoughtful, considered film that makes some wonderful points without hammering any its possible messages to the viewer. I appreciate the deft performances Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise. I loved that politicians and the media were taken to task for their parts in offering the people propaganda rather than news even though they call it "news." I loved that words were treated with care and there were subtle reminders that context and intent are important. I loved that Redford's character, Dr. Malley, saw one of his professorial roles as chiding the msmart and faux malcontent, challenging him to think bigger and beyond himself, and encouraging him to do more than sit on the sidelines and take potshots at those taking a chance by being in the game.

What I really, really loved, though, is the idea of skipping or changing the junior year. I don't think it could work for all students in all majors and the options might have to be broadened to allow different kinds of opportunities so that pre-med students are working with Doctors without Borders or in free clinics in urban areas, and that pre-law students are doing unpaid internships with overtaxed public defenders' offices or with some other agencies that try to provide legal services to underserved people, and that those inclined to social work are working with any of hundreds of social services agencies that are desperate for help but have no money, and that those inclined to go into criminal justice work with prisons or prisoner support programs or some other agency that, like the social services agencies, are desperate for help but have no money.

The State of California has been in the news for its staggering financial crisis. The State of Illinois has been in the news because its politicians remained focused on being heroic rather than honest; perhaps they should watch Lions for Lambs and realize we are weary of propaganda and empty political rhetoric. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn believes the only way to take care of the budget crisis is to raise the income tax. I've heard 50% and 67% as the amount of the increase, and, like Schwarzenegger, Quinn says there will be dire consequences even if the government makes big cuts and still doesn't raise taxes.

What Quinn and his colleagues don't seem to understand is that people in Cook County especially do NOT trust politicians. At all. This is true of Mayor Daley and Cook County President Todd Stroger. There is absolutely no such thing as transparency in any way shape or form in Illinois politics and I just have to wonder if they truly believe we will continue to swallow the hogwash they insist on offering.

But I also have to make note of the so-called editorial expose efforts of the Chicago Tribune, especially the political commentators. Can I trust their motives any more than I can trust the politicians who are seemingly more concerned with re-election than actually serving the public?

So my thanks to Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise for making such a fine and thoughtful film. Kudos to Matthew Michalel Carnahan for writing this screenplay. If I taught political science in college or related courses in high school, I'd make sure this film was part of the curriculum.

A few final thoughts. I loved the ending of the film. I loved that it was open-ended, that the young man well-played by Andrew Garfield was sitting, watching TV, as though thoughtfully chewing his lip and contemplating his situation and quite probably his future. I loved that it left the viewer with no concrete answers in the hopes, I suspect, of challenging viewers to think about what they stand for and, perhaps most importantly, why.

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