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Enter the Dragon

Offering a correction
It's commonly stated that Bruce Lee was a practicioner of Kung fu. To be accurate, that not true.

He was the founder of Jeet Kune Do, a hybrid martial arts philosophy drawing from different combat disciplines that is often credited with paving the way for modern mixed martial arts (MMA). His initial training as a youth was in Wing Chun, is a concept-based traditional Southern Chinese Kung fu (wushu) style and a form of self-defense, that requires quick arm movements and strong legs to defeat opponents. Softness via relaxation and performance of techniques in a relaxed manner is fundamental to Wing Chun. This style didn't suit Lee. Although he was very good at it. In 1959, Lee began teaching martial arts, calling his style Jun Fan Gung Fu, Bruce Lee's Kung Fu. It was Lee's approach to Wing Chun. Not long after, he incorporated Tae Kwan Do kicks into his style. By 1966, Lee came to believe that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid and formalized to be practical in scenarios of chaotic street fighting, his speciality. Lee began developing a system with emphasis on practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency. He started to use different methods of training such as weight training for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, and many others which he constantly adapted, including fencing and basic boxing techniques, and he was influenced by heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali's footwork, which he studied and incorporated into his own style. Lee emphasized what he called 'the style of no style', which is what he says at the beginning of Enter the Dragon. This style consisted of eliminating the formalized approach that Lee argued was indicative of the traditional styles of martial arts. Lee felt that even the system he now called Jun Fan Gung Fu was too restrictive, and it eventually evolved into a philosophy and martial art he would come to call Jeet Kune Do or the Way of the Intercepting Fist, a term he would later regret because Jeet Kune Do implied specific parameters that styles connote, whereas the idea of his martial art was to exist outside of parameters and limitations. At the beginning of the film Lee expounds on his beliefs. They might seem like philosophical mumbo jumbo but it isn't. Lee explains his fighting theory in some detail and for anyone interested in martial arts it's a chance to understand why the man was such a great martial artist.

The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice

A big improvement over numbe 2
Although even less plausible then the first two films, it works better because it's far less campy with a more judicious use of technobabel. Stana Katic is, in a word, luminous and her relationship with Wyle is played more seriously and it lends the film a great deL of heart and humanity. The villain is also not merely cartoonish caricature. This is both a fun and enjoyable romp.

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines

Amped up silliness
The first film jettisoned logic from the start for the sake of laughs and it worked consistently: the film was hilarious. This film tries the same approach but it tries too hard to be both serious and funny, and it doesn't always work. The illogical use of technobabel doesn't always help build the story, and too often it seems as if the writers made stuff up as they wrote, includING jargon because they thought it sounded funny, cool, or impressive. Often it's merely silly, even ridiculous, and at times it's glaringly annoying: Sioux in Utah? Borrowing sorta Masonic symbology because it relates to King Solomon's Temple? King Solomon in Morocco? Serengetti animals and Bantu people in northern Kenya? Throw in the Queen of Sheba and get the idea. Why not space aliens and the Loch Ness Monster?

Wyle is still fun, Bob Newhart is his typical deadpan humous self and Gabrielle Anwar is the obligatory very fetching babe. While the story is entertaining, it's absolutely preposterous and it didn't have to be that way. Whereas the first film balanced silly humor with action and witty banter, using technobabel to bridge the them all, this story offers no such bridge. Technobabel is employed seemingly just to impress a possibly clueless audience and or illicit laughs, which doesn't always happen. It doesn't always appear as if anyone making this film actually thought much about dialog. Oh yes, villains. There are some villains but they're much more cartoonish then film one.

In sum, the film is entertaining but nowhere nearly as sly and witty as the first film. Ms. Anwar isn't the straight foil to Wyle that Ms. Walgar was in Spear of Destiny and the villains aren't as threatening or believable. I still give it 5 to 6 stars being a decent sequel. I think it could have been a lot funnier!

The Yakuza

Provides a sufficient glimpse of Japanese culture to understand just how different it is from the west
After quite a bit of looking I found this film on DVD. I hadn't seen it in 30 years but never forgot how much I liked it. The film, unedited for television, didn't disappoint. This is one of Robert Mitchum's finest films, and if it isn't his best it's certainly one of them. There's violence but no gratuitous blood letting, being more of a psychological thriller. Takakura Ken is just as billiant as Mitchum and it's not hard to understan why he's called the Japanese Clint Eastwood. There isn't a slow spot in the film with some double crosses and quite a few surprises. I watched the film twice in three days and honestly there's enough script detail that I'd missed some of it in the first viewing. Well worth watching!

The Big Sky

The plot outlines for this title are simoly inaccurate
I first saw this movie almost a half century ago and I've seen it several times since. I thought it memorable to the point that I watched the movie the other night and recalled many of the spoken lines. It isn't a typical Howard Hawks action film. It's an adventure/drama with some action.

Two Kentucky woodsman meet on a road to Louisville in 1832. After a shaky beginning the become good friends and decide they've had it with civilization. The head to St. Louis to find one of the men's uncle, who is a Missouri River fur trapper.

The story concerns a group of independent French traders whotake on the three men on a 2,000 mile keel boat trip up the Missouri. On the trip they have to contend with a ruthless fur company and their Crow (Indianl allies. They aim to trade with an always hostile Blackfeet tribe with their introduction being a daughter of a chief, captured by the Crow tribe. The girl managed to escape and was then rescued by one of the keel boat men. The French party face hostile Crows, hostile fur company men, and a hostile envirinment. In the mix is a poignant love story involving the Blackfoot girl and the two Kentuckians, one of whom hates Indians. Kirk Douglas and Arthur Hunnicut have memorable rolls, as does Buddy Baer and an unregonizable Hank Worden. The music is also hauntingly beautiful.

Unfortunately, the film has never been released on DVD and it5damn near impossible to find. It took a while but I managed a copy and it was worth the search.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain

Plenty of charm, wit, and humor
I saw this film 25 years ago, bought the video and now own the DVD. The film hardly received much notice in the US and I found it on a Hollywood Video end cap next to the farmore well known Four Weddings and a Funeral. My entire family loved the picture. If one likes Hugh Grant, andenjoyed Fiur Weddings and Notting Hi, then this film is bound to please. Based in Wales c. 1916, the number of eccentric characters is ,ong, each one endearing in their own way. I find it endlessly entertaining, charming, witty, and often hilarious.

Out of Africa

A nearly perfect film
I'd give the film 9 stars if Redford could mimic and English accent half as well as Streep does a Dane speaking English. Ita wonderful romantic adventure that deserved all ofi ts accolades.

Heaven Only Knows

It's been more than 60 years
I saw this picture as a boy of 9 or 10. I couldn't recall the film's name only that it starred Bob Cummings as an angel in the old west. Mostly I recall the ending. It was sad but not sad, at least if you believe in heaven. I wat hed the film several times in an Emerson 12-inch black and white TV. I didn't understand it until the ending when the stagecoach leaves town and heads into the sky. I watched it whenever it was in TV, typically Subday afternoon on NYC TV 5 or 9. It's a lovely memory from a time when society was still rather naive and pretty easy to please.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The Kaiju film I've been waiting for
I first saw the 1956 Godzilla m9vie in 1957. I was 6, and honeztly the movie scared the pants off me. The i pression made has lasted a lifetime. I've seen most Japanese Kaiju movies, and honextly sure they cheesy, dumbing is lame, and guys in rubber suits seem quaint, but they were entertaining as silly as they might have been. And the cinematography and special effects grew better over the decades. I haven't seen the Warner 2014 Godzilla but I have seen Shin Godzilla, and its hardly surprising it won best picture in Japan.

Here's the thing folks: one is either a fan of kaiju films or one isn't. A true fan overlooks the the monster silliness...what can I say, we go with the story and buy into it fully. Godzilla king of the monsters was definitely not silly. 'Zilla was as big and nasty as I've ever seen him but he also displayed traits I'd expect to see in higher mammilians not dinosaur-like kaiju. Godzilla was a surprise but this made it easy to cheer for him. The film has hissable villians. Anyone seeking two hours of serious kaiju mayhem, pretty decent acting, but with a somewhat truncated story this is worth watching.

Conspiracy Theory

If you think they might be out to get you it's possible they just be might be!
When I picked up this video for a couple of bucks I'd never heard of it, and Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts don't seem a likely pair. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the film. It has heart, decent performances, especially by Gibson who plays against type, an interesting story, quite a few surprises, and for anyone who loves a good conspiracy this presents one. I've seen it several times and it always entertains. Definitely worth a look.


The ploy Summary is Inorrect
A young art restoration specialist based in Barcelona is retained by an art gallery to restore a 17th century Dutch Masters paainting that has been in a private collection since it was created. The painting depicts an elderly nobleman playing cards with a younger man, while a noblewoman watches in the backgrounnd. All restorations include an xray, and this image reveals an underlying original painting on the same two men playing chess instead of cards. On the lower right, in Latin, are the words "Who Killed the Knight." The film reveals the names of the people in the painting, their relationships to each other, and how they relate to the current owners.

This is a reasonably suspenseful film with qhite a few surprises. The performances are ot bad, although Kate Beckensale's inexperience is glaring. The story, however, more than compensates for this modest short coming, and the sight of the scantily clad beautiful English actress at age 21 is quite breathtaking.

High Road to China

A Hard Film to Categorize
This film rather defies genre classification and I suspect that's a reason why it's underappreciated. An extremely attractive kooking action/adventure film with bits of comedy and some romance, it also features two very attractive actors in Bess Armstrong and Tom Sellect. The story is uncomplicated, and if it suffers from anything, it's an ending that's anticlimatic and that is wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly. There's a few loose ends but that's quibbling. Bess Armstrong has never looked lovelier and Selleck has rarely looked more shop worn before his later westerns, while retaining his usual self deprecating, dashing persona. Furthermore, they share on screen chemistry that makes the romance of two unlikely partners work well. I'll leave the plot for others. Watch the film for a nearly perfect and wonderful John Barry score (the main theme is nearly identical to the main Out of Africa theme also written by Barry), marvelous biplane stunt flying, aerial cinematography, Bess Armstrong's smile, and an uncharacteristic Tom Selleck performance.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Forget the analysis
This film is arguably the most entertaining and enjoyable Marvel film in the franchise. And Rocket is perhaps the best character in the franchise. No, the film won't win any best picture or actor awards but it's a wonderful ensemble piece. I've seen the film at least 25 times. I know the dialog. No surprises. And at the of every viewing I'm in tears. This film offers up huge amount of heart and soul, not to mention the best retro sound tract since the first Guardians first film. Just sit back and enjoy it. There's really not much else to say.

FairyTale: A True Story

This is a film that I never tire of viewing. Sumptous cinematography, and glorious music that catures a time that more or less ended, when my life egan 70 years ago. I'm glad I was able to at least glimpse it. If the ending doesn't doesn't generate tears, then you're cynical and I feel for you. Anyone seeking a movie with loads of heart can do no better than this film. The two girls are wonderful, as is Peter O'Toole and Harvey Kietel, and the rest of the cast. The special effects will make yo believe in fairies and gnomes.

The Devil's Disciple

A far more interesting version of the American Revolution than The Patriot
I first saw this film more than 50 years ago on television, and I never forgot it. It's classic Lancaster-Douglas, with a nice taste of Olivier, and the lovely Jeannette Scott as more than window dressing. It's got a great Shaw story, but even more compelling is the incredible Shaw dialog. Lancaster and Douglas always possessed a wonerful chemistry, adding to this is Shaw's gift for words, with the great Olivier matching Lancaster's s magic with Douglas. Ms. Scott shortly would go on to star in the classic Day of the Triffids, and she pulls a nice trun and Lancaster's often hysterical wife. Harry Andrews adds a touch of comic relief as a hapless British major. It's a brief film, one that ends much too quickly as I could listen to Shaw's turns of phrase for hours. It is nevertheless extremely enjoyable.

The Haunting

Be forewarned
More than a few people, including critics, claim this is the most frightening film ever made. They may be right. I saw it years ago and it scared the wits out of me.

The Comancheros

Great fun regardless how many times watched!
I first saw this film with my dad when it first hit the films. I've probably seen it 25 or 30 times but bought the VHS and then the DVD anyway and I still keep watching it. The Comancheros is quintessential Hollywood. It's entertaining. Elmer Bernstein's music is catchy, the story is interesting (if wildly inaccurate, historically), it has a beautiful and interesting woman in Ina Balin who plays a little more then a damsel in distress, it has a well played bad guys (Nehemiah Persoff, Lee Marvin, Michael Ansara), plenty of terrific western character actors doing their thing, and a bunch of likable good guys (John Wayne and Stuart Whitman play off each other very well). It's pretty obvious that everyone had a grand time making this. The film moves along at a good clip and there's never a dull moment. It's one of those films that could have been 30 minutes longer because the study is dense and there are so many story arcs on going.

If you like westerns, if you like John Wayne, this film won't disappoint. Just don't expect anything like The Searchers, Stagecoach, Red River, or Rio Grande. It's not great John Wayne but it will do!

Jersey Shore

A program about the 'Jersey Shore' with New York City actors who have zero appreciation or knowledge of the Shore lifestyle? This might pass for some living in Iowa never having lived at The Shore. I spent 5 summer at the Jersey Shore, which allows me to say categorically: This may be a reality TV program only not about the Jersey Shore. This is probably about MTV reality, which helps explain why it's so terrible. The people who live in New Jersey had the good sense to recognize that their coastline, all 132 miles of it, consists of two very different social variations. The South Shore, from Seaside Heights to Cape May and the North Shore from Seaside Heights to Sandy Hook (Seaside being in the North Shore region). I'm not certain which Jersey Shore the program purports to reflect but having spent time in both, the truth is it reflects neither very well. The actors on this program are precisely the kind of people I knew in the less tony sections of NYC. They might head to a beach on weekends but they weren't Jersey Shore people. How do I know? I spent five summers at the Shore and I was immersed in the Shore lifestyle. I'd call this program an MTV Fantasy program! Collect as many dim bulb low life stereotypical Italian 'gum-bah' types as possible, find a few girls with big tits with blocks of wood for brains, make sure each actor is comfy using the F word on a camera (to give in that 'reality' feel), inject a few beach scenes 'for reality,' and viola! We get typical MTV trash: Crap acting, crap writing, crap direction, crap music! A winner!!!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Not a happy movie
I began watching this movie with a set of expectation having read several reviews. That said, the movie was not what I expected but it is a very good film, a powerful film but don't expect a happy ending. For me the most difficult scene in the film was euthanizing of a pet (but not the cause of the sad ending!). I'll never understand why directors feel the need to show the details of this process. Although the ending was sad, getting to it was extremely engrossing, with a love scene between Lena Olin and Juliette Binoche one of the most erotic I have ever seen in any film. In fact, the scene left my mouth agape as it was so explicitly sexual but without being overly graphic. I have not read the book and I am sure it would provide far greater detail of life behind the Iron Curtain but for those not interested in weighty novels, and having spent some time in eastern Europe, I can testify that this film gives the viewer some notion of what life must have been like, including the crushing of the Prague Spring of 1968. I found the inability of two obviously capable people, Day-Lewis and Binoche, to survive in the West profoundly sad, and, that they would give up personal freedom for a life where many decisions about life were made by the state hard to fathom. Yet in the end, the two came to experience a simple happiness. The three stars worked well together and there was definite chemistry between Day- Lewis and Binoche. Well worth a look for people who like to think about what they watch.


A suggestion
Anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, who watches a dramatic movie made in Hollywood or anywhere else, with the expectation of getting a history lesson is simply ignorant of the purpose of movies. Movies are meant to entertain and in the case of advocacy cinema enlighten; documentaries are meant to educate. Movies do not educate; they can in fact be highly misleading. Anyone wishing to know about the Battle for Saipan may I suggest A Special Valor: the U.S. Marines and the Pacific War (ISBN: 0452007372 / 0-452-00737-2) by Richard Wheeler (this book also covers the first battle sequence, which was somewhere in the Solomons, possibly Guadalcanal given the 1942 year within which it occurred. For those too stupid to comprehend a serious history, try Guy Gabadon's Hell to Eternity; it's highly entertaining and full of the kind of boyhood heroics most of the people here seem to think never occurred (it even includes a neat decapitation of Gabadon's best friend during a Banzai Attack. Gabadon's gun jammed and he watched his friend get cut apart). If Gabadon is too heavy for folks, check out a semi-coffee table style book "Marines in World War II Commemorative Series-Breaching the Marianas-The Battle for Saipan", which is also available in a CD ROM format. For those interested in the naval battle for the Marianas, the definitive work is by Samuel Elliot Morrison ("Naval History of World War II", check for the appropriate volume for Saipan or find the abridged version of this study) or look for the Victory at Sea volume dealing with the Marianas. For those interested in the air battle, try "Operation Forager; Air Power in the Campaign for Saipan" by Army Command and General Staff College. If the tone of my comments seem a tad caustic that can simply be explained by the disgust with many of the comments herein presented. Most people offering sharp criticisms have no real clue about the Battle for Saipan or the Marianas operation more generally, Code Talkers or Navajo people more generally, and/or US Marine and Japanese infantry tactics/fighting during the Second World War. Most folks are rather fixed on criticising Nicholas Cage. Personally, I have no problem with anyone being critical of Cage; from my perspective, he's neither much better or much worse than most of the overpaid actors inhabiting Hollywood these days. I do have a problem with people making statements about this film's historicity or lack thereof without first educating themselves to the subject with which they are offering comments. My father was stationed on Saipan and Tinian in 1944 and 1945 (Army Air Corps). He arrived before the islands were secured and he had friends shot by snipers and saw Japanese snipers killed (he was not involved in the reduction of Japanese defenses but passed down hundreds of photographs of the suggest this was an ugly fight is to do an injustice to what occurred). May I suggest that arm chair directors educate themselves before becoming critical of film content least they make themselves look foolish. I read perhaps 15 reviews and not a single one addressed this fundamental question. I don't give a care what anyone thinks about Nicholas Cage or whether Adam Beach looks like a Navajo; it would be nice if anyone offering comment about this or any film address what is perhaps the most fundamental issue of any review. and the only question of any relevance: Was this movie entertaining? One would hardly know from reading a couple of dozen comments.

Broken Trail

Interesting movie
I like westerns and I picked this movie up at a discount not sure what to expect. Duval puts in yet another marvelous performance and Thomas Hayden Church redeems himself after his positively crude and awful characterization in the film Sideways. In fact, Church was every bit as impressive and Duval and that's saying a lot. Anyone looking for a lot of action won't find it in this movie but this is a wonderful character study with gorgeous cinematography and terrific performances in every roll. A few words about the ending...

The film is antithetical to classic Hollywood story telling. Attractive and innocent young girls die and the hero (at least one of them) doesn't get the girl; yet, these results add to the enjoyability of the film reminding us that life often ends in disappointment even in America. The last frames offer a narrative of the future of the characters portrayed and from this one is lead to believe the story is based on real people. At the conclusion of the film however, there is a disclaimer that the movie is not based on any living person...I confess I was taken in by the rouse but I'm not complaining because it added to the poignancy of the ending. Americans are used to happy endings that when we encounter the bittersweet we often don't know how to respond. The ending of this movie unfolds slowly and deliberately giving us plenty of time to think about life's unfulfilled dreams and hopes.

The Thomas Crown Affair

Some additional observations
Contrary to what was said previously, Faye Dunnaway does in fact add a great deal to the movie but what she adds is extremely subtle. As an example: Anyone remotely understand why Brosnan sets up Russo at the end of the movie? If you think back to Crowne's last appointment with his therapist (Dunnaway), she says something that gets his attention. What she says is that since Russo is just like Crowne the only way he would ever really know if she is serious about him is if she loses what she desires most. Crowne engineers the entire last set up to find out how much Russo really cares about him. This was the only way for a man like him to find out. Dunnaway in essence plays Crowne's inner voice; rather have Crowne talk directly into the camera the director uses his therapist and although the troll is a modest one I think she plays it with a great deal of style and panache

Casino Royale

The best Bond since From Russia With Love
I confess I rather lost interest in Bond a short time after Roger Moore took over the franchise. I was familiar with Flemmings novels and the tone of Moore's Bond was so far removed from Flemings (or Connery's interpretation) I just couldn't bring myself to watch. When Dalton replaced Moore I had simply no interest in the genre and that remained true after Pierce Brosnan took over as Bond--I saw Brosnan in Die Another Day and had to admit he made an excellent James Bond. I think what turned me off to the whole genre was its apparent focus on silly chase scenes, near slapstick humor, and adolescent fantasies about scantily clad gorgeous females. Fast forward to Casino Royale...

Daniel Craig is without doubt the closest thing to an Ian Fleming Bond thus far. Sean Connery was very very good but Craig plays the character closer to the tone in Fleming's novels, where Bond is simply an accomplished cold-blooded assassin and a cold hearted bastard. Even before I saw the movie I figured Craig would be perfect for the roll.

The opening sequences set the tone for Bond's ruthlessness and the breakneck pace of the free running chase sequence is without doubt one of the best chases I've ever seen on film. The choice of an on foot chase rather than yet another mindless car chase was a brilliant decision. The man being chased by Bond is a professional free runner (an extreme sort) and one of the originators of the sport: This man did his own stunts and Daniel Craig did all of his including the high elevation efforts some 200 ft above the ground. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) makes for a perfect 21st century Bong girl: She is stunning yet intelligent and cool under pressure; the perfect foil for Bond. These two have just enough sly humor to keep the film from getting too intense. All of the bad guys are perfectly cold blooded and ruthless especially Mads Mikklesen as Le Chiffre, and his beautifully sinister girlfriend Valenka (Ivana Milsevic). All of the supporting actors are equally excellent. In fact, it's hard to find a weakness in this movie but one does exist: This is a whole in the plot. I've watched the movie at four times and I simply cannot figure this out.

Bond and Lynd have escaped the clutches of Le Chiffre and his henchmen (and woman) and are sailing around the Mediterranean. They stop in Venice to resupply and Lynd appears to double cross Bond. Bond won an enormous amount of money at a high stakes poker game and this was supposed to be wired to the UK government who funded Bond's entrance into the game. Lynd withdraws the funds with the intent of giving it to the bad guys who retained the services of Le Chiffre. Bond gets wind of this and follows Lynd and interrupts the transaction. A fight ensues where Bond offs his adversaries but during the fracas, Lynd ends up seemingly trapped in an elevator. The building, located in Venice, is built on the water and Bond manages to begin a collapse of the structure into the water. Lynd's elevator ends up in the water. Bond had every intention of killing her for the double cross but ends up trying to set her free. Lynd has a guy which she uses to lock the elevator gate and the elevators sinks underwater with Bond still frantically trying to free the woman. It is clear that Lynd purposely took her own life, a point which the movie obscures and never clarifies. It turns out that she traded the money for the life of Bond and herself but that doesn't explain why she let herself drown. Based on previous Bond films, any woman who manages to obtain Bond's love has to die and Vesper Lynd was no exception; yet, it would have been nice to close this loose end...perhaps in the sequel.

Anyway, the loose plot end is a minor point. The movie is terrific but be forwarded: The tone of this Bond is completely different from any previous movie: Connery comes closest but Craig is the more ruthless. Anyone looking for an adolescent fantasy would do well to rent another DVD. This is an adult spy thriller intermixed with what is really a poigant love story. On the face of it, this mixture would seem improbable but Craig and Green make it work.


Just a minor point
I hate to quibble with a comment but I had to offer some follow up to the comment regarding the disbelief of a German secret weapon during World War I. The concept for a wave type weapon has its origins before World War I with Nicola Tesla, who first postulated the notion of what has become known as scalar waves. Modern physics denies that such waves can exist but Tesla was convinced that they did and according to some he provided it (Tesla Horwitzer). The British actually developed the first theoretic underpinnings for a sound weapon of the type depicted in Biggles and frankly I thought that is where the idea came from. We "moderns" think far to much of our capabilities. What is happening today is that some open minded scientists are revisiting discarded Victorian science. How many people know that the modern principles of William Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic principles are taught today in a truncated form and that the missing parts may in fact provide the theory for effective wave weapons (ever wonder why the US government spends so much time on Star Wars technology?). By the 1930s, the Germans were developing a number of secret weapons including the so called death rays. I think it prudent to give early modern humans credit for being just as creative as our generation and a lot more open minded.


Excellent movie
I have read quite a lot on Shackleton and Antarctic exploration more generally, and, the movie Shackleton provides a reasonably decent introduction to the man and what has been called the "Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration." In terms of exploration technique, Shackleton was more like Amundsen than Scott but in fact he exhibited something of both. Shackleton was burdened by his English background but liberated somewhat by his career in the Merchant Marine. Scott was an RN officer and suffered from ego and Victorian overconfidence. Shackleton originally tried to obtain a craft like Nansen's Fram, which was used in an Arctic Drift of some 3 years in the 1890s but the lack of funds forced him to obtain the ship that he eventually used; a well-made craft, suitable for use in ice but not built to withstand the crushing pressures of moving ice. Whereas a ship with a rounded hull like Fram was simply forced to the surface by ice pressure, Endurance, with its squared-off sides, was gripped by ice and easily crushed.

What Shackleton accomplished is perhaps unparalleled in the annals of survival during any era. Surviving for more than a year on ice floes in tents and then navigating in small boats to an island hundreds of miles distant required more than skill and physical endurance. Shackleton was imbued with considerable luck but he also understood the capabilities of men under pressure and how best to harness human will. He was also unquestionably brave. Perhaps even more remarkable than his survival on the ice and trip to Elephant Island, was his "Boat Journey" across the "Roaring 40s" to New South Whales; after spending almost 2 years out of doors! This journey was successful not so much because of Shackleton but owing to the navigational skills of Skipper Frank Woosley, who wrote a book about it (Shackelton's Boat Journey); a remarkable book that fills in the details left out of the movie and the book about the popular 1914-1916 expedition on which the movie was based. Had Woolsey been so much as a half degree off in his calculation, Shackleton would have missed New South Wales and died somewhere in the South Atlantic.

In the 1980s, several mountain climbers attempted the journey across New South Wales. These men were in excellent physical condition and had modern equipment. One man ended up with a broken leg and the trip took much longer than that required by Shackleton. The leader of the 1980s group was unable to understand how Shackleton made the trek at all without maps, compass, equipment of any kind, and in a weakened condition after more than two years of exposure to the elements and poor food.

Were Shackleton and his men a breed apart? Could anyone living today survive such an experience? What humanity attained before the Industrial Revolution and mechanical power became widespread is remarkable. Humans have become dependent on all manner of technological aids and it remains to be seen if even well trained and experienced people could attain the achievements of our ancestors. Keep in mind that while Shackleton's journey was extraordinary, it was not the only story of its type. Scott's tragic run for the South Pole is incredible in its own right; although marred by Scott's egotism, ethnocentrism, and ignorance. Peary's adventures in the Arctic are rather incredible but then so were the deprivations experienced by most men who were foolish enough to risk Arctic and Antarctic exploration during that period. Perhaps the Norweigians alone can boast that their polar explorations were the best organized and equipped, staffed by qualified men who were used to the cold and willing to adapt whatever techniques that allowed them to achieve their objectives. Virtually every English expeditions was marred by disease and death while at the same time exemplary of valor and bravery.

The movie is in my opinion reasonably accurate, with fine performances, and a compelling story. I never found the movie to drag and wished it was a little longer.

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