Art For the Happy Few

Speaking to a journalist in 1897, humorist Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) stated, “I have even heard on good authority that I was dead.” As I continue the April observance of National Poetry Month 2024, I’ve read similar statements related to poetry.

More than half a lifetime ago (August 1988), Commentary Magazine ran an article “Who Killed Poetry?” Written by Joseph Epstein, the article is still available to read online. Back in that time, Epstein’s commentary is said to have caused quite a stir in literary circles. The essay provoked necessary discussion about poetry’s relevance. Coincidentally, the highly-acclaimed film Dead Poets Society was released in 1989. Epstein’s death of poetry statement was published eight years before National Poetry Month‘s inaugural 1996 celebration. Continue reading “Art For the Happy Few”

A Trip To Mars

There’s a curious film I recently discovered on the Internet Archive. It’s a silent Danish film from 1918 entitled A Trip to Mars. (The original title was Himmelskibet.) Ten years ahead of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, A Trip to Mars captured the imagination of early 20th-century earthbound film-makers and viewers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Trip_to_Mars

Given the founding of the private corporation SpaceX in 2002, an organization whose stated mission is “to enable the colonization of Mars,” space travel to Mars has taken on early 21st-century currency. In May 2020, SpaceX was the first private company (i.e. non-governmental) to send humans to the International Space Station. Continue reading “A Trip To Mars”

One For All

As a child, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. I couldn’t have been very old – maybe ten or eleven – when my imagination began feasting on the classics. (If you’re familiar with any of my posts in 2013, it should be clear my reading tastes tend to be eclectic.) What I especially enjoyed were adventure tales where seemingly ordinary people performed heroic deeds.

Image by Julia Casado from Pixabay

There were particular authors whose works I enjoyed. I devoured stories by Alexander Dumas. I read and re-read The Count of Monte Cristo. Ditto for Mutiny On the Bounty (by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall). Such adventure tales helped my imagination soar; in a way, I was able to live the adventures in my head. Continue reading “One For All”

And It Never Happened Anyway

On Tuesday, my conversation with a friend briefly referenced a mutual friend and colleague. My friend characterized this colleague as “bright, ambitious, likable”but “so misguided about bedrock principles.” (Yes, as one might suspect on Election Day, we were talking politics.) In essence, my friend puzzled:  how can someone so smart be so dumb?!

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Through the years, I’ve had similar conversations with others. When political philosophies differ, the rigid scale of right or wrong tends to prevail. My political convictions are right, my neighbor’s are wrong (or stupid or ignorant). This is precisely why mothers throughout time have advised their children to avoid discussions of religion or politics! Continue reading “And It Never Happened Anyway”

Survivors All

Our culture reveres survivors … and rightly so! The stories of concentration camp and holocaust survivors so stir our emotions, we often see these stories turned into movies. The Diary of Anne Frank was produced multiple times. I’m surprised The Hiding Place (from 1975) hasn’t been remade. In 2014, Unbroken was produced and directed by actress Angelina Jolie who deemed the survivor story of Louis Zamperini compelling.

Cancer survivors have their unique stories. Sexual assault survivors reveal horrific tales of abuse and torture. Given the admiration we accord survivors today, marketers exploit our curiosity by producing numerous movies, games and television series with a survival theme. (I must confess my fascination with Alone, now in its third season on the History Channel.) Continue reading “Survivors All”

Southern Romantic

A couple days ago, I posted in this space about the suggestion by a film critic and New York Post columnist to banish one of my favorite all-time books, Gone With the Wind, arguing it was one more remnant of racist history. Seventy-nine years ago today, GWTW debuted on bookstands.Gone_with_the_Wind_cover

The author, Margaret Mitchell, hoped the book would sell 5,000 copies. To her surprise, during a single day in the summer of 1936, 50,000 copies were sold. The book was her only published novel, earning her the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 as well as the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937. Not bad for a first novel, huh? Continue reading “Southern Romantic”

That Mean, Fickle Woman

One of the singers from the 60s was a guy named James Darren. I first remember him from his role as a teen idol on The Donna Reed Show. He was more than a musician though as he enjoyed a varied career on television and in films. His biggest hit on the pop charts was a 1961 song called Goodbye Cruel World.

Like many songs of that era, this one was certainly silly. Still, it became a top ten hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Top 100 and was also popular in the UK. Continue reading “That Mean, Fickle Woman”

Hot Blood?

Motorcycle movies from the 1950s are not normally my cup of tea. I think it may have something to do with the predominant stereotypes on which the movie-makers depend. While exercising today, I found myself sucked into an airing of The Wild One from 1953. (Anything to distract me from the mindlessness of moving on an elliptical!)brando-the-wild-oneThe plot is predictable – a rebellious young man as the central character, riding his motorcycle, leading a gaggle of motorcycle riders, the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. It has been described as a “landmark film of 50s rebellion” and the film paved the way for a sub-genre of outlaw biker films. Marlon Brando portrays the sneering central character, sassy Johnny Strabler, who also provides narration. Continue reading “Hot Blood?”

We’ll Always Have Paris

When movie critics and cinema aficionados talk about what they consider the top 100 best movies of all time – at least according to their individual standards – the 1942 film Casablanca usually scores high. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund, the movie is set during World War II as the Nazis are tightening their grip on north Africa.casablanca

Filmed in black and white, readers of the LA Daily News voted in 1997 that Casablanca was the greatest. In Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, it’s deemed the “best Hollywood movie of all time.” It’s number two on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies, number six on The Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Favorite Films, and number thirty on the IMDb Top 250 Movies of All Time list. Continue reading “We’ll Always Have Paris”

Not A Sour Note

Ever since we first viewed the 2007 film Bella, I’ve paid attention to Eduardo Verástegui and the projects with which he’s been involved. Bella tells the story of an international soccer star (José played by Verástegui) whose life takes a sharp turn that abruptly ends the man’s career. As the movie begins, he’s working as a cook in a restaurant.eduardo-verastegui-jose-in-bella-2007-wallpaper_1280x1024_20488Lest I ruin the pleasure you’d have in watching this film, I won’t provide more details. It is well worth viewing. The movie earned multiple awards and honors, and though it didn’t fare well in reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, audiences liked it well enough to reward the film with RT’s Golden Tomato award. Continue reading “Not A Sour Note”