"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Conan Sword

At the end of Zero Dark Thirty is THE Best movie of 2012, I noted ...
Slightly off topic - Tonight, I'm checking out Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand".  It had already been on my "to-do" list, but something I saw in a commercial for it a few nights ago moved it to the top of that list.

If you've seen previews or commercials for it, then you know that he plays a sheriff, in a small town near the border to which an escaped drug cartel leader and his gang are headed,

In many of those commercials are scenes where Arnold and his men feel the need for more firepower, and there's a scene of his deputy holding up a sword, saying "You never know".

When I saw that commercial, a couple of nights ago, I looked closer at that scene and realized, "Wait a minute! That's Conan's sword!!!"

So naturally I've just gotta see if that sword, the same one Arnold used in his "Conan the Barbarian", actually has any use at all in this movie, or if it's a bit of a tease for the fact that he will be filming a new Conan later this year.


As it doesn't really have anything to do with "Zero Dark Thirty", I've pulled it out of that post and made this little post to deal with it.

Well, I did check out "The Last Stand".  While not great, it's not bad either; a sort of fun, "Put brain in neutral and enjoy" movie (with an amazing cast that includes Forrest Whitaker , Peter Stormare and and an all too rare brief appearance by Harry Dean Stanton) that manages to kill a couple of hours without disappointing.

To answer the question I posed about the sword ...

The only spoiler I'll give about the movie is that the sword only appears for a few seconds, plays no part whatever in the movie, and its appearance is almost certainly a tease and an inside joke.

So, what about Conan's sword?

Actually, two swords play a prominent part in Arnie's 1982 version of "Conan the Barbarian".

Conan's father is a blacksmith and makes his own weapons. At the beginning of the movie, during the opening title sequence, we see the casting, forging and tempering of his father's sword ...

From auctions.shopgala.com

Forging and tempering are mainstays of director John Milius' writing and direction.  In Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" (Trust me. We're still on topic), when construction of the giant cannon is almost complete, the builders get a telegram from a Frenchman who plans to ride in its projectile.

When Verne describes him, he concludes with "forged, not cast", as something cast comes from a mold from which many indistinguishable copies can be made, while something that is forged and tempered is unique.

The forging and tempering of that sword is a metaphor for the later forging and tempering of Conan himself (Yeah, I know. Duh!)

This is what I refer to as the Conan Sword ...
From entertainmentearth.com

Also known as the Atlantean Sword (because its former owner was believed to be a ruler of (or at least from) Atlantis), Conan found this in a cave that turns out to be the crypt of that owner.  From that point on, he makes it his own.

If interested, here's a site: The Barbarian Keep: Heroic Swords, with info on both swords, some from Mr. Jody Samson, the master sword maker who made them for the movie.

The brief glimpse I got of the sword in "The Last Stand" made me confident that it was the Conan Sword I saw there. In my search for pictures of it, I came across this, which pretty well clinched it for me ...

That picture is from Stuff U Can Use, in a post from several years ago while Arnold was still Governor of California. This is a partial screen capture of the page ...

If true (and frankly I cannot think of any good reason to believe otherwise), then that sword in the movie truly is the Conan Sword; not just a replica, but the very one that Arnold used in both movies.

I suspect that he may have contributed it, not just out of a sense of humor (although he does have one; he's greatly underestimated there), but also to pique interest in the new Conan movie he's supposed to start on this year.

For a long time, he's wanted to make "King Conan", about Conan's later years. He's likely decided that, since he's in his later years now, maybe he'd better get moving on it. 

No real idea if this new one will be that or not (one report says its title may be "The Legend of Conan") and no mention of whether John Milius will be involved. That is something I would really love; Milius considers it his sacred duty to tell a tall tale and to tell it well.  In his "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean", the text scrolling up in the opening title sequence, after giving a lurid account on life in the territory concerned, said something to the effect of, "If this ain't the way it was, it's the way it should have been."

That's why I so much want John Milius involved here. That's the absolutely perfect attitude toward telling a Conan story.

Please! :-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty is THE Best movie of 2012

That's my final choice, after initially going with "The Avengers", for its pure entertainment value, and then with Ben Affleck's "Argo".

It has gotten an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, with which I wholly agree.  But, its director, Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated for Best Director, which I feel is a felony. Did the Academy think that the movie somehow just made itself, without the help of a director?

For the few that may not know, "Zero Dark Thirty" is about the raid that finally nailed Osama bin Laden, and what led up to it.

How accurate is it.  This is literally a case of "Who can say?"  What I saw jibed with reports I have read.

BUT, those reports (and the movie itself) come from first-hand accounts which, by definition, are from people who are masters of deception with plenty of reason to mislead.  It doesn't appear unreasonable to wonder if some of the methods actually used were not believed to be known to terrorists and that it might be prudent in their public reports  to substitute methods that were plausible and already known by them.

That is pure speculation on my part. The only contribution I can make is the purely unscientific observation that "It feels right."  That is what "verisimilitude" means. It does not mean "It is right."

Keeping those caveats in mind, this is probably the best account of that operation you'll likely see in ages, and is totally gripping throughout.

If this interests you at all, I sincerely recommend that you catch it in a theater, on the big screen, hopefully in an auditorium where it is digitally projected. The raid occurs at night, and this movie has some of the best night work I've ever seen. The shots of the helicopters flying though the mountains of Afghanistan at night, where you can see that terrain under conditions that look realistic, are almost worth the price of admission alone, and are something that I doubt will look nearly as impressive on your home TV set if you just wait for the DVD or Blu-Ray.

This is one hell of a fine movie. See it.

(Why do I call it the best movie of 2012?  It had a limited release a few weeks ago, in December 2012, to qualify for the awards of that year. It's general release to everyone was Friday, 08 Jan 2013 when I caught it. I saw it again last night and confirmed my feelings for it.).


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