Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 22, No. 5, 2023
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Jason McDonald
  Contributing Editors
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
David Solway
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors Serge Gamache
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

a retrospective



Nick Catalano is a TV writer/producer and Professor of Literature and Music at Pace University. He reviews books and music for several journals and is the author of Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, New York Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham , A New Yorker at Sea,, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor and his most recent book, Scribble from the Apple. For Nick's reviews, visit his website:

Works of art, which at the time of their creation enjoy huge popularity, suffer critical commentary simply because through the years it has somehow become de rigueur to decry art which manages to appeal to the masses.

Often the criticism is a case of jealousy, a product of small and vengeful minds. Harry Peck says of Mark Twain “A hundred years from now it is very likely that ‘The Jumping Frog’ alone will be remembered.” About Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass James Russell Lowell says” No, no, this kind of thing won’t do . . . The good folks down the road (I mean posterity) will have none of it.” And this kind of vitriolic reaction reaches deep into the past and includes prestigious critical names. Voltaire once uttered, “It is a vulgar and barbarous drama, which would not be tolerated by the vilest populace of France or Italy . . . one would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage.” He was referring to Hamlet.

In our own day, it is film criticism which receives much attention and no film maker has achieved more popularity than George Lucas. And on too many instances his films have been on the receiving end of an excess of nasty commentary as if popularity was a certain sign of a film’s artistic failure. Lucas is a titanic film revolutionary and because far too many critics have been negatively predisposed towards his oeuvres, the artistry of the films has received scant attention. In "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Lucas successfully examines the history of the Ten Commandments, the insidiousness of Nazi totalitarianism, the compelling mysterious nature of myth and a futuristic view of the universe. Because he is a genius at combining the usual Hollywood formula (chase scenes, suspenseful revelations, violent fights and comic interludes) with sobering themes, the film attained huge popularity. In "Star Wars" he brilliantly explored the future of science, the challenges of space travel and the natural morality of ‘the force.’

In “The Last Crusade” (produced by Lucas) Steven Spielberg directs a script which carefully explores a father-son relationship. As we have seen, Jones Jr. is an unusual academic. He only teaches part time; his principal passion is finding archeological evidence for age-old mysteries: the account of Tanis and grail history has historical references everywhere and the introduction of his father who is also an archeologist is key. Henry Jones sr. is a religious professor whose quest for the grail has occasionally compromised the responsibility of fatherhood. His son Indiana is completely agnostic and certainly not a staid academic. He tells his archeology students to “get out of the library” and face challenges to archeological myths. He is an active adventurer utilizing his archeological expertise to go out and solve ancient mysteries. The parent-child tension is developed from here and it provides unique insight into the age-old can of worms of parent-child relationships.

The Temple of Doom” revives interest in ancient Mayan culture but more successfully explores the primitive Thugee cult, a little known group worshipping Kali, a goddess of doomsday and death. In addition, the enormous wealth and diet of this North Indian society of Maharajahs which exists to this day is presented with disturbing objectivity when one remembers the starving millions in India.

In “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” Lucas turns to mysteries in ancient culture of Akator -- an ancient El Dorado. Once again the escapist scenes (fights, chases, etc.) service a thematic inquiry into a little known legend. In this film the introduction of Jones’ long lost son explores the notion of ‘family comes first’” and in addition, reexamines the nuclear bomb threats of the 1950s.

Finally, Lucas manages to build a story around a recent major archeological discovery. Only a few years ago archeologists found an ancient shipwreck near Antikythera , an island between Crete and the Peloponnese. Antikythera is most famous for being the location of the 1900 discovery of the Antikythera wreck from which the Antikythera Ephebe and Antikythera mechanism were recovered. The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical calculator (sometimes described as the first mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions) which has been dated from 205 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity did not reappear until a thousand years later. “Dial of Destiny” suggests that this miraculous device was developed by Archimedes and references 212 BC as the date of its invention which accurately reflects the time of Archimedes.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” theorizes that Archimedes constructed this amazing device containing myriad measuring references to access “fissures in time.” Thus time traveling is initially introduced way before it gets dealt with in science fiction as in H.G. Welles’ The Time Machine.

Any successful artistic creation which references actual historical situations commonly encountered by humans in science, technology or history, is bound to attract audiences despite their limited knowledge of the subject matter. And if the film manages to communicate the original theme with scenes reflecting actual science or history, it is usually destined for commercial and at least some critical success.

Each summer since 1982 I’ve been taking my university students to Greece to teach an interdisciplinary seminar on classical Greece. We of course cover the enormous Greek achievements in science and mathematics but when we come to 323 BC and the death of Alexander we swing our attention from Athens to Alexandria where we encounter the mathematical genius of Ptolemy, Sosigenes and Archimedes. Every high school student knows about the latter’s principle of buoyancy. But the discovery of the Antikythera has such far-reaching implications his genius is now rightfully receiving a revival in interest. Actually, scientists are still arguing over the purposes of this portentous Antikythera metal cylinder with its numbered references of longitude, latitude, distance and other esoteric mathematical etchings. Who knows what ominous data they will find.

It takes a creative film giant like George Lucas to successfully communicate the dramatic significance of complex scientific reality and this last Indiana Jones film Lucas manages to do this consummately.



Richard C.
I knew Lucas was good but I had no idea how deep as his insights were hidden in popular fair. Catalano ferreted it out into the open. Good job!

Mike C.
You are one, talented, multifaceted writer, Nick. Great insights in this piece!

By Nick Catalano:
Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One
Hell on the High Seas
A Producer Remembers
World War I: Armistice and Artists
The Masters: Standup Comedy pt. II
On Standup Comedy pt. I
My Times with Benny Goodman
Higher Education and the Future of Democracy
Faith, Emotion and Superstition versus Reason, Logic and Science
Thinking: A Lost Art
Alternative Approaches to Learning
Aesthetic History and Chronicled Fact
Terror in China: Cultural Erasure and Computer Genocide
The Roller Coaster of Democracy
And Justice for All
Costly Failures in American Higher Education
Trump and the Dumbing Down of the American Presidency
Language as the Enemy of Truth
Opportunity in Quarantine
French Music: Impressionism & Beyond
D-Day at Normandy: A Recollection Pt. II
D-Day at Normandy: A Recollection Pt. I
Kenneth Branagh & Shakespeare
Remembering Maynard Ferguson
Reviewers & Reviewing
The Vagaries of Democracy
Racism Debunked
The Truth Writer
#Me Too Cognizance in Ancient Greece
Above the Drowning Sea
A New York Singing Salon
Rockers Retreading
Polish Jewry-Importance of Historical Museums
Sexual Relativity and Gender Revolution
Inquiry into Constitutional Originalism
Aristotle: Film Critic
The Maw of Deregulated Capitalism
Demagogues: The Rhetoric of Barbarism
The Guns of August
Miles Ahead and Born to Be Blue
Manon Lescaut @The Met
An American in Paris
What We Don't Know about Eastern Culture
Black Earth (book review)
Cuban Jazz
HD Opera - Game Changer
Film Treatment of Stolen Art
Stains and Blemishes in Democracy
Intersteller (film review)
Shakespeare, Shelley & Woody Allen
Mystery and Human Sacrifice at the Parthenon
Carol Fredette (Jazz)
Amsterdam (book review)
Vermeer Nation
The Case for Da Vinci's Demons


Comedy Podcast with Jess Salomon and Eman El-Husseini
Bahamas Relief Fund
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
fashion,brenda by Liz Hodson
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal(514) 844-2172
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Photo by David Lieber:
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis