Friday, September 08, 2006


The media broke the news about The Path to 9/11 controversy in a big way last night. CNN devoted about 15 minutes to it in their Situation Room piece with Wolf Blitzer. I noticed, though, that while they mentioned top Democrats were criticizing the show without seeing it, they failed to mention that ABC did release advance copies to right-wing commentators.

ABC is shocked, shocked!, that people would criticize their show before the editing had been completed! Of course we can never know if they would have edited the errors out of it had people not complained about it...

The reason why I've been harping on about this is because anachronisms really bug me in stories that purport to be "based on truth". Alana will tell you that I can be a pain this way, though ironically I don't remember seeing many movies or TV shows with her that I've actually disagreed with the film!

Now, I'm not a huge stickler for realism, if I believe the film maker or novelist had a point to make. I hadn't seen A Knight's Tale with Heath Ledger because of poor reviews. Alana and I saw it a few weeks ago on TV and I quite enjoyed it. Okay, so the film took place during in the 14th century with 15th century armour. It also featured crowds banging their hands to Queen's "We Will Rock You". It was quite obvious that the director knew he was being anachronistic. I very much enjoyed Enemy At The Gates, about the battle of Stalingrad, even though there are points that were highly unrealistic. I have my own theory on this, that the director was trying to achieve a specific style and that his "unreal" moments represented the main character's legend as dictated by Soviet propoganda. In short, he knew what he was doing and he was "anachronistic" (or "unrealistic") for the sake of art. That doesn't bother me.

Saving Private Ryan is probably my favourite film. (Hmmm... should do a "favourite film" post one day.) It was criticized for some inaccuracies, such as the fact that at no time in the war were a group of men ordered to save a single man so he could be sent home to his mother. This didn't bother me, either. I could suspend my disbelief on that one, because I could imagine someone in high command ordering it. They gave far more foolish orders. I also quite happily accepted that the Tiger tanks in the film were modified Soviet tanks. They looked a lot like Tiger tanks, and where else could you get something tank-ish that moved? The TV program Mythbusters showed that a bullet can't easily harm someone under water. That fact does not spoil the first few minutes of the film for me, in spite of the fact that machine gun bullets could not kill men under the water's surface at Normandy.

On the other hand, there are a number of films that I do not like because of anachronisms or mistakes made by lazy or stupid directors. I refused to see U-571 because of its inaccuracies. The worst is the implication that it was Americans who first captured a German Enigma machine (German code machine used during World War II), when in fact the British were the first and captured 13 of the 15 machines during the war. That, alone, wouldn't have hurt it for me if it wasn't for all the other problems (including, but not limited to, two World War II submarines attacking each other under water; never happened, as they didn't have the capability to attack each other).

I haven't seen The Patriot either. I was turned off by the way they portrayed the British army carrying out atrocities that were actually based on those committed by the Nazis. I've since heard that their portrayal of slavery is way off base. As a Civil War history buff, that would annoy me no end.

Speaking of which, I did see Gods and Generals, and was unimpressed. Michael, my friend Chris, and I went to see Gettysburg when that came out. I had some issues with the history of that battle, but the movie was actually a recreation of Michael Shaara's novel The Killer Angels. For that I was willing to cut it some slack, and the inaccuracies were not huge. On the other hand, Gods and Generals, the prequel to The Killer Angels written by Shaara's son, Jeff, was a big disappointment. While the film got a lot of the small details correct, it had some major mistakes that spoiled it for me. It didn't help that it was overly long, overly preachy, and generally not well written. I wish I could find the review of the DVD I wrote on, because it puts my feelings of the film into perspective.

It's all about suspension of disbelief. I enjoyed Where Eagles Dare (even if it did show the Germans using a helicopter to get to its mountain retreat) and The Guns of Navarone. I was the one who ran a World War II-based roleplaying session featuring zombies and German cultists! I loved Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I still watch Memphis Belle every now and again, even though I know all the events in the film did not apply to a single aircraft on one sortie.

What bothers me about Path to 9/11 is that it's made a big deal about being accurate, about being based on the 9/11 Commission's report while including some major mistakes. It angers me that the inaccuracies may have been deliberately added by someone with an agenda.

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