An old movie, a new old movie, and some really old art

Here’s a recap of my cultural activities from the past few weeks.

I saw Braveheart for the first time in about 15 years. In spite of all the historical inaccuracies, the melodramatic plot, and Mel Gibson’s spotty reputation, I still really like it! It has such a medieval feel about it (whatever that means), and the character of William Wallace is so charismatic. The love story and the execution scene at the end almost brought me to tears.

I also saw the film The Artist recently. I have one word to describe it: charming. It’s shot in black-and-white and has almost no dialogue. The lead actor, Jean Dujardin, is absolutely incredible. I think I fell in love with him and his co-star, the dog Uggie. The movie dragged in parts, but there were enough brilliant scenes to make up for it. I won’t give away the ending, but it was one of the most uplifting I’ve seen in years.

I also saw an amazing exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. I felt like I was in the Uffizi! The pieces exhibited here are really first rate and provide a fascinating glimpse into the ruling families of Italy in the fifteenth century. Most interesting are the realistic warts-and-all portraits of some homely Italian aristocrats, like the following:

Bust of Niccolo di Leonardo Strozzi by Mino da Fiesole

Doge Cristoforo Moro by Antonio Rizzo

An Old Man and his Grandson by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Lastly, I saw the exhibit Transition to Christianity at the Onassis Center on 5th Ave.  The Onassis Center puts on some great shows, and it’s all free!  I’m also sure it has the highest number of security guards per square foot of any museum in the world.  The exhibit provides a good overview of the move from paganism to Christianity in the Hellenistic world in Late Antiquity.  One of the most striking pieces is this beautifully carved head of Venus, with the eyes scratched out and a cross carved into her forehead.

Venus with cross on forehead