War is hell but it sometimes provides the backdrop for great movies. The recent Blu-ray release of 1917, followed by the 50th anniversary, this week, of the Oscar-winning Patton, starring George C. Scott, is as good an excuse as any for cinephiles to hunker down in the trenches of an impromptu war movie marathon (especially if you’re stuck at home right now due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic).
With that in mind, here’s a mission for you, soldier: work your way through this chronological list of the best war movies of the last fifty years. “Best” is ultra-subjective, of course, but when you’re Alamo-ed up in a fort of pillows in your living room and there’s nothing good on television, few of these movies should disappoint.
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Within the war movie genre, the American Civil War hasn’t beget as many classics as World War II or Vietnam. One indisputable classic, however, is Glory, the powerful 1989 film based on a true story about one of the first all-black volunteer regiments in the Union Army. Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for this movie. You may recall the scene where his character, Trip — the defiant slave turned soldier turned AWOL shoe-hunter — tries to keep a stiff upper lip but starts leaking tears as he’s whipped across his back, which already bears the scars of a runaway slave.
This year, at an AFI tribute to Washington, Michael B. Jordan cited those scars as the inspiration for Killmonger’s in Black Panther. Glory is a film where a similar transference of legacy can be felt in the actors’ performances. Bolstered by one of the all-time great film scores (composed by the late James Horner and featuring the Harlem Boys Choir), it’s a movie that seeks to pass the generational torch, putting viewers in touch with the past so that its forgotten sacrifices can help light the way forward to a better tomorrow for all.
Seeing “Old Glory,” the flag, wave in Glory, the film, as Americans fight other Americans on the battlefield at Antietam Creek certainly hits close to home in 2019, when the country feels less united than ever, up a different kind of creek. With HBO’s Watchmen having recently drawn attention to the Tulsa Race Massacre, Glory offers another indelible screen depiction of an important episode in American history. Rewatching it on its thirtieth anniversary, here at the tail end of the 2010s, is an emotional experience: at once humbling and cathartic and inspiring all over again.
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Edward Zwick‘s Civil War drama Glory is turning 30 this year, and the film will march back into theaters to mark the occasion. Fathom Events, Sony Pictures, and Turner Classic Movies, have partnered to show Glory on 600 movie screens around the U.S. on two select days. The screenings will feature pre- and post-film commentary that delves deeper into the production.
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Subtonix decided to create a map of the United States by pinpointing the movies which best represent each of the 50 states. For example, New Jersey is Clerks and Kansas is The Wizard of Oz. There will likely be some debate over some of these choices (is Fast Times at Ridgemont High the ultimate representation of California?) but it is an interesting concept none the less. It’s also interesting to note that more Coen Brothers films appear on the map than any other filmmaker. Hit the jump to see the whole map, and click to enlarge.
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/Film reader Dano e-mailed me to point out that a track on the score for James Cameron’s Avatar sounds suspiciously similar to a track on the score of Glory. Of course, both films were scored by composer James Horner. I understand that composers tend to use the same instruments and tones for different dramatic beats. Horner is notorious for this, as it sounds like he borrows (or repeats) from his past filmography. But what makes this more notable is that Horner is nominated for an Academy Award for his Avatar score, in a year when a lot of other musical artists have been disqualified from nomination.
The list includes Sad Brad Karen O (of Where the Wild Things Are), T Bone Burnett (of Crazy Heart), Brian Eno (of The Lovely Bones), Carter Burwell (The Blind Side), Nicholas Hooper (Half-Blood Prince), Erran Baron Cohen (Bruno) and Jason Schwartzman (Funny People). Only 84 films qualified for consideration for a Best Score nomination, which actually makes the category the “smallest field among the 15 categories” of this year’s Oscars. And many more were disqualified from Best Original Song, including Sad Brad’s awesome track Help Yourself (for Up in the Air). The rule which disqualifies many composers states: “Scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other preexisting music, diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs, or assembled from the music of more than one composer shall not be eligible.”
I’ve included the two musical tracks after the jump, so that you can listen to them for yourself. They are not identical, but they sound extremely similar. In a time when the Academy is disqualifying so many scores due to previous created compositions, why does this qualify? How different does a musical piece need to be to qualify?
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