Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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What happened to the world's largest painting?

Kansas City artist Daniel MacMorris helped the [ National World War I Museum and Memorial]  acquire the Panthéon de la Guerre in 1956. He then cut and pasted sections from the huge canvas, rearranged them, painted in new individuals and fit the newly configured composition to the north wall of Memory Hall, where it remains today. Rearranging History: Daniel MacMorris and the Pantheon de la Guerre(opening Dec. 15) explores the vast fragments left behind by MacMorris - the majority having never been seen in public since the Panthéon's last showing in its entirety in 1940.

A Hundred Years of Orson Welles (New Yorker)

He was said to have gone into decline, but his story is one of endurance—even of unlikely triumph. The most popular Orson Welles video on YouTube, edging out the trailer for “Citizen Kane” and “The War of the Worlds” broadcast of 1938, is called “Orson Welles Drunk Outtake.” It shows him slurring his way through one of those ads in which he intoned, “Paul Masson will sell no wine before its time.” Whether he was drunk, experiencing the effects of medication (he suffered from diabetes and other ailments), or simply very tired is immaterial. What’s striking about the video is its popularity. This is largely how today’s culture has chosen to remember Welles: as a pompous wreck, a man who peaked early and then devolved into hackwork and bloated fiascos.

What The Danish Girl Reminds Us About Transgender People Throughout History

The vocabulary has evolved, but gender non-conformity is far from modern.

The new film The Danish Girl comes at a time of increased visibility and acceptance of transgender people. But the story of Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who was one of the first known recipients of a sex-change operation, is also a public reminder that complicated matters of gender and sex are nothing new.

The early years of TIME magazine—which coincided with the last years of Elbe’s life, before she died in 1931 not long after one of her surgeries—are rife with articles about people who were gender-nonconforming in one way or another. In some cases those stories, with their outdated phrasings, only put into perspective how much things have changed. Other articles, however, are written with a lack of judgment that may surprise modern readers.

Red Star Falling: The Trumbo Train Wreck By Ron Radosh

Related Link The Heroism of Dalton Trumbo: An Interview with Larry Ceplair

When it was announced two years ago that Bryan Cranston would play Dalton Trumbo in a new movie about the late blacklisted Communist screenwriter, I wrote an article for National Review that asked a simple question: would the film be honest and portray Trumbo accurately, or would it perpetuate the myth of innocent and victimized Hollywood Reds?

Indeed, because of this piece, the producers and/or the publicity people of Bleecker Street Cinema claimed that I had “trashed the film” in advance and barred me from the screening, thus preventing me from writing about it for a national publication. One could say that Bleecker Street Cinema blacklisted me -- but we all know they are against blacklists.

With Rich History And Tax Breaks, Berlin Lures American Filmmakers

Berlin is a favorite with many top American filmmakers and actors, and chances are you've seen landmarks from the German capital in movies — even when you didn't expect it.

Take The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. The film's fictional capital, Panem, was partly filmed at Tempelhof. This one-time airport was the focal point of a humanitarian airlift in 1948 and 1949 that helped break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.
One of the German capital's biggest Hollywood fans is Tom Hanks. He first came to Berlin four years ago when filming Cloud Atlas, and has been back many times since.

The Forgotten Images of One of America’s Greatest War Photographers

A new exhibit celebrates the work of John Florea, a LIFE photographer whose shock at the horrors of World War II translated into some of the most haunting images ever made of war.

In Praise of Ethel Rosenberg

“The Hours Count,” Jillian Cantor’s second historical novel, includes a personal connection to her subject. The book, mainly a fictional portrait of Ethel Rosenberg, is also a tribute of sorts. Cantor was born on June 19, 1978, the 25th anniversary of the Rosenbergs’ executions. She came upon this bit of karmic information while she was already researching Ethel Rosenberg’s life.

Ethel initially fascinated Cantor when she came across an anthology of women’s letters. Among them was the letter that Ethel wrote to her sons on the day of her execution. “Until that point,” said Cantor in a recent interview, “I didn’t know about the Rosenbergs other than what I learned briefly in high school. I did some Google research after reading that letter and very quickly came to see that Ethel was innocent.”

Review of Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life By David Bruce Smith

Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life, is biographical — in theory — but her essence is not fully permeated. Instead, the book is a pastiche of episodes of questionable veracity, dialogue that may—or may not be authentic, and frequent allusions to James Joyce, Anton Chekhov, Joan Didion and Raymond Carver–all of which are more relevant to the author’s professorial life than Mrs. Nixon’s.

Historical television retains tremendous power, potency, and great potential for educating and entertaining millions

Television is in bad shape. Facing competition from video games, social media and online streaming services – all of which seek to overturn its long-established dominance – TV faces the toughest commercial challenges in its history. And those voices that criticise television for being too low-brow, for being, in their view, an entirely unintellectual form of entertainment, have never gone away. Historical television is a frequent target for those critics, who say history on TV (when it is produced at all) is often represented by nothing more than a collection of platitudes read over an emotive soundtrack and embarrassing reconstructions of dubious accuracy.

There is some truth to this observation, but I happen to disagree. Historical television still retains tremendous power, tremendous potency, and a truly great potential for educating and entertaining millions of people.

Why Jane Austen’s Emma Still Intrigues 200 Years Later

The novel was released in December of 1815

For many Jane Austen fans, reading Pride and Prejudice is their first and fondest experience with the author. But most critics and scholars agree that her finest work was really Emma, the story of an altruistic but self-absorbed, wealthy and beautiful young woman with a penchant for matchmaking who swears never to marry but falls in love anyway.

The shallow but well-meaning Emma Woodhouse turns 200 this month—and if she doesn’t sound like a perfectly swoon-inducing leading lady, Austen herself agreed: she once described the character as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Yet her story proved the perfect vessel for Austen to write “at the height of her powers,” says Austen scholar Juliette Wells.

Wells, an associate professor at Goucher College and the editor of a new annotated 200th-anniversary edition of Emma from Penguin Classics, says that in addition to the novel exemplifying Austen’s “most magnificent use of language,” it combines the best of Austen’s two writerly periods. “We see certainly some of the humor that was present more fully in Pride and Prejudice, and we see some of the moral seriousness that was there in Mansfield Park,” she says, “but it’s not as overwhelming in Emma.”

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