Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rival publisher offers $1 million for CL

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 9:02 PM

Patrick Best

Patrick Best, a former CL ad director and publisher of The Sunday Paper, has publicly offered to buy Creative Loafing for $1 million.

I assumed Best's offer was a joke, until I located this video footage, recorded during a recent Sunday Paper staff meeting.

Further research has also unearthed evidence suggesting Best has made a similar purchase attempt on at least one previous occasion.

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Add It Up: Runoff roulette

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 8:36 PM

Number of Georgia runoff elections for statewide, partisan positions in the past 20 years: 2

Of those two, the number in which the top general-election vote-getter (a Democrat, in both instances) won the runoff: 0

Of voters in the 1992 general election, the percentage that returned to vote in the Senate runoff: 55

Of voters in the 2006 general election, the percentage that returned to vote in the Public Service Commission runoff: 10

As of Nov. 20, the percentage of early voters in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff who are African-American: 22

Percentage of early voters in the 2008 general election who are African-American: 34

In past decade, average percentage of black general-election voters who voted in runoffs: 8.5

Average percentage of whites who did: 9.2

Percentage of early voters in the 2008 general election who had voted in the GOP and Democratic primaries, respectively: 25, 30

Percentage of early voters in 2008 runoff (as of Nov. 20) who had voted in the GOP and Democratic primaries, respectively: 44, 34

Source: Georgia Secretary of State

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Sex offender law continues to take a beating

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 8:15 PM

Yesterday, the Georgia Supreme Court took its strongest stand yet on the state's draconian sex offender law, striking as unconstitutional a provision that punished failure to register with life imprisonment.

I welcome lawyers to weigh in on this matter, but in my experience, when an appeals court throws out part of a law, it's typically because of some technical flaw. They usually avoid ruling on the fairness of a law, because that's a subjective measure that arguably drifts into the realm of policy – and, therefore, politics.

But, in the space of a month, the High Court has twice rapped the law as unfairly harsh. In late October, justices ruled that throwing homeless sex offenders in prison because they were unable to register an address was unfair. While the decision sent a message to legislators that they needed to temper lawmaking with an eye toward justice, it immediately affected a relatively small group.

Tuesday's ruling, however, sweeps away an over-arching provision of the law that potentially affects all sex offenders. When first passed in 2006, the new sex-offender law changed the penalty for failure to register a change of address within 72 hours, increasing it from three years to life in prison for all violators.

In its opinion, the court described the life-sentence provision as being "grossly disproportionate" to the severity of the crime.

In a concurring ruling, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote that a life prison sentence "should be reserved for society’s most serious criminal offenders."

The plaintiff, Cedric Lavell Bradshaw, who'd failed to register his address after moving in with his girlfriend, did deserve such harsh treatment, Sears indicated.

"Bradshaw’s failure to register as a sex offender, when his underlying crime only landed him in jail for five years, is not the kind of crime a civilized society ought to require him to pay for with his life," she wrote.

The Court's 6-1 ruling points out that among states, Georgia is "the clear outlier, providing the harshest penalty and providing no sentencing discretion." Of the 24 states that specify the punishment for a subsequent offense, Georgia is the only one that imposes a life prison sentence, the opinion explained. Most states authorize a maximum punishment of five years in prison or less.

The reason this is such a ballsy ruling is that it invites the inevitable accusations of "judicial activism." In fact, the lone dissent by Justice George Carley opened that door by calling the majority decision a "monumental abuse of this Court’s authority to determine the constitutionality of legislation."

Just as doctors are charged with healing patients, the age-old duty of the judiciary is to make sure the punishment fits the crime. Certainly, I feel more comfortable with the Justices' idea of justice than the yahoos at the Statehouse who wrote this law.

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View from the Couch DVD Reviews

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 5:54 PM

This week, CL Charlotte’s Matt Brunson discusses the DVD releases of The Gregory Peck Collection, Wall-E and more.

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WALL-E (2008). Although this animated effort from Pixar is a treat for the young and old alike, it's the rare sort of toon tale that may have ended up endearing itself even more to adults than to kids. And it's not just because grown-ups will enjoy the usual asides tossed their way (e.g. a witty reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey; Aliens star Sigourney Weaver providing the voice of a ship's computer); it's also because the plot speaks to them in a way that it can't to humans who still don't possess all their permanent teeth. Read the rest here.

(Photo courtesy Walt Disney and Pixar)

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New Jim Powell ad

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 5:11 PM

Georgia Public Service Commission Democratic candidate Jim Powell — who faces Republican Lauren "Bubba" McDonald in the Dec. 2 runoff — has a new online-only ad up on YouTube. (If YouTube ain't your thang, Grift has it on Vimeo.)

Gotta love the floating "Bubba" heads coming out of smokestacks.

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Atlanta blogs today

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 5:04 PM

— The day before the best meal of the year, the feast that kicks off the season that inspires millions of diets each January. It feels strange to still be in the midst of an election cycle, but it's heating up in Georgia. Or is it? Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight lends his expertise to the Georgia Senate race, and says Jim Martin is stuck in neutral. He started the run-off three points down, and he remains three points down. In order to take down the Big Sax Machine, Silver concludes, Martin needs at least one of three things to happen.

— Who to vote for? Jen B. at Blog For Democracy has already decided, as have most of us. But her reasoning includes the outrageous, an L.A. Times report on the treatment of U.S. soldiers who were injured in Iraq.

— Travis Fain brings that story a little closer to home at Lucid Idiocy. Meet Thomas Roach, 80, who is having to leave the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville because the state has decided to shut it down. That's scandalous. Thankfully, we still have Sonny Boy's "Go Fish" project to give us hours of fishing pleasure catching bass and brim soaked in our chemical-filled rivers and lakes.

— In the spirit of thanks, Reporter-Cub offers a compelling list of the things he's thankful for, not the least of which are gasoline prices way under $5 a gallon and that Caribou Barbie is back in Alaska where she belongs.

— Doug at Live Apartment Fire gives thanks to television's November sweeps, where local news directors go a little crazy with the gimmicks to get us to watch the six o'clock news. He has a YouTube gallery of some of the more insane reports, from here and beyond, that have polluted our airwaves.

— And, finally, the lovely Sara at Going Through The Motions is over her flu, although she's still apparently suffering from delusional hallucinations. For example, she thinks the greatest 4th quarter comeback ever involved FSU and Florida. Of course, everyone knows it's really the "Run, Lindsay, run" game when Georgia stomped Florida's hearts in Jacksonville in 1980. But she's a FSU alum and she saw the game when she was a sophomore, so we'll have to excuse her on this one. Have a great Thanksgiving all you bloggerheads!

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CNN's Rick Sanchez hurt by cootie bashers, luvs Irish people

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 3:41 PM

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I <3 U 2, Rick.

(Screenshot from Sanchez's Facebook profile)

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Hollywood Product: Four Christmases

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 3:30 PM

CAR TALK: Kate (Reese Witherspoon, left) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) head home for the holidays.
  • CAR TALK: Kate (Reese Witherspoon, left) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) head home for the holidays.

GENRE: Acerbic seasonal comedy

THE PITCH: Happily unmarried yuppie couple Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) get a crash course in family togetherness when forced to make four separate visits to their divorced parents (Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight, all Oscar winners) one foggy Christmas day.

MONEY SHOTS: Brad’s backyard-wrestling brothers (country singer Tim McGraw and Swingers’ Jon Favreau) pin him in undignified positions. Brad’s attempt to install his father’s satellite dish ends up with a wrecked living room and a TV in flames. Out of nowhere, Kate’s niece drenches her with projectile vomiting, setting off Brad’s gag reflex. Brad showboats as Joseph at a church nativity show.

BEST LINE: “My childhood was like The Shawshank Redemption,” laments Brad while explaining that he changed his name from Orlando.

Continue reading »

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Milk's relationship drama

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 3:00 PM

FOR THE BOYS: Sean Penn (center) stars as Harvey Milk in the eponymous drama.
  • FOR THE BOYS: Sean Penn (center) stars as Harvey Milk in the eponymous drama.

On Nov. 4, same-sex marriage advocates suffered a setback when Californians narrowly passed the Proposition 8 ballot initiative ensuring that the state would only recognize marriages between men and women. The biopic Milk screened in Atlanta three days later, and its portrait of gay activism and California politics feels almost shockingly immediate, despite taking place three decades earlier.

Oscar winner Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, a pioneering gay rights advocate who challenged hostile attitudes and institutional oppression, most notably Proposition 6, a California ballot initiative designed to fire schoolteachers suspected of being gay. In some ways Milk proves to be a tame, conventional film biography, but the post-Prop 8 climate gives it an urgency and relevance that may have been missing had it opened a month or two ago.

The opening credits evoke the era of the closet and criminalization, with black-and-white footage of gay men under arrest, hiding their faces and being crowded into paddy wagons. At the dawn of the 1970s in New York, Milk works at an insurance company and passes for straight, even though he’s not too shy to beam and bat eyes at handsome strangers in the subway. He hits it off so well with young Scott Smith (James Franco) that the two decide to make a fresh start in San Francisco.

A seamless mix of archival and re-created imagery captures the scruffy hedonistic spirit of Castro Street in the 1970s. When Milk opens a camera store, however, he discovers that even the gay mecca contains bigoted businesses. He begins organizing for gay solidarity to defend against gay bashing and to flex economic muscles. A tipping point occurs when Milk makes an unlikely alliance with the Teamsters Union to boycott Coors beer. He pushes even further for gay rights by running uphill campaigns for San Francisco city supervisor.

“Big Love” writer Dustin Lance Black delivers a script that hits the familiar beats of Hollywood biopics all too predictably. At times the dialogue sounds written for trailers rather than dramatic scenes: “Harvey, what’s with all this political activist crap?” “You’ll be the first openly gay man elected to major office!” When people approach Milk with big pieces of news — “You need to see this!” — the scenes feel like lessons in recent

history.

Director Gus Van Sant returns to his highly accessible narrative style along the lines of Good Will Hunting, in contrast to his more esoteric projects such as Elephant or Drugstore Cowboy. Nevertheless, Milk’s clarity and directness give it plenty of momentum, apart from standard-issue suffering spouse scenes with Franco, and Diego Luna as Milk’s subsequent boyfriend.

Penn buoys the film significantly with a surprisingly breezy performance that’s almost elfin, particularly when compared to his tormented method-actor shtick. Penn brings appropriate outrage to Milk’s big, angry speeches, but he’s also a flirt, and the audience suspects that Milk’s passion for social change went hand-in-hand with his personal charm. He cracks self-deprecating jokes in front of hostile straight audiences while tailoring more personal challenges to young gay men on the street. Milk turns apolitical party boy Cleve (Emile Hirsch) into his de facto successor when he finally wins office.

Milk builds to a more engrossing second hour as it dramatizes the battle against Proposition 6 and Christian family values fascists such as Anita Bryant (shown only in archival film). A fascinating parallel track follows the strained, perplexing relationship between Milk and fellow supervisor Dan White (W.’s Josh Brolin), a staunchly conservative Catholic family man who seems at once attracted to and repelled by Milk (who thinks he’s “one of us”). Brolin gives White the awkwardness of a man who may be an enigma even to himself — a performance that’s particularly powerful if you know how Milk and White’s fates become inextricably entwined.

Watching Milk prompts the unanswerable question, if the film had been released in September or October, would Proposition 8 still have passed? As a prestigious drama better suited for art houses than shopping malls, Milk wouldn’t make its biggest waves until end-of-the-year awards season, so it may primarily preach to the converted. But Proposition 8 passed by only about half a million votes, so it may not have taken much to sway some people. Milk may serve as a rallying point for a young generation of gay activists, even though it missed its chance to try to make history.

Milk 3 stars Directed by Gus Van Sant. Stars Sean Penn, Josh Brolin. Rated R. Opens Wed., Nov. 26. At area theaters.

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Nicole Kidman travels far and away in 'Australia'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 2:30 PM

WET &#146;N WILD: Hugh Jackman as the Drover (left) and Nicole Kidman as Sarah
  • WET ’N WILD: Hugh Jackman as the Drover (left) and Nicole Kidman as Sarah

If The African Queen and Indiana Jones had a baby with a chronic case of A.D.D. and raised it Down Under, it would grow up to be Australia, Baz Luhrmann’s overinflated romantic saga.

In previous films such as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann never let audience headaches get in the way of his pursuit of hyperbolic stylishness. Australia’s first third unfolds like a cartoon of romance novels. On the eve of World War II, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels from England to Australia to save her late husband’s ranch, Faraway Downs, from a beef baron (Bryan Brown) and his vicious henchman (David Wenham). Sarah only finds allies among a rag-tag group of drunks, Aborigines and a rough-hewn cattle driver called “The Drover” (Hugh Jackman). (If this were an American film, he’d be a cowboy named “The Cowboy.”)

Australia’s shrill, spastic first act plays like this summer’s eyesore Speed Racer movie, pitched to middle-aged ladies. Once the massive cattle drive starts, however, Luhrmann catches a breath and lets the story calm down and expand to fill the gorgeous vistas of his native land. Australia features an adorable supporting turn from young Brandon Walters as Nullah, a “half-caste” boy born of Wenham’s character and an Aboriginal mother. Luhrmann uses Nullah’s travails to decry the racist aspects of Australian history in sharper terms than, say, Gone With the Wind ever did.

Eventually Kidman and Jackman’s charms emerge and the story intermittently clicks as an old-fashioned melodrama, culminating with star-crossed lovers and surrogate families trying to reunite during a Japanese attack. Even when Luhrmann’s epic successfully sweeps and sprawls, it still has to contend with heavy-handed Aboriginal mysticism and shameless tributes to The Wizard of Oz. As an Old School, Really Big Movie, Australia should fare well at the Oscars, even though it amounts to little more than a giant “Welcome to Australia!” postcard with super-saturated colors and historical footnotes written on the back.

Australia 2 stars Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Stars Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman. Rated PG-13. Opens Wed., Nov. 26. At area theaters.

(Photo by James Fisher)

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