Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Patriotic Films Open Thread

With Independence Day coming up, it’s time to revisit an interesting topic from the past: patriotic films. This is something we talked about when the blog first started and I think the article is worth revisiting.

You Say You Want A Revolution. . .

When I first began looking for patriotic films, I assumed there would be dozens of films about our founding. There weren’t. Hollywood has made fewer than a dozen films that deal with the American Revolution. The most famous of these are Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), The Howards of Virginia (1940), 1776 (a musical) (1972), Sweet Liberty (a comedy) (1969), Revolution (1985), and The Patriot (2000). Hardly an inspiring lot.

And this isn’t just an issue of recent Hollywood cynicism either. Even during Hollywood’s most patriotic era, between World War II and the early struggle against communism, few such films were made. Why?

Some say that audiences can’t sympathize with characters who wear powdered wigs and knee breeches, who use formal speech patterns and write with quills. But this hasn’t stunted the popularity of Shakespeare, or films about the British Kings and Queens, or even movies like Dangerous Liaisons or Sleepy Hollow. And surely civil war characters speak as formally and look as strangely. Not to mention, the public responded very well to the 2008 mini-series about John Adams. So why nothing about the founding?

I think there are two reasons why the founding rarely gets touched. For one thing, our founding isn’t very telegenic. The issues involved started in the 1730s, the war didn’t start until 1776, it lasted five years and didn’t really include a lot of American victories or much in the way of popular support. And even after the British surrendered, that still didn’t lead to our country, it led to the Confederated States, which took thirteen years to implode. That’s not a very attractive story to tell.

More importantly, our founding isn’t easy to characterize as one thing. As wrong as it may be historically, it’s easy to see the Civil War as being about slavery only. World War II was only about wiping out the Nazis. The Cold War was all about Khrushchev and Cuba. Vietnam was about Tet. And so on. In fact, every single historical period that gets a lot of play in Hollywood has been condensed down to one single theme, which appears over and over and over in those stories. What is the theme of our founding?

Everybody’s Got An Opinion. . .

Anyway, moving on, Blockbuster Video commissioned a poll a few years ago... before they died... which asked Americans what they wanted in their patriotic movies. Sixty-three percent wanted America or Americans portrayed as the underdogs. Forty percent felt that the President should be a main character. Thirty percent wanted the movie to involve a war hero. And here are the top ten movies they choose as patriotic films:
1. Independence Day
2. Born on the Fourth of July
3. Yankee Doodle Dandy
4. Air Force One
5. Forrest Gump
6. Glory
7. Patton
8. Apollo 13
9. The American President
10. The Longest Day
Meh. A patriotic film should make viewers feel good about being American. It should highlight their country at its best. It should put forth a vision as to the meaning of the country, particularly one such as ours, which was formed intellectually rather than by historical accident. We exist as a nation because our founders thought about how we should live, not because we all fell out of the trees together 50,000 years ago. The films above don’t really convey that all too well. For example:

Independence Day fits. This is a story of American resourcefulness and determination, of a group of average Americans that answer the call of duty to defeat an all-powerful enemy. This film reminds us of the promise of our country, the goodness of our people, and the greatness we can achieve as a nation. This film reminds us that Americans rise to meet all challenges and it highlights the self-sacrifice so often repeated in our history. I’ll tell you what though, I would substitute Battle: Los Angeles, which is a tribute to our military. It shows these people as the dedicated professionals they are who fight for love of country. Moreover, it’s not packed with the usual tropes about evil CIA types and suggestions that the most un-American of us will prove to be our saviors.

Born of the Fourth of July is a horrible choice. One wonders if people watched it, or just chose the title. Many people argue that a film can be patriotic if it rallies the country to a cause. Born on the 4th of July fits that category, as does All the President’s Men, which is also often named as a patriotic film. But rallying people to a cause smacks of propaganda, not patriotism. It is one thing to highlight the best in our country and to take pride in our achievements, it is quite another to suggest that people must adopt a certain position to be patriotic.

So let us substitute How The West Was Won. This sprawling epic tells the tale of how America grew from a small nation of eastern states to became the America that we know today. This movie shows the hardships they overcame and the sacrifices they made, and it does so without idealizing its characters. These people are quite real - some are good, some are bad, some are heroic, some are cowardly or rotten. Mistakes are made, but successes are had. And in the end, we see the American spirit writ large in the drive of our ancestors to always seek the better America that lies just over the next hill.

Air Force One is a popular movie, but it’s not an interesting one. The President fights terrorists. Ok, cool. But patriotic? Hardly. Below the surface, this is just an action movie. Remove the President and this becomes Die Hard 2.1. Let us substitute an equally unbelievable action movie, but one with much deeper patriotism: National Treasure. Sure, National Treasure is crawling with conspiracy theories and unbelievable secret societies and hidden puzzles and treasures, but that’s on the surface. Underneath, this movie reveres American history, our founders, and the words (and spirit) with which they founded our nation. And more importantly, the movie manages to pass that pride along to the audience.

Forrest Gump is not a patriotic movie, it is more of an historical curiosity. It is Dead Me Don’t Wear Plaid done seriously. Let’s substitute To Have And Have Not. To Have and Have Not finds Bogart living on the Vichy-French Island of Martinique. He is a symbol of America and Americans at the time. On the surface, he is neutral in the world, concerned primarily with his own business. But he is disturbed by what he sees around him. And beneath the surface, his strong moral code and deep-rooted patriotism, lead him to take a stand, at great personal risk, to do that which he knows to be right. This movie provides both an interesting view of how American attitudes and policy changed at the beginning of World War II, as Americans abandoned their isolationism and took a stand against tyranny, and it is a study in the classical view of American patriotism.

Glory was a good movie, but it was limited. A much better choice would be Gettysburg. Whereas Glory involved a small battle, Gettysburg involved the battle that transformed New Yorkers, Marylanders and Mainiacs into Americans. It also ensured that the Union would survive. Moreover, Gettysburg does something truly rare in film, it does a tremendous job of honoring both sides in the conflict by letting each side fairly explain their beliefs and by showing that both sides genuinely believed they were fighting for the good of their country. And in so doing, this movie makes us proud of both Northerners and Southerners, and it humbles us with what they endured for their beliefs. Glory kind of makes both sides seem rotten.

Patton is a popular choice, but Patton is the story of a man who considered himself something more than just an American and it comes across in this movie, as he is portrayed as an arrogant man who cares more for his own glory than his country or his men. Sergeant York is better choice. York is a pacifist who is called to action. He is humble, heroic and likable. He is the idealized American every-man. He makes us proud, just as he makes the people at home proud. And even better, everyone around him is portrayed positively as well. His fellow soldiers are brave, competent and honest. His family and friends are decent. Even when he is brought to the “big city,” the people he meets are neither shallow nor cynical. This movie represents the best that America has to offer.

The American President??? WTF? No, no, no, no. A movie about an American President who takes a sharp left turn when he falls in love with a lobbyist? In the immortal words of Sergeant Carter, you have got to be kidding me Pyle! How about Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. This story, about a naive and idealistic man appointed to the United States Senate, shows American government at its idealized best. As Smith discovers the shortcomings of the political process and fights his way through them, we are shown how good American government can be, when its participants act in good faith. It is a hopeful and patriotic film.

So after a little re-ranking for most patriotically inspiring, here is your Commentarama certified list:
1. Gettysburg
2. How The West Was Won
3. The Longest Day
4. Sergeant York
5. National Treasure
6. Battle: Los Angeles
7. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
8. To Have And Have Not
9. Apollo 13
10. Yankee Doodle Dandy
Thoughts? Additions?

Anyway, treat this as an open thread. We’ll be back next Tuesday.

84 comments:

goldvermilion87 said...

I second third fourth and fifth Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

What about "Unconquered"? It's French and Indian War, technically, but it's really about the indomitable American spirit.

shawn said...

Good list Andrew. I would add:

1. Stripes- Sure Murray and Ramis and most everyone else in the movie are misfits, but they pull it together and save the day and kick some Russkie backside. Plus Murray gives a pretty inspiring speech.

2. Red Dawn- Wolverines!

3. The Alamo

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bravo Zulu Andrew!

I second Stripes. It was primarily a comedy but it was patriotic.

We Were Soldiers is another good one, particularly for the Vietnam, of which very few patriotic films were made.

Combat! was a tv series but Definitely patriotic to the core and like STTOS it was mainly morality plays, but damn good ones and still rivetting after all these years.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

There were many WW2 films that are patriotc, but not Vietnam or the first And second Iraq war, or Afghanistan.
There are a few and a few more being made ( Lone Survivor), which I'm really looking forward to, but I doubt there'll be very many in the near future, at any rate.

Heartbreak Ridge is another good one, and one of the few patriotic cold war films, although it wasn't about the cold war, just happened to be during it.

I would also add Major Payne. Like Stripes, it's primarily a comedy but by the end Major Payne instills in the young boys under his command what it means to be an American, despite Payne being an over the top Marine. Plus, it's hilarious!

Btw, Battle LA is a great pick! And very realistic as well. I'm glad they're making a sequel. Hope it's at least hlf as good as the first one.

tryanmax said...

Team America: World Police! No?

K said...

Ben: I enjoyed Battle LA, but was kind of annoyed by the ending. The Marines are going up against a completely unknown enemy in every respect and discover a major strategic weak point and some important tactical data as well. At the end they should have been hustled into an intelligence briefing where their brains would have been picked for hours. Instead, they're talking about picking up a few ZZZs and then heading back into combat.

K said...

tryanmax:No. Although I did enjoy the longest puppet vomit scene in all of filmdom, the US didn't come off all that great. Dirka dirka.

Andrew: Great list. I wasn't aware of Blockbuster's poll, but it obviously stunk. National Treasure is my favorite patriotic movie because it's actually deals with the country's history and philosophy.

AndrewPrice said...

goldvermilion, Mr. Smith is a film that is too often ignored, especially by modern audiences. That one really gets to the heart of what our government is supposed to be.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I love Stripes! LOL!

Good call on The Alamo! That's a very "this is America" production.

tryanmax said...

It seems commonplace to disregard Capra's films as hokey and kitschy. Everyone I know away from this site who consider themselves film connoisseurs only lob insults at Capra. Of course, most of the same people think deriding everything demonstrates film savvy. Odd.

PikeBishop said...

America summed up in one scene from one movie. On the 150th anniversary today, just pop in "Gettysburg" and watch Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain's talk to the mutineers of the 2nd Maine, men who were tired of being incompetently led and used like cattle, about just what this country is all about.

Brings me to tears every time. Jeff Daniels was ROBBED of a supporting actor nod, let alone the statue itself.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, It's fascinating to me how unpatriotic war films have become over the last 40-50 years. Disturbing actually.

I think Battle: Los Angeles is an excellent film. It's very realistic, even if it is aliens, and it's got all the right messages.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, How could I forget Team America! LOL!

On Capra, I think it's the cynicism we talked about the other day. I think we've hit a point where everything is so cynical that the idea of making a sentimental film is anathema to "the hip crowd" because their self-worth derives from pretending to know better than everyone else.

AndrewPrice said...

K, That was unrealistic at the end, but I like the sense of "we've got a job to do."

Yeah, I found the Blockbuster list about three years ago and it immediately struck me as a bad list. I suspect a lot of those were picked simply because of the titles.

All in all, there aren't as many patriotic films as people like to think.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That is a great film all around. Not only does it let both sides explain why they fought, but it shows tremendous bravery, ingenuity and a true strength that I find to be so common in average Americans. And that scene is excellent.

Anonymous said...

For another patriotic movie about the revolution, I'll give you "Johnny Tremain" (1957). It's Disney and great for kids when they start to wrap their minds around the concept.

"1776" should have stayed on your list. That musical covers a lot of ground in a very engaging way and manages humor without trivializing the effort.

I submit, "Miracle," - the story of the trimuph of our Olympic ice hockey team over the Russians.

Also, I think, "Act of Valor," merits more than Honorable Mention.

K said...

Outside the box: Seven Days in May.

Not very complementary to the military in general, although the hero is a military man. It does deal with protecting the constitution and in the Obama era looking more relevant than ever.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, "Miracle" might be a really good addition for patriotic fervor. That's was probably the most patriotic moment I ever felt in my life when we one that. It was amazing.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I've always liked "Seven Days in May," though I have a hard time seeing it as patriotic.

ScottDS said...

Where the hell is The Right Stuff?? :-)

I always wanted to do a debate question: "The most quintessentially American scene in a movie"...

...and my answer would've been when the guys were having a backyard BBQ, a jet passes overhead, and all the guys - beers in hand - geek out about it.

Nice to see some love for Yankee Doodle Dandee (IMHO a little corny but in the best way) and National Treasure (no masterpiece but a pleasant surprise).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The Right Stuff didn't come through with the payolla. ;)

In all seriousness, I would take Apollo 13 over The Right Stuff just because I think it's a better movie and it shows Americans coming together in the way we always do in a moment of crisis.

Anonymous said...

A few notes on the Blockbuster list...

"Independence Day"- the movie that makes me think, 'what were we thinking in the 90's?' Of course, my excuse is that I was a teenager and didn't know any better.

"Air Force One"- well, it did give us Harrison Ford's final great one-liner, "Get off my plane!"

"Forrest Gump"- Psychotherapy for baby boomers. I should know. I've been ordered to watch it many times by a pair of baby boomers I've known all my life. (Side note: my generational and regional differences were on full display when Forrest ran onto the field and I said, 'who's the guy with the hat supposed to be?' My mom said 'he's Bear Bryant.' And I said, 'who's that?' True story. To every generation and region their own, I suppose.)

"Patton"- the producers have admitted they showed Patton as a rogue in order to appeal to the 'Me Generation' audience. And according to my college professor- who ran my course on WW2- the real Patton had a high, squeaky voice and would've killed to sound like George C. Scott.

And a note on the 'Right Stuff'- my parents have told me they got to meet actor Ed Harris (who played John Glenn) while the movie was being made. They said he was a really nice guy. I blame the film's revisionism on Tom Wolfe's book.

-Rustbelt

Anonymous said...

Now for a few overlooked films...

I've mentioned 'Ike: Countdown to D-Day' before, but it's worth mentioning again. If anyone has ever told you it's not lonely at the top (cough, cough..Al Franken...cough, cough), it's obvious they've never been in charge of anything important. This made-for-TV A&E production shows how tiny problems (will the sand on Normandy Beach be soft and swallow the tanks?), large (what if the weather doesn't break?- do we postpone the invasion?- can we postpone the invasion?), etc. all fell on one man's shoulders. Tom Selleck does, IMO, a supreme job as the Supreme Commander.

(Best line: as Ike reluctantly meets with General DeGaulle, Churchill quips, "we'll see if our man's Kansas charm can melt the French iceberg.")

"The Lost Battalion" Come on, I had to mention this one! I'm in the middle of daily postings about the July Crisis, for Pete's sake!
Another A&E film, this one stars Rick Schroder as Col. Charles Whittlesey who, along with 550 other troops of the 77th Infantry Division, become trapped in the Argonne Forest during an attack in 1918. The film displays all the grit, terror and hell that was WWI- German flamethrowers, friendly fire (their only salvation was a carrier pigeon), and even the danger reconnaissance planes faced from ground fire (they flew really low at the time.) The film has a bit of a downbeat ending, but it's good to see the doughboys get the respect they deserve.

"They (Americans) understand war." -Paul von Hindenburg

Final nod goes to "Firefox." Often dismissed as 'clunker' by even Eastwood fans, this flick is truly underappreciated. Hardly any of it takes place in the states (Vienna substitutes for Moscow). Clint (who also directed) plays a pilot sent on an intelligence mission in Russia to steal the USSR's new superfighter.
Two things: first, the film is unapologetic in showing the suffocating state security of the Soviet Union and the measures it undertook to control the lives of its citizens. It's OK to call them the bad guys here.
And second, there's a nice subplot about how Gant (Clint's character) doesn't seem to care and sees both sides as ruthless. He's promptly put in his place by Nigel Hawthorne's informer-scientist, who states that this mission- which is certain to result in his death- is worth it because, as a man who isn't free, it's the only way he can strike back at the KGB whom he so deeply hates. From that point on, Gant seems to have subtley shed his quasi-hipster outlook and radiates a new sense of duty.

well, there's my two cents.

-Rustbelt

Anonymous said...

And since it's July 2nd...

here's one for the 20th Maine!

LINK

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I never understood the appeal of Forest Gump except that it was some sort of nostalgia trip for Boomers.

On your choices, I enjoy Firefox a great deal, much more than I did when it first came out.

I haven't seen all of Lost Battalion, but my favorite WWI film is still All Quiet on the Western Front. Beyond that, I like Sgt. York a lot and The Fighting 69th with James Cagney.

K said...

I have problems with "The Right Stuff". The masturbation and enema/racism scenes were totally unneeded. Heck, even Walter Cronkite hated it.

I got the impression the producers were embarrassed to do a totally pro-USA film - which likely accounts for the few true patriotic films.

ScottDS said...

I saw a Firefox a while back and liked it. I don't remember much of it, though.

Re: The Right Stuff...

...William Goldman talked about his experience with the film in one of his books. In short, he wanted to make a wonderfully pro-American movie. Having been affected by the hostage crisis, he felt it was worth saying that America was still a good place.

Director Philip Kaufman (who ultimately wrote the film) wanted to focus less on the Mercury 7 and more on Chuck Yeager. In other words, the idea that America of the past was a good place but not so much today (when the movie was made).

Goldman, after his first meeting with Kaufman, apparently wrote in his diary: "Kaufman meeting-disaster." UA eventually dropped the project after a lawsuit or two and it was picked up by another company.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and K, To me, it's not that it's not a patriotic film, it's that it's just a dull film. I find Apollo 13 to be a much better film which presents the same patriotic messages. The problem with The Right Stuff is that they are simply showing historical vignettes without a real theme or plot. You see that a lot, particularly in that era of film, and I find those films to be boring by and large.

goldvermilion87 said...

When we say "The Alamo" are we referring to the one with John Wayne or the one with Dennis Quaid?

I thought the one with Dennis Quaid was AMAZING, but was very amused by the fact that the conservatives thought it was historical revisionism and the liberals that it was jingoistic.

K said...

Andrew:I have a hard time seeing it as patriotic.

If you define "America" in terms of freedom and therefore limited government power, then 7 Days in May follows that template. Personally, I'd much prefer to see a story about an overreaching President get smacked down instead of a military Chief of Staff, but the principle is the same.

AndrewPrice said...

goldvermilion, I prefer the original actually. I did think it was funny though how both left and right attacked the film. I guess that tells us something.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Yeah, the principle is the same, but it doesn't feel particularly patriotic to me. It has a hero with a good cause, but it makes the rest of the country out in kind of a crappy light.

Kelly said...

Sounds like the "Lone Ranger" is going down in flames. I'm not surprised because it doesn't look good.

Good question on why there aren't more films about the founding? You would think there would be a ton.

K said...

Some recommendations for US military strategy in Hollywood sci-fi-fantasy action films.

1. When going up against giant monsters, armored space aliens or large robots the grunts should just throw away those puny 5.56mm toy rifles and run for it. It would save the taxpayers a lot of money for training your replacements. Everybody gets issued a Barret 50 cal or they go home.

2. If the air force is going to go against large armored space ships or giant monsters, use the old F-18,F-16 or F-15s. For one thing, they can carry a larger number of more powerful weapons than the F-22s and F-35 which are much more expensive and against film aliens, less effective.

3. Don't bother building giant robots and then stage fist fights with giant monsters. You may win the war but will bankrupt the world economy. Instead, load up 10 C-5s with 100 Russian SsN-22 anti-ship missiles each and hit the Godzilla wannabe with 280 500lb armor penetrating warheads traveling at over mach2. Problem solved for a lot less money. A few giant robots might be useful for body disposal afterwards however.

ScottDS said...

Kelly -

I'll Redbox Lone Ranger eventually. I still can't believe it's 2 and a half hours long - bloated just like the Pirates sequels.

(And it cost $250 million!!)

A shame because I do like the actors and director Gore Verbinski does have a great eye for this stuff.

As for founding films, I blame Hollywood's reliance on the foreign market. It's not that people in other countries don't care (maybe they don't - I don't know for sure)...

...but to sell a movie in China for example, you'd have to have John Adams visiting China instead of France. :-)

(A lousy example but it's the kind of thing you'd do if you wanted to flatter the Chinese censors.)

Voz said...

I was watching Gettysburg last night and have always loved his speech to the 2nd Maine and when he's talking to Kilrain under the tree...I would also add We Were Soldiers...
How about Captain America?
John Adams mini-series was well done...
I agree with the National Treasure pick...some would say it's campy but I always get a kick out of it...

Anonymous said...

My all-time favorite pre-revolutionary movie: The Last of the Mohicans. Daniel Day-Lewis's retort to the British soldier who demanded that the settlers perform as "loyal subjects to the King" is priceless--"I don't consider myself subject to much of anything sic." Just yesterday I was thinking about the absence of patriotic movies that highlight our early leaders, the issue, and what caused the formation of a "free and independent nation." It's really amazing and very sad. Glad I found this site and know that others feel the same. I was lucky to grow up in an era where patriotism was a "national treasure," and it was emphasized at home, school and church. I'm afraid many of our children have no idea what an exceptional nation American is.

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, Nothing about that film sounded like a good idea to me. The problem is that whenever they do westerns these days, with rare exceptions, they do them to insult the genre. I have little interest in that.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I'd got even cheaper. Just run and hide while the hero solves the crisis! :D

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The foreign audience thing may be an excuse today, but it doesn't explain the last 70 years. It's the same thing as with true holiday films, Hollywood just doesn't touch certain subjects.

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, All good movies. As for National Treasure being campy, I don't buy it. I think it's an excellent film. It actually should have been the fourth Raiders film IMO.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, It is amazing to me that there aren't more films about our early leaders and their beliefs. That is something that I think a lot of people would embrace.

Voz said...

Did you like the second National Treasure as much as the first one? Or did it not live up to your expectations?

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, If I'd never seen the first, then I would have enjoyed the second one a lot. But the second one feels too much like a sequel -- it swipes the formula for the first one, ups the ante, and adds some far less credible scenes. It wasn't bad, but it felt a little too manufactured to me.

goldvermilion87 said...

I love finding other people who like National Treasure.

Because you know . . . it's WAY uncool to like 1. Anything with Nicholas Cage 2. Anything by Disney 3. Anything that is fun rather than deep and artsy. :-P

ScottDS said...

gold -

I'm one of those weirdos who will defend Nicolas Cage to the death. He's not the best actor ever but he never turns in a lazy performance and even his worst movies (and there are several) are usually worth watching for him. :-)

PikeBishop said...

Lone Ranger? Lost interest with the trailer. Can't Hollywood just do an exciting and standard action movie. Does everything have to be those ridiculously over done, Hong Kong style utter BULLSHIT action sequences? I saw guys jumping from eighty foot railroad trestles and guys riding horses through and on top of railroad trains and it just looked like another fucking piece of shit like the Pirates sequels! Jesus, I hate movies these days!

ScottDS said...

Pike -

My friend - who disliked Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel - saw World War Z and said that if you don't consider the source material, it's actually a pretty good movie.

And I finally caught up with a small British sci-fi flick called Attack the Block. It was also pretty good.

They're not all bad movies - the good ones just need to be found. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott/goldvermilion, I like Nicholas Cage a good deal. Some of his movies are garbage, but I usually enjoy them a lot. And National Treasure is a lot of fun. :)

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Because Hollywood thinks their audience are morons. Show them impossible CGI stunts and things blowing up and there's no need for plot or actors anymore... which is why all the westerns based on that premise do poorly and the ones based on real westerns (like True Grit) do really well.

tryanmax said...

Is it really saying something to claim that Nick Cage was the best thing in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance? And if so, what exactly? LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

There was no best thing about that movie.

tryanmax said...

Not even that it ended?

AndrewPrice said...

I can't actually verify that it ends, I tuned out about an hour in and started playing with my computer.

PikeBishop said...

I would like to extend my apologies for my overuse of profanity in my last post. Had a great July 4 cookout featuring a steak thicker than Nancy Pelosi, and perhaps one too many glasses of good Cabernet to wash it down with. In vino veritas or not, my emotional response was exactly how I feel about these brain dead movies.

I apologize to anyone offended.

Backthrow said...

Superior alternative to Blockbuster's mostly-lousy list, Andrew.

Except for NATIONAL TREASURE. Its heart was in the right place, I wanted to like it, but --no offense intended toward its fans-- I found it largely un-involving and stupid, in the same way most summer blockbusters of the last 15+ years have been. The sequel was a couple of magnitudes worse. But then, with a few exceptions, I'm not much of a fan of Jerry Bruckheimer's flashy/shallow/mega-produced output (but I do enjoy THE AMAZING RACE, so go figure).

Both TREASURE films would make better Indiana Jones sequels than CRYSTAL SKULL, but that's pretty faint praise indeed, lol.

djskit said...

I'll second Captain America - a love letter to the 1940's! The montage of the war bonds tour is epic. Steve Rogers only wants to serve his country and get in the fight. He states many times his guilt at staying at home, while others die defending our country. I get teary every I see the goodbye scene with his girl when he's crashing the evil Hydra bomber.

I was so pleasantly suprised when I first saw the movie that Hollywood could actually produce something that patriotic these days.

Over at I09, there is a brutal take down of The Lone Ranger - in summary, the movie was made to punish us for liking super-hero's.

Backthrow said...

Huh. I posted a comment a few minutes ago, but now it's gone. Was it eaten, or rejected?

AndrewPrice said...

They've turned up the strength of the spam filter again. I've had my own comments caught for the past 2-3 days now.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, A lot of people were very happy with Captain America.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, No problem. :)

Backthrow said...

Ah, it's back... must've been a glitch in the system. Nevermind. :)

Anthony said...

I'm not surprised the Lone Ranger failed. The trailer just looked like big budget CG crap with action scenes that are simultaneously over the top and tame (didn't look 'meaty'), a bland lead, a silly looking sidekick and the villains made no impression on me one way or the other.

I thought Captain America was solid, though it didn't really have a strong fight scene(s) or a great villain (Hugo Weaving did his best, but he didn't have much to work with). PG-13 offers sufficient leeway that I think they should have made the Red Skull more gruesome looking (think Two Face in The Dark Knight).

*Shrugs* But the latest CA movie was orders of magnitude better than original (anyone who can enjoy bad movies owes it to themselves to check out that and Nick Fury: Agent of Shield).

K said...

Over at I09, there is a brutal take down of The Lone Ranger

Thanks for pointing this out. Fun read, and based on the review the movie deserves to die a painful death.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Out of left field... Moscow on the Hudson... a Robin Williams early film with him as a Soviet musician who defects to the U.S. The USSR is clearly oppressive and he meets a bunch of folks in New York who came here because it was clearly better than whatever craphole they used to live in.

The first Superman was pro-American as was the Spiderman from 2001. And despite the ridiculous "He's hot!" last line of Man of Steel, I also appreciated the "I'm from Kansas" line from Superman along with his KC Royals t-shirt... Americana if not outright patriotic at least.

Blackhawk Down

TV: From the Earth to the Moon; VBand of Brothers and if you haven't seen in Kevin Bacon in "Taking Chance" -- DO IT NOW. and bring a box of Kleenex... HBO film

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Taking Chance is a must-see film, though it is incredibly hard to watch. Definitely bring Kleenex.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Everything I've seen says The Lone Ranger is not a good film.

tryanmax said...

If Charlie Anders' other io9 reviews are any indication, the latest is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to credit The Lone Ranger with greater depth than it actually attempts. She seems to be bouncing off of the strangely pervasive desire to see this latest Disney-Bruckheimer-Verbinski-Depp venture fail. Maybe it is punishment for On Stranger Tides.

Full disclosure, I did just return from viewing The Lone Ranger. I'm not just trying to justify the expenditure on ticket and overpriced hot-dog when I say it is a western in the grand tradition of Maverick and Back to the Future Part III. Oh...wait.

In other words, it's not a great film, but I don't think it quite deserves the thrashing it is currently taking.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I haven't seen it, but I've read about it. So take this with a grain of salt, but as someone who has recently become hooked on westerns, I think the biggest mistake they can make is to condescend to the western. This movie "feels" like it condescends. Maybe that's a false impression presented by the reviewers and the trailers, but that is what it sounds like. And I can tell you that the trailer left me entirely cold.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, the film doesn't condescend to westerns so much as it condescends to audiences.

AndrewPrice said...

That's good to know. I'd read basically that the hero is opposed to guns and that Depp spends his time running around mocking the Lone Ranger's fashion sense.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Lone Ranger... I saw it. It was insulting...

--POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW--

First... the history... I don't call for scientific accuracy in my movie history, but the Transcontinental Railroad did not go through a dry West Texas burg that was apparently a one day horse ride from Promontory Summit. John Ford used Utah as Texas all the time. I'm good with that -- cinematography and all that, but please... Just make up a railroad history at that point.

Second: Except for Barry Pepper doing yet another ruthless Custer impression -- he's religious to boot! (see the first Zorro movie for a cavalry who beheads his enemies) -- every cavalry man in the movie is faceless... no name, no faces shown (with fleeting examples)) and there's a firing squad scene that reminded me of Goya' painting Third of May 1808 -- where Napoleon's executioners were faceless and dark.... not a homage, but it was evocative I thought. Any Army folks here will HATE that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_of_May_1808

3. The third insult to history is the Comanche. Really? If someone wants to romanticize an Indian tribe there are better tribes to pick. The Comanche themselves -- enraged at this portrayal -- would find Verbinski's house burn it down, kidnap his children, do unspeakable things to his family, and eat part of his liver or heart as coup... which brin gs me to the fourth part...

4. Bruce Cavendish and the violence. Cannibalism? Really? Come on Disney. Mickey enslaving Pluto was bad enough, but come on. It's the freakin's Lone Ranger. This movie, in many ways, was darker than Outlaw Josey Wales or Unforgiven.

5. The anti-corporate thing is way overblown...

All of this is sad because there is real chemistry between the two leads. Armie Hammer looks the part and in the real world is a solid Christian guy (he played Billy Graham in a biopic a few years ago) and Depp... though he plays Tonto with a bit too much humor and spaciness... definitely plays Tonto as an equal to LR and in some ways as a mentor. I had no real problem with either of those characters though there could have been a touch less humor.

Finally... I think the Lone Ranger fired his gun just a handful of times the whole movie... which stood out to me.

The stunts were also ridiculous. Somewhere between the mid-point Pirates and Wild Wild West (though that is the nadir IMHO)

tryanmax said...

Yeah, the geography is mind-bending to say the least. The old trope that the railroads were built with the tears of unicorn foals is so played that it just bounced off of me. I just took the "historical" aspects of the film as a backdrop, though they could have left the railroad out and pretty much retained Tonto's backstory as is. But then we wouldn't have ridiculous physics-defying double train chase/fights, would we?

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I wanted to like it. I think those folks who want to retain the powder blue uniform of the TV show and all the trappings of that were too naive. That just wouldn't translate today. I wouldn't even mind the anti-railroad stuff but the cavalry thing was too much and given that it was 2 and half hours there was clearly room to cut and have a nice lean -- explosive - film. The original revenge theme is perfect for a good Lone Ranger movie.

BevfromNYC said...

"Built with the tears of unicorn foals". That is a keeper and I am definitely going to use that again!

Kenn Christenson said...

FINALLY saw "Act of Valor." My primary quibble with the film is that I'm sure there are literally thousands of real stories to choose from and they decided to make up one, instead? That said, I thought the action scenes were incredibly well done. Having the real guys, there, no doubt, helped immeasurably. And, I have to say, the final battle got to me. But, back to my original comment: imagine how powerful the film would have been, if they had dramatized a real-life incident.

Kenn Christenson said...

Also saw "Man of Steel." Don't know why it rates the way it does on RT. I thought the film was well made and gave a pretty original take on the familiar story. "Mrs. C" even liked it - can't get much better than that for a comic book film. We'll have to see how she does with "Kick-Ass 2," though. :)

ScottDS said...

I finally caught up with A Good Day to Die Hard.

[sigh]

I might review it at some point later on but the short of it is... if the movie existed in a vacuum and was made 20 years ago, I might've liked it more. As it stands, it's sort of a rudderless movie, poorly-directed, shot with all the standard action cliches (shakey-cam which thankfully isn't too bad, teal/orange lighting, etc.) McClane gets involved in a situation he knows nothing about, he and his son don't get enough moments together (there is some good stuff, but not enough), and we're in and out in 97 minutes. Another 15 minutes wouldn't have hurt.

The villains, while nothing unique, were better than the villains in the last one. And there is a killer car chase in the first 20 minutes... hell, I would've been happy if they simply made the car chase into its own short film!

I also showed a friend the 1985 cult classic Lifeforce, a.k.a. The Movie with the Hot Naked Vampire Chick from Outer Space. I'd only seen it once and he had only seen bits and pieces - it's quite an insane movie!

AndrewPrice said...

I had no idea that's how they built railroads! I thought they were built with the souls of ethnic labor and powered by rich, white racism? Has Hollywood lied to me?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I recently watched Lifeforce again. I definitely recommend that one -- Tobe Hooper. It's a fun film that's way ahead of its time in some ways.

I haven't seen Die Harderiest.

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, I'm looking forward to Kick Ass 2. :)

I haven't heard much about Man of Steel actually. Some like it, some didn't. It seem to make a huge splash and then vanish from radar screens by the third day.

Kit said...

I enjoyed Man of Steel. Bumpy first half but awesome second half!

Patriotic movies: I'll submit Will Smith's Pursuit of Happyness. Great movie about an American.

I love Forrest Gump but that may have more to do with the fact that I'm from Alabama. So there may be some tribal affiliation there. ;)

I put Glory and Gettysburg on equal ground as historical civil war movies. Both are great movies.

I might also add An American Tail. Despite some possible Marxist undertones* it does express a deep love for America.
Especially this movie: LINK

*Mice of America Unite Against Your Bourgeoise Capitalist Cat Oppressors! ;)

On the immigration note, let me say this: If someone did a film about the life of Irving Berlin, it could be a great patriotic movie.

KRS said...

Kit,

I can't put Glory and Gettysburg on equal ground. Glory is a very cynical Civil War movie - remember the "we all covered in the stink" conversation between the colonel and the private? I could go on, but the movie is basically about free black men trying to become something more in a society where even the people trying to liberate them don't like them very much. Then they become a disciplined fighting unit, go to war, commit an atrocity against their will and then die herocially at the end in a battlefield defeat. It's a good movie, but a very sad one with a biting undercurrent of cynicism. I would never call it patriotic, filled as it is with condemnation of the country.

Gettysburg, on the other hand, does not possess the cynicism. It gives each side a fair chance to explain their cause, but to the modern viewer, there is no comparison. In it, the unit that models the Union story takes in mutineers and turns them to the cause with a simple, short sermon. Then those men stand their ground at a critical post, saving the Union flank from being overrun with a last ditch bayonet charge after they have run out of ammunition. These boys win the day with heavy casualities. On the Confederate side, most of the story is in Longstreet's hands and "Gloomy Pete" knows whats in store for his men and for Pickett and grieves for them even before they're lost. In the end, the Confederates are not just defeated, they seem to be punished, just as they were in history. I think Gettysburg is very patriotic - it acknowledges the warts of our heritage while demonstrating what is good about us and our resolve to be a better nation. Unlike Glory, Gettysburg allows both Southern and Northern descendents to walk out of the theater satisfied that their ancestors got a square deal.

I have Glory and like to watch it when it's raining outside. I'll watch Gettysburg when it's a beautiful day.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I agree with KRS. I see Glory as a movie about racism and it's a cynical movie. Gettysburg is a film about American nobility.

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