James Foley

Why America Is Culpable for the Murder of James Foley

An article in The New York Times yesterday revealed that ISIS demanded a ransom for James Foley’s release, according to his family. The U.S., along with Britain and Israel, refuses to pay ransoms to terrorists; kidnapping is a main source of income for Islamic militants. Al-Qaeda and splinter groups like ISIS have raised around $125 million extorting Western nations.

The Obama administration has admitted that it tried and failed to rescue Foley and other American hostages this summer. Attempted rescue is the correct course of action, but it is so much riskier than simply transferring money into a numbered account in some shady country. Foley paid the ultimate price for that risk as well as for our no-negotiation-with-terrorists policy.

Naomi Watts in The Impossible

OSCAR NOMINATIONS: Please, Not Another Anna Paquin Moment. Thanks.

So I got some wrong and some right, but most of all it seems I hit one prediction on the nose early on: This is going to be the most interesting Oscar race in a long time, with awards being handed out scattershot across a bunch of worthy films.

Rather than begin with a milky froth of what, in my estimation, Academy members missed and misfired, let me highlight the underlying espresso coffee of what they got right:

No Best Picture for The Master.  Nor was PT Anderson nominated for Best Director.  Hooray!  As I said in my review, I found many decisions made in this film to have been fatal, namely the fact that the focus was on Joaquin Phoenix’s character, not on the Master himself as the title suggests.  Nobody has done the Scientology story before, it’s an incredible one, a delirious Citizen Kane, and this movie simply didn’t live up to expectations.  Phoenix is unlikely to win Best Actor, but Hoffman has a very good chance for Best Supporting Actor, although he will likely lose to,

Robert De Niro, who gave his finest performance in a decade in Silver Linings Playbook.  He was right at home in this superbly written role, and knocked it out of the ballpark.  His co-star Bradley Cooper also deserved to be nominated for Best Actor, even though I didn’t feel he was completely right for the role.  He is also unlikely to win against Daniel Day Lewis, but there could be an upset here; Cooper seems to be well liked.  Jennifer Lawrence, the female lead in SLP, is even more deserving of her nomination as Best Actress than Cooper is for Best Actor, but her performance pales in comparison to,

Bestselling Authors Rock Group Rock Bottom Remainders

Author Band Folds

For the past twenty years, the bestselling author band The Rock Bottom Remainders—comprised of Amy Tan, Stephen King, Scott Turow and others rotating instruments, dropping in and out—have been touring, mostly raising money for charity.  Now it appears their last two performances will be here in southern California, after which they are calling it quits.