Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A New Renaissance is Upon Us!

I've been out of the loop on upcoming movies, so I am indebted to the ever-delightful Carl Pyrdum for news that Beowulf (the movie!) will hit the silver screen in November. Unfortunately, it won't be directed by Mel Gibson. Which is too bad: I was so looking forward to a film with a script entirely in Old English. I had even pictured how it would absolutely have to begin: Charlton Heston, all bearded and grizzly, his face illuminated by firelight, shouting Hwaet!. (Hwaet, the first word of the poem, essentially means "pay attention, losers.")

Well, as the Anglo-Saxons would have said, wá lá wá! (to translate, insert expression of disappointment of your choice). The script is in modern English, and Charlton Heston is not in the cast. Instead we have Ray Winstone (as Beowulf), Crispin Glover (as Grendel), Angelina Jolie (as Grendel's mother), Angelina Jolie's breasts (as Angelina Jolie's breasts), and Anthony Hopkins (as Hrothgar).

I'm a little taken aback that Grendel's mom appears human in the film. I've always pictured Grendel as looking a little like Chewbacca. Since there weren't any female wookies in any of the Star Wars movies I saw, my mental image of Grendel's mother has always been much vaguer. I did, however, assume some kind of family resemblance.

But on to larger issues: in the past three years we've had a major movie based on the Trojan War, another on the Battle of Thermopylae, another on Alexander the Great, an HBO series on the civil wars that finished off the Roman Republic, and now a major movie on the only surviving Old English epic poem. Is it possible that the entertainment-industrial complex is so alarmed at what they've done to the nation's intellectual life that they are now trying to reconnect us to the wellsprings of our cultural heritage, the history and literature of the classical and medieval worlds?

What's next? I would be surprised if there weren't several movies based on Greek mythology in the works. If you've read any Greek myths, you know that people are always a) having sex and b) turning into plants. Ready-made plots with lots of nudity and opportunities for cool special effects. What studio would walk away from that?

The Song of Roland would make a great movie too: lots of violence, fighting between Westerners and Muslims. Everything an American audience could want. No sex as I recall, but I'm sure Hollywood will find a way.

The possibilities for television are endless. Every episode of the L-Word could end with a televised reading of one of Sappho's poems. Jerry Springer could invite mother-son couples onto his show to talk about what the Oedipus myth means to them.

I'm really excited. Ten years ago when I pitched my idea of a musical based on the life of the Emperor Caligula, directors acted like I was some kind of nut. But now....

What a great time to be alive. The American public will get a classical education just by watching movies. Kevin Sorbo might get regular work again. And studio executives will start returning my calls.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Hey, that's Ryan's dad on the OC!

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