September 7, 2012, - 7:11 pm

Wknd Box Office: The Words, For a Good Time, Call . . ., Cosmopolis

By Debbie Schlussel

There is one new movie in theaters, this weekend, that’s really great . . . until the ending has a horrible moral message. The other new movies stink. I am not allowed to post my review of “The Bachelorette” until it opens in the Detroit market.

* “The Words“: This was such a well-done, well-told, well-made story of a movie. Entertaining, masterful, a tight script that pulls you in. Just terrific. That is, until the ending endorses plagiarism. Plagiarism pays. You can get away with it. And, sadly, that is true in today’s world. People, like CNN contributor and TIME/Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria, can flat out steal whole paragraphs from columns, and their employers instantly forgive this as a “mistake.” I, myself, have been the victim of 14 years of Michelle Malkin stealing my ideas, my columns, my scoops that I broke, and even the nicknames I create for people in the news. Fraudkin’s got a record of stealing from others and plagiarizing even ABC News, nearly word for word. And, yet, she’s Exhibit A of the fake it ’til ya make it/plagiarism pays culture in America. I’ve seen World Net Daily and its Aaron Klein repeatedly steal my and others’ work, and they are rewarded. Laura Ingraham and her radio show producer/sidekick read a column from my website, word for word on the air, presenting it as their own, never mentioning me. (I don’t listen to her utra-crappy show, but astute readers heard the rip off and alerted me.) When I called their radio syndicator, suddenly the producer called and begged me not to write about it because it would cause Media Matters to write against her, he said. The next day, to make up for getting caught, Ingraham and the guy went overboard to credit me. But only because I called them out. Sean Hannity did the same–reading at least four of my columns on the air as his own research and knowledge, never giving me credit. And I’m not the only one. All of these people steal endlessly. Intellectual property theft is okay in America, sadly. And that’s the message of this movie in spades.

What I liked about this movie beyond its moral dilemma story, was that it was essentially three stories–three movies–in one. There is the story taking place in the here and now as Quaid reads his book, there is the story he’s reading which is supposed to be make believe, and then there is an old man and his story during World War II France. And the movie has great actors, not least of which is the fantastic Jeremy Irons. Dennis Quaid is always great, and he’s no exception here. The movie begins with Quaid as a famous author who is reading part of his latest book release at a book reading. The book, “The Words,” is about a young wannabe author (Bradley Cooper) and his wife, Zoe Saldana. Cooper so badly wants to be a published author, but he gets nothing but rejections and has settled into a job as a mail clerk at an agency representing authors in the publishing industry. On their honeymoon to Paris, his wife buys him an old leather briefcase, and one night he finds an old typed manuscript inside the case. He begins reading it and is drawn into the novel, realizing that he could never write something so great. Soon, he is typing up the manuscript onto his laptop, and not long afterward, he is presenting the book as his own. The book becomes a big hit, but then his plagiarism is found out. Or is it?

We are brought back and forth from that story to Quaid and a young Columbia grad student (Olivia Wilde), who is aggressively flirting with and trying to pick him up. And there’s a connection to the story beyond the fact that Quaid is reading this book he wrote. I’ve seen enough movies to predict early on exactly what that connection is and the storyline of this movie. Still, it was very entertaining. I’m just so disappointed in the result. But, again, plagiarism is okay today in our society that has no use for ethics and integrity.

And that’s my only problem with this movie. This is a very serious adult film, not in terms of sex or violence, but because it’s so deep in its examination of the issue it explores (and yet it comes to such a starkly wrong conclusion). It makes for a great topic of conversation between adults. But if I had kids, I’d take them to see this and use it as a basis for discussion about why the movie is wrong, the immorality of stealing others’ work, and the importance of doing the right thing.

Worth seeing for those reasons. And if it weren’t for the message at the end, I’d give it THREE REAGANS. As it is, I give it . . .


Watch the trailer . . .

* “For a Good Time, Call . . .“: Absolute garbage. While there were a few funny lines–a very, very few–in this movie, it was mostly tripe. Two female enemies from college (Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller) can’t afford to pay the rent on their own in New York City and end up living together to survive. Miller soon learns that her roommate is a phone sex operator, and they eventually start their own phone sex line complete with TV commercials and a website. Miller, whose only claim to fame is that she’s married to the annoying, overrated Seth Rogen (who makes a cameo in the movie), co-wrote this. It was beyond raunchy. It was vile. You don’t need to be a prude to know that this is utter dreck. Oh, and I didn’t need their gratuitous insertion of the fact that they are both Jewish (Graynor and Miller’s characters) into the movie. This happens when they learn that a phone sex operator they’ve hired is actually a Christian who is telling callers they are sinners. (That was probably the best part of the movie, if you can call any part of 1.5 hours of the worst “the best”). Typical liberal Hollywood. Mimi Rogers, Tom Cruise ex #1, plays Miller’s mother. Skip this. It’s both noxious and obnoxious. And disgusting.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Cosmopolis“: This absolutely awful, anti-capitalist, Occupy Wall Street diatribe of a movie is utterly boring and completely ridiculous. And it’s one of those disjointed, non-sensical, artsy-fartsy BS movies that all the critics rave over, even though there’s no there there, a la “Tree of Life” (read my review). Robert Pattinson, of “Twilight” vampire movie fame, plays a 28-year-old billionaire creep riding across New York City in his stretch limo on his way to get a haircut. In his way, his limo comes under attack from Occupy-style riots and protests. And we learn that he is a complete creep and lout, a serial cheater on his wife, and an all-around waste of time, just like this movie. Stay away at all cost. You were forewarned. You would have to pay me a lot to sit through this. I wish all Occupy Wall Street/anti-capitalist movies were as boring, ridiculous, and stupid as this. Sadly, they are not.


Watch the trailer . . .

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56 Responses

I have read some reviews on “The Words” and they were not great. I am not a fan of any of the actors so I will prolly skip it (especially with that crap ending). Who knows…it may be one of those films I end up seeing “on demand” and being sorry I shunned it initially. It happens.

I saw the previews for “For A Good Time Call” and it looked like sh**. It seemed 20 years old to me and stupid. Even art films these days are sucking the big one from Outer Space. I do love movies but there are so few good ones it’s amazing I do.

Robert Pattinson…I like what Chelsea Handler once said…”Is that even a real last name”? What is the appeal of that pasty, girly, wimpy looking cuckold? Beats the crap outta me. I am glad I am not hooked up to the “Lemming” daisy-chain. I’d hate to like the bores everyone seems to like. And he’s at the head of the rotting daisy-chain. Yuck-o!

It’s hard to get excited about the Cinema these days so I am loving Serbio-Croatian films. Of course they are few and far between and I just bought 4 of my favs on DVD. I highly recommend them all (As I have previously stated…)

~”Grbavica:Land Of My Dreams” (the first word is pronounced GRAB-ah-VITZ-ah and the title is darkly sarcastic.)

~”Fraulein” (German and Serbian)

~”The Trap” (I love this film soooooo much!)


3 have a GREAT Croatian actress named Marjana Karanovic. She’s superb and my favourite right now but of course not well known. She should be though….

Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 9:59 am

    No offence Skunky – it’s either Serbian or Croatian, and neither the twin shall meet, as history has taught us.

    Me: it’s a toss-up between Torrent, Netflix, iTunes or video games. Plus, my place is a mess after the exterminator’s visit. Life is beautiful.

    The Reverend Jacques on September 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm


      How surprising. After thousands of copypasta posts, Skunky makes ONE original contribution, and it’s an easily debunked “fact.”

      Tell me, have you ordered YOUR copies of the movies she recommended yet? I tried to, but Amazon was sold out – they said something about a massive rush on those four titles shortly after 10 am this morning, lol.

      Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Thank you Rev. You’re prolly correct. They are listed in Netflix as “Serbio/Croatian” so that is why I call ’em that. I always think of your valid point thou’…I work with a Croatian parrot (I am an avid Parrot/Bird enthusiast so anyone referring to me as a “parrot” (as some boring wanker has in the past…and whose posts I continue not to read…I am allergic to BORING…) is a grand compliment and makes me smile. But I digress…) so I learn slowly about Croatians and I like what I have seen so far. Very interested, indeed. (I also work with Brazilians but I must say I have zero desire for Brazil or Brazilians….).

      Also, since I am close to a Croatian family I never know if I should identify them as the same as Serbians (Like Novak Djokovic) or have them separate. They seem to lump each other together. I have more to learn on that, for sure!

      But none are Moooooooooslims so there is prolly my problem and I am not comfortable asking them about the “conflict” because I have much to learn about it myself.

      But Rev., you’d prolly like one of those films! Happy viewing this weekend, whatever your indulgence! 😀

      Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm



        [sounds of electronic crackling and popping]

        Error! ERROR! Too much IRONY…circuits overloading! Irony overload!!

        [catches breath]

        Ok. Okay, I think I’m alright now. I think I –



        Okay, NOW I’m better. I think.

        Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 10:33 pm


    Thanks for the suggestions. I have seen 3 of them and agree with you 100% I added Grbavica: Land of My Dreams to my DVD Queue on Netflix. I am sick of Hollywood shoving their perverse and liberal ideologies down my throat, so i too am watching many foreign films. I primarily stick to Eastern European, Israel, German, Belgium and Russian. There is so much great talent in the world and powerful story lines.

    Hope on September 9, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Thank you Hope! I know you’ll enjoy it…it has Marjana Karanovic in it and the gal who plays her daughter is FANTASTIC!

      Hope, do you have any recommendations? Especially foreign films.
      Much thanks! 🙂

      Skunky on September 9, 2012 at 11:33 am


        Is there any way that Schlussel or maybe the site administrator could give you and “Hope” an IRC room together? That way, you could exchange your recipes or whatever without going so far afield of the topic. Of course, that’s discounting the strong likelihood that “Hope” is actually you under another name. That’s a suspiciously fast turnaround time for “Hope” to have acquired and watched three obscure movies, and we aren’t exactly talking about Hannibal Lecter here. Only Schlussel knows if the IP addresses are the same. Care to share, Debbie?

        Statusmonkey on September 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm


          I can assure you that I am not Skunky. I am a psychologist living near Lansing area. Are you really that bored that you have to criticize others on the comments section. I replied to Skunky because it is very rare that i meet someone who watches and knows alot about foreign movies. I did not watch those 3 films in one day, it was over a several month period. seriously you really need to get a hobby.

          Hope on September 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm


          Well, the Skuzz only recommended the crap movies a day ago. So either you read her post and then somehow went back in time, or you had already seen 3 obscure low-grade movies that nobody’s even heard of.

          So, yes: *I’m* the one who is bored here.

          If you aren’t a sockpuppet, perhaps you should give some therapy to the Skuzz. She seems to be dealing with a major potty fixation. Probably some unresolved daddy issue, but I guess you’re the “expert” here, lol.

          Statusmonkey on September 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

          Statusmonkey don’ put up wi’ no ferrin movies.

          skzion on September 9, 2012 at 6:59 pm

          @Gay Obama,

          F’in A. There’s only one good foreign movie, and it definitely wasn’t made in *Croatia.*

          I guess we don’t have to show *how* a statement is “sloppy and dishonest” – it’s enough to just SAY that it is. And I don’t care enough about Islam? You mean the way an adherent would? LOL, guilty as charged.

          Bad language doesn’t faze me. But a potty *fixation* (however expressed) is a sign of a tiny mind indeed.

          Statusmonkey on September 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm


        Ignore Statusmonkey, he appears to be very bored. Anyway, some great foreign films that i have seen:

        “Bullhead”- Belgian film starring Mattias Schoenaerts

        “Vor”- The Thief- Russian film starring Vladimir Mashkov

        “Flame and Citron”- Danish film starring Mads Mikkelsen

        Hope on September 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm

          Thank you Hope. I will put all those on my Netflix queue.

          And of course it is easy for me to ignore Monkeypud. Unlike him with his boring self (and my posts) I have ZERO trouble not reading his posts. But he reads every word of mine. You gotta laugh at such a pathetic moron. And I do.

          Hope I am gonna start with the Russian film. Will let you know how I liked it. Thanks for your recommendations!

          Skunky on September 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

No such thing as SERBO-CROATIAN.

Lady Mondegreen on September 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    “Lady Mondegreen”, your handle cracked me up.

    I love Gavin Edwards’ “Excuse me while I kiss this guy”….

    Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Remember that Indian student at Harvard who got busted for plagiarism a few years ago? She had been touted as some kind of wunderkind until people started noticing how similar her first novel was to another young author’s published work. It was actually quite funny; a publishing contract and movie deal were both hastily scrapped. The premise of this movie sounds a bit similar to the real-life incident.

I’ve seen commentators read someone else’s work word for word on the air, and neglect to make any attribution. When that happens, the responsible media figures waste no time rectifying the lapse. And while the practice is sloppy and bad, it’s FAR more revealing when the person makes a couple of tiny changes before passing it off. When that happens, you can be sure that there’s an intent to deceive. Such is the case with Zakaria, or – as I think of him – Fareed (Texas!) Zakaria. Or “Skunky” for that matter. With Ingraham, there’s at least the *possibility* that it was unintentional.

Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Since some people apparently do not understand the flexible nature of demonyms in English…

There are English people, and there is the English language.

There are English people, and there are movies in English.

There are English people, and there are movies in English, that do not come from England.

There are Serbs, there are Croatians, and many happen to speak a language referred to as Serbo-Croatian (I won’t begrudge Skunky the spelling error), and there are movies in this language that could accurately be called “Serbo Croatian films”.

Robert on September 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Bobby, Bobby, Bobby,

    Ain’t no such thing. Your post cracks me up. It kind of reminds me of the time that Bill Clinton said (I’m paraphrasing here): “Well, when you consider all of the attending facts and circumstances in context, etc, etc, as a matter of fact Al Gore actually kind of partially somewhat sort of *DID* invent the Internet. So lay off!” LOL

    Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you Robert and I thank you for the correction. I am not sure if it indeed is “Serbio/Croatian” or as you quite rightly said “Serbo/Croation”. I always forget and since Serbio rolls off the tongue with more ease I sorta say that in an ersatz way…

    Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Also (from Wiki, but on this kind of subject, I think it’s an ok source):

Serbo-Croatian[3] or Serbo-Croat,[4] less commonly Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian (BCMS),[5][6] is a South Slavic language and the primary language of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Since it has four standard variants, it is a pluricentric language.[7][8][9] Its variants do differ slightly, as is the case with other pluricentric languages (English, French, Spanish, German, Hindustani and Portuguese, among others), but not to a degree which would justify considering them as different languages.[10][11]

skzion on September 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    @Gay Obama,

    Riiiight. Because so many movies are being filmed in the “Serbo-Croatian language.” Including the four that the Skuzz mentioned.

    Especially the one that she says is in GERMAN. Perhaps it was filmed in “Serbio-Croatia,” though?


    Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you Skzion. I appreciate your post.

    And like I said Robert is most likely correct and as I said Netflix (and other places) categorize them as “Serbo/Croatian” and so that is why I did (with a minor flourish…).

    Whatever they are called I LOVE them and they are my current passion! Good stuff! 😛

    Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Skunky, I think Robert was not focusing on spelling but rather on the concept of a Serbo-Croatian language and, based on that, a category that could be called “Serbo-Croatian movies.”

      This whole dispute (most of which you are ignoring because it is being spearheaded by Statusmonkey) has become rather silly.

      skzion on September 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

        Thank you Skzion and you’re correct…I do not know what that tosser Monkeypud is saying because I do not read his posts. EVER.

        But that said I want to apologize for this thread being about Serbo/Croatian in lieu of the movies reviewed. I was just stating (and recommending) some films I just bought and that I enjoy very much.

        Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm

          Ho-kaaay! So Skuzzy realizes her mistake and stops writing about her own irrelevant personal interests in 3… 2…

          Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm

          Skunky, no need to apologize.

          I may rent the movies you suggest.

          skzion on September 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm

          @Gay Obama,

          If you want to rent those four Serbio-Croation movies, you might have a long wait in your future. As I said, for some mysterious reason the demand for those titles EXPLODED this morning just after 10, lol.

          Politically correct? Um, it’s politically correct to point out obvious stupidity now?

          Say gang, why don’t we ALL post 100 movie recommendations for each other? What a great idea, we can talk about sports, video games, anything except for, you know, the actual subject of Schlussel’s column. To kick it off, I found this AWESOME sale on socks at Walmart the other day. You know, the white ones that go about an inch above the ankles. Actually more like 3/4 of an inch. Well normally it’s $7.99 for 6 pairs, but if you buy 3 packs of 6, it only comes out to $4.34 per! Also, I’ve been seriously considering investing in either copper or silver. Which one do you guiz think I should choose?


          I hope you actually mean it this time about ignoring what I say. Up til now, you’ve been replying to every single thing I write with 3rd-grader potty insults, and then (incongruously) claiming that you are ignoring me. LOL, anything but that!

          Statusmonkey on September 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm

          “@Gay Obama” … was that witty?

          skzion on September 9, 2012 at 9:56 am

SM, I have mainly appreciated your comments here, although your vendetta against Skunky has become very tiresome.

I checked two of the four movies in question; one was in “Serbian,” the other in “Croatian.” As I and another poster have already pointed out, these languages are extremely similar. That is why the FSI has a course in Serbo-Croatian. The movie you mention was partly in Serbo-Croatian (Serbian dialect) as well.

No one is saying that Serbians and Croatians are the same people. Political correctness from you is especially risible.

You become infantile when you get riled, and you are getting riled more and more frequently lately.

As for your poor attempt at an insult, it’s clear that when you are riled you can’t even hurl insults effectively.

Finally, your pose here as the smartest kid on the block will soon lead the rest of the regulars to ignore you, just as Skunky has done. If you enjoy conversing in an empty room, just keep going.

PS, I value many of your comments on the upcoming election. You can be interesting. This is the only reason I care whether you alienate others.

skzion on September 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Skzion, when Glenn Close-y “A1” ain’t sportin’ that frizzy wig I can say some other boring bastard here is. And it’s a CrAzY fright-wig indeed.

    Skzion, as you well know, when someone writes well and has something to contribute, it is hard to look away (like a car accident) because the style is so alluring. Let me tell ya, Monkeypud does not possess either (in my opinion) so it is soooooo easy to ignore him. But not only do I ignore him, I do not read his posts. I have “Lunesta” to put me to sleep so I don’t need his ZZZZZZ inducing diction…

    I am a person who says what I mean and means what I say. And it is soooo easy to just skip over his boring, silly, un-insightful palaver. He can’t do the same to me as he responds to each of my posts (haw, haw, haw)…but he’s easy to ignore because his style is easy to spot two words in and I fly right over the solipsistic vomit on to anyone else… 😉

    Skunky on September 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm


      For someone who says that she ignores all my comments, you certainly pulled a rabbit out of a hat with your above “parrot” response. What were you responding TO, again?

      If I was clairvoyant like you apparently are, I certainly wouldn’t be wasting my talents on a bunch of vapid “Serbio-Croatian” movies. And if you like the culture that much, why don’t you move there? I guarantee that any person who lives there would kill for a chance to move to the USA.

      Statusmonkey on September 9, 2012 at 12:29 am

    @Gay Obama,

    Was it witty? Well, my first choice, “@Hey Society, You Better Do Things My Way or Somebody Might Just Fly Off at the Handle and Kill Himself” seemed a bit long. But “@Gay Obama” captures that almost as well (and in fewer words), since the big dingleBarry pretty much takes the same approach to the race racket. Except when it comes to race, it’s not so much a threat to kill himself as it is to cry and (somehow) hate America more than ever. For some of the more gullible types, either of these outcomes is about as desirable as a full-scale nuclear war – it has to be avoided at ALL costs. Neither outcome (to be perfectly honest) is all that terrifying to me.

    Statusmonkey on September 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Poor SM. If one actually pushes him, as I did on a gay-related topic a couple of weeks back, his “arguments” can be shown to be dishonest and sloppy. In addition, he doesn’t seem to care about Islam very much but does care about picking fights with those who oppose Islam. And while he criticizes Skunky for potty language, he throws out stuff like “Gay Obama.”

      skzion on September 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm

It’s a shame “The Words” wasted a very good opportunity to hammer one home for maturity and doing the right thing.

Then again, I expect no less from Hollywood.

PitandPen on September 9, 2012 at 1:30 am

The Words. Message: Plagiarism pays! Indeed, plagiarism, cheating, fraud, stealing are all now considered “short-cuts” to “success” that are okay if the rewards exceed the risk of punishment, which, in the case of plagiarism is virtually nil.

This theme reminds me of a song written by Tom Lehrer, a former Harvard mathematician who is most noted today for writing and composing an amazing collection of humorous songs of social and political satire featured on four LPs from before 1970. The truly remarkable thing about Lehrer’s comedy songs is that they haven’t become dated. Even his political songs have relevance today. Although I think that Lehrer’s politics today would probably be on the liberal side, I think people are going to continue to enjoy his songs for decades to come.

Here’s the song that The Words reminds me of. It’s called Lobachevsky. Tom Lehrer wrote this song in the 1950s, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s as relevant as ever:

Ralph Adamo on September 9, 2012 at 1:40 am

Thanks once again for the good movie reviews Debbie. All three of these movies look like they’re not worth it to me. Oh well there’s always redbox.

Ken b on September 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm

It is unfortunate that Tom Lehrer’s songs have not become dated. Along with the Communists he criticized the US’s nuclear readiness program, and its efforts, too feeble to begin with, to protect our country against Communists and similar radicals. He also managed to subtly attack the Boy Scouts, so I guess he was ahead of his time in that regard.

Little Al on September 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    OT–Al, I think we are on the same page with regard to national defense and the threat of communists. And, as I’ve pointed out, without knowing Tom Lehrer’s personal politics, I’d surmise that he was and still is a liberal. However, in Lehrer’s case, that does not diminish the humor and relevance of his comedic songs. Here’s a song from the mid-1960s of his called “Send the Marines”: I think the song is actually respectful of the military, but it questions the value of some of the strategies of military deployment. Today, Iraq would be an example of that.

    Ralph Adamo on September 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      OT–And as for the Boy Scouts, I don’t think that Lehrer’s 1950’s era song referencing them, “Be Prepared” could be fairly characterized as an attack on them.

      Ralph Adamo on September 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm

        OT–And finally, what college grad today could not relate on some level to Tom Lehrer’s 1950’s era song, “Bright College Days.” Still relevant, and still on target.

        Ralph Adamo on September 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I guess I missed his satirical songs about the Communists, the beatniks, or any targets associated, even loosely, with the left.

In those days you couldn’t attack the Boy Scouts head on the way you can today, but he tried to ridicule them indirectly — the slogan ‘Be Prepared’ was mocked by all those
oh-so-intelligent and oh-so-precocious children that grew up to be anti-American. There’s “We Will All Go Together When We Go”. I don’t see how you can doubt that this song was an attack on our nuclear readiness that fit hand in glove with the Communists’ objectives.

He sang his song about the Marines all through the Vietnam War. Of course not all his songs undermined our culture — he wasn’t as bad as Pete Seeger, but he made his reputation undermining the culture of the 50s which was a much better culture, all things considered, than our culture today.

I’ll stick with pro-Americans like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Loretta Young.

Little Al on September 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm

OT-@Al, as a long-standing comedy and music fan, I also happen to like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, but I don’t think that Tom Lehrer’s liberalism permeates everything he wrote, nor do I think his satires are attacks on American culture. Lehrer was part of the great American comedy tradition of the “rebel” comedians, a group which included Mort Sahl, Nichols & May, Shelly Berman, Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, and others. Yes, there was an anti-establishment element there, but there is nothing inherently good about obedience to authority. These were comedians that made you think–and in my book, that is always a good thing. So, while I’m on this OT Tom Lehrer subject, let me close on one of his 1960s songs that is obviously still relevant today, “Who’s Next?” The song is not anti-American, but warns about nuclear bombs getting into the wrong hands. BTW, the U.S. Army liked Lehrer’s songs on the military, and actually hired him for some promotional activities.

Ralph Adamo on September 9, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Then of course there was the charming Vatican Rag.

And, to put it mildly, I wouldn’t conflate loyalty to America with obedience to authority. (I am trying to be diplomatic since you are a regular contributor.)

And the whole leftist attack on nuclear bombs was about their getting in the ‘wrong hands’, i.e. supposedly crazy militarists like those in Dr. Strangelove. All of this paved the way for the anti-Vietnam War movement, from which this country has never recovered.

As I said, I am using extremely muted language since you are a regular contributor, but I shouldn’t have to go to such lengths to defend an attack on Tom Lehrer on a blog such as this.

Little Al on September 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm

And the ‘rebel’ comedians? One thing I’ll say for Jack Benny — he didn’t have sex with his underage step-daughter. He never opposed the Vietnam War, and he never associated himself with fringe leftist political parties.

And, it is embarrassing to have to say something this elementary, but anti-Americanism does not need to permeate everything he did. In fact, anti-Americanism is more effective than it doesn’t.

Just like secret Communists supporters like Samuel Dickstein are more effective than someone like Vito Marcantonio whose parroting of the Communist line became a joke.

Little Al on September 10, 2012 at 12:07 am

Finally, I remember a few weeks ago, a commenter chided Debbie for spending so much time writing about movies and other cultural issues, and not enough about what that person felt were more pressing political issues.

A discussion such as this shows the importance of addressing cultural issues. When we aren’t careful, degenerate or adversarial culture. even if only mildly adversarial, can play a pernicious role in sapping longstanding values of our society.

Of course this is exactly what happened in the 60s, and people like these new wave comedians helped pave the way for the collapse of the late 60s.

It didn’t occur in a vacuum. Many of the radicals of the 30s were not repentant, just as many of the radicals of the 60s, such as Bill Ayers, are not repentant today.

When the time was opportune, i.e. in the mid and late 60s, they and their kids picked up where they left off. Many of the fans of Lenny Bruce, Tom Lehrer and the rest of them fell in this category.

Discussions like this show the need to continue giving attention to our ‘culture’, although it is probably too late now, anyway.

Little Al on September 10, 2012 at 3:38 am

I’m gonna have to dissent on “Cosmopolis.” It’s directed by David Cronenberg, the Canadian who over the last three-plus decades has given us many highly complex psychological thrillers –in recent years he’s done “A History of Violence,” “Eastern Promises” and “A Dangerous Method.” Like David Lynch and Darren Aronovsky, Cronenberg is a filmmaker who might seem “perverse” to some, but that’s only on the surface. He’s highly literate and with no pretension. Cronenberg’s name on this movie alone merits attention to it.

And about Michelle Malkin, what did mankind, never mind Debbie, do to deserve this woman? Why does she steal every scoop in sight and claim the work as her own work? Why is she so surly and ugly in her behavior? Come to think of it, the workings of the mind of this petite dominatrix would be a perfect subject for a David Cronenberg movie.

Seek on September 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

OT–@Al, I think you’re way off base with your view that such “rebel” comedians as Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Tom Lehrer, Shelly Berman, Dick Gregory, and others in that group have played “a pernicious role in sapping longstanding values of our society.” Although this group of comedians have obviously had a great influence on the art of standup comedy generally and political satire in particular, to suggest that far Leftists like Bill Ayers and others of his ilk were shaped, molded, or influenced by them in any significant way seem beyond a stretch–if, in fact, Ayers and others of his ilk even paid any attention to those rebel comedians, let alone listened to them.

Lehrer, in particular, had–and continues to have–a very limited appeal, and in my opinion his appeal has been mostly limited to those who are broadly educated with an off-beat sense of humor. In my opinion, Lehrer’s core fans have been mostly political centrists–with some on the liberal side, some on the conservative side, and some in the middle.

If you know of, or have read about, any communists who happen to be fans of the works of Tom Lehrer, I’d be interested in hearing about them. But until you can establish some sort of reasonable link, I don’t believe that your theory about such a purported connection between the work of the comedians and “sapping” the “values of society” carries any water.

I don’t even think the leftist leaning “comedians” of today, like Bill Maher, Jonathan Stewart, or Steve Colbert–who make a pretention of being intellectual comdedians, are fans of Lehrer’s works. All three of them would acknowledge the influence of Mort Sahl–who must be credited as the “father” of political standup comedy–but other than that, their material never had the depth that Sahl’s did. And Sahl, like Lehrer, would just as quickly comedically “attack” liberals as well as conservatives.

Ralph Adamo on September 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I don’t even know why I bother to answer — don’t you know Dick Gregory’s history as a rabble rouser, and his association with fringe socialist political parties?

And I’m giving a general answer for others who may be reading this. There was a general societal consensus in the early 60s, based on patriotism, religion, and yes, general respect for authority. There were also societal constraints on sexual activity, which helped preserve the family unit. This kept our country together.

By subtly undermining this consensus, the comedians you mention, raised questions about authority. They weren’t alone — the civil rights movement had more of an effect, but these individuals did weaken overall authority and encourage a spirit of rebellion.

It is naive to think that Communists weren’t happy about Lehrer’s criticism of nuclear weapons (but not saying a word about the Soviet Union, Hungary or other Soviet atrocities). I’m not going to go to the library and hunt up copies of the Daily Worker, but, intuitively, what I’m saying should be obvious. And if you look at Lehrer’s songs, the emphasis of the attacks is on conservatives, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and nuclear weapons. Remember that Lionel Trilling said that intelligence constitutes the ability to make inferences.

And what do you think political satire does? Do you think Mort Sahl satirized JFK or Wayne Morse?

I have no idea who Bill Ayers was influenced by, but I do know that these comedians undermined the overall consensus in society and helped eliminate a barrier to Bill Ayers’ (and others like him) ability to function politically.

This will be my last comment.

Little Al on September 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm

OT–@Al, I don’t know about whether or not Mort Sahl satirized Wayne Morse, but his history with JFK is well documented. Yes, Sahl knew JFK and was friendly with him. And, in fact, had devoted an entire comedy LP that was favorable to JFK and targeted Nixon prior to the 1960 election.

However, after JFK was elected president, Sahl did, indeed, satirize JFK. Now, according to my readings on the subject, JFK was broad enough to be able to laugh at himself, but his father, Joe Kennedy, was angry that Sahl would make JFK the butt of his humor and Joe Kennedy actually used his power and influence to attempt to blacklist Sahl. But that did not stop Sahl, comedic iconoclast that he was, from continuing to satirize JFK, up until the time of JFK’s assasination.

I’ll call it a day too on this subject, as we have both probably overstayed our welcome on an off-topic discussion.

Ralph Adamo on September 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

I wasn’t going to say anything else, but Sahl wrote jokes FOR President Kennedy. How sharp could any of his satire of JFK been under those circumstances?

Little Al on September 11, 2012 at 7:20 am

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