Friday, November 14, 2003

A terrific phone conversation

I got a phone call today from Jeri Massi, the author of the Valkyries books, and what a pleasure to talk with her! She is intelligent, insightful, and actually very pleasant to talk with. I'm looking forward to interviewing her about "Valkyries" some time next week.

I'll admit, one of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to get paid for talking about great books!

I was delighted to see that Jane Kirkpatrick has included a transcript of my interview with her, as well as my review of "A Name of Her Own" and "Every Fixed Star," on her website. You have to do a little searching for it, but if you click on "Monthly Memo's" and scroll down, it's there. You can also read it on this blog. Check the sidebar for a link.


Master and commander Russell Crowe

I don't know what it is about Russell Crowe that appeals to me so much. I know he's not technically handsome, certainly not in a "pretty boy" kind of way, but in movies that I've seen him in, I find him strongly appealing.

USA Today gives Crowe's new movie, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
a great review today, with three-and-a-half stars. And USA Today movie reviewers don't go freely tossing those review stars around.

Mike Clark calls the Peter Weir-directed movie "mystically entertaining," and "a plain old good movie," and calls Crowe's performance "his second consecutive performance (after 'A Beautiful Mind') to better his Oscar-winning role in 'Gladiator.'"

I'm a big fan of Gladiator...more on that later...but the first time I noticed Crowe was in an apparently little-seen and much-panned Western movie called The Quick and the Dead.

He didn't even have a big part in the movie(or at least not big enough, in my humble opinion), which starred Sharon Stone as (improbably) a gunslinger who gets involved in a gunfighting competition to avenge her father's death. Crowe played a former preacher who is hated by the movie's villain, Gene Hackman. Crowe's performance made me sit up and take notice and ask, "Who is this guy?"

Gladiator only served to reinforce my admiration of Russell Crowe as an actor. And that's not the only reason I love the movie. If you love history, as I do, it is a must-see. (Yes, there is violence and gore, but almost no bad language and/or sexual situations.)

This movie also brings the marvel that was the Roman war machine to vivid life...and helps you understand the Apostle Paul's military metaphors when he writes about spiritual warfare. Talk about "fiery darts"!

After seeing Crowe as General Maximus, fit and powerful, it was stunning to see his transformation in A Beautiful Mind as a brilliant professor suffering from mental illness. There are certain scenes in which you can scarcely believe that this is the same man who was in "Gladiator." To me, that's one of the marks of a great so completely portray a character that you forget about previous characters he's played, or even his real-life persona.

As a Christian, I take a dim view of Hollywood, since I know there is little of real worth to come out of the movie-making industry. Yet, I truly enjoy quality movies that spin great yarns, portray fascinating characters, and are not diametrically opposed to a Christian world view.

I know that most Hollywood actors probably have philosophies and lifestyles that are the polar opposite of my beliefs, and I'm not saying I admire Russell Crowe as a person. (Although I do like the fact that he's taking a good deal of time off from acting to be with his wife and his expected baby, because he wants to immerse himself in fatherhood.)

But I can certainly enjoy and appreciate his acting...and I'm looking forward to, at some point, getting a chance to see "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" for myself.

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