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On the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, director Sam Mendes strives to make Bond brand new again — and his new movie,Skyfall, is so self-aware that the clash between old and new is at the center of it. Can an old-school agent like James Bond still exist in today’s world? What’s the point of a Cold War secret service in the 21st century?
As an English professor, I have spent the last two decades guiding college students through the great books of the Western intellectual tradition. And yet, though I have taught (and loved) the works of Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Dickens, I do not hesitate to assert that Aslan is one of the supreme characters in all of literature. Though many readers assume that Aslan, the lion king of Narnia who dies and rises again, is an allegory for Christ, Lewis himself disagreed.
Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof remembers exactly where he was when he heard that Disney had bought LucasFilm. “I was in a production meeting next to Brad Bird for a movie we’re working on together,” he says. “A bunch of guys at the table started passing notes to each other. Suddenly I’m like the teacher at the front of the class. I was like, ‘Is there something you’d care to share with the rest of the class?’ I grabbed a napkin, and someone had written on it, ‘Disney bought Lucas Film!'”
A brief recap: in The Hunger Games piece, we examined a two-level voyeuristic scaffolding built by Suzanne Collins as the book meditates on our attraction to violence and suffering. The Gamemakers create a brutal world into which teenagers are plunged to fight to the death for the amusement of thousands in the fictional dystopia of Panem and, simultaneously, Collins herself is constructing that world as the author for the amusement of, by now, over a million contemporary readers. In our indignation against the Gamemakers for the horrors they perpetrate, we are ultimately drawn into a split between our own enjoyment of and demand for violent literature, on the one hand, and our moral outrage against its interior reflection in Panem, on the other. These sides of our nature clash (Romans 7), producing introspection and godly sorrow (2 Cor). The Hunger Games, at its conclusion, leaves two crucial questions unanswered: (1) why are we humans so attracted to violence and (2) what do we do about it? These set the thematic stage for Collins’s brilliant sequel, Catching Fire.
With the recent wave of BBC programs appearing on PBS (Downton Abbey, The Hour, Mr. Bean) it’s somewhat surprising that the 49 year old mainstay Doctor Who hasn’t enjoyed the same popularity. With time travel, aliens, and revisiting historical events, what’s not to like? Either way, this is a major oversight.
But I digress… a quick summary of the show’s premise and plot. The Doctor is a time traveler who has made it his mission to protect Earth from the multitude of extraterrestrials who threaten humanity, both in the past and future. Helping him in this quest is his the adventurous assistant Amy Pond. In Vincent and the Doctor, the Doctor notices a sinister, alien grimace within one of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. He and Amy set off for 1890 Paris to investigate. What they find is a van Gogh who is the laughing stock of the entire town of Auvers-sur-Oise. Suffering from extreme depression, he has no money, friends, or family, and no one will buy his paintings. On top of all that, van Gogh is “hallucinating” to see a deadly alien lurking around town. Enter the Doctor and Amy to save the day (spoiler!).