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: http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com (12-3-06)
But it's their stories from Pacific air wars, and setting on this 433-acre historic island, that are the most impressive at the new nonprofit museum, which opens Thursday, the 65th anniversary of the surprise attack.
"The Pacific Aviation Museum is a significant addition to the Pearl Harbor sites — USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the USS Missouri Memorial," said Allan Palmer, the museum's executive director. "We are proud to share the historic stories of men and women aviators of the Pacific and pay tribute to those whose bravery helped give us the freedom we enjoy today."
Aircraft from both sides of the battle now hang silently in the air, and stand frozen in time on aircraft carrier decking, with plasma screens and historical footage re-creating the cacophony of war.
SOURCE: AP (12-4-06)
McCartney's original handwritten working lyrics for the 1968 Beatles song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" went for $192,000 at Christie's sale of rock and pop memorabilia. The pre-sale estimate had been $200,000 to $300,000.
Hendrix's guitar, a 1968 Fender Stratocaster with a sunburst finish that was modified to accommodate his left-handed use, sold for a staggering $168,000, well above its pre-sale estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
The guitar has been kept at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland since the museum's opening in 1996.
SOURCE: Reuters/Hollywood Reporter (12-5-06)
Take the little town of Marceline, Mo., a place so idyllic, so orderly, so utterly all-American that it seemed impossible to improve on.
Marceline declined once the automobile came and the crowds started to roll in, but it is forever enshrined in the memories of several generations of Americans.
The person who put it there, who remembered it as the best of all possible places, was Walter Elias Disney, who lived in Marceline for only a few years as a child at the turn of the last century. It did not matter that his father failed in business there so that the family had to leave it for the city. Disney took paradise and, characteristically, improved upon it, turning his vision into Main Street, USA, a perfect place in the perfect world of Disneyland.
Disney has been dead for 40 years. In the years since, historians and pop culture students alike have debated Disney endlessly, some convinced that he was as dark a character as his witches and sorcerers.
Enter Neal Gabler, author of the indispensable"An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood," and other books of film and cultural history, who was granted unrestricted access to the vast Disney archive on the sole condition that he write a"serious" book. That he has certainly done. He has much to say that might have made Disney uncomfortable, but he also exonerates him of long-standing charges, the most serious that he was an anti-Semite. Disney was not, Gabler argues, explaining how such charges came to be leveled.
SOURCE: Reuters (12-5-06)
Including the premium paid to auctioneers Christie's, the total cost for the sleeveless, floor-length Givenchy cocktail gown rose to 467,200 pounds ($920,000).
The sale room at Christie's broke into applause at the end of a long and tense session when it was finally bought by an anonymous telephone bidder. Christie's would only say that the successful bidder was European.
SOURCE: WSJ (12-2-06)
Time: Late afternoon in the autumn of 1977.
Action: A 13-year-old girl is walking home from school, having stayed late for badminton practice. She waves good-bye to friends, turns the corner, and is never seen again.
This is the true story of "Abduction," a documentary that opened in Japan last weekend after winning accolades at several international film festivals. The lost girl is Megumi Yokota. In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped Megumi, along with 12 other Japanese citizens, enslaving them for the purpose of training its spies to pass as Japanese. "Megumi-chan," or "Little Megumi," is now a household name in Japan. President Bush met with Megumi's mother and brother in the White House last April, calling it "one of the most moving meetings since I've been the President."
In the wake of North Korea's recent nuclear test and missile launches, it's easy to neglect the other central fact of Kim Jong Il's regime: its abuse of human rights. This is the preferred approach of Beijing, whose stated policy is to track down and repatriate the tens of thousands of desperate North Koreans who have crossed the border into northeast China. It refuses to let the United Nations help the refugees and sends them back to face prison camps or worse.
More grotesquely, it is also the attitude of South Korea, which closes its eyes to the North's depredations. It permits what amounts to slave labor in the Kaesong joint economic zone over the border in the North. Moreover, President Roh Moo-hyun's "sunshine policy" has shed no light on the fate of several hundred South Koreans who were kidnapped by the North or the hundreds of Korean War soldiers from the South whom Pyongyang has been holding as POWs for more than 50 years.
SOURCE: NYT (12-4-06)
You might consider a script doctor for lyrics like Gutenberg’s line: “When I got out of bed today/History was a lot more boring/But then I thought in a different way /Now the bird of inspiration’s soaring.”
And while Doug’s book about the villainous monk who destroyed Gutenberg’s press fits the Broadway formula perfectly, you need to shrink this period epic down. Do you know how much lasers cost? A huge cast won’t have the charm (or, ahem, salaries) of your two natural performers who play dozens of roles helped only by baseball caps with character names like “Old Black Narrator” and “Another Woman” written on them....
SOURCE: Times Online (UK) (12-4-06)
The auction at Christie’s in New York will cover more than five decades of music history, with lots ranging from Miles Davis’s trumpet to a handwritten page from Britney Spears’s schoolbook, featuring her teenage analysis of the play Antigone, up for grabs.
Love letters by Bob Dylan and a previously unheard interview of John Lennon are also among the lots.
The item that is expected to fetch the highest price is a page of draft lyrics for the Beatles song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Christie’s expects it to fetch up to $300,000 (£151,000).
“McCartney lyrics rarely appear on the market and have not appeared for about six years,” said Helen Hall, of Christie’s.
The lot also includes two copies of the song that a member of the Beatles’ staff wrote out for use by other members of the band. They are the only trio of Beatles lyrics to have appeared on the market.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, which appears on the Abbey Road album, took three days to record and overdub, and caused considerable arguments between the band members as they hurtled towards their break-up.
McCartney insisted that the song was a possible single but Lennon disagreed, later calling it “a typical McCartney single, or whatever”.
SOURCE: AP (12-1-06)
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts wants the artifacts for a museum honoring Woodstock and the '60s, which could open next year. A 4,800-seat concert pavilion at the former farm 80 miles northwest of New York City opened this summer.
The planned museum already has film, tickets, posters, security jackets and other items from the concert but is looking for more donations and long-term loans, said Michael Egan, who is developing the museum for the not-for-profit Gerry Foundation. The foundation also is looking for '60s artifacts such as JFK campaign posters or ticket stubs from the Beatles concert at Shea Stadium.
SOURCE: Catherine Elsworth in Telegraph (UK) (12-2-06)
Mel Gibson leads the way for a difficult location shot in Apocalypto
He has delivered an epic, distributed by Disney, with dialogue in the Mayan dialect of Yucatec and which takes screen violence to a new level. Watching Apocalypto, one has to wonder what dark torments drive Gibson to depict such horrifically graphic scenes of torture and cruelty.
This grim, gory adventure is set 600 years ago in the midst of the mysterious decline of the Mayan civilisation and although Gibson uses subtitles, he relies mainly on visual storytelling and the ancient music of the Maya to unfold his gruesome tale.
Throats are slit in slow motion, hearts are plucked from living bodies, heads lopped off and headless bodies hurled down pyramid steps in scenes of human sacrifice that are stomach-churningly difficult to watch.
Some victims die long, lingering deaths. The lucky ones are dispatched with a few blows from a wooden club, albeit amid gushes of blood.
At least two dozen people walked out of a screening I attended in Los Angeles. In fairness to Gibson, it must be said that Apocalypto, as well as being barbarously brutal, is also powerful, compelling, beautifully photographed and an unquestionably fine exercise in film-making....
SOURCE: Reuters (12-4-06)
In a new series, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins take on the four evangelists, starting with the John, the youngest and the one who lived the longest.
"We really went to the other end of the Biblical calendar," Jenkins said from his office in Colorado."Really, everything we've written, especially together, is based on Christ so this fits in with that emphasis even though its 2000 years in advance of the 'Left Behind' setting."
The new series is a departure from the"Left Behind" books which now number 12 plus three prequels and a final sequel, cataloging doomsday chaos and world conflict attending the"rapture," the time when many Christians believe the faithful will be swept off the earth and into heaven.
The series also spawned a video game with 63 million books, cassettes, videos and related products sold in 32 languages, -- all but 1.7 million of them in the United States.
SOURCE: Salon (12-2-06)
Actually, Casanova's profligacy seemed to have a lot to do with furniture, or rather a lack thereof in 18th century Europe. Time and again, the great seducer's campaign to lift every skirt between Barcelona and Bucharest was facilitated by the fact that there simply were not enough beds to go around. Take, for example, his" conquest" of Donna Lucrezia Castelli, the Neopolitan woman Casanova seduced during the course of a long carriage trip from her hometown to Rome in 1744, as described by Judith Summers in"Casanova's Women."
"The vettura (carriage) was a small, slow-moving vehicle pulled by a single team of mules, and the journey north would take six days and entail five overnight stops at rustic coaching inns along the way ... for a flat fee a vetturino (driver) made all the sleeping and eating arrangements for his passengers, whoever they were, and in order to make as much profit as he could from the trip he would hire only one room for all of them at each inn."
SOURCE: NYT (12-2-06)
In fact, the Kansas City soldiers dead in that war numbered only in the hundreds. Even the scars left by the deaths of 100,000 American soldiers seem slight compared with the nearly 9 million dead of the other combatants.
But now Kansas City, so remote in space and time from that cataclysm, has become one of the few places where that war can begin to be understood, and the shadow that it still casts can be mapped out.
On Saturday a new 30,000-square-foot National World War One Museum is opening here, recounting the history of that “Great War” and the United States entrance into it in 1917, drawing on a major collection of 49,000 objects and wrapping around them a strongly conceived narrative of conflict, heroism, death, determination and waste.
SOURCE: Reuters (12-3-06)
The film beat Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's"Volver", which won five awards, including best director and best actress for Penelope Cruz."It means a lot to me to get this award here, since my father was born in this country," said Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck, the director of the winning film called"Das Leben Der Anderen" in German.
It was the first time the awards were held in ex-Communist Eastern Europe.
SOURCE: A.O.Scott in the NYT (12-1-06)
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke from a script by Mike Rich, “The Nativity Story” sticks to the familiar details of the narrative and dramatizes them with sincerity and good taste. There are no flights of actorly or cinematic bravura — though all of the performances are credible, and some better than that — and very few big, showy, epic gestures. Rather than trying to reinterpret or modernize a well-known, cherished story, the filmmakers have rendered it with a quiet, unassuming professionalism.
The challenge in producing a movie like this is to find enough conventional movie elements — suspense, realistic characters, convincing dialogue — without selling out the scriptural source. How do you make piety entertaining without seeming impious? A certain degree of kitsch is inevitable, and perhaps even desirable.
SOURCE: Dissident Voice (11-30-06)
Whatever its shortcomings as a film, the major problem with Bobby is political -- it regurgitates all of the myths about Robert Kennedy and his brother, President John F. Kennedy.
The greatest of all the myths about the Kennedys is that if the two brothers had lived, then much of the “turmoil” of the 1960s, particularly the U.S. war in Vietnam, would have been avoided. For many liberals, Robert Kennedy’s assassination represented “the end of the ’60s” -- the end of the road for progressive political change and the beginning of three decades of conservative rule. Is any of this remotely true?
Robert Francis Kennedy was the third son of Joseph Kennedy, a ruthless and politically ambitious businessman from Massachusetts. Kennedy Sr. made a fortune from a variety of enterprises -- real estate, moviemaking, the stock market and bootlegging alcohol during prohibition -- thanks to his thoroughgoing corruption.
His own ambition to be the first Irish Catholic president of the United States was thwarted by Franklin Roosevelt, and he transferred his dream to his sons. Three out of four would either become president or run for the presidency.
It is one of great ironies of U.S. political mythology that the Kennedy family, viewed today as the very symbol of liberalism, was, in fact, deeply conservative. Joe Kennedy was very close to the infamous anti-Communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy after he became famous for tormenting liberals and radicals during the 1950s witch-hunts.
During McCarthy’s 1952 re-election campaign, Joe made a sizeable contribution to his campaign -- and then asked that his son Bobby be placed on the McCarthy subcommittee investigating “subversives.”
Bobby only stayed on McCarthy’s committee for six months, using it as a springboard for an assignment to another congressional committee that gained him greater notoriety -- the Senate Rackets Committee led by anti-union Democratic Sen. John McClellan of Arkansas....
SOURCE: Duke News (11-29-06)
It was this extraordinary level of interest in the event, as well as the nature of the conspiracy theories he unearthed in preparing his brief – and the vehemence with which they were put forth by their proponents – that inspired Boyle to write his most recent book, a departure from the intellectual property law scholarship for which he is best known. The Shakespeare Chronicle: A Novel, is a literary mystery about one man’s obsessive search for the true author of Shakespeare’s works.
The Shakespeare Chronicles jumps between Elizabethan England and a contemporary love affair, following English Professor, Stanley Quandary on his quest for the real Shakespeare. Quandary’s interest is sparked by a bizarrely detailed series of historical dreams. His growing obsession leads him to travel to Britain to find the truth his research suggests -- in Shakespeare’s tomb if necessary.
SOURCE: Slate (12-1-06)
Two years later, there's no longer any imperative to pay lip service to bad religious kitsch, and for that, Lord, I'm deeply grateful.
Not, mind you, that I'm equating Catherine Hardwicke, director of The Nativity Story (Buena Vista), with Mel Gibson. Hardwicke's new retelling of the Gospel account of the conception and birth of Jesus, is fatuous, sappy, and dull, but it's neither sadistic nor bigoted. I don't doubt that Hardwicke and her screenwriter, Mike Rich, who's an avowed believer, were uncynically earnest in their desire to translate the Gospel story to the screen. It's just that the best of intentions and a 2,000-year-old heartbreaker of a story are not enough to make a compelling film. You need a point of view and something to say, two things that the ploddingly pious Nativity Story never manages to conjure.
Like an uninspired altarpiece or a by-the-numbers religious pamphlet, the movie simply checks off, one by one, the well-known stations of the Biblical tale.
SOURCE: NYT (11-30-06)
The artifacts are the first fruits of separate agreements that Italy reached this year with those museums to return antiquities that Italian officials have long contended were looted or removed illegally from their country. In exchange for the return of the objects — which will include the Euphronios krater, a 2,500-year-old Greek bowl considered one of the world’s finest, from the Met’s collection — Italy agreed to offer extended loans of other antiquities that have rarely or never been seen outside Italy.
The arrival of the artifacts at their temporary homes was timed to coincide with a visit to the United States by Italy’s culture minister, Francesco Rutelli, who has taken a high-profile role in his country’s campaign for the return of looted antiquities.
SOURCE: NYT (11-30-06)
The image, “Breaking Home Ties,” reproduced on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on Sept. 25, 1954, was voted the second-most popular cover in the magazine’s history. (No. 1 was “Saying Grace,” the Nov. 24, 1951 cover, also by Rockwell.)
The previous auction record for a Rockwell was $9.2 million at Sotheby’s in May for “Homecoming Marine.”
SOURCE: Mark Yost in the WSJ (11-29-06)
Much to its credit, the museum chose historical accuracy over this myopic focus. The result is a compelling and comprehensive presentation that leaves visitors with a clear understanding of the forces that led to the war, the barbarism of the world's first mechanized industrial warfare, and the unresolved disputes that sowed the seeds for future conflicts, including some that are in the headlines today.
Your first question may be, "Why Kansas City?" The Liberty Memorial, a solemn limestone obelisk and promenade, was commissioned and built in the 1920s to commemorate World War I. Over the years, the memorial foundation has been unofficially collecting artifacts from the war. "Unofficially" because up until now there had been no national museum. With nowhere else to go, uniforms, weapons, diaries and the like (although still no tank) found their way to the memorial. Over the past few years, the memorial was renovated and the museum added, all at a cost of about $100 million, raised through a local sales tax, municipal bonds and private donations. It was money well spent.
Upon entering, visitors cross a glass-floor bridge, under which are planted 9,000 poppies, each one representing 1,000 of World War I's nine million combat deaths (there were also an estimated five million civilian casualties). It's a somber beginning for a journey that is anything but uplifting, and just one of the outstanding features of the Ralph Applebaum-designed space.
An introductory film explains the factors that led to World War I: Colonization in search of resources to feed an increasingly industrialized Europe. Add in fervent nationalism fueled by increasingly vitriolic propaganda and it's easy to see how young men eagerly signed up to cross borders, bayonets fixed, to impale their neighbors. But instead of a quick and glorious victory, what they got was three years of bloody stalemate.
The museum has the usual artifacts--uniforms, firearms and cannon. There's also an informative timeline that takes visitors from the June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the June 1919 ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. Most of the pieces are displayed in traditional glass cases with informative placards. But it's the storytelling and interactive presentations that have made many modern museums work, and this one succeeds on all fronts.
Indeed, it's often facts and figures that overwhelm visitors. Here, the curators have chosen only the most pertinent--and illuminating--figures and presented them in a way that's easy to understand. For instance, a giant chart lists the number of troops from each country and the number of casualties they suffered. Of the 8.4 million Frenchmen who went to war, 4.5 million were either killed or wounded. As a result, 1 out of 3 Frenchmen age 18 to 30 died by 1917....