Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” (1999)

November 15, 2007

Just re-watched this tonight. I had seen it some years ago, but I know more about Elizabeth, her counsellors, and the various European intrigues than I did the first time around. I can only say that it was an unceasing pshaw-fest.

Among the many, many things to take issue with in the movie: the narrative jumps from Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 to her excommunication by the pope in 1570 in mere minutes. Since the actors do not appear to age during the movie, I was thinking we were still in 1560 or so. But no. It’s now 1570 and later, and Daniel Craig (the new James Bond) is playing a wicked Catholic priest (the only kind there was in that time) coming to assassinate Elizabeth.

At least two people are way too old for their characters: William Cecil looks like he’s about 80 at the beginning of the movie in the mid-1550s, but he was actually only in his 30s. He died in 1598 just shy of 78 years old. And Francis Walsingham looks like he’s in his late 50s when he comes back from exile in 1558, but really he was only about 26.

At the end, text on a black screen informs the viewer that “Elizabeth reigned for another forty years. Walsingham remained her most trusted and loyal advisor to the end.” Well, the movie ends with the execution of the Duke of Norfolk in 1572. That would mean Elizabeth reigned until 1612, which is 9 years past the actual date of her death.

As for Walsingham being her most trusted and loyal advisor: this doesn’t account for William Cecil or Christopher Hatton, both of whom very much had the Queen’s ear for very many years. But more importantly, Walsingham died in 1590. I guess Shekhar Kapur may be right, then, but only if you interpret “the end” in a very specific way. At any rate, it doesn’t communicate how Elizabeth treated her “most trusted” advisor. When he bankrupted himself paying off his dead son-in-law‘s creditors, and paying for his lavish funeral, Elizabeth wouldn’t contribute a penny to his plight. He died broke, and had to be buried at night so no funeral costs would be incurred.

It’s not called “the Golden Age” for nothing.


Affirmative Action for Viking orphans!

November 3, 2007

Got another acknowledgement letter today, saying that the place had received my application. And surprise, surprise . . . enclosed was the form asking me to tell them my race, sex, etc.

Nice punctuation typo in this one:

We request data on the race, sex and ethnic identity of all applicants to monitor our employment practices in accordance with federal executive order 11246 and U.S. Department of Labor discrimination obligations for the university with respect to veterans, individuals, with disabilities and those age 40 and over.

Confusing how they refer to “race, sex and ethnic identity” in one place—as if race and ethnic identity are different things. Maybe they mean like the main character in the terrible movie “Pathfinder”: a Viking boy brought up by Native Americans. So his “race” is Scandinavian but his “ethnic heritage” is something else. Maybe I should tell them I’m a Viking who was brought up by Native Americans. (But there is no check box for that.)

The place I’m supposed to return this is the self-contradictorily-named “Equity and Diversity Resource Center”. (I know, it’s possible to be “equal” in one sense and “diverse” in another . . . I’m just being ornery.)

War and Peace: “original edition” worth my time?

October 18, 2007

A few days ago I found a brand-new hardcover with dustjacket of War and Peace. Inside was a publisher’s letter. It began:

Dear Professor:

I hope that you will take a minute to look over this complimentary copy of War and Peace.

A minute? To look over one of the longest novels ever written? I am amused. The letter continues:

Now available for the first time in English, here is the original edition of Russia’s most famous novel. Tolstoy completed this version of his materpiece in 1866, but it was never published. He later returned to this draft to add the brilliant philosophical and historical meditations that would ultimately double the book’s length and give us the familiar, canonical text. Translated by Andrew Bromfield, this shorter and more narrative edition in its initial incarnation, and with several intriguing differences in plot, will both open this remarkable work of literature to new readers and engage devoted fans with a fresh look at an important classic.

My pleasure at having scored a brand new book for free gave way to disappointment that I hadn’t gotten the “genuine article” that everyone knows and loves, but some book that nobody ever read until the day before yesterday. Same name as the real deal, but minus a lot of “brilliant” passages. It’s like collecting film scraps from the cutting room floor, putting them together, and marketing them as an “important” version of the classic film, somehow worthy of our attention.

In my opinion, Tolstoy likely revised his book for a reason. Why would anyone but the most devoted Tolstoyista bother with this book? And what am I going to do with my copy?

High School Musical 2

August 20, 2007

The NY Times informs me that “For the time being at least, the movie has made a trio of fictional high school students named Troy, Gabriella and Sharpay as recognizably Disney as that 79-year-old mouse.”

I confess that this evening was the first I’d heard of Troy, Gabriella, (USE THE EXTRA COMMA) and Sharpay, or “High School Musical,” 1 or 2. Does that make me the exception that proves the rule, or does it mean that the Times author overestimates these characters’ fame?

The eros of souls

July 9, 2007

I spent 20 minutes reading this piece over at the American Scholar website, so I thought I’d share. The link came to me through my Arts & Letters Daily RSS feed (you can currently find a link in my “Other Sites” section in the right column).

The author, William Deresiewicz, a professor of English at Yale, discusses several recent movies that depict English professors as failed writers, sexual predators, bad husbands, deadbeat dads, etc. and analyzes possible causes for this new academic stereotype (the old stereotype was the absent-minded professor). At the end, he explains that a kind of eros does exist in the best of student-teacher relationships, but that it is a mental, not physical eros. I enjoyed this piece a lot. Here’s how it ends (note: it’s not possible to “spoil” this piece by giving away the ending):

The Socratic relationship is so profoundly disturbing to our culture that it must be defused before it can be approached. Yet many thousands of kids go off to college every year hoping, at least dimly, to experience it. It has become a kind of suppressed cultural memory, a haunting imaginative possibility. In our sex-stupefied, anti-intellectual culture, the eros of souls has become the love that dares not speak its name.

Moore’s “Sicko” again

July 6, 2007

From a NY Times editorial. The author criticizes the film as “unashamedly one-sided, superficial, overstated and occasionally suspect in its details,” but judges that Moore is “right” about the undeniable flaws in the way this country provides health care”.

Even so, he criticizes Moore’s inclusion of Cuba in his picture of health care “nirvana” provided by other countries—“a needlessly provocative choice that detracts from the main message.” And then there’s this minor point:

Mr. Moore makes much of the fact that the World Health Organization ranked the United States 37th in an evaluation of health systems, only one notch above Slovenia. He failed to mention that it was two notches above Cuba.

No problem treating the WHO report as gospel truth when it supports us, and ignoring it when it counters us. Trust us, moviegoer: you don’t need all the data.

Thanks, Mike—we can always count on you to give us the straight dope!

Michael Moore’s “Sicko” undermines favorite Leftist myths

May 27, 2007

The Cannes Film Festival took place last week, with Michael Moore’s new film showing, out of competition, on May 19th. It’s called “Sicko” and in it, according to the Cannes site, “the filmmaker investigates the flaws in the American health care system.”

Looking cool in CannesHe does this, according to Anthony DePalma of the New York Times, by taking “a handful of sick Americans to Cuba for treatment in the course of the film”. Based on Cannes and the NY Times, you would think this movie is about medicine. But the fact that these “sick Americans” are actually World Trade Center first-responders, “heroes of 9/11”, as the LA Times puts it, shows the political motivation behind the film. (They are called “fist responders” on the front page of I suppose that means they swing first and ask questions later.) Says one of the men who was offered a trip to Cuba only to be “stiffed” by Moore:

“What he [Moore] wanted to do is shove it up George W’s rear end that 9/11 heroes had to go to a communist country to get adequate health care,” said McCormack, who suffers from chronic respiratory illness.


Posey digs Mel; ergo, I dig Posey

May 18, 2007

I liked her well in “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show,” but I think I like Parker Posey a little bit more after reading that she loved “Apocalypto”. Because I myself loved “Apocalypto”. Saw it once to celebrate passing my stupid PhD candidacy exam, and saw it again with my dear mother, who also loved it.

Most actors manage to bring every conversation gracefully and stealthily back to their brilliant, courageous career choices. Ms. Posey, 38, is precisely the opposite, discursive in the extreme. A mention of short indie movie shooting schedules bounces to the implications of digital moviemaking to Mel Gibson’s digitally realized “Apocalypto.”

“Wasn’t that amazing?” she said. “Did you love it? I have it on DVD. I’ve watched it like, oh, my God, I am Jaguar Paw. It was so powerful. It was so interesting. The karma of him, right? This past year to have this whole thing happen to him where he was like shunned by Hollywood and then he makes this—I mean he’s a rebel. He’s a passionate person who, you know, you see it all in that movie.”

Movie Plug: Happy Feet

April 30, 2007

Saw “Happy Feet” over at Brad’s house on Saturday. You have to see this movie. I was reeeaaaally skeptical going in, thinking that it was going to be a really cheesy “Fantasia”-like failure (NB: I like “Fantasia”). Who wants dancing penguins anyway, let alone 90 minutes of them?

Little did I know that there was a plot to the whole movie. And it was also refreshing that the movie was not about global warming. Rather, it’s about the effects of unregulated commercial fishing.

But kids and adults will really enjoy this movie. Music’s fun, the animation is dazzling, and the movie has depth.

Group movies can never please everyone

November 24, 2006

At my Thanksgiving Day celebration, the five of us present decided to choose a movie to watch together after dinner. I’ll make a long story short: I proposed “Waiting for Guffman,” but was outvoted. We watched “Wedding Crashers” instead.

The host’s sister had called WC “the funniest movie she’d seen in her whole life.” This was a strong selling point for me, I admit. Also compelling was her characterization of the movie’s brand of humor. I asked what kind of humor it was, on a scale from Crude to Sophisticated. She replied that it was more sophisticated than crude.

I should have known better than to trust the judgment of someone who had no fewer than three issues of US Weekly magazine in her possession. In short, the movie was entirely predictable, the jokes could be seen coming a mile away, and they were almost all quite crude. They were unfunny in the extreme, and separated by long, dull segments lasting several unfunny minutes apiece. Every joke was sex-based, and not a few relied on the fact that the actors were articulating things that had already been thought by the viewer. This, I guess, is supposed to make the viewer feel smart, or prophetic . . . or, in my case, cheated for having been given a line that I had just predicted a second before its on-screen delivery.

So: crappy movie, and at least 45 minutes too long. The thing is 2 hours, 8 minutes. Watch me sum it up in 10 seconds: Two morally bankrupt divorce lawyers crash wedding parties in order to get laid. At one of these, one of them falls in love. As guests at the ritzy estate of this woman’s father, he pursues her, while his friend tries to get away from her oversexed sister. They are exposed as frauds, but eventually this being forced to come clean leads to two happy marriages. (I’d compare it to “The Taming of the Shrew” if the plots were a little closer, and if there was anything else similar between them.)

Are there any movies that are sure-fire crowd-pleasers? In a crowd with a female Protestant lawyer who loves US Weekly, a male Catholic literature scholar who hates US Weekly, and three others who fall somewhere in between, it seems that no matter what movie you watch, someone is always going to come out disappointed.