Countless War Horse reviews have described the drenched-in-orange sunset finale (i.e., when Joey returns to the Dorset farm) as a near-copy of the famous red-sunset scene in Gone With The Wind when Rhett tells Scarlett he’s leaving to join the Confederate army. But the more likely inspiration comes from a romantic scene in Stanley Kubrick‘s (and dp Russell Metty‘s) Spartacus.
“I have a still-lingering resentment of that film, which I and many others disliked from the get-go for the way it kept saying ‘keep your head down’, for its celebration of clueless serendipity and simpleton-ism, and particularly for the propagandistic way it portrayed ’60s-era counter-culture types and in fact that whole convulsive period.
“Every secondary hippie or protestor character in that film was a selfish loutish asshole, and every man and woman in the military was modest, decent and considerate. These and other aspects convinced me that the film was basically reactionary Republican horseshit, and led me to write an L.A. Times Syndicate piece called ‘Gump vs. Grumps,’ about the Forrest Gump backlash.
“No offense to screenwriter Eric Roth, who’s a good fellow and a brilliant writer.
In response to which an HE reader named “hcat” said the following: “I have the same problem with Gump. While it flows well and is quite funny throughout, I hate the way it continually rewards Forrest for his stupidity and punishes Jenny for her exploration.
“What especially irks me is the fact that it criticizes the counter-culture and the hippies, but cues up their music every time they need a quick nostalgia hit. Gump is a country boy and the soundtrack should have been wall to wall Oak Ridge Boys. But that way I can’t imagine it being anywhere near the hit it was.”
You know what 2011’s award season lacks? A film that ends with a big, blustery rant with the lead protagonist explaining exactly what’s wrong and right with the world. A strong sermon, in short. The only 2011 film I can think of that has a “this is who I am and what I believe” scene is Crazy Stupid Love (i.e., the school graduation confessional), and that was awful. Have screenwriters decided that sermon scenes are too on the nose and need to be retired? I’m asking.
I was looking at footage of the Hollywood premiere of Billy Wilder‘s The Spirit of St. Louis, which opened on 4.20.57. One of the celebrity arrivals is Charlton Heston, whose hair is noticably darker than normal. Then it hit me. Of course…that’s his dyed Miguel Vargas hair for Orson Welles‘ Touch of Evil , which was shooting at the time. Before today I’d never seen Heston-as-Vargas without the spirit-glue moustache.
A couple of hours ago Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone declared that The Artist has peaked in the Best Picture race and that War Horse is now the one to beat. She’s guesstimating by way of insect antennae, but she’s good at that. I also agree with her boilerplate observation: “The best films usually don’t win…the majority [wins] and emotion rules the day.”
But I don’t agree with saying War Horse is “in the Titanic realm as maybe the worst movie and the best movie at the same time.” However War Horse plays for this or that person, one thing it emphatically doesn’t do is hold its emotional cards close to the chest until the last 20 minutes, as Titanic does.
I’m also appalled at Stone’s observation that War Horse is “making people cry whole soggy tears, grown men even. What makes men cry? Poor war horses in peril.”
No…no. Real men do not cry at the sight of some poor horse or dog or any helpless innocent (including Tom Hanks‘ Forrest Gump) being in peril. I explained several years ago that “the one big thing guys cry about is loss — the son or daughter they didn’t love enough, the childhood dog that died, the woman that got away, the loss of a friend, the loss of a wallet with lots of cash in it. Fill in the blanks but that’s the trigger mechanism.”
There is no sense of profound loss in War Horse…none. It’s just an episodic adventure tale about a lovable horse that survives a terrible ordeal. That’s it. No more than that.
The emotionalism in War Horse — feelings of pity and compassion for a poor beast caught up in a brutal situation — is the lowest kind there is and about as sappy as it gets. Anyone over the age of seven or eight who feels emotionally devastated by being told or reminded that war brings terrible pain and trauma is probably emotionally stunted to some degree. I’m sorry to be blunt.
Fans of War Horse are “loving the old-fashioned faux-John Ford patina and the swelling music, and a celebration of the goodness of all peoples regardless of race or creed,” Stone writes. “How do you definite Best Picture of the year? Well, that’s how. War Horse is about the inherent goodness of people and thus the Oscar race will underline that and bold it.”
And on the other end of the spectrum is a film called Au hasard Balthazar, which is about a poor beast of burden who suffers from the myopia and selfishness that has defined so much of humanity throughout the ages, and who finds very little love in this world except from a young French girl and an older working-class woman who, toward the end of Robert Bresson‘s 1966 classic, recognizes the beast as a saint.
People who admire and respect a film like War Horse (and the childhood-level emotionalism that it shovels like so much manure) more than the austere humanism and directness of a film like Au hasard Balthazar are pathetic, plain and simple. This is the kind of response that Snooki from Jersey Shore would have. Life is a gulag without the ability see beyond the obvious. You can be an idiot and settle for Snooki-dom, or you can at least strive to be something more.
How anyone who’s seen and understood the Bresson film for what it is…how that person can give War Horse a Best Picture vote and then look at themselves in the mirror the next morning is beyond me.
I always ignore these Hollywood Reporter talkathons because they post them so long after-the-fact. You have to post material quickly on the web. But this is interesting. Gary Oldman, George Clooney, Albert Brooks, Christopher Plummer, Christoph Waltz, Nick Nolte. Originally posted on 12.5.
Best bit: Plummer’s recollections about making The Sound of Music. Second best: His admission that he only began to have fun playing characters in film when he reached his drunk stage in his 40s (i.e., The Man Who Would Be King ). Second best: Clooney saying “we’re all on this journey [but] it’s how you handle the down parts [that counts].” Third best: Brooks saying that “the star thing means nothing top you in your soul, Your soul doesn’t go, ‘Oh, you’re a star!’ Your demons are your demons.” Fourth best: Nolte saying “I’ve lived with death lately…after 70, you don’t think about sex much.” Fifth best: Charles Manson was called “Chuck.”
Yesterday a captivating Spanish-language teaser for Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Impossible (Summit, 10.11.12) surfaced on YouTube. I haven’t yet found an English-language version but it hardly matters. It feels spooky and mystical, and looks fantastic. Summit’s decision to wait until the fall obviously means they think it’s much more than an FX popcorn film about the ’04 Asian tsunami.
A little more than four months ago I passed along information about The Impossible straight from Bayona.
“I can only say that we’re on schedule and working really hard on the editing and visual effects. We finished principal photography last February and did three weeks of technical shooting (scale models and water) in June. The film will be completed in early 2012.” Summit acquired domestic rights in May 2010.
The Impossible is a true account of a family swept up in the tsunami that slammed into the coast of Thailand and neighboring countries seven-plus years ago. Naomi Watts and Ewan Macgregor are the stars. Tom Holland, Gitte Julsrud and Marta Etura costar.
Bayona’s last film, The Orphanage, is one of the great adult horror films of the 21st Century. The same team that worked on The Orphanage (writer, production manager, cinematographer, composer and editor) have reunited for this.
The Impossible was largely shot in Alicante, Spain and on location in Phuket, Thailand, beginning in the vicinity of May 2010.
Bayona has allegedly described it as an “ambitious, high-quality European film” which will be “competitive on an international market.”
In Richard Curtis and Lee Hall‘s screenplay of War Horse, there’s a scene prior to the British cavalry charge upon German troops that didn’t make the cut. It’s a three-way conference between Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), Major Stewart (Benedict Cumberbach)and Lieutenant Waverly (Patrick Kennedy). An HE regular e-mailed it during my flight to Los Angeles.
Major Stewart: Are the men ready, Captain?
Captain Waverly: Those kraut bastards will taste British steel!
Major Stewart: England’s pride!
Captain Nicholls: Sir?
Major Stewart: And so thrilling!
Captain Nicholls: There are pragmatic considerations, sir. British soldiers attacking with swords, sir. What about the German rifles and machine guns? They’re sure to shoot back. Most of us will be killed.
Major Stewart: An honorable way to die!
Captain Nicholls: Sir…
Major Stewart: We’ve only a few minutes, Captain. Prepare the men.
Captain Waverly: British steel!
Captain Nicholls: Sir, it’s suicide.
Major Stewart: We’re soldiers, Captain.
Captain Nicholls: Sir, we’re characters in a film. Our fate is set. We know that. Sir, can I speak plainly? The reason we’re attacking the Germans on horseback with only swords as weapons is because Mr. Spielberg, the director, wants to recreate the “attack on Aqaba” sequence from Lawrence of Arabia.
Captain Waverly: I’ve heard of Major Lawrence, sir!
Captain Nicholls: Shut up, Waverly! Sir, this is a movie but it’s also our lives, our fate. We’re here, right now, and this is an actual war we’re fighting. And charging into the German lines on horseback means that most if not all of us will die from machine-gun bullets. Why, sir, do we have to charge with swords? Why not pistols and rifles as well? Why do we have to pointlessly die so that for Mr. Spielberg can capture a great-looking scene?
Captain Waverly: If you’ll pardon, sir. What I meant was that some of us have heard of Major Lawrence’s horseback and camelback attack on Aqaba, and the key factor is that it happened in the very early morning while the Turkish troops were just waking up. So they had the advantage of surprise.
Major Stewart: But this is 1916. The attack on Aqaba won’t happen for another year.
Captain Waverly: Sir?
Major Stewart: How can you know? It hasn’t happened yet! Glenn Kenny just pointed that out!
Captain Waverly: You’re questioning my ability to see a year into the future. I understand that. But you don’t question Cpt. Nicholls conveying the intentions of Mr. Spielberg, who won’t be making his film for another 94 or 95 years?