- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Miracle movie

“[‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’] is a different sort of epic — one in which tens of thousands of humans die to destroy what in essence is a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a holy war in the name of peace, suffused with melancholy regret and fervid in its conviction that the very pursuit of absolute power corrupts absolutely. … This is a movie in which war is so righteous and the inability to wage it so damnable that men come back from the dead to fight the good fight — their last chance to redeem themselves and move on to the ‘far green country’ that Gandalf extols. ‘Can we win?’ asks someone of Theoden. ‘No, we cannot,’ says the king. ‘But we will meet them in battle nonetheless.’

“There is one point in the movie when the miracles just keep coming — among them battles of operatic intensity, with black arrows raining from the skies like locusts, and what is surely the cinema’s most nightmarish arachnid, courtesy of this famously arachnophobic director.”

David Edelstein, writing on “To Mordor and Back,” Tuesday in Slate at www.slate.com

Love and lust

“We smile at lovers holding hands in the park, but wrinkle our noses if we find them acting out their lust under the bushes.

“Love receives the world’s applause. Lust is furtive, ashamed, embarrassed. Love pursues the good of the other with self-control, reason and patience. Lust pursues its own gratification, headlong, impatient of any control, immune to reason. Love thrives on candlelight and conversation. Lust is equally happy in a doorway or in a taxi, and its conversation is made of animal grunts and cries. Love is individual: There is only the unique Other. Lust takes what comes. … Love grows with knowledge and time, courtship, truth and trust. Lust is a trail of clothing in the hallway, the collision of two football packs. Love lasts, lust cloys.

“Lust subverts propriety. … Living with lust is like living shackled to a lunatic.”

Simon Blackburn, writing on “In defense of lust,” in the Dec. 15 issue of the New Statesman

Childhood forever

“Toymakers have always created toys that appealed to parents. The Erector set (1913) and Monopoly (1935) were products that parents could fondly believe were preparing their children to be builders and bankers.

“In the years after [World War II], though, toymakers began to make products that appealed exclusively to kids — toys that, in many cases, parents actively disliked, which was the principal source of their appeal. Toys like Rock’em Sock’em Robots, from 1966. … Dolls such as Shirley Temple (1934) and Ginny (1951) — which … were meant to elicit a maternal response from the children who played with them, and thus to begin preparing girls for motherhood — gave way to Barbie, a doll that was not the child’s baby but her role model, the girl she longed to become.

“John Brewester, a toy historian, has written of the early 20th-century toymakers, ‘They were marketing a particular social morality — one that stressed industry, probity and individual endeavor.’ Play was the work of children, and building blocks and baby dolls were the tolls that children used to become adults. But by the mid-1970s, toys had stopped trying to prepare children for anything other than a perpetual childhood.”

John Seabrook, writing on “Child’s Play,” in the Dec. 15 issue of the New Yorker

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