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: CNN (3-29-07)
Showtime's epic 10-part miniseries "The Tudors" holds court starting 10 p.m. EDT Sunday, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers cast as the unlikely lead.
And much like Henry VIII, the show's producers can't disguise their ambitions -- to produce a show that finally gets Showtime an HBO-style hit, popular both with the Emmy nobility and peasants alike. They've invested an unprecedented $38 million and have spent millions more promoting it.
"We are hoping to be back here filming for another two, three, maybe four years, because the material we have to work with is so rich and there's so much story to tell. But we must command an audience, so we have tried to make the story as modern and fabulously good-looking as we can," said executive producer Morgan O'Sullivan at the end of the 22-week shoot in Ireland.
"Sexy is the word,...
SOURCE: AP (3-28-07)
But the movie remains hidden in the Disney archives -- never released on home video in the United States and criticized as racist for its depiction of Southern plantation blacks. The film's 60th anniversary passed last year without a whisper of official rerelease, which is unusual for Disney, but CEO Bob Iger recently said the company was reconsidering.
The film's reissue would surely spark debate, but it could also sell big. Nearly 115,000 people have signed an online petition urging Disney to make the movie available on DVD, and out-of-print international copies routinely sell online for $50 to $90, some for more than $100.
Iger was answering a...
SOURCE: Reuters (3-27-07)
Author Tracy Chevalier, who won international acclaim in 2000 with her novel "Girl with a Pearl Earring" that was made into a successful film, said she is intrigued by historical figures with story ideas coming to her instinctively.
Her fifth book, "Burning Bright," tells the tale of Blake and the lives around him as he writes his famous "Songs of Innocence" in 1789.
Chevalier, 44, who was born in Washington D.C., majored in English literature at Oberlin College, Ohio, before moving to Britain where she took up work as a reference book editor - and met her English husband which whom she has an 8-year-old son.
She spoke to Reuters recently about her writing as she embarked on an eight-city tour of the United States:
Q: Why did you focus on Blake?
SOURCE: UPI (3-26-07)
Last week, it was reported that Cruise was set to play Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, who took part in a failed plot to assassinate Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, in a United Artists project. But von Stauffenberg's family, which is Catholic, is concerned that Cruise could somehow use the film to promote Scientology, The (Edinburgh) Scotsman newspaper reported Monday.
"I have nothing against (Cruise) and can even separate his work from his beliefs in Scientology," said Count Caspar Schenk von Stauffenberg, the colonel's grandson. "But I and other family members are worried that the picture will be financed by the sect and be used to get across its propaganda."
The elder von Stauffenberg was on the German general staff in 1944 when he and other officers who vowed to kill...
SOURCE: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/ (3-23-07)
In the newly published Ingrid, Charlotte Chandler tells of a lunch Bergman and Humphrey Bogart had before filming. She comments that “Ingrid remembered that the only subject they found in common was how much they both wanted to get out of Casablanca.”
Paul Henreid, newly arrived from Europe, also objected to his casting as Victor Laszlo, the underground leader and husband of Ilse, Bergman's character. He complained to his friend Bette Davis that his secondary role would harm his new career in Hollywood.
Chandler quotes Davis' reply: “You are wrong, wrong, wrong.” She went on to convince Henreid that Casablanca would be a step forward in his American career.
All three stars were concerned that the...
SOURCE: Laurel Walker at http://www.jsonline.com (Milwaukee) (3-24-07)
She pulls off her outer skirt, then layers of petticoats and frilly crinolines. She twirls in exhilaration, wearing an ankle-length, pants-like undergarment covered by a shorter skirt.
"I have never been so free in my life!" she says, spirit soaring. "I could skip! I could run! I could climb mountains!"
Or feel the loathing that Hansen-as-escaped-slave-Harriet Jacobs voices toward the slave owner who made her his sexual property. Then joy, as she sees the bill of sale that gave her freedom. And finally, bewilderment.
"A human being sold in the free state of New York?" she says indignantly.
Such is the flavor of two one-woman plays written and performed by Hansen, of Holland, Mich., about the history and growth and power of women.
SOURCE: NYT (3-24-07)
And why not? According to the show’s interpretation of that bloody conflict of the mid-1930s, which pitted political virtue against fascistic evil, the group of New Yorkers it focuses on — whose best-known members became famous as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade — were heroes indeed.
They were heroes first, the exhibition suggests, because they were among the 3,000 or so United States citizens (about a third from New York City) who defied the government’s prohibition and secretly went to Spain in 1937 to fight the forces of fascism. Some 800 lost their lives in an International Brigade...
SOURCE: Kwame Kwei-Armah at the BBC website (3-24-07)
It was a moment that changed my life. By the end of the series I had told my mother that I would one day trace my heritage back to Africa and reclaim an ancestral name. Before I watched the programme I was called Ian Roberts but now my name is Kwame Kwei-Armah.
Roots was a novel based on the writer Alex Haley's family history. It started in Africa with a young man called Kunte Kinte being captured by slavers. It followed him as he was transportedto America and sold into slavery. It then focused on his descendants all the way down to Alex Haley.
Many doubted that Roots would do well on television. David Wolper, the producer, had problems selling it to a network.
"Roots did not sound like a good idea - at the beginning, here's a story where the blacks are the heroes and the whites...
SOURCE: AP (3-23-07)
Gibson was answering questions from the crowd at California State University, Northridge, Thursday night when Alicia Estrada, an assistant professor of Central American studies, accused the actor-director of misrepresenting the Mayan culture in the movie.
Gibson directed an expletive at the woman, who was removed from the crowd.
"In no way was my question aggressive in the way that he responded to it," Estrada said. "These are questions that my peers, my colleagues, ask me every time I make a presentation. These are questions I pose to my students in the classroom."
Gibson's publicist, Alan Nierob, characterized the professor as "a heckler."
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (3-23-07)
So begins many an adventure for the Monkey King, a belligerent but lovable monkey spirit who has charmed millions of Chinese - and British audiences in the early 1980s -- with his exploits en route to India with Pigsy, Sandy and a monk to find Buddha's scrolls and, they hope, enlightenment.
The Monkey King is the main character in "Journey to the West", a ribald Chinese folk tale by Wu Cheng'en, written more than 500 years ago during the Ming Dynasty and hugely popular ever since.
It seems everyone is going Monkey mad again these days, so expect plenty of airborne kung-fu action, deities flying on candy-coloured clouds and broken cardboard furniture on a screen near you. Or even at the opera.
Damon Albarn - of Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, the...
SOURCE: Victor Davis Hanson in National Review (3-22-07)
Here are some answers. But first two qualifiers. I wrote an introduction to a book about the making of 300 after being shown a rough cut of the movie in October. And, second, remember that 300 does not claim to follow exactly ancient accounts of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Instead, it is an impressionistic take on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, intended to entertain and shock first, and instruct second.
Indeed, at the real battle, there weren't rhinoceroses or elephants in the Persian army. Their king, Xerxes, was bearded and sat on a throne high above the battle; he wasn't, as in the movie, bald and sexually ambiguous, and he didn't prance around the killing field. And neither the traitor Ephialtes nor the...
SOURCE: FrontpageMag.com (3-22-07)
But what has been interesting about much of the battle over 300 is not the negative reviews-- that’s been going on since Dirty Harry inspired revulsion among the cognoscenti who used the word “fascist” with more unanimity against it than at any time since Mussolini hit the end of the rope. No, what is unusual is the psy-ops aimed at blunting the movie’s message, which is uniformly one about freedom v. slavery, rationality v. evil mysticism, and independence v. subordination.
Many of you no doubt saw the Drudge headline the weekend before the film’s opening: “BATTLE OF BUSH?: NEW MOVIE RAISES EYEBROWS WITH '...
SOURCE: Canadian University Press (3-20-07)
"Oh, I have to see it because I know my students will want to know more about it in the fall," Falkner said.
Falkner believes any interest generated in learning about ancient cultures is a positive thing, but said adaptations are often rife with historical inaccuracies that, left unexamined, can leave people with the wrong impression.
"Whenever I see these kinds of films, the history side of me is dissatisfied," Falkner said. "Sometimes it's the result of trying to compress so much into two or two-and-a-half hours. Sometimes it's an artistic thing - that's the nature of movie-making."...
SOURCE: UPI (3-19-07)
Brian Fillis has been hired to develop the screenplay, which is expected to key on Thatcher's decision to take Britain to war against Argentina over the Falklands in 1982 at a time when her popularity was at its lowest, Daily Variety said Monday...
The film project about Britain's so-called "Iron Lady" is being pursued by Pathe, the company that helped produce "The Queen," in conjunction with the BBC and independent producer Damian Jones, best known for "The History Boys."
SOURCE: NYT (3-20-07)
Rather than dwelling on William Wilberforce, the feisty abolitionist who drove the reform through the British Parliament and is the subject of the film “Amazing Grace,” these shows are highlighting a far uglier back story: Britain’s deep engagement in the slave trade in earlier centuries and the fundamental role this played in forging the nation’s wealth and power.
With the support of the government and a $20 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, national museums and community groups across Britain have begun re-examining what a new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London calls these “Uncomfortable Truths.”
SOURCE: Gregory McNamee at the Britannica Blog (3-20-07)
The standard run of children’s literature, in America’s dawning Cold War era, was pretty dull stuff, full of portent about what would happen to Tommy and Betty and Mommy and Daddy if such rituals as washing one’s hands in intervals befitting Howard Hughes were not observed. (For one thing, I suppose, the body snatchers would come.) And so it was that by 1954, social reformers were bemoaning a rising incidence of illiteracy in the nation—as well as another odd development, namely that children seemed to prefer television or radio to books.
The reason, ventured author John Hersey in a widely circulated article in Life, was that writing for the youngest tier of readers was plodding, pedantic, moralizing, and altogether stultifying, as well as “antiseptic” and, like Hughes’s hands, “...
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald (3-19-07)
The story has considerable relevance because of efforts by the Italian right to rehabilitate the dictator and portray him as a good family man and an essentially harmless, if occasionally misguided, authoritarian. His political heirs are to be found in the "post-fascist" National Alliance, the second-biggest party in the coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi that governed Italy until last year.
Although it was known Mussolini had had a relationship with Dalser before World War I, the evidence for a marriage and the existence of their son was brought to...
SOURCE: Reuters (3-19-07)
According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, Warner Bros. Pictures' war epic sold $31.2 million worth of tickets in the three days beginning on March 16, taking its 10-day haul to $127.4 million. The Time Warner Inc.-owned studio expects the film to hit $200 million.
``300'' was also No. 1 overseas, earning $15.6 million from chart-topping stands in 13 countries, mostly in Asia. The foreign total stands at $24.6 million, with Greece supplying $7 million, not surprising given the film's setting. It opens next weekend in such markets as Britain, France, Spain and Mexico.
SOURCE: Guardian (3-11-07)
Strange enough that the state has gone, with its flag and anthem and uniforms. But how can I accept that I will never again breathe that whiff which said: You are entering 'Stasiland', and nowhere else on earth? Can a republic of 17 million people, 300,000 secret policemen or informers and five million personal files melt away without leaving even a tang in the air?
But The Lives of Others, the masterly film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, is almost as...
SOURCE: James Langton in the Sunday Telegraph (UK) (3-17-07)
The controversial portrait of pioneer life in 17th-century Jamestown has become a central part of this year's 400th anniversary of the colony, whose settlement led directly to the birth of the world's most powerful nation.
When the Queen arrives in Virginia as guest of honour in early May, she will find that organisers have banned plans for a "celebration", instead calling the event a "commemoration" after black and Indian members of the organising committee branded Jamestown "an invasion".
An exhibition by the US National Park Service, which manages the land on which the original settlement was built, plays down the achievements of the first 107 settlers, who brought with them the English language and the traditions of English justice and common law that still...