Insidious Inception

At Richard’s urging, we went to see Inception on Sunday.  Whew!  What a terrific movie!  It insidiously works its way into your consciousness, and during idle moments you find yourself thinking about certain scenes or basic questions raised by the serpentine plot.

The movie is just about perfect summer movie fare because it has something to appeal to just about everyone.  Those who like human drama will be hooked by the emotional backstory of Cobb, the anguished central character played by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Those who like devious plotting will appreciate the multiple layers and numerous twists and turns of the story line.  Sci-fi freaks will enjoy the concept of people invading the dreams of others to extract information — or possibly implant it.  Action movie fans will revel in the shooting, kung fu, hallway fu, and snow fu scenes.   Special effects geeks will like the crumbling cities of the mind, the fighting in a tumbling hallway, and the patient, weightless collection of sleepers, among many other visually stunning scenes.

Leonardo DiCaprio was great — is there any actor in Hollywood right now who plays deeply troubled characters better than DiCaprio? — but the performance that was a real revelation to me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, DiCaprio’s key partner in dream invasion.  At once sharp, imperturbable, humorous, reliable, wise, and a total action stud, Arthur was a tougher character to play than Cobb, and Gordon-Levitt pulled it off beautifully.  He was totally believable as a sharp-dressing intellectual who could devise complicated yet successful extraction schemes and then more than hold his own against subconscious manifestations in battles to the death in zero gravity.

I totally agree with Richard’s take that Inception is a must-see-on-the-big-screen movie.

Who’s Playing Politics?

It seems like, on every point of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, each side accuses the other of “playing politics.”  (Of course, to this Midwesterner it seems like every decision by every elected and appointed official in Washington, D.C. involves “playing politics.”  Isn’t that why they are called “politicians”?)

So it is with the latest dispute, about extending unemployment benefits.  Today President Obama suggested that Senate Republicans were playing politics by opposing a bill to extend the benefits because it doesn’t have offsetting cuts to pay for the extended benefits.  Republicans say that they don’t want to contribute even more to the rapidly growing federal deficit. Democrats say they want to help the long-term unemployed.

This is one of those issues where the inability of politicians to reach agree is a bit maddening.  Democrats say they are concerned about the deficit; that is why the President has appointed a commission to recommend deficit reduction measures.  Republicans say they are willing to extend unemployment benefits if offsetting spending cuts are made.  Why can’t the two sides just agree on the spending cuts that they both say need to be made, and thereby agree to the extended benefits that they both say should be provided?  It is as if politicians play a gigantic game of chicken with the American people.

In the meantime, we will wait forever to get an answer to this question — is there a point at which we should stop paying people extended unemployment benefits?  If two years is not a logical cutoff point, what is?

Recognizing Taxes As Taxes

The New York Times recently carried an interesting article on the Justice Department’s arguments against claims that the “health care reform” legislation is unconstitutional.  The “linchpin” of the argument is that the individual mandate, which requires people to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional as an exercise of Congress’ broad taxing power.

The Justice Department’s argument is interesting because, while the “health care reform” legislation was being debated, President Obama and many of his congressional allies denied that the individual mandate was a tax.  For example, Congress did not cite its taxing power as a basis for the legislation.  Now that the legislation is being challenged, however, the Administration’s lawyers have recognized the individual mandate for what it is — a tax on individuals and their individual decisions — in order to buttress its prospects for being upheld.

Just another example of how duplicitous the legislative process can be.