WolfmanOz at the Movies #71

The ultimate man of conscience

It is a widely accepted axiom that it is easier to make a good movie out of a bad play than out of a good one; a bad play can be altered with a clear conscience so that its mishandled virtues are brought to the fore in a different medium, whereas there is a natural reluctance to tamper with a work of dramatic stature, even though the qualities that made it effective on stage will work against it on the screen. For me, Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons is one of the great plays of the 20th century

Bolt, acting as his own scenarist, and director Fred Zinnemann did a superb job of turning the play into a movie. Cinematic pacing, rhythm and verisimilitude are achieved in part by “opening up” the film to just enough scenes of court pageantry and the quiet loveliness of the Thames, which was the principal artery of communication between the court and its ministers.

Also the Common Man has been omitted from the film version. Besides serving as a unifying device in the play, this cheeky epitomiser of expediency was a constant reminder to us that we are not like More, the symbol of an unyielding selfhood but like the self-serving compromisers around him. But what worked on the stage may have seemed gimmicky on the screen.

The main cinematic tool, however, is the camera, artfully capturing the faces of superb actors speaking superb dialogue – dialogue that is the outward manifestation of electrifying confrontations and inner conflicts. A Man For All Seasons seemed to me, however, to possess much greater clarity and intellectual and emotional force than the play did, and I doubt that I could make this judgment except for what the film itself accomplishes.

It is a historical drama writ large on the silver screen in all its lavish splendour. On the surface, the film traces the familiar tale of Henry VIII and his infamous domestic issues, but really it’s the story of Sir Thomas More, the chancellor who served the king through these troubled times. 

A film can accomplish nothing unless it first entertains. I would further suggest that, in practice, few films that entertain do, in fact, elevate,  A Man For All Seasons is about the best we can hope for in the way of a great theme given consonantly great treatment (for which, incidentally, we are indebted to an agnostic playwright and a Jewish director of great skill and integrity).

As big and multi-layered a tale of court intrigue and political playmaking that it’s possible to imagine, unfolding over two hours, it’s peopled with an impressive cast of heavyweight acting talent and blessed with the kind of sumptuous cinematography you could lose yourself for a week in.

Made in Britain, with the American money of Columbia Pictures, this is historical drama the way it used to be, all plush vistas, moody verbal stand-offs in decadent courtyards and old-school acting masterclasses.

The film opens with More (Paul Scofield) being called to Hampton Court for a meeting with Cardinal Wolsey (Orson Welles).  It seems King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) wants to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave). Trouble is, the Pope has refused his request and now More, a devout Catholic, must attempt to balance his loyalty to the crown and his troublesome conscience. More chooses not to give his approval and stays silent instead, sparking off all kinds of trauma within the corridors of power where the likes of Thomas Cromwell (a superb Leo McKern) is gunning for his head.

For history buffs the story is a well worn one and Bolt doesn’t stray too far from the truth in his retelling of it, but the performances lift A Man For All Seasons into a filmic league of its own. Paul Scofield, a stage titan rarely seen in movies, is absolutely sublime, playing up the moral torment and complexity of the chancellor caught in a web of palace intrigue with dignity and grace.

Even the small roles are filled out beautifully, with Orson Welles standing out as Cardinal Wolsey. A minor part in some ways, Welles imbues it with gravitas; his light may have dimmed somewhat by 1966 but he wasn’t above giving the kind of actorly performance that almost steals the show.

A Man For All Seasons deals head on with a subject that has vanished from the films of today, and that’s one reason why I lament for what cinema has become today.

The very concept of a person standing up for, much less dying for, their strongly held convictions seems like ancient history to many, where Paul Scofield’s More is weary but confident, wanting to live, but much less afraid of dying than of betraying his faith. Subject matter for films today is mostly about seeking and finding pleasure, or absurdity, or offensiveness, in every aspect of the story. Naturally, A Man For All Seasons would not be made today: where audiences are so much in a hurry to get to the killing, or the special effects, or the explicit sex, or the sugar-coated, feel good ending.

I’m forever grateful that this film was made. It marks a place in film history where we were asking hard questions of ourselves; and, in Paul Scofield portrayal we have one of the greatest screen performances ever captured on film preserved for all-time.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . Damn you all to hell !

Guest Post: Muddy – Who Wrote That?

The premise of this post is simple: Match a numbered comment below with the Cat you consider made that comment.

i.e. 21. I am superior to youse all! Muddy.

Or just: 21. Muddy.

I will reveal the authors, along with the exact date and time the comment was made.

The numbers are not rankings, but for ease of reference.

All comments are direct quotes, sans the usual markings.

If you recognise your comment, please refrain from ‘outing’ yourself.

While the primary purpose is to entertain, and acknowledge the wisdom and humour many Cats bless us with, perhaps we can also reflect on the power of removing a comment from its context, whereby a new meaning can be implied?

1. I am so god like I sometimes make myself incontinent.

2. Crotchless, a word of advice: ease up on the meth; you’ve been posting like a headless chicken with .410 pellets up its arse.

3. You are worse than a fart in a lift going to the 50th floor.

4. … and I know couples who have bonded over farts.

5. Go and bang your head on the floor, until you are forgiven.

6. I self-identify as an octopus and I am offended by your language.

7. If those palaeolithic Venus figurines had had mouths and a finger to stick into their throat they would be dead ringers.

8. The Greens: standing out and proud in a field of glistening turds.

9. That should cover it – with a pillow. Until it stops breathing.

10. The hyphenated barrel stuffers lose to the dental denialists by one point.

11. Would it be immoral to have a shag with an alien?

12. Your head. Dead bears bum. Some assembly required.

13. If any of my comments contained facts, I apologise.

14. I really regret not signing up to their disloyalty program. I would be able to get a better quality set of tooth pliers and a more reliable battery to have wired to my testicles.

15. One of my parentheses just got shot off.

16. The meja is evil. Filled with poisonous imbeciles with zero accomplishments.

17. [R]ainbow barbed-wire.

18. Morrison can go shove his cock in a pickle slicer for his “you don’t need to take a vaccine” bullshit.

19. Yes, my devoted worshipper?

20. … the Liberal Party is just a blocking force determined to stop any meaningful conservative voice into the political arena.

Rafe’s Roundup 15 May

Drop in and see what the usual suspects are up to

CIS   The Energy Realists     The Conservative Vagabond Jo Nova    The Monarachists Quadrant on line The Free Press

IPA Climate and energy program      The Sydney Institute

Mannkal     Menzies Research Centre    Taxpayers   Alexandra Marshall 

Advance Australia     Australian Inst for Progress Bettina Arndt

REMEMBERING JOHN HYDE. His book Dry: In Defence of Economic Freedom tells the tale of the long march to establish sensible economic policies in the lucky country. On line at the IPA. We have been marching backwards lately, so good luck for the future!




The four papers in The Spectator are behind a paywall. They can be downloaded as PDF files. These papers support Champions Law which states that RE will not work due to the conjunction of three facts.

1 The grid must have a continuous input of power to meet the demand.

2. Nights with little or no wind destroy the continuity of RE input.

3. There is no feasible or affordable grid-scale storage to bridge the gaps.

There is a lot of literature on the energy density of RE and studies of the comparative cost which refute the CSIRO GenCost claim that RE is comparatively cheap. Nobody in the street is going to bother with those stories. They just need to know the three facts which can be demonstrated quite easily to anyone who is concerned about the way things are going. Pretty soon that will be everyone!

KARL POPPER Beautifully illustrated Twitter thread on The Open Society and Its Enemies Never mind the text, enjoy the pictures!

God Save The King

Until last evening, I hadn’t seen The King’s Speech with Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and company. Usually watch some shoot-‘em up over a red wine or three.  Good movie. I enjoyed it. Whether the dialogue between the King and Lionel Logue is remotely close to the truth I doubt, but the substance of the plotline is right I surmise. Anyway, gave it 4½ out of 5.

I’m an out-and-out monarchist, when I’m being my English self. When I’m being my Australian self I can see the other side much more favourably. I would probably vote for a republic, certainly give it close consideration, if the model was OK and encompassed state governors as well as the governor general.  Think it would be anomalous to have a president with state governors reporting to the King still in place.

Stan Grant I suspect would vote for a republic. Just a wild guess. I didn’t see the ABC coverage of the coronation, thankfully. Might have sent me over the edge by all accounts. I watched the BBC. Have to say, as tendentiously left-green-leaning as it has become, it still does these events superbly well. The lady hosts dress beautifully and modestly and speak so well and the commentators know when to keep shtum; and not chatter continuously. It’s always a pleasure to hear Standard English. My home town of Liverpool in England and my current home of Sydney, both in their own unique way mangle the pronunciation of the King’s English. I can only assume My Fair Lady has not been widely seen and appreciated in either place.

A problem always is the company you keep. If I were to vote on the republican side I would know that Stan Grant, Craig Foster, Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Fitzsimons, Phillip Adams, perhaps Lidia Thorpe, and many others with views distinctly different from mine, abhorrent views in fact, were on my side of the fence. And, horrifyingly, I would be on theirs. I would probably need to be counselled to quell the onset of cognitive dissonance.

I would be rather in the position of those mediocre male sportsmen who want to be women but who clearly hate women. Evidenced by them subsequently beating the pants off women at women’s sports events. Gloating, as they stand tall and muscled on the centre podium while, if they’re lucky and have faced only one female wannabe, some smaller built women accept the crumbs; and have to smile, lest they be shunned. Maybe it’s not quite a close parallel, but I couldn’t resist it.

 A thought. Is there anyone who is pro the monarchy on the pro green, left or Voice side of things? I dare say that some (genuine) conservatives are in favour of Australia becoming a republic. As I’ve said, I’m this way and that way. But I tend to doubt whether any on the dark side of the political divide (as I put it) are monarchists.  These people live and breathe their credo, every waking and probably sleeping hour. Tearing western values down, and patriotism to boot, is the name of their game. Upholding any western tradition or institution is anathema to them. Of course, the global utopia which is their plan, if they have any plan at all, would turn into a dystopian nightmare.  On reflection, I think I’ll vote for the monarchy if it comes up again, just to spite them.

The Censorship Industrial Complex

An important post by Jo Nova on the Censorship Industrial Complex, an echo of the Military Industrial Complex that grew up after WW2 and an advanced form of the Climate Industrial Complex that spread fake news and started to get serious about censoring dissident voices.


To simplify the message that wind and solar power are unsustainable, focus on three things.

1. The need for continuous input to the grid to meet demand.

2. Nights with little or no wind destroy the continuity of adequate input of wind and solar power.

3. There is no feasible or affordable grid-scale storage to bridge the gaps.

Shellenberger and others write about energy density, the amount of land needed for RE compared with coal and other forms of conventional power but nobody in the street will be bothered with that amount of detail.

As to the cost, the usual suspects appeal to the CSIRO GenCost study to prove that wind and solar are dirt cheap compared with other sources. There are devastating criticisms of the study that nobody in the street will read so try the “hybrid power system” argument, based on the unsustainability of RE (as per the three features).

Because RE is not sustainable, conventional power will have to be kept in reserve for ever – giving us a hybrid power system which has to be more expensive than conventional power alone.

South Australian RE fails again (as usual)

At sunrise this morning SA was importing almost a third of its demand from Victoria because wind was only providing 9% (capacity factor 3%). Local generation was 86% gas.

Across the NEM wind was providing 8% of demand with CP 19%.

WolfmanOz at the Movies #70

A Tale of the Christ

There are some films that make a lasting impression when you see them for the first time, and Ben-Hur (the 1959 version) is one such movie for myself.

I first saw it on a re-release in the early 1970s when my parents took the family to see it on a huge cinema screen, and for one young lad the experience was simply mesmerising. Awe and wonder filled me as I watched this story of shocking betrayal, revenge and forgiveness unfold on screen, and by the time the heart-stopping chariot race was over, my fate as a future movie addict was sealed. 

Despite its 212 minutes running time, this is storytelling at its finest that knows how to entertain; as we follow the story during the time of Jesus of a Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur, who is betrayed and sent into slavery, whilst his family is imprisoned, by his Roman friend Messala. He regains his freedom and returns back for revenge. His dramatic journey just never lets up and immerses you completely.

It’s hard to imagine anything more cinematic: if ever there was an epic that was meant to be seen on the big screen in all its bombastic glory, it’s Ben-Hur. And even now, after I’ve seen the film many, many times, I feel like this story has a certain sense of greatness to it that is touching (and I don’t just mean that in a religious sense).

What’s not to love about Ben-Hur ? It’s a film that tells an epic story in an epic way, filling every shot with artistry and colour until the screen overflows with splendour, which is all enhanced by Miklos Rózsa’s magnificent score. Despite the lengthy running time, the pacing never flags. The episodic structure of the storyline works in the film’s favour, ably chronicling the adventures of the lead character as he undergoes a thrilling journey to hell and back.

It has Charlton Heston playing his most famous role and being incredibly heroic and strong in it. It has a cast of seasoned performers in support, not least Jack Hawkins as a sympathetic Roman general and Stephen Boyd as the villainous Messala. And, of course, it has the most spectacular and complex action sequence ever put on film in the shape of the chariot race, which is just as thrilling and breathtaking as it was when it was first released in cinemas.

The film was directed by William Wyler, one of Hollywood’s greatest directors from its Golden Age period. He was able to steer a huge production and keep his sanity and perspective whilst showcasing the human emotions amidst the spectacle.

Wyler’s handling of the religious scenes where Jesus appears is both sensitive and touching; and, in the following scene where Judah and the other slaves are marched to the galleys they stop in Nazareth to water the Romans’ horses. Judah begs for water, but the Roman commander refuses. Judah collapses but is revived when Jesus gives him a drink. It is masterfully directed.

The chariot race in Ben-Hur was directed by Andrew Marton and Yakima Canutt, filmmakers who often acted as second unit directors on other director’s films. The chariot arena was modelled on a historic circus in Jerusalem. Covering 18 acres, it was the largest film set ever built at that time. Planning for the chariot race took nearly a year to complete. The chariot scene took five weeks (spread over three months) to film and required more than 320 km of racing to complete. The end result is simply one of cinema’s greatest set-pieces that will never be surpassed.

Unfortunately, YouTube won’t allow me to show the chariot race as one clip, however I can show it all as two clips.

Finally, it’s a film that engages the senses and the emotions. It never forgets, amid all the glory and the epic wonder of the scenery and action, that this is a human story about real people struggling with their lives. There’s a message there for any viewer, Christian or otherwise, and that’s the reason why Ben-Hur hasn’t dated a day since it was first released. It’s a true classic for a reason.

Ben-Hur is nothing like the many sandal and sword or Bible films of that era; it is (at least to me) the ultimate film epic. With its touching story and fantastic action sequences, Ben-Hur is among the milestones of its era and part of film history.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . The ultimate man of conscience.

Chat GPT review of Popper’s OSE

Question. Write a 2000 word review of The Open Soceity and Its Enemies by Karl Popper

The money quote. He warns that any attempt to suppress intellectual freedom, whether through censorship or propaganda, will inevitably lead to the suppression of all other freedoms, and ultimately to the destruction of the open society itself.

Karl Popper’s seminal work, “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” has been widely regarded as one of the most influential works of political philosophy of the 20th century. First published in 1945, the book presents a powerful defense of democracy and an eloquent critique of totalitarianism. Popper argues that the open society, which is characterized by a plurality of opinions and a commitment to critical inquiry, is the only form of society that can ensure individual freedom and prevent the abuse of power. In this review, we will explore the key themes of the book and assess its impact on contemporary political discourse.

Popper’s defense of the open society is based on his epistemological theory, which holds that knowledge can never be certain, but can only be tested and refined through a process of critical inquiry. In the open society, individuals are free to criticize and challenge existing beliefs, and to propose new ideas and theories. This process of critical inquiry leads to a continual refinement and improvement of knowledge, and is the basis of scientific and technological progress. As Popper puts it, “we are all, no doubt, born dogmatists; we all think that we know, or can know, the truth. But it is only by recognizing our fallibility and subjecting our beliefs to critical scrutiny that we can arrive at a more objective understanding of the world.”

Popper argues that the closed society, by contrast, is characterized by a dogmatic adherence to a set of beliefs or ideology. The ruling elite in a closed society seek to maintain their power by suppressing dissent and controlling the flow of information. This leads to a stagnation of knowledge and a lack of innovation, as individuals are not free to challenge existing beliefs or propose new ideas.

Popper argues that the open society is the best safeguard against the abuse of power because it provides a framework for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. In an open society, conflicts are resolved through rational debate and persuasion, rather than through force or coercion. The open society, therefore, is not only the most just society, but also the most stable and secure.

Popper’s critique of totalitarianism is particularly powerful. He argues that totalitarianism is based on the belief that some people have access to absolute truth or knowledge, and that this belief inevitably leads to the suppression of dissent and the abuse of power. Totalitarianism, in other words, is the opposite of the open society, because it seeks to impose a single ideology or worldview on society, rather than allowing for a plurality of opinions and beliefs.

One of the most striking aspects of Popper’s argument is his emphasis on the role of intellectual freedom in the open society. Popper argues that intellectual freedom is the foundation of all other freedoms, because it is only through the free exchange of ideas and the open discussion of competing theories that we can arrive at the truth. He warns that any attempt to suppress intellectual freedom, whether through censorship or propaganda, will inevitably lead to the suppression of all other freedoms, and ultimately to the destruction of the open society itself.

Popper’s emphasis on the importance of intellectual freedom has had a profound influence on contemporary political discourse. His argument has been used to justify the protection of free speech and academic freedom, and to criticize attempts to impose political correctness or restrict the free exchange of ideas. Popper’s argument has also been invoked in debates about the role of the media in democratic societies, with many commentators arguing that a free and independent press is essential for the functioning of the open society. [SEE COMMENT BELOW]

One of the most interesting aspects of Popper’s argument is his view of democracy as an imperfect system, but the best one available. Popper recognizes that democracy is not a perfect system, and that it is susceptible to the same kinds of abuses of power that he critiques in totalitarianism. However, he argues that democracy is the best system available because it provides a framework for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the protection of individual freedom. Popper emphasizes that democracy is not a static system, but rather one that is constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges.

Popper’s argument has been criticized by some commentators for its emphasis on individualism and its neglect of the role of collective action in political change. Critics argue that Popper’s focus on the importance of individual freedom neglects the fact that many social and political problems can’t be solved by individuals

FOR SOME STRANGE REASON CHAT GPT ONLY WROTE 673 WORDS and seemed to finish in mid-sentence.


You might think if The Open Society “has been widely regarded as one of the most influential works of political philosophy of the 20th century and “it has had a profound influence on contemporary political discourse” there would be a lot more freedom of speech around these days. As for the claim “His argument has been used to justify the protection of free speech and academic freedom, and to criticize attempts to impose political correctness or restrict the free exchange of ideas.” I don’t think I have ever seen his name introduced for that purpose in recent times.

In fact Popper has been practically absent from reading lists and courses on campus for several decades, based on my survey of the (then) 21 Australian universities in 1987, followed by a search of philosophy departments in some 130 universities around the world in 1997.