Monthly Archives: August 2008

End zones

A few years back, I came across the interesting observation — I think it was in an essay on Sophia Coppola — that most directors address only a single theme or question across all the movies they make in their careers, using each film to come closer to an answer they’ll be satisfied with. This observation almost certainly applies to Coppola’s oeuvre to date, which focuses on the lives of alienated young women, just as it applies, with somewhat less consistency, to the careers of directors like Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. And while one might at first hesitate to place Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón in this category — his work, after all, includes a modernization of Dickens’ Great Expectations, a version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and, of all things, a Harry Potter film — his two greatest films, Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men, have enough thematic similarity to at least make the question worth raising.

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Filed under Film & TV

Many a true word

The Joker

The Joker working the room

As superhero movies go, The Dark Knight is certainly the best of the bunch — although why Christian Bale’s perfectly normal voice had to descend to a guttural rasp every time he put on his bat helmet escapes me, and one must also assign a few demerit points to the filmmakers for portraying the Russian national ballet as a group of blond and unfeasibly pneumatic ski bunnies. But it’s entertaining and occasionally thoughtful, which is more than one can normally ask of the genre.

The late Heath Ledger, as widely proclaimed, is indeed the best actor in the film. His portrayal of the Joker is far less cartoonish than Jack Nicholson’s own go at it, and Ledger takes the character seriously, giving him a consistency, a style, and a realism wholly absent before. Continue reading

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Filed under Film & TV, History


Two rather interesting blogs to let you all know about — both, happily, by fellow Canadians. First, Lee Hamilton’s Platonic Shift is a fun and often thought-provoking blend of commentary on pop culture, science and technology, and Catholicism. And second, Classical Bookworm (discovered via Platonic Shift), a blog written by a British Columbian (and, interestingly, another Catholic) who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and yet has managed to put together a fascinating site that offers a trove of information and links to such things as online compendiums of Great Books, illuminated manuscripts, and courses in Latin. Oh, and daily blog postings too.

Visit and enjoy.

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John Bolton’s correlation of forces

It used to be said by security analysts, back in the days of the Cold War, that the Soviet Union, though benighted in so many other ways, managed to maintain a highly sophisticated and realistic view of the balance of power across the various geographies over which it was in contention with the United States. The Soviets looked at something they termed the “correlation of forces”, which was comprised of all things that determined relative power: public opinion, political allegiance, economic prosperity, class struggle, and military might. This holistic concept the analysts contrasted unfavourably with what they saw as a Western view too focused on counting tanks; if you wanted to get the full picture of what was going on in a country, in other words, it was often most useful to look at things through Soviet lenses.

In a not-so-strange parallel, it appears that John Bolton — the recess-appointed former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and permanent advocate of missileboat diplomacy — has emerged as a similarly accurate lens on the true direction of U.S. foreign policy. Continue reading

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, History