Jen Yamato
Secretariat Review

Jen's Rating:

2.0

Horses for Jesus!

Who's In It: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell, AJ Michalka, Kevin Connolly, Dylan Walsh, Fred Dalton Thompson, Nestor Serrano, Margo Martindale

The Basics: This is the true life story of the world's most famous race horse, Secretariat, who came out of nowhere to win the Triple Crown in 1973. Only it's really about his owner Penny Chenery-Tweedy (Diane Lane), a wealthy housewife who bets everything on her horse (including her marriage, her fortune, and literally, the family farm) and comes out on top. But what Secretariat is most about is faith -- not so much of the Christian kind, though Bible quotes and gospel interludes are used superficially, but the faith one must have in themselves to will their way towards their goals. It's Disney's Blind Side-esque inspirational sports movie for the Tea Party crowd.

What's The Deal: Written by Mike Rich (Radio, The Nativity Story) and directed by Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers), Secretariat is handsomely filmed in the muted palette of the 1960s and '70s, with spot-on period detail and costuming. Diane Lane, who is becoming one of Hollywood's favorite mature actresses to hang a film on, is luminous if a bit unsteady as Penny Chenery, commanding the frame in every second of screen time she has. But despite the pretty trappings and the authentic feeling world of stables and 1970s-era privilege that Wallace has crafted (save for his laughably inept depictions of Vietnam-protesting hippiedom), the film itself feels hollow and hokey. Blame the emphasis on faith over facts, the proselytizing dialogue and relentless messaging that might put off anyone outside the older Christian conservative target demographic.

Diane Lane, Horse Whisperer: I can believe that the real Secretariat was some horse, an exceptional specimen of his race who liked to tease the crowd and come from behind to make every big race a dramatic spectacle worthy of the nation's adoration. I want to learn about him and how he taunted other inferior horses until they cried horse tears as he sped past them to the finish line. I don't need to see Diane Lane horse-whispering her super-horse like a coach giving a pep talk before the big game, as if Secretariat needed to shoehorn any more sports movie clichés into the greatest real life racing story of all time.

John Malkovich, Crazy French-Canadian Guy: Say what you will about the spate of eccentric supporting characters Malkovich has taken on of late (also see: Red), he's darn good at it. Malkovich is in fine form here as Lucien Laurin, the brilliant trainer with a penchant for dressing like Superfly who Penny hires to whip Secretariat into shape.

Kudos/Condolences To: Nelsan Ellis, the supporting cast member with the toughest job. Ellis, better known as Lafayette from True Blood and a graduate of Juilliard, plays Secretariat groom Eddie Sweat and does an admirable job making the most of the worst cringe-worthy "Praise Jesus!" black stereotype of the year.

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Comments (48)

TLM - 10-08-2010 5:48 PM
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Is this a movie review or a paid political advertisement for the Democratic party left wing wackos? Mrs Yamato should stick to doing movie reviews instead of political adds. The left is a bunch of mean unhappy people who think the no whats best for everyone else.

D. Mariott - 10-08-2010 6:10 PM
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So let get this straight: Jen Yamato is upset that they emphasis the faith of the characters over the "facts", and that is a bad thing? This isn't a documentary, and even if it was, the fact that the characters involved have faith is not a crime, despite Yamato's (and it appears Dave White's) protestations. I don't go to this sight for political and religious opinions, but for a REVIEW of the movie. So please stop doing the former and focus on the latter!

Jen Yamato - 10-08-2010 6:39 PM
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Hi D. Mariott - I address faith in Secretariat because the film chooses to make faith an overriding theme in its telling of the otherwise non-spiritual real life story. Obviously that's the filmmakers' prerogative, and one that will surely win the film fans as much as it alienates others. However, and this may or may not answer TLM's question, the Christian element in The Blind Side wasn't an issue for me. The two films make interesting counterpoints to one another, especially since Diane Lane is being talked up as this year's Bullock and Disney is making a concerted effort to market Secretariat to the faith & family demographic. I'd love to have an intelligent conversation about the necessity and role of faith in Secretariat once you'v

Jen Yamato - 10-08-2010 6:40 PM
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Sorry, got cut off - once you've all seen the film.

E. Robison - 10-08-2010 7:38 PM
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All I can say, Ms. Yamato, is that is truly refreshing for Hollywood to occasionally make a movie that promotes faith as a virtue, as that is what the majority of Americans still believe.

Craig - 10-09-2010 9:47 AM
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Naturally if the faith issue offends Jen Yamamto it must be a good movie.I get tired of all the trashy movies that are out there right now but since Hollywood believes in nothing but money,sex and violence a movie like this is needed and all too rare.This country still does have a majority of believers whether Obama or this movie critic believe it.

nancy - 10-09-2010 1:00 PM
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I was super offended by your "Horses for Jesus!" notation, review or whatever it was! Looks like a great movie to go see that espouses virtue for a change. You leftist are the most INTOLERANT group of people who preach tolerance like there is no tomorrow. It is a hypocritical stance, for sure! You seem to be threatened by people of faith. I feel sorry for you!

TMc - 10-09-2010 3:09 PM
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Why can't conservative Christians spell?

Sunny - 10-09-2010 4:30 PM
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I comment on the woman charaters on the movie her charater was so interesting nd i say culduls to her.

JMY - 10-09-2010 6:10 PM
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Keep the FAITH, Ms Yamato. You may one day write a decent movie review. Currently, however, you suck.

Katie - 10-09-2010 11:22 PM
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Well, I just saw this movie, and I have to say it's a really good movie. Hollywood has been dishing out so many trashy movies, this movie is a good quality movie that anyone can enjoy. I ride horses so I love them as I enjoyed this movie. My best friend has never seen one and person and she loved the movie almost as much. Even though It's pretty predictable, the suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat. Yes, there is what, like 2 christian elements. How does that offend you? The majority of people who ride horses are Christians, if your making that many risks you should be praying. They are dangerous animals. Many people in america are believers. I'm not conservative or liberal, I just think everything is corrupt and out of hand.

Katie - 10-09-2010 11:23 PM
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I hope you do figure out the difference between a good movie and a bad movie cause you are lost since you think " It's Disney's Blind Side-esque inspirational sports movie for the Tea Party crowd." and "Blame the emphasis on faith over facts, the proselytizing dialogue and relentless messaging that might put off anyone outside the older Christian conservative target demographic." Seriously? I'm under 25 and I loved the movie, so that last statement is very over-exaggerated. every-time I have read your reviews I have chosen to see the movie and actually felt the opposite of what you claim. Nice job! =)

Katie - 10-09-2010 11:23 PM
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I hope you do figure out the difference between a good movie and a bad movie cause you are lost since you think " It's Disney's Blind Side-esque inspirational sports movie for the Tea Party crowd." and "Blame the emphasis on faith over facts, the proselytizing dialogue and relentless messaging that might put off anyone outside the older Christian conservative target demographic." Seriously? I'm under 25 and I loved the movie, so that last statement is very over-exaggerated. every-time I have read your reviews I have chosen to see the movie and actually felt the opposite of what you claim. Nice job! =)

James Noe - 10-10-2010 8:18 PM
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Great movie but a little hokey at times but my daughter and I enjoyed it. It wasn't Sea Biscuit but I didn't expect it to be. I'm a Christian but really didn't notice the heavy overtones that were suggested. I only saw a movie about faith, and having a dream. A critic should only judge a movie by it's merits not their political agenda. Thumbs up or Thumbs down! Pretty damn simple isn't it. This movies gets two thumbs up and a snap!

Anon - 10-11-2010 1:03 AM
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Wow! Some of you are a bit touchy. Obviously your the religious sort this movie was appealing to since you seem to think that having a religious message is always acceptable and appropriate. I have not seen the film, and do not plan on it, but considering the directors and writers other works (We Were Soldiers, The Nativity Story) I'm pretty sure the religious aspects of this film are blatantly overt. Jen also said the film was full of cliches, just like Radio, so you can stop trying to devalue her opinion anytime now. Religious people are always looking for an argument.

Dave Bowerman - 10-11-2010 2:53 AM
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You and you're jaded life philosophy are a part of what's wrong in this country. I can almost count on if you think the movie is poor - then it's great.

STR - 10-11-2010 11:19 AM
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Love these people exclaiming that LEFTISTs and LIBERALS are the MOST INTOLERANT people EVER!!! Only slightly ironic. In case you don't get it: Dave and Jen write sarcastic short reviews for people that you would call LIBERALS. Just as I would agree with Jen that this movie was probably made for a Tea Party type crowd. But hey apparently that is offensive to tolerant people like you. BTW maybe some of you should read up on the definition of liberal or move to Iran.

CarlG - 10-11-2010 2:29 PM
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great movie, entertaining from beginning to end. Being tipped off by the critic, I looked for the Christian bias, but only saw a fair representative of a woman's life. Since she is a Christian one would expect some religious reference in the movie.

lmc - 10-11-2010 2:59 PM
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what the h--- difference does it make if the movie has a Christian reference or not. It was a very entertaining movie based on a true story which left you feeling good. What's wrong with that? Only self-loathers would resent such things.

Donna - 10-12-2010 12:11 AM
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I have read the above comments and review. I am not sure which one was more ridiculous. Can't people just like a movie now? This is a TRUE story.....so it is what it is. I am a Ky. girl and believe me Secretariat was an amazing animal and came from nowhere. All of a sudden the movie has people ripping "liberals" and Chrisatians to pieces...have you all lost your mind???? Get a life and know this is a movie about something great that happened in this country...That idiot that wrote the review obviously knows NOTHING about the horse world!!! I just have one question, why is this person reviewing and why are we actually reading it.....I will not read anymore of his/her reviews...Who are these people anyway?????

Barb - 10-12-2010 8:50 AM
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I read the book and am not planning on seeing the movie. The first half of the book went through the lineage of Secretariat, and every character connected with him. Tedious. The second part of the book was how all the people connected with Secretariat just wanted the money and really didn't believe in the horse all that much except hoping he would make them money, including the trainer. They syndicate the horse in order to save the farm. They even race him when he has a huge sore in his mouth, with little or no real compassion for the horse. All the people were unlikeable except maybe Sweat, and he wasn't given all that much page time. Sounds like they had to change quite a bit of the book in order to make the characters more palatab

Candice - 10-12-2010 3:22 PM
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Haven't yet seen the movie, but I will. There are just not enough clean movies out there. Though I am not religious, but FREE by the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross for me, I praise God for anyone that makes a clean movie to get God's word out into the world. That is the only way souls will be saved, of course it's all a part of his plan. God can use anything...it's his world! There are supposed to be haters..that's what the bible says, but Jesus said, "they hated me first". To everyone...God loves you, no matter what you've done, or who you are!!

Knightsbud - 10-12-2010 7:49 PM
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Just got home from seeing this movie and decided to read the "experts" reviews. As usual, they are so wrong. This was a great story. First of all, one must believe in one's self and then those around them. The horse was magnificant even though I knew what the ending was, it was awesome to witness.

Tarzana Jane - 10-12-2010 9:52 PM
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LOVED THIS fresh, amazing, emotionally satisfying film. A 'Joyful" experience to behold.. Why such immature references to a "Negative" Tea Party injection? Silly, foolish juvenile female angry critic. Your simmering underlining anger is evident, and lowers your review ability. Jen, I suspect you are just a Marxist radical who is instantly self destructing when painfully viewing a gentle, brilliant, shining, honest, decent, loving conservative family. What did your mother do to create such hostility and envy you want to soil a wonderful film with a fraudulent hateful review. Marxist hate goodness, and want to tear it all down, man, Right? You feel left out because your life is so harsh, dirty, dark and insignificant, are you that unloved, d

TLG - 10-14-2010 11:09 AM
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I thought the movie was good and inspiring. I do not care for Yamato's review. It is interesting to me that movies with cuss words never get reviews telling you there will be a cuss word every 2 seconds or vulgarity every 5 minutes. Yet, put a few real-life, true of the times, Christian references and it makes headlines! I praise the film makers and Disney for this movie. It shows of a different time when people did believe in more than themselves and when people showed their faith and leaned on the one you have to have faith to lean upo-- the good Lord. A wise man once said, "Friend, it takes less belief [to believe God built this earth and sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for yours and my sins] than to believe that no

TLG - 10-14-2010 11:13 AM
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"Friend, it takes less belief [to believe God so loved the world...]than to believe that nothing times nobody equals everything. That’s the way they believe! No wonder the Bible says, “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’"" Ms. Yamota, why couldn't your review have included things about how her faith got her and her horse to the winners cycle? B/c believe me, God had a hand in it.

AMG - 10-14-2010 12:16 PM
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If I had a penny for every time I stood outside and asked god to strike me down I'd be a rich fellow, yet I'm still standing. Explain that one, sir.

Dude - 10-14-2010 2:00 PM
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"It's Disney's Blind Side-esque inspirational sports movie for the Tea Party crowd." So when I Love You Philip Morris is released will it be OK to say that it's "a movie for the gay marriage crowd?" Doubtful.

Don't they teach reading comprehension in school any more? - 10-14-2010 2:54 PM
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It seems as though the people commenting on this review and spewing bile about Jen's few casual references to faith (which, by the way, she explicitly defines early on as "not so much of the Christian kind... but the faith one must have in themselves to will their way towards their goals") and religion are conveniently disregarding the rest of the review, which not only does offer some praise of the movie but also makes other valid points about its negative qualities. Rather in much the same way that various Christian denominations pick and choose the parts of the Bible they like best and disregard whatever falls outside their worldview. I swear, you people are the reason I stopped going to Church. Christians are their on worst enemi

Shane - 10-14-2010 3:57 PM
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Being a horse lover and having just returned from Keenland I was looking forward to seeing this film. Despite having read this review, I found the movie quite enjoyable and sustainable to my horserace loving self. The acting was great, the scenery lovely and no offensive language at all. I even connected with the coffee cups they used as I know my mom had the same ones. Anyway, I was even left unchallenged by anything religious or political. Every now and then a nice movie comes along and provides a good feeling without all the adrenaline rush of violence and fast cars - I'll take fast horses any day. While some maintain that faith was the huge message I saw more about the willingness to follow that dim suspision that something might be bet

Triple SSS - 10-14-2010 6:34 PM
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So silly and sophomoric. You try too hard to be "smart" and sophisticated. It's a movie. Just a movie. It entertains. A great story. Diane Lane is just fine, as are all the other cast members. Perfect for a night out: to be entertained. Oh, and, by the way, goodness me, A HAPPY ENDING! Sundance it's not.

PeteO - 10-14-2010 6:53 PM
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Heaven forbid there's a positive movie with a scent of Christianity! Grrr I hate those Christians so much and their humanity-loving goodness and positive natures! Grrr, there's no abortion supporting or vietnam bashing grr! Terrible horrible movie because they're not killing christians or babies!

Pastor Lucas - 10-15-2010 3:44 PM
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Your review of this movies smacks of your hatred of anything Christian on a movie screen that does not have vulgar language or fornication scenes. Thank God a parent can take their children to this one and be wonderfully entertained and inspired. It is a shame that you were not born when Hollywood used talent to sell their product, and not the filth they are producing now.

Frustrated - 10-15-2010 4:21 PM
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It completely baffles me how some of you can read this and jump to the conclusion that Jen must automatically love movies that are filled with sex, violence, vulgarity, etc. Are you kidding me? Are your worlds really THAT black and white? You're up in arms because there were some aspects of the film (and I'm not just talking about her handful of references to religious themes) that she didn't like. But it seems you all are ONLY focused on the religious aspects of her review. Let's reverse this: just because a film is uplifting and positive, that doesn't make it a good film, in the same way that religious themes alone shouldn't cause one to call it bad. Read her FULL review again, and try to broaden your focus, for pete's sake.

Simon - 10-15-2010 8:16 PM
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I think Jen is being very insensitive to the Christian community. I don't see the need to take jabs at Christians and to use Jesus' name in such a causal/disrespectful way. Like it or not, many of your readers have deep faith in Jesus, and that alone should be respected. I saw the movie today, and it was way better than the "Blindside" and it was very enjoyable. Ms Jen is seriously disconnected from what makes a film good. I doubt she'd take as much liberty in using the Muslim god's name in vain. I'd really like Ms Jen to find a different job, because she's not doing this one well.

sg - 10-16-2010 9:11 AM
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Jen obviously knows ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about horses if she thinks they dont bond with certain people and respond to "pep talks". My horse has won many a blue ribbon after our "pep talks". The movie was absolutely fabulous.

mckeazer - 10-17-2010 11:16 AM
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Why are some of you critics focusing on political incorrectness within this movie? This is a true story set over 30 years ago, of course it's not going to measure up to today's standards. It's a period piece!! I'm moderately liberal and I steer clear of "organized" religion and I can not for the life of me see why anyone would focus on religion when critizing this movie. Her quoting Job is actually Hebrew and not Christian and was only about the power of this animal. The politics were lightly addressed and realistic to the time (conservative parents and their liberal teens). What it did address throughout the entire movie, aside from the absolutely awesome horse that Secretariat was, is sexism and classism. Which is a completely correct dep

Lillian - 10-17-2010 10:51 PM
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Wonderful Movie, what can I say....Your review Jen is totally wrong.

Kris - 10-18-2010 11:46 AM
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I completely agree with Lillian. Jen, you must be a liberal. Secretariat is the best film of the year.

Millie from Philly - 10-19-2010 8:18 AM
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Oh Happy Day! Finally a true story that is both entertaining and inspiring and for real...even if some "poor souls" do get nervous if Jesus Christ has a little limelight! Bring on more just like it. Actually I am taking my son to see it again tonight!

Max - 10-20-2010 6:22 PM
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Everyone, stop leaving wild, defensive reviews based solely on Conservatism. You didn't agree with the review WOOOOAAAAHHHHHHH Do you people even like this movie? Or are you just defending it because the "left wing wackos" didn't? grow up, children. (besides, the film was a solid D+)

Yasmine - 10-22-2010 8:14 AM
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Jen, I liked your review. It was well-written, straight to the point, and entertaining. Ignore the stupid Christian comments that are completely irrelevant and biased. I am an avid equestrian, and I will admit, this movie wasn't the best. And if people are going to jump up and down just because you didn't particularly like all the Biblical quotes need to go read their own Bibles a bit more. This is a free country, and if you guys want to act like communists every time someone doesn't agree to 'If God's in it, it must be good' films, realize that Jesus Christ was not going around criticizing people. If you want to love Jesus and shout His name everywhere, please act like Him.

Rory - 10-24-2010 1:49 PM
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I enjoyed the film. Honestly, after reading this, I expected lots more Christian references than there were. I personally think that the overall clean content is what will win fans though, not the Bible quotes or faith references. I think some find it refreshing to have a fairly clean movie. I'm not gonna throw out the words conservative and liberal here. Because this review is an honest opinion, not a political agenda. I understand though how it can be taken one way or the other. As a Christian myself though, I liked seeing some references to faith in Secretariat, and I didn't find it overwhelming or anything. I still recogonize when a film has messages that can be an overwhelming amount to some, whether it be faith or environmentalism.

BC - 10-28-2010 10:00 AM
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The reviewer is full of HORSE MANURE. Notice what films she prefers ....Paranormal and Jackass 3D. Enough said.

SFord - 10-31-2010 7:21 AM
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Love your column, Jen - don't always agree, but find it refreshing to hear an intelligent review presented in a bold, creative way. I don't know why half of the people who left rants here even read this column - they know they'll be challenged - they must want that. We have come so far as a society over the last 100 years because progressive writers and public figures continually shined light on our blind spots until they began to see. You go girl.

PGB - 11-04-2010 1:02 PM
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Excellent movie. I took my daughter who is near the same age I was when Secretariat won the Triple Crown and it was nice to take a walk down memory lane with her. How anyone could object to this being anything other than a good wholesome family movie is just plain odd. Jen must have been meeting a quota for family value bashing to give this 2 stars. For God's sake come on people.

qzz - 12-14-2010 9:23 PM
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Guess every topic these days must become political. Okay then...intolerant leftists?! Yeah, because the right is SO tolerant! I come across this claim unbelievably often in discussion posts, and it's laughable! Anti-gay, anti-immigrants, anti-most everyone non-Christian, anti-foreigners, anti-anything-with-a-hint-of liberalism...seems like the intolerance is coming from the right more often than not and in a loud voice. I tend to stay in the middle and I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that both sides take their turns with the self-righteous, smarter-than-you talk. Both sides can also be intolerant, but the right is the clear winner there as of late. And labels? Again, the right wins here in a landslide. Just look at the word, "

qzz - 12-14-2010 9:26 PM
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"liberal." It's slung around by conservatives any chance they get, or unfortunately whenever they disagree with someone. Case in point: this article. No mention of her political leanings, and it could simply be that she thought it went too far with the religious themes and that the movie fell short. BUT I guess that didn't sit well with some of you tolerant, god-fearing, right-wingers, and then here comes the convenient but generally meaningless, simple-minded labels. Yeah, pretty sad.

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