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Monday, December 09, 2019

Newsmaker Memo

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A judge on Wednesday upheld the South Carolina Republican Party’s decision not to hold a 2020 presidential primary, a move taken by several states in erecting hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging Donald Trump.

In her order, Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman wrote the law “does not give Plaintiffs a legal right to a presidential preference primary, and the Court will not substitute its own judgment for that of the General Assembly or the SCGOP.”

Earlier this year, former South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis sued state Republicans, saying the party’s decision to skip a primary deprives him and others “of the ability to vote for the candidate of their choice in South Carolina’s famous (and particularly influential) ‘First in the South’ primary.”

South Carolina is among several states that have canceled Republican primaries and caucuses next year, an effort that helps Trump consolidate his support as Democrats work to winnow their large candidate field. The move, taken September in South Carolina by the state party’s executive committee, is not unusual for the party of the White House incumbent seeking reelection.

Challengers have emerged to Trump, including former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh. Mark Sanford, a former congressman and governor from South Carolina, entered the race but left after two months.

In years past, both Republicans and Democrats have cut state nominating contests when an incumbent president from their party sought a second term. In 1984, South Carolina GOP leaders opted to call off their primary as President Ronald Reagan sought reelection. In 2004, the GOP again canceled the state’s primary, with leaders deciding instead to endorse President George W. Bush’s reelection.

The South Carolina Democratic Party didn’t hold presidential primaries in 1996 or in 2012, when Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were their incumbents.

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My candidate lost, and yes, I still can’t get over it. I speak of the 1997 movie “L.A. Confidential.” A riff on the creepy film-noir movies of the 1950s, its dark brilliance lay clouded in the bloated shadow of “Titanic.”

This year, another Los Angeles movie is doing a lot better. “La La Land,” a sunny musical romance, has amassed 14 Oscar nominations, tying “Titanic” and “All About Eve” (1950) for the record.

Movie critics have responded to “La La Land” with 50 shades of praise, ranging from total to grudging. What it and “Titanic” have in common are their bigness, striking special effects and pedestrian love stories.

Look, any filmmaker with the guts to make a colorful song-meets-dance movie in the year 2016 deserves a lot of credit. Grumpy me felt she got her money’s worth feasting on the Hollywood pool party and splendid West Coast sundowns — just as she appreciated the skill behind “Titanic’s” computer-generated blow-by-blow of a sinking ocean liner.

But she’s seen “L.A. Confidential,” with its devil characters and pained relationships, four times. I would not again watch “La La Land” (or “Titanic”) were it free on a 12-hour flight across the Pacific — not unless my iPad battery gave out.

Or I might just hang in for the movie’s boffo opening, a frenetic dance number on a gridlocked Los Angeles freeway. But that celebration of modern LA’s diversity of skin colors grated somewhat, for no sooner did the traffic start moving than the story dissolved into a microscopic close-up of the ambitions, frustrations, and faces of a leading couple as white as the Rockettes of 1956.

The male character’s (Ryan Gosling) obsession with the African-American art form of jazz added more dissonance to the diversity theme. Many people of color are in the background, but only one gets character development — and not much. That would be the jazzman turned ’80s retro band leader, played by real-life musician John Legend.

Nothing wrong about a story centered on white people who aren’t even ethnics. The Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals never get old. But if you’re going to make a big deal of LA’s racial and ethnic mosaic, the least you can do is give some of the other pieces a personal life.

When it comes to dancing, Gosling and the female lead, Emma Stone, are no Fred and Ginger. The music score is not Gershwin. But again, congrats to director Damien Chazelle for even doing a musical comedy, albeit without the comedy.

Good writing is what makes a movie (or television series) great. Gosling and Stone are both accomplished actors, as are Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet from “Titanic.” It’s not their fault that the dialogue is cardboard.

“La La Land’s” plotline at least takes a few interesting forks. “Titanic’s” love story plies the sea lane of soggy melodrama: upper-deck girl ditches rich but insufferable fiance for soulful artist from steerage.

“All About Eve” had one fabulously witty, out-of-the-blue line after another, many delivered with drone accuracy by Bette Davis. Can you cite one clever exchange from “Titanic”?

“Titanic” swamped the Oscars with 11 wins, including for best picture. The Academy showed there was some justice in the world by giving “L.A. Confidential” a statuette for best adapted screenplay.

At the end of “L.A. Confidential,” a prostitute styled to look like film star Veronica Lake (Kim Basinger) tells her tormented police detective lover: “Some men get the world. Others get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona.”

Love can be a twisted thing. And so can be the criteria by which the Hollywood establishment judges films. Fortunately, TV these days is great.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at