VACATIONS DONT WORK! Matthews, back from a long vacance, stuck his nose into Sheehans divorce: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2005
VACATIONS DONT WORK: Is it true? Do vacations really produce better judgment, as the president recently said? We had a hard time deducing the principle from Monday evenings edition of Hardball, when recently-recreated, refreshed Chris Matthews clowned at the expense of Cindy Sheehan.
The trivia quotient was set on HIGH when Matthews spoke with Sheehan. Sheehan appeared with her sister, Deedee Miller, who has played no real public role in the story from Camp Sheehan. But after one question—one!—for his actual guest, Matthews found himself deeply distracted by—what else?—her sisters t-shirt! The t-shirt bore the words FED UP, under which Miller had written with Bush. So the next three questions went to her, concerning her troubling chemise:
MATTHEWS (8/15/05): Let me ask you, your sister is joining us right now. Tell me about that t-shirt you`re wearing. Deedee Miller.Questions 2 and 3 concerned the shirt. In Question 4, Matthews asked Miller to speculate a bit about Bushs reason for war. And uh-oh! He didnt much like Millers answer! Sheehan, his putative guest, was all but forgotten as Matthews proceeded to lecture her sister about how serious this whole thing is:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): If—this is serious business! The purpose of your vigil is to get an answer from the president. It is not to demonstrate against the war, right? It is to get an answer from the president.It was hard to know why Chris was irate, but his characteristic weirdness—and his love of distraction—didnt seem to have disappeared during his relaxing vacance. (And remember what weve always told you about his problems with liberal women.)
And sadly, when Matthews finally got back to Sheehan, his love of trivia continued to rule. He asked a few questions on matters of substance. Then, deeply bored, he said this:
MATTHEWS: Let me give you a statement that seems to show some division in your family. One of your relatives has given this statement to a conservative radio commentator for distribution.Predictably, Chris couldnt wait to start nosing around among the Sheehan in-laws. Soon, the witless one was asking Miller to speculate a bit again—this time, though, about the motives of her sisters in-laws! You really cant get too much dumber:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Deedee a question. Why do you think the other side of the family has taken this position?Do you think the family was put up to this by a other partisan group on the right? he asked next. And then, of course, the Grand Finale! It was on to questions about why Sheehans husband has filed for divorce. Finally, Matthews had his long nose where it always fits best—inside somebody elses marriage.
Ten minutes later, Sheehan went live with CNNs Anderson Cooper. And omigod! Cooper asked Sheehan substantive questions about her actual views on the war! But Matthews, fresh from weeks of vacance, was every bit as thrilled with trivia as hed been when he departed. Surprise! Two weeks among Nantuckets swells had left the great man no less addled.
THEN THERE WAS MITCHELL: And then, alas, there was Andrea Mitchell, guest hosting Sundays Meet the Press. Remember: Trivia is their true middle name. Heres how Mitchell began her chat concerning New Yorks Senate race:
MITCHELL (8/14/05): Let's also talk about another political battle which is Hillary Clinton's new opponent in New York. Let's take a look at what could be one of the most lively races—Jeanine Pirro, the county D.A. in Westchester County, who launched her campaign—and take a look at her launch. Here she is trying to describe and explain why she is running again Hillary Clinton. She had a page missing. Not exactly a great kickoff. E. J. [Dionne], is this a real threat to Mrs. Clinton?Of course, Pirro isnt Clintons opponent just yet; she has to win New Yorks GOP primary before she gains that distinction. But, having decided to pimp this topic prematurely, what did Mitchell want to discuss? First, she wanted to talk about the fact that a page was missing from Pirros kick-off statement. After that, she wanted to ask if this race would be all about the gals husbands—thereby doing her best to ensure that the answer to that would be yes.
Vacuous, addled, empty, inane? Matthews wondered about a troubling t-shirt—a t-shirt worn by his famous guests sister. And he stuck his long nose into Sheehans divorce, characteristically rubbing his thighs as he went. Meanwhile, Mitchell was dishing about the husband of someone who isnt yet Clintons opponent. For the bulk of the past fifteen years, this addled addiction to total trivia was almost exclusively aimed at Big Dems. Now, in some circles, that tide may be turning. But the love of inanity lingers. But so it goes when millionaire fops are put at the head of our discourse.
BROKEN-HEARTED ANALYSTS: By the time we got them back in the van, a few of the analysts were almost in tears. For ourselves, we hadnt expected to like Broken Flowers. But we hadnt realized that it would be the type of film we most love to hate—the modern people-hater. Other recent examples of the genre? Election; About Schmidt; American Beauty. Last year, some tried to add Sideways to the list, but we resisted, instead seeing it as an example of the male wet dream film—the type of film in which the most vivacious and soulful of women fall hard for the shlubbiest men. (Of course, Broken Flowers provides that thrill too. At the outset, why in the world was Julie Delpy shacked with this most broken man?)
So yes, some of the analysts were upset by the time we got them back in the van. In fact, Broken Flowers neatly borrows from Schmidt, another film which recently caused their democratic instincts to boil. (They watched it again on DVD this past winter.) In each film, a catatonic main character hits the road, where he meets a range of average Americans. And surprise! Everyone he meets turns out to be even emptier (and more laughable) than he is! The audience gets to enjoy the fact that they arent as dumb as the average American. And of course, the principal message is clear—the brightest and finest of us all is surely the writer-director.
(Broken Flowers even joins About Schmidt in providing some of the most absurdly gratuitous full-frontal nudity in recent film. This time, its done to titillate; then, it was done to appall.)
But when did the analysts really lose heart? When they trooped to their desks and fired their Dells, puzzling at the critics reviews. OK, lets be fair—over at the Los Angeles Times, Carina Chocano did call it pure crap. But elsewhere, the critics agreed to agree. Lets face it—our analysts impressive sensibilities to the side, you still cant go wrong with the nations film critics if you tell them theyre brighter by far.
Note: Our final paragraph was edited down, because we know one involved critic.
WE HAVE A WINNER: One e-mailer correctly psyched the thrill we got from that one performer—the one we thought had turned the page when we saw The Aristocrats (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/16/05):
E-MAIL: There were so many performances, brief performances, it's hard to remember them all. I may have laughed loudest at Sarah Silverman and the guy doing Judy Garland. Am I warm?Was he warm? Readers, we had a winner! But why on earth did our e-mailer think we were talking up Mario Cantone?
AND YOU THOUGHT THEY GAVE TOO MANY GRAMMYS: We enjoyed the following paragraph (Manohla Dargis, New York Times) about Broken Flowers triumph at Cannes:
DARGIS (5/22/05): Paternity was a theme of more than one of this year's winning films, and of many that did not win. The jury, which included the Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison and the actors Javier Bardem and Salma Hayek, gave its Grand Prix, the festival's second-highest award, to Jim Jarmusch for ''Broken Flowers,'' a comically poignant portrait of a middle-aged Lothario (Bill Murray) searching for a son he did not know he had.The Grand Prix is the second-highest award! But then again, when you order fries at Wendys, medium is the smallest size of all.