Movies


“The Artist,” a love letter to Hollywood, got hugs, kisses and the best-picture Oscar on Sunday at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony here. The film also took the awards for best actor and best director, in a minisweep that found the movie industry paying tribute to not just the movie but to its own roots as well.

“I want to thank Billy Wilder, I want to thank Billy Wilder and I want to thank Billy Wilder,” said Michel Hazanavicius, the film’s director, in keeping with a self-referential theme that ruled the evening.

Thomas Langmann, the producer, accepting his award for a mostly silent, black-and-white fable about an actor’s struggle with the end of silent film, said the achievement was dedicated to his father, the deceased French director Claude Berri.

Until Sunday no silent film had won the top Oscar since “Wings,” at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. But nostalgia ruled the night, as “Hugo,” about another silent star, Georges Méliès, won a string of less prominent awards, and “Midnight in Paris,” a comic time trip to Paris in the 1920s, took the prize for original screenplay for Woody Allen.

Meryl Streep, a winner for her portrayal of a doddering Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” made her victory look like a shock. But she hadn’t won since 1983, even though she reigns as the actor with the most nominations in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with 17 in all. Ms. Streep said she could imagine half of America gasping: “Oh no! Oh, come on! Why her? Again?” as her name was read.

When the only surprise is a victory by Ms. Streep, you know things are going by the script. Viola Davis, for her work in “The Help,” had been considered a strong candidate as the best-actress winner.

“Merci, beaucoup, I love you!” shouted Jean Dujardin, as he picked up his award as best actor for a movie that was conceived in France, but showered its adoration on the Hollywood of yore.

After a dry spell in the early evening, “The Artist” gained momentum as the major awards were presented, beginning with a prize for Mr. Hazanavicius. The winner unscrolled a long string of French-accented “thank yous” that included Uggie the dog.

Christopher Plummer, born in 1929, won his first Academy Award, as best supporting actor, for “Beginners.” “You’re only two years older than me, darling — where have you been all my life?” said Mr. Plummer, in picking up a statuette that was first given for films made in 1927 and 1928.

It was long overdue recognition for Mr. Plummer, who had appeared in dozens of films over more than 50 years, and finally won for his portrayal, in “Beginners,” of a father who in his final years acknowledges being gay.

“Congratulations to Mr. Plummer; the average age of the winners has now jumped to 67,” joked Mr. Crystal.

That was before Woody Allen, 76, won a best original screenplay Oscar for “Midnight in Paris,” bumping the average age still higher. That film was another nostalgia trip, about literary Paris in the 1920s. In keeping with a personal tradition, Mr. Allen was a no-show, and left the Academy to accept its own prize on his behalf.

Closer to present time, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash had just won an adapted-screenplay Oscar for “The Descendants.” It was welcome recognition for a movie that once appeared among the front-runners for best picture, but seemed to falter as a grueling, monthslong campaign season showered pre-Oscar prizes on “The Artist.”

There was a dollop of drama to the proceedings.

As the show passed its midpoint, “Hugo” had made the only show of force. A 3-D tale, set in Paris, it had won five Oscars, for cinematography, art direction, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects.

Meanwhile, two hours in, “The Artist,” supposedly the night’s front-runner, had won only two awards, those for its Jazz Age costume design and musical score. If the early snubs sent a shiver through Harvey Weinstein, whose company distributed “The Artist” in the United States, he could take comfort, at least, in a win for “Undefeated.”

That film, about a black urban high school football team and its white coach, was also distributed by the Weinstein Company, and took the Oscar for best documentary feature. One of the film’s makers drew a gasp in the auditorium when he broke Oscar protocol by tossing off a strictly forbidden obscenity — something rare at the tightly controlled Academy Awards.

Chris Rock followed with a racial joke, about black men getting lousy roles even in animated films. It may have been in questionable taste, but it jarred the show closer to modern times.

“Rango” was the animation winner, from the director Gore Verbinski and Paramount Pictures. Both DreamWorks Animation, which had “Kung Fu Panda 2” in the running, and Walt Disney’s Pixar Animation, which had no nominee in the category at all, had watched their grip on the prize slip to Mr. Verbinski, who had never before made an animated film.

Elizabeth Taylor was the capper in an especially crowded memorial sequence that paid tribute to one after another among the film figures who died in the last year. The actor Ben Gazzara, the movie executive John Calley, and the Oscar show producers Gil Cates and Laura Ziskin were among them.

Finally, the show settled into its inevitable rhythm of presentation, thanks, and congratulatory applause — in a typical Oscar broadcast, only a relatively small sliver goes to production numbers and pranks by the host. But the montage moments kept coming.

As the end neared, actors like Julia Roberts and Robert Downey Jr. were on film carrying on about why they love film. “I’ve never had any of those feelings,” said Mr. Crystal.

And the demographic jokes never stopped. “Perky gets old fast with this crowd,” Ben Stiller warned Emma Stone, as she milked a bit that wound around her status as a first-time presenter.

Indeed it was a mirth-by-any-means-necessary kind of night: Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Kristen Wiig, Kermit the Frog and a parade of other comedians were among the presenters.

Mr. Crystal, his vaudeville grin firmly in place, set the tone early, opening the show with a song-and-dance montage that managed to send up the nine best-picture nominees, Tom Cruise, the movie “Bridesmaids,” and his own aging career all at once.

“This is my ninth time, my ninth time hosting the Oscars,” he quipped in an opening monologue that seemed bent on leaving no one out. “Just call me ‘War Horse.’ ” Pointing one of his barbs directly at the film industry, he added, “Nothing can take the sting out of the world’s economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with gold statues.”

The theater was gilded and draped in red, as were many of the starlets. The idea was to mimic a glamour that came with the movies of old — a time when, perhaps, they mattered a little more than they do in an age of multiplatform entertainment.

The big show-business smile that infused the ceremony was more than a ratings ploy. It was also an effort by the Academy to move past a tumultuous Oscar season that left the organization bruised if not bloodied.

Mr. Crystal came aboard as host at the last minute in November, pinch-hitting for Eddie Murphy, who dropped out when Brett Ratner, his friend and a producer of the show, resigned amid a media storm over his use of an anti-gay slur at a panel discussion in Hollywood. Simultaneously, the normally staid Academy had to deal with infighting over its new chief executive, Dawn Hudson, and the changes she was trying to implement. Ms. Hudson finally defended herself a few days ago in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

A generally weak box-office performance among the year’s nine best-picture contenders — only one of which, “The Help,” amassed more than $100 million in domestic ticket sales — had already caused worry about the Oscar show’s ratings potential. Then moviedom took an added blow to its confidence, watching this year’s Grammy Awards show attract about 40 million viewers as music fans rallied around the death of Whitney Houston; last year’s Oscars drew 37.9 million viewers.

Meanwhile, a demographic survey by The Los Angeles Times renewed questions about the 5,800-member Academy’s cultural relevance. Membership was found to be overwhelmingly white, male and 60ish. The results echoed conventional wisdom, but provoked new debate about whether the Oscars still mattered to an increasingly diverse America, let alone a global audience.

The television ratings may provide a clue. (At 3 hours 8 minutes, the show ranked among the shorter broadcasts in recent history.) In the meantime, the longing for past glory was perhaps most wistfully expressed by Bret McKenzie, whose composition, “Man or Muppet,” won for best original song.

Backstage, Mr. McKenzie modestly allowed that his song, for the film “The Muppets,” couldn’t hold a candle to Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher’s “Rainbow Connection,” which has been Kermit the Frog’s theme song through the years.

That song was a classic, Mr. McKenzie said; his own, he contended, was nothing by comparison. Somewhere in that was a lesson for the night.


* By MICHAEL CIEPLY and  (LOS ANGELES)

 

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: Those are the three things that men and women have as unalienable rights, according to the Declaration of Independence. Some might argue that just as the Declaration is an inalienably American document, the dedication to those particular rights counts as an intrinsic part of the American character. It stands to reason, then, that the American cinema teems with portrayals of its own people pursuing these rights, sometimes naively, sometimes stubbornly, sometimes bravely … sometimes even criminally. Here are 10 that made a very big impression — big enough that they might deserve to have their faces carved on a cinematic answer to Mount Rushmore.

 

10) Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

The American spirit is an ever-intrepid one, and it balks, sometimes violently, at boredom and oppression. For little Kansas girl Dorothy Gale, life on the farm with her kindly but strict aunt and uncle, not to mention the complaints of her uptight dog-hating schoolteacher, make her cry for escape. Dorothy’s own adventure, initiated by a twister that rips through the sepia-toned Kansas plain, takes her literally over the rainbow, into an enchanted land of witches and talking lions and straw men and all manner of weirdness. And it’s there that Dorothy learns a lesson that’s still dear to the heart of a lot of our fellow Americans: There’s no place like home. Even when we’re convinced that we can’t stand the sight of it!

 

9) Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)

“We rob banks,” one of this dynamic and dysfunctional duo blurts in an unguarded moment with strangers. The real-life Depression-era boy-girl bandits didn’t exactly ooze charisma, but their movie incarnations, both gorgeous, couldn’t help but do so. That Arthur Penn’s 1967 film depicted the couple as sympathetic to foreclosed farm folk also helps their peculiar status as American Robin Hoods minus the wealth redistribution. Their legend as reiterated in film spread worldwide: French chansoneur Serge Gainsbourg wrote a tribute tune to them as a duet for himself and Brigitte Bardot, while over in Merrie Olde England, Georgie Fame sang “Bonnie and Clyde/Were pretty looking people/But let me tell you, people/They were the devil’s children.” Does every country get the outlaws they deserve? Hard to say. But I think we can all agree this couple is more palatable than, say, Mr. Manson and his “family.”

 

 

8) Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs in “In the Heat of the Night” (1967)

A groundbreaking post-Civil Rights movement depiction of an African-American character. That is, in a position of authority rather than servility. Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs is a Philadelphia detective who finds himself enlisted to help solve a Deep South murder, despite the reluctance of the bigoted Mississippi lawman Gillespie (Rod Steiger). Cool, calm, and collected, but clearly with a well of deep indignation beneath his surface, Tibbs keeps his head, and his manners, throughout, until he’s pushed the wrong way. Poitier’s character stands up against hundreds of years of racism and oppression when he responds to Gillespie’s taunt, “What do they call you up North, boy?” by very nearly spitting, “They call me MISTER Tibbs.”

 

 

7) Sally Field as Norma Rae in “Norma Rae” (1979)

The histories of American politics and activism are filled with the names of reluctant heroes, everyday people who, when called to a cause greater than themselves, rise to both the occasion and the cause with incredible strength and spirit. Sally Field won an Academy Award for playing a North Carolina single mom and textile worker who becomes a union organizer despite her initial determination not to stir up trouble at the plant. Based on the real-life story of Crystal Lee Sutton, the Martin Ritt-directed movie is a frank and gritty depiction not just of what’s at stake in big-picture struggles for workers rights, but what the cost can be for the individuals who lead the fights for those rights. The very ordinariness of Norma is part of what makes the character such an inspiration, and so uniquely American.

 

 

6) Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in “Rocky” (1976)

“Palooka” is old-school boxing slang for “loser,” and in all the annals of boxing lore both literary and cinematic, there’s never been a palooka quite so palooka-ish as looming, droopy-lidded, marble-mouthed Rocky Balboa, a Philly mook who dreams of something like a title shot while romancing a neighborhood girl who’s so punishingly shy that she’s presumed by most of the local hood rats to be mentally disabled. Poster taglines are marketing devices, we know, but there’s hardly been an apter one than one of those for this picture: “His whole life was a million-to-one shot.” This great underdog character and his story in themselves constitute a great underdog film: The character was conceived and written by star Sylvester Stallone for himself just as he was about to bail from showbiz, and the film was made on a shoestring budget. It’s hard to look at Stallone now and see his legendary character, but every time you see the movie, he shuffles back to sleepy life, and you can’t help but root for him as he works out to Bill Conti’s cornball powerhouse theme music.

 

 

5) Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (1993)

We love our all-American song-and-dance men and women, from George M. Cohan and Kate Smith to Lady Gaga. Tina Turner seems to represent a particularly American brand of resilience. This biopic depicts her incredibly humble origins as Annie Mae Bullock, the discovery of her dynamic musical talent, her road to both fame and a form of servitude under husband and musical partner Ike Turner, and, after a stretch of near-unendurable abuse, her liberation, which leaves her with nothing but her name. After which she goes on to even greater accomplishment, fame and fortune all by her super-bad self. And although Turner herself has made Europe her home for many years, her particular pursuit of happiness is, you have to say, as American as it gets.

 

 

4) Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” (1939)

Novelist Margaret Mitchell’s perverse Southern belle touched a deep chord in American culture well before the movie version of her book was made — so deep that producer David O. Selznick felt compelled to cast a relative unknown in the role, so as not to create a certain specific expectation. What British actress Leigh had to live up to was a Scarlett of the popular imagination, in all its bizarre glory: spoiled, petulant, pigheaded, unforgivably selfish and dissembling, but also with incredible reserves of strength, will, resourcefulness and a guile that almost resembled brilliant strategizing when perceived from a certain angle. Not to mention the all-American optimism of tomorrow being another day and all. Leigh wound up nailing the role so beautifully that it defined her subsequent career, for all intents and purposes. She only broke out of the Scarlett mold when she played an older, and almost entirely ruined, variation of the character, Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” well over a decade later.

 

 

3) James Stewart as Jefferson Smith in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)

Funny thing about this picture: The earnest, awkward, almost criminally naïve draftee-senator played by Stewart and the gum-cracking cynical D.C. smart alecks who are so negatively awestruck by his lack of worldliness that they can’t even believe he’s too good to be true are two sides of the same American-character coin. In director Frank Capra’s wrenching tale of corruption and redemption in Our Democracy, it’s Smith, the onetime Boy Ranger leader who consults with the statue of Honest Abe at the Lincoln Memorial when he really needs boosting, who has to win over the swells who take him for a sap. Which of course he does, reminding them of their better angels, but not before going against an engine of graft so formidable that it nearly wears the young man (and the film’s audience) down to a nub.

 

 

2) John Wayne as Sgt. John M. Stryker in “The Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949)

The tough drillmaster who whips young army whelps into shape has gone through some interesting cinematic mutations over the years, climaxing in a sense with R. Lee Ermey’s formidable quasi-monster in “Full Metal Jacket.” Wayne’s Sgt. Stryker is from a different time, a different war, a war some still call the Good War. Those coming to the film expecting the character to be a patriotic cardboard cutout are in for a surprise. Wayne’s Stryker rides the recruits raw, but he’s hardly perfect himself: He drinks too much, has one mess of a personal life, all that. No paragon, then, but when it counts, he’s all guts, and by just being that, he teaches his charges, including the particularly irascible private played by John Agar, what it means not just to be a hero, but a Marine. A stirring character in a stirring film.

 

 

1) Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln in “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939)

Between the two of them, director John Ford and actor Henry Fonda etched quite a few indelible American portraits, both together and apart. “Young Mr. Lincoln” is a deceptively plain-seeming film with Fonda giving a deceptively understated performance chronicling Lincoln’s early adventures in love, loss and eventually lawyering in rural Illinois. Throughout, Fonda’s performance embodies a very basic decency and innate grasp of common sense, both practical and moral, that were to define Lincoln’s qualities as president. And there’s also the famously dry Lincoln wit, the cleverly deployed Solomonic wisdom, and more. And finally, a deep sense of individual loneliness, a sense of standing apart from the greatness of the country at the same time as one is poised to help define it. Such a paradox is also a big part of being an American, and Fonda captures it without overselling it.

 

 

*By Glenn Kenny For MSN Movies

Sergey Brin, a Google founder, takes issue with people who say Google has failed to gain a foothold in social networking. Google has had successes, he often says, especially with Orkut, the dominant service in Brazil and India.

Mr. Brin may soon have to revise his answer.

Facebook, the social network service that started in a Harvard dorm room just six years ago, is growing at a dizzying rate around the globe, surging to nearly 500 million users, from 200 million users just 15 months ago.


It is pulling even with Orkut in India, where only a year ago, Orkut was more than twice as large as Facebook. In the last year, Facebook has grown eightfold, to eight million users, in Brazil, where Orkut has 28 million.


In country after country, Facebook is cementing itself as the leader and often displacing other social networks, much as it outflanked MySpace in the United States. In Britain, for example, Facebook made the formerly popular Bebo all but irrelevant, forcing AOL to sell the site at a huge loss two years after it bought it for $850 million. In Germany, Facebook surpassed StudiVZ, which until February was the dominant social network there.

With his typical self-confidence, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 26-year-old chief executive, recently said it was “almost guaranteed” that the company would reach a billion users.


Though he did not say when it would reach that mark, the prediction was not greeted with the skepticism that had met his previous boasts of fast growth.
“They have been more innovative than any other social network, and they are going to continue to grow,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “Facebook wants to be ubiquitous, and they are being successful for now.”


The rapid ascent of Facebook has no company more worried than Google, which sees the social networking giant as a threat on multiple fronts. Much of the activity on Facebook is invisible to Google’s search engine, which makes it less useful over time. What’s more, the billions of links posted by users on Facebook have turned the social network into an important driver of users to sites across the Web. That has been Google’s role.


Google has tried time and again to break into social networking not only with Orkut, but also with user profiles, with an industrywide initiative called OpenSocial, and, most recently, with Buzz, a social network that mixes elements of Facebook and Twitter with Gmail. But none of those initiatives have made a dent in Facebook.


Google is said to be trying again with a secret project for a service called Google Me, according to several reports. Google declined to comment for this article.
Google makes its money from advertising, and even here, Facebook poses a challenge.


“There is nothing more threatening to Google than a company that has 500 million subscribers and knows a lot about them and places targeted advertisements in front of them,” said Todd Dagres, a partner at Spark Capital, a venture firm that has invested in Twitter and other social networking companies. “For every second that people are on Facebook and for every ad that Facebook puts in front of their face, it is one less second they are on Google and one less ad that Google puts in front of their face.”


With nearly two-thirds of all Internet users in the United States signed up on Facebook, the company has focused on international expansion.
Just over two years ago, Facebook was available only in English. Still, nearly half of its users were outside the United States, and its presence was particularly strong in Britain, Australia and other English-speaking countries.


The task of expanding the site overseas fell on Javier Olivan, a 33-year-old Spaniard who joined Facebook three years ago, when the site had 30 million users. Mr. Olivan led an innovative effort by Facebook to have its users translate the site into more than 80 languages. Other Web sites and technology companies, notably Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, had used volunteers to translate their sites or programs.


But with 300,000 words on Facebook’s site — not counting material posted by users — the task was immense. Facebook not only encouraged users to translate parts of the site, but also let other users fine-tune those translations or pick among multiple translations. Nearly 300,000 users participated.

“Nobody had done it at the scale that we were doing it,” Mr. Olivan said.
The effort paid off. Now about 70 percent of Facebook’s users are outside the United States. And while the number of users in the United States doubled in the last year, to 123 million, according to comScore, the number more than tripled in Mexico, to 11 million, and it more than quadrupled in Germany, to 19 million.


With every new translation, Facebook pushed into a new country or region, and its spread often mirrored the ties between nations or the movement of people across borders. After becoming popular in Italy, for example, Facebook spread to the Italian-speaking portions of Switzerland. But in German-speaking areas of Switzerland, adoption of Facebook lagged. When Facebook began to gain momentum in Brazil, the activity was most intense in southern parts of the country that border on neighboring Argentina, where Facebook was already popular.
“It’s a mapping of the real world,” Mr. Olivan said.


Facebook is not popular everywhere. The Web site is largely blocked in China. And with fewer than a million users each in Japan, South Korea and Russia, it lags far behind home-grown social networks in those major markets.


Mr. Olivan, who leads a team of just 12 people, hopes to change that. Facebook recently sent some of its best engineers to a new office in Tokyo, where they are working to fine-tune searches so they work with all three Japanese scripts. In South Korea, as well as in Japan, where users post to their social networks on mobile phones more than on PCs, the company is working with network operators to ensure distribution of its service.


Industry insiders say that, most of all, Facebook is benefiting from a cycle where success breeds more success. In particular, its growing revenue, estimated at $1 billion annually, allows the company to invest in improving its product and keep competitors at bay.


“I think that Facebook is winning for two reasons,” said Bing Gordon, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a board member of Zynga, the maker of popular Facebook games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Mr. Gordon said that Facebook had hired some of the best engineers in Silicon Valley, and he said that the company’s strategy to create a platform for other software developers had played a critical role.
“They have opened up a platform, and they have the best apps on that platform,” Mr. Gordon said.


With Facebook’s social networking lead growing, it is not clear whether Google, or any other company, will succeed in derailing its march forward.
Says Danny Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Land, an industry blog, “Google can’t even get to the first base of social networks, which is people interacting with each other, much less to second or third base, which is people interacting with each other through games and applications.”


By MIGUEL HELFT (NYT. July 7, 2010)

GROWING up in Texas, I knew a lot of girls like Farrah Fawcett, and I hated them. They had everything I didn’t: blond hair, blue eyes, the power, seemingly, to get anything and everything they wanted in my small public high school — boys, head cheerleader, the ability to decide, in a twinkling, who was cool and who wasn’t.

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My mother told me not to worry — my time would come, she said — but what did she know? I was a dark, brooding teenager, and everywhere I turned there was a poster of a beaming woman with wild blond hair, her smile as wide as the Texas sky, in a low-cut scarlet bathing suit that, every man now over the age of 40 can tell you, revealed what was in 1976 the scandalous hint of a nipple.

Texas has produced a lot of beauties, but Farrah Fawcett of Corpus Christi was the one who dominated my late adolescence. Sometime after my mother tried — O.K., at my behest — to give me a Farrah feather-cut that wilted immediately in the summer heat, she came to stand for everything I wanted to escape in my home state.

The oppressiveness, the conformity, the vanity, the insincerity required of Texas women — smiling when you didn’t mean it, looking happy to see someone you really weren’t happy to see, never appearing in public without your face on (hers was a brilliantly contrived natural look) — acting, in general, as if you were always giving the best party in the world. It always seemed to me to be too much work.

Of course, I had it wrong about Farrah Fawcett. For a while she did get everything she must have wanted, or that people thought she should have wanted. She was the iconic beauty of her time and her various acting comebacks — instead of a go-for-it crime fighter she became a battered woman, a Nazi hunter and Robert Duvall’s unforgiving wife in “The Apostle” — proved that she was more than that.

But by then, no one cared. I wrote a magazine profile of her in 2000, and she spent a lot of time avoiding my softball questions by locking herself for extended periods in various bathrooms: at the Beverly Hills Hotel, at her home high atop Beverly Hills, in a movie theater restroom in Century City, where we’d gone for some premiere.

She was a tiny thing, fragile as a sparrow, disoriented. I rode with her to the doctor for some kind of much-needed injection, and took no pleasure in the trip.

Maybe, as some have suggested, this was all an act — being flighty Farrah Fawcett was her best role — but even if that were true, her choice of that act was instructive. It made you want to take care of her, to be careful in your approach, not to push or probe too much, because she might break.

Over time, I’ve made peace with the blond beauties of my childhood, and see that they have some essential qualities she lacked: an instinct for self-preservation, an ability to laugh through the worst of it, toughness and self-respect — these might have helped Farrah Fawcett get by after her beauty faded and the crowd moved on. But by then she was a creature of Hollywood, not Texas, and, unlike me, had left home for good.

By MIMI SWARTZ ; NYT,June 28, 2009
Mimi Swartz is an executive editor at Texas Monthly magazine.

In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Brad Pitt movie that will be released tomorrow, a boy is born an old man. As he grows old in years, his body becomes younger.

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If the film, based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, isn’t pretending to be realistic, it does strike at the oldest of human fantasies – one scientists and charlatans have tried to fulfill for all of recorded history: the ability to reverse the aging process.

“Aging results from the accumulation of dysfunctional molecules that, after reproductive maturation, exceed the capacity for their repair,” Len Hayflick, an anatomy professor at the University of California, San Francisco, tells ScientificAmerican.com. “If the protagonist is born with the molecular and cellular errors that define aging, then the repair processes are similarly dysfunctional. To assume that the aged individual is becoming younger the damaged repair processes must mysteriously become more efficient — which doesn’t happen in reality.”

Centuries ago, anti-aging practitioners advocated caloric restriction — a strategy still promoted today that may extend your life but not make you more youthful — and eating gold, pearl, and coral, Jay Olshansky, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, notes in a “Cult of Immortality” debate on BBC.com.

These days, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) project is trying to affect or repair the process of molecular and cellular damage that causes aging. Human growth hormone has also been touted as a restorative elixir, even though research has indicated that it can’t turn back the clock. (Its use outside of specified conditions such as growth deficiency in kids and AIDS patients also is illegal.) Dozens of scientists six years ago penned a position paper, posted on ScientificAmerican.com, expressing concern that the marketing of many anti-aging medical products “often misrepresents the science.”

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The “fountain of youth” concept has also been complicated by the idea that reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer “is the same as reversing aging,” Olshansky says. But while improved medical technology may improve the outcome of those diseases, rising levels of obesity among U.S. children threaten to roll back life expectancy, he says.

“Don’t age, don’t grow old, and don’t die – that’s what they promise you,” Olshansky says of the age-defiers. “How ridiculous is that? The one common characteristic of all anti-aging practitioners of the past is that they’re all dead.”

* Scientific American

Maybe we’re too hard on Disney. After all, they simply remake classic stories in cartoon form. What’s not to like?
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Well, as you’ll see, it all depends on just how much thought you apply to it. Here’s seven pretty terrible lessons that Disney films taught us, whether they meant to or not.

#7.The Lion King: To Be Successful, Sometimes People Got to Die
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Simba always knew that he was going to succeed his father, Mufasa, as the next Lion King. But fate liked spitting in poor little Simba’s face, and his dear old dad got trampled to death by wildebeests. Of course, Mufasa’s death was really caused by the evil Scar, Simba’s uncle.

Later, all grown up, he reclaims his thrown and Scar suffers the double whammy of falling off a cliff and getting torn apart by hyenas. So after two particularly nasty and horrendous deaths, Simba finally becomes the lion king.

The Supposed Message:

We all have responsibilities we can’t ignore. And don’t trust that creepy uncle.

The Actual Message:

In order for you to be successful, other people will have to pay. And ultimately, that’s okay, because the ends justify the means!

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First you have Scar, who knew he couldn’t be king of the pridelands until that dick Mufasa and his brat son were out of the way. So Scar did away with both of them, killing Mufasa and banishing Simba, and, as a result, he got to be king for a descent amount of time.

Then when Simba started to grow some balls, he took back his throne… but only after Scar himself took a dirt nap. It’s true that Simba didn’t intentionally kill him, but you know who did? The screenwriter. After all, the movie doesn’t end with Simba convincing Scar to renounce his evil ways, or putting Scar in lion jail.

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In fact, Lion Jail isn’t even real.

No, the message was sent loud and clear: Simba could not be the true king unless Scar was dead. And they even arranged it so that Simba wouldn’t have any of the pesky guilt that would have come with actually doing the deed himself. Everyone lived happily ever after. Except Scar of course, whose body was slowly pooped out by several hyenas the next day.

#6.Cinderella: Sort of Like “The Secret”

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Cinderella is forced by her bitchy stepmother to clean the house from stem to stern every day. The only thing that prevents her from swallowing a bottle of pain killers is her belief that someday her dreams will come true.

One day Cinderella plans to attend a ball thrown by the prince, but the fact that she has a cutthroat bitch for a stepmother completely slipped her mind. She is forbidden from going.

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Luckily, it turns out Cinderella has a fairy godmother, who uses her magic to hook Cinderella up with a ride, a beautiful outfit and a pair of what would seem like grossly impractical glass heels. At the ball Cinderella uses her innate flirting skills and rocks the prince’s world, to the point that the next day the prince whisks her away to be his princess.

The Supposed Message:

Dreams do come true!

The Actual Message:

If you wait around long enough, the universe will practically hand stuff to you.

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“Could you fix my credit score while you’re at it?”

No one is denying the fact that Cinderella’s life was one big shit stain. But in her state of mind, she actually thought that her dreams would just sort of happen if she sat around being miserable long enough. It never occurred to her that she had the ability to just tell her stepmother to go fuck herself.

Instead she kept scrubbing floors and believing that, if she continued to wish very hard and take absolutely no action, everything would fall into place. And what do you know, the bitch gets a fucking kingdom out of it.

So don’t worry, girls. Some kind of “Fairy Godmother” will sweep into your life at any moment, and find you a man to take care of everything. Just keep wishing!

#5.The Little Mermaid: A Little Deal with the Devil Never Hurt Nobody

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A little mermaid named Ariel, who is presumably little in title only since she has one impressively big rack, dreams of living her life on shore and finding her true love. Well, a clearly evil sea-witch named Ursula offers to give the naive mermaid legs in exchange for something she probably might need in the future: her voice.

When Ariel makes it to shore, she realizes the Sea-Bitch screwed her, as her legs work with the grace of a drunken paraplegic and she can’t speak. So now she must somehow make Prince Eric fall in love with her while appearing to be either mute or retarded.
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By some miracle, the prince takes the bait (again, note the rack) but then Ursula, who in the cartoon seems to be portrayed as a black drag queen, goes after the couple. The prince is forced to kill Ursula by stabbing her with a ship. As a result, Ariel gets both her legs and her voice.

The Supposed Message:

True love conquers all!

The Actual Message:

A little compromise with evil is okay, as long as everything works out okay in the end!

Ariel loved to sing, and she sang pretty damn well. But she wanted to live on shore and find love so bad that she made a “deal” with a “devil” and “sells” her beautiful voice, or “soul” so to speak.

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And guess what? It worked. Sure, the writers threw in some complications in the form of Prince Eric having to send Ursula straight to Disney Hell, but the fact of the matter remains that Ariel would never have gotten to meet Prince Eric at all had she not compromised with the evil queen in the first place. She made a figurative deal with the devil, got everything she wanted and came out completely unscathed.

So keep that in mind if you have to, say, sleep with some dude to get that acting role. None of that will matter once you achieve your dreams!

#4.Beauty and the Beast: Just Because He’s Abusive, Doesn’t Mean He’s Not a Really Good Guy
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After a spoiled prince pretty much tells an old beggar woman to fuck off, he is transformed into a beast, as it turns out the beggar is an enchantress. And she makes it very clear that until he learns to love and thus is loved in return, there will be no ladies in his life and it’s just going to be him and his hand for a very long time.

As luck would have it, there happens to be a woman out there named Belle with a heart big enough to share with unfortunate-looking people such as the Beast, and she’s not too bad to look at either. When her father is kidnapped by the Beast, Belle offers herself in exchange for his freedom.

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Against all odds, they fall in love. The townspeople snap and try and kill the Beast, but because Belle admits she loves him, the Beast turns back into a man and the two live happily ever after.

The Supposed Message:

Treat others the way you wish to be treated!

The Actual Message:

Underneath the abusive exterior of your man is a loving heart he’s just dying to share with you.

First of all, Belle was a prisoner in the Beast’s fucking castle. Nothing says “I love you” like house arrest. Secondly, he wasn’t exactly whispering sweet nothings in her ear. The Beast hurled insults at Belle at every chance, and came close to pimp slapping the shit out of her on more than one occasion.
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But she ignored all that unimportant trivia, because the Beast had a loving heart! Sure he gets angry sometimes, but that’s just how he is. And, in the end, he turned back into a sexy, romantic prince. It’s all good now.

Her patience paid off, girls, and it will for you, too! If you just stick with it and don’t judge your man too harshly. Or call the cops.

#3.The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Ugly Dude Never Gets the Girl

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Quasimodo is born with a hunched back and a face that only a mother could love. Too bad his mother gets killed by an asshole named Frollo.

Quasimodo moves into the bell tower of a cathedral and becomes the hunchback of Notre Dame. He then winds up in a love triangle with the lovely gypsy Esmeralda and the aforementioned Frollo.

When spurned by the girl, Frollo tries to burn Esmeralda at the stake. Quasimodo rescues her and, after that, the twisted, malformed freak is able to freely go out in public without people pointing and shaking their fists at the sky in reaction to God’s twisted design. Quasimodo and Esmeralda get married and… oh, wait, no. She winds up with some other dude.

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“The order goes: handsome guy, then the goat and then you, Quasimodo.”

The Supposed Message:

Don’t judge a book by its cover!

The Actual Message:

Ugly guys don’t get the girl, even if they’re devoted and awesome. That’s just how it works, sorry.

From the first moment Quasimodo laid his misshapen eyes on her, the poor dope was madly in love with Esmeralda. They seemed destined for each other. French society had given both of them the middle finger, and they both liked sticking it to Frollo.

But just as Quasimodo was starting to feel good about himself, Esmeralda meets another guy: the dashing and completely non-deformed Captain Phoebus. And who in their right mind would pass up tall, dark and handsome for short, pale and abominable?

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Quasimodo ended up alone while Phoebus and Esmeralda made some sweet, sweet gypsy magic. So for you hideous guys out there, true love and heroism is great and all, but at the end of the day, we just can’t have you infecting the gene pool.

#2.Sleeping Beauty: If a Guy Saves Your Ass, it Belongs to Him

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There’s always that one person who wasn’t invited to the party for very good reasons, but feels they are entitled to show up anyway. The party crasher in this Disney movie happens to be a very powerful, very evil fairy named Maleficent who curses the birthday girl, Princess Aurora, to prick her finger on a spindle of all things and, well, die.

Suddenly, the music stops with a needle scratch and there’s an awkward silence as the evil bitch makes her exit. However, a fellow party-going fairy counteracts the curse by blessing the princess, saying that the princess will instead merely fall asleep until a prince–and she means any prince–comes along and pretty much date rapes her.

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“Man, if any of you were princes, I’d totally be giving it away for free, straight up. You don’t even know.”

Sure enough, Aurora falls asleep. But then Prince Philip (who has been stalking the princess) kills Maleficent, then kisses the princess and probably enjoys a grope fest, which will remain the prince’s little secret and Aurora’s repressed memory as they live happily ever after.

The Supposed Message:

True love will conquer all!

The Actual Message:

That guy who comes along and saves you from a crisis? Marry him! He’s the one!

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“Let’s just skip to the vows, I’m in a hurry.”

When a rational woman wakes up to find a man practically on top of her, their first instinct would be to reach for the mace. Not our princess; she basically didn’t know his ass from Adam, but she went ahead and married the guy. One kiss at the right time, and she knew she had found Mr. Right.

You may notice that this winds up as the exact polar opposite of the Hunchback of Notre Dame lesson, taken so far in the other direction that it winds up being even more wrong. Never mind that “compatibility” stuff and the all the time it takes for most folks to find out if they have it. If you’re in a tough spot and a handsome guy saves the day, you instantly belong to him. Forever and ever!

Though we guess it only works if you’re not a hunchback.

#1.The Fox and the Hound: Sometimes People Are Different, and That’s Awful

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After his mother gets capped and is presumably turned into a tasteful wall ornament, a little fox named Tod is taken in by an old woman to be raised on a farm. Tod eventually meets a hunting dog named Copper and the two hit it off.

Tod thinks the two will be friends forever, but over the winter Copper leaves on a hunting trip, and when he returns he’s a full fledged fox-killing machine. When Tod goes to see Copper, he is attacked by Chief, Copper’s mentor. Chief gets injured, and Copper makes it his mission in life to see former friend Tod meat packaged.

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Eliminate on sight.

Copper and his owner eventually find Tod and try to take him down. When a bear jumps into the fight, Tod saves Copper and his owner. So they decide to call a truce, and the two go their separate ways.

The Supposed Message:

Even though we’re different, we can still get along.

The Actual Message:

And by “get along” we mean “don’t kill each other.” We certainly do not mean “live together.” Don’t be silly, you belong to different races!

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Our fox and hound find their long friendship thoroughly obliterated and end up trying to kill each other. Only after the member of the pursued and persecuted race does a favor for his oppressor (when the hunted saves the hunter’s life) does the hound grant the fox permission to continue living.

But not as equals; the hound returns to his home with the humans and the fox returns to the wild.

That is how we will heal our racial and socioeconomic differences: by separating ourselves. If only we could institute some kind of “segregation” where all of us could be with our own kind, none of this unpleasantness would happen.

Thanks for showing us the way, Mr. Disney!

************************
By Mackenzie Beverly

Six rapists in the lush forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo: One in a green hood, another in a red baseball cap, another in military fatigues and a camouflage hat, another in black sunglasses. Their guns are pointed down. Smoking cigarettes, they swagger. They hold up their fingers, counting the number of women they have raped, violated, damned. Sexual terror as a weapon of war, perpetrated sometimes with sticks, knives, tree limbs.

The men seem unafraid to confess. They are bragging to an American filmmaker who holds a camera, recording their words.

“Ask him to tell me what he did,” says Lisa F. Jackson, whose chilling documentary, “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo,” debuts tonight on HBO. In a 10-year-old conflict that has left some 5 million people dead, the tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically raped and mutilated by an array of combatants are the silent victims among the living, Jackson tells us. What makes her documentary more stunning: She goes into the forest and confronts the rapists.
“I slept with some women,” says the rapist, a gray sweater wrapping his head, the sleeves tied around his neck.

“Did they want you to sleep with them?” Jackson inquires, her voice incisive, a bit on edge. A translator repeats her words in Swahili. Is it about control? Sex? Why violate a woman, leave her to bleed in her village, while her husband watches, tied to a tree? Why would 20 men line up and take turns, one after the other, raping a girl until she passes out and separates herself from a pain too evil to imagine?
Why insert a machete into a woman, leaving her organs so torn and dysfunctional that she flees her village and hides her shame and her stench in the bush, another victim of war?
“After we’ve been raped, our men don’t want us anymore. We are considered half-human beings,” a lonely woman confides to Jackson and her camera.

In another scene, the gray-sweatered rapist doesn’t flinch at Jackson’s question: “If she says no, I must take her by force. If she is strong, I’ll call some of my friends to help me. All this is happening because of the war. We would live a normal life and treat women naturally if there was no war.”

The war started in 1998 when Congolese rebels and Rwandan troops tried to oust the country’s president, Laurent Kabila. But the fighting metastasized into a conflict over land, ethnicity and natural resources and lasted long after Kabila’s 2001 assassination and well beyond a 2003 peace accord. Eastern Congo, the flashpoint of the conflict, degenerated into a state of near constant violence, with regular troops, rebels and regional militias routinely looting villages and routinely raping women and girls.

Rain pours outside. Jackson’s camera takes us inside the shadow of an abandoned building, pointing at another rapist. His gun is slung across his back. He wears a green beret and talks of the “magic” that makes him rape.

“Well, we were just abiding by the conditions of our magic potion. We had to rape women in order to make it work, and beat the enemy.”
Another rapist, wearing a black skullcap, is sitting in a corner. “Well, those women were not taken by force. The thing is they were in a combat zone where most of the fighters relied on magic power. This magic potion worked in such a way that you’ve got to rape women in order to overcome the enemies who’ve invaded our country, the Congo. That is why all those things have happened.”

Here is where the film shows the twisted layers of damage from war, twisted until the soldiers believe they must rape to win. Twisted until the viewer becomes engulfed in the twisted message of magic and enemy control and devastation. And you shout at the screen. Because the film shows you the pain of women raped in front of their husbands and children. Rammed with sticks until the uterus ruptures. And they bleed. And urine seeps forever. And they are cast away. And children are born of the rapes. And their mothers must carry them because they are obliged. One mother, raped at age 15, says in the film that she named her daughter Lumiere, which means light. She will tell her daughter she did not know the girl’s father.

How many such children will be born of rape? One cannot say. But the number of rapes, as told by the film’s collection of rapists, is staggering.
“Well, those that I remember, I could number them to 18.” It’s green beret again, touting his rape tally.

Camouflage hat says he has raped seven women. Green hood says five. Red T-shirt admits to two. Black sunglasses: about 20.
Black skullcap says, like an accountant: “It’s hard to keep record of the number of women that I’ve raped. The thing to keep in mind is the fact that we have stayed too long in the bush, and that induced us to rape. You know how things are in combat zones. We raped as we advance from village to village.”

The rapists melt back into the bush. But their chilling words now are caught forever in this film that takes us deep into the horrors of a silent war waged by Congolese government forces, by rebels, and sometimes even by United Nations peacekeepers.
“He who rapes a woman rapes an entire nation,” a policewoman says in the film.

Says Jackson, “They are forgotten women in a forgotten war.”
She is both witness and survivor. The viewer learns that Jackson herself was gang-raped — assaulted here in the District in 1976 as she was leaving her office late one night. “The three men who attacked me that night in Georgetown were never found,” she says in the film.
She shared her story with the women in Congo. “They all asked about the war that was happening in my country. I explained to them that even in peacetime, women are not safe. . . . The idea to them that women, and white women, could be raped in peacetime,” she said in an interview, “they could not imagine such things could happen.”

It was not her aim to put herself, her story into the film. But once she told her story, women opened up. “It became clear the connection I had with the women resulted in incredibly honest interviews,” Jackson said. “It also made the film less voyeuristic. It helped the audience understand.”

To gather the women’s stories, Jackson, 57, visited hospitals, sat in mud-floored huts and churches, putting names and faces and grief on camera until the viewer is moved to feel, turn away, do something. People are always asking Jackson, “But what can I do?”
“People have to find their own thing to do,” she says. “There is so much you can do. I made a film.”

Jackson, who calls herself a “Foreign Service brat,” went to Holton-Arms, a private girls’ school in Bethesda. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, then studied film at MIT with the documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock.

After college, she returned to the District to work at WETA television. For about two years, she worked as a film editor with legendary documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim. She eventually started her own production company and, over the next 30 years, made documentaries in Siberia and Guatemala. She won three Emmy Awards.
For her next film, she wanted to document the fate of women and girls in conflicts around the world. In 2006, she went to South Kivu, a province in the eastern Congo.

“I ended up going to the worst place first,” Jackson said in the interview. “I had good friends working for the U.N. peacekeepers there. I cashed in frequent flier miles and went where the conflict was raging. After two days, I realized this was not a segment in a larger film. This was the story nobody was telling.”

She “found many dozens of raped women, women of all ages, too many women, who at times would line up for hours, waiting until after the light disappeared and my camera could no longer record an image, waiting to talk to me, waiting to tell their stories to someone who would listen to them without judgment, hoping that I would relay their stories to a world that seemed indifferent to their horrific plight.”

One woman told of being kidnapped and held with other women in the forest as sex slaves. “We were raped by 20 men at the same time. Our bodies are suffering. They have taken their guns and put them inside us. They kill our children and then they tell us to eat those children. If a woman is pregnant, they make your children stand on your belly so that you will abort. Then they take the blood from your womb and put it in a bowl and tell you to drink it.”

To find the rapists, she asked her guide to find men willing to be interviewed. “In work with the U.N., he knew a lot of Congolese army officers. He went to a commanding officer and said there is an American journalist who wants to interview your men about raping women. He said okay and put the word out among the soldiers.”

She ended up deep in the forest, led by a dozen men.
“For a moment, going into the bush, I was completely panic-stricken,” Jackson said in the interview. “Then I realized they wanted their moment on videotape. If anything happened to me and my camera, they wouldn’t have that. My camera was as good as a gun. They wanted to be memorialized, bragging about what they did to women.”

“This type of sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner by armed groups.”
That is Denis Mukwege, director of the Panzi General Referral Hospital in the Congolese town of Bukavu, testifying last week before the Senate subcommittee on human rights and the law. “The rapists are not seeking to satisfy some kind of sexual desire but to destroy the woman, destroy her family and destroy her community.”

Jackson, who appeared with him as well as several other human rights activists, asked the senators: “Why is it that rape in conflict is so infrequently prosecuted in the world’s courts? Where is the outrage?”
Rape has been used systemically in several war-torn countries to humiliate, demoralize and destroy, Physicians for Human Rights said in a report it released at the hearing.

Millions of women and girls have been tortured, mutilated, impregnated as a form of ethnic cleansing. It happened during the Rwandan genocide, the civil wars in Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Chad, the former Yugoslavia and Liberia, as well as during the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

“Mass rape in war is frequently not the random act of individual soldiers but a determined strategy to destroy populations,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “The perpetrators are not held accountable and turn to mass rape because it is cheaper than using bullets.”
Jackson explained that armies and factions in Congo were killing civilians in order to loot the country of its riches: most recently, tin, cobalt and coltan, used in electronics.

“Perhaps another hearing might more thoroughly explore the causes and ruinous consequences of this illegal plundering,” she said. But everyone in this room should consider the fact that there is the blood of Congolese women on their laptop computers and on their cellphones.”

After 90 minutes, the gavel sounded. The hearing adjourned. Senators filed out. Reporters tapped out stories. People pulled out cellphones. The paneled room emptied into the marbled halls of power.
But the question remained: What would be done to help the women?
In the film, a 70-year-old rape survivor says: “Women are suffering. We have forgotten what happiness is.”

* By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Charlton Heston, who appeared in some 100 films in his 60-year acting career but who is remembered chiefly for his monumental, jut-jawed portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and Michelangelo, died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by a spokesman for the family, Bill Powers, who did not specify a cause. In August 2002, Mr. Heston announced that he had received a diagnosis of neurological symptoms “consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“I’m neither giving up nor giving in,” he said.

Every actor dreams of a breakthrough role, the part that stamps him in the public memory, and Mr. Heston’s life changed forever when he caught the eye of the director Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille, who was planning his next biblical spectacular, “The Ten Commandments,” looked at the young, physically imposing Mr. Heston and saw his Moses.

When the film was released, in 1956, more than three and a half hours long and the most expensive that De Mille had ever made, Mr. Heston became a marquee name. Whether leading the Israelites through the wilderness, parting the Red Sea or coming down from Mount Sinai with the tablets from God in hand, he was a Moses to remember.

Writing in The New York Times nearly 30 years afterward, when the film was re-released for a brief run, Vincent Canby called it “a gaudy, grandiloquent Hollywood classic” and suggested there was more than a touch of “the rugged American frontiersman of myth” in Mr. Heston’s Moses.

The same quality made Mr. Heston an effective spokesman, off screen, for the causes he believed in. Late in life he became a staunch opponent of gun control. Elected president of the National Rifle Association in 1998, he proved to be a powerful campaigner against what he saw as the government’s attempt to infringe on a constitutional guarantee — the right to bear arms.

In Mr. Heston, the N.R.A. found its embodiment of pioneer values — pride, independence and valor. In a speech at the N.R.A.’s annual convention in 2000, he brought the audience to its feet with a ringing attack on gun-control advocates. Paraphrasing an N.R.A. bumper sticker (“I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands”), he waved a replica of a colonial musket above his head and shouted defiantly, “From my cold, dead hands!”

Mr. Heston’s screen presence was so commanding that he was never dominated by mammoth sets, spectacular effects or throngs of spear-waving extras. In his films, whether playing Buffalo Bill, an airline pilot, a naval captain or the commander of a spaceship, he essentially projected the same image — muscular, steely-eyed, courageous. If critics used terms like “marble-monumental” or “granitic” to describe his acting style, they just as often praised his forthright, no-nonsense characterizations.

After his success in “The Ten Commandments,” Mr. Heston tried a change of pace. Working for another legendary Hollywood director, Orson Welles, he played a Mexican narcotics investigator in the thriller “Touch of Evil,” in which Welles himself played a murderous sheriff in a border town. Also starring Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich, the film, a modest success when it opened in 1958, came to be accepted as a noir classic.

A Biblical Specialty

But the following year Mr. Heston stepped back into the world of the biblical epic, this time for the director William Wyler. The movie was “Ben-Hur.” Cast as a prince in ancient Judea who rebels against the rule of Rome, Mr. Heston again dominated the screen. In the film’s most spectacular sequence, he and his co-star, Stephen Boyd, as his Roman rival, fight a thrilling duel with whips as their horse-drawn chariots career wheel-to-wheel around an arena filled with roaring spectators.

“Ben-Hur” won 11 Academy Awards — a record at the time — including those for best picture, best director and, for Mr. Heston, best actor.

He went on to star opposite Sophia Loren in the 1961 film “El Cid,” battling the Moors in medieval Spain. As a Marine officer at the Forbidden City in 1900, he helped put down the Boxer Rebellion in Nicholas Ray’s 1963 epic “55 Days at Peking.” In “Khartoum” (1966), he played Gen. Charles (Chinese) Gordon, who was killed in a desert uprising, led in the film by Laurence Olivier’s Mahdi. When George Stevens produced and directed “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965, there was Mr. Heston, back in ancient Judea, playing John the Baptist to Max von Sydow’s Jesus.

He portrayed Andrew Jackson twice, in “The President’s Lady” (1953) and “The Buccaneer” (1958). There were westerns (“Major Dundee,” “Will Penny,” “The Mountain Men”), costume dramas (“The Three Musketeers” and its sequel, “The Four Musketeers,” with Mr. Heston as the crafty Cardinal Richelieu in both) and action films aplenty. Whether playing a hard-bitten landowner in an adaptation of James Michener’s novel “The Hawaiians” (1970), or a daring pilot in “Airport 1975,” he could be relied on to give moviegoers their money’s worth.

In 1965 he was cast as Michelangelo in the film version of Irving Stone’s novel “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” Directed by Carol Reed, the film pitted Mr. Heston’s temperamental artist against Rex Harrison’s testy Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to create frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Mr. Heston’s performance took a critical drubbing, but to audiences, the larger-than-life role seemed to be another perfect fit. Mr. Heston once joked: “I have played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses. If that doesn’t create an ego problem, nothing does.”

Foray Into the Future

Mr. Heston was catapulted into the distant future in the 1968 science-fiction film “Planet of the Apes,” in which he played an astronaut marooned on a desolate planet and then enslaved by its rulers, a race of anthropomorphic apes. The film was a hit. He reprised the role two years later in the sequel, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.”

It was all a long way from Evanston, Ill., where Charlton Carter was born on Oct. 4, 1923, and from the small town of St. Helen, Mich., where his family moved when he was a small boy and where his father ran a lumber mill. He attended a one-room school and learned to fish and hunt and to savor the feeling of being self-reliant in the wild, where his shyness was no handicap.

When his parents divorced in the 1930s and his mother remarried — his stepfather’s surname was Heston — the family moved back to the Chicago suburbs, this time Winnetka. He joined the theater program at his new high school and went on to enroll at Northwestern University on a scholarship. By that time, he was convinced he had found his life’s work.

Mr. Heston also found a fellow drama student, Lydia Clarke, whom he married in 1944, just before he enlisted in the Army Air Forces. He became a radio-gunner and spent three years stationed in the Aleutian Islands. After his discharge, the Hestons moved to New York, failed to find work in the theater and, somewhat disenchanted but still determined, moved to North Carolina, where they spent several seasons working at the Thomas Wolfe memorial theater in Asheville.

When they returned to New York in 1947, Mr. Heston got his first big break, landing the role of Caesar’s lieutenant in a Broadway production of Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” staged by Guthrie McClintick and starring Katharine Cornell. The production ran for seven months and proved to be the high point of Mr. Heston’s New York stage career. He appeared in a handful of other plays, most of them dismal failures.

If Broadway had little to offer him, television was another matter. He made frequent appearances in dramatic series like “Robert Montgomery Presents” and “Philco Playhouse.” The door to Hollywood opened when the film producer Hal B. Wallis saw Mr. Heston’s performance as Rochester in a “Studio One” production of “Jane Eyre.” Wallis offered him a contract.

Mr. Heston made his film debut in 1950 in Wallis’s “Dark City,” a low-grade thriller in which he played a small-time gambler. Two years later, he did his first work for DeMille as a hard-driving circus boss in “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Throughout his career he studied long and hard for his roles. He prepared for the part of Moses by memorizing passages from the Old Testament. When filming began on the sun-baked slopes of Mount Sinai, he suggested to DeMille that he play the role barefoot — a decision that he felt lent an edge of truth to his performance.

Preparing for “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” he read hundreds of Michelangelo’s letters and practiced how to sculpt and paint convincingly. When filming “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” (1959), in which he played the pilot of a salvage boat, he learned deep-water diving. And he mostly rejected stunt doubles. In “Ben-Hur,” he said, he drove his own chariot for “about 80 percent of the race.”

“I worked six weeks learning how to manage the four white horses,” he said. “Nearly pulled my arms right out of their sockets.”

As the years wore on, the leading roles began to go to younger men, and by the 1980s, Mr. Heston’s appearances on screen were less frequent. He turned to stage work again, not on Broadway but in Los Angeles, at the Ahmanson Theater, where he played roles ranging from Macbeth to James Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” He also returned to television, appearing in 1983 as a paternalistic banker in the mini-series “Chiefs” and as an oil baron in the series “The Colbys.”

Mr. Heston was always able to channel some energies into the public arena. He was an active supporter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., calling him “a 20th-century Moses for his people,” and participated in the historic march on Washington in 1963.

Inspired by Reagan

He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1966 to 1971, following in the footsteps of his friend and role model Ronald Reagan. A registered Democrat for many years, he was nevertheless selective in the candidates he chose to support and often campaigned for conservatives.

In 1981, President Reagan appointed him co-chairman of the President’s Task Force on the Arts and Humanities, a group formed to devise ways to obtain financing for arts organizations. Although he had reservations about some projects supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Mr. Heston wound up defending the agency against charges of elitism.

Again and again, he proved himself a cogent and effective speaker, but he rejected suggestions that he run for office. “I’d rather play a senator than be one,” he said.

He became a Republican after Democrats in the Senate blocked the confirmation of Judge Robert Bork, a conservative, to the Supreme Court in 1987. Mr. Heston had supported the nomination and was critical of the Reagan White House for misreading the depth of the liberal opposition.

Mr. Heston frequently spoke out against what he saw as evidence of the decline and debasement of American culture. In 1992, appalled by the lyrics on “Cop Killer,” a recording by the rap artist Ice T, he blasted the album at a Time Warner stockholders meeting and was a force in having it withdrawn from the marketplace.

In the 1996 elections, he campaigned on behalf of some 50 Republican candidates and began to speak out against gun control. In 1997, he was elected vice president of the N.R.A.

In December of that year, as the keynote speaker at the 20th anniversary gala of the Free Congress Foundation, Mr. Heston described “a cultural war” raging across America, “storming our values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our self-confidence in who we are and what we believe.”

A Relentless Drive

The next year, in his 70’s, he was elected president of the N.R.A. In his speech at the association’s convention before his election, he trained his oratorical artillery on President Bill Clinton: “Mr. Clinton, sir, America didn’t trust you with our health care system. America didn’t trust you with gays in the military. America doesn’t trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don’t trust you with our guns.”

He was in the news again after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999, when he said that the N.R.A.’s annual membership meeting, scheduled to be held the following week in Denver, would be scaled back in light of the killings but not canceled.

In a memorable scene from “Bowling for Columbine,” a 2002 documentary about violence in America, the director, Michael Moore, visited Mr. Heston at his home and asked him how he could defend his pro-gun stance. Mr. Heston ended the interview without comment.

In May 2001, he was unanimously re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term by the association’s board of directors. The association had amended its bylaws in 2000 to allow Mr. Heston to serve a third one-year term as president. Two months after his celebrated speech at the 2000 convention, it was disclosed that he had checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation program.

Mr. Heston was proud of his collection of some 30 guns at his longtime home in the Coldwater Canyon area of Los Angeles, where he and his wife raised their son, Fraser, and daughter, Holly Ann. They all survive him, along with three grandchildren.

Never much for socializing , he spent his days either working, exercising, reading (he was fond of biographies) or sketching. An active diarist, he published several accounts of his career, including “The Actor’s Life: Journals 1956-1976.”

In 2003, Mr. Heston was among the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Bush. In 1997, he was also a recipient of the annual Kennedy Center honors.

Mr. Heston continued working through the 1990s, acting more frequently on television but also in occasional films. His most recent film appearance found him playing a cameo role, in simian makeup, in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes.”

He announced in 1999 that he was receiving radiation treatments for prostate cancer, but said he would continue his film work and go on making appearances on behalf of Republicans running for office.

He had always hated the thought of retirement and once explained his relentless drive as an actor. “You never get it right,” he said in a 1986 interview. “Never once was it the way I imagined it lying awake at 4 o’clock in the morning thinking about it the next day.” His goal remained, he said, “to get it right one time.”

* By ROBERT BERKVIST (New York Times)

Correction: April 7, 2008
A front-page obituary and a headline in some editions on Sunday about the actor Charlton Heston misstated his age and the year of his birth. He was 84, not 83, and was born in 1923, not 1924.

The presidential candidates may have star qualities — and they also have stars in their families, according to a genealogical study linking Hillary Clinton to Angelina Jolie and Barack Obama to Brad Pitt.

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The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston on Wednesday released a study in which it traced the family trees of all three presidential candidates to find they all had famous relatives, both dead and alive.

It found Illinois Senator Barack Obama, whose mother is from Kansas, can claim at least six U.S. presidents as distant cousins, including George W. Bush and his father, Gerald R. Ford, Lyndon B. Johnson, Harry S. Truman, and James Madison.

But other cousins include British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — and Brad Pitt who is a ninth cousin linked back Edwin Hickman who died in Virginia in 1769.

“Obama’s maternal ancestry includes the mid-Atlantic States and the South,” said Christopher Child, a genealogist with NEHGC that dates back to 1845 and describes itself as the United States oldest and largest non-profit genealogical organization.

Meanwhile his Democratic rival, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, shares a common ancestor with Pitt’s partner, actress Angelina Jolie. Clinton and Jolie are ninth cousins twice removed linked by Jean Cusson of St. Sulpice, Quebec, who died in 1718.

Child said Clinton is also a cousin of a number of famous people with French Canadian ancestry, including Madonna (ninth cousins linked by Pierre Gagne of Quebec who died in 1656) Celine Dion, and Alanis Morissette, as well as author Jack Kerouac. Another cousin is Camilla Parker-Bowles, wife of Prince Charles.

“It is common to find people of French Canadian descent to be related to large numbers of other French Canadians, including these notables,” said Child in a statement.

Republican nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, is a sixth cousin of Laura Bush but it was hard track other ancestors.

“McCain’s ancestry is almost entirely southern,” said Child, adding this made notable connections harder to trace because of challenges to genealogists in that region.

Child said having famous cousins makes for interesting conversation but it “should not influence voters.”

“But at a time when the race focuses on pointing out differences, the candidates may enjoy learning about famous cousins and their varied family histories,” he said.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Wed Mar 26, 2008

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Some consider fatal to have feminist overtones. Do you think it’s a political film?

I think Fatal Attraction had a tremendous effect on this country when it came out. I think people brought political baggage to the film. I was astonished that so many feminists didn’t like Alex Forrest because they thought it was a terrible portrayal of a single working woman.
You can’t play somebody that represents all single women.
But she has become, I think, a symbol of women fighting back.

As an actress who is no longer in her 20s or 30s, are you frustrated with the roles you are offered in Hollywood?

I can’t complain. I think older women are very hard to write for. I really do, I mean culturally speaking. At a certain age you’re supposed to be in the back room rocking the grandchildren.

What do you do to look so young?
I think a lot of it is genetic, but I always was kind of a jock.
I went on my first triathlon in May, and my goal was just to finish, so my time was horrible…

* Summarized of U.S.News & World Report, June 4, 2007

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We should to have respect for other country, about its national anthem, its flag, its culture and respect its citizens. And we cannot go to another country to make fun of its native symbols and of its citizens, for to do money for the movies.

Sadly it did actor Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), who mocked of Kazakhstan (Few years ago it was part of Russia)
Also taking advantage of its condition of English citizen for made mocked of some politicians and of the American national anthem in a stadium in Texas.

Of course mister “Borat” is funny in his other scenes of his movie; but those two big mistakes: He mocked Kazakhstan and mocked of the national anthem, I believe that it was not funny.

Looks at the video (down)

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See you later
CARLOS (Tiger without Time)