And now for a rare political comment.

I tend not to get too political here, but this comment from Ezra Klein, via Ross Douthat, seems worthy of mention here:

Towards the end of the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Dr. John Wane Prentice, played by Sydney Poitier, sits down with his fiance’s white father, played by Spencer Tracy. “Have you given any thought to the problems your children will have?” Tracy asks. “Yes, and they’ll have some…[But] Joey feels that all of our children will be President of the United States,” replies Poitier. “How do you feel about that?” asks Tracy, looking skeptically at the black man in front of him. “I’d settle for Secretary of State,” Poitier laughs.

Written in the late-1960s, the exchange was, indeed, laughable. The Civil Rights Act had been passed three years prior. Two years before, the Watts riots had broken out, killing 35. Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated a year later. But here we are, almost exactly 40 years after theatergoers heard that exchange. The last two Secretaries of State were African-American and, as of tonight, the next president may well be a black man. John Prentice’s children would probably still be in their late-30s. They could still grow up to be cabinet officials or even presidents, but they would not necessarily be trailblazers. . . .

This is, indeed, a transition worth noting — and even celebrating, as far as it goes. I happen to think that both Obama and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner are vastly over-rated, and have earned their reputations largely because white liberals feel a need to make a point, considerations of political and artistic merit be damned. But the parallel Klein draws between the 40-year-old dialogue and the political reality of the last seven years is definitely interesting.

That said, I cannot help but wonder if all the editors who came up with “Obama makes history” headlines last night would have done the same for Clinton if a couple hundred delegates had gone her way instead of the other way. The first female presidential nominee would be just as historical as the first black presidential nominee, would it not? And I wonder what films people might have invoked if Clinton had come out on top.

It is also interesting to consider that both Poitier and Obama are the children of British subjects — Poitier’s parents came from the Bahamas, Obama’s father came from Kenya — and thus, unless I’m missing something, neither of them is descended from, say, the slaves that were liberated by the American Civil War. (For that matter, Colin Powell, the second-to-last Secretary of State, was the son of Jamaican immigrants, so his parents were British subjects too.) So depending on what Dr. John Wade Prentice’s own background was, it might still be possible for his children to blaze a trail or two.

And for what it’s worth, this certainly isn’t the first time someone has made some sort of connection between Sidney Poitier and Barack Obama. See here, here and here, for starters.

Newsbites: The biblical themes edition!

Just catching up on a few items I’ve had sitting around for a while, plus one new item that surfaced today.

1. Carolyn Arends has written an article for CT Movies on Magdalena: Released from Shame, the latest film to mix brand-new, demographically-targeted footage with footage from the Campus Crusade for Christ movie Jesus (1979). The interesting thing about this film — unlike, say, The Story of Jesus for Children (2000) — is that the new footage features at least one character who was also part of the original film, but presumably played by a different actor. So is the character played by two different women in the new film? Did they re-shoot any of the older scenes? Did they digitally insert the new actress into the older scenes? I am curious, especially in light of the article’s description of how the filmmakers tried to insert new footage of Jesus into the film.

2. Speaking of movies that fictionalize and recontextualize stories from the Bible, Books & Culture has an article looking at how Evan Almighty (2007) functions within the “ancient tradition of Ark midrash” because it is “an appropriation of the flood story that reflects the needs and contexts of its readers.” In related news, Carolyn Arends has another item up at Christianity Today in which she springs off a scene in Evan Almighty to muse on the relationship between God’s wrath and God’s love.

3. Variety has a review of El cant dels ocells, AKA Birdsong, a Spanish film that played at Cannes a couple weeks ago:

Patience was no doubt required of the Three Wise Men as they made their way toward Bethlehem, and the same will be required of auds who seek out “Birdsong,” Albert Serra’s minimalist reinterpretation of the Magi’s journey. Hushed, contemplative but often quite droll experiment offers beautifully sculpted images on a black-and-white canvas across its sometimes hypnotic, sometimes tedious runtime. . . .

Three robed men (all played by thesps with the first name Lluis) tread very, very slowly across a craggy landscape, bickering comically over how they should proceed in their search for the Christ Child. Grounded in desert dunes and rocky ruins, pic reps a profound attempt to locate the spiritual within the material. . . .

This reminds me, I have wanted to see Ermanno Olmi’s Cammina, cammina (1982), which also concerns the journey of the Magi, for some time, but none of the local video stores seem to have it.

4. Variety reports that NBC likes what it has seen of the pilot episode for Kings, Michael Green’s modernized take on the rivalry between Saul and David, and has picked it up as a series, starring Ian McShane and Christopher Egan.

What is so funny about these images?

After obsessing over The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep for the past few weeks, my daughter has developed an interest in Davey and Goliath — and for some reason she laughs every single time the logo at the beginning and end of each episode dissolves from the image on the left to the image on the right. Does anyone with a better understanding of child psychology than I have a clue why my two-year-old daughter might find this segue so funny?

My son has begun to laugh at this sequence, too, though I suspect he’s just imitating his twin sister; a few seconds ago, he found it funny even though he wasn’t even looking at the screen, he just heard the music and looked at his sister and laughed in her direction.

Caspian at the box office — the article’s up!

My second Reel News column is now up at CT Movies, and it mainly concerns the box-office woes of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, in addition to the usual news links.

BC Christian News — June 2008

The newest issue of BC Christian News is now online, and with it, my film column, which includes brief notes on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Silent Light and Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

The paper also reports that my column for them on Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy placed 2nd among editorials in the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers’ recent awards. Yay me!

Canadian box-office stats — June 1

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay — CDN $7,220,000 — N.AM $36,955,000 — 19.5%
What Happens in Vegas — CDN $6,460,000 — N.AM $66,074,000 — 9.8%
Made of Honor — CDN $4,190,000 — N.AM $42,965,000 — 9.8%
Forgetting Sarah Marshall — CDN $5,880,000 — N.AM $60,471,000 — 9.7%
Sex and the City — CDN $4,880,000 — N.AM $55,740,000 — 8.8%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — CDN $9,750,000 — N.AM $115,674,000 — 8.4%
Iron Man — CDN $23,040,000 — N.AM $276,625,000 — 8.3%
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — CDN $16,440,000 — N.AM $216,881,000 — 7.6%
The Strangers — CDN $1,150,000 — N.AM $20,707,000 — 5.6%
Speed Racer — CDN $2,040,000 — N.AM $40,558,000 — 5.0%

A couple of discrepancies: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay was #8 on the Canadian chart (it was #12 in North America as a whole), while Baby Mama was #7 on the North American chart (it was #11 in Canada).