A Letter to Congressional Republicans

Dear Congressional Republicans,

Right now, y'all are way the hell up Shit Creek. You're incapable of passing any legislation, even when you violate the rules of how legislation is written and passed. Your popularity is plummeting, partly because you keep trying and failing to pass a healthcare bill that literally nobody wants, and that none of your mouthpieces can even make a positive case for. Your party is irrevocably associated with a dangerously incompetent president who has a lower approval rating than syphilis, and who's making your jobs harder every day he wakes up. Worst of all, it's beginning to look like, for the first time in most of your lives, there may be negative consequences for your actions. That's got to be terrifying. You've been gutless, amoral lapdogs for plutocracy for a long time, but now people seem upset by that fact. You're in danger of losing your cushy jobs, which is something you understand. The rest of us are in danger of losing much more important things, but you've never cared about that before, and I don't imagine you're about to start, so let's get back to you: you're screwed.

There is a solution, though. One simple thing you can do that does not require you to give up a single thing you care about, and that will allow you to burnish your image, look like principled statesmen instead of cowardly incompetents, and most of all, avoid any electoral or personal consequences for your incompetence and cowardice.

Declare Donald Trump mentally incompetent due to dementia, and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

This would literally solve all your problems. Not anyone else's problems, but again, we know those aren't something you worry about. Impeachment is a long and complicated process, by design, whereas invoking the 25th involves a lot less paperwork. Most importantly, impeachment would involve you having to admit you were wrong, that the man you've been unwilling to say a single word against is, in fact, a criminal, and you supported him anyway. The 25th absolves you of that; you can say that the terrible tragedy of his illness means he must go for the good of the nation, and you won't have to answer a single question about policy.

That tragedy card is going to be really valuable for you. Any criticism of your actions can be shouted down with lots of weeping about people being insensitive at such a painful time. It'll be a perfect excuse to kill the Russia investigation, since it would be cruel to keep bringing up criminal collusion and money-laundering during a tragic medical decision. Let's face it, if Mueller keeps pulling on that thread, there are a lot of you who stand to be implicated, so you'll sleep better if it just goes away. There won't be any airtime for anyone to talk about you killing the investigation, because you'll do it quietly during the period when Trump is screaming loudly about how he's perfectly sane and you're all traitorous reptilians trying to steal his precious thoughts through his penis, and we both know which of those makes better TV.

Obviously, Trump's family will be key to this plan. You'll need a couple of them on the usual shows being loudly sad about this terrible tragedy and how it would be super insensitive to criticize or investigate any of them, or really anyone at all, when they're dealing with such a deeply personal issue. It'll also look better if the "initial reports" of him having several screws loose come from a family member. A lot of people have had to actually deal with senile parents in real life, and that will make them empathize with the Trump brats, which would otherwise be literally impossible. Fortunately, it shouldn't be hard to get his family on board with this plan. Jared and Ivanka will leap at the chance to enhance their own brand by throwing the ol' Creamsicle Caligula under the bus, and the others can either be bought with cash or distracted with shiny objects, whichever's easiest.

You don't need to worry about opposition. House and Senate Democrats will cheerfully vote to get rid of that asshole on any pretext. The media will adore this move; it'll let them pontificate solemnly about the Constitution, editorialize sincerely about the tragedy of dementia, and best of all, spend a lot more time putting Donald Trump on TV screens, which they cannot resist even when they ought to. As to the American people, I give you my personal guarantee that the lefties in this country will spend half our time making hilarious memes about Trump's mental incompetence, and the other half arguing about whether those memes constitute ableist hate speech, so we'll be happy.

There will be a big, beautiful media narrative that will play out, and we'll all play our roles properly. While we're doing that, you and President Pence can quietly pass that bill making it legal to hunt poor people for sport, which I know you've been wanting to. And for the next twenty years, whenever someone accuses you of putting party before country, you can look deeply wounded and say "Sir, I voted to remove a Republican president from office for the good of this great nation." Which means you can keep putting party before country with no consequences.

Essentially, this plan gives you an all-purpose reset button. All your incompetence, venality, and corruption can be blamed on poor, senile, crazy ol' Trump. Even the stuff that predates him; nobody fact-checks timelines any more. You can do a whole storyline about how the Republicans are emerging from the cloud of Trump (which wasn't actually anyone's fault but was a terrible tragedy that no one's allowed to ask questions about) and coming into their own, crafting a bold new future for America that coincidentally looks a lot like 1891. I mean, that'll really only buy you about 6-12 months before someone notices that you still can't do your jobs on even a basic level, but hey, you can hurt a lot of people in that time, and I know that's the only way you can still feel anything.

I have some reservations about presenting you with this simple and effective plan, but I realize that there's no realistic chance of it being implemented. You callow, inept dickwits have more than demonstrated that you couldn't organize a handjob in a whorehouse with a fistful of fifties, so I'm not worried about your pulling off anything resembling an actual plan.

Oscar Project articles

Wings (1927)

It’s hard to remember now just how amazing airplanes were in the 1920s. Barnstormers used to cruise from one small town to another, charging impressive fees just to show off their miraculous flying machines. That sense of wonder deeply informs Wings, in a way that’s hard to understand from here in the miracle-jaded future. The story of two young pilots and their service in WWI is nothing new even for the time, but the flying shots are spectacular, and in 1927 they might as well have been magic.

The Broadway Melody (1929)

I hated this movie. Hated it. Hated it in a way that started to feel weirdly personal after a while. The title song is repeated every five minutes by someone or other, which would be tolerable if it were a good song, but it’s not. There’s not a single likable character in this movie, which is a serious problem since we’re supposed to find them all charming. It’s about various people trying to achieve true love and showbiz stardom, but I didn’t want anything good to happen to any of them.

All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

This is the earliest Best Picture winner that doesn’t require any apology or explanation before showing it to contemporary friends. It holds up perfectly, a stark and even angry look at the pointless, brutal cost of war. Its characters join the German army as teenagers full of idealism and hope and all that dulce et decorum est crap, and everything goes downhill for them from there.

Cimarron (1931)

This is one of those movies that has to be taken in context. It traces the history of the development of the American West through the life of one man, from the first Oklahoma Land Rush up through the present day. Thus, the first piece of context that must be taken into account is that “the present day” means “the Hoover administration”.

Grand Hotel (1932)

Watching Grand Hotel, the 5th-ever Best Picture winner, it struck me how rapidly I was seeing the art of filmmaking develop. An audacious plotline-juggling comedy, this movie makes remarkable use of the camera in ways that haven’t shown up in previous films, but will continue showing up in subsequent ones. (Except for the fact that Greta Garbo has a proprietary lighting system that exists only for her character, as though she’s in a whole different movie by herself. That one’s all Garbo.)

Cavalcade (1933)

This was based on a play by Noël Coward, and the nicest thing I can say is that maybe it worked better on stage. On film, it’s a godawful tedious slog through two generations of affluent London life, showing the great upheavals of the 1899-1933 period via a bunch of colorless, unlikable characters who mostly die, but not soon enough to suit me.

It Happened One Night (1934)

This movie feels like the beginning of an era. Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Frank Capra directing, and a romantic-comedy plotline we’re still using today. These are all elements that became dominant over the coming years, but here they all still had that new-star smell. The storyline’s nothing new, your basic fall-in-love-over-an-involuntary-journey bit, but the journey in this case provides a wonderful look at 1930s Americana, all the little motel cabins and logistical weirdness that made up a pre-freeway road trip.

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

A scene I’m 100% sure took place in Irving Thalberg’s office at MGM one day in 1935:

“So, last year Gable took his shirt off in It Happened One Night, and we made… how much money again?”

“All of it, sir. All the money.”

“Oh yeah. That was great. We also won enough Oscars that I had to have my mantelpiece reinforced. Anyway, having said that, what’ve we got this year?”

“We’ve got a picture where Clark Gable is shirtless for literally half the running time.”

“Good start. What’s he wearing the rest of the time?”

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

Do you like long, slow musical numbers that involve almost nothing but looking at showgirls’ legs? No? Well, tough shit, because you’re in for a LOT of them. Get comfy.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

This is what you call surefire Oscar bait: a period biopic that talks about an Important Social Issue. The Life of Emile Zola is a weirdly-paced story with a strange two-part structure. First, we have your conventional biopic. Zola starts out penniless and living in a garret, but perseveres and works hard and finds success with Nana, because it turns out sex sells. He raises a family, yadda yadda yadda, and his career and the film are both slowing down by the halfway mark.

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Of the various films in the genre of “Frank Capra directs Jimmy Stewart and several other stars in a surprisingly funny drama about socioeconomic injustice”, You Can’t Take It With You may be the least of them. Adapted from a George S. Kaufman play, it feels stagebound and claustrophobic, lacking a strong sense of visual expression. The story is just about a rich guy meeting a houseful of Manic Pixie Dream Anarchists, and some of the jokes don’t really work in the 21st century.

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Gone With The Wind is a serious problem for me.

On the one hand, as a movie, it’s pretty good. The cinematography’s great, the actors are gorgeous, the sense of an epic is powerful and heartfelt, and the score is top-notch.

On the other hand, most of that is also true of Triumph of the Will, and it’s hard to escape the comparison.

Rebecca (1940)

In beginning this review, I had to double-check the date. Rebecca was seriously released in 1940? Weird. It feels later than that, like maybe 1950, give or take a couple years. The product of another ten years of the development of film as a storytelling medium, in other words. That may have been what tipped it over to victory; it’s not just emotionally compelling and visually gorgeous, it has a level of nuance and emotion in the structure of every shot and scene that one just doesn’t see in other films from that year.

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: nobody actually thinks this was the best movie made in 1941. Nobody thought it back then either. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Citizen Kane is better than How Green Was My Valley, but that William Randolph Hearst was a vindictive sonofabitch who owned half the newspapers in the country and had Louella Parsons on permanent payroll. It simply wasn’t safe for voting members of the Academy to support Kane, so they went with a safety.

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

This film is part of a brief, awkward period in Oscar history: the two years following Hitler's invasion of Poland and preceding Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. From 1939-41, there was a very strong "America First" movement in the U.S., which opposed America's entry into the war, often because they were outright Nazi sympathizers. This demographic was not well-represented in the film industry, because many of Hollywood's leading figures, like Lubitsch, Wilder, Dietrich, and others, were German by birth.

Casablanca (1943)

Casablanca. What can I, or anyone, write about this movie that hasn't been written a hundred times? That it's awful darn good? It is. You may have heard this is a very good motion picture. I must inform you that you heard correctly. Glad we had this talk.