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: Guardian (8-19-08)
Three years on, the result, called God On Trial, airs on BBC2 early next month. As courtroom dramas go, the story has its drawbacks: the accused is not going to break down under cross-examination, or confess all in tears. On the other hand, as Redhead pointed out, both the World Trade Centre...
SOURCE: Japan Times (8-17-08)
In this way documentary film director Tomoko Fujiwara characterizes her moving tribute to the life of Beate Sirota Gordon and her relatives. "Sirotake no 20-Seiki (The Sirota Family and the 20th Century)" will be screened in a three-week season at Iwanami Hall in Tokyo beginning Sept. 27. However, the film and its story deserve a much wider audience, both in Japan and overseas.
Beate Sirota, to use her maiden name, is the woman known for composing, in 1946, Article 24 of the Japanese Constitution, establishing full rights for women in all matters dealing with marriage and family. But her story begins long before, and Fujiwara meticulously traces it back to the town of her ancestors' birth.
Kamianets-Podilskyi lies just north of the Moldavian border in Ukraine. At the crossroads of Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Ottoman Turkish cultures, this is where her...
SOURCE: CNN (8-17-08)
That music was jazz.
Today, Jaspects, an Atlanta-based group of young musicians who were born in the hip-hop era, fuse rap and jazz melodies to introduce younger audiences to jazz and the broader ideas regarding African-American society.
For Jaspects, whose music has appeared in the movie "Hustle & Flow" and recently was featured in the CNN documentary series "Black in America," the lessons of jazz go beyond its artistic merits to questions about the ownership and control of black music in general.
Veteran saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, says that the music called jazz today began as a voice of the repressed....
SOURCE: Observer (UK) (8-17-08)
In the seclusion of Mells Park in Somerset, and unknown to all but a few invited guests, Thabo Mbeki, then a dissident member of the African National Congress and now President of his country, met representatives of the white regime he hated.
Work has just finished on a film that will tell the story of these meetings for the first time. Endgame, a political thriller shot in England and South Africa, stars the Hollywood actor William Hurt as Willie Esterhuyse, who represented P.W. Botha's government, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the award-winning British actor, as Mbeki. The two opposing politicians, who remain friends to this day, formed a strong bond in these discussions that...
SOURCE: Telegraph (8-17-08)
Claus von Stauffenberg was a 'good German' amid a nation of demonised villains. An extraordinarily brave soldier and a charismatic leader, his attempt to kill Hitler on 20 July at the Nazi leader's eastern HQ - known as the 'Wolf's Lair' - will receive the Hollywood...
SOURCE: WaPo (8-16-08)
"I must warn you not to use the spindles for support," says Peter Bergman, leading a visitor on a tour. "And mind your left shoulder on the overhang at the top."
"Are these the stairs, where . . . ?" asks the visitor.
"There's only one set of stairs in this house," he replies.
SOURCE: Times (8-15-08)
During the Second World War Fleming worked as personal assistant to John Godfrey, the hard-driving head of Naval Intelligence, who was Fleming’s model for M in the Bond series.
Part of Fleming’s job was to liaise with General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), America’s newly minted wartime answer to MI6. The two men got on extremely well, and when Donovan was preparing plans for a new American intelligence service in 1941, he asked Fleming to write him a blueprint.
Fleming’s 72-page memo on how a US service might look contains a description of the ideal secret agent, which has strong echoes of James Bond (although Fleming would not sit down to write the Bond books for another decade).
The perfect secret agent, wrote Fleming, “must have trained powers of observation, analysis and...
SOURCE: Salon.com (8-14-08)
He was no longer with his wife, seated beside him on the stage; no longer with his comrades. In his mind, he was back on the battlefield, killing his enemy — the price of years of combat stress from witnessing war's horrors.
In this "Theater of War," the wounds date back millennia and the words spoken by actors are translated from Greek, but they speak to Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans and the doctors and therapists who treat them.
"I wanted to keep the pain to myself, son, but now it cuts straight through me. Do you understand? It cuts straight through me," the lead character in the play "Philoctetes" tells a comrade.
Those hidden wounds and their effect on family members and caregivers were the focus of the Greek readings at a three-day...
SOURCE: Times (8-14-08)
And far worse. Even by the stomach-curdling standards of the US director-maker of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs the new film is a veritable blood bath.
Filming starts in Berlin on October 13 and the controversial director is already in the German capital making his final casting decisions. The star role is to be played by Brad Pitt. His character, Lieutenant Aldo Raine, leads a group of American Jewish soldiers who are dropped into Nazi-occupied Europe to wreak revenge on the Germans and destroy their morale.
The tone of the film, provisionally entitled Inglorious Bastards, is set early on by Lieutenant Raine in a pep speech to his men. According to a leaked version of the script, the officer says: "Every man under my...
SOURCE: NYT (8-12-08)
Now, five years later, the museum is cutting the ribbon on Wednesday on the first completed phase of a building project intended to give the institution, on Fifth Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets, more space and greater visibility. It is also a symbol of its renewal.
“The transformation of the museum has been both physical and mission-driven,” Ms. Jones said in an interview. “The structural renovation supports our goals.”
Those goals include becoming a more attention-getting destination, on a par with city museums around the world. This is no small challenge.
“We’ve always been the poor sister to the city museums in London, Rome,...
SOURCE: Seattle Times (8-12-08)
In "Inherit the Wind," Dayton is fictionalized as "Hillsboro." The town's small-minded leaders arrest a startled science teacher in his classroom for serving up Darwin's theory of evolution. The teacher's attorney, played by Spencer Tracy, heroically defends his freedom to teach science. The fundamentalist prosecutor, played by Fredric March, is reduced to a babbling fool, and at movie's end drops down dead as if struck by a disappointed God.
How would a town remember a story like that?
I visited Dayton this summer on a family road trip. It is a quiet town with five stoplights, a Laz-E-Boy plant, a pantyhose plant and an...
SOURCE: Times (8-10-08)
Not surprisingly, Texas-sized dust storms have already blown up in Hollywood and Washington over the film, which is being rushed through production so it can be released in America on October 17, just three weeks before the presidential election. Starring Josh Brolin as George W Bush, James (Babe) Cromwell as former president George HW Bush, Richard Dreyfuss as vice president Dick Cheney, Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush and Ioan Gruffudd as Tony Blair, the film will be the first big Hollywood biopic of a sitting president since PT 109, the 1963 hagiography about the heroic wartime exploits of John F Kennedy. The most recent president to be subjected to the Hollywood movie...
SOURCE: Observer (8-10-08)
And right at the centre of this story of Roundhead versus Cavalier is a family legacy that has become increasingly personal to Martine Brant, co-writer of the £7m Channel 4 epic. Researching the screenplay for more than a decade, she discovered that her beautiful Oxfordshire home, Wytham Abbey, played a key part in the conflict that ripped England apart during the 17th century.
'Cromwell actually stayed here as he planned the siege of Oxford,' said Brant this weekend. 'It was originally a manor that...
SOURCE: NYT (8-7-08)
The familiar, unfulfilled prophecy of the 2,100-year-old scroll — “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” — undoubtedly arouses emotion here. But there is also a thrill born of ordinary people being able to read, and at least partly understand, an ancient Hebrew text.
Two centuries after it was written, Jewish history became one of dispersal and exile, and Hebrew ceased to be widely spoken for the next 1,700 years.
Its revival is often hailed as one of the greatest feats of the Zionist enterprise; today Hebrew is the first language of millions...
SOURCE: NYT (8-7-08)
And while other people might write expressing views on the Iraq war or the economy, Dr. Toepel will have just one request: A campaign button, maybe a bumper sticker, even a pencil with the candidate’s name. Just something.
“I don’t know that I will say I’m a collector,” said Dr. Toepel, a 69-year-old retired elementary school principal from Sheboygan, Wis. “That I don’t emphasize. They might think that’s odd.”
Perhaps, but here in the ballroom of the Riviera Hotel & Casino at the 2008 American Political Items Collectors National Convention, Dr. Toepel has no such fear. He is joined by about 300 fellow aficionados who understand the appeal of gathering, studying and selling memorabilia related to politicians and who empathize with his frustration over owning items from every current senator but...
SOURCE: AFP (8-5-08)
The blond socialite responded to Republican candidate John McCain's controversial use of her image in a campaign television spot last week with a spoof ad posted on the website Funnyordie.com.
In the ad, the 27-year-old appears reclining on a sun lounger beside a swimming pool, dressed only in a skimpy leopard-print bathing costume.
"Hey America, I'm Paris Hilton and I'm a celebrity too," Hilton declares breezily. "Only I'm not from the olden days and I'm not promising change like that other guy. I'm just hot!
"But then that wrinkly white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I'm running for president. So thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude, and I want America to know I'm, like, totally ready to lead....
SOURCE: Reuters (8-5-08)
Beckham, born Victoria Adams and now wife of soccer player David Beckham, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of revolutionary and artist Carl Heinrich Pfaender, said Hans Mueller, a historian from the southwestern city of Heilbronn.
Mueller told news agency ddp he had researched the life of Heilbronn native Pfaender, who lived from 1819 to 1876 and was a close associate of Marx and Friedrich Engels. Pfaender took part in the failed revolution of 1848 and was forced to flee to London where he worked as a miniaturist and painter to make ends meet, he added...
SOURCE: Guardian (8-5-08)
This is The Factory, a production by Badac Theatre Company that recreates the last hour in the life of prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It begins outside a corrugated iron wall, with the audience lined up in pairs beside three actors in striped sackcloth. It continues inside, through a succession of dark, dusty underground rooms, as a guard wielding a metal pole snarls at both actors and audience to move, stop, strip (although here, only the actors are expected to obey), and, finally, await their death.
This is less theatre than direct, visceral experience - which was the aim of Badac's director, Steve Lambert. "There's no distance between audience and actors," he says. Neither is there...
SOURCE: Times (8-2-08)
Not that the man's horticultural naivety alarmed me especially. I do not expect Sir Ridley to know the exact timings of the carotenoid and anthocyanin pigmentation advance as late-summer chlorophylls dwindle in English leaves, any more than I would expect Hollywood to plough millions of dollars into an action movie concept from Alan Titchmarsh.
(Although I did briefly wonder if Sir Ridley had deliberately set his breakthrough 1982 movie, Blade Runner, in a dimly lit futuristic cityscape only because he was worried about getting the trees wrong.)
No, what worried me was Sir Ridley's dismal, unimaginative, high-Tory, blatantly sociopathic interpretation of English history and literature.
Robin Hood “seen through the eyes of the Sheriff of...
SOURCE: IHT (8-1-08)
What the exhibition reveals with striking clarity - without saying so in the accompanying book, which is fraught with deep thoughts on Orientalism and its significance - is the switch from yearning admiration to triumphalist contempt that took place as Britain, in particular, and Europe, more generally, moved from fearful cohabitation to colonial conquest.
Stage One is hilariously exemplified by the portrait of Robert Shirley, who traveled to Turkey, Iran and India in the early 17th century. The British adventurer-agent's mission was to negotiate an alliance with Iran...