Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

Beloved villain
By Doug Thompson

Al Pacino directed a documentary in 1996 called “Looking for Richard” that is only recently available on DVD.
The famous actor is somewhat obsessed with Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” and on why Americans can’t seem to get Shakespeare right. The obvious implication is that if any American could get it right, it would be him.
Critics of the film are right. The production is self-indulgent. However, at least the self being indulged is interesting.
Here’s someone widely considered one of the greatest living actors, desperately seeking to understand and perform a character he just can’t get.
Pacino interviews a lot of English actors and professors who provide great insights. None of those insights are better than a British university professor’s observation that “irony is just hypocrisy done with style.”
The exploration includes scenes of the play being performed by Pacino and various friends and peers.
If the movie was just an exercise in egotism, then I’d like to know what kind of ego goes to such lengths to show itself falling short.
All the discussion, however, never mentions the simplest reason why this play is so popular. Supposedly, it’s performed more than any other Shakespeare play.
Shakespeare’s Richard is the best villain in theater.
He kills his brother. He woos a widow beside the corpse of her husband. He breaks his other dying brother’s heart and hastens his death. He kills children. He does it all with flair, eloquence and glee. He even hates peace.
The most monstrous thing about Richard is that he’s human, and knows enough about the normal feelings a human being has to exploit them and mimic them very well, while apparently having none.
The example may be a homely one, but Richard III reminds me of what the late columnist Mike Royko said of John Wayne movies. He didn’t go to John Wayne movies for insights and principles to live by, Royko said. He went for the pleasure of watching the bad guys lose for a couple of hours.
The bad guy wins for most of Richard III, but nobody’s rooting for him. It all sets up a very satisfying final defeat.
The whole play is a good guys, bad guys thing. It’s a clear pandering to the British ruling house, too. Sure, the plot sounds convoluted. Anything so tied up in royal niceties of succession has to be. However, most audiences would have no trouble picking out the villain.
I was surprised to see a movie starring Pacino and Kevin Spacey, among many others, have one of its best performances in the Shakespeare scenes done by Alec Baldwin. The very best performance comes from Penelope Allen, who plays Queen Elizabeth. You see the backstage discussion, too, where Allen fights for her character, insisting that she knows exactly what’s going on and is not some sheltered wife. She is a queen who sees the plotting before anyone else does. That strength, that insight, and the torment that understanding inflicts upon her is apparent in the performance. Allen is an old friend of Pacino and a mentor to him before he was famous, I learned later.
All stars have some sycophants hanging around, declaring his genius. This film shows that Pacino is no exception.
This documentary – which I can only really recommend to Pacino fans and, with reservations, to Shakespeare fans – is a labor of love. It’s not all self-love, either.
Sir Laurence Olivier did what is probably the definitive Richard III movie in 1955. However, my personal favorite is Ian McKellen’s performance 40 years later.
Playing the story out as a 1930s fascist coup will probably offend a lot of purists, and so will the much-shortened script. This 1995 film definitely has its weak spots. However, McKellen’s performance is simply delicious. The rest of the cast ranges from superb to acceptable, and much of the scene selection is inspired. I especially like the early speech where Richard taps the microphone and gives the “Now is our winter of discontent” speech at a party, then goes to the bathroom to deliver the “am determined to prove a villain” portion.
Two faces, two settings; one requires privacy.


Wal-Mart says it’s dropping prices to take on competition, but what about keeping them low for the disadvantaged?

When the world’s largest retailer says it is dropping prices on over 16,000 back-to-school items to beat the competition, maybe poor folk need to ask themselves this question: “If Wal-Mart wasn’t so interested in beating their the competition: would they really give shoppers the lowest price like their advertising promises?”

Just a question that came to mind over the recent gushing press onslaught from Wal-Mart land that the
retailer is slashing and lowering prices of basic back-to-school supplies. The Wal-Mart chain vows to have four different wide-ruled notebooks for the low price of $1. They also pledge to have two bottles of old Elmer’s Glue for that same one dollar bill and a 24-pack of the Crayola Crayons for the same eight-bits (that’s $1 to all you whippersnappers).

Wow! Why aren’t these items already priced as $1 if Wal-Mart’s corporate consciousness really wants to
help poor and disadvantaged families prepare for the upcoming school year?

The Wal-Mart slogan is not “Maybe low prices – it is “Always low prices.” But, are they?

Just when you thought they couldn’t get anymore upscale at the Pinnacle “Palace” in Rogers…well, here they go again. The new Solstice Sunglass Boutique, a national luxury sunglass retailer, opens tomorrow. Their sunglasses—get this—start at $75 and go up – way up, with such brands as Juicy, Valentino, J.Lo, Gucci and Armani. “Celebs such as Jessica Simpson, Usher, Paris Hilton and Angelina Jolie,” a press release gushes says,”they are all decked out in sunglasses from Solstice.” And there’s more…”All the Solstice salespeople are
considered stylists, because they have all been
trained to assist customers in picking out the right shades to fit their faces.” Got more money than common sense? Then head on up to Rogers. They are waiting to pick yo’ pockets.

XNA proudly announced a direct flight to Tobacco Road – Raleigh-Durham N.C., last week. This means folks can connect with flights in and out of Logan (Boston) as well. A good thing for the heady business traveler. The American Eagle flight can get you to Boston and back in 12-hours.

Ah, graduation and Mother’s Day can really boost the old Advertising and Promotion Tax numbers. It was a pretty good May. Olive Garden, Golden Corral, Chick-Fil-A, Chartwells, and Red Lobster, round out the top five revenue generators. Spots six through 10 are Noodle’s, Bordino’s, McDonald’s on Sixth Street, Logan’s Roadhouse and the Catfish Hole. The hotels all  had a pretty good month.

The push-me-pull-you cycles of gas prices continues. Oil prices and production go down
– retail prices jump up. Oil prices and production
improves – gas prices edge up – sometimes 10 to 15
cents in a day. Are we now content with $3 gas
prices? You betcha.

Attention! Everyone take notice.  Word is that The City of Fayetteville is about to do away with free parking. That’s right. As soon as a new parking garage is built, all the city owned free lots will become paid lots. Save your pennies—er your Susan B. Anthony dollars.

Daddy W. noticed seven and a half pages of foreclosures in a recent weekday issue of the statewide newspaper. For those here in NWA who may be unaware—the economy is in a freefall elsewhere.

Tyson Foods once again has won the Arkansas Mississippi Minority Business Council’s award for supplier diversity. It’s the third year in a row the protein giant has won this award. Tyson is indeed making business opportunities happen.

Bad news in Arkansas. Most—well almost all of the peach orchards are bare. That nasty spring freeze got to most of the peaches. This is the lowest per acreage crop in years. The last hard freeze was back in 2004. While the years are not back-to-back disasters, some peach farmers are looking long and hard at 2008. Sometimes farming, forgive the pun, is, indeed, the pits.

Well the word on the hill is that all the gift giving – keeps on giving. Fees for students, also keep rising. While the UA has tried to hold the line on tuition, fees and book prices they have not been held in check. Maybe all those millions could be spread around for Joe College? One day, he/she, too, will be asked to donate.

Congrats to the UA student who won $25,000 in the YouTube Video Movie
contest. He made, produced and set music to a little ditty that helped mom and dad pay some pizza bills. And I’ll be he won’t even get a single hour of college credit for his accomplishment.

Tyson Foods has slowed its pork production, in other words–killing less swine these days. The slowdown at six U.S. plants is eliminating some 24 hours worth of work a week – almost a full shift a week. The market for pork products is usually slow in the summer.

ConAgra has announced it will buy the privately held natural foods label Alexia Foods. ConAgra, the big label food stuff company (in both grains and meats) wants to add to its already well known non-green line of Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Hunts, Marie Callender’s and Orville Redenbacher. The deal is reportedly worth $35 million.

Categories: Legacy Archive