In episode two we continue to examine the American Revolution, but we look at two series that focus less on the famous Founding Fathers and, instead, highlight the experiences of "ordinary people" people forced to negotiate fast-moving and complex events. They are Turn: Washington’s Spies and The Book of Negroes . We really want to emphasize how Turn and The Book of Negroes bring the stories of ordinary people to life, but in very different ways. When the Founding Fathers do make the occasional appearance on screen it works to reveal the contributions of those who are the invisible movers of events - farmers turned spies, for example, or enslaved people caught in the middle of a dispute that, if anything, could only worsen their plight.
This season, we’re going to be looking at the general theme of rebels and rebellions, revolutionaries and revolts, insurrectionists and traitors, freedom fighters and patriots. All of these are terms that have come up a lot over the past year, particularly since January 6th, 2021. So we’re going to take a long look at how Hollywood responded to contemporary events in the 20th and 21st centuries by retelling the stories of rebels and revolutionaries, and the rebellions and revolutions they were part of. Along the way, we’ll also be exploring what gets called a revolution, and who gets counted as a revolutionary. Spoiler alert - sometimes those labels are compliments and sometimes they’re accusations. In our first episode, we compare and contrast the HBO prestige miniseries John Adams, which solemnly recounts the life of our founding father and second president, and the History Channel miniseries Sons of Liberty, which reshaped revolutionary history into an action-packed adventure tale starring his cousin, Sam.
In this second of two discussions about SciFi and 9/11, we look at 3 tv series: Battlestar Galactica, Falling Skies and The Leftovers. This is the last episode of Season 1. We will return later in the year with Season 2, in which we look at how Hollywood has represented revolts and insurrections over the years, and how current events influenced those depictions at the time.
1 hr 1 min
In our final 2 episodes of Season 1 we’re doing something a little different. Our focus has been on how historical events are portrayed on screen after 9/11 - from Antiquity to 9/11 itself. But if we confine ourselves to film and tv with historic narratives, we’re actually going to be ignoring where we find the most commentary on the 9/11 and its legacy - science fiction. We had so much to say that we've broken our conversation into 2 parts. So in Part I this week, we're talking about films, most notably War of the Worlds (2005) and Cloverfield (2008). In Part II next week, we'll be talking about TV series, focusing on Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008) and The Leftovers (2014-2017).
Moments after the planes hit, dozens of CIA and FBI officials had their worst fears confirmed. They each knew separate pieces of the story, but enduring and vicious turf wars over counter-terrorism prevented any meaningful cooperation. Part I of this week's episode looks at Hulu's 2017 miniseries, The Looming Tower to see how Hollywood answered the question: How did we fail to see what was coming when we have the largest and richest military and intelligence agencies in the world? Part II of The Reckoning confronts the choices we made in a cloud of fear and shame after that failure. Dick Cheney casually let it be known that there would be no “tying the hands of our intelligence community” and famously urged the country to welcome a turn to the “dark side” in an unprecedented war on terror. We discuss Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 Zero Dark Thirty and Scott Burns’s 2019 The Report, and their very different attitudes towards those policies.
In this episode of Lies Agreed Upon we examine the day everything changed, September 11, 2001. Until now we’ve talked about how the long cultural shadow of 9/11 influenced films about ancient history, the Cold War, and slavery; or institutions like the press, or the CIA. But 9/11 itself was off limits. But in 2006 two films came out from directors with reputations for making movies that critically examine historical events. Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center follows the story of a handful of New York Port Authority policemen, first responders with no idea what they were in for that sunny Tuesday morning. Paul Greengrass’ United 93 takes to the air, recreating the terrifying and chaotic experiences of passengers who stormed the cockpit of the fourth hijacked plane heading to the US Capitol building. These two directors dared to go where no others had gone before - 9/11. They also could not be more different in how they chose to tackle this heretofore black hole of representation.
Our Lies Agreed Upon in this episode are: First, that a familiar, timeless story that reinforces who we think we are must be true. Second, that history is there to reassure and uplift, not to challenge, or make us uncomfortable. And third, that there is only one history - a stable truth that sits outside of time, prejudice, and self-interest. We explore how Hollywood represents the traumatic past in the wake of a more recent trauma - 9/11. The films discussed are Bloody Sunday (2002), The Alamo (2004), and 12 Years A Slave (2013).
In the wake of Watergate, when Nixon flouted the Constitution and denigrated the press, Alan Pakula’s 1976 classic All the President’s Men made journalism sexy and heroic again (not surprising as the book it was based on was written by the journalists who broke the Watergate story). This episode looks at three movies that celebrate what might be called “heroic journalism” in response to the direct attacks of two administrations. George Clooney’s Good Night, And Good Luck (2005), Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015) and Steven Spielberg’s The Post (2017) go a long way towards rehabilitating the fifth estate in light of post-911 failures.
Dec 30, 2020
In the aftermath of 9/11, many Americans were asking - how did we get here? Why did so many people, particularly in the Middle East, think of America as the evil empire? Did ‘we’ deserve this? Many people couldn’t understand where the hatred of America came from. And the methods of the terrorists seemed to come out of nowhere. Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005), Mike Nichols’s Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), and Ben Affleck’s Argo (2012) address these questions in one form or another.
Dec 23, 2020
In this episode, Brian Crim and Lia Paradis look at Ridley Scott’s 2005 Crusade saga – Kingdom of Heaven; Oliver Stone’s 2004 bio-pic – Alexander; and Zach Snyder’s 2006 extravaganza – 300. They all fall into a classic Hollywood genre: the sword and sandals epics. What these films have in common is also what makes them weird because when you think about that kind of movie, you think of it as something way outdated and not a popular draw. But in the years since 9/11 THEY KEEP SHOWING UP.
Dec 16, 2020