Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar

Posted February 3, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Graphic Novel / 0 Comments

Superman: Red Son by Mark MillarTitle: Superman: Red Son (Goodreads)
Author: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Johnson
Published: DC Comics, 2014
Pages: 168
My Copy: Library Book

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What if Superman never crashed in Smallville Kansas? What if he lands in the Soviet Union? How different would the story be? Mark Millar has created this alternative history in Superman: Red Son. Growing up in a Ukrainian collective farm, Red Son explores an alternate version of the Cold War. Rather than fighting for ‘truth, justice and the American way’, Superman works with Joseph Stalin and champions the communist ideals.

I was a little hesitant in reading Superman: Red Son; there was always a chance that this mini-series would just be propaganda, proclaiming the brilliance of Capitalism and the American way. While there is a little of this that bleeds through, for the most part, Mark Millar has taken a fair approach. If you think about the ideals that Superman has, it does closely align with the Communist ideal; equality for all. In the graphic novel, we often see Superman and Soviet leaders in disagreements about the way things should be done, reminding them of their own greed or desire for power.

There was an ideology within the soviet era of how a man should act, this is known as the new Soviet man. A new Soviet man is selfless, learned, healthy, muscular, and enthusiastic in spreading the socialist Revolution. I found it interesting how Mark Millar managed to capture this ideology and how easy it fits Superman’s own personality. While eager for the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact, Superman championed the Soviet ideals but would avoid violence whenever possible.

Interestingly enough, Mark Millar seems to capture a problematic America, that wish to intervene in the way the Soviet Union is run. While time and time again, Superman shows that he does not intend to inflict harm on the country. They still enlist Lex Luthor and S.T.A.R. Labs to help fight the spread of communism, exploring what I think was the major problem with the Cold War. If you look at the history of the Cold War, it feels like the majority of it could have been avoided if America just let the Soviet Union (and other Communist countries like Vietnam) fail on their own. This is obviously a personal opinion on the Cold War, I am aware that it was far more complex than an anti-communist war.

I may have read Superman: Red Son differently to others, but I truly enjoyed the experience. There are some interesting ideas explored, and I enjoyed the alternative versions of not only Superman, but other superheroes like Wonder Woman and Batman. There are a few flaws with the comic mini-series but for the most part, I found this to be a fresh take on the Superman story. It would be nice if this was a bigger series but for the most part Mark Millar wrote a great story and the illustrations by Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett were stunning.


It’s Monday 1st of February 2016! What are you Reading?

Posted February 1, 2016 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 7 Comments

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Date. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

UnderworldUnderworld by Don DeLillo

While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the cold war and American culture, compelling that “swerve from evenness” in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying. Underworld opens with a breathlessly graceful prologue set during the final game of the Giants-Dodgers pennant race in 1951. Written in what DeLillo calls “super-omniscience” the sentences sweep from young Cotter Martin as he jumps the gate to the press box, soars over the radio waves, runs out to the diamond, slides in on a fast ball, pops into the stands where J. Edgar Hoover is sitting with a drunken Jackie Gleason and a splenetic Frank Sinatra, and learns of the Soviet Union’s second detonation of a nuclear bomb. It’s an absolutely thrilling literary moment. When Bobby Thomson hits Branca’s pitch into the outstretched hand of Cotter–the “shot heard around the world”–and Jackie Gleason pukes on Sinatra’s shoes, the events of the next few decades are set in motion, all threaded together by the baseball as it passes from hand to hand.

“It’s all falling indelibly into the past,” writes DeLillo, a past that he carefully recalls and reconstructs with acute grace. Jump from Giants Stadium to the Nevada desert in 1992, where Nick Shay, who now owns the baseball, reunites with the artist Kara Sax. They had been brief and unlikely lovers 40 years before, and it is largely through the events, spinoffs, and coincidental encounters of their pasts that DeLillo filters the Cold War experience. He believes that “global events may alter how we live in the smallest ways,” and as the book steps back in time to 1951, over the following 800-odd pages, we see just how those events alter lives. This reverse narrative allows the author to strip away the detritus of history and pop culture until we get to the story’s pure elements: the bomb, the baseball, and the Bronx. In an epilogue as breathless and stunning as the prologue, DeLillo fast-forwards to a near future in which ruthless capitalism, the Internet, and a new, hushed faith have replaced the Cold War’s blend of dread and euphoria.

Through fragments and interlaced stories–including those of highway killers, artists, celebrities, conspiracists, gangsters, nuns, and sundry others–DeLillo creates a fragile web of connected experience, a communal Zeitgeist that encompasses the messy whole of five decades of American life, wonderfully distilled.

The Tsar of Love and TechnoThe Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena—dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.

What Are You Reading?


Tom Houghton by Todd Alexander

Posted January 19, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Tom Houghton by Todd AlexanderTitle: Tom Houghton (Goodreads)
Author: Todd Alexander
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Pages: 295
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC

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As a child growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, Tom Houghton was an innocent boy with an obsession with classic cinema; an obsession that he inherited from his grandmother. His favourite actor was Katherine Hepburn. As a man who just turned 40 years old, Tom Houghton is a completely different person, bitter and jaded with the world. Tom Houghton is an exciting new coming of age story from Todd Alexander.

Told from the two different stages of life (twelve and forty) Tom Houghton offers an interesting look into this character’s life. I suspect that the book is semi-autobiographical but I found this a well-developed characterisation. I was particularly interested to see just how much Tom has changed over the years. In fact, this often felt like two different people.

As this novel progresses, events start to hint at what makes Tom the person he is today. I am always fascinated by the way the world shapes people. Particularly if society turns people evil (ever since reading Frankenstein), or in this case, making people jaded. There is so much that could be pulled out if I had a psychology background but as a novice, I just enjoyed the direction this novel took.

I was sent this book by the publisher with a note saying that they thought I would enjoy it. I am glad I listened and picked this book up because it was right up my alley. Tom Houghton reminds me a bit of the writing of Christos Tsiolkas, albeit a much tamer novel. I do hope that Todd Alexander writers more novels like this, I will be eager to pick up another.


Mini Reviews; Crime Edition

Posted January 13, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Mystery, Thriller / 14 Comments

I do not know if it is the fact that I have had some big months recently or that I associate violence with the holiday period but I have felt the need to read crime fiction lately. I think after a recent review of Dexter is Dead, I have been searching from a new crime series, and hopefully I will find one soon. As crime novels are hard to review without spoilers I thought I will combine them into a mini-review.

Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Vanishing Games (Goodreads)
Author: Roger Hobbs
Series: Ghostman #2
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Jack the Ghostman is backed, this time his mentor, Angela needs his help. After a heist to steal some uncut sapphires worth millions of dollars goes wrong, Angela finds herself in trouble. An unknown crime organisation seems to be after her and she is stuck in Macau without any help. She turned to her protégé in the hope to get back the sapphires and get out alive.

I remember Ghostman to be a fun, fast paced heist novel so when book two, Vanishing Games was released, I knew I would eventually read it. What worked really well in the book was the setting; Macau becomes this mysterious city full of uncertainty. A sovereign state of China, Macau is one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to housing the largest gambling district. A tourist attraction for high rollers, but still housing a seedy underbelly. I had a lot of fun with this book, it was fun and action packed, but still a typical heist novel which is not a bad thing


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: In the Woods (Goodreads)
Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Narrator: John McCormack
Published: Viking, 2007
Pages: 429
Genres: Mystery
My Copy: Audiobook

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I have been recommended the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French multiple times, not sure why. So I finally decided to pick up the first book In the Woods, which tells the story of Detective Rob Ryan and Detective Cassie Maddox assigned to the murder of a twelve year old girl. More than twenty years ago Ryan and two friends got lost in the same woods. He returned, but what happened to his friends remains a mystery.

This was a fresh and dark psychological suspense, which I enjoyed far more than I expected. My problem with best-seller crime novels is they tend to be very formulaic and unoriginal. Tana French managed to keep the same format but still made the book stand out. I think the chemistry between Ryan and Maddox played a big part of this. I was shipping the two and hoping they will end up together. I hear this series follows different characters in the Dublin murder squad which I am worried about, I want more from these two characters.


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Villain (Goodreads)
Author: Shūichi Yoshida
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2011
Pages: 295
Genres: Mystery
My Copy: Library Book

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One morning in January 2006, the body of a female insurance saleswoman, Yoshino was found dead on Mitsue Pass. A young construction worker, Yuichi is arrested for her murder. Shifting perspectives, Villain tells the story of the events leading up to Yoshino’s murder and the aftermaths.

Kosaku Yoshida is often considered as one of Japan’s best crime writers and as a fan of Japanese Lit, I knew I had to check one of his books out. However I was a little disappointed; the story was interesting but I was not a fan of the execution. I thought it builds up the suspense, then shifts perspective; which felt like it kept stopping and starting and that just felt too clunky. Yoshida explores the idea of alienation, which seems to be a common theme in Japanese fiction. This worked well, however this was not enough to redeem the novel for me.


Mini Reviews; Crime EditionTitle: Hit Man (Goodreads)
Author: Lawrence Block
Series: Keller #1
Published: Harper Collins, 2002
Pages: 342
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: eBook

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Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripped down story.

I enjoy Lawrence Block’s style; it is nice to know someone is trying to keep the pulp crime genre alive. However Hit Man is more of a thriller series, which develops the complexities of this character with short intervals for an assassination. I like the way the stories interlock as a way to introduce John Keller, I have never seen this technique and think it worked well. Having said that, I think this is a fun book but I am not sure if I will continue the series. I am looking for something darker and do not think the Keller series will give me what I desire.


It’s Monday 11th of January 2016! What are you Reading?

Posted January 11, 2016 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 13 Comments

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Date. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

HausfrauHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Haunting and elegant, Hausfrau is the exceptional debut novel from the prize-winning American poet, Jill Alexander Essbaum.

Anna was a good wife, mostly . . .

Anna Benz lives in comfort and affluence with her husband and three young children in Dietlikon, a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. Anna, an American expat, has chosen this life far from home; but, despite its tranquility and order, inside she is falling apart.

Feeling adrift and unable to connect with her husband or his family; with the fellow expatriates who try to befriend her; or even, increasingly, her own thoughts and emotions, Anna attempts to assert her agency in the only way that makes sense to her: by engaging in short-lived but intense sexual affairs.

But adultery, too, has its own morality, and when Anna finds herself crossing a line, she will set off a terrible chain of events that ends in unspeakable tragedy. As her life crashes down around her, Anna must then discover where one must go when there is no going back . . .

As well as catching up on my other books that I am still reading

  • The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov (translated by Andrew Bromfield)
  • Hit Man by Lawrence Block
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (translated by Constance Garnett)
  • Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Antonina W. Bouis)

What Are You Reading?


Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum

Posted January 8, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Iron Curtain by Anne ApplebaumTitle: Iron Curtain : The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56 (Goodreads)
Author: Anne Applebaum
Published: Penguin, 2013
Pages: 613
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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When the Second World War ended, the political landscape of Europe changed drastically. More so, for Eastern Europe, and from 1945 to about 1956, it was controlled by Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. However after the war, the Red Army were not really the enemy, helping to liberate a lot of countries from the Nazis. It was the mismanagement of the Eastern European countries that became the problem. The Iron Curtain is a history book focused on the events that happened in these countries.

First of all, I would like to say, as a fan of the Soviet Union I do have a bias view point. I do not agree with Stalinism but I thought Lenin had some very good ideas. The Soviet Union was a political experiment that did not turn out the way it should have. I have a decent understanding of the history of the Soviet Union (though I am continuing to learn), I did not know much about the effects the USSR had on countries like Poland, Hungary and East Germany.  This is where The Iron Curtain came in to fill in that knowledge gap.

I was a little worried going into this book, Anne Applebaum is an American author and there was a concern that this would turn into a propaganda piece. Applebaum does not pull any punches, she reports every gruesome detail but never in a way that felt anti-Soviet. In fact I was pleased to find out that a lot of the research came from the Moscow libraries. Having said this, I have not read anything else on this exact topic so I cannot compare or judge the accuracy of the information. But this is turned into a good overview of what turned into the rape and pillaging of these countries.

I am fascinated but the Soviet Union and its history and The Iron Curtain was a nice addition to add to my collection on the topic. I feel I have so much more to learn and am looking forward to dive in further. I do not think I can review this book well enough because I have no way to compare it. I did enjoy the book as I am interested in the topic but it often felt very dense.


The Possessed by Elif Batuman

Posted January 6, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

The Possessed by Elif BatumanTitle: The Possessed (Goodreads)
Author: Elif Batuman
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
Pages: 296
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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Taken from the articles found in journals like n+1, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and the London Review of Books, Elif Batuman combines them into this memoir. The Possessed may be a collection journal articles, but combined together it forms more of a memoir of Batuman’s academic life. Starting with a conference she was involved with at Stanford University about Isaac Babel in the first article “Babel in California”.

I mention the first article “Babel in California” because I think it represented everything I did not like about this book. On the surface this book sounds right up my alley. The misleading subtitle for this book is “Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them” and that is the expectation I had when going into this book. However going by the first article about one conference, I got a very padded book with no real structure. It seems like Elif Batuman has edited her articles in a way to fit into a book, but she turned articles into sixty page chapters that are so drawn out that it is boring.

There is some interesting sections within this book but I feel the major problem is this book has no structure. If this was a collection of essays, I would expect a theme. If this was a memoir, I would expect more focus on her life. The Possessed sits somewhere in the middle, each chapter is very different; about a conference, her travels, her studies or just reading Russian lit. Each chapter does not seem to connect to the previous chapter, which just made it too clunky.

I wanted a book about Russian literature, but The Possessed did not give me that. In fact any literary criticism was never explained properly, so made it hard to understand how she draw her conclusions. I am looking for a good book about Russian literature, like a literary exploration or a journey into these books. If you know of a book like this that you would recommend, please let me know.


It’s Monday! What are you Reading? 4th January 2016

Posted January 4, 2016 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 12 Comments

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Date. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

The WhitesThe Whites by Harry Brandt

The Whites is the electrifying debut of a new master of American crime fiction, Harry Brandt–the pen name of novelist Richard Price.

Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-90s, when Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a 10-year-old boy while stopping an angel-dusted berserker in the street. Branded as a cowboy by his higher-ups, for the next eighteen years Billy endured one dead-end posting after another. Now in his early forties, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all night-time felonies from Wall Street to Harlem.

Night Watch usually acts a set-up crew for the day shift, but when Billy is called to a 4:00 a.m. fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, his investigation of the crime moves beyond the usual handoff. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a 12-year-old boy–a brutal case with connections to the former members of the Wild Geese–the bad old days are back in Billy’s life with a vengeance, tearing apart enduring friendships forged in the urban trenches and even threatening the safety of his family.

Richard Price, one of America’s most gifted novelists, has always written brilliantly about cops, criminals, and New York City. Now, writing as Harry Brandt, he is poised to win a huge following among all those who hunger for first-rate crime fiction.

The LibrarianThe Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov (translated by Andrew Bromfield)

Gromov is merely a forgotten writer of Soviet propagandist novels. But he has left behind his Books and the powers they impart–the Fury to tear enemies limb from limb, the Memory of a perfect childhood, the Strength to overcome all fear of death. These books transform believers from senile to lucid, cowardly to brave, weak to strong. Soon, Libraries of readers start to emerge, waging war on one another to seize precious copies of the Books, and terrible consequences ensue.

Trapped in the middle of this world inhabited by society’s outcasts–the decrepit, the heartbroken, the abandoned, the abused–is the young and unremarkable Alexei. Everything will change when he inherits a Book of Memory, and therefore becomes… a Librarian.

Blending depravity, black humour, reality and myth, Elizarov casts a satirical eye over Soviet Russia in this epic masterpiece and winner of the Russian Booker Prize–a tale of human longing, unwavering belief, and the search for meaning in a chaotic, illusory world.

What Are You Reading?


Learning about Sociology

Posted January 1, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Sociology / 0 Comments

sociologyI have spent so much time playing catch up on my book reviewing, I have been neglecting some of my other post types. I created Knowledge Lost as a way to document my interests in learning. While literature is a big part of my life and my journey, I do not want book reviews to be the primary focus of this blog, more a side effect. I have done posts in the past about art, literature, philosophy and psychology but there is a topic I am interested in that has not be discussed on this blog until now; that topic is sociology.

I have been interested in the topic of sociology for a very long time, but I do not think I understand it completely. I know it is the study of social effects of various influences like religion, politics, cultural movements and so on. However this is a very broad and limited definition of this very broad social science. There is a lot of other elements, theories and logistics that play a big part in influencing sociology. I am interested to learn this topic in a lot more detail; I do not think I will focus on it in great detail but a better understanding would be useful.

Some of the people I will have to learn about, include Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Auguste Comte is considered the “father of sociology” (although some give this title to Emile Durkheim) and often cited as the one who started this field of study. Herbert Spencer did a lot of research in family, education, government, industry, and religion comprise. Karl Marx is known for The Communist Manifesto, but his research focused on social classes. Emile Durkheim thought it was important to study social facts and the patterns of behaviour characteristics. Finally Max Weber believed that sociologists must consider people’s interpretations of events, as well as looking at economy and religious influences.

fathers of sociology

There is so many more people to research, plus looking at theories and other studies. I think one of my first posts in sociology would be a comparison between socialism and communism. I hope some posts into sociology will be a good fit with my blog. Although this is a place to document my autodidactic journey so I do not see why it would not fit. If anyone has some recommended reading on this topic, please let me know. I honestly do not know where to start.


Movie Review: The Ten Commandments (1956)

Posted December 27, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Movie-Drama / 0 Comments

the ten commandmentsTitle: The Ten Commandments
Released: 1956 
Director: 
Cecil B. DeMille
StarsCharlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter
Genre: Epic Drama

I am sure many people have seen the religious epic The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and stars Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter (with a small role given to Vincent Price). It tells the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, found in the Bible (the book of Exodus to be exact). A remake of his 1923 silent movie but extended out to an epic three and a half hour run time. You probably know that it was nominated for multiple awards and considered a classic, but rewatching this recently I found it nothing but American propaganda.

From the very start of the movie, Cecil B. DeMille comes out and introduces the movie, but a few things stood out to me. Firstly Ramses is referred to as a dictator as well as mentioning if men should be ruled by God or man. He also mentions that the slaves were the property of the State, making the connection to communism clear from the very start of the movie.

“The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they ought to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Ramses. Are men the property of the State or are they free souls under God? This same battle continues throughout the world today.”

the ten commandments eygptArtistically the scenes depicting Egypt are often shot with a red filter, in an attempt to help draw a connection to the Soviet Union. In fact, the actor who plays Rameses II, Yul Brynner, is a Russian born actor. While his heritage is more complicated than calling Brynner a Russian, he was born in Vladivostok and he even adopted a Russian accent for The Ten Commandments. This feels like a deliberate and obvious attempt to push DeMille’s agenda.

While “Rameses personifies Communist totalitarianism” according to Adele Reinhartz in her book Bible and Cinema: An Introduction, then Moses is the picture of the American ideal. In fact all the major roles of Hebrews in the movie are cast to blue eyed American actors. This pushes the agenda of America being God’s chosen people. If you think of the history America escaping religious persecution, it can be easily compared to that of the Hebrews.

In fact it is said that Cecil B. DeMille and the screenwriters consulted the works of Philo, Josephus, Eusebius, the Jewish Midrash and even the Qu’ran while writing the screenplay. The idea was to unite three major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) together in a battle against a common enemy. The Soviet Union was an atheist state and DeMille thought keeping religion on the side of good will help spread his anti-communist propaganda.

My wife recently had to do an assignment on this movie for university, so I would like to thank her for doing most of the research for this one. During our many discussions on this film we have discovered this film works as a political allegory against communism as well as portraying America as God’s chosen people. Rather than discuss the theological elements and exploring DeMille’s own religious beliefs that he projected on the audience, I wanted to focus my review on the propaganda, I think it is an interesting topic and will change the way you view this movie in the future.ten_commandments-moses

I remember thinking this was a pretty average and overly blotted movie but I had not seen it for a very long time. Rewatching The Ten Commandments now was a very different experience. I could not help but notice the allegory and felt like Cecil B. DeMille was blatantly beating me over the head with his own agenda. I am starting to watch movies with a more critical mind and it is interesting to see the symbolism and motifs that show up in films. The more I learn the more I fell manipulated by films; in particular Hollywood. There is more worth talking about with this movie but for now I think I have said enough.