Stephen Spielberg at Gettysburg

20 11 2012

Here’s Stephen Spielberg’s speech at the Dedication Day ceremony in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg yesterday (crank up the volume.)

My favorite line? “But we are filmmakers; we are not scholars, we are not historians.” It would be nice if everyone could keep that in mind.

As for Mr. Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, I saw it with friends over the weekend. A great flick – two thumbs up. Cool stuff to look for: Kelly Leak; Brother D-Day; Dan’s Appendage; King Arthur’s Son; That Amish Kid.





Saving Lincoln

6 11 2012

A while back, I was contacted by a screenwriter working on this project. I don’t think she was quite satisfied with my opinion regarding Lincoln and soldiers returning from Bull Run. But they seem to have endeavored to persevere despite the withholding of my imprimatur for the proposed scene.





Soundtrack for “Death and the Civil War”

18 09 2012

Hey folks: if you enjoy the soundtrack to tonight’s PBS American Experience presentation of Death and the Civil War, you can find ordering information here.





Preview: American Experience – “Death and the Civil War”

14 09 2012

On Tuesday, September 18, PBS will be airing a new episode of American Experience titled Death and the Civil War. The good folks there sent me a DVD of the program a while back and asked me to hold off on telling you about it until we got closer to the air date. That was a big mistake on their part, since without a firm deadline I put things off until the last minute. But I did make time to watch the program and have a few thoughts to share.

The film builds off of Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering and is directed by Ric Burns, who with his brother Ken brought us The Civil War, among other things (see the Civil War Monitor interview with Burns here). Much of the Burns formula is present here, with a reliance on panning and zooming of period photographs. In Death however, the photos are sometimes shown in their entirety in a natural setting – that is to say, we see the whole image and sometimes its frame, perhaps on a table. It certainly makes for a warmer mood at times, which considering the subject matter is much needed.

Also important to a Burns project is the soundtrack, and in this case we get a very moody, string heavy background to the narration that is effective. I don’t know if I could listen to a lot of it on its own without blowing my brains out, which is to say it suits the subject matter very nicely. (Apparently you’ll be able to purchase the soundtrack as well – I didn’t receive a copy of that for review.) I thought I caught themes from Johnny Cash (The Highwayman) and Beethoven (Symphony #7 in A Major, Op. 92), but I could be wrong. Anyway, it’s good stuff. Rea has more info on the soundtrack here.

OK, now on to the film itself. It’s presented in 8 parts. In the introduction we’re told the story of a mortally wounded Confederate and his sobering letter home in 1864, which sets the stage for the subject at hand: how was the country affected by, and how did it deal with, the unprecedented scale of death that accompanied the war? The nation was unprepared for it, and it overwhelmed individuals and institutions that had to deal with it. At the time, there were no national cemeteries, and no systems for burial or for the notification of families of the death of loved ones. Resulting reburial and pension systems would transform the Federal government in profound ways.

In Part I, Dying, we learn that death in antebellum America was viewed as a part of life. The importance of a “good death”, at home, surrounded by family and friends, with last words, was paramount. It was a very Christian view of the process of moving from one world to the next. This of course was directly opposed to death on a battlefield far from home and relatives, often alone, and often without the body ever being identified or even buried. In addition, there was little preparation for the care of casualties, which brought about the formation of the U. S. Sanitary Commission and the U. S. Christian Commission in the north. In the south, with its fewer resources, the prospect of dealing with the dead and wounded was even more overwhelming. Dying sets the stage for the remaining six parts, Burying, Naming, Honoring, Believing & Doubting, Accounting, and Remembering. In the end, it’s a tale of adaptability and the struggle to maintain some sense of humanity and normalcy in inhuman and abnormal circumstances. To achieve a good death in a bad death setting.

The film is ultimately not an uplifting piece, but for those who have not already read Faust’s book, or for those more visually inclined, it is informative and moving. The answers to some questions I’ve long pondered, such as why physicians were so quick to tell their patients that their condition was fatal, have been made more understandable to me.

Watch it.





Two For the Eyes & Ears

7 04 2012

Here are two I ran across yesterday.

First, courtesy of Keith Harris at Cosmic America – very well done on many levels. Watch this Wesley Jensen bit a few times full screen – it gets better every time, and even stitch nazis will dig it. Go here for some background and a “making of” piece - the reenactor groups are the 72nd NY, 42nd VA and Hurt’s Battery (see here).

Next from Lee White at Army of Tennessee. Not much of a video, but I’ve been a Leon Russell fan for a long time.





New and Better ALVH Trailer

23 03 2012

In theaters June 22. I’ll see it in 3D.





Old Timey Civil War

6 10 2011

Check this out - old-timey Jackson at Bull Run! Damn those Mississippi troops, and that big baby Bee, and that gold-bricking A. P. Hill! Kill ‘em, kill ‘em all!!!!

Jeez, those are some mighty stentorian tones coming from a guy drowning in his own lungs, no?

Actually, this old recording indicates that in some circles Stonewall studies haven’t progressed much over the years.

Big hat tip to friend Robert Moore.





PCN TV Programming for Gettysburg Anniversary Battlewalks

23 06 2011

I received this from Rick Cochran at PCN-TV. Good news for non-Pennsylvania residents with a Gettysburg fetish. Paying $24.99 for three days of tours and recording them is a lot cheaper than buying individual DVDs for each tour. Follow the link to see the schedule.

CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELD TOURS TO BE AVAILABLE ONLINE OVER JULY 1, 2, and 3

Each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) teams up with the Gettysburg Military Park to present televised “Battlewalks” led by Rangers and Licensed Guides. These walking tours, airing since 1996, delve into the tactics and influences of the battles as our cameras follow tour guides around the various Gettysburg areas.

In the past, these Battlewalks have only been available to television viewers in Pennsylvania through PCN. This year, for the first time, the network will offer each day’s programming through a pay streaming site partner – www.livesportsvideo.com - so that those who cannot get PCN can enjoy the programs. For just $9.99 per day (or $24.99 for the three-day package) viewers will enjoy encore presentations leading up to new programs each evening at 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). These new Battlewalks will hit the internet and PCN just hours after they take place and you will be one of the first people to see them.

PCN’s Gettysburg Battlewalks are geared toward viewers with a deep interest in the Civil War. They are extremely popular with enthusiasts all over the world who have added the DVDs to their collections. A full selection is available at www.pcnstore.com. To learn more about our Civil War coverage, visit www.pcntv.com/shows_gettysburg.html. PCN is a non-profit television network that receives no state or federal funding. Revenue generated from DVD or streaming sales helps to fund additional education programs like the Gettysburg Battlewalks.





New Gettysburg Movie on “History”

5 05 2011

Gettysburg is a 2-hour History special that kicks off a week of programming commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, this special strips away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War. It presents the pivotal battle of Gettysburg in a new light: as a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men with everything on the line. Compelling CGI  and powerful action footage place viewers in the midst of the fighting, delivering both an emotional cinematic experience and an information packed look at the turning points, strategic decisions, technology and little known facts surrounding the greatest engagement ever fought on American soil.

The special begins in the high stakes summer of 1863, as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crosses into Pennsylvania.   Trailed by the Union’s Army of the Potomac, Lee¹s 75,000 strong army heads towards Harrisburg, converging instead near a quiet farm town, Gettysburg.  Known then only as a crossroads where ten roads running in all directions converge like a wagon wheel, this small town would become site of an epic battle between North and South.  For three days, each side fought there for their vision of what America should be.

In collaboration with highly esteemed Civil War historians, History combed through hundreds of individual accounts of the battle to find the unique voices of struggle, defeat and triumph that tell the larger story of a bitterly conflicted nation.

This program is set to air Monday, May 30th at 9 PM. For more info, see here.

OK, I’m a little concerned about those crossed muskets on the Hardee hat. But I’m willing to put up with little things like that if it’s a good flick. I’ve seen two too many movies  Stitch Nazis love that were just horrible cinematic experiences. The Scotts are Oscar winners. And I love the use of this song in the trailer – always thought it would fit an ACW soundtrack.





Civil War Programs on National Geographic Channel

8 04 2011

I received an email from National Geographic with links to overviews and video previews of several Civil War programs they have scheduled. Check ‘em out.

Civil Warriors – 3 hours beginning at 8 PM on April 11.

And on April 12 at 9 PM, The Conspirator








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