Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SELF-AWARENESS DROUGHT CONTINUES.

Obama was in India and chewed gum during a parade. The Times of India had some fun with it:
NEW DELHI: In an ungainly sight, cameras caught US President Brack Obama chewing gum during the Republic Day parade on Monday. 
In the picture captured by cameras and posted on Twitter by some users, Obama was spotted removing his chewing gum while PM Modi was seen trying to explain something to the US president... 
Comments on Twitter included remarks by author Shobhaa De, who said, "Barack bhai working his jaws overtime and chewing gum! At least it isn't gutka. But seriously - gum during a formal parade?".

"Glad to see @BarackObama is so human. Like most Americans, he chews gum. Anyone know what brand?," was how noted film-maker Shekhar Kapur reacted.
I suppose you can say Allahpundit of Hot Air also had "fun" with the incident, though it's more the kind of fun that lonely and unliked children have with razor blades:
Video: Semi-retired president gonna enjoy his gum during major photo op with important ally
Not sure what the dialect-humor provenance is of "gonna enjoy his gum." Maybe it's a blah thing, I wouldn't understand?
To cleanse the palate, I believe formal diplomatic protocol in this situation requires him to offer Narendra Modi a piece of his Bubblicious. Two points. One: Is it Nicorette he’s chewing? That would explain, at least, why he couldn’t refrain from smacking away despite knowing he’d be on camera for hours with India’s PM during a formal state parade. How bad is this guy’s smoking habit, though, if he couldn’t make it through an afternoon without a hit of nicotine?
Wait, was it Bubblicious, or Nicorette? I don't know why Allahpundit missed the equally plausible options of ghat or black tar heroin.
Remember, this isn’t the first time recently that he’s been criticized overseas for chewing gum at an international summit. Indian media obviously noticed his “ungainly” display, as you’ll see below. Either he was jonesing awfully hard for a smoke or today’s the day he moved officially from the YOLO phase of his presidency to the WGAF phase.
This, I remind you, is about the guy chewing gum. Allahpundit goes on quite a while like this ("Does O chew gum during formal events here at home too? He’s done it a few times, if memory serves...") Here is the best line:
Two: This is the sort of trivial faux pas that the media would have hyperventilated over had it come from Bush...
Leaving aside the propriety of complaining about hypothetical offenses that you're in the very midst of committing in real life, I'd say if Bush had been seen chewing gum at a foreign event, it would have been portrayed as a bold example of American exceptionalism, like not dipping our flag at the Olympics.

Hey, anyone remember when the knock on Obama was that he showed too much respect for our foreign allies?

UPDATE. In comments, Jay B: "[Obama's] such an egghead, he was probably also walking at the same time."

Monday, January 26, 2015

BUT OLD MAN GOLDBERG, HE JUST KEEPS FARTING ALONG.

Jonah Goldberg tells us he had to house-husband for a bit and, after some humorous padding about how what a slob he is, does one of those pirouette-off-a-cliff segues for which he is justly famous:
But I also think about how hard it must be to be an actual single parent. It seems to me that this is the ground-floor argument conservatives should build up from when talking about marriage.
Maybe they should start with jokes about male housekeeping too. "Ah wipe mah ass ohna floor lahk a wormy dog," chortles Rick Perry.
Raising kids is just easier with two committed parents around. Put aside the moralizing for a second (moralizing I often agree with, by the way) and just talk logistics. It’s very hard to do all the things you want to do for your kids without a wingman (or wing-gal).
For example, his wife keeps a stick with a hook on it in the Subaru, for when Goldberg drops a bag of Funyuns under the brake pedal.
I’m not even talking about the financial part, which is huge. It’s simply harder to help with homework, show up at games, serve home-cooked meals, and generally participate in your kids’ life if you’re the sole breadwinner and sole parent. (Charles Murray has been making this point for a very long time.)...
I imagine Goldberg's comrades sitting around the McManse, marveling at how inner city single moms get their kids to soccer and ballet practice. (With our tax dollars via the socialist subways!) Inevitably Goldberg gets to his Murphy Brown section -- liberals are all rich white people who want blacks to breed unwed because something something plantation, whereas conservatives are racially indistinct reincarnations of the Founders, in whose world black families stayed together until sold off separately -- and then offers the traditional solution:
When Hillary Clinton & Co. talk about how “it takes a village to raise a child” they’re invoking wisdom from what P. J. O’Rourke called the “ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia” to make the case for vast new federal bureaucracies, taxes, programs, regulations, etc. But the phrase itself contains a lot of truth. Unlike bureaucrats in Washington, neighbors, teachers, pastors, coaches, coworkers, and friends can help raise your kids, in ways large and small. Real communities involve extended networks of trust and goodwill. Fake communities have regulations, fees, subsidies, and checklists...
While Obama would rob the mega-rich of their precious savings -- savings they need to complete their yacht flotillas -- to subsidize community college, which will only cause the poors to get above themselves reading Derrida, Republican policies will nourish real communities by destroying all safety nets, forcing the poors to huddle for warmth with grampa and all the brats in their slums, thus reinforcing family feeling.

But much as Goldberg enjoys helping the underprivileged with morality lectures and tax breaks for the wealthy, he's really interested in Murphy Brown -- or a similarly well-aged avatar of liberals' refusal to join in the hectoring:
But elites won’t come out in favor of marriage as a social ideal (except for gays, of course), because as Charles Murray likes to say, they refuse to preach what they practice. 
Speaking of preaching, this reminds me of something I’ve been griping about for years: Madonna. Here’s how I put it in The Tyranny of Clichés....
Madonna! I wonder if, before settling for this, Goldberg spent five minutes bugging his intern: "You're young and with it. Who can we call a whore these days?" (He also tries to tart this nonsense up with "hypocrophobia," a perfect Goldberg neologism, in that it disguises incoherence with pretend erudition.)

Then comes a truly breathtaking argument:
This raises a fundamental problem for democracy. When certain lifestyles multiply, they become political constituencies rather than cautionary tales. If we didn’t have so many people in prison, there’d be no movement to give felons the vote. If so many people didn’t smoke pot, the legalization movement wouldn’t be doing so well. George W. Bush lavished praise on single mothers for the simple reason that there are lots of single mothers out there. If enough people go on the dole, then we stop calling it the dole and we stop shaming able-bodied people who turn it into a lifestyle. 
It doesn’t really matter what you think about the specific issues to understand the point. Everyone likes to think they’re principled, but principles can get overwhelmed when enough people violate them...
You're a bunch of whores and moochers and that's why liberals get away with it.
This was the real point I was trying to get at in my column earlier this week. We make all sorts of allowances for Islamic extremism because we are cowed by its numbers (and its willpower), not its arguments. If there were 1.6 million, not 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, there wouldn’t be nearly so much fumfering and fooferall about Muslim sensibilities.
In Goldberg's world, you're only nice to people -- blacks, single mothers, Muslims -- because you're ascared of them. After some more padding which contains, it should be noted for the record, the clause "JFK and Teddy were scummy dudes," comes this:
Principled people can deploy cost-benefit analysis too. For instance, I’ve long argued that if we could do it cheap and without losing any American or allied lives, we would be right to topple the North Korean regime. I believe that. I also believe that we should have wiped out the Soviets once we were done with Hitler provided doing so wouldn’t have meant a long and bloody third world war. But those options aren’t and weren’t on the table.
My fantasies are more righteous than your fantasies!
The trick is to uphold the principle while allowing for the fact that reality often doesn’t let us fully implement our principles without cost (a useful thing for Republicans to remember in their internal squabbles as well)...
Over years of following Goldberg's work, I'm noticed some patterns in it, and this is one: Usually when he leaves a hanging curveball, he won't take the effort to rewrite it into something better, but will instead try to confuse his reader with a barely-relevant parenthetical -- as here, where he clearly hopes you will associate a "reality" that "often doesn’t let us fully implement our principles without cost" with GOP squabbling instead of, for example, the multi-trillion-dollar Iraq War.

The rest is just dribbling, but I have to note this:
There’s a corruption of the soul at work when you can bleat and whine about the “Taliban wing of the Republican party” while effectively making apologies for the actual Taliban.
No link on "effectively making apologies for the actual Taliban," you may have guessed.

UPDATE. Goldberg's column is a rich vein for enthusiasts, and in comments mark f says he can't believe I left this bit unmentioned:
...liberal writers give [the Kennedys] a pass because . . . Camelot! Or something. 
It’s not just writers, though. It’s all of us. And that’s not always wrong (though it often is).
I agree  it's wonderfully Goldbergian -- especially the parenthetical pee-dance -- but, you know, I'm doing this in my spare time and can't do all the glosses Goldberg deserves, so thanks, mark f -- and thanks Yastreblyansky, who takes the trouble to source some of Goldberg's misapprehensions, e.g. one about Obama's community college plan, to which Goldberg objects in part because it requires "raising taxes on college-savings plans":
The college-savings plans in question are the 529 and Coverdell plans used by a little under 3% of the nation's families to pay for their children's tertiary education (the families have a median income of around $142,400 per year as opposed to $45,100 for the rest of us, and median financial assets of about $413,500, or 25 times the median financial asset value, $15,400, of families without the plans). 
I'm not clear about how keeping them tax-free helps the impoverished single parent in a more efficient way than free community college, since the impoverished single parent doesn't actually have any of the money involved. Perhaps the owners of the accounts plan to donate the interest money to the poor...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

ON TO OSCAR, 2.

Birdman. At first I wondered why Iñárritu was sticking all that magic realism into a perfectly good New York backstage drama. It made me suspicious; maybe, I thought, he just didn’t want it to be All About Eve all over again, and that’s why he gave the central character, Riggan, washed-up former star of an old superhero franchise, the superhero himself as an alter-ego who spurs him to narcissistic fantasies and then (spoiler) destruction — you know, the way Jimmy Cagney told Raoul Walsh, when they were trying to figure a way to make Cody the gangster in White Heat more interesting, “Why not make him nuts?

Still, White Heat’s a pretty great movie.

There is something old-fashioned and melodramatic about the Birdman Broadway plot: Riggan has put himself in hock to finance his stage adaptation of Raymond Carver stories (hello Room Service!) and it’s a mess (hello The Bandwagon!); he loses an actor during tech week, but rejoices when a young phenom steps in (hello 42nd Street!), only to find that the phenom is a total snake-in-the-grass asshole (hello Eve Harrington!).

Of course Iñárritu’s mise en scène is a little more, um, ambitious than Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s, and the main thing about Emmanuel Lubezki’s holy-wow camerawork isn’t the single-take illusion (though that helps with the paranoid-schizo vibe) but how grubby he makes everything look, from the backstage tunnels to the canyons of Manhattan — I don’t think there’s a clean surface in the movie until we get to the hospital. And the story itself has some very contemporary modifications beyond the Birdman bit, like Riggan’s tough relationship with his daughter who’s just out of rehab. Still, there’s enough razzle-dazzle in the dialogue that even the scene that (spoiler I guess) ends in a Sapphic embrace plays like something from Out of The Frying Pan (“Why don’t I have any self-respect?” “You’re an actress, honey”).

So why the weird stuff? Well, I think it’s like this: Riggan isn’t happy. But it’s not because he’s about to lose his shirt. No, it’s because he’s doing what actors do — but unsuccessfully, aimlessly, because he doesn’t really believe in it. (The play looks awful, and his why-Carver explanation is just ridiculous.) When the phenom starts throwing around actorly shit about “truth,” it drives Riggan crazy — particularly when it works on his daughter — because he knows he’s not coming up to scratch on that score and he thinks he should be. But the truth the phenom's talking about is limited, it’s grubby and narrow and circles in on itself. And the costumed superhero is coming around because Riggan is realizing he prefers something else — and, despite what we might have assumed if the movie didn’t show us different, it isn’t his old tattered stardom. It’s magic. Even when no one else sees it, even when it’s insane, he has it. And with that he can fly. We see him fly.

We don’t see him fall. Does he fall? But with that question the movie, and all its tunnels and circles, is over.

Bonus spoiler: I don’t know if it means anything but I have this in my notes: He shoots off his nose to spite his fate.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SNATCHING DEBACLE OUT OF THE JAWS OF DEFEAT.

I'm sure there's some wheels-within-wheels strategy behind the House Republicans dropping Fetal Pain like it's hot, but it doesn't look good, especially with female members forcing them to drop it:
In recent days, as many as two dozen Republicans had raised concerns with the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Sponsors said that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement. 
A vote had been scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the annual March for Life, a gathering that brings hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion activists to Washington to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. 
But Republican leaders dropped those plans after failing to win over a bloc of lawmakers, led by Reps. Rene Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who had raised concerns.
This makes hard duty for conservative propagandists, and even such practiced hands as Mollie Hemingway are showing strain. She blasts the female Life-traitors for changing their minds (I thought that was a woman's prerogative, der hur hur), and rages that the bill, which from its title on down reads like something out of The Handmaid's Tale, is actually "easy legislation that is broadly popular (outside of American newsrooms, at least)," as if the will of the people for federal anti-abortion laws had been thwarted by the awesome power of America's increasingly-unread newspapers. (Sometimes I think the only thing keeping our Fourth Estate alive as a totem of soft power is the right wing's endless need for strawmen.)

But my favorite part of Hemingway's column is this:
Even if you’re not one of the majority of Americans who want to protect these children in the womb, this debacle should concern you.
Such exquisite concern-trolling hardly needs explaining but basically Hemingway thinks we can all agree it's bad when the GOP trips over its dick because "if Republicans can’t pass wildly popular legislation protecting innocent unborn children, what’s going to happen when they face difficult legislative battles?" Why, the Anti-Witchcraft Amendment may never make it out of committee!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SOTU WHAT?

I leave the recap to National Review's leading torture enthusiast:


Yeah, all in all a good night. It makes me sad I didn't activate PBS yet on my Apple TV. I missed David Brooks! Well, I don't want to hurt myself laughing.

UPDATE. Don't want to miss the Washington Times' coverage:
President Obama spent much of Tuesday’s State of the Union calling for civility in politics — then taunted Republicans over his two election victories, after many of them applauded the looming end of his political career.
Obama made a so-called "joke," which is straight out of the Alinsky playbook! Quick, someone write another column about American Sniper lest we lose momentum.

UPDATE 2. Speaking of which:


 

Snipermania is back! Now to get some of those hipsters dressing like troops instead of 19th Century dandies. I know -- let's wreck the economy again; then, they'll have no choice but to join up!

UPDATE 3. Here to make everything worse as usual, Jonah Goldberg:
Like a lot of people, I found tonight’s speech a chore. That’s less of a criticism of Obama than it sounds. I find all State of the Unions to be tedious, particularly this late in a presidency. I do think it was better delivered than most of his State of the Union addresses. I didn’t, however, think it was particularly well-written. “The shadow of crisis has passed”? C-minus.
There are at all times lots of middle-aged white guys scratching their nuts in their Barcaloungers, seeing sumpin' on TV, and going "meh," sometimes at muttering length, without having a particular complaint beyond how comfy their junk was sitting while they watched. But only a few of them get wingnut welfare and a national platform, and among their few obligations is to pad, pad, pad 'til it looks like business. Eventually we find that Goldberg ran out of proper stuffing in the first paragraph:
More telling, the last 15 minutes amounted to Obama’s golden oldies. His real foe is cynicism. We can all work together. There are no red states or blue states. We are all our “brother’s keeper.” 
The difference is that the first time we heard this stuff it had at least superficial plausibility because the Obama presidency hadn’t happened yet. Five, six, ten years later, it’s all pretty sad. It’s sad because it shows that Obama still thinks his original material is fresh when it’s actually played out (and some of it was piffle to begin with — don’t get me started on “my brother’s keeper”.)
Yeah, Obama thinks Americans will actually go for this "brother's keeper" bullshit. Well, how can you expect a secret Muslim to understand Christians anyway. Besides ha ha Obama because Jonah Goldberg knows what Americans really want: Bar-B-Q Ranch Lime Sriracha Cheetos, and torture. You're so over! This is the age of Presidential frontrunner Ben Carson!

Oh, there's more -- e.g. "[Obama] promises all sorts of 'free' stuff out of one side of his mouth and then insists we must raise taxes to pay for it. Oh, so it’s not free, huh?" Wait'll the sheeple hear about this! -- but I warn you, it's the sort of thing that, if they handed it to Joni Ernst last night before her speech, she would have told them, "Come on, nobody's gonna go for this."

ZHDANOV'S CHILDREN.

I like Clint Eastwood movies, therefore I want to see American Sniper, therefore I hope it's good. But I have to say, the political ravings about the movie are pretty annoying. Like a lot of people, I thought Dennis Jett's review based on the trailer at New Republic was stupid; but, as I've pointed out before, conservatives do this sort of thing all the time and no one cares -- because no one expects them to treat films or any other works of art as anything but propaganda. Here's Jim Geraghty at National Review:
I’ll reserve any serious comment on the film until after I have seen it – I guess I’m just not up to the standards of The New Republic –
Haw haw.
– but whether or not American Sniper is “pro-war,” it appears to be resolutely and proudly pro-soldier. And that is a giant factor in moviegoers’ enthusiastic embrace of it. Note that American Sniper isn’t afraid to showcase the painful and difficult parts of military life for soldiers and their families, and my suspicion is that audiences love that part, too – because showing the pain makes it honest. Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper and company don’t want to tell you only one part of Chris Kyle’s story. They want to paint as complete a picture as they can in the running time that they have. If you made the story about the battlefront, without the home front, or vice versa, you would only be telling about half the story.
So in the very next breath, Geraghty reviews the film he didn't see -- though I suppose "serious comment" is the crossed fingers behind his back. (This is the sort of thing I did as a kid when I wanted to pretend I had seen some big movie of the moment. I wonder if adults do this anywhere but in the pages of rightwing magazines.)

Geraghty also quotes TruthRevolt rageclown Kurt Schlichter on the subject and it's every bit the table-pounder you'd expect, with yips about "the narrative" and Michael Moore Is Fat. (Set the Hot Tub Time Machine to 2004!) Best part:
Next, chunky iconoclast Seth Rogen weighed in with his observation that American Sniper reminded him of the fake Nazi propaganda film at the end of Inglorious Bastards. What a scumbag. This came after we conservatives stood with him when the Norks threatened him over The Interview – even to the extent of watching his piece of garbage on VOD – while his hero Barack Obama whined about people actually exercising their free speech rights.
First, this supports my perception that the only part of arts journalism conservatives genuinely relate to is gossip columns. They don't know what art is, but they sure know who did what to whom! Second, it figures that Schlichter would be enraged that Rogen didn't repay the debt Schlichter imagines he owes "we conservatives" for yelling about North Korea in blogs and switching off porn for a couple of hours to watch this bro-com. Everything is politics to these people; movies, plays, novels, and choc-o-mut ice creams have no value for them except as symbols on a bloody flag to wave at their base. Sometimes I think when they relax at home in front of the TV, they actually watch a placard that says HOME ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCT (CONSERVATIVE).

Hopefully by the time I get to the theater they'll be yelling about some painter who made Jesus look bad or something, and I can watch my movie in peace.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A CONSERVATIVE MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY.

As we have done in years past, let's see what gifts the brethren have brought us for Martin Luther King Day. Ah, here's Ann Althouse's: She directs us to this passage from a phone tape of LBJ and MLK --
LBJ: We want equality for all, and we can stand on that principle. But I think that you can contribute a great deal by getting your leaders and you yourself, taking very simple examples of discrimination where a man's got to memorize [Henry Wadsworth] Longfellow or whether he's got to quote the first 10 Amendments or he's got to tell you what amendment 15 and 16 and 17 is, and then ask them if they know and show what happens. And some people don't have to do that. But when a Negro comes in, he's got to do it. And we can just repeat and repeat and repeat. I don't want to follow [Adolph] Hitler, but he had a--he had a[n] idea...
MLK: Yeah.
LJB: ...that if you just take a simple thing and repeat it often enough, even if it wasn't true, why, people accept it. Well, now, this is true, and if you can find the worst condition that you run into in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or South Carolina, where... well, I think one of the worst I ever heard of is the president of the school at Tuskegee or the head of the government department there or something being denied the right to a cast a vote. And if you just take that one illustration and get it on radio and get it on television and get it in the pulpits, get it in the meetings, get it every place you can, pretty soon the fellow that didn't do anything but follow... drive a tractor, he's say, "Well, that's not right. That's not fair."
MLK: Yes.
LJB: And then that will help us on what we're going to shove through in the end.
MLK: Yes. You're exactly right about that...
Althouse's headline:
50 years ago today: LBJ and MLK talked on the telephone... "I don't want to follow Hitler, but he had a... he had a idea..."
The boys at the Daily Caller get the idea, and repeat the anecdote under a more explicit headline for their particular readership:
From The Archives: 50 Years Ago, Lyndon Johnson Urged Martin Luther King, Jr. To Be More Like Hitler
This year let us all remember the true meaning of MLK Day: Liberal Fascism!

Meanwhile at Canada Free Press, John Lillpop has his own idea of the true meaning of MLK Day, which he complains has been hijacked by black people:
However extensive the shutdown of government and private enterprise will be, there is one industry that will be open for business as usual, that being the race-baiting for profit business led by Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and Eric Holder, among others.
I knew there was someone I forgot to send a card to! Lillpop also has an interesting idea about the goals of the post-Ferguson protests:
The fact that thousands of blacks marched in Ferguson, Missouri to demand the death of Police officer Darren Wilson, who had been acquitted of wrong-doing by a legally constituted grand jury in the death of criminal Michael Brown, is testament to the power and intensity of the vitriol spewed by Obama, Sharpton, and Holder.
One must wonder how Dr. King would view the facts surrounding the Michael Brown death. 
Would King join the protesters in demanding that the rule of law be suspended and that Wilson be freed from police custody and handed over to street gangsters...
Similarly, the civil rights marchers of the '60s just wanted to lynch Bull Connor. Another alternate history of recent events is supplied by  Dan Dagget at American Thinker:
...race baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson demanded that Brown not be judged by concrete evidence of the quality of his character but that the color of his skin made him immune to such judgment.
That filing must have been be sealed. Release the Free-a-Brother Documents!
Furthermore, they declared that anyone who tried to apply such judgment (in effect, applying King’s Dream) was a racist.
Doesn’t that mean they were calling Martin Luther King Jr. a racist?
This is up there with "You say you're for peace and love, so how come you don't love me?"

UPDATE. At Raw Story, Scott Kaufman lists "12 statements by Martin Luther King Jr. you won’t see conservatives post on Facebook today." Pretty good, but he missed the ones in which King called for a guaranteed income. Wait'll the boys at Reason, who like to portray King as a victim of statism, find out the Reverend was a big ol' moocher!

UPDATE 2. Speaking of moochers, and with a hat tip to @WineJerk, here's Power Line's Paul Mirengoff with something unreconstructed:
It’s not surprising that transferring money from whites to blacks is at the core of Obama’s agenda. This was, after all, Martin Luther King’s final mission, as Mufson points out. And, as with any good socialist, it has been Obama’s mission since his days as a left-wing “community organizer” and before.
Give him credit -- unlike his comrades, Mirengoff isn't pretending to like King.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

ON TO OSCAR.

The nominations are out, and spurred by some vestigial urge from my showbiz days I'm working on seeing the big ones and reporting back here whenever I get a chance.

The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson heroes don’t usually have life-or-death crises; they suffer from misunderstandings. Some of these misunderstandings are large and threaten their happiness, but they’re nothing that can’t be straightened out, for in the Anderson universe good will and reasonableness are always popping out from around a corner, ready to set things right. Even criminals don’t give Anderson heroes much trouble. (The pirates in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou were less of a threat than the Pirates of Penzance.) His movies have been like children’s-edition versions of Dickens, which is a large part of their pleasure, and also their limitation — they have a great range of amusing characters and incidents, but the viewer is always aware that this is not quite the world.

The Mitteleuropan fantasyland of Zubrowka, in which The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place, is not quite the world either — the visuals are rich as frosting; you can see how much pleasure Anderson gets from the very idea of an early-20th-Century alpine funicular. There is also the very Andersonian mentor-pupil relationship of Monsieur Gustave, the Hotel’s brilliant concierge whose aplomb, we come to realize, is not only inventive and industrious but magnificent and brave, and Zero the Lobby Boy, who climbs but is not a mere climber, which Gustave recognizes by instinct and seeks to encourage. And around many corners come many helpful people to lend Gustave and Zero support — most memorably the secret order of concierges known as the Society of the Crossed Keys.

But these helpers can’t do everything. There is a probate matter that has the appearance of a misunderstanding, and Deputy Kovacs attempts to deal with it as such; he is (spoiler) murdered for this misapprehension. His assassins, and Gustave’s and Zero’s main nemeses, are Dmitri and his enforcer Jopling, two genuinely savage creatures beyond the reach of all sentiment or reason, whose evil industry seems a match at least for the energy and good faith of our heroes. Also, from near the beginning of the film a great war threatens, and in the end it does more than that.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has all the pleasures we’ve come to expect from Anderson. The amplified grandeur of the Lubitsch-y, cinema buffa settings make it even easier than usual to expect them. But Lubitsch for all his kitsch was pretty wised-up, and I think Anderson is getting to be, too. Much has been made of the film’s inspiration by Stefan Zweig, not least by Anderson himself. I take him at his word: The melancholy for a vanished world — a world, as Zero, seen in his old age in the framing device, tells “the Author” was probably vanished even before the story began, but embodied and upheld by Monsieur Gustave — feels genuine, and informed by the sadder lessons of history and life. It’s not that kindness and its effects have left the world; just that their value has to be treasured and transmitted, maybe in movies like this.

That framing device makes the point beautifully. We see the message passed by elderly Zero to the Author, and the Author passing it on, through literature (and through difficulties which are only suggested but which to anyone who lived in the 20th Century will be perfectly clear) to his people. The evil in this world, this seems to say, does not refute the rosy Anderson idea of life; rather, vice-versa. Our problems, that is, may not all be misunderstandings, but when we insist on understanding we can yet triumph.