Back on the circuit
Al Gore is riding the interview circuit again, peddling his latest book. The Assault on Reason, directed at a wider target than the current execrable administration, sounds terrific.
Last night, on Charlie Rose, Gore was both passionate and articulate with such force that you had to wonder yet again what Gore '07 might've been able to do in 2000 (when he won by a half million votes, of course) or 2004. At a minimum, he might've put up a more strenuous fight over the Florida recount rather than quickly ceding the field (and the election) to the likes of James Baker, Katherine Harris and the Supremes.
It seems clear enough, for now, that Gore would be the strongest in the current field of hypercautious Democrats. But "strongest" doesn't necessarily mean "electable," given the baggage that Gore has to carry—quite unfairly, for the most part. Still, he's the only candidate in either party who comes across as what we once called "presidential," back when that was a compliment.
He seemed to leave the door open, just a crack, to running if the right conditions develop—like if Clinton or Obama self-destruct or get dismembered by the proverbial vast right-wing conspiracy. A Gore candidacy, of course, would invigorate the hyenas who have never stopped circling him. But, for now, no one else inspires much confidence that he or she is up to the job.
As for Charlie Rose, he and Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air still do the best in-depth interviews in the U.S. media. Though I'm a dedicated viewer of The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, their interviews are simply too short—and too facetious, by design—to address complex issues. And Colbert's interviews are, hilariously, as much about Colbert as they are about his guests.
No subject is too obscure for Charlie Rose's show, and it lasts a full hour, so there's both depth and breadth. But he has an irritating tendency to interrupt responses that promise to be interesting, and he seems to think he has to give progressive guests a hard time to pre-empt conservative critics who otherwise might accuse him of lacking "balance." This tendency remains widespread among journalists (especially on PBS/NPR) who still overreact to conservative challenges. For the most part, though, Rose tends to be obsequious, sometimes to the point of fawning, towards his celebrity guests. Still, it's consistently the best interview show on television.
Guillermo del Toro
Speaking of Fresh Air, Terry Gross offers an outstanding interview (available via podcast) with Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican writer-director whose Pan's Labyrinth won four Academy Awards this year. The mythical dimensions of this film run far deeper than were apparent to me after just one viewing. Del Toro is impressively articulate and entertaining, and Pan is on my short list of the best films of the last five years.
"The Lives of Others" (2006)
This German film (Das Leben der Anderen), directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, has been playing to full houses here in Portland for the last six months or more. If you haven't seen it yet, and it's still in local theaters, don't miss it. It deserves comparison with my other German favorites such as Mephisto (1981) and Downfall (2004), along with such classics as Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987) and The American Friend (1977). Like the comic Goodbye Lenin (2003), it's set in East Berlin during the last years of communist rule. Great acting, directing and cinematography throughout. Oddly reverberates on this side of the Atlantic after six grim years of George Bush.
PHOTO: Al Gore (Wikipedia Commons, 2006)