“I’m annoyed by the story,” says Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. “I just imagine that our public figures, the people we have given so much authority and power would more deeply reflect on what they’re doing and what they have done. Is that too much to ask?”
The subject of his ire is also the subject of his latest film The Unknown Known, Donald Rumsfeld, architect of the Iraq War.
The movie’s name is Rumsfeld doublespeak for “things you think you know that it turns out you did not,” which is appropriate for this riveting look at one of the most controversial characters of the twenty first century’s first decade.
At age 81 Rumsfeld gamely allows Morris to probe into his entire 50-year political career, as both the youngest—under President Gerald Ford—and the oldest person—under George W. Bush—to serve as Secretary of Defence.
“A friend of mine,” says Morris, “who is a political journalist, we argued a lot about the line in the movie where Rumsfeld says that the policies of Barack Obama have vindicated the policies of George W. Bush.
“I wouldn’t quite put it that way. But he is right in one regard. Many of these policies are still around. They still exist. There are still military tribunals. There are still detainees in Guantanamo. There is still the Patriot Act.
“My political journalist friend said, ‘Well maybe, even though we don’t like to think about it this way, are still living in a Rumsfeld world. The world he created.’
“I think that’s what is really important at the heart of this movie. It’s not like the Bush Administration disappeared when Barack Obama was elected and reelected. It didn’t. Those policies still linger on for whatever reason. Perhaps because we have a Republican congress, perhaps for other reasons but they changed everything, but they didn’t change everything for the better and we’re going to have to reckon with that for many, many years.”
I tell Morris I think he should consider using the tagline “It’s Rumsfeld’s World. We Just Live in It,” to promote the movie. “Think about it,” I said.
“I have thought about it!” he quickly replied shaking my hand. “I like it. As long as we don’t have to pay you it’s a deal.”
Editor Jennifer Knoch told Publisher’s Weekly: “We’re a really passion driven publisher, and so we’re trying to encourage the same thing in our authors.” The short format may be liberating for some authors, she said. “A lot of times, we have authors who might not want to write 80,000 words on a particular topic, but could they write 20,000 to 40,000 words? Absolutely….It gave them a vehicle to really make a passionate plea for a certain film or series or artist or anything of that nature,” she said.
An explosive, groundbreaking album that crowned a new king of rock in just 33 minutes
Before Elvis Costello was one of Rolling Stone’s greatest artists of all time, before he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was Declan P. McManus, an office drone with a dull suburban life and a side gig in a pub rock band. In 1976, under the guidance of legendary label Stiff Records, he transformed himself into the snarling, spectacled artist who defied the musical status quo to blaze the trail for a new kind of rock star with his debut album, My Aim Is True. In Elvis Is King, Richard Crouse examines how the man, the myth, and the music of this arrestingly original album smashed the trends of the era to bridge the gap between punk and rock ’n’ roll.
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From today’s issue: The Songs of Life! “We all have a few of those songs. You know, when you hear those first few notes and you’re instantly transported back to time when you probably still felt comfortable in a bathing suit or had lots more hair? Today on Canada AM, we talked about those defining songs – songs that served as a backdrop to your meaningful moments, or songs that changed the way you thought about yourself. For Bev it was Paradise by the Dashboard Light. For Marci, Janet Jackson’s Control. For Richard, it was any track off My Aim is True by Elvis Costello. For Denise, I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston Lots of you shared your songs with us on Twitter and Facebook, and it was so fun to walk down all of our memory lanes. Appropriately, the first song I ever remember taking into my heart… In My LIfe by the Beatles. Have a great weekend everyone!” – @amproducerjen
“Noah” is not your father’s biblical movie. It’s an art house epic that filters the story through director Darren “Black Swan” Aronofsky’s impressionistic style.
The best way I can describe “Noah” is emotionally ambitious. It takes a familiar tale and shines a new light on it by highlighting Noah’s spiritual quandary. In the film—which takes liberties with the biblical story—he’s a vegan prophet who grapples with doing God’s will while balancing the needs of all of humanity, particularly his family. The meaning of faith and the consequences of adhering to that faith are the film’s main thrust, but as interesting as that is, the movie feels like one thing when it is addressing the spiritual and quite another—possibly a “Lord of the Rings” flick—when it is in action movie mode.
The movie starts at the beginning. Literally.
After a quick recap of Old Testament highlights—the Creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and Cain vs Abel—we meet Noah, the last descendent of Adam and Eve’s good hearted son Seth. The world he lives in is a dangerous place, ruled by Cain’s bloodthirsty bloodline but Noah (Russell Crowe) and family (Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll) live peacefully as nature loving, proto hippies. That is, until Noah has a disturbing apocalyptic dream. Consulting with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) he determines The Creator wants him to build an ark and laden it with two of every creature on earth in advance of a great flood that will destroy mankind and the violence they perpetrate. It’s ultimate Mulligan—a do over for the planet—but Noah will have to make some troubling decisions to fulfill God’s will.
Some may criticize the movie for not being reverent enough, but Aronofsky treats the story as a living breathing thing and not an artifact from another time. The addition of a spectacular creation of the world sequence, as narrated by Noah, may annoy Creationists, but is a moving and beautiful retelling of the biblical story.
Aronofsky may play fast and loose with Noah’s story, but underlines the spirituality that is at the very heart of the tale as evidenced by the Seven Days of Creation scene.
He’s also aided by a terrific performance from Crowe.
Crowe’s been in a bit of a slump in recent years. The dangerous, complex actor of movies like “Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind” seemed to have taken a backseat to the performer who thought making “The Man with the Iron Fists” was a good idea. “Noah” is a nice reminder of Crowe’s delicate mix of fearsome masculinity and subtle sensitivity and his tortured performance hits Noah’s zealotry square on the head.
But having said that, Aronofsky moves in mysterious ways. He shot the epic almost entirely in close up and the flood scene could have used a bit more Cecil B. DeMille. Aronofsky means this to be a personal story of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but it is still an end of the world movie. Despite the occasional Peter Jackson flourish—like the stone giants The Watchers and sweeping crane shots—“Noah” doesn’t feel as big as it should. It has big ideas, but the expected sweeping visuals aren’t there.
“Noah” is a thought-provoking take on a familiar story that will keep you guessing until the end credits roll.
“3 Days In Havana,” a new sunny noir starring “Alley McBeal’s” Gil Bellows shows the non-all-inclusive side of Cuba. Stylish, and nicely shot, it reveals the flip side of the city that tourists never get to see. That is, unless you’re a visitor with a way with a knife.
Bellows (who co-directs with Tony Pantages) plays Jack Petty, a man straight out of a Graham Greene novel. He’s a bored insurance agent on his way to Cuba for a convention. Looking for a good time he hooks up with Harry Smith (Greg Wise), a loose cannon travel writer, who introduces Jack to Havana’s sordid side. When Smith turns up dead—murdered and left in Jack’s hotel bathroom—the mild mannered insurance salesman soon discovers his new friend might have been an assassin hired to kill a Cuban arms dealer. In a case of mistaken identity Jack finds himself involved in a wild conspiracy and is forced to prove his innocence.
A pastiche of styles, from French New Wave to Tarantino and everything in between, “3 Days in Havana” seems to value style above story. Hitchcock covered similar ground in movies like “North By Northwest,” but that film made more sense than anything Bellows and company have on display.
Despite some nice performances from Bellows, Don McKellar as a French crime capo and Phyllida Law, the story doesn’t measure up to the intrigue.
At a scant 82 minutes “3 Days in Havana” doesn’t give itself time enough to flesh out the plot points, but as a travelogue, it does almost make a trip to sunny Cuba—despite the bad guys, mistaken identities and violence—sound like a good antidote to our recent subzero weather.
Synopsis: After a quick recap of Old Testament highlights we meet Noah, the last descendant of Adam and Eve’s son Seth. The world he lives in is a dangerous place, ruled by Cain’s bloodthirsty bloodline, but Noah (Russell Crowe) and family (Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll) live as nature-loving, proto-hippies. That is, until Noah has an— apocalyptic dream. Consulting with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), he determines The Creator wants him to build an ark and laden it with two of every creature in advance of a great flood that will destroy mankind and the violence they perpetrate. But Noah will have to make some troubling decisions to fulfill God’s will.
• Richard: 3/5
• Mark: 4/5
Richard: Mark, the best way I can describe Noah is emotionally ambitious. It takes a familiar story and shines a new light on it by highlighting Noah’s spiritual quandary. In the film — which takes liberties with the biblical story — he’s a vegan prophet who grapples with doing God’s will while balancing the needs of all of humanity, particularly his family. The meaning of faith and the consequences of adhering to that faith are the film’s main thrust, but as interesting as that is, the movie feels like one thing when it is addressing the spiritual and quite another — possibly a Lord of the Rings movie — when it is in action movie mode.
Mark: Richard, I queasily bought the transition from religious allegory to action pic because I admired the tone and quality of the movie. I shuddered when I first heard about the picture, but then got interested when I found out Aronofsky was directing. Unlike most biblical epics, the dialogue isn’t embarrassing and the lead actor isn’t over the top.
RC: It’s not your father’s biblical epic, that’s for sure. This is an art-house epic that filters the story through Aronofsky’s impressionistic style. Some may criticize the movie for not being reverent enough, but I thought he treated the story as a living, breathing thing and not an artifact from another time. But having said that, Aronofsky moves in mysterious ways. He shot the epic almost entirely in close-up, and the flood scene could have used a bit more Cecil B. DeMille.
MB: He also indulged in some sci-fi flourishes I don’t remember from the Bible! But I accepted them as part of the world of wonder when the Earth was a pre-prehistoric place. The movie has a strong environmental message and also feels critical of doctrinaire religious fundamentalism. Noah, at the end, almost makes a choice that only a deranged religious kook would make. Speaking of which, what did you think of Russell Crowe?
RC: Crowe’s been in a bit of a slump in recent years. The dangerous, complex actor of movies like Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind seemed to have taken a backseat to the performer who thought making The Man with the Iron Fists was a good idea. Noah is a nice reminder of Crowe’s delicate mix of fearsome masculinity and subtle sensitivity.
MB: I thought he was wonderfully restrained in the part even when he was deranged with fervour. My only complaint is that the movie peaks too soon. I guess there’s a bit of a problem with the story… arc.
According to Genesis God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.”
Noah, a righteous man, was commanded to build an ark and stock it with “two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.”
For forty days and forty nights Noah, his family and precious cargo withstood a flood so severe it submerged the tops of mountains until “every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out.”
Once the flooding stopped and the Earth dried, God commanded Noah to come out of the ark and release the animals, “so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”
The story of Noah’s Ark and the flood is one of mankind’s most famous tales and Hollywood has retold it a number of times.
This weekend Russell Crowe plays the title role in Noah, co-starring with Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson. Director Darren Aronofsky says he has been obsessed with the story since he was thirteen, calling it “the first apocalypse story.” Nonetheless, he has added his own spin to the tale.
“When we first started working on the project, we were very clear not to have sandals and robes and long white beards,” he told Rolling Stone. “The first thing I said to Russell Crowe was, ‘I’ll never shoot you on a houseboat with two giraffes standing behind you.’”
More traditional are two Disney short films. Father Noah’s Ark is a 1933 “Silly Symphony” for children that tells the narrative in song. Lively animation shows how the animals may have helped build the ship and why skunks almost didn’t make it on board.
In 1959 Disney released the twenty-minute Noah’s Ark, their first stop motion animated film. A jazzy score accompanies equally jazzy animation as pencils, pipe cleaners and other household items are inventively used to create the animals.
Shooting the flood scene in the 1928 version of Noah’s Ark endangered the life of a future Hollywood icon. John Wayne was a swimmer in the famous scene, and emerged unhurt, but other weren’t so lucky. Three extras drowned and a dozen others suffered broken limbs.
Finally, a 1977 documentary claims to shed some light on the real story. In Search of Noah’s Ark is an investigation into the speculation that Turkey’s Mt. Ararat in is the landing place of Noah’s Ark. “This may be the most incredible film you will ever see,” says narrator Brad Crandall, “but the facts that will be presented are true.”
“Waiting for Ishtar” is a documentary by John Mitchell & Jonathan Crombie about the Elaine May comedy, Ishtar, starring Dustin Hoffman & Warren Beatty. Help support it via its indiegogo campaign! Find out about the kick-starter campaign HERE!
See Richard talking about the legendary flop “Ishtar” here: