Friday, February 21, 2003

Dead Man Writing?

For years, I confused Ebert and Siskel--in fact, I thought for a long time it was Ebert that had died. For all the creativity he uses in his diss of Gods and Generals, I’m not sure so I was wrong.

For someone that can barely breathe a negative word about the majority of Hollywood blockbusters, he has plenty of bile for G&Gs. He starts out with a typically snotty potshot:

Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy. Less enlightened than "Gone With the Wind," obsessed with military strategy, impartial between South and North, religiously devout, it waits 70 minutes before introducing the first of its two speaking roles for African Americans; "Stonewall" Jackson assures his black cook that the South will free him, and the cook looks cautiously optimistic. If World War II were handled this way, there'd be hell to pay.

Who says Lott jokes ever get old? It probably had them in stitches down on Lake Shore Drive.

“Obsessed with military strategy...”Aint it a movie about war? I would hope there would be an “obsession” like this in a movie about WAR.

I wasn’t aware that if a movie waits too long for the black actors to speak that something sinister was at work. Would he like every movie that has anything to do with blacks to begin with several dozen African Americans chatting away? And what does being “religiously devout” (a term he uses as a clear put-down) have to do with when the black actors speak? Also note the use of scare quotes on the name Stonewall. Ebert probably refers to him as the “So-called ‘Stonewall’ Jackson” when he is out with his lefty pals. And what he means by that WWII reference I have no idea.

Ebert continues:

The Northerners, one Southerner explains, are mostly Republican profiteers who can go home to their businesses and families if they're voted out of office after the conflict, while the Southerners are fighting for their homes. Slavery is not the issue, in this view, because it would have withered away anyway, although a liberal professor from Maine (Jeff Daniels) makes a speech explaining it is wrong. So we get that cleared up right there, or for sure at Strom Thurmond's birthday party.

What? I thought the standard liberal position was that slavery was NOT the reason for the Civil War, so you would expect Ebert to agree with the way it was apparently handled in this scene. He instead sees this as an example of the movie’s un-PC take on what happened and why is is worthy of our contempt.

Much is made of the film's total and obsessive historical accuracy; the costumes, flags, battle plans and ordnance are all doubtless flawless, although there could have been no Sgt. "Buster" Kilrain in the 20th Maine, for the unavoidable reason that "Buster" was never used as a name until Buster Keaton used it.

This is the best Gotcha! he can come up with? And when did he become an expert on historical names and when they were first used? Personally, I find (again that word) “obsessive” historical accuracy to be paramount in a historical movie, don’t you? Ebert dismisses it out of hand.

Gods and Generals is the kind of movie beloved by people who never go to the movies, because they are primarily interested in something else--the Civil War, for example--and think historical accuracy is a virtue instead of an attribute. The film plays like a special issue of American Heritage. Ted Turner is one of its prime movers and gives himself an instantly recognizable cameo appearance.

Oh, right, those kind of people. In other words, people with some discernment who have other interests ("obsessions" he may call them) and who are not in knee-dropped reverence every time some celluloid shit comes out that the fawning press deems “important”. Ebert apparently prefers movies with no historical accuracy that feature plenty of minorities speaking early and often and a general treatment of history as a canvas to construct The Way He Would Have Liked It.

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