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1st Reply From: Kuehn, John Dr CIV USA TRADOC <email@example.com> Subject: RE: COMMENT: War movies are wrong, how and why (UNCLASSIFIED) Date: March 1, 2010 11:17:16 AM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Thucydides said: "As each speaker appeared to me to say roughly what was required about the particular circumstance in which he was involved, so I have made it spoken here, sticking as closely as I could to the entire content of what was actually said." From University of Chicago Hobbes translation note, Book 1.22, Peloponnesian War. Vr, john John T. Kuehn, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Military History U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, KS 2nd Reply War movies are artistic works of fiction, first and foremost, and not documentaries. They must be concerned (with more or less success) above all with plot, characterization, and using dialogue and visual cues to portray these. Accuracy comes down the list. I once met with a Hollywood agent to discuss turning my biography of William Tunner, the general who commanded the Berlin Airlift, into a movie. He asked what I thought was the most dramatic moment of his life, and I happily replied, citing what I thought was an epic moment. He was not fazed. He then asked me if I knew the names of all the pilots who died on the Airlift. I said that information was readily available. He then proceeded to lay out the following scenario: one of these pilots is Tunner's best friend. He really believes in the airlift but Tunner is not enthusiastic. When the friend loses his life in a crash, Tunner becomes committed to making the airlift work. My jaw dropped. None of this is accurate of course, but I have since noted that this is a standard plot device in many, many movies. The agent and I never met again. Robert Slayton Chapman University 3rd Reply From: jim Dingeman <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: COMMENT: War movies are wrong, how and why Date: March 1, 2010 1:36:32 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> II have reviewed practically all the major movies about Iraq and Afghanistan since 911. This was done for TV here in NYC. The review posted in the NYT is an excellent juxtaposition of what Hollywood depicts as fictional drama and what Kamber experienced first hand. All the feature films are just that...fictional depictions constrained by the directors and the more importantly the studios vision. I recently listened to a screenwriter complain about how the studio is depicting an important phenomena--the drug cartel wars in Mexico. There have been major projects to do justice to this subject pushing their way through the maze of Hollywood studios penchant to search for revenue. The studio wants to make it into Bruce Willis goes to Mexico.i.e DIE HARD the film, as opposed to contextualizing it..which may bring in less revenue. Kathryn Bigelow is a talented director. POINT BREAK, BLUE STEEL and K 19 are great films..but that is where other criteria must come in. The Hollywood system takes various strands of our general culture and makes serious money out of it. I do not know how many times I think of how much a direct tie in cinema one sees the DEERSLAYER novels by Cooper, the growth of popular culture depicting the West in the period after the Civil War in the form of dime novels and what we see today. The desire to create a pained and troubled super hero who triumphs over all is inherent in our action genres and spills over into the war movies we see. What Kamber raises is interesting..the archetype of the World War II combat film..with the multi ethnic platoon/squad....cooperating in the mass democratic effort..the films on Iraq that are feature based have dealt with more the complicated political nature of the conflict or at least attempted to. That form of the buddy movie has been very strong in the docs..all of them have a truer ring in that aspect. Where do we place AVATAR? Sci Fi can always go into themes that are difficult to deal with but I must agree with some that a film like this is partly DANCES WITH WOLVES goes to outer space. It could not have been made without the long history of Hollywood exploring in our popular culture different themes of the Plains Wars after World War II-CHEYENNE AUTUMN or BROKEN ARROW come to mind. The STAR TREK spinoffs- NEXT GENERATION,DEEP SPACE NINE,VOYAGER, ENTERPRISE- all reflect the mixture of genres, including all sorts of war film strengths- the flying movie, the submarine flick, the combat film and mingled with all sorts of contemporary intermingling of sex, gender and racial themes...space explores/warrior males become pregnant in cross sexual encounters with aliens. I think SCI FI is where a strong component of traditional war films have gone...just look at the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The documentaries are a different kettle of fish on Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? First, the networks have retreated from their responsibility for making docs since the seventies. The political battles such as CBS versus Westmoreland, battles during the Nixon Administration with CBS over SELLING OF THE PENTAGON, the Tailwind fiasco. all that has made the networks often nervous about handling military subjects. This is not to say great reporting has not been done and will be. A greater issue is the change from News information to INFOTAINMENT. COLBERT and THE DAILY SHOW rose because people preferred satire to news and analysis. This is not to say analysis does not happen and certainly the youth demographic is with the audience in those shows. But the rise of polemic news infotainment..Take your pick..FOX or MSNBC..drives the ratings war. The retreat from hard-hitting docs on TV has left a vacuum that FRONTLINE fills admirably. But, it also means that people will go to docs for hard information. Look at Michael Moore..I cannot tell you how many directors I have met in film festivals discuss this phenomenon. FARENHEIT came out at a time when it hit a raw chord in the public...anger at Bush…Doc filmmakers have been searching ever since for the magic money maker like his film. There have been some fine documentaries produced on the conflicts. FRONTLINE remains the best source but a problem with them all is that they have done poorly at the box office. Whether 24/7 news services, war weariness or other issues are the reason..that remains a basic fact with all the theatrically released documentaries on Iraq and Afghanistan. There even was a short run COMBAT type TV series done by Steve Boccho, OVER THERE, but that flopped. Kamber raises great points and thanks for the article. Jim 4th Reply From: Rudnicki, Edward J Mr CIV USA AMC <email@example.com> Subject: RE: COMMENT: War movies are wrong, how and why Date: March 1, 2010 5:50:28 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> From: "Jonathan D. Beard" <firstname.lastname@example.org> > There have been many discussions on H-War of films about > war, and many of the postings reflect what this essay starts > with--getting the details wrong ruins any film for veterans. > But Kamber goes on to make many other points about movies > and the reality of fighting in Iraq. The gulf between films > (and books) that focus on an individual or a handful of > characters, and real military actions that always involve > units working in a coordinated fashion is important. It is > hard to imagine a gripping Western or war movie, or detective > film that is actually about the collaborative efforts of two > dozen good guys who never get to know, or perhaps even see, > their antagonists. Perhaps even Homer exaggerated the > importance of Hector and Achilles in the Trojan War. > > http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/essay-15/?hp Interesting. I work with EOD NCOs literally every day. All are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. None objected to "The Hurt Locker" anywhere nearly as vociferously as the author of this piece. The usual response was that the film is a mix of entertaining BS and dead-on accuracy. I suppose the viewer is left to decide which, which may be the issue. I wonder if Kamber is subconsciously displaying resentment over the fact that previous films about OEF were flops; most of the latter were chock full of political messages absent in "The Hurt Locker." Someone also might tell Kamber that Barrett .50 BMG "sniper rifles" are indeed standard EOD equipment.... Ed Rudnicki -----Original Message----- From: H-NET Military History Discussion List [mailto:H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU] On Behalf Of H-War Editor David Silbey Sent: Monday, March 01, 2010 9:40 AM To: H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU Subject: COMMENT: War movies are wrong, how and why From: "Jonathan D. Beard" <email@example.com> Date: Monday, March 1, 2010 10:36:40 AM Subject: War movies are wrong, how and why There have been many discussions on H-War of films about war, and many of the postings reflect what this essay starts with--getting the details wrong ruins any film for veterans. But Kamber goes on to make many other points about movies and the reality of fighting in Iraq. The gulf between films (and books) that focus on an individual or a handful of characters, and real military actions that always involve units working in a coordinated fashion is important. It is hard to imagine a gripping Western or war movie, or detective film that is actually about the collaborative efforts of two dozen good guys who never get to know, or perhaps even see, their antagonists. Perhaps even Homer exaggerated the importance of Hector and Achilles in the Trojan War. http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/essay-15/?hp -- Jonathan Beard firstname.lastname@example.org ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----