- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

Director reputation>

“Even within Alfred Hitchcock’s body of work, ‘Vertigo’ sticks out as something of an odd duck - a slow-moving, languorous movie from a director known, at the time, for his colorful and action-packed thrillers, a strangely meditative and operatic movie in which the ‘mystery’ is solved well before the climax, with a messy plot, a downbeat ending, a pair of major stars performing in distinctly un-starlike ways and a vision so embarrassingly personal that the movie was shrugged off by critics and audiences alike, resulting in one of the rare flops in Hitchcock’s career.

“But Hitchcock, more than usual, was simply ahead of his time, harnessing the full power and scope of the Hollywood dream factory to create his own personal nightmare. …

“In a sense, the film is a grand folly - one of the great control freaks in cinema history baring his soul to tell the story of a man’s futile attempt to create and control something impossible. But to a modern audience, we can see this film as one of the grand personal expressions of the 20th century, an era in which fantasy and tragedy had never been more entwined. And this peculiarly modern, complex film’s legacy lives on in works from admirers as varied as Chris Marker (‘La Jetee’), Mel Brooks (‘High Anxiety’), Terry Gilliam (‘Twelve Monkeys’) and Brian DePalma (uh, most of his movies).”

Jeff McMahon, writing on the Muriel Awards “50th Anniversary Best Film” at the blog Silly Hats Only (http://opalfilms.blogspot.com)

Poet reputation

“Nationalistic sentiment in those days was such that the idea of a great national poet was welcomed, and [John] Milton had high hopes of filling that role; but although his gifts were acknowledged, there were aspects of his career, especially his politics, that were far from pleasing to all parties. In the [18th] century, however, his poetry was highly valued for its own sake, and there was a revival of interest in his politics. …

“In 1922, the American Milton scholar R.D. Havens could claim, a little extravagantly, that, from [Alexander] Pope’s day to [William] Wordsworth’s, ‘Milton occupied a place … in the thought and life of Englishmen of all classes, which no poet has held since, and none is likely to hold again.’ Havens had hardly spoken before powerful modernist rebels declared their opposition. Milton fell short of pleasing the royalist T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound judged him to be quite a small poet … .

“Plausible defenses soon appeared, but they were mostly the work of English and American academics, and probably did not interest Englishmen, or indeed Americans, ‘of all classes’ - though Americans are sometimes thought to have a special claim on Milton because of his influence on the language of [Benjamin] Franklin, [Thomas] Jefferson and John Adams, and because he remained faithful to the idea of republicanism.”

Frank Kermode, writing on “Heroic Milton: Happy Birthday,” on Feb. 26 at the New York Review of Books

Historian reputation

Samuel Huntington … is assured a place in the pantheon of modern ‘big idea’ thinkers, alongside his student Francis Fukuyama. But few in this group were as controversial, or as consistently unpopular among their peers. Huntington was accused of everything from militarism to nativism. … He was denied membership of America’s prestigious National Academy of Sciences twice.

“Why did he raise such hackles? Certainly, he was politically difficult to pin down. A lifelong Democrat who worked for the ultraliberal presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and voted for John Kerry in 2004, he was also a consistent conservative who backed the Vietnam War. …

“An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity. But his estrangement from the American elite merely confirms him as normal: the median postwar American voter has always identified as a conservative Democrat.”

Eric Kaufmann, writing on “The Meaning of Huntington,” in the February issue of Prospect

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