- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Not-so-plain Jane
"Literary interpreters of 'Mansfield Park' are responsible for the fact that so many of us think Jane Austen disapproved of the theatre. The novel, published in 1814, is famously constructed around the decision by a country house party that it would be fun, in the absence of the squire, Sir Thomas Bertram, to get up a play. We note the skill with which the devilishly urban Crawford siblings play their parts and the relative gaucheness of the virtuous Edmund Bertram, a clergyman in waiting, and Fanny Price, his devoted but secret admirer Since Austen is on the side of virtue, the play is a way of showing up the Crawfords, along with feckless Master Bertram, the host whose choice it was.
"Jane Austen herself was an enthusiastic attender of and participant in plays
"Austen herself would not have raised an eyebrow at the brilliant reworking of 'Emma' as the film 'Clueless.' She would have laughed at the neat coincidence by which Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy both as himself, so to speak, and as his alter ego in 'Bridget Jones's Diary.'
"So here we have a new and more sophisticated Jane. Once in place, the new Jane seems more convincing than the retiring maiden aunt of the parsonage."
Miranda Seymour, writing on "Not Censuring but Clapping," in the May 4 issue of the London Spectator

The real agenda
"Zero-tolerance policies are often paired with anti-bullying programs, many of which are based on statistics like one published in the April 25, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That article, widely reported in the media, claimed that 30 percent of youths 'reported moderate or frequent involvement in bullying.' But this survey puffed up the figures by adopting a very broad definition of bullying, and by combining the numbers of kids who were defined as bullies with those who were classified as victims And of the 15 violent school deaths in 2001, how many do we know were actually caused by bullying? We're obviously talking about a more than million-to-1 shot of violent death at school. What then is the justification for bearing the costs of our zero-tolerance policies, other than the hysteria generated by media hype?
"[A] new generation of left-leaning ed-school graduates has been pushing to eliminate even games like dodgeball from the playground. Given that, it seems fairly obvious that all the hype about school shootings and bullying has turned into a convenient excuse to purge American culture of competition and spiritedness especially boyish spiritedness."
Stanley Kurtz, writing on "Zero Sense," May 15 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Digital overkill
"['Star Wars director George] Lucas presides over a feudal empire employing thousands of artisans. He is discernibly passionate about his digital technology. I doubt a single frame of 'Attack of the Clones' went unaltered in post-production although labels like 'post-production' mean little in this context, since it's clear that for Lucas the 'production' (i.e., the handling of humans on sets) is just a precursor to the real work, which takes place in computers after the actors have all gone home.
"That work is both dazzling and obsessive-compulsive. Every inch of every frame is crammed with stuff, every color supersaturated, every pixel sprinkled with cyber-MSG by hundreds (thousands?) of talented artists many of whom must feel that this is their generation's Sistine Chapel, the one they'll be remembered for. For better and worse, the movie is afflicted with a runaway digititis."
David Edelstein, writing on "A New Hope?" Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.com


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