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: NYT (5-15-12)
The young man who applied to medical school in the spring of 1933 had graduated from Dartmouth College with good grades, a keen interest in medicine and, according to the university official who interviewed him, a nice sense of humor.
The application did not ask about religion, but the interviewer surmised it. “Probably Jewish,” he wrote in a scribbled evaluation, “but no unpleasant evidence of it.”...
The note is displayed in an exhibition called “Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter With Modern Medicine, 1860-1960,” on view at Yeshiva University Museum in Manhattan. The exhibition offers a rare look at a topic few patients ever stop to consider: the emergence of European and American Jews as innovators in medicine, despite their status as outsiders frequently scorned by the medical establishment.
While some religions place ultimate responsibility for healing in divine hands, “Jews don’t see a conflict between faith and medicine,” said Alan M. Kraut, a professor of history at American University who helped put together the exhibition and has written extensively about immigration and health....
SOURCE: NYT (5-12-12)
A.O. Scott is a film critic for the NYT.
“GRAND ILLUSION” had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 1937, and it has been around ever since, by enduring consensus one of the greatest films ever made. It is true that Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief and cultural arbiter, was not a fan, but Mussolini, patron of the festival and Europe’s leading fascist cinephile, kept a print in his personal collection. Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that “all the democracies in the world must see this film,” which is still sound advice. The nations that fall within that rubric may have grown in number since those days, but none of those democracies, old or new, is so secure as to be immune to the lessons of Jean Renoir’s great and piercing antiwar comedy.
Which is not to say that “Grand Illusion” is didactic, though it is, like much of the art of its era, unapologetic about its social concerns and political implications. It survives partly as a document of those volatile times, and of the idealism that persisted through them even as history prepared a new, unimaginable round of horrors. Seventy-five years on, Europe is far from a state of war, but in light of its current crisis — which is not only economic and political, but also, once again, a crisis of identity — Renoir’s film is still news.
In France the late 1930s were the years of the Popular Front, an attempt by the left to counter the rise of fascism and overcome its own tendencies toward sectarianism and orthodoxy. The political face of the front was Léon Blum, a moderate Jewish Socialist whose two truncated, frustrating terms as prime minister coincided with the production and release of Renoir’s film. It is hardly incidental that the friendship at the heart of “Grand Illusion” — the alliance that carries the germ of its political hope — is between Lieutenant Maréchal, a proudly working-class Parisian played by Jean Gabin, and Rosenthal, an assimilated, wealthy French Jew played by Marcel Dalio. The action takes place during World War I (in which Renoir had served as a pilot), when the Dreyfus Affair was still a recent memory, but it has an eye on contemporary anti-Semitism and labor militancy as well as a subtle, anxious premonition of global conflicts to come....
SOURCE: BBC News (5-9-12)
After 20 years of work, an American Shakespeare scholar is bringing his restoration of what he says is a lost play by the Bard to the stage.
In 1613, royal records show payment was made to a Shakespearian actor, who starred in a play performed by Shakespeare's theatre company, written during Shakespeare's tenure as playwright.
In 1653, the play, The History of Cardenio, appeared in a register of soon-to-be published works. But Cardenio, credited in the register to Shakespeare and his collaborator John Fletcher, never appeared in print.
Seventy-four years after that, playwright, editor and Shakespeare imitator Lewis Theobald published a play called Double Falsehood - based, he said, on three original manuscripts of the History of Cardenio....
SOURCE: NYT (5-8-12)
LOS ANGELES — In France, the pursuit of Roman Polanski by American authorities who remain intent on bringing him to trial for a decades-old sex offense has raised comparisons to the Dreyfus Affair. And those comparisons will surely be revived by Mr. Polanski’s next film project: A political thriller to be called “D,” based on the story of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus....
SOURCE: Huffington Post (5-4-12)
Rosie Sultan earned her MFA at Goddard College and won a PEN Discovery Award for fiction, on the nomination of historian Howard Zinn. A former fellow at The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she has taught writing at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, and Suffolk University in Boston. Her short story “Blue is Your Color, Dear” appeared in Other Voices. She lives with her husband and son in Brookline, Massachusetts.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-6-12)
There is a scene in the 1969 film version of Anne of the Thousand Days that has audiences cheering to this day. Henry VIII (Richard Burton) visits Anne Boleyn (Geneviève Bujold) as she awaits execution in the Tower of London and reflects on the "thousand days" of her marriage to the king. He has come to offer a bargain. If Anne will declare their marriage unlawful and their daughter Elizabeth illegitimate, freeing him to marry Jane Seymour, he will spare Anne's life. But Anne is having none of it. Her hair disheveled, eyes burning a path straight to his masculine pride, she rejects the offer and spits out a lie: "It is true. I was unfaithful to you with all of them. With half your court. With soldiers of your guard, with grooms, with stable hands. Look for the rest of your life at every man that ever knew me and wonder if I didn't find him a better man than you!" Rattled and enraged, Henry shouts, "You whore!" Anne has an even sharper arrow in her quiver:
"But Elizabeth is yours. Watch her as she grows; she's yours. She's a Tudor! Get yourself a son off of that sweet, pale girl if you can—and hope that he will live! But Elizabeth shall reign after you! Yes, Elizabeth—child of Anne the Whore and Henry the Blood-Stained Lecher—shall be Queen! And remember this: Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes—MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!"
The scene is without historical foundation. Henry never visited Anne in the tower, and Anne never delivered her speech; indeed, at that point, Anne would have known that the chances of Elizabeth becoming queen were slim. Two days before her execution, her marriage to Henry was declared void, and Elizabeth would soon be bastardized. In the movie (and before that, the 1948 Maxwell Anderson play on which it was based), she is given a choice that the real Anne never had.
Did the fact that the tower scene was invention matter to viewers? Not a bit. While critics at the time were not particularly enthusiastic (Vincent Canby was typical in praising Bujold but disparaging the movie as "unbearably classy" and "conventionally reverential"), not one complained of the historical inaccuracies. Even today, among audiences who have seen enough alternative versions of Anne's final days to wonder about the authenticity of any of them, the general consensus about the tower scene seems to be that if it didn't happen that way, it should have....
I love fiction, and believe it can put us in touch with truths that no history text can attain. But when the work of imagination is presented as something other than that—when a novel or film justifies highly inventive, provocative choices by invoking history—we've lost whatever compass we have left (and it's gotten pretty fragile) for sorting out fiction from fact. In her interview with me, Mantel astutely observed that "all historical fiction is really contemporary fiction; you write out of your own time." I couldn't agree more. Her morally ambiguous, watchful Cromwell is a man for our cynical season, and so is her greedy, narcissistic Anne. Let's not imagine, however, that just because they belong to literature rather than pop culture, they are more historically accurate than the Anne and Cromwell of Thousand Days or The Tudors.
SOURCE: NY Magazine (4-24-12)
The last century saw two World Wars, economic disaster, numerous artistic movements, and the rise of the digital age — and, along with it, a complete transformation in women's fashion. Cally Blackman, a dress historian and instructor at Central Saint Martins, attempts to chronicle the shift from corsets to today's ready-to-wear, pulling together more than 400 photographs and illustrations to create 100 Years of Fashion, published by Laurence King. Organized by sections that include "Youthquake," "Amazons," "Couturière," and "New Looks," the goal was to give an overview without getting too in-depth. "I suppose one of the frustrations was I couldn't go into great detail on any one topic because there just wasn’t space to do that," Blackman says. "I think that's always the difficulty with this kind of book." This is the third in a series, following 100 Years of Menswear and 100 Years of Fashion Illustration. The new title comes out May 7, but you can see a preview in our slideshow: "Everyone can identify with [one] image or another because clothes are so much of our lives and such an important part of our lives," she explains. Plus, read ahead for more about the making of the book in our interview with Blackman.
How did you decide which images to include?
It was very daunting. I mean, obviously, a hemline history, chronological approach is rather liable to be quite dull. So, one has to kind of shake it up somehow. And so I chose various themes that were important at various times ... I knew that there were images I needed to find — sort of watershed images if you like, such as Paul Poiret, [who] is very important towards the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. His "Directoire" line really changed the shape of fashion quite dramatically. 1947, Dior’s "New Look," obviously, you know, I had to have that included. Vivienne Westwood’s "Seditionaries" collection in 1976, which introduced punk. You know, there were the obvious watersheds, and then I'm afraid another tool I used was to include favorite images of mine. I mean, this book is a reflection of my personal selection ... and that’s just how it is — I can't avoid that....
SOURCE: NYT (4-12-12)
In an effort to reach beyond the Western art world the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is embarking on a five-year program to work with artists, curators and educators from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to bringing curators from those parts of the world to the Guggenheim Museum in New York and organizing exhibitions that highlight art from their regions, the program will acquire art for the Guggenheim’s permanent collection.
The project, to be financed by UBS and called the Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative, will begin with South and Southeast Asia. The museum will invite a curator from each region to New York for overlapping two-year residencies; they will work with a team of Guggenheim curators to identify new and recent artworks that best reflect the range of talents in their areas. The artworks they choose will be acquired for the Guggenheim and will also be the focus of exhibitions that open at the New York museum and then travel to two other cultural institutions....
SOURCE: Zap2It (4-5-12)
Will Ferrell's hysterical web series "Drunk History" might end up on your TV screen. Comedy Central has given a pilot presentation order for the show, which will be produced by Ferrell, Adam McKay and Gary Sanchez Prods., according to Deadline.
The series has a drunk narrator describing an historical event, while famous comedians and actors reenactment the scene. The pilot will be called "Drunk History Across America." It will also include travel elements. City locals will get smashed and talk about local history. These will be reenacted as well.
Check out one of the episodes of the web series featuring Jack Black below. Other segments have featured Michael Cera (pictured above), Zooey Deschanel and Jason Ritter. What do you think of this as a series? Let us know below....
SOURCE: NYT (4-3-12)
SOURCE: NYT (4-2-12)
It’s no easy feat for a show set in the 1960s to comment on an election taking shape in 2012. And while the writers of “Mad Men,” the popular AMC period drama, haven’t officially endorsed any candidate in this year’s presidential contest, they did find a way to take a sly dig at the Republican front-runner – or at least a progenitor who shares his name.
In a brief scene from Sunday’s latest installment of “Mad Men,” written by Erin Levy and the series creator Matthew Weiner, the character Henry Francis (played by Christopher Stanley) is shown in a telephone call with an unseen colleague. Francis, a fictional character who is the public relations director for Mayor John Lindsay of New York City, tells the off-screen figure: “Well, tell Jim his Honor’s not going to Michigan.”
After a pause, Francis adds: “Because Romney’s a clown and I don’t want him standing next to him.”...
SALT LAKE CITY — All museums are temples of sorts, monuments to collectors or cultures, declarations of identity, gathering places for tribute. But museums of natural history have an even more distinctive stature. Their focus is not human history, measured in centuries, but natural history, measured in eons. And their subject is not a particular culture and its accomplishments, but a world that seems to stand beyond culture altogether. Natural history museums seek their ground in the earth itself.
That is one reason that the Natural History Museum of Utah, which opened last fall in a new $102 million, 17-acre home in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range, has such a powerful impact. Here, at Salt Lake City’s edge, above the geological shoreline of the ancient Lake Bonneville, the earth is vividly present: seen in nearby snow-covered mountains, in the winding hiking and biking path that runs past the museum, and in the untouched land above. Most natural history museums are in urban centers, offering reminders of a distant natural world, but this one is housed in the realm it surveys; it is at home....
SOURCE: NYT (3-26-12)
For nearly six decades a Cézanne watercolor depicting Paulin Paulet, a gardener on the artist’s family estate near Aix-en-Provence, was familiar to scholars only as a black-and-white photograph. No one knew if the actual work, a study for Cézanne’s celebrated “Card Players” paintings, still existed and, if it did, who owned it.
But the watercolor recently surfaced in the home of a Dallas collector and is now heading to auction at Christie’s in New York on May 1, officials at the company said on Monday. It is estimated to sell for $15 million to $20 million.
Cézanne’s images of workers on his family farm — pipe-smoking men sitting around a table, their expressions dour, their dress drab, absorbed in a game of cards — are among his most recognizable works. Some are pictured alone; others are shown in groups of two or more. Paulet is the only one of the figures to appear in all five paintings in the “Card Players” series....
SOURCE: Star Tribune (3-26-12)
With the return of spring comes baseball. This year, though, fans can go beyond Target Field -- to the public library.
To coincide with the Minnesota Twins' home opener on April 9, the Hennepin County Library will host an exhibit and panel discussion at the Minneapolis Central Library.
The exhibit, "Baseball: America's Game," will feature a collection of works following the sport's history from its modest mid-19th century beginnings to the widely followed Major League Baseball of today. Photos, video and other memorabilia from George Brace's photos of baseball heroes to Jim Dow's triptychs of major league stadiums, the display traces the history of baseball....
There was no question that “Mad Men” would get around to the civil rights movement. From the start, racism was the carbon monoxide of the show: a poison that couldn’t always be detected over the pungent scent of cigarettes, sexism, anti-Semitism, alcoholism, homophobia and adultery, but that sooner or later was bound to turn noxious....
...“Mad Men” returns to AMC for a fifth season on Sunday, and times have changed — again. African-Americans are now picketing on the street, chanting for fair employment and equal opportunity. It’s a tinderbox summer of riots and protests, and the reception from some who are working on Madison Avenue is less than supportive. Advertising may be a cool profession that draws talented, sophisticated people, but even some of them can be bigots. '
“Mad Men” distinguished itself by depicting not just the fashion of the 1960s but also the attitudes that are now so unfashionable. The show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, found a sly, satirical way to revive the crudest forms of sexism and prejudice that were typical then but are nowadays carefully airbrushed out of television....
AT first glance, an 1839 oil painting, “Catching Rabbits,” showing two boys with a dead rabbit and a wooden trap, does not seem to have a political message. Likewise, an 1835 canvas, “The Sportsman’s Last Visit,” depicting a young woman coquettishly listening to one man as she ignores another in the room, seems to have no agenda beyond an amusing look at a suitor spurned.
Both, however, are part of “Facing the Issues: William Sidney Mount and Current Events,” an exhibition at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages that seeks to link paintings by Mount, who lived in Stony Brook and did much of his work here, with the political, economic and social events of his time. Some of them even have relevance today.
This is one exhibition in which it is important to read the texts on the wall and pay attention to details in the pictures. Some knowledge of American history helps, too....
SOURCE: NYT (3-21-12)
McLEAN, Tex. — No one can remember if the brassiere factory on Kingsley Street here put up barbed wire to keep intruders out. These days, hundreds of strands of barbed wire draw people in.
The old factory building is now home to the Devil’s Rope Museum, a sprawling tribute to the history of barbed wire and fencing tools. It is a wayward cow’s worst nightmare: Bent-corner plate barb, double-plate locked link wire, Bagger’s 1876 barbed single-strand rod and — in the Rare Wire exhibit, protected from the public and overzealous collectors in a glass case — Dodge’s rotating star barb and fixed star on single strand from 1881.
In McLean, a town of about 800 east of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, the museum is a bona fide tourist attraction: Anita Seaney, the curator, said it had 6,000 visitors last year....
SOURCE: NYT (3-19-12)
PARIS — More than 70 years after ihttp://hnn.us/node/add/hnnt was plundered by the Nazis, a missing painting by Monet that depicts the shimmering blue rapids of the Creuse River has pitted two of the wealthiest and most prominent families in France against each other.
Ginette Heilbronn Moulin, 85, the chairwoman of the Galeries Lafayette department store chain, is pursuing a claim that the Wildenstein family, an international dynasty of French art dealers, is concealing information about the stolen work. The canvas, which belonged to the Heilbronn family, vanished in 1941 after a Gestapo raid on a family bank vault.
Last summer, after Ms. Moulin filed a criminal complaint against the Wildensteins, the French authorities ordered a preliminary investigation. An anti-art-trafficking squad is sifting through World War II documents to pick up the trail of the work, “Torrent de la Creuse,” Monet’s 1889 study of the confluence of the Creuse and the Petite Creuse Rivers....
AS is his habit, Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men,” is revealing few details about the fifth season of the hit series, which will return to AMC on Sunday after a 17-month absence. We don’t know if the charismatic sphinx Don Draper has married his secretary or pulled his flailing advertising firm out of the fire. But one prediction is a safe bet: Mr. Draper will dip his beak into an old-fashioned or three....
As visible as the cocktail has become, [its renewed popularity] doesn’t approach its glory days. “Its heyday was in the late 1800s, early 1900s,” Mr. Hess said. That’s also the period when the drink acquired the so-square-it’s-hip handle by which we now know it. For decades before that, it was simply called a whiskey cocktail. But when the whiz-bang bartenders of the post-Civil War days started getting too fancy with their add-ons, cocktail purists began calling for a return to sanity. (Cocktail purists seem always to be upset about the current state of the old-fashioned.)
Mr. Wondrich points to an 1886 edition of the publication Comment and Dramatic Times as the earliest known print description of the newly christened “Old Fashioned.”
“The modern cocktail has come to be so complex a beverage that people are beginning to desert it,” said the editor, Leander Richardson. “A bartender in one of the most widely known New York establishments for the dispensation of drinks was telling me the other day that there had set in an unmistakable stampede in favor of old-fashioned cocktails.” Mr. Richardson then defined what the standard-bearers were after: a drink “nearly everywhere recognized as being made with a little sugar, a little bitters, a lump of ice, a piece of twisted lemon peel and a good deal of whiskey. It has no absinthe, no chartreuse and no other flavoring extract injected into it.”...
SOURCE: WaPo (3-13-12)
The network announced Tuesday that it had made a full first-season commitment for its first scripted drama series ever — about Norse warriors — to debut in ’13.
History says that it’s ordered “Vikings” because though “they were the fiercest adventurers of all time,” their story has “never been told.”...