Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

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“This is madness”
By Doug Thompson

No total stranger ever asked me what I thought of the show as I was leaving a movie theater until I left “300” on Sunday night.
“It’s not for everybody,” was the first thing I said. Then I stammered around a bit before saying: “It was beautiful.” I liked it. My newfound acquaintance liked it too. However, liking it seemed to leave us both wanting some reassurance.
“300” is a testosterone-drenched fantasy with deep and disturbing flaws. I enjoyed every minute of it. I attribute my guilty pleasure, Sunday’s unsolicited question and the movie’s impressive bankroll — it’s the third highest-grossing debut for an R-rated film to date — to what I call the “Borat” factor.
People went to “Borat” although it was not a pleasant film. “Borat,” however, was something very different from standard move fare. “300” is also something different. “Borat” is all about words. “300” is all about action. They’re even very different from each other.
“Zodiac,” which I have not seen, is reputedly a much better movie than “300.” However, I’ve seen well-paced suspense movies like “Zodiac” before. I hadn’t seen a beautiful nightmare quite like “300” before. The highly stylized samurai battle in “Kwaidan,” which was a brief bit in a long movie, is the closest thing I know of.
“Beautiful” is a weird word to use to describe corpse-strewn hack and slash. The violence of “300” is numbing. There are at least three beheadings that play out like ballet set-pieces, and many more that don’t. Bodies are literally stacked. Killing the wounded is played for laughs.
It is impossible to disregard the fact that most of the people getting hacked and slashed are black, deformed or effete, and that the people doing the slashing are very fit white guys.
I went to the movie expecting to be much less than enthralled. Although I’m a history geek, that’s ruined more films for me than my bias for the subject has saved. One of the reasons I passionately detested “The English Patient” is the absolutely dumb errors along with outright distortions it commits upon history. “300” evaded this criticism because it’s so wildly extravagant that it’s clearly fantasy.
The “free” Sparta these men supposedly fight for was built upon a whole nation of slaves. Called helots, they did the farming and other work so Spartans could devote themselves to war.
The Battle of Thermopyle was an embarrassing bloody nose for the Persians but it was the naval battle of Salamis that put Persia’s supply line at risk, possibly but not definitely aided by rebellions in the Persian empire. For whatever reason or reasons, Persian king Xerxes called off the campaign and left a holding force in Greece. It was that holding force, not the full Persian host, that was beaten at Plataea.
Disregard of such basic facts would have ruined a less stylized movie for me. With, “300,” I didn’t care. I enjoyed this ballet of violence far more than I enjoyed the graphic novel that inspired it. The pictures didn’t move before. They certainly didn’t flow.
There’s plenty to criticize about “300”, but the frequently printed rebuke that it takes itself too seriously is just laughable. It’s no more self-important than the average Wagner opera and, as I believe Jessye Norman once said, you have to have a sense of humor to get up in front of all those people and sing in a foreign language.
The trade newspaper “Variety” once wrote about a “stunt picture, done in deluxe style, with tricky handling of fantastic atmosphere, and a fine, artless performance by [an] athlete that represents the absolute best that could be done with the character.”
The movie was 1932’s “Tarzan the Ape Man,” which was still having sequels made of it in the 1960s. Alpha male silliness notwithstanding, there is something deeply, viscerally satisfying about watching a perfectly formed male hurling his nearly naked body through the air, on his way to whacking a despot or several dozen of his minions.
Let the critics howl. The red-cloaked tribe of 300 Tarzans rule their jungle.
You either love this movie’s look or you don’t. It either sweeps you past the historical fantasy and racism or it doesn’t.

Daddy Warbucks
Wal-Mart likes them numbers…
A new national consumer survey has Wal-Mart headquarters, well, dancing in the aisles. Some 81 percent of Americans said they like shopping at the discount retail giant. Woo Wee. Those are numbers that others in retail sales can only dream about. While in the U.S. same stores sales may be flat, or near the same levels, the overseas arm of the Wal-Mart machine seems to be booming.  India, China, the Far East, all those new markets seem to l-o-v-e
Wal-Mart. Now never mind those stoic Germans who didn’t warm to the Wal-Mart way. Locally the steel skeleton of the new Sam’s Club in Fayetteville is going up. Good news for the Fayetteville economy.

Radio rentals
Dixie Development has taken to the airwaves to tout and market its commercial space. The last real radio chimerical about commercial real estate Daddy W. can recall were those snappy “Fineberg, Fineberg,
Fineberg” jingles of Steve Fineberg. Does this new era of advertising signal a slow down or glut in the commercial real estate market, or a savvy move by one of the players to get a leg up on the competition?

New intros
When local radio stations fiddle with the canned openings of news or popular shows some glitches can and will occur. Recently poor Jess Smith had to endure what seemed to be a endless intro while he read through three of his six or seven news segments. Finally and thankfully, some one pulled the plug on the endless drumming and horn blowing. Jon and Deek have apparently suspended their theme from the movie “Jackass” to go for a less dramatic intro to their popular morning show.

More radio mess
KFAY-AM, has had its share of technical glitches, but a week or so ago, the morning technician (apparently) fell asleep. A full half-hour of a taped show competed against a full-half hour of taped commericals that played on top of each other. Sounded like radio free Europe in a foreign language.

Recall season
With Conagra suffering through the peanut butter scare, now Tyson (out West) has recalled some 16,700 pounds of ground beef in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington. This was one day after the Springdale protein giant showed off its world class science lab here in Washington County.

Delays
Daddy W. has heard there will be a delay on building the Popeye’s Chicken on 6th Street in Fayetteville. The city’s rumored to be dragging its feet on some technical glitch. Popeye’s will raze an old pawn shop for the new store.

Poor mouthing
Daddy is amazed at how much the UA bemoans it’s “underfunding” while talking out of the other side of its corporate mouth there’s bragging about
the Billion Dollar Campaign. The UA says it needs $3 million more in state funding. While that’s no small amount, neither is the BILLION dollars raised in private donations..

Daddy Warbucks reports on the local business scene. Send comments and tips to daddyw@freeweekly.com.

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