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Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits



  • Zeppelin Terror Attack

    Discover how the first civilian bombing unfolded as Germany’s Zeppelins rained fiery terror on London in World War I.



  • History nut Rob Lowe eager to portray JFK in O'Reilly adaptation

    BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Rob Lowe, who has publicly aligned himself with the Democratic party in the past, says it was not a concern to take on a TV movie adaptation of Fox News pundit and conservative Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Kennedy.“I didn’t think about it at all because the book had come out and been so successful,” said Lowe at the annual Television Critics Association panel Wednesday in Beverly Hills.O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy, which came out last year and was a best-seller, examined the events leading up to President John F. Kennedy’s death.Lowe plays Kennedy in the film, and says like O’Reilly’s book, National Geographic Channel’s version will present a unique perspective on the country’s 35th president....



  • 'Drunk History' puts intoxicated twist on history

    NEW YORK (AP) — To hear comedian Derek Waters tell it, the idea for ‘‘Drunk History’’ came about when ‘‘New Girl’’ actor Jake Johnson had a few drinks and was trying to tell him a passionate anecdote about the late singer Otis Redding.‘‘He was trying to tell me that Otis Redding knew he was gonna die. I didn’t really buy the story,’’ Waters said in a recent interview, ‘‘but he was so passionate about it and he wasn’t able to articulate everything. I just kept picturing Otis Redding reacting to this guy (Johnson) telling a story about how he knew he was gonna die and I thought, ‘That would be cool to reenact.'’’ (Redding was killed in a plane crash in 1967.)Soon after, Waters and director Jeremy Konner were making Internet shorts. They filmed actor Mark Gagliardi getting drunk and reciting a historical story that was a bit messy because of the alcohol. A celebrity would then act out the story, complete with hiccups, slurring or other signs of an inebriated storyteller.The videos were posted to the website FunnyorDie.com in late 2007. Celebrity participants included Johnson, Michael Cera, Nick Offerman and Ryan Gosling....



  • Kevin Gover: Johnny Depp’s Tonto Isn’t Offensive, Just Weird

    Kevin Gover (Pawnee) is the director of the National Museum of the American Indian.I admit that I went to see “The Lone Ranger” expecting to be disappointed and quite likely offended by the portrayal of Indians in the movie. Both Disney and Johnny Depp, the star of the movie, had promised to remake Tonto, the iconic Indian from the television series of the 1950s. Mr. Depp’s Tonto, they said, would not be simply the “faithful Indian companion” to the title character. No, indeed. Mr. Depp’s Tonto, they said, would be the star of the movie, a character who would make Indians proud.



  • Noah Gittell: Lone Ranger "Like a Western as Told by Howard Zinn"

    Noah Gittell is the editor of ReelChange.net, where he writes about film, politics, and culture. He is a former independent filmmaker and political-campaign staffer. ...In discussing the progressive politics of The Lone Ranger, most critics have focused on the depiction of Native Americans, and with good reason. Over the history of the American Western, Native Americans have often been depicted as faceless savages whose efforts to defend themselves were merely obstacles to America's Manifest Destiny. Some cinematic efforts have been made to subvert this convention (The Searchers and Dances with Wolves are probably the most famous examples), but The Lone Ranger takes things a step further, making Tonto and John Reid (who will become the eponymous hero) dual protagonists. There is room for debate on this; some critics still feel that Depp's performance, with its use of "red face" and halted speaking style, is dehumanizing, but the increased role for Tonto is at least a step in the right direction.



  • Derek Waters Explains His TV Series ‘Drunk History’

    For an inebriated storyteller, enthusiasm often outpaces execution. “They have to get it out, no matter how many times they mess it up,” said Derek Waters, a creator of “Drunk History,” beginning Tuesday on Comedy Central.He would know. Since 2007, this actor (“Suburgatory,” “Married to the Kellys”) and writer has asked friends to throw back a few, then tell him their favorite historical tale as a camera rolls. The resulting videos, hits on Funny or Die, pair the sloppy narratives with self-serious re-enactments — including the drunken flubs and profanity — by famous actors. “The tone is, these are guys who are trying as hard as they can to make a history show, but it’s just not going that well,” Mr. Waters said.



  • Thomas Rogers: German War Guilt: The Miniseries

    Thomas Rogers is a writer living in Berlin.One hour into "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" ("Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter"), the hit new German miniseries about World War II, a group of German soldiers is trapped in front of a Russian minefield. Among them are two of the series' protagonists, Friedhelm and Wilhelm, brothers from Berlin with strong jaws and very precise haircuts. Friedhelm is a bookish, sympathetic Berliner who has thus far been reluctant to kill anyone while his heroic older brother, Wilhelm, is the group's admired leader. But now they face a problem: How to get themselves to the Russian line?Unexpectedly, Friedhelm has a suggestion: force some Russian farmers, whom they've recently detained, to walk in front of them. A few minutes later, the first Russian hits a mine, setting off an explosion of mud and blood. Friedhelm stares on, unmoved.



  • Pearl Duncan: Lost History in Downton Abbey

    Pearl Duncan is completing two books, tentatively titled, “DNA Adventure, Rebels’ Birthright Reclaimed,” and “A Pirate Ship of Old New York:  Colonial Slavery, The Founding Fathers and a Remarkable 9/11 Discovery.”Now that it is announced by the producers of Downton Abbey that Gary Carr, the star of the BBC’s Death in Paradise, a mystery set on a Caribbean island, will join the show as an attractive, charming and charismatic jazz musician, some viewers who love the popular British television show set in the 1920s, flushed with Edwardian style, fashion and upstairs downstairs shenanigans, ask if the show will continue to be historically accurate.  Why do they ask?  They ask because the jazz musician being added to a show about British aristocrats and their servants is black.



  • Peter Sagal’s ‘Constitution USA’: You have the right to remain hammy

    PBS’s four-part “Constitution USA With Peter Sagal” rides along with the humorous host of NPR’s popular “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” quiz show as he traverses the nation in a too-cheeky-by-half attempt to find and narrate evidence of the U.S. Constitution in glorious action. This mostly means Sagal interviews legal experts, historians and even the people who advocate those low-flow toilets that drive libertarians ape. He also hangs out with gun proponents, medical marijuana sellers and the like, while trying to look casual.A chunk of the first episode, premiering Tuesday night, is spent outfitting Sagal with a star-spangled Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which will put him on the road and directly in touch with the people.“Do I look like a dork?” Sagal asks a saleswoman in the Harley boutique as he tries on a helmet and snug leather jacket. (“You are so conceited,” she replies, in a spot-on comment that should entitle her to a lifetime supply of answering-machine messages recorded by Carl Kasell.)



  • Berlin show offers a glimpse of the history of Uruk, pioneering metropolis in present-day Iraq

    BERLIN — Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is offering visitors a glimpse of perhaps the world’s first real metropolis in a new exhibition that traces the long history of Uruk, in present-day Iraq.Artifacts, including clay masks of demons, figurines of rulers, limestone ducks used as weights, a prism listing Sumerian kings and clay vessels used as water pipes, grace the exhibition “Uruk — 5,000 Years of the Megacity.” They date back as far as the 4th millennium B.C.The show marks a century of excavations at Uruk in which German experts have played a prominent part. But even now, organizers say, less than 5 percent of the sprawling site in the Iraqi desert about 260 kilometers (160 miles) south of Baghdad has been explored.Michael Eissenhauer, the director of Berlin’s city museums, said Wednesday the exhibition aims to illustrate the importance of Uruk, “the first identifiable major city in the history of mankind” — believed to have had about 40,000 inhabitants in the 4th millennium B.C. and city walls more than 9 kilometers (5 1/2 miles) long....



  • Gene Seymour: What the Jackie Robinson Film Leaves Out

    Gene Seymour spent more than thirty years writing for daily newspapers, eighteen of them as a movie critic and feature writer for Newsday. He has been published in Film Comment, The Nation, Washington Spectator, Los Angeles Times and American History.The 24-hour news cycle yielded one of its better sitcom interludes last week when Rand Paul went to Howard University, the historically black college, to tell its student body why it needed the Republican Party. The libertarian junior senator from Kentucky, at one point, asked for a show-of-hands from those who knew that most of the African Americans who founded the NAACP more than 100 years ago were Republican. When several dozen hands shot up, Paul insisted he wasn’t condescending to them, saying, “I don’t know what you know.” You won’t get a better title for this sitcom than that.



  • Al Green, William Bell, Mavis Staples, others to help celebrate Memphis soul at White House

    WASHINGTON — The White House is going to sway to the sounds of soul next week.A dozen music legends and contemporary artists ranging from William Bell and Mavis Staples to Cyndi Lauper and Justin Timberlake will be on hand Tuesday to help President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama celebrate Memphis soul music.Performers will also participate in a workshop on the history of Memphis soul for students from around the country....



  • Smithsonian Channel gets North American rights to ‘Richard III’ documentary

    Smithsonian Channel has snagged exclusive North American program rights to a documentary about the recent discovery of King Richard III’s remains under an English parking lot that ended a 500-year mystery.When “The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed” made its world debut on Channel 4 in the U.K., nearly 5 million viewers tuned in.You know Richard III — bad back, nasty guy, snuffed his young nephews in the Tower of London to snag the throne, then decided he’d trade his kingdom for a horse? Played over the years by Kenneth Branagh, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ian McKellen and Laurence Olivier?...



  • Miramax & Martin Scorsese developing ‘Gangs Of New York’ TV series

    Miramax and Martin Scorsese have teamed to develop a television series based on Scorsese’s 2002 film Gangs Of New York, which was released by Miramax. The film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz focused on early confrontations between rival gangs in New York in the mid to late 1800s. The series, co-produced by Miramax and GK Films, will draw from the events surrounding organized gangs at the turn of the century and shortly thereafter in America, not only in New York but in other cities such as Chicago and New Orleans and the birth of organized crime in America....



  • Michelle Dean: Is 'Game of Thrones' Escapist Enough?

    Michelle Dean's writing has appeared at The New Yorker's Page Turner blog, Slate, Salon, the Globe and Mail, and a variety of other publications.Game of Thrones is a pageant of a show, all velvet-curtain costumes and dye jobs that somehow never extend to the eyebrows. The accents are weird and randomly assigned, particularly the ones that are English by way of Denmark and New Jersey. And the CGI’s not all that different from the psychedelic drawings in 1970s cartoons. But somehow, every year, it rolls around just in time for people to feel like the real world’s a little much to handle, and we forgive its pieties and excesses for a few hours of entertainment.In fact, it rarely feels like the ten hours we get each season are enough, and that feeling arises in spite of the amount of violence, exploitation, rape and suffering on the thing, which makes the daily headlines of life in America look like they were written by Captain Kangaroo. This season, whose prose analogue is the third book of the trilogy, A Storm of Swords, starts dark—the rotund and lovable Samwell Tarly running from one of the blue-eyed northern zombies they call the Others, or White Walkers—and will end darker. I won’t say a lot more, except to say that the first big twist comes three episodes in and things devolve from there....



  • Dan Jones: How ‘Game of Thrones’ Is (Re)Making History

    Dan Jones is the author of “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings And Queens Who Made England” (Viking), to be published on April 22.Is it possible for a historian to dig “Game of Thrones”? Short answer: yes. The new season of the HBO smash premieres tonight – and while it is the sight of dragons in flight and white walkers on the prowl that excites the fantasy heads, it is the show’s deep roots in “real” history that has given the show such huge crossover appeal.There have been plenty of successful fantasy shows on the major cable networks in the last two decades of television. The staple subject matter is vampires and werewolves (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries”), but successful shows have also been spun out of time travel (“Doctor Who”), Greek mythology (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) and a cryptic meditation on the potential permeability of spacetime (“Lost”).



  • Exhibit recalls Jewish refugees and Nazi prisoners held together in Canadian prisons

    VANCOUVER, Canada (JTA) -- When Austrian and German Jews escaped Nazism by fleeing to Britain during the 1930s, the last thing they expected was to find themselves prisoners in Canada, interred in camps with some of the same Nazis they had tried to escape back home.But that's what happened to some 7,000 European Jews and “Category A” prisoners -- the most dangerous prisoners of war -- who arrived on Canadian shores in 1940. Fearing a German invasion, Britain had asked its colonies to take some German prisoners and enemy spies. But the boats included many refugees, including religious Jews and university students.Though Britain alerted Canada to the mistake, it would take three years for all the refugees to be freed.“It was a period where everybody was closing their doors,” said Paula Draper, a historian who worked on an exhibit about the refugees currently on display at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. “But Canada closed its doors more tightly than almost anybody else.”...



  • Michael Kimmage: Philip Roth as Phenomenon of the American Spirit

    Michael Kimmage is an associate professor of history at Catholic University. He is the author of  In History’s Grip: Philip Roth’s Newark Trilogy and The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers and the Lessons of Anti-Communism; he is also the translator of Wolfgang Koeppen’s Journey Through America.

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