Monday, August 30, 2010

The Actress

Picture of Sophia Loren  as Jimena  from El Cid   High Quality Photo  C43406

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.



The European Situation

America needs to avoid what's happened in Europe. There are three major movements contending with one another across the planet: Secularism, Islam, and Christianity. Africa, for instance, is a chessboard being contended for by Christianity and Islam.

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

Divide and Conquer

Imam Rauf is no dummy. If he's a moderate, as he claims, why is the result of his in-your-face move the opposite of his stated goal of peace and harmony? Imam, it's not quite working out that way!

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

Invitation to Mayor Bloomberg

(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.
Thank you.

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.)    

Territoriality

Imam Rauf will be reluctant to move the mosque site to a place further away, because he well understands the history of Islam, which spread by grabbing and holding territory. Mosques have been the "flags"-- the markers on that territory.

(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

The Naive

Defenders of the Ground Zero Mosque appear critically naive. They've narrowed the issue to an abstract debate over religious freedom, removed from real world context. Among the matters they overlook, deliberately or not, is that the mosque WILL be used by radical Muslims and their millions of sympathizers as an example of victory. One way for moderate Muslims to counteract this is to support the El Cid Project. A motion picture depiction of moderate Muslims uniting with the larger society in order to defeat fanatic Jihad is exactly the message that all sides should be able to support.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Real Phobia

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

How Islam Is Winning the Debate

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

A Caution

Like "Lawrence of Arabia," "El Cid" is the kind of movie which if you haven't seen it on a movie screen, you haven't seen it. I'll be discussing why certain movies gain in power exponentially when the proportions are right, while others-- "TV movies" in my thinking-- gain scarcely at all when projected on a large screen.

THE PLAN
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.

“Gates of Vienna”

A note of thanks to the people at

http://www.gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/

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

More About the Mosque

Elite liberals are out of touch with 70% of Americans on the Ground Zero mosque issue, in part because they lack credibility. They've been actively hostile to one religion, Christianity, and now suddenly they become the defenders of another, while ignoring the fact that a chunk of Islam has declared war on America, and, ahem, New York-- and did so at the World Trade Center site.

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

Ground Zero Mosque: A Middle Path

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

The Academy Responds

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.

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Leo Braudy:

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

www.imdb.com/title/tt0054847/usercomments

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 Natural World

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 Power of Art

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

The Neglected Movie

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.

Character, Honor, Courage

The two lead characters in "El Cid," Rodrigo and Chimene, played by Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, are incomprehensible to today's intelligentsia, because they embody characteristics mocked by today's culture. Through two-thirds of the movie, Rodrigo and Chimene are in personal war with each other, because they're so alike. They're locked into their codes. When they finally come together shortly before intermission, after a couple wonderful scenes involving a leper, a young girl, and a stable, the moment is powerful.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's Wrong with Film Critics?

Critic Steven Jay Schneider has a book out, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. "El Cid" isn't one of them.

"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

When Movies Peaked

Production values for film reached a peak in 1953 with "The Robe" and the introduction of Cinemascope. Photographic clarity, color (original Technicolor), sets-- the overall photographic look-- had never been better.

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."