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 email@example.com.
SOURCE: Breitbart (12-10-06)
"We wanted to reward a movie that was true and recalled a painful period for many nations," said jury president and noted movie director Roman Polanski, who bestowed the top prize.
Tracing an affair in 1961 Dresden between a theater scenery painter and a poet,"The Red Cockatoo" also handed German actor Max Riemelt best actor award.
The drama was among a total of 120 movies screened over nine days in Marrakesh. The 15 in competition hailed from countries as diverse as Italy, Iran, Thailand, Malaysia and the United States.
SOURCE: Yahoo (12-8-06)
"It seems the four heads are gone," Deutsche Oper spokesman Alexander Busche told AFP. "We do not know when they disappeared or who is responsible."
He said new props would have to be made before a scheduled performance of "Idomeneo" on December 18.
SOURCE: Times Online (UK) (12-8-06)
Scholars knew that the author of classics such as Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd had an eye for pretty women and that Emma Lavinia Hardy had withdrawn affection from him, but they have long struggled to explain the guilt and self-accusation within his Poems of 1912–13.
Almost a century after her death, Robert Alan Frizzell, a retired GP, has come up with a retrospective diagnosis that provides an answer, revealing the terrible dark secret that had poisoned their marriage.
SOURCE: WSJ (12-8-06)
The board said it will revise its records to grant Mr. Razmi his prize and invite him to the awards ceremony in New York May 21 at Columbia University, whose journalism school hosts the prizes.
The identity of Mr. Razmi was revealed in a page-one article that appeared last Saturday in The Wall Street Journal, along with other photographs which he had kept hidden all these years because he feared for his safety. (Read the article.) The prize-winning photo appeared on front pages of newspapers throughout the world on Aug. 29. 1979, circulated by United Press International. The 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography was the only award ever granted to an anonymous recipient.
SOURCE: Breitbart/AP (12-8-06)
Warsaw's Uprising Museum last month completed excavations of the crash site near the town of Dabrowa Tarnowska where the plane was shot down on Aug. 4, 1944 as it brought ammunition, guns and medical supplies to the resistance movement struggling against Nazi occupiers, most dramatically in an insurgency in Warsaw.
Museum officials hope the items can be put on display at the museum by Aug. 1, the 62nd anniversary of the ill-fated struggle, although the bomber cannot be fully reconstructed.
SOURCE: Breitbart (12-8-06)
The artefacts, dating from 700 BC to 800 AD, were recovered by a team of archaeologists led by the Frenchman Franck Goddio, who have been working on the sea floor off Egypt's coast for the past 10 years.
They include the largest known statue of Hapy, the Egyptian god of the Nile, a five-metre (11-foot) colossus dating from 2,000 years ago, which forms the centrepiece of the display along with statuettes of deities, coins and everyday objects.
SOURCE: Earl Shorris in the Nation (12-18-06)
May May tells the story with the kind of rage and pride that Gibson tried to portray with his Scottish heroes in Braveheart and postapocalyptic picaros in Mad Max: "A Maya, of the middle class, like me," May May said, "went into a Ford dealership here in Mérida. He intended to buy a new pickup truck. He was well dressed, but clearly Maya. The dealer offered him ten pesos to wash a truck." It is a common experience for people of color in a white world. The Yucatán is not entirely a white world, yet the Maya suffer the most severe prejudice of any large ethnic group in Mexico. In the language of prejudice in Mexico, the Maya are said to be people with big heads and no brains, too short, too dark and with a strange, laughable Spanish accent. Gibson accepted the stereotype and embellished it.
To grasp what a racist act Gibson has committed in the making of his new film, it is necessary to understand the world of the Maya as it exists today. Perhaps realizing what has been done to the Maya in the film, Gibson has been seeking allies among Latinos and American Indians. He even went so far as to tell Time magazine, "The fear mongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys."
In fact, Gibson stepped into a delicate cultural situation and may have shattered much of what has been built by indigenous people, historians and linguists in recent years. Ethnic prejudice is as harsh in the Yucatán as anywhere in the Americas. I have seen it played out in the Maya villages as well as in the cities and on the beaches. When the Clemente Course, which educates indigenous people as well as the poor in seven countries, taught its first class in the Maya language and humanities in the small village of San Antonio Sihó, the students told me that when they took the bus to Mérida (a journey of more than fifty miles) they were afraid to speak Maya, because people would think them stupid Indians (Mayeros). After two years of study, José Chim Kú, the student leader of the class, said, "Now, when I ride on the bus, I speak only Maya." It took two years for the faculty, including May May, to effect the change, for the Maya have internalized their recent history. And like all people who live in the violent mirror of racial and ethnic hatred, they suffer for their suffering. It is the bitterest irony of colonialism.
In the film Apocalypto, which Gibson claims will make the Maya language "cool again," there are many major roles. The lead is a lithe, handsome young man, a dancer from Oklahoma named Rudy Youngblood. He has indigenous ancestors, but he is not Maya, and like most of the other featured players he is not a professional actor. None of the four other major parts went to Maya either. According to Gibson, they are played by people from the United States, and the other featured players are either from Mexico City or Oaxaca. Yet every word spoken in the film is in Yucatecan Maya, a difficult language to learn or even to mimic, because it is both tonal and accented.
It is not as if Gibson had few Mayeros to choose from. There are more than a million Maya in Mexico, and more than 100,000 of them are monolingual Yucatecan Maya speakers. Yet Gibson chose not one Maya for a featured role. In so doing, he has made a film that reinforces the prejudice against the Maya, who have defended their cultural autonomy as fiercely as any people on earth. Twice they repulsed the Spaniard Francisco de Montejo, before he occupied part of the peninsula in 1527. They continued to fight pitched battles against European cultural and political dominance until the end of the Caste War in the early twentieth century. And even now militant organizations deep in the jungles of the state of Quintana Roo practice ancient rituals and resist Occidental cultural and political hegemony, including the Gregorian calendar. But the people have never been attacked by Hollywood.
Like the owners of the resort hotels that line the beautiful beaches of Cancún and Cozumel, Mel Gibson cast no Maya to work on his project, except in the most minor roles. Maya nationalists think the hotels and tourist packages that use the word "Maya" or "Mayaland" (a translation of Mayab) should pay for what they appropriate for their own use. The Maya patrimony, they say, is neither gold nor silver nor vast stretches of rich farmland; they have only their history, their culture, themselves. Like the hotel owners who bring strangers to the Yucatán to do everything but labor in the laundries and maintain the grounds, Gibson has brought in strangers to take the good parts from the Maya. He said in an interview that he chose people who "looked like you imagined they should," but I have seen photographs of Rudy Youngblood, and he does not look like any Maya I ever saw. One can only ascribe the choice of Youngblood and the other non-Maya to stereotypes that Gibson has adopted.
In casting and producing the film Gibson reinforced a colonialist concept of indigenous people that has long existed in Mexico. Ancient Maya culture was extraordinary, as the rest of the world now recognizes. The Maya invented one of the few original systems of phonetic writing (we are familiar with the Chinese system and the one that culminated in Latin script). They worked with the concept of zero long before it was known in Europe. They were superb astronomers. Their art and architecture are now known and studied throughout the world. It is also true that they were warriors and that they engaged in human sacrifice, although not on the grand scale of the Mexica. Their ability to manage large-scale military and civic works was impressive. Maya literature has a long and grand history, from the ancient words incised in stone through the Pop Wuj (Popol Vuh) and the postinvasion books of Chilam Balam to the eighteenth-century poems ("Kay Nicte"--Flower Song--and others) to contemporary works, including brilliant poetry by Briceida Cuevas Cob in Yucatecan Maya and Humberto Ak'abal in Ki'che and Miguel Angel May May's delightful fables.
Culture doesn't sell tickets. Violence does. Gibson has made what he calls "a chase movie." As we saw his Scot disemboweled and his Jesus battered into bloody meat, we will now see a young Maya running through the jungle to escape having his still beating heart torn from his chest. The social philosophy of Jesus found no place in Gibson's Passion of the Christ, and the glory of Maya culture cannot be featured in a "chase movie." "Blood! More blood!" Gibson shouted during the filming.
According to the Maya calendar, the world will end in 2012, but there have already been four creations in the Maya vision of the cosmos, and there is no reason to think they do not expect another. For the title of his movie Gibson chose a Greek word related to the ideas in the Book of Revelation: apocalypse. Gibson has tried to sell the movie as an allegory, using the fall of Maya civilization to limn the war in Iraq. But it is not about Iraq, and the end of the Maya classic period took place many centuries before the period Gibson chose for his film. The only profound meaning one can take away from the film is that there is an intimate connection between racism and violence. The message of the production is that the Maya are unacceptable people; we do not want to look at them as they are now, and we despise them for what they were then.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
SOURCE: A.O.Scott in the NYT (12-6-06)
In many ways “Days of Glory,” Algeria’s official Oscar submission for best foreign language film, fits comfortably into a proud and apparently inexhaustible cinematic tradition. It is a chronicle of courage and sacrifice, of danger and solidarity, of heroism and futility, told with power, grace and feeling and brought alive by first-rate acting. A damn good war movie.
What makes “Days of Glory” something more — something close to a great movie — is that it finds a new and politically urgent story to tell in the well-trodden (and beautifully photographed) soil of wartime Europe. That English title also evokes the opening lines of “La Marseillaise,” which announce that the day of martial glory has arrived for “the children of the fatherland.”
SOURCE: NYT (12-7-06)
He collects the metal lighters by the hundreds; he studies them; he celebrates them as tiny symbols. He searches for deeper meanings in the epigrams etched into their shiny sides by the American soldiers who left them behind.
With grave whimsy he turns them into art.
For 10 years, starting in the early 1990s, he said, he bought them on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, where they were sold as souvenirs until the supply of genuine wartime lighters ran out.
“I have handled thousands of them; I have handled maybe 10,000 of them,” he said. “I’m really deep into this. I’m saturated with it. But I still haven’t lost my belief in the significance of the Zippo.”
Mr. Edwards, 52, is an American artist who spends much of his time in Hanoi creating art mostly from found objects and images. His father, Roy Jack Edwards, who died last year, was a fighter pilot over Vietnam, a distant, mythical figure to his son. The younger Mr. Edwards missed the war himself, and his obsession with Zippos obviously has to do with more than little silvery boxes used to light cigarettes.
“My dad was a super-professional soldier,” he said. “He was a serious cat who taught at the Naval Academy, worked in the Pentagon and taught weapons design. He was one of 100 Marine Corps pilots, and he did a couple of tours. I grew up with Vietnam in my life from Day 1.”
If Vietnam and his warrior father remain enigmas to him, the answer, perhaps — if it is not blowing in the wind — can be found etched on the sides of Zippo lighters:...
SOURCE: NYT (12-8-06)
It will not be news to downtown theatergoers that Mr. Wellman has written an odd little drama. This brainy playwright is known for brief works in which baroque wordplay and semantic surprises take the starring roles traditionally ceded to narrative and character development. What is unusual about “Two September” is how very odd it isn’t, at least in the ways that fans of Mr. Wellman are accustomed to expect. Words sit still and behave, conveying the usual meanings. Sentences proceed smoothly from start to finish. A story is told.
Mr. Wellman clearly relates two histories in “Two September,” which is named after the date on which Ho Chi Minh formally declared Vietnam’s independence in 1945. The first, personal and nonfictional, is the biography of the American journalist and writer Josephine Herbst, largely handed directly to us in elegant monologue by the woman herself (played by Jayne Haynes).
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (12-6-06)
Visitors expecting a dusty-helmet displays are in for a surprise. Using the latest in museology - state-of-the-art exhibit design supported by scholarship, the latest in audio, video, and computer technology, plus a vast collection of World War I artifacts and a large measure of showmanship - the museum offers visitors the sights and sounds of the first "modern" war.
Designed by the New York-based firm of Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the 30,000-square-foot museum's doughnut-shaped exhibition space is organized in a series of concentric circles around the underground portion of the memorial's 217-foot tower. Visitors enter the exhibits from the lobby by crossing a glass bridge over a "field" of 9,000 silk poppies, representing the 9 million combatants who died. A 10-minute orientation video reviews the events that led up to the war.
The first half of the museum covers the period from the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 to early 1917, just prior to when the United States entered the war. The second half focuses on US participation. The exhibits are arranged chronologically, but the museum is laid out so that visitors don't have to follow a single path. They can package their own experience.
SOURCE: CNN (12-6-06)
But the head of The Conspiracy Museum tells a rather bland tale about why its gallery of cover-up explanations behind President John F. Kennedy's assassination is temporarily shuttering December 30 after 13 years.
"Basically," says Tom Bowden, the museum's president, "they're putting a Quizno's here."
Hardly the skepticism expected from a man who's made The Conspiracy Museum a tourist landmark since opening in 1993 two blocks from where Kennedy was killed.
Bowden plans to reopen the museum in a new building closer to Dealey Plaza on April 4, which, not coincidentally, is the 39th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
He said the new space will double the size of the museum to almost 3,600 square feet and include a bookstore and Internet cafe. The museum also plans to add exhibits on the September 11, 2001, attacks to its slate of theories on the assassinations of Kennedy, King and Abraham Lincoln.
The Conspiracy Museum is not connected to The Sixth Floor Museum, housed in the old Texas School Book Depository building, Oswald's sniper nest -- at least according to the Warren Commission.
SOURCE: Salon (12-7-06)
Fierce and rebellious, brave and stoic, profane, devout, traitorous, patriotic, old skool or new, athlete or activist, African-American icon or citizen of the world. Yes. You bet.
Saints have their hagiographies and Ali has had his share. The latest is"Ali Rap," an hourlong special airing on ESPN Saturday night. The show, also available on DVD, is a companion to a pretty Taschen art book filled with the champ's quotations and designed by George Lois, who created the legendary Esquire cover in 1968 that portrayed Ali as St. Sebastian, wearing boxing gear and shot with arrows.
The show, hosted by Chuck D, starts from the shaky premise that Ali was a sort of godfather of rap and ends up being just another of those straightforward chronological biographies TV does so many of, only told in sound bites.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-6-06)
In a move described by his British publisher as "unknown", Pynchon, an American who is never seen in public, does not give interviews and whose whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, sent a typed letter to his British agent yesterday to say that McEwan "merits not our scolding but our gratitude" for using details from another author's book.
McEwan has been under fire for copying several details from the memoirs of a wartime nurse in London for his Booker-nominated novel, Atonement.
In an extraordinary campaign launched yesterday, many of the world's best known authors rallied around McEwan, complaining that the future of historical novel-writing was threatened if they could not copy or borrow details from eyewitnesses to history.
Other novelists backing the author include John Updike, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally and Zadie Smith.
SOURCE: AP (12-5-06)
Known for their terse, unflinching way of speaking, these consummate warriors from the Lakonia region of Greece were known as laconic, or sparing of words. The term also applies to their art.
"Athens-Sparta," opening Wednesday at the Onassis Cultural Center, presents 289 archaeological artifacts from the paramount city states of ancient Greece to illustrate their very different social and artistic legacies.
SOURCE: AP (12-5-06)
Actor and director Sylvester Stallone Tuesday donated memorabilia from his "Rocky" movies to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
"I knew I was getting old, but I didn't think I would be with the dinosaurs so soon," Stallone said, laughing. "No, actually, I'm really unbelievably overwhelmed."
Stallone, 60, wore the red and yellow boxing robe in 1976's "Rocky." He also donated a black hat and a pair of autographed boxing gloves from "Rocky II" and shoes and his red, white and blue boxing shorts from "Rocky III."
SOURCE: Reuters (12-6-06)
Helen Mirren was named best actress for her portrayal of Britain's ruling Queen Elizabeth in"Queen Elizabeth," while Forest Whitaker won the best actor award for his role in"The Last King Of Scotland."
The awards were voted on by 120 film professionals who viewed more than 250 movies and can be an indicator of what to expect for the world's top film honors, the Academy Awards, held in February.
Eastwood's"Letters from Iwo Jima" -- the story of the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II -- is not due to be released in U.S. cinemas until December 20. It is the second Eastwood film to be released this year about the 1945 fight for the tiny Pacific island following"Flags of Our Fathers."
Never mind asking how “Anna Karenina” and “Paradise Lost” could have influenced “The Castle in the Forest,” a fictionalized account of Hitler’s boyhood to be released next month. What’s a bibliography doing in a novel?
“It’s terribly off-putting,” said James Wood, the literary critic for The New Republic. “It would be very odd if Thomas Hardy had put at the end of all his books, ‘I’m thankful to the Dorset County Chronicle for dialect books from the 18th century.’ We expect authors to do that work, and I don’t see why we should praise them for that work. And I don’t see why they should praise themselves for it.”
Since Mr. Gibson’s drunken tirade against Jews last summer, many people in Hollywood swore — both publicly and privately — that they would not work with him again or see his movies.
But that was before the critics began to weigh in on “Apocalypto,” a two-hour tale about a peaceful village of hunter-gatherers who are attacked and enslaved by the bloodthirsty overlords of their Meso-American civilization.
Mr. Gibson wrote, directed, produced and financed the film, much as he did “The Passion of the Christ,” his surprise 2004 blockbuster; the Walt Disney Company is distributing the film.
Some Mayas are excited at the prospect of the first feature film made in their native tongue, Yucatec Maya. But others among the 800,000 surviving Mayans are worried that Gibson's hyper-violent, apocalyptic film could be just the latest misreading of their culture by outsiders.
''There has been a lot of concern among Mayan groups from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, because we don't know what his treatment or take on this is going to be,'' said Amadeo Cool May of the Indian defense group ''Mayaon,'' or ''We are Maya.''
''This could be an attempt to merchandize or sell the image of a culture, or its people, that often differs from what that people needs, or wants,'' Cool May said.