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1st Reply From: Chris Schultz <email@example.com> Subject: Re: REPLY: War movies are wrong, how and why () Date: March 3, 2010 6:56:26 AM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@h-net.msu.edu> I said it in an earlier reply about concepts of "accuracy" in any historical medium, and I'll say it again: too much is made of empirical accuracy, and not enough metaphorical reading is being done when these types of films are discussed. The literal level of meaning in any mode of representation (photographic, filmic, or linguistic) is only a surface concern. If there's one thing that the last hundred-odd years of philosophy has shown its that there are many layers of meaning, from the literal down to the metaphorical. In The Hurt Locker, for instance, why would the filmmaker constantly be portraying the characters alone when we know full well that this would never happen? This is a very simple visual metaphor for a character's state of mind. The REALITY of being surrounded by thousands of like-minded soldiers is clearly being depicted as irrelevant to the narrative being constructed from that character's point of view. Drawing from my own research on First World War soldiers in the front lines, they were very aware of the presence of thousands (even millions) of bodies around them at all times--and yet many experienced a sense of loneliness that the term itself is woefully inadequate in expressing. The levels of "accuracy" in any history are many. Thucydides places too much faith in the ability of people to express clear, reasoned understandings of their situations and of themselves. I much prefer Herodotus's understanding of "truth," which was fluid and dynamic, had an open-ended causality, and remembered the limitations of human perceptions, expressions, and memories. This is obviously less a commentary on film specifically, but rather on the whole of the discipline. In my mind, "fictional"--and I use that term tongue-in-cheek, given Hayden White's compelling arguments about fiction and history which are mostly misunderstood, and as I mentioned above are hardly new--representations of history require a few more moments of intervention by an instructor, but they are important expressions of history. Chris Schultz Carleton University 2nd Reply From: Miller, Roger Dr AF/HOH <Roger.Miller@pentagon.af.mil> Subject: RE: [H-WAR] REPLY: War movies are wrong, how and why () Date: March 3, 2010 8:37:12 AM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Hi Gang, Reference my friend Prof. Robert Slayton's Hollywood experience, I once worked with a writer producing a script for a TV movie on the Berlin Airlift. She called me a number of times from the west coast and we spent hours discussing what did and did not take place---what was probable and what was inconceivable. Toward the end, it became clear that network officials wanted more "action" meaning "violence" in the script. There simply weren't enough car chases on the Berlin Airlift to suit their concept of entertainment! At one point they wanted a scene in which a C-54 pilot who had flown heavy bombers against Germany during World War II (there were some in real life) to have a flashback, pull out his pistol, and shoot a German laborer because he mistakenly thought the laborer was purposely overloading the aircraft with coal!! I had to explain that this wasn't combat and the air crews weren't armed. I finally grew so frustrated that I suggested that the network put a well-endowed young lady in the cockpit of a C-54 and call the movie "Hooters Flies the Airlift!" The movie was never made. I taught my children, now grown, not to learn history from the movies, and I think that remains good advice. Roger G. Miller, Ph.D., YA-03 Deputy Director Air Force Historic al Studies Office Author of "To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift, 1948-1949" Original Message: > 1st Reply > > From: Kuehn, John Dr CIV USA TRADOC <firstname.lastname@example.org> > 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 <email@example.com> > 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> > 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" <email@example.com> >> 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" <firstname.lastname@example.org> > 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 email@example.com ----- 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 -----