Movies and Books

Like Orson Welles’ Macbeth, I find his OTHELLO (1952) more memorable for the visuals than the performances. It’s great looking, and the supporting cast is good (though I prefer the hot-tempered Iagos I’ve seen in more recent productions to the cold, calculating schemer here) but Welles is way too restrained and brooding for most of this to be someone who loves not wisely but too well (it’s not all that different from his Macbeth, in fact). “I took you for that whore that hence married Othello.”
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1979) is a French farce in which two gay men struggle to emulate a perfectly conventional het household long enough for one man’s son to pass them off as respectable to the politician who may become his father-in-law. This was the inspiration for The Bird Cage, but has less shtick and more insouciance (the French just seem to take the sexual stuff with more aplomb) which works much better for me. “Hold the toast in a manly way, and spread the butter with force.”
Woody Allen once said he plays Bob Hope in all his movies, and it’s particularly true in LOVE AND DEATH (1975), where Allen is a cowardly Russian peasant caught up in the Napoleonic Wars, encountering Death and attempting to win the heart of Bad Girl cousin Diane Keaton (“I guess you could say I’m half-saint, half-whore.”). A good one, even funnier if you’re into Russian literature (judging from the reactions of some of my fellow viewers in collee) or foreign movies (I now realize Allen’s ending danse macabre was a riff on The Seventh Seal). “For some reason, at the height of my well-being, I was suddenly seized with the urge to commit suicide.”
GREEN LANTERN: Emerald Knights (2009) has Hal Jordan (Nathan Filion) filling the moments before an apocalyptic battle with Krona and his shadow-demons with inspiring stories of Green Lanterns past including Kilowog’s mentor, a space samurai turned Lantern and explaining why Mongo doesn’t socialize (all the individual stories are adapted from the comics). Definitely in-line with current continuity (the Book of Oa and Atrocitus) though with some hat-tips to the past (“We will rendezvous in the Broome-Kane star cluster.”). Not bad; Arnold Vosloo adds the only other vocal name I recognized, as Abin Sur. “I guess this is the Blackest Night everyone talks about.”

BETTER FOR ALL THE WORLD: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity by Harry Bruinius chronicles America’s love affair with eugenics and sterilization from the 1800s through the late 20th century (as I already knew, sterilization of the feebleminded ran long after Skinner vs. Oklahoma and the Nazi Master Race theory had supposedly consigned eugenics to oblivion). Where In Reckless Hands focused on the legal issues and Mismeasure of Man concentrates on the spurious science of intelligence testing, the heart of this book is the utopian convictions of eugenic reformers that they were building a better society and a better world. Of course their enthusiasm for sterilizing the feebleminded, the Jewish and the promiscuous (the stereotype of the welfare mother who keeps popping out babies goes back further than I realized) turned out extremely racist and classist in practice, not to mention that both the law and human compassion were dismissed as annoying inconveniences when they got in the way of the Great Work. Good.

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  1. Pingback: Movies | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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