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Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Feb 14, 2013.
Probably Gettysburg or Apollo 13.
My dad was with the Agency for 35 yrs and was part of the team that executed this mission. He told me all about it in the 80s since I had a clearance at the time being prior military. I can tell you right now that many of the close-calls depicted in the film didn't happen, especially the final chase on the runway. The Iranian government didn't get wise to it until 2 days later after they were long gone. That's ok, it still makes for a good story regardless, you need the suspense for the entertainment value. Affleck did a good job with it.
Not that I'm an expert on history or movies but I'd say that James Cameron's version of Titanic is one of, if not, the most historically accurate ever made. I realize that sounds ridiculous since the main cast is mostly fiction but everything else around those fictional characters is painstakingly and obsessively accurate.
Thanks for clarifying, and I agree 100% with your notions and your approach. Sorry if I presumed you were some sort of lazy history teacher As you say, movies have become extremely important to the way we learn about the world. It's handy if they trigger people to look more into the real events on which they are (often very loosely) based, but unfortunately in many cases this never happens.
I think Apollo 13 came pretty close to being "90% accurate". Some of the dramatic exchanges in the capsule, particularly between Swigert and Haise, is fabricated according to Jim Lovell. Some of the mission control conversations are also dramatized somewhat. Otherwise a solid movie in terms of the overall facts. I imagine that without the manufactured drama, and the playing up of the Hollywood stuff, Argo would have floundered critically, and at the box office. It would have been mostly setup with no real payoff as far as movie pacing goes.
Agree. While I prefer movies to be accurate, I understand the need for some dramatic liberties. If "Argo" had stayed true to the facts, the third act would've been a snoozer...
Factual accuracy is not the most important criterion with which to judge historical feature films (though it is among the most important). A 2-3 hour film does not have the necessary scope to avoid composite characters, dramatization of events and the simplification of historical narrative. Moreover, there are both commercial and entertainment goals to consider. Film is a far more collaborative effort than academic history. Even academic history necessarily leaves things out, compresses material and makes choices based on intelligibility. History is not a collection of documents and artefacts. Those are data. History is analysis and interpretation of that data, with the goal of presenting a coherent account of the past. Film is just another medium by which history can be presented. It has different limitations and strengths than more traditional methods but it is no less worthy for all that--as long as no seeks to substitute it for other forms.
Well, there have been a lot of films that play very fast and loose with the facts. Even Lincoln had major, major facts completely wrong (like Connecticut voting against (?) ) In the end, people have to accept these as a semi-fictionalized account of the way we want them to be remembered.
Richard Brooks adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood was pretty accurate, even as far as filming at the actual locations including the Clutter home where the murders took place. The Onion Field is another one, done in a quasi-documentary style. Both of these films are regarded as some of the best True Crime films.
The Sound of Music?
I can't imagine that's true anymore. Maybe 20 years ago before the internet and movies on home video packaged with supplemental material, where if you wanted to find out more about the "real" history of a true event depicted in a film you had to actually go to a library and find a book on the subject or find old newspaper/magazine articles etc. With the internet and the fact that many of these historical event movies get released on DVD/BD with features/commentaries that detail what really happened, it's so easy now to educate yourself of the real events that I have to think that many people practice this now. Since I was only a few years old during the time period in which "Argo" took place, I did not have much memory of the whole Hostage Crisis. So as soon as I got back from seeing "Argo" I hit Wikipedia and educated myself a little bit. Apollo 13 has been mentioned in this thread. I listened to the Jim Lovell commentary on the DVD. Some time later I read the book "Lost Moon". I went on the internet to look up things such as Gimbal Lock. Obviously this is just me talking, but there must be plenty of others.
It is easy to do but in my experience, it is not among my students' tendencies when I discuss the idea with them before moving to present films in class. Moreover, while there is a wealth of material online, there is also a lot of chaff with the wheat and one of my tasks is to teach my students how to sift through what's online. Some of the courses I teach are online and I have students who do go and look for material to supplement what we do in class. Many of them proudly retrieve and pass on links to sites, some text-based, some video (often YouTube) and, sadly, much of it is of little value. They get better at it as the term progresses, but the earliest offerings are sometimes a bit scary. It's not that the Hollywood version of history is swallowed whole, but rather that it exercises a strong, often subconscious, influence on historical perceptions. Two examples from my own experience might help illustrate this. In the spring of 1976, my elementary school gathered all the grade 3 through 6 students in the main hall and had us watch Johnny Tremaine and the Sons of Liberty. I was 9. To this day, when I teach about the Boston Tea Party, the first images that come to mind are those that were in the film (and I've not watched again since then). Did the film dramatically influence my views on the Boston Tea Party? Not really. But it did effect how I imagined it looked. Another example, taken from literature (but the same principle applies), is Cardinal Richelieu from the Three Musketeers. That was my favourite book when I was a kid and I've read it at least four times (twice in English, twice in French). I've also seen multiple film versions (again, in each language). When I studied the real Cardinal Richelieu, I found he had very little in common with Dumas' version--yet I still have to fight off the impression of Richelieu that Dumas left me whenever I teach about him. What I want my students to learn about history via film includes the recognition of the power of visual imagery to shape our impressions of people, places and events from the past and the way film can augment our understanding of the past in ways other forms of presentation cannot do quite so well. With luck, it will create among them the kind of curiosity you describe.
The problem with history is there often isn't one clear version. Say you were teaching a history class fifty years from now. What would you say about Bush, or Obama? You could find tons of information. Most of it accurate, and often contradictory. With Richelieu, what Dumas wrote may have been 'his' version of what happened. And it might have been true. What you researched might also have been true, or it could have been slanted by the particular author you were reading. In regards to Argo, many have said it minimized the contributions of the Canadians. That may be a true statement, but the Canadians were shown contributing. So it was a matter of prominence. Yet many have concluded that this part was factually inaccurate because they weren't at the forefront. So Argo was true and false. For myself, I never take any movie as factual. Movie are not supposed to be factual. They are drama, entertainment, storytelling.
One could argue that the Canadians got more credit than they deserved in the first place due to the Hollywood Option being classified.
Personally, I'm arguing that Argo is largely false because almost the entire latter half of the movie is fabricated, and the Hollywood connection - which is the major quirky gimmick of the movie - is extremely exaggerated, and in places downright manufactured just for the movie. We're not talking about minor differences in perception, we're talking key factual points that have been altered to make the movie exciting. I agree that it is now easier than ever to look up the true facts behind any movie. However human laziness, combined with movies these days being so much more vivid and convincing - especially movies like Argo that appear highly plausible in terms of atmosphere and detail - means that people will have a natural tendency to just accept fiction as fact, and subconsciously form their world view on it. I remember I fell in love with the movie Amadeus when it came out, and I still watch it around once a year on average. To this day I still can't easily separate the movie's image of Mozart and the tragic undertones of the film with the real Mozart, even though I know better. As a Persian, the single most frustrating "historical" movie I've ever seen is 300. We all know that it's a highly stylized quasi-fantasy film. However as soon as I discuss Persian history with laymen, they almost inevitably quote inaccurate "facts" and portrayals derived largely from this movie. The fundamental portrayals of the Persians and the Spartans in the movie are so wrong - essentially reversed - yet have quickly become so ingrained in popular culture because of the highly stylized visualization in the film. For reference, the Spartans were basically the Taliban of the Ancient Greek world. Their entire militaristic society was supported by helot slaves, whom they ritually abused, going so far as to hunt unarmed helots for sport. They also routinely fought against all the other Greeks, and even made pacts with the Persians against their own countrymen. Yet in the movie, they're jovial, patriotic people fighting for the ideal of freedom! I wrote a critique of the many, many inaccuracies in 300 here. The Director of 300, Zack Snyder, even had the nerve to go on record as saying "the events are 90% accurate. It's just in the visualization that it's crazy.... I've shown this movie to world-class historians who have said it's amazing. They can't believe it's as accurate as it is". More like 90% inaccurate, and historians have said as much in articles like this one. Back to Argo, and we have a similar problem. The movie is frequently touted as being quite accurate, portraying "crazy but true" events. Critics constantly refer to it as historical drama, when it should really be referred to as historical fiction. I know people like me come across as party poopers when we raise these sort of issues regarding historical movies. But the reality is that a single movie can unwittingly (or sometimes deliberately) educate an entire generation, indelibly forming their world view. We'd all like to think that "it's just a movie". But movies are incredibly powerful these days. At least with Argo, Affleck has tried to put the events in some sort of context with a brief historical introduction, and the main agenda it seems to push with its manipulation of the facts is the aggrandizement of Hollywood; a relatively harmless issue in the scheme of things.
The only thing I know is that Argo is a great movie that entertained me immensely during my viewing of it. I find films are more of a conduit to researching about actual history as filmmakers are usually more interested in making an entertaining film instead of retelling history in an accurate manner. Crawdaddy
So far, this is the most plausible reason Argo would get the award: "The Oscar balloting system requires voters to rank this year's nine nominated films, not simply pick one. The movie with the least support gets weeded out, and its votes are given to the next most popular film, and so on. "What that means is, not only do you need to be the No. 1 choice of a lot of voters, but you also need to be the No. 2 or No. 3 choice," says Pond. "I think 'Argo' is the consensus movie." http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/movies/argo-has-oscar-momentum-1.4639414 So I guess I'm preparing for that "raven-ous" meal.
Yes. It was true and false. As is the same with just about any filmed version of history--feature film or documentary (the latter should not be given the benefit of the doubt nearly as often as they are, but that's for another discussion). As for Dumas' Richelieu, he was a symbol of Dumas' attitude toward the Catholic Church in his own time--Dumas did not make any great claims to historical truth for his story (unlike what Oliver Stone frequently does with some of his films, for example). Dumas wasn't trying to convince people that Richelieu was how he portrayed him in his books (there are more than one Muskeeter books). He was simply a useful symbol. However, if one does not know that about Dumas' work, then his portrait of Richelieu becomes more plausible than reality and the historical records suggest. Historical feature films often do the same (hence my particular research interest). The other thing I had working for me regarding the real vs. Dumas Richelieu is that I've examined the raw material of the time, along with books on the subject that have detailed references to verifiable material to support their claims. But you are right to point out that one should not blindly trust an historical account simply because it is in print rather than on film.
Rather standard operating procedure for historical feature films, as the commercial and artistic interests must also be met. These kinds of films are not primarily intended as educational material, but they do have enough influence that educators should not simply be dismissive about them.
As a history buff and classical music fan, I always knew Amadeus was not historically accurate. However, I think a person will come away from that movie (and Immortal Beloved as well) knowing at least something about the composers and their music. I think Amadeus was based on a mention in one of Beethoven's letters that "Salieri is claiming to have murdered Mozart". It made a great premise for a fictional play and movie. Shaffer also cleverly worked in the fact of the mysterious masked man who commissioned the Requiem. It was not Salieri, but someone who merely wanted to pass off a Mozart composition as his own. I thought it amusing to make that guy Salieri in the film. To its credit, Amadeus never touted itself as true history. As to 300, I can only say LOL. That film did not appeal to me at all, though I found the digital work interesting. An acquaintance told me how much he liked the film, and that he "particularly liked the way the Muslims were portrayed". I didn't get into detail in my reply, except to remind him that those Persians were not Muslims, and that Muslims would not exist for many centuries after 480 BC. However, I wonder how many people saw the Persians as Muslims in that film, as they were dressed in inaccurate garb that sort of resembled desert-dwelling tourags? Even though you are correct about the Spartans being the bullies of the ancient Greek world (before the Macedonians, anyway), I think every history I have ever read lauds their courage and sacrifice at Thermopylae. For a fictional account of Thermopylae, I would have preferred to see a film based on Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire rather than 300. Sometimes, even a wildly inaccurate movie can give a viewer at least a taste of history. I was a teenager when the movie Cromwell came out. I knew nothing about Oliver Cromwell and Charles I at the time of the film's release, I came away with at least the knowledge that the English Civil War occurred in the 17th century, that the king was beheaded, and that Cromwell later dissolved Parliament and ruled as Lord Protector. I also got a good glimpse of clothing styles and weaponry of the time. As often happens, the movie inspired me to read up on the subject, and I found out how fanciful the film was, particularly in inflating Cromwell's involvement in the story. But the movie was the starting point. So, I guess I'm like Paul in that I see even inaccurate historical movies as potential teaching tools.