Friday, November 26, 2004

Alexander the Bomb. Ollie Stone's new movie is getting terrible reviews -- "puerile" "uninspired, repetitious, tedious" "a 178-minute-long wall hanging" and "a bad movie of truly epic proportion." I like Stephen Hunter's review best:
[Stone's] Alexander, as expressed through the weepy histrionics of Colin Farrell, is more like a desperate housewife than a soldier. He's always crying, his voice trembles, his eyes fill with tears. He's much less interesting, except as a basket case, than Richard Burton's Alexander of far less enlightened times -- 1956 -- in Robert Rossen's "Alexander the Great." Burton got Alexander's dissipation, but also his martial spirit; this was, after all, one of the great light-cavalry commanders of all time and a general who fought by leading his troops, sword in hand, not directing them from some safe hill. But in this one you think: Teri Hatcher could kick this twerp's butt.

* * *

Then there's Angelina Jolie as Mom. Really, words fail me here. But let's try: Give this young woman the hands-down award for best impression of Bela Lugosi while hampered by a 38-inch bust line. Though everyone else in the picture speaks in some variation of a British accent, poor Jolie has been given the Transylvanian throat-sucker's throaty, sibilant vowels, as well as a wardrobe of snakes.
The whole review is witty and a work of art which should be read. [More: Read Mr. Bradley's take as well.]

Nevertheless, Alexander, the subject, should not be written off, even if Stone's flick is.

Stephen Pressfield has just released a novel of Alexander, The Virtues of War. Based on my read of one his prior novels, Gates of Fire, a novel about the stand at Thermopylae, I have moved this to the top of my reading list. In Gates of Fire, Pressfield not only tells the story of the stand, but he conveys a sense of the philosophy, the religion, and the social structure of the men and women of that period of time. It also makes the USMC's reading list.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Pressfield on Alexander:

But for me, Alexander's defining preoccupation wasn't sex or power or subjecting other peoples to his will (as I've read in other books, and which are all legitimate approaches.)

I believe his life was about heroic ambition, and I use the word "heroic" in the Homeric sense, that is, derived from an era of legend and from characters like Achilles and Heracles, who were semi-divine and who lived their lives according to a code that transcends what we would call justice or morality. Alexander did that too, but not in an era of legend, in a real historical era. He's accessible to us. He's "modern." But he lived, I believe, according to that ancient heroic code. In the loftiest terms, I think, he sought to achieve undying glory, to set a mark for the ages. But justice, or at least the concept of conventional justice, took a back seat to glory.
And this comport with my study of the ancient Greeks. Don't waste time with bad movies, read a good book instead.

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