How is Ben Stein’s “Expelled”?

Who has seen Ben Stein’s satirical take on the Darwinist establishment, “Expelled”? I haven’t, and I’m not sure when I’ll get to. I see that even conservative blogs are just aghast at Ben Stein daring to defend Intelligent Design and to ridicule evolutionists. How well does he pull this off?

“Prince Caspian” the movie

Here is a preview of the next Narnia movie, an interview with the producer: Behind the scenes of ‘Prince Caspian’.

HT: The Pearcey Report

Movies as the opiate of the people

As evident in last week’s blog about cricket, India makes for a good case study about the effect of pop culture on a traditionalist society. In this article about the struggles of India’s “untouchable” caste to break into the country’s “Bollywood” film industry–Bollywood No Longer A Dream Too Far for India’s Lower Castes ––we learn just how much the poor people are taken with the fantasies they see on screen:

Going to the air-conditioned cinema is a popular national pastime without parallel in this country, especially for low-caste laborers who work under India’s unforgiving sun — in construction, in farming, as cow herders and as fruit vendors. For Indians, most of whom subsist on less than $2 a day, the masala mixes of drama and dance are the ultimate escape.

So beloved are Hindi film stars that there are Hindu temples named after matinee idols. Political rallies always include a Bollywood starlet. Some political leaders are former actors. And in small-town theaters, audiences are so personally involved in the melodramas — often four hours long — that they whistle, clap, imitate dance moves and sing along with the songs.

“India is really a special place for film. It’s second only to religion in the way it occupies people’s minds and dreams,” said Barry John, a longtime drama teacher.

Hobbit, the Movies

The movie version of “The Hobbit” is getting under way. Here are some details:

Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was named on Thursday to direct two movies based on the J.R.R. Tolkien book “The Hobbit” to build on the blockbuster success of “The Lord of the Rings” series.

Plans to make a two-part precursor to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, based on Tolkien’s three-volume follow-up to his “Hobbit” story, were announced in December after settlement of a bitter legal dispute cleared the way for the project.

Del Toro, whose credits include “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Blade II,” will move to New Zealand for the next four years to work on both “Hobbit” films with executive producer Peter Jackson, who directed all three “The Lord of the Rings” movies, according to New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

The studios have said that filming will begin in 2009, with tentative release dates set of 2010 for the first film and 2011 for the sequel.

The plans call for del Toro to work back-to-back on “The Hobbit” and its sequel, which will deal with the 60-year period between that story and “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the studios said.

Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” was a pretty remarkable fantasy movie, however creepy and depressing, so he should be OK. Jackson, who did such a good job with the trilogy, will be in charge. That this two-movie arrangement will include not just “The Hobbit” but will cover the 60 years before “The Fellowship of the Ring” is interesting, indeed. I guess that means that filmmakers will be taking on at least part of “The Silmarilion.”

Charlton Heston dies

Charlton Heston, Epic Film Star and Voice of N.R.A., Dies at 84 – New York Times

The night before word of Heston’s death came out, I was watching “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” and marveling at how bad it was. I noticed how that totally idiotic pod race, with 5-year old Anakin Skywalker being drug around a track by two jets on tethers, was modeled after the chariot race in “Ben Hur,” which was a thousand times better. It made me reflect on how good of a movie “Ben Hur” actually was. Charlton Heston was brilliant in that film. He was a great Moses too, the later attempts to dramatize the Exodus making “The Ten Commandments” loom even greater. I think Heston came to be under-rated by later film critics, his stock probably going down once he started his pro-gun rights activism with the NRA. Yes, he did some silly films, such as “Planet of the Apes.” But his remained, literally, an epic achievement in Hollywood.

Apprehending Beauty

In a comment to “Aesthetics & American Idol,” Reader Mason Ian perfectly describes the “arduous” process of perceiving the greatest beauty:

Learning to subjectively like what is objectively good at first bounced off of my 3am quick-read blog-scan. But then I realized that this exact thing happened to me and I shall anecdote-ize it thus:

When first I approached Milton’s Paradise Lost I knew that I “should” treasure it as a sublime and beautiful epic of written art. But i could only (at first) force myself to appreciate it from the outside, like looking at an utterly alien thing that all others considered beautiful. You look at it sideways, squint a bit, trying to see what they see… but it is unutterably alien. Perhaps you see an angle here or there that has a symmetrical form that is pleasing, a curve here, a line there… but the whole is so beyond your current vantage point that the beauty is lost by your own unelevated perspective.

Then, after forcing yourself to merely “mentally ascribe” the designation of beauty to the form, you slowly achieve the ability to connect the slivers of recognizable traits of beauty that you CAN see from your current state.

This is achieved in literature by reading more. The more you read, the more you read. Sounds like very droll truism, but by it I mean the process by which reading one book end us turing you on to several other books, other authors, different ideas and concepts and styles. I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge and find a dozen more obscure authors through his quotes and references, which in turn leads me to more reading. Then, after ten years I come back to Milton and find that Paradise Lost IS beautiful to me in a very different way than the alien beauty I had firs admired as an outsider.

So at first I liked it for reasons outside of myself (others regarded it as the pinnacle of English poetry, etc, etc) then I learned to love it myself, through my own tastes and my own reflection.

We go from being outsiders to being insiders.

However, as it was pointed out, hollywood goes another way. The simple and quick way. the way of the lowest common denominator. Grasping beauty and goodness is a slow art that requires years of honing and exercise. Who has time? Pare down the representation of love to three lines of cheesy dialogue and a wet kissing scene and the audience is satisfied right?

Hardly. Here’s to those who take the time to find and create what is beautiful. It is a long and arduous journey but one which holds the most epic of rewards.

See, Milton and Shakespeare don’t make concessions to our impoverished vocabularies. You may have to read them with a dictionary at first. And they don’t pause every twelve minutes for a word from their sponsors. They go their own way and we have to catch up. But it is worth it when we do. The very subjective pleasure, if you want to reduce everything to this, is so much greater and deeper and more intense with these writers than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with (for one thing because we don’t always want to involve ourselves so much or work so hard–which is fine sometimes, as long as we don’t reduce our aesthetic standards to our own lazy pleasures and exclude what is really objectively good).