Monday, March 28, 2016

Movie Madness: "Ben-Hur" (2016)

Here's the trailer for the remake of 1959's Oscar-winning epic Ben-Hur, and I am all kinds of unexcited about this project, even if it somehow got Morgan Freeman to bring some dignitas by sheer dint of his voice:


Maybe the remake will surprise me and actually not be a disgraceful insult to the splendor and substance of the real Ben-Hur (i.e., Heston's, obviously), but I have my doubts.  Heston won the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as the complicated lead character, and I am pretty darn sure nobody's winning anything for the action-filled mess that is the remake if the trailer is any indication.


"Remaking what?"

When I watch the new Ben-Hur and write a review, I might end up having to rehash my Exodus: Gods and Kings review where I said:
I seriously contemplated framing it all as a "I'm sorry, please take me back, I love you!" letter to Chuck Heston. 
... Come on, babe.  You know it's always been about you.
I should never have left Heston's Moses aside to watch Christian Bale's.  It was no contest, and the storytelling was garbage.  Seriously, how do you screw THAT up?  Well, in much the same way people are probably going to screw up the Ben-Hur narrative, I guess?  Come on, the story is supposed to be about the fractured ties between Ben-Hur and Messalla, and the all the trailer can do is have Messalla yell, "Are we having fun now, brother?" like a snippy teenager.  Is that really the best you can do?

Anyway, people tried remaking Ben-Hur as a TV mini-series back in 2010 (yes, this really did happen), and that project made no impact whatsoever.  

Dang it, stop remaking Charlton Heston classics already!  

Contemporary movies are getting to be so much sound-and-fury, CGI pixel insanity kinds of nonsense (with notable exceptions).  Maybe I should start doing reviews of more classic "old" movies to remind everyone, myself included, not to forget the great cinematic achievements of the past.  Sure, they were all made long, long before I was born, but I'm a history buff: we shouldn't become so engulfed in the present that we forget the things that went before and start thinking that the short-term, attention-deficit cult of Now is the only thing that matters.


Longing for a hero on a white horse?  How about four?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter 2016! Χριστός ἀνέστη!


Best wishes to all for a happy, contemplative, and restful Easter!  This year's art of the Resurrection comes from Baroque Venetian painter Sebastiano Ricci and dates around 1715-16.  Currently it resides in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.  Click the image to enlarge for better detail.

Usually for holiday art postings I go for something from the Renaissance, but Ricci's vision has such a wonderful sense of color and composition.  Immortal angels and all-too-human soldiers alike are stunned by the sheer power of the figure of Christ risen in sublime glory.

For more Easter art (and related items), see the archives here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Movie Madness: Terrible Movie Reviews 1, Ben Affleck 0

The reviews are rolling in for the much-anticipated Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and they are pretty brutal.  Look, La Parisienne and I were sure from the get-go that the flick would suck, but "30% on Rotten Tomatoes" is the kind of soul-crushing, black hole level of suck that not even I thought the thing could plunge into.  That's barely better than the 26% rating of the worst superhero movie I ever actually paid to see (that would be Green Lantern from 2011 ... and I still want my money back!).

So when someone edited a sad, sad song into this snippet of an interview with Ben "Batman" Affleck and Henry "Superman" Cavill, the internet ate it up with a Schadenfreudelicious spoon.  This thing is equal parts tragedy and comedy, and I suppose I should feel bad that I laughed, but ... The dead, glazed eyes of surrender just killed me.  At the same time, bless Cavill for bravely - nay, even heroically - soldiering on with a smile.  Take a look for yourself.  Oh, dear.  Oh, oh, dear.


PS: In case you're wondering, I still intend to go see this train wreck ... but maybe I should see Zootopia first (it may be a cartoon, but it's got 99%!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Help Wanted in Japan

Think you're up to it?

Care For Some Politics on the Ides of March?

Heh:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Two ambitious senators have the opportunity to stop a pompous would-be tyrant from destroying the republic. To do so, they need to team up and take him down on the Ides of March.
Apply to Rubio, Cruz, and everybody's bête noireTrump.  Hey, the essay is good for a laugh, especially with this imagined Trump-ifying of Shakespeare's Caesar:
"And no one is more constant than me. No one. Maybe the North Star. Maybe. But I gotta tell you, the North Star gets hidden behind the clouds. It's true. It happens. But no cloud ever hides me. I can promise you that. Always I am Trump."

Quote of the Day: Ian McShane on "Game of Thrones"

The great British actor sums up the show in 5 words in this interview, which is itself well worth a read for its sheer personality.  By the way, if you've never seen McShane in Deadwood or Kings, you really should.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Movie Review: Don't Do What I Did

I've been collecting data for a while, and now I finally have enough to write this post.  File the following under I've made a huge mistake


I have a pretty high tolerance for silliness, especially in the name of "so bad it's funny" and therefore "so bad it's good," but sometimes a project has absolutely no redeeming qualities of entertainment whatsoever.  Please take my word for it and don't waste any time or money on these gigantic steaming piles.  They all get a grade of F, and in my world "F" means "something I'll never, ever watch again."

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Free Speech on Campus: A Depressing Update

UGH.  

Thank goodness for FIRE and sensible campus defenders of free speech like Chicago.  Remember, kids: speech codes are unconstitutional!  I should report, too, that not every campus is a basket case: the student government at UC Santa Barbara just voted in favor of free speech ... though I have to shake my head that this is even an issue at all.

Film Culture Commentary: Spectacle, Storytelling, and "Interstellar"

I've been thinking about movies lately (heck, anything is better than thinking about the current political campaign season!), and I owe you a review of Deadpool, so here's something for the interim. Check out this rather nice analysis of Interstellar (a movie I had reviewed here):

Nerd Scandal: Plagiarism and Crossword Puzzles

Well, well, well ...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Oscars 2016 aka What the Heck Did I Just Watch?

I didn't really watch the Oscars last night as much as I had it on while I was doing other things, but with increasing frequency I had to push the mute button on the remote control. The Oscars are always a big self-congratulatory party for Hollywood, and I've never taken it seriously as anything other than a fun fashion show where people get to show off plumage both beautiful and bizarre, but this year's Oscars were ... I don't even know what to say.

A few highlights and low points of this hot mess:

  • Host Chris Rock's intro monologue was a little ... er ... rocky (I wished he would stop laughing at his own jokes), but when he landed his punches, he landed them hard, and he targeted just about everybody.  On this year's Oscars race relations controversy he didn't spare anybody from Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith ("It's not fair that Will wasn't nominated for Concussion.  But it it also wasn't fair that he got $20 million for Wild Wild West" and "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited!") to the Hollywood elite's "sorority racism" ("We like you, Rhonda, but you're just not a Kappa," to which he added flat out the term "white liberals!"  Wow).
  • Louis CK was funnier and more real in his two minutes than the entire battalion of other Oscar presenters.
  • On a related note, C-3PO, R2-D2, and BB-8 were warmer and more spontaneous than nearly all their stilted, unfunny human counterparts.  Shoot, the Minions, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody were better. How about next year we dispense with the humans entirely?
  • Rock getting Girl Scouts to sell cookies to the audience was actually pretty funny.  
  • The evening's attempt to address issues (both internal and external) turned out to be an exercise in surreal, heavy-handed virtual-signalling and tonally weird calls for action.  What was freaking Joe Biden doing on the Oscar stage?  Why were actors giving Crazy Uncle Joe a standing ovation?  Was that really the president of the Academy out there trying to tell people the Oscars were going to fix themselves?  Did the Oscars actually do a musical number about sexual assault? WHAT?
  • DiCaprio finally won his Oscar, so maybe people can now quit yapping about his quest for that statuette.  Then he proceeded to turn his acceptance speech into a bully pulpit about global warming, and I pushed the mute button.  The most entertaining thing about The Revenant at the Oscars was the guy in the bear suit applauding in the seats.
  • Mad Max did very well in the technical categories!  Still, Ex Machina won the special effects Oscars. SERIOUSLY?
  • Whoever wrote the "jokes" and "banter" for the Oscar presenters should be booted. The stuff was not only unfunny or boring, but cringe-inducing for most of the show. Ugh!  How about we stop trying to script banter from here on out?  Watching Russell Crowe attempt to engage in unfunny repartee with Ryan Gosling was agonizing.  Just get out there, announce the nominees, anoint the winner, and go away!
  • The In Memoriam segment, surprisingly, wasn't terrible.  Iconic video clips from departed icons Christopher Lee, Alan Rickman, and David Bowie were very good, and the Oscars achieved its only moment of emotional resonance for me by ending the montage with Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek 2 with that line.
  • Sam Smith somehow won the musical Oscar with his miserable tune from Spectre. Horrible.
Enough of this mess. Let's get to what really matters: the outfits on the red carpet. The fashion was as much a hot mess as the rest of the show.  Oh, I miss Joan Rivers' acid-tongued commentary.  A few people managed not to look awful, but ...
  • Kate Winslet wore a shiny black trash bag.
  • Olivia Munn in her orange dress looked like a traffic cone.
  • Charlize Theron and Olivia Wilde clearly thought they were competing for the Oscar for Most Exposed Sternum.
  • Cate Blanchett kept her dress in the pantry too long, and it had started to sprout by the time the Oscars rolled around.
  • Rooney Mara dug out a dress from a previous century but failed to notice that moths had eaten a huge chunk out of the middle.
  • Refreshingly, Chris Rock pointed out that people always ask the girls what they're wearing because all the guys are wearing the same thing (black tuxedos): "If George Clooney wore a lime green suit with a swan coming out of his [butt]," Rock proclaimed, "you can bet we'd all be asking what he was wearing - !"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Quote of the Day: Oscar Nominees

Enjoy this bit of brutal honesty as one anonymous Oscar voter takes on this year's various nominees.  Here's a taste of it:
"I am voting for Mad Max solely because I want to stop The Revenant."
I didn't even bother going to spend my hard-earned pennies on Leonardo "always the Oscar bridesmaid, never the bride" DiCaprio and The Revenant, but I did very much like Mad Max: Fury Road (and The Martian).

Speaking of brutal honesty ... 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Campus Culture: a lecture by Professor Gad Saad

I had not previously encountered evolutionary psychologist Gad Saad of Concordia University  (his faculty website is here), but I found this recent lecture of his to be fascinating indeed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I Promised Myself I Wouldn't Blog About Politics. I Lied.

I'm sorry.  But I ran across this piece by Camille Paglia about the New Hampshire primary, and I can't help quoting it:
"Despite emergency efforts by Gloria Steinem, the crafty dowager empress of feminism, to push a faltering Hillary over the finish line, Sanders overwhelmingly won women’s votes in every category except senior citizens. Last week, when she told TV host Bill Maher that young women supporting the Sanders campaign are just in it to meet boys, Steinem managed not only to insult the intelligence and idealism of the young but to vaporize every lesbian Sanders fan into a spectral non-person. 
Steinem’s polished humanitarian mask had slipped, revealing the mummified fascist within. I’m sure that my delight was shared by other dissident feminists everywhere. Never before has the general public, here or abroad, more clearly seen the arrogance and amoral manipulativeness of the power elite who hijacked and stunted second-wave feminism."
BOOM.  In fact, it's so simultaneously mordantly hilarious and accurate that I'm giving Paglia her own tag from here on out.  

So basically you're telling me that Steinem and then Madeleine Albright reverted to outright, cynical, sexist bullying in their attempt to eke out a desperate win for Hillary.  If you're a woman, you must vote for Hillary!  NOT A CHANCE, SISTER.  (And, yes, I am using "sister" in utter sarcasm.)  If I'm not going to let a man tell me how to think and vote and live, you can bet your bottom dollar I'm not going to let any woman do it either.  Thanks, by the way, for confirming every sneaking suspicion I've ever had that a lot of the hot air being bandied around under the banner of "feminism" is, at its core, about the snarling, grasping pursuit of raw, naked power.  How's that for "mean girls"?

Stephen Fry vs. Twitter

Twitter isn't fun anymore. In fact, it's become a gigantic cesspool.  Occasionally I find something amusing on it (or about it), but that stalwart of British comedy Stephen Fry hits the bull's-eye with this commentary.  Here's an piece of it:
" ... let us grieve at what twitter has become.  A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.  It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined.  It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same."
By the way, Twitter is complicit in its own degradation.

Taylor Swift 1, Kanye West 0

You go, girl.  She stood her ground with conviction and class at the 2016 Grammys.

Lights Out For Compact Fluorescent Lamps

GOOD RIDDANCE to those dim, curly, toxic miseries that Greenies shoved down the throats of an unwilling populace.  I hate those things.  Anyway, bye bye bye!

I love incandescents, and, thanks to heroic geeks from MIT and Purdue, there is new hope for their renaissance.

Since we're on the topic, let's revisit one of my favorite Remy videos: