Silly movie swordfights

John Clements, a professional swordfighter, writes at THEFORCE.NET:

Moves that Look Cool are usually the Stupidest
One of the worst clichés of these fan films (and in professional films too, so don’t feel bad) is this ridiculous spinning around action. I’ve lost count of how many times Obi Wan has used this move so far in two films. Stop trying to spin around at every opportunity! I can’t tell you what a phenomenally useless move this overused cliché really is. Against a skilled opponent it’s virtually suicide. The move is ubiquitous in countless sword fights and each time it’s made to look like it has some value, but in reality, it’s about the most inane thing you could possibly do in a real sword fight. You gain nothing from it. No experienced fighter or fencer is going to intentionally turn his back, taking his eyes off his opponent while exposing his whole body in the process, just so he can turn himself around and bring his weapon back predictably from the other side. To what purpose? It’s not going to make you any more deceptive nor any quicker in your strike nor any better defended. It fools no one, adds no real power, and immensely delays your attack.
…it’s silly and leaves you horrendously vulnerable. I cringe every time I see it in a sword fight scene.

The more aware you are of the physicality of personal combat (that is, how the human body actually moves and how a weapon actually performs when fighting in earnest), the more dramatic opportunities you have at your creative disposal. The clear reason why Darth Maul looked so darn menacing as a fighter was the simple fact the performer was a real life martial artist, not an actor just faking it (even if it was often clear he was just doing classic kung fu staff moves). His obvious sense of personal space and balance as well as his firm and agile stances made the other actors look amateurish by comparison.

He concentrates on lightsaber fights, but that stupid spinning move is cropping up in any movie where swords ever make the briefest of appearances. My ‘suspension of disbelief’ comes down crashing down every time it does, making me very aware that I’m watching something made by very silly people. Bah!

“Then we shall fight in the shade.”

I watched the much anticipated 300 at a sold out local IMAX theater. While some critics are, to put it mildly, less than enthused about this latest Frank Miller film that portrays the Battle of Thermopylae, the positive reaction of the audience was unqualified. Of course, this may be an example of self-selection bias or it could also be that Miller has succeeded in tapping a touchstone narrative and executed it well enough that 300 attracts or repels on a visceral level.

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Pan’s Labyrinth — Nominee for 2007 Oscar – Best Foreign Film

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno: 2006)

Foreign-language fantasies, after due diligence at, usually end up having their premiere on my DVD player but a friend was so enthusiastic and persistent about seeing this Oscar-nominated film (Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup, Foreign Language Film, Music [Score], Original Screenplay) while it was still in the theatres that I was convinced to watch it on the big screen. Mexican writer/director Guillermo del Toro has created a work that is beautifully filmed, with great computer-generated images (CGI), and excellent acting. Surprisingly, however, within moments of the film’s start, I found myself thinking more of Claudio Veliz’s comments on Anglo and Hispanic culture in The New World of the Gothic Fox: Culture and Economy in English and Spanish America.

(see this Google Video for Dr. Veliz’s talk on “The Optional Descent of the English-Speaking World” at the Anglosphere Institute last October.)

In the English-speaking world, fairy tales are more often thought of as children’s stories … filled with drama that appeals to child and parent alike, granted … but not meant to relentlessly catalogue the horrors of life. Pan’s Labyrinth, as far as I can tell, is more an adult fairy tale of a Hispanosphere variety. Redemption, in this world, comes in denying your enemies their deepest needs. Satisfaction comes in another world entirely. As noted, my exposure to the intellectual underpinnings of this approach to life comes from Veliz and his comments about the Caliban/Ariel contrast between Anglo and Hispanic culture. To a lesser extent, my exposure to the realities of Hispanosphere life come from reading from Lawrence Harrison and Hernando De Soto. I may be off-base in seeing the origins of Pan’s Labyrinth in Latin American surrealist literary culture but I don’t think I’m mistaken in seeing it coming from a very different place than Anglosphere fantasies.

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Army of Shadows

Army of Shadows is a movie about the French Resistance, made in France in 1969. and never before released in the United States. It has been getting incredible reviews–“best film of the year”, according to one NYT reviewer–but has a very limited release schedule in this country.

Has anyone seen this? Does it measure up to the reviews?

I may go to the Jan 4 (Thursday) showing at Chincoteague Island, VA (Eastern Shore), if anyone lives around there and would like to join me.