30 March 2008

Hollywood and War Movies
At Least I Know One Person is Reading the Blawg



Scott Greenfield read my rant yesterday about Stop Loss and decided to poke at me a little bit. I think he make be piqued, just a bit, by the fact that I lumped him and his in with Hollywood types. I can't blame him for that, I'd probably be a wee bit disconcerted myself. On the other hand, he does seem to be taking some responsibility for the fact that there are people out there who think that I should be pay $5 for a 75 cent cup of coffee just because they shaved a penny's worth of cinnamon into it and put 5 cents of whip cream on top. In any event, I really wasn't going after New Yorkers and he asked some questions which need to be answered.

1) Don't we, like, have to win or accomplish something before we make a movie that's pro-war?

Nope, Casablanca came out on 01 January 1942, long before we accomplished something or won our first battle (Midway June 1942). I'm sure you can find any number of movies ranging from "Why We Fight" to "The Flying Tigers" which came out the same year all with pro-war themes.

2) Don't they get Fox News out there on the left coast?

I think it's only actually banned in San Francisco and Seattle. In L.A. it's not that it's banned, it's just that nobody watches it because those horrible little people on Fox don't have a clue about fashion and important celebrity news (Fox, sadly, seems to have been making efforts to fix this).

3) What about all the good, uplifting stories about people getting killed and maimed? How come there's never anything about that?

Let me try to give a serious answer here. Uplifting stories would be about honor, courage, sacrifice, perseverance, soldiers doing their duty, and the bonds that formed in military units. This does not mean that the downside of war must be ignored. I'm not asking for The Longest Day. I'm asking for A Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers took us through both the good and bad. It showed the ideals I listed above; it also showed inept commanders, people dying, stupid orders, U.S. soldiers who stole things, and U.S. soldiers killing people they should not have. Yet, I felt like I was being shown reality, not a thinly veiled morality play aimed at showing the evil of the U.S. military, American soldiers, American politicians, or just plain Americans. In the end, despite all the evil shown therein, it is uplifting because it shows the soldiers persevering through all of it: they soldiered on.

What then, am I bumbling about, trying to say? 1) If you are going to make a movie which is pro-soldier, the claim made over and over in pre-release interviews for Stop Loss, don't make it about a soldier who is refusing to do his duty and abandoning his fellow soldiers. Do it about a squad in country prevailing against high odds through training, intelligence, and perseverence. 2) I am skeptical that Hollywood can do this because of philosophical leanings and a lack of actual experience among those writing, directing, and acting in Hollywood films.

BTW, Scott, I getting near the end of my 4 years in the Army in 1990. I had been accepted at St John's of Minnesota. I was getting out and getting on with my life. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait. I was among the first deployed and in the last group of my unit to leave. I was "extended" in active service beyond my ETS date and ended up staying in for 2 years longer than planned. I'm not terribly sympathetic to the plight of the "hero" in this movie.

2 comments:

Windypundit said...

I think a big part of the problem with the war movies you mention is that they're not about war. We've got war crimes, interrogation, post-traumatic stress, political maneuvering, and controversial personnel retention policies. What about combat? Heck, what about anything resembling a military operation?

Some of these movies sound like a type of bad screenwriting that always baffles me: The war in Iraq involves over 100,000 soldiers and costs billions of dollars, stuff is blowing up, and people are dying. Yet the screenwriters think they need a hook about politics or war crimes or torture to make it really interesting...

markm said...

As for Casablanca, all the film was in the can long before Pearl Harbor. Given the necessity of making duplicates of the final cut and getting them to the theaters, I doubt that 3 weeks was even long enough to re-cut the film, although I'm sure the movie studio revised their publicity plans and released it ASAP in reaction to that event.