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Old 09-22-2007, 04:47 PM   #1
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The War

I'm looking forward to it. Thoughts?

http://www.pbs.org/
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Old 09-23-2007, 07:43 PM   #2
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starts in 10 minutes!
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:28 AM   #3
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It was instense. I can't wait to see the rest.
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Old 09-25-2007, 08:48 PM   #4
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am watchign it right now, is it bad to say that i'm jus tnot that impressed with Burns as a filmmaker? what makes this different than any other WW2 film, other than it's scope?

it's certainly worthy, i just don't know why Burns is the Documentarian Laurete of the US.
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Old 09-25-2007, 08:57 PM   #5
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Irvine,

Have you seen Baseball or the Civil War?
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Old 09-25-2007, 09:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
am watchign it right now, is it bad to say that i'm jus tnot that impressed with Burns as a filmmaker? what makes this different than any other WW2 film, other than it's scope?

This does not impress me that much either


However, I did find The Civil War, top notch
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Old 09-25-2007, 09:25 PM   #7
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I hated how Baseball was so focused on the Yankees and Billy Crystal.
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Old 09-25-2007, 10:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by MadelynIris
Irvine,

Have you seen Baseball or the Civil War?


i've seen the Civil War, not baseball.

the research is impressive as is the scope, but it's just more of the same -- interviews and B-roll.

it's an amazing subject, and the amount of time he's allowed to spend on each of them enables him to focus on detail that is the dream of most filmmakers (i get 22 minutes, he gets, what, a week? two weeks?)

i just think there are better filmmakers out there who could do more given the resources they give Burns.

it's an impressive historical document, no question, so i'm really just nitpicking. i just wish the filmmaking chops were up to the subject (and resources) at hand.

however, i do admire that he does avoid the overly maudlin.

as a whole, though, it really depressed me. what an awful experience it is, war. just awful. all you try to do is survive. let's hope there's never another one anywhere.
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Old 09-25-2007, 10:49 PM   #9
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Originally posted by deep


This does not impress me that much either


However, I did find The Civil War, top notch
I consider "Civil War" to be the best war documentary ever.
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Old 09-26-2007, 12:46 AM   #10
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I thought the 1st and 3rd episodes were pretty damn good.
The 2nd one was even slower than a normal Burns segment.

Yeah, there isn't a lot much left to be said on the subject of WW2.
What I like is the fact that it doesn't jump all over the fucking place and treats the different theatres simaultaneously as well as tells the homefront stories chronologically. Nothing bugs me more than when some film is treated as to only entertain and is intellectually dishonest in that it doesn't follow correct timelines or even storylines.

I also like the fact that something like Tunisia, Guadalcanal or Anzio is given proper time and not quickly glazed over in the interest of time or lulling the viewer. That doens't make Ken Burns some magician, it just means he got the time he needed and appears to be using it pretty well.

If he can shine a somewhat different light onto D-Day, then I'd be impressed. There aren't many events that have been covered more. Maybe Pearl Harbor and I have to say Burns did pretty well in telling the story of PH and not retreading the same 'ol thing and then moving on. I'm no film scholar or anything but it seems to be pretty good so far.
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Old 09-27-2007, 05:20 AM   #11
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I think the key difference is that Burns ditched his brother, Ric Burns, from his production team many yrs ago. The differences between the two are substantial. After "The West" (Ken's doc on the Lewis and Clark expedition, from '98, I think,) which was his first feature without Ric as co-producer,-the political and artistic differences between thw two became startlingly apparent.

Ken, shockingly enough, turns out to be more of a gung-ho, rah-rah type. Ric is much more like Martin Scorcese, less "patriotic" and more somber. His work has a more doleful tone, and frequently questions "the so-called American dream" and the underlying sunny suppositions of the modern American mythos.

It has become apparent that the somber, even dark, tone of "The Civil War", is all Ric. For example: If you recall, after Episode 3 of The Civil War, beginning in the 2nd 1862 Episode, I think, at the beginning of each Episode there was David McCullough reciting a bunch of statistics and trivia facts about what was happening in other countries at the time. The one that sticks in my mind was one of the ones for 1864: McCullough goes on and on about several inventions that debuted in the spring of that year, concluding with "In 1864 Paris held a special exhibition of paintings by Cezanne, Whistler, and Monet, in a special exhibition for outcasts." This while the camera panned over endless rows of gravestones in some forgotten cemetery. As you get further on into the series, and hear more of this stuff, the unspoken implication slowly dawns on you: that not only was the war a catastrophe but a colossal waste--of time, of potential. In other words: while everyone else around the world was moving forward with Progress, we were still stuck in this medevial hellhole, slaughtering each other. A fine irony for a nation that , at the time, saw itself as "the last, best hope of Earth", much as it does today. Ken and Ric didn't beat you over the head with this message; instead, in the tradition of the greatest art, they leave it to slowly creep up on you so it is all the more powerful and lasting. One reviewer has said that America right now could benefit more with a heavily hyped, prime-time re-airing of The Civil War, because it is a more accurate reflection on who we are right now and what our relationship is to the world. When you think about the appalling lack of the vision out there, about such things as our incredible failure to, for example, seize the opportunity to lead the world on inventing and implementing new technology to deal with the effects of climate change, to lead the way in such aspects as these, when the opportunity is so glaringly obvious, then it seems indeed a parallel tragedy of equal proportions. And, as in the Civil War, the tragedy was caused not by invaders but by the perfidy of our own. I refer of course not to 9/11 here, but our response to it...all that our general direction since implies...for our past, for our future.

The other quote that haunted me over one of these asides was one from a journalist from 1862 who wrote, "Someday the machines that man has invented shall prove to be beyond his power or control, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world." Of course a statement like that bridges past and present in a way no picture ever could. This, by the way, was the prelude to a segment on Civil War weapons, in which Lincoln doesn't come across looking so rosy. Such subtlety is so far lacking from The War. I can't wait for the 1945 Japanese war segment.

Such sparkling little gems of intuition and revelation, which jump out at you when you first hear them and haunt you for years to come, seem to me to be startlingly missing (so far) from "The War."

The Andersonville chapter.....the story of Mathew Brady.....such quotes as, "Are they stupid, or wiser than we are?" as regards the lack of a slave uprising in the South during the war....I'm sure this was all Ric. With him on board, the letters to and from home, for example, were ever-present but not slick and over-dramatized, and surely (with the exception of the Sullivan Ballou letter) never sentimentalized. Well, the SB letter.....that dramatized itself (SOB!!!!!!!! How many people learned to recite that by heart? I did. You know, somebody has actually written a BOOK about that letter....a dang good book too. SB wasn't just a grunt......there's actually quite a story behind him. A fascinating character. Though sadly no pic of Sarah seems to exist. Perhaps that's as it should be though. )

If anyone wants a true taste of the tone, style and haunting quality of Ric Burns's work, I suggest you buy his 1995 documentary "The Way West" (not to be confused with "The West" by Ken. I think one inspired the other. "The Way West" examines the roughly 25-yr period between the California Gold Rush and the Indian Wars of the 1870's, though it concludes with the "Ghost Dancing" wars of the 1890's. It is just as good as The Civil War, and shorter (maybe 8 hrs long, in 4 parts.) A Newsweek review called it "A hypnotic masterpiece." It really is addictive--as the review said, the more you watch, the more you want to watch. The music is just as haunting. The individual stories he chooses are just as spellbinding, and his storytelling skills are impeccable. It just sucks you in. Highlights of this are the segment on Crazy Horse and the Custer campaign, it had me on the edge of my seat, even though we all know the outcome, and the segment on ghost dancing. I first saw this on video and at several points I had to hit Still and just sobbed for several minutes. It had the same effect on me that the Civil War had.

What I find interesting about this effort, The War, is a startling lack of cohesiveness. (A beef I also have with U2 albums this decade as well, but that's a different thread all together I mean, after the 3rd night, we're already up to D-Day???? In a 14-hr series? And the use of the music is a lot more haphazard--it should be more than (let's trot out the flavor of the times"--I mean, in The Civil War, several songs were employed with a strongly hinted political context (the use of "Lorena" a chief example.) There a far too many letters, and after the 2nd Episode I am beginning to detect a cloying sentimentality--and thus cliche--about them. We get to "know" the 4 families but why is it that I don't feel the emotional jolt I did in TCW or Jazz? This series seems too meandering and gets lost along the way. Sure, focusing more on the 20's and 30's might have detracted from a series which (for an American audience) can't help but be American-centric; but Hitler's history, for example, may be European history that important to all, as well as say the works of such as the Dada artists and Leni Riefenstahl.

Above all, Burns says he's out to show how WW2 really was "the worst war. EVER" but I don't see that. A major beef is the conceited supposition that the war seems to have begun on Dec 7, 1941 and that the 2 yrs before was just prologue. "The Civil War" would not have been what it was without Episode I, "The Cause" which gave us a long and detailed run-up to the war, so that when the action started, we, like the nation, sort of "eased" into it and the beginning of conflict was almost at first like a relieving of tensions rather than a total surprise. Surely, in this case, it would not have been an arrogant American sin to, say, begin the series with a long expose on the life of Hitler, and his stint in WWI, his years as a vagrant in Vienna, the birth of the Nazi Party, Mein Kampf, and the birth and death of the Wiemar Republic, and the 1930's. I would have loved to see this all play out in chronological order, leading up to the the invasion of Poland. I wanted to see footage of Churchill and his fiery speeches, after his speeches of warning in the 30's. I think there was a little of this in the series but not enough. Then, after a segment on the Terropr in Europe, I woukld have anted earl Harbor to come a thrid of the way through the series and then have a similar expose on Hirohito and the Japanese Empire. This would have been similar to the long segments Burns had on Lee and Grant. I wanted to know more about the generals on either side; one thing I love aobut Burns docs is how they dig up little nuggets of things I don[tr know. (My fave: I have always wanted to know what "gung ho" meant and where it came from: I find out it's Mandarin Chinese for "work together." )

Maybe this conflcit is too big to cover all, but the lack of chapters on individual generals, the not getting to "know" the major players the way we do the families, is a major disppointment.

So far the focus seems to be too home-front centric, and maybe that's the purpose, the focus is different here, but the series is too purple for me,nor gritty enough--and I don't mean in content; the footage is as grisly as ever; it just doesn't seem to be gritty enough in its socio-politcal translation.

Burns just seems to assume that this is story and an era of history that we know all too well, so he doesn't feel the need to tell historical facts that we don't need to know, and instead concentrates on little -known (to Americans) campaigns like Anzio. Which is all to the good, but I can think of things that should have been cut out.

On one eerily prescient message Burns is hitting the nail on the head though: he began researching this 6 yrs ago, and Iraq was a distant dream in our eyes(though not in its planners): but his not so subtle criticism of the lack of collective sacrifice on the part of those on the home front is pretty damning. The fact that people found it easier to sacrifice things like nylons and milk and nail polish b/c of the Depression is absolutely no excuse. If Starbucks ever closed down and donated its proceeds to the war effort there'd be a full scale revolution--we all want our cups of Brazilan Mountain Blend, put on our Discover cards every day! True, b/c of growing income disparities there are some sacrifices we couldn't make, but I can think of many others we easily can.....


--------------------

"..but oh! Sarah! If the dead could come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you in the brightest day and the darkest night, always, always!...And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath: and the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by."

(sorry, couldn't resist. God, I need a hankie....
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Old 09-27-2007, 06:22 AM   #12
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Actually, I just did a Google search looking for the book I mentioned on the Sullivan Ballou letter, and found it. It's called "For Love And Liberty: The Untold Civil War Story of Major Sullivan Ballou and his Famous Love Letter" by Robin Young.

For anyone who's interested, the whole book is up online actually. The link is insanely long to type out , so here's how to get to it. Type "Sullivan Ballou" in the Google search and click on the 2nd Page of links. On the 2nd page, 8 entries down, click on "The Untold Civil War Story of Major Sullivan--Google Books Search" and you'll find the whole book right there. It's a long but fascinating read if you have the time to set aside a few evenings. I found it in the library a couple yrs ago, it's a recent book.
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