Wednesday, January 15, 2003

and About Schmidt

I made a passing reference to this flick in my clemency post Saturday evening. It was very enjoyable. When is Jack Nicholson not. Despite not having lived a life of quiet desperation, he does an outstanding job of portraying a guy who has, comb-over and all. There's one place in the film, and it lasts all of about 5 seconds, where it seems like he broke character and was just Jack. As for the much hyped Kathy Bates nude scene (which I've heard described as "brave"): don't believe the hype. The nudity consists of a two second flash of T, and a split second of A. If the scene was remarkable at all, it wan't because Bates -- a formidable actress, whose work I always enjoy -- dared to do it, but because Payne dared to film it. Here's a woman that looks much more like what we ordinary schmoes actually get to see naked than most of the women who bare themselves for the camera, and so the scene had a realism often lacking in American film.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

More on Clemency

A law school classmate asked me whether the courage shown by Governor Ryan was political courage, given that he is leaving office and will never again have to face the voters. The point is well taken because there are, indeed, no future political consequences to Governor Ryan. But the Governor's acts of grace this past weekend were the culmination of a long process beginning with his imposition of a moratorium on executions in January 2000. Then, it was unclear that the current imbroglio over Ryan's stewardship of the Illinois Secretary of State's office (long before he became Governor) would be the death knell of his political career. There was thus a substantial risk to the Governor that even embarking on the journey he completed Saturday would hurt him politically. And come to think of it, should Ryan be indicted by the feds over the Sec'y of State's office scandal, he's done himself no favors with the jury pool.

On reflection, the title of my post Saturday evening, fresh after the event, may seem in its triumphalism insenstive to the pain of murder victims' families. I make no apology for the triumphalism, because this was a moral triumph for Illinois and America. I believe that because there simply is no conflict -- none at all -- between compassion for murderers' victims and acknowledgment of our shared humanity with murderers. To me, it is poignant but fundamental that murderers too are created b'tselem elokhim, in the image of God. Even many families of murder victims agree. See what Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation have to say. These wonderful people express the foregoing thoughts with more eloquence and more right than I ever could.

No, what bothers me about my first post on this subject is its blatant religiosity. It was a heartfelt reaction, to be sure, but then I'm always critical of quarterbacks who answer the question "was that play a designed roll-out or did you improvise" with the non-sequitur "I'd like to give all glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Have I done the same thing in the way I wrote that post? I think it's probably a fair criticism, and I'll simply plead to a misdemeanor count of being carried away with the emotion of the moment (and maybe even be a bit more understanding in the future of the QBs' non-sequiturs).