March 19, 2007

Verging On Obsession

Watched the History Channel's blatant attempt to capitalize on Frank Miller this weekend--Last Stand of the 300. They did a nice overview of Spartan culture and Thermopylae and Themistocles and the Greek navy, and they actually had a budget of over a dollar to do it!

So what did they do? They filmed everything in weird blue and sepia tones, just like the movie based on the graphic novel, complete with total ripoff of the oracle scene--all blue and slo-mo and dreamlike. And while I appreciated the fact that this piece had much higher production values than the "Fat re-enactors in period military costumes" fare we usually get, the blatant copykat visual style kind of creeped me out.

As did Xerxes' hair.

And the pensive brown gaze of Leonidas. He was PENSIVE! Because he was SACRIFICING HIMSELF! PENSIVE, I SAY! By the 35th close-up, I was aware not only of King Leonidas' tendency toward pensivity, but also that he has 125 eyelashes on his upper left eyelid alone.

And the weird Moses-looking dude who apparently spent all his time standing on cliffs around Sparta, contemplating infants. Aaaaaaand scene!

And the sad, sad Persian who sat crying in the (CGI) rain. Seriously, who knew that the Persian Empire's biggest export was emo?

Overall, though, I enjoyed it. I'm going to see the actual movie this weekend, and I can't wait. Especially after reading this guy's take on why critics are so pissy about the whole thing. This excerpt just nails it:

The critics, however, were mostly hostile, and frequently venomous. Many reviews made the same points:

• “300” is not sufficiently ironic. It takes its themes (duty, loyalty, sacrifice, the preservation of Western civilization against enormous odds) too seriously to, well, be taken seriously.

• “300” is campy — meaning that many things about it can be read as sexual double entendres — yet the filmmakers don’t show sufficient awareness of this.

• All of the good guys are white people and many of the bad guys are brown. (How this could have been avoided in a film about Spartans versus Persians is never explained; the distinctly non-Greek viewers at my showing seemed to have no trouble placing themselves in the sandals of ancient Spartans.)

I guess they couldn't grok the fact that you can have a straightforward movie filmed in graphic novel style without a bunch of kitschy crap or world-weary ironic self-awareness slathered on in order to make it "acceptable" to the intelligentsia.

Sigh. The more I'm around the intelligentsia, the less apt their title seems to be.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at March 19, 2007 12:21 PM | TrackBack

If you're weary of the intelligentsia, then you and the Hublet really need to spend some time at our house. The Boy can be corrupted by my guys. We'll dumb things down fer ya reeeeeaaaal goooood.

Posted by: Jimmy at March 19, 2007 01:35 PM


Wondering where you've been - is all well with Scott?

Posted by: BAW at March 19, 2007 04:02 PM

"Sigh. The more I'm around the intelligentsia, the less apt their title seems to be."

Bear in mind that that's the *lumpen* intelligentsia you're talking about. Of course, there are a lot of them.

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock at March 19, 2007 06:32 PM

We're all good. Things are a little upside down and chaotic (even more so than usual) at our house, but it'll work out.

Posted by: Jimmy at March 20, 2007 08:51 AM

I saw the same special. Given that we keep watching the same shows, I'm still convinced that you have control of my TIVO.

The reason that they did all those lingering closeups of the various leaders was that CGI is expensive and they had two hours to kill. If they'd have cut to the chase it coulda' been a one hour show without any loss.

I haven't seen the movie yet either, but I did enjoy the geography lesson which will make it far easier to visualize the action.

Posted by: Locomotive Breath at March 20, 2007 09:34 AM

Jimmy -

Good to hear.

LB -

Yeah, I remember being surprised when the show was 2 hours - there was a lot of fast-forwarding with the TiVo.

But I'm a total sucker for homemade History Channel productions, so I endured. And the unintentional hilarity is always a bonus.

Posted by: BAW at March 20, 2007 11:52 AM

They were Greeks, fighting against Persians. They were Europeans fighting against Middle-easterners. What color should the be? Green?

The one thing that surprised me about 300 was not that it was done up as a comic book movie, but that they actually got as much right as they did.

And the gliteratti is just upset that anybody in any time (and especially in Europe) believed that to die for your country was a good thing.

Not to mention the fact that the movie made freedom and self-determination sound like something worth defending.

Posted by: Zendo Deb at March 20, 2007 08:44 PM

Zendo Deb -

What?! Unironic belief in something approaching a value system!?


I'm beyond tired of all the ironic self-aware garbage that keeps people distanced from actually picking a side and standing for something, and I'm ready to send the post-modern ironists a memo with a ladder, so that they can get over themselves, sack up, and find convictions and the courage to have them.

Posted by: BAW at March 20, 2007 09:48 PM

I can't decide if all the earnest posturing about this movie is annoying or hilarious. Especially people looking for all of these political undertones that just plain aren't there. Why does Xerxes have to be a analogy to George Bush or Osama Bin Laden or Tony Blair or anyone else? Why can't he just be Xerxes? Why can't a movie just be a MOVIE? The fact that it seems to have pissed off all the right people just makes me like it more. I thought it was really innovative and well done.

Posted by: Emily at March 22, 2007 02:08 PM

Emily -

I know. It would be one thing if folks were trying to project their metaphors du jour onto a completely fictional tale, but the fact that it's an historical event that occurred a couple thousand years ago and that can stand on its own merits seems to escape people.

Yes, we tend to view history through the modern-day lens, but I haven't seen this level of film-induced agitation since The DaVinci Code came out. And it was fiction!

Posted by: BAW at March 22, 2007 03:38 PM

If you want a real hoot, go to and check out the user comments section for the movie.

There's so much "the picture wasn't accurate", "it was raaaaacisssst", and "it's all Bushitler's fault" stuff that I wonder if I somehow saw the wrong movie and only hallucinated that I'd seen The 300.

One heck of a movie - strong men and strong women. People in the theater actually cheered when Gorgo stuck it to that twit.

Posted by: Unknown Professor at March 22, 2007 08:25 PM

The people harping on the lack of historical accuracy are the best. It's a movie based on a comic book. It's deliberately stylized and simplified for the sake of entertainment. Besides, when has anyone *ever* made a movie that was historically accurate? Even the ones that try the hardest to come as close as possible don't get it right. If you read or watch anything on the making of Master and Commander, you can see that Peter Weir practically had an entire staff working on every detail and you'll still be able to hunt down people pointing out about 1,000 errors in that film.

Posted by: Emily at March 23, 2007 09:30 AM

You might also enjoy what this SF writer (one of my favorites) John C. Wright wrote about them:

I cannot remember any film since HIGH NOON that took the masculine notion of honor with perfect seriousness.

In fact, I almost cannot picture how this film got made. You see, we have known for a long time that there is a Beast in service to the Powers of Darkness, a Chimera, that sits outside the gates of Hollywood, and consumes with fiery breath any film that contains anything decent, kind, patriotic, or honest. The Chimera has three heads: the goat will let pass a film if it contains pointless sex scenes; the lion will let pass any film that splatters and drips blood; and the dragon will let pass any film that utters lies to mock this nation and her ideals.

So when this film came up for review in front of the Chimera, all the three-headed beast saw were the pointless prurient scenes (two of them) and the cartoon sprays of blood (thirteen zillion gallons) and he thought the film would corrupt the young, and so he gave it his imprimateur.

But the watchful beast was fooled. This film is about honor for honor's sake. Any man watching this who has not even tried to join the armed services will think less of himself.

Full text here

Posted by: Carbonelle at March 24, 2007 06:15 PM
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