Posted on: October 11, 2008

There is a movie that I want to see. It is called I.O.U.S.A. Movie critic Roger Ebert wrote about it and has whetted my appetite for it.

Roger Ebert is my one of my favourite writers of whom I can only think of two at the moment, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Steinbeck. Ebert is a mere movie critic. Emerson is the greatest American essayist. Steinbeck, the novelist, wrote about hardscrabble lives so poignantly you could choke on his dustbowl dust.

For a mere movie critic, Ebert seems to have a special window view into the human soul.

Some samples:

Ebert wrote the director of Immortal Beloved, a story on the life of Beethoven, “has created a fantasy about Beethoven that evokes the same disturbing, ecstatic passion we hear in his music.” I love that phrase. Beethoven’s music is powerful, but Ebert doesn’t write that. He calls it disturbing. Upon reflection, I agree. It is disturbing. Somehow I am grateful Ebert has pointed it out.

When I first saw Cool Hand Luke, I immediately thought it was a statement on the life of Christ. The scene with Paul Newman and George Kennedy toward the end, Christ (Newman) in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing his doomed end and seeing what a disciple cannot (Kennedy plays Dragline, a fellow prisoner in a brutal camp, a rival turned admirer). The last shot is a rural roadway intersection, a cross from the air, a scene that impressed me at the time as the final fitting symbol and epitaph of the struggle of Luke, with Dragline, describing Luke’s death as meaningful, not understanding that in Luke’s last tormented hours he was describing his life as futile and meaningless. Ebert writes of the movie: “When Luke collapses on a table after eating the eggs, he takes the posture of Christ on the cross. Yes, he is a Christ-figure, and on last night of the story, in a little rural church, he addresses his Father on the subject of whether he has been forsaken.” Ebert was the only one I know who saw what I saw in that movie.

I like honest, simple writing. I’m too often incapable of it. It is an art. Ebert can achieve it.

In describing his impression of the historical epic, Reds, I would have unearthed that film’s red raw guts to describe it. Ebert, instead, in describing how two Americans ended up in Russia during its revolution and becoming a communist state, included these two too-simple honest lines : “I liked this movie. I felt a real fondness for it.” I was dumbfounded. Two honest lines written so simply it is almost audacity in a review of a movie that provides that much scope.

Ace in the Hole, a Kirk Douglas film, portrays the worst of tabloid journalists, an asshole- there is no other word for him- manufacturing an event for his private ambitions by taking advantage of a trapped man in a mine, mercilessly keeping him there to increase suspense and public interest. It is a brutal movie, difficult to watch. Ebert wrote of the black and white film: “This story would curdle colour.”

Writing simply, with honesty makes admirable writing possible.

Now let me turn 180 degrees. There is no beauty in Ebert’s review of I.O.U.S.A. Instead, it is an unpretty letter of frank despair, addressed to his grandchildren.

He begins simply: “There is something called the “national debt.” In the movie’s interviews with ordinary people, it has a hard time finding anyone who knows exactly what that is. Well, I’ve never exactly known, either. I thought I knew, but it never came up in conversation..”

The national debt is $10 trillion.

Ebert writes he is getting it, he is beginning to understand what that means, and tells his grandchildren in his movie review: “What will this mean to you? It will mean you will live in a country no longer able to pay for many of the services and guarantees we take for granted. In 40 years, when you are still less than my age, it looks like the government will only be able to pay for three things: Interest on the national debt, “some” Social Security and “some” Medicare.”

He continues: “Here’s an interesting statistic. I remember when “Made in China” meant cheap and shabby merchandise. No longer. In the ranking of the trade imbalance among all the world’s nations, China is first with the highest surplus, and the United States is last with the largest deficit.”

Then concludes: “So here’s the bottom line, kids. The United States is probably going to go broke during your lifetimes. Actually, it’s already broke, but getting deeper into debt allows it to keep running on thin air, like the Road Runner. My advice? Learn Chinese. Start savings accounts. Don’t buy what you can’t afford. Any politician who tries to win votes by promising to cut taxes is digging our country’s grave.”

Anyway, I intend to see the movie.


2 Responses to "I.O.U.S.A"

[…] IOUSA By aardvarkcola Ace in the Hole, a Kirk Douglas film, portrays the worst of tabloid journalism, manufacturing an event for private ambitions by taking advantage of a trapped man in a mine, mercilessly keeping him there to increase suspense and public … Aardvark Cola – https://aardvarkcola.wordpress.com […]

[…] Reading older blog entries I liked the I.O.U.S.A article from back in October. America’s national debt is scary and getting scarier. Canadian […]

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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence


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