Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
MYTH: The war "is lost."
FACT: Our commanders and ambassador do not believe that. . . . The surge of operations is just beginning. . . . We have seen promising indicators since the President announced the new strategy in January.
MYTH: The U.S. is playing "whack-a-mole" in Iraq.
FACT: U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting offensive operations against terrorists while simultaneously providing security in neighborhoods with joint security stations and patrols. . . . The primary reason for the "surge" in troops was to give U.S. and Iraqi forces the ability and flexibility to conduct such offensive operations in and outside of Baghdad without having to shift troops out of so many areas where
they were needed for security. This is why commanders held off on many of them
until the brigades were in place -- to avoid the problems of past offensives.
MYTH: Setting a timeline and pulling troops out of Iraq regardless of conditions on the ground would be a responsible end to the conflict and/or would put needed pressure on Iraq's government.
FACT: The collective judgment of our intelligence community is that this would increase, not decrease, the violence and hinder national reconciliation.
MYTH: Gen. [David H.] Petraeus does not believe the U.S. military can make a difference in Iraq.
FACT: Democrats sometimes quote Gen. Petraeus when arguing that the U.S. should give up in Iraq, but they completely misrepresent the General's views. While Gen. Petraeus has indeed said the ultimate solution to Iraq's problems is a political one, he has consistently argued that such a solution can only come with the improvements in security he is trying to achieve.
MYTH: Iraqis are going on a two-month holiday and are not defending their own country.
FACT: Iraq's Parliament decided not to take a two-month recess and instead will continue working on legislation critical for Iraq's future.
NEW YORK (AP) - The films of Pixar are radical in their advanced animation techniques and digital rendering. The studio has topped even itself in the shadowy Paris quays, the bright, bustling kitchens and the humanistic expressions of its furry star in its new ``Ratatouille.''
Yet the visual splendor of Pixar (owned by the Walt Disney Co.) again has obscured its most essential characteristic: old-fashionedness.
Beneath the eye-catching CGI sheen of Pixar's dazzle lies a nostalgia and style indebted to classic filmmaking.
``People in Hollywood, the press always fixates on technology because it's easier to quantify,'' Brad Bird, director of ``Ratatouille'' and 2004's ``The Incredibles,'' recently told The Associated Press. ``The truth of the matter is the technology has never been the answer. The same answers to making a good movie are the answers that were around 80 years ago.''
The short films that precede Pixar features, for example, offer sound effects and music, but little dialogue. Instead, shorts such as ``One Man Band'' (where two street musicians duel for a child's coin) and ``Knick Knack'' (in which a snowman tries to escape his snow globe) rely on clever storytelling, timing and perspective - what Buster Keaton might make if he were alive today and handed the reins of a giant animation company.
The short playing before ``Ratatouille'' - ``Lifted'' - centers on why a sleeping farmer is hovering over his bed: an alien spaceship driving lesson is to blame.
``Those short films get at the notion of telling a story without words, which is what silent film was about in the first place,'' says Steven Higgins, curator of film and media at the Museum of Modern Art, where he last year curated an exhibit on Pixar.
The studio showed its reverence for Japanese filmmaking legend Akira Kurosawa in ``A Bug's Life'' (1998). Like the Western remake ``The Magnificent Seven,'' the plot of ``A Bug's Life'' was based on Kurosawa's ``Seven Samurai.''
Though Pixar head and co-founder John Lasseter directed ``A Bug's Life,'' Bird perhaps best summarized their backward-looking perspective in a piece he wrote for Animation World Magazine in 1998 about drawing for ``The Simpsons.''
``I started pushing the storyboard artists, many of whom had trained on Saturday morning animation, to think of each episode as a movie, and to look toward Hitchcock, Welles, Kubrick and Scorsese for inspiration rather than other animation,'' wrote Bird.
But Pixar's reverence for the past goes deeper than homage to classic filmmakers. (Spoiler alert: skip the next paragraph if you don't want to know how ``Ratatouille'' ends.)
``Ratatouille,'' which has earned more than $109.5 million at the box office in its first 10 days in theaters, concludes with Remy the rat and his human friends losing their bloated, commercial restaurant, Gusteau's - but then happily starting a cozy mom-and-pop bistro.
This is a typically nostalgic ending for Pixar, which regularly finishes a film with some reconciliation to The New.
In ``Toy Story'' (1995), cowboy Woody's status as a boy's favorite toy is threatened by the arrival of spaceman Buzz Lightyear. In the end, they become pals; the past learns to live with the future.
``Cars'' (2006) centers on the town Radiator Springs, which is nearly knocked off the map after a superhighway replaces Route 66. After being waylaid there, the young, flashy race car Lightning McQueen is converted to the small town's old-time ways. He gets outfitted with white wall tires and makes Radiator Springs his new home.
Likewise, in 2001's ``Monsters Inc.'' the drama begins with the company of monsters that makes energy from the screams of children in decline because of a scream shortage. Kids are becoming increasingly callous and apathetic, and that's bad business for monsters.
A TV commercial in Monster World announces: ``The window of innocence is shrinking. Human kids are harder to scare.'' Eventually, a new system is created when laughter is found to be better fuel than screams.
In ``The Incredibles,'' superheros give up their death-defying duties because of excessive litigation. Mr. Incredible saves a train, but is nevertheless sued by its passengers. Pixar, it turns out, is pro tort reform.
Mr. Incredible and wife Elastigirl teach their children to hide their special powers - a dig at modern parents run amok. Elastigirl tells her son: ``Everyone's special, Dash,'' to which Dash replies: ``Which is another way of saying nobody is.''
MoMA's Higgins wonders if Lasseter and Bird are beginning to show an authorial stamp to their work like Scorsese or Hitchcock.
``What they're really trying to get at in Pixar films is: technology is simply the tool,'' Higgins says. ``What they're really all about is classic storytelling.''
When the superhero family of ``The Incredibles'' finally embraces its powers and triumphs in a battle against the robot Omnidroid, an elderly bystander gawks with delight.
``That's the way to do it,'' he says. ``That's old-school.''
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)