Preserving the Union

In a review of Robert Redford’s new movie The Conspirator, about the plot to kill Lincoln, Ann Hornaday makes an interesting point, that one of the major patriotic ideals for which many Americans died in the Civil War–namely, the Union–is nearly always denigrated in movies and has faded from the American consciousness:

As University of Virginia history professor Gary Gallagher gracefully proves in his book “Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten,” about how popular culture has shaped ideas about the Civil War, the preservation of the Union has never been deemed worth valorizing by filmmakers, who have historically been more drawn to Lost Cause romanticism or self-flattering stories that emphasize emancipation of enslaved people or the reconciliation of the white South and white North. (At one point in “The Conspirator,” noting the higher causes they both fought for, Surratt tells Aiken, “We’re the same,” a classic reconciliationist elision of the myriad ways the two sides weren’t the same.)

Considering the depiction of white Union soldiers in such late-20th-century movies as “Glory” and “Dances With Wolves,” Gallagher writes, “recent Civil War films fail almost completely to convey any sense of what the Union Cause meant to millions of northern citizens. More than that, they often cast the U.S. military, a military force that saved the republic and destroyed slavery, in a decidedly negative, post-Vietnam light.”

Replace “post-Vietnam” with “post-Iraq” and you get a pretty good description of how the U.S. military is portrayed in “The Conspirator.” Rather than a principle worth fighting for, or a fragile democracy still vulnerable to dead-enders who would reignite the war, the Union is painted as the nest that hatched the egg of an overweening state and arrogant abuse of power. Hollywood may be where Confederates are buried in their onetime capital, but for moviegoers, it’s still the place where the Union Cause goes to die.

via Robert Redford’s ‘The Conspirator’ and the lost Union cause – The Washington Post.

The review cites the anti-government sentiment of both the left and the right for denigrating the Union cause.  But surely our national union is more than just government and can be embraced by those who believe in a limited government. The Constitution was put together to form “a more perfect union.”  Does anyone today really want us to exist in separate states as separate countries?  Can we recover the love of all of these states and all of these different people coming together into the Union?  Where does the ideal of the Union manifest itself in today’s love of country?  Or is there no longer a place for it?

Why Magician’s Nephew will be the next Narnia movie

Well, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie didn’t do so well, even worse than Prince Caspian.  Still, as we blogged about earlier, Walden Media is forging ahead with The Magician’s Nephew.  In an interview with Christianity Today, the head of that studio explains why:

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe opened in December 2005 to a massive audience, earning more than $1 billion in box office ($745 million) and DVD sales ($332 million) combined. Critical reviews were good (76 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes), and the franchise was off to a great start.

But then came the next two films—2008’s Prince Caspian and 2010’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian brought in less than half of the domestic box office that LWW had drawn, and VDT only about a third as much. Critical ratings at Rotten Tomatoes dropped from 76 percent positive for LWW to 67 percent for PC to a tepid 50 percent for VDT, which releases to DVD and Blu-Ray this week

With the dropping numbers, we asked Flaherty if the franchise was in trouble, and if not, which of the Chronicles would be the next film? The Silver Chair comes next in the sequence of books, but Flaherty said Walden and 20th Century Fox, which distributes the movies, have mostly decided on The Magician’s Nephew—Narnia’s “origins story”—for their next project. (Narnia scholar Devin Brown says Lewis himself would agree with that choice; see his reasons here.)

Why do The Magician’s Nephew next?

It’s a creative decision in terms of what story we felt has the best opportunity to draw the largest audience. The box office has pretty closely followed the sales pattern of the books.

Prince Caspian sells about half of the books of Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, and it did about half of the box office. Caspian sells about a third more books than Dawn Treader, and it did about a third more box office. That pattern continues to decline with Silver Chair being the weakest book in the series in terms of consumer demand.

We just think the origin tale of The Magician’s Nephew is a great one, and it brings back the characters that have proven to be the most popular—a lot of Aslan and the White Witch. It explains the origin of the lamppost and the wardrobe. The order of these books is something that few people agree on anyway. While Silver Chair certainly continues Eustace’s adventure, we never knew when Magician’s Nephew would come in the sequence of films. We never assumed it would be last, and we never assumed it would be first.

A lot of people say The Magician’s Nephew is their favorite.

In book sales, it is right behind The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. If you look at the superhero stories or any great franchise in recent years, they all have an origin story. We’ve yet to make our origin story. But rather than lead with Magician’s Nephew, we’re following Lewis’s lead on this—that it’s a lot more interesting if you’ve been teased with these things, like the wardrobe, rather than explain it right up front. Once people are familiar with the lamppost, the wardrobe, Narnia, and Aslan, Magician’s Nephew is a lot more powerful, to go back and explain where all of this came from.

via The Lion, the Witch, and the Box Office | Movies & TV | Christianity Today.

‘King’s Speech,’ the PG-13 version

The King’s Speech, the account of King George VI’s stuttering problem that won the Academy Award for best picture, is coming out in a PG-13 version in April.  The original was rated R because of a scene in which his speech therapist was trying to get the monarch to loosen up and let the words flow by using some bad words.

It isn’t clear how the new version, which will be the only one in theaters, will handle that scene.  But the movie, whose virtues go way beyond its portrayal of speech therapy,  is certainly a good one for young people to see, raising as it does all kinds of issues about character, the burdens of leadership, and the history of World War II.

‘King’s Speech,’ the PG-13 version, coming in April – Celebritology 2.0 – The Washington Post.

The next Narnia movie: Magician’s Nephew

So it looks like there will be another Narnia movie.  The next one in the novel sequence would be one of my favorites, The Silver Chair, but instead the next movie will be The Magician’s Nephew, Narnia’s origin story.  Here is an interview with the head of Walden Media, which is producing the series:    Interview: Walden Media President Michael Flaherty on Narnia 4 Film, Christian News, The Christian Post.

Filming begins on “The Hobbit”

After one problem after another, including labor troubles in New Zealand, the movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit has gotten underway. The film will be shown in two parts, beginning in late 2012.

The prequel to The Lord of the Rings features lots of the people who made the earlier trilogy, including director Peter Jackson.  Also reprising their roles will be the actors who played Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum, and Galadriel.  Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins:

 

Martin Freeman

 

 

BBC News – Hobbit filming finally under way.

Preaching “the King’s speech”

I was glad that The King’s Speech took all of the top prizes at the Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and (the critical but much neglected category) Best Original Screenplay.

The Lutheran Church of Canada has a nice reflection on how that movie about Prince Albert and his stuttering problem has parallels to what pastors have to do when they, in their stammering way, preach God’s Word, the true “King’s speech.”

Read it here:  Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Stuttering kings and imperfect pastors.


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