16MAR2024 – And Now for a Message from Our Sponsor

Saturday dawns sunny and brisk.  Very refreshing.  So much so that I resent sitting here to write.  But yesterday was a clamorous and dreary day of work.  So as Bob Cratchit observed, “I am behind my time.”  So here I am and I will take the time to provide cogent analysis on whatever it is that demands comment.  But “demands” is a stretch here.  I refuse to write further on Trump’s many legal battles.  When and if they reach a critical juncture, meaning, when they actually drag him off to the gulag, then I shall say my piece.

As for the latest political polls; yes, yes, we all know Trump’s winning.  Even a Democrat shill like Nate Silver is openly admitting that Biden is losing significant minority voters along with other important components of the Democrat coalition like the young and women.  But that’s all been said.  Sure, I’ll mention it in passing if it seems especially pointed.  But we are months and months away from even the conventions and by then, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny may be the Democrat candidate.  So, no, let’s put that aside for now.

I’ve already spoken about cannibal migrants this week.  Check.

Camera Girl has complained about the ruinous price of food including the corned beef for her birthday celebration this weekend.  Check.

Russians killing Ukrainians and Ukrainians killing Russians.  Check.  Check.

So, what, what, what?

Well, truth be told, I don’t feel like talking about any of that crap right now.  It’s been said and we can take a break from saying the same things again.

If you notice I’ve been putting up some stuff from movies and books.  I find this stuff makes me feel better.  And I’m looking for more of it.  This kind of stuff makes the day better and reinforces the things I think are good and healthy to think about.  And I openly encourage anyone who has anything that they want to share with the rest of the readers to link it and I’ll put it up.  Even Weird Al Yankovic (within reason of course).

Inevitably because I’m old and because a lot of what’s new stinks, the things I’ll point to will be old.  And the amount of high definition will be limited.  I hope my younger readers will forgive this.  But honestly watching some black and white footage won’t hurt any of them too badly.

I was thinking the other day that Shakespear died more than four hundred years ago and yet his English is still ninety percent understandable by even average readers.  Newness isn’t really a very good selection criterion for entertainment or really much of anything outside of technology.  Humans are still humans.  What needs to be done is to attempt to reintroduce the younger audience with their cultural heritage.  Whether it’s Shakespeare or the Marx Brothers, the human condition is pretty constant.  Iron Man and Odysseus are similar characters with similar problems.  Thor is just Achilles with CGI added in.

So, I apologize in advance if I stop banging away quite as often on how the end of Western Civilization is approaching and instead put-up examples of why we should care if Western Civilization is saved.  I’ll try to strike the right balance of outrage and fond remembrance so that your experience here is stimulating.

On with the show.

Search for Intelligent Life on Cable TV

Tonight, I watched for the first time Charlton Heston’s 1988, made for television version of “A Man for All Seasons.”  So, of course, when I watch it, I’m comparing it to the 1966 film starring Paul Scofield.  And that was a great movie.  Great acting, all around.  If I’m being honest the Scofield picture is better.  But the later film is still a pleasure to watch.  And that is because it is essentially the same story.  Both movies are based on the same stage play and for that reason both provide the same story and characters.  Even large chunks of the dialog are the same.

Both plays include an argument between Thomas More and his future son-in-law about the value of man’s law in God’s world.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the play.  He tried to make his daughter’s very idealistic and self-righteous fiancé understand that man’s law was made to deal with imperfect humans not angels.  And without it we would all be at the mercy of the powerful.

‘William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!’

The image of the law as a windbreak that protects us from the winds of merciless powers that rule the Earth.  Wonderful image.  The author is a poet, I’d say and a good one.

So even though the later film is not as great as the earlier one it is true to the play and this trueness to the story, even if in the hands of less able actors still manages to provide the same general experience.  There’s a satisfaction in watching a play that provides that successful theatrical effect.  It draws the audience in and immerses them in the scene, in the words, in the interaction of characters that you care about and believe in for the short time that you sit there and watch and listen.

And that’s a theatrical experience.  Most movies do not possess this.  Because the rule of movies is, “Don’t tell them, show them.”  And even a play is showing us something.  But to pull together a scene where the characters are in a space together and they collide and we get to see who they are by what they say is still a very powerful experience.  No special effects needed.  No need for fancy camera angles.  Think of how many great courtroom scenes you can think of.  Or a death scene between lovers.  The dramatic scene is charged with meaning and all that is needed is a poet’s soul to breathe life into it.  Even mediocre actors can take a wonderful scene and give the audience the catharsis that the writer created.

But the truth is this is a relatively rare event.  Out of the thousands or tens of thousands of movies that have been made in the last century or so what percentage have this quality?  I’d guess it’s much less than one percent.  I don’t have any figures to back this up but I doubt it’s a tenth of a percent.  Most of the “entertainment” produced is awful.  It has no soul.  And I’m not even talking about its morality.  I can imagine that art can be made that’s immoral or even amoral.  But what it can’t lack is an honesty about what it’s trying to say.  You can claim that the world is a meaningless maelstrom of death and destruction and out of that you can make art that could touch the human heart.  Or you can show us sublime love and the selfless sacrifice of a mother for her child.  And that could be art too.  But mostly what we get is dreck.  We might as well be watching a surveillance camera of traffic moving on a street.

I have three good movie versions of “A Christmas Carol.”  And I like to watch all three of them.  All three provide a close approximation of the story and therefore a similar feeling of catharsis.  And likewise, there are some other classic movies that tell a story that was so good that they’ve been redone.  One of Shakespeare’s plays or some other talented author’s work.  So, I’ll own several versions of the same work.  And seeing how different actors and directors bring the classic scenes to life is interesting to compare.  But the underlying experience is based on the skill with which the story was crafted and given human meaning.

All that was a lot of words.  Maybe it made sense to you.  I guess it can be boiled down to the fact that there are such things as timeless classics and they exist because they resonate with something inside our brains or minds or souls.  Look for these and own them so that when the crap that you can “stream” on some particular night is just too soul-deadening for you to stand you can reach for this DVD or Blu-ray or whatever technological incarnation exists and feed your soul with something that has meaning and maybe joy.  Or at worst find the book.

01MAR2021 – Quote of the Day

WILLIAM ROPER: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

SIR THOMAS MORE: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Robert Bolt (in his play “A Man for All Seasons”)

A Man for All Seasons (1966) – A Movie Review

This movie is the adaption of Robert Bolt’s play of the same name.  It is the story of Sir Thomas More.  He was a politician and a scholar who lived during the reign of King Henry the Eighth of England.  But most of all he was a principled and deeply religious man.  Being a personal friend of the King, he rose to the rank of Lord Chancellor but when Henry desired to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn it put him on a collision course with the Pope.  And when Henry declared himself the Head of the Christian church in England, Thomas More had to resign from his office.  But the powerful and unscrupulous Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief minister, conspires to use More’s piety as a means of destroying him and ultimately have him executed.

And that is the plot of the movie.  Thomas More uses his considerable intelligence to walk the tight rope between maintaining his loyalty to the King and honoring his religious convictions.  But slowly and inexorably Cromwell cuts through that rope.

The movie is excellent.  The dialog is wonderful and intelligent.  The cast is great.  Cameos by Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey and Robert Shaw as Henry the Eighth are memorable but the main actors are Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Wendy Hiller as his wife Alice, Susannah York as his daughter Margaret and Leo McKern as the villainous Thomas Cromwell.  And there are other strong performances.  John Hurt plays the traitorous Richard Rich and Nigel Davenport is the colorful Duke of Norfolk.

The movie won the academy awards among others for Best Movie, Best Director and Best Actor for Paul Scofield.  And I think it deserved all of that.  I will caution the reader that I do enjoy theater and this is undoubtedly a play adapted for cinema.  It’s all about the dialog and the relationships of the principal character to the others.  And it is a tour de force for Scofield.  If you dislike plays this may not be for you.  But for me this is great storytelling.  The humanity and the intelligence of Thomas More are on full display.  I literally can’t say enough good things about this movie.

Highly recommended.