Wednesday, March 19, 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke; Anthony Minghella

I haven't read Arthur C. Clarke since I was a teen, but I reveled in "2001" and its three sequels back then. It's astonishing to think that he wrote the first in that series in 1956, a time when travel to the moon was merely the stuff of "Amazing Stories" comics. In fact, the movie version of "2001" -- which Clarke co-scripted -- arrived a year before the first moon landing. It was so ahead of its time that it depicted space shuttles (unfortunately, with Pan Am logos. Hey, not even a visionary such as Clarke could have foreseen the rise of a Renaissance-Man entrepreneur Richard Branson and Virgin's "first airline in space" claim.)

Science-fiction books have never been welcomed by the literati -- despite the genre's mainstreaming in popular culture -- but Clarke was as close as a sci-fi author could get to respectibility in non-geek circles. We'll likely not see the likes of him again.


Anthony Minghella's passing was a shocker. I can't claim to have loved his work, though I have a soft spot for "Truly, Madly, Deeply," a British riposte to Demi Moore's "Ghost." Minghella's pictures always looked great even though I often felt distanced from the characters in films such as "The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and "Cold Mountain." But I value Minghella's willingness to take on challenging literary adaptations and hope that his last completed work, an HBO adaptation of the "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" is a fitting swan song to the director's talents.

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