Posted by: daveed | September 4, 2008

After the Iraq War movie surge

The Economist online looks back at the spate of Iraq War film failures, and contrasts it to what they’re calling a promising new feature entitled The Hurt Locker, about an EOD unit operating in Iraq. It seems to eschew partisan moralizing that I believe was the major reason these films didn’t find audiences—not because of “subject matter.”

As I brought up in an earlier post, there is a dearth of good, non-agenda-peddling movies about our recent national adventures. A film that acts as a political sounding board is never going to provoke discussion. It’ll either reaffirm your existing beliefs or admonish you for having beliefs different from those of the filmmakers’.

Besides, these war films are hardly saying anything new about it that we haven’t already heard from every other media outlet, from talking head shows to the blogosphere. We hear so much blah-blah from a self-anointed group of blathering assholes, who wants to pay 10, 11 bucks for the privilege of hearing it from Hollywood? I sure as hell don’t.

Having just endured the steaming pile of shit that was Lions for Lambs (how the fuck that ever got made, let alone attract Hollywood heavyweights like Redford, Cruise and Streep is beyond me), I have faith that someone, somewhere knows how to put the story before the politics. Let’s hope The Hurt Locker gets it.


  1. “A film that acts as a political sounding board is never going to provoke discussion. It’ll either reaffirm your existing beliefs or admonish you for having beliefs different from those of the filmmakers’.”

    This is a good point that extends beyond the current-war-movie-genre. You see a lot of PC ideas at work in what are considered realistic, thoughtful movies — stuff that exists just because it seems right to include. I think we’ll look back on the films of the late 90s/early 2000s and notice a thread of socially polite thinking that will date the films.

    Actually, Todd Solondz says this better:

    “I saw Vera Drake and Mike Leigh is a masterful filmmaker. I think it’s indisputable. He works with actors like no one else. It’s beautifully shot and beautifully played. And yet at the same time, I just want to scream! I say, would it have been a sin for her to take money for a job well done? Does she have to be sanctified? I can’t take it, just how all the liberals, we all go in to see the movie and in a sense it turns us all into martyrs for the good fight. But it’s clearly not an examination of the ethical nature and so forth, it’s just a given that this is the good fight and we are martyrs for this cause. There’s another movie, a lovely film, wonderfully directed, Maria Full of Grace. There’s a scene in the movie where you have this 17-year-old pregnant girl in Queens and she sees Women’s Health Services, and she goes there. What’s the purpose of the scene? All it does is tell us that the baby is okay. I just want to scream! She stays in American, 17, pregnant, no money, no friends, doesn’t speak the language. I mean, really, the only thing she’s equipped to do is be a prostitute. To me, it’s just the falseness of that stay-on-in-America, land-of-hope and so forth, the falseness just makes me want to scream. It’s faux-liberal, in fact. I guess it’s just being patted on the back, being told, ‘You’re doing the right thing.’ There’s no questioning. There’s no examination. There’s no stopping to think.”

  2. That was some of the criticism I remember being leveled at Crash (a film I’d not seen). After it won the Oscar for Best Picture, someone I know saw it said it was OK, but watching it was like sitting through a “2-hour after school special on racism.” Contrast that with the moral ambiguities and blurred lines of justice in Do the Right Thing, possibly the greatest movie about American racism.

    And the one film that comes to mind which could have been completely buried by moralizing, Schindler’s List, succeeds because it was really about the power of human compassion and courage, not a direct indictment of Nazism. (As if that would be a question in anyone’s minds to begin with.)

    Another that could have been brilliant was Syriana. Instead of dramatizing the harsh moral choices instruments of government power — individuals, that is — put in difficult situations have to make, it was just a simplistic “Big Oil = Bad”. Meh.

  3. Before I saw Crash I was worried that it would be exactly what you say — a sucky, after-school special about racism from limosine-liberal Hollywood.

    Then I actually saw it and I must say: My instincts were dead right. It sucked beyond belief.

  4. well your gonna be thrilled to hear theyre making Crash into a tv series.
    But who cares when we have Ghostbusters 3 coming out!

  5. […] war film blows up The Hurt Locker, which I flagged last year as having the potential to utilize the war in Iraq as an effective story setting, appears to be […]

  6. […] are plenty of good stories to be told about our recent imperial adventures. And sadly, but with very few exceptions, they have not been […]

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