What student takes a movie class? Is he unjaded enough to like older flicks?
(Page 2 of 2)
AS IF TO CONFIRM SOME universal standard of judgment on such matters, there was nearly unanimous agreement spread among the final essays that Fall was, objectively, a better movie than Gladiator. Alec Guinness was deemed much more effective and interesting than Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius. Stephen Boyd as the hero Livius in Fall(he was Messala in Ben-Hur, if you need an image) exhibits a range of compelling emotions, while Russell Crowe as the hero Maximus is just “a lump of brooding, soul-tortured, masochistic, fighting-machine flesh” (not bad for a college sophomore’s early venture into film criticism, eh?). It occurred to several students that Crowe’s performance (for which he took an Academy Award) was driven more by camera movements than by acting talent, and almost everyone noticed that FALL’s story was more coherent and much less dependent on visual effects.
Yet a majority (almost two-thirds of the class) preferred Gladiator. “Perhaps,” one of them offered ruefully, “I am just a prisoner of a computer-generated era and expect dazzling special effects from every flick I see.” The Gladiatorfans all felt that Joaquin Phoenix hit the right note of villainy in his brooding portrayal of Commodus, whereas Christopher Plummer as Commodus in Fall was not psychologized enough: “Things are not always as clear as good verses [sic] evil,” one student opined. (The brighter students believed that Plummer’s wicked degenerate is dramatically more interesting than Phoenix’s troubled psychopath.)
Most of the Gladiator fans were put off by Sophia Loren’s portrayal of Lucilla in Fall. Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla, they averred, reflects our more “enlightened” (yes — two students used that word) era in which women are independent and assertive. This last one was hard to account for — maybe Nielsen has a tighter set to her jaw? In fact, Sophia Loren’s Lucilla has a greater variety of scenes and a more complex entanglement with intrigues against her wicked brother Commodus.
One of the brighter students, in effect speaking for the minority, suggested that, in the current era of film production, “visuals have replaced story-telling; technique has edged out thought.” Compared with Fall, another student wrote, “Gladiator appeals to an audience of short attention spans.”
And, as if speaking for the majority, one Gladiator fan, in a burst of impatience, waxed stupid: “Values change over time, so the values in the films had to change; it’s as simple as that.”
Well — not really. Such responses complicate the hell out of my own misgivings about teaching a film class. I have to fret over how seriously the course attends to the students’ education — to freeing them from what Chesterton called the degrading servitude of being children of their own times.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online