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11.18 How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet

11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]

11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]

11.16 Scotland was first Industrialized Country to Run wholly on Wind in October

11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]

11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]

11.15  The long read:  The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]

11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]

11.15 Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks

11.14 Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested in Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

11.13 What would a smog-free city look like?

11.13 Global report highlights Australia’s renewables potential amid mixed signals for coal

11.13 Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

11.12  This Land is Your Land:  The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.12 Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

News Media Matters

11.19 The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About

Daily: FAIR Blog
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US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]

11.19 Michael Bloomberg: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid

11.19 Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage

11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder

11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]

11.19 SNL explains Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s HQ2 strategy: trolling President Trump [2:55 SNL video]

11.18 Trump says Pelosi deserves speakership, offers Republican votes [An affirmation of Pelosi's unsuitability]

11.18 Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair [Will Pelosi earnestly change, or end her career in disgrace?]

11.18 Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack [Neoliberal Democrats must go!]

11.18 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare [Privatizing often results in outright fraud and higher costs by private prisons, privatized health insurance and health care, privatized public schools and online "colleges" like Trump University]

11.17 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare

11.17 As Energy for Medicare for All Explodes, Steny Hoyer's Plan Includes Waiting for Trump to Help Make Obamacare Better [Another who is unfit to be Democrat leader]

11.17 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda' [Unfit to be Democrat leader]

11.17 Trump Is Starting to Panic

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High Crimes?

11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]

11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]

11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]

11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]

International & Futurism

11.18 New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]

11.17 Saudi crown prince's 'fit' delays UN resolution on war in Yemen

11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]

11.17 CIA finds Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi killing – report

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  Nora Ephron: Julie & Julia (2009)
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Nora Ephron: Julie & Julia (2009)

Better at the first blush than the long follow-through

by Chris Knipp
19 August 2009

Ms. Ephron takes a questionable step in choosing to toggle back and forth between scenes in the life of Julia Child and the drab outer-borough strivings of Julie Powell.

The whole trouble with the otherwise charming and very well acted new Nora Epron movie, "Julie & Julia," is that it's totally lopsided. There's one half that we'd love to have much more of, and another we could quite easily do without. This is several great performances, but only half of a great movie.

This happens because of two gimmicks, neither of which seems particularly brilliant. Julie Powell, an ambitious and frustrated women in Queens who wanted to escape her job and become a writer, in the year 2002 devised the gimmick of preparing all the 500-some recipes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days and describing the process in a blog. And now Ms. Ephron has devised her own gimmick of splicing scenes from the book made from this blog together with scenes from Julie Child's book, My Life in France, which takes place mostly in the late Forties and Fifties. The cookbook came out in 1961, and at the end there's a scene set then when the book comes in the mail to the Childs' house in America. Ms. Ephron takes a questionable step in choosing to toggle back and forth between scenes in the life of Julia Child—an American icon with a revolutionary effect on American sophistication about food, whose life in post-war France was glamorous and amusing—and the drab outer-borough strivings of Julie Powell. Though Amy Adams, who plays Powell, is cute and appealing and even subtle, her scenes can hardly hope to compete with the ones celebrating Meryl Streep's joyous, irrepressible version of Julia Child.

Chris Messina, who plays Julie Powell's husband Eric, again is appealing—both stories concern good marriages with understanding husbands who nurtured their wives' difficult paths to fame and success—but he can hardly compete with the likes of Staney Tucci as Paul Child, Julia's husband. Tucci and Streep are a already a team, though there could hardly be more of a contrast between their roles this time and their earlier triumph in "The Devil Wears Prada," in which Meryl plays the ice queen fashion mag maven and Stanley plays her very gay right-hand man.

Julia Child is a character full of joie de vivre, an enthusiast fazed by nothing and nobody. It must be admitted that, force of nature though Streep's Julia is, and delightful though it is to watch the scenes in which she wrestles with the mean Paris Cordon Bleu woman director Madame Brassart (played by former French Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck), or delights in restaurant food, or gets sexy with her husband, of bones a goose or flops an omelette, the fascination of evil is such that Streep's Miranda Priestly is even more fun to watch in "Prada." Guilty pleasures are the best, and nice characters finish last.

There is a failure in Ephron's pleasing but bland writing here, too. Her protagonist might have had a bracing dash of wickedness in her. There are obvious hints—even in the end of the film itself—that the real Julia Child could have snits or be pretty darn mean, for all her ebullience. When Julie's blog gets publicized, Julia disapproves of the whole project, as if to say that the important half of this movie has no use for the other half. In her dramatization of the Forties-Fifties-Sixties Julia Child (the later periods quickly rushed through) Ephron doesn't dare show us that. She is more successful at pumping up the giddy level of sophisticated comedy, as happens when Julia's even taller sister Dorothy (Jane Lynch) comes for a visit and quickly finds a husband.

Nor does it dare show all the depths and shallows of Ms. Powell's year-long struggle with an increasingly impatient husband and a heartbreaking job with the Lower Manhattan Development. We know from the screen version that Julie burned her Bœuf bourguignon and lost some aspic. But out of 524 recipes in 365 days, more must have gone wrong than that.

The value of this film remains the very real though partial one that Streep is wonderful to watch. So is Tucci—so reassuring, like a well-tailored suit. Streep's Julia towers (the original was 6'2"), a large, robust woman with a lusty chuckle, and she has a "flutey" voice that stays high but has a hearty lower note in her famous, almost threatening way of exclaiming "Bon appétit!" The way she sang that out at the end of her hugely successful cooking TV show, "The French Chef" (which Ephron and Streep also recreate) seemed silly but irresistible. The woman had such fun! She loved life. Streep's impersonation isn't meant to be an exact one, but you buy it. Her character comes to life, even if the film depicts her by playing only on a few bubbly notes.

The best times in the film are the early ones, when Paul and Julia first arrive in France in November of 1948, because he's been posted to Paris in a State Department job (they met while jointly serving in the OSS in China). The film nicely captures that magic moment when they savor sole meunière swimming in butter in a restaurant in Rouen, and she tells Paul to taste it and he just says, "I know. I know." In retrospect, these moments, and Julia's cooking triumphs, seem frustratingly few, as the film goes on to schematically work through her struggles to put together a French cookbook for Americans in collaboration with Simone Beck (Linda Emond) and the lazy Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey). Movies, especially the kind that constantly interrupt themselves, are better at showing us the first blush than the long follow-through. But Julia Child, who was more serious and less exclamatory than Streep's appealing impersonation reveals, was not only a great enthusiast but a methodical and determined person, with the patience and the reverence for quality that any practitioner of the art of French cuisine must have.

©Chris Knipp 2009. Visit the author's website to read more of his work.

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This story was published on August 19, 2009.


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