Thursday, April 15, 2004

Post In Brief

I actually have a post in my truck, but the post needs work and it's late right now, so I'm not going to go out and get it. That, and it's fucking cold outside right now. So, anyway, I haven't been able to update lately, because I'm reading various books for class and writing papers on such. I'll go into more detail on that after I get that post out.

But I went out tonight and bought a couple of war-movies on DVD, because I have to do a twenty-minute presentation for my History class, my topic for which is the changing face of war films over the last sixty-five or seventy years, and how the Hollywood interpretation of war has changed dramatically with society, thus explaining why it is that war films that were produced during World War II seem so terribly hokey by today's standards. Granted, there were various censors to deal with, but even the stories were very different.

So, I have to look at some of the old movies from the era, including any archival stuff I can find from the public domain (notably Frank Capra's films, which refer to the Japanese in various racial epithets I'm not going to go into here). Finding a copy of "Bugs Nips the Nips" would be huge, though, because there's just something about Bugs Bunny spouting those various racial epithets, of which 'Nips' happens to be one. And then we move through the 50's, and every decade until the present, trying to point out changes in the interpretation of war.

My favorite era probably has to be Vietnam and everything that's come since. After all, during the Vietnam War, John Wayne made a movie called The Green Berets, which was a fantastically jingoistic film that supported the war wholeheartedly. If you look at the time it was made, public support for the war really hadn't started to degrade yet, since there weren't so many casualties that the national evening news had to start scrolling the names up the screen. But the film had its detractors, and it wasn't really until Apocalypse Now, Coming Home and The Deer Hunter came out that we finally started to get into the heads of people who went to Vietnam. Apocalypse Now functions kind of like a fever dream, but it's a fucking epic, so we excuse it for not sticking to formula.

And I can't forget to mention M*A*S*H (the movie, mind you), which took place during the Korean War, but we all know it wasn't about the Korean War. It was about Vietnam, but there was no way a studio would make the movie if they were openly mocking an ongoing war. Pity we don't have producers in Hollywood today who are willing to play with subject matter like that.

And then came the Eighties. Platoon, Casualties of War, Full Metal Jacket, Born on the Fourth of July... All of these films take place during Vietnam, sure, but they're also picking up on the tone set forth by the movies I mentioned from the Seventies, and they're not afraid to ask, "What the fuck were we doing there?"

And then the late Nineties pitted Saving Private Ryan up against The Thin Red Line. Both are absolutely brilliant films, although Spielberg's film was a commercially appealing and massively-accessible hunt for Matt Damon, while Terrence Malick's film was a monologue-laden introspective meditation on war itself. Upon the third or so viewing, I stopped hating The Thin Red Line (since I generally loathe internal monologues, particularly extensive ones), and decided to agree with the late Gene Siskel that it is one of the best war films ever made, provided you're willing to think outside the box and get away from the typical "war movie" formula of "rescue Matt Damon" or "blow up that bridge" or something silly like that.

And in the last few years, we've had Pearl Harbor, for which I have a great metaphor, but it escapes me at the moment. And then September 11 happened, and various polls came out that said Americans had become more introspective. Hollywood sure as fucking hell didn't show it, other than to bump Collateral Damage back a couple of months, pull the Spider-Man trailer, change the bad guys in The Sum of All Fears into more politically-correct Neo-Nazis... but there was no movement in film to answer the public's apparent need for thought.

In the one great master-stroke of taking advantage of the rampant "we don't give a shit who's responsible, just bomb some people who don't look like us!" jingoism (there's that word again) that had taken over our country after September 11, the release date for Behind Enemy Lines was moved up by several months, and made quite a bit of cash for its studio. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the only result of September 11 and its ensuing wars on American filmmaking.

On the flipside, take a look at Japanese cinema: It's still influenced by World War II, and particularly the fact that it had two nuclear weapons dropped on it. From Godzilla to Grave of the Fireflies, it's a huge influence on their filmmaking that continues to this day, while American cinema hasn't managed to produce anything of note since September 11.

So, that's about the gist of it, although I'm not sure if I'll bother with the Japanese connection at the end. And I'm going to have to split the presentation (which is just going to be one big cut-together video) into distinguishable parts. So far, I have two potential candidates, which I'll now share with you, and then it's time to sit down for over three hours with Colonel Kurtz and Captain Willard:

Part One: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" - From The Great Dictator to The Green Berets
Part Two: "The Horror... The Horror..." - From Apocalypse Now to the Present

Oh, by the way, the movies I got today: Apocalypse Now Redux, Saving Private Ryan, and Forrest Gump. What? It's got Vietnam in it. If it's so important to you just comment on it. I need the attention.

AIM: therbmcc71

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