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Archive for August, 2013

Shackleton Cover

The task the producers of Shackleton, the historical biopic of the Irish Antarctic explorer featuring Kenneth Brannagh, faced was every bit as daunting as the task faced by the movie’s title character. In this case, how to tell and accurately convey the epic survival odyssey of the crew of the Endurance without causing the audience to doze off.  Shackleton and his men spent months ice bound, month camped on the ice after the Endurance began to be crushed by the Antarctic pack ice, and then months camped on the shore of Elephant Island. How do you make that interesting for a modern audience?

Well, the producers of Shackleton have indeed accomplished the impossible. Filmed on location in Greenland, the movie is both riveting and realistic. To recap briefly, the movie opens with Ernest Shackleton (Kenneth Brannagh) attempting to gather funds for one more try at Antarctica. Having had to turn back before reaching the South Pole on his last expedition and subsequently beaten to that milestone by Roald Amundsen, Shackleton conceives of a new venture–a never before attempted coast-to-coast crossing of the Antarctic continent.

However, the odds are stacked against Shackleton from the very beginning. He’s getting older–this trip will be his last hurrah–and World War I is on the verge of breaking out, making funds for the expedition hard to raise. His family life is also complicated–he has a wife and kids and a mistress on the side and his brother, Frank, is on trial for fraud. Once off the coast of Antarctica, things go from bad to worse as the Endurance becomes trapped and then crushed in the ice pack. On melting floes and facing long distances and bad weather, Shackleton must get his crew back alive against impossible odds.

I really liked the way the director intercut scenes of the expedition with scenes of life back home in England.  If you have a chance, be sure to pick up the three DVD pack which has a documentary about the life of Ernest Shackleton as well as a short film on the history of Antarctic exploration.

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“Stagger Lee”–spelled a number of different ways–is a murder ballad with a catchy beat based on a true story.  Although a number of different artists have covered it, my preferred version is this Lloy Price rendition.

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The slightly frenzied calm of the average work day in the University of Arnor Library was broken this afternoon by an unscheduled fire alarm. I was in the restroom at the time where the fire alarm was both incredibly loud and incredibly close. Let’s just say it was a good thing I was using the facilities  ’cause otherwise I would have wet myself.  The scattered herds of library staff and patrons, myself among them,  made our way outside through the designated fire escape to the loading dock where we were greeted by–a construction barricade. I should mention that the University of Arnor is doing major construction work in the area surrounding our building this summer in an effort to turn lower campus into more of a rat maze than usual. In case of a real emergency, we would have probably come to a sticky end, entangled in the orange mesh, and then subsequently trampled by the panicking crowd. As it was, we were able to find our way up and around to the front of the building where the U. of Arnor Fire Dept. let us back in and we spent the remainder of the afternoon soothing our jangled nerves.

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Weareth Her Drapes

Good news, Shakespeare fans! The Hollow Crown, the filmed version of four of Shakespeare’s history plays, will air on PBS’s Great Performances starting Sept. 20th, 2013. The DVD version will be available soon thereafter.  As evidenced by earlier posts, I highly recommend the series and am very happy that it will finally be shown on this side of the pond.

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