Recently, I picked up the novel St. Elmo by Augusta Jane Evans. Part of me wonders whether it stands as the first harlequin romance-style novel, since it certainly has the woman-who-tames-savage-man plot. You might call it The Fifty Shades of Grey of the 19th century: this novel was the third bestselling novel of 19th century America behind Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur. However, St. Elmo has a deeper understanding of tragedy and sorrow and is far more elevated than Fifty Shades of Grey.
So elevated, in fact, that most modern Americans can’t enjoy the book. The reviews on Goodreads revealed a common note of frustration with the Ciceronian periods, les belles lettres, and Classical and Medieval allusions. They put down the book rather than subject themselves to being tortured by someone with a Classical education for over 450 pages. That Americans are not given the same education as their ancestors places a barrier to enjoying the works of Western Civilization. And so, fewer and fewer people read Classic novels.
As far as superhero movies go, Logan does not fit the usual mold. The villain is not someone with superpowers. The action happens in everyday settings. Sections of cities do not collapse into rubble. The good guys are not flawless paragons of virtue. That last bit especially describes the disillusioned, alcoholic, and suicidal Wolverine, who tends to go by his real name of Logan in this picture.
The plot begins with Logan working as a chauffer on both sides of the Mexican border in order to pay for the aged Dr. Xavier’s medicine. Along with Logan, the X-man Caliban helps to keep Dr. Xavier in hiding: the authorities are looking for him because they fear lest Xavier lose control of his powers and cause the demise of untold millions.
The Catholic News Service offers some great help when deciding on a movie to watch. It essentially rates movies according to how well they adhere to decency and morality. I admit that I’m more likely to follow their recommendations when it comes to crassness and sex than violence. For example, I noted that they rated London has Fallen an O for “Morally Offensive,” but decided to watch it anyway.
In the case of Death Wish, I was surprised to find that not only was the remake rated O, but so were the original five movies starring Charles Bronson. This surprised me about as much as finding out that The Outlaw Josey Wales was rated O. In doing a little digging, I discovered that revenge and vigilantism sufficed to earn a film an O rating. Yet, the Death Wish remake does not glorify revenge and casts plenty of doubt on the righteousness of vigilantism.
The following does not count as a proper movie review. The film impressed me as mediocre. Up until the car chase scene, I felt bored enough to want to leave the theater. The movie improved somewhat thereafter, but not enough for the movie to stand out from other Marvel movies.
While pondering the film more deeply, I realized that I only liked two of the characters: Ulysses Klaue and M’Baku, the prince of Wakanda’s mountain tribe. My interest in them comes down to them being the only two characters who gave me a sense of propinquity, character, and interest. (Killmonger had the first two, but it’s hard for me to care about a black supremacist.) Most of the characters struck me as pretty dull: they lacked either propinquity (T’Challa) or character (Agent Ross). The African characters were too dignified and exotic for me to actually like.
Many young men are hooked on the lectures of the Canadian psychologist and professor of the University of Toronto, Dr. Jordan Peterson. A favorite meme associated with him is “Clean your room!” This pithy command encapsulates the idea that, though your life is a mess, you can start organizing the small things. By bringing order to the small things, you can eventually start branching out into larger things. By bringing order to the things around you, you can bring meaning to your life.
An American traditionalist like me is very happy to see that Peterson’s philosophy receives the attention it rightly deserves. But, as a patriot, I’d like to point out that America had its own Jordan Peterson: Peterson’s philosophy has a living portrait in the life and words of Booker T. Washington, a famous black educator and founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Peterson can explicate his philosophy of living with brilliant Jungian archetypes and examples from political thought and history. Washington came to much of the same philosophy of living through his life experiences.
Yesterday, I read a frustrating article in The Nation. Reading articles from the Progressive perspective is a good thing for conservatives; yet, after reading the article, one must conclude that it’s far better for Progressives to read about conservatism. (I almost wrote Liberal, but what of liberty is left in a mindset which denies freedom of speech, the right to self-defense, the freedom of association, and freedom of conscience? The rights of sodomy, infanticide, and white guilt hardly make up for those.) The article talks about toxic masculinity and tries to connect gun ownership and masculinity with Trump’s bellicose statements towards North Korea and the killer in Las Vegas. (There’s no need to remember the murderer’s name, and the only reason we’re still talking about him is because we want to know why he did it.) No connection exists between the mindsets of Donald Trump and the killer. Why does Joan Walsh, the writer at The Nation, consider both toxic?
With the concept of toxic masculinity, one would think this refers to masculine excess. Yet, what is excessive about Trump uniting the nations of the world against a deranged dictator? What is masculine about the killer in Las Vegas? The killer may have been bold, but this was the boldness of a demon, who deluges a soul with temptations until the sign of a cross or the presence of angels causes the fiend to flee. It is a cowardly boldness: as soon as the police barged into the killer’s hotel room, the coward killed himself.
With the rampant popularity of the movie Dunkirk, I want to express why I number among the small minority which did not care for the film. The reasons are no where near as silly as one reviewer’s complaint about the absence of blacks in the film. As a huge fan of WWII films (I was practically raised on Guadalcanal Diary, Hell to Eternity, The Enemy Below, and The Longest Day), I am actually happy that people like the movie. More and better WWII films will result from its popularity.
Most of my complaints derive from having read Churchill’s account of the Dunkirk evacuation and being such a WWII movie buff. I hope to highlight these problems below and then provide a list of some better WWII movies, all of which I have seen, which modern audiences might want to watch.
1) Lack of Characters
In watching the movie, it seems as though Nolan did not want any particular characters to stand out. The only persons names I remember learning were the civilians on their yacht who sailed to Dunkirk: George, Peter, and Mr. Dawson. But, even these do not seem so much individuals as types.