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How did a 350-year-old Spanish cross get to the US state of Maryland? | USA

The traffic signs on Route 235 to St. Mary’s City repeatedly remind drivers that they are on their way to the first European settlement in the US state of Maryland. Along the highway, there are picturesque farms with horse-pulled carts – a sign of the Amish community, who are considered “the second settlers” in these parts. St. Mary’s is a small town of around a thousand people that was founded by the English in 1634. Its main tourist attraction is an archeological site between the Potomac River and Chesapeake river, where buildings dating back to the 17th century have been rebuilt. Last March, after a nearly century-long search, archeologists finally discovered the underground structure they were looking for: a fort the size of a football field.

The fort – which had been described in historic documents – contained ceramics made by Native Americans, oyster shells and a quartzite arrowhead. An eclectic jubilee of objects that proved the archeologists right. Then in October, they found something even more interesting: a copper, double-bar cross dating back 350 years. It was an original Caravaca cross, a religious item made in the southeastern Spanish region of Murcia, in a city called Caravaca de la Cruz. The experts announced the find a few weeks ago, but still have no idea how the relic ended up in St. Mary’s.

When it appeared, I became very emotional because such a small religious object like this means that it was deeply personal to someone

Archeologist Travis Parno

A few meters from the buried fort, archeologist Travis Parno, the director of the Historic St. Mary’s City dig, explains that his team is not used to finding Catholic relics in English colonies. The cross, measuring just four centimeters in length, “is a very particular, very specific religious object,” he says. “It’s not something we have ever found here before. When it appeared, I became very emotional because such a small religious object like this means that it was deeply personal to someone.” Parno is more used to finding fragments of buildings and plates than crosses.

At the beginning of 1630, English colonial administrator George Calvert requested a land grant from King Charles I to create a refuge for persecuted Irish and English Catholics. His work led to the proclamation of the Maryland Toleration Act, which turned the state into one of two English colonies in America where Catholics could practice their faith without reprisal. In the St. Mary’s of the 17th century, Catholics lived alongside Protestants, Jews and other religious followers. Given St. Mary’s – which at the time was the capital of Maryland, now it is Annapolis – enjoyed religious freedom, it is strange that more Catholic pieces have not been uncovered. So far, there is only one other record of a Caravaca Cross in the state, a 300-year-old relic discovered in the Charlestown archeological site.

Archeologist Travis Parno.
Archeologist Travis Parno.A.L.

Researchers have been looking for the exact location of the fort in St. Mary’s since 1930. English archeologist and geophysicist Tom Horsley found the structure thanks to magnetometry, a sophisticated technique that uses a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field. For Horsley, the cross was “clearly a valuable possession” for the person who brought it from England, perhaps to trade with a Native American. “It’s very difficult to explain,” he says by phone. “With archeology, we can reach theories and write suggestions, but we will never know for sure.”

The supposed powers of the Caravaca cross – which was said to protect the holder from ills, in particular storms and lightning – combined with the fact that Roman pontiffs favored its bearers, “triggered a significant demand for the pieces,” according to Indalecio Pozo Martínez, the head of the Vera Cruz de Caravaca Museum. “This, in large part, explains the presence of Caravaca crosses in many places and their appearances in archeological sites from Prague to Maryland.”

Jesuit missionary

Parno is not ready to commit to any explanation, but believes the most likely scenario is that the cross was brought to St. Mary’s by an English Catholic or a Jesuit missionary: “We know that the Jesuits had strong ties to Spain and that at the beginning of the 17th century, Caravaca crosses were present across Europe.” The crosses were also present in other territories in America, as well as some colonies in the Far East and Africa. Before setting sail to the New World, the Italian Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino issued an order for the purchase of “30 or 40 dozens of small Spanish or Caravaca crosses” to “give to the natives,” according to his Epistolario letters, which were cited by Pozo Martínez in an email.

It’s expected that the Historic St. Mary’s City will open a new visitors center in 2024, where the Caravaca cross will be given pride of place among the other valuable objects discovered in the fort. The researchers have already collected 100,000 pieces and, according to Parno, they hope to continue to excavate the area for the next 10 to 20 years. Since archeologists first began investigating the site half a century ago, 6.5 million objects have been found. And they have only combed through 5% of its 800 hectares.



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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema | Culture

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.  

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.

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Paramount Studio Prevails in Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

Paramount & The Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

The Voice Of EU | Paramount emerges triumphant from the legal showdown triggered by Maverick’s triumphant return to the big screen. A U.S. district judge swiftly shut down a lawsuit brought by the widow of the Israeli scribe who penned the piece inspiring the 1986 blockbuster, Top Gun. The heirs of Ehud Yonay alleged Paramount breached intellectual property rights with the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which soared to unprecedented heights in 2022, raking in over $1.5 billion worldwide. However, the judge decreed that numerous aspects of the sequel, including its narrative and dialogue, bore no resemblance to Top Gun. The sole shared element? Both narratives orbit the U.S. Air Force pilot training hub.

Judge Percy Anderson’s verdict laid bare that many of the claims raised by the Yonay clan failed to meet copyright criteria. In a 14-page ruling, he affirmed that the sequel’s themes, dialogue, characters, setting, and overall presentation diverged significantly from Yonay’s original article, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Marc Toberoff, the legal maestro representing the Yonay lineage since 2022, swiftly vowed to contest the ruling. The estate had dispatched a cautionary missive to Paramount in May of that year, weeks before the sequel’s release, forewarning of potential copyright infractions due to the family reclaiming story rights in January 2020.

The judge’s decree solidifies that Top Gun: Maverick marches to its own beat, with little homage paid to its predecessor or Yonay’s source material, which meandered through life at Miramar Naval Air Station in a non-linear fashion, honing in on pilots Yogi and Possum. Instead, the latest installment, helmed by Joseph Kosinski, unfurls a linear tale set years later, spotlighting a fresh squadron at North Island Naval Air Station, also in San Diego.

With the lawsuit dismissed, the runway is clear for the trilogy’s third chapter, headlined by the indomitable Tom Cruise. Currently in pre-production at Paramount, the script by Ehren Kruger, architect of the sequel’s success, fuels anticipation. Talks are underway to enlist Kosinski’s directorial prowess once more, though industry pundits speculate production could hit turbulence if Paramount falls under SkyDance’s umbrella. The titans of entertainment are in deep discussions about the fate of Tinseltown’s venerable studio.

Regardless, Ehud Yonay’s legacy won’t grace the credits of the third installment, as Judge Anderson quashes any such notion.


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‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic That Sheds Light Onto The Cursed Human Condition

‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic

When faced with another adaptation of Tom Ripley, the character, the very human villain created by Patricia Highsmith, the writer who tried to understand the evil that nests in each one of us, one wonders what was the need for it? I mean, hadn’t Anthony Minghella nailed the idea of such a charming, queer criminal in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a luminously dark film that became an instant classic in the 1990s? You might ask if the present is so lacking in ideas. But let me tell you that it suffices to watch a few minutes of Steven Zaillian’s Netflix miniseries Ripley to think quite the opposite (Zaillian is also the creator of The Night Of). That is, one wonders why hadn’t anyone done this before, how Minghella could have stayed so far away, so much on the surface of the character, really?

The feeling that, from the beginning, Ripley has been much more than an apparently seductive guy, that he actually never was — for Highsmith, he was always a strange guy — who nevertheless managed to make others trust him because, by observing them, he gave them exactly what they wanted, at all times. What they wanted was attention, to feel understood. The sense that through Ripley the world and the human being — everything that someone is capable of doing to get what he wants, and what he wants is not necessarily a good thing, you will see why — can be explained and has been there from the beginning, but it would seem that what we knew about him was that he was a fake, a trickster, a perpetual mask. And why, how did he experience that mask, where did he leave the rest? Well, Zaillian answers all those questions one by one and raises a few more.

And Ripley does so thanks to a hypnotic and fascinating narration that brings back the best film noir, inhabited by a present in which subjectivity reigns. Thus, there is an excellent intention in the use of black and white — and not only because of the classic air it gives, the tribute to noir from high neo-noir — because there is no color in Ripley’s world, everything is governed by Good and Evil, and the nuance is painful because no one in the society of the time (1961) is seeing it. And it is also there in the third person who constantly becomes the first person — that is, the viewer is both outside and inside the character, because what he is seeing is not only what is happening, but how Ripley himself feels what is happening. And how does Zaillian achieve this? With the sublime use of sound and fixed shots, objects and an environment that only seems to stalk the protagonist. The calm before any storm.

Ripley
Andrew Scott in an image from ‘Ripley’. Lorenzo Sisti

The way the crimes are told is the best example of that latent — and immersive — subjectivity that achieves what Highsmith set out to do, time and again, in her novels by telling how darkness, the damned, nestles in each of us: to empathize. They know the story. The writer’s recently divorced mother drinks a full glass of turpentine when she finds out that she is pregnant. And yet little Pat survives. And she grows up to become a writer who wants nothing more than to understand what her mother did. Her mother must have loved her; but she tried to get rid of her: did that make her horrible? It was through villains who were nothing more than ordinary guys with one foot on the edge of the abyss that Highsmith tried to understand her mother. And Ripley, her most perfect, her most polished, creation.

Remember the story. Tom Ripley (here, Norman Bates-like, played by Andrew Scott with a coyly sinister touch) is a small-time con man who lives by intercepting mail that isn’t his and forging identities to collect small sums. He is hired by a shipping magnate to bring his wayward son, Dickie Greenleaf (a magnetic and superb Johnny Flynn) home. Dickie lives in Atrani, a small Italian seaside town, with his girlfriend Marge (played by a cold and suspicious Dakota Fanning), where the two lead a small bohemian life. Ripley and Dickie are supposed to have been friends at some point — Dickie doesn’t remember him — and the attempt to convince him will turn into an impossible impersonation that Ripley painstakingly improvises as he goes along, criminally eliminating one obstacle after another.

Ripley
Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood and Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf in ‘Ripley.’
Courtesy of Netflix

On screen, the subtlety with which Zaillian portrays the fine line that separates Good from Evil — or what we should not have done from what we have done — is drawn by the narrative’s attention to detail and symbols. There’s a narrative beneath the narrative we’re contemplating, which Minghella overlooked; here, they give the character abysmal depth. Those stairs that Ripley climbs, which are at first intricate, labyrinthine, and then cease to be so; they remind us of Sisyphus, in his repeated ascent, the effort, the awareness of the Evil that weighs heavier and heavier. The annoying, insidious clock that marks the race against time that we will never win. The oppressive silence. The silence of death. Ripley is alone with himself when he kills, and the viewer is inside him.

“Tom Ripley is nobody, and so he can be anybody,” Patricia Highsmith herself said of her character. “In that sense, he’s an impostor. He’s someone who gets under someone else’s skin, and so he reflects us a little bit because we’re all a mask in a way,” she added. Yes, Tom Ripley is a mask. He is an animal destined to be someone else, who survives by being someone else, and here each twisted monologue in front of Andrew Scott’s mirror takes another step toward some kind of abyss. Because, as we said, Ripley — and any Highsmith villain — is capable of doing anything to get what he wants, and what he wants is not always, as we also said, a good thing. Not even for him. And here’s the thing that every one of Highsmith’s creations hides: an imperiously savage desire to destroy his world. Zaillian’s miniseries — pure suspense, an intellectually superior suspense, you’ll see — shows that desire better than anyone else.

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