Gods and myths

Greek gods and goddesses do have an unfortunate modern-day application as people start to assume titles that belong to these ancient deities, however false, even when said in jest. Besides, the Greeks didn’t know if there were gods. But Greek myths and stories may be easier to apply, just like we would a story of modern-day language. The “gods” are dramatized the more by British stalwarts Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith and well-known actors play other gods and goddesses in their midst, in the original Clash of the Titans (1981). The formidable Zeus seemed to me to be unusual for Olivier, the fine theatrical actor of the mid-century last seemed too theatrical as a fiery god, perhaps a little too pretty, as well. The gods’ inflamed passions and schemes, in the god’s home on Mount Olympus, appears all a bit of a farce, anyhow. But the mythological Greek story Clash of the Titans has something thematically challenging even if its for kids it still can apply to adults. The story gets going when god Zeus (Laurence Olivier) gives his human son Perseus (Harry Hamlin) gifts worthy of a knight on a journey. Zeus then tells Perseus that the gifts are there to help him on a journey of executing his destiny. In that vein, Perseus attempts to save Andromeda (Judi Bowker) from various foes, including the sea beast the Kraken and a vengeful, spurned lover. If you strip down the elements of the mythology, there’s a theme of taking up one’s courage; the Greeks did know how to tell a story that has universal application. “Taking up one’s courage” even has a biblical echo, in that Joshua is told by God to be bold and courageous as he and the Israelite’s are about to cross the Jordan River. Though this 1981 original Rated PG (Contains fantasy action and brief nudity) feels a little complicated in the telling, but there is still a sense of wonder to proceedings that the remakes lacked. It holds interest and a steady pace, is wondrous, and there is excitement, such as in Medusa’s lair. Nice scoring.

Published 2020, http://www.peteswritingnotes.com

Artistic vision

The dilemma this one posed was not the treatment of Vincent Van Gogh’s outlook on life, but his outlook on Jesus in history, which, however, I can sort-of forgive as his Dutch liberal viewpoint. It makes a small part of the film, but a noticeable one. In At Eternity’s Gate (2018), post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh wants to follow his artistic instincts and ‘follow the light’. It’s a noble quest that seeks beauty in the world. So, mild mannered Van Gogh goes to Arles, in the South of France (a lovely place!), on the suggestion of fellow artist Gaugin (played intense by Oscar Isaac). It was Van Gogh’s description of his faith that caused me to question how he saw the history of Jesus, rather than question his artistic vision. In this film, Van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) says Christ was only really known in the late first century, and earlier than that he was obscure. But to say Christ was obscure earlier is false. The records in the Acts of the Apostles show the beginnings and rapid growth of the Church and Christ’s message in the early and middle first century. But the film’s better points are what makes it rise above this historical flaw.

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Paradise falls

In Up (2009), explorer slash adventurer Charles Muntz went to South America, Paradise Falls to be exact, in his Spirit of Adventure flying machine, and brings back the skeletal remains of a rare, tall, two-legged bird. Scientists smell a phony and Muntz is stripped of his awards and heads back to Paradise Falls to withdraw from the world. Years later, Carl (Ed Asner), an elderly man, finds his family home is scheduled for the property developers, but he concocts a plan to escape, and lifts off the ground, heading for Paradise Falls, the place that he and the love of his life promised to one day see. Carl is going for his wife Ellie, who died, and Boy Scott Russell comes along for the ride…The humanity of the characters shine through. In fact, this is a really good film. The action hits the spot. The themes are wonderful–let the elderly live out their retirement in peace, the value of friendship and concern for others, loyalty and faithfulness. Ed Asner and Jordan Nagai, as the voice of Carl and Russell respectively, as well as their animated altar-egos, are completely believable. The weird mechanized dogs at Paradise Falls may be someone’s idea of fun, however parents may be warned that there are light scenes of peril, and Charles Muntz the once respected explorer is a little strange, but Up is well formed, beautifully so. The music is genuinely charming and beautiful. Up seems aware of its own fantasy—quite resigned to it, but not happily so. The message, of never up-heaving the elderly from their homes, may in real life, somewhere, be something of a fantasy. Up never lays the sadness of this on thick. A thoughtful touch with a tinge of sadness.

Published 2020, http://www.peteswritingnotes.com

On a mission

Krull (1983) promises an exciting and thrilling combination of Star Wars meets Excalibur. While it doesn’t completely resonate, it is still a pleasing fantasy, for young and young at heart. A other worldly beast, in a fortress, mysteriously moves from planet to planet. It lands on the planet Krull to enslave the people there, which is what all devils would do, without a slither of humanity or logic. A king and his subjects are ransacked by the Beast’s soldiers, the Slayers, and capture the princess. The prince—the film’s hero—with a hardy bunch of accomplices—including a Cyclops, a boy and a fool-hardy magician—set their minds on finding and destroying the Beast and rescue the princess. There’s substance to this tale of good versus evil; it takes a belief in love, faith in action, and courage to overcome evil; Krull comes from a pure soul, it’s lack of cynicism a defining feature, it’s belief without doubting in good and right, a clean-cut film and a good ‘soul’ that seeps onto the edges. Included in the trail of good is a former criminal, played by a young Liam Nesson; he gallops on his horse, suspended by the illusion of special effects, with several others galloping through air and time with him. Stirring, as the trail of good, once earth bound, lifts off quite literally to face the foe, while James Horner’s propelling theme score rings true across the soundtrack. The hardy bunch are on a quest; believable as a team, in a spirit of unity and brings the audience on board.

Published 2020, http://www.peteswritingnotes.com

Slice of life

Places in the Heart (1984) is a pleasingly leisurely and ultimately worthwhile slice of life drama set in the 1930’s—if one can manage sitting through the slow troughs. Memorably, as people are sitting in a church to remember, through a communion service, the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made 2000 years ago, there, a young black man, who had been lynched because he shot the sheriff, are both present. The young man and the sheriff, though dead, share communion (wine and bread), and the scene resolves the relationship between the young man and the sheriff in the best way possible: they experience reconciliation through the symbols of communion. Before this, an older African American, Moses (Danny Glover), comes into the life of the widow of the sheriff, Edna Spalding (Sally Field) although it’s through a sense of “luck”. However unlikely, Edna Spalding is kind and gives Moses work. In the 1930’s in America, this would be unusual. Moses encourages Edna to pay off what she owes the bank by using his cotton-picking knowledge. For one season, he helps her raise a cotton harvest. Even if Moses must go, because of the Klu Klux Klan around the neighborhood – one of which, a businessman, feels threatened by Moses’ skills at negotiating cotton prices – Edna will know how to pick cotton next season. Moses, like the Moses of the Bible, is her deliverer. Places in the Heart unfolds beautifully, is worthwhile, well-meaning, sincere, and features a vivid cast of characters. Very well acted. Beautifully filmed.

Published 2020, http://www.peteswritingnotes.com