Shitty Movie Sundays: Pompeii

What a putrid mess. The trailer for Pompeii, Paul W.S. Anderson’s CGI shit-fest from earlier this year, promised viewers an exploding mountain. It never promised to be a faithful retelling of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that destroyed the city of the title. But that’s all well and good. Paul W.S. Anderson does not do anything but spectacle. In the trailer, Vesuvius blows up and that’s what I paid to see. What I didn’t pay to see was a low-rent Titanic rip-off that made me wait 66 whole minutes for the good stuff. And that wait is a problem. Pompeii only runs about an hour and a half. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for the disaster portion of this disaster movie. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Pompeii”

The Empty Balcony: Becket & The Lion in Winter

In 1998 Peter O’Toole played Dr. Timothy Flyte in Phantoms alongside Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber and Rose McGowan. I love it when fine actors slum it. One can read just how closely their patience is being tested on their faces. Oh? Filming my part is going to stretch longer than a week? My apologies, but I must be on a flight back to England by Friday. What’s that? You have more money? I would be delighted to stay! Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Becket & The Lion in Winter”

The Empty Balcony: 13 Assassins

13 AssassinsThree historical periods in Japan are among the most interesting and compelling in the annals of human civilization. The Sengoku period, also known as the Warring States period, comprised the height of feudal conflict from the 15th century to the early 17th century, culminating in the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. The new era of peace which followed, the Edo period, lasted until the Shogunate collapsed in the wake of internal and external pressures for Japan to end its forced isolation and open its shores to the modern world in the 1860s. What followed was the Meiji period, when the emperor was restored to power, and Japan, through numerous fits and starts, became the empire that was finally defeated by the Allies in World War II.

The legacy of the past, particularly the rigid caste structure that used to exist in Japanese society, is still very much in the public consciousness there, owing to the mythologies surrounding the samurai. A privileged class of warriors, the samurai rose alongside the violent and prolonged wars that typified feudal Japan. One could not seem to exist without the other. Once the wars ended with unification, however, the samurai were without their core purpose, relegated either to roles as bureaucrats, or as restless vagabonds, the laws of the time barring the honored warrior classes from making a living in so-called menial positions as laborers, merchants, or artisans. Yet the samurai were never weaned properly off their warrior ethos. The erosion of the samurai’s self-worth was one of the driving factors behind the collapse of the Shogunate. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: 13 Assassins”

The Empty Balcony: Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down is perhaps the simplest movie I’ve ever viewed, and also the most complicated. The United States intervention in Somalia is a footnote in America’s foreign policy history, but it is quite weighted, to the point that a student of recent American politics ignores it at their own peril. The initial American operation in Somalia, Operation Provide Relief, part of UNOSOM I (United Nations Operation in Somalia I), began in August 1992 as a response to the massive amount of killing and humanitarian suffering throughout the country. It was followed by UNITAF (Unified Task Force), also known as Operation Restore Hope, which lasted from December 1992 to May 1993. During that time, the United States suffered 43 killed and 143 wounded, but was able to increase the security of much of the country. After the mission ended, however, the peace did not last, as the warlords reasserted their control and chaos took hold once again. This led to UNOSOM II, Operation Gothic Serpent, and ultimately to the Battle of Mogadishu. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Black Hawk Down”