What do Arend Lijphart, John McGarry and Tywin Lannister have in common? Power-sharing!
"This is what winning looks like"
I have to confess, I was late to watch "Zero Dark Thirty" (ODT). I read a handful of reviews and blogs about the movie, had arguments with friends about its message, and even wrote it off completely--all weeks before I bothered to watch it. I wasn't interested in watching another American war movie, nor was I keen to see the lengthy torture scenes I had read about in the reviews. I figured I already knew exactly what the content was (are there every any real surprises in American war movies? and, didn't we all know how this story ended anyway?) and that there was really nothing left to say. BUT, I think there is something left to say about the film.
First, let's all be honest: most of us walked away from this movie saying to ourselves "did I miss something?" What about the film deserved all the Oscar hype, debate, and acclaim? By most standards, this was a classic, boring American war movie. In this case, the lack of plot and acting skills are made up with using violent torture scenes rather than expensive battle scenes. There is no emotional journey, no big moral dilemma that the characters are going through (I'll get to torture soon), little plot twist (again, we all know how it ends after all), and no unique or interesting characters (don't get me started on Jessica Chastain--what exactly about her stone-faced performance warrants an Oscar? perhaps she deserves an award for for 'most consistent blank expression'). So what gives? Is this just another "King's Speech"? Meaning, is this just another big movie that people talk about and get behind, but no one actually can put their finger on what was remotely interesting about it (never mind what was destructive about it)?
So I'm calling it. Not only was this movie soul-less, boring and poorly made, everyone seemed to miss the message (and it is easy enough to do). The real question about ODT is not whether or not it is condoning torture.
This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. He formerly worked as a national security consultant. His research focuses on terrorism and religious conflict; he has also written on the role of faith in US foreign policy. During 2012-2013 he is a fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
I appreciated Jeffrey Stacey’s recent post on the debate over “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s useful to point out what is being obscured by the criticism of the movie’s depiction of torture. But I think his piece missed a broader aspect of the movie, as well as director Katherine Bigelow’s other war, “The Hurt Locker” (which focuses on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team in Iraq): what it reveals about the civilian-military divide in the United States.
Many critics have praised Bigelow’s work for its artistic value, and its significance for understanding the post-9/11 era. Much of this has to do with her filmmaking skills. But a good amount of praise focused on her ability to faithfully tell the story of contemporary military activities. In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday exclaims that Bigelow demonstrates early in the film that “she will not turn away from the most unsavory aspects of the history she’s chronicling.” The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis discusses the movie as “a seamless weave of truth and drama.” Similarly, many praised “The Hurt Locker” for its “authenticity."
At the same time, many critiques of these movies focus on their lack of authenticity. By now, we are all familiar with the attacks on “Zero Dark Thirty” for misrepresenting the role torture played in the hunt for bin Ladin. But similar attacks arose after “The Hurt Locker” came out. The film was full of inaccuracies in its depiction of EOD teams, resulting in the head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America calling it “disrespectful."
Now, I realize the obvious response is: “it’s a movie.” That’s correct, but if the biggest selling point of a movie—or two—is their faithfulness to reality, and they get that wrong, then we’re all missing something, right? No one worries about inaccuracies in “Apocalypse Now” because of, well, Marlon Brando. But we should worry about inaccuracies in Bigelow’s war movies.
Anyone who did not see "Zero Dark Thirty" on its opening night was smart, as it was mayhem in theaters everywhere. The film shot to #1 at the box office overnight and is there still, for the plain and simple reason that it's a must see (no spoiler alert here because we all know at least a little about eliminating Osama bin Laden). Zero Dark features a razor sharp screenplay by Mark Boal, top form directing by Kathryn Bigelow, and higher than high stakes drama from start to finish.
This film, however, is sufficiently controversial that there may soon be Congressional hearings about it--Sen. John McCain and Sen. Diane Feinstein had it in their sites by day one. The charge is that Bigelow and Boal depict torture in a manner that glorifies it, by way of a plot that allegedly portrays the U.S. government/military eliminating OBL only via intelligence gleaned from full on, no holds barred torture. In my view they are innocent of this charge. The raging debate over the film is misdirected and could do better to be debating this country's torture legacy rather than a film that deserves serious consideration for a best picture Oscar.
I completely forgot to flog this at the Duck. I'm sure that disappointed, oh, about zero people. Nonetheless, I persevere. From the write up:
I first learned about Felix Gilman‘s work from the influential academic blog Crooked Timber. I proceeded to read Thunderer, Gears of the City, and Half-Made World and found myself impressed by Gilman’s distinctive settings, themes, and voice. It should surprise no one, in my view, that Thunderer received a nomination for the 2009 Locus Award for Best First Novel and that it also garnered Gilman a nomination for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award in both 2009 and 2010.
If you haven't read his novels, they are designed to appeal to social scientists of the sort that form the core of the Duck's readership.
Iain M. Banks, an especial favorite author of mine and someone on whom I've written before, published a new novel earlier this Fall: The Hydrogen Sonata, the latest installment in his ongoing series of novels about The Culture, a post-scarcity pan-human civilization largely controlled by hyper-advanced artificial intelligences called Minds. I invited four other scholars -- Dan Nexon, Iver Neuman, Chris Brown, and Gerard van der Ree -- to write short critical essays on the novel, and sent the package to Iain for his comments. I now have all of the pieces in hand, and over the next few days I'll post them here. Happy holidays. You're welcome.
This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. He formerly worked as a national security consultant. His research focuses on terrorism and religious conflict; he has also written on the role of faith in US foreign policy. During 2012-2013 he will be a fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
Last December, I was in Doha to attend the UN's Alliance of Civilizations conference. While fighting off jet lag in my apartment--the 13 hour flight is a killer--I saw a commercial for 'Hareem al Sultan' (the Arabic version of the original Turkish name, 'The Magnificent Century'), a racy-looking soap opera on a UAE TV station. The show depicts the life of Suleiman the Magnificent--one of the greatest Ottoman Sultans--focusing specifically on the women in his life. I was a little surprised to see something that would shock my rural PA hometown's sensibilities on Middle Eastern TV, but that was the last I thought of the show.
Until this week, when I saw a report that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has publicly attacked the show. Erdogan was upset by its depiction of the Sultan--whom he claimed spent more time on horseback than in the palace--and conservative sentiment in Turkey was angered by the show's risque nature.
This is a guest post by Brandon Valeriano of the University of Glasgow. The post contains mild spoilers, so considered yourself forewarned.
Cyberwar is everywhere. I am sure there is some selection bias in my perspective, but I canít read the news without finding another 'cyberwar will be the new 9/11'article. The narrative? Our digital futures are in a precarious balance and threatened by the great cyber powers itching to destroy our lives, finances, and prevent access to the Playstation network through cyber attacks.
Now James Bond is getting in on the fun with Skyfall. In the disastrous first act (at least for me, although the overall movie might be a top five Bond film ever), the villain turns out to be a skilled cyber warrior. He is capable of blowing up buildings with a simple virus and his entire criminal enterprise seems build on his cyber abilities.
As I've mentioned before, one of the projects that I'm working on now is a book provisionally entitled "The Politics of the Hunger Games." PM and I are overdue in submitting a full proposal to the press. In an earlier post I sketched out some provisional chapter titles. Here I provide a more complete list and a synopsis of the final chapter.
This is definitely a "crowdsourcing" post, so comments are appreciated. Details and spoilers below the fold.
Now THAT is Korean art – the Seokguram Buddha; I’ve been to see it 3 times
The Internet has slapped down my arrogance. I told myself I wouldn’t write about k-pop, but that post on ‘Kangnam Style’ drove so much traffic to my site and twitter, that here is a response to all the comments. It’s kinda of depressing how my posts on Asian political economy or what-not get little traffic and a lot of yawns, but K-pop brings huge numbers. It’s like those Facebook posts on something you find interesting that no one bothers to look at, but put up a pic of yourself blotto on a beach, and everyone ‘likes’ it.
1. I am not sure K-pop is really ‘family-friendly,’ as one of my commenters argued. I hadn’t really thought about that, but I guess it’s nice to have light, fluffy lyrics instead of gangster rap or Robert Plant screaming that he’s ‘your backdoor man.’ But if you watch the performances and look at the appearance of these ‘bands,’ it is highly sexualized and teasing – and that is obviously far more important the music itself, which just comes from a music machine. These band members can’t play instruments, but they do look like sex symbols and swing around on poles wearing leather boots like strippers. (*sigh* you see why I wanted to avoid writing about k-pop?) Is that what you want the kids watching? What kind of signal does that send?
Have you wasted any time viewing Bear cam? This Wired story explains:Media company Explore has teamed up with Alaska's Katmai National Park to install webcams
The logic of inappropriatenessBelow, Scott Weiner argues that Carly Rae Jepsen's song "Call Me Maybe" is an illustration of the dynamics of standard game-theory models, specifically the prisoner's
This is a guest post by Scott Weiner, a PhD student in Political Science at George Washington University.One of this summer's most popular hit singles
Charli, Dan and Patrick at ISA 2013? The academics/educators who write this blog often locate their research and teaching interests in texts from popular culture.
I will be on a panel at 1.45pm in Indigo A with the following description:There has been a growing body of work in world politics
Just in time for Game of Thrones' Season 2 (which happens inconveniently right in the middle of ISA), Foreign Affairs has posted this constructivist riposte
Last week I posted the trailer. Yesterday, Volkswagen released its much awaited sequel to its "Vader Kid" Super Bowl Commercial from last year. The original: