Thursday, March 25, 2010

Haiku Review: Green Zone


Green Zone (2010):

Shaky cam shakes man

Bourne is on the hunt for WMD

We too find nothing


(Previous haiku reviews: Redacted, Home of the Brave, Stop Loss and In The Valley of Elah)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Best: Yet To Come?

The Hurt Locker was far from my favorite movie of 2009. Out of the ten nominees for Best Picture, I liked four films more than Kathryn Bigelow's entry. It wasn't even the best movie that dealt with the Iraq War; that distinction goes to In The Loop, a comedy about the spread of misinformation that brilliantly leaves the word "Iraq" out of the entire script. But it was The Hurt Locker that won big on Sunday night, to the surprise of few that have been following the awards circuit. Even though it wasn't a box office smash (it made only six million dollars more than its production budget), critics loved the film, as did most of the public sans veterans. More importantly, its win washed away the fear and apprehension studios had about bankrolling a film centered on modern conflict. Every Iraq or Afghanistan themed movie before the The Hurt Locker has tanked in the theater, and you can't blame studio executives for shying away from a broken model. Sunday's sweep at the Oscars could mean that studios will ease their concerns and jump at a script that promises to be the next Hurt Locker. Veteran disapproval of the film was not overlooked in Hollywood. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the next movie would bring aboard combat veterans as technical advisers (or critics) to see if anything is out of place. Greyhawk has the same line of thinking, and he's willing to tolerate five bad war movies for every great one.

Even if you didn't like the film, The Hurt Locker's impressive victory at the Oscars bodes well for modern war movies. It means the good ones Greyhawk looks forward to have a better chance at finding their way to theaters. Who knows, maybe a veteran felt so strongly about the inaccuracies in The Hurt Locker that he's well on his way to writing the next Platoon. All that is certain is that our stories need to be told. We can only do so much from a series of tubes and the media has never done us any favors. A film we can call our own is something we need, to point to and say, This, this is what it was like. The Hurt Locker isn't that movie, but it made that movie possible.


This is the end of my Hurt Locker posts, which I'm sure is a relief to many of you. I'm off to New York City tomorrow for spring break, so I won't be able to see Green Zone this week. If you were unhappy about the licenses The Hurt Locker took, I would suggest you stay 500 feet from the nearest multiplex, lest you suffer a heart attack by proxy. Have a good week dear readers, I will be back soon.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Circling The Wagons

or: Hurt Locker updates will continue until Iraq movies improve

While The Hurt Locker is still considered to be the heavy favorite to pick up a few Oscars this Sunday, the negative reviews are pouring in from the last people Kathryn Bigelow Mark Boal wanted to hear from: veterans and war savvy journalists. The nearly unanimous criticism of the film from our camp is the baffling level of cowboy machismo imbued in James, the leader of a three man EOD team that leads his subordinates (literally) down a dangerous path in the streets of Baghdad. Coupled with laughable breaches of real life protocol and enormous leaps of artistic license, it's difficult to argue with those who know the intimate details of combat.

As I've touched on before, many civilians use movies as a stand-in connection to a war when they personally don't know a soldier or veteran. The reservations I have about The Hurt Locker center on reality versus perceived reality, be it with people or procedure. I don't want people to think that men like James not only exist but knowingly and actively send men into deadly situations to get an adrenaline fix. It would be irresponsible of Hollywood to cast soldiers and veterans in a negative light while the real life difficulties of reintegration challenge veterans to once again be a part of society instead of apart from it. But can veteran-civilian relations be any more tenuous than they already are? A fellow student veteran recently brought up his deployment to Afghanistan in a class discussion about how people live around the world. As soon as the word Afghanistan came off his lips, the mood of the class palpably shifted. Whispers and murmurs were cut off in mid sentence and everyone in the room looked at him, but only for a moment. As he continued on, they looked at anything but him. Here is a film that has people talking about the wars again, even if it's simply within the context of the movie. It can only help to elevate the subjects of Iraq and Afghanistan out of the lurid, unmentionable void many people subconsciously place them in.

What does this mean for the Oscar voting? I doubt anyone holding an awards ballot really cares what veterans think (how else would you explain the greenlight of Redacted and In The Valley of Elah, Mark Boal's unforgivable celluloid excrement?). This criticism seems to come too little, too late. Producer Nicolas Chartier might be the biggest threat to The Hurt Locker's chances after sending out inappropriate (yet true!) emails to Academy members. That intense lobbying might have turned off would be voters. While I have defended The Locker on this electronic rag, I don't think it deserves to win Best Picture for what amounts to a bunch of contrived action scenes attached to one flawless, beautifully expressive scene. I found A Serious Man, Inglourious Basterds and District 9 to be shades more enjoyable than The Hurt Locker and would gladly substitute Precious: A Stupidly Long Title and The Blind Side with Moon and In The Loop. Still, I wouldn't mind if The Hurt Locker won Best Picture if it means Dances with Wolves in Space loses.

Addendum: Fox News published a couple lines from my Hurt Locker review that gave me a case of deja vu.

From the Wikipedia entry of The Hurt Locker:

At the blog Army of Dude, infantryman and Iraq veteran Alex Horton noted that "the way the team goes about their missions is completely absurd," though he went on to call the film "the best Iraq movie to date."

From the Fox News article:

Alex Horton, for example, wrote on the ARMY of Dude blog that “the way the team goes about their missions is completely absurd,” but he added that it was still “the best Iraq war movie to date.”

Bang up job, Ed Barnes. What would get me an F in an English essay passes as journalism these days. Barnes even paraphrases without attribution the wildly popular and controversial review of The Hurt Locker written by my friend and fellow milblogger Kate (thanks to Richard for pointing that out).