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The Daily Banter Mail Bag!! Hollywood Celebrities, Glenn Greenwald (again) and More!!!

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Welcome to this week's edition of The Daily Banter mailbag, where Bob Cesca, Ben Cohen and Chez Pazienza answer reader's mail as best we can! Today we discuss meaningful movies, whether Glenn Greenwald has a personality disorder and the effect Angelina Jolie has on the Democrats.

The questions!:

Hi guys, Chez's review of Prometheus was hilarious. What's with the dull questions? Come on people! Alright, question time: is there a recent movie you can recommend that makes a subtle but powerful political statement? Need some suggestions for my netflix account :)

Chez:The problem with most political movies is that they're anything but subtle and the problem with looking for politics in a movie where there may or may not be any makes you look like a tool. I could point to "The Ides of March" as a good, recent politically charged film, one that wears its political component on its sleeve -- likewise, "Charlie Wilson's War" is as political as they come and, what's more, it should in theory satisfy both sides of the aisle because while it's written by Aaron Sorkin, its message is both very progressive and extremely conservative. There are movies that are incredibly obvious political allegories, like "V for Vendetta," which was excellent even if it beat you over the head with its message. The reason I said that trying to inject a political element into a movie that probably doesn't really have any deeper meaning is obnoxious is that I still remember the big debate over "The Dark Knight" -- with conservatives sure that Chris Nolan was penning a love letter to George W. Bush and liberals laughing in their faces. To be really honest, when I go to the movies these days I actively try to avoid politics or anything that makes me think about politics. I go either to be entertained, which is why I saw "The Avengers," or to get some sleep, which is why I saw "Prometheus." Twice.

Bob: Often times "subtle" and "political statements" are mutually exclusive, so I'm going to just recommend a couple of must-see movies that people might not have heard about or which appeared in the trailers before the latest Adam Sandler WHOOPS! MY FAMILY IS SILLY! movie. If you want something political and historical, you should absolutely check out the PBS documentary adaptation of SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME.'m not sure if you can watch it online yet, but it's recent enough that PBS might replay it occasionally. By way of fiction, and without any political meaning, I really liked the Emilio Estevez film THE WAY. There's a bit of religion in there, but it's more of a story about a father rediscovering his son by walking the El Camino trail through the Pyrenees after the son, also played by Estevez, is killed in his own attempt to make the pilgrimage. It's a simple movie with a simple message, but it's captivating and, of course, it's a pleasure watching Martin Sheen act in just about anything. THE WAY is streaming on Netflix right now, so catch it before it goes away. Speaking of Netflix streaming, there's a documentary available now about the history/development of nuclear weapons called THE ATOMIC BOMB MOVIE, and it's both scary and engrossing. And, bonus, it's narrated by William Shatner. The message? Humans are really good at coming up with unnecessarily powerful ways to commit self-genocide.

Ben: I don't know whether it's on netflix, but I thought 'District 9', the movie about aliens stuck in Johannesburg South Africa was excellent. It's an allegorical tale of racial segregation and apartheid that works particularly well given the country's history. There's lots of s#%t getting  blown up as well, so it works on many levels. Another recommendation is 'Top Boy' a four part British television series that I know is on netflix. It's basically a London version of 'The Wire' and really gets to the root of poverty, crime and social inequality in the UK's capital. It's just as well written, acted and shot as its American counter part, so definitely worth a good few hours of viewing time.

I enjoyed your bashing of Glenn Greenwald. He's insufferable and deserves to be taken down at every opportunity. Having said that do you think he has some sort of personality disorder? Aspergers? sociopath? There's definitely something a bit off about him when he's being interviewed and I cant quite put my finger on it.

Bob:I think he's got a big brain, a big ego and he knows how his bread is buttered. He believes that he needs to be consistent in his mission to attack political leadership -- holding all political stripes equally accountable. Because he was tough on George W. Bush, he believes his toughness on President Obama is mandatory, especially when there's some perceived overlap between the two presidents. Likewise, he doesn't feel as though it's his place to be at all political in his approach, even though he writes about Politics. This means that he doesn't compromise, and he refuses to modulate his message in order to reach common ground with the people he attacks -- hence his nickname "Glennzilla." Glenn has one speed: SMASH. Furthermore, he has a keen awareness of what his readers expect from him, and he's tapped into a particular demographic of dissatisfied and disillusioned liberals who were never really fans of Barack Obama, and haven't been for years. (I'm not sure if they realize that Glenn initially supported President Bush and the invasion of Iraq, and he's ambivalent about the Citizens United decision.) Whatever psychological problems he may or may not have, that's his business.

Ben: I wouldn't like to speculate on Greenwald's psychological makeup, but I do think Greenwald has a problem relating to other people. He's a fundamentalist so can never accept being wrong or envision a world view different to his own, making him incredibly annoying to listen to. I'm quite sympathetic to Greenwald as I think that behind his lecturing and hectoring, he's a phenomenally bright guy who does some excellent journalism. The problem is, he views discourse as some sort of logic competition and approaches argument with little to no feeling. I believe that society and its problems are complicated, and Greenwald's view of the world a little too black and white for my liking.

Chez: Could be. Then again he could just be an asshole.

Do you think celebrity liberals hurt or help the Democrats? I can't help but roll my eyes when I see Angelina Jolie or George Clooney making some sort of political statement. They probably mean well, but the Republicans get to pain them as 'Hollywood Liberals' and get middle America to turn against the Dems. What do you think?


Chez: I've always been on the fence about celebrities supporting Democratic politics. First of all, this is America and people are 100% within their rights to throw their weight behind whatever candidate they want, but that being said I think there's a good and a bad way for the traditional Hollywood types to do it. Yes, it annoys the piss out of me every time I hear that Barbra Streisand is throwing a fundraiser or speaking up because she really is such a Hollywood liberal cliche -- but I also consider the fact that she's raising money and the people who are going to be turned off by it and hate on the Democratic politician in question are probably going to do that anyway. These days if there isn't a real reason for a middle-American voter to dislike, say, Barack Obama, the right-wing media will be more than happy to make something up; Obama will be painted as an elitist whether he's seen shaking hands with Streisand or not. When it comes to someone from the Hollywood elite handling progressive politics in a good way, my hat's off  to George Clooney and Matt Damon. Clooney has said flat-out that while he supports Obama he doesn't want to get in the way of his getting re-elected and -- despite a massive fundraiser recently -- he tries to keep a generally low profile. Damon has taken a few shots at Obama, not all of which I agree with him on, but he speaks plainly and doesn't at any point sound like he's lecturing anyone from his throne at the top of the Hollywood Hills. I think that resonates with people. Then again, like I said, the noise machine on the right will spin anything as negative against Obama so it barely matters what anybody in Hollywood does. May as well let them raise as much money as they can.

Bob: Are you kidding, Melanie? Middle America LOVES celebrities. They buy the supermarket tabloids, they watch the celeb-reality shows and they generally devour pop culture. When the usual suspects are occasionally political, I don't think people really care beyond a brief harrumph. Also, I'm not really into the idea of running away from a Republican attack -- especially the "Hollywood Liberals" attack. We need all the money and fire power we can muster, even if it's going to turn people off. Actually, Clooney has been kicking ass lately, and he certainly has his head in the right place when it comes to the president. Alec Baldwin, on the other hand, is coming off as a little irritating and hypocritical -- you can't be a liberal spokesman *and* perform in Capital One credit card commercials right on the heels of a massive recession. You know what I sometimes think about is why people in the arts are occasionally right-wing, like Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton or Robert Duvall. I'm not sure how they square the liberalness of their careers -- not just the Hollywood community, but the fact that the arts are inherently liberal, with their weird right-wing ideas. The same goes for musicians, though there aren't really any good recording artists who are also conservative. Kid Rock? Meat Loaf? All yours, conservatives. I don't think I answered your question.

Ben: Having lived in Los Angeles for many years, I'm of the opinion that celebrities should donate money and keep as quiet as possible about it if they genuinely care about politics. I'm sure that Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Sean Penn etc etc do care about political causes and do some good work to further them, but their lavish lifestyles and non stop media attention they attract can make it appear as if they are more concerned with their own image than anything else. I really don't mind listening to celebrities talk about politics as long as they are well informed and humble about it (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon spring to mind here), but when they assume their opinion is of national importance because they got naked with Gerard Butler or played a great war hero, my eyes glaze over.


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