Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915 and is a notorious silent film, a racist re-imagining of history that glorifies members of the KKK as heroic figures who protect the white women from freed slaves.

Shocking to watch, it's even more shocking to see these sentiments proudly expressed on Facebook pages. "The South Shall Rise Again" and denials that slavery had any part in secession are common claims. I swear I'd never have expected statues of Confederate military leaders to engender such devotion, but there are some people who seem to believe in the Confederacy as a noble cause. As a life-long Southerner, my idea of Southern Heritage is drinking iced tea, saying "ma'am" and "y'all" and being able to talk with a Southern drawl, eating Southern food, not wearing white after Labor Day, appreciating Southern literature, Blues and Bluegrass music.... It has nothing to do with honoring men who took up arms against the USA. Here in Tennessee the state government is punishing Memphis financially for taking down our statues:

The film The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish, was controversial from the beginning. It is credited with a revival of the Klan and is said to have been used as a recruitment tool.

Here's an early scene, showing how happy and well-treated the plantation field slaves were:

Here's a scene showing innocent Flora fleeing the unwanted attentions of the freed slave who has been influenced for ill by carpetbaggers:

Klansmen as noble rescuers of their women and other besieged white folk:


The first 8 minutes:

You can watch the entire film online, including here via Youtube:

The New Yorker says,
The worst thing about “Birth of a Nation” is how good it is. The merits of its grand and enduring aesthetic make it impossible to ignore and, despite its disgusting content, also make it hard not to love. And it’s that very conflict that renders the film all the more despicable, the experience of the film more of a torment—together with the acknowledgment that Griffith, whose short films for Biograph were already among the treasures of world cinema, yoked his mighty talent to the cause of hatred (which, still worse, he sincerely depicted as virtuous).
The New York Post says it's "still the most racist movie ever". has information explaining the importance of the film and also a detailed plot description. NPR explores the movie's legacy.

PBS notes that
In December 1999, the Directors Guild of America announces that D.W. Griffith will be retired as the namesake of its prestigious award for career achievement in moviemaking because he helped promote what they call "intolerable racial stereotypes." Although Guild members acknowledge his achievements, the vote to rename the award is unanimous.
The Washington Post says, "“The Birth of a Nation” takes its place alongside the Nazis’ “Triumph of the Will” and “Jew Suss” as among the most despicable propaganda pictures of all time. Its stereotypes have reverberated for a century." Time calls it "still great, still shameful". Historynet tells something of Griffiths' background and how he came to make the film.

Bright Lights Film Journal says, "Birth of a Nation has never ceased being the most reviled film in the history of cinema, with Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935) running a close second" and concludes,
Birth is too alive to be shunted aside as a relic or as a reminder of how little (or how much) we’ve accomplished in race relations. It can be both these things, but Griffith, a complex, creative, and intensely motivated man, was much more than a regionalist hate monger. The full, diverse range of his films proves this, as does the diversity of intent and expression in The Birth of a Nation itself.

If you want to see a parody of the racist ideas supported by and embedded in this film, just watch this excerpt from Blazing Saddles:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jackie Robinson Day 42s

I get Jackie Robinson Day, really I do (and you can read an explanation here if you're not familiar with this), and yet how many repetitions of the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything do you need?

I mean, with no names and everybody sporting 42:

Jackie Robinson Day
Source: Keith Allison Flikr

it's hard for me to know who's who. The Husband doesn't have any trouble, being a baseball fan from way back, and he keeps me informed.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 is a 1995 film about the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission. Directed by Ron Howard, it stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, and Kathleen Quinlan. Jim Lovell (who turned 90 last month) and his wife appear in the movie. I saw this film ages ago, but when I came across the DVD on the shelf realized I had never written a blog post about it. I remember this mission well, and I'd recommend the movie both for folks who do and for those whose memories don't go back that far. Just note that there are some -not many- inaccuracies; it's a fictionalized account, after all.


The New York Times praises it and says, "You can know every glitch that made this such a dangerous mission, and "Apollo 13" will still have you by the throat." Rolling Stone says, "It all adds up to a triumph of stirring storytelling and heart-stopping suspense." The BBC gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "A definite feel-good movie."

Roger Ebert gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says,
Ron Howard's film of this mission is directed with a single-mindedness and attention to detail that makes it riveting. He doesn't make the mistake of adding cornball little subplots to popularize the material; he knows he has a great story, and he tells it in a docudrama that feels like it was filmed on location in outer space.
Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it "a blast". Rotten Tomatoes has a 95% critics score.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Beastly Things

Beastly Things is the 21st Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery novel by Donna Leon. This one takes place in the Spring. I am enjoying this series, reading them as I come across them in no particular order. The characters are wonderful and the atmosphere of Venice always makes these books a nice place to visit.

from the dust jacket:
When a body is found floating in a canal, strangely disfigured and with multiple stab wounds, Commissario Brunetti is called to investigate and is convinced he recognizes the man from somewhere. However, with no identification except for the distinctive shoes the man was wearing, and no reports of people missing from the Venice area, the case cannot progress.

Brunetti soon realizes why he remembers the dead man, and asks Signorina Elettra if she can help him find footage of a farmers' protest the previous autumn. But what was his involvement with the protest, and what does it have to do with his murder? Acting on the fragile lead,
Brunetti and Inspector Vianello set out to uncover the man's identity. Their investigation eventually takes them to a slaughterhouse on the mainland, where they discover the origin of the crime, and the world of blackmail and corruption that surrounds it.
The Guardian says, "The 21st Commissario Brunetti mystery finds the series' characters and setting as vital as ever." The New York Journal of Books points out the social commentary. Kirkus Reviews has a positive review.

I've also read these from this series:
#1 Death at La Fenice (1992)
#2 Death in a Strange Country (1993)
#3 Dressed for Death (1994)
#4 Death and Judgment (1995)
#18 About Face (2009)
#19 A Question of Belief
#20 Drawing Conclusions

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

They Call Me Hallelujah

They Call Me Hallelujah is a 1971 spaghetti western directed by Giuliano Carnimeo and starring George Hilton. The comedy western isn't my favorite sub-genre, but this one's fun enough.

via Youtube: closes with this:
A good comedy western that is always fun and never boring. Uses a lot of the best Spaghetti Western cliches which never tire in the capable hands of George Hilton and Giuliano Carnimeo. Funny, violent, strong plot, great characters, and rather well made. A Spaghetti classic that is not to be missed.
Fistful of Pasta isn't a fan of comedy westerns but says, "if you're looking for an hour and a half of watchable silliness, it's not a bad one". DVD Talk concludes, "This is a good effort that fans of Carnimeo and Hilton will appreciate."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

National Tea Day

National Tea Day is celebrated each year on 4/21, which is this coming Saturday. That should give you plenty of time to plan some little observance. Perhaps just you and a friend, as in Henry Salem Hubbell's Ladies Having Tea:

or his Study for the Orange Robe:

Or perhaps you'd like some time alone, as in A Cup of Tea by Lilla Cabot Perry:

or Drinking Tea by Christian von Schneidau:

I'll be having an informal little tea myself, and in the spirit of most of the ladies I see in these paintings, I'll definitely be wearing a hat!

Please join the T party that happens every Tuesday over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

The picture at the top of the post is of The Tea (1890-1893) by Frederico Zandomeneghi

Monday, April 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, Bobby Vinton

Bobby Vinton is 83 years old today. Listen to him singing his #1 hit Blue Velvet from 1964:

Here's the top-20 1972 song Sealed with a Kiss:

In 1971 he was in the John Wayne western Big Jake with Richard Boone, Maureen O'Hara, Bruce Cabot, John Agar, and Harry Carey Jr.:

In 1973 he was in another John Wayne western, The Train Robbers, with Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, and Ricardo Montalban. Here's the original trailer:

Wikipedia says Vinton and his wife were married in 1962, have five children, and live in Florida. He retired from live performing and recording in 2015. May his birthday be happy!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superhero origin story. I passed on seeing this in the theater; and now -having seen it- I'm not regretting that decision. It's pretty and fun enough but slow. Most reviewers liked it, though, so I'm the outlier here.


Variety has a positive review, as do Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter. The Guardian reviewer was disappointed. The New York Times says "It cleverly combines genre elements into something reasonably fresh, touching and fun."

Roger Ebert's site concludes,
Despite its flaws, “Wonder Woman” is beautiful, kindhearted, and buoyant in ways that make me eager to see it again. Jenkins and her collaborators have done what I thought was previously impossible: created a Wonder Woman film that is inspiring, blistering, and compassionate, in ways that honor what has made this character an icon.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a 2007 Japanese horror film based on a ghost story from the Edo period that had a revival in the 1970s where there were sightings of the woman. This movie has a strong element of depictions of physical abuse of children by their mothers.

via Youtube: has screen shots, a plot summary, and concludes, "A top contender for becoming a classic, Carved is a story that adds a new mythos into the horror arena. Creepy and smart, Carved is a winner!" Bloody Good Horror calls it "a surprisingly competent flick."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dixon Gallery Exhibits

It took me long enough -that rain lasted so long, and I just didn't want to go out- but I did manage to see the exhibitions before they closed. The Real Beauty: The Artistic World of Eugenia Errázuriz offered so many beautiful works in several rooms in addition to a helpful timeline that covered an entire wall. The Dixon website describes it:
The Real Beauty: The Artistic World of Eugenia Errázuriz, organized by The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, is the first American museum exhibition centered on the life of this remarkable figure in the history of modern art and design. Addressing the larger subject of the role of South Americans in turn-of-the-century Europe, the exhibition will feature works of art centered around Eugenia's relatives and friends, especially the Subercaseaux, who shared her passion for the arts. In the early 1800s, Eugenia Huici Arguedas de Errázuriz arrived in Europe with her husband, amateur painter José Tomás Errázuriz. Very quickly, the newlywed Errázurizes began making their rounds across Europe, becoming, along with their relatives Amalia and Ramón Subercaseaux, favorites among the cosmopolitan group of artists in turn-of-the-century Europe.
Here's a one-minute preview from a Dixon gallery curator:

Here's a Dixon video on her influence in the field of design:

My favorite from this was Portrait of Madame Errasuriz:

by Ambrose McEvoy

Another exhibition on view when I went was Dixon Dialect, which the website describes:
In the fall of 2017, Susan and John Horseman generously donated twenty-eight works of art by twenty-five American and European artists to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens permanent collection. Dixon Board Chair C. Penn Owen III notes, “The Horseman Gift stands among the most important and impressive acts of collection building in our history.”


Julie Pierotti, the Dixon’s Martha R. Robinson Curator, states, “Susan and John Horseman have made a truly transformative gift to the Dixon. This extraordinary collection adds an important perspective and depth to our existing collection—it doubles the number of works by American artists in the Dixon collection; and it more than doubles our collection of works by women artists, allowing us to tell more complete stories about the art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. We couldn’t be more grateful to the Horsemans for this generous gift.”
Here's a video highlighting one of the paintings:

I was particularly struck on this day by Woman in a Green Dress:

by Richard E. Miller. This was the only image I could find of this, but as I'm only using it as an illustration of my viewing of the exhibit I'm considering it fair use. It's a shame I couldn't find a better quality picture.

The Mallory/Wurtzburger Galleries contained a fiber arts exhibit, the first major museum show of Memphis artist Paula Kovarik. She has a website here, where you can see her work. Just look at this one:

These are videos of the artist in her studio:

You really should go to her website and look at more of her art.