Republican Convention: Day Four

Terry Sawyer

Bush's speech was designed to soft-pedal his ideological psychosis, recycle 'compassionate conservatism,' and excoriate what was his speechwriter's best turn, 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.'

The G.W. Bush introductory montage was narrated by Fred Thompson, reminding me of Waylon Jennings' narration on The Dukes of Hazzard. This led me to the realization that Bush sort of looks and acts like Rasco P. Coltrane. It'd be fitting at this stage for Republicans to change their symbol from elephant to Boss Hog, an emblem of down-home corruption and disregard for the law wrapped in its enforcement.

"I'm back, ladies," George Bush might as well have said. His speech was designed to soft-pedal his ideological psychosis, recycle "compassionate conservatism," and excoriate what was his speechwriter's best turn, "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Bush has never done partisan machete work, leaving it instead to Party underlings who can be jettisoned and disavowed if their knifing makes the polls drop too low. This speech was no exception, with swipes at Kerry delivered with a phony heavy heart and the by-gosh tenor of a barstool jibe.

Predictably, he framed his next four years in crude terms that omitted the consequences, a pattern he repeats for everything from student testing to Iraq. "Simplifying the tax code" means finding more ways to provide relief for millionaires who stock the G.O.P.'s troughs with cash. "Restraining federal regulation" means allowing corporations to dump pollutants into your water and air at whim, or simply pick their businesses up and transfer to other countries where children toil for 15 hours a day without health care for pocket change. Don't worry. The Bush Administration will provide you with training to make up for your lost job: you can go into Ferris wheel repair, deep fryer maintenance, and squeegee handling. When George Bush said he will curtail federal spending, he neglected to mention that this will most assuredly come at the expense of social programs that Republicans have always loathed and sought to dismantle.

This is also the intent of every one of his reforms, all hinging on tax cuts, tax-free health savings accounts, and tax "incentives." Conservatives' long-term goal is to reduce government via intentional bankrupting. If you think deficits are bad now, imagine what they'll be when G.W.'s done with his carpet bombing of the federal budget.

Speaking of warfare, the President came at last to the heart of this acceptance speech: his defense of the Iraq invasion. Despite everything we knew then and now, Iraq was a "gathering threat," though absolutely no one at any time has explained how it threatened the U.S. Worse, he linked U.S. presence in Iraq with Afghanistan, his furrowed brow reminding us that he didn't want to wait until we were attacked again. Perhaps we're supposed to pretend we don't know that Bush began war plans for Iraq prior to September 11th, or that CIA analysts vigorously disagreed about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Bush repeatedly offers rationales like parade candy and no one pays much attention to the untruths.

Bush wants voters drunk on righteous vengeance, so that every U.S. action seems anointed and every disagreement with the Administration the murmuring of the damned. He paints himself as the Johnny Appleseed of Liberty, planting wars that will grow into "democracies," even if some local gardeners -- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan -- are themselves bastions of hideous oppression. Of course, Bush carefully elided the reality that the U.S. has returned Afghanistan to government by warlord and left Iraqis with a decimated infrastructure and no jobs, not to mention internecine violence.

Like most true believers, he prefers to think about a sumptuous future rather than the present's grisly slaughterhouse. "Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom." Such bad poetry was an attempt to inflate Bush beyond his smallish stature, to make him look like a man taming the mechanical bull of history, like Nietzsche's Superman dressed up like Tim Allen's Everyman. Bush ended his speech by alluding to Ecclesiastes, reframing his actions as somehow attuned to ancient Biblical rhythms of right thinking. He's correct that our choices are frequently a matter of recognizing the truth and responding accordingly. Which is why, after four days of the Republican National Convention, I recognized that it was a time to live, laugh, love, and bounce President Bush out on his ass by voting for John Kerry.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

Next Page

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.