American History: Memorial Day Weekend Movies

Friday, May 26, AD 2017

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

 

A few films to help remember that there is much greater significance to Memorial Day than sun and fun:

 

1.  American Sniper (2015)- A grand tribute to the late Chris Kyle and to all the other troops who served in Iraq.

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle

2.   Hamburger Hill (1987)- A moving film about our troops in Vietnam who served their nation far better than their too often ungrateful nation served them.

3.  Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there,  including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died a few years ago, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the above clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

4.   Hacksaw Ridge (2016):  Mel Gibson fully redeemed his career as a director with this masterpiece.  A film that goes far beyond mere entertainment and illustrates what a man of faith can accomplish when he stays true to his beliefs and cares so much more about helping others than he does about his own mortal life.  Incredibly, the movie does justice to Desmond Doss, a true American hero.

 

 5.   Sergeant York (1941)-A film biopic of Sergeant Alvin C. York, who, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive  on October 8,  1918, took 32 German machine guns, killed 28 German soldiers and captured another 132.  Viewers who came to see the movie in 1941 must have been initially puzzled.  With a title like Sergeant York, movie goers could have been forgiven for thinking that Sergeant York’s experiences in World War I would be the focus, but such was not the case.  Most of the film is focused on York’s life in Tennessee from 1916-1917 before American entry into the war.  Like most masterpieces, the film has a strong religious theme as we witness York’s conversion to Christ.  The film is full of big questions:  How are we to live?  Why are we here?  What role should religion play in our lives?  How does someone gain faith?  What should we do if we perceive our duty to God and to Country to be in conflict?  It poses possible answers to these questions with a skillful mixture of humor and drama.  The entertainment value of Sergeant York conceals the fact that it is a very deep film intellectually as it addresses issues as old as Man.

The film was clearly a message film and made no bones about it.  The paper of the film industry Variety noted at the time:  “In Sergeant York the screen has spoken for national defense. Not in propaganda, but in theater.”

The film was a huge success upon release in 1941, the top grossing film of the year.  Gary Cooper justly earned the Oscar for his stellar performance as Alvin C. York.  It was Cooper’s favorite of his pictures.  “Sergeant York and I had quite a few things in common, even before I played him in screen. We both were raised in the mountains – Tennessee for him, Montana for me – and learned to ride and shoot as a natural part of growing up. Sergeant York won me an Academy Award, but that’s not why it’s my favorite film. I liked the role because of the background of the picture, and because I was portraying a good, sound American character.”

The film portrays a devout Christian who had to reconcile the command to “Love thy Neighbor” with fighting for his country in a war.  This is not an easy question and the film does not give easy answers, although I do find the clip above compelling.

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3 Responses to American History: Memorial Day Weekend Movies

  • One of my favorites, “We Were Soldiers,” a great movie about the true story of the first major clash of US and NVA forces in Vietnam… based on an even greater book by Hal Moore, who happens to be Catholic, who led the Americans. This scene is one of my favorites.
    https://youtu.be/mLaTyNe8mg0

  • a scene from “Memphis Belle”

  • A very moving scene Pinky. It reminds me of what my Mom told me about her Uncle Bill who fought in the British Army 1939-1945:

    His family rejoiced when he arrived back in Newfoundland in one piece, my future Mom noting that he seemed just the same, although he was now sensitive to loud noises. However, one night my Mom saw that the War had left a deeper mark on Uncle Bill. She was visiting Uncle Bill and his wife Aunt Nool, and an older couple came over to see Uncle Bill. Their son had served with Uncle Bill and had been killed in the War. Uncle Bill talked with them and told them how much all the other men in his unit had liked their boy, and how he had been very brave. After he died they had buried him with full military honors. This all seemed to be of great comfort to the older couple, and they thanked Uncle Bill and left. My Mom then saw something she had never seen before, her tough and always smiling Uncle Bill weeping. He turned to Aunt Nool and said that he hadn’t realized that he was such a good liar. The poor son of the older couple had stepped upon a huge land mine and there hadn’t been enough left of him to bury.

Remember: Movies For a Memorial Day Weekend

Friday, May 27, AD 2016

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is a time of fun here in the US.  However, it should also be a time of memory.  Memorial day is derived from the Latin “memoria”, memory, and we are duty bound this weekend to remember those who died in our defense, and who left us with a debt which can never be repaid.  One aid to memory can be films, and here are a few suggestions for films to watch this weekend.

 1.   Sergeant York (1941)-A film biopic of Sergeant Alvin C. York, who, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive  on October 8,  1918 , took 32 German machine guns, killed 28 German soldiers and captured another 132.  Viewers who came to see the movie in 1941 must have been initially puzzled.  With a title like Sergeant York, movie goers could have been forgiven for thinking that Sergeant York’s experiences in World War I would be the focus, but such was not the case.  Most of the film is focused on York’s life in Tennessee from 1916-1917 before American entry into the war.  Like most masterpieces, the film has a strong religious theme as we witness York’s conversion to Christ.  The film is full of big questions:  How are we to live?  Why are we here?  What role should religion play in our lives?  How does someone gain faith?  What should we do if we perceive our duty to God and to Country to be in conflict?  It poses possible answers to these questions with a skillful mixture of humor and drama.  The entertainment value of Sergeant York conceals the fact that it is a very deep film intellectually as it addresses issues as old as Man.

The film was clearly a message film and made no bones about it.  The paper of the film industry Variety noted at the time:  “In Sergeant York the screen has spoken for national defense. Not in propaganda, but in theater.”

The film was a huge success upon release in 1941, the top grossing film of the year.  Gary Cooper justly earned the Oscar for his stellar performance as Alvin C. York.  It was Cooper’s favorite of his pictures.  “Sergeant York and I had quite a few things in common, even before I played him in screen. We both were raised in the mountains – Tennessee for him, Montana for me – and learned to ride and shoot as a natural part of growing up. Sergeant York won me an Academy Award, but that’s not why it’s my favorite film. I liked the role because of the background of the picture, and because I was portraying a good, sound American character.”

The film portrays a devout Christian who had to reconcile the command to “Love thy Neighbor” with fighting for his country in a war.  This is not an easy question and the film does not give easy answers, although I do find this clip compelling.

2.   Saving Private Ryan (1998)-  “Earn this….Earn it”.  A message for us all to remember this Memorial Day and every day.

3.  The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)-This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Stryker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)

Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated.

Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers who survived the battle.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.  Go here to see the ending of the Sands of Iwo Jima and listen to the Marines’ Hymn.

4.  The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.  The film is a fine remembrance of the courage of the soldiers North and South who fought in our war without an enemy.

 

5.  American Sniper (2015)- A grand tribute to the late Chris Kyle and to all the other troops who served in Iraq.

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle

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20 Responses to Remember: Movies For a Memorial Day Weekend

  • Q: who can issue an order to surrender? I ask because years ago I saw an interview with Kurt Vonnegut of Slaughterhouse-5 fame talking about being captured during the Battle of the Bulge.
    He said an order came down from the regimental commander to surrender but he & the group he was with “of course” rejected it because it was an illegal order. Why would it be illegal to follow regimental commands?

    PS — there’s a WW2 movie where John Wayne plays a factory manager rather than a soldier, anyone know the title? I’ve forgotten.

  • A commander of any unit can order a surrender, at least if that unit is cut off. Historically, those orders have probably been the least obeyed categories of orders in the US military.

    “there’s a WW2 movie where John Wayne plays a factory manager rather than a soldier, anyone know the title? I’ve forgotten.”

    Pittsburgh

  • If you guys have been seeing the clickbait accusing Chris Kyle of “exaggerating” his records– we have one offered piece of evidence, and one person who said things publicly. That would be the late Mr. Kyle, and his DD-214.
    The story is based on an anonymous source saying some “internal documents” list fewer awards. No name, no physical evidence offered. (good thing, I think that would be illegal…but I’m pretty sure so is going through someone’s records to slander them.)
    *****
    When you separate, they tell you to do your own work on the DD-214 because the records they have will not be complete. You have to give them paperwork to show things they forgot to list happened. It’s totally believable that there would be incomplete lists of awards somewhere– what’s less believable is that anybody with even passing familiarity with internal workings wouldn’t know that.

  • I would add “We Were Soldiers,” a contemporary but respectful portrayal of a great American hero, Col. Hal Moore, a devout Catholic, who led US forces into the first major battle against the NVA in the Vietnam War. Unlike so many movies about this war, this film portrays the American soldier in Vietnam favorably. Plus a great score, including the best contemporary hymn I’ve heard, “Mansions of the Lord,” which sounds like a 19th century hymn but was actually composed for the movie. Also a haunting rendition of “Sgt McKenzie,” a WWI song. Overall, a fine movie for a Memorial Day weekend.

  • “The story is based on an anonymous source saying some “internal documents” list fewer awards. No name, no physical evidence offered. (good thing, I think that would be illegal…but I’m pretty sure so is going through someone’s records to slander them.)”

    Chris Kyle and Clint Eastwood will always be hated by the left for American Sniper being the smash at the box office that it was.

  • You left out this one again Maister McC! 🙂

  • It is a great picture Kennybhoy. Making up the Memorial List of good films is always hard. I could easily have had a 100 films. However, I encourage additions from the comboxes!

  • Tom Doniphon. That’s all…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXWpG8xPM10

    Astonishing lighting and camera work…

  • My favorite scene from that film:

    Print the legend.

  • Regarding the Caine Mutiny. In the book, as you point out, the takedown by Greenwald is much longer and complete. However, in the book it is also much clearer that Queeg really should not have been commanding a ship.

  • True Michael. It is ironic that Keefer after he becomes Captain of the Caine begins to act like Queeg and confesses that he now has sympathy for Queeg. I recently re-read the novel and it has stood the test of time. A true masterpiece of a time and a place that is now exiting living memory.

  • Re: The Rough Riders, I recently read a new book on the subject/title by Mark Lee Gardner. I thought it was a good one.
    .
    When I was young and a Boy Scout, we marched each Memorial Day. That was before Vietnam. A number of my scout friends/marchers gave the last full measure of devotion in Vietnam. I think every one of us served.

  • “Re: The Rough Riders, I recently read a new book on the subject/title by Mark Lee Gardner. I thought it was a good one.”

    I am looking forward to picking that up T.Shaw.

  • While I enjoy both the Caine Mutiny movie and book, the one way that the book is clearly superior is in the character of Keefer. In the book he is a well-rounded character with positives and negatives, as opposed to the simple villain he is in the movie.

  • The scene you posted from Horse Soldiers is loosely based on the Cadet Corps of Virginia Military Institute, which famously marched miles to New Market, Virginia in 1864 to participate in the battle of New Market. 10 cadets were killed and the field was called the “field of lost shoes” because the mud was so thick that many boys lost their shoes in it. The scraped-together ragtag Confederate force rebuffed Franz Sigel’s superior numbers and forced him out of the Valley.

    To this day, the Corps of Cadets of VMI marches the 80 miles from VMI to New Market to commemorate the sacrifice of the Corps in 1864.

  • Excuse me please. Wrong thread.

  • “The scene you posted from Horse Soldiers is loosely based on the Cadet Corps of Virginia Military Institute,”

    https://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/field-of-lost-shoes/

  • Another one for the List in the WWII category is A Walk in the Sun; For Korea, Men in War.

    I have a soft spot for Memphis Belle because I like the idea of a big budget morale boosting propaganda film.

October 6, 1889: Roll ’em

Tuesday, October 6, AD 2015

How rare it is in history for a scientific genius to also possess considerable business acumen and the ability to direct a large body of men working under him.  Thomas Edison possessed all of those gifts.  With one of the sharper minds granted to a man, he had the inspiration to invent hundreds of devices.  He directed eventually a large work force of employees, some of whom had intellects almost as sharp as his.  Finally he could take his inventions and develop markets for them.

Edison thought of “moving pictures” as doing for the eye what his phonograph did for the ear.  In February of 1888 Edison met with chrono-photographer  Eadweard Muybridge who used what he called a  zoopraxiscope to rapidly project painted images on a screen to give the illusion of music.  They announced they would combine this technology with Edison’s phonograph.  From the outset Edison envisioned “talkies”.  Most of the actual work in producing the first movies was done by Edison’s employee W. K. L. Dickson, who had served as Edison’s official photographer.

Edison devised the idea of a kinetoscope, but it was Dickson who brought it to reality, producing “moving” images by running strips of film across a light source.  Dickson invented the first practical celluloid film to serve as the medium upon which the photographs would be placed.  The first films were displayed as “peep shows” in penny arcades, the movies often focusing on boxing matches and other athletic contests.

Dickson went on to produce the first film for a pope, and had his camera blessed by Leo XIII. 

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6 Responses to October 6, 1889: Roll ’em

  • The way Thomas Edison cheated Nikola Tesla out of the money he promised to pay him for lighting the Chicago World’s Fair, and the manner in which Thomas Edison fought George Westinghouse in the matter of DC versus AC electricity has always been an indiicator of the kind of man Thomas Edison really was at heart. And it is that attitude of arrogance and supremacy which he instilled within hs company General Electric, an attitude which remains to this day with its CEO and President Jeff Immelt.

  • The Tesla cult Paul gets no love from me. Blaming Edison for Immelt is silly. Edison was a very great man and the demonization of him that goes on around the internet is beyond silly.

    https://www.metabunk.org/tesla-is-overrated-debunking-the-cult-of-tesla.t894/

    http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2014/03/glenn_beck_edison_movie.html

  • Edison set up GE with J.P. Morgan’s money. Morgan forced Edison out of GE when Westinghouse proved AC was superior. According to the History TV show, Morgan extorted AC from Westinghouse.
    Edison was a brilliant man and GE was a great company. However, Westinghouse was a smart man in his own right and Westinghouse Electric, long based in Pittsburgh, was a fierce competitor of GE.

  • Today the competition between Westinghouse and GE exists in only one area; in all other areas GE is dominate and Westinghouse almost non-existento.
    .
    Westinghouse AP1000 PWR
    http://www.westinghousenuclear.com/New-Plants/AP1000-PWR
    .
    GE ESBWR
    https://nuclear.gepower.com/build-a-plant/products/nuclear-power-plants-overview/esbwr.html
    .
    Of the two, I think ESBWR is superior due to the superiority of its passive safety systems, and I write that as someone who very much dislikes GE.
    .
    On a side note, GE also markets ABWR, and when ABWRs were being built in Japan, GE sold the rights for ABWR to Toshiba. Toshiba then bought Westinghouse Nuclear, and the South Texas Project was going to build Toshiba- Westinghouse supplied ABWRs until the combination of Obama’s appointment of anti-nuclear people to the NRC and the drop in natural gas prices forced South Texas to delay the new build indefinitely. The point, however, in all this is that the dead hands of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse continue to battle. By the way, just as Westinghouse’s AC electricity dominated over Edison’s DC, so today > 60% of all reactors are based on the Westinghouse PWR design and < 30% on the GE BWR design.

  • Westinghouse shed its manufacturing businesses two decades ago, when a Michael Jordan was appointed CEO. Westinghouse bought CBS and then took the CBS name. There isn’t much left here today of Westinghouse Electric except nuclear power. WE is a subsidiary of another company now, I think Toshiba, but I’m not sure.
    Westinghouse was a defense contractor, appliance manufacturer, air brake manufacturer, broadcaster (Group W) and many other things, now gone from Southwestern Pennsylvania.

  • I believe you are correct, Penguins Fan. Meanwhile GE and Siemens battle it out world wide for domination. Ironically I have worked for both at one time or another, but never for Westinghouse even though I was employed at a Westinghouse PWR for 18 years.

3 Responses to Top Movie Battle Speeches

  • “This story a good man shall teach his son . . . ” Not much of that happening, now.
    .
    Here is the only command a leader needs to give: “Follow me!”

  • I have to say, I’m a fan of King Theoden’s speech at the battle of Pelenor.

    By the way, the Game of Thrones speech doesn’t work.

  • You mean King Eomer’s speech that Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens gave to Bernard Hill, subverting Tolkein’s intention in the process?

    My favorite example of “bad” good film making.

3 Responses to Top Charges on Film

Cover Me! I’m Going In!

Thursday, December 11, AD 2014

I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.

Chistian Bale, star of Exodus:  Gods and Kings, in reference to Moses, who he is portraying in the film.

One of the many services that TAC has provided to its readers over the years is me going to see bad films so you don’t have to.  My bride and I are picking up our daughter on Friday from college and on Saturday our son will arrive by train, fresh from the rigors of first semester law school finals.  We will eat after he arrives and then the family will go off to see Exodus:  Gods and Kings.  I suspect it will be a bad film from everything I have read about it.  I hope it will be so bad that it may be a cult classic in the making rather like Dune (1984).  Whatever it is, I will review it for the blog.

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22 Responses to Cover Me! I’m Going In!

  • Because schizophrenics are known for their leadership abilities and charismatic appeal, both of which Moses had to have in order to keep the Israelites following him for 40 years, pillar of smoke notwithstanding. As for “barbaric”, someone should perhaps introduce Mr Bale to the Canaanites.

  • Good luck, but remember your brain is a receptacle; you don’t want to put garbage into it!

  • “pillar of smoke notwithstanding”
    .
    Moses followed the Word of God. Does that make Moses schizophrenic? or charismatics ? How could Moses, the Lawgiver, give laws with a broken mind? How could Moses direct the establishment of the nation of Israel, the temple and lead the nation of Israel for forty years in the desert of sin until every person of the generation of the golden calf had perished…with a broken mind?
    .
    The atheists have having fun with us. The atheists have not yet figured out that they are in the desert of sin and they will not find the Promised Land until they perish to themselves.

  • The atheists are having fun with us. All law, (Exodus, Leviticus) and our Constitution (Isaiah and Jeremiah) are in the Old Testament. One would have to give up one’s Faith to believe this and I have not yet seen it.

  • Forgive me, I have to ask: How can anyone portray another on the film if they do not know him intimately?

  • “…a cult classic in the making rather like Dune.”
    .
    Hey, I liked Dune!
    .
    😉

  • My family watches it every New Year’s Eve Paul!

  • Every promising basketball player gets billed as the next Michael Jordan, and every young golfer aims to be the next Tiger Woods. I understand why a catastrophically inept big-budget mess would aspire to Dunehood, but that’s a pretty high bar. It’s a rare generation that gets to witness such greatness.

  • Indeed Pinky, and there are always mere pretenders to the film stinkeroo hall of fame like Heaven’s Gate or Waterworld!

  • Guessing Exodus; Gods and Kings, will be as close to biblical reenactment that Noah was last year. Another lame frame by frame mockery of Our Lords inspired Word.

    I hope the movie portrayal of St. Padre Pio will be actuate. What I’ve read thus far is promising.

  • Accurate…excuse my typo.

  • Can’t watch the trailer after seeing the example of costuming. Did Moses really wear such as that couture for forty years?

  • With his penchant for pyrotechnics, I would have thought the subject of Soddom and Gamorrah more amenable to Ridley Scott’s cinematic endeavors.

  • Anyway, I know Bale cited Numbers 31 (the Extermination of the Midianites) as an example of Moseses barbarity.

  • Ernst Schreib: “Anyway, I know Bale cited Numbers 31 (the Extermination of the Midianites) as an example of Moseses barbarity.”
    .
    All, but the Israelites performed human sacrifice, and therefore were ordered by God for extermination. God prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac to end human sacrifice of another one of His children, a person, Now, If cutting the heart out of another human being, a newly begotten human being’s heart begins to beat at 18 days after fertilization of the human egg by the human sperm, is not barbaric, then the word has no meaning. Yes, abortion is human sacrifice.

  • In ancient times, when Charlton Heston played Moses, the characters knew the proper pronoun cases.

  • Comment of the week Kmbold! Take ‘er away Sam!

  • The Film Stinkeroo Hall of Fame!

    Several Christmases ago I went looking for a DVD of the 1958 film Gigi as a gift for my wife. The salesperson had no idea what I was talking about, and kept trying to sell me the 2003 film Gigli! We don’t have a dog, but I know what would have happened if I came home with Gigli for Christmas.

  • Re: Dune: Imagine how well this could be re-done today. I still watch the old one if it comes on. Guy McClung

  • Kmbold: “In ancient times, when Charlton Heston played Moses, the characters knew the proper pronoun cases.”
    .
    As beautiful as The Ten Commandments was, God’s Name is: “I AM WHO I AM”. “that” and “which” and “it” cannot denote, identify or demonstrate a human being, a sovereign person, made in the image of God and especially God.

  • So true. My own reference was to the misuse of the personal pronoun in the dialogue of the video herein: Egyptian: “We’ll see who is more effective at killing, you or me.” As you well know, it should be “you or I”. Honestly, one expects so much more from royalty than one gets.

  • I don’t think Dune was bad because of when it was made. At least, I don’t remember its special effects being a problem. I thought the ship designs were amazing. I haven’t run across it on tv in a long time, but I’d definitely watch it again. It was interesting.

Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth

Thursday, July 3, AD 2014

For those of you who want some patriotic movies to watch over the long Fourth of July weekend here are some suggestions for viewing.  Longtime readers of this blog will see that this differs somewhat from earlier lists of top ten patriotic movies with some additions and deletions.  Feel free to suggest additional movies in the comboxes.

10. National Treasure (2004)-Sure it’s cursed with a ridiculous plot involving the masons and a treasure, it is still a lot of fun and calls us back to the foundation document, the Declaration of Independence, that is the cornerstone of our Republic.

9. Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

 

8.    Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)-James Cagney in perhaps the greatest film bio of them all, a salute to George M. Cohan, the legendary composer, playwright and patriot.

 

7.      Saving Lincoln (2013)-  Overshadowed by the Lincoln film of 2012, this rendition of Lincoln’s years as President is first rate.

The human cost of the War is always at the core of the film, as we see in the delivery of the Gettysburg Address where some of the members of the crowd hearing Lincoln are holding pictures of soldier relatives who have died.

Lincoln in the film comes to believe that he will die in office and accepts his fate, hoping that God will spare him until his work is accomplished.

 

6.    Gettysburg (1993)-The movie that I think comes the closest to conveying to us the passions of the Civil War.  You really can’t understand America unless you understand the Civil War.  As Shelby Foote, one of the greatest historians of the war, said:  “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”

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5 Responses to Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth

Top Ten Civil War Movies for the Fourth

Monday, June 30, AD 2014

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.

 

Shelby Foote

 

I agree with historian Shelby Foote that it is impossible to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War, and it is “therefore fitting and proper” that over the Fourth Civil War movies come to mind.  This is a repeat of a post I originally did in 2011, with changes to some of the video clips.

 

10.   Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)-We begin with a non-Civil War movie with the video clip at the beginning of this post.  In 1908 English Bulter Charles Ruggles, well played by actor Charles Laughton, comes to work in the American West.  It is a hilarious fish out of water comedy, as Ruggles, with his culture and British reserve comes face to face with the Wild West.  While living in America, Ruggles becomes interested in American history, and becomes a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  When he recites the Gettysburg Address, the impact on his listeners is obvious, and reminds us that for Americans the Civil War will never be a matter simply relegated to books or memory, but is something that still has a vast impact on us to this day.

 

 

9.    Friendly Persuasion (1956)-Starring Gary Cooper as Jess Birdwell, the head of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the Civil War, the film is a superb mix of drama and comedy as the Quakers have to determine whether to continue to embrace their pacifist beliefs or to take up arms against General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry during his Great Raid of the North in June-July of 1863.  When the oldest son of the Birdwell family, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in his pre-Psycho days, takes up arms, his mother, played by Dorothy McGuire is aghast, but Cooper, as Jess Birdwell, defends him.  Although he remains true to his pacifist convictions, Birdwell understands that his son is acting in obedience to his conscience, and, as he tells his wife, ” A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.”

 

 

8.    Major Dundee (1965)-Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

 

 

7.    The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid. Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg. John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest. Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech: Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.

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13 Responses to Top Ten Civil War Movies for the Fourth

  • Thanks so much for these titles. We are living overseas this 4th & I appreciate the suggestions for some real American movies!

  • Thank you Pam! An American rarely appreciates being an American more than when they are living abroad.

  • Gone With the Wind is only one of two movies to which I have had multiple conflicting reactions. It depicts idealism, arrogance, chivalry, racism, stupidity, and many other virtues and sins. Every time I see it I walk away with different feeling than I had before. The only constant is admiration for Mammy as the moral center of the O’Hara family.

    The other movie? Dr. Strangelove

  • Runners-up:
    Shenandoah A fine story, just a little fluff, but a bit constrained by its roots in theater.
    Lincoln had a few historical inaccuracies, and Daniel Day-Lewis hammed up a couple of scenes, but a pretty good movie nonetheless.

  • If I were redoing the list both Lincoln (2012) and Saving Lincoln (2013) would have places of honor on the list.

  • Just asked my wife, a big movie fan, to guess what was on the list. She got only three of them (I think she had blocked out The Horse Soldiers because of the amputation scene – that was the first thing she said about that movie when I named it). She mentioned my two runners-up, along with a third I have not seen: Cold Mountain.

  • I don’t know, I just read the Wikipedia synopsis of Cold Mountain and the plot seems pretty bizarre. I better tell her gently…

  • How could there even be a Civil War, when “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”?
    .
    The citizens enjoyed their hard won freedom, but refused to share their freedom with others, like the rich man in the Gospel who refused to share his wealth with Lazarus.

  • I didn’t care for Cold Mountain, but it’s depiction of the Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg makes it worthy of honorable mention.
    .

    And if Major Dundee is a Civil War movie, then so is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
    .
    Anybody remember The Blue and the Gray? It was a TV mini-series, so I understand why it’s not on the list.
    .
    But it should be.

  • “And if Major Dundee is a Civil War movie, then so is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

    The War was a strong theme throughout the movie, as typified by this brilliant piece of dialogue:

    Major Dundee: Do you expect me to believe these Apaches
    will turn against their own families?
    Track down their own people?

    Samuel Potts: Why not?
    Everyone else seems to be doing it.

  • “Anybody remember The Blue and the Gray? It was a TV mini-series, so I understand why it’s not on the list.
    .
    But it should be.”

    If it hadn’t been a miniseries it would have had a place, if only for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Lincoln:

  • Major Dundee was not only a great civil war themed movie. It was also a brilliant allegory of the US in general. Complicated. Diverse. Mixes of loyalties, strengths, and failures. Perhaps too optimistic about our ability to pull together against a common enemy.

    I have not seen the movie in a long time, but if memory serves, the survivors of Dundee’s unit cross back into Texas in April 9, 1865, right after Lee’s surrender

  • Yep, after they unite to fight the French, short circuiting a long anticipated show down between the Union and Confederate troops.

Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies for the Fourth of July

Tuesday, June 24, AD 2014

Fortnight For Freedom 2014

 

 

Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

John Adams

 

 

 

This is a repeat from a post last year, with some very slight modifications, but I think the logic behind the post still holds true.  As we are embroiled now in a struggle to preserve our religious liberty, I think the Fourth of July is a good time to recall the price paid to establish our liberties.  It is trite to say that freedom is not free, but it is also true.  A people who forget this eternal lesson will not remain free for long.

 

 

A number of feature films and miniseries have been made about the events of the American Revolution.  Here are my top ten choices for Fourth of July viewing:

10.  Ben and Me (1953)- Something for the younger patriots.  Disney put to film the novel of Robert Lawson, Ben and Me, which related how many of Ben Franklin’s bright ideas came from his mouse Amos.  Quite a bit of fun.   Not a classic but certainly an overlooked gem.

9.  The Crossing (2000)-A retelling of Washington’s brilliant crossing of the Delaware on Christmas 1776 and the battle of Trenton.  This film would rank much higher on my list but for Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of Washington as sullen and out of sorts throughout the movie.  Washington had a temper, and he could give vent to it if provoked, although he usually kept it under control, but the peevish Washington portrayed here is simply ahistoric and mars an otherwise good recreation of the turning point of the Revolution.

8.  John Paul Jones (1959)  Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two-volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

7.  The Patriot (2000) Finally, a film which depicts the unsung contribution of Australians to victory in the American Revolution!  Actually not too bad of a film overall.  Heath Ledger is quite good as Gibson’s oldest son who joins the Continentals at the beginning of the war against his father’s wishes.  Jason Isaacs is snarlingly good as the evil Colonel Tavington, very loosely based on Banastre Tarleton, commander of Tarleton’s Raiders during the Southern Campaign.  The film of course allows Gibson to carry on his over-the-top vendetta against all things English.  No, the British did not lock up American civilians in churches and burn them alive.  However, the ferocity of the partisan fighting in the South is well depicted, and Banastre Tarleton  at the Waxhaw Massacre earned a reputation for slaughtering men attempting to surrender.  The final battle of the film is based on the battle of Cowpens where General Daniel Morgan decisively defeated Tarleton.

6.  Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)-A John Ford classic starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.  Through the eyes of a young newlywed couple, Fonda and Colbert, the American Revolution on the frontier is depicted in the strategic Mohawk Valley.  Full of the usual Ford touches of heroism, humor and ordinary life.

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Top Ten Movie Battle Speeches

Tuesday, June 17, AD 2014

Not a bad list, although I would have had Patton at number one and I would not have included The Great Dictator.  Shakespeare of course has set the standard for all pre-battle speeches:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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9 Responses to Top Ten Movie Battle Speeches

  • I definitely agree Patton’s speech should be at or near the top of the list. I’m surprised there are no John Wayne speeches in the list. Frankly, I can’t think of one of the top of my head but it’s hard to imagine a Wayne movie without one. 🙂
    IIRC, Travis’ Alamo speech was pretty good. So was the one in We Were Soldiers. I’m sure there are plenty others that would at least beat out Independence Day and the Great Dictator.

  • Glory, on the beach, before the charge of Fort…Wagner(?).

  • Good pick Jonathan. I have always liked the sequence where the white Union troops yell out “Give ’em hell 54th!”

  • “Frankly, I can’t think of one of the top of my head but it’s hard to imagine a Wayne movie without one.”

    I have always liked these sequences from the Sands of Iwo Jima which captures the spirit of every DI I have ever known:

  • Me too, Donald. And, I find that I cannot imagine any scene in that movie without Horner’s score.

  • I keep meaning to comment on this thread. Shakespeare owns this category, but Branagh doesn’t pull it off. He’s doing Robin Hood, not Henry V. Too impish, too sentimental.

    Mel is great in that one. There’s something so realistic about the dynamics of that speech. And Bill Pullman has never done a better job in a movie. As for 300, technically, the whole movie is a battle speech.

  • Delivering that speech in 1944 must have felt redundant.

  • Most of the extras were British commandoes who would soon be fighting in France for real. On D-Day many of the Brits in the landing craft had read to them portions of the Band of Brothers speech.

Peter O’Toole: Requiescat In Pace

Sunday, December 15, AD 2013

 

 

Perhaps the foremost actor of his time, Peter O’Toole died yesterday.  As indicated by the video clip above from For Greater Glory, O’Toole never lost his skill before the camera.  He catapulted to fame in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 in the eponymous role of T.E. Lawrence.

His portrayal of Lawrence was the archetype for many other O’Toole roles:  intense, a bit of humor, nervous and more than a little mad.

 

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2 Responses to Peter O’Toole: Requiescat In Pace

  • R.I.P. Peter O’Toole. Great actor who aged well before the camera. Those small but critical roles in his last years are amongst my favorites.

  • Thanks for posting this. He is a baptized Catholic and we always hope that even those who profess of loss or lack of faith, will nonetheless receive the mercy and love of our God.

    A prayer from psalm 85:7,8 for him:

    Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
    Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

A Review of Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners

Friday, November 1, AD 2013

 Christians in the Movies

 

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a film buff.  I therefore was pleased when Dr. Peter Dans, a friend of mine and commenter on the blog, brought to my attention his book Christians in the Movies:  A Century of Saints and Sinners.  Peter is a medical doctor and a former professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.  Go here to learn about his professional activities.  He is also a faithful Catholic, a skilled writer and an all around good guy.  However, I am here to review the book and not to review the author!

Published in 2011 by Sheed & Ward, the book is a fairly comprehensive look at how film has portrayed Christians and Christianity from 1905-2008.  The book proceeds chronologically with chapters devoted to films of the silent era, films of the forties, etc.  The chapters open with a general overview of the film period being discussed and then a look at selected films.  The films are not limited to those self-consciously religious, but also those in which religion is a major plot element.  Thus the Oscar winning film Sergeant York (1941) is included because of its examination of the religious conflict that World War I hero Alvin C. York had to resolve before he could in good conscious fight for his country.  Dr. Dans also looks at the impact of the films examined, for example in regard to Sergeant York he mentions that the film was denounced by the isolationist Senator Nye as propaganda to get America into World War II.  Some of the facts that the author discusses were news to me.  For example I have watched the film Song of Bernadette (1943) about Bernadette Soubirous and Lourdes but I was unaware that it was based on a book written by Franz Werfel, a Jew, who made a vow to write a book about Bernadette  when he and wife were hidden from the Gestapo by nuns and families at Lourdes.  In regard to Going My Way, 1944, Dr. Dans reveals that Pope Pius XII was so taken by the film that he granted a private audience to Bing Cosby and credited the film with helping to spur priestly vocations.  I like it when a book gives me information that I was unaware of, and this book accomplished that task.

The book is not limited to films that have become well known.  For example there is a section devoted to one of my favorite westerns, Stars in My Crown, 1950, in which Joel McCrea portrays a Union veteran who becomes a Protestant minister and his travails as he brings religion to a town and fights the Ku Klux Klan.

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14 Responses to A Review of Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners

  • Off topic, for which I apologize.

    Cancer screenings in our household today. Much obliged for any prayers.

  • Prayers on the way Art. My secretary of 28 years had a bout with breast cancer this year. She is doing well now but it was quite a struggle.

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  • Behold Wiki’s rather antiseptic rendering of Werfel’s experience at Lourdes:

    “Werfel left Austria after the Anschluss in 1938 and went to France. After the German invasion and occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of French Jews to the Nazi concentration camps, Werfel had to flee again. With the assistance of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee in Marseille, he and his wife narrowly escaped the Nazi regime and traveled to the United States.[1] While in France, Werfel made a visit to the shrine of the Our Lady of Lourdes at Lourdes, where he found spiritual solace. He also received much help and kindness from the Catholic orders that staffed the shrine.[1] He vowed to write about the experience and, safe in America, he published The Song of Bernadette in 1941.”

    Prayers on the way, Art.

  • Art,

    May the divine assistance be always with you. You are on my list for daily prayers.

    On topic: In honor of All Saints, I will dig up and play our copy of the DVD of “The Boondock Saints.”

  • This was an enjoyable and thoughtful review, and I’m now interested in picking up a copy of the book. My only question is: how could you leave out any discussion of “A Man For All Seasons” (1966)? –I do hope it’s in the book!

  • It was in there. I have had many posts on A Man For All Seasons and Saint Thomas More on this blog and I did not want to get started on a subject that might well have dominated the review!

  • I think you’re being a little hard on “The Last Temptation of Christ.” I know it was savaged by evangelicals because of the idea that Jesus had doubts and was shown as a man with human frailties.

    I also considered it to be a prodigal son kind of story.
    Spoilers ahead.

    What I like about the story is that the most tempting thing the devil could offer was the life that we all have. To be a normal man, with a job and a family and not have the salvation of mankind on your back. More tempting than bread to a starving man and more tempting than all the power in the world.
    Kind of means we are already beating the devil.

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  • Excellent review. I will make a point of getting hold of a copy.

    Regarding “The Last Temptation of Christ”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/14/movies/blasphemy-or-artistry.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/04/movies/l-second-thoughts-on-last-temptation-011488.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/04/movies/l-second-thoughts-on-last-temptation-013788.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/04/movies/l-second-thoughts-on-last-temptation-377488.html

    I am very far from a wholehearted admirer of the late Fr. Greeley but I wholeheartedly agree with him here.

    Regarding “The Passion of the Christ”. I consider any work inspired by “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich” (by Clemens Brentano) to be at least as problematic as “The Last Temptation”.

  • Art Deco.

    You and yours are in my prayers.

  • I remember the controversy over “Last Temptation”. I never saw it in the theater but my husband got me to watch it on video years later. His favorite part of the movie was… the soundtrack by Peter Gabriel!

    (Spoiler alert)

    The most problematic part of the film for me was NOT the one that was the focus of the most public outrage — the dream/vision sequence in which Jesus imagines being married to Mary Magdalene, with all that goes with it, if you know what I mean. That was clearly NOT presented as something Jesus actually did but as a “what if” dangled before Him by the devil.

    No, the most offensive aspect for me was the depiction of Jesus as making crosses for the Romans and as willingly taking part in crucifixions — because this was a depiction of Him as actually committing grave sin in an attempt to get God the Father “off his back,” so to speak. That, and Harvey Keitel portraying Judas with a definite Brooklyn Jewish accent (ok, that wasn’t so much offensive as just laugh out loud hilarious).

    Although the film overall is a tedious waste of time, I do have to give it props for portraying the actual crucifixion in a much more realistic, blood ‘n’ guts manner than most films up to that time had done. However “Passion of the Christ” now far surpasses it in this regard.

  • Elaine Krewer wrote:

    “No, the most offensive aspect for me…”

    Wholeheartedly agree. Although I suppose even this could be spun as an extreme form of “rendering unto Caesar”…? It has been many years since i last watched the film.And yes it is very tedious.

  • “…I do have to give it props for portraying the actual crucifixion in a much more realistic, blood ‘n’ guts manner…”

    The most terrible and beautiful crucifixion scene is in “Ben Hur”. Our Lord hanging dead on the cross is fleetingly illuminated by lightning flashes and then, again fleetingly, reflected in a bloody pool of rainwater. Reminiscent of Dali’s”Christ of Saint John of the Cross”. Stunning…

Sharknado a Ratings Flop

Friday, July 12, AD 2013

10 Responses to Sharknado a Ratings Flop

  • I loved Sharknado. The #1 worst movie I have ever seen is still a #1 movie.

  • Some things are so bad Clay they become good. That is why I watch the Dune (1984) movie with my family each New Year’s Eve:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/01/01/happy-new-year-and-welcome-to-arrakis/

  • Is Sharknado worse than Plan Nine from Outerspace? (My sister’s “favorite” movie to hate.)

  • Jonah in his latest G-file talked about it:

    Last night started fine. My wife and daughter are out of town and so Cosmo the Wonderdog and I settled in for a man’s night. An added bonus: Sharknado was on SyFy! Oh, and I don’t mean the smarmy BBC version that all the hipsters claim to prefer. I mean the American version. You know, the one lacking any redeeming qualities whatsoever.

    Now, if you don’t know what Sharknado is, you’re part of the problem. But to sum up: It’s a “movie” about a freaky weather event (caused by global warming, of course) that results in sharks being swept up by first a hurricane and then a series of tornados, and then the sharks rain down on Los Angeles with a grim determination to eat anyone in their path. Amazingly, that premise is actually wildly more plausible than the execution. The whole movie was like one of those kids’ placemat games where you have to spot “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” To set out to identify the most ridiculous scene, the worst acting, or the dumbest dialogue of the movie is to march along the edge of a Mobius strip of stupidity toward madness.

    Aw man, sounds glorious. It’s things like this which makes one think Mystery Science Theater 3000 needs to be federally subsidized over PBS. We NEED things like that in these dark hours.

    (in other news, Pacific Rim is AWESOME, must see on big screen)

  • I wasted a couple of minutes in the first hour. Then, I wasted eyesight on the last five minutes when that dude used a chain saw to cut his way out of the shark. Last I heard internal combustion machines require oxygen to combust.

    One worse movie that I paid to see nearly 20 years ago (because my young son wanted it) was “Mr. Bean.” I still tell him, “You owe me.”

  • “Sharknado” was one of SyFy’s better portmanteau b-movie titles. I’m sort of hoping for “Yakalanche” to show up next.

  • Next, Discovery and The Weather Channel will team up to present Sharknado Week 🙂

  • Same story as SNAKES ON A PLANE – remember that? Massive hit on the social media, followed by ratings catastrophe that nearly ended Samuel L. Jackson’s career. Evidently, in both cases, the concept was much more fun to talk about than to watch.

  • Sure. It’s a lot more fun to talk about a movie like that than to watch a movie like that.

Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies For The Fourth of July

Monday, July 1, AD 2013

 

Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

John Adams

 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

 

 

This is a repeat from a post last year, with some slight modifications, but I think the logic behind the post still holds true.  As we are embroiled now in a struggle to preserve our religious liberty, I think the Fourth of July is a good time to recall the price paid to establish our liberties.  It is trite to say that freedom is not free, but it is also true.  A people who forget this eternal lesson will not remain free for long.

 

 

A number of feature films and miniseries have been made about the events of the American Revolution.  Here are my top ten choices for Fourth of July viewing:

10.  Ben and Me (1953)- Something for the younger patriots.  Disney put to film the novel of Robert Lawson, Ben and Me, which related how many of Ben Franklin’s bright ideas came from his mouse Amos.  Quite a bit of fun.   Not a classic but certainly an overlooked gem.

9.  The Crossing (2000)-A retelling of Washington’s brilliant crossing of the Delaware on Christmas 1776 and the battle of Trenton.  This film would rank much higher on my list but for Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of Washington as sullen and out of sorts throughout the movie.  Washington had a temper, and he could give vent to it if provoked, although he usually kept it under control, but the peevish Washington portrayed here is simply ahistoric and mars an otherwise good recreation of the turning point of the Revolution.

8.  John Paul Jones (1959)  Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two-volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

7.  The Patriot (2000) Finally, a film which depicts the unsung contribution of Australians to victory in the American Revolution!  Actually not too bad of a film overall.  Heath Ledger is quite good as Gibson’s oldest son who joins the Continentals at the beginning of the war against his father’s wishes.  Jason Isaacs is snarlingly good as the evil Colonel Tavington, very loosely based on Banastre Tarleton, commander of Tarleton’s Raiders during the Southern Campaign.  The film of course allows Gibson to carry on his over-the-top vendetta against all things English.  No, the British did not lock up American civilians in churches and burn them alive.  However, the ferocity of the partisan fighting in the South is well depicted, and Banastre Tarleton  at the Waxhaw Massacre earned a reputation for slaughtering men attempting to surrender.  The final battle of the film is based on the battle of Cowpens where General Daniel Morgan decisively defeated Tarleton.

6.  Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)-A John Ford classic starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.  Through the eyes of a young newlywed couple, Fonda and Colbert, the American Revolution on the frontier is depicted in the strategic Mohawk Valley.  Full of the usual Ford touches of heroism, humor and ordinary life.

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7 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies For The Fourth of July

More Movies For a Memorial Day Weekend

Thursday, May 24, AD 2012

 

Last year I gave my top ten picks for movies for Memorial Day weekend.  Go here to read that post.  Here are more films, in no particular order as to merit, to help remember those who went into harm’s way for us:

 

10.  The Gallant Hours (1960)-James Cagney as Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, video clip at the beginning of this post, the film highlighting Halsey’s brilliant leadership in the fierce naval battles that raged around Guadalcanal in 1942.  The importance of Guadalcanal was put succinctly by Halsey:  “Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours”.

9.   John Paul Jones (1959)-  Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

8.  The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)-This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Stryker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)

Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated.

Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers who survived the battle.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.  Go here to see the ending of the Sands of Iwo Jima and listen to the Marines’ Hymn.

7.  The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.  The film is a fine remembrance of the courage of the soldiers North and South who fought in our war without an enemy.

6.  Red Tails (2012)-  This film was released on Blueray this week, and I have been viewing it and enjoying it immensely.

Blacks have served in all of America’s wars, in spite of the racial hatred that was often directed against them during their service.  In World War II the military was still segregated, and opposition to blacks serving as pilots was intense.   However, the Army Air Corps could not ignore that blacks had passed the tests to qualify as aviation cadets. Trained at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, the 99th Pursuit squadron was activated in 1941 and sent overseas to North Africa in April 1943.

The 99th served in the Sicilian Campaign and in Italy.  In the Spring of 1944 it was joined by the 100th, 301st and 302nd pursuit squadrons and formed the all black 332nd fighter group.  The 332nd flew as escorts for bombers flying bombing raids into Czechoslavakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany.  The 332nd became known as the Red Tails, or Red Tail Angels, for the red paint on the tails of their planes, and for the skill with which they guarded the bombers they escorted.  The men of the 332nd in their time in combat destroyed 261 enemy planes, damaged another 148, and flew a total of 15,533 combat sorties.  They suffered 66 pilots killed.  95 Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism were earned by the pilots, along with other awards for valor, and the 332nd received three President Unit Citations.  A bomber group, the 477th Medium Bomber Group, consisting of the 616th, 617th, 618th and 619th bomber squadrons, was formed from Tuskegee Airmen, but the War ended before the unit was deployed overseas.

Red Tails, is a long overdue salute to these men who had to fight not only the enemy but the racial prejudice of  many of their fellow Americans.  They were a credit to their nation and to their race, the human race.

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6 Responses to More Movies For a Memorial Day Weekend

  • Great movies, great sentiments. I followed your link to last year’s post. I am going try to find a copy of Sergeant York. Thanks!

  • I am not brave enough to watch Faith of Our Fathers. I can’t make it through your clip.
    God Bless American soldiers and everyone they love.

  • Pingback: John Ford, John Wayne and Grierson’s Raid | The American Catholic
  • I regret to have to disagree with you on “Red Tails.” I was quite disappointed with how it turned out.

    If it was a deliberate homage to the war flicks of the 40s, it would have worked better. But it was too cliched and cardboard for my taste–too much telling me and not enough showing me.

    The Good: very, very effective aerial combat scenes.

    The Decent: The acting was good all around — but see below.

    The Bad and Ugly: the script. Oy. Each of the actors was capable of acting, but the script they were given obscured their talents. The characters were cliches right from the old war movies: the tortured leader, the hotshot, the noob, the sage counselor, etc. The Nazi antagonist was straight from Central Casting in his villainy. How did I know he was a Nazi? Why, he had to be–he was pure Evil! Which was fine, but why be so hamfisted about it? I expect they had to cut a proposed puppy-strafing scene as a little too obvious. But it was ready, I’m certain of it.

    Then there was the clunky exposition. Too much telling: show me why the white bomber pilots wanted them back, don’t tack on the extraneous commentary stating the same. And I didn’t get the need for a diversion to the prison camp, nor the the tacked on love story (also cliche’d to hell and back). Give me more backstory on the segregation aspect, or the Tuskegee pilot selection, or more payoff on the white bomber pilots coming to appreciate their escorts work. For the last, honestly, and not in the “as you know, Bob” stage-direction-as-script format.

    Despite my kvetching, I’d give it two stars out of four, and recommend a rent. The true story is amazing, and the destroyer incident was based on a real life combat run. The fliers deserved a salute. I just wish this one wasn’t so flawed.

  • Oh, it won’t win any non-technical academy awards Dale, but I did actually view it as an homage to the World War 2 war flicks made during the War and enjoyed it on that basis. The Nazi pilot from central casting was a comedic hoot! I had a lot of fun watching the film, something I can’t say for many contemporary war flicks which are either full of sturm und drang angst or cartoons with explosions, the gamut from Saving Private Ryan to Rambo Escapes From the Nursing Home.

Coriolanus

Thursday, August 25, AD 2011

Though the great houses love us not, we own, to do them right,

That the great houses, all save one, have borne them well in fight.

Still Caius of Corioli, his triumphs and his wrongs,

His vengeance and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.

Thomas Babbington Macaulay

The above film is being released on December 2, 2011 here in the US, and I am greatly looking forward to it.  Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s plays that is not performed as regularly as other plays of the Bard, which is a shame, because it is a powerful play about love and hate.  Gnaeus Marcius is a Roman patrician who fought in Rome’s wars shortly after the expulsion from Rome of the last of the Tarquin Kings and the foundation of the Roman Republic, conventionally dated at 508 BC.  Our ancient sources in regard to his career are plentiful, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, Appian and Plutarch.  Unfortunately these writers wrote 450-600 years after the time of Coriolanus, and early Roman history is almost impossible to distinguish myth from fact.

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9 Responses to Coriolanus

Top Ten Civil War Movies For The Fourth of July

Wednesday, June 29, AD 2011

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.

 

Shelby Foote

 

Two years ago I compiled a list of the top ten movies for the Fourth of July which focused on films about the Revolutionary War.  Go here to view that post.  Last year I compiled a list of top ten patriotic movies for the Fourth, and that post may be viewed here.  This year we will focus on the top ten Civil War films for the Fourth of July.  I agree with historian Shelby Foote that it is impossible to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War, and it is “therefore fitting and proper” that over the Fourth Civil War movies come to mind.

 

10.   Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)-We begin with a non-Civil War movie with the video clip at the beginning of this post.  In 1908 English Bulter Charles Ruggles, well played by actor Charles Laughton, comes to work in the American West.  It is a hilarious fish out of water comedy, as Ruggles, with his culture and British reserve comes face to face with the Wild West.  While living in America, Ruggles becomes interested in American history, and becomes a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  When he recites the Gettysburg Address, the impact on his listeners is obvious, and reminds us that for Americans the Civil War will never be a matter simply relegated to books or memory, but is something that still has a vast impact on us to this day.

 

 

9.    Friendly Persuasion (1956)-Starring Gary Cooper as Jess Birdwell, the head of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the Civil War, the film is a superb mix of drama and comedy as the Quakers have to determine whether to continue to embrace their pacifist beliefs or to take up arms against General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry during his Great Raid of the North in June-July of 1863.  When the oldest son of the Birdwell family, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in his pre-Psycho days, takes up arms, his mother, played by Dorothy McGuire is aghast, but Cooper, as Jess Birdwell, defends him.  Although he remains true to his pacifist convictions, Birdwell understands that his son is acting in obedience to his conscience, and, as he tells his wife, ” A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.”

 

 

8.    Major Dundee (1965)-Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

 

 

7.    The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid. Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg. John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest. Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech: Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.

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10 Responses to Top Ten Civil War Movies For The Fourth of July

  • Civl War movies on 7/4 is sort of like viewing Vietam movies on 6/6. Most appropriate one is probably Gettysburg, since it was 7/1 to 7/3.

    More appropriate movies may be Te Patriot, Jonny Tremaine, Revolution for a few.

  • I disagree with you Bob in regard to Civil War movies not being appropriate for the Fourth. In my mind the American Revolution is not simply an historical event that played out between 1775-1783. I think it is on-going throughout American history, and the Civil War was a very important event in that continuing Revolution. Both sides in the Civil War quoted the Founding Fathers, especially the Declaration of Independence, and both argued that they were fighting for liberty. At certain points in American history the American people have an argument about first principles and when they do they inevitably look to the Founding for guidance.

  • Bob, I agree 100%. I’ll stick to movies about the American Revolution.

  • Of course one thing often overlooked about the American Revolution is that it was our First Civil War, as the approximatly 20%-30% of the population that was Tory/Loyalist could affirm. A good novel on this overlooked aspect of the Revolution is Oliver Wiswell:

    http://www.amazon.com/Oliver-Wiswell-Kenneth-Lewis-Roberts/dp/0892724684

    Partisan as I am of the Patriots I thought Kenneth Roberts played fast and loose with some of the history of the time in order to portray the Loyalists in a better light, but it was interesting viewing the American Revolution from the defeated American side.

  • I’d put Andersonville in there somewhere, Don.

  • It almost made the cut Joe. I limit these lists to 10, but I could easily have had 15 top notch films on the Civil War in the list.

  • It’s a pity “Birth Of A Nation” wasn’t included in your list. It dealt with the before, during, and after aspects of the War Betwwen The States.

  • I loved Glory when I first saw it but I was disappointed to find that they besmirched the character of the real man who was the flag bearer — who was not a jerk, and who did not actually die! When people want to make a movie about a real event they should make up some of the characters, not give real peoples’ names to characters that then do things the real people did not. Sometimes Hollywood folks don’t seem to understand the difference between real people and fictional characters. It’s still a good movie, but the real story is even more interesting and I haven’t been able to think of it the same way since.

  • Jay has his Fourth of July film recommendations up at Pro Ecclesia:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/

    Jay likes documentaries far more than I do, but he has some first rate ones listed regarding the American Revolution.

  • I agree Gail. A retelling of the exploits of Medal of Honor winner Sergeant William Harvey Carvey would have been a fine addition to Glory.

    “When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harvey_Carney