I’ve been a Churchill lover from the days of youth in The Bronx spent watching reruns of Mike Wallace’s old Biography show on WPIX. Here was the century’s hero — and he was half-American! And the Old Bulldog had local ties: Nearby Jerome Avenue, above which the 4 Train clickety clacks past Yankee Stadium as it heads to Woodlawn, was named after his New York-financier grandfather Leonard Jerome (owner of the racetrack that anchored the Avenue’s northern end).
Now it’s Churchill’s turn to be shrunken down to a more manageable size. In Darkest Hour, which is set across May and June of 1940, the English director Joe Wright and his star Gary Oldman conspire to create a somewhat comical, quavering, and very human prime minister. In dramatic terms it’s an engaging picture, and Oldman is terrifically appealing, but if you’re looking for indecision and angst, the person of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill is a curious place to declare you’ve found it.
Then there is the view of Victor Davis Hanson, who praises the film in his new column:
Darkest Hour takes place almost exclusively indoors during Parliament sessions, private meetings, and scenes between Churchill and his equally brilliant wife, Clementine. But the dialogue is riveting, the acting superb.
Actor Gary Oldman’s masterful Churchill should be a sure Academy Award — winning performance. Oldman reminds a generation of amnesiac global youth that nearly 80 years ago, the dogged defiance of a 66-year-old Victorian Englishman — portly and not much over 5-foot-6 — saved Western civilization from Nazi barbarism.
Americans should watch Darkest Hour for reasons beside its engaging acting and plot. We rightly believe that American industry and Soviet manpower won World War II. Yet too often, Americans forget the critical third allied ingredient: British leadership, courage, and military professionalism.
Along the same lines is Rich Lowry, who praises the movie in his new column:
After the war, Churchill wrote of the reaction of his colleagues: “Quite a number seemed to jump up from the table and came running to my chair, shouting and patting me on the back. There is no doubt had I at this juncture faltered at all in leading the nation, I should have been hurled out of office.”
He didn’t falter. Churchill tapped into and built up the resolve of the British people. “There was a white glow,” he wrote later, “overpowering, sublime, which ran through our island from end to end.” Hitler wouldn’t neutralize the British, who escaped Dunkirk and kept up the fight.
The so-called Great Man theory of history might be overly simplistic, but history indisputably has its great men. Darkest Hour does justice to one of them.
Battle of the titans? These takes make me want to see the flick — and maybe that’s just how I will end 2017. By the way, and mildly related: The other night I caught Mrs. F watching The Producers on TCM, and I joined her just in time to enjoy for the umpty-umpth time Franz Liebkind (how did Kenneth Mars not win an Oscar for his performance?) thunder his terrific slandering of Winston:
But nobody said a bad vord about Winston Churchill, did they? Oh no, Vin Vit Vinnie! Churchill, vit his cigars and his brandy and his rotten paintings. Couldn’t even say “Nazi.” He would say Narzis, Narzis. Ve vere not Narzis, ve vere NAZIS! But let me tell this, and you’re getting it straight from the horse, Hitler vas better looking than Churchill, he vas a better dresser than Churchill, had more hair, told funnier jokes, and could dance the pants off Churchill!
3. Over at Projections, Kyle Smith and Ross Douthat reveal their nerd and review The Last Jedi.
4. Very cool things are happening on the new episode of Reality Check with Jeanne Allen: Our intrepid host talks with adaptive-learning guru Ulrik Juul Christensen, who explains how it’s changing training in the workplace, and how it can help schools too.
5. Hey! Don’t forget to catch Three Martini Lunch. Jim and Greg have stirred a bottle’s worth of year-ending podcasts here.
Nine NR Pieces to Ponder as You Ice the Champagne
1. Armond White reviews the cynical, Western-values-mocking Downsizing and Phantom Thread.
2. On the latter, Kyle Smith finds Phantom Thread to be dazzling. And frustrating.
3. The 2017 Three Martini Lunch Awards have been announced. Jim kindly dispensed with the red carpet.
4. Jim’s not the only one with awards. Michaele Malkin announces her 2017 Bulldog Awards. One recipient:
Obianuju Ekeocha: This Nigerian-born pro-life speaker and organizer is president of Culture of Life Africa. With her megawatt smile and razor-sharp tongue, Ekeocha takes on the abortion ghouls in Hollywood and the BBC and at the U.N., armed with data and backed by African women who uphold the sanctity of life in word and deed. Ekeocha uses Twitter and social media masterfully to unmask left-wing cultural imperialism and build a global culture of life.
5. Ramesh Ponnuru coolly scores President Trump’s “strong start” on policy. The entire piece deserves your read, but here is one paragraph:
Trump killed President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have imposed significant economic costs while doing little to reduce the risks of global warming. He has effectively ended the Obama administration’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage: Employers who object to providing that coverage, or providing forms of that coverage they consider to cause abortions, are to be exempt. If the new policy stands, the Little Sisters of the Poor will be spending less time in court. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has withdrawn Obama-era regulations that led colleges to lower the burden of proof for sexual-misconduct allegations and to monitor professors’ speech.
6. Post-Christian America doesn’t look too appealing to David French. Here’s a slice from his troubling piece:
In short, America is in the process of replacing a general worldview that prioritized love, hope, and truth with an individualized moral buffet that prioritizes personal satisfaction. We’re giving man back to his human nature — a nature beset by original sin and prone to tribalism. No one should assume that America can survive the change.
7. Tevi Troy shares his take on some of the year’s most worthwhile books.
8. So does Yuval Levin.
9. The GOP’s tax-reform law has sparked worldwide competition for reducing burdens on businesses, reports Dan McLaughlin.
Two Friendly Pieces To Read While You Handle Your Hangover
1. Here are the top 10 stories published in 2017 by The College Fix.
2. In The University Bookman, G. Tracey Mehen III pens a swell review of Alvin Felzenberg’s acclaimed bio A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr.
The crew is skeletal, the workload crushing, so that’s all she will write, although in my case the “she” is a “he,” last I looked anyway. Stating that is probably some borderline microaggression; apologies if needed to those unduly aggressed. But all that said, I do wish all of NR’s readers and supporters, aggressed or not, a Happy, Healthy, and Holy 2017. May you enjoy all of God’s blessings and graces.