Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Movies Post

OK, since last week I've had the chance to watch the remaining segments of Frank Capra's Why We Fight series, so here's part two of my comments.

On the movies themselves...first of all, they're really good. Very watchable, and with a great job of avoiding heavy-handed propaganda (again, it certainly does help to have the Nazis as enemies). Oh, it's clearly propaganda, but with a light touch. Second, and again I don't know much about them other than what I saw, there's a fascinating mix of real documentary-style footage and reenactments. None of the latter (except for some cheesy History of the Great Chinese and Russian Peoples) is identified as such, but some of it clearly shows things that no camera would have been there to record. Because it's not labeled, though, it's easy to imagine it's all equally real, and there is quite a bit of the real stuff (keeping in mind, of course, that what's "real" is also subject to all sorts of manipulations. Again, I have no bright things to say about it, only to report that it was on my mind as I watched.

I talked a bit last week about how the Russians were treated, and of course they were portrayed as heroically defending their nation once the actual invasion started. As I said, there was a fair amount of very cheesy Russian history, which I thought was (along with the history of China) the only real mistake of the seven movies. On China, there was if anything less of the Good China stuff than I expected to find. Oh, the Chinese (like the Russians, and the Brits, etc.) were peach-loving people who would never dream of starting a war or fighting one until it was really necessary, but that's mostly all, just generic Good Guys stuff.

The seventh movie tackles America's entry into the war, basically from 1918 up to Pearl Harbor. There are a lot of ways you could play that history...you could have a story line of America foolishly retreating from the world, only to be attacked at Pearl Harbor anyway. You could argue that America was wise to retreat in the 1920s, and was necessarily distracted in the 1930s, but then rushed to arm itself as war approached. I can imagine other possibilities...the way that War Comes to America tells it is that Americans engaged in a protracted democratic discussion about the war, only reluctantly concluding that the US should prepare. There's an emphasis on public opinion polling, with the narrative arguing that Americans moved from isolationism to engagement as the news continued to confirm just how evil the Axis powers were.

I enjoyed the entire set, and highly recommend it.

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