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Plot Device

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  1. I'll bite yer knee caps off! I have pondered in the past whether European knights were the equivalent of Samurai's and Ninjas. I think they MIGHT be somewhat on par with Shoguns. If I recall correctly, Shoguns were lone feudal lords and land owners, not rank & file soldiers who operated in teams/squads/battallions. Sometimes a knight would join his sword on a battle field with another knight against a common enemy, and likewise, sometimes a Shogun would join alongside an allied Shogun against a common enemy, but for the most part, these guys fought solo. I still don't feel that a CULTURE of "warrior" is represented by knights to the degree that they were in any of the Eastern disciplines. The history buffs here are free to correct me (as I am more than probably wrong) but I always believed that knights were more attuned to their Christianity and their allegiance to the king, and kept their training in warfare as merely a means to those ends: they learned to fight BECAUSE of their servitude to God and King. And so they didn't learn to fight for the sake of fighting itself. Warfare was a base means toward a higher end (serving God and King). But the Eastern traditions developed a hyper-attuned sense of warfare, were far more meticulous about it, and developed an entire culture--a secret culture even-- devoted to their skills as warriors. It's this culture of warfare that I keep pointing toward. And I invite anyone here to correct me. I am only recalling bits and pieces of stuff I've read. So please chime in. But there wasn't a whole legion of Zorro's. He was a solo act. (A freak, if you will.) AHHHHH! You have now brought out the Tolkien fan in me. Aragorn was from a special race of men called the Numenoreans, from the land of Numenor (a massive island nation off the Southwest coast of Middle Earth--which sank into the sea!). They were partly Elven, and so they lived unusually long lives (hundreds of years). Elrond is called "Elrond Half-Elven" because he is part Man (but mostly Elf). I forgot the exact structure of the family tree, but Elrond is descended from the two brothers born to Berin and Luthien. Berin and Luthien were a Man and an Elf-maid who married, and she gave up her immortality to be with him (just like Aragorn and Arwen). The two sons born were given a choice to be either mortal or immortal. One son chose immortality and he eventually became Elrond's dad (or grand-dad I think). The other chose mortality and he became the father of all the Numenoreans. One of the those Numenoreans was King Isildur (Aragorn's ancestor, thus Aragorn is Isildur's heir). He was the guy with the sword named Narsil who cut the ring from the finger of Sauron on the battle field, and caused the sword to shatter. (And we all know the sword was reforged and given to Aragorn.) Aragorn comes from a special race. I never read "The Silmarillion" all the way through, but I don't think the Numenoreans were gung-ho warriors. They certainly did engage in warfare. But more as the means-to-an-end thing, not as a warrior culture. I do wanna address the culture of the Rangers though. The race of Numenor was punished. They built a temple (a big no-no) and (if I recall) they started engaging in human sacrifice (I think). The righteous eyes of Heaven saw their wickedness and plunged the island of Numenor to the bottom of the ocean. The remnant of Numenor went to Middle Earth. They were fine while they were an organized nation. But after they grew weak and their culture fragmented, the few Numenoreans who were left wound up as unwanted vagabonds roaming the countryside. They were mistrusted by regular Men who were suspicious of their long life (a little Colin McLoud of the Clan McCloud there for ya). They became self-appointed stewards of wildlife, the Rangers, awaiting the day when their civilization would be restored, something that would only happen when the rightful king ascended the throne of Gondor again. That's why Aragorn was a Ranger. In the books, there were other Rangers besides Aragorn. And toward the final battle, a small band of Rangers assembled and presented their swords to Aragorn. But they were few in number (less than a hundred I think). So even they didn't have a culture of warriors. If anything, they had a culture of nature conservationism. It seems then that Miller is fascintaed with the idea of the Uber Warrior.
  2. Freaks! Actually, no. Crusie was a Samurai student, and Batman was a Ninja student. So they were both extensions of an existing warrior class. And yet, they're both EASTERN warior classes, not WESTERN ones. So here in the West, they sadly BECOME freaks. And Alec Baldwin is a freak no matter what.
  3. Oh, I don't know. This might be reaching back a bit far, but what about all of those countless Stallone, Schwarzeneggar, et al. action flicks that came out in the 1980s and early 1990s? It sure seems like the hero of those flicks is something of a pinnacle of military training, thanks to the result of countless hours of training and fighting. I guess I'm driving at a "warrior elite" of some kind who go beyond Navy Seals and the US Marines. An UBER class of UBER soldiers who have tapped a near-mystical store of power from the cosmos. Marv was a freak of nature. Achiles was a freak of nature. And as such neither Marv nor Achiles had a normal place in society. (And some would argue that the Governor of California is also a freak of nature.) But Ninjas and Shoguns are a warrior elite who inhabit an entire culture of other warriors, train for years to achieve what they become, and function with societal honor rather than in a state of freakdom. And I think the only Western equivalent to them would be these Spartans.
  4. In years of watching "ancient warrior" sagas, I have noticed that the warrior films about Japanese or Chinese soldiers tend toward a mystical concept of a sort of uber-warrior. A strain of warrior from myth and lore, trained over the course of a lifetime, the likes of which we of Western society seem to lack. The Ninja. The Shogun. Super-cool and bigger-than-life soldiers whose every molecule is trained for warfare. A type of soldier we don't seem to have in European legend. The nearest we've ever come has been the recently over-done concept of there being a once-in-a-lifetime apearance of the strangely gifted warrior born amid a nation of mediority (such as Achiles from the recent Troy, or Marv from Frank Miller's Sin City.) But those two heros were treated like freaks of nature rather than shown to be the product of rigorous Ninja-esque training. Yet this film offers just such a team of European super-warriors. Me thinks 300 will play well in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
  5. Anyone up for a double-feature? One Night With the King followed by 300 ????
  6. This is great news. I recall reading an in-depth essay about WDtW by a 1990's film scholar who praised the subtle restraint the director of that 1960's film used. The director deftly avoided sappy sentimentalism, a terrible pitfall an inferior director would have either accidentaly fallen into or else foolishly embraced. I'll see if I can find it.
  7. I also never read the book, but I did get exposure to it. I saw a PBS show when I was a kid where they would take an exceptional children's book and read passages aloud from it while showing a few illustrations of the action. After hooking the kid-listeners on the text, they then stopped reading aloud and told the kids in the audience to go read the book to find out what happens next (the dirty bums!). The part they read aloud on the show I watched was the part where the kids first found the rope hanging over the stream. And then when they were done reading aloud, the show's narrator told the audience: I have carried that minor spoiler in my head all these years. And now I finally know who it is! Yes. They were both breathtaking, but not distractingly so (at least not for me). I enjoyed them both.
  8. Plot Device

    Amazing Grace (2006)

    The box office for Amazing Grace has rebounded. Cool! It debuted in 791 theatres three weekends ago at #10, which is itself quite an achievement for a Christian film because that landed it in the all-important Top Ten. Then, with the same number of theatres, is sank to #11 in its SECOND weekend. It's noteworthy that it also only suffered a 30% drop in that second weekend. Most films suffer between 40% and 50% drops on their second weekends. Then, this past weekend (its THIRD weekend), it added 209 more theatres (bringing the total up to an even 1,000 theatres) and rose back up to #10 again. Regrettably,it still suffered an overall drop of 12% from the prior weekend. But reclaiming a slot in the industry-critical Top Ten is still very impressive. This bodes well for future endeavors of Christian cinema.
  9. Hello Croatoan, and welcome! I don't think anyone in this thread posted any specifically anti-gay remarks (and you might be surprised to learn how many posters here at A&F have no problem with gay people). But there are two gay-related observations of this film that I perceive have been made here in this thread by several of us: 1) The visual portrayal of the Spartan men on the screen is imagery right out of a lot of homo-erotic fantasy magazines and art work. None of us (or few of us) believe that was unintended, and instead believe that the film's art director did that in full consciousness. (My own feeling is, that was a bold move, and it might have backfired such as in Alexander, but somehow it didn't.) 2) Historically speaking (according to the above-posters who know the history, which I do not), Spartans had no problem with their citizens and soldiers engaging in homosexuality. So the dialogue which indicates the Spartans were anti-gay is not accurate. And a lot of posters at A&F are kinda picky about historical films being historically accurate (kinda funny that way). While those two observations are undeniably gay-related, I don't believe any posts at all in this thread have been anti-gay. We're certainly gay-aware here at A&F, but I don't think the label "anti-gay" can be correctly applied here. If anything, we're more gay-neutral (at least in THIS thread). I will admit that I'm still a newb here myself, so I am not familiar with the WHOLE board. But in the five or six weeks I've been here, I have yet to see an anti-gay remark on this web site. By the way, did you see the film yet? Cool, huh? ::EDITED for grammar & clarity::
  10. Both these films I loved. And they are VERY hard to find. I am told a deplorable remake of WDtW was done with an American setting--specifically the American South -- and the tone and execution of it made the children look dumb as dirt. How sad. If you can find this film, get the b&w British version.
  11. Took the words right out of my keyboard, Peter. WTH????? How was this film even REMOTELY Anti-Semitic?
  12. I totally love this movie. I loved the thrills, I loved the look, and (in an odd fashion) I also loved the message. ......... What message? Ah! I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice that! Most war films (possibly ALL war films) have some kind of message hidden in them, either deeply buried, or hiding in plain sight (usually an anti-war message). So I watched this film last night in the same frame of mind that I watch most films (be they war films or not): running the dual-track in my head with one track imbibing the more obvious surface story, and the other sifting through the symbolism and imagery, trying to discern the hidden one. But it wasn't there. This was just a straightforward epic tale of heroism, bravery, and honor. No anti-war stuff. No slams on Bush. No profound treatise against taking up arms. No imagery meant to conjure associations in our minds with Iraq. Go figure. If there WAS any sub-text to this work, I'd say it might have been the assertion that a true democracy (a form of government that Greece gave birth to) cannot properly function if religion is part of its machinery. The evil twisted priests were possibly meant as an anti-religion prop. As was Xerxes and his title as "the god-king." (I agree whole-heartedly with Russ Breimeier from CT Movies who said: "Xerxes comes across as the Devil himself, promising him wealth, women, and power, repeatedly extolling his kindness: 'Leonidas would have you stand. All I ask is that you kneel.' " That one line from the film sent chills down my spine.) With this possible anti-religious thread in the film's subtext, the expanded role of the queen in this film was, I think, meant as an excuse to show the workings of the Council, a form of democracy in its infanthood. A bit of a Frank Capra moment for her there. We (who live in a democracy) want the local Spartan democracy to work for her that day. But it almost doesn't because one of the Council members is a traitor, liar, and a back-stabbing cheat. So her role in the story was, I believe, meant as a civics lesson for us: crooked politicians just muck up the works (just like religious interference). The final line from the king to his servant before he dispatched him back to Sparta was "Remember us!" (That servant was played by David Wenham, the same actor who also played Faramir in Lord of the Rings --this role being quite a step up for such a deserving actor since he played the wimpy monk in Van Helsing.) That plea for "Remember us!" was repeated several times toward the end. And then I thought perhaps this might make an awesome Memorial Day film. Every last VFW post in the United States should show this film at least once a year. So another possible subtext of this film: don't hate the warriors, even if you disagree with the war. Or, "Hate the war but love the warrior." Focusing just on that possibility, the Viet Nam War sadly pitted the citizens of America AGAINST her soldiers. They came back home not to a hero's welcome with parades and memorials, but to hurled tomatoes and shouts of "BABY KILLERS!" It was over twenty years later before America finally reconciled itself to that war and owned up to the honor due the troops who fought in it. Ever since that reckoning, the very firmly enforced protocol in every political arena of this nation is now: "Honor our young men and women who are fighting for us. Period." So I'm kinda wondering if maybe, just as the Iraq War has been called Bush' Viet Nam, it might be possible that the makers of this film are offering a cautionary tale against a repeat of a similar strain of anti-soldier mentality amongst the civilian masses. Maybe. But I'm not going to firmly stand by any of my assertions here. Instead, I will point to the Ain't It Cool News review, which I found funny as all get out (of course) and right on the money: I have read in my film theory text books that ALL films about war MUST be "anti-war" or they're not worth the celluloid they're printed on. Films that are "pro-war" (if there actually is such a thing) or which are unabashedly patriotic, are unacceptable to the human-focused sensibilities of the art form. They are a stench in the nostrils of the craft and the industry. But this film seems to be lacking a direct anti-war message. Instead, by invoking the principles of "a just war", it asks us to side with the 300 Spartans in their decision to go to war. It asks us to sympathize with their determination to fight even unto death. And it also asks us to root for the Queen as she beseeches the Council to approve a troop escalation--oops! I mean --a surge. So what exactly IS the message of this film? I don't know. Maybe I'll go ask my therapist.
  13. My sense of the purpose of that line was that it was meant to support one of the overriding themes of the film: "We Spartans are REAL men!" Agreed. It was also meant to show that the queen was very hapilly married to her husband, and so was a difficult decision for her. I also caught those "guys" (one of whom was named Cindy) in the closing credits. Bizarre. And ultimately, I wasn't even able to discern that any of those orgy participants were in fact transexuals. Um .... I dunno about that. I think they were just stylizing this thing out the wazoo (no pun intended). If anything, the gay-as-the-day-is-long aspect of the Colin Farrell film Alexander totally killed that movie. I was embarrassed by that movie. But this one I did not find falling into similar error. Yes, it was homo-erotic. But not in the same way. I can't explain it better than that. No I haven't. But LOL anyway! I have most of Gonick's stuff. I will have to look it up, that sounds about right. I watched a documentary on Sparta once, and I remember it saying that they had a real problem with homosexuality, because a lot of men became conditioned to be sexually attracted to other men. To counter this, because they needed warriors for the city-state, they would shave the heads of newly wedded brides and force the men into a dark room with the woman. I have no idea how wide-spread that was, but I remember the documentary saying it was a common practice. I'm curious: how does one become conditioned to be sexually attracted to men? The whole nature/nurture thing is on the line here.
  14. Not that there's anything WRONG with that.[/Jerry Seinfeld] Seriously though. I was totally thinking the same thing, Every last guy in this film is totally ripped with not a lick of hair anywhere on this body. Most Mediterranean men I have ever been acquainted with tend to be a tad on the hairy side.
  15. Plot Device

    Amazing Grace (2006)

    Thank, Beth. I should go back and change my posts now.
  16. Okay. I guess that makes sense. They were trying to keep the marketing from being misconstrued then???? Didn't want to plug it as a "Bruce Wilis Flick" and wanted to keep it as a Billy Bob film instead???? I'm sure that's part of it. And I believe Thornton & Willis are friends, as well. Here's Thornton's explanation from an interview: My father and I liked the movie, though he felt the plot was a bit of a stretch. I particularly enjoyed Tim Blake Nelson's performance as the family lawyer. Thanks for that quote. And yeah, that alwyer was pretty good. For now I'm still trying to re-digest the idea of this film being meant as a farce.
  17. Well, it was ..... terrible. I wish I owned the DVD. I'd paste that entire thirty-seconds into a video clip and post it here for everyone to get a listen to. I liked that aspect of the boy. And of his getting into his step-father's face about the "justification" of violence. THAT was well-done. But that one line I have a problem with.
  18. Great insights, Russ. Your Biblical parallels made me remember a comment I forgot to make earlier when I was still reading through Page 1 of this thread. Someone on that page commented that Ed Harris' character lost his eye to a particularly brutal act from Joey Cuszack, an act that "went beyond the pale" even for the mafia: he used a barbed wire to put his eye out. And does not the Bible say: "An eye for an eye"?? So is Ed Harris' character not justified (according to the Christian outlook) in seeking vengeance? Meanwhile, I wanna make one comment about my original gut feeling that the little girl was just a bad actress. I do not dispute the interpretation from so many here that she was meant to be an echo of a stereotype. But I want to defend my (shall I say?) misunderstanding of her performance. Basically, the kid who played Tom Stall's teenaged stepson blew a line --and I mean he BLEW that line-- very badly. It was such a bad delivery of the line that I was stunned and my respect for the kid as a thespian went right down the toilet. I was utterly taken out of the film at that moment he misspoke the line, and was annoyed at the poor delivery of what should have been a pretty straightforward line, and felt the director might've done well to have taken the kid aside and explained it to him. He delivered this line in a way that suggested he's guilty of being a "tone-deaf" actor, the kind that every scriptwriter fears. A "tone-deaf" actor will read a line in your beautiful script --the script that you spent months writing and whose every word you agonized over-- and he will deliver that line with the completely wrong tone, or place the stronger inflection on the wrong words, and he'll think nothing of it. This badly delivered line happened earlier on in the film when they were all in their house around dinner time, and they noticed that a car was sitting out front, and the family expressed sentiments of being half-amused/half-annoyed at this non-stop invasion of their privacy by the press. The kid peeked out the window and he said (something along the lines of) "Awe, c'mon, Dad, they're just interested in you because they think you're a hero." And again, he really messed up the correct inflection and tone in his delivery of that simple simple simple line in the most incomprehensibly inept way. I felt deeply grieved for the poor scriptwriter at that moment. And yet now, since you guys are saying the daughter was meant to be a non-believable template of a non-existent ideal, then maybe this bad bad bad bad bad bad bad delivery of that line by the boy was ..... deliberate? I initially assumed it was just bad acting. "Maybe" I thought "this director isn't good with kids and can't get the best out of them." Seeing the paltry performance of the little girl just confirmed that suspicion in me. But a DELIBERATELY OFF-KILTER PERFORMANCE? The look and feel of the little girl was definitely very story-bookish. Even the pure white cast of her angelic hair (which I think I recall actually sported an off-center and just-above-one-ear bow at one point) was too much to believe. So the fantasy-laden impossibility of her overall look definitely makes me inclined to agree with you guys in this insistence that she was just a gloss. But does anyone have anything to say about that botched line by the boy? Is he just a bad actor? Did Cronenberg blow it by letting the kid get away with screwing up that line? Or did Cronenberg WANT for that line to be delivered so badly? Did the director TELL him to deliver it badly?
  19. I am honestly unsure. Incidentally, I'm not necessarily suggesting that the "meta" element here is necessarily "facetiousness" -- only that some sort of commentary or meta-aware self-referentiality may be (not necessarily is) going on. Regarding the mode of the commentary, whether satirical or otherwise, I have no very clear thoughts. It does (with the above caveat). And really, the main thing that sparks this line of reasoning for me is awareness of the filmmakers' previous work. Look at the previous films of Cronenberg or the Polishes. Look at David Lynch's oeuvre. Then look at A History of Violence, The Astronaut Farmer, The Straight Story. At the very least you can't help looking at these films differently in light of the earlier films. Whatever the filmmakers are up to, it seems that they are making a conscious choice to do something not entirely unlike what a more conventional filmmaker would do anyway. Thanks for the clarification. And I am unfamiliar with the works of the Polish Brothers. But I have been reading the other comments in the "Astronaut Farmer" thread here at A&F and have been gleaning the general gist of their body of work. That's very bold of them. But viewing the film in that light is helping me to better understand why the heck Billy Bob was even willing to do that film in the first place. Making a satire of sappy films is right up his alley.
  20. I read the graphic novel after I saw the movie. The main difference between the movie and the novel is that the novel focuses on the mob aspect of the story, while the movie centers around the family. And no, I don't remember the novel being any more "christian". Thank you!
  21. Okay--looks like someone else is thinking in the same stream as me.
  22. I have an ongoing fascination with what's called in Christianese the "back of the desert experience." Moses had his. The Children of Israel had theirs. Jesus had his. Paul had his. The idea of God taking believers on a long, lonely journey through desert regions as a sort of purging exercise is pretty well accepted in Christian circles. Likewise, the idea of God changing people's names as an outward sign of inward change is pretty well documented in the Biblical cast of characters. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul, Simon became Peter, and even in Revelations one of the seven churches is promised "I shall give you a new name." Joey Cusack spent three years (the number of years Christ spent in ministry) in the back of the desert and emerged as Tom Stall, a new creation. This sort of imagery is undeniable. Has anyone here READ the graphic novel? I haven't and haven't heard a thing about it from anyone. So I'm wondering if that original work might have been intended as a Christian story. These elements are all too hard to miss.
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