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Hammerle On … 'The Lego Movie,' 'The Monuments Men'

Robert Hammerle
February 26, 2014
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“The Lego Movie”

First and foremost, “The Lego Movie” is an adult film masquerading as a children’s movie. Its quality will shock you beyond meaningful description.

For starters, the characters themselves were at all times colossally funny, and this was due to the genius of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Goofy yet stylish, you end up treating them like action characters, and that lies at the center of the film’s inspiration.

However, the script by Dan and Kevin Hageman is diabolically clever from beginning to end. It is an inspirational assault on your senses that overwhelms you with a feeling of warmth. Yet while focusing on much that we hold dear in life, it also has a sarcastic edge that emasculates those in our society who hide behind a holier-than-thou masquerade.

Resisting my regrettable tendency to tell more than you need to know, the film focuses on a small Lego character named Emmet, mistakenly thought to be the savior of the Lego world. Voiced by Chris Pratt, he leads a group of crazed Lego compatriots to save their universe from being glued together by the evil tyrant President Business, voiced by Will Ferrell.hammerle-lego.jpg
Along the way our group of ornery misfits are forced to embrace a basic principle that is all but ignored in their busy society, namely that every person can be creative in their own right. They slowly learn that there is nothing wrong with smiling or lending a helping hand. While tradition is important, so is being unique.

“The Lego Movie” is about the little guy who fights back when he or she decides that enough is enough. In this process, the film barely hides a sharp criticism of the way big business controls a large portion of not just Legoland, but our own country. The villain here is known as Lord Business/President Business, a leader who wants all of society’s members to work hard while they follow a strict rule book. He is interested in doing little more than filling his own coffers, and the rest of society becomes completely expendable.

As I watched “The Lego Movie,” I couldn’t help but think of life in America today. Less than 1 percent of our citizens absorb over half of our national income, and they have succeeded in harnessing a political system that is devastating the middle class. While they fan the flames of the Tea Party, they clamor to reduce access to food stamps while refusing to help raise the minimum wage. You can almost hear them yell, “Don’t raise my taxes, little people!”

Just follow the capitalistic rule book, they say, and everything will be fine. Just ignore the fact that Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, just was awarded a multi-million dollar annual raise after his company paid gigantic fines for massive misconduct. Let’s make sure that people who receive welfare are drug tested, but don’t dare require the same thing of the wealthy who are also receiving massive benefits from the recent national Farm Bill.

What I saw from the little guys in “The Lego Movie” who refused to cave in was what I hoped to see from the residents in West Virginia who are still forced to drink polluted water. If I lived in that state, I would require every businessman and elected official to drink nothing but tap water or explain why they refuse. Come to think of it, I’d demand the same thing of those providing our drinking water here in Indianapolis.

So set aside any doubts you may have and see this movie as soon as possible. Your kids will love it even though they won’t understand it, and you will love it precisely because you do.

“The Monuments Men”

While “The Monuments Men” has been roundly blasted by critics across the country, it still is a powerful historical film. Based on the great book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel, director George Clooney gives the audience a chance to ride along with a few dedicated Allied soldiers who sought nothing more than to preserve Europe’s classic architecture and individual works of art in World War II.

Though the movie itself reveals little of the carnage of the war, it really didn’t have to. As noted by Pulitzer-Prize winner Rick Atkinson in Volume 3 of his liberation trilogy, “The Guns at Last Light,” U.S. casualties in Western Europe totaled 587,000, which included 135,576 dead. Two hundred and fifty thousand Americans laid buried in 457 cemeteries scattered across 86 countries. For an estimated 44,000 lost at sea, nothing could be done. And yet that paled in comparison with the nearly 27 million Russians killed.hammerle-monuments.jpg

“The Monuments Men” simply gives you a close-up view of some of those who risked their lives to retrieve art stolen by the Nazis. If you’ve paid attention to the recent development in Germany where more than 1,280 artworks with ties to the Nazis were recovered from the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, you know that this dramatic quest is still going on to this very day.

Here, you see Clooney’s character leading a team that was sent to various locations in Europe. Sure, when the cast includes John Goodman and Bill Murray, you know there are going to be some funny one-liners. However, to criticize soldiers risking their lives who occasionally had to laugh instead of cry is fundamentally absurd.

Rounding out the cast are Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon and Jean Dujardin, and they are all appealing. In particular, Damon stands out as the soldier working undercover in Paris to try to convince the lovely Claire Simone, played with grace and style by Cate Blanchett, to assist their cause.

I have had the experience of visiting the salt mines in Austria, Hitler’s hideaway at Berchtesgaden as well as the abominable concentration camp in Dresden. We will never forget what the Nazis did to over six million Jews, and fortunately future generations will be able to help soothe that pain with the artwork saved by the tremendous efforts of the Monuments Men.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  2. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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