Quotulatiousness

September 26, 2017

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution … sorta #TheDeathOfStalin

Filed under: History, Humour, Media, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Entertainment One UK
Published on 11 Aug 2017

In Cinemas Oct 20.

The internal political landscape of 1950’s Soviet Russia takes on darkly comic form in a new film by Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated writer/director Armando Iannucci.

In the days following Stalin’s collapse, his core team of ministers tussle for control; some want positive change in the Soviet Union, others have more sinister motives. Their one common trait? They’re all just desperately trying to remain alive.

A film that combines comedy, drama, pathos and political manoeuvring, The Death of Stalin is a Quad and Main Journey production, directed by Armando Iannucci, and produced by Yann Zenou, Kevin Loader, Nicolas Duval Assakovsky, and Laurent Zeitoun. The script is written by Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin, with additional material by Peter Fellows.

#TheDeathOfStalin
www.deathofstalin.co.uk

September 22, 2017

Fifteen years later

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Craig Tomashoff talks to several of the cast and crew of Firefly:

In the Beginning

Minear: I knew this show felt special and important, but I didn’t realize what it was going to be at that early stage. It really wasn’t until we were into the making of it that it hit me. Once the show was cast and the spaceship (Serenity) was built, then it was a different story. It has been a very complicated process up to that point because Fox didn’t like the pilot. They made Joss go back and add some humor. He did what he could without damaging the pilot, but they never really understood what Firefly was and never loved it. This was all happening right before the 2002 upfronts, and the network was trying to decide if it was going to go for another season of their sci-fi show Dark Angel or pick up this Joss Whedon space show. They couldn’t see in their head what an hour of this show would look like and told us they weren’t sure we’d get a pickup. Joss and I said we’d write a first episode over that weekend before the announcements and they said OK. Then we asked ourselves, “Are we crazy? Can we do this in two days?” But we spent two days at Joss’ Mutant Enemy office, where we broke the story and each wrote half of the episode. And by Monday morning, we had written the “Train Job” episode [which was written as the show’s second episode but aired as the pilot Sept. 20, 2002] and the network liked it. And we got picked up.

Berman: Firefly had an incredibly good pilot script, very ahead of its time. I remember it generating a lot of excitement inside the company and we were hopeful it was going to be a brand-new franchise for us. And when it came to casting, Joss was also very forward thinking as he always was. He put together a remarkably intelligent and diverse group.

Getting to Know You

Gina Torres (Zoe Washburne): I was given an outline, but no script, when I auditioned. It was a detailed outline from Joss, and it ran through the big strokes and pieces of scenes that would potentially be in the actual script. I remember thinking, at the very end of reading the outline, though this was a sci-fi show, there were no aliens and no mutants. It was an intriguing take, a sci-fi Western. So I said, “OK, I’ll meet.” Buffy and Angel weren’t a part of my world, but I knew that the guy who created them had had great success. When Joss called me in to read, he said I was just coming in to see producers. Right from the beginning, this show was unlike anything I had experienced. There was no script and one guy auditioning me.

Sean Maher (Simon Tam): The material I was given was the scene from the pilot where Simon explains to the crew what had happened to his sister — the “I am very smart” speech. Given that there wasn’t a script, my first question when I met Joss to audition was, “Can you tell me about the show?” He proceeded to paint this extraordinary picture of this wonderfully unique world he had created. I was sold.

Alan Tudyk (Hoban Washburne): I was doing a play in New York when my agent sent me a description of the pilot. I had a friend who’d done a Buffy episode, and when I asked about Joss and if I should go in for a show of his, the answer was the most emphatic “yes” you could get. I did a test on DVD but then forgot about it. Then, I ended up out in Los Angeles for another audition and was about to come home when my agent said they wanted to test me for this show Firefly. I’d forgotten what it even was at that point, figuring that if my audition DVD wasn’t in the trash it was at least trash adjacent. But a week after I went in, I got the part.

Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb): I knew nothing about the show until I auditioned. I loved Westerns and shoot-’em-ups when I was little. I would watch them with my dad, so that was great. I put on a grumbly voice in my audition, kind of like in those old movies, and they let me just go with it in the show.

Why I DON’T watch (most) TV Documentaries

Filed under: History, Media, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Sep 2017

I get asked quite a lot about TV documentaries either which I recommend, like or watch. Well, here are the main reasons why I usually avoid them like the plague.

September 20, 2017

In the 60s and 70s, “Confederate Chic escaped the modern odium that often had been accorded the Lost Cause revisionism”

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Victor Davis Hanson on the era when the progressive left embraced the “Lost Cause” imagery of the South:

Leftists love Johnnie Reb in movies and songs. But statues? Not so much. How exactly did the Left romanticize the Lost Cause Confederacy, and by extension its secession and efforts to preserve slavery? To use a shopworn phrase, “It’s complicated.”

Good Ol’ Rebels

Well before the end of Jim Crow, post-war leftist Hollywood still largely continued its soft mythologies of the Confederate Lost Cause. Perhaps the cinematic romance arose because of the lucrative fumes of earlier Gone with the Wind fantasies, which themselves might’ve come from an understandable desire to play a part in “binding up the nation’s wounds.”

[…]

The supposedly left-wing 1960s and 1970s, in fact, were the heyday of Confederate Chic. True, there were plenty of In the Heat of the Night portraits of the now-familiar racist white Neanderthals, but with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow segregation, the romance of the Old South reappeared, updated and tweaked for the era of counterculture protest.

The contemporary hippie style of long hair, beards and mustaches, resistance to government authority, twangy folk-song strains, and hard-edged metal all fed into the rural, down-home Confederate romance. Notions of slavery, segregation, and secession mysteriously disappeared. Southern attitude was no longer Bull Connor but airbrushed Sixties-era resistance, at least at the superficial level of pop culture.

In Walter Hill’s post-Vietnam The Long Riders (1980), the murderous Jesse James gang morphs into a sort of mix of Lynyrd Skynyrd with Bonnie and Clyde — noble outlaws fighting the grasping northern banks and the railroad companies’ “Pinkerton Men.” David Carradine and his siblings, playing members of the gang, appear like Woodstock rockers, with exaggerated southern accents, long unkempt hair, hippie buckskin, and a don’t-give-a-damn Bay Area resistance attitude.

[…]

The unlikely common denominator that brought together left-wing Sixties popular culture with Confederate cool was a mutual hatred of a supposedly big, square, soulless, and powerful Washington, hated for its insolence in Vietnam and for stifling the individual — as if the poor lost South had been once as defenseless as the Vietnamese in the face of such a godless steamroller, or as if the Carradine clan were like the Allman Brothers with six-shooters.

Southern pop-music angst, hard metal, and crossover country and western channeled southern and Confederate themes, supposedly adding authenticity to mostly mainstream northern suburban American pop. Were rockers from the South popular versions of the 1920s and ’30s Southern Agrarians (“I’ll take my stand”) critics?

Few pop icons (but see Neil Young’s “Southern Man”) dared in the 1980s to suggest that southern chic was somehow blind to the racism of the Confederacy rather than just defiant and anti-government. The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”), the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels (“The South’s Gonna Do It”), Confederate Railroad (“Summer in Dixie”), and even REM squared the circle of grafting old-style Confederate attitudes with hip counterculture, even if superficially and often nonsensically.

In other words, Confederate Chic escaped the modern odium that often had been accorded the Lost Cause revisionism sweeping the country from 1890 to 1920, in part fueled by rising nativism and renewed commitment to Jim Crow.

September 15, 2017

The Good The Bad & The Ugly: Why Is It So Good?

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Feb 2017

The Good The Bad & The Ugly: Why Is It So Good? is a great movie to look back on. It made 5 times its money back, making it a big success. But even Clint Eastwood himself thought the movie would do either really well or really bad.

It didn’t have the greatest reception from critics at that time. One of the most memorable criticisms from The LA Times said that the movie should have been called The Bad, The Dull and the Interminable”. The main reason for this negativity was due to the movie belonging to a not so popular sub genre, the Spaghetti Western, which when compared to a Hollywood western was considered as a cheap, inferior, foreign version.

In your typical Hollywood Western everything looked clean… where the heroes were handsome, and wore freshly pressed suits and had shiny new guns. But in a Spaghetti or Italian Western thing were far more gritty, dirty and violent as a whole they were perceived as been more realistic Its main characters weren’t well groomed nor necessarily handsome.

The musical scores were pretty different, from the amazing high energy music by Ennio Morricone compared to the more stately orchestral scores by Elmer Bernstein, like in The Magnificent Seven. In the 1960s the Hollywood hero was usually a great gunslinger who faced insurmountable odds taking on the bad guys and out smarting them. They were usually unselfish and down to earth. The main villains were very one dimensional, their badness was not explained, and they were often a outcasts, which meant they were either feared or hated by the local townspeople. However Italian films featured anti-heroes: instead of the protagonist saving everyone, the main character himself was either neutral or more interested in personal gain. While the bad guy was often as charismatic or powerful as the hero in order to give the protagonist a real challenge.

In Hollywood westerns the death of an antagonist simply meant the triumph of the good over the bad… going back home or having a reunion with loved ones, concluded the movies story. Whereas in its European counterpart, the death of the antagonist usually completed the narrative.

Sergio Leone had only directed a “fistful” of low budget movies at this point of his career, but you wouldn’t think that watching this film. What makes this movie truly amazing is Leone’s scope and vision. He had the special ability to use silence to help build suspicion, and paranoia when it came to one of his famous shootout scenes. Or Leone would use a long pause combined with music that slowly increased in tempo to make his action scenes feel more exciting and have a far greater payoff, even though the action would be over within a blink of an eye

Leone’s unique style involved shots of scenery that were very pulled back, where he would have small figures moving around in the distance, these wide shots were then followed by tight close ups of faces, giving you the audience this fantastic operatic feeling whenever a new chapter began Leone was great with people’s faces… he would deliberately hand pick his extras to find people who had very different looks and features… he would then pan across them giving his shots an extra sense of realism

Leone also establishes a rule where a characters vision is limited by the sides of the frame, everything outside the frame is invisible. This allows you the viewer to see only from the perspective of what the characters sees. So when Blondie and Tuco are heading towards the cemetery, they don’t notice the massive Union army in front of them and neither do you. Leone often thought that Hollywood Westerns had too much dialog, so he had his characters say more by saying less. Where most of them make eye contact with each other… pause and then start shooting!

Clint Eastwood as Blondie aka the good, is easily recognizable due to his iconic brown hat, poncho and fondness for cigarillos. But apart from that, his character is pretty mysterious… not much is known about him he says very little, and technically isn’t `good’ in a traditional sense… however he has a certain sense of honour and tries to do the right thing from time to time. Tuco aka the Ugly is the exact opposite or his partner Blondie, he never stops talking… Eli Wallach steals the show with his acting, and is easily the most complex character… always lying, switching sides, where he goes from trying to kill Blondie in one scene to pretending to be his best friend in another… He truly represents `the ugliest’ side of humanity, But that doesn’t stop you from loving his character Angel Eyes aka The Bad is evil personified. Lee Van Cleef was born to play this part

September 6, 2017

A feminist retelling of Lord of the Flies

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Benedict Spence on the reported new movie retelling the story of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies from a female point of view:

It’s not always beneficial to know what an author thinks of his or her own work (J.K. Rowling demonstrates how infuriating this can be on a daily basis). But before his death, Golding specifically said that the characters in Lord of the Flies were supposed to be all boys, because: ‘I didn’t want this book to be about sex.’ ‘It’s too trivial a thing to get into a book like this, which was about the problem of evil’, he said.

You would have thought that Golding’s reasoning would make sense to feminists, who often argue that maleness (especially white maleness) is evil. So, if a matriarchal society would be more pacifist and just, how could an island of little girls descend into the same chaos as happens to the boys in Lord of the Flies?

None of this is to say that remakes are always destined for mediocrity. But when remakes set out to make a political point, as is clearly the case here, the result is often cringe-inducing and lacking in artistic merit. Worse still, in this case the remake entails ripping out a core part of the story for the sake of mere virtue-signalling. There’s nothing interesting or daring about that.

I don’t know why people are freaking out about this … clearly just changing one element of the original story (swapping out all the boys for girls) is going to change the outcome: that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

As we all know, a society composed only of males will naturally collapse into barbarism due to a massive overdose of toxic masculinity. On the other hand, a society composed only of females will have zero conflict (because women are naturally co-operative), and all issues will be dealt with democratically and fairly, with equal sharing of burdens and outcomes. I’m not sure where they’re going to find any kind of conflict to build the storyline around, as by definition there can’t be any conflict in the absence of a toxic male influence and systemic patriarchal violence, so the movie may just be three hours of heartwarming sympathy and tolerance, sharing and caring, mutual respect and egalitarian problem-solving. Where’s the drama going to come from?

Of course, not everyone agrees. Here’s Heather Wilhelm to ruin everyone’s egalitarian dream:

Women Are Never Evil, You Sick Chauvinist Pigs

“An all women remake of Lord of the Flies makes no sense because…the plot of the book wouldn’t happen with all women,” New York Times columnist Roxane Gay declared on Twitter, making me wonder if she’s ever been to a sixth-grade slumber party. (If you haven’t been to one, know this: They almost always degenerate into a pillow-strewn wasteland of popcorn, treachery, and copious weeping.)

Other writers joked that a female Lord of the Flies would obviously and inevitably morph into a peaceful island paradise — you know, like the very real place where Wonder Woman grew up. By my personal scientific assessment, there is a 99 percent probability that anyone who makes this point has never spent significant time in a sorority house, where there is often unlimited cereal, a frozen yogurt machine, and occasional tales of terror that would make your hair stand on end.

“Not every story makes sense to gender-flip,” wrote Yohana Desta at Vanity Fair. “Particularly if that story is William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies, a vicious tale about a barbaric boy-made society. The concept alone,” she continues, “disregards the point of the book!”

Get it? “The point of the book” is that boys — just boys! — are inherently bad.

September 4, 2017

Hollywood facing the worst box office returns in years

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ryan Faughnder reports on the bad summer movies season:

As Hollywood wraps up the all-important summer box-office season this Labor Day weekend, a sobering reality has gripped the industry.

The number of tickets sold in the United States and Canada this summer is projected to fall to the lowest level in a quarter-century.

The results have put the squeeze on the nation’s top theater chains, whose stocks have taken a drubbing. AMC Theatres Chief Executive Adam Aron this month called his company’s most recent quarter “simply a bust.”

Such blunt language reflects some worrisome trends. Domestic box-office revenue is expected to total $3.78 billion for the first weekend of May through Labor Day — a key period that generates about 40% of domestic ticket sales — down nearly 16% from the same period last year, according to comScore. That’s an even worse decline than the 10% drop some studio executives predicted before the summer began.

The usual suspects are being blamed: unlike previous years, moviegoers have other calls on their entertainment time and dollars, including the rise of gaming platforms, streaming sites like Netflix, and the attraction of watching freshly painted surfaces dry. The online critics at Rotten Tomatoes also come in for their fair shame of blame for Hollywood’s plight.

Update: Fixed broken link. Sorry for any inconvenience.

August 21, 2017

Joss Whedon’s ex-wife on Whedon’s affairs

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Kai Cole at The Wrap:

I’ve been asked some questions by the press recently about my divorce from Joss Whedon, to whom I was married for 16 years. There is misinformation out there and I feel the best way to clear up the situation is to tell my truth. Let me begin by saying I am a very private person and the act of writing this is antithetical to who I am and everything I stand for. Yet, at the same time, I feel compelled to go on the record and clear up some misperceptions. I don’t think it is fair to me or other women to remain silent any longer.

I met Joss in 1991. I was driving across the country from Massachusetts on a whim, and met him when I was passing through Los Angeles. We fell in love and I moved to L.A. so we could be together.

I was with him when his Buffy the Vampire Slayer script was adapted, and the resulting movie released. It was painful to see how his vision was interpreted by the production team and on our honeymoon to England in 1995, I urged him to figure out how to turn it into a TV show. He didn’t want to work in television anymore, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, but I convinced him it was the fastest way to get the experience he needed, so he could direct his own films someday. I had no idea, in that lovely garden in Bath, that it would change everything.

There were times in our relationship that I was uncomfortable with the attention Joss paid other women. He always had a lot of female friends, but he told me it was because his mother raised him as a feminist, so he just liked women better. He said he admired and respected females, he didn’t lust after them. I believed him and trusted him. On the set of Buffy, Joss decided to have his first secret affair.

Fifteen years later, when he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, “When I was running Buffy, I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.” But he did touch it. He said he understood, “I would have to lie — or conceal some part of the truth — for the rest of my life,” but he did it anyway, hoping that first affair, “would be ENOUGH, that THEN we could move on and outlast it.”

Joss admitted that for the next decade and a half, he hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me. He wrote me a letter when our marriage was falling apart, but I still didn’t know the whole truth, and said, “I’ve never loved anyone or wanted to be with anyone in any real or long-term way except for you ever. And I love our life. I love how you are, how we are, who you are and what we’ve done both separately and together, how much fun we have…” He wanted it all; he didn’t want to choose, so he accepted the duality as a part of his life.

August 17, 2017

QotD: Can you describe romance novels as “pretty people behaving stupidly”?

Filed under: Books, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’ve been learning about the romance genre recently. I have no intrinsic interest in it at all, but I have an intelligent friend who plows through romances the way I read SF, and we’ve been discussing the conventions and structural features of the genre. Along the way I’ve learned that romance fans use an acronym TSTL which expands to “Too Stupid To Live”, describing a class of bad romance in which the plot turns on one or both leads exhibiting less claim to sophont status than the average bowl of clam dip.

My wife and I have parts in an upcoming live-action roleplaying game set in early 16th-century Venice. As preparation, she suggested we watch a movie called Dangerous Beauty set in the period. I couldn’t stand more than about 20 minutes of it. “It’s just,” I commented later “pretty people behaving stupidly.”

On reflection, I’ve discovered that PPBS describes a great deal of both the fiction and nonfiction I can’t stand. It’s a more general category that includes not just TSTL, but celebrity gossip magazines, almost every “romantic comedy” ever made, and a large percentage of the top-rated TV shows (especially, of course, the soap operas).

Eric S. Raymond, “Pretty People Behaving Stupidly”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-08-29.

August 12, 2017

In reaction to the movie Dunkirk, Hollywood reloads with daring new concepts!

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Kurt Schlichter goes behind the scenes in Hollywood to let us know what movies we’ll be watching soon:

People say the movie industry has lost its way and alienated its audience, but I’m super-excited about the future of movies, especially in light of Tinseltown’s current trend towards goose-stepping leftist conformity! How can that go wrong?

[…]

Xe-Day: After the racist, sexist, and homophobic nightmare that was Dunkirk left audiences literally shaking, moviegoers are begging to see a war movie that doesn’t just focus on the people who were actually there or things that really happened. Well, your wish is Hollywood’s command! You thought you knew the whole story of the Normandy operation, but what you really knew was the phallo people of pallor version that minimized and invisibled the contributions of trans soldiers of heft! Xe-Day is the stirring story of the she-roes who didn’t let their birth genders or carbohydrate addictions get in the way of defeating the Nazis! With the cry of “Come on you she-males, you want to live forever!” these pudgy paratroopers aren’t about to allow the Third Reich to mansplain away their girl power! It’s no longer just Band of Brothers anymore! It’s band of brothers, sisters, and others! Opening this Winter Solstice!

1984 II: This exciting reboot turns expectations on their heads as courageous social justice warriors root out bad thinking thought criminals like Winston Smith! You’ll thrill as angry college students confront people with ideas they don’t like, and punish and kill them for daring to be different – all in the name of diversity! When this smash hit is over, you too will love Big Mother!

Dirty Harriet: Take that, cro-magnon Clint Eastwood clichés! This modern cop movie teaches us that every life matters, except blue ones! Female-identifying (but curious!) Detective Harriet Callahan gets all the dirty jobs, like running diversity classes for those knuckle dragging patrolman who refuse to abandon their wrong thinking. Pairing up with a differently-abled Muslim dwarf of color, she busts the real villains…the people trying to keep order on the streets! And she does it with hugs! Go ahead, make her day – by admitting your privilege!

Son of an Inconvenient Truth: It’s his third try, and this time it’s personal! Al Gore takes time away from his busy schedule of eating, dining, having dinner, and pestering innocent masseuses, to explain in detail why his previous predictions of total climate Armageddon that were supposed to come true a couple years ago haven’t. Spoiler Alert – it’s all Trump’s fault!

August 3, 2017

Not the Nine O’Clock News – Monty Python worshipers

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 21 Jan 2009

A sketch from the british series Not the nine o’clock news commenting on the controversy created by the Monty Python’s film – Life of Brian.

July 31, 2017

“If you’re wondering where Anthony Scaramucci learned to talk and behave […] ask him how many times he’s seen Glengarry Glen Ross

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Anthony Scaramucci is doing his very best impression of “Blake”, says Kevin Williamson:

Glengarry Glen Ross is the Macbeth of real estate, full of great, blistering lines and soliloquies so liberally peppered with profanity that the original cast had nicknamed the show “Death of a F***ing Salesman.” But a few of those attending the New York revival left disappointed. For a certain type of young man, the star of Glengarry Glen Ross is a character called Blake, played in the film by Alec Baldwin. We know that his name is “Blake” only from the credits; asked his name by one of the other salesmen, he answers: “What’s my name? F*** you. That’s my name.” In the film, Blake sets things in motion by delivering a motivational speech and announcing a sales competition: “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize? A set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired. Get the picture?” He berates the salesmen in terms both financial — “My watch cost more than your car!” — and sexual. Their problem, in Blake’s telling, isn’t that they’ve had a run of bad luck or bad sales leads — or that the real estate they’re trying to sell is crap — it is that they aren’t real men.

[…]

These guys don’t want to see Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. What they want is to be Blake. They want to swagger, to curse, to insult, and to exercise power over men, exercising power over men being the classical means to the end of exercising power over women, which is of course what this, and nine-tenths of everything else in human affairs, is about. Blake is a specimen of that famous creature, the “alpha male,” and establishing and advertising one’s alpha creds is an obsession for some sexually unhappy contemporary men. There is a whole weird little ecosystem of websites (some of them very amusing) and pickup-artist manuals offering men tips on how to be more alpha, more dominant, more commanding, a literature that performs roughly the same function in the lives of these men that Cosmopolitan sex tips play in the lives of insecure women. Of course this advice ends up producing cartoonish, ridiculous behavior. If you’re wondering where Anthony Scaramucci learned to talk and behave like such a Scaramuccia, ask him how many times he’s seen Glengarry Glen Ross.

What’s notable about the advice offered to young men aspiring to be “alpha males” is that it is consistent with the classic salesmanship advice offered by the real-world versions of Blake in a hundred thousand business-inspiration books (Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World is the classic of the genre) and self-help tomes, summarized in an old Alcoholics Anonymous slogan: “Fake it ’til you make it.” For the pick-up artists, the idea is that simply acting in social situations as though one were confident, successful, and naturally masterful is a pretty good substitute for being those things. Never mind the advice of Cicero (esse quam videri, be rather than seem) or Rush — just go around acting like Blake and people will treat you like Blake.

If that sounds preposterous, remind yourself who the president of the United States of America is.

Trump is the political version of a pickup artist, and Republicans — and America — went to bed with him convinced that he was something other than what he is. Trump inherited his fortune but describes himself as though he were a self-made man.

Update: I guess he came in third.

July 27, 2017

Andrew Roberts on Dunkirk

Filed under: History, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It comes with the Niall Ferguson seal of approval:

The retreat from the Continent was a perilous time for Britain. The Germans were willing to throw everything into making it as dangerous and costly as possible for the island people. Britain’s French allies were full of suspicion about what they were depicting for propaganda purposes as a treacherous retreat. The British government was in disarray, with senior government ministers even proposing negotiating with the enemy in order to minimize the terrible ultimate cost that they now saw as inevitable. Everyone was crying out for leadership.

But enough about Brexit. What about Christopher Nolan’s new movie about Dunkirk?

July 25, 2017

Great Man Theory? No. Impersonal Forces of History? No. How about the Bond Villain Theory?

Filed under: History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charles Stross may have cracked the mystery of what the heck is happening in our particularly odd time period:

History: is it about kings, dates, and battles, or the movement of masses and the invisible hand of macroeconomics?

There’s something to be said for both theories, but I have a new, countervailing theory about the 21st century (so far); instead of the traditional man on a white horse who leads the revolutionary masses to victory, we’ve wandered into a continuum dominated by Bond villains.

Consider three four five, taken at random:

Mr X: leader of a chaotic former superpower with far too many nuclear weapons, Mr X got his start in life as an agent of SMERSH the KGB. Part of its economic espionage directorate, tasked with modernizing a creaking command economy in the 1980s, Mr X weathered the collapse of the previous regime and after a turbulent decade of asset stripping rose to lead a faction of billionaire oligarchs, robber barons, and former secret policemen. Mr X trades on his ruthless reputation — he is said to have ordered a defector murdered by means of a radioisotope so rare that the assassination consumed several months’ global production — and despite having an official salary on the order of £250,000 he has a private jet with solid gold toilet seats and more palaces than you can shake a stick at. Also nuclear missiles. (Don’t forget the nuclear missiles.) Said to be dating the ex-wife of Mr Y. Exit strategy: change the constitution to make himself President-for-Life. Attends military parades on Red Square, natch. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mr Y: Australian multi-billionaire news magnate. (Currently married to a former supermodel and ex-wife of Mick Jagger.) Owns 80% of the news media in Australia and numerous holdings in the UK and USA, including satellite TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers. Reputedly had Arthur C. Clarke on speed-dial for advice about the future of communications technology. Was the actual no-shit model upon whom Elliot Carver, the villain in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, the 18th Bond movie, was based. Exit strategy: he’s 86, leave it all to the kids. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

[…]

I think there’s a pattern here: don’t you? And, more to the point, I draw one very useful inference from it: if I need to write any more near-future fiction, instead of striving for realism in my fictional political leaders I should just borrow the cheesiest Bond villain not already a member of the G20 or Davos.

July 21, 2017

Dunkirk

Filed under: History, Media, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle was very impressed with the new Christopher Nolan movie on the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940:

I was perhaps unreasonably excited to see Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s new movie about the evacuation of British forces from a French beach during World War II. The historical event on which it is based is astonishing: unable to get enough warships close to the beach to load their fleeing troops, the British government mobilized a flotilla of small private craft, which ultimately helped evacuate more than 330,000 soldiers ahead of the German army. I was eager to see what one of my favorite directors would do with the story.

He did not disappoint. This nearly flawless film put me on the edge of my seat for two hours. It is the best thing I’ve seen about war since the stunning opening of Saving Private Ryan — and Nolan, bless him, is not prey to Steven Spielberg’s compulsion to mar his creations by slopping them over with speechy goo.

As with all of Nolan’s films, it’s emotionally distant from its characters. Cillian Murphy plays an officer credited only as “Shivering Soldier,” and none of the characters have much in the way of backstory or goals, other than survival. Matt Zoller Seitz calls it an “Ant Farm Picture,” a portrait of society in which individuals are almost incidental. That’s rather the point.

A lesser director would have given in to the temptation to make this a story about the righteous crusade against the Germans, men fighting other men, but Nolan shows us a world in which the enemy is a plane, a torpedo, the water and the flying bullets, and men are reduced to little more than their rage to live.

The result is less a war film than a disaster movie. An exquisite disaster movie. I didn’t expect such a vivid and visceral illustration of how quickly a ship can sink, or just how difficult it is to hit a target in the sky. I left the theater almost too overwhelmed to talk.

Having recovered, I began to wonder why we can’t have more pictures like Dunkirk. The easy answer is, of course, that there is only one Christopher Nolan, and only so many people willing to give him $150 million to spend putting thousands of extras and some World War II-era ordnance onto a French beach. But the easy answer is incomplete.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve been impressed with the reviews I’ve seen so far (except the ludicrous “it doesn’t have any women or POC characters in lead roles” criticism from historical illiterates).

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