Richard George

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49th Parallel Review


Good
A contingent of Nazi naval officers are stranded on the Canadian mainland after their U-boat, on the prowl in Hudson Bay, is destroyed. They resolve to trek across Canada, then either cross the border to still-neutral U.S.A. or find passage on a non-Allied boat back to the Fatherland. Director Michael Powell stages their odyssey as a series of politically charged set-pieces as the disdainful Nazis find their beliefs tested by a cross-section of Canadian clichés, from French-Canadian trappers (among whom is Laurence Olivier attempting a dead-on imitation of Pepe Le Pew), Native Americans, and Eskimos to a WASP-y outdoorsman (Leslie Howard), ordinary Joe's, and the members of a religious commune. Leading the goose-steppers is Lieutenant Hirth (Eric Portman), maniacally loyal to his Führer and whose sneer can't be anything but villainous.

The title of Michael Powell's WWII propaganda actioner refers to the boundary separating the United States and Canada. A suitably righteous narrator tells us it's the world's only undefended national border and, as such, befits the values of peace and democracy shared by the two countries. 49th Parallel isn't a strident call to arms meant to guilt-trip Americans into re-thinking their neutrality, but rather a tribute to the Canadian (and to all free-thinking) people who were already involved in the anti-Nazi effort. By praising democratic values and warning of the Nazi threat looming over the free world, 49th Parallel was director Michael Powell's roundabout exhortation to the American people to join the good fight.

Continue reading: 49th Parallel Review

Ghost In The Shell Review


Very Good
Japanese animation at its best, Ghost in the Shell tells an oddly compelling story that asks if machines have souls. In Shell, the answer is definitely yes, as a cybernetic cop tracks down a criminal known as "The Puppet Master," a master hacker that can crack directly into people's souls (the titular ghosts in the shells). Well animated save for the usual chatterbox lip movements that come with most Anime productions, with some nifty effects and, best of all, a really engaging story line. I'm not a huge Anime fan, but Shell is one of the best productions I've seen from its genre.

Continue reading: Ghost In The Shell Review

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