Category Archives: review

Why Can’t Hollywood Seem to Get Ancient Egypt Right?

"Tut (miniseries)" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tut_(miniseries).jpg#/media/File:Tut_(miniseries).jpgEarlier this week I splurged and bought the DVD set of the mini-series, Tut, starring Ben Kingsley that aired on Spike TV.   I confess, I was really excited when I saw it and got it a day before my paycheck was in the bank.   Hey, it’s ancient Egypt.  Some things get prioritized!

I excitedly loaded the DVD into my PC, I had a few hours before I really had to settle into watching the series.  I suffered through the previews and finally got the feature film.  I had my double espresso and I was ready to enjoy watching from the comfort of my home office.

Within the first fifteen minutes, I knew that I hated it.  There is no real mention of Nefertiti, or Kiya, Tut’s supposed mother. before we learn that Akhenaten has allegedly been poisoned and just before being sent to his deathbed, he manages to exact revenge on the plotters – or so he thinks. It wouldn’t have taken much for the show’s writers or producers to even bother to read history and center their script around it. Instead, they took the term ‘creative non-fiction’ to a whole new level.

Kingsley being cast as the elderly Ay is actually an excellent choice.  Kingsley plays at being ‘bad’ really well. The rest of the cast, not so much.   To be completely honest – I absolutely hated the show.  I hated it for the fact that the pruduction values were low enough that I could determine when the producers used repeated clips of film over and over again.  No one, not even someone who has a film background, should be able to spot something like this.    How is it in cheesy 80’s movies such as The Awakening with Charlton Heston, Stephanie Zimbalist and Susanah York can they get the film props to look like real antiquities – and in modern miniseries such as this one we have props and costuming that looks so incredibly bad and historically inaccurate? Did the costume designers even study the period? Nevermind that in The Awakening, Susanah York, who was allegedly playing an accomplished Egyptologist, just so happens to forget the first lesson of translating hieroglyphs and is seen on screen reading them backwards.

The one good thing about some of the Egyptian-themed movies of the past is that producers actually availed themselves of the expertise of egyptologists.  For Stargate and the subsequent Mummy movies, Dr. Stuart Smith was consulted to reconstruct spoken Kemetic.

The high priest in the movie, (of what Temple? Of What God?) is a man with an unshaven head?  Historically, that didn’t seem too likely.   And if he is praying to Amun-Ra – then they definitely  got a statue of the wrong god in the picture.  It was a statue of Horus – or Sokar, but it was absolutely not Amun.

At least the lead character playing Tutankhamun, Avan Jogia, said his name and made it at least sound right.  When Jogia even used the title, “Nisut Bity”,  I nearly fell out of my chair in shock. How can a three part miniseries where everything else is so abysmally wrong, actually get that one teeny detail of Ancient Egyptian titulary right?

The “tragic” queen, Ankhesenamun, played by Australian actress, Sibylla Deen, flounces around the set like a very bad Bollywood actress.  She doesn’t act like a woman of royal blood by any sense.  But then again, neither did Leonor Varela when she played Cleopatra VII in that particular mini-series either. Both of them sounded like shrill fish wives in their roles and the suspension of disbelief was too much even for those of us who truly wanted to believe.  I half expected a song and dance number to break out among the courtly plots that were going on unbeknownst to the King.

This show is so much like every other show that Hollywood attempts about Ancient Egypt in the last two decades. They cast the wrong people – usually Americans or Brits – to play ancient Egyptian people. In other words, they need to stop casting white people for these roles – I don’t care how good an actor or actress they are. Let’s stop with the historically inaccurate portrayal of historical figures. This is just as bad as when they cast white actors to play Indians back in the 50’s and 60’s. Egypt was a very cosmopolitan country, and the people in it were pretty much varying degrees of brown, etc. That’s what happens in places that are trade centers and there is food. People tend to go where the food is and where they can be assured of relative safety.

Coming at the end of February is the long-awaited trainwreck…erm, film “Egyptian Gods”. The buildup toward final release is beginning. Needless to say, the buzz is beginning, and not all of it is positive.

My opinion on the film is that it’s meant to be a money maker. Hollywood producers and financiers especially have no imagination and are obsessed with profit margins over quality by putting out things with lots of special effects and flash but very little else. Investors in major motion picture projects like this one want a sure thing so that they can not only get a return on investment (ROI) but also make a profit – whether at the box office or in DVD sales and streaming or a combination of all of the above, that is what their chief motivator was and is. Right now, Egypt sells. In fact interest in Egypt is at an all time high with the latest discoveries of a possible additional tomb attached to that of Tutankhamun, and by the Gods, the studios want to cash in.

I have heard lots of screaming in various forums, and not just on Facebook, about what color the actors playing the Gods are. As I mentioned earlier, I do agree it is both sad and frustrating that actors of color for the most part were passed over and the major roles went to mostly white, A-Listers such as Gerard Butler.  Let’s set that issue aside for just a moment.

Brian_Prince-Vultan

Brian Blessed as Vultan, Prince of the Hawkmen in ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980)

Going beyond that argument and taking it a step further, in my not-so-humble opinion, the most objectionable part of this film is the absolute bastardization of our mythologies to the point where they no longer resemble the original at all. I’m sorry, Kemetic culture was more poised and gracious than that gaudy mess! The costumes with capes for the men and plunging metalic-clad cleavage ever seen since Flash Gordon in the 80’s! Maybe that’s what they were going for with the color palette and the “Hawkmen” getup.

Hathor, of course, certainly looks expensive. The sets look more Greek or Roman than they do Kemetic. Why? Multi-million dollar budgets, that’s why.

I don’t believe for an instant that even an all black cast and crew could salvage any of what promises to be just more vapid, Hollywood dreck. If this film had been true to it’s real Kemetic roots and written decently, I doubt that the investors would have ever let it be made into a movie. That to me is the deepest crime of all; that Hollywood culture thinks nothing of insulting the intelligence of everyone with more bullshit and glittery crap that has nothing to do with historical or cultural accuracy. We Kemetics are going to have to explain the glaring inaccuracies to people who think of entertainment films as being just spicier documentaries.

Will I watch this film?

Probably. But I definitely won’t purchase it or stream it until it reaches the used book store.  I don’t want them to make a single penny of profit off of me.

Piye Victory Stele from the 25th Dynasty

Piye Victory Stele from the 25th Dynasty

My biggest dream for a film on Ancient Kemet is to see the entire film first of all follow accurate history, and be done entirely in spoken Kemetic – like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, which was done entirely in Mayan and Yucatec with English subtitles. I know such a thing is possible in Kemetic because of the bits of the original Stargate and The Mummy films employed the language. Ancient Kemetic history is filled with good stories that could be used such as the Harem Conspiracy of Rameses III, or the re-unification of Egypt by 25th Dynasty Pharaoh, Piye, who swept in from Nubia in order to reunite the Two Lands. (He also launched the first amphibious attack in world history, but that’s another very cool story for later).

Would it be difficult?  Absolutely. Would such a film be a high budget expenditure? I don’t see how it could possibly be done any other way.

But then, that’s the point, isn’t it?.   The 1963 release of Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor was originally 8 hours long and it ultimately caused the studio that produced it to go bankrupt!   I actually own a shooting script for that film, and I have to say that for all its faults, they got much of the look and feel of Alexandria during the Ptolemaic period correct even if bits of history were wrong here and there.   Today, however, instead of Hollywood spending all the money that it does on inaccurate, digitized imagery that looks like it was pulled out of a graphic novel or a video game. Why is it so difficult to give audiences something that is real and respectful? If they did, perhaps such a worthy endeavor would last long past the box office or DVD receipts are calculated and banked by the suits in Hollywood who no longer care for or believe in anything else except return on investment and profit margins. It would, that is,  if they’re lucky.

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Making the transition

egyptianscribes1It is no secret that I tend to be a bit of a control freak. I do work well with others. I am just a little more reticent about working for them. I’ve been in the corporate sphere and could name-drop if I wanted to. I have also done my share of work with small businesses as well. It has been a mixture of good and bad. I have had wonderful bosses, and worked for executives who were the most unreasonable demons from the deepest pits of Hell. I have had great, co-workers and teammates that instill what that whole sort of culture should be about – and I have had the displeasure of having to work with the clueless and the incurably lazy who were more than happy to let me (or anyone else) do their jobs while they got paid just the same. In spite of all of this, I feel that each experience taught me a great deal.

I feel particularly blessed that right now, I am relying on a job outside of my own employment less and less. It was a hard road and a long time in coming. I believe my ability to do it now, rather than having been able to do it before is because of my having gone back to school. I learned some very good practical skills in media-related areas to be sure. However, more than that, I learned a great deal more and was exposed to some extraordinary teachers who are nothing less than a goldmine of knowledge, experience, and for some, the establishment of what I feel are real and lasting friendships. Through them I learned about good habits and not-so-great ones as well. This is especially true with my writing.

Between the blogs that I write and edit for commercial clients, the freelance camera work and the writing that I do via eBook publishing, it is looking like self sufficiency is not such a far off dream.

So, on my birthday I had to go to work at the job outside of the home. I don’t mind that so much. Today, however, the day after, I am spending time unfucking my habitat and unfucking the Sekhmet book. I think the former is going to be a little bit easier than the latter simply because right now, the book is a nearly 300 page long info-dump of everything I have compiled about Sekhmet and everything surrounding her for the last decade and a half. I confess, part of it makes me rather afraid, because I am putting myself out there to be shredded in the very same way that I shredded the late Dr. Robert Masters over my personal points of contention over his work. I am in his debt, of course, but he and I did not always see eye to eye and there are those who may find my work a complete departure. That sort of fills me with a bit of trepidation. Sekhmet, on the other hand, just keeps pushing that it needs to be put out there. So does my spouse and my son.

I just have to remember that the task in front of me is never as great as the Power (sekhem)_within myself. If I keep telling myself this, maybe I will actually not only start to believe it but live it, too.

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The Magicians Health: A Survival Guide

A friend of mine, whom I mentioned in my last blog entry, has put out a very cool book. Josephine McCarthy (Littlejohn) has a number of books out on magic that are definitely no b.s. That is refreshing in this world of BNP’s or Big Name Pagans who like to put out a lot of double speak and less than well-researched material

This book is Josephine’s latest and I am sharing a link to it here because even though it is not necessarily Kemetic, I think some of you who are reading this blog might definitely benefit from it. If you can afford it, please consider throwing Josephine some cash for her efforts, eh? Artists, writers, etc. do deserve to have some compensation for what they give to us. For myself, Josephine has given much and I consider her a valuable mentor and friend. Please follow the link.

http://www.theinnerlibrary.org/the-magicians-health-survival-guide.html

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Sekhmet: The Beauty and the Terror (Update)

The Goddess Sekhmet
A bit ago, I decided I was going to actually publish the work and research I have spent the last ten years doing on Sekhmet. Right now, I am in the final editing process. I am tweaking the formatting and images, getting the cover to look more professional.

As for the work itself, it will be a combination of both scholarly and what I ever-so-affectionately term as “Mystic Woo-Woo”. You see, Kemetic religion draws two distinct groups of people. Those who are into the strictly scholarly and reconstructionist aspects of it, and those who are a little more eclectic and far less precise in the ways which they choose to honour the Netjeru. While it is impossible to be all things to all people, especially when you are a writer, I have divided the book into two sections. There will be citations of ancient work, and the other portion will contain hymns, invocations, rituals etc. that are based off of those in antiquity but are clearly either my creation or those which have come from others.

Sekhmet: The Beauty and the Terror is a labor of love. It is rooted in both ancient and modern practices of both myself and of others who count themselves as Sekhmet’s children. If this labor of love can help someone or give them insight to what Sekhmet is all about, then I am happy. If it does what many other books and projects within the Kemetic community do and sparks dialogue, incites debate or even ignites jealousy – all of which have this wonderful tendency to place a flame thrower to the arse of others who believes they can do it better, then I will definitely have done my job!

I am publishing this book myself as an independent publisher with my own publishing company. Ma’at Publishing, which was officially founded in 1994, but I had been using the name long before that. This work will be exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days, after which I will release in other forms including on sites such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, and the like. The cover price is projected to be $9.99 USD regardless of platform.

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Book Review: “Plants of Love: The History of Aphrodisiacs, and A Guide to Their Identification and Uses

NON-FICTION :Plants of Love: The History of Aphrodisiacs, and A Guide to Their Identification and Use“, by Christian Ratsch, 1997 10 Speed Press, ISBN 089815-928-8 $19.95 (US)

CONTENT: Christian Ratsch has done it again with his wonderfully illustrated guide to yet another aspect of all things herbal. He pulls together the appropriate amounts of history, monographs including pictures that would help someone identify the plant in the wild. There are over a thousand plants that through history have been or are still being used as aphrodisiacs, and Ratsch rarely shies away from the frank discussion of any of them. He presents the information both interesting and shares enough knowledge to be of interest to the layperson, the Witch, as well as the scholar or the practising herbalist.

As far as books on the topic of Aphrodisiacs and their uses, Ratsch does the best job of any that I have seen. Far too many either get into debunking as to why these plants have been or are still useful, or they throw alot of urban legend into the mix without qualifying the information. Such practices cause plants (and even some animals) to be used in the process of trying to induce an erotic state or increase virility or fertility; some to the point of endangerment. Thankfully Ratsch is very conscious of this problem.

There are recipes for infusions, ointments, incenses and brews that are sure to entice. I was disappointed that Nymphaea caerulea or Blue “Lotus” (which is actually a blue water lily) was not included. I have tinctured and worked with this plant extensively and was very surprised, especially with its symbology and history that there was no discussion of it. There is a small bit of information about Nelumbo nucifera or ‘true’ Lotus, which is native to India and Asia that was very inclusive – as were most of all of the other entries.

RATING: B+ My only disappointment is that there is not even more in this book. There is a frank and extended discussion of even more plants in his latest book, including the ones that I was disappointed not seeing in this one, “Psychoactive Plants” which I am currently reading and will most probably be reviewing next. I definitely recommend “Plants of Love” as a great addition to any herbal library, however.

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