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HBO Buries the Truth at Wounded Knee

Stuff "poetic license." That's the term to describe when film or television producers take a book, or worse yet, historical facts, and play fast and loose with the truth to suit a lower purpose. In other words, appealing to my peers in middle-class suburbia who are the coveted demographic for said poetically licensed production because they have the damned cash to buy whatever it is they're hawking.

Yep. That's what it's called.

"Poetic license" is coming 'round the mountain once again, this time in HBO's upcoming movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, based on the 1971 book by Dee Brown. To be aired Memorial Day weekend, the film has taken the life of Charles Eastman and seasoned and spiced it to make him McTastier.

And just who is Charles Eastman? Portrayed in the film by Adam Beach, he was the Santee political activist, Dartmouth-educated doctor and cofounder of the Boy Scouts who HBO thought, in their supreme wisdom, wasn't interesting enough even though he was a political activist, Dartmouth-educated doctor and cofounder of the Boy Scouts. Apparently, that wasn't sufficiently palatable, especially to mainstream audiences whose knowledge of Native America is limited to Little Big Horn, casinos and Russell Means.

Thankfully, no references to Russell were added, ditto for casinos probably 'cause the movie is set in the 19th century. So what's left? Huzzah--let's put Charles Eastman at the Battle of the Little Bighorn! So that's what HBO did. Forget the fact that the real Eastman was attending school hundreds of miles away in Nebraska at the time.

This is what y'all call "poetic license."

According to the New York Times, the network carefully considered its decision. Daniel Giat, who adapted Brown's book for the screenplay, recently said to a group of television writers "Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project."

At least that's the truth.

Of course, apologists tell us that it's the "bigger issue" that's paramount. That "poetic license" is standard practice in adaptations; therefore adding and cutting and fabricating is just dandy and a-okay as long as it remains intellectually honest.

Intellectually honest? Not when you have a real-life person engaging in a major battle he never fought in. Intellectual honesty is when you add dialogue and scenes to flesh out the story but remain faithful to the known facts. That ain't the case here. HBO IS FABRICATING HISTORY TO APPEAL TO WHITE FOLKS.

As Bury My Heart producer Dick Wolf was quoted in the Times article, "It is a dramatization, and we needed a protagonist."

Hey, let me share something with you. As a bona fide white person, I don't need made up history to swallow what actually happened. Believe me, we CAN handle the truth and the time has come for my fellow white folks in the media to acknowledge that.

So please o' please--stop already. This has nothing to do with "poetic license" and even more so, "intellectual honesty." This has everything to do with making the lead Native character a superhero Mr. And Ms. Mid-America could love. Think Little-Spidey-on-the-Prairie.

Not to take "poetic license" here, but I bet that wasn't Dee Brown's intention when he wrote his groundbreaking book 36 years ago. Nevertheless, I'm sure my hunch is helluva lot closer to the truth than Charles Eastman wielding a tomahawk against Custer's Seventh Cavalry along a dusty Montana creek.
Carole Quattro Levine

"Bury My Heart's" Bias Against Indians

The producers have implied they didn't want to make an anti-government movie. It would've been too negative, too hard to sell. Instead they watered down Dee Brown's book to make it palatable to viewers. That may have been a marketable choice, but it sure wasn't a moral one. Wolf and company have said all the right things in published interviews. They may not even be aware that they softened Brown's emphasis. But a lack of conscious intent doesn't change the results. HBO's movie is prejudiced against Indians. To recap: According to "Bury My Heart," the Indians massacred the soldiers at Little Big Horn. The Army was merely emulating the tactics of the Sioux before them. Dawes had a noble plan to save the Indians. Sitting Bull cared more about his perks than his people. Modern life was too much for Indians such as Eastman to handle. The deaths of Sitting Bull and the Sioux at Wounded Knee were unfortunate mistakes. If that isn't an anti-Indian bias, I'm not sure what is. "Bury My Heart" takes a clear case of wrongdoing and muddles it. In this version of history, there are no good or bad guys. Flawed Americans, flawed Indians ... they're all the same. For the full review, go to Bury My Heart Review.
Rob Schmidt

Summer Camp

I greatly enjoyed, and identified with, Lia Beachy's "Summer Camp." I've written three books of poetry, but I could have written six AND a volume of short stories if it weren't for "The Daily Show," "24," Turner Classic Movies and the Travel Channel! But if writers didn't watch Oprah, there'd be no Oprah to invite writers on her show. (And, by the way, thanks for her very kind words about my review of "Once." It's a movie everyone with any romance or music in their
souls should see.)
Miles Moore
read Lia Beachy's article

Ingmar Bergman

This is the best eulogy I've read and a perfect epitaph: "Above his brilliance as a theatre and film director is Bergman's writing." Thanks.
Phillip Goldsmith
read Arthur Meiselman's article

Jerry Lewis - The Day The Clown Cried

Hey - we need to get a campaign going to get this movie released. Maybe a petition and lots of emails. Gotta do it. Let's do a website or a myspace or youtube or something. Salem K. loves Jerry Lewis and so do I. It's gotta be a great movie!
Twobits
read Salem Kapsaski's article

Legacy of Sokrates Kapsaskis

I've always admired the traditions and achievements of Greek cinema and when I was in film school in NY I remember S. Kapsaskis' films and enjoyed them very much. It's too bad he made so few. This is a long overdue tribute to his work and to an illustrious father.
Everett
read Andrea Kapsaski's article

Don't Hate Me Because Of The Way I Speak

It seems to me that actors in movies spoke a lot better years ago than those today. I suppose in the "Golden Age" of talkies during the big studio system, there was a lot of training including in speech. Then along came the mumble guys and you're so right - the difference between English and American actors is like the difference between people who can sing songs and the ones who can only scream and shout.
Melanie Spyren
read Lia Beachy's article

Ugly Jesus

Actually, Ray Istre comes late to the notion of a less-than-photogenic Jesus. The BBC did a piece five years or so ago wherein they reconstructed a possible Jesus from many different visual sources and came up with a short, solid, swarthy man. It raised much uproar about the "proper" way to depict Jesus -- offenses and umbrage were taken. Take a look yourself: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1243339.stm
Michael Bettencourt
read Les Marcott's article

Don't Hate Me Because Of The Way I Speak

I agree entirely. A recent poll named Marlon Brando as the greatest ever movie actor, yet I could barely understand a word the man said in any of his movies! Nowadays it is mainly American movies and TV series with which I have issues, though I have experienced similar problems with British shows, including theatre performances. There seems to be a tendency for many actors (and, presumably, their directors) to think that in order to maintain "pace" the lines have to be delivered at high speed. The resultant cacophony of mangled vowels and stifled consonants is not pleasant on the ears of the audience, who are left baffled as to what is being said (or should I say "mumbled"). "Pace" is about picking up cues (with due consideration of the demands and effects of the dramatic pause) and keeping the action moving, but not at the expense of presenting the dialogue in an understandable form of the language. It is perhaps indicative of the times in which we live, that in our regular lives we perceive that no-one has the time to listen to what we are saying, as we anticipate (and are all too often vindicated in that anticipation) that we will be interrupted before we reach the end of our sentence if we take so much as half a beat to grab a breath. Is it any wonder, then, that people gabble their words in order to circumvent the premature termination of their sentence by the expected rude interruption? The gabbling actor will simply claim that he is being "true to life" in his high-speed delivery of the lines. How many excellent writers, having agonised over their choice of words, and crafted their works with great skill and wit, are then sold short by this slovenly speech pattern which defies comprehension? Actors are supposed to be the interpreters of a story, and we need that story told with understandable dialogue as well as meaningful action.
Geoff Goble
read Lia Beachy's article

Legacy of Sokrates Kapsaskis

A fine and fitting tribute to a life well lived. Thanks Andrea.
Les Marcott
read Andrea Kapsaski's article

The Wayward Western Sons of Warren Oates

What do you mean no stinking badges? And I was all ready to go get a fake mustache, cause I can make those facial expressions...even tho I'm a GIRL, I figure I could be one of the MOST WAYWARD of Western Sons of Warren Oates..really Les, no girls in your club? You really think you could get away with that in today's world? I bet you are REALLY glad you decided against it now! I could fake tamborine playing in a band if ....if I drank enough.
I enjoyed the article Les, Warren Oates was one sexy dude.
Michele
read Les Marcott's article

Meet Joe Christ

Nice story, thanks, but I still don't know who the hell Joe Christ is.
tj
read Salem Kapsaski's article

Histories of Violence

Thank you for another excellent review. I truly enjoy your reviews every month, whether I have seen the films or not. They are perceptive and thoroughly entertaining. I hope when Roger Ebert finally steps down, they will look to you to replace him. You will be a more than worthy successor.
Brenda Balfour
read Miles Moore's article

Histories of Violence-American Gangster

By the way, I'll be very interested in reading your review of "American Gangster" which I hope you will do.
Brenda Balfour

The Few, The Brave, The Sons of...

Nice work Les. I remember this guy and did not notice that he was a bad actor, which might be saying that he was a great character actor. What is it that gets the cover of People Magazine? Maybe its the vengance of the great unknown actors to have the "pretty" and "Studly" get distracted by the media hounds?
Hummm...
Ray Istre
read Les Marcott's article

All Topo...

A most complex film for many. But I think this article gets to the heart of this epic film. It gently uncovers the layers of spiritual meaning, symbolic reference and breaks it down to its purest elements.

stan poulos

read Griselda Steiner's article

Freaks

Freaks
I am part of the proverbial choir Andrea Kapsaski is preaching to in her recent article, Living in Los Angeles, I am surrounded by and bombarded with this region's collective consensus of what beauty is and it saddens me. Besides the stereotypes of peroxide blondes with big boobs, no butts, pouty lips and bones protruding from skin, there is the insidious overtone that if a woman doesn't have a similar look to a mass produced Barbie doll, a twisted plastic surgeon's version of Huxley's Gamma-Delta-Epsilon, she has no worth. Individuality, unique imperfections, character lines... these are not embraced by American culture. If only there would come a day when women are taken for who they are and not how they look, when skin color is no longer a divider, when people who don't fit societies "normal" aesthetic are made to feel part of the herd and not outside of it, and intelligent compassionate thought is cherished and praised over shallow physicality. Ah, a beautiful freak can dream!
Lia Beachy

read Andrea Kapsaski's article

Bloody Hell

Miles David Moore is probably the most intelligent film critic in our country. I am amazed at the overlapping concepts and arcs of meaning he can bridge from film to film, within one article.AND still adhere to theme. The articles show acute knowledge of art and a consummate literary skill. Moore's reviews and the New Yorker reviews are the only ones I'll bother with. And this current review I will reread with pleasure, just for the masterful turning of its language.
Grace Cavalieri

read Miles David Moore's article

Chocolate with Jeeja

Jeeja is exciting and beautiful. Hollywood better pick her up soon. Thanks for the great story about her and showing her to the world.
Mandee
read Janine Yasovant's article

Spirits for sale! A documentary, but at what price?

Sometimes, I ask myself? Why why why? I remember a vision I had a time ago. One, where we can do justice for our people, give hope for our children. You know--a better tomorrow! One where we can remember yesteryear, where we can say, "we are making change slowly, but in small steps.." because, that's the way they work, the Otherside to this side! Its not I, or it's not you, or them....its Mitakuyase, our relatives who come and give us visions of the past, present and future. They are the ones who give us hope, courage, and the gifts to carry them out. The simple fact is that they are trying to tell us something. What? Well, these ways are sacred. These ways are powerful! They must be done without question the Right way, because they were made to be simple and yet done with love and compassion. Yet, we teach and promise and Promise to the eager, determined, vulnerable, the ones who will pay money, for what? So they can be Lakota, pray like Lakotas...be Lakotas...if that's the way it rolls..then what have we learned from them...some of them know better...but do they care...no....is it power and control which drives people to become self-proclaimed Medicine men overnight?. Like buying a pipe from Praire Edge in Rapid City...like saying buy me, then I will make you Lakota....is it the good feeling they get when someone is abused and abused in sweat or ceremony! Is it the White man, or who is the White man these days? I dont know who's a better man, the White man saying he's a Lakota Medicine Man...or i the Lakota man abusing our children in ceremonies and getting away with it. My many adventures and travels around the country have led me to witness--the butchering and mutilation of these sacred Lakota ways. I get a sick feeling, a very sad feeling of a vision for tomorrow. Like watching our relatives who lie there at Wounded Knee, knowing they were sacrificed to please the pride of the invaders. How many more people will be sacrificed on our reservations? How many more must suffer generations of the same cycle over and over of Genocide and abuse of our ways? So I must say this--it's time to take these ways back! When will we stand together as a nation of visionaries, healers, and protectors of this way of life? When will people know, or is the excuse they just dont know any better? I'm all about healing and being happy to live a beautiful life. So being a co-producer of "Spirits for sale!" my message is simple: dont sell these ways. Tunkasila is watching, always. The Swedes just dont know how it is. I jumped on board because it was exciting to actually put a part of my vision in the movie. We sat down at the bottom of Bear Butte and talked. This was never about fame or making money...it was about a vision that came from the heart....the vision that flowed thru my Minicojou blood, remembering my relatives on the other side...its why I push and promote the movie. I couldn't care less about a Swede carrying a feather to my res...what a story huh! To hand it to our White Buffalo calf keeper! Now, that made them famous, like saying look at us, the White people, who infiltrated the Cheyenne River. I hate to see what would happen if they gave her a turkey feather! Where might she travel...to the country Turkey? Maybe! All I can say is--go see the movie.
Jerry Clown
read Carole Quattro Levine's article
read other comments about "Spirits for Sale"

Leatherheads

I like Miles Moore's reviews very much, some of the best articles published in Scene4. But with this one I think he's off-base, or should I say off-sides. Clooney has really grown as an actor and his comedy skills are outstanding, they carry the movie. It's Renee Zellweger that let's it all down. She has the timing of one of those punch doll toys, up and back, side to side and no stops in between. She just cannot be funny. And if she ever stops squinting into the camera, we might find out one day if she has eyes and not glassy little marbles.
Don Merkis
read Miles David Moore's article

Leatherheads

Dear Mr. Merkis, Thank you for your comment on my review of "Leatherheads." I find it very gratifying that in general you find my reviews among the best articles in Scene4 . And I certainly don't expect you or anyone else to agree with everything (or anything) I say about any given movie. When you say, however, that I'm "off-sides" in my review of "Leatherheads," and then attribute to me statements that are very different from what I actually said, I'm mystified. By defending George Clooney's abilities as a comic actor, you seem to be claiming that I denigrated them. This is what I said: "As the likable con man aptly named Dodge, Clooney is far and away the most compelling reason to see `Leatherheads.'" I also compare him to Clark Gable and Cary Grant. I did find his direction wanting in some of the football scenes, but I had nothing but admiration for his acting, and expressed nothing but admiration. It's true I liked Renee Zellweger's performance more than you did. Nevertheless, when I say that she should stop scrunching up her face so much, I may be a little closer to your opinion of Zellweger than you suggest.
Miles David Moore
read Miles David Moore's article

The Obsolescence of Adolescence

I've been tired of teenagers and their problems for a long time since "teenagers" first appeared and I'm a lot older than Lia Beachy so I remember when children became adults and the transitions they made were called "rites of passage" and they were dragged into adulthood kicking and screaming as they had been for time immemorial and nobody gave a damn about this false and phony waystation called adolescence which never really existed until the movies. It's the hustlers and snake-oil sellers that created this creature and the billion-dollar market that rose alongside them. If "20 is now 10", as you say, and "14 going on 35" is the focus of it all, then let's make "50 is now 20" and "30 going on 60" and be done with it. Yes, adolescence is a trying time, for all of us and especially for those who are barraged with it and wouldn't know a pimple from a pisspot, or care.
Great bundle of commentaries, Lia.
Steve Rinstein
read Lia Beachy's article

Lester Cole

A touching, embracing reminder of what, in the long run, counts: a sense of shared humanity and a shot of wisdom earned.

Ned Bobkoff

read Arthur Meiselman's article

Maggie Smith

It's a shame that most people only see great acting artists often in inconsequential movies and never see them as the shining stars they are and at their most brilliant on stage, in the theatre. Maggie Smith is as bright as they come and as magnificent as any who have ever trod the boards. I love her.

Orin Richards

read Lia Beachy's article

W.

You're right on the mark, Mr. Moore, as always. This could have been a blockbuster indictment and a masterpiece of a movie if only, as you said, Stone didn't suffer from an "inability to trust the intelligence of his audience." Too bad he blew the opportunity. And your review of "Appaloosa" is beautiful. Thanks for that.

Tim Stein

read Miles David Moore's review

Artist to artist

Well written, Thank you. Artist to artist, I must admit that some of the most talented people I've ever known, cut hair, drive cabs, bar-tend and wait tables. We cannot afford to live within the "starving artist" niche of glory days past. We eat, sleep, drink, dream and prepare for our art of choice, before work. Most do not have the monetary support to realise their dreams, due to life as it is. I believe if you love your art, in your soul and feel you may die without doing it, you are an artist.

Dione Emerson

read Lia Beachy's column

American Cinema's Original Sin

An excellent critique of Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" - probably one of the most balanced I have read. As a movie buff, a theatre arts educator and an African-American, I appreciate that the article acknowledged the filmmaker's art and his contributions to the industry. However, I also applaud the fact that the article does not use that as a reason to excuse the harmful, long-lasting blatant racism of the film. I was particularly interested in the examination of Griffith's process as a thinker versus those of Thomas Dixon and even President Woodrow Wilson. I find it more than a little ironic that February, Black History Month, should be the anniversary month for the release of this film. I wish it were possible next month to show the film in selected venues under the right circumstances so that we could see how far we have come as a country when it comes to racism and also (despite many achievements and recent events) how far we still have to go.

Sandra Camphor

read Miles David Moore's article

"Z" a film by Costa-Gravas

Excellent reviews. Ms. Steiner, in both her original 1970 review and the current anniversary review, captures the essence of the film's moral and ethical message. An insightful review with historical facts and information. Thank you for bringing this back to attention. Yes, history repeats itself and knowing this we must be ever vigilant of events throughout the world. I am drawn to see "Z" again, as soon as possible. The message should not be forgotten.

Yale Stenzler

read Griselda Steiner's article

Milk

The film made my cry and you made me cry. You're a special man Miles. I just wish you had seen that the great Sean Penn wasn't quite right for the role. I don't know who else could have played it better but I just felt he missed that something of a NY Jewish boy gone Gay and finding his mantra in the melting pot of SF. Still, you caught the whole scene beautifully.

Sarah Rogoff

read Miles David Moore's review

Milk

Excellent review. Haven't seen a better pov on this heroic and heartbreaking movie. As they say, you ought to be in pictures.

tdd

read Miles David Moore's review

Milk

No I agree with Miles Moore. Sean Penn's performance is one of his best. Like every great actor, he disappears into the character and gives us a Harvey Milk we can understand. Brolin was also impressive as Dan White, though he is far too good looking for the little pinched twinkie man.

Ben

read Miles David Moore's review

Milk

Funny how "Milk" just disappeared from the scene. So much other news I suppose and I guess it did well at the box office. Or maybe its story is just too touchy for audiences who are already very confused. Here today and gone tomorrow. At least you have a bold film critic who steps "out" and keeps his perspective. Nice.

Ben

read Miles David Moore's review

"Z"

Thank you Scene4 and Griselda Steiner for reminding me of the power and beauty of cinema as well as the power and beauty of Costa-Gravas' filmmaking. "Z" was and is a shattering portrayal of government cruelty and injustice. It also was almost prophetic in what could have happened in the United States as recently as one year ago.

George Gee

read Griselda Steiner's article

Kings and their cabbage

Well Maestro. you've caught me again. To say you have a wry sense of humour is an egregious understatement. I didn't particularly like "Children of Men." It was too monochromatic for my taste, painted in one color-what you call "doom." Between "babbling" and "doom," I tried to find a wee bit of hope. But before futility, there you go, slipping it in when I'm not looking like a drop of lime in a dry, dry, dry martini, clever, selfish writer that you are.

Hizonner

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Frost/Nixon

Excellent review! Michael Sheen is a better David Frost than David Frost! Though I think Frank Langella does a marvelous job and is a wonderful actor, he doesn't somehow quite get the physicality, the quirky way that Nixon moved as Anthony Hopkins did in his film. I missed that quality.

Terry Braitough

read Miles David Moore's review

"Duplicity" Where's the movie?

Underwhelming? You're more than kind Mr. Moore. They should tie rusty cans to the tail of Tony Gilroy and put dunce caps on Clive Owen and Julia r-r-Roberts and drag them through Hollywood on a very sunny day. You should get a G. Globe or something golden for even bothering to sit through and review this waste of time and money. Is there a word like "nonwhelming?"

C. Gerrif

read Miles David Moore's review

Happy Anniversary, Nick & Nora

As a mystery fan and a classic movie fan, I love Nick and Nora Charles. And, as Kathi Wolfe has noted, they have a wonderful marriage. For me though, it's not the sexy happy nature of their marriage that appeals. It's the fact that they're so much fun. You just know, it would be a blast to spend time with them.

Martha Gotwals

read Kathi Wolfe's article

Taking of Pelham

Absolutely agree with Mr. Moore's insightful review and comparison of the two films. The original definitely has a superior script. And for me the first "Pelham" also had the actors, especially the great Robert Shaw who was one of the most underrated actors of his time and a brilliant writer too.

Terry Braitough

read Miles David Moore's review

In Search of Heaven's Gate

Perhaps some day Cimino will release his director's cut with the full 5:25 version and then we might see a real film with his vision. I'm glad you are not a major film critic or the industry's "movie czar". I tremble at the thought of you ever reviewing a film of mine. So tell me, what is the great celluloid hope for films in the future?

Louis Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column

In Search of Heaven's gate

Pixar!

AM

Bright Star is Fabulous!

Bright Star is one of the best dramas I've seen all year! The cast was amazing, and the music haunting. Here's a great interview I found with Abbie Cornish talking about her character in the film, and how she turned to Keats' original poetry to answer questions during filming. You can find it here: clipser.com/watch_video/1375835. Jane Campion is truly one of the most influential female voices in film today, and I don't think anyone else could have captured the essence of Keats' story like her!

Lana Larekin

read Miles David Moore's review

A****R

Somehow I get the strong impression that Mr. Meiselman doesn't like James Cameron and likes "Avatar" even less. Cameron is truly an "Animating Life Giver" and "Avatar" is a g*d-like creation that is creating g*d-like billions of dollars. Isn't that a miracle?

Perry Silverstein

read Arthur Meiselman's article

Avatar

No, it's not a miracle, it's a wonder, a brilliantly merchandised video game. I don't dislike James Cameron. How could I? He's going to bring God on to the stage of my next production. It's called: "Time Out for Ginger" and it all takes place in an IPhone.

Mr. Meiselman

Avatar

Show me God? In movie coinage: Show me the money! James Cameron and his blown-up super video game for the eternally 14-year-old in everyman: Steal a bit from all over the map -- the blue creatures with tails from the sci-fi novel "The Sparrow," the romance from poor old Pocahontas, the clunky war machinery from any Star War offspring, the title from Mother Meera or any serious spiritual tradition in India, the group rituals of arm-waving from Gurdjieff, the Goddess concept from the feminists (or was it Madonna?)... I could go on, but is it worth it? No wonder the silly cocktail is worth a lot of mullah!

Renate Stendhal

The Lives of Others

Who said "the simpler a work of art becomes, the more beautiful it is"? I'm glad someone still recognizes cinema at its purest and simplest. Thank you for that.

Aaron Klein

read Arthur Meiselman' column

3-D with or without Avatar

You won't be impressed for long, I promise, when you put on those glasses. The effect is no big deal; less impressive than the I-Max next door -- at least in Avatar. The effect is that one gets used to it so fast it's hardly worth losing ink over it. The weirdness of foreground distortion reminds you every now and then, oh yes, this is 3-D, isn't it? Clumsy. Like filming a puppet stage and getting hit by the flat cardboard bushes at the stage edge. Bob Wilson on the theater stage used it (sparingly!) to much better effect than Cameron did. Anyway: Very enjoyable article on Oscar contenders and acting. I wonder if you would find Polanski's new Ghostwriter more adult (in the European way) and find some acting in it, too? I did.

Renate Stendhal

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Auditioning

What a hoot and at the same time kind of sad and scary. Thanks. I'll stick to watching.

Rad Bennett

read Les Marcott's column

The Top Prize at Cannes

Sharing the writer's thrill over the first Thai film to win at Cannes. It must be a welcome thrill for everbody back home after all the recent strife. Can't wait to see it.

Aaron Klein

read Janine Yasovant's article

Tanzträume

Can't wait to see the film. Excellent review. Teenage awkwardness and the idea of not wanting to act stupid in front of one's peers, wanting to belong and yet not be seen. Brings back images of when I was a teenager and us girls danced around our handbags and were afraid to raise our arms. Even today, I'm fascinated by the way people transfer from a sitting position to the dance floor - the awkwardness of it all.

Irene Hendrick

read Renate Stendhal's article

Tanz Traüme

Renate Stendhal's is a wonderful article that reads like a belated eulogy for Pina Bausch, linking 50s, 70s and today. At a time that researchers fear that present day youth -- who so readily make use of New Media -- are losing the ability to have face to face interaction and lack IRL communication skills, Stendhal suggests that the awkward gender division of the 50s is not just bound to return, but is back where it was or as a greater schism. Ironically,perhaps because of projects such as teens dancing a Bausch piece, this seems a breach easier to mend than the lack of mutual respect, seen in depiction of teens in TV shows and movies. Thank goodness for choreographers who use dance to bring young people together on and backstage and as audience in the auditorium. In Seattle, WA., DANCE This! organized by STG allows for similar positive experiences for young people, alternatives to what might be considered a modern day wasteland. Many thanks to Renate Stendhal and Scene4 for bringing this notion to the foreground! Can't wait to see the documentary.

Judith van Praag

read Renate Stendhal's article

Contrasts

"Emma takes one bite--and the movie suddenly comes into focus." It is so refreshing to read cinema reviews by a critic who not only understands the art and the industry but also can write with the "touch of a poet." Thank you Miles David Moore for your steady stream of collectible critiques. A book of them is coming, yes?

Reed Harrison

read Miles David Moore's reviews

Reply to Reed Harrison - re: "Contrasts"

Dear Mr. Harrison,
Thanks so much for your extremely kind words about my review of "I Am Love." In reply to your query about a possible book of my reviews, all I can say is, "From your lips to God's ear!" (Or, more to the point, a publisher's ear.)
Best always,

Miles David Moore

Black Swan

I enjoyed the review by Renate Stendhal, though have a different take on Black Swan. I walked away also being reminded of Cronenberg, but more of Aronofsky's other films--he has a penchant for characters inclined toward self-mutilation. Overall I was disappointed in this film. I didn't think it was silly (like your colleague), but wanted it to be better, more complex. Portman was simply too wimpy the whole time to be interesting to me--no dancer without a spine gets to be a principal--and though I know this was a function of her "dark" side containing all her power, it still made the movie and the performance less psychologically intriguing than I wanted it to be. Everything was, for me, a little too black and white. And as a feminist, the voyeuristic aspect really began to pall after a while. The whole thing seemed to be tailor-made for the male gaze (cat fights, the lesbian scene, the masturbation scene, the spectacle of one battered female body after another).

M. Dressler

read Renate Stendhal's review

Do a Charlie Sheen

There's going to be a new saying now-"Do A Charlie Sheen". It means "bomb" in any backwater jerk- town like Detroit.

PatT.

read Les Marcott's column

Biutiful reviewing altogether

Several people I know feel the way I do:  Miles David Moore's movie reviews are the best around. I remember his  review of Polanski's "Ghost Writer" as if I had read it yesterday (well, I also agreed with every word in it). As for "Biutiful", I have not seen the film but read half a dozen reviews (including the New Yorker) trying to decide if it would be worth a one-hour drive to see it. I could not tell. Nothing in these reviews stirred my imagination. Switch to Scene4 and Miles David Moore, where the psychologically thoughtful, elegant writing instantly takes me into a visual, sensual "experience" of the film and connects me. I am told what that experience was like from the "inside", filtered through a critical perspective. There is enough information on every level to keep me reading with interest -- and make up my mind.

Renate Stendhal

read Miles David Moore's review

Two things about the May issue

First, I feel incredibly pleased and gratified by Renate Stendhal's kind and generous letter about my reviews. To receive such praise from a writer of her stature is an honor indeed. Second, I loved Nathan Thomas' appreciation of the great Sir Derek Jacobi. I hope Mr. Thomas enjoyed Sir Derek's performance as Lear (I can't imagine otherwise). I myself have been fortunate enough to see Sir Derek four times in the flesh: on stage in "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Breaking the Code," and "A Voyage Round My Father," and as himself at a speaking engagement at The National Press Club. Sir Derek was as charming, witty and self-deprecating as one could wish. He spoke of just barely losing the role of Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" to Anthony Hopkins: "Tony was brilliant, damn him, but I should have liked to have a go at it!" He also told the tale of being approached meanicngly by an extremely intimidating U.S. Customs official. The official's demand? "Show us your limp!"

Miles David Moore

read Nathan Thomas' article

Mine Vaganti

Great review. Such a refreshing critic's look. So glad somebody got over their own hangups and gave this wonderful film the praise it deserves. Did you notice the shots behind the credits? Ferzan used a lot of things he didn't use in the film. It's almost like a short-story version.

Mark B.

read Arthur Meiselman's review

Mine Vaganti

This movie is about so many things and I do agree with you it is a strong comment about the art of filmmaking. Ferzan Ozpetek deserves every honor he receives. How beautiful for him to receive the honor in Bangkok.

Alicia Martolli

read Arthur Meiselman's review

Italy and Bangkok

I also wanted to thank you for the story on the [Italian] film festival in Bangkok. Even with its commercial side it is a valuable idea. I hope they do this everywhere and other national film industries follow them and do the same thing. It can only help in this troubled world of ours.

Alicia Martolli

read Arthur Meiselman's article

The Film Festival

I saw most of the offerings. They were good, and I agree with the reviewer and the previous poster that Moviemov is important and valuable. Yet I cannot resist commenting that the management needs to spend more time, more effort and more expense in making this event more important and more valuable to the one community that will guarantee their success--the press.

Devin Polik

read Arthur Meiselman's article

On Billy Jack

I enjoyed the article, it brought back fond memories of the film, which I've seen several times. As a martial artist, and traveller on the Path, I remember Billy Jack as being inspirational, and true to an enlightened mind.

Ronn Parker

read Les Marcott's column

The Magic Hour

This has to be a statement that reverberates with endless echos:
"In the meantime, I'll revisit some Isaac Asimov or Carl Sagan or Arthur C. Clarke, play Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube" and think of the late, great Stanley Kubrick, sit down and actually watch Kubrick's masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey or episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (where are you Jean-Luc Picard?) and keep the candle burning. Magic is out there, it's our imaginations that no longer exist. And this Alice will keep hoping mankind finds wonderland again."
Right on, Alice, right on.

Louis Laird

read Lia Beachy's column

La Femme La Mujer La Donna

Lia, by associating "magic" with the initial impact of the space program, which I remember in the beginning as an exhilarated hopefulness of the human capacity to imagine and achieve, I was touched once again by the impact of magic: scientific, theatrical or otherwise. Thanks for the recall.

Ned Bobkoff

read Lia Beachy's column

Magic Hour

Thank you to Ned and Louis for the comments. Magic begets magic.

Lia Beachy

Great Performances

Add to your list, Paul Muni in Inherit the Wind. Muni was a prime example of a major acting talent who was nurtured and developed by what is historically the oldest, most productive acting training "method" -- working in rehearsal and on stage with successful actors and directors. He had no formal training, never took a class nor set foot in a studio. He learned from anyone who would talk to him, show him, work with him. Beginning as a child-actor in New York's Yiddish Theatre, Muni went on to become a "star" on Broadway and in Hollywood. He earned many awards including an Oscar. He was admired for his self-developed discipline and detailed character preparation and a strong influence on many other actors including Marlon Brando, who had one of his earliest stage experiences with Muni. For a "star", Muni was incredibly introverted and shy. He rarely gave an interview and was reputed to have never seen his performances on the screen for fear that he would lose his internal acting p.o.v. Inherit the Wind was a culminating performance in Muni's theatrical career. After the play's successful launch in 1955, Muni was forced out because of a cancerous tumor in his eye. Melvyn Douglas replaced him. Muni's eye was removed and the cancer stopped, and later in 1955, he returned to the Broadway hit. That night, when he first appeared on stage, the audience rose in unison as if rehearsed in a chorus of applause and cheering. Muni stopped at his entrance, looked at the audience, turned away, and delivered his first line. It was a stunning moment. Never to be forgotten, since I had the good fortune to be in the audience on that night.

Arthur Meiselman

read Nathan Thomas' column

Great Performances

Alan Bates in the title role of Simon Gray's BUTLEY turns in one of the greatest performances I've ever had the pleasure to view. I did not see Bates onstage in London or New York (where Clive Barnes called his 1972 performance "perhaps the single greatest he had ever seen on stage"). Fortunately, Ely Landau's American Film Theatre adapted it to film in 1974 (with Harold Pinter directing) and though unavailable for many years, it was released on DVD in 2003 and is now available on Netflix. I've watched it with awe a half dozen times. Bates, who said Ben Butley was a more demanding role than Hamlet, manages to play this charismatic English Professor, whose career, marriage, friendships are all crumbling, with wit, anger, pathos, and vindictiveness that one would think more appropriate to larger than life figures like Hamlet, Antony, or King Lear. I'm not sure how Gray's play would fare with any other actor; Bates brings it as close to tragedy as any 20th century drama I've seen.

David Alpaugh

read Nathan Thomas' column

Great Performances

Arthur's story of the great Paul Muni reminded me of an important omission -- the Marx Brothers. They honed their skills out on the vaudeville circuit and then wowed audiences in "I'll Say She Is," The Cocoanuts," and "Animal Crackers." Evidently to see them live was far funnier than seeing them on the screen. And more than that, they took ethnic humor out of the tenement and into the mainstream that led to, among other folks, Woody Allen's films.

Nathan Thomas

read Nathan Thomas' column

The Hollywood GATE Conference

It's all very nice and reassuring that the Beverly Hills folk want to acknowledge the power of their product and use it to make the world healthier, happier and wise. That's not going to happen despite Jim Carrey's cute little aphorisms. The film industry is totally market-driven, always has been. The only difference between the sequel-franchise Hollywood of today and the so-called "Golden Days" is that back then the studio system allowed for the production of films, doomed to be box-office losers, that "should" be made. The moguls had a lot to feel guilty about, it was part of their heritage. Today, there are no moguls, no studio system, and not a stain of guilt anywhere. There's only the unabashed cult of celebrity and the unabated wallow of money. Good luck to the conferees at GATE, at least you're trying.

Laird

read Arthur Kanegis' article

Hollywood's Gate Conference

I have to agree with Laird's view of the recent Gate2 conference in Los Angeles. It was another one of those self-serving, self-congratulatory, self-promoting confabs of the Hollywood movie club. The only way that American film is going to honestly promote positive, life-changing scenarios is when the U.S. finally establishes a nationally funded cinema like the U.K. and Canada and others. That's as likely to happen as the establishment of a national theater, a true national healthcare program, a non-ideological Supreme Court and a color-blind political system. One can only hope.

B. J. Davis

read Arthur Kanegis article

Ashley Judd

I would hope that Scene4, with its feminist orientation toward the arts and media, will explore and address the critical issue raised by Ashley Judd's conflict with the press and other media over their derogatory portrayal of her and women in general. This is a very important issue and I look forward to reading your views on it.

Sylvia Rathold

The Iron Lady

Miles Moore's review rightfully pinpoints the massive failure of this film: "misshapen, wrongheaded and vague". It's the script. I've just seen another Abi Morgan penner, "Shame" and it's the same vague meandering mess. And she's an award-winning playwright to boot. However does she come to write such porridge? And however do they come to ever produce it?

Pel Porter

read Miles David Moore's reviiew

Feminism and the Method

I can't begin to tell you how important Nathan Thomas' words are regarding the gender-stricken "Method". Since acting and the creations of acting on the stage and on the screen have such a profound effect and influence on the behavior of persons and what they do with their lives and the lives of others,Thomas gets to the heart and core of it and opens it up. It needs to be dug into deeper and further.

Michael Aptrow

read Nathan Thomas' column

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

It is a pleasure to see great actors and a great director collaborate on a fine piece of filmmaking. As critic Miles David Moore notes it has more magic than all the CGI in the universe. Charm depicted like this is wonderful, isn't it. Thanks to Mr. Moore for his charming review.

Pel Porter

read Miles David Moore's review

The Marigold Hotel

Not one of Madden's best films, but still a good one and as usual masterfully directed. It's becoming difficult these days to see quality, "charming", high-farce on the screen. The Brits rule!

Michael Aptrow

read Miles David Moore's review

Why Do They Muck Around With Shakespeare?

Do you really want to know why they muck around with Shakespeare? Just go see "The Hunger Games".

Michael Aptrow

read Nathan Thomas' column

Billy Jack

Nice write up on Billy Jack, I'm a fan from back in the 70s. I was a kid back then but it wasn"t like any of the other films I saw. It was the simplicity of the story, and filmwork, and an education in the treatment of Native Americans. I have always wondered what happened to him. He could have continued to be a big star, but he turned his back on the industry. Well with that said...great flashback, and he will always be in my memory for standing up for injustice. Long Live Billy Jack.

Francois Larosa

read Les Marcott's column

Gertrude Stein in the Movies

Thanks for that oh so different review and witty remarks, and thanks for the reminder of "The Moderns".

Michel Ginster

read Renate Stendhal's article

A Seasonal Man

I suppose that's what Arthur's "Thing Man" is. A strange tale that hearkens back to Medieval times and forward to Curiosity roaming on Mars with a little bit of the Bourne Legacy thrown in. Or is there a movie in the works perhaps?

Louis Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Sessions by Kathi Wolfe

As always, Kathi's eloquence is only equaled by her metaphysical and superior understandings of our humankind...frailities and power both....

Grace Cavalieri

read Kathi Wolfe's column

Gigli

I have to agree with you. "Gigli" is much better than all the smearing and unjustified bad rep that it's received. Yes, there's something very Wellesian about what has happened to Brest as a result but the difference is that Welles was a great actor and just picked up his marbles and moved to Europe and went on making movies the way he wanted to. Brest just went and hid in a corner. I don't think Affleck will ever do any thing about that. He's too jumpy and self-absorbed. But he is a good director.

Michael Aptrow

read Arthur Meiselman's column

I Like the Quiet

It's amazing isn't it that after all these years there still is no good solution to one of an actor's great nightmares, laryngitis. Most of the time it's viral, some times it's psychological, and other times what? Metaphysical?

Natalie Rosen

read Nathan Thomas' column

Martin Brest

I wonder if anyone has come up with more information about Martin Brest. Maybe Brest himself will show up and give us a talk. Naturally, Affleck is totally unmotivated to revive anything and anyone that has to do with his pre-redemption (as you call it) years.

Louis Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column

"Z" and all

Thanks Mr. Moore for the excellent cross-review of three great movies. And especially your citation of "Z". It's a movie that should never be forgotten.

Andy Juerine

read Miles David Moore's review

Jew In the Box

What makes this story so disarming is its Salteresque style. The words flow and the images flow inside of them and around them. It seems to be a simple, passing story-image that's reminiscent of an espisode from Rod Serling's "Night Gallery." It's beautifully disarming and yet it contains, as I said in an earlier letter, a sense of futility that is almost overwhelming if it weren't for the ending and its shattering last line. I don't know if 'Bravo' is an appropriate kudo.

L. Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Babylon Revisited

I have not viewed any of the films that Mr. Moore so carefully and forcefully reviews in this issue of Scene4. He has convinced me to make the effort and I am certain I will enjoy doing so. I have followed his reviews over the past years and excellent film critic that he is, I have followed along with his recommendations. It has been rewarding to do so and I thank him for it.

A.S. Waterson

read Miles David Moore's review

Comedy Gets Some Love

Thanks a lot for the tribute to Elaine May. She's at the heart of what American comedy is all about and her medal is righteous and well-deserved. If anyone is a national treasure, she is.

Ricki Cohen

read Kathi Wolfe's column

Babylon Revisited

I wish I could agree with Miles David Moore's review of "The Great Gatsby". He's such a damn good critic and I respect his opinion and his writing. But this is "not" a great film. Luhrmann demonstrated magnificently the range of pure cinema and pure visualization in his "Moulin Rouge". Since then, he's been trying to find a sequel and has failed, miserably. "Romeo+Juliet" is a good example of how far he's willing to self-indulge himself. It's not only a serious insult to Shakespeare, it's a sadly laughable insult to good fimmaking. I agree that in "Gatsby", Leonardo DiCaprio is great, and Catherine Martin's design work is great but Luhrmann fails to find Fitzgerald as he wallows in the current trend of over-the-top media-mashing. "Revisiting Babylon" is an apt description for this film in more ways than one.

Louis Laird

read Miles David Moore's review

Racism Is Thoughtless

Karren LaLonde Alenier writes an excellent review of the film "Hannah Arendt" and closes it with a rather stirring statement at the end. Though Alenier highlights in her comparison of Arendt and Gertrude Stein that both of them were, in one sense, dismissive of anti-semitism she isn't clear about the fact that antisemitism is racism and "racism is thoughtless." It's a poison in the blood and a disease of the bones. If this weren't true then how can we account for the color-driven (especially black and red) hatred in the United States, where someone just looks at a skin color or the shape of a face and is driven to say and do evil things. It's more than that. Racism is part of a heritage. The Nazis weren't alone, they were surrounded by millions of complicit Germans who felt and exhibited what had been part of Germanic culture for centuries and for that matter the rest of Europe as well. Eichmann may have been a banal bureaucrat, but he was also a "pure" German, a "pure" racist and his racism required no thinking.

Kurt Trautmann

read Karren LaLonde Alenier's review

Blue Jasmine

The review of Blue Jasmine is a penetrating look at a good film and the filmmaking style of Woody Allen. Mr. Moore is especially insightful in his detailing Allen's weak depiction of the male characters. Woody loves his women and his men only when he plays them on the screen.

Ev Meredith

read Miles David Moore's review

Blue Jasmine

This film critic goes right to the heart of the matter. Allen, like so many directors today, has to screw with the material, has to put himself above the great work he has in his hands. Cate Blanchett is the great work. Just leave her alone and let her act. She's what makes this movie worth seeing and remembering.

Tim Willets

read Miles David Moore's review

Abe Vigoda

Was there ever a better character on television than Abe Vigoda's Fish on "Barney Miller"? Hooray that he's still alive and so is Fish.

Jerry Hutton

read Les Marcott's column

War Films and November 22

Eloquent and disturbing article. How many times do we have to say "madness" in the face of all this carnage and horror? No one listens and when they do they just turn up the volume on their ipods. What a pitiful species we are.

Paul Kevlin

read Arthur Meiselman's column

50 years... a historic blink of the eye, and the eye is blinded.

Arthur Meiselman's column on the brutal futility of war, wars that are often set under an umbrella of elephantine sour justifications, are comments that bruised my heart. As I age with some knowledge of the global hypocrisy of killing equations, I don't want to fall into the trap of "this is the way it is", when it comes to the brutish justifications that nations use to sell war to their peoples. Yet I know that many peoples are fed up to their necks with the killings going on. One of the few resources we have to counter the brutishness is open ridicule, vigorous satire, and most of all, using organizations like the U.N. to cut through the agonizing bull-shit supporting wars. Time, history and caring, are still on our side; and that is a nudge in the direction of outwitting the schmucks who multiply the death traps.

Ned Bobkoff

read Arthur Meiselman's column

A Man Ahead of His Time

Orson Welles was obviously a genius filmmaker, but he doesn't get enough credit for the technology and camera work he invented. Overhead shots and tearing out floors to get ground level shots were first done by him, along with hundreds of other things. A genius, indeed.

Kenneth Sibbett 

read Les Marcott's column

Orson Welles

Have to disagree re credit due to Welles. There isn't a director or critic or film historian that I know of who doesn't acknowledge Welles' pioneering innovations. As you say, he was a genius and still recognized that way today.

Michael Aptrow

read Les Marcott's column on Welles

Talent Wasted

Here in Sri Lanka we look forward to Scene4 each month it comes. This month it comes with sadness. The place that Phillip Seymour Hoffman lived and the startle-drawing by Mr. Feldman. It is a problem isn't it, a terrible problem. Here it is a tragedy also. Thank you for showing it all.

Harsha

see Elliot Feldman's cartoon
read Griselda Steiner's article

Good Night, Sweet Prince

Thanks to Griselda Steiner and Scene4 for the moving and intimate view of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He was truly a Prince and many of the eulogies and tributes didn't quite bring him back to us. Yours did. Very special. Thank you.

Andria Jacobs

read Griselda Steiner's article

Shirley Temple

This is a nice tribute to Shirley Temple. She was a super-star in her time, an amazing thing since there was no social media then and no internet. It's interesting that she grew up to be a not so good actor as a teen-ager and worse as an adult. Probably why she retired early. It seems to be a common occurrence with many famous child stars.

Pauline Warkowski

read Kathi Wolfe's column

Sillywood

I would guess that Elliot Feldman's stinging cartoon (April 2014) comes out of a long acquaintance with LaLaLand. The faces are oh so familiar, the words oh so stupid, the attitude oh so much 'attitude'. Dismal but very funny.

Lou Laird

view Elliot Feldman's cartoon

Ralph Fiennes

Excellent review of the work and status of this top of his form actor. Not only an actor that audiences love to hate, but also one audiences love to love. I have seen Mr. Fiennes in some second rate films but I have never seen him give a second rate performance.

Barry Morrics

read Miles David Moore's review

A Writer's Life

I love this cartoon. It's the story of my life, funny, insane, depressing, reality. The artist (Elliot Feldman) makes us all brothers, and sisters, if you will.

Sasha Lauren

view Elliot Feldman's cartoon

Everyone will be Hitler

Great cartoon! Right on the nose and in the gut, Elliot. Hard to laugh at it but important to laugh at it. Thanks for the laugh sad as it is.

Sam

see Elliot Feldman's cartoon

Riding Shotgun With Courtney Joyner

Excellent article, filled with interesting stuff I knew nothing about, the best kind. I have to read this book now. It reminds me of the movie with Yul Brynner in 1973 called Westworld. Brynner was a robot and it is the only western I've ever liked that had anything "Supernatural" about it. But Yul Brynner was an icon. I don't think anyone else could have pulled it off.

Kenneth Sibbett

read Les Marcott's column

The Death Penalty

(Miles David) Moore's portrait of Ruth and Judd's "cinematic afterlife" is a stirring, well-written article, particularly the note about the "tabloid sensationalism" in showing a photo of Snyder's exceution on the front page of a newspaper. I would suggest that there should be more of this today. We should see actual photos of the so-called "humane" lethal-injection executions, even videos. The Death Penalty has been proven not to be a deterrent, which is why it has been discarded in most civilized countries. Are State executions "cruel and unusual" punishment? If they are then they should be public events shown in all their gory detail and then maybe, just maybe they may prove to have some deterring impact on crime. They used to be staged like circuses in England, France and even the USA. Ever wonder why they stopped doing that?

Barry Hazellof

read Miles David Moore's article

Acting and its methods

Nathan Thomas is an articulate proponent of Stanislavsky and I have always enjoyed and appreciated his essays and analyses. He is obviously a successful teacher, so I wonder if he isn't distracted by the process in favor of the craft. I, for one, have left the emotional-truth psychological approach to acting and adhere strongly to this credo by director Joe Wright: "To me, naturalism is the death of drama. Lee Strasberg came along and the Method fucked everything up. I find people like Celia Johnson are my favorite actors. I was brought up on films like Brief Encounter (1945) and, for me, they expressed enormous truth. Marlon Brando does not have the monopoly on truth!"

Doug Henshall

read Nathan Thomas' column

How Now Copyright?

I read, with interest, Arthur Meiselman's piece on copyright. My response to the writer, since I am cited by him as a spur to his article is this:

I am not against copyright, that is, not against having some form of protection for created work, for the "property" of the creator.  I would just dial back the protections to the original terms of the Copyright Act of 1790, which gave a creator 14 years of protection, with an additional term of 14 years if he or she was alive at the time of the renewal.  (The original law only protected books, maps, and charts; other items, like music and paintings, were added later.)

I also don't have a problem with copyrights being treated as commodities and passed along/sold to other parties, as long as the time limits don't reset during the exchange: If my father in his will passes along to me the copyright to his wildly successful book, and thus its profits, in the 27th year of its copyright (renewed after 14 years), I get the profits for one more year only, and that's it.  Then the book goes into the public domain.  (Whatever publishing rights companies have do not trump the copyright term limit -- once the property passed into the public domain, they no longer have exclusive access to it.)

I would also support a provision that doesn't make copyright automatic once a work is created.  Copyrights would have to registered, with a small fee to do this, in order to start the clock ticking on the first 14 years.  If a copyright is not registered, then that work does not have copyright protection and is automatically added to the public domain.  (We'd have to work out some window during which a creator can register so that the created work has a provisional or contingent protection, a "pre-copyright" protection, in case they're on walkabout in Australia when the inspiration comes.)  This would also allow people to forego copyright if they didn't want it (today known as "copyleft") without having to go through the hoops of the Creative Commons licensing procedures (but this would also mean that the creator would have no say in how the work gets used in the public domain).

The logistics of this are too complicated for this limited space, but they are mostly legalistic in nature once the umbrella concept of a time-limit for a registered copyright is established (e.g., can someone "own" something in the public domain, such as a Picasso painting hanging in the Metropolitan Museum, or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in its new Japanese manga version?).  This doesn't make them easy but it does make them doable and possible.

My desire is to get as much material, actual and virtual, into the public domain as possible as quickly as possible without too much interference from the dead hand of the past or the greed of corporations and creators -- as the original act said, in order "to encourage learning."  Twenty-eight years seems enough time for a creator to make his or her money.  My desire is to cut back all the kudzu that has smothered copyright to the point where, now, anything after 1923 is out of bounds, with absurd restrictions like a book not going into the public domain until 70 years after the death of its author.  To me, that's racketeering.

Of course I will not win this argument -- there is too much money at stake.  But it's an argument that still needs to be made.

Michael Bettencourt


I agree with most of Michael Bettencourt's arguments. But the implication of his strong desire toward "public domain" is what concerns me. I don't care about the financial provisos of copyright: protect the creator and the creator's heirs, all for a reasonable time, and then the hell with it... let the bucks be made by the buck-makers. What I do care about is the content, the creation as the creator conceived it. Within most current copyright protection, while the creator is alive, his/her permission is required to change one comma, one note, one choreographic movement, one anything. Once the creator has been de-created, my admonition is that the permission is no longer available. Nothing should be changed. If a creation is to be adapted, write a new version based on the original, but do not, do not use the original words or notes or strokes. If you want to do "Rome&Juliet" Mr. Luhrman (after you find actors who can speak English), write your own. I cite George Bernard Shaw who sent a sheriff with a cease&desist court order at the Broadway opening of one of his plays: do it the way he wrote it or don't do it. If you want to do a Balanchine ballet, do it as he conceived it, or choreograph your own. The argument against my argument is: hey, that's not the way show business works. My answer: Tough shite! Shaw understood the business of show better than almost anyone alive today. Of course, he's dead and his creations? Unprotected.

As I calm down here, I'm fully aware that it is the Internet which has unleashed an irrevocable shattering of copyright protection. The "mashup" is the worse thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball. And, as Rebecca Solnit noted in Harper's: The Internet will also "create elaborate justifications for never paying artists or writers." She also notes: "...2014 has turned out quite a bit like [Orwell's] 1984."

Arthur Meiselman

Michael Bettencourt's earlier column: "Dear Mr. Beckett"

Arthur Meiselman's current column: "On Copyright And Cats"

How Now Copyright? - A Response To A Response

Response to Arthur's Response

Citing the "mashup" as "the worst thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball" is to forget that the "mashup" is how any art gets made.  No inventor creates something in the way that Athena burst forth from the head of Zeus when Hephaestus cracked open his skull, that is, something without antecedent, without an origin story, without some debt to (dare I say it?) to the "public domain."

This is precisely the point Nina Paley made in stripping her wonderful work, Sita Sings The Blues, of all copyright restrictions: "From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes."

For me, the more things there are to mash up into new forms, the better off everyone will be, not just in the arts but in all aspects of intellectual study -- "mashup" is just a synonym for "the free market of ideas," and the public domain, where everybody has a library card to borrow the materials, is where this market can play out the trading that results in new ideas, new practices, new directions.

This fertility -- its power to nourish and propel -- is why we can't follow my colleague's advice and do only "archival performances" (my term, not his) of past work.  Shaw had every right to issue his cease-and-desist then, but I don't think anyone can make a defensible aesthetic argument that his work is well-served by issuing one now on his behalf, and there's certainly no legal basis for it either.

Perhaps Shakespeare is more to the point here, since competing versions of some of his plays defy citing any one manuscript as definitive, Arthur's "the original words."  (Kenneth Branagh, for his film version of Hamlet, simply mashed together every version he could find into one script, which is why the film runs for four hours with an intermission.)  There is no ur-Shakespeare text, and certainly no ur-Shakespeare performance (we have no settled picture of what happened on an Elizabethan stage), and thus no ur-Shakespeare to which we must always remain faithful.  

And even if such a thing did exist, doing R&J in 2014, even following every jot and tittle, will not be the same as a production done in 1614: we can mimic the practice but we can't access the spirit and mind-set of that time.  We are different people living in a different world, and our R&J will be an automatic betrayal of the original.

Rebecca Solnit's point about "the Internet" is a good one in terms of its effects on artists' livelihoods.  However, it's not "the Internet's" fault but the way people use and abuse this vast infrastructure for sharing information -- a subject too large to parse here but one which touches upon the ethic of the public domain and a regulated commons.

But it certainly has thrown into disarray old notions of ownership and control and property and contract, which, to me, is a very good thing since many of these notions were restrictive, exploitative, and rent-seeking, and needed to be challenged.  Going back to a situation where "the permission [to change things] is no longer available" is to go back to the very practices that "the Internet" has up-ended.

The "mashup" is how stuff gets made.  The source material for the mashup is both the universe of all created artifacts and the cultural "air" we all breathe as citizens of some collective.  Given the capitalistic way we have chosen to arrange our current collective, it makes sense to define creation as "property" and afford it some of its protections.

The debate is over the extent and power of those protections, and my contention is to give them a statute of limitations that balances inventors' abilities to make some money off their efforts and the public domain's need for new stuff to mash up.  I believe this is a fair trade, given how the public domain seeds everything of value created by anyone who lives in its midst.

Michael Bettencourt

Different Drums

Miles Moore's observation about Birdman losing its steam in the final half hour was confirmed as I checked my watch, for the first time, toward the finale of the film. The ending actually made me feel wonderfully alive! I think the movie is one of the best I've seen in a while. The percussion accompaniment was exquisite and at the end when it slowed down it was the human heart beat. Whiplash is in my Netflix queue. I only hope I can watch it through because I've experienced some "Fletchers" in the music world and elsewhere. Thanks for the superb reviews!

Nancy Allinson

Read Miles David Moore's reviews: "Different Drums"

Stealing 'Big Eyes'

I enjoyed Miles Moore's always astute and sensitive film reviews in this issue but...
Talk about stealing! Gertrude Stein's artist friend Marie Laurencin (so-called girl friend of poet Guilliame Apollinaire) was the first to do those big eyed kids.

Karren Alenier

Read Miles David Moore's review: "Paths to Glory"

Gérard Philipe

He truly was one of the most beautiful men to ever appear on screen as beautiful as anyone in Hollywood including Tyrone Power. If the quality of his acting in film is a judgment, then he must have been wonderful on stage. How sad his career was cut so short.

Terence Bittern

read Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's article: "Le Grand Prince"

The Documentaries of Ken Burns

This was a nice review of a portion of Ken Burns' work, but I do not agree that everyone is equally fascinated by his documentaries. I find them truly hard to watch, even tedious. Maybe one reason became clear to me as I read this piece: The documentaries reviewed are very male-centric. Only one woman is mentioned in the whole article, Doris Kearns Goodwin commenting on Baseball. Burn's documentaries reflect his interests as well as our history as a country, and reflect the fact that for so long men ran things and were the ones written about. However, I don't think that applies to the more recent ones about the Roosevelts, which I actually found interesting, full of humanity and actual human interaction on a different level.

Christa Watters

read Patrick Walsh's column: "An American Treasure..."

Re: The Documentaries of Ken Burns

Ms. Watters takes my list of commentators out of context. I mention various interviewees in Baseball - a list prefaced with "for example"-to illustrate the eclectic range of people Ken Burns marshals in all his films.There are admittedly less women involved in Baseball than in other Burns documentaries, but Doris Kearns-Goodwin is by no means the only female interviewed. In fact, Burns devotes much time and several chapters to women involved with the game, notably Jackie Robinson's equally heroic wife, Rachel, as well as those who actually played or owned teams, including segments on:  the formation of women's baseball teams at women's colleges in New York and New England  female pitching great Jackie Mitchell  the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, with interviews of former Rockford Peaches players Dottie Green, Marie Kelley, and Mary Pratt Effa Manley, owner of the Newark Eagles and the only female owner in the Negro Leagues
The documentary series Jazz contains many more female voices. Not only are there more female commentators (Margo Jefferson, Helen Oakley Dance, Phoebe Jacobs, Mercedes Ellington, Chan Parker, Joya Sherrill, Norma Miller), but a number of women comprise the art's most central figures, such as Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. Still, celebrated historian Jacques Barzun (a Parisian by birth and childhood, mind you) famously and rightly counseled: "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."
Part of what informs his comment is that baseball, like Jazz music, serves as a perfect microcosm of American life.Sadly, a big part of that story is injustice. Baseball's most glaring injustice was the Color Ban, a conspiracy which kept black Americans out of the supposedly "National Pastime" for nearly 70 years. But both Ken Burns and I would be quick to point out another terrible injustice: on June 21, 1952, Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick banned the signing of women to professional contracts. With the stroke of a pen, Frick snuffed out an entire league and an era. (My article, "Will women ever be welcome on the baseball field?" appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, April 5, 2009.)
If, however, you find the documentaries of Ken Burns tedious, then I am forced to that say the onus of responsibility sits entirely on your shoulders; as Wynton Marsalis says in Jazz about all great art, you have to rise up to its level, it won't come to you.

Patrick Walsh

read his column:
"Ameriican Treasures: The Documentaries of Ken Burns"

Ken Burns Documentaries

Just read this excellent article on Ken Burns. A revelation to me living where we reach for the hurley  or the cricket bat , but it puts in search of his work for the next dark and rainy evening. Apropos of the author's Gerald Early quote: I recall something said of Clint Eastwood around the release of his Charlie parker film bird - Americas two great art forms:  Jazz and the Western and Clint has contributed to both.

Garrett Fagan

read Patrick Walsh's column: "An American Treasure..."

Holocaust Terror

I cannot begin to express the horror, the pain that comes from reading "The Jew in the Box" and Celine Nally's stirring portrayal of Edith Stein. My family was there and their memory is part of the heritage I pass down to my children, as terrible a memory as it is. Both of these should be preserved forever in a recording or on film. They should never be forgotten.

Harriet Sherman

Arthur Meiselman's column: Second Reunion

Celine Nally's play: Into the Light

The Blacklist - Who Cares?

I care, because as Meiselman so obstreperously and defiantly notes, the Blacklist never ended. Look around us at the bombast of Donald Trump and the teeth-nashing parade of his right-wing colleagues, at the ugly profiling and hate-calls for anti-immigration measures, at the hypocrisy and anxiety of the fading White majority, at the thundering gallop of the Four Horseman of Capitalism, at the silencing and repression of dissent. The "blacklist" has always been with us, from Jefferson to Obama. What the Hollywood Ten experienced was a generational replay of a "film" on a continuous loop.

Dirk Herrbeck

Arthur Meiselman's column: "The Blacklist"

De Ja Vu

With the Academy Awards it's not only de ja vu all over again, it's dejavued from year to year as Mr. M. so pointedly points out. I sympathize with him re Kubrick, long gone, the likes whom never to be seen again. Never is a vague word, so are the words Academy Awards. Thanks Arthur.

Michael Aptrow

Arthur Meiselman's column: "2016 Dé Jà Vu All Over Again"

On The Beach

Even though Stephen Hawking has joined the seti search with his tiny, near-the speed-of light bots, I'm afraid that it is all too little too late. I'll take your first option and dig deep I will. Or maybe I'll take the third very human option. Kramer's 57 year-old picture is still astonishing and hilariously depressing.

Michael Aptrow

read Arthur Meiselman's column: On The Beach

Rendell's Bunnies

Jon's pics are great as usual and the bunnies are just what SF needs to chase away the Google jackals.

Eric Rizoner

Jon Rendell's photos: Bunny Invasion

Hillary: The Movie

You struck a loud chord with this: "General John Allen. Something like, Do you think American soldiers will accept her, a woman, as their Commander-In-Chief?" He calmly and firmly dismissed the issue. And that's all that Hillary need do." So true. She really can't let herself get dragged into the pernicious swill that comes out of Fox and its friends. As for "the First Laddie", yes, I heard it too and it was First Laddie Clinton who said it.

Piri Ascherman

Arthur Meiselman's column: Hillary In The Movies

On The Beach

Arthur Meiselman's essay appears to be straight from the heart. I found it very moving and close to my own point of view. I too abhor the idea of warfare of any kind. Somehow, I just cannot bear to think of people dying for any cause, whatsoever it might be. I am so glad he wrote this inspiring piece. In fact, I feel this kind of work ought to appear on CNN and other channels that have wide coverage.

Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar

Arthur Meiselman's column: On The Beach

Balled Feet

The adventures and memories of Claudine Jones are a continuing source of inspiration for me. She makes life in San Francisco seem glorious which it isn't any more, but she sure makes it seem so. Ms Jones writes with a joie de vivre and a frisky style and that's how I read her.

Erica Stolzer.

Claudine Jones' column: Balled Feet

Jane Eyre

Your comparison of Orson Welles and Michael Fassbender is unfair. Mercy please, Welles was a genius actor and director and Fassbender is: a good actor who can't get out from underneath the director.
Also you're flat-out wrong about horses. I love horses and they love me. We both don't wear sleeping shirts. You never say whether you do or not. Do you?

Lou Laird

Arthur Meiselman's column: Bits&Pieces

All about life and death

There's a lot to admire about this screenplay's structure and visualization. A tightly drawn film, claustrophobic, great dialogue, action- "and" character-driven. Yeah, another prison film, another condemning of capital punishment, but the ending is a kicker. There's something else happening there. As the intro says: it's not a docu-drama.

Michael Aptrow

Arthur Meiselman's screenplay: Jody Thomas Doesn't Want To Die

Anthony Hopkins

You captured the Master though I think he's been phoning it in lately even on this exciting series (Westworld). What is important is that Sir Anthony's nonchalance and casual work ethic is so singular, so head and shoulders and heart above anyone else that it's exhilarating to just watch him in the closeups. I have to say that as much as I like Westworld, I have problems with some of the writing, especially when Lisa Joy contributes. And on that note, she shouldn't be allowed to direct another episode. Hers is the weakest and most misdirected of the series.

Michael Aptrow

Arthur Meiselman's column: Awake With Anthony Hopkins

re: Anthony Hopkins

Agree with you regarding Lisa Joy. It's very apparent when her pen is on the screen and it's equally apparent when Nolan is writing (and directing). He can write as he's done so admirably for his brother. Joy is a "Host" and a market tested one at that. Don't agree with you regarding Hopkins. He is such a master that maybe to you it looks like he's "phoning it in". His ease and what you call nonchalance is his remarkable simplicity in conveying the complexity of a character when, so often, the dialogue isn't there.

Laird

Arthur Meiselman's column: Awake with Anthony Hopkins

La La Land

Taking umbrage with Miles David Moore's excellent review, this movie (not a film) is a mega social media style block n' buster. The two "stars", Stone and Gosling, can't sing, can't dance, and are truly limited actors which is okay for this piece of overdone cake. The fact that the movie has so many accolades, even an incredible and outrageous sisterly hug with the masterpiece, "Singin' In the Rain", tells us much about the flight of talent, taste, and perspective that travel bans won't ever correct.

Laird

Miles David Moore's Review: "Dreams and Disappointments"

I Am Not Your Negro

As the critic says, this is an important and powerful film. But it leads me to wonder what Baldwin would make of today's rise of white, right-wing populism. Would he find it depressing, disgusting or would he throw up his hands, as he does in the photo, and throw in the towel?

Tyman Bassett

Miles David Moore's review: "The Indians Were You"

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