Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Revolutionary War figure Francis "The Swamp Fox" Marion was the basis for Mel Gibson's character, but he wasn't the forward-thinking family man they show in the flick. He was a slave owner who didn't get married (to his cousin) until after the war was over. Historians also say that he actively persecuted and murdered native Cherokees. Plus, the thrilling Battle of Guilford Court House where he vanquishes his British nemesis? In reality, the Americans lost that one.
Director Roland Emmerich is usually a stickler for realism (see: sending a computer virus via Macintosh to aliens in Independence Day). So we hate to inform him that woolly mammoths were not, in fact, used to build pyramids. Heck, woolly mammoths weren't even found in the desert. They wouldn't need to be woolly if that were the case. And there weren't any pyramids in Egypt until 2,500 B.C or so.
Emperor Commodus was not the sniveling sister-obsessed creep portrayed in the movie. A violent alcoholic, sure, but not so whiny. He ruled ably for over a decade rather than ineptly for a couple months. He also didn't kill his father, Marcus Aurelius, who actually died of chickenpox. And instead of being killed in the gladiatorial arena, he was murdered in his bathtub.
The Last Samurai
The Japanese in the late 19th century did hire foreign advisers to modernize their army, but they were mostly French, not American. Ken Watanabe's character was based on the real Saigo Takamori who committed ritual suicide, or "seppuku," in defeat rather than in a volley of Gatling gun fire. Also, it's doubtful that a 40-something alcoholic Civil War vet, even one with great hair, would master the chopsticks much less the samurai sword.
This one movie has given entire Anthropology departments migraines. Sure the Maya did have the odd human sacrifice but not to Kulkulkan, the Sun God, and only high-ranking captives taken in battle were killed. The conquistadors arriving at the end of the film made for unlikely saviors: an estimated 90% of indigenous American population was killed by smallpox from their infected livestock.
Let's forget the fact that kilts weren't worn in Scotland until about 300 years after William Wallace's day and just do some simple math. According to the movie, Wallace's blue-eyed charm at the Battle of Falkirk was so overpowering, he seduced King Edward II's wife, Isabella of France, and the result of their affair was Edward III. But according to the history books, Isabella was three years old at the time of Falkirk, and Edward III was born seven years after Wallace died.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
In 1585, when the movie takes place, Queen Elizabeth was 52 years old - Cate Blanchett was 36 when she shot the film - and was not being courted by suitors like Ivan the Terrible (who was dead by then). And though the movie has her rallying the troops at Tilbury astride a white steed in full armor with a sword, in fact she rode side saddle, carrying a baton. She was more of a regal majorette than Joan of Arc.
2001: A Space Odyssey
According to this film, in year 2001 we would have had manned voyages to Jupiter, a battle of wits with a sentient computer, and a quantum leap in human evolution. Instead we got the Mir Space Station falling from the sky, Windows XP, and Freddy Got Fingered. Apparently the lesson here is that sometimes it's better when the movies get the facts all wrong.
Friday, April 24, 2009
last night i wnet to the san diego celebrity classic at morgan run in rancho santa fe. thanks to lindsey romine, who's company puts on this golf tournament every year, and i got an invite. it was a great bash that lasts all weekend. but as of this morning we have a highlight thus far. i met my favorite charger #10 nate keading the kicker. he was very nice and a very gracious athlete. he dressed like a good old fashion farm boy, smiled the whole night.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
First published in 1944, Dragonwyck was a national bestseller that was made into a major motion picture starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price in 1946. A classic gothic romance. The story begins in May 1844 with Miranda Wells, daughter of a humble farmer in Greenwich, Connecticut. Miranda's mother receives a letter from Nicholas Van Ryn, a rich relative and Patroon of a large manor called Dragonwyck near Hudson, New York. In the letter Van Ryn invites one of the Wells girls to Dragonwyck, to act as company for his daughter Katrine. After initial doubts, Miranda's parents allow her to go to Dragonwyck, and Miranda is instantly attracted and intrigued by her rich and mysterious relative, Nicholas. Her passion is kindled by the icy fire of Nicholas, the last of the Van Ryns, and a way of life of which she has only dreamed. Dressed in satin and lace, she becomes part of Dragonwyck, with its Gothic towers, flowering gardens, acres of tenant farms, and dark, terrible secrets.
However not everyone welcomes Miranda to Dragonwyck. Nicholas' corpulent and lazy wife Johanna sees Miranda as a threat, and tries to keep her from her husband Nicholas. Soon Miranda encounters Doctor Jeff Turner, a skilled physician, but a passionate anti-renter who believes that rich Patroons like the Van Ryns should give up their large estates. The pair initially dislike each other, and because of his views, Miranda is baffled when Nicholas asks Dr Turner to attend to his wife, who has a cold. However while Dr Turner is at Dragonwyck, Johanna becomes violently ill and dies. As Dr Turner leaves wondering what caused such a sudden death, Nicholas asks Miranda to marry him, and she accepts. While thinking this is the life she has always dreamed of, she comes to face a very different reality, one that now show her Nicholas's dark and twisted past.
This compelling novel paints a marvelous portrait of a country torn between freedom and feudal traditions; a country divided between the very wealthy and the very poor. Poor tenant farmers at Dragonwyck, the European royalty who visit, and American icons such as Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and the Astors are vividly brought to life. This is a heart-stopping story of a remarkable woman, her breathtaking passions, and the mystery and terror that await her in the magnificent hallways of Dragonwyck.