- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scorsese hit

“Martin Scorsese making a horror picture: the notion is of course catnip to any fan of the director. One experiences a thrill just contemplating the exhilarating cinematic virtuosity and deep knowledge of the genre that the director will bring to the table. And it’s going to have to have some kind of personal dimension, no? There might be the rub. Given the point in his career that it’s coming at, one couldn’t have been sure, or even mildly confident, that ‘Shutter Island’ would, in fact, have all that much to do with the Martin Scorsese of ‘Mean Streets,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull,’ ‘The King of Comedy.’ …

“‘Shutter Island,’ adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, is the fourth Scorsese picture in a row to star Leonard DiCaprio, and the prior pictures in this collaboration are all epics or quasi-epics that have gotten more impersonal as they’ve gone along … all things being equal, even the most devoted of Scorsese fans couldn’t necessarily be blamed for expecting little beyond a very very grand piece of Guignol, with inimitable style and panache but maybe not so much resonance.

“So I am thoroughly happy to report that, to my eyes and ears at least, ‘Shutter Island’ is … in its way the most fully realized personal work of the Scorsese-DiCaprio collabs, a puzzle picture that, as it puts its plot pieces together, climbs to a crescendo that aims to reach that perfect note of empathetic despair we haven’t seen/heard in a Hollywood picture since Vertigo. I think it very nearly gets there.”

Glenn Kenny, writing on “Shutter Island” on Feb. 13 at his blog Some Came Running

Victoria hit

“She is portrayed as a repressed and melancholy widow who spent much of her life clad in black. But a new art exhibition will challenge this traditional view of Queen Victoria by revealing her as a passionate, open-minded woman.

“Victoria & Albert: Art & Love is the first-ever show to focus on the enthusiasm for art shared by Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and her husband, Prince Albert. It reveals the couple’s starkly-differing attitudes towards works of art, with the queen favouring titillating images featuring plenty of naked flesh, while her husband appears prudish by comparison. …

“The exhibition will also recount how in 1847, the royal couple commissioned William Dyce, the Scottish painter, to produce a large fresco, Neptune resigning to Britannia the Empire of the Sea, for the staircase at Osborne House. The work features a naked Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, with several nude cavorting nymphs. After showing them a preparatory sketch for the fresco, Dyce wrote to his friend, the artist Charles West Cope: ‘Prince thought it rather nude; the Queen, however, said not at all.’”

Roya Nikkhah, writing on “Queen Victoria’s passion for nudity goes on display in new art exhibition, ” on Feb. 13 at the Telegraph

Sports hit

“As George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay ‘The Sporting Spirit’ … ‘sport is an unfailing cause of ill-will.’ As he went on to say: ‘I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.’

“Putting it a bit strongly, you say. But what about the border war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969, when the violence set off by a disputed soccer match escalated to the point of aerial bombardment? In Khartoum recently, a soccer game between Egypt and Algeria led to widespread violence, a sharp exchange of diplomatic notes, a speech about affronted national honor from President Hosni Mubarak, hysterical hatred pumped out on state media, and an all-round deterioration of what you might call civility. And this between two members of the Arab League!”

Christopher Hitchens, writing on “Fool’s Gold” in the Feb. 15 issue of Newsweek

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