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Disney to Adapt More Animated Classics

MaleficentMaleficent‘s apparent commercial success has led Disney to announce that it’s adapting other popular animated films in its library as live action pictures. Among those planned for reimagineering: Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and The Jungle Book.

Maleficent, which I’ve seen but not reviewed, is (like Frozen) at best a mediocre movie. With a visual artist directing Linda Woolverton’s interesting script, the fairy tale becomes a fantasy with a touch of the legendary. The happy, young fairy warrior princess of the woods turns dark when she is wronged by the human who will become King Stefan and one of the most interesting aspects is that Stefan is a near-perfect dramatization of the man who lives life in the middle; he is a pragmatist who seeks to avoid living to the extreme. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is the opposite; she possesses strength, beauty and power and when she goes bad the world goes dark, too. The blonde girl she curses, Aurora (Elle Fanning), returns goodness to Maleficent’s life and their scenes together are the best. But the visuals are uneven – some too cute and artificial, others are striking and grand – and the story ultimately contradicts itself and plays it right down the middle. That said, Jolie evokes Norma Desmond and Maleficent has moments of moving, sultry mythology.

They are only fragments, however, and Disney (which often dumps what makes it Disney) is getting worse at integrating disparate parts as Maleficent demonstrates. This is why the studio looks increasingly to subcontract, rather than cultivate, creative talent. As with its Marvel microstudio, the strategy has limits.

Beauty and the Beast will reportedly be directed by Bill Condon, who has a mixed record of biopics, vampire films and one middling musical, Dreamgirls. The 1991 animated feature, which Disney adapted for Broadway in 1994, earned $375 million worldwide. As I’ve written, I don’t think the picture holds up. An adaptation’s success depends on the script and the casting. Judging by Maleficent, which includes bad casting and worse directing, expectations should be low. The live action version of Cinderella, directed by the talented Kenneth Branagh (Thor), should be better in such capable hands, though the evasive glass slipper pseudo-trailer is a bad sign, and The Jungle Book, based on Rudyard Kipling’s stories and to be directed by Jon Favreau (Cowboys & Aliens) may be watered down by studio intervention. These are great stories with larger than life themes and possibilities. But this is the 21st century and the Disney studio is more of a generic company selling tickets based on what used to be its brand than a studio that trains masters of storytelling to create works of art. This moviegoer and storyteller is managing expectations and keeping an active mind.

Tiananmen’s Individualist

Tiananmen individualistWhatever his identity, the lone individual who stood against the state 25 years ago this Thursday (June 5) remains a man of inspiration.

The sight of one man standing alone against the tyranny of dictatorship – in this case Communist China – came to symbolize the crusade for freedom in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall would come down and millions of people would be liberated from slavery.

Sadly, as I suspected at the time, it was an interlude before new forms of totalitarianism would rise, spread and strike and destroy civilization across the globe. But this image of a single act of heroism, which took place during an uprising at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and to some extent took root in China, moves me still. Such heroes who stand alone against the state march on. Edward Snowden comes to mind. Though the West is, in its impending collapse, choosing to punish heroes as traitors, and celebrate, create (and, yesterday, release) anti-heroes instead, men like the one pictured here are exactly what the world needs now.

Rediscovering Christopher Columbus

CCSMCashing in on the promise of what one man staked his life and fortune upon over 500 years ago, remnants of an old discovery ship may have been found in what was once known as the New World.

According to news reports, Barry Clifford, an underwater explorer who in his early career worked in sea-based oil, construction, salvage and rescue operations for profit, discovered what he reportedly thinks may be the historic Santa Maria, pictured here with its captain Christopher Columbus in a painting. Clifford’s historic work includes recovery of artifacts from the Boston Tea Party. The undersea archaeologist has worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Discovery Channel and National Geographic Society and is president of the Provincetown, Massachusetts-based charity Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation.

If Clifford’s discovery is confirmed, the find is a major historical achievement. The Santa Maria was flagship of the great voyage of Christopher Columbus, who discovered America and the West in 1492. Santa Maria, which is believed to have struck a reef off the coast of Haiti on Christmas Day, 1492, was the largest of three ships (the other two were the Nina and the Pinta). Scholars and experts say that the Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic Ocean without major trouble and was crucial to the historic voyage sponsored by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, which set sail from Spain in August 1492.

As Clifford told CNN: “This is the ship that changed the course of human history.”

Yes it is and apparently the Santa Maria has been found in the exact area where Columbus said the ship came to an end off Haiti’s northern coast. The purpose of Columbus’ voyage was to find a westward route to China, India and what used to be called the Far East to find gold, riches and spices. In October of 1492, his sailors spotted an island in the Caribbean Sea and thus essentially discovered the West. When Santa Maria ran aground on the reef in shallow waters – Clifford’s shipwreck discovery is apparently in 10 to 15 feet of water – the great captain ordered that the ship be stripped of timber and that Santa Maria’s planks and provisions be used at a fort the men built in Haiti, where the Santa Maria’s anchor is on museum display.

According to CNN, the underwater discoverer Clifford, fittingly an enterprising seaman who seeks to profit like Christopher Columbus, says a lombard cannon is key to his realization – and Clifford like Columbus relied on his own judgment – that the wreck that lies underneath the surface is what’s left of the Santa Maria. Also appropriately, perfectly so in the 21st century, much of what Columbus left there has been looted.

As Old and New Worlds wait for confirmation, I look forward to learning new facts and knowledge about this flagship and its grand voyage and unconquerable captain and explorer.


Ogle, Scream or Overcome

Life in these United States is harder than ever. The widening gap between what the government-educated population in the welfare state believes to be possible and what is, in fact, possible inculcates what I regard as an unspoken, public anxiety manifested by physiological tension. Overloaded with debt and government controls, confused, tricked and violated by lies, degradations and bad laws, we the people are like frogs in boiling water or kernels in a popcorn bag. One by one, people pop.

meltdown in Cobb County GAIt happened again last week in a town in Cobb County, Georgia. A FedEx employee doing address corrections on some packages told the press that she saw a 19-year-old man she said was a loader when she said she “heard a clink.”

“I looked to my left,” she said. “I saw him standing there and the knife was on the ground. He dropped his knife. He had an assault rifle. He had bullets strapped to his chest like Rambo. I mean he looked like he was heading into war. As soon as I saw him, I ran the other way. I ran and made sure that people upstairs were gone. He was in all black. I think he had a camo vest. He had an assault rifle and bullets strapped to his chest.”

It is easy to dismiss these attacks as criminal acts by the insane. But I think most of us know that these attacks are becoming more common and that it could happen to you and me and everyone in this uniquely combustible welfare state. Here, and only here, we live in a country founded on individual rights, land of the once-free and the climax of what it means to have inalienable rights: the single greatest creation of wealth in the history of man: the Industrial Revolution. Here, and only here, we live in a country that has turned on its own best premises and is destroying individual rights one by one. It stands to reason that here, and only here, in America, we will see the best of everything sour into the worst of everything.

Watching, or, conversely, evading, the news is to watch – or evade – part of reality. That what constitutes the news is becoming harder to figure compounds the problem but it’s no excuse to turn to sniveling comedy as a substitute, which amounts to burying one’s head in the sand, though I certainly understand the inclination to sneer at the world in its current state. Watch what happens, go ahead and look, really look, and learn from each catastrophe as much as you can. This is what a 22-year-old named Collin Harrison, a package handler who’s worked at the FedEx facility for two years and was there early Tuesday morning when he heard the screams, is starting to do. He told the media: “Me and another employer were talking about [the suicidal shooter, Geddy Kramer] and how he requested to take off Saturday, but his manager told him no. He took off anyway, and he didn’t show up this morning. We thought maybe he [would] just quit. I tell people on my other shift, one of these days a manager is gonna say that one thing to that one person and this is gonna set them off, and they [are] gonna come in here and start shooting, and that happened today.”

Yes it did. Given the nation’s current state, it will happen again and again, only it will happen more often (as I predicted when I wrote about suicide here) as we are attacked, controlled and/or collapse from within and as life gets harder. FedEx’s Harrison is right to have expected that any perceived rejection can set someone off track toward self-destruction and mass murder. Why? I think it’s because we are losing control of our own lives and because the loss of control – over property, money, health care, food, traffic, education, debt, travel, privacy and personal choices – is happening fast, it is happening totally and the total control is being imposed by the state which causes people to experience the onset with an inexplicable and overwhelming anxiety that builds and becomes exacerbated to deadly degrees.

Yet as people such as Kramer in Cobb County lose control and choose to exit life and take others with them, and those such as Collin Harrison are left behind to hear the screams, check for corpses and carry away the wounded, dead and murdered, the people with the most control over our lives, the ones who throw the switch and activate new controls that end freedom in America – the politicians – feel nothing but contempt for the people over whom they assert and wield control. Indeed, they sneer, laugh and turn their noses up at the people’s suffering.

Laughing ObamaBy now, you’ve probably heard about the annual White House correspondents dinner, an event that has risen in stature in proportion to the rise of government intervention in our lives. Yet you may not have even heard about what happened in Cobb County, Georgia and, if you did, you’ve probably not heard as much about it as you surely will about the press mixing (I call it whoring) with politicians at the White House dinner, which is like a scene from The Hunger Games. What happened in Georgia, an extermination of human life at a center of trade in an increasingly common acting out of attempted mass murder, is emblematic of our times and crucially more important to know and understand than any gathering of New Left influence peddlers and those who grovel before them in the capital of a nation going bad, down and berserk.

Even politicians sense an inversion. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told the media that the White House dinner, presided over by the nihilist in chief Barack Obama, whom I call the Nothing Man, was an exercise in self-indulgence and nothing more, though he didn’t put it that way. Rep. Hoyer, in a rare moment of truth in Washington, said of the annual event: “Everyone ogles each other..[and] I’m always amazed when these actors and actresses come here and they want to meet us.”

I am well beyond being amazed that people of ability fawn over those who seek to enslave them. I am never past being disgusted by the spectacle. I am more aware than ever that neither the power-lusters and slavemasters nor those who sanction them are even a fraction as important as those decent, productive Americans who are slowly boiling and popping off, killing themselves and others in a blaze of misery. They are the ones we must reach, persuade and tend to with empathy and reason. The more biting the sneering becomes – brace for it to get worse as Letterman makes way for Colbert – the more tender, insistent and confident must we the people be in convincing one another to undo what’s being done to us.