July 8, 2005

Oooh, look at my shaved head! Did you know it's for my movie "V for Vendetta"?

So Natalie Portman is driving through NYC with an expired registration, the cops stop her, and now she's all:
"I've never had that happen to me before. It's supposedly random... My registration was expired because I had been out of town, and it was my first day back. I'd been in Israel and Berlin for the shooting. They wouldn't let me go in. But he said to take the bridge instead. And I didn't understand that logic. If you're a suspect, don't take the tunnel, take the bridge?"
So the police must have targetted her because of her shaved head, she tells Newsweek.

You know Natalie, just shut up and deal with it. Don't use it as an occasion for disrespecting the police and -- oh, just by chance! -- promoting your damned movie.

And you "don't understand the logic" that relates to car bombs in tunnels as opposed to on bridges? You were a straight-A Harvard student and you can't run that through your head and come up with anything?


TRC said...

I have no doubt that she's smart, but also realize that grading at Harvard is a joke.

Contributors said...

And her film is about blowing up the British Parliament as a good thing.

Nice, huh?

"She said she had not yet concluded what she thought about the destruction of Parliament, set in motion in large part by her character. In the context of the film, she said, the grand old building no longer represents democracy and openness, but rather repression and corruption."


Kathleen B. said...

well Dirty Harry, the book is set in an alterate future where Germany wins WWII and Britain becomes totalitarian, so I really think you are taking the "blowing up Parliament" thing too hard and totally out of context. Why not rail against Tom Clancy for destroying the US Captitol in Executive Orders. nice huh?

Contributors said...


The movie's an obvious allegory for today -- like most films set in the future. The subtext is obvious. Read the article I linked to. The director wants to "raise questions about the legitimacy of terrorism."

Why not just raise questions about the legitimacy of Nazism? Decent people don't see a difference between the two.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Straight A's...so I suggest Althouse (a college prof) assume some portion of the blame for rampant grade inflation. I am speaking as one who had a measly 2.6 GPA from TU in 1977 (and that school was easy so I won't disclose its actual identity).

Ann Althouse said...

AJ: I'm not a college prof. I'm a law school prof. And here in law school we have pretty strictly enforced grading guidelines that control inflation. As for Harvard grade inflation, I think you probaby realize that getting INTO Harvard is a pretty damned difficult feat. Maybe movie starts get some extra "diversity points," but still...

Fred Ochsenhirt said...

I don't know squat about the motives of the director, and the movie will proobably be terrible (like all movies based on Alan Moore's books are), but the book is not a justification of terrorism. It was written in 1982 and set in the 1990s, and really should be interpreted in that context. You can see it either as a reaction to Thatcherite Britain (Moore wrote it assuming the Tories would lose the 1983 elections) or as a Huxley/Orwell message about totalitarianism. Would a vigilante abused in the Russian gulags who opposed the Communist state and blew up the Kremlin have been viewed as a hero in the West in 1983? What measures are appropriate in opposing totalitarianism?

Perhaps the real message is that you can't adapt comics from the 1980s in 21st century America, because they'll lead to inevitable misinterpretation of the original material (Ra's Al Ghul as Al Qaeda, V as justification for Islamist terrorism).

Smilin' Jack said...

Well, since Natalie's a hottie, let me do the chivalrous thing and come to her defense: I don't understand the cop logic either. Why is someone with an expired registration more likely to be a terrorist? And if a terrorist with a car bomb powerful enough to collapse a tunnel is stopped and told to take the bridge instead, what's she going to do? Give up terrorism? Or take the bridge? (Manhattan has lots of juicier targets than tunnels and bridges, you know.) Or just wait till tomorrow and wear a wig?

If I were living in Manhattan, I don't think this story would make me feel a lot safer.

Elderchang said...

Getting into Harvard is the difficult part. The undergrad curriculum there is pretty easy for anyone who has the brain power to get in.

Actors aren't exactly known for their critical and analytical thinking skills. Then again, I've known plenty a twenty-some engineers who are just as clueless when they're not actively working on a project. It never ceases to amaze me how stupid young people are. Looking back at the things I've done, I'm definitely no exception.

chuck_b said...

I don't think she's being ridiculous at all. She is mistaken that the cops won't pull you over if you have expired registration; they absolutely will. But a lot of people don't understand that.

And as for the remark "If you're a suspect, don't take the tunnel, take the bridge?", well, that seems like a reasonable question to me.

On another note, in my professional experience, MIT and CalTech are the only American universities that routinely turn out graduates with truly impressive thinking skills. (i'm a product of neither)

Kathleen B. said...

exactly Fred.

Harry: the movie is based on the book, not the creation out of the mind of the director. Therefore, you cannot take an act from the book and then say, see it means this because of today's times, when the book was written decades ago.

Furthermore, regarding Nazism/terrorism: it depends on how narrowly you are defining terrorism. If you are defining terrorism as any violent act by a small group, then it is different than Nazism, and that *should* be explored. If your definition of terrorism includes freedom fighters struggling for democracy against a fascist government, then I beg to differ.

Contributors said...

Does anyone really believe this film will be based on themes and metaphors relevent to 1982? That's absurd.

There is absolutely no excuse for terrorism regardless of the cause. Attacking innocent civilians is evil. So, no, it's not worth exploring.

You guys debate it, I'm gonna take the director and his star at their word.

Kathleen B. said...

well Dirty Harry - I won't be sorry you won't be fighting in the resistence with me then.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't know anything about the book, the movie, the director, or the underlying motives, so I have no opinion on "V" being about blowing up the Parliament.

I would, however, point out that when a filmmaker adapts a book or story for the screen, it makes absolutely no difference what the writer of the book or story intended. When it comes to the message of the movie, all that matters is what the director intends to say and whether or not the director manages to say it clearly.

As for Natalie Portman, I would guess that Leland is right, and that Natalie just didn't know that you can (and will) get pulled over for expired tags.

Contributors said...

Exactly Freeman. Look at War of the Worlds ot Invasion of the Body Snatchers, each remade with a current theme to match current times. Who would do anything different.

Kathleen, I'll join any resistence not engaged in terrorism. This movie's about terrorism, not resistence.

Smilin' Jack said...

As a New York State resident, let me clarify something: In New York plates don't expire; you have a little dated registration sticker in your window, but it's almost impossible to read on a moving car. So a cop will not find out your registration is expired unless he's already stopped you for something else.

Robert R. said...

V for Vendetta the book was written with a 1984-ish / The Prisoner version of London with the title character being a modern day version of Guy Fawkes. It's very English and actually revelled in exploring the gray areas of morality. It wasn't presented as a story in bright primary colors where the heroes were unmistakably pure and good and their were no redeeming qualities to the villains. The lead inspector, Finch, of the government is a pretty sympathetic figure throughout and V does some reprehensible things. It asks what's the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. And, some of V's tactics to "awaken" Portman's character Evey border on brainwashing.

Of course, it's reasonable to expect that all of that interesting material is going to be lost in the movie version and we'll get a slick, good looking movie with pat answers. And that it will be an even more specific political tract than the original book.

Freeman Hunt said...

In New York plates don't expire; you have a little dated registration sticker in your window, but it's almost impossible to read on a moving car.

Here the little sticker is on the plate. Ours are color-coded by month, so they only have to read the 05 or 06 or whatever. I've been stopped for expired tags at night on the freeway going 70mph. Are the NY tags color-coded like that? That might make it easier for the cop.

Smilin' Jack said...

No, there's nothing on the plate. The stickers are color coded by year, with the month represented by a punched out dot that would be virtually impossible to see through the windshield on a moving car. So you won't be stopped for expired registration unless it's been expired since last year, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

Ann Althouse said...

She was stopped as she was approaching the tunnel, not speeding by just anywhere. If they were on the alert to the point described, I think they were slowing cars down and looking at them, so they'd see the sticker.

Kathleen writes: "the movie is based on the book, not the creation out of the mind of the director. Therefore, you cannot take an act from the book and then say, see it means this because of today's times, when the book was written decades ago." I couldn't disagree more. The choice of which old book to remake is influenced by whether it has current relevance and how it can be transformed into a vehicle for whatever the current filmmakers would like to say. Just look at any given Shakespeare play made into a movie: it's always connected to its own time. I've certainly seen productions of "Richard III" that were about Richard Nixon. And "Krapp's Last Tape" became a play about Nixon too.

chuck_b said...

I read V for Vendetta when it came out (but not since). I was a high school freshman and I remember thinking "this is soooo subversive!" and therefore exciting. It seemed to cut against *everything* pop culture had to offer in the 1980s.

People thought a lot back then about Orwell's vision of *1984*. Moore's intellectual starting point for the series was a quote from someone (maybe Orwell?)--something about when fascism comes to England it won't be wearing jackboots; it'll be wearing a bowler.

I also recall V for Vendetta offerred some message about forbidden sexuality that I found very liberating. I still have that series in my garage & I will have to dig it out!

Robert R. said...

People unfamiliar with the book might want to check out http://www.moviepoopshoot.com/comics101/35.html for a basic introduction.

I expect that there's going to be a "controversy" over the movie when it comes out. And, I expect the choice to make it at this time does have something to do with current politics, although I do know the Wachowskis had been contemplating making it in the late 90s. Current events seem to have overtaken them and the book to an extent. And, if it's at least somewhat faithful, it's still an allegory to prompt discussion not a political tract.

However, as much chest thumping pro and con as the film may generate, I'm actually not that interested in the American and English reaction to it. What will interest me is the Chinese reaction to it. I expect it will be banned and I expect in the age of Internet piracy and DVD bootlegging the banning won't make a bit of difference. And I definitely got a Tiananmen Square vibe out of the shots of the production I saw in front of Parlaiment.

Kathleen B. said...

"This movie's about terrorism, not resistence."

how can you possibly even say this? you haven't seen the movie, and to make this statement is just laughable.

Kathleen B. said...

Prof. Althouse: I appreciate your points, and I do agree with you for the most part. I suppose my comments were drawn with too large a brush.

But, with respect to the specifics of "blowing up Parliament", I stand by my statement that this act is taken from the book, and was not made up by the director. Yes, I suppose that whether the director chooses to include this act in the movie, and even the choice of the movie *could* be some typr of relevant commentary, but just on its own, with no other information cannot be because it is drawn from the book. That would be like saying that a modern director who remakes Hamlet is making some statement about suicide. Without more I just do not think it is interesting or responsible criticism to go there.

Contributors said...


I can say it because the director said it. He said "terrorism" not me. I'm just taking him at his word. If he had said "resistence" we wouldn't be debating this.

And Ann said what I wanted to just more articulately. A few days ago I saw "The Sea Hawk." It's an old 1941 Errol Flynn pirate movie (and a great one! Johnny Depp-who?)based on a novel. They turned the film into an allegory about the Brits and WWII -- which they were fighting at the time even though we weren't.

The bad guys were the French but it was obviously about Hitler. That's what directors do time and again. Only in 1941 they opposed fascism. Now they want to explore the "legitimacy" of the methods of our savage enemies.

It's disgusting. Why not just explore the legitimacy of concentration camps? Same difference.

Slac said...

Jeff, that Ross Douthat interview you linked to makes him seem like a real idiot. He effectively blamed Harvard for his own passivity and laziness.

The way he describes it, Harvard looks like a great school to me.