Tag Archives: movie review

Dunkirk

I saw Dunkirk over the weekend and thought it was worth all the hype surrounding it. It was nearly nonstop action and when it was done, I was so tense I felt like I had just driven four hours through a white-out rainstorm on the highway. Afterwards, I read the reviews on IMDB, where there are a lot of cinematic complaints/comments, but also an equally number of useful historical complaints/comments which I find to be informative.

The cinematography was beautiful and stark. There was surprising emotion: I didn’t know I was that invested, I’m not crying you’re crying. You see men in the throes of hope and futility at the same time. It’s all so British. And poignant. And depressing. And triumphant. And beautiful. And tragic.

(Quick note: I was relatively impervious to the hype, as my WW2 film repertoire consists solely of Monuments Men, Fury, Inglorious Basterds -which made no sense- and White Christmas, which is more of a holiday thing than war film. My repertoire lacks the usual suspects of Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Schindler’s List, etc, etc.)

There are spoilers under the cut so take fair warning.

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1776 Is A Boss Musical

I may have left the Museum of the American Revolution delirious and hangry, but I was inspired. There had been so much sensory intake that it needed an appropriate release of some sort. Which, in layman’s terms, meant I finished the day watching the musical film 1776 and laughing louder than probably necessary at .. most of it.

Holy macaroni. The holiest of macaronis. 1776 is SO cheesy and ridiculousI LOVE IT.

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Gods and Generals

… or four and a half hours of my life I won’t get back.

The impetus for watching this film was actually inspired by St. Patrick’s Day. There’s a scene during the Battle of Fredericksburg where the Irish Brigade of fame, led by Gen. Thomas Meagher, attacks Marye’s Heights and meet the 24th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, or Georgia’s Irish Brigade. In the film, the Georgians are shocked and appalled both that their fellow Irishmen are fighting for the Union and that they are actively shooting their fellow Irishmen. When the Federals retreat, the Georgians send up a cry to honor their dead and retreating brethren. What a way to celebrate a day most everyone else takes as an excuse to drink excessively. The Irish love their misery, I guess, and my father, being 3rd generation Irish, made sure us kids knew the ways of his people.

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Southern Irish: Fighting against a tyrannical government, which only makes sense from the States Rights Cause perspective. Because the British had been ruling Ireland for centuries, was extremely discriminatory against them, and had just allowed millions to die during the Great Famine, a tragedy which the Crown could have prevented.

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Northern Irish: fighting against slavery and for a unified state, as generally the Irish were the lowest of the second-class citizenry in the UK, hardly better off than slaves. Also for the Union, and very American, ideals that what status you’re born at doesn’t mean you’ll die there, that you can bootstrap yourself up the societal chain.

I’m one of those people who can’t just cherrypick a clip of a film. I have to watch the whole thing. And I did. I did not actively take notes, so what follows will be general impressions of this rewatch. Also, please note that I saw the movie when it came out in 2003, and this might be the first time I’ve seen it since. On principle, I generally don’t watch it. (The soundtrack, on the other hand, is amazing.)

And so without further ado, Gods and Generals:

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Warhorse

I saw Warhorse in theaters a number of years ago with a friend. I can’t remember what exactly drew us to the film because I only had a vague notion of the plot and had no idea who the actors were. It was probably because it was a World War I film, and reasons like “It’s a movie” is usually enough to make me do a lot of things.

Walking out of the theater, I remember having enjoyed it greatly, although left with some questions about the underlying plot-that is, how factual is it. Because the movie is about a horse, which one should be able to infer from the title. And yet somehow Steven Spielberg managed to make a successfully realistic war movie with a horse as the main character. Better yet, there weren’t any gimmicks or schmaltzy bits like subtitles when the horses were clearly talking to each other. They were characters without being grossly anthropomorphized. My friend’s grandfather, who watched it with us, said it was one of the more realistic World War I movies out there, and I’ll have to take his word for it.

(My knowledge of war movies is fairly sparse, and my knowledge of the events they portray is even sparser. They say this movie has some of the most realistic depictions of trench warfare.)

Joey, freaked out, running through German trenches in panic.

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A Furiously Fast Five on Fury

On Saturday I went and saw the WW2 movie Fury with a friend and wanted to post a quick review about it even though I am a terrible WW2 historian and haven’t seen any of the movies. So instead of an actual review, here are 5 quick thoughts:

1.) It is a very violent movie. If you normally avert your eyes during bloody parts, this movie isn’t for you. In the book I’m reading now, the vets who wrote it said that after a bomb came in, they would have to look for the victims’ body parts in nearby trees and bushes, they would be that blown apart. This movie … basically showed that. I have been told that Saving Private Ryan* is gorier and even more realistic, but I haven’t seen that movie. I’m a bad history major.

..except when I don’t

 

2.) I enjoyed the attention to detail in props/costuming. Brad Pitt’s badges all looked like he had sewn the badges on himself. The other main character, Norman, wore a GI sweater through the entire movie and I noticed myself trying to figure out the stitch pattern. I really enjoyed seeing the mechanics of the tank warfare – the process of loading, priming, firing, etc. The space was so confined it was hard to get a sense of internal geography of the machine, like how the characters’ compartments fit together. In the scene where the tank runs over the body in the mud, the only thing distinctive thing about the body are the hobnails in the boots. Oh, and at one of the final really super dramatic scenes, I noted the German grenades and was so pleased with myself that the scene totally lost it’s emotional impact.**

 

3.) Acting. Is it just me who thinks Brad Pitt is just a little overrated? I mean, he was fine as the Sergeant and made his character believable and everything, but it’s almost the exact same role he had in Troy. If he isn’t overrated then he’s got a lot of similar roles. I thought Shia LaBouf had the best acting out of the whole ensemble. He was barely recognizable.

 

4.) I left the theater being very happy about the film. Then I went online and read all sorts of reviews, from official to unofficial to the reviews on IMDB. The users who rated the movie lower than 4 stars left scathing reviews that I found to be quite educational. They also raised several points that had occurred to me during the movie that I refuse to let destroy my initial impressions. (The landmine, the cast’s age, the final shot of the movie, formulaic ending, the final fight, the “hero effect”***, weak character development, etc). The random fact I learned is that there is exactly one working Tiger tank currently in existence and it was used in this film. So … not sure where I stand on the film.

5.) Interesting thought –>  many reviewers have complained about the final scene (the tank surrounded by bodies), terrible dialogue and one-dimensional characters. What if the movie was actually supposed to be from the tank’s perspective? It’s an odd thought but it makes the final scene make much more sense. I am wondering if Fury is supposed to be something like Warhorse, which is a war film but told from the horse’s perspective. What if Fury is more about the tank and less about the crew so the final shot is actually the dead hero (the tank) surrounded by all the damage she did on her way out? (Are tanks personified with the feminine?) It would be something like Boromir at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. Hm, interesting theory.

Conclusion: I think I need to see it again. I still have a lot of questions.

Thoughts?

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*Wait, Matt Damon is the titular Private Ryan?! I need to get with the program.

** American grenades are shaped like baseballs because American kids probably know how to throw baseballs. German grenades are shaped like plow handles because German kids probably know farm equipment better. All this according to the SS reenactor of several weeks ago.

*** The hero effect: where the outnumbered/gunned hero team faces incredible odds and the bad guys somehow don’t gain the upper hand despite firing giant rockets at point blank range at 6 metres and still missing the target so the good guys (the hero) gets to fight on.

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Monuments Men Musings

On Saturday evening, my brain hit a wall with homework. I was sick and tired of staring at a screen and doing homework so … I located The Monuments Men movie online and watched it. By staring at a screen. C’est la vie.

As previously stated, this movie was based off of the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History which was written by Robert Edsel back in 2010. I highly recommend the book for a number of reasons. For one, Edsel is not a scholar so his writing has much more of a narrative flow than most history books. There are even scenes in the book that so moved him or amused him that he recreated dialogue between the various characters to better set the scene. In his first foray into this fascinating topic, Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Great Art – America and Her Allies Recovered It (whew! what a mouthful!), Edsel successfully framed the entirety of World War II as Hitler’s desire to acquire all the arts, and the Monuments Men book expands on that, with more words and less pictures.

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