July 1, 2011

The movie I talk about the most

I was looking at a list of some of the ridiculous number of movies I've reviewed over the last decade, and it occurred to me that the movie from the last ten years I wind up mentioning the most in non-movie-related conversations is ... Troy, the middlebrow big budget version of the Trojan Wars with Brad Pitt as Achilles, Sean Bean as Odysseus, and written by David Benioff. (Bean and Benioff reunited for 2011's Game of Thrones on HBO.)

The movie made $364 million outside North America, but only $133 million here, perhaps because American audiences found it too high-brow and alienating: Achilles is a jerk concerned only with achieving everlasting glory who doesn't pretend to be a regular guy the audience can relate to. (That we're sitting here 3200 years later watching Brad Pitt play Achilles would seem to suggest Achilles was on to something that we might not care to admit.) American critics on the other hand found it too lowbrow, because it didn't stick solely to the Iliad (more critics were English majors in college than anything else), but brought in crowdpleasers from non-Homeric sources, such as the Trojan Horse. (My view: of course you have to have the Trojan Horse in Troy.)

Why do I wind up bringing up this pretty good but not great movie all the time? Because the Trojan War is so central to Western literature, philosophy, and even math. For example, the joke in the opening scene where Brad Pitt faces off against a giant in single combat, then suddenly sprints toward his enemy like Usain Bolt and strikes him down, is an ironic  reference to Zeno's paradox of Achilles v. the Tortoise that asserts that Achilles could never overtake a Tortoise (or, in another version, than an edged weapon could never strike home).

Zeno assumed you've heard of Achilles' legendary footspeed. The Classical Greeks used examples like this from the Trojan War constantly, so they come up throughout highbrow Western Civilization.

But Achilles's 40-yard-dash time doesn't come up much these days ... except in this movie that, while it wasn't a giant hit, a huge number of people have, over the years, gotten around to seeing. And thus this middlebrow movie is a useful source for examples for explaining to people all sorts of different things. 

In general, a well-made middlebrow movie can be an excellent resource for maintaining a certain amount of highbrow cultural continuity. Middlebrowness tends to be greatly underrated.

132 comments:

David Davenport said...

Steve, have you reviewed the movie 300? ( Three hundred Spartans ... )

I liked 300. It's very anti-Islamic and presents a very old-school, masculine honor system.

Steve Sailer said...

No I didn't review it, but it's another strong middlebrow work: Most of the killer one-liners in it come straight from Herodotus or other Big Names.

Rain And said...

The entire movie could have been reduced down to this 50 second clip and nothing would be missed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyuefjAuqOw

Steve Sailer said...

The Persian Wars of 490-480 BC are crucial to understanding the subsequent Greek golden age (or, at least, the golden age Greeks thought so), and 300 is a good hook.

Gene Berman said...

David Davenport:

Excuse my ignorance (having not seen the movie nor knowing anything anout it).

Anti-Islamic? The battle that's the subject of the movie occurred more than a thousand years before the origin of Islam.

??

Anonymous said...

Heard this theme many times in the last 10 years usually as part of a screed about the "The Post-Middle-Brow Vacuum in X or Z Culture."

They say it's because of demographics and birth control; higher-ed splurging/secondary-ed decline/meritocratic stratification; or of course, the Internet, but I think it's important that this didn't happen everywhere with equal speed...

One essay noted a UK beer ad of late 20th century vintage referencing Franz Schubert. No American ad since Nixonian times would ever cite high culture without heavy-handed macho irony (the idiotic Dos Equis campaign depends on dimly remembered contempt for Eurosexual TVland dudes).

Anonymous said...

David Davenport said...
...I liked 300. It's very anti-Islamic and presents a very old-school, masculine honor system.

One of the strongest pro-Western films ever made - I was amazed at how anti-Islamic/middle-eastern it was. It unapologetically celebrated heroic, masculine white men vs dark foreigners led by a giant drag queen. I give it a big white thumbs up!

Kaz said...

@David

300 is very anti-Islamic?

I guess not overtly enough, I saw the movie when it came out 5yrs ago when I was in high school and it never occurred to me.

Sid said...

"And thus this middlebrow movie is a useful source for examples for explaining to people all sorts of different things."

Who can but revere the glory that was Greece, And the grandeur that was Rome?

TGGP said...

Some highbrows openly declare enmity against middlebrows and say they should unite with lowbrows against them. Time Life's 1950s pictorial guide to what's high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low brow here.

David Davenport said...

I also liked Troy, but not as much as 300

The Troy stroy and sccript has some weaknesses:

Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world? How to cast that? Any real woman is going to be a let down.

Brad Pitt wasn't too bad as Achilles, but I got the impression that Achilles is merely vainglorious. Maybe I missed some lines in the script.

The Iliad says that Achilles is predestined to die at Troy. Achilles knows his fate, and fulfills his destiny without complaining -- complaining to the gods would be futile, anyway.

I though the temple of Apollo desecration scene was botched. The real Iliad is full of divine intervention. Troy the movie was too secular. I would have had the gods appear in the dreams of Achilles, Paris, and others, if I had had any say-so in the script.

Achilles would have dreamt of himself wounded, weak, and helpless and Apollo laughing at him.

Achilles' girlfriend -- she's too contemporary. She should have been more archaic. And she's too fickle. First day he's there, Achilles vandalizes the temple where she's a vestal virgin. ( Or pagan holy whore? That would be more interesting.)

That night, she's sharing his bedroll and tent. Cue Whiskey for a post here ...


Just think, a sequel to Troy could use Cream's Tales of Brave Ulysses for its theme song. And maybe work Those Were the Days into the soundtrack, too ( "When the city of Atlantis stood serene above the sea ... " ).

Rob said...

I liked 300 too, but after about 20 minutes, I wanted to say, "I get it, you guys work out - now put on some pants."

Anonymous said...

There's a discussion of this in

http://www.amazon.com/Screen-Plays-Screenplays-Theater-You/dp/0061431575

I didn't like it at all when I caught it on the big screen. But coincidentally enough, I saw it against last week and this week took out the director's cut with 30extra minutes.
Just about everything in the movie is wrong except for the armors, helmets, and weapons. Maybe Orlando Bloom as Paris was okay cuz Paris is supposed to be vapid character. And I must say the scene between Priam and Achilles has genuine power. But everyone else is a stock character--nasty Ammagemmy--or just dull, dull, dull. There was nothing unique about Odysseus or anyone else. Eric Bana as Hecter was good looking but dull too. And there was no humor. Bana and Pitt pose and strut than act. They seem to have modeled their performances on sculptures than on the story. Worse, Pitt sometimes seems to be channeling Bruce Lee. Give the man a pair of nunchuks.

I much prefer ALEXANDER by Stone. I didn't like Farrell in the lead and there were lots of dumb stuff, but Jolie was fantastic in an over-the-top way and there was genuine madness and passion at its core.
TROY, on the other hand, looks and feels dry and mechanical. And some of the characters were too self-conscious of their mythic significance/status.

Another thing. Petersens seems to wanna have it both ways. Get rid of gods and give us grim realism but also play it as epic mythic fantasy. There are no gods and the time frame has been truncated but the fighting is pretty fantastic and ludicrous. You're better off with BLACKHAWK DOWN, which though no great work of art, is what it is: a streamlined war movie and nothing more or less.

PS: The two women in TROY were in WICKER PARK.

Anonymous said...

"I liked 300. It's very anti-Islamic and presents a very old-school, masculine honor system."

Problem is Islam appeared in 7th century AD.
Of course, many Americans might confuse all middle easterners with 'muzzies' but for some reason, one Persian was black and the king was a big tall half-naked gay Brazilian.

AIPAC war porn, really.

Anonymous said...

"Why do I wind up bringing up this pretty good but not great movie all the time?"

Why not just talk about THE ILIAD and skip TROY, which is not a good movie. A great missed opportunity though since Petersen was the great director of DAS BOOT, a truly great war movie about the trojan seahorse of WWII. That was outstanding in every department. I saw it in a theater full of old Jewish people when I was a freshman in highschool, and everyone loved it. It was that good.

Anonymous said...

"In general, a well-made middlebrow movie can be an excellent resource for maintaining a certain amount of highbrow cultural continuity. Middlebrowness tends to be greatly underrated."

I think we're about due for a remake of Johnny Tremaine.

Anonymous said...

I only read the first chapter of the Iliad and know the Trojan War mainly through Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY. It's too bad that the ILIAD only begins in the 9th yr of the war and ends before the trojan horse stuff.
The first chapter was rather funny, with the great Achilles crying like a baby and calling out to his ma for help cuz Ammagammy took his slave girl. He's a mighty warrior in battle but emotionally a little boy. But you don't get this in TROY or most movies about Greek mythology where everyone is made so noble, tough, badass, or cool.
In Hamilton's telling of the story, Hector runs like a chicken from Achilles in their fateful encounter and is stopped only by the trickery of Athena. There's a lot of humor here and me thinks Greeks found laughter as well as tragedy in the telling, but movies treat it like a SERIOUS CLASSIC. True, it's a great classic but great works don't have to be SERIOUS all the time.

Both moviegoers and critics were right about TROY. It is both badly highbrow(dullness and dreariness mistaken for seriousness) and badly lowbrow(pop idol narcissism and trite dialogue presented in heavy artsy manner). 300 and CONAN are trash but great lowbrow. Though Cacoyannis's ELEKTRA doesn't quite make the cut as great art, it is acceptable as highbrow telling of Greek mythology. TROY doesn't work on any level though it does look good in parts.
Petersen seems overwhelmed by the project. It doesn't really come together. Neither does ALEXANDER, but we sense Stone's powerful personal vision throughout as Greek heroes may have sensed the power of gods. Though ALEXANDER is based more on real hitory, it has more of a mythic feel.
I wonder to what extent THE ILIAD is indicative of us-vs-them idea that Said discussed in ORIENTALISM. Was it the first Orientialist war, with 'us Greeks' vs the Trojans as 'the other'? But, there is no clear sense of good vs bad in the telling. Hecter comes across as better than most Greeks. And the gods seem to be divided between the Trojans and the Greeks. Zeus, the god of all gods, favors the Trojans. And in the story of the Trojan horse, Greeks win only by trickery and then commit horrible war crimes, some of which are so horible that Athena, who sided with the Greeks, later kill some of them at sea.
I wonder how the world might have been if the One-God idea of Judaism hadn't spread via Christianity and Islam.

Anonymous said...

Benioff is a fascinating character in his own right, along with a brilliant family pedigree: his father was the head of Goldman Sachs for many years, while his uncle is one of the pre-eminent constitutional scholars (probably the single greatest expert on the Confrontation Clause).
But it's his imagined family that is even better. His second novel, City of Thieves, is a ripping yarn of his grandparents' exploits as teenagers in the Siege of Leningrad! Imagine my disappointment at the end when I found out he made them up.

Thrasymachus said...

"The Iliad" is probably unfilmable; if you can't include the supernatural and biographical interludes, you can't do it justice. Without these it's just a pointless war- which of course is what it's about.

That "The Iliad" would be considered highbrow and inaccessible is a sad commentary on the state of our culture. It's a great story- maybe the greatest story- and deals with themes like anger, revenge, friendship, and loyalty, that the average person can relate to.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of mythic movies, the one I found most interesting recently was TRON: LEGACY. In the character and dialogue department, pretty dull stuff. But what awesome special effects.
Anyway, if anything has mythic potential, it is cyberspace in which a truly mythic world can be constructed. A world where mind and technolgy fuse into one and can be manifested through living metaphors--programs as characters within TRON universe.

In the ancient world, myths were related to nature and dreams, and nature and dreams were part of a single unity. Man was powerless before storms, lightning, earthquakes, etc, and so gods represented forces of nature. Zeus with lightning, Poseiden with the sea, etc. But as man developed technology and realized its power, gods become associated with the power of technology. Artemis with hunting. She is half-nature, half-technology. A wild huntress but also user of the bow. Apollo was the sun god, a force of nature, but later his power of light was turned into a metaphor--knowledge, order, civilization. Greeks knew technology wasn't merely used against nature but harnessed the power of nature. Athena was the goddess of weaving and agriculture. I believe Hades and Vulcan are the same god. Again, both nature and technology. God of volcano but also blacksmith god.

But as man became more advanced, knowledge and technology became ever more distanced from gods. Man realized that technology wasn't a gift from gods but man's own inventions that he ascribed to certain gods. The later greeks and the romans--at least the educated classes--didn't take the mythology all that seriously. And then the coming of the one true God ended and forbade mythicism altogether. (But Christianity, to be sure, pulled a funny little trick. Though theoretically monotheistic, it was almost polytheistic in practice. Though Jesus as Son of God was one with God, one could pray to Him almost as a separate God. So, there the angry/judgmental Old Testament God and the loving/forgiving New Testament God. And for Catholics, though Mary was not a god, she was the Holy Mother, and you could pray to her too for favors so that maybe she'd relay your wishes to Jesus.)

Anyway, as time passes, religion remained serious but mythology was equated with fantasy or idle imagination. It's like people still believe in God but no one takes STAR WARS or LOR seriously--unless one's a loser fanboy.
But rise of cyber-technology as envisioned in TRON really has a way of creating an alternate reality as powerful and alluring as the real one.
Again, dreams and reality can be fused into a single entity.
When our minds and technology meld together, we could enter this TRONIC world, and this world could be programmed to have god-like figures as in TRON and have its own mythic 'laws of nature'.
And these gods will likely be the projections of their creators, like Clu is the projection of Flynn's megalomania.

Since Jews are the masters of computers, they will be the rulers of this cyberuniverse where they can create and destroy entire world with god-like power. Imagine the power.
There is some of this in eXistenZ too, where a brilliant Jewish guy invents an alternate reality program in which others participate. In the game world, he evens fools the gamers that the game designer is a blonde woman and not himself, a Jewish guy. The GAY GIRL IN DAMASCUS had nothing on him. We're headed to a new mythic world. And realists may resist being sucked inside the mythic neo-pagan Jewish brain.

Steve Sailer said...

Johnny Tremaine (boy's historical novel about Boston in the 1770s) is great. Even Bart Simpson stayed up all night reading it.

Anonymous said...

"I liked 300 too, but after about 20 minutes, I wanted to say, "I get it, you guys work out - now put on some pants.""

Maybe it's because most of the actors in these movies are big hulking Northern Europeans. Or maybe it's because our culture goes for EXTREME everything.
But both TROY and 300 seem more Germanic-barbarian in feel than Greek. Everything feels heavy, dense, bombastic, wagnerian.

To be sure, the Trojan War is set in a period before the flowering of Greek culture, but I still say it didn't seem very Greek to me.

But 300 worked in a stupid way cuz it was a rock concert video game movie. Spartans used their blades like electric guitars, slashing and bashing everything in their path. It was like metalheads vs techno gay king from Persia.

Troy tries to be more like classical music but it had too many dead spots. And Pitt just revives his role in LEGEND OF THE FALL. He should have revived his role in FIGHT CLUB where he was fun.

The beachlanding scene reminded me of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but Petersen is no Spielberg. Even Fuller's BIG RED ONE works better.

Anonymous said...

"I think we're about due for a remake of Johnny Tremaine."

Yeah, Johnny will be gay and have a black friend.

I read this in 7th grade. We were also assigned ACROSS FIVE APRILS and SEPARATE PEACE. Good stuff. CONTENDER by Lipstye was good too.

Wes is watching RKU in his home said...

Both 300 and Troy were pretty good movies. I liked the moral of 300 more, of course. And it was amazing to see such an openly pro-Western/anti-Eastern theme on the screen. It was also funny to see so many black guys lining up to see it, given that many of the bad guys were black oppressors getting slaughtered by good White guys. Maybe they just liked seeing powerful black men on screen, even if they are evil?

On a personal level, I like Gladiator much more than either of these. It is rare to see the presentation of a good moral effective man on screen.

stari_momak said...

"Johnny Tremaine (boy's historical novel about Boston in the 1770s) is great."

Totally -- when I was a kid there was a series of discs (vinyl) that had recordings (abridged) of the Newberry award winners, and Johnny Tremain was one. Listened to it over and over. When I saw the movie I was somewhat disappointed.

As to the 300 -- I suppose it could be considered sort of second hand anti-Islamic, certainly anti-Eastern, and hugely pro-Western. But most of all I found it anti-Imperialist, anti-multi-cultural. After all, Xerxes (or was it his ambassador?) brags about the 1000 nations of the Persian empire, up against 1 city-state.

Anonymous said...

"many of the bad guys were black oppressors"

Two is many?

J said...

Homer has the gods on Mount Olympus watching on-line and debating the war. Which is waged on two parallel levels: the band of Danae pirates raiding Troy, and the gods taking sides and participating for their entertainment. The film is not bad but it is one-dimensional. On the other hand, I dont know how the gods could be shown convincingly.

Whiskey said...

I like middle brow stuff too Steve. You are quite correct (as is Theodore Dalrymple) that the West in general lost a lot when culture was divided into Gay-Camp, hipster-highbrow, chic-lit, and geek pop-cult.

I'd say a lot of it comes from the expulsion really of the middle class White guy from entertainment. Look at movies from the fifties to mid 1960's. They were all stolid and solid middle brow stuff, singing and dancing MGM musicals (without gay archy campness appealing only to women and gays), action-thrillers (Guns of Navarrone) and Westerns watched by EVERYBODY.

Now you have comic book movies (action-adventure for guys), rom-coms (stuff for women and gays), hipster-art stuff (high earning elites). No one watches things together and a common culture is fragmented.

Whiskey said...

You know Anon that "300" was based directly on the graphic novel by very Catholic Frank Miller (Daredevil, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City). Miller's stuff (the movie is basically a faithful recreation of his graphic novel, almost panel by panel) is about as far from Jewish as you can get. Any actual resemblance to the actual last stand at Thermopylae is purely a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I just took that out of the library today.

Fred said...

Troy was a solid, entertaining movie. Eric Bana was well cast in it as Hector, and looked like a Trojan warrior might. They did a nice job of making Brad Pitt look preternaturally fast, as a half-god would be.

A much better take on Thermopylae was Stephen Pressfield's novel Gates of Fire. It was optioned for the movie rights, but the 300 put that on hold.

Wes - High Commander of the Lizard People said...

I do think the death of the Western was a real cultural shift. They were often middlebrow vehicles that promoted middle class values. The violence they featured was always in a highly moralistic context.

This changed a bit with the arrival of the anti-hero (Clint Eastwood spaghetti movies). And then pretty much disappeared. About the same time America did.

Now when we see killing and violence, it is often deliberately in a non-moral context, although movies like 300 continue to uphold those values.

Anonymous said...

TRON is the new TROY.

It's interesting how Classical Greek stuff still seems modern and even sci-fi. Ideas, design, myths. No wonder spaceships were named Apollo and etc.

Anonymous said...

"You know Anon that "300" was based directly on the graphic novel by very Catholic Frank Miller (Daredevil, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City)."

True. But intended or not, many moviegoers did enjoy it as an ancient version of US marines bashing Muslims-and-darkies-movie. And I must say the Spartans were presented as ancient Nazi SS.
Btw, if Frank Miller had created a comic book about noble ancient philistines fighting evil Hebrews, do you think Hollywood would made it?

The way I see it, Hollywood bosses saw it as a way to use white fascism against 'muzzie darkies'. It is clearly a pop fascist fantasy, one that plays to white nationalist sentiments. But those sentiments are directed at the favorite target of AIPAC--Persians, the ancestors of modern day Iranians. (Make goy fight goy.) Iranians were of course pissed at the movie. They knew what it was all about.
Ironically, though Iran is no democracy, it doesn't make movies that spew as much hatred. It makes art films like CRIMSON GOLD or respectable historical epics like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48UPtECW6Hs&feature=related

Another funny thing. During the Cold War, we were told that Soviets have a murderous hatred toward us, and maybe many did. But Soviet movies were never as crazy and extreme as American movies(at least since the 70s when ultra-violent muscle-and-big-gun narcissicism and nihilism took over the scren). Soviets never made anything as demented, paranoid, or murderous as RAMBO or RED DAWN. Most Soviet war movies--even those about Nazis--worked in the humanist mode.
Soviet movies rarely dehumanized the enemy as Hollywood movies did, at least since the late 70s.

And Soviet spy movies weren't as crazy and paranoid as American ones. There was a popular Soviet spy series that began in the 60s and continued to the 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv4or52Wvdo

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Agents-Blunder-Oshibka-Rezidenta/dp/B000FHFPCQ

They were relatively on the sober side, not even as sensationalistic as GORKY PARK, let alone James Bond movies. They were maybe most comparable to George Smiley tv movies.

Anonymous said...

This may be the last one in the series. I could be wrong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwKXZxtdBr4&feature=related

No great work of art but more adult and intelligent than 95% of Hollywood movies.

Anonymous said...

No, this is the last one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrpn5xCHqFM&feature=related

With Cold War coming to an end, appropriately titled END OF OPERATION.

Anonymous said...

Here's as good a place as any to plug the Fagles translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey.

They are superb translations, and they totally rock -- I mean that they give Homer the immediacy and the action-packed tension which, along with the "poetry," is what's kept him viable all these centuries. Like Shakespeare and Dante, Homer has genuine vigor. It rocks, and Fagles brings this out. (Fitzgerald's "Iliad" has a superior literary stateliness, but it misses out on the rock and roll.)

The great poet Frank O'Hara once said that we shouldn't even bother reading any poetry that isn't better than the movies.

Well, the Fagles translations of Homer are better than the movies.

Anonymous said...

Konchalovsky titled his movie SIBERIADE as a play on the ILIAD, and it is truly epic, indeed the greatest national epic of cinema. Nature spirits, home and the world, revolution, tradition and modernity, war, technology, etc.
The greatest film after SEVEN SAMURAI in my book.
Konchalovasky also contributed to the screenplay of ANDREI RUBLEV(and I believe his brother late made BURNT BY THE SUN and won an oscar.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6dmWas48-s&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO-clNQJsOM

Sadly, Konchalovsky didn't have such a hot career in the West though RUNAWAY TRAIN is a very good movie, and I heard good things about MARIA'S LOVERS and SHY PEOPLE--though I haven't seen either.
But he made the terrible TANGO AND CASH and then some idiot movie with Jim Belushi and Whoopie, and lately, a big budget remake of the Nutcracker with Nazi mice that was a huge bomb with both critics and fans. Talk about sad decline of a great artist.
But his TV version of THE ODYSSEY was half-decent, no worse than other Hollywood version of the story... though the one I haven't yet seen seems to be the most interesting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFXntVVle5g&feature=related

Anonymous said...

Siberian Iliad.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/movies/homevideo/16dvd.html?ref=movies

"a sort of Slavic 'Gone With the Wind'"

Dave Kehr needs to shut up or I'll kick his ass. It is more comparable to Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION, Raoul Walsh's BIG TRAIL, and the first version of CIMARRON, a terribly underrated epic. Gone with the Wind indeed. Gimme a freakin break!! Beatty's overblown REDS is more like GONE WITH THE WIND.

Steve Sailer said...

"Runaway Train" -- yeah, I still think about that one a quarter of a century after I saw it.

It's about a runaway train.

It starred John Voight and Eric Roberts, whom everybody knew was going to be the next huge star, but that turned out to be Eric's sister instead (and Jon's daughter). There was a starlet in it too, maybe the one from Risky Business? But the runaway train was in Alaska in winter so she wore a giant parka all the way through it and her role could have been played by the Michelin Man. Amazing movie, although I've never quite known why.

Steve Sailer said...

"Runaway Train" is the opposite of "Troy" because it's almost completely useless for illustrating anything factual you would ever want to say. Maybe if you got into an argument with somebody over whether or not there were trains in Alaska it could come in handy, but that's about it.

Runaway Train is a mix of highbrow and lowbrow with no middlebrow.

Anonymous said...

One of the most interesting thing about art/movies/books is the best version of something could be set in another time and place. For example, the best version of the Moses story is the western SEARCHERS, with Ethan as a crazed prophet warrior of the wilderness who paves the way for civilization but cannot be a part of it.

And the best Greek tragedy on film is, oddy enough, HARAKIRI, a samurai film. If many samurai films take their cue from westerns, HARAKIRI could almost be a Greek story in its deceptive simplicity and power.

BLADE RUNNER may be the best film version of Germanic mythology, with Batty as Siegfried going to meet his maker Tyrell as Wotan.
And TRON I & II is closer to the spirit of Greek mythology than most movies specifically on that subject.
And the best Kafka movie is actually HOMICIDE which isn't even based on a Kafka novel.

And the best version of ATLAS SHRUGGED is really GURU the Bollywood movie.

And the best monkey trial--Creationism vs Evolution--movie is PLANET OF THE APES.

Anonymous said...

"Runaway Train is a mix of highbrow and lowbrow with no middlebrow."

I would have liked to have seen the version Kurosawa had in mind.

"Runaway Train" is the opposite of "Troy" because it's almost completely useless for illustrating anything factual you would ever want to say."

I don't know about trains or Alaska, but it is a very mythic story. It's as if fate hangs over the convict and the warden, in the way that Hector and Achilles must finally meet in battle and die. It's written in the stars and cannot be avoided. Both Achilles and the Voight character are megalomaniacs with a self-conscious sense of destiny. And both the Train and Trojan War are headed toward disaster with there being no force--man or god--to stop it.

Even so, the gods and leaders of the Trojan War try to engineer the outcome to the best of their knowledge and wishes even though the outcome is fated to be bad for everyone involved. In the end, Trojans lose everything, and the Greeks don't gain much either. Not much glory or honor for the victors.

Similarly, the technical crew and other experts--like the gods in the Trojan War--in RUNAWAY TRAIN do their utmost to avoid a major disaster, but in the end, there's no stopping what's about to happen. It's fate. An out-of-control man with a huge ego on an out-of-control machine loosened like a charging bull. Kinda like Achilles the mad warrior in a mad unstoppable war.

All that can be salvaged from the disaster is the personal redemption of the convict and the warden. The convict finally proves that he walks the walk than just talks the talk. He is one bad Nietzschean motha. And the warden too courageously accepts his fate.
In a world where it's hard to live like a man, you can at least die like a man.

Wandrin said...

Part 1
"Anti-Islamic? The battle that's the subject of the movie occurred more than a thousand years before the origin of Islam."

I think the reasoning is that such a pro-white film wouldn't have been made by Hollywood if it wasn't also conveniently anti-Persian (Iran).

Personally i don't care. I think it' a cool movie and done in just the right way for a mythological subject or history that has a mythological feel to it.

.
"I liked 300 too, but after about 20 minutes, I wanted to say, "I get it, you guys work out - now put on some pants.""

They fought naked to show bravery as did various Germanic and Celtic types later. I'm torn between being impressed and wincing at the possibilities.

.
"i would have had the gods appear in the dreams of Achilles, Paris, and others, if I had had any say-so in the script."

Yes, that would have been a good way to do it if you didn't want actual gods in the story. The HBO series Rome does that quite well with the centurion often acting on the basis of his beliefs. The beliefs may not be true but the actions based on them are real.

.
"The first chapter was rather funny, with the great Achilles crying like a baby...But you don't get this in TROY or most movies about Greek mythology where everyone is made so noble, tough, badass, or cool. In Hamilton's telling of the story, Hector runs like a chicken from Achilles"

Yes, i think the early Greek stories are often skewed to fit a more northern Beowulf type hero. Possibly why the Spartans are so popular.

.
"On a personal level, I like Gladiator much more than either of these. It is rare to see the presentation of a good moral effective man on screen."

Agreed. One of the things Hollywood has never really got, or not often, and which leads to very bland good guys is that for the most part men who do the hero thing don't neccessarily *want* to do it. The guy in high noon might have wanted to hide under the bed like everyone else.

.
"It rocks, and Fagles brings this out. (Fitzgerald's "Iliad" has a superior literary stateliness, but it misses out on the rock and roll.)"

Will look out for that.

.

Wandrin said...

Part 2
"It's about a runaway train. It starred John Voight...Amazing movie, although I've never quite known why."

I love that movie.

Particularly dangerous men come in various categories
- stupid and impulsive
- calculating sociopath
- blah blah
etc.

A rare kind is exceptionally fierce, maximum ferocity, but with *just* enough restraint to not simply explode all the time. Voight gets it perfectly imo.

Someone like that is right on the cusp between being that way and safe (just a bit more restraint) and being that way and completely unsafe (a bit less restraint).

Awesome performance imo.

In the past men like that would have been Attila or Ghenghis Khan.

The key being maximum ferocity constrained *just* enough to be predictably rational and then that combination further combined with above average intelligence.

The prison boss is a mirror image. He has exactly the same kind of ferocity but just enough restraint to make him safe in a civilized world but *because* he understands the ferocity perfectly, because he has it himself, he puts himself in a position where he can guard-dog the rest of society from people like the Voight character.

Except not really - as the Voight character is tragic in a way because he's right on the edge of being safe enough for the time he is living in. One more allele of restraint and the Voight character would be the prison boss trying to protect people from slightly worse versions of himself.

I think Runaway Train is a mythological movie if you define mythological as anything that is built on the tectonic plates *under* the surface of human behaviour.

.
For some segues, I think Alexander could have been played like the Voight character in Runaway train (and Alexander the movie could have used the basic plot idea for Alexander's conquests). Leonidas strikes me as more the High Noon type.

Anonymous said...

Steve, the Trojan Horse is referred to at a few points in the Odyssey. So, while the full Trojan Horse story is told in other parts of the Trojan War cycle that are either fragments or lost, a reader of Homer would know the gist of the event.
SN

Kylie said...

"Who can but revere the glory that was Greece, And the grandeur that was Rome?"

Very nice. And one can appreciate it even if one has small Latin and less Greek.

Kylie said...

"Petersen was the great director of DAS BOOT, a truly great war movie about the trojan seahorse of WWII."

Yes, a truly great movie, one of my favorites. I actually broke down and bought the DVD.

David said...

>Anti-Islamic? The battle that's the subject of the movie occurred more than a thousand years before the origin of Islam.<

Davenport's comment goes to show you that people will read into things what they want to read into things, facts be damned.

Literal-mindedness is underrated. Could the reflexive resort to symbology be an ugly result of a religion-saturated culture, or merely the prudent style in political discourse? If long-winded anonymous is reading, perhaps he could comment on that.

Kylie said...

"Most Soviet war movies--even those about Nazis--worked in the humanist mode.
Soviet movies rarely dehumanized the enemy as Hollywood movies did, at least since the late 70s."


Yes, let me recommend The Cranes are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier.

G.o.T. fan said...

@David Davenport:

"Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world? How to cast that? Any real woman is going to be a let down."

Because Helen of Troy was pre-teen. Also, her beauty was maybe one-in-every-5000-years. So you cast a polymath as Helen, for charms, to accent her beauty. Still too rare? Find a girl who can dance like Dena'h Gregory or sing like Jackie Evancho, or can do both, or more. And add lots of makeup and nudity and diaphanous fashion.

It is telling that Zack Snyder, who aired a promotional teaser of 300 at the 2006 Comic-Con International, is the same guy that gave us (arguably epic) Sucker Punch.

Anonymous said...

While watching Pitt in Troy I could only think of Richard Dawson's line in The Running Man: "Do steroids make you stupid?"

Anonymous said...

"Achilles crying like a baby and calling out to his ma for help cuz Ammagammy took his slave girl."

Skimming through a comment thread, you have to decide whether to read or skip the longer comments. When you come across so offensively moronic a sentence as this in the first paragraph, it's an easy SKIP.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

Since Jews are the masters of computers ..

Hmmm?

stari_momak said...

You know what else is great -- the Rupert Goold, Patrick Stewart McBeth. Talk about high culture that trickles down to popular culture and language.

Franz said...

The makers of "Troy" shot themselves in the foot by casting Eric Bana as Hector. He had "Achilles will kill me" stamped on his forehead as soon as he walked onto the screen. Much too nice a guy.

In the Illiad, the fight between Hector and Achilles is described as the high point of the whole campaign, the clash of champions. Regressing to movie terminology, it could be described as Alien vs Predator. Certainly a match of unknown outcome and of immense suspense.

Alas, the casting of Eric Bana killed the remotest possibility of suspense. The man looked like a guy who stumbled out of a costume ball to purchase a cup of latte at Starbuck's and was given shield and lance instead. On the other hand, Mr Pitt's portrayal of Achilles was positively homicidal.

At the time, Russel Crowe, then fresh of "Gladiator" fame, would have made for a great Hector and turned the movie into something much, much better.

Anonymous said...

I think the last really good historical drama to come out was City of God. Watch that, and then Troy, and you'll see -- IMHO -- the difference between good and mediocre movie making. And the 300 .... yikes!

Dan Kurt said...

re: "David Davenport said...

"Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world? How to cast that? Any real woman is going to be a let down."

Not so. Take the way back machine to the 1950s and see Robert Wise's Helen of Troy and view a credible casting of Helen played by Rossana Podesta HERE. I saw it as a teenager and still remember her incredible blond beauty. It turns out was was a brunette in real life.

Dan Kurt

Anonymous said...

""I think we're about due for a remake of Johnny Tremaine."

Yeah, Johnny will be gay and have a black friend."

Not unless the black friend is gay, blind, or both

But seriously folks, Esther Forbes missed out on a mint by not figuring out the real market for young adult fiction. Not only are young girls far more likely to read hstorical novels -- or any book, for that matter -- they'll also want to play with the doll and see the movie. Pleasant Rowland, the daughter of a president of the Leo Burnett ad agency, clearly understood this when she invented The American Girl Collection.

Anonymous said...

"Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world? How to cast that? Any real woman is going to be a let down."

But Irene Pappas as Helen didn't let anyone down in TROJAN WOMEN. What a beauty.

The blonde girl in DAZED AND CONFUSED would have made a great Helen.

Anonymous said...

"In the Illiad, the fight between Hector and Achilles is described as the high point of the whole campaign, the clash of champions."

Actually, the movie makes it more like clash of champs. In the myth, at least according to Edith Hamilton, Hector ran like a chicken, not least because Athena was on Achilles' side.

agnostic said...

"For example, the best version of the Moses story is the western SEARCHERS, with Ethan as a crazed prophet warrior of the wilderness who paves the way for civilization but cannot be a part of it."

Kyle Reese in The Terminator blows everyone else in that role out of the fucking water. He not only prepares the social structure that will defend civilization against the machines, he also fathers the future savior of mankind.

The scene where Sarah and Kyle conceive John Connor is one of the few examples of the Final Girl in horror / sci-fi movies who survives despite having had sex. And boy does she have sex -- she's shown arching her back, throwing her hair around, clenching Kyle's hands.

Such a wild violation of the "have sex and die" convention is allowed, though, because it was not the typical irresponsible sex-in-the-woods by absentee babysitters or neglectful camp counselors. Rather, this act is necessary to bring forth our savior.

About 1000 times more powerful of a scene than that heavey-handed getting-it-on scene in The Last Temptation of Christ.

Anonymous said...

"Skimming through a comment thread, you have to decide whether to read or skip the longer comments. When you come across so offensively moronic a sentence as this in the first paragraph, it's an easy SKIP."

For Chrissakes, read the first chapter of The Iliad. Achilles bawls like a baby. To be sure, it wasn't deemed wrong in the ancient times, at least in Southern Europe, for men to cry. Indeed, even today, Mediterr men are more emotional and pulling their hair and throwing fits.
The ideal of the stoic man who doesn't cry is more an Anglo/Prostestant ideal. Greek stories are full of men crying and throwing fits. See Cacayannis's documentary ATTILA 74 at 1:20.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSx3nki-P4Q&feature=related

The Greek dude is crying like a sissy--by our standards--but maybe it's normal by Greek standards. In that part of the world, men are supposed to be emotional... which always made me wonder.... how did such an emotional people achieve such feats in science, math, and philosophy? Maybe ancient Greeks were different.
Anyway, it could be Greek boys are too close to their mothers and don't develop properly emotionally. The guy who wrote the book ELENI said sons sleep in the same bed with mama.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3ixPtxgAZg

Indeed, Achilles is something of a mama's boy and never quite independent emotionally or martially. His strength owes to his mother dipping him in some river than to his own merit or training, and when things go wrong, he cries and prays to his mother for favors. When Ammygemmy took his slave girl, he begs with mama to go ask Zeus for help. Not quite an independent hero who stands on his two feet!! Alexander too was a mama's boy of sorts if we go by Stone's movie; but he understood he had to be his own man, which is maybe why he took off and never looked back; maybe he was running from mama.

In 8th grade, a Greek kid used his ma to get special favors from the teacher. To make long story short... there were two extra slots for honor math class, and my grades were much better than his and it should have been mine. But his mother had a talk with the teacher and he got chosen over me. Typically Gree? Gosh, I hope not. But if you read Taki at Takimag, all too typical for Greeks to play fast and loose with rules.
Even in the duel with Hector, Achilles relies on Athena to help him. And earlier, he was willing to let the Greeks lose just because he was sore about the slave girl.
Even the Greek gods are pretty weird. In Hamilton's telling of the tale, Athena promises Paris that she will lay Greece to waste and make him ruler if he gives her the golden apple. She chooses the side of the Greeks only because Paris insulted her vanity. What a whacky world.

So, in a way, I was surprised to find Achilles the great warrior acting so petulantly and ridiculously, but then maybe I was imposing our cultural value onto the Greeks for whom it was okay for a man to cry like a baby. If John Wayne were Greek, he would have been crying half the time.
"Indians kidnapped Debbie... waaaaah, we gotta get her back.... waaaaaaah."

Ammygemmy throws crying tantrums in IPHIGENIA too but maybe it was more understandable. I mean it must be traumatic to have to kill your own child, even if you're a sumfabitch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I7B2rI5FHo

PS. Tyrone Guthrie's OEDIPUS REX is excellent.

http://www.amazon.com/Oedipus-Rex/dp/B000W0KET0

Anonymous said...

"Rossana Podesta HERE. I saw it as a teenager and still remember her incredible blond beauty."

I dunno. She looks kinda like Lucille Balle.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, let me recommend The Cranes are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier."

And DESTINY OF MAN.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwxjxDGsrXc

Anonymous said...

And THE ASCENT, which may also be the best Jesus movie ever(in an indirect way).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfDNwmXC-dA

Anonymous said...

It's been said before but I say it again. Achilles was a heel.

agnostic said...

Helen of Troy's beauty would be easier to show in Doctor Faustus, where she isn't required to act, but to serve as one of the spellbinding temptations that Faustus' hubris cannot resist.

Plus this could teach a mass audience where the phrase "the face that launched a thousand ships" comes from.

Choosing a Helen based on sheer beauty could never happen today, or anytime really in the past 20 years, after the death of the supermodel. Our sex symbols in that time have had to have proven their Worth Taking Seriously qualities through acting, singing, hosting TV shows, etc. As though sheer beauty itself is not worth taking seriously...

No one is interested in extreme human types anymore, and not just one like thousand-ship-launching Helen. All the midgets that used to appear in fantasy movies and music videos (and red room dream sequences), Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride, and other examples of the grotesque are gone.

Requiring extreme human specimens to also be able to act well ensures that they won't be chosen. But who cares about how well they act? Sometimes the narrative and especially the image calls for a giant, a dwarf, or a supermodel.

Anonymous said...

"Skimming through a comment thread, you have to decide whether to read or skip the longer comments. When you come across so offensively moronic a sentence as this in the first paragraph, it's an easy SKIP."

Thank you. I was going to write something similar, but was rendered speechless that someone would go on and on so authoritatively after admitting in his very first sentence that he hadn't read the source material. Tom Townsend from Metropolitan comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

filing out of the theater after Troy, I overheard a woman asking her boyfriend, "what kind of ending was that?" boyfriend (expansively): "that's how it ended."

Truth said...

All of this love for the latent shirt off, oiled down homosexuality in 300? I watched half the movie and got up and left...Steve, a fair percentage of your readers appear to be a little...G-hey.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of male emotions, SEVEN SAMURAI is interesting. The samurai generally keep their emotions under wrap though they laugh at times. The peasants, on the other hand, cry, scream, whine, bitch, and throw tantrums every so often.
Mifune's character is pretty wild but then we learn he's actually of peasant origin.
Anyway, I suppose a culture can be both stoic and emotional. In Japan, samurai were supposed to be masters of self-control while peasants not so much.
So, maybe Greeks had different social ideals for different classes or professions.

David said...

>In 8th grade, a Greek kid used his ma to get special favors from the teacher. To make long story short...<

The Ancient Greeks were not perfectly identical to today's Greeks (something you mentioned as a hypothesis; it is true).

And most heroes in Ancient Greek myths were teen or pre-teen savages, whose behavior is infantile anyhow. It would make sense for them to cry or howl a'weeping in moments of stress. Additionally to this, remember "Homer" or tales under that name are fictioners nestled within some factual historical frameworks. It was and is a common device in mythical fiction to symbolize the characters' emotional responses by means of showing them taking regressive actions. "He threw himself on the bosom of his mother," "she wept for 40 days," "he cried out to the heavens before his men," etc. That doesn't establish that your average Ancient Greek guy was screaming all the time. Lighten up, dude.

Sorry about whatever happened to you in 8th grade.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AwvuirSEAA

Best sci-fi movie since AI. Like BLADE RUNNER, more design-centric than action-centric. MATRIX REVOLUTIONS is impressive but is all about fighting and things blowing up. You aren't given much of a chance to appreciate the world it presents. TL has stunning action sequences too but there are moments when you can just watch in wonderment. Too bad the script was kinda crappy. Outstanding.

Svigor said...

Anti-Islamic? The battle that's the subject of the movie occurred more than a thousand years before the origin of Islam.

Doesn't matter. You're looking through the wrong end of the lens. See, filmmakers are supposed to kowtow to Islamic/liberal sensibilities by not making movies about Greeks vs. Persians unless the Persians are the good guys. Because today's Persia is Muslim.

Disrespecting this taboo is un-Islamic/liberal. Which might as well be anti-Islamic/liberal, because if you aren't with them, you're against them. After all, why dis the taboo unless you're anti-Islamic/liberal?

Ever heard of allegory?

Svigor said...

It's sort of like how opposing AA or miscegenation propaganda is "racist." Only a racist would worry enough about these things to make a stink over them.

keypusher said...

There are some really good posts in here.

Anyway, put me in the Troy (movie)-bashing camp. There is more pathos and more humor, too, in the recounting of the baneful dream that Zeus sends to Agamemnon at the beginning of Book II than there was in the whole movie. And Homer was a master of effects, too, that a big budget director might of envied. Later in Book II the heralds have to shout orders to get the troops sit and hear Agamemnon address them, and Homer makes you feel the sheer size of the army and the labors of the heralds to bring this clumsy 50,000 headed beast to heel. And he'll do surprising things like stop the action in the middle of a huge battle, and then draw back and see the battle from a huge height and a distance of hundreds of years, and remind his audience that this great war left not a trace in their own time.

So, yeah, rock and roll; but much more.

I have to disagree with whoever said that Bana and Pitt were too mismatched in the movie. They couldn't have been more mismatched than Achilles and Hector were in the poem. Homer shows it well before Achilles takes the field -- obviously, in making Hector an equal match to the Greek Ajax, who would be the first to admit he is inferior to Achilles; subtly, in making Hector's wife Andromache a refugee from a city Achilles had sacked, killing her father and brothers. And when Achilles does take the field and slaughters the Trojan army, it's clear he's a different species from every other warrior. As when they finally meet, Hector runs away from Achilles:

and the one who fled was great but the one pursuing
greater, even greater -- their pace mounting in speed
since both men strove, not for a sacrificial beast
or oxhide trophy, prizes runners fight for, no
they raced for the life of Hector breaker of horses

Not much suspense there, eh?

Hector's tragedy is that he is a man against a near-god. He has kept the war going by being cautious and prudent and staying behind the walls. Pride and, I think, war-weariness (he thinks he has a chance to win the war once and for all), lead him to keep his army outside the walls when he knows Achilles is about to rejoin the fighting. As a result, the Trojan army is destroyed and Troy's doom sealed. So even though Apollo diverts Achilles and gives Hector the chance to escape back into the city, he stays outside the walls and is killed.

Again, Homer makes it clear that it is pride and shame that keep him from safety:

"If I slip inside the gate and walls,
Polydamas will be the first to heap disgrace on me--
he was the one who urged me to lead our Trojans
back to Ilium just last night, the disastrous night
Achilles rose in arms like a god. But did I give way?
Not at all. And how much better it would have been!
Now my army's ruined, thanks to my own reckless pride.
I would die of shame to face the men of Troy,
and the Trojan women trailing their long robes...
Someone less of a man will say, "Our Hector--
staking all on his own strength, he destroyed the army!"

This, by the way, is one of the points where the poem is most superior to the movie; Hector goes out to be slain in Troy for no reason at all besides some strange sense of fair play.

I echo the praise for Fagles; it's his translation I quote above. During World War II, Simone Weil wrote a remarkable little book, The Iliad or the Poem of Force. It begins,

The true hero, the true subject matter, the center of the Iliad is force. The force that men wield, the force that subdues men, in the face of which human flesh shrinks back....those wise enough to discern the force at the center of all human history, today as in the past, find in the Iliad the most beautiful and flawless of mirrors.

Well worth your time.

Anonymous said...

Since Mexicans are underrepresented in our culture, how about Hollywood make THE MEXICAN ILIAD, with Yucantan vs Tijuana?
It can star Guillermo as Achillez and have the Tijuana Pinata instead of a wooden horse.
On the other hand, Mexicans need no pinata to fool the other side. They can just climb over the fence as they into California.

Anonymous said...

Is the US more like Troy or like the Greece? And within the US, which groups are more like Trojans and which are more like Greeks?

Anonymous said...

The Jewish Iliad is the MASADA, a pretty good TV mini-series. Though low-budget compared to TROY, I found the personalities and power politics far more interesting, and the writing was 100x better than in TROY, where it's just awful. It also features a very solid performance by Peter O'Toole. I like the relative complexity of the theme. And though it has plenty of action, there's also stuff for food for thought, which can't be said for TROY. When you spend lots of money, producers say, 'dumb it down for the masses so we can recoup the cost'. This is prolly why TROY begins with Achilles fighting some WWE giant with scars on his face. It's so cartoonish.

ZULU is also a very good movie with a similar scenario.

Anonymous said...

Though LAST SAMURAI is silly, Tom Cruise looked smashing in samurai outfit and he was a lot more fun and likable than Pitt in TROY, whose whole attitude was 'I, the great achilles and brad pitt, am simultaenously too good for this war, this history, this humanity, this movie, etc'.
Though VALKYRIE was silly too, Cruise again looked very good.
But pacing was fast enough to keep one involved.
DOWNFALL is an excellent movie about a regime under siege .

Anonymous said...

Best mytho-historical films are still NIBELUNGEN by Lang, EXCALIBUR, and 13TH WARRIOR.

Dan Kurt said...

re:"Rossana Podesta HERE. I saw it as a teenager and still remember her incredible blond beauty." DK

"I dunno. She looks kinda like Lucille Balle (sic)." Anonymous said...7/2/11 3:18 PM

Don't disparage Lucy Ball. The young Lucille Ball was drop dead gorgeous and a natural blond to boot. See a YouTube video of the Young Lucy HERE. She was born in 1911 so that she was in her 20s during the 1930s. She was 40 when I LOVE LUCY began in 1951 and she was 63 when her HERE'S LUCY ( her fourth successful show in a row ) ended in 1974. She was 75 when she came back (unsuccessfully) with a show LIFE WITH LUCY in 1986.

Steve Sailer said...

I Love Lucy is still playing in reruns on broadcast TV in LA -- now in it's 7th decade. How much better was it than any other comedy on TV 60 years ago?

Anonymous said...

"Don't disparage Lucy Ball. The young Lucille Ball was drop dead gorgeous and a natural blond to boot."

But do you wanna see a Helen that goes 'waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah'?
And I can just see Desi Arnez as Melenez going Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelen!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My theory as to why Sailer is partial to this movie.

1. His father was into engineering and so he has a weakness for movies with lots of ships, battle formations, logistics, engineering stuff, and technology.

2. His name is Sailer and he likes anything with lots of sails.

3. Eric Bana kinda looks like Sailer with the beard he used to have. In fact, maybe they should make a blogger/academic all-star remake of TROY with Sailer as Hector, Paul Gottfried as Priam, Tim Wise as Ammygemmy, David Brooks as Odysseus, Richard Spencer as Paris, Amy Chua as Andromache, Ann Coulter as Helen, Yglesias as Menelez, Jim Goad as Achilles, Truth as token black guy, and Macolm Gladwell as the Trojan Horse. He sure if full of manure.

Anonymous said...

Is Alamo the American Iliad? Or WWII, what with US navy crossing the seas to smash Japan and Germany?

Anonymous said...

On the subject of why Jews won over wasps, maybe the truth is there in the ILIAD. The weirdest thing about the ILIAD is it's a Greek war poem yet so even-handed, at times even favoring the Trojans as a nobler people. Though Greeks fought a brutal war and won a great victory, it's as though Homer and others felt a need to pay tribute to the noble Trojans. Why? I guess there's greater honor in having fought a worthy enemy deserving of respect. There are elements of both triumph and tragedy in the ILIAD. Though warrior peoples can be brutal and ruthless in battle, after the dust settles, there is time for reflection and respect for the other side, like boxers embrace after a bruising fight. A sense of honor and respect for a great foe. You find this too in the works of Tacitus. Germanic barbarians were enemies but Tacitus gave them their due as a mighty and proud people. One senses the same kind of respect in THE ILIAD. Even as Homer poeticized the courage of the Greeks, he also paid homage to the Trojans.
We find this too in American wars. WWII was vicious and fought inhumanely by both sides, but after the dust settled, Americans came to respect the Japanese and Germans. It wasn't until the rise of Holocaustianity that Germans came to be seen as utterly evil and without any redeeming facet whatsoever. Compare ENEMY BELOW with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
And David Yeagley has spoken about how the white man ruthlessly defeated the Indians, but after the dust settled, the white man paid tribute to the memory of Indians as a noble race of people who fought for their tradition and land. And there was also a 'let bygones be bygones' aspect to post-civil-war order. Veterans of both sides might meet and remember the old days. So, respecting and empathizing with the other side is there in the ILIAD. Relatively speaking, despite white prejudice in the past, white people were still more openminded than non-whites. Of course, Christianity made Westerners less tolerant of people who worshiped false gods, but Jesus did tell people to forgive and even low thy enemy. So, the combo of pagan warrior honor and Christian remorse did serve as a balance to the aggressiveness and domination of the West. Western man believed other peoples were respecting of some respect.

Jews are different. There is no Jewish equivalent of the ILIAD. The Bible is full of 'Jews are the Chosen People of God, and God smote this enemy of Jews, smote that enemy of Jews.' Or God orders Jews to totally wipe out non-Jews and feel zero remorse over it. Also, the ILIAD presents a spiritually more generous view of the world. The gods are not all on the side of Greeks. The gods to whom Greeks pray may favor the Trojans. Greeks didn't believe that spirit world was entirely on their side. Zeus, the greatest of gods, could just as well side with Trojans as with Greeks.

But Jews believed there was only ONE GOD and that GOD favored Jews over all others. God might punish Jews for their sinful ways, but God would NEVER EVER favor non-Jews over Jews. And there was no god or gods other than Yahweh.
So, the Jewish attitude and habit of thinking is different from the western attitude and habit of thinking. Though Jews often fought, they were never a warrior people but a prophet people. Prophets have no use for honor as warriors do. They are interested in morality and the truth. Truth according to the Jews was 'there is one God and He is on our side.' So, after Jews killed a whole bunch of Canaanites or others, they never thought to write poem in honor of the people they defeated. The Jewish attitude was simply 'good riddance, scumbag!'
Also, the Jewish God is a judgmental and ruthless God, not a forgiving God like Jesus. If a Christian felt remorse for having acted violently toward one's enemies, Jew never did. The Jewish God told Jews to kill, bash, and smash and shed no tear over dead goyim.

Anonymous said...

Ammygemmy is a pretty bad guy in TROY. He kinda reminded me of John Belushi in ANIMAL HOUSE, which is to say he was the only happening guy in the whole movie.

But I recall Ammygemmy was a good guy in TIME BANDITS with Sean Connery.
Speaking of Sean Connery, ZARDOZ had some ILIAD-like aspects.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Petersen lucked out with DAS BOOT because it takes place inside a machine. Petersen is more a film engineer than an artist. Because the spaces were so tight in DAS BOOT, Petersen had no choice but to focus on characters and push the narrative foward.
But TROY takes place out in the vast open space of oceans and sands, and it's sprawling to the point of being shapeless. Some of the visual logistics is impressive but near pointless when not gratuitous when not generic. Petersen did all sorts of fancy trapeze wire acts with the camera, but it doesn't really say much except, "look ma, no hands; look ma, no feet." Problem is "look ma, no brains." Though Petersen utilized many more pyrotechnics, his sacking of Troy is far less powerful than Kurosawa's castle-burning scene in RAN. That was heart-wrenching. Kurosawa shot a lot of footage but then carefully selected and interwove a visual tapestry for maximum poetic/tragic effect. And Toru Takemitsu's music provided another layer of artistic vision.
But as impressive as the visuals and sound effects are in TROY, they are part of generic big budget spectacle filmmaking. It's not much different than what Emmerich or Bay does. It's just another jumbo jet than a work of art.

Worst of all, this mega-hype-genericism bleeds into the acting as well. All the dialogue is LARGER THAN LIFE, characters are framed to look IMPORTANT, and even quiet scenes are PORTENTOUS! But is Pitt anything other than a bratty narcissitic highschool jock as Achilles?

Compare him with Vladimir Kulich in 13TH WARRIOR. Tough good looking guy but not Mr. Calvin Klein all the time. And he too is conscious of his role in myth and history, but it's expressed far more beautifully than the mytho-psycho-babble we get from Pittilles.

Kulich/Buliwulf:
"A man might be thought wealthy if someone were to draw the story of his deeds, that they may be remembered."

That is great writing and the scene was beautifully acted and shot. And McTiernan was careful not to over-choreograph everything to the point of Broadway spectacularism.

13TH WARRIOR is an action adventure, not circus maximus packed with visual fireworks and freakshows.
The men of 13TH WARRIOR, like of SEVEN SAMURAI and WILD BUNCH, simply ARE. And they have a job to do and they do it. They are NOT mugging for the camera all the time or saying ponderously weighty things, as if trite things uttered gravely amounts to profundity. I always loved SEVEN SAMURAI, WILD BUNCH, and 13TH WARRIOR for their feel of authenticity. If a director wants to go mythic, learn from LEONE. ONCE UPON A WEST may be slow-going but it is all of one piece/vision.
TROY tries to be everything--high, low, epic, mythic, realistic, anti-war message, action spectacle, superhero cartoon, teenybopper romance, etc but is really a mess.

Anonymous said...

People do speak in a larger-than-life manner in EXCALIBUR but each character has a unique look and personality, a pungent eccentricity. It also has much better acting than TROY. And such wonderful voices. Who can forget Uther calling out to Merlin, or Nicolson's purring recital of the charm of making?
After the movie is over, you remember each character vividly big or small. But everyone is a blur in TROY. They all seem to be zonked into a collective personality of the acme school of big spectacle performance. It's almost like TV acting, which is why I never watch TV. There are just a handful of generic personalities or steretypes that everyone must conform to. It's cosmeticism than concrete personalities.
Another thing. Boorman kept his mind on the ball, and his film was made at a time when directors still wanted to show things, i.e. 'here is a forest; look at the mist'. Now, we have ADD filmamking and ADD movieviewing. We have jetfighter cameras zooming everywhere, CGI creating millions of men just for the effect, and more of 'hey, look what can we do' than 'wait, this is what we really should do'. Too often, the stunt or feat takes precedence over meaningful expression. Proportionality is a lost art since every director tries to top his predecessor with bigger, badder, louder, crazier stuff. In some ways, Petersen is more intelligent and adult than most directors. But I guess he can't resist the temptation either. (Same with Scorsese with GANGS OF NY and THE AVIATOR.)

Fred said...

Peterson's Troy handled the Helen situation well, despite comments to the contrary above. He had Agamemnon tell his subordinates that Helen was just a useful pretext for a war of conquest, which took some weight off of the beauty requirements of her character. Diane Kruger, in any case, was beautiful, and also a competent actress: think of the scene where she stands at the balcony in Troy, shivering at the breeze off of the sea, realizing that the same wind is driving the Greek ships - and war -- closer to Troy.

Casting overall in the movie was pretty good -- Peter O'Toole as Priam, Sean Bean as Odysseus, Brendan Gleeson as Menelaus, who actually looked like he could be Agamemnon / Brian Cox's brother.

Steve Sailer said...

I think the problem Americans had with "Troy" was that it was too archaic, too barbaric, too pagan. In particular, Brad Pitt, the guy they had paid to see, wasn't friendly, wasn't funny, wasn't pseudo-humble, wasn't a man of the people, wasn't a nice guy and all those things we think we want in our leading man characters. Will Smith would have played Achilles as an all-around good guy who's just got a few psychological quirks that he needs to get out of his system, because Will Smith likes his movies making a ton of money. Brad Pitt doesn't particularly seem to care. So, when he takes on _the_ classic leading man role, he emphasizes the strangeness of it all.

In contrast, Sean Bean as Odysseus was, per James Joyce, more modern, friendly-looking, witty, smart, reasonable, all the things we think we value. But who ever heard of Sean Bean? And what's the name of the character he's playing?

The name Odysseus is only mentioned once in the movie, briefly and only semi-audibly -- I only figured out who he was from when he was referred to as the King of Ithaca. There's no lame attempt in the script to remind moviegoers that he's the guy that, among other things, the Honda Odyssey is named after. I would guess that a large fraction of the American audience never figured out that they had heard of Sean Bean's character before. That leaves them wondering: Why does Brad Pitt die and this unknown Sean Bean guy get the last words in the movie?

Anonymous said...

"For Chrissakes, read the first chapter of The Iliad. Achilles bawls like a baby."

I was condemning your style. It was probably "Ammagammy" for Agamemnon that put me over the edge.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

After GoldenEye, National Treasure, and Lord of the Rings, people were probably wondering what villainous things the Sean Bean guy would do. They got confused when he wasn't a bad guy after all.

Anonymous said...

"Alas, the casting of Eric Bana killed the remotest possibility of suspense. The man looked like a guy who stumbled out of a costume ball to purchase a cup of latte at Starbuck's and was given shield and lance instead. On the other hand, Mr Pitt's portrayal of Achilles was positively homicidal."

Hmmm... Well that's more scripting than acting. Bana was intensely homicidal in Chopper.

"In contrast, Sean Bean as Odysseus was, per James Joyce, more modern, friendly-looking, witty, smart, reasonable, all the things we think we value. But who ever heard of Sean Bean? And what's the name of the character he's playing?"

Surely anyone who had seen the Fellowship of the Ring?

Anonymous said...

Eh, "Troy" had a great spear-and-sword fight (Achilles vs. Hektor, c'mon, it was pretty good) but nothing else was memorable. I only remember the sword fight. And Peter O'Toole playing Peter O'Toole.

But if any of youse ever had the privilege of seeing Andrei Serban's "Fragments of a Trilogy/Trojan Women", live at LaMaMa, then you woulda got the authentic Trojan War experience. Oh, and plus you woulda also have seen the hottest Helen you could possibly imagine. What a piece of work! If Serban ever revives it again, cross oceans and mountain ranges to see it.

keypusher said...

Here, by the way, is the finest review/parody of Troy I know of:

http://cleolinda.livejournal.com/99710.html

Kylie said...

"And DESTINY OF MAN."

I think the actual title might be Destiny of a Man. In any case, it looks terrific, thanks for the recommendation.

Anonymous said...

"Eh, "Troy" had a great spear-and-sword fight (Achilles vs. Hektor, c'mon, it was pretty good) but nothing else was memorable."

It was good but also silly, with Bradilles showboating around. It had too many stylistic distractions. Compare that to the confrontation between the good-looking Indian and Mogwe in LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Brutal, ruthless, essential.

Anonymous said...

"Sean Bean as Odysseus was, per James Joyce, more modern, friendly-looking"

He completely lacked personality, which is to miss the point about Oddy's character. Oddy isn't the toughest but he's an effective leader of men and negotiator because he has the power win people over. In TROY he's just a dull good-natured middleman.

Anonymous said...

"I was condemning your style. It was probably "Ammagammy" for Agamemnon that put me over the edge."

Okay, so Achilles cries like a baby and I write like one. You see, we have something in common.

Anonymous said...

"I think the problem Americans had with "Troy" was that it was too archaic, too barbaric, too pagan."

I dunno. 13TH WARRIOR did pretty good business for a movie dumped by the studio.
And people loved CONAN THE BARBARIAN, which was much more barbaric than TROY.
And look at our popular music culture and it's totally pagan. Afro-paganism of rappers, neo-paganism of metalheads, sexual paganism of Lady Gaga. And kids love violent videogames.

For me, the problem wasn't archaism but familiarism. Too many Hollywood cliches and tropes. I wanted more authenticity, which isn't necessarily the same thing as accuracy. I don't know much about norsemen or stone-age men that might have inhabited Europe long ago, but the very air in 13TH WARRIOR seemed of a forgotten world. And its world cannot be mistaken with those in other movies--even if also about norsemen. It's a world not only of norsemen but that particular band of norsemen on that particular adventure.
It's like some brands of wine are associated with a special place and tradition.

THE FALL OF OTRAR is one of the greatest historical epics ever. If ever a film was guilty of archaism, this is it. Again, I don't know about the accuracy of the details concerning the atual event, but the viewer really feels transported to another time and place. The film stock itself looks clay-baked:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0bUTh8A5IY

(spoken in some central asian language and over-dubbed in russian).

And the final battle scene and downfall of a city are many times more gripping and tragic than what you get in TROY(where it's a bit pompous with allusions to the Holocaust).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ0IeGyh4_w

(There's another version of FALL OF OTRAR which isn't as good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY_YM4JESyk )

On the other hand, you may be right that TROY was Too Archaic for American viewers. One person's archaism is another's familiarism. What is 'hot' to an American may not be for a Mexican and Indian who commonly gorge on hot peppers.

Anyway, a successful Hollywood epic blends the best elements of 'serious art' and popular taste. EL CID and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA for example: serious directorial vision with the sweep of populist entertainment. But then, actors like Heston, Loren, O'Toole, Sharif, and Quinn had charisma and star power lacking in today's actors who are meant to appeal to young moviegoers. There is too much of a loverboyness about Pitt and Bana and Bloom. (The movie almost seems to be saying beautiful people are better than ugly people. Ammygemmy and Menelly are both grostesque-looking and presented as redneck bully-thugs in the movie. It is the more liberal Hector and the emotional race-traitor Achilles--who even kills Greeks to save Briseis--who are good looking and morally superior, despite their flaws, to Ammygemmy and Menelly, the big fat fried-ice-cream southern rednecks brothers. How odd. Liberalism used to attack the beauty cult of aryanism and nazism, but now its message is liberals are good cuz they're good-looking and conservatives are bad cuz they're badlooking.)
TROY has some likable characters but no one to dominate the screen as Heston did gloriously in EL CID. It would not have been necessarily fatal as long as a powerful directorial personality dominated the screen(ALEXANDER NEVSKY for instance), but TROY is logistics than poetics. It's a work more of construction than creation.

Anonymous said...

"In particular, Brad Pitt, the guy they had paid to see, wasn't friendly, wasn't funny, wasn't pseudo-humble, wasn't a man of the people, wasn't a nice guy and all those things we think we want in our leading man characters."

But Cruise wasn't a nice guy in COLLATERAL and people liked that one. And most rappers aren't nice. Indeed, bad boy persona is hot among young people today. When TERMINATOR came out, people were awed by the badass killing machine. The new 007 is tougher, rougher, and meaner.
I don't think the problem was that Pitt wasn't a nice guy. He was a dull guy who seemed disengaged from everything. He was like Carl Lewis in the 84 Olympics where he did only one jump and then called it quits. The whole attitude was, "I'm so good and already won the gold with one jump, so why should I bother with another one." In other words, he's so good that he lives by his own rules. At times, Bradilles showboats. In his fight with Hector, he charages and then runs off to the side, as if to day, "I got all the time in the world to take down this loser." At other times, he sub-boats and goes lies in the tent, as if to say, "this world isn't even deserving of my beauty and greatness."
It was precious, the sort of thing that tends to rub people the wrong way. But okay, some warriors and athletes are indeed divas in real life and this could have been made interesting dramatically, but Pitt didn't deliver. But he can be a good actor, so I think the blame should go more to the writer and/or director. Bradilles did look good though.

Anyway, audience doesn't necessarily go for nice guys. One of the most popular action movies ever is GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY, where the three guys don't give a crap about anything but the gold(and vain pride of who can shoot better). But the guys in GBU are fun and engaging whereas Pitt conveys a solipsistic narcissism that is, at once, baring its chest and hiding behind the helmet. Psychologically and dramatically, it might still have been made to work. Think of Edward Norton's character in AMERICAN HISTORY X. He was the superstar among the skinheads. Too good for them but also angry with the world. A man of paradox. But Norton set the screen on fire, which Pitt doesn't do. Pitt was much better in JESSE JAMES where he had some kind of emotional life than merely a ruthless mytho-consciousness, which is, at the last minute, ameloriated by... love for the enemy ala Romeo and Juliet. (Cliche!!) Bradilles' rage is more sun-tanned than stoked by the fire inside. He's a walking Bain de Soleil commercial.

(Btw, who's idea was it to turn AJAX into a Teutonic Thor of the big hammmer school of headbashing? Another pandering to WWE sensibility. And his words with Achilles reminded me of those between Hanks and Danson in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN: 'we brothers under the armor' gungho stuff. Boring!)

Incidentally, I saw the director's cut yesterday, and it does play a bit better.

Anonymous said...

What lessons does ILIAD have for us today?

1. Don't trust 'trust'. Helen the Greek woman went with the Trojans. Today, whole bunch of white women are gaga over Obama, the Paris of the age.

2. Beware of gods and don't trust them but don't ignore them either. Neither side has full support of gods in THE ILIAD. Today, the gods of power are those who control Wall Street, the courts, top law firms, elite universities, media, hightech, etc. People in media especially have god-like power since they shape 'reality' for millions of viewers. And Hollwood is the creator/feeder of collective dreams. Even gods of old didn't have that kind of power. Media gods invade every home through all sorts of gadgets and electronic goods.
Who sits in the pantheon, the Mt. Olympus of American/global power? It used to be wasps but now it's liberal Jews, neocon Jews, and liberal wasps. These gods look upon patriotic white Americans with disdain, contempt, fear, and even hatred. The gods are against us. Yet the gods are powerful, and so we cannot ignore them since it's fatal to ignore power. So, we have conservative Americans praying to and pleading with the god of Jewish elite power by professing total devotion to Jewish greatness and Israel. "You see how much we worship you? Please donate a little more to the GOP, oh great lord." Jews are the new Zeus, or Jeus.

3. Beware of personal agendas. Achilles almost destroys the war effort of the Greeks cuz he cares more about personal interest over common interest.

4. Avoid foreign wars.

5. History is about sex and turf. Despite all the talk of high ideals, all real struggle is for the right of sexual ownership and territorial domination. Greeks fight to take back Helen and Trojans fight to defend their homeland. Though Helen may have been used as a pretext by Ammygemmy, men have always fought to defend their race and race is a continuation via union of man and woman. So, the loss of the most beautiful woman to the other side is humiliating. White guys are panicking over losing the likes of Heidi Klum to the likes of Seal, and losing white women voters to Obama. It is a natural rage, a healthy one.

Anonymous said...

Was the Uther-Igraine story inspired by the Trojan War?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igraine

"In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, Igerna enters the story as the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. King Uther Pendragon falls in love with her and attempts to force his attentions on her at his court. She informs her husband who departs with her to Cornwall without asking leave. This sudden departure gives Uther Pendragon an excuse to make war on Gorlois. Gorlois conducts the war from the castle of Dimilioc but places his wife in safety in the castle of Tintagel."

Greeks use deceit to pass through the walls of Troy. Uther, with the help of Merlin, uses deceit to enter into the castle and hump Igraine.

Anonymous said...

"Still, the youth market may find the Bronze Age warriors comprehensible since their prickly, pre-chivalric trash-talking ethos prefigures that of post-chivalric African-American athletes like the petulant hoops prodigy Allen Iverson and rappers like the murdered Tupac Shakur. Achilles sulking in his tent because King Agamemnon insulted his honor by taking his spoils-of-war sweetheart Briseis is surprisingly like Kobe Bryant moping on the court because Shaquille O'Neal dissed him by demanding the basketball."

Maybe Bradilles was too sullen for young folks. He should have rapped like Slim Shady.

Fred said...

Interesting point, Steve. Speaking of The Odyssey, there was an excellent made-for-TV version of it in the '90s: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118414/

Mr. Anon said...

I found "Troy" to be very disappointing. The fighting was pretty good - at least they didn't go in for the teenage mutant nija turtle sword-fighting moves one often sees in movies now. But I didn't understand Petersen's decision to leave the Gods out of the story. They seemed to be rather integral to it. And he did make some concessions to conventional Hollywood melodrama in having Achilles die during the final storming of Troy. As I recall, in the original story, Achilles died well before that. On the whole, I'd rather watch Ray Harryhausen's "Jason and the Argonauts".

Petersen has been a pretty disappointing director overall. "Das Boot" was good, and "Troy" was probably his second best, but he never made a really good movie again.

As to "300", I'm with "Truth" on that one. I think that was the kind of movie that Peter Grave's character was referring to in "Airplane".

Anonymous said...

"All of this love for the latent shirt off, oiled down homosexuality in 300? I watched half the movie and got up and left...Steve, a fair percentage of your readers appear to be a little...G-hey."

Your sexuality is really insecure, huh?

Anonymous said...

"Petersen has been a pretty disappointing director overall. "Das Boot" was good, and "Troy" was probably his second best, but he never made a really good movie again."

IN THE LINE OF FIRE was much better than TROY STORY.

"But I didn't understand Petersen's decision to leave the Gods out of the story."

Screenwriter's decision, and I had no problem with that. This was made as a historical epic than as mythology. It was done in the spirit of the German archaeologist Schliemann who went to look for the city of Troy when most experts in his time dismissed the Trojan War purely as a myth. But Schliemann came upon ruins that he thought could have been the actual Troy. So, one could argue that the spirit of this movie is archaeological than mythical. One can make a Jesus movie without religious stuff too. Why not just a story of the historical Jesus? Art can try anything.

The problem for me was so much in the movie was fantastic nevertheless. If Achilles is really supposed to just a man and not a god-man, how the hell can he throw a spear that travels a mile? How can jump off a ship, be met by a 1000 arrows,and not be hit by a single one? Is he real or is he mythic? The movie seems to have it both ways.

And how the hell did they make that horse in a day or two with bits and pieces of wood?
I like the idea of Trojan War as history than mythology, but the writer didn't really think things through.

Anonymous said...

"I was going to write something similar, but was rendered speechless that someone would go on and on so authoritatively after admitting in his very first sentence that he hadn't read the source material."

'If you don't know, make it up' is my motto.

Anonymous said...

"I Love Lucy is still playing in reruns on broadcast TV in LA -- now in it's 7th decade. How much better was it than any other comedy on TV 60 years ago?"

I grew up in the 70's, the Golden Age of syndication. I didn't get Lucy then and I don't get it now. What I do get, now that I'm middle aged and married, is "The Honeymooners." Jackie Gleason was a genius. And I'm also a fan of Wally Cox as Mr Peepers -- it really gives you a clear idea of what a gentle, lovely place white majority America was before it got turned into a global flophouse.

Truth said...

I never thought I'd say it, Dude, but you're Megatron and I'm Sentinel Prime...

http://www.wired.com/table_of_malcontents/2007/03/10_reasons_why_/

Anonymous said...

Maybe I kinda understand why some of you like TROY. It could be due to the KRAFT BBQ SAUCE BASE THEORY.

Store-bought BBQ sauces aint much but a friend told me she used them as a base for adding her own ingredients--oil, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, coke, wine, spices etc.
So, she didn't so much value the brand name sauce for what it was but for what she could do with it.

Same is true of movies. Sometimes we watch movies as a base for our imagination. We edit things we don't like and mentally add stuff we do like. So, the movie, in a personal subjective sense, becomes much more than what is actually on screen.

Personally, I do this all the time, which is why I sometimes end up loving movies which aren't all that good. Take ANNA TO THE INFINITE POWER. It's a okay-ish TV movie but I really get a kick out of mentally adding stuff that I felt should or could have been there. And it was low-budget, I'm adding high-budget possibilities to the movie.
ANNA is a used a base for my own projected imagination. It's like Scotty in VERTIGO projects his own fantasies on the woman so that she becomes much more than what she is.
And I must say... I kinda like TROY for this reason. I edit out the stupid stuff and mindbendingly reformulate the movie and its events to my own liking. I ignore about half of it and mentally add my own stuff that improves it.

This is especially true with sci-fi films, especially old ones, where the effects weren't so good. Instead of seeing what is actually there, you use it as a base for imagining what might have been achieved with more money and advanced technology. I think this is why STAR TREK fans are nuts about that stuff. They are not looking at the crappy stuff--I can't stand it myself--but reimagining it as it should be.
For me, STAR TREK is just drek through and through.

But take METROPOLIS by Lang. Much of it looks crude by today's standards(and much of it is indeed awful is by any standards), but there is a great vision and scope of imagination; it inspires you to not just see what is shown but to imagine what the artist was really trying to achieve within the best of his means. You don't just see what is shown but try to see the fuller vision behind what is shown.

BUBBLEGUM CRSIS 2032 takes the cake in this departmant. Though I would argue it is great as it is, considering and imagining the full scope and vision of the story is absolutely mindblowingly awesome. It was made with limited budget and means, but the supergreatness is coded in the half-realized material. You just need a little imagination to flesh it out, like Aladdin rubbing the lamp for Genie.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, the KRAFT BBC SAUCE THEORY can kinda get out of hand. More than once, I've watched John Woo's BETTER TOMORROW imagining the main characters as female. My eyes see one thing but my mind processes something else.

Because of the possiblities of the KRAFT BBQ SAUCE AS BASE THEORY, flawed, faulty, incomplete, or even failed movies can be more interesting and enjoyable than near perfect ones. A really good movie is to be enjoyed for what it is. There really isn't much to add or take away.
But a failed or flawed movie needs to be tweaked and worked on. It might have just enough good stuff or promising material to get you engaged so that you creatively engage to 'fix the problems'.
RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is a more successful movie than PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, but the latter is more interesting for mental engagment. It makes you think, 'this should be done this way, that should be taken out, something should be added here, etc'.
You're not just watching but creatively engaging, revising, and debugging the movie.

I'm not sure MIRACLE MILE is great, but after my imagination worked on it, it was something special, almost to the point where I'm not sure I'm responding to the movie or my idea of the movie.

This may explain why it's so difficult to convey why you like certain movies to other people. You're not just seeing a movie but seeing what you're subjectively remaking in your mind according to personal longing, fantasies, autobio, etc.

I love ancient Greek stuff but most movies on the subject aren't all that good, so you gotta work on it to remake it in your mind. I remember doing the same with 300 SPARTANS as a kid. I thought it was a great story but not so great a movie. But my imaginative remarking(watching the movie or thinking about it afterwards) made it more than it was.

Anonymous said...

ROAD WARRIOR and WATERWORLD are more fun versions of ILIAD than Troy is.

Anonymous said...

Most popular movies today are high budget lowbrow comic things. And most critically acclaimed art movies are pretentious, inscrutable, unaffecting low budget smugness.

MiddleBrow has a great pedegree. Dickens, Tennessee Williams, Twain...

Anonymous said...

"Maybe I kinda understand why some of you like TROY. It could be due to the KRAFT BBQ SAUCE BASE THEORY."

Actually, more like Open Pit sauce base theory.

Kylie said...

"I didn't get Lucy then and I don't get it now. What I do get, now that I'm middle aged and married, is 'The Honeymooners.' Jackie Gleason was a genius."

I didn't get Lucy then and I don't get it now. In fact, I hope I never get it.

But I didn't have to wait to be middle-aged and married to get "The Honeymooners". I always thought Jackie Gleason was a genius. That man could wring the last ounces of humor and pathos out of any situation with flawless timing. Knew how to be the star while allowing his supporting players plenty of moments to shine.

I'm sure in real life he was a handful but onstage and onscreen, he put a lot of heart into his work.

Anonymous said...

"I didn't get Lucy then and I don't get it now. In fact, I hope I never get it."

I never much liked it but the assembly line chocolate stuff was funny.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uztA6JCKB4s

Anonymous said...

Ralph Kramden as Ammygemmy would have been cool though, to be sure, Brian Cox did have fun with the role.
Alice would have been funny as Helen.
And Norton as what? Hector? Achilles?

Anonymous said...

How about Archie Bunker as Ammy and Meathead as Akiller.

Kylie said...

@ the Anonymous who recommended When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, thank you. It was excellent.

Anonymous said...

There's the ILIAD element in THE SEARCHERS where white guys go on a searching/warring mission after Indians abduct a white girl, but the western that most reminds me of THE ILIAD is BIG COUNTRY.
There's Peck as a Hector-like nice tough guy. There's Heston as an Achilles-like cocky tough guy. There's the war between two old men. There's Chuck Connors, a would-be loverboy who turns out to be coward.
There's the abduction of a woman which is used as a pretext by the two old men to trigger a war.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ3JYb_PpJA

Anonymous said...

"@ the Anonymous who recommended When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, thank you. It was excellent."

That is a good movie. Naruse was admired more in France before he caught on in the US. Check his silent movies. good stuff.

Kylie said...

"Naruse was admired more in France before he caught on in the US."

Yes, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs had a world weariness about it that I've often seen in French films.

I'll definitely check out his other work.

Anonymous said...

Jean Simmons(in BIG COUNTRY), the face that launched a hundred horses. But the other woman was cuter.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEFJllAj9b8&feature=related

This is an interesting contrast to Hector-Achilles duel that takes place under the gaze of everyone.
This fight is just between two guys.

Anonymous said...

Good ole Heston.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o7ndZNMxXs

Anonymous said...

"Most popular movies today are high budget lowbrow comic things. And most critically acclaimed art movies are pretentious, inscrutable, unaffecting low budget smugness."

No, most art films today follow the middle-brow formula: CAPOTE, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, AMERICAN BEAUTY, SIDEWAYS, AWAY FROM HER, WINTER BONE, NEVER LET ME GO, etc. which is to say they are pretty predictable. They are 'safe' art movies.

"MiddleBrow has a great pedegree. Dickens, Tennessee Williams, Twain..."

Twain was considered lowbrow at one time. Williams at his best was admired by high brow critics.

High, middle, low.. they are useful but deeply flawed. I don't know where to place L'APPARTEMENT but it's one of the greatest films ever in my book. It's special-brow, one of a kind movie.

Anonymous said...

"In general, a well-made middlebrow movie can be an excellent resource for maintaining a certain amount of highbrow cultural continuity. Middlebrowness tends to be greatly underrated."

If, as Sailer says, TROY is a blend of high and low, it's not middle-brow but polar-brow or circle-brow.

Midpoint on a line is in the middle, BUT if something is high and low, then the line has been bent into a circle so that the high-end joins with the low-end.

Most Lean epics are middle-brow leaning toward high-brow. Most Hollywood epics are middle brow leaning toward lowbrow.
TROY tries to be more artistic than most epics but then also panders to low tastes. As such, it's disappointing for highbrowers and unsatisfying for lowbrowers. Highbrowers are constantly irritated by the banalities, and low-browers wonder why the movie is so slow.

I don't think TROY is really highbrow at all. It's strictly but uneasily middlebrow. Its earnestness and eagerness for respectability is an hallmark of aspiring middlebrowness, a cultural nouveau riche-ness. Highbrow art takes for granted that it is serious, intellectual, difficult, or superior and works from there. It has an air of confidence, boldness, or snobbery. Middlebrowness is often insecure about its cultural status and strives to be approved by the high. AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD is a bold highbrow movie. It doesn't care what anyone things. Herzog was saying, "I'm an artist and I'll do it my way." But throughout TROY, you get a sense that Petersen knew he was making a Hollywood epic and yearning for some respect. He was anxious about slipping to lowbrowness and so he went for excessive earnestness for 'respect'. Some might mistake it for highbrowness but it's just middle leaning toward the 'high'.

The problem is TROY isn't comfortable being 'middle-brow'. EL CID works better cuz it's happily in the middle. It's a meaty and muscular historical epic. TROY, otoh, strives toward the high but then panders way too low. So, there isn't much expression/emotion left in the middle. The artistry is excessive but the emotions are trite. The story has been de-mythified and even 'intellectualized' but the action is mostly of the Bam-Bam school of headbashing(Barney's kid on Flinstones).

Why is MIDNIGHT RUN a great movie. It's happily and comfortably middlebrow. It is what it is and doesn't pretend to be something other.
13TH WARRIOR is great for the smae reason. It is and doesn't try to be anything more--or less--than what it is.