Sunday, December 26, 2010
-This version is actually more like the 1969 Henry Hathaway/John Wayne original than advertised, with many scenes and much dialogue that's virtually the same.
-The photography is this version is fine. In the original it was a tad better.
-The Epilogue in the new version is a mistake-- in part because the older depiction of Mattie, the girl at the center of the story, looks nothing like the 14-year old actress we've been watching. The original version of the film might be edged out in several respects by the new version-- but has a better, classic ending, with the line, "Come and see an old fat man some time!" Hard to top that.
-Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn is called "fat" throughout the film, but he's kind of a skinny fat man. Think of a skinny Santa Claus at a shopping mall. Curiously, the character who looks fat is Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger, who should be lean for lean times. It's disconcerting to see a character who should be handsome, to give the proper edge to the interaction between he and Mattie, and notice in every scene the character is in his double chin. He's been supposedly tracking an outlaw across the West, yet apparently eating very well! Uh, Matt, might want to push yourself away from those movie set buffets next time out.
-My feeling at the end of the Coen's flick, was that it was a very good film, but it left me wanting more. They hinted at how good the Western film can be-- and has been in the past on occasion. Maybe just a bit more myth would help. Isn't that what the Western is about?
-Since the 1960's we've seen the de-mythicizing, de-glamorizing of the American West-- but I'd say it's gone far enough. We're not getting historical truth, though this is what's being sold. Or, the Coen brothers work to make the West and its inhabitants look as ugly as possible. But what turned the American West and its characters into myth was the beauty of the landscapes and the riders-- Indians, cowboys, vacqueros, and such-- who moved through the landscapes. Take a look at Remington and Russell paintings some time. American cowboys, gunfighters like Bill Hickock, scouts like Buffalo Bill, and even soldiers like George Custer, used the freedom of the West to create a unique and quite flamboyant costume. The costume helped create the myth-- it did so not because it was ugly to look at! The West was populated by young people. Some of them were quite rough-looking (see Billy the Kid), but most took pride in "cleaning up" when they got off the trail. No doubt there were smelly buffalo hunter types in the West, but no doubt also they stood out. The new "True Grit" is rather skewed because everybody is unpleasant to look at. Okay, Coens-- you've made your point. Your cynicism about people prevents you from creating a better work, in this viewer's humble opinion. You have a few gorgeous vistas in the film, but leave this moviegoer wanting more.
-In a related point: Why all the old people everywhere? Sorry, but the West wasn't settled by 70 year-olds. It was too tough for that. The town sheriff near the beginning, for instance, is impossible, as are many others. This was new territory for those who went into it. It was hard land even to get to, by horse or wagon. Older people didn't survive, or stayed home. A small but crucial point. The American West of the second half of the 19th century happened during the Romantic era. Those who lived in it were in many respects Byronesque. Poetry and myth-- which is as historical anyway as what recent moviemakers are giving us, and more fun.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
THE THINKING behind the screening of “El Cid” in New York City is a throwback to the kind of old-fashioned can-do liberalism represented by the movie itself. Think JFK. A vigorous liberalism which believes in goodness, humanity, and right versus wrong. Recall that in the movie, Rodrigo rejects extremists in both camps. His integrity carries the day against impossible odds, which makes him a noble figure. Doing what’s right, not expedient, is his ethos, his mission. This is what makes him a compelling figure throughout.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Here are three movie trailers from three different periods of movie making. It seems obvious which period carried the highest production values; i.e., the best aural and visual experience, which, when seen in theaters, on film, is a huge part of what the art of film is about.
"Mutiny on the Bounty" 1935. (Early Hollywood.)
"Mutiny on the Bounty" 1962. (Wide screen/original Technicolor era.)
"The Bounty" 1984. (Post inflation/revisionist era.)
Other aspects of the three films-- screenplay, casting, acting, editing-- are up for debate.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
In the meantime I'm working on a post devoted to the Miseducation of America-- about how we've been raising a generation of so-called "best and brightest" who don't even believe in their own country, and whose thinking on most topics is generally all screwed up. Stay tuned.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Here’s the main title to another great film made in 1961, “The Guns of Navarone.”
A story about latter-day heroes. It has many of the same strengths as “El Cid”: wonderful cinematography, magnificent score, strong acting, classic pacing where everything is set up step-by-step to bring the moviegoer emotionally into the film experience. The structure is intentionally mythic—the Guns are like ancient monsters—to match the mythic setting. Seen on a giant screen, this is a tremendous experience.
We can only revive the culture if we’re able to recognize our cultural high points. Fifty years of cultural garbage have destroyed many values, but perhaps not all of them.
(Note: The narration by James Robertson Justice is missing from this video, unfortunately; a speech about "gods and demi-gods" which is important to setting the story and mood.)
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
OR, FIGHTING PAST WARS
Here’s a curious column appearing this day in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a bankrupt newspaper:
Writer Ben Yagoda is fighting battles of fifty years ago. I guess it makes the battles fairly winnable. But where are newspaper columns from Ben Yagoda about the disappearance of Molly Norris?
The threat to free speech in America today doesn’t involve obscenity. Indeed, in this rather obscene society, one finds all the obscenity one can want. Four letter words have become regular discourse. The threat to free expression now comes from the advocates of political correctness, a viewpoint which demands that all speech be squelched which can possibly offend the sensibilities of specially-designated groups. In Molly Norris’s case, the religion of Islam, which meanwhile is busily squelching all contrary beliefs wherever it can. (57 Christians including two priests slaughtered in Baghdad Sunday. We fought a bloody war for that?)
We’re living in a world where down is up and up is down. Characters like Ben Yagoda are part of the problem. Look how bravely he defends D.H. Lawrence! 50 or 80 years after the fact when no risk is involved. About Molly Norris, from this defender of liberal principles, nary a word.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
One thing the Right has to watch out for is not thinking the fight for Western values belongs only to them. Rights like free speech, after all, once were known as liberal values before liberalism transmogrified into something not liberal.
Yes, there will be johnny-come-latelies as more Molly Norrises lose their naivete. They need to be welcomed and defended. The fight belongs to all. What's striking about the movie :"El Cid" is that the character of Rodrigo prevails by welcoming all to the battle against the fanatical enemy Ben Yussef. The idea is to isolate and marginalize your opponent-- not yourself.
Molly Norris's fight is everyone's fight. Everyone who believes in the values our nation was birthed with 234 years ago.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Here's a post on a site which turns reality on its head, so that those issuing the fatwah against Molly Norris are the victims, as well as, somehow, in some Orwellian universe, defenders of free speech:
Molly Norris may have been extremely naive. She may well even have thought to gain a spot of publicity. But NO WAY does she deserve having to lose her identity; to no longer exist. What country is this?? If Americans don't have the freedom-- and the safety-- to be naive, then we've truly lost this country. The concept "America" no longer exists.
Click on the "About" at the Daily Mail Times site and you'll see it's the project of a bizarre combination of radical Leftists and Islamists. What could they possibly have in common? Given their very different ideologies, what's their objective? It's hard not to think that being anti-American is enough of a commonality for them.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Here’s a link to one of the forum discussions I started—referred to below—about the Molly Norris tragedy:
Note that there’s more commitment to childish notions of multiculturalism among today’s writers and artists than to free speech. The We Make Zines site has almost three thousand readers, yet not a one of them was able to step forward and stand up for Molly Norris’s freedoms.
What’s known as “Liberal America” now isn’t liberal and is scarcely American.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Those who masquerade as liberals today are anything but. They have no commitment to free speech-- instead, they've been indoctrinated into the principle of criminalizing speech, along with crazy notions of interest group politics.
Over the last couple days I've posted about the Molly Norris affair on a couple of ostensibly liberal on-line forums. I thought I'd be able to stir up concern and outrage at cartoonist Norris being driven into hiding by exercising her right to free expression. One of the forums is devoted to zine culture-- print zines being "underground" publications which have always been devoted to pushing the boundaries of free speech; zinedom having consisted for decades of publications representing every possible viewpoint, including far right and far left and every other idea within and without those parameters.
What I found in the two forums was A.) prevalent apathy from most of the Eloi-like participants; B.) those who did respond were more outraged at me for having brought the discomforting Molly Norris matter up.
A few quotes:
"There are a million things in this cruel, messed up, insane world to protest against and try to remedy. Why is this one any more important than any other?"
"--is it wise to throw gasoline on a raging fire? . . . don't come crying to me if you get immolated."
"--learn to speak sensibly and with tact."
"I'm disgusted by your rampant Islamophobia."
The idea of defending speech, even offensive speech, is nonexistent on these forums, which I should add have thousands of members and hundreds of readers. The chief attitude toward Ms. Norris was that she's to blame for her problems, for daring, in a humorous and harmless way, to gently mock the religion of Islam.
Yet there's more going on. One is an apparent alliance between Islamists and the far Left. Toward what end? More about that in an upcoming post.
Monday, October 11, 2010
This is one of the saddest stories I’ve seen:
What happened to free speech? What happened to America? Where is the outrage?
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The 1950’s in film was a time of screen heroes. Most of the male leads were stoic alpha males whose model of how to stand, speak, and act might have been George Washington. The major ones were John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable (no longer dominant but still around), Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, and Charlton Heston. Weaknesses in the characters were hinted at, sublimated, overcome. As in “High Noon” or “Gunfight at OK Corral,” ideals of community or order or good came first. It’s not an accident that the procession of heroic movie role models came at a time when America was most confident in its mission and its place in the world.
John F. Kennedy, the young President in 1961, embodied the ideal. He was charismatic and confident, he believed completely in America, and, to boot, was a real war hero. Kennedy was the alpha male who in the 1960 election campaign defeated the quintessential #2/loser in the person of Richard Nixon. Much of the scorn given Nixon in later years was resentment at the fact that Kennedy was dead but Nixon lived; that whatever Nixon’s abilities, he could never live up to the role. The U.S. President is not only head of government but also head of state. The position carries powerful symbolic qualities—which Ronald Reagan for one well understood. You do have to look and act the part.
The 1960’s in America was about the willful destruction of the hero by the so-called counterculture, which now IS the culture. Neurotic or cynical or weak stars like Brando, Pacino, Nicholson, Hoffmann might’ve been fine actors, but no one could’ve put any of them in the role of defending a community or nation against forces of evil. Gregory Peck could successfully take on the toughest western movie bad guys in “The Bravados,” including Stephen Boyd, who a year later would be seen trying to defeat the Charlton Heston character in 1959’s “Ben Hur.” A few years later Boyd’s smirking, narcissistic and willfully bad Messala would become the Hollywood norm.
Attempts in more recent years to recreate the hero—think Stallone and Arnold—have created grunting and sadistic cartoon characters instead. They’re still more Boyd than Heston.
A civilization which has lost its cultural myths and its heroes is one without foundations, a tottery edifice waiting to be toppled, whose symbolic signal sent to the world isn’t confidence, but weakness.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
When you watch a big screen movie-- whose compositions and images and sound were designed for a large scale-- on a computer, you're getting maybe 1/100th of the real impact the artwork is supposed to have. When you see it on the largest home video screen possible, you're still getting maybe 1/4 to 1/2 the intended artistic experience.
Not all movies are like this. Some classic films well fit the intimacy of a small screen, and when blown up don't give all that much difference. I think of something like "All About Eve," black-and-white with small interior sets, and almost no shots taken outdoors. A big screen, in fact, sometimes reveals the staginess of these kind of films-- an example being the toy night club in "Citizen Kane."
To have people understand the impact and importance-- the sheer magnificent power-- of "El Cid" is why I'm pursuing the idea of the El Cid Project, showing the movie as it should be shown, at a time and place where its symbolism and power will be most strongly felt.
Monday, September 27, 2010
The trick is to understand the mentality of Imam Rauf-- and confront his symbolic "magic" with stronger magic: namely, the great artwork and movie masterpiece known as "El Cid."
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Afterward I looked up a few YouTube videos of the flick on the Internet. I haven't seen the film in years-- never on a movie screen. The opening credits and the trick riding sequence alone convey the movie's magic. It captures America in all its size, beauty, and sheer exuberance. The year 1958 stood at a peak of American confidence. There was no doubt THEN about ourselves and our culture. The great movie westerns like "The Big Country" were a celebration of American culture, history, and spirit. A wonderful spirit which no one should apologize for. Didn't American culture, freedom, and energy capture the imagination of the world?
What's my point? My point is that America needs to renew itself by remembering why it was founded, by reconnecting with its authentic culture and its cultural and historical roots. America is a unique place. "American" is a distinct identity. My forebears didn't come here to be watered-down facsimiles of the world they left. They came to become American-- and they became American, melding themselves into America; earning that through their belief in American ideals and by their hard work. America isn't some multicultural imitation of Europe, Asia, Africa, Mexico, or Arabia. It's a unique place and thing unto itself. The minute we throw away that identity-- the minute we become afraid to embrace and defend it and this land, this place-- then we become no longer visionary and great.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The idea of the El Cid Project is to oppose symbolism with symbolism.
Friday, September 17, 2010
The very idea of the hero has become an archaic concept in today’s cultural climate. Presented instead as models are endlessly self-involved moral jellyfish incapable of grasping the notion of a cause or meaning greater than themselves. When you wipe out the ability to distinguish differences between societies, civilizations, people, and actions, you not only elevate the concept of the world as meaningless mush, you’re not seeing or understanding reality at all. Are there things in life and the world worth fighting for? Yes there are!
The movie "El Cid" should be seen as an acceptable, liberal model for what I'm talking about.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
TOO MUCH emotional capital has been invested on the Ground Zero mosque issue, by both sides, those for and against it, for either to easily back off. This is why Imam Rauf has accepted no attempts at compromise. To move the mosque project would be seen as a moral defeat for Jihad and the spread of Islam. If Imam Rauf were truly a Westernized moderate this wouldn’t matter to him—but it does matter to him. He doesn’t seek peace and harmony within American culture and society. He wants it under the umbrella of Islam, through a new Caliphate. Moving the mosque would be no less of a defeat for the U.S. elite media, which through their one-sided vociferousness have staked even more on this issue than he has.
Failure to move the mosque would be less of a defeat for the other side, the populist insurgency which opposes it, because their numbers are growing regardless. In the big picture of things, it would still be a moral defeat.
My opinion is that Rauf makes a mistake by not grabbing a compromise now and demonstrating his oft-proclaimed moderation. Likewise, the collapsing elite media backing him should be looking for any way out; any method of getting back in touch with the American public. They’re in a lose-lose situation. Whether the mosque moves or stays, they’ll be perceived as weak.
What will be the outcome of this issue? What are the next moves by the various parties?
Supporting a showing of “El Cid” in New York City benefits every side—except, of course, the side of the Jihadis.
Monday, September 13, 2010
PROPHECY is demonstrated when it comes true. I’ve not seen a more prophetic movie than “El Cid.” The opening scene of the fanatical speech given by Islamic fundamentalist Ben Yussef foretells the arrival of Bin Laden. More striking still, next we’re shown a burned down church, a scene of devastation which resembles the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. All that’s left of the church, amid the rubble, is a statue of Jesus on the cross—with arrows through it. A knight knocks off the arrows with his sword and puts the cross on the back of his horse.
I’m told that in the aftermath of 9-11-01, rescue workers found a cross, presumably from the Orthodox church destroyed in the disaster. (See link on the right side of this blog.) They rescued said cross in the same way Rodrigo rescues the cross in the 1961 film. Strong parallels!
Friday, September 10, 2010
Life is strengthened by having something to believe in and fight for.
Art is more compelling when it’s based on a greater cause.
We’re more in touch with the universe when we seek to communicate with the spirit which animates that universe.
Without the ideal, we have nothing to strive for; we have no adequate model to seek to match: a model of honor, truth, and courage.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
While burning a Koran is a dumb idea, it's also a dumb idea for everybody and his brother to publicly begin handwringing about it: "These mobs of irrational people, if we don't do exactly what they say they'll start killing and rioting!"
People are too willing to excuse and enable the worst aspects of Islam-- when the proper reaction is to ask the proponents of that religion to become civilized. Where are the so-called moderates? If the religion is so flimsy it can't survive one harmless crackpot act in the wilds of Florida, then it turns out to be the very extremist faith which everyone's been proclaiming it's not. President Obama and General Petraeous both need to publicly say it's time for the backward faith to leave the primitive age. If it can't, then why should a mosque at the site of the worst attack on America be tolerated?
The message of "El Cid" is that moderates from all camps need to move forward. Moderation doesn't mean tolerating nonsensical violence. If we're going to be FOR civilized culture, freedom, and values then we need to be INtolerant of the opposite.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The intent is to supplement and support the El Cid Project, as well as to document America's populist insurgency, which has the potential to revive this nation and restore sanity to its thinking. While I have to improve the blog's appearance, which is subpar, feel free to take a look. Thanks.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
My suggestion is that some interest be given to a more intelligent response to the Ground Zero mosque-- like the El Cid Project!
Monday, September 6, 2010
Yes, I know, my argument is that you need to watch the film on a large movie screen to truly experience it. But I'm curious if anyone checking out this blog has viewed it anyway, whether in the past, or now to check out its relevance. If so, on what kind of screen did you view it? I hope you plugged in stereo speakers, if possible, because not only is "El Cid" a visual masterpiece, no movie ever made has better sound.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The underlying theme of this blog is that American culture needs to be renewed. Establishment arts are morally and intellectually bankrupt. Current intellectual thought is built on a shaky foundation of relativist nonsense. In their world there can be no distinctions and no values. Issues of character such as those displayed in “El Cid” have been long forgotten.
The pillars of establishment print media like Time, The New Yorker, and the New York Times are self-destructing through not attempting to understand the American public. They’ve become little more than propaganda sheets pushing outdated ideology.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
There would be no contention over the Ground Zero mosque if the American media elite didn’t live in an unreal world of multiculturalism, political correctness, false history and distorted philosophy, a world they either were brainwashed into or brainwashed themselves into. They’ve actually convinced themselves that the 9-11 destruction of the World Trade Center never happened. This is the only convincing explanation for their actions.
The elite media have spent forty years at war with Christianity. Suddenly they decide they want to jam Islam, of all faiths, down the public’s throat. It should be no surprise to them that the American public rebels.
Debates rage constantly about whether America was intended to be a Christian nation or a secular nation. The truth is likely somewhere in between. What’s indisputable is that Christian moral philosophy was the foundation, seen or unseen, of American civilization—and one of the pillars of Western civilization from which America sprung. Christianity is compatible with American ideals because it’s always been part of those ideals.
Many people are Christians not so much religiously, but culturally and historically. More than 90% of Americans have roots in the Christian faith. NOT in Islam, which has not shown itself at any time in its history to be compatible with democracy, peace, and pluralism. The media elite have cut themselves off from their roots, drifting above the planet in bubbles of their own narcissistic self-importance, believing in their own pristine wonderfulness, a perspective from which they continue to lecture the people below.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
What gives the game away in the Ground Zero mosque issue is the use of the word “Cordoba,” which points to the Islamic conquest of Christian Spain—an almost total conquest that was unraveled beginning with the historical figure of “The Cid.”
I’m reminded of a classic Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man,” in which hapless earthlings welcome visitors from another planet, who they believe have arrived as benevolent aliens. After all, their book says, “To Serve Man.” At the conclusion of the episode it’s revealed that the text is a cookbook! (See the “meaning of the word Islam” matter in the post below.)
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
gets some basic things wrong.
Note that Ms. Khan says in her article, "--Islam, a word that literally means 'peace.'"
Yet Wikipedia says "Islam literally means 'submission (to God).'"
The Random House Dictionary has Islam as "submission (to God)." The Collins English Dictionary has Islam as "surrender (to God) from 'aslama,' to surrender."
Elsewhere, Zahra Khan says that "--hating Islam means hating peace." Yet the history of Islam's spread is a history of war and conquest, beginning with the religion's founder.
The sad thing about Ms. Khan's article is that the gullible people who run and read The Huffington Post no doubt believe what she says, because they want to believe it.
A scan of Zahra Khan's other articles for The Huffington Post shows that she cries often and loudly about racism, presumably against her. I don't know if she's been discriminated against. I do know that, as she's a graduate of Harvard University, at some point she was discriminated FOR by getting into that exclusive bastion or privilege and power, which makes her cries all the more curious.
Monday, August 30, 2010
THE ADVANTAGE to watching "El Cid" on film, on a movie screen, is in seeing crisp, clear images of what may be the most beautiful motion picture ever made. With its gorgeous spectacle and fabulous on-location Spanish scenery, I can't think of anything like it.
For a few hundred years in Europe, the Enlightenment existed alongside the world of rational faith, and was strengthened by it. Over the past 100 years Europe has cut itself off from its roots, by destroying Christianity on the continent. Instead of a foundation of certainty, conscience, and hope, Europeans have embraced a foundation of UNcertainty-- of a relativism which believes, ultimately, in no real truths or values at all. Not just Christianity has been killed, but a key part of the Enlightenment also.
Christianity was important not simply as a religion. It was part of Europe's cultural and historical identity. When Europeans wiped out Christianity, unwittingly they wiped out part of themselves.
They're left in the situation of Montezuma and the Aztec empire-- certain of nothing, believing in ephemeral unknowable winds of change; existing as a corrupt and tottery edifice waiting to be knocked down. Islamicists know this. Europe is dying demographically and in every other way, because it no longer believes in itself, and so appears unable to stand up against a strong force which does. You don't beat something with nothing. This is the uncomfortable truth but it's not too late to be turned around.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The result is closer to the objective of fanatic Ben Yussuf in the movie "El Cid": Divide the Infidel. The way to counteract this is to embrace "El Cid," a work of art all sides of the issue should be able to appreciate. The mosque issue isn't one of Right or Left, and shouldn't be portrayed that way. It's a question of respect for America and Western civilization. Let Imam Rauf demonstrate that's he's a moderate and the issue will go away.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
(Here is the text of an Invitation faxed to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today. A copy is also on the way via snail mail to the mayor at his office.)
The El Cid Project invites Mayor Michael Bloomberg to attend a screening of the 1961 movie, "El Cid," in Manhattan in early 2011.
The mayor's attendance will affirm his support of moderate Islam, but also rejection of the extremist variety. His agreement to attend will go a long way toward silencing his critics. The movie's plot is about moderate Muslims joining together with fellow Spaniards to defeat an army led by fanatic jihadist Ben Yussuf.
"El Cid," starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. Seeing it on a large movie screen, as it was intended to be seen, is a thrilling and moving experience.
The El Cid Project is willing to set the date of the screening to fit the Mayor's schedule.
Actions speak loudly. Attending a showing of "El Cid" will demonstrate the mayor's commitment to moderation and security. It will defuse the mosque crisis by uniting both sides of the issue, which is everyone's goal.
Please respond as quickly as possible.
Karl Wenclas, El Cid Project, PO Box 22681, Philadelphia PA 19110
(This site’s email address was also included. I’ve added my phone# to the snail version.)
(Upcoming, I'll be taking a broader view of the major historical currents in play on the planet right now-- the struggle between three major forces: Islam, Secularism, and Christianity. Stay tuned.)
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
In its new (8/30) print issue, Time magazine portrays all those who question the Ground Zero mosque as “Islamophobes.” So designated are 60-70% of the American public.
The real phobia is suffered by the folks at Time, and other denizens of Manhattan media skyscrapers. They peer out from their gilded towers at the vast American landscape, and they see it inhabited by stereotypes—stereotypes of their own creation. To them, middle America is a stereotype.
In their previous issue, Time’s Joel Stein lauded elitism. The Time staff draws ever further into its elitism. Anyone who disagrees with them is a know-nothing, a hate-monger, by definition. Their opinion is the only opinion, because it comes from them.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
The establishment media isn’t fighting the Ground Zero mosque, because they’re fighting America instead. They’re fighting for their continuing dominance over the thinking of America. For the last couple decades they’ve been narrowing speech and attempting to narrow thought. They don’t care two cents worth about Islam and the mosque. The idea is fantastic. What they care about is power.
Monday, August 23, 2010
From a p.r. standpoint, the Ground Zero mosque controversy has been a tremendous success for Imam Rauf and for Islam. The religion has raised its profile in New York many times over, which was undoubtedly the Imam’s objective. It’s hard to see the move as other than deliberately provocative. As a bonus, the entire secular intelligentsia centered in New York (and beyond) has fecklessly taken his side of the issue.
Study the way the debate has been framed. The debate is about “Freedom of Religion,” with Islam representing Religion.
The boundaries being studied by commentators and politicians are between secularism and Islam. The subliminal contrast is between “God” and “Not God,” with Islam representing God.
Can you see what a propaganda coup this is?
Missing from the discussion entirely are other faiths, including what had once been the dominant faith in America, Christianity. They’re nowhere to be found.
Muslims comprise a small percentage of the American population, but their p.r. footprint is many times larger. From a worldwide perspective, Imam Rauf, once he made the move, put himself into a win-win position. If the move was by chance not opposed, he won by getting away with the bold initiative. If it was opposed, as it’s been, he gains by the attendant publicity. The Islamic “brand” has been strengthened. The brand appears strong. Everyone else appears weak.
Beyond this, the presence of Bin Laden offstage allows the Imam to play good-cop bad-cop. He’s the good Islamicist, and if you don’t believe it, just wait for the next terrorist attack!
The 1961 movie “El Cid” is prescient in its portrayal of Yussuf’s deviousness against the infidel, which he aims to weaken and split.
THE KEY is not to blindly oppose the mosque, but to be as intelligent with the response as is Imam Rauf. Putting a gay bar next to Park 51 isn’t being intelligent. It confirms to the nonsecular billions of the world America’s decadent crassness, and the rightness of Imam Rauf’s (or Bin Laden’s) cause.
One should oppose intelligence with intelligence, ideology with ideology, chess move with chess move. “El Cid” carries stronger magic than the mosque. “El Cid” is liberal AND spiritual, representing Western culture at its best.
Friday, August 20, 2010
This is why the plan is to either A.) show "El Cid" digitally at the WTC site on a large outdoor screen; B.) show it on film at a theater as close as possible to the site. Gaining permission for the first won't be easy. The second is very doable, but of course we'd need to drum up interest beforehand for the event to ensure a full theater, and proper impact from the event.
But think of it: The power of this movie when seen on a movie screen is unbelievable. The armies; the drums; the sound; the gorgeous canvas and music. It's an amazing experience. It's why I say that the Power of Art alone if well utilized can carry the day.
A note of thanks to the people at
for affirming the importance of “El Cid.” The title of their site, incidentally, refers to the battle outside Vienna in 1683 between an enormous Turkish army and a coalition of European armies, led by Poland’s King John Sobieski, come together to save Europe from conquest. This was the culmination of 1,000 years of Islamic assault. 1683! Less than 100 years before the Declaration of Independence. Certainly one of THE crucial battles of world history—yet it’s untaught in our schools, which in the name of political correctness fecklessly portray Western Civilization with its panoply of ideals as the bad guys.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
All religions in practice are flawed, but some are more flawed than others. Funny that the intelligentsia can't see important differences.
The founder of Christianity was the original formulator of the difference between Church and State. He did say that his kingdom "was not of this world," and to render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar's, and to God, God's. Jesus was also notably a man of peace.
The founder of Islam was a man of war. There's no getting around that. He also believed that Islam must become the State. Even moderate Muslims believe in sharia law, which is thoroughly incompatible with liberal society.
There are also misconceptions about the history of Islam in Spain. This is where the opening to "El Cid" is important. Moderate, highly cultured Islam was rejected and destroyed by Islam itself. The first scene of the movie is about this. The dialogue could've been written about today.
The moderates in our time need to reject the all-conquering version of Islam if they expect to be taken seriously. One way to do this is to embrace "El Cid" and its theme. It'd be nice if elite liberals did as well.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
There's a way to bring all sides together about the Ground Zero mosque issue. The solution is to sponsor a showing, at the Park 51 site, or at Ground Zero itself, of the classic 1961 film "El Cid," which depicts the defeat of radical Islam in Spain by an alliance of Christians and moderate Muslims. What could be more timely?
This screening of a motion picture masterpiece would demonstrate the sincerity of Imam Rauf, and alleviate the fears of his detractors. This is the El Cid Project.
Note the opening scene of the film. The fanatic, Ben Yussuf, is speaking to Moorish moderates-- chastising them for their worldly culture, lecturing them on the true meaning of their faith. How they react to this lecture becomes an important thread in the plot. It's the same choice given religious moderates now.
If we all, on all sides, accept the existence of moderate Islam, and reject the conquest variety, as we all proclaim, then this is a project everyone should back. Let disagreements be solved through the power of art.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Esteemed film critic Leo Braudy, the leading voice of the status quo and professor at the University of Southern California, has generously responded via email to the announcement of this new blog. As to be expected, he disagrees with ELP’s bold proclamation.
Sorry to be negative, but for all its lavish production El Cid is to me a very boring film, slavishly hieratic and bound to some strange repetition of the static speechifying of Corneille's original. It comes alive only briefly towards the end, and seems otherwise entirely bereft of the well-staged action and psychological subtexts that mark so many of Mann's other works. As in his next film, The Fall of the Roman Empire, some potentially interesting touches are submerged in a choking preoccupation with sets, costumes, etc.
I thank Professor Braudy for his response. I wonder: Are we talking about the same movie? I saw “El Cid” scarcely one month ago on a large movie screen in New York. I found “El Cid” to be thrilling and unsettling. The experience of viewing it as it was meant to be viewed was overwhelming. I was on the edge of my seat throughout. Most of all, I was stunned by the depth of the film’s themes, and by the extent of relevance to the world we live in now.
The academy produces and supports not originality, but competence. Professor Braudy gives his personal opinion, but it also happens to be received wisdom. His voice about “El Cid” is the accepted voice. I’d wager his other judgments would similarly fall down the line of what’s long been valued and revered in film studies. Does Professor Braudy highly rate “Citizen Kane”? It’s no surprise to find after some quick googling that he does.
Maybe his opinion is the objective reality. Maybe “Citizen Kane” is “the best,” as Braudy assesses it. Maybe “El Cid” is in fact not very good.
To counter this I present the opinion of film buffs, as expressed at
Is IMDB the opinion of the mob? Not quite. The mob is watching “Step Up 3D” at the cinemaplex. But IMDB is not expert opinion, as Braudy’s is expert opinion. Leo Braudy has spent his life becoming, and being, the expert. His degrees, position, and standing prove it.
Much of what Braudy says is answered by the Arguments I’ve already made for “El Cid,” found linked on the right of this blog. Please click them on. I’ll make a few more comments in a few short posts to come.
“El Cid” is objectively a greater, stronger, and deeper movie than “Citizen Kane.” This will be shown.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
THE BIG INNOVATION of American film in the 1950s wasn't just the wide screen and more prevalent use of gorgeous Technicolor. Moviemakers went on location-- outdoors, into the natural world. This resulted in some of the most beautiful, eye-pleasing movies ever made. One of them is "El Cid."
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Ground Zero mosque crisis can be resolved through art—through the emotional force of viewing great art. All parties involved should view “El Cid” as it was meant to be seen, on a movie screen. The film depicts what everyone wants: the coming together of Christians and moderate Muslims, and the defeat of radical Islam. This is what all sides in the controversy say they want. Will they support “El Cid”?
Get everyone into a movie theater, Imam Rauf, Mayor Bloomberg, and Sarah Palin alike, and it will be a cathartic experience.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Why has “El Cid,” the ultimate motion picture experience (when seen as a motion picture) been so irrationally ignored by film critics? It finds no spot on various “Best 1,000” movie lists, for all its visual and aural splendor, its overwhelming artistic and thematic power.
What about the film “El Cid” isn’t acceptable?
Its lead actor? (Charlton Heston.)
Its theme of courage and honor?
Its Christian vs radical Muslim plot?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
"El Cid" isn't listed in the New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. It's not in The Greatest Movies Ever by Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza, or the Time Out 1,000 Films to Change Your Life. Critic Leonard Maltin gives "El Cid" three stars out of a possible five.
Take the thousand-plus movies on the various best lists-- "El Cid" provides a better movie experience than any of them. That's not an exaggeration. "El Cid" is better as a pure movie, as well as being a moving and thought-provoking work of art, with incredible relevance to the world we live in now.
What's going on?
Once a critical consensus is reached about a work, the consensus becomes set in stone. Later generations of critics parrot the judgement without thinking about it.
Examine the two "Best Picture" Oscar-winners from 1960 and 1961, the time period of "El Cid." Both "The Apartment" and "West Side Story" are dated, yet remain highly rated. "El Cid" is a better movie than either of them.
What's wrong with film critics?
When criticism becomes disconnected from sense and reality, when it's not able to state or even see the obvious, then it has no usefulness to the art. This is the state of criticism today in arts from literature to movies-- the critics' loyalty isn't to art, isn't to truth, isn't to sense, but instead to themselves and their station.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
From this point through 1963, a time of low inflation, filmmakers had the money to spend on lavish productions. The result was a series of sumptious flicks that were like a series of breathtaking paintings.
As well, the quality of screenwriting remained very high. Many of cinema's greatest directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, John Ford, and George Stevens, were at their peak. Best of all was the movie music of the period. Music is an underrated element of the art of film-- crucial to the highest artistic experience. From 1958 through 1963, in a conjunction of peaking talent, many of the best ever film composers did their greatest work: Miklos Rozsa; Bernard Herrmann; Dimitri Tiomkin; Elmer Bernstein; Jerome Moross; Maurice Jarre; Alex North; and likely a few I'm forgetting.
If film is a combination of artistic elements, especially the visual and the aural, with narrative and character depth added, it's hard to choose a period when the elements better came together. They came together best of all in "El Cid."