Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The Alamo "remembered"
My sister and I visited the Alamo just a year ago and stood in many of the spots where blood was spilled and legends made. So it was only natural that I watch this movie when it recently played on a movie channel. John Lee Hancock's "The Alamo" is not John Wayne's version. The older version was made during the years following World War II, when inspiring myth-making was in full ascent.
This recent version is much grittier and more likely, although several reviewers gorgeously described the film as also modern myth making. I think, though, that Crockett's last filmic words were actually spoken, as I remember hearing them before, probably by one of the Alamo specialists at the time of our tour. "Here's your last chance to surrender. Turn in your arms and I promise no harm will come to you" are words out of Crockett's mouth to the huge crowd of surrounding Mexican soldiers. Note: Crockett was bound and on his knees. Another reviewer attributed Crockett's words to the journal of one of the Mexican leaders, with the knowledge that leaders keep these records of their (hopefully) heroic and historic deeds.
Billie Bob Thornton, of all actors, plays Crockett and does so with low- and high-keyed perfection. In fact, the most memorable scene occurs during the evening when the Mexican band would play its prelude to battle. Crockett takes his fiddle on the upper level of the fort in view of the Mexican soldiers and, during the playing of the battle prelude, plays a haunting melody, creating a Texian version of meaning (the movie uses "Texian" rather than Texan). It's a moment to savor.
Other notable actors include Patrick Wilson (a long-time favorite of mine after seeing him in "Phantom of the Opera"). As Travis and elected leader of the Texian side, he meets opposition from some of his own men. He is notorious for abandoning his wife and children, visiting prostitutes, and gambling. Toward the end, when a dying Bowie (played by Jason Patric), asks Travis for a dying drink, Travis responds--with tongue in cheek: "I visit prostitutes, gamble, abandon children, but I draw the line at alcohol."
(As an historical side note: There is a museum/gift shop located next door to the Alamo. On display are several versions of Jim Bowie's designs for the Bowie knife. And let me tell you--that design is incredibly horrific!!!)
The film itself is simply awesome, the story vividly retold on cellluloid for posterity. With film a viewer can hold history, a live production becomes an object of memory, with each method touching a different mental capacity. I plan to purchase the film, this version, for my own record-keeping of an event important enough a cause to name our downtown streets. "Remember the Alamo" is a battle cry for all ages and all times, its symbolic significance deeply ingrained in our national subconcious.
Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)
- *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
- The Odd Women by George Gissing
- The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
- How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
- The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
- In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
- *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
- The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
- Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
- Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
- Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
- The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
- Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
- Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
- *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
- Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
- *Ruined by Paula Morris
- Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
- Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
- Silence by Shusaku Endo
- *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
- Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
- *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
- Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
- *The Giver by Lois Lowery
- *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski