Remembering Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

Remembering Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s death (July 21, 1899-July 2, 1961). Hemingway achieved world-wide fame and influence as a writer by a combination of great emotional power and a highly individual style, which could be parodied but never successfully imitated. His best single work is quite possibly The Old Man and the Sea, which had the essence of the uncluttered force that drove his other stories.

In 1952, the 53 year-old Hemingway shrugged off the decay of his own weary, abused body, an increasingly scarred mind, and the pulsating aches of his five tools of anguished expression to compose his tale of an old Cuban who battles his own decay, a crippled left hand, and a giant marlin. The novel received the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and was specifically cited when he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature.

In 1997, 40 year-old Alexander Petrov of Prechistoe, Russia, struggled against a strange environment (Canada), a new and intimidating technology (IMAX), and with the use of his finger tips, transformed Hemingway’s ode to masculinity from splashes of oil paint into a vibrant, coherent, fresco in motion. Petrov’s 22-minute interpretation of The Old Man and the Sea was created at Montreal’s Pascal Blais Productions. The magnificent paint-on-glass-animated short film won many awards, including the 1999 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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The Dark Night’s Ghastly Joker: Heath Ledger Touted for an Oscar

The Dark Knight’s Ghastly Joker: Heath Ledger Touted for an Oscar

Handsome is as handsome doesn’t in The Dark Knight. Of the three male actors who dominate the movie, it’s Heath Ledger with his face hidden behind twisted clown makeup, whose perfect features are never seen, who has proven to be the most memorable. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight is both a demonic creation and three-ring circus of one. Ledger died in January at the age of 28 from an accidental overdose, after the principal photography of the film had concluded. His death could have cast a paralyzing pall over the movie if his performance were not so alive. Ledger’s Joker is a creature of such ghastly life, and his performance is so visceral, creepy and insistently present that the portrayal pulls you in almost at once.

Ledger’s performance is so intense and lasting in part because, despite his insane mask, it’s a subtle and nuanced performance that is so powerful it almost erases all memories of the handsome Australian actor behind the Joker’s mask. The makeup seems to have liberated Ledger. Ledger’s body movements are flexibly agile, he’s expressive with only his eyes and his voice has oscillating surges of irony, mockery and psychopathology. Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight is an essay, in a way that he’s never shown before when playing straight-faced characters, in pure magnetic charisma.

While Hollywood’s Academy Awards are still more than six months away, the late Heath Ledger already is being touted for a supporting actor nomination for his terrifying performance in The Dark Knight. Ledger’s performance is so mesmerizing and daring as Batman’s clown-faced arch enemy that it’s possible he might become the first performer since Peter Finch (in the 1976 Network) to receive a posthumous Oscar.

The Dark Knight (Official Movie Trailer)

You can read more about what I’ve written earlier about Heath Ledger here and here.

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Oscar: Only the Shallow Know Themselves

I

IT is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

Oscar: Only the Shallow Know Themselves

Oscar Wilde’s dramatic portrayals of the human condition came during the height of the Victorian Era that swept through London in the late 19th century. At a time when all citizens of Britain were finally able to embrace literature that the wealthy and educated could only once afford, Wilde wrote many short stories, plays and poems that continue to inspire millions around the world.

Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854. In 1871, Oscar was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. He did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college’s Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford. Oscar continued to do well at Oxford and after graduation he moved to London to live with his friend Frank Miles, a popular high society portrait painter. In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry. “Poems” received mixed reviews by critics, but helped to move Oscar’s writing career along.

In December 1881, Oscar sailed for New York to travel across the United States and deliver a series of lectures on aesthetics. The 50-lecture tour was originally scheduled to last four months, but stretched to nearly a year, with over 140 lectures given in 260 days. In between lectures he made time to meet with Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman.

When he returned from America, Oscar married Constance Lloyd. Constance was four years younger than Oscar and the daughter of a prominent barrister who died when she was 16. She was well-read, spoke several European languages and had an outspoken, independent mind. They had two sons in quick succession; with a family to support, Oscar accepted a job revitalizing the Woman’s World magazine, where he worked from 1887-1889. The next six years were to become the most creative period of his life. He published two collections of children’s stories, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888), and The House of Pomegranates (1892). His first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in an American magazine in 1890 to a storm of critical protest. He expanded the story and had it published in book form the following year. Its implied homoerotic theme was considered very immoral by the Victorians and played a considerable part in his later legal trials. Oscar’s first play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, opened in February 1892. Its financial and critical success prompted him to continue to write for the theater. His subsequent plays included A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). These plays were all highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright.

In the summer of 1891, Oscar met Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. Bosie was an undergraduate at Oxford and already well acquainted with Oscar’s novel Dorian Gray. They soon became lovers and were inseparable until Wilde’s arrest four years later. In April 1895, Oscar sued Bosie’s father for libel after the Marquis accused him of homosexuality. Oscar withdrew his case but was himself arrested and convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years of hard labor. Constance took the children to Switzerland and reverted to an old family name, “Holland.”

Upon his release from prison, Oscar wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a response to the agony that he had experienced in prison. It was published shortly before Constance’s death in 1898. He and Bosie reunited briefly, but Oscar mostly spent the last three years of his life wandering Europe, staying with friends and living in cheap hotels. Sadly, he was unable to rekindle his creative fires. Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900.

The Life and Times of Oscar Wilde

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