Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Movie Review

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A fun ride on the Orient Express. Old fashioned crime drama, based on the novel by Agatha Christie of the same name, with an all-star cast. Don’t expect any surprises here as this is a remake after all, but I am betting there are plenty of people who have not seen the original film directed by Sidney Lumet in 1974 , or have not read Christie’s novel.

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Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

Kenneth Branagh has done a masterful job bringing this material to the screen. And what fun it is to watch your favorite stars strut and fret across the stage. Michelle Pfeiffer never looked more beautiful, so glad to see her back. Then there is Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench and Johhny Depp to round out the cast. Kenneth Branagh stars as the inimitable detective, Hercule Poirot. He had to occupy two berths on the train, one for him and one for his mustache.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett

The movie was shot on 65 mm film by Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos and is quite beautiful to look at. The train is luxurious and the exteriors were fabulous! The film was shot first in Istanbul (actually Malta) then later in the mountainous region in Italy for the snow sequences. Each frame was composed and lit like a Renaissance painting.

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Michele Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard

There are worse things you can spend 114 minutes on and this film is a winner!

 

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Colorado Baker

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

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Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Right Commission. I thought these issues had already been decided but I guess I was wrong. The case centers on an anti-gay baker in Colorado who claims a First Amendment right to ignore state law and refuse service to same-sex couples. A key issue in Masterpiece is just how far the court’s conservative justices are willing to go in subverting civil rights law to protect the freedom to discriminate. Here is my opinion on the matter:

Restaurants are considered places of public accommodation. The primary purpose of a restaurant is to sell food to the general public, which necessarily requires them to follow equal protection laws. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. The laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as other people in similar conditions and circumstances. A violation would occur, for example, if a state prohibited an individual from entering into an employment contract because he or she was a member of a particular race. Furthermore there would be a violation if a restaurant owner refused service to a person because of their race.

 

These rights are spelled out in the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. Places of “public accommodation” include hotels, restaurants, theaters, banks, health clubs and stores. Nonprofit organizations such as churches are generally exempt from the law. The federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, so gays are not a protected group under the federal law. However, about 20 states, including New York and California, have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation. Colorado also happens to be one of those states.

Colorado law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation based on marital status or actual or perceived sexual orientation. According to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, “sexual orientation” means heterosexuality, homosexuality (lesbian or gay), bisexuality, and transgender status. Transgender status means a gender identity or gender expression that differs from societal expectations based on gender assigned at birth.

Therefore, the Colorado baker has clearly violated the civil rights of the gay couple and is violation of Colorado law. At issue before the Supreme Court is whether the baker’s right to free speech is being violated. Enter Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Gorsuch queried the Colorado Solicitor General Frederick Yager regarding the remedy imposed on Jack Phillips, the baker. His concern was that Phillips was to provide comprehensive training to his employees. Gorsuch viewed this as compelled speech which might possibly violate Phillips’ free speech. Yager responded by saying training is a common remedy in civil rights cases.

Gorsuch continued his questioning, “But this isn’t attending your training. The order was ordering him to provide training and presumably compelling him to speak, therefore, and to speak in a way that maybe offend his religion and certainly compel him to speak.”

This theory could seriously undermine civil rights law and have far reaching effects.

It is not unusual to have conflicts with respect to civil rights between parties. That’s why we have judges and trials to help sort these things out. My own view is that if you are in business to serve the public you must do so without discrimination. If you can’t or won’t, even for religious reasons, you have no right to be in business and you should close up shop and go home.

We are a secular country here in America with a clear separation of church and state. When you operate a commercial enterprise in the public sphere you must leave your religion at home if it causes you to discriminate against the public. When you are in business to serve the public you must serve all the public.

 

 

 

 

Leda and The Swan

A Poem by William Butler Yeats

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Statue of Leda and the Swan in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian

 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

 

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Analysis

In this poem, W. B. Yeats tell the story of Leda and the Swan from Greek Mythology. The rape of the girl Leda by the god Zeus, who has taken the form of a swan.

Leda felt a sudden blow with the wings of the swan still beating above her. Her thighs were caressed by the dark webs of the swan’s feet. The nape of her neck was caught in his bill. He held her helpless breast upon his breast. How, Yeats asks, can Leda’s terrified vague fingers push the feathered glory of the swan from between her thighs? And, how can her body help but feel the strange heart beating where it lies? A shudder in the loins engenders the broken wall, the burning roof, and tower, and Agamemnon dead. The speaker wonders whether Leda, caught up by the swan and mastered by the brute blood of the air assumed his knowledge as well as his power before the indifferent beak could let her drop.

The poem is about a moment in time which ended the mythological age and began the modern era with the fall of Troy. This poem is a sonnet which is a 14 line poem in iambic pentameter.  The structure is Petrarchan. The Rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFG, EFG.

According to Greek mythology, Zeus raped Leda who was married to King Tyndareus of Sparta. After the rape she slept with her husband. Subsequently she laid two eggs from which she hatched two set of twins: Helen and Pollux who were the children of Zeus and Castor and Clytemnestra who were the children of Tyndareus. This event, with the abduction of Helen, eventually brought about the Trojan War (the broken wall, the burning tower/ and Agamemnon dead). After the war, when King Agamemnon returned, Clytemnestra had her husband killed. According to Yeats’ interpretation, the lasting impact of the war was that it brought an end to the mythological era and gave birth to modern history.