February 28, 2015

Now Playing

(Reviewed August 29, 2014)

A portrait of modern sanctity which — very oddly, in my view — asks not to be taken too seriously

(Reviewed August 27, 2014)

The movie it took twelve years to make — about a childhood that appears to be taking much, much longer

America: Imagine the World Without Her
(Reviewed July 31, 2014)

Another foray by Dinesh D’Souza into the lists in order to break a lance on President Obama — and Howard Zinn. At least the latter is effectively unhorsed.

(Reviewed June 30, 2014)

An austerely beautiful film by the Anglo-Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski that could hardly be a greater departure from his earlier My Summer of Love

ENTRY from February 20, 2015

Is it just me or has the theatrical culture of the English-speaking world gone into a terminal decline? I would think that perception a sign of my advancing age but for the occasional straws in the wind to suggest that I am not entirely alone. Janice Turner in The Times of London, for example, writes that she recently walked out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie Inherent Vice.

After 30 minutes of letting bonged-out hippy ramblings "wash over" me, I was imploring my husband to leave. We lasted an hour. And as we burst into the foyer, enjoying that same exquisite pleasure as when escaping a boring dinner or almost any play, two others followed us. "What the hell was that about?" we all cried.

Can you guess what words in that passage leap out at me? I’ll tell you. "Almost any play." Yes! I can barely remember the last play that I didn’t at least want to walk out of at intermission. And I have now walked out of the last two I have seen at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington. Last night it was Dunsinane by David Greig, presented by the National Theatre of Scotland. To be sure, my dissatisfaction wasn’t entirely the fault of the play, which wasn’t quite so bad as I had expected. Not that that is saying very much for it. It was pretty bad, at least what I could hear of it. A combination of the uncompromising Scottish accents — why is making the actors speak comprehensibly to American ears the only bit of pandering to the audience’s ignorance that the producers won’t do? — and poor enunciation and acoustics meant that I found only about half of the play understandable.
  Full Entry

Media MadnessMy book Media Madness, is available for order from Encounter Books. Less a polemic than an attempt to understand the origins of the mass media’s folie de grandeur, the book is a warning even to those who are deserting the big networks, newsweeklies and large-circulation dailies not to carry with them into the more attractive world of niche media the undisciplined habits of thought that the old media culture has given rise to. To order this book, click here.

Honor, A HistoryAlso available, now in paperback, is Honor, A History, which was first published in 2006. A study of Western cultural artifacts, from the epics of Homer to the movies and TV shows of today, it is focused on explaining why Western ideas of honor developed so differently from those elsewhere — and especially from the savage honor cultures of the Islamic world. The book then goes on to trace the collapse and ultimate rejection of the old Western honor culture from World War I until the present day and to suggest the conditions that would have to prevail for its revival.

Recent Articles

Cowardice: A Brief History, by Chris Walsh January 10, 2015.
Can cowardice be something real if no one ever pretends to be a coward? — From The New York Times Book Review of January 10, 2015 ... Full Article

Strategic Thinking December 31, 2014.
Who took the politics out of politics and made it into a morality play? — From The New Criterion of December, 2014 ... Full Article

The Uses of Outrage November 30, 2014.
Have we got to the point where the public display of emotion is the only measure we care about of a president’s performance in office? — From The New Criterion of November, 2014 ... Full Article

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