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September 09, 2008


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I, er, wow. This is why I avoid overt political analysis, unless the movie practically demands it. I feel bad for conservative film fans: I thought all of us LIBERALS got the moon bats!

Dan Coyle

I honestly have no idea how to respond to that.

Brietbart, it should be noted, is the only person who ever made me feel bad for David Ehrenstein after Brietbart badgered him in an interview for something a left leaning website said that Eherenstein hadn't even heard about.

I will say this: the bullying, hateful rhetoric he uses to describe his "enemies" and his complaints about how "His" side can agree to disagree and get along... I can't... I just can't.

I just want conservatives to leave me alone.

steve simels

Not drunk -- just an asshole. Smarting over the fact that the kewl kids don't like him anymore.

This guy should have done real well at the Republican convention. Like the rest of his fellow Movement Conservatives, all he has is seething Nixonian resentment.


Bizarre. Why Maggie? Is she some sort of activist without my knowing about it? I always thought she was just a pretty actress, moderately talented, who slouches a lot. And this guy is talking about her like a cyberstalker. I don't get it, but if I were Maggie (esp. after reading the comments, yeesh) I think I'd get a restraining order.


"Now a really clever conservative would cite the first film she scripted, Running on Empty, and observe that it could, without fear of contradiction, be retitled The Bill Ayers Story."

Good point. I really enjoy that film but if analyzed politically, it's a pretty whitewashed retelling of the Weather Underground story. Though Judd Hirsch doesn't come off nearly as arrogant as Ayers.


Found this at a French site:



I had dinner with Bernadine Dorn in Harvard Square in 2004 (long story) and she mentioned seeing Running On Empty in a theater, on first release, and being both flattered and vaugely annoyed. I think she said she even phoned some of the other old Weatherman and discussed the movie with them. Strange to imagine the Weather Underground seeing Running On Empty, but they did.

She got a ride to Cambridge night from Bester Cramm of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, and my first thought upon hearing that was that it's a shame Bobby Seale could'nt have been in the car too. Hoover and Agnew must have been spinning in their graves....

Somebody should cast Maggie Gyllenhall as Bernadine Dorn, and have Naomi Foner write it, and then give Bernadine Dorn tickets to the preimere.

Steven W.

Bernadine Dorn was a fox back in the day, but not as foxy as Patty Hearst.


It's fun to reminisce about domestic terrorism.


Oh, and JJ? You know who else was probably spinning in their graves? The policmen and Brink's guard that Dorn helped murder. Wow, what a great story.

Glenn Kenny

Okay, this will probably take a while.

@Bill—Too-shea, I say, as I can't do an accent grave in comments. I didn't, and don't, like the Weathermen, particularly since when those explosive-ignorant idiots took out that brownstone on Manhattan's 10th Street, they almost got my aunt Dorothy, who was living next door. (Dorothy is not an actual aunt; it's one of those Italian-American things where your mother's best friend and her sisters—Dorothy being one of them—just become your aunts. But never mind.) I don't dig Ayers or Dohrn (particularly, Dohrn, don't even get me started) , but they got off the hook, and Ayers did reinvent himself as someone with pull within Chicago's "progressive" agenda...and I don't believe that Obama's getting involved with a project Ayers was involved in makes Obama an heir to the Weather Underground.

Just to be clear.

@Campaspe: Yes, the comments on the Observer piece are a particularly deep bag of ugly. Still, I'd like to say, since I'm here, that some of my nearest and dearest are conservatives, and that I still, perhaps naively, cling to the belief that people of good faith can disagree, I therefore don't like to paint conservatives with as broad a brush as some of my confreres—holey moley, I almost said "fellow travelers"—do. Although times being what they are, it's awfully easy to do exactly that, from either side.

I don't believe in conservative artists and liberal artists. I believe in artists. I hit out at Breitbart because, well, he's making an ass of himself. I would love to engage with a Hollywood conservative gadfly who had sense and wit. But he ain't it.

Bill, do you live on the West Coast by any chance?


Glenn, I hope I didn't give the wrong impression. It's a point of pride with me that a nice-size portion of my readers, who drop me an email or leave the occasional comment, are conservatives who do not appear particularly bothered by my politics or the fact that many other visitors skew left. They appreciate fine old things, as conservatives should in my view, and so they're interested in a site about classic movies. I can't imagine any of them participating in something like the Observer comments pigpile--or if they did, they would sound intelligent and courteous doing it, as Bill does here.

And that's precisely the problem with Breitbart.

Glenn Kenny

No, no, you didn't give the wrong impression at all! I was just taking the opportunity, after concurring with you on the Observer comments, to make those particular thoughts known.


No, Glenn, I'm an East-coaster like yourself, except that I'm bit further south than you. Virginia, to be exact.

Glenn Kenny

I asked because if you WERE in Hollywood, you'd fit the bill I described above. Not to overly flatter you or anything.


Thank you, Glenn. Coming from you, I do consider it a high compliment, though I promise to not be overly flattered.


Bernadine's still pretty foxy.

And yeah, it WAS fun to reminisce about this woman's unique perspective on the recent past, up to her take on the episode of The Simpsons where Homer's mother blows up the germ lab and goes underground.

Harvard University had invited her to speak and paid for dinner, so bitch at them.

I never said I condoned any of the violent shit she did, and made a point of telling her that when I met her. Her response was, basically, "I did it, I can't change the past, I take responsibility for it, and I'm trying to spend the rest of my life as a positive, non-destructive force for good." I thought that made sense. Frankly, I'd rather hang out with her and the VVAW guys and the ex-Black Panthers and Stonewall rioters. They have the better stories.

So spare me your superior moralistic sniping, okay? I mean, I seriously doubt you would say that about some Iraq veteran who was in Fallujah and who killed a whole LOT of people.

Oh, and Virginia is the south. It's not the East Coast. I live in Massachusetts. THAT'S the East Coast.

I don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.


Better stories than who?

I think it's great that you have such a blast hanging out with murderers, after you've made sure they know that you think murder is bad.

And you're just a poster boy for moral equivelancy, aren't you? That Iraq vet from Fallujah you wonder about, well, it would all depend, wouldn't it? Did he maliciously and deliberately kill innocent people, or did he kill the enemy in battle? If the former, no, I wouldn't want to speak with him, and I would hope he spends the rest of his life in prison. If the latter, yes, I would like to speak with him, and thank him. And I bet he'd have some damn good stories, as well.

And you don't know what "coast" means, do you? Or "east"? I know they grow 'em pretty arrogant up in your neck of the woods, but "east" means "east", no matter how far north, or south, you are, and "coast" means you're bordering an ocean. Which Virginia does. Especially the "Virginia Beach" part of Virginia.


Oh, and Massachusetts is in the north. I don't need a meteorologist to tell me which part of the...oh, forget it.


Actually, Bernadine Dohrn never killed anyone, nor did the Weather Underground have an agenda of murder or assassination, though their use of bombs in their early days could have killed people. When three of them blew themselves up, the WU disavowed bombing as a protest/disruption technique.


Make that the Weathermen. They weren't underground yet.


They had an agenda of violence. Do you think they were so stupid as to think their bombs might not kill anybody? And Dohrn belonged to a terrorist organization whose actions -- which she advocated -- led to the deaths of innocent people. Why dance around it?


Better stories then the folks who spent '65 to '74 voting for Nixon and ignoring Vietnam because they were too busy making a buck.

Oh, and here comes the moral equivalency accusation! What the pro-war right-wing conservatives always pull out whenever you question them. Hey, NEWS FLASH, Virginia Beach! Whether you kill a bank guard in a hold up or a slew of Arabs in Iraq, in the end, YOU'VE KILLED PEOPLE. If they were trying to kill you in combat, you still KILLED PEOPLE. Killing "the enemy in battle" is still KILLING PEOPLE. It's all MURDER.

So don't attack me for hanging out with murderers and supporting terrorists while you're out buying combat marines a drink and slapping them on the back. "Thank him"? For what? Participating in the most criminal activity America has taken part in since the slave trade? For surviving battle with people who would have never been in a position to fight him unless his government illegally, unnescecarily, and deliberatly placed him, meaning the Marines, in harm's way and forced him to participate in avoidable violence?

And by the way, some of the other people I've been fortunate enough to break bread with in Cambridge have included a Colonel in the U.S. Army and some special forces guys, all with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who have killed people in combat. But who are'nt proud of it, and would be pretty angry if someone "thanked" them for it. I made no secret with them of my feelings about America's involvement in Iraq, just like I made it clear to Bernadine I did'nt think blowing up buildings was an acceptable form of protest. And like the former radical, the active duty military were grateful for my honesty, and surprised me by, to greater or lesser degrees, agreeing with me. "We shoulda just stayed in Afghanistan. Iraq's not worth it.", one man told me.

If "arrogant" means "not afraid to stand up for myself when attacked out of left field for relating a personal experience" then yeah, guilty as charged.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't ever, ever again watch any film with cinematography by Haskell Wexler! I mean, him and Emilio De Antonio hung out for months with MURDERERS and TERRORISTS! And then made a movie about them! He's EVIL! Moral equivalency! All I did was eat seafood with her.

And Marilyn: thanks.


Sorry you don't like the "moral equivalency" argument, but you should probably stop opening yourself up to it like that.

But anyway...so these military guys you broke bread with respected you for manning up and admitting that you AGREED with them? Wow, you really do have balls, don't you? Tell me, have you ever broken bread with any active military who disagree with you? Or has Harvard not gotten around to asking them to speak yet? Man, Bernadette Dohrn and anti-war military. You really cover your bases, don't you?

You're original comment celebrated the fact that long-dead conservatives (and, presumably, currently living ones, as well) would not be amused by your story of enjoying dinner with a terrorist (excuse me, FORMER terrorist). That was the POINT of your story. The bodies in her wake? Whatever.

I find that repellent. Sorry.

And why should I boycott Haskell Wexler? I've read all of your comments, haven't I?

PS - When you get around to looking up "east" and "coast", why don't you take a second to look up "murder", as well.

Glenn Kenny

Okay, then.

I'm about to duck into a couple of screenings (I know: how novel!) and, although.I am a supporter of vigorous debate, I would appreciate it if the, let's say, volume of subsequent comments be.dialed down just a bit. Consider it a personal favor. Thanks.


Oops, forgot some stuff: first, I respect the opinions of those military guys you spoke with, JJ. I disagree with them, but I respect them. But I wonder if you called them "murderers"? Or if you pointed out that you thought that what we're doing in Afghanistan -- which you say yourself they support -- is murder as well?


Sorry, Glenn, that last one was posted before I saw your request, which I will honor.


Glenn, RUNNING ON EMPTY wasn't the first film produced from a Naomi Foner script. Her first produced screenplay was VIOLETS ARE BLUE... (1986).

Glenn Kenny

Just to be clear: hash this out all you like. Just, as my mom used to say, lower, please.

Be back tonight with "Burn" review.

Claire K.

I'm rather disappointed that in all of this arguing back and forth, no one has yet spared a word for the Weather Girls. Almost like "It's Raining Men" never happened to you people.

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