E Pluribus Unum

Thought-provoking comment, analysis, opinion and humor about the United States, its people and culture.

Movie review: A leaky “Noah”

Russell Crowe is "Noah."

By Jim Tortolano E Pluribus Unum The new Biblical epic “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe as a sword-swinging, hard-faced patriarch who built the famous ark in Genesis, is difficult to categorize. That’s probably as it should be, because director and writer Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel had to tread a difficult path. They took the […]

The crippling effects of overprotecting kids

Is dodgeball a mean, violent sport unfit for kids?

By Jim Tortolano  E Pluribus Unum Not all bad parenting comes from abusive parents guzzling cheap beer in a trailer park. A fair amount of it seems to spring from the educated, well-meaning and oh-so-involved fathers and mothers that you see hovering about schools, playgrounds and soccer fields. The trend which began quietly with the […]

Movie review: “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”

"Mr. Peabody and Sherman," from Dreamworks.

By Jim Tortolano  E Pluribus Unum Thomas Wolfe said famously, “You can’t home again,” which especially applies to favorite childhood memories. When Dreamworks undertook to make a film version of the antics of Mr. Peabody and Sherman from the celebrated Sixties animated TV series ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” the enterprise seemed doomed to disappointment. […]

The conundrum of Crimea

The Crimean War of 1853-56 cost over 700,000 lives.

By Jim Tortolano  E Pluribus Unum The latest crisis in the Ukraine and Crimea has brought about a lot of chattering and finger-pointing from the professional blaming class. It’s very high-decibel woofing, which is interesting because two weeks ago most Americans couldn’t find Crimea on a map of Crimea. Most of this manufactured anxiety seems […]

Did Beatles change the world? Yeah, yeah, yeah

The Beatles arrive in America, February 2012.

By Jim Tortolano  E Pluribus Unum We’re in a frenzy of Beatlenostalgia, which is only fitting considering that so much of the world we live in has been shaped and soundtracked by the four boys from Liverpool. Folks like to make a big deal out of the way that the Beatles affected popular music, and […]

Movie review: A small “Monuments Men”

The all-star cast of "The Monuments Men."

By Jim Tortolano  E Pluribus Unum You want to like “The Monuments Men,” the feel-good war story from George Clooney.  Good vs. evil. Americans vs. Nazis. An all-star cast. But “Men” ends up being a mildly-entertaining, sometimes boring movie despite the crinkly smile of Clooney and the non-inconsiderable talents of Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill […]

Movie reviews: A wise “Philomena,” a touching “her”

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in "Philomena."

By Sarah Cooperman E Pluribus Unum Love not only makes the world go ‘round, it also motivates that part of the film world not focused on blowing things up.  Two films in recent release – “Philomena”  and “her” touch impressively on aspects of that emotion: a mother’s love, and the loneliness for love in today’s […]

It’s still Christmas, until …

The final four for the 2014 Super Bowl.

By Jim Tortolano E Pluribus Unum If you live in most of the United States in this season of the polar vortex, you may think you are trapped in eternal winter.  For those who reside in Minnesota and the Dakotas, it may seem like there are really only two seasons: Winter and Non-Winter. That idea […]

Goodbye, good riddance to BCS

2010 BCC game between Alabama and Texas.

By Pete Zarustica, E Pluribus Unum Most endings are mourned, but this is one expiration worth celebrating: the death of the Bowl Championship Series of college football. Monday’s game may have been entertaining (and yes it was, as Florida State defeated Auburn 34-31 with a score in the last 13 seconds), but that doesn’t make […]

Liberal literary paranoia in “Nation.”

Sarah Palin, harbinger of disaster?

By Jim Tortolano, E Pluribus Unum “Christian Nation,” a cautionary novel by Frederic Rich about the possible consequences of triumph by far-right “Dominion” Christians seeks to portray itself as modern-day equivalent to Sinclair Lewis’ classic anti-fascist “It Can’t Happen Here,” and in some ways it succeeds. It does shed needed light on the scary ambitions […]

Movie review: “Mitty” minimizes the wit

Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

By Jim Tortolano, E Pluribus Unum Tom Clancy often complained about the way that Hollywood – in his view – mangled his books when converting them into films, but he cashed the checks anyway. James Thurber, if he were around, would probably have the same complaint about what 20th Century Fox did to his most […]

Movie review: “American Hustle” depresses

Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence in "American Hustle."

By Pete Zarustica, E Pluribus Unum If you don’t believe in heroes, “American Hustle” is the movie for you. In this comedy-drama set in the late Seventies and early Eighties, everyone is on the make from crooks to government agents to elected officials. It’s technically proficient, but downright depressing. David Russell directs this story about […]

Movie review: “The Wolf” runs well, but too long

Leo DiCaprio stars in "The Wolf of Wall Street."

By Sarah Cooperman, E Pluribus Unum Ever go to a really good play, party or concert and at some point think to yourself, “This thing is starting to drag.” That’s the sensation I got when watching Martin Scorsese’s latest epic, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Based on the book by Jordan Belfort, the original “wolf,” […]

Movie review: A ground-floor view in “Saving Mr. Banks”

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks."

By Sarah Cooperman, E Pluribus Unum Like most young girls growing up in America (or for that matter, anywhere in the Western World), I thrilled to the adventures of women in the world of Disney.  While the heroines were not always all that heroic, it was difficult to resist the temptation of imagining yourself a […]

And now a word in favor of capitalism …

Is Scrooge (from "Disney's A Christmas Carol") a typical capitalist?

By Jim Tortolano, E Pluribus Unum ‘Tis a rough time of the year to be a capitalist.  First the Pope takes a broad swipe at the practice of free enterprise in the world today, and now, of course, the constant repetition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which paints a successful businessman as the embodiment […]