Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise was only the second movie I saw in the cinema since it reopened from the COVID-19 lockdown, and it was money well spent.

(It helped that we saw it in Amsterdam’s magnificent Tuschinski Theater. If you’re ever in town, take two hours out of your schedule to see a movie in what Time Out has called the most beautiful cinema in the world.)

Jungle Cruise is a throwback to classic adventures like Indiana Jones, Jungle Book, Tarzan and The Africa Queen, but, unlike the more deliberate and grown-up The Lost City of Z, this one is family-friendly and a whole lot more fun.

Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson are cast well opposite each other as the intrepid Dr Lily Houghton, who is determined to find the Tree of Life whose petals can cure any illness, and who has no patience for the disbelief and sexism of the male explorers of her time, and steamboat skipper Frank Wolff, who knows the Amazon like his back pocket. Jack Whitehall provides comic relief as Lily’s snob younger brother.

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Remaking the World

It wasn’t until the modern era that would-be conquerors and do-gooders could think on a global scale. The discovery of the New World and the invention of steamboats, the telegraph, airplanes, television and intercontinental ballistic missiles made the world feel smaller. Egyptian pharaohs and Chinese emperors may have claimed to rule everything under the sun and the heavens; it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that an island nation on the western edge of Eurasia could acquire an empire on which the sun never set.

The potential of world conquest inflated the ambitions of political movements. Marxists called for a world revolution of the proletariat. Fascist Germany and Japan planned to divide the world between them. America sought to make the world safe for democracy.

If world war and world conquest were possible, then surely so were world peace and unity? Pan-Europeanism and internationalism flourished in the twentieth century, giving life to the League of Nations, the United Nations and what would become the European Union.

From the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas to the would-be EUs of the present day, here’s a history at attempts — few of them successful — to remake the world.

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Nazi Flying Saucers

Often, but not always, paired with Nazis in Antarctica and Nazis on the Moon is the Nazi UFO or flying saucer trope.

The trope has a tenuous basis in reality. The Nazis really did develop strange aircraft, including a flying wing, and Allied pilots did claim to spot “foo fighters” over the skies of Germany near the end of the war. This was when Hitler was banking on his “wonder weapons” to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

German flying discs, though, were invented after the war by conspiracy theorists and ufologists — and eagerly exploited by dieselpunk creators.

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Army of Shadows

Army of Shadows

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right.

When Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 French Resistance classic Army of Shadows was released in the United States in 2006, many reviewers listed it as their favorite movie of the year. Newsweek called it a “fatalistic masterpiece”, The New York Times an “austere mise-en-scène in which Resistance fighters carry the shame of a nation on their squared shoulders.” LA Weekly described it as the “crowning achievement” of a director who specialized in minimalistic film noir. “Unlike the romantic images of freedom fighters perpetuated by the popular media, Melville’s movie is stripped of self-congratulatory hero worship and other puffery,” wrote the Austin Chronicle.

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Metropius Teaser Trailer

Think Rapture, but above ground. Metropius is the most exciting dieselpunk project currently in production. The teaser trailer, released on Thursday, reveals a city of flying cars, neon lights and robotic traffic cops.

The website describes Metropius as “a city rich on the profits of an endless WWII,” operating under corporate rule.

These corporations have a stranglehold on their citizens’ time, privacy and the world’s most valuable fossil-fuel resource which has generated Metropius’ technological growth: the rose-diesel.

The aesthetics are reminiscent of BioShock, Thomas Pringle, Stefan Prohaczka and Tim Razumovsky — in short, all the best dieselpunk creators. Alejandro Bursidio, a Spanish artist, provided concept arts when the project was still called Acropolisworld.

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Supersonic Jets That Weren’t

Eighteen years after the last flight of the Concorde, supersonic jets are making a comeback. United Airlines is buying fifteen planes from a new company, Boom, which would enter service later this decade. Flight times from London to New York would be cut in half.

There was a time when the future of flight was supersonic. After the first supersonic fighter jets joined the air fleets of NATO and the Soviet Union in the 1950s, British and French aircraft manufacturers started development of a supersonic passenger plane, which would culminate in the Concorde. Afraid of being eclipsed by their European rivals, Boeing and Lockheed put their own plans into motion, funded by the United States Congress. The Soviets couldn’t stay behind and eventually beat Concorde to the first faster-than-sound commercial flight in 1968 with the Tupolev Tu-144.

Little came of the American design efforts, and supersonic flights were banned over the continental United States due to loud sonic booms. Concorde was allowed to fly into Washington DC and New York, but by the time it was able to make frequent transatlantic crossings, competition from the Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet”, which could seat four times the passengers of the previously-ubiquitous Boeing 707, meant there was no mass market for a supersonic airliner anymore. Rising oil prices didn’t help, and Concorde needed four times the fuel of the 747. Concorde became a plaything of the rich. In 1997, a round-trip from London to New York would set you back nearly $8,000, or $13,000 in today’s money; thirty times the price of the cheapest ticket available.

What doomed Concorde was the only fatal accident in its history: the 2000 crash at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in which all 109 passengers and crew were killed. Coming just before a general downtown in commercial aviation due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and after Airbus announced it would no longer supply replacement parts for the aircraft, it meant the end of the supersonic dream.

How different things had looked in the 1960s and 70s.

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The Art of Roy Gjertson

Roy Gjertson studied art in Minnesota and Los Angeles before serving as a B-24 radio operating and gunner during World War II. After the war, he resumed his career as an illustrator for aviation companies in California.

Gjertson is best known for the work he did for General Dynamics in San Diego. During his two decades there, he drew everything from commercial airliners to futuristic space shuttles for the company’s advertisements and proposals.

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