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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:56 am 
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Ahab wrote:
Would differ with you over the initial reaction to the Memorial. It is an unusual design. Just reading a description of it or seeing a small model of it one can understand how some would have been unimpressed with it or found its simplicity to be wanting. Most of the criticism was made by those who hadn't actually seen it or refused to see it. One of the biggest critics of those being interviewed changed his mind completely once he actually saw it.

I had difficulty getting my head around the concept until I finally saw it in situ: photos really don't do it justice.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 7:26 pm 
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flyonthewall2983 wrote:
As a film buff, I can see how watching all of it may make me look at films like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and others differently. I'm curious about others that I've yet to see more than I was before, especially We Were Soldiers, to see if Mel Gibson could pull off the portrayal of the general who I was captivated by in just seeing one bit of newsreel on.

I'd add Casualties of War to that list too.

After just watching the seventh and eighth episodes, the latter of which dealt with the My Lai massacre and Kent State, it also struck me even more forcefully that horror genre cinema in the late 60s through to the early 80s was really where you get the major fallout from the Vietnam War being dealt with rather abstractly until the subject of Vietnam became palatable to deal with more directly from the late 70s onwards. The way that horror films became more brutal, gorier and dealt with mental trauma and the homefront horror of being inside a society in the process of eating itself and that doesn't care if you live or die, such as every type of relationship or shred of comfort being relentlessly torn apart in Night of the Living Dead. The youngsters getting literally treated as meat in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The Vietnam War updating of the old Monkey's Paw tale in Dead of Night. Even all of those disturbing whilst simultaneously comicbook silly Italian cannibal films really work as part of working through a horrendous trauma of the id of film coming to terms with reality versus staged events as groups of Americans 'invade' a country, brutalise the 'natives', commit atrocities and have the same done to them in retribution, all done through the lens of a media critique framework (especially Cannibal Apocalypse, which literalises the Vietnam War connection, involving soldiers returning home having been traumatised by their POW experiences), where the characters still believe that certain images of death might still be too much to show on the evening news, even in the wake of the news having become its own nightly horror film with its own tallied up bodycount.

This series is also reminding me of the comments that Peter Davis made in his commentary over the Hearts & Minds documentary, which was that Vietnam was kind of a unique media war in the way that there is so much astonishingly crisp and vivid (often colour) footage of bombing runs and so on that are incredibly candid in what they are capturing, with the suggestion that the US military had not yet understood the effect that witnessing all of this graphic, inescapable imagery would have on the attitude of audience watching back at home. That you could be celebrating your success but the image of an atrocity or a pile of bodies (or a gun to head execution; or a student dying on a campus; or a napalmed girl running down a road) would cut through all the rhetoric. There has been a lot of stage management of war since then (I'm thinking of all of that celebration of 'surgical strikes' with fuzzy 'missile cam' footage in the first Gulf War, or drone strikes in the second, that kind of keeps a bit of distance from the fuzzy blobs on screen being 'humanised') as well as a kind of media management of footage that seemingly would prevent the type of footage captured in Vietnam being recorded again. Or of course the worst being broadcast, though all that Abu Ghraib stuff a while back came close.


Last edited by colinr0380 on Mon Oct 23, 2017 1:26 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:14 am 
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I watched a bit of what appeared to be a firefight on CNN today that definitely had that kind of murky quality you referred to colin.

I found it curious that while Burns/Novak managed to include a brief bit on Woodstock, they didn't mention the moon landing at all.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 7:04 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:45 pm
Nail on head, colin. I had a particularly astute professor in film school who made the same exact argument - Night of the Living Dead was one of the films screened to illustrate the way those late 60s to early 80s American films dealt with Vietnam (and other hot button issues) by way of metaphor. In a way, this is more compelling than dealing with it head-on where things can get a bit preachy, although certainly you have films like Full Metal Jacket and Casualties of War which pulled few or no punches and remain to my view the best of Vietnam cinema. (I think Apocalypse Now is more abstractly about the war itself, more depicts it via purely cinematic means, more of a metaphorical thing where this film of pure madness and hedonism and fire and psychedelic color and booming sound, that experience is Vietnam more than the text of the film itself, the words spoken).

Perhaps that argument is more mainstream now, I guess - back in the 70s or 80s guys like Robin Wood were writing insightfully about that phenomenon but it's taken a few decades for it to fully materialize in the wider culture.

Then again, if you wanna be more cynical you could say that we never really learned our lesson about Vietnam, from every angle, and that's clear from Iraq and Afghanistan and many other less-ballyhooed examples of American boots on the ground in places where they cause more damage and future blowback (thinking of Bin Laden in particular here, as his acts were primarily retaliation for US foreign policy in the Middle East from the 70s - if not further back w/r/t Israel etc - to the 90s and beyond, but that's another discussion; nevertheless, I think we're still uneasy as a country to admit this, the consequences of our actions, so when Obama's pastor talks about "chickens coming home to roost" the media seize on it as anti-American zealotry without realizing it's also simply a very dark truth as well).


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:31 am 
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Alas, there is no convincing evidence that America ever truly learns from its past mistakes.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:57 am 
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oh yeah wrote:
I'd simply say that LBJ was about as bad on foreign policy as he was great on domestic policy, but what he managed to do for America in the latter area was so momentous and probably unlikely to happen had another person (especially Goldwater!) been in office, that I almost forgive the former. Or not forgive, but I still would say LBJ is one of the best post-War presidents, along with Obama and Carter (yes you read that right). This is another topic, but the latter two presidents (especially Carter) I rank so highly in some ways more for what they believed and what they attempted than for what they achieved - because so often they were stymied from achieving their goals. And with Carter, it's just a matter of a president who had the balls and the intelligence to speak absolute truth to the public, even if it wasn't what people wanted to hear, instead of lying to them... that I admire, but of course it's in large part what lost him a second term.

5) Burns and Novick did a surprisingly great job here at incorporating very popular and widely-used music, even in the exact places you'd expect to hear them, without seeming cliche'd.

6) The fact that American and North Vietnamese veterans alike can 30 or 40 years later sit down and talk like brothers, and memorialize those who died on either side, just goes to show how trivial the divisions we create between people are. I believe we're truly all, to quote a certain war film, "one big soul," and that coming together is in our nature more than killing each other is. And yes, this hippie nonsense is just as true today with North Korea or with ISIS as it was then.
I agree with most everything in this post but I wanted to highlight these things, in particular.

I'm a little surprised that some of you weren't aware of Nixon's little adventure with Anna Chennault right before the '68 election. I understand where you're all coming from with regards to JFK and Johnson but Nixon's getting elected, (especially under those circumstances), prosecuting the war for four full years (while knowing it was futile the whole time), running up the death total on all sides and then claiming credit when he got out on exactly he same terms he could have had in 1969 has always struck me as being item #1 on his lengthy record of historical crimes.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 3:09 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:45 pm
Yeah, the more I learn about Nixon the less I like him (not that I started out with a very positive opinion anyway). But of course with the current... thing... in office, Nixon almost appears desirable by comparison.

On another note, I found this editorial in the Washington Post from 1982, written by none other than Tom Wolfe. He's talking about the memorial, and about the controversy it caused. I don't necessarily agree with a lot of his points but it's an entertaining read. Clearly Wolfe had a lot of disdain for the contemporary art world...

Also, I definitely can understand the criticisms of the memorial now after doing more research. Wolfe makes a solid point when he points out the absurdity of the art "mullahs" banishing any statue or sculpture with actual people, like two soldiers in a heroic pose etc. It's surprising when he notes that literally all of the people involved in determining the winner for the memorial project were "art mullahs" who rejected the "bourgeois" simple depiction of actual people, instead opting for totally abstract ideas - no soldiers or flags or anything. I think they ended up with a great design and it's an interesting change from the usual memorials for war or some statue of a beloved figure.

It is a somewhat valid criticism, though, that veterans and others made back at that time: that the memorial gives off a shameful air - a black slab down in a ditch, with no pictures, no heroic statues or visual tribute to the soldiers both fallen and still alive. I get this thinking, but I do think the memorial is respectful and quite beautiful in its own distinctive way.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:11 pm 
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Whether Wolfe's criticism was "valid" or not, it was not especially acute. And I don't think many veterans (or their survivors) who actually _visited_ the memorial felt much (or any) of the loathing you describe.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:58 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:45 pm
Well, yeah, with a piece like this by Tom Wolfe, it's more about verbal masturbation than making the most acute points. I enjoy the way he writes more than what he's actually saying. But what he's saying is kind of shallow and repetitive.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:11 am 
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Having seen the wall myself I can only really begin to describe the experience. Grown men, some in wheelchairs, some not openly weeping in front of their friend's names. When you get up there and see all those names you really begin to really just how many were lost over such petty conflict. I realize what I'm saying may sound absurd or even childish but I found the experience incredibly powerful. It's one thing to say "Yeah eight soldiers died." but it's something entirely different to not just put names to those men but occasionally show pictures, letters etc. It's a deeply humanizing experience and if you ever get the chance to go go.


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 Post subject: Re: The Vietnam War
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:07 am 
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Big Ben wrote:
Having seen the wall myself I can only really begin to describe the experience. Grown men, some in wheelchairs, some not openly weeping in front of their friend's names. When you get up there and see all those names you really begin to really just how many were lost over such petty conflict. I realize what I'm saying may sound absurd or even childish but I found the experience incredibly powerful. It's one thing to say "Yeah eight soldiers died." but it's something entirely different to not just put names to those men but occasionally show pictures, letters etc. It's a deeply humanizing experience and if you ever get the chance to go go.

Very much seconded. More than almost any other memorial I can think of, photos absolutely don't do it justice: the physical experience of being there and overwhelmed by all those names is an absolutely crucial part of the intention behind it.


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