July 18, 2005

"I'm From Hollywood"

Recently, some have been suggesting that Hollywood’s disconnect with Middle America is one of the primary rationales behind the steep decline in box office revenues this year. Considering the selection of well-known conspiracy nut Oliver Stone to direct the first studio movie about 9/11, George Lucas’ puerile incorporation of Move On talking points into the Star Wars prequels, and David Koepp, the War of the Worlds screenwriter, statement that the US military are the Martians in that flick, well, maybe they have a point.

To test this thesis further, I thought perhaps a comparison of Hollywood’s output during WW II could be compared to Hollywood’s output during WW IV, or as is more commonly known, the GWOT – Global War on Terrorism. But to be fair to the current incarnation of Hollywood, I’ll limit the movies, documentaries, and shorts from WW II to those that were under consideration to be nominated for Academy Awards. After all, back in those days, Hollywood lacked the twenty and thirty year-old television sitcoms to remake tired nostalgic covers out of, so they had to focus more closely on the human condition and how it was playing out in real life.

The first thing we have to decide is what time period we should compare for WW II and WW IV. In my humble opinion, the GWOT effectively began on September 11, 2001. The free world was attacked many times previously, but we weren’t fighting back as though we could lose. Still, Bill Clinton did launch cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan on August 20, 1998, so I’ll take that as the starting date for the GWOT. That means that we have been fighting the GWOT, albeit for a while before it was recognized as such, for six years, ten months and twenty-nine days.

Interestingly, determining the date of the start of WW II is just as subjective. Did it begin with the Anschluss on March 13, 1938, which violated the Treaty of Versailles, or did it begin on September 1, 1939 when German troops invaded Poland, or two days later when Great Britain and France declared war on Germany? I will select September 1, 1939 as the start of WW II, since that is when the live firing and massive casualties first occurred. Of course, one could select dates much earlier for the “root causes” of WW II, but the same can be said for the GWOT, so the diminishing returns of trying to put too fine a point on it should permit me to take my assumptions and proceed without further concern or deliberation. For the sake of comparison, adding six years, ten months and twenty-nine days to the chosen start of WW II gives us July 30, 1946 as the end of the WW II period under examination. Since this is after the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, that effectively ended WW II, I'll take the earlier date as the end of the period under review.

To make this task easier from a research perspective, I’ll round the dates down to shorten the period for WW II and lengthen it for the GWOT giving us:

WW II: January 1, 1940 – December 31, 1944
GWOT: January 1, 1998 – December 31, 2005

So what movies, documentaries and shorts did Hollywood produce during this period after the start of WW II that promoted or spoke highly of patriotism, encouraged self-defense, supported the war effort, and ridiculed our enemies; or if you are so predisposed, movies that proudly say, “Us Good, Them Bad.” And remember, we are only interested in movies, shorts and documentaries that were under consideration for Academy Award nominations, so we’ll gloss over the dross that was inevitably put out even then.

1940 (Whose got the courage today to ridicule our enemies, and can you imagine the second film remade today?)
The Great Dictator
Foreign Correspondent

1941 (Keep in mind, no one had attacked the US prior to December 7, 1941, so it is unlikely any of these went into production on December 8, 1941 and were finished before the end of the year.)
Sergeant York
Dive Bomber
Christmas Under Fire
Churchill's Island
A Letter From Home
Norway in Revolt
Soldiers of the Sky
War Clouds in the Pacific
Buck Privates
Army Champions
The Tanks Are Coming
Flight Command
I Wanted Wings

1942 (Oh my, Mr. Cohan! That'll never do today, just ask Dennis Miller.)
Yankee Doodle Dandy
To the Shores of Tripoli
Wake Island
Africa, Prelude to Victory
The Battle of Midway
Combat Report
Conquer by the Clock
High Stakes in the East
Inside Fighting China
It's Everybody's War
Kokoda Front Line!
Listen to Britain
Little Belgium
Little Isles of Freedom
Mr. Blabbermouth!
Mr. Gardenia Jones
Moscow Strikes Back
The New Spirit
Prelude to War
A Ship Is Born
Twenty-One Miles
We Refuse to Die
White Eagle
Winning Your Wings
This Above All
Der Fuerher's Face
United States Marine Band
Beyond the Line of Duty
Don't Talk
Private Smith of the U.S.A.
Flying Tigers
Friendly Enemies
The Navy Comes Through
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing
The Invaders (aka 49th Parallel)

1943 (You must remember this...)
Watch on the Rhine
Five Graves to Cairo
Flight for Freedom
Mission to Moscow
This is the Army
Thousands Cheer
Air Force
Corvette K-225
So Proudly We Hail!
Baptism of Fire
The Battle of Russia
Desert Victory
For God and Country
Report from the Aleutians
Silent Village
War Department Report
Bismarck Convoy Smashed
Day of Battle
December 7th
The Dutch Tradition
The Labor Front
Land of My Mother
Letter from Livingston
Life Line
Plan for Destruction
The Rear Gunner
Servant of a Nation
Swedes in America
Task Force
To the People of the United States
Tomorrow We Fly
Wings Up
Commandos Strike At Dawn
In Which We Serve
Amphibious Fighters
Cavalcade of Dance with Veloz and Yolanda
Champions Carry On
Women At War
This Is the Army
This Land Is Mine
Crash Dive
The North Star

1944 (Battle fatigue is beginning to set in.)
Address Unknown
Since You Went Away
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
The White Cliffs of Dover
The Fighting Lady
Resisting Enemy Interrogation
Arturo Toscanini
New Americans
With the Marines at Tarawa
Since You Went Away
The Fighting Seabees
Days of Glory
Secret Command
None Shall Escape
The Sullivans

Well now, that's quite a list, don't you think? I'm not sure whether I'm surprised so many of these films, documentaries and shorts were produced or that so many were considered worthy by the Academy. My how things have changed. Can you imagine many of the stars of Hollywood wearing a uniform today, even if it was only for Army's Motion Picture unit narrating training films?

But what has Hollywood produced, whether worthy of the Academy's notice or not, since the beginning of the GWOT that might generously be said to be patriotic, reflecting a right to self-defense, showing our troops in a positive light, advocating the virtues of Western Civilization, and satirizing terrorists; or, again, if you are so predisposed, further perpetuating jingoistic fascism?

Saving Private Ryan

Three Kings


Black Hawk Down

We Were Soldiers

Tears of the Sun

Team America: World Police


My, oh my, the cupboards pretty bare, isn’t it? I mean, it's not as if these any of these are gung ho morale raisers. It is always possible that a slew of films and documentaries will come out between now and the end of the year that would merit inclusion on this list, but I'm not going to hold my breath, and I don't expect to see Oliver Stone's movie until at least next year -- if at all. Oh, I suppose some credit could be given for Fox Television’s 24, or the BBC’s Dirty War, but that would seem to be offset by Hollywood changing the bad guys in Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears from Islamofascists to American white supremacists so as not to offend. And let's not mention the popular documentaries of the last few year or the ritualized abuse of history as represented by Oliver Stone's Alexander and Wolfgang Peterson's Troy.

The paucity of films, documentaries and shorts during the last seven and a half years that put forward a pre-postmodern, non-ironic, dare I say positive spin on patriotism – much less, patronizing or ignoring what at least half the country believes – would seem to be virtually a definition of sins of omission. I’ve heard that talk is cheap, but when it comes to speaking up for America and Western Civilization, Hollywood doesn’t even seem to have two cents to offer. And strangely, given Hollywood’s apparent willingness to ignore, if not insult, half its audience, I guess we can retire that other old aphorism – money talks, bullshit walks – since Hollywood is leaving a lot of money on the table to spout bullshit and maintain ideological purity.

There’s a documentary of sorts about Andy Kaufman’s wrestling career called "I’m From Hollywood" that used to play every twenty-eight days on the Comedy Channel. Whatever else one might think of Andy Kaufman – I think he’s hilarious, though I’ll admit to not understanding or appreciating some of his antics – the condescending attitude that Andy Kaufman displays to the locals while strutting around the old Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee, seems somber and majestic in comparison to what we get from the denizens of Hollywood today. Nowadays, whenever I see Alec Baldwin, Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, George Lucas, Susan Sarandon, or any of the other representatives of Hollywood take a break from their packing – after all, they are leaving the country, don’t you know – to tell us once again how stupid President George W. Bush is, or to remind us that the war in Iraq is being fought for Halliburton and Texas oil interests, or that there are in fact no terrorists at all, just freedom fighters; well, just before they speak I hear Andy Kaufman insanely saying, “I’m from Hollywood.”

(If I've missed any movies, documentaries or shorts, say so in the comments and I'll update the list accordingly. Also, I started to include all the hyper-links, but I lack the addiotional hours necessary to do that at this time. My apologies.)

Posted by Charles Austin at July 18, 2005 11:27 PM

Oliver Stone doing a 9/11 movie...
That is such a depressing thought.

Posted by: Jon at 11:26 AM

We Were Soldiers Once.

If that wasn't up for any Academy Awards, it probably should've been.

Posted by: Haws at 12:24 AM


I was not sure if you were okay with including films NOT under consideration for an Oscar, but Tears of the Sun was I think a positive, if rare, film. It stars Bruce Willis as the leader of a Special Ops team sent to rescue a European doctor from a African nation tearing itself apart Rwanda style. The team intitially ignores the africans with her who will surely die, but then they take on the task of defending them to great risk to themselves. It is a great, but not pleasant film, in that it depicts the kind of atrocities you read apart quite graphically. What is great about it is that it pulls no punches as to how such atrocities should be dealt with; SHOOT THE FREAKING BASTARDS!

What is the MOST fascination aspect of the film is when you listen to the DVD commentary supplied by the original authors of the screenplay. They intended the movie to be one critical of U.S. policies in Africa, but the director changed the focus of them film which accentuates the military ethos and morality of the US team.

Haws also has it exactly right. We Were Soldiers Once is probably the BEST film on Vietnam ever produced (Hey! The vast majority of guys over there weren't crazed, raping druggies and they were actually fighting honorably. Whattya know) and one of the better war films, period.

I think this was a great, fascinating post. I think it could use some more elaboration.

While not dealing directly with the GWOT, I think there HAS been a number of films which on a more universal level have gotten the right take on the issues we face against Islamofacism. I would posit that the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Spiderman films in particular have empahisized the need to confront evil directly, and the folly of trying to ignore or appease it. I wrote about it a while ago, but maybe I should update it.

Excellent post. Anyone else have any more films they can remember, Oscar nominated or not?

Posted by: Captain Wrath at 09:23 AM

Well, Capt., this film doesn't fit in either of the time windows of Charles' post, but "A Bridge Too Far" is one of my favorites about WWII.

Posted by: Haws at 10:45 AM


True. Its been a very long time since I last saw that film. If I am remembering correctly, I first saw it in a drive-in when I was pretty young (8 or 9?). Still, it made an impression. I really could not understand most of what was going on, but I remember the seen where they are desperately waiting for airdropped supplies, and a container is dropped nearby. One man moves out under fire to retrieve it and is killed. Then you see the open container where there are only berets, was it? Even at that young age, I could understand the awful tragedy of that. That scene has ALWAYS stuck with me.

Posted by: Captain Wrath at 11:23 AM

Post updated with suggestions above. Thanks Captain Wrath and Haws.

Posted by: charles austin at 05:37 PM

Wing and a Prayer 1944
They Were Expendable was filmed in 1944, I think, but it came out in 1945.

I think it's hilarious that the only movie about the War on (Some) Terror has a sex scene with puppets and the bad guy is a space cock-roach.
That's pretty funny.

Posted by: Veeshir at 11:35 AM