Friday, September 30, 2005

"Gee, Davey. Do you think it was ... "

Nobody likes a smartass ... unless they are making fun of the other side (via Slate):

Let's face it: The problem with science has always been that each new discovery unleashes thousands of new questions and ambiguities. So really, the more we discover new stuff, the stupider we get. Clearly, that isn't working. ID says we shouldn't bother ourselves with resolving scientific inconsistencies or untangling puzzles. We should recognize that what God really wants is for us just to stop learning.

Think of the applications. Science is, after all, teeming with unresolved conundrums. What if we just recognized, for instance, that we can't make the Standard Model of particle physics work? This theory, which purports to describe all known matter - including subatomic particles, such as quarks and leptons, as well as the forces by which they interact - is plagued by scientists' failure to observe something called "proton decay." Now, if we apply the ID principle to particle physics, no one ever needs to put on a lab coat again. Quarks and leptons? They're made of God.

And so are quartz and leprechauns.

There are many thorny medical mysteries doctors can't explain: How can pluripotent stem cells give rise to any type of cell in the body? Why is the genetic marker for Huntington's disease characterized by an excess of trinucleotide repeats? What accounts for the phenomenon of spontaneous remission in some cancers? With intelligent design, we don't ever need to find out. Years from now, we'll all lie in our hospital beds while ID-trained doctors hold our hands and assure us that we are merely dying of God.

We'll all be able to huddle around our radios and listen to Car Talk as a family. After the question is posed, we can all yell out in unison with Click and Clack that the mysterious drut-drut-drut coming from that lady in Vermont's carburetor is ... "God!!"

And Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit will be vastly improved when Mariska Hargitay can look ruefully over at Chris Meloni, shake her head over the dead victim's limp frame, and shrug: "Heck if I know what happened. It's a real mystery. I guess we'll have to get a warrant for God." Sigh. "Again." Cut to closing credits.

For a more mature analysis on ID, Slate offers William Saletan's view.


Years ago, one of my older brothers was living out in Macclenny, a rural little town west of Jacksonville. At one point we had some very heavy rains while he was out of town and his place flooded. In his backyard, he had some rabbits in individual cages that were built up about three feet off the ground. It wasn't high enough, apparently, and the rabbits all drowned inside their cages.

I remember thinking at the time how horrid a way to die that was with the dread building slowly as the water rose and there was no means of escape. I wouldn't wish that kind of death on anything or anyone.


According to inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch, they had no food or water from the inmates' last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on Thursday, September 1. By Monday, August 29, the generators had died, leaving them without lights and sealed in without air circulation. The toilets backed up, creating an unbearable stench.

"They left us to die there," Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate told Human Rights Watch at rabbits Parish Prison, where he was sent after the evacuation.

As the water began rising on the first floor, prisoners became anxious and then desperate. Some of the inmates were able to force open their cell doors, helped by inmates held in the common area. All of them, however, remained trapped in the locked facility.

"The water started rising, it was getting to here," said Earrand Kelly, an inmate from Templeman III, as he pointed at his neck. "We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared. The one that I was cool with, he was saying 'I'm scared. I feel like I'm about to drown.' He was crying."

Some inmates from Templeman III have said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison.

Thanks to This Modern World for relaying this little-known Katrina story.

"Solsbury Hill" was a nice touch

I found a link to an altered trailer for The Shining on no less than three of my regular sites yesterday (Defective Yeti, Little Yellow Different, Metafilter) and it is indeed worthy of mention.

This is the winner of a contest where people were told to re-edit a movie trailer to make it seem as totally different a sort of film as possible. Incredibly well done. Apparently the guy who did it was recently contacted by the Vice President of Warner Brothers who liked it too.

Two other entries include some slice and dice work with West Side Story and Titanic.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Monty Python meets Microsoft

I've lately been trying to get rid of a pop-up problem on my laptop, and I came across a very cool little site called in the middle of my research. Not only does it have a great URL, but it also has a classic Terry Gilliam drawn foot stomping on that damned animated paperclip on the front page. Very therapeutic.

"And knowing is half the battle."

Excuse me while I briefly reminisce about my geeky past and bemoan the fate of childhood fixations:

What the flying f*ck happened to G.I. Joe?!?!

I caught a commercial for the new cartoon series over the weekend. Apparently, the owners of the franchise have decided that since the kids are all into Anime these days, then so goes Joe. The result is a series that barely resembles what most of us remember from the 1980's. Of the original good guys, only three main characters remain: Duke, Scarlet and Snake Eyes. Snake Eyes (Old vs. New) hasn't changed much because, well, Ninjas never go out of style. Duke (Old vs. New) is still the alpha male lead, though he looks more Street Fighter-ish here (In fact, is it just me, or does he too closely resemble another "Duke" we all know and love?).

And then there's Scarlet (Old vs. New). Good Night Irene, how the hell can that be Scarlet?!?!

I know what some of you are thinking. I mean, It's not like we're talking about classic Disney animation or something. G.I. Joe's basic purpose was to sell action figures, both then and now. So what if they're using giant mechs instead of jeeps and helicopters? The toys will sell all the same. Still, there's something disheartening about people immediately willing to jump on the bandwagon of Anime and completely abandon all that had come before it.

And it's not like I have anything against Anime. I personally think Cowboy Bebop is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But there's something to be said for retaining the old because there was something appealing there, instead of immediately jumping into what's trendy in order to cast as wide a net as possible. At least they didn't change Cobra much, but then why would they need to. After all, bad guys in the form of "a ruthless terrorist organization" doesn't get any more topical.

(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Kid Gloves

One of the latest rumors to recently gain strength on the web is that President Bush is hitting the bottle again. I hope this isn't the case. The main reason is that, well, it's just a terrible thing to happen to anybody, even someone I'm not terribly fond of. It would be particularly tragic that his willpower would have finally broken after nearly 20 years of sobriety. Second, it would be a tremendous loss of morale for the country if it were true, and we all have enough on our plate right now.

Finally, I have to say, that I fear the tremendous spin that Karl Rove would engineer (through pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter) if it comes out. I can see the talking points as clear as day: "You see? Do you see what you've done to him? You bastard liberals in the media and the Congress and in the general public have driven him to this with all your pointless protests! You should be ashamed!" (They would say all of this despite all the reports that his aides filter his news for him and have made efforts to distance protestors via "Free Speech Zones").

My fear of this kind of meme is that there will be little we can do to defend ourselves. Whatever we do, we're going to look like schmucks. The chief argument (i.e. that Bush brought all this on himself) will not wash with the easily-swayed public. Especially since, as with 9/11, they will be looking for a large and easily attacked target onto which to focus all aggression. Could the reason behind his renewed alcoholism be that unprovoked war he botched which has killed nearly 2,000 American soldiers and countless civilians? No, It must be Dan Rather!

This all reminds me of a David Cross comedy routine where he describes how Bush's supporters encourage and protect him like he was this fragile child. "We're all treating him like he came in third place in the Special Olympics," Cross says. "As a nation we're like, 'Hey, good job! You're doing a great job there buddy! ... Look here's a reporter who wants to talk to you, wants to ask you a question ... DON'T ASK THAT QUESTION! DO NOT ASK THAT QUESTION!'"

Let's hope that Bush is not as susceptible to criticism as his supporters' actions may suggest. If this really is the case, then we have a much bigger problem than Dubya falling off the wagon.

Friday, September 23, 2005


A new word via Defective Yeti:
Rovenge (rO-'venj), n: Politically motivated retribution. The White House sought rovenge against Joseph Wilson.

Pass it on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Betsy Ross was a C+ student

On the Internet, eventually, everything will be rated and critiqued. Everything.

An explanation and a completely random comment

Though I haven't yet mentioned it here, the library I work at is in the midst of a massive move to a brand new building (due to open November 12). This has us busier than normal, and so the posts are going to slow a bit.

And now for the completely random comment: The Jackie Brown DVD has a compilation of trailers featuring Robert Forster and Pam Grier (separately), most of which are very cheesy action films from the 1970's. The total running time is about an hour and you have the option of playing all of them together instead of selecting them one by one.

This may be the greatest DVD extra I've ever seen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tongue Sandwich

If there was any credence to the Intelligent Design theory, then this story would prove that God is one twisted Mo Fo.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monument Building

I meant to post this a week ago for the fourth anniversary of 9/11. Better late than never. I hereby present the winners of the 9/11 LEGO Commemoration Contest:

Most Impressive - Spencer R.

Most Miniature - Anthony Salemo

Most Promising - Sean Kenney

Most High - Joe Beresford

Most Invisible (tie) - Joe Rossi and Steven Ferriolo

Apparently, embarrassing Alfred Molina wasn't enough

There are ripoffs...and then there are RIPOFFS.

Compare and contrast.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Our one side trip out of D.C. last week was up to a little town called Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The reason for this was a long-held desire of mine to visit the Brandywine River Museum.

Backstory: Back when I was a Senior in High School, I was given a biography project to do. I cannot remember the exact details of how long it was, but I do remember that it was the most in-depth, researched paper I had been given to do up until that point. The person I chose was Howard Pyle, thought of by many to be the "Father of American Illustration". I studied his life and works, which included The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and The Story of King Arthur and his Knights (the first book of his I bought and the inspiration for choosing his as my subject). I got an "A" on that paper, but more important was my increased admiration for Pyle's work.

Pyle opened an art school in Wilmington, Delaware that attracted artists who would become some of the most prolific of their time. Included among these were Jessie Willcox Smith, Harvey Dunn, Percy Ivory, and Frank Schoonover. Most prominent were Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth; two men who followed in Pyle's tradition of illustrations for adventure stories such as The Arabian Nights (Parrish) and Treasure Island (Wyeth). His influence can be seen in their works, which have a quality about them that speaks to the little kid in all of us.

In terms of film, Pyle's influence can also be felt. Though the script of The Adventures of Robin Hood is not take from Pyle's book, The visuals are. One look at the scene where Friar Tuck carries Robin across the river and comparing it to Pyle's original illustration conveys that. His innate sense of adventure that pours from his books is very much in line with the acrobatics of Errol Flynn. Pyle's text was actually used just once for the basis of a film: The Black Shield of Falworth starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. Hopefully, this will soon see the light of day on DVD.

All of those men I mentioned above, including Pyle, are represented at the Brandywine River Museum. It was the first time I had ever seen any of their works in person, so it was a great thrill. In their gift shop, I picked up two prints that were remarkably inexpensive. The first is a N.C. Wyeth print "It hung upon a thorn, and there he blew three deadly notes" that is more two dimensional and staid than his other more action-packed works, but is still very nice. The other is a Howard Pyle print, but not medieval in theme (as I couldn't find one available). Instead, it is one of his last works entitled "DuPont Powder Wagon Carrying Powder to Commodore Perry in 1813". As much as I wanted one of his more adventurous pieces, I'm liking the one I got more and more. There is such a reality to his work that I sense far more than in other artists. I'm glad to now own a piece of it.

Sidenote: Several years ago, I came across a series of those children's books which take classic literature, shorten it, and include simple illustrations on every other page to communicate the story. Among them was Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood with someone else's illustrations but with Pyle's text. Not to besmirch Pyle's writing ability, because he was able to transport readers by word as well as picture, but doing a version of his works with text and without pictures is like doing a micro-budget stage version of The Matrix.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

To all the B&B's I've known before

As a rule, Mrs. Mosley and I stay at Bed & Breakfasts when we go on vacation. The rooms tend to be nicer and the breakfasts are often delicious. For our trip to D.C. last week, we stayed at the the Adams Inn in the bohemian neighborhood of Adams-Morgan. On the plus side, it was located on a beautiful tree-lined residential street and always had cookies on hand in most of the common rooms. On the negative side, they only served a Continental breakfast and their AC (our room had a window unit) left a lot to be desired. Still, we enjoyed our stay there and wouldn't mind going again.

Since I'm on the subject of B&B's, here's a list and description of all the others that Mrs. Mosley and I have stayed at:

Angel of the Lake (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada): A very elegant B&B that the female owner had created out of her own home. The French toast was top notch, as I remember, and it was convenient to the charming downtown district. Our room, though, was on the small side and the bed ... uh ... squeaked excessively.

Pimblett's B&B (Toronto, Canada): This is possibly the most eccentric B&B we've ever stayed. It's owned by an equally eccentric British expat packrat (say that five times fast). He was quite a character. We enjoyed both his basement restaurant down the street (Great shepherd's pie and fish & chips) and his dog, Bertie (whom my P.G. Wodehouse fan of a wife just adored).

Dickert House (Jacksonville, Florida): We stayed at this place after putting up with no power for almost a week due to the hurricanes last year. Our room actually had two floors, with a living room on the ground floor and a bedroom above. A very nice setup, though you should watch your head if you're over six feet tall when going down those stairs. Damn, that smarts!

Allison House (Quincy, Florida): This was for the purpose of attending an FSU football game last year. Since we were a little late in planning the trip, we had to resort to staying in a town that was ten minutes outside of Tallahassee. It had a great hot breakfast. It also was just several blocks away from the quaint town square, which Mrs. Mosley and I took advantage of for an evening stroll.

Victorian House (St. Augustine, Florida): This is where we spent our honeymoon, and the location was perfect. To be able to lie in bed and hear horses clop by on cobblestone streets is just priceless. We were able to walk to most of the places we wanted to go. The breakfast was a little frou-frou with quiche two mornings in a row. A piece of advice to the owners: Sometimes a guy (and gal) just wants some old fashioned pancakes and bacon. MMMMmmmm, that's good eating!

Fantasia B&B (Charleston, South Carolina): This was a small side trip we took in July of 2004. The room opened onto a porch with wicker rocking chairs and a great view over the rooftops. The owners were a really charming couple, and Mrs. Mosley wants to return one day simply to see them again. I'm all for it, though we'll be sure to go when its cooler next time, lest we once again come very close to heatstroke.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Holocaust and The Dirty Dozen

At the Imperial War Museum in London, they have a vast, stark-white miniature model of a Jewish concentration camp, complete with train and masses of people herded out of boxcars and into buildings. When I recently visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., I saw a similar white miniature. In this one, however, we are graphically shown the four-step process of the extermination: Jews ushered into buildings, forced to strip, gassed to death, and the bodies finally shoved into ovens.

As emotional exhausting as the rest of the museum is, this piece got to me most. Perhaps it was because it was three dimensional, and brought forth a reality that even graphic B&W photos could not. Perhaps it was seeing the artist's depiction of the Jews in their death throes, crammed in the underground "showers", their faces twisted into Munch-esque screams, and climbing over each other for some non-existent means of escape. Perhaps it was, in the format of the sculpture itself, how the museum showed the killing of millions as a "process", mechanical in it's execution, as the Nazi's themselves must have viewed it. I think it was all of these and even more that I simply cannot convey in words.

So, what in the hell does this have to do with The Dirty Dozen?

Well, in the miniature, the Jews being gassed is shown in a cutaway. Above ground, we see a Nazi soldier placing the gas container into a vent that will dispense it to the underground chamber. This tiny detail jogged something in my memory. As those of you who have seen the film might recall, the ultimate mission of the Dozen is to blow up a French chateau used by the German high command and their wives for R&R. Something goes wrong and the Germans, for their safety, lock themselves into an underground bomb shelter. The remaining of the Dozen barricade the door and toss explosives into all the squat air vents of the shelter. We see those in the bunkers fruitlessly pawing at the vent gratings where the explosives sit and we know they will be unable to do anything to prevent their imminent death.

When I first saw this scene, the only thing that I remember thinking was how the filmmakers were able to shrewdly include Jim Brown's biggest talent (i.e. running) into one of the last big action scenes. Now I look at those air vents and wonder if the writer wasn't trying to draw some parallels here. Obviously, you're not going to find many people who will mourn the deaths of Jewish prisoners and German soldiers equally, but when you take into account how these Germans were (a) unarmed, (b) trapped and (c) accompanied by their civilian wives, the difference between the two becomes murkier.

Perhaps I'm a bit slow when it comes to understanding some film subtext, but it didn't occur to me when I first saw this years ago how "Dirty" referred to more than just how the Dozen weren't allowed to bathe during their training. These military criminals were given a chance to be soldiers again. Not only soldiers, but heroes. And you can sense some of them truly gaining confidence and pride in themselves for the first time in years. Then they were told of the mission, and they realized that they were simply being given the dirty work. Their not needed because of extraordinary talent, but rather because any other self-respecting soldier would find such a mission as noble as shooting someone in the back.

Somehow that film is going to have a whole different feel to it the next time I sit down to watch it.

(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thus spake Mrs. Mosley

Mrs. Mosley has an affinity for graveyards. No, she's not anywhere close to being a Goth. Rather, she grew up around a very old cemetery that her father assists in caretaking for. She loves the sense of history that comes with such a place and considers it more of a living ground than a dead one. She prefers the older cemeteries with lots of different trees on the grounds more than the new ones.

Now, having said all this, we were driving through Maryland last week and passed by a modern graveyard with absolutely no trees. Upon seeing this, Mrs. Mosley made a statement about the dangers of too much sun and too little shade. It was a fair statement, but it didn't come out the way she meant it. She looked out over the rows upon rows of sun-drenched graves and casually proclaimed, "All those dead people are gonna burn."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Posting on the Potomac

Well, my droogies, it was an interesting week last week.

As I said in my last post, Mrs. Mosley and I vacationed in Washington D.C. last week, and a lovely vacation it was, too. The weather, as with all our previous trips, was miraculously cooperative with some nice cool breezes and zero rain. We hit all the major big spots, save the White House and the Capital, and came away being very satisfied with our time there.

There are too many observations to confine to one post, so I'm declaring this week to be "D.C. Week" here at Acrentropy. I'll be posting some random and not-so-random thoughts from our trip all this week starting tomorrow. Stay tuned.

And, in case your wondering, no, I didn't take the opportunity to go view Rehnquist in repose at the Supreme Court. I had enough dead people on my list to see during my week there without adding another one.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Leaving on a jet plane ... er ... train

Mrs. Mosley and I are boarding a train this afternoon for a week's vacation in lovely (and we hope comparatively cooler) Washington D.C.

I'll see you folks again on September 12th.

Responding to the Response

There's been a lot of commentary on the government response. Here's two I wanted to reproduce. First, an excerpted bit on Atrios from the NYT in response to Dubya's insistence that no one could have predicted this:

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.

So why were New Orleans and the nation so unprepared? After 9/11, hard questions were deferred in the name of national unity, then buried under a thick coat of whitewash. This time, we need accountability.

And then here's are some comments from the Daily Kos site:

The last twelve hours of news coverage has been nearly overwhelming. Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, others, even unapologetic partisans like Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson -- everyone is asking where the government is. (No, I haven't turned to Fox News. I don't have the heart, today.) Anderson Cooper lost it interviewing Sen. Mary Landrieu, countering her litany of thank-yous to a series of politicians with his own encounter with rats eating a body that had been left abandoned in the street for 48 hours. Paula Zahn boggled at FEMA director Michael Brown's declaration that the reason about 15,000 shelter seekers at the New Orleans Convention Center have gone without food or water since the day of the hurricane is because FEMA didn't even know the refugees were there until today.

The common televised theme is of reporters traveling to hard hit areas in New Orleans or the smaller communities, and reporting no FEMA presence, no National Guard presence, no food, no water, no help -- and this is day 5. "Where is the government?" has been the predominant theme of the day. Apologists are being met with barely concealed disgust, in more and more quarters. Bush administration cuts to the levee system are being widely reported. FEMA inaction is being roundly criticized by ever-more-urgent live feeds from disheveled media figures with stunned expressions.

The Convention Center situation appears to be horrific, with deaths of elderly and infants due to dehydration already now occurring. It's not clear if anything can be or is being done tonight, or how many will die between now and the morning, or what will happen then.

The lawlessness is rampant. It's important to note, however, that the lawlessness wasn't rampant on Monday. It wasn't rampant on Tuesday. We heard only twinges of it on Wednesday. Today, from the sounds of the reports, a city devoid of all hope devolved into absolute chaos.

It is nighttime again in New Orleans, and after four days of no food, no water, no communications, no security forces, and no apparent discernible plan that they can see, trust and hope that rescuers will arrive seems all but gone. If the forces had arrived on Tuesday, things would be different.

It is simply too stunning, too shocking, too soul-draining. Nobody knows where the emergency relief has been. Nobody can quite understand why the response to the catastrophe only now seems shuddering to life.

The politics are omnipresent, but present only a hollow shell behind which a sea, an absolute frothing sea, of much worse realizations are crowding every mind. This was a disaster the country had been preparing for. This was one of the disasters most predicted, most feared, most planned for. There was two days of advance warning, as the massive, category 5 hurricane shifted purposefully towards New Orleans. This was no terrorist attack -- this time, there was warning. This time, there was knowledge.

And yet, the much-reshuffled domestic security resculpted as a result of 9-11 simply didn't show up. It wasn't there. FEMA, which has been hacked, shuffled, and gutted in the last few years, proved unable to respond to a catastrophic emergency situation. The catastrophic emergency situation, along the Gulf Coast, the one that sounded the alarms two days before landfall, the one that triggered the warnings of nightmare scenarios known for years in advance, and yet if there was any advance plan at all, any knowledge at all, any fathoming at all of how to respond in the fourty-eight hours most critical for the survival of the victims, it didn't show up. The roads were clogged, the islands were flooded, the levees were breached, and homeland security wasn't there, leaving each state, each town, each police force, each wrecked band of shell-shocked survivors to fend, and make do, while convoys were organized and strategies prepared with seeming obliviousness to the urgency of the numbers and clocks. There is... almost nothing meaningful to say.

The apparent and most likely explanations for the failure, known long before the fact, are almost shattering when reread today, while the ongoing catastrophe unfolds around us.

We have witnessed two disasters this week. The first was an act of nature. The second was not. The second disaster, still ongoing, is unforgivable.

That's the only word that comes to mind, a word I keep repeating to myself. These deaths, these men, these women, these infants dying now in these hours didn't have to happen. They did not have to die waiting for convoys to gather outside their city or for reservists to stand alongside their shattered police forces. They did not have to wait in darkness and fear for help to arrive, only to struggle for days without that help ever coming.

This is not politics. This is not partisanship.

This is unforgivable.

Donate what you can.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Reviews: 12 Angry Men (1957 & 1997)

In 1957, a young television director named Sidney Lumet was given a stage play to adapt for the screen that was to star a cross section of superior actors. This became 12 Angry Men, one of the finest films ever made. It's certainly one of my all time favorites, and is one of the few DVD's in my collection that I'm in danger of wearing out.

Lumet went on to director a number of other classics, including Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. Flash forward forty years and we change from a young director whose best is yet to come to an older one whose best is a bit behind him. William Friedkin, famous for The French Connection and The Exorcist, was tapped to direct a new version of 12 Angry Men for the Showtime channel, this time updating the script and adding a lot more color to the cast.

I had fond memories of first watching this back in 1997. Having recently purchased a VHS copy and watched it again, I found that I still liked it, though there are some elements that are less admirable upon second viewing. In detailing these, I'm breaking down the films into the two dozen actors featured and comparing each pair that played the same role. So here we go. (Spoilers abound for those who haven't seen either version)

Juror #1 (Martin Balsam & Courtney B. Vance) - With #1, also known as the Foreman, we have a pair of very steadfast characters. Both are assistant coaches for High School Football and, though never mentioned, seem to be upstanding family men. Their patience is worn thin in both versions by the rudeness exhibited by #10, and they offers up their position as Foreman to him perhaps with the thinking that presiding over intelligent discourse is going to be rough going with some in this group.

Other than this exchange, the biggest moment for this character is a monologue concerning a cancelled football game to #8. The original simply uses this as some slight character development to flesh out #1 a bit more since he does very little arguing in the film. In the 1997 version, the story is lengthened to describe one player who remains on the bench in the rain. Vance strikes an emotional chord of hopelessness in his telling of this story, and perhaps is echoing his position as Foreman over some members of the jury.

Juror #2 (John Fiedler & Ossie Davis) - There was a tonal change with this casting. Though it is perhaps not the original's fault, #2 ended up being more of a comic character in the original. Fiedler, who recently passed away, will forever be known as the voice of Piglet in the "Winnie the Pooh" cartoons. Piglet's voice is not an affectation either, but rather Fiedler's own. So when we hear this voice amongst the chorus of jurors in the midst of deliberations, we cannot help but smile a little. Other than this detail, Fiedler effectively plays the role of the wimpy little guy that nobody listens to.

The also recently deceased Davis, on the other hand, plays the role more as the "easily dismissed old man", which is the role ostensibly for #9. Of course, Davis is over forty years older in this film than Fiedler was in 1957, so one cannot help but notice the age difference when comparing the two. It should also be noted that Davis exhibits a timidity that Cronyn does not, so there is that distinction between the old timers. Yet as good as Davis is, I have to wonder how much better it would have been to keep the original character concept by casting, perhaps, "Mr. Cellophane" himself, John C. Reilly.

Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb & George C. Scott) - It seems that when it came to this pivotal character, the directors and actors had different opinions on how to approach him. In a stroke that seems to be drawn from the modern mentality that audiences need things spelled out for them, Scott's character is very vocal about his estrangement from his son in the beginning. Cobb, on the other hand, reveals this detail quietly in a conversation with #2. Director Lumet lets this information kind of float out and merge with all the other character development that is done in these small preliminary conversations before the first vote. Director Friedkin, on the other hand, emphasizes this moment as Scott bellows louder than Cobb. It is a strong declaration that practically screams at the audience "THIS WILL BE SIGNIFICANT LATER!".

The final moment for #3, and for the film, is handled much in the same way. Scott is a little over the top in his performance. Cobb, even while raging, is understated. So is Lumet, as we get a nice shot of the picture that falls on the table as Cobb empties his pockets of notes. He rips up the picture in anger and then is immediately regretful of his action. Friedkin decides not to emphasize the photograph, perhaps from fear that he would be accused of too closely following the original. I suppose it may be unfair to ask even greats such as Scott and Friedkin to match the power of Lumet and Cobb's work, but one cannot help but see their update as a pale imitation of the original.

Juror #4 (E. G. Marshall & Armin Mueller-Stahl) - The erudite businessman that is #4 has always been a favorite. Though he is one of the last to yield to #8's arguments, it's for all the right reasons. The other "Guilty" diehards such as #3 and #10 respect #4 while simultaneously not quite connecting with him. Mueller-Stahl's heavy accent reminds one of #11 in the original, but this aspect of the reimagined #4 never comes into play story-wise. As it is, Mueller-Stahl is highly effective in this role and easily the match of E.G. Marshall.

Juror #5 (Jack Klugman & Dorian Harewood) - Aside from #10, #5 is the only racial change of white to black that makes an impact on the proceedings (Indeed, the only time that #1 and #2's race are ever an issue in the newer version is when #10 prefaces an appeal to their sympathies with an emphatic "Brothers,"). In the original, Jack Klugman plays #5 as a quiet man of a lower economic class than the rest. Harewood, on the other hand, also plays a character of a lower economic class, but also has his race become an issue in terms of his confrontations with #10. Harewood brings a little more intensity to his role than Klugman exhibited, and does a lot for the tension at key moments in the film.

Juror #6 (Ed Binns & James Gandolfini) - A self described "workin' man", #6 is a blue collar stiff who is a decent guy and is willing to reprimand even the fiercest of other jury members when they are rude to #9. #6's defense of the old man immediately marks him as a sympathetic character. Binns and Gandolfini both play him well, though Gandolfini is given an extra scene with #10 which provides a nice humorous touch to the film.

#6 is notable for being given one of the more memorable and haunting lines in the script. The line is given to #8 during a casual conversation in the bathroom and remains the same in both versions:

Juror #6: "Well, I'm not used to supposin'. I'm just a workin' man. My boss does all the supposin' - but I'll try one. Supposin' you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?"
In both versions, it's the only argument by any of the other eleven jurors that give #8 pause. Our justice system is a flawed one, but it does work. One of the chief drawbacks is how reasonable doubt could send a killer loose. Though it is often said that it is better to let a killer go free than imprison an innocent man, the choice can be seen as a "lesser of two evils" problem. One can imagine that playwright Reginald Rose thought he would be remiss for not mentioning this fact, and it gets it's the attention it deserves in both versions.

Juror #7 (Jack Warden & Tony Danza) - Ladies and Gentleman, the textbook definition of "Jerk". This was more or less Mrs. Mosley's sentiment when we watched the remake recently and it holds true for both versions. Being at the head of the table directly opposite the Foreman, one could argue they are painted as polar opposites: One who takes his job very seriously and one who endeavors to be serious as little as possible.

Both actors play the role well, though there is a difference in their final words. It seemed to me in the original that, after changing his vote and being confronted by #11, Warden does not legitimately feel a change in his opinion but rather is tired of it all and wants it over with. Danza, on the other hand, relents and repeats his Not Guilty vote in a way that communicates he really does believe it. My guess is that he became convinced early on that there was reasonable doubt, but imagined that staying with the guilty plea (i.e. the majority) would end the proceedings sooner. Both versions of #6 are reprehensible, but in their own distinct way.

Juror #8 (Henry Fonda & Jack Lemmon) - And now to the star of our show. Though this is an ensemble drama, we are immediately put on the side of #8 for a number of reasons. First, by virtue of the fact that we enter the story knowing nothing of the case, we are automatically interested in a discussion of it instead of automatically sending the boy to the electric chair. Second, well, the character is played by Henry Fonda and Jack Lemmon; actors who have both secured reputations through the professional lives as decent men.

#8 is a bit more complex than simply a "devil's advocate". As much as we are inclined to side with him, he does not initially make it easy. He does not argue for something noble like innocence, but rather argues for something nebulous like doubt. There are a lot of "I don't know's" and "maybe's" to his speech patterns, and he can sometimes be as frustrating to the audience as he is to his fellow jurors. His is a tough role in the beginning, as it's supposed to be, but his arguments are only half his function. The other half is his ability to stoke the others into thinking for themselves into new directions. This process is part of what makes the character, and the movie itself, great.

Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney & Hume Cronyn) - As I mentioned with Juror #2's description, Juror #9 is the frail old man who almost instantly shares sympathy and respect with #8 and stands by him even amid the shouting down inflicted on him by other jurors. There is remarkably very little difference between the performances of Sweeny and Cronyn. I particularly like that little smile and twinkle in his eye when he says "20/20" to #4. This is wonderful work by both actors.

Juror #10 (Ed Begley & Mykelti Williamson) - Here's where we get into the most striking and daring changes made with the new version. In the original, #10 is a white bigot who cannot see past the suspect's race when passing judgment. This culminates in a racist monologue where, one by one, the other jurors turn away from him, ignoring his comments. Begley reacts to this with a sort of sad desperation. #4 gets in the last word as he tells #10 calmly, "Now sit down and don't open your mouth again." #10 then goes to at a small desk in the corner where, when the final vote is called, he nods his head in defeat for "Not guilty". There is a sense that, through the rejection of all the others, #10 has come to some realization about the way he views things. Some might say that such a drastic change in point of view is a little too tidy and quick to be realistic, but that's the movies for you. In the end, it works well enough.

When we get to the remake, #10 has been changed to an angry black Muslim who takes a dim view of other races, and perhaps some of his own as well. (See the description of Juror #5). In his diatribe, the monologue is punctuated with swearing (a modern touch that is a bit more realistic. Besides, this is Showtime!) and, more disappointingly, shouts back from the other jurors. When #10 gets to the end of his monologue and #4 delivers the same last line, #10 retires to a corner desk as well, but to brood rather than compose himself. When the last vote comes, #10's "Not Guilty" comes not from a changed man, but a man who simply acknowledges defeat in this small battle. There is no change of heart, but rather a man who has said his peace and refuses to budge in his essential opinions.

This change in #10 marks a more cynical take in this remake. An additional set of lines given by #8 as a comment on #6 confirms this viewpoint. When #9 gets flustered, #8 gently pulls him back into his chair and tells him, "He can't hear you. He never will". It's a reflection of a time when things have gotten angrier and more coarse in terms of public discourse and, for better or worse, Friedkin makes special note of it.

Juror #11 (George Voskovec & Edward James Olmos) - Again, we see a significant change in ethnicity between the two versions. The original had Voskovec as a German or Slavic immigrant. Olmos, who has sometimes played different ethnicities (and in one instance, played four or five simultaneously in the role of "Gaff" in Bladerunner) than his own, seems to be sticking with a Hispanic character this time out. Both are described as watchmakers and both place an emphasis on politeness.

The change in ethnicity is significant. Though the original presented #11 as an immigrant who serves as the idealistic voice of America (and, consequently, it's legal system), the new one retains this aspect and adds another layer. In the original, there were no jurors who shared the race of the defendant (I've actually read the theory that Klugman as #5 could be Hispanic, but I personally can't see it). In this new version, in which the defendant remains Hispanic, we now have a juror in the person of #11 who shares something in common with him. This presents a new dynamic with #10 as his remarks on the defendant now cut into #11 (Hispanic) as well as #5 (born into slums). It's one of the many changes Friedkin made that works very well.

Juror #12 (Robert Webber & William L. Petersen) - Aside from his goofy monologues about life in the advertising industry, #12 is defined by not being able to make up his mind and being bullied by #3. His lack of backbone doesn't even draw the favor of #4 when he changes his vote to his side, and he is forced to recognize the seriousness of the situation he's in. The character who starts off as wishy-washy and shallow soon is engaged in the debate along with everyone else, and ends this episode slightly more mature than when he started. Both Robert Webber and William "C.S.I." Peterson do some subtle work here.

There are other differences between the two versions. As I mentioned, this one does have a fair amount of swearing as the tensions get high, along with the slamming of doors that was not present in the original. The judge, who only appears in the very first scene, is changed from a seemingly bored white male (Rudy Bond) to an earnest white female (Mary McDonnell). Thought the best version remains the original, I would recommend either to anyone, especially if they have never seen the story before. It's simply too damn good to miss.

The 1957 Version: Ten out of Ten
The 1997 Version: Eight out of Ten

(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)

Long live Queen Cate!

Every once in a while, there's a good idea for a sequel:
Geoffrey Rush and Clive Owen will star opposite Cate Blanchett in Working Title and Universal Pictures' The Golden Age, a sequel to 1998's Elizabeth. Variety says the film will be directed by Shekhar Kapur, who helmed the first movie.

Blanchett will reprise her Oscar-nominated role as Queen Elizabeth I. The first movie focused on the transformation of the young woman into a steely monarch in the 16th century. Rush will return as Sir Francis Walsingham, who in the first film was the architect of the queen's ruthless campaign to solidify her power and stabilize rule in England.

The follow-up will focus on the relationship between Elizabeth I and Walter Raleigh, to be played by Owen.

Of course, this differs from other sequels in that there is a wide historical record from which to draw material. Still, it'll be nice to see Cate kicking ass and taking names as Elizabeth again.

Keith David Quote of the Month: September 2005

Back in 1995, Wayne Wang directed a small film called Smoke starring Harvey Keitel. It was largely based on the writings of Paul Aster and the action centers on a cigar shop in Brooklyn (shot on location). When the film finished shooting early, the crew found themselves with the cigar shop available for another full week. Wang, Aster and Keitel then proceeded to write and create Blue in the Face, a series of connected small stories which touch on the essence of Brooklyn itself. There are tons of cameos, including one by Keith David as the spirit of Jackie Robinson. The quote makes more sense if you see the film, which is worth it:

Jackie Robinson: "A day in Brooklyn just wouldn't be complete without stopping for a Belgian Waffle, would it?"