Category Archives: Movie reviews

On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II

Kristen Schaal in A Walk in the Woods Kristen Schaal Talks A Walk in the Woods, Last Man on Earth & More

A lighter moment in “Walk in the Woods,” featuring Kristen Schaal

 

In Part I we were talking about film critic Susan Wloszczyna‘s take on Walk in the Woods.

She noted that Robert Redford’s “wry Bryson” decided to walk the entire Appalachian Trail on a whim.  And because he was “in a funk after attending a funeral.”  She added that this was at a time when he was “tired of resting on his considerable laurels.”  (Which I thought was probably a metaphoric zing!)  She thought the whole idea was crazy.  (“Against the wishes of his sensible British wife.”)  Finally, she said the only reason that “Bryson” got “Katz” to come along was that “none of his other friends are crazy enough to say yes.”

The unspoken message of her rant?  “Why don’t you old geezers just give up?

She could have just as easily asked the same question of two other old geezers – aged 63 and 69 – who planned a canoe trip some 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast. (And well into the realm of sharks, drownings, and other potential catastrophes.)  This was last November, involving eight days of primitive camping on isolated offshore islands and the occasional salt marsh.  (And against the advice of the older geezer’s sensible daughter…)

For one answer we can turn to John Steinbeck.  He began Part Two of his book Travels with Charley by noting that most men his age get told – constantly – to “slow down.”  (The object being to “trade their violence for a small increase in life span.”)   But that wasn’t his way:

I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage…  If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway.  I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage.  It’s bad theater as well as bad living.

November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4329_zps7f7b5ddb.jpgFor the full answer see On canoeing 12 miles offshore, posted last May 23.  (Featuring the image at right, with the possible answer, “For moments like this!“)

That post noted that what Steinbeck said in Travels with Charley was pretty much the same thing Robert Louis Stevenson already said in his 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  The point being – to Ms. Wloszczyna and others of her ilk – that both the problem has been around a long, long time, and is not likely to go away any time soon.

On the other hand, it is true – as she notes – that “Nolte’s wheezy scalawag can barely stumble out of a small plane.”  (Which made me wonder as well:  How could his character really hike as far as the movie said he did.)  It’s also true that there’s “an R-rated abundance of salty language, what with Bryson prone to expressing what a bear does in the woods and Katz’s committed embrace of the F-word.”  But her comment about the “lack of deep revelations or bouts of philosophizing along the way” suggested that she doesn’t know men very well.

(We do have our flaws, but we are good for one or two good things around the house…)

On the other hand, she did get the connection with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

Oddly enough, there is a scene that briefly summons memories of Butch and Sundance when the guys [Redford and Nolte] are trapped on a ledge and peer over a harrowing incline to see a body of water below. I kept hoping they would jump in together.  But it was not to be.

The Gift 2015 Film Poster1.pngWhich brings us back to Wloszczyna‘s question:  “Can you justify sitting through an utterly predictable and rather tame man vs. nature ramble?”

The answer for me anyway – and for many others as well – is a hearty “Yes!”  (And for me this was especially true after having watched the definitely-creepy movie “The Gift” just the day before.)

There’s no denying that A Walk in the Woods has flaws.  I found myself asking – throughout the film – “Why in the world would he do that?”  (Or the variation, “Why would he do it that way?”) Why would the Redford character pick the Nolte character to tag along, when he would clearly be better off hiking alone?  (Having hiked portions of the Trail myself by now, I can say it’s definitely not “lonely.”)  And why would he commit to hiking the whole length of the Trail, without even considering a preliminary or test* overnight-hike or two?

Which is pretty much the same mistake my brother and I made back in 1967.

But then we were stupid teenagers.  (Or is that redundant?)  Plus, we had “sensible” parents who should have known better.  One answer is that life is fraught with flaws, so sometimes it’s “good theater” to show life as it really is, or will be if and when you make stupid mistakes.

And Fact-Checking “A Walk” offered some positive things about the film.

Proactive_Protection_IconFor one thing, it’s a film about “novice hikers who attempt to complete the trail.” (In itself a recipe for disaster.)  For another thing it’s “a movie about nature’s majesty.”  (Not about “philosophizing.”)  And third:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has said that additional ridgerunners will be hired in anticipation of an influx of hikers motivated by “A Walk in the Woods” to check out the famous footpath.

Fourth, the reviewer noted many of the “greenhorns” he met as a ridgerunner “were dangerously unprepared or ridiculously over-packed.”  Also, “the most common source of trail stress I encountered were people with blisters and other foot ailments caused by brand new boots or excessive mileage.”  Then too the director himself noted, “In our story it was important that Redford’s character doesn’t really know why he’s doing it.”

Which I suppose is an viable comment on men in general, and especially older men, on the verge or past the verge of “Geezer-dom.”  Sometimes we do things just for the hell of it.

(“Oh, and women never do things ‘they know not why?'”)

But the best part of the Fact-Checking review?  The part where the director – Ken Kwapis – said that he doesn’t pay any attention to – or even read – those negative reviews:

Didn’t read a one of those reviews.  As people say, if you’re going to believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones, so I ignore all of them…

Which provides another valuable lesson.  “Sometimes you should just ignore the critics.”

For all these reasons and more, A Walk in the Woods is definitely a film worth seeing.  If you’re into that sort of thing.  And even if – or perhaps because – “every female [in the film] exists to simply serve the needs of the central male characters.”  (As Ms. Wloszczyna alleged.)

But don’t just take my word for it.  Mi Dulce liked the film almost as much as I did…

 November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4332_zps47e076b9.jpg“Siesta at sea,” 12 miles offshore.  (An experience a “stay-at-home” will never have…)

 

The upper image is courtesy of Kristen Schaal Talks A Walk in the Woods: “Kristen Schaal is one of those trusted comedic talents who, whenever she pops up in a TV show or film, you know she’ll leave an impression…  [In “Woods” she] plays a fellow trail hiker who is also a know-it-all annoyance.”

And speaking of “every female [in the film] exists to simply serve the needs of the central male characters…”   It’s hard to see how the Kristen Schaal character fit into that stereotype

Re: director Ken Kwapis and what he learned.  He added that after “reading the book and making this movie, I came home and realized I could barely identify any of the trees in my own backyard.  So it has encouraged me to better see what’s right in front of my face.”

The lower image is courtesy of On canoeing 12 miles offshore.  Yours truly took the picture just after the dawn of a morning when we two geezer-canoeists got up at 3:00 a.m.  (The object was to negotiate the Gulf of Mexico before the wind stirred up the waves.)  We paddled 17 miles in 11 hours, in two separate canoes .  And aside from the occasional “siesta at sea,” the only break we took was a one-hour stopover on Cat Island, some seven miles off the Mississippi coast.

*   *   *   *

 Which brings up the wisdom of doing “a preliminary or test* overnight-hike or two.”   (Something the Redford character failed to even consider in the film.)

Which is being interpreted:  My “failure” back in 1967 has always stuck in my craw.  But at this late stage of my life I know I’ll probably never hike the whole Trail, or even the 623-mile segment from Springer Mountain to Gettysburg.  On the other hand I am determined to hike segments of the Trail, one in each state it passes through, and preferably in three- or four-day segments.

To that end, I’ve done two three-hour hikes, one north and south of where U.S. 64 intersects the Trail near Franklin, North Carolina.  The second test-hike was “to” Springer Mountain, but from the other end.  (So to speak.)  That is, from the trailhead in Google Maps as “Three Forks USFS 58 4.3, Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge, GA.” (That would be “U.S. Forest Service Road.”)  And for both test-hikes I wore a 22-pound weight vest, for training purposes.

My next project is a 27-mile hike from where U.S. 64 intersects the Trail, up to Wesser NC.  The question is whether it’ll take two or three days.  

And a BTW:  My “canoe buddy” from 12 miles offshore is now proposing a 16-day canoe trip down the Yukon River, from White Horse to Dawson City.  (That‘ll be worth a blog-post!)

The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes

Lesley Howard – middle – played Professor Henry Higgins in the 1938 film Pygmalion.

(A note:  He probably didn’t get shot down by the Luftwaffe for making that movie…)

 

 

Now about that “getting shot down by the Luftwaffe.”  (And whether Lesley Howard was shot down by the Germans in World War II, either because of mistaken identity or because he was a dangerous British spy.)  We may not know the answer, but the question itself is intriguing.

Mostly because that question itself is largely unknown.

Leslie Howard was best known for playing Ashley Wilkes in 1939’s Gone with the Wind.  (He was the man “with whom Scarlett O’Hara is obsessed.”)  At that point Howard was a mere 46 years old.  And – while no one could know it at the time – he had only four more years to live.

His airliner was shot down some nine months after the release of his 1942 movie Spitfire.  (A poster for the movie is shown at left.)  As also noted, his death came about under suspicious circumstances…  

There’s more on that later, but first:

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m back in the saddle after three weeks out of town.  (Part of that time was spent on the Columbia River, near Astoriaon unfinished canoe-trip business.  See On rectal thermometers, posted August 7.)

And it was only during that three-week hiatus – from home and daily routine – that I found out there were mysterious circumstances around Leslie Howard’s death.  (Aboard an airliner like the one below right.)  That happened because my brother is more delightfully retro than I am.

BOAC Flt 777.jpgWhich means that the night before I took my own commercial flight back home to God’s Country – the outskirts of Atlanta – we watched an old black-and-white movie:  1942’s Spitfire, starring Leslie Howard.

(On VHS no less, while enjoying some of Utah’s famed “3.2″ beers…)

Spitfire was originally called The First of the Few in Britain.  (The name was changed to “Spitfire” for American audiences.)  Howard played “R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Supermarine Spitfire.”

The British title alluded to Winston Churchill‘s memorable speech, attributing victory in the Battle of Britain to “the few.”  (That is, the few men who piloted British fighters in the battle, and especially those who flew the Spitfire.)  As Churchill put it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-363-2258-11, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 88.jpgThe film came out in Britain on September 12, 1942.  Less than nine months later – “on or about” June 1, 1943 – Howard’s airliner was attacked by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft.  The airliner – with 16 other passengers and crew – was attacked some 500 miles west of Bordeaux, France. The plane – or parts of it – came down in the Bay of Biscay, some 200 miles north of La Coruña, on the far northwestern tip of Spain.

As to why the Luftwaffe shot down the airliner, here’s what Wikipedia said of Howard:

He was active in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943[.  He] was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

There was an alternate theory:  That the Germans were really after Winston Churchill.

During the early years of World War II, Churchill routinely flew over the Bay of Biscay.  By June, 1943, he was just finishing up a month-long trip to North Africa, including an inter-Allied conference in Algiers.  The North Africa Campaign was just ending, and Allied leaders were planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy.  The normal stop-over for such trips from North Africa to London was Lisbon, in ostensibly-neutral Portugal.  (Often via Gibraltar.)

But also during the war, Lisbon was a hotbed of “trade, conspiracy, and subterfuge.”  (Note that Lisbon was the destination of refugees and reprobates alike in the movie Casablanca.)

Alfred Chenhalls, the look a like of Winston Churchill / Alfred Chenhalls de man die op Churchill leek - Herrmann / Tepas Web SiteWhen Churchill took such flights – to and from London and/or North Africa via Lisbon – he was accompanied by a single bodyguard, Detective Inspector Walter H. Thompson.  Thompson was tall and slender, and looked much like Howard.

But in a strange twist, when Howard took his flight from Lisbon, he was accompanied by a close friend and business manager, Alfred Chenhalls (seen at right, without his usual cigar).   To some people, Chenhalls looked “Churchillesque.”  Which brings up this:

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight.  Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

See also “Churchill’s Bodyguard,” the BBC television series that suggested German intelligence agents knew of Churchill’s comings and goings from the area.  On that note, Detective Thompson later wrote that Churchill often seemed clairvoyant about threats to his safety.  And according to Thompson, Churchill had a premonition about his proposed flight over the Bay of Biscay on June 1, 1943, and so changed his departure to the following day.

Thus because of a perceived threat to his safety, Churchill changed his planned flight home:

Full of confidence, the Prime Minister flies home.  And unwittingly causes a tragedy.  Aware of his presence in North Africa, the Germans have prepared a trap.  Their watchful agents in Lisbon report the departure of a thickset gentleman smoking a big cigar aboard a commercial aircraft leaving on a scheduled flight.  Shortly after take-off it is pounced on by a German fighter [sic] and shot down with ridiculous ease.  Among its fourteen passengers is film star Leslie Howard.  The innocent cause of their death is a brilliant accountant and amateur musician called Alfred Chenhalls, whose resemblance to Churchill is superficial merely.

Boeing 314 Clipper-cropped.jpg(TVY 186)  William Manchester‘s book The Last Lion added some telling details.  He indicated that on June 4, 1943, Churchill boarded an Avro York for the flight to Gibraltar, from Algiers.  He said Churchill planned to transfer at Gibraltar to a more-comfortable “Boeing flying boat [seen at left] for the final leg of the trip,” to London.  But bad weather forced him to transfer to a B-24 Liberator instead.  And there was some other confusion:

That day, a German spy at the Lisbon airport reported to his superiors that a thickset man smoking a cigar had been seen boarding a commercial flight, another flying boat, destination London.  Phone calls were made, German fighter aircraft scrambled.  The hapless aircraft was shot down over the sea, killing all fourteen passengers, including the popular screen actor Leslie Howard.

According to Manchester, when Churchill got back to London he noted the brutality of the Germans, as exemplified by the attack on Howard’s airliner.  But – he said – their brutality “was matched only by the stupidity of their agents.”

(Just as an aside, Manchester said this latest incident “unsettled Britons,” who “felt ill at ease” about Churchill’s being away from the country for a full month.  They were equally ill at ease about his taking such unprotected flights so close to enemy territory.)

Roy Jenkins made a similar point in his biography of Churchill.  He wrote that Churchill flew back to London “on the night of 4-5 June (1943),” and that the journey was without incident, except for bad weather.  That in turn meant that Churchill couldn’t transfer to a “more comfortable flying boat,” but had to continue by uncomfortable bomber.  (The B-24.)

Later that same day however another Pan American flying boat did take off from Lisbon for Plymouth and was shot down with the deaths of a full load of passengers, including Leslie Howard of Scarlet Pimpernel fame.  In the same month a Liberator bomber (a companion to Churchill’s plane) flying from Gibraltar to England was also shot down, with the death of General Sikorski, the head of the Polish forces, and two accompanying British MPs.

The point being that Churchill appeared to be taking unnecessary risks.  (Note also that the two “MPs” in this case were Members of Parliament.)

But there were other theories as well.  According to the “Churchill” theory, the German intelligence agents in and around Lisbon were really stupid.  But according to some alternate theories, those agents knew exactly what they were doing.

One such theory had it that Howard was on a top-secret mission – for Churchill – to persuade Spain’s Francisco Franco not to join the Axis powers, Germany and Italy.  (Spain was officially neutral at the time.) Howard’s go-between was said to be Conchita Montenegro (at right), with whom he’d ostensibly had a torrid love affair.

(Not to mention Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon, two of his other leading ladies.   While he was said to be something of a ladies’ man at the time, Howard once quipped that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away” from them either.)

Other sources indicate that Howard’s successful anti-Nazi activities in the early years of World War Two “enraged Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Howard ‘Britain’s most dangerous propagandist,’” and that Howard also worked for British Intelligence.

Still other sources note another passenger on Howard’s airliner, “leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel, who had helped Jewish refugees escape from the Holocaust.”

(Israel was a “friend of Albert Einstein, the philosopher Martin Buber, and Chaim Weizmann, later the first president of the state of Israel.”  Wikipedia also indicated that in the wake of Kristallnacht – the 1938 pogrom or “night of broken glass” in Germany – Wilfrid Israel took an active role, contacting among others “the Council for German Jewry in London, informing them that extraordinary measures must now be taken to save at least the children.”)

Regardless of such theories why this particular airliner was shot down, this fact remains:  The tragedy made Howard “the first cast member from Gone With The Wind to die.”

Misfits3423.jpgOther cast members lived long and productive lives.

For example, Vivien Leigh – who played Scarlett O’Hara) – lived on until 1967.  Olivia de Havilland – who played Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett’s rival and the cousin Ashley married – is still alive and has been living in Paris since 1960.  And it was only in 1960 that Clark Gable died.

He played Rhett Butler in GWTW, but went on to numerous other movie roles including The Misfits, his final screen appearance.  That movie also starred Marilyn Monroe.  (At the time she was going through a “breakdown” of her marriage to writer Arthur Miller.  Miller wrote the Misfits screenplay, and “revised the script throughout the shoot as the concepts of the film developed.”)

Monroe herself died on August 5, 1962 – at age 36 – a little over a year after the release of Misfits on February 1, 1961.  The coroner listed the cause of death as “acute barbiturate poisoning” and/or “probable suicide,” but there were other theories here too:

Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found.  Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity.  It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.

And some people think those were better and simpler times…

 Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind trailer cropped.jpg“Ashley Wilkes,” anti-Nazi agitator

 

The upper image is courtesy of Leslie Howard (actor) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  I changed to this image on January 5, 2016, after reviewing the post for a New Year’s “retrospective.”  That look-back showed a foul-up in the image-transfer, originally from The First of the Few – Wikipedia.  That’s where the image to the left of the paragraph beginning “His airliner was shot down” came from.

Note also that while some sources said Howard’s airliner was shot down on June 1, others give the date as June 4, 1943.  Thus the phrase “on or about” June 1, 1943.

The “airliner… at right” image is courtesy of BOAC Flight 777 – Wikipedia, noted further below.

Re:  “The film was released … 1942.”  See First of the Few (1942) | Inafferrabile [sic] Leslie Howard. The site said in the U.S., Spitfire was released on June 12, 1943, “a few days after Leslie’s death.”

Re:  3.2 beer.  See The Legacy of 3.2% Beer | The Society of Wine and Jurisprudence.  The site said such beer is a “relic” of Prohibition.  “In an attempt to limit the availability of higher-octane beverages, 3.2% is currently the only beverage allowed for sale at grocery stores in Colorado, Utah, and several other states.” (E.A.)

Re: “German fighters,” as applied to the Junkers Ju 88C6.  As Wikipedia noted, a fighter aircraft is a “military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft.”  The Ju 88C6 was a “twin-engined multirole combat aircraft,” designed to be “too fast for any of the fighters of its era to intercept.”  It was used in roles including but not limited to “night fighterheavy fighter and even, during the closing stages of the conflict in Europe, as a flying bomb.”

That there were eight Ju 88C6s came from the article, List of airliner shootdown incidents – Wikipedia.

“Full of confidence … TVY.”  See Winston Churchill:  The Valiant Years, Jack Le Vien and John Lord, Bernard Geis and Associates (1962), at page 186.  Note also:

     1)   Manchester’s “Last Lion…”  See The Last Lion[:]  Winston Churchill Defender of the Realm 1940-1965, William Manchester and Paul Reid, Little, Brown and Company (2012), pages 688-89.

     2)  William Manchester – noted American author, biographer and historian – died in 2004, while still at work on Last Lion.  He chose his friend Paul Reid to finish the work.  As Reid himself noted, Manchester began this “third and final volume of his biography of Winston Churchill” in 1988.  Reid indicated that Manchester’s research on the book was complete but that he’d written only some 100 pages between 1988 and 1998, due to increasingly poor health.  After Manchester died, Reid began the process of completing the book.  See also Wikipedia:

Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered from two strokes.  He announced that he would not be able to complete his planned third volume of his three part-biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.  He was also initially reluctant to collaborate with anyone to finish to work.  In October 2003, Manchester asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for The Palm Beach Post, to complete the Churchill biography.

Re: Roy Jenkins.  See Churchill[:]  A Biography, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (2001), at pages 712-13. For what it’s worth, Jenkins put the “cumulative risk to which Churchill’s manifold journeys exposed him” at some 30 per cent.  

Re: “flying boat.”  The airliner in question was built by Boeing, flown by Pan American Airways and called the Clipper:  “Twelve Clippers were built; nine were brought into service for Pan Am and later transferred to the U.S. military.  The remaining three were sold to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) by Pan Am and delivered in early 1941.  (BOAC‘s 3 Short S.26 transoceanic flying-boats had been requisitioned by the RAF).” See Boeing 314 Clipper – Wikipedia.

Re: General Sikorski, “head of the Polish forces.”  See Władysław Sikorski – Wikipedia.  The Wikipedia article indicated that Sikorski’s plane had not been shot down, as Jenkins had written:

On 4 July 1943, while Sikorski was returning from an inspection of Polish forces deployed in the Middle East, he was killed, together with his daughter [and others] when his plane, a Liberator II, serial AL523, crashed into the sea 16 seconds after takeoff from Gibraltar Airport at 23:07 hours.  The crash was attributed to cargo on the plane shifting to the back upon takeoff.

This discrepancy – as well as that regarding the exact date when Howard’s plane was shot down – indicates the need for detailed “further review” by historians and lay-persons alike…

The “Conchita” image is courtesy of www.flickriver.com/photos.  Wikipedia added this:

Following a rare interview with Montenegro shortly before her death, Spanish author José Rey-Ximena claims that British actor Leslie Howard used her to get close to Spanish dictator Franco after being given the special mission by Winston Churchill.  She claimed that she used her husband’s influence to secure a meeting between the British actor and the Spanish dictator.  “Thanks to him … Spain was persuaded to stay out of the war.”  (E.A.)

Re:  Franco and Spain’s neutrality. See Francisco Franco – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediawhich noted that on “23 October 1940 Hitler and Franco met in Hendaye, France, to discuss the possibility of Spain’s entry on the side of the Axis.  However, Franco’s demands, which included food, military equipment, and Spanish control of Gibraltar and French North Africa proved too much for Hitler.”

Note that an agitator is someone who “actively supports some ideology or movement with speeches and especially actions.”  The term originally referred to elected soldier-representatives of “the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War.  They were also known as adjutators.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 *   *   *   *

Other sources for this post include Leslie Howard (actor), Ashley Wilkes, and Gone with the Wind (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, as well as the following:

See Clarecolvin.com/ian-colvin/flight-777-the-mystery-of-leslie-howard:

He was travelling with his tax adviser, cigar-smoking Alfred Chenhalls, who bore a resemblance to Winston Churchill – Churchill was at that time about to fly back from an Allied conference in North Africa.  Also on board was leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel, who had helped Jewish refugees escape from the Holocaust.

See also BOAC Flight 777 – Wikipedia, which noted thatthe Douglas DC-3 lost in this attack had twice survived attacks by Luftwaffe fighters in November 1942 and April 1943.”

The Shootdown of Leslie Howard | Defense Media Network listed the date as June 1, and added:

Never entirely comfortable with Hollywood life, when war broke out, Howard, a Jew, decided to return to England and apply his fame and talent to a higher calling – helping his country fight the Axis.  Howard starred, directed, and produced anti-German war films [like Spitfire] and radio broadcasts, and conducted lecture tours.  His success enraged Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Howard “Britain’s most dangerous propagandist…”  What the public didn’t know, though the Nazis did, was that Howard also worked for British Intelligence.

Note also the critical British base at Gibraltar, which played a key role in Churchill’s travels to and from North Africa.  The base guarded the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, where the Strait of Gibraltar is a mere eight miles wide or less.  The base was “used primarily as a training area … and as a stopover for aircraft and ships en route to and from deployments East of Suez or Africa.” 

And finally see The actor, the Jew and Churchill’s double. – Eye on Spain, and also Churchill  A Photographic Portrait, by Martin Gilbert, Houghton Mifflin (1974):  

     1)  Photograph 292 in Portrait shows Churchill standing between U.S. General George Marshall and Field Marshal Montgomery, with the caption:  “While in Algiers, Churchill finalized the plans for the invasion of Sicily and Italy with the British and American leaders.  This photograph, taken on 3 June 1943, was annotated by General Montgomery.”  Montgomery later recalled, “Winston wanted me to say the Sicilian invasion would be all right.  But I wouldn’t.”  Despite Montgomery’s doubts, the Allied invasion liberated Sicily in some six weeks.  (July 10-August 17, 1943.)  

 

On “Entourage,” the movie

 

 

The “characters of Entourage…”

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

The name of the blog alludes to the Carolina Israelite.  (Get it?)

Note that I’ll do mostly film reviews, and also good reads, good music, and – from time to time – politics and politicians.  (For a recent post of musical interest see “On Pink Floyd….”)

In the meantime:

Mi Dulce and I went to see the new film Entourage.  (Mostly because she wanted to.)

Let’s put it this way:  If we’d gone to the Carmike and paid the $6.75-apiece matinee price, it might have been worth the price of admission.  Instead we went to the more-expensive AMC mall theater, and paid their more-expensive $10.75 apiece.  (Mostly because she wanted to.)

With that in mind, I’d say the film wasn’t worth the price of that admission.  (Let alone the added $13 for popcorn and soda.)  On the other hand, when reviewing a film I’ve always tried to say something nice, even if I didn’t like it.  That started back in the 1970s when I did reviews for my college newspaper.  Back then I followed a “one-third, two-thirds” rule.  A good film got good words for two-thirds of the review, “not so good” for the remaining one-third, and vice versa.

So here’s the positive third:  Entourage is to Hollywood what A Few Good Men was to the world of the Marine Corps and Birdman was to Broadway actors:

Birdman is to Broadway actors what A Few Good Men was to the Marine Corps and the military justice system.  It gives a fascinating, inside view of the world of [those] Broadway actors.  (Which alone makes it well worth the $10.68 that “we” paid to get the tickets, but not worth the extra $13.29 for the one large soda and large popcorn…)

See On “Birdman,” the movie.  (Which could be another way of saying that theater “treats” – like popcorn and soda – are just way over-priced.)  But the strange this was that by the time the  movie ended, we almost felt like we’d gotten our money’s worth.

Which is another way of saying the first half-hour of the film challenges your intelligence.

Note first that according to Wikipedia, “Entourage is a 2015 American comedy-drama,” a sequel to the “HBO TV series of the same name,” featuring the same stars:

The series … chronicles the acting career of Vincent Chase, a young A-list movie star, and his childhood friends from Queens … as they navigate the unfamiliar terrain of Los Angeles…  Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson served as the show’s executive producers, and its premise is loosely based on Wahlberg’s experiences as an up-and-coming film star.  The series deals with themes of male friendship and real-life situations in modern-day Hollywood.

So like I said, Entourage was to Hollywood what Birdman was to Broadway actors.

The plot turns on Vince and his “former agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold” working together on a new film, a “risky project that will serve as Vince’s directorial debut.”

You should know that according to Rotten Tomatoes, only 30% of the critics liked the movie, while 80% of the audience liked it.  (Wikipedia said the movie “received generally negative reviews from critics, and has grossed over $17 million,” since it’s release on June 3.)  The “RT” consensus was that the film “retains many elements of the HBO series, but feels less like a film than a particularly shallow, cameo-studded extended episode of the show.”

Which brings up one big thing that was enjoyable.

Remember the old Alfred Hitchcock movies where he appeared in a cameo?   (See List of Alfred Hitchcock cameo appearances – Wikipedia, including the image at left.)  The fun part was watching the beginning of his movies, to see when he “popped-up.”

There’s a lot of that in Entourage as well.  Wikipedia listed some 50 such cameos, including but not limited to Tom Brady, Warren Buffett, Gary Busey, David Spade, George Takei, Russell Wilson,  and Mark Wahlberg.  The cameos alone were enough to keep you from falling asleep.  (Which I did when we saw the movie Aloha the week before last.  But I woke up in time to mumble, “He’s gonna blow it up.”  That was right before the scene where “Brian and Ng hold hands as the rocket is ruined and explodes.”)

Did I mention that I was a film minor in college?  (See About than “Wasp” name.)

So anyway, the Mark Wahlburg cameo brings up ‘Entourage’ Star Mark Wahlberg Reveals His Own Real-life Entourage.  Basically, his entourage kept him grounded, he said:

The former rapper and model credits his own real-life entourage for his success in Hollywood, saying “I wanted people around me whom I could trust.”  He says: “We’ve enjoyed this great friendship and camaraderie over the years.  It’s good to be faithful to your roots.  It keeps you grounded and reminds you that even though you may have more money and a certain stature, your friends will always know who you really are.”

Of course it must be added that this was after a “chequered history, including drug addiction, crime and emprisonment.”  On a positive note, Wahlburg doesn’t try to hide that history…

But we digress.   The point is that an entourage is defined as agroup of attendants or associates, as of a person of rank or importance.”  Synonyms include retinue, following, cortege, escort.  And the point of the movie is that an entourage is a good thing to have.  

So, borrowing from Rotten Tomatoes, the thing to remember is that the film is rated R for “pervasive language, strong sexual content, nudity and some drug use.”  (As an artist, I must say that I personally enjoyed the “celebration of feminine pulchritude.”)  Or as one reviewer said:

There’s precious little effort made to adapt a Hollywood that is evolving away from the era when bros would be bros and women existed mainly to stand around in tiny bikinis.

Which is another way of saying:  Sure it’s fluff, but it’s enjoyable fluff.

And one final word.  The movie starts slow and pretty much insults your intelligence.  Then too, the film’s denouement was pretty lame.  Vince and his buddies spent most of the movie worrying about getting financed by the Billy Bob Thornton character and his idiot son.  But as it turned out, when Billy Bob pulled the plug, they had enough money on their own to finance the “risky project that will serve as Vince’s directorial debut.”

But by the end of the movie – in an exercise of pure American stick-to-itiveness – both my partner and I found that we liked it.  (We’re both saps for happy endings.)  Somehow, some way – maybe it was the cameos – the plot held together enough to make it all work.

I just wished that I’d paid the Carmike matinee price…

 

 A former badass who turned his life around…

 

The upper image is courtesy of the TV series of the same name link in the Wikipedia article on the film The caption:  “The main characters of Entourage. From left to right: Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Eric ‘E’ Murphy (Kevin Connolly), Vincent ‘Vince’ Chase (Adrian Grenier), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase (Kevin Dillon).

Re: price of admission.  See also pay to play.

Re: Hitchcock cameos.  The full caption in the Wikipedia article was:  “In To Catch a Thief (1955), Hitchcock appears as the bus passenger on the right.”  See also Watch Alfred Hitchcock Make Cameo Appearances in 37 of His Films.

For other views, see Entourage (2015) – IMDb and “Entourage” the Movie – Who Cares?

Re:  Mark Wahlburg’s “chequered history.”  See Mark Wahlberg – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that he is an American actor, producer, former model and rapper, to wit:  “frontman with the band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.”

Wahlberg was addicted to cocaine and other drugs by age 13.  He was later charged with attempted murder, for separate assaults on African-American children and two Vietnamese men.  He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in Suffolk County Deer Island House of Correction, but ultimately served only 45 days.  There were other incidents as well, but after “going to prison for assault, he decided to improve his behavior.”

“I was there, locked up … and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted at all.  I’d ended up in the worst place I could possibly imagine and I never wanted to go back.  First of all, I had to learn to stay on the straight and narrow.”

The lower image is courtesy of Mark Wahlberg: ‘My faith in God makes me a better man’, an article in Christian Today.  (Not to be confused with “Christianity Today.”)  Christian Today is a non-denominational Christian news company, with its international headquarters in London, England.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaRecent articles of possible interest include Why the Duggars serve as a warning against fundamentalist Christianity, and  Is it OK to be angry with God?

On Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies”

Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg Oscar Wilde in 1882, before he was sentenced to prison for “gross indecency…”

 

April 9, 2015  –  I saw the movie, The Imitation Game, last January.  It’s a “2014 historical thriller film about Britishmathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing who was a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany‘s naval Enigma code which helped the Allies win the Second World War, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.”

I noted that this all this occurred in another country – England – and before the year 2003.  That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court issued Lawrence v. Texas, thus ending such sentences:

[T]he Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory.  The Court overturned its previous ruling on the same issue in the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick…   The Court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the 14th Amendment. (E.A.)

Which leads to the general rule that it pays to remember our past history.

That’s good advice even when – and perhaps especially when – that history isn’t all that glorious.  As Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”  (See for example Harry Truman and his History Lessons.)

Which brings us back to Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde.

Wikipedia said this:  “The film’s closing titles tell of Turing’s suicide in 1954, the royal pardon granted to him in 2013, and how his [code-breaking] machine inspired the invention and design of modern computers.”  Turing’s suicide followed – and may well have been caused by – his court-ordered chemical castration.  (Turing had been given the “choice” of spending some two years in prison or taking the court-ordered drug treatment…)

Wilde on the other hand got two years of hard labor, without a choice of “castration.”  And when he tried to speak, his voice was drowned out by cries of “‘Shame’ in the courtroom.”

Wilde was imprisoned first in Pentonville Prison and then Wandsworth Prison in London.  Inmates followed a regimen of “hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed,” which wore very harshly on Wilde…   His health declined sharply, and in November he collapsed during chapel from illness and hunger…    He spent two months in the infirmary…   Richard B. Haldane, the Liberal MP and reformer, visited him and had him transferred in November to Reading Prison…  The transfer itself was the lowest point of his incarceration, as a crowd jeered and spat at him on the railway platform.

See Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.   Which brings up the popular notion that some of the world’s best writing has been done in prison.  See 12 Famous Writers Who Did Time | Robert Rotstein – Huffington Post, and 10 Great Works of Literature Written in Prison:

When we imagine the places where our favorite authors penned their greatest masterpieces, a jail cell usually doesn’t come to mind.  But, whether their writers were prisoners of war or victims of bigotry, the solitude and lack of distractions have produced many a great book.  From Oscar Wilde’s apologia on spiritual awakening to Thoreau’s thoughts on civil disobedience, we survey authors whose great mental escapes from incarceration resulted in some of their most insightful and profound works…

Whether that solitude and “lack of distraction” still applies in today’s prisons is a matter of debate.  But a more recent example does come to mind, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.  Written on April 16, 1963, this open letter defended the “strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism, arguing that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws.”  the letter “became an important text for the American civil rights movement of the early 1960s.”

That brings up the big difference between King’s letter and perhaps the best-known letter that Wilde wrote in prison.  Near the end of his sentence – between January and March 1897 – Wilde wrote a letter.  It was was sent from “Reading Gaol to Lord Alfred Douglas.”  The title of the letter was De Profundus, and it was based on the opening line – in Latin – of Psalm 130.

In English, Psalm 130 begins:  “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!”  The Latin for “out of the depths” is De ProfundusSee De Profundis (letter) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

All of which marked a drastic change in Oscar Wilde, the person.

Throughout the 1880’s Wilde had been a popular London playwright.  He was noted for his epigrams – his “witty, ingenious or pointed sayings” – and a novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Then there were the plays, including a “masterpiece,” The Importance of Being Earnest.  Also:

He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence for England due to the absolute prohibition of Biblical subjects on the English stage.  Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London…

But Wilde’s world came crashing down when he filed the ill-advised lawsuit that led to his own arrest, trial and conviction for gross indecency.  In brief, he went from the heights of fame and pleasure, literally to “the depths.”  And there, for whatever reason, he found a measure of serenity.  Wikipedia noted that in the long letter Wilde “discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure.”   Thereafter:

Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain.  There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.  He died destitute in Paris at the age of 46.

Incidentally, Wilde had to publish “Reading Gaol” under an assumed name:

The finished poem was published by Leonard Smithers in 1898 under the name C.3.3., which stood for cell block C, landing 3, cell 3.  This ensured that Wilde’s name – by then notorious – did not appear on the poem’s front cover…   It was a commercial success, going through seven editions in less than two years…

So, in a few short years Oscar Wilde went from the highest acclaim to cries of “shame” in the courtroom.  When he was transferred to Reading Prison, a crowd gathered to jeer and spit at him.  During his exile in France he had to publish his last work under an assumed name.

And now he brings tourists to Dublin, the city of his birth…

Aside from his statue in Dublin’s Merrion Square, there’s also an Oscar Wilde Centre, at Trinity College in Dublin.  Which brings to mind what John Steinbeck wrote about another writer…

In his book Travels with Charley, Steinbeck wrote of wanting to see Sauk Centre, where Sinclair Lewis was born.  It was also the metaphoric setting of Lewis’ satirical novel, Main Street.

As Wikipedia noted, the novel was set in Gopher Prairie, “a town modeled on Sauk Centre.”  The heroine, Carol Milford, is a free-spirited liberal who disdains “the town’s physical ugliness and smug conservatism.”  The novel itself portrayed “petty back-stabbers and hypocrites in a small town.”  It mocked the prevalent desire to live in such “‘wholesome’ small towns,” with its “vicious realism and biting humor.”  Small wonder then that some “small-town residents resented their portrayal and the book was banned in Alexandria, Minnesota.”

Small wonder too that when Steinbeck met him in his later years, Lewis was shrunken, shriveled and constantly cold.  So he too took a voluntary exile – he died in Rome, of advanced alcoholism – prompted in part by the violent hatred his novel “aroused in the country of his nativity.” But now, as Steinbeck noted, “There’s a sign in Sauk Centre all right:  ‘Birthplace of Sinclair Lewis:’”

The only good writer was a dead writer.   Then he couldn’t surprise anyone any more, couldn’t hurt anyone any more….   I’ve heard he died alone.  And now he’s good for the town.  Brings in some tourists.  He’s a good writer now.

There’s probably some kind of lesson there, for writers and for bloggers.

 

 

The upper image is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony.”  The lower image comes from the same article, with the caption: “Statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square, Dublin:”

[Merrion Square] is a Georgian garden square on the southside of Dublin [and is] considered one of the city’s finest surviving squares.  Three sides are lined with Georgian redbrick townhouses; the West side abuts the grounds of Leinster House (seat of the Oireachtas),Government Buildings, the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery. The central railed-off garden is now a public park.

The full reference to the movie-lead reference is Imitation Game – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full reference to the Lawrence case is Lawrence v. Texas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full reference to Turing’s “rehabilitation” is Chemical castration – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: Steinbeck on Sinclair Lewis.  See Travels with Charley, Penguin Books (1980), pages 133-34.   See also Sinclair Lewis Biography – CliffsNotes:  “Although the reaction of Sauk Centre toward the book was at first unfavorable, there is no evidence that it was ever banned from the local library.”  And see Main Street (novel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

You can see the original post on which this column was based at On Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130.

On “Gone Girl” and today’s lynch-mobs

An example of “media frenzy” and vigilante justice – from the 19th-century

 

 

The 2014 movie Gone Girl explores the modern-day phenomenon of media frenzies, and how such frenzies can be manipulated by those who are apparently being manipulated.   (As a metaphor for the movie, picture a shark-attack victim turning the tables on the sharks…)

Which brings up Harry Truman, who didn’t have much use for the reporters of his day and age:

“Newspapermen, and they’re all a bunch of lazy cusses, once one of them writes something, the others rewrite it and rewrite it, and they keep right on doing it without ever stopping to find out if the first fellow was telling the truth or not.”

Truman also told of plowing a field with a mule, and how that was the “most peaceful thing in the world.”  It was something that gave old-time farmers plenty of time for thought, and made them such good voters and citizens.

But there was a danger, Truman added.  He said “there’s some danger that you may, like the fella said, get kicked in the head by a mule and end up believing everything you read in the papers.”  As updated for today, that could read, “believing all the news you see on TV.”

Some 20 years later – after President Truman had vented his feelings about the press – a brash young “AFL” quarterback named Joe Namath said pretty much the same thing.

Shortly after Namath signed with the Jets – for a then-record salary of $427,000 – a wise-guy New York reporter asked what he had majored in, down at the University of Alabama.  “Basket-weaving?”   Joe answered, “No man, I majored in journalism.  It was easier.”

Then in 2014 came the movie Gone Girl.  It’s a film that expresses pretty much the same feelings about “media frenzies” as Harry Truman and Joe Namath, only more so.

*   *   *   *

I reviewed Gone Girl back in October, for another blog.  I started with Wikipedia, which said the film “examines dishonesty, the media, the economy’s effects on marriage, and appearances:”

On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Pike), is missing.  In the ensuing media frenzy, suspicions arise that Nick murdered her, and his awkward behavior is interpreted as characteristic of a sociopath.  (E.A.)

See Gone Girl (film) – Wikipedia.  In other words, the character Nick Dunne – played by Ben Affleck – ended up being tried in and by the media.  That media found him guilty, as so often happens these days.  But as it turned out, the process by which he was tried and convicted was “infected by the politicized, media-enabled ‘cult of victimhood.’”  (See the Rothman note below.)

As for the ending…  Like I noted above: “picture a shark-attack victim turning the tables on the sharks.”  And just as sharks have their feeding frenzies, so too do today’s reporters; tabloid, TV or otherwise.  As for the subtle difference between a media frenzy and a media circus, see Media Frenzy Global, a company that specializes in “frenzy manipulation:”

Whether you’re trying to pique interest, incite sales, stir the market, or fan the flames of controversy, one thing is certain – you need to cause a commotion.  Of course, you want to remain cool and composed in the midst of the excitement…   In other words, you want to harness the media frenzy…    We harness the media frenzy by controlling, managing and exploiting the media platforms…

All of which provides an interesting commentary on modern life…

Then too there’s the court of public opinion.   As an example, the Wikipedia article cited the media frenzy – or “circus“ – surrounding the Duke lacrosse case.  “It has been said that the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case attempted to try the case in the court of public opinion by making unsupported allegations to the media..

The article also noted that in “the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, it was alleged that parties were using court pleadings as press releases.”

Which brings up the fact that there is a genuine cause for concern these days, as explored by the movie Gone Girl.   (And yes – in case I’m being too subtle – I am saying that such media frenzies and/or circuses are indeed a form of modern-day vigilantism…)

Which is being interpreted:  There’s a reason we have things like the Sixth Amendment.

That constitutional provision is supposed to guarantee that a person accused of a crime can only be convicted after a public trial “by an impartial jury … and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”  See Bill of Rights Institute.

And by the way, these aren’t “new-fangled pointy-headed liberal” legal protections.  They go back to Bible times and the Apostle Paul and beyond.  And there’s a good reason for this Biblical protection:  In way too many cases “the crowd” – or today’s media – just gets it all wrong.

On the other hand, some people in that “crowd” might have their own agenda, hidden or otherwise.  (And they might even be using things like Media Frenzy Global, noted above.)

In Paul’s case, that came in the form of certain “rabble rousers,” starting at Acts 21:28.  Then in Acts 23:12, these same rabble-rousers wanted to take the law into their own hands.  (They didn’t trust “Roman justice.”)  There followed a dramatic midnight ride to Caesarea, where the authorities took Paul to save him from a potential lynching.  Finally came a trial before the Roman governor Festus, after the former governor Felix had passed the buck:

Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king.  He said: “There is a man here whom [former Roman governor] Felix left as a prisoner.  When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.   I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges.”

See Acts 25:14-16, emphasis added.  All of which is another way of saying Gone Girl is a thought-provoking movie well worth seeing.  That is, provided that you are in the mood to explore some deep and unsettling questions about “coupledom,” as well as the potential underlying suspicion that such being-a-couple “necessarily entails victimization.”

 

 

A still from Gone Girl.   (Note the “askew” angle…)

 

The upper image is courtesy of Vigilante – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption, “A lynching carried out by the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856.”  The article added:

“Vigilante justice” is rationalized by the idea that adequate legal mechanisms for criminal punishment are either nonexistent or insufficient.  Vigilantes typically see the government as ineffective in enforcing the law; such individuals often claim to justify their actions as a fulfillment of the wishes of the community…   In a number of cases, vigilantism has involved targets with mistaken identities.

The lower image is courtesy of What “Gone Girl” Is Really About, a review in The New Yorker, dated October 8, by Joshua Rothman, which includes this telling tidbit:

[W]e’re fascinated with stories of victimhood – and … especially in tabloid, cable-news culture, we endow victims with specialness, sanctity, and celebrity.   “Gone Girl” asks whether genuine expressions of sympathy or solidarity with victims can ever happen without being infected by the politicized, media-enabled “cult of victimhood.”

Rothman’s review compared the movie with “what I heard” about the book version, and concluded that what’s best about the movie is that it “gets at what is unsettling about coupledom [i.e., marriage or “serious relationships”] : our suspicion that, in some fundamental sense, it necessarily entails victimization.”  See also Gone Girl (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  

As for the “askew”camera angle, that seems to symbolize the them of “media frenzy.”

The Harry Truman quote on reporters is courtesy of Plain Speaking[:]  An oral biography of Harry S. Truman, by Merle Miller, Berkley Publishing NY (1973), at page 251.   The “field-mule” quote is at page 258.

The Namath quote is courtesy of famous alabama football quotes – Angelfire.  See also Joe Namath – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that when Namath signed with the Jets, the NFL and AFL were separate leagues, engaged in a “bidding war” for college players.

Re:  “I reviewed Gone Girl back in October…”  See “Gone Girl” movie review and Media Frenzy.

On “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

Exodus: Of Gods and Kings, out on December 12 in U.S. theaters tells the story of Moses (played by Christian Bale, left) rising up against the Egyptian pharaoh Rhamses (played by Joel Edgerton, right)

So we meet again,” says Moses to the Pharoah of Egypt, in Exodus:  Gods and Kings

 

I first reviewed E: G&K in my other blog. (E: G&K is the “2014 biblically-inspired actionadventure film directed by Ridley Scott.”  Stars included Christian BaleJohn TurturroSigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley, in a “loose interpretation of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt as led by Moses and related in the Book of Exodus.”  See Exodus: Gods and Kings – Wikipedia.)

So anyway, this shorter version of that earlier review has been “edited for content.”  As in:

The following … has been modified from its original version.  It has been formatted to fit this screen, to run in the time allotted and edited for content…

(Re-edited film.)  The original review is at On “Exodus: G&K,” but here are some highlights.  (From which I came up with a brand-new ending…)

To begin with it’s only natural to compare the 2014 film with Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments (1956 film) – Wikipedia.   Which brings up the anomaly – to some people anyway – that in the Ridley Scott version, God is portrayed by an 11-year-old boy:

If there’s anything daring in Scott and his screenwriters’ take on this oft-told tale …  it’s the decision to depict God, or his earthly iteration, as a bratty kid with an English accent.  As Moses struggles with issues of faith, madness, and spousal neglect … this pint-size Brit (Isaac Andrews) challenges Moses to rise to the occasion.  The lad warns the beleaguered Hebrew of the coming plagues, browbeats him, taunts him.  If you want a less portentous title for this big and curious cinematic endeavor, The Prophet and the Pip-squeak could work nicely. (E.A.)

See ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings‘: God as a bratty kid, and also Ridley Scott chooses 11-year-old boy as voice of God.  Which brings up the fact that the actual name of the character is Malak:  “Sacred texts give no specific depiction of God, so for centuries artists and filmmakers have had to choose their own visual depiction…   Malak [the “God character’] exudes innocence and purity, and those two qualities are extremely powerful.”  (See Ridley Scott chooses…)

And incidentally, Wikipedia defined Malak as “the Semitic word for ‘angel.’”  See also Strong’s Hebrew: 4397. מַלְאָך (malak).)

And that’s not to mention Angel of the Lord – Wikipedia, which included the image at left, “The Angel of the Lord appearing to Hagar in the wilderness.”  (“The biblical word for angel, מלאך malak, … translates simply as ‘messenger…'”)

So right from the start we have a controversy.  Aside from that, the film got lukewarm reviews like:  Very predictable, Historic mistake, and Ridley Scott made this movie out of contempt.  The third review said “has a personal grudge against all Christians.”

But as the Nathan Lane character said near the end of The Birdcage, “Not necessarily.”  (Which is being interpreted, “Not all reviewers feel that way…”)

To me the movie was well-paced, taut, and featured a compelling love story between Moses and his wife Zipporah.  And it showed the human price of becoming a Biblical icon: having to leave your wife and first-born son to “do your duty.”  Finally, the Moses played by Christian Bale was more human, more like us today and therefore more believable.

The film starts with Moses at the height of his military prowess.  He’s a proud, self-sufficient warrior with little or no patience for the reading of entrails (see Haruspex – Wikipedia) or other religious superstitions of the time.  But later on he “wrestles with the idea of God” after he finds out he’s actually the son of Hebrew slaves.  Then too this more-human Moses has his times of great doubt, and sometimes feels abandoned by God.  (Or at least that God isn’t there when he needs Him…)  The Moses in E: G&K is unlike what we’ve been led to expect because he is so full of pride and stubbornness and self-doubt, just like we “mere mortals” are today.

Another thing the movie got right was how Moses aged as a result of shouldering such great responsibility.  E: G&K ends with Moses riding in a wagon, with the Ark of the Covenant in the back.  (This was after the parting of the Red Sea and after he was re-united with his family, but before the 40 years of Wandering in the Wilderness that were coming up.)   Up to this point in the movie, Moses had appeared youthful and dark-haired.  But as the movie ends, Moses looks pretty much like the old guy portrayed in the painting, Victory O Lord!   (Shown below.)

Wikipedia said the painting “illustrates a passage in the Book of Exodus” – the Battle of Rephidim in chapter 17 – “which describes how Moses and his two companions watched the battle from the hill.”  (Briefly, when he was “watching the game” from a mountain-top, Moses saw that when he held his hands up, his team started winning.  But if he let his hands down, his team started losing…  See also the Intro to the DOR Scribe blog.)

Thus Moses had “aged” in way not unlike Jesus, as He was described in John 8:57, “‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!'”

That’s strange, because according to tradition, Jesus was 33 years old when He was crucified.  See Jesus year | Dictionary of Christianese.  And yet, like the Moses shown at the end of Exodus: Gods and Kings, Jesus at the end of His ministry seems to have aged greatly, “being a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, as well as of great gravity.”  (Biblehub, and specifically the Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible interpretation of John 8:57.)

Which is something like what happened to Abraham Lincoln after four years as president:

He arrived at the White House as a sinewy 6-foot-4, 180-pound strongman.  In the course of four years, he dropped 30 pounds.  “He was sunken-eyed and grizzled, nothing like that bright-eyed lawyer of Springfield [and] looks 75 years old, but he’s 56.”

Which leads to two final points.  First:  To the icons that we choose to throw our cares and responsibilities on – like Moses – we followers are pretty much a pain in the neck.

Second:  Exodus: Gods and Kings is a pretty good movie and well worth seeing, if only in the interest of broadening your horizons.

 

VictoryOLord.JPG

 

The upper image is courtesy of Ridley Scott chooses 11-year-old boy as voice of God in Moses movie.

The lower image is courtesy of Victory O Lord! – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re:  On “Exodus: G&K,” the movie.  Check out the “Part II” at On Exodus (Part II) and Transfiguration.  The latter review included “some things the movie left out:” 

For one thing, it didn’t mention Moses writing the first five books of the Bible, the Torah or Pentateuch.  For another thing, it left out the part about Moses’ father-in-law “inventing the Supreme Court.”  See On Jethro inventing the supreme court.  Third, the  movie left out Zipporah telling Moses, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me!  That was in Exodus 4:25, one of the “more unusual, curious, and much-debated passages of the Pentateuch.”  See Zipporah at the inn – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re:  Abraham Lincoln “ageing” in office.   See The Age of Obama: Timelapse of President Barack Obama…  The site included a before-and-after set of pictures of Abraham Lincoln:

He arrived at the White House as a sinewy 6-foot-4, 180-pound strongman. In the course of four years, he dropped 30 pounds. “He was sunken-eyed and grizzled, nothing like that bright-eyed lawyer of Springfield,” said Von Drehle. Lincoln sat for a famous series of portraits, and “by the last set of photographs, he looks 75 years old, but he’s 56.”

David Von Drehle wrote “Rise to Greatness:  Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year.”

Re: Nathan Lane and The Birdcage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaNathan Lane played Albert Goldman:  “Armand Goldman is the openly gay owner of a drag club in South Beach called The Birdcage and his partner Albert is ‘Starina’ the star attraction of the club and is a very effeminate and flamboyant man.”  See also: English Script for “The Birdcage” (03)_wallistian_新浪博客:

Val: Dad, couldn’t the Keeleys slip out without being noticed at the end of the show?

Armand: No, they’re waiting for that. They’d be recognized in two seconds.

Albert: Not necessarily.  

[That scene was summarized by Wikipedia as follows:]

As they attempt to leave they realize that the club is surrounded by photographers and they will not be able to leave without being seen.  Albert suggests going through the club’s dressing room and they dress Kevin in drag while Armand choreographs a dancing line through the exit and Kevin goes unnoticed.  Even to the point where his driver; who had earlier betrayed the Keeleys to the press, didn’t recognize him.

[Which led to the following exchange between the arch-conservative Senator – now dressed in “drag” – and his driver, who doesn’t recognize him:]

Kevin: Meet me in 20 minutes at the corner of EI Dorado and Palm.

The Driver: Lady, not for a million dollars.

See also Object lesson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

On “Birdman,” the movie

Birdman poster.jpg

 

 

It’s not often – after spending 63 summers here on this earth – that I leave a movie and say:  “What the [expletive deleted] was that all about?!?

Which is being interpreted:  This is a review of Birdman , the movie.  It’s also the first post on my new blog, the “Georgia Wasp. ”  (Georgiawasp.com.)

Which leads up to an interesting story:  A story about me not being a “dating psycho.”

It all started when I signed up for the domain name, “Georgia Wasp.”

That was supposed to be a clever take-off on the Carolina Israelite.   The Israelite was a pre-Internet blog of sorts.  A newspaper, published in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 1944 to 1968, by “journalist, social critic, and humorist Harry Golden.”  See also:  Harry Golden – Wikipedia.

I bought a copy of his book, “Only in America” – as shown below – and it’s been an inspiration ever since.  I’ve always wanted to do an homage to him and his style of writing.

Harry Golden was Jewish, and he lived in North Carolina.  That’s how he came up with the name “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a classic WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), and I live in Georgia.  So I figured it would would be perfectly natural – not to mention, an homage –  to have the nom de plume (pen name) of “the Georgia Wasp.”

But there’s a problem…

Apparently there’s a website, “dating psychos.”  (Or “words to that effect.”)  One of the bulletins tells of a crazy guy – “Alias ‘Georgia Wasp’” – who is said to be a “pathological liar…   married many times and has cheated on each wife with multiple partners!”

So here’s a heads up:  I’m not that guy!!!

Now, about that Birdman.  First a brief summary from Birdman (film) – Wikipedia:  The movie is a “2014 American black comedydrama film.”  That’s an important note:  Black comedy “employs farce and morbid humor,” and takes on “subject matter usually considered taboo.” 

It’s sometimes called “gallows humor” – as in the image at right of “Major ‘King’ Kong riding a nuclear bomb to oblivion, [in] Dr. Strangelove.”  And it’s often controversial.

So Birdman stars Michael Keaton – as Riggan Thomson – “a faded Hollywood actor famous for his role as superhero Birdman, as he struggles to mount a Broadway adaptation of a short story by Raymond Carver.”   What follows are some expanded notes I made about the film, the day after viewing.  (In the manner of Hunter Thompson and his Gonzo journalism.)

Basically, Birdman is to the world of Broadway actors what A Few Good Men was to the Marine Corps and the military justice system.  It gives a fascinating, inside view of the world of Broadway actors, and that alone made it well worth while.  (Worth the $10.68 “we” paid to get the tickets, but not worth the extra $13.29 for the one large soda and large popcorn…)   

In doing so, the film focuses on one, slightly-demented caricature of a main character.  (If not a poseur, as was the case with Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup in AFGM.)

Riggan (Keaton) is a washed-up actor who used to be famous for his role in a blockbuster series of hack films.  (That is, as “Birdman.”)  He’s trying to make a come-back on Broadway, and one person stands in his way.  That’s the “evil” Broadway critic, “Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan), who tells him she hates Hollywood celebrities [who] ‘pretend’ to be actors.”  (I on the other hand, I found her to be the most sympathetic character in the whole movie.  She alone made sense, and was an island of sanity in an otherwise loony bin of a film.)  Then this happens:

On opening night, Riggan uses a real loaded gun for the final scene in which his character kills himself, and shoots his nose off onstage.  He earns a standing ovation from all but Tabitha [the critic], who leaves during the applause.  In the hospital, Jake tells Riggan that Tabitha gave the play a rave review, dubbing his suicide attempt “super-realism,”, a new form of method acting.  After Samantha visits Riggan, he dismisses Birdman and, seeing birds outside, climbs onto the window ledge.  When Samantha returns, Riggan has disappeared.  She looks down at the street, then up at the sky, and smiles.

Incidentally, “Emma Stone [plays] Samantha Thomson, Riggan’s daughter and assistant, a recovering drug addict.”  That may explain some alternate theories about that ending.

Birdman EndingThe best alternate theories come from the site: Let’s Talk About the Birdman Ending – Film.  (Which included “Samantha,” at left, watching her father “take off.”)

But first, here’s that writer’s take on the film in general:

This movie doesn’t just want to make you feel something, it wants to say something about humanity and stardom and the inner lives of celebrities and the “cultural genocide” that superhero films have wrought upon us.

Mmmmm-m-okay!   And here’s his first thought on the ending:

Every time in the film Riggan does something “supernatural,” there’s always some natural explanation for it, but this time, when he flies away [at the end], his daughter looks up, not down…    Thus, I posit that the very last shot of the film is Innaritu’s way of joining the metaphorical/imagined with the real.  Riggan still can’t fly, nor does he actually jump out a window in that last scene.  The movie is just conveying that for the first time, Sam is seeing her father the way he sees himself.  (E.A.)

But then the reviewer gave an alternate theory:  Essentially that Samantha went wacko after seeing her father’s body on the pavement.  (Remember, she’s a recovering addict):

Riggan, in a bout of self-delusion, does actually jump out the window.  When his daughter looks down, she sees his dead body and experiences a psychotic break, resulting in her look upwards at the end.  (E.A.)

But then this guy came up with yet another theory, about Riggan.  The theory is that this Riggan guy is actually the real jerk that he seems.  That he has a noble cause, but an unhealthy obsession.  In addition, he’s “destroying relationships left and right (not to mention his face).”

And this even though he manages to get a measure of “Twitter” fame, but still isn’t respected as an artist.  (And this even though he did manage to fool that theater-critic babe.)

He’s still a freak show.  And perhaps that’s really what the ending is trying to say:  no matter what we try, no matter what drastic measures we take, we will always remain prisoners to ourselves.

Which all adds up to this:  This movie was way too whacked for me!!!

That’s another way of saying this:  If you feel like a “prisoner to yourself,” this movie may make sense.  On the other hand, if you happen to like yourself, then the script comes off as having been written by some pompous, self-absorbed, left-wing, pointy-headed bleeding-heart Hollywood hack.  (See also personification.) 

So other than an inside look at the often never-never land of actors – Broadway or otherwise – this film might be a waste of time.  Like I said, the movie was well worth the $10.68 “bargain” price of admission, but not the extra $13.29 for popcorn and a drink.

(On the other hand, I do agree about that “cultural genocide” remark about super-hero films…)

 

That’s probably not how Harry Golden would put it, but it’ll do for a first post.

 

The upper image is courtesy of  Birdman (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Harry Golden – Wikipedia.

Other full internet references are available by clicking on the icon or link.