Hollywood Polishes The Cannonball

Some stories shouldn’t need Hollywood to go all, well, Hollywood on them to make them riveting utterly compelling.

But they do it anyway. And it’s almost always a massive drag.

It’s not a new phenomenon; The Battle of the Bulge was utterly atrocious, seemingly feeling the need to dumb World War 2 down to a cowboys ‘n indians movie – for an audience that had in huge numbers actually been there. Even as a kid, the Hollywoodisms (“They’re sending tanks! Send the artillery and infantry to the rear!”) annoyed me to no end.

The effect wasn’t always catastrophic: the Great Escape didn’t completely bastardize the subject, the greatest POW camp break in history – although adding Americans to the cast was an audience-grabbing anachronism (all Americans had been sent to different camps shortly before the escape’s famous tunnels were started).

But Hollywood’s wall of shame exerts a powerful vortex.

Stories that don’t need the Hollywood treatment get it anyway. 12 Strong – the dramatization of the events of the fall of 2001, where 85 Green Berets – count ’em, 85 – led an insurgency that drove the Taliban from the battlefield. What “improvement” does a story like that need? Well, it got little from the movie – which was watchable, but traded CGI for story all too often.

And the Tuskeegee Airmen’s story needs not even a whiff of gussying up; is there a bigger underdog war movie of all time? (There could be – if Hollywood ever produces Brothers in Arms, the story of an all-black tank battalion that became one of Patton’s best, written by none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). But gussying up it got, with Red Tails, a George Lucas labor of love that substituted P51 Mustangs for X-wings, Germans for Stormtroopers, and white bigots for Emperor Palpatine.

Now, when I saw that there was a remake of Midway in the works, I thought “at last, someone can improve on the turgid but accurate-ish 1976 historical epic. Then I saw the most dreaded six words in movies: “From the maker of Independence Day” (a movie, it needs to be said, that I detest with a cordial passion) and gave up all hope. Roland Emmerich would seem to have turned the all-in total-stakes back-against-the-wall fight by the battered American fleet against an undefeated Japanese Navy that outnumbered it by a prohibitive margin and had aims on closing the trap around Hawaii into a video game – and made an even worse movie than the 1976 version.

Worse still? If there’s a story in American history that’s begging to just be told, it’s Harriet Tubman. Her story is both pretty universally known and completely misunderstood; a gun-toting freedom fighter who defied the entire institution of slavery while running runaways to the North (or, more often, Canada) and returned to run a huge, effective spy ring during the Civil War? One hardly needs a screenplay.

But a screenplay we get – and it’s abominanble:

Set in 1849 Maryland, full of danger, rescues, superstition, frivolous gunplay, and pop-politics, Harriet demonstrates the current exploitation of African-American history, through historical revision, simply to sell tickets while aggravating political identity, tribal separation, and perpetual grievance — the same way that politicians manipulate voters.
Ever since Harvey Weinstein confirmed Hollywood’s Obama Effect, film culture has sought various ways of appeasing racial anxiety through movies about black victimization and white guilt. It’s the new diversity, as one of Harriet’s progressives summarizes: “Civil war is our only hope.”
…The difference in approach tells everything about the modern state of Hollywood race consciousness. Dismissing Demme and Morrison’s perception of slavery’s aftermath (its internalized stress and ongoing need for explanation, relief, and catharsis), Harriet looks at Tubman on a first-name basis, as if to standardize her travails into a Slavery Land thrill ride: She suffers spells after a head wound that causes hallucinations (or prophecies) that may indicate either madness or saintliness; she sacrifices her love life to crusading zeal (the film’s only complex moment occurs when her lover laments, “I’d a died for you. If you’d a let me”); and she frequently sings out her discontent in several message-driven musical interludes: “Sorry I have to leave” and “Lord, why you let me live?”

Even NPR took a pass on it.

Why, it’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t trust moviegoers to make the right conclusions.

15 thoughts on “Hollywood Polishes The Cannonball

  1. Hollywood is creatively bankrupt, hence the plethora of reboots and remakes that seldom if ever rise to the level of the storytelling in the original. They’ve also been captured by big tech (see Marvel Universe for examples). They are deeply committed progressives and like all their ilk they have profoundly deficient imaginations, which is why they have to feed on the intellectual carrion on their past endeavors for material. They are progressives and therefore incapable of original, creative, imaginative, story’s.

  2. I agree 100%, Mitch.

    My pet peeve is directed at the first moron that added the bogus cry of “incoming” to every war movie and/or documentary, whenever “enemy” artillery shells start flying. As an example, I was watching a multi part series “Blood and Fury: America’s Civil War” on the American Heroes Channel. On one episode, the Battle of Nashville is highlighted. The contribution of the US Colored Troops was front and center. As they are marching toward the Confederate line, they start firing cannons. One of the troops yells incoming.

    Now, maybe, but from what WWII and Korean War vets that I have asked, if anyone ever yelled that, they don’t remember it. In fact, I don’t think it was used in Vietnam. At least, no one that I know, ever heard it.

  3. I saw the 1976 version of Midway a few weeks ago. It seemed to have every actor in the world in it, including a young Tom Sellick.
    The movie’s version of Midway Atoll had mountains on it. The real Midway is a few acres of coral and sand, mostly covered by a concrete airstrip.

  4. Boss – I’ve been mortored before, and there were calls of incoming. I’d say it boils down to years of training prior. Same with grenade, frag out, and mag changes – trained people usually say it.

    Not to defend Hollywood, but they have gotten things right. Generation Kill was spot on. They had actual unit members in the cast. The cigarette factory they based at is spot on (I was there in 07). But, exception sometimes prove the rule

  5. I’ve simply assumed that “Incoming” was a safe, G-rated word that could be substituted for the R-rated words that would usually accompany being on the receiving end of an artillery barrage.

  6. I have an idea for Hollywood. A rich guy sees all his rich friends promoting liberal causes to signal their virtue to each other, while ignoring real problems. He sets up The Foundation For Peace and Justice, employs a few dozen warriors, and starts making a difference in the world.

    First episode, he retrofits an obsolete oil tanker as a Q-Ship and his crew sails it down the Gulf of Aden, sinking ever pirate that accosts them. Second episode, he sends undercover teams into Nigeria to take down the internet links used by email scammers. Third episode, he recruits computer programmers to hack phone records to find telemarketers, then hit squads burn their workplaces to the ground. Fourth episode, his crews start taking down gang leaders in inner cities and seizing their guns and drugs to dump on the front steps of the police station.

    The key is to make viewers cheer the violence directed against people who normally are untouchable, not phony white supremacists or evil corporations, the usual leftist tropes.

    I’m just waiting for the royalty checks to start rolling in.

  7. I quit watching war movies after Hurt Locker. While Hollywood seemed to tone down the “US Soldiers are Dangerous Psychotics” vibe a bit during Obama’s tenure, it was really cranked to 11 when Bush was President. It’s easier to ignore Hollywood’s bias when their over the top stereotypes are fictional characters from fictional countries/species that are wearing fictional uniforms/fashions.

  8. She may have passed along her knowledge of Southern defenses she saw before the war started, but there is no proof Tubman ran a spy ring during the war of Northern aggression.

    It’s possible that the Union Army deliberately left her out of the narrative (they hated Negroes far more than any Southern slave holder ever did). But it’s just as likely this is revisionist history by leftists still using Negroes for their own purposes.

  9. I saw Midway Thursday night. From my (very) limited knowledge of the battle I thought they 100% nailed it and the battle scenes are second to only Saving Private Ryan in my opinion. But to see that they dropped the ball on the biography of Harriet Tubman is beyond stunning. Mainly because its just a story that needs to be told as is.

  10. Swiftee, dont forget the Lincoln himself wasnt exactly the most pro-integration person either. He had the beginnings of a plan to send them all back to Africa.

  11. POD…

    “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality.

    And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    ~Abe Lincoln
    18 September 1858

  12. Almost no one (myself included until about 5 years ago) would believe that someone so reverd by history as the emancipator of slaves could write such a thing. Thats right up there with the “I’ll have those n***** voting Democrat for the next 200 years” after LBJ signed the Civil rights Act in 1964.

  13. Regarding “incoming”, my impression is that whether it was the word of choice or not, it makes no sense whatsoever if the rounds being fired are supersonic. So it makes sense for mortar fire, but not for howitzers, even those of the Civil War era, whose muzzle velocity generally exceeded the speed of sound, 343m/s. (about 1150’/s) So I’m guessing you’d hear it towards the end of a charge as troops get under the fort’s walls, or otherwise in close quarters fighting, but not at the beginning of a charge when the mortars would be out of range.

  14. Lincoln was a man of his times. I don’t attempt to measure historical figures against the scale of the current year. Leftists have that to themselves.

  15. Thanks for the reminder Swiftee. Its like people (ie Leftists) complaining that initially only white, land owning men could vote. Nevermind that was probably the most important thing to happen to humanity since the Magna Carta or Martin Luthers 95 theses; its obviously racist and sexist because current year!

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