Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ...
Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits
This page features links to reviews of movies, documentaries and exhibits with a historical theme. Listings are in reverse chronological order. Descriptions are taken directly from the linked publication. If you have articles you think should be listed on the Pop Culture page, please send them to the editor firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle (12-22-06)
For all its dazzling computer-generated sequences, "Museum'' wouldn't be nearly the delight it is without the talents of some of the best comedians in the business. The Friars Club is about the only place you'd expect to find Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson and Britain's Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais together.
But each does his shtick in support of star Ben Stiller as divorced dad Larry, who desperately needs to get on someone's payroll or risk losing joint custody of his son. Looks as if Stiller called in some chips to assemble the stellar cast. That's his mom, Anne Meara (of Stiller & Meara), behind a desk at the employment agency where Larry is handed a job lead that turns out to be more than he or anyone except maybe Walt Disney could imagine.
When Larry is hired as night watchman at New York's Museum of Natural History, his predecessors (played by Van Dyke, Rooney and Bill Cobbs as if they were the Three Stooges, except they turn out to be not so dumb) fail to warn him about the nocturnal wanderings of exhibit figures. Stiller is in super manic mode, his elastic features signaling panic, as Larry chases lions, monkeys and Neanderthals through marble corridors. Director Shawn Levy keeps this CG mayhem under control, although his experience is mostly in live-action movies such as "Cheaper by the Dozen'' and "The Pink Panther.'' ...
SOURCE: philadelphia.bizjournals.com (12-21-06)
The painting's owner, Thomas Jefferson University, had agreed to sell it for $68 million to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. The school gave Philadelphians until Dec. 26 to come up with a competing bid.
They did: A local group including Aramark CEO Joseph Neubauer, Suburban Cable founder H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and the Pew Charitable Trusts were among the donors to lead the effort, each giving $3 million, the Mayor's Office said. The Annenberg Foundation gave $10 million. In all, there were 2,000 donations from across the country.
SOURCE: Scotsman.com (12-21-06)
Yesterday, after a 25-year freedom of information battle, an American historian has secured the release of the final surveillance documents held by the FBI on John Lennon.
What we learn from them is what we knew all along - that Lennon was a concerned, left-leaning musician who had ties to leftist and anti-war groups in the early 1970s. He was not a revolutionary. And he was only a threat to the world order insofar as he dared to imagine a world at peace.
So this is a story about the power and efficacy of art. About how those in power will lock their vaults and black out their documents in the face of a lone, visionary voice. The FBI was so worried about keeping Lennon's secrets they overlooked the fact that he didn't have any.
It also testifies to the devotion of an audience - for a quarter of a century a historian refused to relent until all of the secrets were laid bare. Millions more were eager to find out what the files might contain. Lennon was an artist who posed naked for the world. There should be nothing to hide.
SOURCE: WaPo (12-21-06)
Over the years, he has become the nation's leading expert on the history of the tree. When the tree is lighted each year, it marks a moment in the country's history, the ceremony a reflection of what is going on in America and the world. Jimmy Carter, the sweater president, had energy-efficient lights. Richard Nixon pulled the switch to light the tree while being hooted by Vietnam War protesters. Ronald Reagan, after an assassination attempt, lighted the tree from the White House instead of the Ellipse for security reasons. During the Iran hostage crisis, the tree was dark except for a star on top out of respect for the captured Americans. On Dec. 18, 1980, Carter lighted the tree for only 417 seconds, one for each day the hostages had spent in captivity. On Inauguration Day in 1981 when the hostages were released, Reagan ordered the tree redecorated in time for their return home.
Throughout the years, presidents have moved in and out of the White House, but Nielsen has made the trip from his home in Northern Virginia to record the image of the tree. A self-trained photographer who worked for the Department of the Interior for most of his life, Nielsen is believed to be the only person in the country with such an extensive archive of photos of the National Christmas Tree. He has his collection on a slide show, compete with music and a historical narrative. He has gone from film to digital to video, from middle age to old age, from father to grandfather to great-grandfather, and all the while kept up his mission.
SOURCE: UPI (12-21-06)
The relocation is planned even though there are fears the move could damage the ancient wooden vessels, Oslo's Aftenposten newspaper reports.
The ships, dating from the eighth to 11th centuries, are to move to the new Museum of Cultural History planned for Bjorvika harbor, where the city's new Opera House is set to open in 2008.
SOURCE: Guardian (12-21-06)
The revelation is one of many Tinseltown secrets in a treasure trove of documents belonging to 20th Century Fox that are to be auctioned in New York next month to benefit an actors' charity.
Alongside details of Elvis's follicular faux pas are letters chronicling Judy Garland's slide into alcoholism, contracts showing the bumper pay packets of Marlon Brando and Cary Grant, and a 1946 memo declaring that Norma Jean Dougherty would henceforth be known as Marilyn Monroe.
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (12-20-06)
Belgium only became a nation in 1830 and its union of Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north and French-speaking Walloons in south was never a love match. Instead, it was a marriage arranged by the great powers bent on creating a neutral buffer state.
Although Flemings always outnumbered French- speakers, Francophone Belgians dominated the new country economically, culturally and politically. French was the sole official language. The Francophone Belgian elite (which included the Flemish bourgeoisie) viewed the Flemish majority who could not speak proper French as backward peasants, suited to manual labor but little else. There was rampant social and economic discrimination.
A Flemish movement eventually emerged, pressing for language and cultural rights. In the 1930s, legislation established a regime of dual monolingualism based on a language frontier that divides the country today. In Flanders, Dutch is the only official language; in the Walloon region, French. Only Brussels is officially bilingual.
For most of Belgium's history, Wallonia was much richer than rural Flanders, and the country had a strong unitary parliamentary government that centralized power and authority. Neither is any longer true. Today the per capita gross domestic product of Flanders exceeds those of Germany, France and Britain, while that of the Walloon region is similar to the level of the poorer regions in France and Italy.
SOURCE: NYT (12-20-06)
SOURCE: A.O.Scott in the NYT (12-20-06)
But of course there are other, contrasting stories, a handful of which form the core of “Letters From Iwo Jima,” Clint Eastwood’s harrowing, contemplative new movie and the companion to his “Flags of Our Fathers,” which was released this fall. That film, partly about the famous photograph of American servicemen raising the flag on the barren volcanic island of Iwo Jima, complicated the standard Hollywood combat narrative in ways both subtle and overt. It exposed the heavy sediment of individual grief, cynicism and frustration beneath the collective high sentiments of glory and heroism but without entirely debunking the value or necessity of those sentiments.
“Letters,” which observes the lives and deaths of Japanese soldiers in the battle for Iwo Jima, similarly adheres to some of the conventions of the genre even as it quietly dismantles them. It is, unapologetically and even humbly, true to the durable tenets of the war-movie tradition, but it is also utterly original, even radical in its methods and insights.
In December 2004, with “Million Dollar Baby,” Mr. Eastwood almost nonchalantly took a tried and true template — the boxing picture — and struck from it the best American movie of the year. To my amazement, though hardly to my surprise, he has done it again; “Letters From Iwo Jima” might just be the best Japanese movie of the year as well....
SOURCE: CNN (12-19-06)
That makes Nazareth Village a treasure not only to archaeologists and Christian pilgrims, but also to filmmakers.
Because in spite of the religious significance and nostalgia surrounding the biblical town of Nazareth, today's sprawling, modern-day version of the city would have been unrecognizable to Jesus.
Then, a decade ago Dr. Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land, spotted remnants of an ancient wine press while visiting nearby Nazareth Hospital.
Encouraged by the hospital administration, Pfann worked with fellow biblical scholars, including his wife, Claire -- one of the on-camera experts in the CNN Presents documentary "After Jesus" -- to painstakingly rebuild this modern-day archaeological marvel on a 20-acre patch of hillside in the midst of a bustling city of 70,000 people -- Muslim, Jewish and Christian.
Nazareth Village is no dry museum piece or shallow tourist trap, but a working village that recreates a Jewish community at the time of the first century.
SOURCE: AP (12-20-06)
Surrounded by American and British dignitaries at a museum in London's Docklands area and flanked by a Colonial color guard and Virginia Military Institute cadets, Mr. Kaine said the colonists' ideals and aspirations were born in England.
"The important things [that they brought] were not physical things, but were ideas and passions and experiences and philosophies," he said, crediting the English settlers with introducing the notion of equality before the law, freedom of religion and elected legislative leadership to the New World.
"Though the soil did not seem fertile, the seeds brought by those English settlers were powerful, and they've grown into a very powerful nation, a nation that we're proud to call friends of this great nation today," Mr. Kaine said.
SOURCE: Tampa Tribune (12-5-06)
The museum said in a two-sentence news release that the exhibit is still in the conceptual phase and that museum leaders believed, "there is insufficient time to effectively review how the sensitive history of this particular exhibition will be treated."
A coalition of black civil rights groups opposes the exhibit, which will focus on the Whydah's time after its capture by pirates. Coalition leaders feel the museum is seeking to cash in on the ship's controversial past while de-emphasizing Africans' suffering under slavery.
The head of the company that is designing the exhibit said pressure from civil rights groups had nothing to do with the cancellation.
John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International, said artifacts that were excavated from the wrecked ship this summer have to be treated to remove salt from the metal so they don't deteriorate.
"Usually it takes about a year to develop an exhibition," Norman said. "We just do not have enough time to get it developed for this summer."
SOURCE: Guardian (12-20-06)
Now, almost 62 years after its fall changed the course of the second world war, Iwo Jima's physical scars have healed. Seen from the air, it is a pretty, teardrop-shaped speck in the Pacific Ocean 1,200 miles south of Tokyo, a place of rare insects and wild chilli peppers where the peace is broken only by the roar of Japanese F-15s leaving base.
The base is a reminder of Iwo Jima's vital role in Japan's security. To its Japanese defenders it represented the first line of defence; for the Americans it was the ideal stopping-off point for squadrons of B-29 Superfortresses that would carpet-bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities into submission in the final months of the war.
When US troops landed on Iwo Jima's south-eastern beaches on February 19 1945, their commanders predicted that the battle would be over in four days. By the time Iwo Jima was secured, five weeks later, 6,800 US soldiers had died and 17,000 were injured. Of the 22,000 Japanese troops defending the island, only 1,080 were captured alive. Those who didn't fight to the death preferred to commit suicide than shame their emperor by falling into enemy hands.
After decades of being treated as an unfortunate episode in a war many would prefer to forget, Iwo Jima has finally penetrated the Japanese consciousness with the release of two films directed by Clint Eastwood.
Flags of Our Fathers, which goes on release in the UK on Friday, flits between graphic fighting scenes and the post-battle lives of three of the six US soldiers who famously raised the Stars and Stripes on the summit of Mt Suribachi on February 23 - a scene immortalised in Joe Rosenthal's iconic black-and-white photograph. Its companion piece is Letters from Iwo Jima, filmed in Japanese and told from the perspective of the island's defenders.
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (12-20-06)
But should the former James Bond still be interested, he can have a second shot. Morrissey and his business partners are selling up only two years after purchasing the hotel in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire.
Brown's is back on the market along with two other properties in a package valued in excess of £1.5m.
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (12-20-06)
Now a sequel, "Peter Pan in Scarlet," is set to continue the good work.
Peter Pan, a lovable, mischievous boy who never ages and flies with the help of fairy dust, is known to generations of children around the world in a number of guises: Some prefer Disney's cute 1953 animated version; others, Robin Williams's disenchanted grown-up Peter in "Hook." Most favor the darker original tale, in which Peter rebels against an adult world as petulant and stubborn as Pan himself. Many also know the story behind Peter Pan's creation through Johnny Depp's 2004 performance as its diminutive, retiring author, James Matthew Barrie, in the movie "Finding Neverland."
But there's another side to the story of Peter Pan, one that, like its acclaimed author, has remained largely hidden from the public view.
Though nowadays almost solely known for "Peter Pan," J.M. Barrie was, in the early 20th century, a major playwright more renowned than such illustrious contemporaries as George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. He also had a profound love for children, and, on befriending a family of five young brothers, created Peter Pan as a story to entertain them.
The character soon evolved into a play, first performed to rave reviews in London on Christmas 1904. In the United States, too, it quickly achieved stellar popularity. After an initial run in New York just before Christmas 1905, it embarked on a nationwide tour so highly acclaimed that Mark Twain remarked, "The next best play is a long way behind it." In 1911, Barrie transformed the play into a book, the first editions of which flew off the shelves.
"Then, in 1926," relates Christine DePoortere, director of the Peter Pan project at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, "Barrie was asked by the Great Ormond Street Hospital to give a series of public lectures to help raise funds."
The hospital, founded in 1852, survived on private fundraising, mostly carried out by middle-class ladies, and was the only children's hospital of its day. "But Barrie was painfully shy, and couldn't speak in public to save his life," says Ms. DePoortere. He therefore promised to "see what else he could do for the hospital," and, in April 1929, donated all the royalties from Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street....
SOURCE: Reuters (12-19-06)
Wolfgang's Vault offers thousands of recordings of rare audio and video music performances collected over 30 years by Bill Graham, a famous concert promoter who died in 1991.
On Monday, major rock names including Grateful Dead Productions, Carlos Santana and members of Led Zeppelin and The Doors, sued the current owner, claiming it was illegally offering recordings to stimulate sales of other products.
SOURCE: Breitbart (12-19-06)
Nugroho has previously explored dark episodes in his country's history --"A Poet" was set in 1965 during the massacre of hundreds of thousands of" communists" and government opponents.
But for his new film,"Opera Jawa" ("Requiem From Java"), Nugroho took his inspiration from an ancient epic, the Ramayana.
"The Abduction of Sinta", one of the best-loved tales from the Ramayana, recounts the tragic love triangle between Prince Rama, his Princess Sinta and King Rahwana, who tries to take her by force.
In"Opera Jawa", the episode is recast as a story of everyday life in a Javanese village.
SOURCE: Breitbart (12-18-06)
The painting was recently acquired by public authorities in the region of Aragon in northeastern Spain for ten million euros (13 million dollars) from a branch of the royal Spanish family that had held the work for 223 years.
SOURCE: NYT (12-17-06)
GOD bless Mel Gibson.
Of course, the deity doing the blessing is less likely to be Yahweh than Gukumatz, traditional Toltec god of culture, agriculture and opening weekend grosses.
By now the miracles have been quantified. “Apocalypto,” when it opened, promptly took the top box office spot with $15 million. Plus — what are the odds? — his Joseph Campbell-meets-Mesoamerica epic has been nominated for a Golden Globe, and is now being mentioned in the same sentence as Oscar.
It’s the last thing you’d expect for a movie in Mayan — especially one made by a man whose last project was a staging of Hate Crime Theater on a Malibu police-cam. Which begs the question: How low does a human being have to sink before Hollywood shoos him away and he can’t get an Oscar?
Stars have always been bent. Wallace Reid, the silent screen’s first heartthrob — and a full-on dope fiend — needed the studio to slip him morphine to keep production going. (This was the pre-rehab era; Reid died trying to kick his habit in a sanitarium.)
The celebrated Charlie Chaplin? In his 20s, he married a 16-year-old moppet; in his 30s, married another 16-year-old; in his 50s, settled down with a 17-year-old. But his penchant for child brides did not prevent him from receiving the longest standing ovation in Oscar history when he was given an honorary statue in 1972. Of course, Chaplin’s honor also marked his return from exile in Switzerland.
Once, Hollywood required scandal-ridden stars to go away for a while — a penitent hiatus before they could enjoy redemption, their second acts. So after being banished for years for her baby with Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman was, in 1956, finally welcomed back and given an Oscar.
Roman Polanski waited decades after fleeing a warrant for pedophilia before he finally snagged, in absentia, his best director statue for “The Pianist.” And even Leni Riefenstahl, the Führer’s darling, received a posthumous mention among the notable Hollywood dead at the 2003 Oscars.
But less than five months have passed between Mr. Gibson’s spouting of tequila-fueled bons mots on the dread power of the Hebrews and his basking in the glow of a No. 1 movie. His brief time in the wilderness may represent the fastest about-face since Democrats re-embraced Joseph Lieberman after he bested Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Senate race.
I know what you’re going to say: Fatty Arbuckle. The exception to the rule. Once bigger than Chaplin, he’s now remembered as the gold standard of degraded celebrity, someone who allegedly committed such unforgivable acts that he could never really come back. In 1921, the year he became the first comic actor to make $1 million a year, he was accused of raping and murdering an actress during an orgy at a San Francisco hotel....
SOURCE: AP (12-17-06)
The Austrian musical genius born 250 years ago was noted for an impish sense of humor and some directors take huge liberties with their interpretations of operas. But the security measures for the performance, which include electronic screening of opera goers and evacuation precautions, are not part of the plot.
It's a case of art meeting religious sensibility — and a decision that the show must go on, despite concerns that the production, featuring the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, could prompt violence.
Mozart might wonder what the heads of Islam's founder, along with those of Jesus, Buddha and the Greek god of the seas, Poseidon, are doing in his opera. They are the brainchild of the director Hans Neuenfels, whose production first premiered three years ago. While some critics found the twist trite back then, it aroused little attention outside the opera world....