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 (10-26-11)
It may be the least-publicized revolution of our time but the one whose impact ultimately reaches the furthest, affecting the way our buildings and buses are built, the way our schools are structured, the way our businesses conduct hiring and outfit their work stations. It’s the disability-rights movement, and “Lives Worth Living,” a Thursday “Independent Lens” on PBS, reconstructs how it emerged and eventually pushed through the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
The film opens with images from the past that are chillingly grim, especially those from the Willowbrook State School for children with intellectual disabilities on Staten Island, a nightmarish place exposed by, among others, a young television reporter named Geraldo Rivera in 1972. (Recent headlines have made clear that, four decades later, such problems persist in some places.) “There was a belief,” Ann Ford, director of the Illinois chapter of the National Council on Independent Living, says bluntly, “that if you had a disability, you didn’t have any desire to live a life.”
It was the return of injured veterans from World War II that began to shake that assumption. The veterans, viewed as heroes, were not being written off, and those born with disabilities started to think that they shouldn’t be either. The filmmakers interview some of the central figures in the formation of the movement, who talk about learning from the feminist and civil rights causes. Oddly, buses were again important, as Bob Kafka of the group Adapt notes....
SOURCE: WSJ (10-27-11)
The tale of the building of the transcontinental railroad, the steel band that wed the metropolitan East to the frontier West, is among the greatest in American history.
“It was the moon launch of its time,” says Chuck Vollan, assistant professor of history at South Dakota State University — an epic feat of engineering, human effort and national resolve. William G. Thomas, history professor at University of Nebraska and author of the new book “The Iron Way,” concurs, but adds that if anything, its impact was even more immediate and dramatic. “In a few short years, the railroad transformed society in ways that people of the time could never have imagined,” Thomas says. “It completely revolutionized communications and commerce. For people of that era, the railroad was the Internet.”
That’s why the announcement by AMC — the cable channel responsible for “Mad Men” and the breakout zom-drom hit “The Walking Dead” — that its next big original series, titled “Hell on Wheels,” would be set against the backdrop of the railroad’s construction triggered a surge of interest and hope in the Asian-American community. AMC at first indicated that the stories of Chinese Americans would not be part of the series. But in a statement sent to Speakeasy, the creators of the series now say they may broaden the show in coming seasons....
SOURCE: NBC News (11-12-11)
In Hall’s new Broadway play The Mountaintop, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, Dr. Martin Luther King receives no special treatment. The Reverend King is stripped of his superhero status and portrayed as a man who smoked, drank and was a shameless flirt. He has holes in his socks and his feet smell. One moment he's a grand orator and lecturer; the next he’s chauvinistic and self-assured, at times even acutely paranoid, grave and forsaken.
"It just brings him to life," Hall says, "and brings back the desire to push forward and continue his legacy, and rethink where we are as human beings, where we are as Memphians. He's not a statue."
SOURCE: Windsor Star (10-8-11)
Two centuries after the fact, a PBS-TV producer has decided to set the record straight on the War of 1812 for an American audience.
Larry Hott's two-hour documentary, The War of 1812, airing Monday at 9 p.m. on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56, promises to open a lot of eyes south of the border about what is a forgotten and ignored war in American history books.
It was a learning experience for the filmmaker himself.
"When we were asked to make this film, all we knew about the war was that it happened in 1812," said Hott, who co-produced and directed the film for the Buffalo, N.Y., PBS affiliate, WNED-TV .
To Americans, the War of 1812 is little more than a footnote.
"It's really misunderstood," said Hott. "If you see it mentioned at all in books, it's usually about the mythology that came out of it."...
SOURCE: Lee P. Ruddin (10-11-11)
Lee P. Ruddin is Roundup Editor at HNN.
There has been a great fanfare surrounding the cinematic release of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, “the anti-Bond movie par excellence,” according to the Independent. The 127-minute film, says the Daily Record, is a “slow-brewing, elegant retelling of John Le Carré’s Cold War novel.” The Guardian even goes as far as to suggest that Tomas Alfredson’s work is “the film to beat at [the Venice] festival.” Yet “things aren’t always what they seem,” as Toby Easterhase says to George Smiley, the main protagonist. While it features the “best British line-up” of the year, talk of “damn fine acting” (Total Film), an “utterly absorbing” storyline (Empire) and “engrossing thriller” (Telegraph) reminds this cinemagoer more of The Devil’s Double.
I say this not because Lee Tamarhori’s flick about a drug-fueled, diabolically-unhinged dictator’s son and his “fiday” contains a riveting double performance by Dominic Cooper. Nor do I for the reason that the director has produced an absorbing thriller about (and based on the memoir by) lookalike army lieutenant, Latif Yahia, who is summoned to Baghdad near the end of the Iran-Iraq War and forcibly recruited to serve the role of body-double for Uday Hussein. But rather since viewers receive a valuable history lesson of what was, in effect, Tikriti Iraq (much like how Arabia became Saudi Arabia under Abdul-Aziz bin Saud).
Granted, the ending – which comes around thirty minutes too late – could be said to indulge in a radical historical rewrite with the one-time slave taking revenge on his former master. (While Uday was confined to a wheelchair after a gunman fired eight bullets into him at point-blank range, the 1996 assassination attempt was attributed to a group calling itself al-Nahdah or “the awakening” – a cabal of Iraqi intellectuals that rose up in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.) The suggestion that Uday’s staff (including Raad Rawi as his security chief) might not have his best interests at heart is also fanciful. While the less said about Michael Thomas’ script, especially with regard to not portraying Papa Hussein in an unfavourable light, the better.
Saddam was, to be sure, his son’s main influence notwithstanding his few brief appearances to the contrary. You need only read the book Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq, for instance, to see that Uday learned the art of rape and murder from his father: “We once came upon Saddam Hussein’s men in black Mercedes limousines chasing two young women,” author Kanan Makiya writes. “They hit them and drove over the girls a few times. Then they dragged the bodies to the Tigris River. When Uday asked the men what was going on he grin[ned] and [said], ‘Whores of my father’.”
Despite the aforementioned, however, and what Latif says about the movie being only “20%” truthful, incidents such as Uday raping Miss Baghdad and then ordering Latif to kill her father and a newlywed jumping to her death after she was abducted and defiled are accurate. So, too, is the one surrounding his killing of his father’s favourite bodyguard and food taster in 1988; as is the one involving Latif’s convoy getting ambushed during the rebellion when visiting troops fighting rebels in Basra. Thomas, meanwhile, deserves particular praise for the way Uday’s outlandish and murderous behaviour becomes a microcosm of the Husseins’ reign of terror more generally. The Baathist state systematically invaded its citizens’ privacy, let us not forget, using rape rooms and lashings to breed fear among Iraqis and to maintain its stranglehold over the populace.
For me at least, though, it is the insight offered into how Latif kept the regime ticking over by making public appearances as Uday when Saddam’s heir needed to appear leader-like which is invaluable. (He is filmed in Kuwait, for example, keeping morale up as Uday watches on, admiring “his” performance on TV.) Talking of which, those who question the intelligence – justifiably, many would say – which undergirded the 2003 war and the act of regime change should bear in mind who would have become the sixth president of Iraq. Thankfully, Cooper saves this reviewer from delving into the hotly-contested world of counterfactual history by reminding us about “the rumor before the war that removing Saddam was a dangerous thing because this guy who was his son was even more dangerous. And I remember being scared by that as a youngster,” Cooper adds, “[g]enuinely scared! ‘Someone worse than Saddam?’.”
Cooper had every reason to be terrified since, according to a report in The Times, Uday conspired to assassinate the leader of the Iraqi opposition on the streets of London just three years before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched; the aborted April 2000 plot included an elite recruit in the Fedayeen paramilitary group killing Ahmed Chalabi, the figurehead of the Iraqi National Congress. Uday was “undoubtedly the wealthiest man in Iraq”, according to Con Coughlin, whose fortune came from reselling humanitarian aid allocated by the United Nations on the black market as well as from intensifying Iraq’s oil-smuggling operation with the mullahs in neighbouring Iran. But it was his links with al-Qaeda, Coughlin writes in Saddam: The Secret Life, which was the most disturbing. “In April 1998,” the Telegraph's executive foreign editor informs us, “bin Laden … sent a delegation of his al-Qaeda fighters to attend [Uday’s] birthday celebrations [who, in turn,] responded to this gracious gesture by agreeing to train a number of … recruits in Iraq.”
Even if not “everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda,” as commentator Charles Krauthammer posits in his Washington Post op-ed, “From Baghdad to Benghazi,” or, as Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens writes, “(Almost) … Neocon[…] Now,” we should all be grateful – the devil’s double included despite not having his day in court – for Bush ridding the world of Saddam and Uday, nothing but double trouble and a right pair of devils. With this in mind, cinemagoers can sit back and enjoy what could – indeed should – pip Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to Best Picture at next year’s Oscars.
SOURCE: NYT (10-7-11)
For a time in the mid-to-late 1920s the art of the cinema meant only one thing to the serious-minded film critics of America and Europe: Soviet-style montage, or the art of cutting shots together in a way that would produce ideas and emotions beyond those expressed in the images themselves.
The concepts could be simple ones, as in Lev Kuleshov’s famous experiments: the same close-up of a man looking into the camera could equal “fatherly love” when juxtaposed with the image of a baby, or “empty stomach” when juxtaposed with the image of a loaf of bread.
Or montage could be pushed to elaborate, symphonic heights, as in the celebrated “Odessa Steps” sequence of Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin.” Playing contrasts in content (czarist soldiers versus protesting townspeople), composition (slashing diagonals versus stable triangles) and rhythm (the relentless march of the soldiers, the aimless bounce of the abandoned baby carriage) against each other, Eisenstein achieves a fuguelike effect of enormous complexity and emotional power.
The limitations of the technique lie in its fundamentally Pavlovian treatment of the spectator as a passive lump whose feelings can (and, as far as the more propagandistic filmmakers were concerned, should) be manipulated by the iron hand of the director....
The montage vogue did not last long.... But the fascination of this road not much taken remains, as reflected in Kino’s recent Blu-ray releases of Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” and his first feature, “Strike,” and now by a boxed set of eight films from Flicker Alley, “Landmarks of Early Soviet Film.”
SOURCE: NYT (10-3-11)
PARIS — The stories of the Holocaust have been documented, distorted, clarified and filtered through memory. Yet new stories keep coming, occasionally altering the grand, incomplete mosaic of Holocaust history.
One of them, dramatized in a French film released here last week, focuses on an unlikely savior of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France: the rector of a Paris mosque.
Muslims, it seems, rescued Jews from the Nazis.
“Les Hommes Libres” (“Free Men”) is a tale of courage not found in French textbooks. According to the story, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the founder and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, provided refuge and certificates of Muslim identity to a small number of Jews to allow them to evade arrest and deportation....
SOURCE: The Root (9-24-11)
Richard T. Watkins was a sophomore at Morehouse College in 1968.
There could be no better choice than actor Samuel L. Jackson to portray Martin Luther King Jr. in the upcoming Broadway play The Mountaintop. Jackson was a student at King's alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, that fateful April evening in 1968 when the civil rights leader was assassinated. The actor acknowledges that his life and career were profoundly affected by that event.
It will be Jackson's Broadway debut, in a role he relishes. The play takes place on April 3, 1968, the night before the civil rights leader was slain. The plot follows King back to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., after his prophetic "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech. There he confronts his legacy shortly before death.
A Night to Remember
The evening 45 years ago when the awful news of King's assassination was broadcast is permanently etched in the memories of all of us who attended Morehouse at the time. "I was angry about the assassination but not shocked by it," Jackson, who'd been a budding social activist at the time, later told Parade magazine....
SOURCE: NYT (9-24-11)
TO the fans who thought they knew him George Harrison was both omnipresent and enigmatic. Of the four members of the world’s most famous band, the Beatles, Harrison made the least effort at being a public figure, and though he shared himself in recordings as disparate as the catchy pop of “Taxman,” the desolate strains of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and an album of spiritual chants and music that he produced for the Radha Krishna Temple, he could be inscrutable and distant behind it all. Even as he sang “Got My Mind Set on You,” his consciousness seemed to be focused somewhere else entirely.
whether he was recording his first sitar lesson with Ravi Shankar or retaining fully packed suitcases from trips abroad that he kept as time capsules. But he wasn’t concerned with how posterity would regard him.
“When he used to be asked how he’d like to be remembered, he said, ‘I don’t care, I don’t care if I’m remembered,’ ” Ms. Harrison said in an interview, affectionately imitating George’s clenched Liverpool accent. “And I really think he meant that. Not in a sarcastic way, but it’s like: Why do you have to be remembered? What’s the big deal?”
These many sides of Harrison — the artist and the archivist; the mystic and the mystery — are all on display in a new documentary, “George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” directed by Martin Scorsese, which HBO will show in two parts on Oct. 5 and 6....
SOURCE: Special to HNN (09-24-11)
Lee P. Ruddin is Roundup Editor at HNN.
The days of a commander in chief going down the United Nations route to help a prime minister placate domestic opposition to war, as George W. Bush did with Tony Blair in 2002, are over, notwithstanding what historian James Ellison says in the current edition of BBC Knowledge about the future of the ‘Special Relationship’ looking bright (“Old Friends,” Sep/Oct 2011).
Do not get me wrong, Ellison competently examines the past and present of Anglo-American relations. But he overlooks the fact that, for all President Obama’s talk of an “extraordinary special relationship” during a brief meeting at the UN HQ in New York, forthcoming government defence cuts will mean a decline in Britain’s ‘hard’ power. This is a worrying development since the blood price is an essential part of the deal between London and Washington.
It is not as if the ‘Old Country’s’ diplomatic clout will compensate for its military downsizing, either, since, as Ellison reminds readers, the American “colossus is now not so inexperienced.” Make no mistake about it, the ‘soft’ power days of Athens tutoring Rome — such as when British ambassador David Ormsby-Gore proposed JFK move the line of interception closer to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis or when Foreign & Commonwealth Office mandarin Thomas Brimelow helped to redraft a treaty document for Henry Kissinger to a Soviet proposal for a renunciation of nuclear weapons — are also a thing of the past.
As distressing as this is to Atlanticists, though, such days pale into insignificance when compared with those of the 1920s and ‘30s when ‘War Plan Red’ (or Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan — Red, to give it its official title) was developed and approved. While the American strategy to bomb cities in the British dominion of Canada was officially withdrawn in 1939 and declassified in 1974, the Channel Five documentary “America’s Planned War on Britain” is worth watching, if only to see military experts work through the plans as a war game and reveal who would have won if Great Britain’s greatest ally had ever become its worst enemy.
For those who have not heard of the document before, or know comparatively little about it, ‘War Plan Red’ was a color-coded plan to eliminate all British land forces in North America as well as the empire’s naval forces in the North Atlantic. The United States (blue) devised several contingencies against a repertoire of potential adversaries, including Japan (‘War Plan Orange’), Mexico (‘War Plan Green’), South Africa (‘War Plan Purple’), Germany (‘War Plan Black’), the Caribbean republics (‘War Plan Grey’), China (‘War Plan Yellow’), and the Philippines (‘War Plan Brown’). A further one was also developed by military planners to combat a domestic uprising (‘War Plan White’).
‘War Plan Red’ spoke of “the destruction of British trade, bringing her to the point of economic exhaustion.” It describes the national characteristics of the “red race” as “more or less phlegmatic but determined or persistent when committed to a policy and [was] noted for its ability to fight to a finish.” As such, author General Douglas MacArthur felt it necessary to authorise the use of chemical weapons before signing it off. As difficult as it is to imagine an Anglo-American conflagration at the time Hitler and Hirohito were sitting pretty in the Reich Chancellery and Imperial Palace respectively, the plans were not, Christopher M. Bell informs subscribers of The International History Review (vol. 19, no. 4, 1997), “the product of [military planners’] over-active imaginations”.
Given that the author reminds historians to treat such a contingency as “serious,” we need to ask ourselves — especially in light of the fact that both navies subscribed to Alfred Thayer Mahan’s concept of “sea power” and the control of seaborne commerce — why a war did not break out when there are so many other examples of this occurring between rising and declining powers? The answer, in short, boils down to the statecraft of two leaders during the interwar period: Neville Chamberlain and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Granted, Chamberlain forever held the belief that it was erroneous to break the long-standing alliance with Japan in 1922 to accommodate American concerns in the Washington Naval Treaty. Yet redirecting readers of Diplomacy & Statecraft (vol. 13, no. 1, 2002), as Greg Kennedy does, to look at Chamberlain’s stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer as a way to understand his anti-Americanism reinforces the popular myth and flies in the face of academic scholarship. Indeed, as Alan P. Dobson, author of Anglo-American Relations in the Twentieth Century: The Politics and Diplomacy of Superpowers, stresses, he “agreed to … what was a rather unsatisfactory trade agreement [in 1938] for Britain in order to bring the two countries closer together” (my emphasis). Ritchie Ovendale, author of Anglo-American Relations in the Twentieth Century, confirms as much and even goes as far as to suggest that “on a diplomatic level, before the outbreak of the Second World War, a ‘special relationship’ did exist” (my emphasis) between Messrs. Chamberlain and Roosevelt.
While few historians would question Roosevelt’s role as one of the founding fathers (together with Winston Spencer Churchill) of the ‘special relationship’ during World War Two, many commentators do question his Anglo-American credentials during the interwar period. Such thinking is in no small measure related to the work published by Roosevelt’s son, Elliott. Penned in 1946, As He Saw It posits that the 32nd President viewed Great Britain and its imperial “system” as a far greater threat than Soviet imperialism. Yet, as Tony McCulloch illustrates in the Journal of Transatlantic Studies (vol. 8, no. 3, 2010), FDR’s ideological commitment to cooperation can be dated back to his first term, in January 1936 to be exact, more than four years before WSC became prime minister and more than five before the signing of the Atlantic Charter in August 1941.
Given that this is something under-illuminated in the hour-long programme which features Dobson (and to a lesser degree) Kennedy, producers would have been better to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Atlantic Charter, a milestone that passed almost unnoticed. “This is a pity,” writes Jean-Pierre Lehmann in The Globalist, “as it stands out as one of history’s most remarkable documents” — something that cannot necessarily be said for ‘War Plan Red’.
SOURCE: NYT (9-13-11)
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — When Republicans gathered at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum here for the presidential debate last week, the backdrop was an overhauled exhibition on the Reagan presidency, done under the watchful eye of Nancy Reagan. It is intended, in part, to be a more complete depiction of the Reagan presidency, replacing one that many had seen as a bit too worshipful and airbrushed.
But another exhibition that just opened at yet another presidential museum not far away — the Watergate installation at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda — has offered a stark challenge to the Reagan tribute here, exposing both the different ways that these two museums have chosen to remember their subjects and the different positions that the two former presidents hold in the nation’s and the Republican Party’s memory.
“The Reagan library is the way presidential libraries have been in the past,” said Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California, Irvine. “The Nixon library represents the new kind of museum that presents more of an historic view, warts and all.”
The Watergate exhibition is so detailed, searing and unapologetic — “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” asks a panel that greets visitors — that it was shunned by Nixon loyalists. They did not attend the opening ceremony this year and provided it no financial support, and last week, one museum docent resigned his post in protest.
By contrast, the revamped Reagan library — “He fought for freedom; he set out to change the nation,” attendees are informed in the introductory film — was financed and developed by the Reagan Foundation. Mrs. Reagan approved much of the content, library officials said. Attendees at the invitation-only debate of the presidential candidates were encouraged to view the display, which opened to the public in February....
SOURCE: AP (9-11-11)
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Dr. Stan Harn glances over his spread of primitive dental tools and grabs a T-shaped metal instrument with a hook on one end.
This, he explains, is a turnkey. It looks like, and may have inspired, the modern-day basin wrench. The metal hook goes into a patient's mouth and latches onto a damaged tooth. The dentist clutches the handle and twists. Turn too hard and patients could — and sometimes did — lose a piece of jaw.
"You can see the amount of torque it generates," Harn said. "It was brutal."
The turnkey is arguably the most cringe-inducing tool in a University of Nebraska Medical Center collection that includes foot-powered drills, wartime dental chairs and X-ray machines with exposed wiring. The College of Dentistry will show off such tools at its free, once-a-year museum that will be open Monday through Saturday in Lincoln....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (9-1-11)
As a singer with one of the most enduring careers in pop, Madonna is a dab hand at reinvention.
Which is why she feels uniquely placed to transform the image of Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee whose love affair with King Edward VIII plunged the monarchy into crisis.
Madonna has written and directed a new film, W.E., which recasts Mrs Simpson as a romantic heroine and Queen Elizabeth as the bitchy sister-in-law.
Explaining why she had made W.E. - the name is based on the couple’s monogrammed initials - Madonna said: “Wallis Simpson was much maligned in history books. I think people didn’t understand the choice the King made to give up his position and it changed English history - it changed the history of the world in many ways....
SOURCE: NYT (8-23-11)
A giant 4,000-year-old Egyptian visitor looms over the crowd of live humans milling antlike throughout the vast entry hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is an extraordinary specimen of regal manhood. Carved from a single block of dark gray granodiorite, he sits in a form-fitting kilt on a cubic throne covered by hieroglyphics. He has the broad shoulders, narrow waist and muscular legs of a well-developed athlete. Sporting a headdress of folded striped fabric, he gazes out over the masses with imperturbable self-assurance and open eyes set in a round, youthful face. He is as thrilling as anything in the Met’s great Egyptian collection.
Scholars think this 10-foot tall, almost nine-ton monument originally portrayed the 12th-dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat II, who reigned from about 1919 to 1885 B.C. Later artists evidently altered the facial features to make him more like Ramesses II, the king who ruled from about 1279 to 1213 B.C. He has belonged to Berlin’s Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection since 1837. But now the courtyard in Germany where he usually presides is under reconstruction, so he will be a guest of honor in New York for the next 10 years.
Ancient Egyptian art has captivated Western imaginations for a long time. It inspired the ancient Greeks and Romans and the artists and intellectuals of the European Renaissance. In the 19th century it caused a veritable epidemic of Egyptomania, which infected Art Deco design in the 20th century, along with scores of scary movies, from “The Mummy” of 1932 to “The Mummy” of 1999....
SOURCE: NYT (7-30-11)
LUBBOCK — A century ago, Texas was covered with windmills, which pumped water from aquifers so cattle could drink and gardens could grow. Thousands of these old-style models still exist in remote pastures, but in recent years far taller and more powerful turbines have sprouted atop western mesas, transforming this oil and gas state into the national leader in wind-generated electrical power.
This evolution is on display at the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, which bills itself as the world’s largest windmill museum. Dozens of old, clanking windmills occupy the grounds of a small, breezy hilltop, irrigating the grass, while a 165-foot-tall modern turbine, made by the Danish company Vestas, towers in the background and supplies the museum’s electricity. Long, sleek blades from another monster turbine, the first manufactured by General Electric, lie along the edge of the parking lot, awaiting the construction of a new wing the proprietors hope to build, finances permitting....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (7-22-11)
What do you associate with summer blockbuster movies? Non-stop action, special effects, superhero exploits? Probably. But it’s fair to say that nostalgia and a sense of history wouldn’t be high on anyone’s list.
Which makes this summer’s crop of “tentpole” films somewhat unusual. None of them would quite qualify as sepia-tinted; yet at least four significant titles cast one eye back to a bygone age.
The most notable example is Super 8 (opening August 5), set in 1979 in a small Ohio town, where a group of preteens are making their own short movie, a zombie flick with masses of fake blood. Shooting at night, they watch a freight train passing through town; it’s derailed, and then explodes spectacularly. As witnesses, they find themselves being pursued by sinister adults, possibly from the military, eager to question them about the incident.
Shades of E.T. there, of course – and it’s no surprise to learn that Steven Spielberg is its producer. But its prime mover is its writer-director JJ Abrams, the man who created Lost and breathed new life into the ailing Star Trek franchise....
SOURCE: LA Times (7-17-11)
In a wide-ranging trip to Europe this year, I found three major new museums to love: in Amsterdam, the first satellite branch of Russia's celebrated Hermitage; in Rome, a long-awaited museum for contemporary arts that is a work of art itself; and in Paris, a picture gallery with a constantly changing program of special exhibitions meant to shake up the enterprise of art appreciation.
The Hermitage Amsterdam
The Hermitage, begun by Empress Catherine II in 1764, has 350 galleries in a series of decaying royal palaces near the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. But even they aren't enough to display the collection, 3 million artworks strong. When I visited the Hermitage during a long Russian winter some years go, many rooms were closed, and the heating system was so deficient that docents sat guard in coats and gloves.
Creating a satellite to display excess treasures from the Hermitage is an idea whose time has come, following in the footsteps of other museums with lesser collections, such as the Pompidou, now in the French town of Metz as well as in Paris, and the Guggenheim, which has planted offshoots in Venice, Italy; Berlin; Bilbao, Spain; and Abu Dhabi. Income from the Hermitage Amsterdam, a private institution, will help with upkeep at the Russian mother ship....
SOURCE: Star Tribune (7-14-11)
Hollywood doesn't know Jack.
"The Kennedys," the miniseries that was rejected by numerous networks until a St. Paul-based company scooped it up, received 10 Emmy nominations Thursday, including a nod for best miniseries or movie.
It was the payoff to a gamble taken by Hubbard Broadcasting's ReelzChannel, which had previously never been a factor in the Emmy race. Stan E. Hubbard, CEO of the company, invested $10 million in an ad campaign, more than Reelz had ever spent in an entire year.
In addition to a nod in the top category, Greg Kinnear (who played JFK) will compete for outstanding actor in a movie, and Tom Wilkinson was recognized in the supporting-actor race....
SOURCE: NYT (7-13-11)
“The Curious Case of Curt Flood,” a new HBO Sports documentary (Wednesday, 9 p.m.), raises a tantalizing question: what if Flood’s legal challenge to baseball’s reserve clause had had a better advocate before the United States Supreme Court than Arthur J. Goldberg, a former associate justice?
Flood lost the case by a 5-to-3 vote. Would a better argument have swayed two justices to rule against Major League Baseball? Had Flood won, free agency would probably have arrived a few years before it was achieved in arbitrators’ rulings in favor of Catfish Hunter, and for Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.
Goldberg looked like an ideal choice to deliver an oral argument before some of his former colleagues on the court. He was a successful labor lawyer and former general counsel to the United Steelworkers of America. He was a baseball fan who carried a coffee urn as a vendor at Wrigley Field in the 1920s.
Flood needed a lawyer who could deftly argue against the reserve clause, which tied players unilaterally to their teams until they traded or discarded them. Players had no rights to sell themselves to the highest bidders in this relationship, as Flood learned when he was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1969 to the Philadelphia Phillies. He refused to report to the Phillies, starting him on his legal odyssey....
SOURCE: WSJ (7-1-11)
If you take into account her image on stamps, coins and banknotes, Queen Elizabeth II is the most depicted person in all human history.
"Since her birth in 1926," says art historian Paul Moorhouse, in his introduction to the catalog of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition celebrating the queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, "she has been portrayed more frequently than any other sitter in history."
Part of the reason is her longevity. In modern times, only one other monarch, Queen Victoria, has achieved her 60th jubilee. In his own catalog essay to the show, "The Queen: Art & Image" (starting its national tour at Edinburgh's National Gallery of Scotland), historian David Cannadine points out that the queen is also "the only British monarch yet to complete the grand ceremonial and commemorative slam of a Silver, a Golden and a Diamond Jubilee."
The other part of the story is that, during her reign, the means of making, mass-producing and disseminating images has gone from photography to the Internet....