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American Juno

And it wasbbsnow cold and it rained so I felt like an actor – Bowie

The Mother of All Snow Events was scheduled to hit New York Monday night, but by Tuesday morning it more resembled a brother in law who borrows your power drill then loses the bit. Ever since 2005 and W’s less than spectacular response to Katrina (“Brownie, you’re doin’ a heck of a job..”) politicians have treated weather events with the kind of reverence formerly reserved for limb-missing veterans and winning Super Bowl coaches. Bloomberg fell short on a snow day a few years back, failing to get the necessary street-clearing equipment up and running. But he only made that mistake once and there were two plows for every block at the first sign of the next flurry. By the time Hurricane Sandy rolled along — an admittedly big event — he was logging more air time than the Weather Channel, forever repeating the same rote advice. Any Einstein needing a heads-up to not go wind sailing in a hurricane probably has it coming to him. And so it was with this most recent storm that De Blasio and Cuomo queued for the podium, grave warnings in fist. The mayor predicted an event of historic proportion, packing an almost immeasurable wallop. Subways were shut down, flights canceled, and cars forbidden from roadways. Then it came and went with all the impact of a Tony Randall dance interlude.

DeBlasio handled the subsequent razzing with self-effacing confidence and aplomb, reminding all that it was better to be safe than sorry. This is probably true, although when shutting down a city the size of New York dollar-costs are always an inconvenient caveat. You can’t win, as mayor, and Bloomberg might have told De Blasio as much. At the end of the day you’re at the mercy of the prognosticators and, historically speaking, weathermen have proven as trustworthy as the uncle who shows an unhealthy interest in your G.I. Joe collection at Christmas. They’re reliable as the high school senior who tells you as a sophomore that attending the upcoming ‘Yes’ concert is “guaranteed to blow your mind.” The morning after they’ll offer a brief excuse before getting on to the next forecast. This was what folks saw yesterday, watching TV at home on a mandatory off-day: some guy with the standard Sam Champion haircut, repeating the old better safe than sorry adage and that predicting four feet and getting one is better than the reverse. “It ended up missing us by fifty miles,” we were told, as though disaster were averted by the length of an eyelash. I don’t know — ‘fifty miles’ in this computer-savvy era of instant answers sounds like a fair distance to me. It’s akin to a sportscaster predicting a Mets World Series or business insider telling you to stockpile G.E. If we can genetically engineer pigs and order food or a car service with the push of a button, why is it so impossible to predict, within reasonable accuracy, what some big cloud is going to do?


I saw Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” over the weekend. Its appeal registered somewhere between Citizen Kane and Winter Storm Juno. At 84, you have to admire Eastwood’s spunk, just making it over to Morocco and getting something like this done. As Woody Allen famously put it “80% of success is just showing up” .. and Clint’s been showing up for 84 years. He’s also honed his craft with economical instincts that have served him well. In a cinematic world that values volume and flash over substance, he’s developed a lean and athletic approach to film making influenced by mentors like Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. His films vary in scope; not all are on scale with ‘Sniper’ or pack the subtext of ‘Unforgiven.’ He’s made his share of small films too and, along the way, the inevitable clunkers. Considering his career I’m reminded of the liner notes for Volume 8 of Bob Dylan’s ‘Bootleg’ series, “Tell Tale Signs.” Author Doug Daller writes of being invited to some studio sessions in ’83 for Dylan’s “Infidels” and being incensed to learn that his favorite cut — a tribute to blues legend Blind Willie McTell — is being left off the album. “Aww, Ratso, don’t get so excited,” Dylan tells him. “It’s just an album .. I’ve made thirty of ’em.” And so it seems, to me anyway, with Eastwood. His pace is steady and unrelenting and even at 84 he never seems overly anxious to “get everything in.” A few years back I was talking movies with a couple I know and mentioned that I intended to see “Trouble With The Curve” — a relatively small baseball flick Eastwood had done along the way. “I could never go to anything he’s done after that speech at the Republican Convention” the male half asserted, and yet another topic on my increasingly small list of conversational fodder was crossed off. While I agreed that the empty-chair speech was ill-advised, boycotting Eastwood, to me, is akin to never listening to Dylan again.

American Sniper has caused quite a storm, due in no little part to its solid numbers at the box office. The film was first advertised in November but held back two months for wide release. Whoever suggested employing this strategy has likely been promoted to a corner office, as the timing could not have been better. It arrived on the heels of the Charile Hedbo automatic weapons attack in Paris and 800,000-strong “Death to Cartoonists” marches in Syria. Not that any of this relates, specifically, to Eastwood’s film, but people have a way of lopping things together. As is typical, rash response has come from opposite poles of the political spectrum. The far left have dubbed it irresponsible propaganda and suggested, like those folks in Syria, that it should be banned from theaters. The far right, in practiced rock-head fashion, have embraced it as a rallying call for the patriotism of picking off bad guys (and girls) from a safe distance. Strictly speaking, I didn’t find it blindly patriotic. It is, of course, a Clint Eastwood film — and this has to factor in to one’s decision to buy a ticket, just as it would with Oliver Stone or Spike Lee. But this isn’t Clint playing Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway in “Heartbreak Ridge,” either. Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of sniper Chris Kyle is sympathetic but not glamorizing. He’s shown as a patriot, but in the sense that anyone could be, lining up women and children in his cross-hairs. Some cursory research on the real Kyle suggests that, among other unflattering things, he may have been prone to exaggeration. The movie is likely worthy of the same criticism, but again, it’s a movie. I found its biggest fault to be its glossing over of his recovery from PTSD, but I did think Eastwood made a good choice in not showing his eventual, untimely death, stateside and at the hands of another shell-shocked vet. Bottom line, provided you’re capable of reasoned digestion and nuanced viewing .. it’s worth checking out.

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