El Candidato

From a wealthy family, Martin decides to enter politics. We’re never told which office he’s running. El Candidato, an Argentinian film, begins with a strategy meeting as his team tries to figure out how to present Martin and incorporate the trendy environmental themes and present a winning political message although Martin himself isn’t clear where he stands. When asked if he’s left or right, center left or center right, Martin asks the new graphic artist.

The graphic artist is probably in his twenties and isn’t sure of his own political leanings. He’s not working for Martin because of a shared philosophy. He’s there to make money and during the first meeting, Martin, who can lip read, calls him out when he whispers a comment to his neighbor implying that Martin’s probably a rich simpleton.

Far from simple, Martin is a sympathetic character. He’s no Latin Donald Trump. He doesn’t exactly know why he’s running for office and part of the reason is no doubt his father issues, but his unwillingness to choose a spot on the political spectrum has to do with how crazy and ineffective politics is.

We soon learn that Laura, a senior team member and the man she hired to do sound work for the ads, are in cahoots and are collecting dirt and hacking Martin’s social media to insure he loses. Thus the story is about trust and betrayal rather than politics.

The film takes place during a few days of intensive planning in seclusion at Martin’s vast ranch.

The unpredictable end blew me away and reminded me a bit of The Rules of the Game.

Here’s the film, but there are no English subtitles. Sorry.

El Candidato from Delfin on Vimeo.

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Oliver on Standardized Testing

I learned about this segment on John Oliver’s HBO program. Oliver goes to town on every facet of standardized testing: the silly ways schools try to psych students to take the tests, how confusing some questions are, how Pearson education pulls in big bucks while paying test graders they find on Craig’s List peanuts to score high stakes tests and how opaque the whole game is. He didn’t address how corruption can creep into the process as seen in Atlanta, but he hit all the major problems with testing.

Though I sort of liked standardized tests, which I realize is a bit bizarre, I see their limits and believe the current system is too expensive and nets few benefits.

Kudos to the kids who refuse to take them. As the Grumpy Old Teachers wonder: Why don’t more students opt out?

A tweet about Grumpy Old Teachers led me to the Oliver report cum lambast. I am sort of hooked on this podcast. Basically, it’s what it says two veteran teachers skewering and whinging about the more ridiculous aspects of teaching. They digress a lot, but sometimes they’ll edit out (and tell listeners when they have) discussions of basketball games or of Costco hauls. Grumpy Old Teachers have got me thinking of joining the tech-oriented teaching organization ISTE. They’ve got global and student rates, which fall within my budget.

Watching the video and listening to the blog made me thankful that I’m not teaching in the US K-12 world. Now I’m not happy about the social promotion we have here in China, but from what I’ve seen there’s little anxiety about testing here. Heck, if the kids don’t pass the CET-4 (College English Test, band 4), they take it or a watered down version till they do. No pep rallies for a test, just an assembly and cash prizes — for teachers and students.

À Nous la Liberté

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Directed by René Clair, À Nous la Liberté (1931) follows the attempt of two convicts to escape. One man succeeds, but his friend is captured. The man who escapes starts a new life selling phonographs on the street. Soon he’s prospered and owns a store. Not much later he owns a huge factory making thousands of phonographs. One memorable scene shows his workers marching in to work, punching in, taking their seats on an assembly line and working like machines, just as the factory owner had when he was in prison. The striking similarity is not accidental.

Later the factory owner’s friend is freed and by chance meets his rich pal. The film is full of such coincidences but they made me smile rather than roll my eyes. At first the prosperous man is leery. Does his old chum want to black mail him?

No. His old friend Emile is far more sincere, more innocent. Despite the soul-killing monotony, Emile wants to continue working at the factory so he can woo a woman he’s infatuated with. As the rich men’s high society friends talk about him behind his back and are stuffy bores, the factory owner opens his life and his wallet to his old pal to help him win this woman’s heart. Then the wheel of fortune turns against this pair of friends.

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The film does use sound, though sparingly. For much of the beginning I thought it was a silent film. Michael Atkinson applauds Clair for experimenting with should when directors like Chaplin where “too timid to.” It’s a fun, clever film that has an uplifting feel to it. I agree with critic Atkinson who describes as “bouncy with melody, soaked in spring light, wistful about the conflicted relationship between serendipity and love.”

Clair was the first to film a scene where all hell breaks loose when workers can’t keep up with the assembly line. His studio and some critics believe that Chaplin plagiarized À Nous la Liberté when he made Modern Times. Clair didn’t get involved and said since he appreciates so much of what Chaplin’s done, if he did borrow from this film, that’s fine. His studio disagreed and took legal action which dragged on for 10 years. They lost.

À Nous la Liberté has a surprising, positive (or perhaps naive) ending. I can see why the film was on a list of “Most Influential Films” I received at Act One. So glad my library had it.

Bad Comparison

I’m so tired of certain politicians saying that our government should pay our bills on time and get out of debt because that’s what families do. Actually, most American families carry a lot of debt and pay bills off late.

Besides what family has to maintain relationships with every other country in the world (as long as they aren’t in the so-called access of evil), print and coin money, maintain an army, navy, and air force, like it or not? It’s such an idiotic comparison.

Tonight Jon Stewart had a great piece on Class Warfare.

God help us if Rick Perry gets the Republican nomination. I lived in Texas during his reign and wrote him a few letters regarding policy. His replies were so smug and showed he didn’t understand my letters.

I’ve grown so tired of bad generalizations and faulty reasoning, while I know we’re in for another 15 months of  such rhetoric.