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1st Reply From: Terino, John Civ USAF AETC ACSC/DEW <John.Terino@MAXWELL.AF.MIL> Subject: REPLY: War movies are wrong, how and why Date: March 8, 2010 10:01:26 AM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@h-net.msu.edu> Mike Adams makes many good points. The context and expectations of the audience, the filmmakers, and the sponsor/backers often matters as much or more than the accuracy of the film. After all, movies, like fictional books and even historical narrative, exist to tell a story. Accuracy and truth often matter and enhance the story. Just as likely, however, they are irrelevant or not essential to the overall goal of the director or producer. Among the best things regarding film as chronicle of events or interpretation is what it tells the viewer about themselves, the interpretation of events at the time it was made, or the legacy that the makers wanted to leave. All that being said, chronology of events and release of films is important for understanding the films themselves in context. The points you made in the post are valid, but your chronology is off. The Green Berets predates Kelly's Heroes by about two years. And while Kelly's Heroes is largely a flight of fantasy, much like Inglourious Basterds, and conveys a lot about American attitudes regarding Vietnam (the bad war) versus WWII (the good war), it is much better in terms of realism regarding uniforms and equipment than many movies of the same era those issues. The Crap Game/Scrounger character is almost a stock character in any war movie, so your point could be made at almost any time regarding almost any pair of war movies. The bottom line is to look at war movies as art and interpretation first, conveyors of a message or point of view second, and paragons of accuracy last. Historical fiction does not have to be completely accurate to be useful in helping understand history, movies should be no different. I think the issue many of us have regarding movies and accuracy happens when it appears that there is not even an attempt to achieve accuracy. The irony of current movie making technology versus the technology or equipment available 30 or 40 years ago is that CGI makes it possible to be both realistic and accurate. However, this does not appear to be an aim of many filmmakers. One of my biggest problems with the movie Pearl Harbor was not the inaccuracy of places and other issues that many historians had with the movie. It was more the misuse of CGI to portray the aerial combat as something more out of Star Wars instead of using the technology to represent a realistic portrayal of both the limits and capabilities of the machines of the 1940s. The bottom line, movies, like many books, are useful, but certainly not definitive as sources. John Terino Air Command and Staff College Maxwell AFB, AL 2nd Reply From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: REPLY: War movies are wrong, how and why (2) Date: March 5, 2010 6:25:36 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Chris Shulz wrote- "The literal level of meaning in any mode of representation (photographic, filmic, or linguistic) is only a surface concern." I can only say that I find such a statement to be highly disputable in a discussion of how History is to be understood. In the tradition of Pilate, one can always say "Quod est veritas?" and object that we can very seldom, if ever, really attain a full understanding of anything. And that what is truth for one man is not truth for another. So do we give up and make total fiction as valid as anything else? Certainly life is full of uncertainties and subjects the understanding of which is inexact and perhaps highly relative. And some depictions of historical events are not really damaged in any significant way by minor things like using modern tanks merely marked up with Nazi markings as substitutes for the real panzers, which are somewhat difficult to find these days. But there are basic truths that are not uncertain or relative, and it is arguably the job of the historian to do as much as possible to determine what those are and present them carefully to others. That Nazi Germany was aggressive and brutal, and had a very deliberate campaign of genocide, is as true as true can be, and the same for Imperial Japan, and that it was a concerted effort by the Allies over time that finally brought the Axis down is also true. Are there debatable topics and subtopics within the larger framework, and questions that cannot ever be answered with total certainty? Sure. That we cannot always guarantee to find the total truth doesn't mean it's not worthwhile and generally valid to try. And the ideas that war movies, even bad ones, can get people interested in real history, and also should be looked at as metaphors sometimes (Apocalypse Now being a prime example), is valid, but that's not the main question. The question is, do average people get false ideas of real History from watching inaccurate movies? Given things like the line in Time magazine some years ago that the movie Platoon had finally shown people "the real Vietnam", I don't think there's any doubt about that. R J Del Vecchio ----- 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 -----