Monday, August 29, 2011

It ain't over til the fat whale sings!

Moby Dick the OPERA

Article focuses on the actor/singer playing Queequeg, the "moral compass of the piece."

Fine and dandy. I just think it is amazing that they created an opera out of this. I am dying to hear the songs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not a Bad movie...

From August 21, 2011.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

All-Star Superman #5 reference

Probably the most obvious modern day cultural reference to Ahab and Moby Dick would be Lex Luthor's obsession with defeating the Man of Steel.

In the comic book All-Star Superman #5 (which is mimicked almost exactly in the cartoon film version of the story), Lex Luthor says,

"Did you know that Moby-Dick can be recited at a frequency so high that it becomes a sonic drill capable of carving through solid rock?"
(Quote from the subtitles of the movie version)

The reference is of course perfect. Lex Luthor, the richest man in Metropolis, and I think the planet in the DC Universe, has a lot of ego. His pride makes it impossible for him to accept Superman seemingly lording above him. His intellect always made Luthor the best. Now an alien, a metahuman, wins the love of others. He can't stand it. He must eradicate him.

This is what makes Luthor such a good idea for a villain at the best of times. The good writers use him right. John Byrne really helped by making Luthor the ruthless business man and not the idiot portrayed by Gene Hackman in the movies.

The Ahab reference fits, and the author Grant Morrison, uses it exquisitely just to drop the hint about Ahab's obsession. Brilliant.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Messing with perfection is just a new interpretation

This article: Why mess with perfection?
Some things, like classic movies, are best left in the past-don't try to remake them
Date published: 8/5/2011

By Cathy Dyson

While I heartily agree that most of what Hollywood is producing nowadays are simply remakes and reworkings of old movies, I don't understand her basic premise. If you agree with her, lots of plays would never get produced, or taking it the step further, books would not be made into movies at all. (If the novel is perfect, why waste a movie?) Every age can reimagine old movies. Sometimes, interpretations can thoroughly separate one movie from another. I constantly watch new versions of Hamlet just to see how they interpret the "To be or not to be" speech as a soliloquy or monologue.

Sometimes, technology can drive movies to be made better and more interesting. Sometimes, actors really can make it different. Maybe better, maybe not, but different. And isn't that what a classic is all about--new interpretations? Would the world be the same if we left the original version of The Bourne Identity alone??

I would not call the 1956 Moby Dick untouchable. From what I have seen of the new Encore one so far, I have actually enjoyed most of it. The problem of the narrative of the novel appears fixed, although I do agree with her that "Capt. Ahab was nice, almost cheerful, most of the time. Even when he was at his worst, or best, as an obsessed stalker, he didn't seem nearly as extreme as Gregory Peck did in the original."

And yes, you are simply going to fail if your only purpose is to compare Donald Sutherland's Father Mapple with the version portrayed by Orson Welles. That's a given, for any actor, and Sutherland is pretty darn good. However, you must distance yourself, as a critic, to analyze what the version you are reviewing got right and wrong. There will always be some comparison with other versions, but notice one key byline, movie critic: "Based on the book by Herman Melville." It does not say, "Based on the 1956 movie." Key distinction there. You have to see what the movie under review accomplished. Anything else is not being fair.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Let's watch a friendly Moby Dick!

I have no idea how this ever got started. A sweet little cartoon version of the evil whale:

Apparently, the actual cartoon is still under copyright and this is someone's home movie of recording one of those old 8mm things.

I guess it is no different than later when Hannah-Barbera turned Godzilla friendly. Same exact cartoon then, really.

I just don't get the whale--is he a kid? why is he so small?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Missed second installment of Encore movie

Sorry, but I missed the second installment of the Encore mini-series. I really wanted to watch it too.

But something happened at home that caused me to miss it. End of story.

Now I have to wait until Sunday night. Not too bad, I guess.

This is just the main reason why I barely watch cable TV anymore. I only watch my stuff, like Netflix, through my Roku device. What I want, when I want--and I can pause too!

Notes for part two coming soon then...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gillian Anderson on Moby Dick

Cool article here, entitled

"Goodbye Mulder, hello Ahab: Gillian Anderson talks 'Moby Dick'"

"Anderson plays Elizabeth, Ahab’s wife. As Melville sticklers will point out, Elizabeth is barely mentioned in a sprawling novel that has no real female presence."

And she is barely in any of the movie--I don't get why it had to be a famous actress...

"Anyway, there is a book out there about what might have happened to her post-Ahab’s demise. I haven’t read it but Ethan [Hawke] has because he has read everything about 'Moby Dick.'"

That intrigues me--does Ethan Hawke actually do this, read everything about Moby Dick? It is possible he was preparing for the role, albeit a kind of small role, even for him. I know Starbuck acts as the other side of the conscience but again, it is a small character, even in the movie.

"She can see his obsession starts to get stronger as he obsesses about taking revenge. It’s quite a beautiful story about God and man and fallibility and how mortals tend to think we have godlike qualities and that we are more powerful than the forces of nature. And he finds out he’s not. "

Yes, you can sort of see that she sees it coming. I just wish it had come out more in the movie. I really wish Ahab had been a bit more menacing or at least aloof to her. He is still loving and playful with her.

"When I got the job I read a good portion of the book, and one of the things I was really struck by was Ishmael, who tells the story, is constantly confounded by the fact that he can’t seem to grasp the essence of the whale …. It has been said that it’s about humans' inability to grasp God, the greater concept of God … but that’s not what you asked me! [laughs]"

So now what I want to know is if she had ever read the book before! According to the IMDB trivia page at, I think it was the character of Scully who was the fan, not the actress. Also notice that she didn't read the whole thing either. And she took the job, it appears, without ever having read the book, simply knowing that it was a classic. (And the limited role in this current movie is so small I cannot help but wonder if she is hard up for jobs...)

"It’s nice at the beginning of the miniseries to see [Ahab] with his wife and child, with a tenderness that is not anywhere in the book, from what I’ve read."

I agree with her analysis here. There is tenderness in the movie that is simply not in the novel. However, this is the one flaw I saw in the movie (at least so far after part one). He clearly loves his family. I just don't buy him rushing off to do this, unless later, somewhere unless I've missed it, he says something about him saving the world by defeating the whale, saving the world for his family.

And then on another purely cynical note, I can't believe a professional actress would say this: "I don’t watch TV, I don’t watch anything. " How do you hone your craft? How can you not see what others are doing? That's like a writer never reading another's stuff, or a director never watching another's movie. You have to see good and bad acting every once in a while.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My running commentary on watching Encore's "Moby Dick"

I tuned in for the world premiere--and I usually don't even watch regular TV anymore with my Roku and my Netflix. Remember, Encore just broke into this "original movie" stuff. This is their first one. This is the movie they decided to do first, to sort of lead the way for future endeavors.

Ishmael saves Pippin from a slave-beater to start it off.

Ahab looking through telescope at the Pequod getting ready--just as credits end! See--get Ahab involved faster!

Is that Ahab's son? A laughing Ahab?

He doesn't seem too asshole, maybe, to Starbuck, but not menacing.

Son: "Are you scared of Moby Dick?"
Ahab: "He's just a whale..."

Wife: "He isn't just another whale."
Ahab: "He's old, he's angry, he doesn't get enough attention from females...something we have in common." --just to get his wife over to him. He's playful with her! Ahab is playful with his wife--you can tell he loves her--would he give this up so easily. He does refuse to go to church with her, starting an understanding of him withdrawing from the world and questioning God.

Honestly, this background gives Ahab something to live for, to keep from self-sacrifice. I really think he should have been a bit mean or at least aloof to her. And I don't think that Gillian Anderson says more than 50 words in this movie--why is she even billed as one of the main actors. I think Donald Sutherland as Father Mapple says more.

Starbuck: "you said things in your fever...about the while whale, about death."

The Father Mapple speech is set up better than the novel, about being full of pride and not accepting help. This actually seems integral with what they've done for Ahab so far.

(It actually sets up a sequel--Son of Ahab's revenge!)

I assumed Elizabeth, Ahab's wife, would say something like, "Come back to us." I would have liked to have seen Ahab's reaction to this.

Boarding the ship in slo-mo was like The Right Stuff.

Ahab puts her picture in a drawer ominously.

I admit, it's grand, like a grand adventure set up like Lord of the Rings. And at least Ahab is infused in the whole thing. Ishmael, rightfully, is basically nothing but a character to introduce the viewer to new whaling/boating things. Ishmael is not focal; Ahab is focal.

An image of Ahab with a "halo" brings up a holy avenger allusion.

The scene where Ahab gets the men on his side seems rushed...why do they agree so quickly and so happily?

Ahab smacks the shit out of Ishmael, showing his seething anger boil to the surface momentarily.

It does seem adventurous. It moves. The bits and pieces move the narrative forward--they don't detain or stall the narrative.

Moby, seemingly chasing the Pequod for a long time, hits the Pequod just as they sight their first whale herd and try to lower the boats. Is he to be interpreted as protecting them?

Moby gently and ominously turns Ahab's boat in circles. It's a great little scene. Moby then breaches and destroys several whaling boats and Ahab laughs. This makes me believe that the men get on Ahab's side for revenge a little easier and quicker.

And that's it for part one. Honestly, I am intrigued. This is adventure, infused with the anger of Ahab. Although, I still think that they could have done better with the wife and son scenes. They still make me think that even Ahab would want to come home to them, and if the movie does not show me explicitly why he would give that up, then I don't think it does its job on that score. Now, if you take those scenes out, either entirely, or added a bit, it would have been more. But overall, I really want to see the next installment. In the end, that's a good thing.

The screenwriter seemed to understand all the failings of the narrative and fixed it. I wouldn't be surprised if he actually didn't have any wife scenes and he was told to add the scenes when someone wanted to add an actress. He did his best with them, but I can almost tell he didn't really want them.

Review #1

Encore's new mini-series as reviewed by Mark A. Perigard

"Call me bored." --that's great!

"...takes some liberties with Melville’s classic, particularly in his decision to depict Ahab’s home life, only alluded to in the novel." These are the Gillian Anderson wife scenes. I don't mind that idea so much as some of her dialogue--

From the review:

"'He isn’t just another whale, is he?' she says of Moby, who tore off Ahab’s leg in their first encounter. 'He went for you, didn’t he? They don’t do that, do they? It isn’t natural,' she says, sounding like a jealous wife. As well she should be. "

That above is eerily reminiscent of the scene in 2010: Moby Dick where the whale stares down Ahab in the beginning/

Fascinating: "As in the novel, there are digressions into the ship’s rhythm and business that easily could have been cut to make this a shipshape 90-minute adventure."

One of the comments on the site addresses that: "Yet your idea that it could be cut if only the 'digressions' about the 'rhythm' were cut does suggest you have little grasp on the metaphysical and philosophic elements of this, perhaps the greatest novel by an American author. It was not written for the 'twitter' age, thank God."

That is fierce loyalism to this novel.

Latest reviews of the Encore Moby Dick miniseries

Just links--I will analyze later...(Links are courtesy of the awesome Yahoo! email alerts)

Encore cable network takes another stab at 'Moby Dick'
New Orleans Times-Picayune Mon, 01 Aug 2011 06:18 AM PDT
New miniseries airs at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday (August 1 and 2) on Encore.

Top Picks
Worcester Telegram & Gazette Mon, 01 Aug 2011 02:49 AM PDT
"Moby Dick" (8 p.m. on Chs. WAM and ENCR. Part 1 of 2) Herman Melville's classic novel of whaling in the 1840s follows the adventures of vengeful and obsessed Capt. Ahab (William Hurt) as he pursues the great white whale that took his leg. Charlie Cox co-stars as Ishmael. Directed by Mike Barker.

'Moby Dick' gets fitted for mini-series
The Cincinnati Enquirer Mon, 01 Aug 2011 02:33 AM PDT
William Hurt and Ethan Hawke, stars of the new 'Moby Dick' mini-series, are latecomers to the novel.

âMoby Dickâ assumes viewer hasnât read book
Lawrence Journal-World Sun, 31 Jul 2011 22:10 PM PDT
Some books you just have to read. Like F. Scott Fitzgeraldâs âThe Great Gatsby,â Herman Melvilleâs âMoby Dickâ has suffered any number of unsatisfying screen adaptations. A book so filled with strange ruminations and poetry just doesnât hold up when boiled down for action.

Encore's 'Moby Dick' goes off the deep end
Boston Herald Sun, 31 Jul 2011 21:19 PM PDT
Call me bored. Encore's adaptation of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," the cable network's first original miniseries,...

Television review: 'Moby Dick'
Los Angeles Times Sun, 31 Jul 2011 20:10 PM PDT
William Hurt stars as Captain Ahab in the new version on Encore, but Herman Melville seems to be missing. William Hurt stars as Captain Ahab in the new version on Encore, but Herman Melville seems to be missing.

TV Highlights: âMoby Dick,â âKoran by Heartâ
Washington Post Sun, 31 Jul 2011 17:20 PM PDT
âMoby Dickâ (Encore at 8 p.m.), the two-night original miniseries starring William Hurt as Captain Ahab and Ethan Hawke as Starbuck, is previewed by Hank Stuever on Page C1. Ashley and the two remaining bachelors â Ben F. and J.P. â are in Fiji to meet her family on the season finale of âThe Bacheloretteâ (ABC at 8), which causes all sorts of drama, and not only because Ashley leaves one guy ...

Encoreâs lavish new âMoby Dickâ: There whale be blood
Washington Post Sun, 31 Jul 2011 16:30 PM PDT
High school English teachers, your attention please! I have wonderful and terrible news. Encore, that glorious waster of weekend afternoons on cableâs desolate seas, has finally decided to show something besides an endless loop of â Dumb and Dumber .â For its first offering, itâs bringing out âMoby Dick,â a lavish, exciting, well-acted and admirably thorough movie adaptation of Herman Melvilleâs ...

Television Review: Ahab Has a Wife and a Heart. Oh, and a Whale.
New York Times Sun, 31 Jul 2011 16:06 PM PDT
Encoreâs two-night mini-series âMoby Dickâ takes liberties with the novel, including a family back story for Captain Ahab.

TV critic's picks: Ahab's losing battle
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune Sun, 31 Jul 2011 12:36 PM PDT
It's been a while since I read my Herman Melville, but I still recall the 1851 novel "Moby-Dick" as a whale of a tale thanks to the author's ability to weave powerful Shakespearean language with a sense of adventure and a hint of dread that something lurks beneath the waters a lot more intimidating than Bruce the Shark of "Jaws."