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Cinema-Scene.com
Volume 5, Number 08

This Week's Reviews:  Gods and Generals.

This Week's Omissions:  Dark Blue, The Life of David Gale, Tully, The Way Home.

Repertory Review:  Air Force.

Capsule Reviews:  Deliver Us from Eva, Old School.


Director:
Ronald F. Maxwell

Starring:
Stephen Lang
Jeff Daniels
Robert Duvall
C. Thomas Howell
Kevin Conway
Patrick Gorman
Brian Mallon
Matt Lindquist

Release: 21 Feb. 03
IMDb

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Gods and Generals

BY: DAVID PERRY

In this week's issue of retroactive propaganda, we proudly present a transcript of Ronald F. Maxwell's Gods and Generals:

    (Seal of approval signed by Jefferson Davis)
    (Title: "Gods and Generals: Gen. Jackson and the Southern Cause")
Announcer: For nearly a year, this country has seen some of the greatest atrocities ever committed. Why, you may ask?
    (Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as president)
Announcer: Our strong, faithful men of the Confederate Army are working to ensure that you will no longer have to live under the reign of King Lincoln and his attempt to end the rights of free men.
    (Images of southern men working as merchants, farmers, etc.)
Announcer: Look at the greatness of Thomas Jackson. "Stonewall" to his friends and enemies. At the Battle of Bull Run he stood like a Stonewall while the Yankees attempted to break his strong southern resolve.
    (Jackson stands in the middle of a battlefield as his men valiantly prepare to fight)
Announcer: He loves his men.
    (Jackson walks among his men)
Announcer: He loves his family.
    (Jackson holds his new son with his wife at his side)
Announcer: He loves kids.
    (Jackson plays with a little girl)
Announcer: He loves his state.
    (Jackson stands tall beside the Virginia flag)
Announcer: He will take the Confederate forces into battle and ensure a quick and decisive victory for all freedom loving southerners.
    (Jackson sits with Robert E. Lee)
Announcer: Along with General Lee, Stonewall Jackson is the greatest secret plan our fine army has. The two have worked together to find a way that will end any chance of a Yankee victory. These two Virginians have studied together and bled together.
    (Images of dead soldiers at Bull Run)
Announcer: But they are not the only ones who have bled for their land in this war. The Yankee forces have made it impossible for the south to have freedom of its own land. When victory arrives, every man lost in this war will have fought to make another thousand men free.
    (Jackson speaks to his black cook)
Announcer: Even the Negroes trust him. Why, even they know that Stonewall Jackson is fighting for the rights of all southerners to have their freedom from a despotic government.
    (Two Union soldiers at camp)
Union Soldier: No one understands why we are fighting for the darkies.
    (Jackson stands proudly with his cook)
Announcer: Jackson will be happy to make the south free for all men. If a union soldier sees his fight as merely one of Negro liberty, they need only look at the many Negro men and women who have come together in the fight to stop northerners from controlling the land of the Negro's owners.
    (A slave stand at the door of her master's home, speaking to Union soldiers)
Slave: This is my home.
    (An old man at the feet of General Lee)
Old Man: Where's my house, general? I can't find it.
Announcer: The yankees will not stop until they control all of the south. The men and women of the south should be proud to have an army fighting for them with the likes of General Lee and General Jackson.
    (Jackson sits with Robert E. Lee)
Announcer: No more homes will be burned down, no more families will be torn apart, when southerners are free to choose their own destiny in the new Confederate States of America.
    (Jackson and his men march on)
Announcer: Next stop: Chancellorsville. Good luck, men. Our freedom is in your hands.
    (Title: "The End")


2003, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 21 February 2003



Director:
Howard Hawks

Starring:
John Ridgely
John Garfield
Harry Carey
James Brown
Gig Young
Arthur Kennedy
Charles Drake
George Tobias
Robert Wood

Release: 4 Feb. 43
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Air Force

BY: DAVID PERRY

[NOTE: Since this is more an analysis than a review of Air Force, major plot points including the end are given away.  It is recommended that it only be read after watching the film.]

In one of film's most heralded -- and blatant -- uses of propaganda during World War II, Howard Hawks' Air Force (1943) attempts to convince American viewers (as well as any other sympathetic group who might watch the film) of the elements of a strong army. Though the film never calls for recruits like Hawk's previous film, Sergeant York (1941), Air Force does emphasize the importance of being a team player. As Hawk's film makes clear, a successful war abroad cannot be won without collective responsibilities. As viewers watched the film in 1943, they were meant to see the altruism in the America war machine and, hopefully, find a way to sacrifice their own individualism in the name of their all-American community.

Most of the characters in Air Force come as direct examples of team players. At the heart of the group is Captain Mike Quincannon (Ridgely), the pilot of the Mary Ann. While he cherishes the lives of his men -- and dies trying to save them -- his true devotion is to the completion of his order: Quincannon and his men are to ensure that the Japanese cannot use their plane against American soldiers. When the plane takes off, Hawks includes a montage of each crew member checking in with Quincannon to show that they are ready and, more importantly, that they are integral to the operations within the Mary Ann. "It takes all of us to make this ship function," Quincannon says. After being heralded by superiors for making it through 3 days of nonstop flying, Quincannon states that the effort was much more on the shoulders of his crew than solely on him.

There are only two characters who come in direct opposition with the collectivism found within the Mary Ann. First is Sergeant Joe Winocki (Garfield), who proudly reminds the rest of the group that he has only three months left of service. While they are happy for their time fighting for the sanctity of their nation, Winocki remains a voice of dissent. He has no real connection to the fraternal order he is now stuck in -- blaming Quincannon for his failure to become a pilot, Winocki seems more interested in finishing his army stint than he is in making the slightest relationship with the rest of the crew. Quincannon's worry over this dissident even brings his paternal element out (Hawks has already established Quincannon's picture perfect family in San Francisco) by giving words of advice to Winocki in a heart-to-heart way: "You played football, Winocki, you know how one man can gum up the whole works."

Hawks, however, does not let Winocki remain the rebellious voice throughout. When caught in the throes of real warfare after seeing the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Winocki becomes just as integral a member of the group as anyone else on the plane. Before long, his disagreeing time is completely forgotten. Earlier, as the rest of the crew sat anxious over what was wrong with Hickham Air Base's radio, Winocki was laughing; by the end, though, he is saving the Mary Ann and Quincannon from destruction. Even when siding with the well being of his crew, Winocki is still prone to the occasional fit of individualism, as is the case when he turns during an escape to shoot at oncoming Japanese soldiers, finally stopped after being punched by Sergeant Robby White (Carey). Whether he is selflessly hiding in a bombshell to shoot at enemy planes or simply taking the blame for another crewman's mistake, Winocki has finally proven himself as a team player.

The other character outside of the initial group is Lieutenant Tex Rader (Brown), a pursuit pilot traveling to the front on the Mary Ann. Unlike Winocki, though, Rader isn't angry in his dismissal of the fighting in a huge bomber, but instead more genial. Rader isn't necessarily disdainful over the way the Mary Ann crew works together, but simply prefers the sole responsibility of being a solo pilot. As he tells the rest of the crew, "I just don't want to fight in any airplane that more than one man can ride in. I don't want to be responsible for 8 to 10 other guys, or depend on them either."

He is the butt of constant jokes from the crew because they see him as over-confident and unwilling to join in on their little family, even when they are fighting a similar battle in the air. In a pivotal action sequence, as Hawks cuts from each of the men in the Mary Ann doing their job to stop a Japanese attack, Rader is the only person onboard who is never seen. Of course, he too comes to see the attributes of the team in the climactic battle of the crippled Mary Ann. He has learned that he can depend on everyone else.

In the final showdown, Hawks makes it clear that the military successes of the U.S. Army Air Force in the days after Pearl Harbor were not based on the prowess of the pursuit pilots like Rader, however, but instead through the initiative of many men working together. Earlier, the single bomber plane, with the communal work of its crew, defeats a barrage of solo-piloted Japanese planes; now, the bomber pilots serve as informants for the pursuit planes, helping to bring the rest of the Australia-based forces into an air attack that would cripple the Japanese fleet before they make it to their target. Not only is there a constant flow of information between the Mary Ann and the solo pilots, but also a collection of shots showing the men on the ground helping to get the information from one base to another. Hawks is essentially showing that the war could not be won without everyone pitching in. He almost creates the impression that America could have won World War II in a matter of weeks if they only had a few more troops.

By pushing the ideals of group over individual, Hawks creates some detachment to emotional scenes. When White learns that his son is dead, the time of mourning is cut short by his need to return to the crew and ensure the safety of the Mary Ann. The most grief found in the film is for Quincannon, but it similarly doesn't take terribly long for the crew to diligently get back to work under the command of a new leader. While they adored Quincannon as a man, their real responsibility is to the U.S. Army. Victorious in this battle and ready for their next, they all convene to ride alongside a dozen other planes.

All this makes sense considering the propagandist intents of the film. Air Force -- almost to a fault -- constantly presses its agenda, hoping to create an upsurge in nationalism and community work. The central idea is that these men are all integral to the success of the American war effort. Their success in carrying out the impromptu American plan in the Pacific Ocean after Pearl Harbor is because each man worked together, beyond their social, economic, and geographic differences to build a mighty fleet in a single bomber.

2003, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 21 February 2003



 

Deliver Us from Eva

Deliver Us from Eva, complete with its tinkering of The Taming of the Shrew, is enjoyable in a forgettable way through much of its length. But then something goes terribly wrong - as if director Gary Hardwick hadn't already filled the screen with idiotic flourishes, the screenwriters have the characters play a trick on the film's young lovers that should amount to prison time. Instead of at least letting the film deal with this trick sensibly, the jokesters get the girls. Huh?

Director:
Gary Hardwick

Starring:
Gabrielle Union
LL Cool J
Duane Martin
Mel Jackson
Dartanyan Edmonds

Release: 7 Feb. 03
IMDb

2003, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 21 February 2003
Old School

Why is it that every year must have another poor attempt at recreating National Lampoon's Animal House? Van Wilder, Sorority Boys, PCU, etc. Does the madness ever end? Can I just sit back, relax, and know that a good actor like Luke Wilson will never again be wasted on a piece of dribble that stands as little more than lowbrow humor objectifying women and turning college into a Mecca of debauchery? I ask these questions, and yet no answers. Maybe I've just become an old killjoy.

Director:
Todd Phillips

Starring:
Luke Wilson
Will Ferrell
Vince Vaughn
Ellen Pompeo
Jeremy Piven

Release: 21 Feb. 03
IMDb

2003, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 21 February 2003



Reviews by:
David Perry
2003, Cinema-Scene.com

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