Shorter Kyle, Shorter Me, Same Sherlock

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on January 6, 2010 @ 11:19 am

Kyle Smith boils down his argument against the new Holmes movie to objecting to the portrayal of Holmes as action man:

Must we filter every bit of popular literature through the wow-seeking now? … As for the badassery, please. Fencing (and, for that matter, boxing) were gentlemen’s pursuits. A gentleman is pretty much the opposite of a badass. If you want to show a guy beating up villains, why bother to call it Sherlock Holmes? Why not just call it “Die Hard with a Roommate”? The key to Holmes (and by the way, the fencing and the boxing were just character flourishes; he hardly ever solved problems using physical power) was his massive intelligence.

And I reply in a comment awaiting moderation that, no, he doesn’t use physical prowess to solve the problems, but a) that’s not what the movie shows him doing, and b) Doyle’s Holmes does use physical prowess to collar the guys perpetrating the problems, which is what the movie shows. I’ll grant that Doyle’s Holmes would not wade into the finale brawl on his own without Watson, Lestrade, and crew, which he does in the movie, but he definitely is prepared for, and triumphant in, physical confrontation. In A Study in Scarlet, just to take one example, Holmes tricks murderer Jefferson Hope into turning his back to him, snookers the handcuffs onto Hope, and then, joined by Lestrade, Gregson, and Watson, subdues Hope as he tries to throw himself out the window. One guy so ferocious it takes four, including Holmes, to wrestle him down and tie him up with towels. Yeah, no action there.

I think the main source of the disconnect is that while Doyle notes these things, he doesn’t dwell on them, doesn’t describe them in any detail, and thus doesn’t create anything approaching an atmosphere of danger and action. Holmes looks at clues, he sits and thinks, and at the end, he notes out loud the steps he took to reach his conclusion. But in between, there really is a lot of action. And Downey’s Holmes looks at clues, he sits and thinks, and he notes out loud the steps he takes to reach his conclusion. But in between, there really is a lot of action.

P.S.: Funny enough, in another theater in another decade, I probably would have been solidly on Kyle’s side of the question.

Previously: I Detected Some Holmes Under All That Sherlock

Every Night in My Dreams

Filed under:History,Movies,Sad — posted by Anwyn @ 10:51 am

James Cameron reportedly considering making a movie about the WW2 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Titanic was a good movie, let me stipulate up front, but these days I never watch it because it’s too sad. At the same time, it’s at least a little bit Disney-fying, for lack of a better term, of the wreck. I fear for the same treatment being applied to the WW2 bombings.

The double-bombing survivor Cameron spoke to passed away this week at the age of 93. RIP.

H/t: Lileks.

Noblesse Obliged to Whom?

Filed under:Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on January 5, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

A Facebook status meme going around for a while last year read: “I will proudly pay more taxes if that means someone less fortunate than I receives health care.”

If it were that simple, I’d cheerfully pay those extra taxes too. (Subject to a conversation on percentages, of course.) It’s not just about that. That’s only where it starts.

I responded to one person sporting the status, “And even if it reduces your health care and your family’s, too?” And he said, “Yes.”

I should also have asked, “And are you also willing to proudly fork over more taxes for people who are not less fortunate but who are just lazy freeloaders?” It’s not just about “fortunate.” He didn’t get to be an expert engineer through luck. He went to college, worked hard, and has been with the same company for over ten years.

I have a couple of unpalatable options here. I feel the more charitable is to assume that he only says that because he doesn’t really believe it would come to that. Like most utopian, semi-utopian, or somewhat utopian liberals, he probably doesn’t really believe it would pan out that way. We’re America! We’re smart! We have a lot of crappy socialist models to learn from! Surely no bureaucrat is going to put off my son’s operation six months or more because the doctors have no room in their schedules!

I have no trouble at all believing government-run health “insurance” would indeed come to that. I am angry about the current system as it is–it’s not “insurance,” it’s a service that pays your doctor on your behalf for which you pay far more than you’re ever likely to need to pay doctors and hospitals. It’s throwing bad money before good, and in my unexpert opinion it has driven up prices far beyond where they’d be without it. Health “insurance” should no more pay for routine doctor appointments than auto insurance pays for oil changes–that’s not insurance. Insurance is protection against something catastrophic and unforeseen, like a car accident or a chronic and critical disease. I’d far prefer to pay my doctors as I go, with a catastrophic-coverage backup, which is not really an option under our current employer-centric “insurance” system, because of government interference that doesn’t tax employer-provided coverage but only that bought privately. But even if we could do that, that won’t satisfy liberals who believe that everybody has an obligation to pay into a system that covers people who are too poor or too sorry to either buy health “insurance” or pay for their own health care. (“Sorry,” in this context, just means disinclined to take care of one’s self and responsibilities–the lazy freeloader.)

But that’s beside the current point. Government-run health “insurance” would come down to some bureaucrat postponing my friend’s kid’s operation, for the simple reason that while doctors and hospitals are not necessarily finite resources, the operation of government would provide heavy incentives for them to be self-limiting. The government, in its zeal to cover every person for every condition–i.e. make all medical care “free,” would find itself limited by the amount of money available and would have only two choices: Stop covering certain medical services or pay the doctors and hospitals less–probably, in the end, both. Who wants to enter a business where the government decides what you get paid for your services (excluding professions where the government is actually paying you for service rendered the government, not to a third party), giant student loans be damned? Only people with a truly high calling to heal people for healing’s own sake–a self-limiting pool. The number of doctors goes down. The number of people wanting to see doctors goes up. The federal government controls the purse strings. Conflicts of interest, to put it mildly, are inevitable. (more…)

I Detected Some Holmes Under All That Sherlock

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on January 4, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

Warning: The following are the disjointed ramblings of somebody trying to return to blogging after a months-long absence. Read at your own peril. Spoilers are few, but this will likely only make sense if you’ve seen the movie and/or read some Sherlock Holmes.


Kyle Smith really, really didn’t like Sherlock Holmes. Despite a large and growing set of indications that his tastes and mine are quite dissimilar, I have every respect for his powers of analysis and rhetoric and thus almost let his opinion talk me out of seeing it. That would have been a huge mistake.

I must be getting soft in my old age, because at first glance, almost everything Kyle said about the differences between Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock and Conan Doyle’s seems true, and yet I found the movie to be great fun, brainy, and even very moving. Almost everything Kyle said about the banal one-liners is true too, but he apparently let them overshadow the real dialogue, of which there was plenty, and the clever pacing and excellent fight scenes, which took what what is by now a very old formula about the working of Holmes’s mind and gave it new life.

This movie is like Sherlock Holmes as the Illusionist Meets the Pirates of the Caribbean at Fight Club, but for all that, it’s a great movie in which the spirit of Holmes does, in fact, despite his seeming differences from his literary namesake, rise again.

When I saw the trailer I knew the movie would be radically unlike Doyle’s Holmes. I was originally prepared to like it in spite of that–Kurt Loder’s comment that they should have called it Robert Downey Junior instead of Sherlock Holmes was right on the money–but I was not prepared for both how much I did like it and how much of Holmes still lived in it. Ritchie and his screenwriters accomplished something I wouldn’t have believed possible if I’d anticipated it beforehand: They made a new Holmes true to the old one. People keep telling me J.J. Abrams has accomplished this with Star Trek, too, but I’ve yet to suspend my disbelief for a couple hours and watch it. The thing is, with this Holmes, the supposed differences from Doyle turn out to be mostly on the surface, and they’re mostly showed up only by other cinematic renderings of Holmes. They tend to sink in significance or disappear altogether when compared to Doyle’s actual stories. (more…)

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace