MEEK AT THE MOVIES — The Fifth Estate ( 2.5 STARS )

^ no soul to sell ; Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange (with Daniel Bruhl) in Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate”

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WikiLeaks, the renegade news outlet that takes hacked secrets from government agencies and publishes them to the world sans redaction while protecting the identity of the whistle blower through an elaborate ‘submission platform,’ that’s so secure, even the publisher doesn’t know the identity of the leaker. That site’s notoriety achieved its apex when it published reports exposing US intelligence assets abroad and crass snippy inter-office memos from those in the State Department trashing world leaders. But that’s just the background and part of the denouement in “The Fifth Estate” which is really more a character study of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his meteoric rise to international infamy.

Assange is played by Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan in the last “Star Trek” chapter) who in long white locks and with piercing blue eyes looks somewhat ethereal or other worldly, like the fair-haired elves in the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy or the calmly maniacal Julian Sands in the “Warlock” films. Cumberbatch’s Assange is a hard beast to wrap your hands around. He’s guff, arrogant, but at the same time an idealist who spends time in Africa trying to expose corrupt governments stealing money from the people and killing anyone who questions their brutish entitlements. The film’s window of insight into Assange’s mystifying persona is his early collaborator Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl who played Niki Lauda in “Rush”), who at first idolizes Assange and his mission but later has clashing ideological differences over what to do with the Pentagon papers Bradley Manning leaked to them (it was Manning who exposed himself in a chat room).

The film is directed by Bill Condon, who had notable successes with “Dream Girls” and “Gods and Monsters,” and recently has been involved in the hackneyed “Twilight” series. Condon keeps things clicking along with Twitter-brisk editing and plenty of acerbic Assange diatribes. He makes sitting at a desk and hacking away against the clock a time bomb-beating experience. As far as composition goes, the film looks great, but there’s not much insight into Assange’s past. His stories of his white hair and his long unseen son (near adulthood) seem arcane and piquant at first, but then they feel like ploys used by Assange to manipulate others. And that’s the fatal fault with “Fifth Estate.” Assange is an asshole and you can’t wait for him to get his comeuppance. The well-heeled documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney earlier this year came out with “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” which got at Assange and the WikiLeaks story more satisfactorily. What Condon was aiming for is unclear. It postures well and Cumberbatch is riveting as the media shaping reptile, but in all the plumbing of the journalistic ethic and mad dash globe hoping, there’s just no soul to sell.

— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies



^ in governance, substance IS style. john Connolly meeting with gang members and Ministers in Roxbury yesterday

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So now the Mayor race is about “leadership style” ?

What is this ? A fashion show ? An audition for Downton Abbey or such like ?

To read some big name columnists, or to surf my facebook wall, one would think so. it is said — by Marty Walsh supporters — that some elected officilas in Boston’s communities of color are endorsing Walsh because they don ‘t like John Connolly’s leadership style. A good friend of mine — who knows politics much better than that — also made that point to me this morning.

I would like to differ. I would submit that the idea that some elected officials of color have endorsed Marty Walsh is because of “leadership style” is a rather plump grade of effluent.

Politicians don’t endorse because of style points. They endorse because it serves their interests to do so. What are their interests ? One : getting re-elected. two : responding to their most active and vocal constituents. Three : their own policy agendas. Four : all three of the above.

More credible is the suggestion that elected officials of color have endorsed Marty Walsh because he has an urgency about him. This does seem to be the case. We wrote about that exact aspect of Walsh’s campaign almost a month ago. Walsh is urgent, Connolly long-term. Walsh wants stuff now. Connolly wants now to be just the beginning of a vision, a direction. Walsh’s message resonates with people who need help immediately. Connolly’s gains those who say “yes, right now is important; but what next ?” This too we wrote about back in September and again in our editorial endorsing John Connolly. You see it in how the candidates talk about employment. Walsh says “jobs.” Connolly says “careers.”

Between these two visions there is no easy common ground. It depends how you live your life. If you need more money right away, and getting it sets to one side steps you need to take to gain a career, you must choose either the money right away or the career steps. You probably can’t do both. In many of Boston’s communities of color, where incomes remain below average and unemployment (or under-employment) above average, voters are conflicted in just this way. That is why one sees elected leaders of these communities often endorsing Walsh while at the same time many of the actual activists are going with Connolly. The elected leaders hear the cries of urgency. The activists are building a future.

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^ urgency — and union jobs now ; Marty Walsh has plenty to offer

The elected leaders are responding to the cries of urgency because that is what constituent service is all about. People building a future can’t do it by calling an elected official’s office for help. Elected officials aren’t set up to build people’s futures. That’s what city administration and state offices of economic development do. But elected officials are set up to assist constituents in need — of neighborhood legal services, an addiction intervention, a problem at school, etc. Thus, in the Mayor’s race, some elected officials of color are picking the man they think will respond most quickly and helpfully to constituent help calls.

But there is a flaw in their analysis (assuming this is in fact how they see Walsh versus Connolly). The Mayor, no matter how sincerely he wants to remedy ills, can’t do it himself. His administration does that. And that is why when I was looking at the campaigns with an eye to recommending an endorsement to my Here and Sphere partner, I looked at how the two campaigns ran. Because, for me, in every campaign for an office essentially administrative, how the campaign is set up and carried out says a lot about how the man or woman will set up and administer when he or she is elected.

With the Walsh campaign I saw a well-managed street presence but a difficult internal process and a message full of contradictions.

With the Connolly campaign, i saw an efficient schedule, a state of the art volunteer outreach, and a campiagn message superbly focused and presented.

I not only saw this. I wrote about it back in mid-September.

May I ask, if “leadership style” — i.e., constituent services — is the avatar here, how come the many, many elected officials who have endorsed John Connolly missed what the elected officials of color now with Walsh see ? Is delivery of city help to people needing it any less important to Sal LaMattina than to John Barros ? Less important to Nick Collins than to Carlos Henriquez ? And what of the many elected officials who are endorsing neither ? Do they simply not give a damn about their constituents’ need for such services ?

Or is it that the elected officials supporting John Connolly want better schools — which will take years to accomplish ; look at the problems now engulfing the Dever and McCormack schools in Marty Walsh’s State representative District — so that their constituents’ children can have great careers ?

Whereas those backing Marty Walsh would rather not take on the Boston Teachers Union – as Connolly has — with school reform and see less political kerfuffle — if Walsh becomes Mayor  — in securing for their people a huge favor : union membership in the building trades and thus jobs now in the Boston building boom while it lasts ?

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : a suggestion has also been published that John Connolly was merely ‘stylin'” when he invited the Boston Globe to accompany him as he met with gang leaders in Roxbury — “using them as props,’ said the detractors.  This is the sheerest garbage. I propose that said gang leaders were thrilled to have their stories register upon the City’s biggest newspaper. They weren’t “props,” they were the REASON. ‘Nuff said on that one.


Coffee or Vodka?

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Dear: Parenting 911

My husband and I both are active members of our communities’ youth outreach programs. One of which is a half way house / group home for displaced or abandoned youth.  We have a secondary facility that has the goal of helping families through crisis and “hopefully” equipping them with the necessary skills, and basic needs — as  well as all the assistance , and resources we can find them.

Well about a year ago, a drug addicted mother and her two very young children found themselves at our doorstep. Of course we DID NOT refuse them despite our lack of room. These two young “babies” then 4 and 5 had really been through it — more than most children EVER will see at that age.  First we sought out drug treatment for the mom — counseling for the family unit — along with individual counseling for each…

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