Friday, March 28, 2008

A very strange list

ABC has a photo feature on great war films as a tie-in to the release of Kimberly Peirce's new Iraq War film Stop Loss. The list is attached to the link "Hollywood's Best War Movies" and has the headline "Hollywood Goes to War" and bothers me for two reasons.

First, the movies are not all products of Hollywood. Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is a movie that belongs on any list of great war movies (or great movies, period), but it is a French movie. It has no connection whatsoever with Hollywood except for occasionally being shown there. Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket was filmed entirely in Britain by a British director, but it was co-produced by an American company (Warner) so it does have a partial connection with Hollywood. Is that enough to make it a Hollywood movie? Okay, they are using the word Hollywood to mean movies in general. But why then are other great French, Russian, German, and Japanese movies left out?

My other complaint is the same complaint I always have about best-of-all-time lists: The list makers have almost no sense of historical or geographic perspective. War to them means twentieth century American wars. No version of War and Peace made the list. No Civil War movies, Alamo movies, British colonial movies, no Ancient or Medieval movies. Of the fourteen movies, only three were made before 1970. That's just weird. Before 1970, war movies were one of the great staples of Hollywood. Then, in the space of about three years, war, westerns, and musicals all but disappeared from the screen. Hollywood made hundreds--possibly thousands--of movies about WWII between 1942 and 1970. Exactly one made the list: "Patton."

For just WWII made before 1970, shouldn't at least one of these ten films replace something more recent?
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Stalag 17
  • From Here to Eternity
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • Run Silent, Run Deep
  • The Great Escape
  • Casablanca
  • The Longest Day
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Catch 22

And where the heck is Battle Beyond the Stars??

I'm sure you can name as many films for other years, other wars, and made in other countries. I know I can.

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