Friday, March 12, 2004
My Big Fat Greek Art ExhibitThe WaPo profiles the insane show I helped install at the Gallery at Flashpoint, where I volunteer. It's a show featuring works all done by Greek women and heaven help me, in the hours I was there, I got my fill.
I had wound wire flowers for hours for one sculpture; half an hour before the doors opened on opening night, the artist decided to turn them into some kind of scaffolding for a vaginal video installation. One artist walked out the day before the opening and threatened to take all her work—which covered one whole wall—with her, because there was a rumor that the other women had collectively agreed that her art was shitty; we didn't know her status until she showed up at the opening in gold lame. At which point the first artist, having completed her vaginal video installation, moved into an adjoining room, took off her clothes, and invited the other artists to help her fashion a dress made completely from paper. This eventually happened, but later on, with audience participation.
The audience was overwhelmingly Greek, and I met most of them since I manned the wine bar for the actual opening. I met them, and I met them again, and again (believe it or not, Greek people will put the wine away). I even ran into the Greek artist about whom I wrote my thesis, who reminded me that to this day I am still wrong on one point of interpretation on one of her pieces from the 1970s, and that I'm not as skinny as I was in college but I look healthy so it's good I'm finally eating.
Anyway, no big picture to all of this, though my sympathies to those of you who live with easily film-worthy/stereotypical families—I have a feeling there's a lot of truth to the fiction. I'll settle for my quiet, emotionally repressed Protestant background—being around loud grandma just makes us all uncomfortable.
Your source for art-world tell-alls.
posted by kriston at 12:42 PM........
3/11New York Times editorial regarding yesterday's tragedy in Spain. I'm quoting it in its entirety:
The terrorist attacks in Madrid yesterday were a monstrous crime against innocent humanity. They were also a reminder that terrorism is a worldwide threat and that fighting it is not America's problem alone. Combating terrorism effectively requires the fullest possible international cooperation, especially in intelligence, law enforcement and the tracking of terrorist finances. Most of the hard work will be far less dramatic than the successful military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, each new terrorist act demonstrates that military action alone is not the solution. Terrorism cannot be eradicated simply by driving the Taliban out of Kabul or capturing Saddam Hussein.Provocative but more headstrong than smart. Certainly, the sentiment is right: We are supportive of Spain in her injured hour, and we should assist her in whatever capacity that we're able. But at times like this, "trans-Atlantic squabbling about the nature of the terrorist threat" is appropriate and even crucial.
Consider that the NYT in essence does not distinguish between two different US foreign policy stances that vary by the attacker. If al-Qaeda is responsible for the attack, then a muscular response backed by the US would be staying the course; if the ETA is irresponsible, then the proper response would largely involve Spanish domestic intelligence and police. The Basque separatist cause is on an entirely different plane than the al-Qaeda/"Islamofascist" threat—as are the I/P, Checnyan, Turkish/Kurdish, and Irish conflicts. The US/Western interest in fighting a global war on terror does not necessarily, currently obviate jurisdiction in each of these conflicts.
The editorial also presupposes that there is a way to conduct a global war on terror that entails all of those conflicts—by sharing law enforcement strategies, intelligence, etc.—but that's a black-and-white assessment of the nature of these clashes. The US doesn't really see the Chechnya conflict the same way Russia does, and, really, why bother with the Chechnya when all you have to do is mention I/P and the entire world stratifies into opposing camps calling each other terrorists. The NYT realizes this; they don't publish such an editorial whenever Israel is attacked by Palestinian terrorists. (Or, separatists....)
This editorial endorses a maximal interpretation of the war on terror, issuing the US to conduct, more or less, every world conflict to some degree, because all of them per se involve terrorism. Might be a great idea under their terms, since most of that conducting would be a matter of sharing tips and strategies—but it's pie-in-the-sky to assume that the West will align along all of the world's fault lines. I think the better definition of the global war on terror involves minimal conflict: Eliminating al-Qaeda, curbing the nuclear black market, freezing "Islamofascist"-abetting financial institutions, repairing the failed states that breed terrorism candidates, and aiding our allies in their own local wars on terror without interfering.
Mostly, the NYT is extending its sympathies and that sometimes calls for headstrong language.
posted by kriston at 11:12 AM........
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Tragedy in SpainEarlier I read Harry Farrell of Crooked Timber cite Paddy Woodworth ("who knows as much about the Basque country as any English speaker") as saying that the attacks in Madrid this morning were a sign of a flailing, desparate ETA. Now there is some evidence of an al-Qaeda link to the bombings. Though the Basque group is still the leading suspect, a revelation of Islamist terrorist activity would be consistent with Farrell/Woodworth's analysis.
Question for you guys, hoping in advance you'll forgive my solipsistic posts today: Is this the worst terrorist attack on continental soil in European history? Anyone know if the IRA ever did anything comparable? And one political point: I think that the war on terror is still going to be a foremost issue for '04, and I'd like to hear John Kerry give it more airtime.
Not the same as talking about 9/11. Far as I can tell, Bush isn't talking about the war on terror anymore, either.
posted by kriston at 3:46 PM........
Kerry/McCain: First BloodI used to debate with a very good friend of mine, back around 2000, about the relative merits of McCain and Gore. (Bush, you know, foregone conclusion.) I was surprised at this liberal's devotion to John McCain, and I decided then that it would be prudent to keep a skeptical eye on the man. Democrats instinctively trust McCain despite some glaring differences on the issues (particularly social ones). Kevin Drum feels a bit of this cognitive dissonance, too, now that in Fantasy Politics, McCain's in the running for the VP slot.
Would that he were. With all due respect to the ol' Political Animal's correct observation that McCain is a conservative's conservative, some of that old-school dogma is looking mighty appealing to a lot of Democrats as the Republicans race toward the extreme right. If a fiscal hawk flew the Republican coop for the brighter perches of a Democratic administration, that would not only be a marvel in itself, but a hell of a hook for the media. Dems and Republicans reaching across the aisle to defeat Bush? Please, that's a Hollywood script! No doubt voters would eat it up. Furthermore, Arizona is no slouch state to deliver; a McCain addition would double the foreign-policy weight of the ticket; disaffected Republicans would line up in droves.
Shell-shock might be a concern.
"Please, no sudden movements while the executive branch is present."
posted by kriston at 1:56 PM........
Rabid, Frothy, Tongue-Perched-on-Verge-of-Cheek Anti-Protestant PropagandaVia TNR Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete expresses precisely why I'm not "worried" about The Passion of the Christ:
I found Gibson's film to be, at some level, powerful. But his reduction of the passion and death of Jesus to an emotionally wrenching story is problematic. What is one supposed to do about this story? Cry? Be inspired to make sure things like that don't happen again? Why not seek revenge (as anti-Semites throughout the ages have done)? None of these is the intended purpose of this narrative. To separate the facts of the passion from their proper context is to open the door to unchecked religious emotionalism. This is what worries me about Gibson's film.The wonderful thing about Mel Gibson's movie is that is has no purpose. At the end of the day, The Passion amounts to little more than Braveheart II: But With Jesus and that's exactly how it'll go down in America. No one "gets saved" from this movie, no one actually hates Jews more after this movie, and the people who cry after this movie would cry if you put the word "CRY" on a sufficiently large screen. The fact is that 1) American Christians have overwhelmingly rejected Gibson's document by affirming Vatican II and a similar Protestant tradition, and 2) American Christians are largely horrible cows. Protesting The Passion has to be one of the more unnecessary gestures I've ever seen, since your typical American who's digesting this curd—sub- or exurban, Protestant, mostly affluent whites—just cannot be stirred to action. They're fat, they're happy, they don't care at all, they just need a bit of the old ultra-violence and extremely large portions of awful food at placed with names like "Golden Corral" and that's a restful weekend. We call them WASPs but we ought to call them bumble-bees: fat, fuzzy, harmless, ugly, hapless, stupid. That's just who you are if you're moved to "religious emotionalism" after seeing this film. I know it might be upsetting to be called a fat cow, but don't be so touchy; I'm letting you off easy. The Hitch called you a fascist!
I do see the problem with a nation populated by religious morons who might be moved to do something given the right rallying cry (which will more likely be the repeal of McDonald's Bucket of Fries than anything Mel Gibson produces), but the real problem is the herd and not the rancher who stirs it. And really, our fundamental mistake is continuing to grant Bovine America the right to vote and carry currency. We need to neutralize this latent threat now. The day that "intelligent design" arrived as an actual policy option (to list one of many, many examples) should have marked the beginning of the end for the American COW (Crazed Obese WASP).
Send GAMPAC some $ today.
posted by kriston at 12:03 PM........
The State of Governor PerrywinkleI know that calling him that is so not funny, and that slurring people by queering up their names is the height of homophobic behavior. Gay is not a deragotory state of being. So, in the future, when I continue to refer to the Texas governor as Governor Perrywinkle, because it's funny, I'll include that caveat.
Norbizness is also funny, except when he's serving up notice for Mr. Perry. I think at this point it's safe to say that Republican or Democratic alignment be damned, Rick Perry is just an awful administrator, and has no business in the governing business. As Charles Kuffner pointed out a day or so ago, Texas has the fastest growing population under the age of 18, and Rick Perry's done less than nothing to address the educational crisis that only threatens to get worse. I couldn't be happier to see his 40% approval rating, and hope that Carol Keaton Strayhorn can sort the bodies out by the time she's elected. If only we could get her to admit that she's a Democrat....
C'mon guys, recall his ass.
posted by kriston at 10:18 AM........
Nation-Building is a Loaded GunJosh Marshall reports about this planeload of mercs captured in Zimbabwe of which you've perhaps heard mention. From what I understand the plan was for this planeful of dudes with guns to kind of hop around and start coups, and the targeted trifecta of Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo are pointing to a conspiratorial hat trick initiated by the US, UK, and Spain.
That's sort of like asking Lyndon LaRouche, Michael Moore, and Tom Morello to name the members of the Axis powers. Just not a lot of credibility to the accusations... until South Africa chimes in. I'm not saying the theory passes the laugh test, I'm just saying I'm not laughing.
An accelerated domino program.
posted by kriston at 9:54 AM........
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
TV NationI noticed an ad tonight for a new TV series: a Bachelor sort of show featuring one of the rejects from Average Joe. The market brilliance of reality television dawned on me in full—each lousy character on these competitive dating shows becomes pilot episode for another show. Better than that, the producers don't really have to wait to see which character will become popular. Just pick one toward the end of the game and edit him or her into America's sweetheart. And I'm sure they can put a few of these into the works at once for half the price of a full-fledged sitcom pilot.
Then you've got this weird meta-narrative, a real fucking soap opera, evolving over the course of these reality dating shows. You can pick up on any episode in a reality series and get the full scope of the show but you have to watch several seasons of programming to figure out how the ABC family comes together. I hope all those dwarves make it OK.
Speaking of TV, you maybe heard the news about this Dish Network/Viacom tiff, but have you seen that Comedy Central commercial about it? It's just short of, "Fuck Dish Network as a staff, as a satellite company, and as a motherfucking crew...." Man, that's TV I can get behind. I wish Court TV would just slap the shit out of the Style Network.
And then sue them.
posted by kriston at 8:26 PM........
Sense and SensibilityI'm happy to see that the Log Cabin Republicans are dropping a cool million on anti-Bush advertisements, specifically opposing his endorsement of the FMA, but I have a question: To the extent that the Log Cabin Republicans are comprised of elected Republican officials, shouldn't they not spend money opposing the Republican Party? I believe voters elect those officials not because they're looking out for gay interests, but their own Republican interests. Good voter representation doesn't amount to lock-step agreement on the issues—it doesn't have to, anyway—but I feel like it ought to mean lock-step issue-ad spending. Like, if you're a Republican of whatever stripe, you don't make anti-Republican ads. I admit I don't know exactly who I'm talking about when I say Log Cabin Republicans so none of this need apply.
My favorite Virginians Catherine and Tommy (in comments) have some smart things to say about gay Republicans and the whys and hows of their continued support for Bush. Seems like a nice trick: Pin your strong federalist stance on your lapel and politely disagree with Bush, assume he and his just politely disagree with you, and get back to that important matter of gutting the Treasury. The truth is, of course, Bush and the camp he's in bed with are rabid about restricting gay couples' rights. The Log Cabin Republicans have taken a meritable step in realizing this, but, as Tommy notes, are courting serious irrelevancy within their party. Bad for them, and worse for the people/regions that the LGC represent, since they'll be pushed to the back of the bus as far as pork/spending, etc., is concerned.
The sensible move would be for the LGC to slide on over to the Democratic Party, where there's a place for people who are serious about keeping the government out of the bedroom, promoting the institution of marriage, and applying laws regarding couples equally.
Be forewarned: We're inflexible on the fiscal discipline.
posted by kriston at 11:50 AM........
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
A Sincere Thank You to Cousin BalkiIt turns out that what little rent my landlords recouped from my deadbeat ex-upstairs neighbor came from that gentle stranger from the island of Mypos, Balki Bartokomous.
I guess my neighbor worked for Cousin Balki at some point in the recent past...? The landlords told us this tonight while we they were changing our locks. A heart of gold in that Myposian, I gotta tell you. (Like Cousin Larry always had the rent.) Now that I've found my camera this has to be the end of the neighbor drama.
Cousin Balki's cup spilleth over.
posted by kriston at 8:22 PM........
Macs vs PCs vs I Suck at the InternetSo I'm using Windows while my iBook's on the mend, and I'm discovering all these terrible truths about the world that 90% of you live in. I have some questions: 1) What's with the fact that I'm seeing words like "jobs," "movies," "diet" sort-of-hyperlinked on my blog, but I'm not hyperlinking them? This computer trying to make me more soccer-mom friendly? Or is this one of those "browser" things? 2) Where's the Apple key? 3) How come when I do a Google search on something, the first whole page of return searches are all bullshit? You know, like, "Learn more about MonicaBellucciNaked at Info.com!" That's gotta be a Windows thing. Seriously, I don't see how you guys live.
Then again, if PCs turn on, advantage.
posted by kriston at 7:45 PM........
The Fraternity That Never Rests, or Throws a Decent Keg PartyI'm thinking about what Susan wrote about college bars vs DC bars, after my first jaunt into Georgetown after nightfall. You won't believe it until you see it for yourself but there are bars in this town that, after you've been inside for an hour or so, will cause you to see bright words inscribed in your eyelids when you close them. "Cocky." "Sonuvabitch." "Fiscal Hawk." It's unbelievable to me that all those smarmy brats from your college days all descend upon DC, all move into the same outlined areas, and all scream over their cell phones to each other about how John Kerry doesn't have a prayer. It's a boon, really, because I know not to go there, and those outlined areas are closed off from the Metro and Metro trash like me, so I don't have to hear from them when they're asking how far Martha's stock plunged after her conviction was announced. I've been to the Front Page once. I know now that that river's there for a reason, and I'll keep this side of it.
Funny to me that I might have ever avoided Trudy's or the Crown & Anchor back in Austin because a handful of annoying-types when there are bars I pass every day in which they just pour in asshole concentrate and set it to adult contemporary. Is this a negative post? I'm a people person. For the people who are on my side of the river anyhow.
No, really, readers, feel welcome. I drink a lot. I'm probably drunk and wrathful right now.
posted by kriston at 3:31 PM........
The Big, Sweaty Pregnant Bitch That is the General CampaignI mean that, you know, like a female dog: With nine months to go until a new President comes screaming into the White House, the last week has seen the first signs of morning sickness. Kevin Drum recounts the kicks and gas from both Kerry's and Bush's corners. What's amazing to me is that it's a week in and of the two punches the RNC have landed, one involves some bullshit about North Korea <3ing Kerry, and the other tracks a backwards "terror" vote Kerry cast in 1995. Forget that Big Terror didn't exist in 1995 and you could still recommend cuts in defense pork, as Ashcroft did on September 10th, 2001, which you know if you read Al Franken's Lying Liars, which is banned in post-9/11 America, along with votes for intelligence cuts in 1995. Oh, and Ashcroft was mobilizing against that anti-terror stuff that the Bush administration didn't take seriously until the next day. Let's cut to the gaggle:
Q: Scott, do you have any response from the White House to the renewed calls for full compliance with the 9/11 investigation?We're only a week in and I'm already sick! I'm more resigned than anything to the fact that Bush is going to play this card forever—that Republicans will probably play 9/11 clips for the next decade—but when I consider that and some of the dung they're flinging at Dems it irritates me mightily. At least these Kerry cards they're playing are obviously weak.
Returning from that bitter realm: Kevin Drum might be the first individual to land a job almost solely by his weblog. He's going pro with Washington Monthly. I have a feeling you'll see a bit more of this as journalists mine the terra firme of the ol' 'sphere, but I imagine you'll also see this come into play in academia. Schools may not be asking for your LiveJournal number or whatever, but I bet it's sooner rather than later that applicants with "issue" blogs mention them with full faith.
I'll of course be busy sweeping G.p from every dark corner of the Internet for a good while when I'm doing the applicant routine. I once envisioned this as a single-issue (8-bit NES) weblog.
posted by kriston at 2:25 PM........
I Was Down on the First Double-takeJonathan Rauch's NYT Magazine piece on the conservative, counterintuitive push against gay marriage is capital-letters CW by this point. It's clear: Marriage is the right institution for raising families, lots of gay people are involved with families, we need better gay/straight sitcoms than Will & Grace, think about the chiiiiildren Mr. President!, etc. But it was all kinds of counterintuitive a few months ago when this argument started heating up.
I'm wondering if that's how counterintuitvitivitiy goes: After a while it mainlines into good sense. The powers that be are bringing forth a new breed of contrarians into the world, I'm telling you, and C/I is the new Irony, you just wait....
Take a look at those pubs coming from your mailbox, tell me if I'm right.
posted by kriston at 1:03 PM........
The Ol' FerdydurkeFor no apparent reason, Bookslut ran a review of Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz. For a second I thought the book was going into another print and I might finally get my hands on it. I've never read it, but I loved Ferdydurke, and I distinctly remember sitting on my balcony/porch with all my friends laughing at me as I called every bookstore in Central Texas, asking them if they had the Ferdydurke. Gombrowicz was as ruthlessly opposed to Freudian analysis and its hold on modernism as my friends were to me saying "Ferdydurke" again and again. A very dark sense of humor in this Gombrowicz. Wrote T-A in the Polish equivalent of Old English because he hated his peers, and that was his first novel, and that was before people did that.
posted by kriston at 12:19 PM........
Pak-ManI do enjoy me some Tapped webloggage, and I think between Matthew "Mr. Map" Yglesias and Nick Confessore it's one of the best daily group blogs out there. I also think there are about three other sites that qualify as a Daily Group Blog, but whatever.
But Tara McKelvey is killing me with this. She writes about the recently upgraded search for Osama bin Laden, noting that it seems conspicuous what with a presidential election come November. Sure, fine, but she ought to have read Sy Hersh's recent New Yorker piece on Pakistan's nuclear black market, and how the US struck a deal with Gen. Musharraf, allowing him to go soft on Dr. Abdul Q. Khan so long as we could get access to the Hindu Kush range to search for Osama. It's worth your time as well: Hersh hears a lot of people (including Musharraf, as recently as January) saying that, basically, Musharraf has no intent on letting US forces inside Pak, and if he does, well, that's it for him. There have already been assassination attempts based on the premise that his interests are too pro-American; inviting American troops into Pakistan could spell the end of Musharraf's regime. I don't think he's a guy we can afford to let go.
Catching Osama is a principal goal in the war on terror, but he isn't necessarily the ultimate goal—well, that sort of depends on what you think we should be doing. There's I guess an approach that involves rounding up everyone who was involved with September 11th out to a few degrees—that's the Taliban, Osama, and sundry nefarious agents—spanking them, declaring the mission accomplished and going home. This is probably the minimally acceptable war on terror, and that's about what we set out for immediately after September 11th. At a point not long after Afghanistan (perhaps long before), Bush expanded that vision to include nations that might want to contribute to terrorism at some point in the future, putting us at at war with just about everyone who's not Britain or Spain. This is a maximal definition. Probably what we needed to do was immediately round up the 9/11 perps, tighten domestic security, and then make dead certain that other bin Laden-types can't obtain WMD. That would mean for heavy diplomatic and financial investment in Russia, Pak, and even North Korea, all nations that need to be locked down in different ways.
Osama's still the target but I'm far more terrified by the A.Q. Khans of the world, and it's disheartening that we're letting him off the hook seemingly for an election bid and apparently for nothing. More important right now than cynicism about Bush's motives should be outrage over his decisions.
Eyes on the prize, and no nuclear attacks is the prize here.
posted by kriston at 12:05 PM........
Monday, March 08, 2004
On The PassionChristianity makes for a fine Western artistic template. Always has—at least for a couple millenia— and I think that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ perfectly illustrates the artistic depth of the Christ story, even as Mel Gibson fishes from the shallow end of the pool. I saw the film on Saturday and I've given it a little thought, which it (probably) merits of everyone, since any discussion of Gibson's movie (should) become a partial referendum of the Gospels from which it's selectively derived.
PILATE I'll talk first about that selectivity: To arrange his narrative, Mel Gibson seems to rely heavily on the minority report whenever possible. He grants Pontius Pilate his contemplative line, "What is truth?", referenced only by the Gospel of John (and perhaps urged on a bit further by Mikhail Bulgakov), disregarding the short historical record (compiled here and there by Josephus, Philo) that suggested Pilate was at least unsympathetic and most likely (as in definitely) cruel to the Jews. These characteristics are, to put it plainly, ignored in Gibson's presentation. You might think to yourself as I did walking in that Scorcese's Bowie-Pilate was much the same, but, of course, Scorcese wasn't offering us his "truth" about the Christ, and neither was Bulgakov. Gibson is—and that's important when the intentions of Rome are all bound up and refracted through the lens of one would-be benevolent Procurator, his secret Christian wife, and the handful of miscreant, cartoon sadists who scourge Christ.
THE SANHEDRIN There's another cartoon set in the movie, the Sanhedrin, a wicked set of Jews determined to put a stop to Jesus. So sayeth the Bible, though maybe not so emphatically—and exclusively—as Gibson puts it. From my own short Sunday-school background, I remember thinking that Christ's followers were basically legion, at least enough to threaten a counter-revolt against Pilate were he to crucify Him. (That was Pilate's conflict, and though it's given weight in the movie, Christ's followers never number greater than a dozen.)
Now the Sanhedrin (the Jewish council), with like an exception, do have it out for the Jesus, unlike those complicated Romans. Everyone's talked this out, I think, and since I'm late coming to the plate I'm just going to say: You take those very basic leanings from the film and, say, mind the haziness of Gibson's 'position' on the Holocaust (because, you see, there are 'positions' on the Holocaust), and I think you have both reason to question and justification for conclusion. Anti-Semitic? Given yes or no, I say yes. You won't find ipso facto anti-Semitism in the film, but as far as art I've seen goes, only photos with swastikas pack more aggression toward Jews.
[I feel that I should shut down this review right here and now, or tell you that I demanded my money back after the film, but it's not the case. I'm not inflamed by the anti-Semitic bent I perceive in the film, I think, because I ultimately hope I'm wrong. I could be wrong in that it's a just a bad movie and Mel Gibson isn't smart enough to portray good and evil for some evocative cause. Maybe in some sense the Biblical story, presented in a vacuum, does convict the Jews more than the Romans (?), and that's somehow an error in evaluation on Gibson's part—an error of historical omission—and that's somehow not the same as what it feels like he's doing with the movie. Were this not Jesus but instead Max Squarejaw, one-sided villains are what you'd expect—maybe that's the extent of Mel's range? I don't feel any need to apologize for Mel; I hope I'm wrong mostly because so many people are watching and enjoying this movie and I hate to think America's critical sense is that dull, or its outrage that slow to provocation. I may be wrong. I'd prefer to be wrong. And there's room, I must say—the movie's damned dumb. Spite implies a certain amount of calculation if not cunning.]
THE VIOLENCE You know... it's just silly, in the end. No one could survive a cat-o'-nine-tails flogging on his bare belly side, and I hope that example suggests enough about the plenitude of (and latitude given) to exuberant violence in this film. I'll say that there's enough flashbacks to the highlights of Jesus's career that the film doesn't qualify exactly as pornographic—just ridiculous. Have to say, I take it like any other Hollywood schlock vehicle. Sylvester Stallone, meet Jesus Christ. First and Last Blood. The First Action Hero. The Alpha and the Omega Man. Whatever, it's just cheesy effects, bells and whistles, unnecessary gore.
Ultimately all the violence is misplaced. It isn't the finality of His death or the brutality of His torture that makes Christ's fate unpalatable to Him. Jesus winds up on the Cross with all of humanity's sin on His shoulder (so it goes), and turns too ugly for God to look upon. 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' and &c. Has nothing to do with how quickly He went. The total unlikeliness of the violence in this film compromises Gibson's reliability as a director, which leads me further to the conclusion I want to have—that he's too fucking stupid to make an anti-Semitic Hollywood blockbuster.
MAGDALENE I have an ulterior quibble with this movie and every other film made about Jesus: How do you justify making Mary Magdalene so damned hot? Monica Bellucci? She's not only hot but arguably the damned hottest. I'm pretty sure that Donatello is the only artist in history to ever even momentarily assess Mary Magdalene's station in life and quality thereof before visualizing her.
...So which one of these did Jesus not run off with? Mary Magdalene, after some awkward years (1457), finally blossoms (2004)
If I'm Jesus and I'm given the choice between three hours of watching My blood drain out of My pores and a nice quiet weekend with Monica freakin' Bellucci, I think I'd take the Apocryphal ending, but that's apparently not a conflict Mel Gibson intended to raise. Or consider, or whatever.
THE MOVIE By certain standards, Mel Gibson is very successful with the film. For example, the inverse of the degree to which he says he's pictured an historical truth—he nails that. I'm thinking particularly of when that debutante Mary Magdalene, a libertine woman known to kick back with the Jews, gives some lip to a Roman guard and isn't met with so much as a sneer; or when Jesus the Man receives a good commercial-free half-hour of grade-A Roman throw-down without passing out once; or when everyone in the movie speaks in Latin instead of Greek. (A move I guess that was necessitated by the host of swarthy Italians that fill the credits.) Mel Gibson had exactly one thing going, and that was the multiple languages, and that worked because you can film up screentime with untranslated accounts and not stray from the quotations presented by the Bible. You'll notice that in every other Jesus movie there's exactly 15 lines, all of which are read very slowly, and Mad Mel seems to have stumbled upon a solution. Yet he's so damned intent on calling this an historical record, which is sort of betrayed by the slow-mo and the orchestrated score. How he doesn't get that film is wide host of decisions all amounting to mediations is beyond me.
THE WRAP Jesus art proves to be useful still in reflecting Western moods. It doesn't take much of a gesture to read the Gospels' Jews as more insidious than they were, or the Gospels' Romans as more good-natured than they could hope to have been, and Mel's helpfully come along with a big blind shove in both directions, and the hypotenuse between the two would appear to be old-fashioned anti-Semitism. Yet to be explained is why King Herod and Satan are dressed like women at points in the movie—call it another natural inclination, homophobia? (Fits the times.) We get to hear about this movie forever, you do realize? Not just during the Oscars next year. I'm still amused-slash-horrified that the previews before the film were all children's movies. Monica Bellucci remains the absolute best and worst parts of the movie.
My own Gospel-length take on the film.
posted by kriston at 11:44 PM........