Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Anti-Americanism and the Wesleyan-Holiness Churches in Australia

My journal article on "Anti-Americanism and the Wesleyan-Holiness Churches in Australia" in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History has finally arrived on my desk in hard copy. JEH are also making the article available in a free download from this "deep link" for those who may be interested in reading it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Movies A-Z: All of Me to Angel and the Badman

All of Me (1984 dir. Carl Reiner) is a good showcase for Steve Martin’s physical comedy, making it clear that he is the bridge between Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey. The scenes in which he first discovers that his body is shared by the soul of a woman, the recently deceased wealthy heiress (played by Lily Tomlin) are hilarious. His attempts to coordinate the two sides of his body make for some very funny scenes. Beyond that this Carl Reiner-directed vehicle does not have a lot going for it. The character of the Indian swami is an insulting racial stereotype, the sort of thing Peter Sellers might have pulled off with genius but here it’s just stupid. There are a few risqué scenes but nothing that will offend too many people. Overall, not one of Martin’s better films but good for a few laughs. Three stars. The embedding on YouTube was disabled but you can watch the trailer here if you like.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 dir. Lewis Milestone and produced by the great Carl Laemmle) is well deserving of its 1930 Best Picture Oscar. Its set-piece battles are very well achieved with state of the art special effects (for the day). One of the first films to showcase the genuine horrors of the Great War of 1914-18, it was banned in Germany as unpatriotic, as the nation aggressively rearmed for the next world war. Its depiction of the profoundly psychologically disturbing effects of battle on soldiers, their fear in the face of battle, their sympathy for the enemy, and their cynicism about the futility of war was seen as bad for the national morale. The image of a pair of severed hands swinging on barbed wire, though glimpsed for only a fleeting second, leaves a striking impression and is indicative of the fine level of detail achieved.

Though an American film, the war is seen entirely from the viewpoint of the German soldiers who are its protagonists. Though at first the American accents are jarring, they probably had the desirable effect of giving American audiences greater sympathy for the German soldier, who was after all, not very unlike his American counterpart, caught up in a war he didn’t really want or even understand. The butterfly and the helmet that are the focus of the final tragic scene form one of the great iconic images of the war movie genre, effectively juxtaposing the gentle and the barbarous. A title card at the beginning of the film states, “This story is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.” One of the truly great films of the 30s and probably one of the top ten war films of all time, this one is highly recommended. Four stars. You can see the re-release trailer at the wonderful Turner Classic Movies site.

Angel and the Badman (1947 dir. James Edward Grant) is a lightweight western, one of the many films John Wayne churned out before he really launched his career in John Ford’s infinitely more worthy Stagecoach. Like Stagecoach it has what look like Monument Valley locations and John Wayne but that is about where the comparisons end I’m afraid. Quirt Evans (what kind of a name is Quirt?) is wounded in a gunfight and falls in with a family of Quakers who nurse him back to health, while he slowly falls in love with their daughter, played by Gail Russell. Of course, by the end of the film the hard-bitten Quirt has been tamed, found his softer side, and decided to marry and settle down as a farmer. Harry Carey as the crusty Territorial Marshal Wistful McClintock, who dogs the outlaw’s tail, suspicious of his “conversion” to the gentle Quaker ways, gives a good performance and Gail Russell provides the eye candy. Wayne is good as the big dumb lug he often played but was the kind of actor who could never really rise above the material he was given. When given scripts of the standard of The Searchers or Red River, or the direction of a John Ford or a Howard Hawks, he could really shine. Here there is not much he can do, I’m afraid. Two and a half stars. Here's a nice teaser trailer from the YouTube channel, American Pop Classics.


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