World War II
(E08) If it seems like forever since 'The Pacific' spent any time with John Basilone, that's because it has been. As Basilone himself said, it's been more than a year since he saw action. Since he couldn't just go back into the heart of the war, he asked for the next best thing: the opportunity to train the next batch of marines who'd be heading out to back up his friends still on the line.
Other than a brief interlude with Sledge, who's back at base camp with a Snafu slipping toward hypochondria, we spent the entire hour with Sgt. Basilone. In doing so, the writers and producers managed to find yet another facet of the war to show us. The emotional struggles of a soldier away from the war, and the conflicting ties that pull him in both directions at once.
This week, I finally saw the value of the opening narrative with Tom Hanks interspersed with interviews with the World War II veterans. They're presented to offer background information for the events to come. Most of us have never seen anything like the war in the Pacific, so we wouldn't know about things like the intricate tunnels the Japanese used on Peleliu.
The more relaxed pace of the episode allowed us to get to know some of our principal cast members more intimately. Particularly Robert Leckie and John Basilone, who had very different experiences in Melbourne. Basilone was the decorated war hero, given the highest honor he could possibly achieve, while Leckie found something even sweeter: a woman.
(E02) After watching this second installment of 'The Pacific,' I think I have a feeling why people who've seen further along are talking about how things pick up once we get into the next episode. With these first two parts, we spent virtually the entire time on Guadalcanal, and there was virtually no time for any sort of character connections.
After this, the 1st Marines are finally getting off the island to move onto their next campaign, which means a change of scenery, and a chance for the impact of what they've just gone through to start hitting both the marines themselves, and the audience. Just like them, we've had virtually no time to process all the horror and warfare these men endured on the island.
While last week spotlighted most of the hour on the beauty of the island, this week it was the brutality of war itself that took center stage, with almost constant gunfire from the opening credits to the closing credits.
Reviews of the first installment of HBO's ten-part mini-series 'The Pacific' have been mixed -- I liked it, though -- and ratings figures aren't in yet. Nevertheless, the network has taken the bold step of putting that entire episode online for free viewing; you can catch it here. Is it a response to poor ratings -- even though we don't know those figures yet, the network likely does -- or just an attempt to lure people in who don't already have HBO?
The premiere was more style over substance, which is one of the major problems critics had with it, but it did offer some stunning visuals and established an atmosphere very different than 'Band of Brothers.' As a companion piece of sorts to the modern classic 'Brothers,' brought to us by the same production team including Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, expectations were pretty high for 'The Pacific' coming out of the gate.
Now I'm ready for this long-delayed continuation, as we see Churchill from the heights of power during WWII to his waning years. But I'm not sure how difficult a transition it's going to be with these key roles recast. It's no knock against Brendan Gleeson (Winston Churchill) or Janet McTeer (Clemmie Churchill). I've just so fallen in love with Finney and Redgrave in those roles, I worry that I'll be comparing their performances rather than enjoying the film.
"Gee whiz, that crazy nut just shot at me! I'd like to give that silly so-and-so a bop on the noggin, by golly!"
Yeah, I just can't imagine a World War II veteran talking about his experiences and not using a few expletives, and there are more than a few curse words bandied about in Ken Burns' seven-part documentary The War. The swearing comes not only from the soldiers themselves who use phrases like "holy s**t" and "***hole," but from the narrator, who explains what the military acronyms "FUBAR" and "SNAFU" stand for (if you don't know, Google it).
Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to the end of summer reruns, and for the new fall season to kick off over the next several weeks. In addition to returning shows and new offerings from the networks and studios, I'm also quite interested in Ken Burns' new documentary for PBS, The War, which debuts on September 23 at 8:00 p.m. and is scheduled to air in seven parts. Check your listings for airtimes in your area.
I've been drawn to the idea of a lengthy documentary about World War II partially for the historical aspect, but moreso because of the human aspect. Growing up, my exposure to that era was through films featuring rugged heroes and clean, bloodless battles. Combine this with the solipsism inherent in all young people, and the result is a skewed --if not completely false-- perspective on what it was really like to be alive during that era, not only for the soldiers on the battlefields overseas, but also for the people back home.
PBS recently posted a teaser clip of the new Ken Burns documentary about World War II, The War, on YouTube. I've placed it at the end of this post.
Based on my past posts about this upcoming documentary (it airs for two weeks starting September 23), people have differing opinions about Burns' talent as a documentary filmmaker. As a layman, I thought his Civil War was well-made and very interesting, though certainly not the most exciting documentary I've ever seen.
You'll recall my recent post where I said Ken Burns documentary about World War II angered some in the Latino community for its lack of coverage of Latinos who fought in the war. Well, Burns apparently took the protest to heart and has decided to not only go back and retool his 14-hour documentary to include the overlooked footage, but has also hired a Latino producer to help him create the new content. The War is scheduled to hit PBS in September. The series will focus on four communities in the United States and how they were impacted by the war.
As I said in my previous post, it has to be almost impossible to make a documentary about something as substantial as World War II and not inadvertently leave some stuff out. I do think it's admirable that Burns has decided to go back and amend his documentary, but at the same time I wonder what else he may have overlooked, and whether or not more people will come forward to accuse his documentary of being incomplete. People have the right to protest, of course, but I imagine pleasing everyone is almost impossible.
Ken Burns' upcoming PBS documentary about World War II has angered some veterans and leaders in the Latino community.
The protest was sparked by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, who runs an oral history project about Latino veterans for the University of Texas.
Burns points out that not every story could be told in The War, his 14-hour documentary slated to air on PBS this September, but the documentary contains no interviews with Latino soldiers whatsoever. Unfortunately, going back and splicing in stories from Latino veterans is easier said than done, and satisfying Rivas-Rodriguez's desire to have at least an additional two hours dedicated to Latino veterans is a rather tall order, considering the documentary focuses on four specific communities and Latino veterans from each of those communities would have to be found and their stories spliced in to fit the overall narrative.
War, what is it good for?
It's good for Ken Burns, we know that much. The documentary filmmaker behind the hugely popular Civil War documentary series is preparing to delve into war yet again with a new PBS documentary about World War II. Burns originaly didn't want to do another war documentary, but decided the story needed to be told while there were still people alive who fought in the war.
The War will air starting on September 17 and will be the first new series created by Burns after he inked a deal to have his work shown exclusively on PBS until 2022. The 14-hour documentary does include some swearing from soldiers who describe their time serving during the war, which means two versions of the series might be offered to stations who want to avoid any FCC problems. I would hope stations opt to show the uncensored version, since a few curse words seems perfectly appropriate when describing one's personal war experiences.
After losing co-founder Joseph Barbera and animator Ed Benedict, Hanna Barbera is again saying good-bye to yet another legend. Iwao Takamoto, who designed Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the rest of the Mysteries Inc. gang, passed away yesterday at the age of 81.
While Ed Benedict is credited with designing the original Flintstones characters, Takamoto designed the Great Gazoo. He also created Muttley, the wheezing dog featured on such shows as Laff-A-Lympics, Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines and Wacky Races; and Astro, the Jetson's dog who, oddly enough, sounded not unlike Scooby-Doo (both were voiced by Don Messick). His other credits at Hanna Barbera include Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw and many, many others.
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