Category Archives: Film

The Wars on the Big Screen: 7 years of Hollywood & GWOT

About two weeks ago my wife mentioned that there was a movie called “Lone Survivor” coming out. She mentioned it to me for two reasons: (1) I love Mark Wahlberg (he is the man), and (2) its a film inspired by a book that I’ve read and own which inspired the film. The film and book tell the story of a real Navy SEAL team mission into Afghanistan in the early phases of the war. So, once I knew the film was coming out soon, I went ahead an added the release date to my calendar, just to remind myself to go watch in case I miss the marketing campaign for it.

Thinking about this film got my mind on a thought tangent. In my head, I started thinking about all the films I had watched that were connected and related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I realized that the list was long enough to be worth writing down. I ended up diving into Wikipedia and Google tracking down names, release years, etc. I became fascinated by the fact that the extensive list I put together were all films that wouldn’t have existed had the Iraq and Afghanistan wars not happened, which in part are by-products (one could argue) of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

I decided to cut the list down to films released by major American studios with at least some sense of star casting. Why do this? Well, my hypothesis became that we can get a better sense of how much impact the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has had on the film industry by the willingness of major studios and actors to be invest, produce, and act in such film projects. My hypothesis may be flawed, but the truth is that the market for documentaries, B-movies, and foreign films is a much more selective market than what a major American studio is aiming when they invest into a blockbuster.

I decided to break down the list into four categories. Even though I may have missed a few films here and there, this is the list I ended up with given the margins above:

Beginnings: These are films that deal directly and primarily with the events of 9/11 and the immediate impact. They may extent up to the beginnings of the War in Afghanistan. The only two films I have accounted for are the following and both were released in 2006:

WorldTradeCenter (2006)

United 93 (2006)

The Frontlines: These films have plots that put them right in the center of the firefight. They are very military-focused and war-centered. These films show us the minds, souls, and actions of the frontline war fighters. Zero Dark Thirty almost didn’t make it in this category but the fact that OBL is the focus of the film and the depiction of the special operations raid made it “frontline” enough for me. I excluded Act of Valor because it didn’t fit any of my margins above:

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Lone Survivor (2014)

The Homefront: These are films impacted by the war and the deployment of troops. Some of them are comedies; some are love films. Some are psychological thrillers; some are political thrillers. And there are others which are none of the previously mentioned. I debated about including some of these but this is the final list I felt comfortable with:

Home of the Brave (2006)

Lions for Lambs (2007)

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Grace is Gone (2007)

Stop-Loss (2008)

Brothers (2009)

The Messenger (2009)

Taking Chance (2009)

Dear John (2010)

Warrior (2011)

The Lucky One (2012)

The Extension: In many ways, these are the most vague of the films inspired by the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These films could have been made without the mentioned events taking place; however, the writers decided to make the Global War on Terror (GWOT) crucial parts of the plots. These films are inspired by the much wider theatre of operations that the GWOT includes. Zero Dark Thirty could have fallen under this category but I stated above why it didn’t:

The Kingdom (2007)

Body of Lies (2008)

Rendition (2007)

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Green Zone (2010)

Fair Game (2010)

I found it interesting that no major blockbuster is released until 2006 when United 93 and World Trade Center come out in theatres. For those who have followed the wars in detail, you will connect 2006 with one of the toughest and worst years for the troops in Iraq and one of the toughest times back home for the Bush administration and the economy. However, it isn’t until 2008 that a blockbuster is released that dealt directly with combat operations, The Hurt Locker, which ended up winning the Oscar for Best Film over Avatar (thank God). Even though the B-movie market is full of movies about combat ops in Iraq/Stan, the major studios seemed to have refrained from such projects for the most part, possibly not knowing if such films would succeed or fail.

Finally, the Homefront and Extension films haven’t been shy about exploring the war on terror as a topic for inspiration. My conclusion is that these films, even though inspired by the wars, deal with themes and concepts that can exist and do outside the wars. The wars and the deployments are catalysts for the plots and settings that are used, but they aren’t the plots and setting themselves.

You can easily find dozens and dozens of films about World War II, great ones and bad ones. Looking at this list makes me wonder whether we will see a deeper and different exploration of the Global War on Terror as the years go and the major combat operations draw to an end in Afghanistan a year from now.  I welcome any of your thoughts and ideas regarding this post. Thank you for reading.

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Treat Your Soul to Les Miserables

Christmas time always takes on a different shape each year. This year we drove up to see my family in southern Virginia and then drove towards the Shenandoah (but not quite all the way there) to see her family as well. So as you can imagine, a lot of our Christmas time was spent on the road. When we finally got back into town last night, we remembered that we really wanted to watch Les Miserables, the film inspired by the musical, which had been released on Christmas Day. So, even though exhausted and knowing that Les Mis would be an emotional overload, we ate dinner and then left for the movie theatre for the 10:10 PM showing. Oh man, I knew it was going to be a long night.

            I’ve never been a big fan of movie review sites because I feel that in many ways, movie critics are disconnected from the rest of us. Somehow, the movies that people love to watch time and time again are never the best rated. Let’s be honest, how many more times can you watch Inception or Lincoln? Exactly.

            Having said that, even though Les Miserables did not receive the greatest of ratings by the so-called experts, it is a film truly worth watching on the big screen. As we walked out of the theatre, my wife asked me what I thought of the film and I simply couldn’t formulate the phrases and expressions that represented what I felt in my heart. I had just witnessed such an incredible and majestic experience that even as I walked towards our car in the parking lot, my mind and soul were still trapped in the recreation of Victor Hugo’s 19th century France.

            I don’t know what the average American knows of the story in Les Miserables or of the background to the original novel. It is a novel written in 1862 by Victor Hugo that has been made into a film many different times throughout the 20th century. It inspired a famous musical in the 1980s (I believe), with and the musical has now been released as a film, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, John Adams) and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anna Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried. If you haven’t read the novel, you need to read the novel. If you haven’t watched the Broadway musical, you need to watch the Broadway musical. If you haven’t decided that you need to watch Les Miserables on the big screen, then I urge you to reconsider.

            Without giving the plot away to those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Les Mis, even though working with a great range of topics and concepts, deals greatly with the concepts of grace, righteousness, justice, good, redemption, forgiveness, and, yes, God.  Whether through Victor Hugo’s original words or its many different incarnations, Les Miserables never fails to make us reflect on our understanding of grace, of forgiveness, of love, of justice, of good, and of the heart of God. If nothing more, it is introspection into the human heart and how society can break a man only to be restored by the Godly actions of the humble.

            That’s it. I am done. Anymore and I would give too much away, for the Les Miserables is an experience that needs to be lived by each individual, as I hope you will consider doing. As we head from Christmas into the New Year, I pray peace, grace, and love over you are your loved ones.

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Man of Steel (a better trailer experience)

I don’t know if you’ve watched The Hobbit or not, but I did, on IMAX, and it was a fantastic visual experience. Along with The Hobbit, we also got to watch the new Man of Steel trailer and the first 9 minutes of Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Alright so here is the latest Man of Steel trailer. Things are looking good and very promising so far. Let’s hope they keep heading in that direction.

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Golden Globe Nominations are out.

The Academy Awards (Oscars) aren’t going to be here for a while. The award show is schedule to run on ABC on February 24th, at 7 pm. However, the Golden Globe nominations were released this morning. Here at Reclaim the Alternative we posted the nominations as well as emboldened our picks for who should win, based on our humble and expert opinion, and if there isn’t a bold choice, then that means we probably don’t give a hoot:

NOMINEEs
Best Picture, Drama:
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy:
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
“Les Misérables”
“Moonrise Kindgom
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
“Silver Linings Playbook”

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy:
Jack Black, “Bernie”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Ewan MCGregor, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Bill Murray, “Hyde Park on Hudson”

Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Best Screenplay:
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
David O’Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”
Chris Terrio, “Argo”

Foreign Language Film:
“Amour”
“A Royal Affair”
“The Intouchables”
“Kon-Tiki”
“Rust and Bone”

Best Television Comedy or Musical:
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Episodes”
“Girls”
“Modern Family”
“Smash”

Best Actress, Television Drama:
Connie Briton
Glenn Close
Claire Danes
Michelle Dockery
Juliana Margulies

Best Miniseries or Television Movie:
“Game Change”
“The Girl”
“Hatfields & McCoys”
“The Hour”
“Political Animals”

Stay safe. Stay true. Be aware of bears. Peace.

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A deeper look into Star Trek: Into Darkness trailer

If you are a real JJ Abrams, Star Trek, or film fan, then by now you know of the latest Star Trek into Darkness teaser trailer. If you know about the trailer, then you have probably seen it by now, and if that is the case, then you are like “what….”

Exactly, leave it to JJ Abrams for putting together a teaser trailer that simply leaves you with ten thousand more questions about this film’s themes, conflicts, and the further development of the Star Trek universe no longer bound to the timeline of the original series.

Science fiction blog io9 does the fans the great favor of breaking down the trailer frame-by-frame and filling the questions and doubts in our minds with tons of potential spoilers and hopes (fears?).

Check out the io9 article linked above as well as the rest of their stuff. Definitely one of my top sources on latest scifi news and media.

Star Trek into Darkness hits U.S. theatres on May 17th, 2012

Haven’t watch the trailer? Shame on you. Here you go.

star-trek-into-darkness-poster

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