Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier (1972)

*Spoiler Alert – this post contains ludicrous generalizations

Americans. They love their guns and war. Obviously I’m painting with crude, broad strokes, but as a non-American, that is your stereotype. British people have weird teeth and may all be lair-dwelling super villains, Germans are efficient pool-side lounger-grabbers, the French are from France, The Irish are Drunk, people from the Middle East are terrorists, people from Africa are starving, and Americans are loud, overweight, obnoxious, gun-toting zealots. Stereotypes are bullshit, but sprinkled with nuggets of truth. Look at the way veterans of Vietnam were treated, especially those speaking up about the truth in this stunning documentary. Look at what is happening today, with warmongering and tweet-tiger-poking. History repeats itself, humanity loses, and the rich get to work on getting richer and making the rest of us forget.

In case you hadn’t yet surmised, the Winter Soldier I’m talking about today is not a Marvel action fest, but a timely documentary made numerous filmmakers and is based around the Winter Soldier War Crimes hearing of 1971 – something I had no clue existed prior to watching the film. The film interviews and documents testimony and eye witness accounts, from US soldiers mainly, of the terrible acts they saw committed in the name of their flag, their Country, their freedom, acts which are far and away from the regular horrors of war. We learn how many of the soldiers signed up or were conscripted under the old lie of fighting for freedom of good old Uncle Sam, white picket fences, Sunday baseball games, and all the other bullshit, but were not in any way prepared for the nature of combat physically or mentally, were trained to be blinded to the suffering of others, to follow orders without question even though the orders were clearly wrong, and were not made aware of little things such as the Geneva Convention. Basically, if your superior told you to crush a baby’s head under your boot, you were required to get stomping.

Witness accounts tell, in detail and often with fury and disbelief of Vietnamese children being shot to pieces just because they happened to be walking down the road, of hostages being taken just so they could be dropped out of helicopters for fun, of innocents being slaughtered indiscriminately for the crime of not being American, and so on. Most of the interviews are from soldiers only recently returned from the war, and filmed in black and white to give a news reel feel, but there are snippets of colour footage of troops in battle.

If you didn’t already have a ready made assumption about the recent history of US war, then you will after viewing this. Especially given what you may know about the continued treatment of ‘the enemy’ in subsequent wars – one only needs to see how prisoners – and often innocents – were treated post 9/11 in American camps to know that there is a deep, awful, and unavoidable history and systematic problem with savagery, with evil, within American society. At least where it concerns the Military, and those who sent men and women to war. It has been over a year since I first watched this film, and over 50 years since the US was arsing about needlessly in Vietnam – and yet very little has changed. People in power will abuse said power, people with guns will fire them at anyone and everyone as long as they don’t have the finger or the trigger turned inwards, and the media, the flag-wavers, the people at the top will turn a blind eye to it all. If you think you’re Country cares about you – you are wrong. If you think your Country cares about others – you are wrong. If you think your country cares about Veterans – you are wrong. Your Country simply wants all the toys, all the control, and wants to wave its dick around to show it’s the baddest motherfucker around. Wake up – for the good, honest Americans and people around the world, it’s only your voice and power which will make a change.

It’s no surprise then that Winter Solder was ignored upon release and that all mainstream stations refused to show it for decades. Can’t have people knowing we’re sending our boys away to kill actual boys and girls, then bringing them back more broken than ever with only a couple of badges and a pat on the back to keep them warm at night – because of course we’re not going to really look after them are we? Winter Soldier should be required viewing for everyone, or at least anyone with an interest in history, but especially for the flag-waving Right who may be faced with the sound of their own screams in their own echo chamber of bias, and the Left who need reminding that change is absolutely necessary, and for everyone else regardless of affinity who should know the extremes people will go to for the Stars and Stripes.

Room 237

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As any student of any art form knows and fears, the moment you begin to study a particular text, film, or other piece of art is the moment it falls apart and becomes a gaping corpse of functional, practical parts ready to be dissected and reassembled in any Frankenstein manner you wish. Movie fans love to discuss movies, to look for tiny specs on re-watches that you or others may have missed, while critics prefer to cut the thing apart to find any minor details which they can ascribe to their own agenda. Somewhere between or beyond these groups is another breed which goes further, seeking to fuel their own fan-fiction, conspiracy theories, or venomous, stalker-lite love. Room 237 is a basement dweller’s blood-written love-letter to Kubrick, an interesting, ridiculous, and beyond believable account of people who have slipped out of fandom and into hysteria. Like any good conspiracy, it’s well worth listening to so that you can either point and laugh, nod and walk away, or think to yourself that maybe these guys have a point after all….

Room 237 specifically examines Kubrick’s The Shining, but also takes reference points from Kubrick’s life and other movies. Movie fans and critics alike will enjoy hearing pieces of information on the director and his movies that they may not have heard before, as well as marveling at the tenuous connections that our wonderfully, creatively flawed minds can make. We hear from general fans and academics, we hear theories which rank from the distantly plausible to the completely ludicrous. It’s easy to make such reaches when Kubrick was such a clever, divisive character with openly dense films. Your appreciation of this documentary will likely depend on how much of a Kubrick fan you are, and how much you enjoy taking an issue to its least logical endpoint or listening to others do the same. Personally I do enjoy this sort of thing but eventually it does become tiresome – Room 237 repeats the same footage, and has the same bland voices rambling on, so your patience may be tested long before the credits are rolling.

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I was planning to go into more detail and maybe add another paragraph, but I think it’s best for those interested to go into this with an open mind – it isn’t essential for Kubrick or King fans, but it is made by and features people with a love both dedicated and a little disturbing for the works discussed. Let us know in the comments what you thought of Room 237 and what your favourite movie related conspiracy theories are.

Milius

Review based on a free copy provided by Amazon – by it here. *Originally written in 2013.

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It’s about damn time. For decades now, John Milius has been the leading renegade of Hollywood, directing a number of hits, writing some of the most important moments in Cinematic history, and contributing to some of the greatest films of all time. Finally, with this documentary he gets the reverential treatment and respect he deserves – a fantastic, comprehensive documentary which acts both as dedication and memoir, history and story, and hopefully a piece of media which will bring the man back into the spotlight and gain him some recognition with modern audiences.

Through a variety of interviews new and old, archive footage and movie clips, Milius charts the rise, and supposed fall, of the original maverick. We learn of his politics, often confused by others, his views on storytelling and Hollywood itself, and hear many hilarious stories about his early days as a writer and encounters with Hollywood suits. For those not familiar with him, there is a checklist of people he has directly influenced and worked with – the documentary is a who’s who of American Cinema with Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Scorsese and so on recounting their tales. It is a fascinating story with many wonderful insights into the legend’s character. Hopefully he gets back to full health soon and gets to make a few more classics, as the days of the Hollywood renegade seem almost forgotten and needs someone to kickstart another revolution. He was part of the cinema revolution of the Seventies, so why not again?

Growing up in the 80s I was always a big fan of Milius, with hits including Conan The Barbarian and Red Dawn as well as writing on numerous films – Jaws, Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now – he is an integral part of movie history and anyone with a passing interest in cinema should enjoy this. It’s a fast moving, well detailed, and entertaining couple of years in the company of some of Hollywood’s finest.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Milius the movie, Milius the man, and the work he has done.

Zulu: CHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGEEEEEEEEEEE!

This is a documentary about the various wars America has fought in Africa. It proves that even though the American army may have been severely outnumbered (at least 3 million to one) that their superior intellect and firepower would crush the enemy. How arrogant of the natives to try and fight the Americans who were only trying to bring some rock’n’roll to their continent. Did they think that the mighty US wouldn’t fight back! Well, they soon saw the error of their ways as Lee Marvin, Michael Kane, Clint Eastwoodand co kick some butt! Yeah man! 10 Km! Wave after wave of bad guys come, wave after wave of bad guys fall. Let this be a lesson to the bad guys of the world. If you annoy us, you will die. If you attack us, you will die. If we attack you, oh you better believe yo gonna die! A strong piece of Propaganda produced by Spielberg which successfully wiped out every American/African War and brought peace. The rest of the world needs to watch.

Best Scene: When Hawsbee is saving Jacobs and the rest of the gang from the fire in the bedroom.