Monthly Archives: December 2003

Weir at Sea

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)

Plot wise, there is not a great deal to Peter Weir’s sailing picture Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British vessel Surprise is alone at sea off the coast of South America with orders to intercept the French vessel Acheron. After an opening skirmish, Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) plays a cat-and-mouse game with the French ship, which significantly outguns his own. Along the way he must deal with inexperienced officers, insubordinate and superstitious crewmembers, and particularly the doubts and war-weariness of the ships’ doctor Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany).

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Spelling A

Review – Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz, 2003)

The Spellbound in question is not Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, but rather the absolutely riveting, Oscar nominated documentary about spelling bees in the United States. As with so many of the best documentaries (including the one that beat it to the Oscar, Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine), it is at once hilarious and yet kind of disturbing. It follows eight children to the National Spelling Bee, with the first half of the film patiently establishing their personalities of the contestants, and the second half showing the relentless, pressure cooker finals that utilise a gratuitously unfair (but extremely exciting) sudden death format.

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The Departure of Disney

The news in the last couple of weeks that Roy E. Disney (and another board member, Stanley Gold) have resigned from the board of the Disney corporation after disputes with Michael Eisner draws attention to the depressing future that faces the studio. I have no inside knowledge of the studio, so have no idea how effective Roy E. was as a board member. But even if his role was purely ceremonial, the symbolism of what’s occurred is bad enough. Roy E. Disney is Walt Disney’s nephew, and the son of studio co-founder Roy Disney. Given the elder Roy’s much larger then generally understood role in the studio’s operation (he ran the business end until after Walt’s death, and the studio was initially the “Disney Brothers” studio), Roy E. represented a direct, tangible link to the heritage of the company, which has always been its greatest asset. It’s long been easy – and largely accurate – to disparage Disney as just another soulless media conglomerate, but Roy E. was still there as a human link to the glory days of the thirties when Walt blazed his trails. (Sure Roy E. was just a kid at the time, but we’re talking symbolism here).

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