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Archive for October 6th, 2016

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by Robert Hornak

There are two basic gears in Planet of the Apes: adventure and allegory, and it’s stuck fast in both from start to finish. First, its bullet-straight story rarely lets up. Charlton Heston makes sure of that – if the story slows to take a breather, it’s doing it by giving him a paragraph to chew on with those great, headstone teeth of his. The way he grinds through dialogue with his growling staccato is tantamount to a chase scene you can’t look away from. Second, it’s a fit for any reading you want to give it re: human-on-human oppression. Its running time is especially jammed with allusions to the racial tension that was raging across the country upon its release – the same tension that makes the movie relevant still. The first Apes film is an unmistakable parable of America’s racial divide and the persistent social death it metes out, but looking ahead at the sequels that followed, it’s clear producer Arthur P. Jacobs intentionally drew that material ever closer to the top. The last two sequels especially (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes) jump headfirst into the fray, moving the series from a mode of mere commentary to outright rallying cry. But equally effective is the movie’s strong punch of religious satire, illustrating how a very human strain of oppressive fundamentalism was inherited into this future ape society completely intact and undimmed by time, wielded to maintain order among the castes and as a progress-bludgeoning dismissal of the possibility of human agency of any kind. The repression of knowledge to maintain this status quo is manifested as a society of apes that can never advance beyond the most rudimentary dwellings or the most primitive, nearly medieval of governmental systems. Yet with all this meaning packed into the narrative, it’s still wall-to-wall fun. The movie is simply one of those titanic science fiction achievements that can stand as a litmus for all stripes of discontent without sacrificing so much as a picked nit of its entertainment value.

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by Sam Juliano

A painstaking performing art that requires years of training, unwavering application and physical stamina, ballet is a highly technical form of dance that has over the years taken on its own vocabulary, based on the French parlance.  It requires skill and inherent aptitude, but as a number of recent picture book authors and illustrators have attested to in rapturous and soulful works, desire and passion mean more than any talent, latent or flowering.  A pair of 2014 works about balletic aspirations in the Big Apple, Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper’s A Dance Like Starlight and Christopher Myers’ Firebird include pointed racial overtones. The former traces the path from insecurity to self-assurance for an African-American dancer at a time when opportunities were limited, and the latter depicts how an unsure girl is boosted by a towering professional.  In large measure Molly Idle’s Caldecott Honor winner from 2013, Flora and the Flamingo, a wordless book about self-discovery, basically explored the same themes.  Employing a parallel narrative structure renowned veteran author-illustrator Barbara McClintock in her latest ravishing work, Emma and Julia Love Ballet tells a story of infatuation and immersion from both sides of the aisle – a story that implies that whether you succeed or are headed towards that vital plateau you are basically operating on the same wave length.  McClintock, a master of the subtle detail,  initially establishes the common lifestyle elements by chronicling a seemingly typical day from an early morning yawn to a late night revelation.  The young girl Emma sleeps in a bedroom dominated by varying shades of pink.  She advertises that there is just about nothing she loves more than being dressed up in her ballerina costume.  Even her miniature night lamp pays homage to her great passion.  Her costume hangs on a hook over her bed, and the rest of the objects – teddy bears, dolls, oversized books, a flower adorned yellow hat all scream elementary school age, while the older girl Julia is the caretaker of a far more spare, ordered and mature room, complete with professional dancing shoes, a pager photos that confirm her balletic prowess.  Their age disparity is again evident in the manner of independence at breakfast time and in their clothes – Emma wears her pink dress with matching backpack lorded over by a teddy bear, while Julia prepares in minimalist surroundings, which McClintock reveals through open doors as a suburban single story home and a town house condominium.  Emma gets a ride to he ballet school, while Julia left to her own devices boards a bus.  The pervasive, all-encompassing specter of ballet is even evident on a poster inside the bus shelter.

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