Monthly Archives: September 2006

Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart

These are my comments on the news from Variety that Angelina Jolie has signed to play Dagny Taggart in Howard and Karen Baldwin’s movie version of Ayn Rand’s great novel “Atlas Shrugged”. Can Angelina Jolie do the role justice?

Ihave only seen Angelina Jolie act in one movie, “Girl, Interrupted”. She won an Oscar for her supporting role as Lisa Rowe, a patient at a mental hospital who knows all the angles, in order to manipulate the staff so things go her way. For example, she finds ways to repeatedly escape the mental hospital, view secret files, get away with forbidden activities.

I read Susanna Kaysen’s original, short nonfiction book dealing with her bout with “borderline personality disorder”, and the film expanded rather than condensed the story. In the same way, Angelina Jolie had to create her character’s attitude and mannerisms by studying and integrating the clues from the script, and I think she did an outstanding job with that. There is very little in the original memoir about Lisa.

Some may say Jolie was playing herself, but whatever she did, it is a memorable and vivid performance. Within the mental hospital’s patient society, she is their leader, by being aloof and focused on her own needs (rational or irrational). I can see within this characterization, that Jolie has the potential to be the personification of nonconformity, of individualism, in a rational character as well. I believe what draws her to play Dagny is that aloof independence and driving ambition, that passion to pursue what she wants.

In the character of Lisa in “Girl, Interrupted”, Angelina Jolie was able to convey a type of selfishness, a driven pursuit of what Lisa would consider her values, and also a total disregard for the opinions of others. Yes, the character of Lisa is mentally disturbed, but it is what Angelina Jolie found within that character that I believe motivates her to play Dagny, and shows that she is capable of playing Dagny.

To sum up, based on viewing “Girl, Interrupted,” I can see that Jolie is able to show a driven, selfish pursuit of values, as well as total independence/nonconformity, a complete disregard for the opinion of others.

She isn’t the physical type I would have chosen for Dagny, but she is far from “wrong” for the role.

I’m not saying I expect the movie to be good; I will wait and see. But there is reason to believe it may be decent, even thrilling and worthy of the book, as the screenwriter James Hart wrote the film version of Carl Sagan’s “Contact”, which I thought was a good screenplay, and the producers Howard and Karen Baldwin were involved with “Ray” which I didn’t see yet, but have heard from reliable sources was very good. Both are thought to be films respectful of their source material–in the case of “Ray”, the facts of Ray Charles’ life.

Also, I have heard that the Baldwins are planning to produce “Atlas Shrugged” as a trilogy. This will allow it to have a chance of suggesting the scope of the story. No movie or trilogy will recreate the book word for word, as the book is too long, and no one should expect that.

The only film that I know of that recreated a normal-length novel almost word for word, was the 12-episode miniseries of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited”.

(To contact Zigory please email me at )

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My Favorite Halloween Movies (A bit early)

Elizabeth of the Elizabethan Blog asks me for a list of good movies for Halloween. Interesting question. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Some of the following I haven’t seen since childhood or my teen years, but I am fairly certain they are all worthwhile. If you don’t mind intelligently scary films, or humorous ones, as opposed to simple shockers full of gore, here are my Halloween recommendations:

1. “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” (don’t see one without the other), directed by James Whale with Boris Karloff.Catch a brief glimpse of one of my favorite character actresses, Una O’Connor, as Minnie, in an early scene.

2. “Dracula” directed by Tod Browning with Bela Lugosi.

3. “The Other” by Tom Tryon, directed by Robert Mulligan (recently released on DVD).

4. “Psycho” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

5. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury (although in the movie they ruined the ending of the novel bydeleting the most important scene–the discussion of how to defeat the villain).

6. “Burn, Witch, Burn” a/k/a “Night of the Eagle” by Fritz Leiber and Richard Matheson.

7. “Bell, Book and Candle”.

8. “The Nanny” with Bette Davis.

9. “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr.

10. “Two on a Guillotine” with Dean Jones.

11. “The Sixth Sense”

12. TV Special: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”.

13. “Rebecca” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

14. “Freaks” directed by Tod Browning, with a cast of real ones, will give you chills.

15. “The Unholy Three” directed by Tod Browning, with Lon Chaney.

16. “The Unknown” directed by Tod Browning, with Lon Chaney. Pointlessly horrifying, but that’s what you want on Halloween, right?

17. “Eraserhead”. To experience a true nightmare as if you are having troubled sleep, no one has captured a bad dream on film as well as David Lynch did with “Eraserhead”. It’s not elevating or enlightening. It’s slow, nonsensical, sometimes boring and awful in many ways, but it gives you the feeling of being asleep and having your worst nightmare ever, if you want that feeling on Halloween.

For a comedic Halloween film,my wife recommends “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Cary Grant, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard good things about an animated version of Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree” but I haven’t seen that either. And you can’t go wrong with Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” TV series, most episodes of which I have seen and loved.

Also be sure to visit The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World or Disneyland if you live nearby.

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Golden Age Quality Movies Being Made Today

I don’t like much about today’s popular culture, but I find gems in the hay at times, especially because I look for them. On the negative point, looking at the promotional “Fall Preview” specials about the new television season (for example, the specialshown by The CW which is the merging of The WB and UPN “networks”), I find that instead ofmaking meeager to see programs being advertised, including ones I may have wanted to see, the promotional preview makes me want to avoid those shows. These TV previews, and many movie trailers that screen in theaters, feature tastelessdialogue or activities,loud music,quick and unintegratable editing, and unappealing, ignorant or pessimistic sarcasticcharacters. I suspect some of the programs and films aren’t as bad as the previews make them seem. Why the promos are made to send away people like me — an employed, college-educated male in my 40s married with children, with an interest in the beautiful, the thought-provoking, the informative, the dramatic and the delightful in my TV or movie viewing — I don’t understand. One would think I’m in a good demographic.

Meanwhile, turn to TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and you are in another world. The presentation, the introductions by Robert Osborne, the short films and documentaries between features, and above all the movies themselves are elevating, quality experiences. The movies by and large are from the 1940s back to the 1920s, the Golden Age.

Well, today, although there seems an endless stream of films with titles and subjects like Beer League, or the latest horror/slasherseries,one can stillfind films and TV series that would not seem out of place among the classic moviesof the 1930s or 1940s.

If you are looking for 21st Century movies that would feel perfectly at home among the Golden Age films, I can recommend two. They have in common that they are period pieces, and that they both coincidentallyfeature actor Paul Giamatti. One is Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” from 2005, and the other is the new film now playing at your local theater, “The Illusionist”.

You can rent “Cinderella Man” on DVD, and see a beautiful tale of a man with consistent honesty and an unshaking faithfulnessto his moral code and his deepest values as he strugglesto survivein a boxing career during the Great Depression.

“The Illusionist” is the inspiring story of an Austrianmagician so brilliant at his illusions that he is the object of a prince’s envywhile he is adored by the publicand respected by the police chief hired to investigate him. The plot contains some twists that are fun to observe.

Here are some other recentfilms with that Golden Age quality: “Kate and Leopold” with Hugh Jackman, “Apollo 13” by Ron Howard, “Schindler’s List” and “The Pianist” for vivid views of the Nazi-perpetratedHolocaust, “Cinema Paradiso”, “The Sixth Sense” and “The Lord of The Rings” Trilogy. Although they have their flaws, the recent Star Wars prequels, especially “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”, are ofGolden Age quality as well. Beyond those, I would addthe “Star Trek” films and TV series. Also, although it’s too dark and convoluted, “Dark City” with Kiefer Sutherland is a fascinating and stylized Good vs. Evil tale with imaginative plot ideas, visual effects and settings, a/k/a production design.

On television, what I’ve seen of “Smallville” and “Law and Order” usually impressed me in a similar way. Many have recommended “24” but I haven’t seen it yet.

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North Korean Refugees Activism

I’m passing along this information which is timely. It is from

The Thai government is negotiating with the United Nations and the South Korean government after Thai police followed a tip and found 175 North Koreans at a house in Bangkok.

Following a tip-off by the neighbors, the Thai police raided a house on August 22, 2006, where they found 128 women, 37 men and 10 children, all North Koreans.

The refugees were being sheltered while seeking asylum in other countries, including South Korea. See this article at Thailand Discovers 175 North Korean Refugees Hiding in Bangkok

For your reference, we are attaching a sample letter below.
We urge you to send letters to the Thai Ambassador in your
country requesting that these refugees be safely released to
South Korea or other country where they will not be
repatriated to North Korea.

Sample Letter
Your Excellency,

I take this occasion to express concern for the 175 North Korean refugees being detained by the Thai authorities since August 22.

The world community is well aware of the excellent humanitarian record of Thailand and its granting of safe passage to North Korean refugees in the past.

There is global admiration for Thailand’s Mr. Vitit
Muntarbhorn, both as a distinguished legal scholar and as a tireless worker on behalf of human rights. He has helped reduce the hardships faced by North Korean refugees since being appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea.

I trust you will encourage your government in the strongest possible terms to continue its humanitarian treatment of refugees and arrange for the prompt safe passage of the 175 North Korean refugees to South Korea or other nation where they can be granted safe haven.

Respectfully yours,

________ Sign ________

Write to the Thai Embassy of your country.

Thai Embassy in Australia

Royal Thai Embassy
111 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla,
A.C.T. 2600,
Canberra, Australia
Tel: +06 273 1149, 273 2937
Fax: +06 273 1518

Thai Embassy in Belgium

Royal Thai Embassy
Square Du Val de la Chambre 2
1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32-(0)2-640-0716, 640-1986, 640-6810
Fax: +32-(0)2-6483066

Thai Embassy in France

Royal Thai Embassy
8 Rue Greuze
75116 Paris, France
Tel: +33-1 56265050
Fax: +33-1 56260446

Thai Embassy in Germany

Royal Thai Embassy
Lepsiusstr. 64-66,
12163 Berlin, Germany
Tel: +30 79 48 10
Fax: +30 79 48 1 511

Thai Embassy in Italy

Royal Thai Embassy
Via Nomentana 132
001 62 Rome, Italy
Tel: +39 6 8620-4381-82
Fax: +39 6 8620-8399

Thai Embassy in Japan

Royal Thai Embassy
3-14-6, Kami-Osaki
Tokyo, Japan 141
Tel: +03 3441 1386, 1387, 7352, 7688, (03) 3447 2247
Fax: +03 3442 6750, 3442 6828

Thai Embassy in the Netherlands

Royal Thai Embassy
Laan Copes van Cattenburch 123,
2585 EZ
The Hague, Netherlands
Tel: +3170 345-0632, 2088, 9703
Fax: +3170 345-1929

Thai Embassy in Sweden

Royal Thai Embassy
Floragatan 3, 114 31
Stockholm, Box 26220,
100 40 Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: +46 08 791 73 40
Fax: +46 08 791 73 51

Thai Embassy in Switzerland

Royal Thai Embassy
Kirchstrasse 56, CH-3097
Bern-Lieberfeld, Switzerland
Tel: +41 31 970 30 30
Fax: +41 31 970 30 35

Thai Embassy in United Kingdom

Royal Thai Embassy
29-30 Queen’s Gate
London, SW7 5JB
Tel: +07 1 5890173, 5892944
Fax: +07 1 8239695

Thai Mission to the United Nations (Switzerland)

Permanent Mission of Thailand
To The United Nations Office
28B Chemin du Pefit-Saconnex
1209 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: (4122) 734-2010, 734-2018, 734-2020
Fax: (4122) 733-3678

Thai Mission to the United Nations (USA)

Permanent Mission of Thailand
To The United Nations Office
351 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
Tel: (1-212) 754-2230
Fax: (1-212) 754-2535,688-3029

Thai Embassy in the USA

Royal Thai Embassy
1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Suite 101,
Washington, D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 944-3608
Fax: (202) 944-3641

Official List of all Thai Embassies


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Clear-Cut Messages at Islamist Protest Rallies

An acqaintance of mine informed me about these images from an Islamist protest rally in London. These images apparently have been around for awhile but I had not seen them until now, because they were not publicized in American media at all. The signs state, for example, Be prepared for the REAL Holocaust! and Freedom, go to hell!

Islamic Protest Rally Messages: photos are not altered.

If it weren’t such an important issue, it would be laughable that the U.S. media refuses to publicize these messages from Islamist protest rallies (so as not to offend with the truth?), and that the Israeli and U.S. governments still haven’t obliterated the terrorist-supporting anti-Western leaders in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and their weapons and armies, and their progeny like Hezbollah and Hamas. What more motivation and justification do they need, after the many we will attack and destroy you comments of Iran’s President and other Islamic leaders. It’s especially horrible that Israel quit their self-defense war against Hezbollah too soon, simply handing the enemy a win. I suspect the United States pressured them, and I know Europe did, for diplomatic reasons.

See these links for more:

Mushroom Cloud on the Way.

Islamic Leader Hails Chechen Attack.

Iran’sPresidentforesees a world without the United States.

Iran says wipe Israel off the map.

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