The Monuments Men and the value of human life and art

Sixteen years ago, Matt Damon starred in Saving Private Ryan, a World War II movie that raised the question of whether it made sense for several solders to risk their lives just to save one ordinary man. Now he’s starring in The Monuments Men, a World War II movie about a bunch of soldiers who risk their lives — and, who knows, maybe the lives of others — to save classic works of art. And a question I’ve been wondering lately is whether the new film will even raise the question of whether it makes sense to sacrifice human life for inanimate objects of this sort.

The question isn’t really raised in any of the film’s promotional videos, which spell out the heroism of the main characters and the justification for their cause. As Damon puts it in the featurette below: “Ultimately, it’s a movie about people who are willing to sacrifice everything to save what is the very best of us, of humanity.”
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Gravity and prayers for those who travel by space

In Eastern Orthodox services, we regularly say prayers for those who travel “by land, by sea and by air.” I have often wondered if that prayer will ever be amended to include those who travel through space. I mean, if the prayer is as ancient as I think it is, then it has already been amended once before, to include those who travel by air, so it could easily be amended again, right?

In any case, I thought of that prayer while watching Gravity the other day — and not just because it’s a fairly realistic movie, set somewhat vaguely in the world of present-day space travel. (The Hubble telescope and the International Space Station are both in operation today, but the space shuttle program was mothballed two years ago — after Gravity had already gone into production — while the Chinese space station won’t be built for another few years at least.)

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Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 1996)

At first From Dusk Till Dawn looks like it might strike a balance between Quentin Tarantino’s savvy scriptwriting and the kinetic camerawork and adrenaline editing that are Robert Rodriguez’s forte. Indeed, the opening shoot-out, which segues smoothly from snappy dialogue to airborne hemoglobin, is a masterful fusion of talents. But after that, their styles prove to be as insoluble as oil and water. This is not one movie but two half-movies; one might call it Two Rooms.

The defining moment comes halfway through the story. Two American bank robbers and their hostages, having escaped to Mexico, enter a strip club called the Titty Twister, an opulent den of iniquity that leaves most other saloons choking in the dust. The camera lingers lasciviously on a neverending cascade of flesh, beer, flesh, Mayan architecture, flesh and six-shooting codpieces (did I mention flesh?) that vie for our attention as the criminals take their seats. One stripper takes centre stage — or table, as the case may be — and begins to flirt shamelessly with one of the slack-jawed gringos.

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