Quotulatiousness

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, WW2 — 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, WW2 — 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).

July 15, 2017

The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

As a long-time admirer of H.L. Mencken (since discovering Prejudices: A Selection in a used book store on Queen Street in the mid-1980s), I’ve always had an interest in the skullduggery around the “Scopes Monkey Trial” … and apparently so has Colby Cosh:

H.L Mencken celebrates the repeal of Prohibition, December 1933.

In a merely procedural sense, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, ended on July 21, 1925 with the conviction of biology teacher John T. Scopes on the charge of instructing students that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.” But of course the real Monkey Trial is eternal, winding its way anew through American life, decade after decade. The carefully staged publicity stunt in Tennessee was merely one occasion in a longer struggle over the nature of man and the limits of his knowledge. I know this is an old-fashioned romantic ACLU-liberal view of the matter, but I hold to it.

As I write this column, county officials in Dayton are unveiling a statute of Clarence Darrow, the garrulous, crooked lawyer who represented Team Enlightenment in the original 1925 contest between Darwinian evolution and the Scriptures. In 2005, the citizens of Dayton, where Monkey Trial tourism is now a crucial industry, erected a statue of William Jennings Bryan on the grounds of the immortal Rhea County courthouse. Bryan had been the chosen hero of evangelical Christianity in the trial, dying less than a week after its conclusion, and is the namesake of a local bible college, which paid for the statue.

[…]

I became a serious student of the Scopes Trial as an undergraduate. Like anybody else, I had seen the 1960 Hollywood rendering of the play about the trial, Inherit The Wind, which represents Bryan as an ignorant windbag, Darrow as a tired, patient figure of ostentatious nobility, and a thinly disguised H.L. Mencken as a cruel nihilist newspaperman. Today, I suppose I would regard Mencken as the real hero of the show. He was privy to the ACLU’s engineering of the trial as a publicity stunt, but he also always said that Tennessee was within its constitutional rights to forbid the teaching of evolution — to be, in his view, just as backward as its people wished.

Inherit The Wind makes its pseudo-Mencken a heartless guttersnipe mostly as a device for elevating a sympathetic Darrow even further. This is part of the movie’s major liberty with the events of the trial: it has Bryan drop dead in mid-rant at the moment of its culmination, instead of waiting a few days. What I discovered as a student was that, aside from this excusable concession to theatrical unity, the film probably deserves some kind of prize for general fidelity to historical events.

June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman – “If this woman were running for any office at all, she would have my vote”

Filed under: Media, WW1 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kurt Loder clearly enjoyed watching Wonder Woman:

Wonder Woman is a bright, promising start for a new superhero franchise. The picture may be hobbled by familiar genre junk — in the beginning, an overabundance of origin-story narrative clutter; at the end, yet another fiery digital apocalypse — but in finally providing the kick-ass Amazon with a movie all her own (after 75 years of Wonder Woman comics), director Patty Jenkins has created something fresh and stylish — an action-romance that’s unusually light on its feet.

The movie is fueled almost entirely by the flashing, dark-eyed charisma of Gal Gadot, who introduced this Wonder Woman in a cameo in last year’s dismal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Gadot, a onetime Israeli beauty queen and former IDF combat instructor, has no trouble at all incarnating the warrior princess Diana, a young woman raised in an all-female society on a kind-of-mythical island who ventures into the world of men and is appalled by the violence and gutlessness she finds there and determines to do something about it. If this woman were running for any office at all, she would have my vote.

The movie is also fortunate in having secured the blue-eyed soul-hunk services of Chris Pine, whose romantic chemistry with Gadot is a rare combination of warmth and self-deprecating wit. Pine plays Steve Trevor, an intelligence officer with the American Expeditionary Forces (the year is 1918), who has discovered that the Germans have a horrible new weapon that could extend World War I beyond an armistice that is on the verge of being signed. They must be stopped.

[…]

The movie disregards the bondage overtones of the Wonder Woman comics, but does maintain a straightforward feminine POV. You might expect director Jenkins — who’s been unable to get any movie made in the 14 years since her first feature, Monster, enabled an Oscar win for Charlize Theron — to be a little bitter in this regard, but she seems entirely cheerful. True, when Steve’s assistant Etta (Lucy Davis), details all the duties she does for her boss, Diana does say, “We call that slavery.” But Jenkins also has Diana melting down at the sight of a baby on a London street, and the contrasts between feminine and masculine principles in this picture are for the most part gently conveyed: Steve is dedicated to snuffing warmongers; Diana is more concerned with war’s victims. When Steve teaches Diana how to slow-dance in a lamplit village square one night, she says, “Is this what people do when there are no wars to fight?”

Although some of its sets are shabbily artificial-looking, and some of its slo-mo action is wearily dated (Zach Snyder was one of the producers), this is nevertheless a movie you root for. It’s richly pulpy but cleanly wrought, and it creates a new comic-book world that’s blessedly free of the grim neuroses that darken so many superhero films. Most notably, its star is a gift to a genre that was long past the point of beginning to feel seriously depleted.

May 31, 2017

Stormtrooper gear

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

In The Register, Gavin Clarke talks about “inexpensive” replicas of the original Star Wars stormtrooper helmets and other gear:

Original Stormtrooper Hero Helmet from Shepperton Design Studios + originalstormtrooper.com

Two years ago, the helmet of an Empire Strikes Back stormtrooper fetched $120,000 (£92,736) at US auction.

An Imperial TIE fighter pilot’s helmet, said to be one of just 12 made for A New Hope, went the following year for £180,000 ($233,244) – something the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce dismissed as a “piece of plastic”.

Big money indeed, but the record to date for stormtroopers, the most widely recognised symbol of the Empire, is held by A New Hope sandtrooper helmet, named the Stop That Ship Helmet for the scene it briefly appeared in – the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley under fire. That helmet sold at auction in April for $190,000 (£145,675) in the US.

Yes, four decades after A New Hope debuted in the US – 25 May, 1977 – props built for just £20 a pop are fetching the price of a three-bed semi in the West Midlands.

What’s helping drive up the price is scarcity: just 50 stormtrooper uniforms were made for A New Hope. Those that survived the shoot now reside in private collections.

[…]

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists – Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 – around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

May 29, 2017

Mark Steyn on the career of Roger Moore

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

On the weekend, Mark Steyn posted an article discussing the late Sir Roger’s pre-Bond roles:

Roger Moore played 007 in seven Bond films – although it seemed like more at the time. He was a rare Englishman in a role more often played by Celts and colonials – Connery (Scots), Lazenby (Aussie), Dalton (Welsh), Brosnan (Irish)… Any Canadians? Yes. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). For some Ian Fleming fans, Moore was a little too English for a role that benefits from a certain chippiness toward his metropolitan masters. Yet he bestrode the era like a colossus whose legs wee almost as unfeasibly long as they are on the Octopussy poster and whose trouser flares were almost as terrifyingly wide as on the Man With The Golden Gun poster.

[…]

But The Saint, for six years in the Sixties, was a hit of an entirely different scale, and made Moore the first UK TV star to become a millionaire (hence, in the Seventies, the tax exile). Leslie Charteris had created the Saint in the Twenties, and the books are very much of their day. But Moore’s version planted Simon Templar firmly in the Swingin’ Sixties with a lot of Continental dolly birds to give it some Euro-cool. Lew Grade, bored by running a local telly franchise in Birmingham, had his eye on the global market and gave The Saint a rare style for the British TV of its day. It started with the stylized graphics and theme tune, and then, upon the initial reference to Simon Templar’s name, the animated halo appearing over the character’s head, at which Roger Moore would glance amusedly upwards – perhaps the first conscious, and most iconic, deployment of his famous eyebrows.

True, if you paid close attention from week to week, the passenger terminal helpfully labeled “Nice” or “Monte Carlo” or “Geneva” looked remarkably like East Midlands Airport, but Moore’s tuxedoed aplomb held it all together. He was almost too dishy in those days – his beauty spot, for one, seems far more prominent in monochrome – and he sensed that he didn’t have to do too much but stand there looking suave. Everything he would do as Bond he did as Simon Templar: the quips, the birds, the sports cars. But he did it, more or less, for real. He co-owned the series, which eventually made over a third of a billion pounds (which back then, pre-devaluation, wasn’t that far shy of a billion dollars), and he took it seriously enough to serve as producer and director – although, on the one occasion I met him, he characteristically pooh-poohed the idea that he had any talents in either field. The series became less of a mystery-solver and more of a spy caper as it progressed, and indeed in one episode Simon Templar is actually mistaken for James Bond. Sean Connery had been whinging about his Bond burdens since at least Thunderball in 1965, and Roger Moore fully expected to get the call.

[…]

Moore belonged to the last generation of British thespians for whom it was assumed that acting meant presenting as posher than one’s origins. Unlike Lord Brett, young Roger didn’t go to Harrow but to Battersea Grammar School. He dad was a policeman who went to investigate a robbery at the home of Brian Desmond Hurst, a prolific director whose films include the all-time great, Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. Constable Moore mentioned that his boy Roger quite fancied being an actor, and Hurst hired him as an extra for Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and then paid for him to go to RADA. That’s where he met a young actress called Lois Hooker from Kitchener, Ontario, who changed her name to Lois Maxwell and became the defining Miss Moneypenny. Young Lois and young Roger both poshed up at RADA – although, as snootier critics with more finely calibrated class consciousness were wont to observe, from his Saint days to Lord Brett to Bond he was Lew Grade’s and Cubby Broccoli’s idea of an English gentleman rather than the real thing.

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