Saturday, November 15, 2014
By MICHAEL WALSH
It's hard not to be disappointed by the current state of "democracy" in America. Though the overall voter turnout in the U.S. midterm elections was a dismal 36.3 per cent (the lowest in 72 years, according to the New York Times), a combination of voter suppression laws, elaborately gerrymandered districts and a record $4 billion spent on largely negative campaigning produced a "victory" for the Republican Party.
The results seem to bear out the findings of a September 2014 Princeton/Northwestern University research paper that found today's United States to be an oligarchy, a nation governed by the rich and powerful in the furtherance of their own interests.
Closer to home, voters in today's Vancouver municipal election are offered a choice among 10 candidates for the mayor's chair. The two being taken seriously by the media, a pair of pale males named Gregor Robertson (the incumbent) and Kirk LaPointe, are backed by civic parties that have raised just north of $2 million each to fund their campaigns. Both appear to be wholly-owned subsidiaries of property-development corporations, indistinguishable in their core policies.
I found the answer to my personal dilemma in a candidate named Meena Wong, the woman put forward by a progressive party with about $60,000 to spend. Although dismissed by local pundits, she has the one quality I find conspicuously absent from the two alpha males in the race: honesty.
It was then that I experienced a paradigm shift in my approach to the the whole process. Instead of voting for a party or a platform, I decided to vote for a gene. Or rather to exclude a gene, specifically the Y chromosome, and vote a testosterone-free ticket for mayor, city council, parks board and school board.
I guess that makes me a sexist. Today, by only voting for female candidates, I am opting for common sense (generally more pronounced in female politicians), political diversity (the women on the ballot represented more ethnic communities than the men) and willingness to compromise for the common good.
Tomorrow, Reeling Back visitors can expect to find a new film review posting, and another every second day after that. My ten most recent were:
JANIS — The legendary Canadian documentarist F.R. "Budge" Crawley demonstrated his mastery of a new film form, the rockumentary, with this 1974 musical biography of blues singer Janis Joplin. The producer discussed the business of filmmaking with me in two interviews, conversations from 1975 and 1976. (Posted November 14)
HEARTS AND MINDS — In his 1975 documentary on America's Vietnam War, director Peter Davis offered a valuable counter to the official "glory of war" narrative currently being promoted by Canada's government during its annual Remembrance Day ceremonies. (Posted November 11)
OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 2 — In Part 2 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues its restoration of the 1997 Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with notes on the 12 features in the program called God's Country. (Posted November 10)
CITIZEN KANE — Events such as Vancouver's 2014 Media Democracy Days focus on the fact that journalism is a craft under attack as never before. In his 1941 feature film classic, Orson Welles told the story of one milestone in the growth of the corporate press at the heart of today's problems. (Posted November 7)
OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 1 — In Part 1 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back introduces The Greater Vancouver Book's Feature Film Festival from 1997, and offers notes on 10 features representing Vancouver's Feature Film Firsts. (Posted November 6)
ATLANTIC CITY — Equally proficient playing roles in Shakespeare or prime-time soap operas, actress Kate Reid earned a Genie Award for her performance opposite Burt Lancaster in director Louis Malle's 1980 drama, a much-honoured Canadian feature filmed in the U.S. (Posted November 4)
QUARANTINE — Anticipating one extreme reaction to the current ebola epidemic, Vancouver-based filmmaker Charles Wilkinson wrote and directed this 1989 science-fiction thriller, a film that stars the multi-talented actor-critic-academic Jerry Wasserman as a sinister senator. (Posted November 2)
SPLASH — This year's Hallowe'en posting featured Daryl Hannah costumed in a fish tail. Director Ron Howard's 1984 fantasy was also the first film to pair Canadian comic John Candy with Tom Hanks. (Posted October 31)
FRITZ THE CAT — Underground comics icon Robert Crumb was not in agreement with adult animation innovator Ralph Bakshi on his portrayal of the 1960s' most notorious feline. The 1972 film is still remembered as Hollywood's first X-rated cartoon. (Posted October 29)
GHOSTBUSTERS — In the run-up to Hallowe'en, it seemed only right to recall director Ivan Reitman's contribution to mock-scary cinema, the comedy hit of 1984 and the subject of persistent rumours regarding a 2015 reboot. (Posted October 27)