Monday, March 15, 2010


--Iraqi Oscar, Hajo de Riejger

This way of waging war seems

to me as stupid as it is cruel.

It can only be found in the head

of a coarse and brutal soldier.

Indeed , it is pointless to replace the Turks

only to reproduce what the world rightly found

so hateful in them ... the Turks will always outdo us

because they are Muslim barbarians

--Alexis de Tocqueville (1841)


Ranger walked out of the film "Green Zone" after 15 minutes. Ditto "The Kingdom" and "The Hurt Locker".

All three movies made him physically ill, stomach churning and mind unable to focus
on the jumping, jittery screen. We understand the desire for verisimilitude, but trying to achieve that via the relentless hyper-movement of the camera felt as immature as the efforts of the Blair Witch Project. The subject matter is disconcerting enough, and if the tale is well-presented, the amatuerish jiggly screen is gratuitous; more than gratuitous, a distraction.

A commenter at the
The New York Times review of The Green Zone had it right:

"Chaos A+, clarity D-. There is nothing admirable about the creation of this film unless one is thrilled by ear shattering volume, crashes, helicopters, weaponry noise, throbbing, banging music, the shouts and words of American soldiers that we can't even hear in the din. ... And camera work that repeats the excruciating tempo by its trembling and shaking. Maybe this IS the war movie to end them all unless someone can make a war film where the movie screen explodes and kills a few of the audience. Then of course there would need to be a movie about that ..."(A Search for the Casualty, Truth).

This American effort at
cinéma vérité fails because like so much of what we produce, it is overkill, Supersized. The chaos is an overload to the system, and too much for the average neurological system to bear.

We wear earplugs in all films today, and still the noise levels offend. The result is a kind of freeze reaction in the viewer, the inducement of a mild trauma. This is neither pleasant nor conducive to a thoughtful film experience.

Movies like Black Hawk Down and Band of Brothers were palatable as they gave the viewer a followable story, integrating special effects only as they would enhance the progress of the story. They offered both historical documentation and entertainment. Is it possible that my senses will not accept the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©) as having any entertainment value?

In all three movies, 15 minutes of exposure caused Ranger to lie down and rest, until his mind became calm and habitable again. No more PWOT movies for Ranger.

Movies should be either provocative or a form of escapism, or both -- not an emetic.

[NOTE: The NYT's Ross Douthat wrote a good analysis on the film,
"Hollywood's Political Fictions". --Lisa]

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Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi Jim,
I hate war movies. I always have. Ditto for any movie about lawyers, politicians, royalty, or mafia.
A good movie must have two elements: tits-and-ass and a car chase.


Monday, March 15, 2010 at 4:07:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I feel the level of intercourse here has taken a dip after Ranger's recent personal revelations. I fear he's being a bad influence and he is engendering a locker room mindset. This is not Maxim's ...

I will have a chat with him about this. I feel like Blanche right about now: "Don't hang back with the brutes!"

You DO like more than T & A, don't you, UC?

Monday, March 15, 2010 at 4:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

some filmakers, notably sam pekinpah and sam fuller, realized that the best way to make an antiwar film is to try mightily to show what actually happens.

one of the things i respected about pekinpah was when someone in his movie got themselves shot at close range by a 12 gauge there were chunks flying.

fuller's tracking the time of his normandy landing sequence by showing the wristwatch of a dead soldier flowing with the increasing reddened tide was horrifying.

and frankly, that's what a war movie should be, horrifying. brutal, ugly, and ignoble. i had zero desire to go see "green zone."

i'm tired of matt damon saving the fucking world.

let. it. rot. matt.

Monday, March 15, 2010 at 6:31:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Combat reality does not translate to the silver screen. The reality cannot be conveyed thru the eye of a camera.
The Green Zone was not worth seeing, nor was the Kingdom or Hurt Locker.
They were all garbage.But other than that....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Thanks for helping to keep this site as one of the last bastions of the big boys.
Unfortunately some amongst us do not realize that life is but a joke.
I won't cmt on T & A b/c i'll get waterboarded if i do, but i will make a general cmt.
I love a western, any western is preferable to a cop/military/etc..
Think of Unforgiven/The Spaghettis/Last Train to Yuma/Lonesome Dove/Shane/High Noon/
Josi Wales/Wild Bill.
For example i can't fanthom why Bridges got a Oscar for a depiction of a drunk ass hole ,but didn't get it for portraying a violent ,drunk ass hole in Wild Bill.He was great as Hickok.I reckon it was b/c there was no redemption for a gunfighter, but there is for a guitar picker.
This bodes well for Minstral Boy.
A little T & A is always appreciated off screen.I'll even do a car chase to pursue same.
Let's keep it real.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

To all,
What makes a movie great is panorama-think Lawrence of Arabia,
Zhivago,Jeremiah Johnson, Dances with Wolves.
These all depict man as a Jack London type part of a bigger natural scene. And this translates and touches an elemental part of our human experience.
War movies can't do this very well, and fall on their faces when they try. Pvt. Ryan was close but-no cigar.
It's the panorama that gets me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa..you go grrrl....

I understand about making war movies. Having spent almost three years now on this documentary about Vietnam reminding me daily that folks don't want to see a real war movie--even if one were possible to make.
Like going to the movie house now and among the previews...uh oh ..age showing.."trailers" is a hyper realized million dollar recruitment ad for the Marines.With a pompous Wagnerian soundtrack, jumpcuts from every conceivable angle compress the glories of boot camp into a few minutes ending in that saber of truth shining in the white gloved hand of one of the few good men.
All glory.
Nary one of my marine VietVet friends ever had a single--not one--positive thing to say about boot camp, nor a good thing to say about their tour in Vietnam. But that was real, not Tee Vee, or a movie.
All glory, those ads, no gore.

Now I thought, Jim, the good thing about "Black Hawk Down" was the bloody hamburger meat strewn throughput the chopper after the crash. We don't get much of that reality. As MB reminds us, Peckinpah showed it, but he was crazy. The two redeeming graces for Pvt Ryan was the amount of blood everywhere and the sound of the rounds hitting a body.
The trouble with a real war movie--were it possible--is the lack of smell. I used to tell kids who'd ask about "good war movies" that to get close, they'd have to hang some dead meat in the theater for the movie's run. That'd be a start.

Last time I was asked to do a Vietnam Vet Presentation to a group of college students, I made a slide show starting with a series of recruitment ads and jumping straightaway to all blood and gore and body parts et al from the war.
Yep, ended in a glorious sunset at Arlington.
All to Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" which is about 7:
20 long.
That's about all they could take.
There were NO questions or comments following.

You're right, combat reality does not relate to the silver screen or the cathode ray tube or the LCD.
That's why there'll be no real combat movie.

Pretty good war movie?: MOPIC Charlie 84.
Waltz with Bashir.

That's today's movie review


Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 3:11:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I liked Gardens of Stone and In Country,both of which i considered to be war movies.
But nobody else seemed to share my view.
Not many .

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 3:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

there were a lot of things that i liked a lot about "gardens of stone." the drive of the john cusak character to get himself into the fight (if there's a fight going on and you are a soldier where the fuck else are you going to be?), the tired wisdom of the james caan character, of course, james earl jones' impeccable sergeant major, all of that was wonderfully drawn and beautifully portrayed.

one thing about war movies that bugs the living fuck out of me is when they are burying a soldier and when the volleys are fired everybody does this little flinch thing.

good fucking grief. do you think that those guys haven't heard gunfire before? senior NCO's don't flinch or quail at gunfire when it's a surprise to them.

one of the perfect pictures i have from my times doing military funerals was seeing my friend the sergeant major in full kit at the graveside of a young man from phoenix that he had known. big, tall, impressive soldier standing at perfect attention. face impassive, with tears streaming down. no wiping, no sniffles, no sobbing.

and. no. goddamned. flinch.

that man's a soldier to the core of his spine.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 4:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avatar the best anti war movie every made. The best anti drug film is Super Fly.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you, Deryle. I'll hold up my end ...

Your documentary sounds devastating. It will never be a movie trailer.

Yes to "Waltz with Bashir"; yes to "Beaufort" -- both Israeli filmmakers. They've had enough experience.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB and Avedis, Deryle,
I've been thinking re;war movies and the following came thru to me.
The problem is that the action can be easily duplicated , but this isn't the reality, the reality is the reactions in the heads of the participants, and this can't be shown/reproduced.
All we see are the physical things, which is only a small bit of the entirety.
Example-How does one show the fear of doing a combat assault on a hot LZ, or even something as basic as fire and movement in the face of the enemy.These are so basic that they must be done ,and we did them, but later pay the price.
The willingness to kill doesn't make one a soldier ,BUT RATHER the willingness to die.
This is the great divide between them and us and a movie can't translate this reality, since most directors don't have a clue.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 10:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Rick said...

And I've read that the Army is using Hurt Locker as a recruiting tool.

Have you seen this about the new basic training?


Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 10:30:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

The one movie I had to walk out of because it caused a traumatic experience was Harlan County, USA. And I was able to stand over 1/2 of it before the rage was too much to continue watching. When a film makes you want to go out and kill somebody(other then the director) it's definitely time to leave.

RE: Other comments: MB - All Quiet on the Western front didn't have to include the heavy gore to make it an exceptional anti-war movie. But I do agree with what you're saying. Reality is a good eye-opener to reality.
Ranger - Unforgiven is definitely my favorite Western. I never saw In Country but the book was great.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 1:05:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

Well I think the Germans do a far better job of making War Movies than most... As anyone who has seen Das Boot and Stalingrad can attest to...Must have something to do with losing I think...It must cause some folks to be more honest with their fellow citizens about the true nature of war...Another one of my faves is the Killing Fields one of the best Vietnam Anti-War War films ever...

We're a mature empire now and every once in while some of our artists try comfort us with a little War Propaganda highlighting a homage to good ol' Rudyard as we now bear the "White Mans Burden"... showing that though we may bear guns as we talk of democracy and self rule We are Americans and gosh darn it... We're Fucking Cool Yo! And if we forget how cool we are... well... we can thank Tom Hanks and Steve Spielberg for showing us that sometimes swell people like us had to fight evil in the past... and we can feel soooo much better about ourselves if we pretend we are not doing anything different than what Granddad had to do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 1:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

Ooops...I forgot...What is it about the word hill...I wonder if the leaders of "Hamburger Hill" had watched "Pork Chop Hill" before they ordered the 101st to play King of the Hill with guns if Hamburger Hill might have been avoided...

I like those two films as well by the way. At least they were honest about the subject matter

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 1:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


While I agree with most of what you say, I have a real problem with the "compassionate German" depiction in Das Boot. Not believable.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 2:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ranger Hazen,
You forgot THE BRIDGE.
If you like the Tueton thing then read Heinrich Boll.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 3:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

The book was great , but you should see the movie.
Bruce Willis ACTUALLY ACTED in it.
I mean that he didn't play himself as he always does.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 3:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I read the link, and it's bullshit.If you can't run 5 miles then you can't run across the street and visa-versa.It's all about endurance and over all fitness.
What the bottom line is-this is just play war with 4 hour patrols as the rule.
A chain is as strong as the weakest link and that's how we train now. The weakest link is accepted as the standard.Not good.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 3:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

"While I agree with most of what you say, I have a real problem with the "compassionate German" depiction in Das Boot. Not believable."

??? Having just saw the directors cut a few months back as far as I can tell the Germans depicted in the film were no more or less human than we were/are.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 3:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Right after WW2 there were a couple of flicks that got to the business of what happens to you when you come back from somewhere where everything is tying to kill you and you still have to get up and go to work. "The Best Years of Our Lives". "Key Largo". Agree with MB that Sam Fuller got it.

One of my favorite "war movies" is Three Kings because of the way it shows how war makes the craziest shit seem perfectly normal and the normal shit insane. It's not really a war movie but a movie about what war - and the idea of war - does to people.

Another interesting flick is something called "The Beast", (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_of_War) about Soviet tankers lost in Afghanistan. Wierd, freaky little movie, but, again, it manages the combination of boring and whack that makes war such a fun sport for the spectators and such a drag for the participants...

Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 1:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I liked 3 Kings only as fantasy entertainment.It was just a tad bit too flip, AND, i just can't swallow Clooney as a SF type.He played the same character in the The Peacekeepers.Didn't wash.
Every soldier has the fantasy of finding the secret stash.
The post ww2 movies didn't mention that after pulling their nuts up tight to their bodies AND returning to work, they were later called back to fight in the Korean War, in which they got killed.
I'm in a happy mode today, so ignore my optimism.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 9:26:00 AM GMT-5  

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