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Culture Briefs

- - Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sealed off

"Stanley Kubrick was one of the reigning cinematic geniuses of the 20th century, but the defining behavioral trait of the last 30 years of his life was an increasing tendency to lead a hermetic, hidden-away life. …

"I wouldn't imply that Sofia Coppola has become an artistic equal of Kubrick's, but she does know, as Kubrick did, about fashioning cinematic realms with great care and exactitude, and so it's fair, I think, to ask if she's going down the Kubrick path in other ways. Indiewire's Anne Thompson seems to think so. Yesterday she scolded [the 'Somewhere'] director-writer for succumbing to a kind of isolationist lifestyle and mentality, and urged her to open up to other collaborators and voices.

"It's been widely observed that Coppola has focused too often on passive, well-off characters indulging in aimless doodling and wandering inside swank abodes (hotels, palaces). And that she's enacted too many 'daughters and fathers, passive female figures and powerful men' stories … Coppola is 'living inside a protected, hermetic world of friends, family and Coppolas, producer-father Francis and brother Roman.'"

Jeffrey Wells, writing on "Coppola Succumbing to Kubrickism?" on Dec. 31, at Hollywood Elsewhere

Just shells

"[In the new film 'Gulliver's Travels'] Gulliver does eventually make his way to the kingdom of Lilliput, whose diminutive residents are permanently at war with nearby Blefuscu, and makes himself useful by singlehandedly dispatching the Blefuscunian navy. But that's about all that remains of [Jonathan] Swift's 1729 novel. Well, that and a scene in which Gulliver extinguishes a fire raging through the Lilliputian king's castle by voiding his bladder on the royal residence. … It's not worth getting worked up over a standard-issue dumbing-down, but this is more like an evisceration, hollowing out the source so only a shell remains. …

Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland' did much the same with Lewis Carroll's classic, featuring a grown-up Alice returning to Wonderland — or make that Underland, since the film's conceit is that Alice, having visited as a child, has since forgotten or misremembered many of the details. Linda Woolverton … converts Carroll's morbid whimsy into a tepid Joseph Campbell myth, in which Alice must defeat the Red Queen and slay the Jabberwock. Or rather, and it pains me to write this, 'the Jabberwocky,' as it's called in the film.

Sam Adams, writing on "How Hollywood guts children's classics," on Dec. 29 at Film Salon

Commercialism good

"I keep reading articles and posts complaining about Christmas being too materialistic, criticizing all of the shopping and gift-giving. Many Christians are indignant that non-believers have the presumption to celebrate our holiday. Some are saying that we should just have two separate holidays, a spiritual one for Christians marking Christs birth and a materialistic Winter holiday for everyone else.

"I reject that! I take the highest satisfaction when non-believers glorify Christ, even against their knowledge or their will, by celebrating His birthday. They give gifts, which are the sign of the Gospel. They force themselves to be benevolent. …

"People may not fully realize what it means to give and receive gifts, but that gives Christians an opportunity to explain. Gods grace is a gift. Salvation is a gift, not something you have to earn. Christ is the gift. Usually, the person who has the birthday gets the gift. But on Jesuss birthday, everybody gets a gift. Because He is the gift."

Gene Veith, writing on "In defense of Christmas 'materialism,'" on Dec. 29 at his blog Cranach