Alexander Kafka

Alexander C. Kafka, a senior editor at The Chronicle Review, writes about arts and
books for Washington, D.C.'s City Paper and other publications.

Recent Articles

Seeing the Big Picture

Global Hollywood By Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, and Richard Maxwell. Indiana University Press, 240 pages, $27.95 T hose who contend that Hollywood and Washington are two branches of the same cultural conglomerate will find ample evidence in Global Hollywood. The relationship between these two company towns has been volatile at times, but the so-called Washwood alliance has remained intact. Even before Hollywood was dubbed the "little State Department" in the 1940s, it was in league against Capitol Hill's bogeymen--whether they were communists, fascists, Mafiosi, or superpredator gang members. And it has often advanced U.S. products and industrial practices abroad. In return, policy makers have given America's dream factory some dreamy advantages, from monopolistic camera, projector, and film-stock patents early in the last century to more-recent American-tilted intellectual-property mandates in trade negotiations. Such clauses are no empty legalisms, either: A DVD...

The Wintry Orwell

"Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent," George Orwell once warned in an essay, but many have disregarded that advice in judging Orwell himself. John Morris, who worked with Orwell during World War II at the BBC, said, "Orwell always reminded me of one of those figures on the front of Chartres Cathedral; there was a sort of pinched Gothic quality about his tall thin frame. He laughed often, but in repose his lined face suggested the grey asceticism of a medieval saint carved in stone and very weathered." Another acquaintance, Noel Annan, described Orwell as "a biting, bleak, self-critical, self-denying man of the idealist left" who "spoke with the voice of ethical socialism... . He was the first saint of Our Age, quirky, fierce, independent and beholden to none." And a man of causes. In Down and Out in Paris and London , Orwell reveled in squalor. In The Road to Wigan Pier , he ventured to socially submerge himself, he wrote, "to get right down among the...

Monkey Doo

How dare director Tim Burton "reimagine" (he avoids the word "remake") the classic 1968 film Planet of the Apes? It's a milestone in sci-fi history, a brilliant, many-layered social commentary, many Apes buffs would argue, and its timing and essence can never be revivified. Actually, it's been more than ripe for reimagining for years. It is terribly hokey, it disses its source material, and its social commentary is at best a hopeless hodgepodge and at worst a market-driven right-wing dissemblance. The more you think about it, the less clear it becomes what the heck it's about. At first glance, it's an antinuclear polemic--except that in the first of the four sequels by the same producers, within the series' temporally circular framework, the Charlton Heston character, Colonel George Taylor, the ostensible voice of reason, turns out to be the man who pushes the button. Can we agree that the film is about animal rights? No, that doesn't quite pan out, either. Although Dr. Zira (Kim...