"I take orders from the Octoboss."


spielbergtn_1941This movie has a reputation as kind of a mess. Admittedly it is a 2 1/2 hour broad comedy about paranoia right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In my opinion a 2 1/2 hour broad comedy about paranoia right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was not necessarily one of the top two or three things the world hoped for as Steven Spielberg’s followup to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. But fuck ’em. It’s what they got and they oughta fuckin appreciate it.

This is still the only straight-up comedy Spielberg has ever made. Sometimes I think his humor can be out of place (I always remember the jetpack-roasting-burgers gag in MINORITY REPORT) but when it’s all throughout like this it works for me. There’s definitely alot of Spielberg in the execution of the movie, from the John Williams score to the jokey, highly-involving action. There’s a motorcycle chase that could easily fit into an INDIANA JONES, for example. And the opening is a beautifully shot parody of the opening of JAWS, with the same girl and with Williams doing a self-knockoff.

But if I saw this without knowing anything about it I would definitely guess that it was a John Landis movie. It has that type of deadpan but broad comedy with a huge cast of great character actors and little cameos and all kinds of side characters that keep popping up. It has both Blues Brothers and various Animal Housers in it. Most of all it has huge, expensive, elaborate, excessive mayhem in the service of laughs. Chases, stunts, fights, riots, crashes, chain reactions, jokes.

mp_1941Look at this damn cast, man: Toshiro Mifune. Christopher Lee as a Nazi. Belushi, Aykroyd, Candy, Joe Flaherty. He doesn’t really get to do anything, but Mickey Rourke is in there, his first role. Eddie Deezen and a ventriloquist dummy. Nancy Allen. Ned Beatty. Slim Pickens as a constipated redneck Christmas tree salesman who refuses to give up the location of Hollywood under torture. Sam fuckin Fuller is in here. Warren fuckin Oates is in here. Treat The Substitute 2 Williams is in here. And Robert Stack. Laverne and Lenny and Squiggy. Dick Miller, John Landis, the guy that directed HITCH, James Caan. Pretty much everybody but R2D2 or Dr. Joyce Brothers is in this movie somewhere.

They all play people on the California coast when America is reeling from the attack in Hawaii and bracing for the possibility of another one. Sure enough, a Japanese sub helmed by Mifune (and with Lee on board) has gotten lost, found California by accident and has decided to attack Hollywood. If they can find it.

But there’s an American lost too: drunken, clearly insane Belushi flies a jet over canyons, to dusty gas stations, between buildings. When he does land he happens to meet up with a general just as crazy as him played by Warren Oates. The story is credited to John Milius – maybe he wanted to top Colonel Kurtz by having two of him.

Today 1941 almost plays like a parody sequel to PEARL HARBOR. It’s about the same length and has a similar structure: young soldiers and the women who love them try to hook up and go to dances and shit, meanwhile a Japanese attack is imminent, racial tensions rise, and everybody checks in for a scrappy attempted defense against an attack involving excellent dogfight special effects. But while PEARL HARBOR has a weirdly goofy tone for a while it does try to get serious, something 1941 never even comes close to.

Both John Wayne and Charlton Heston turned down roles in the movie, and Wayne tried to convince Spielberg that it was offensive to make a joke out of this. He had a point. I mean, DR. STRANGELOVE is an obvious influence, and that’s about as dark of a topic as there is, but it didn’t involve an actual historic incident where lots of people died. That made it easier to laugh at, I think.

On the other hand there’s something really powerful about taking such a serious moment in American history and portraying everybody as a bunch of goofballs. It reminds us that we can and do take ourselves too seriously and that just because shit is real doesn’t mean we’re not being idiots. Or that there’s not something funny about us. It says that even in our nation’s most trying moments we can be doofuses. And it’s okay to laugh about it.

mp_1941BIt’s hard to even explain the plot, it’s a complicated series of events, but along the way many women’s garters are exposed, crotches are shoved into faces, a tank drives through a paint factory causing beautiful candy-colored explosions, a Rube Goldberg style chain reaction knocks over everything in a dance hall and wakes up unconscious Treat Williams. There’s a general (Stack) who makes several major military decisions based on the fact that he wants to be left alone to watch DUMBO. Karen Allen has an extreme fetish for sex on airplanes. Deezen’s ventriloquist dummy can always be counted on to be in a crowd shot having a funny reaction to a speech, or to pop his head out of the water gasping for breath while Deezen is apparently drowning. Aykroyd has a great moment where he tells Beatty that the government has decided to set up a big gun on his property. He can’t contain his smile, like he thinks he’s telling him he won the lottery. And in fact Beatty is excited about the news! Pickens has quite a battle with the Japanese when he swallows a Cracker Jack compass so it won’t help them attack Hollywood, then tries to outsmart them while they wait for him to shit it out. “This has not been honorable,” Mifune later says about the whole shitting thing.

One motif I get a kick out of is all the bad dancing in the movie. My favorite is the cook in the diner kitchen prancing around, even cracking eggs to the beat like he thinks he’s in a big musical number. Spielberg shoots it like it might be the real thing, but of course it’s amateur hour. It’s all off and he looks like an idiot.

I have to take a moment to compliment the visual effects on this movie. There’s this whole airplane chase between buildings that looks amazing, and doesn’t have any of those black outlines you usually see on that type of stuff. I assume they did it sort of like the space battles in STAR WARS, but it wasn’t Industrial Light and Magic that did it. It was actually the guys who did effects on TORA TORA TORA and APOCALYPSE NOW. They got an Oscar nomination on this one but honorably lost out to ALIEN.

Also the music by John Williams is very catchy and patriotic-sounding and I’m pretty sure it’s what they were trying to imitate with the POLICE ACADEMY theme. So, influential.

I can see how 1941 could be too long or too broad or too too-soon for somebody, but it makes me laugh. Comedies with this level of technical complexity and production value are pretty rare – it really is an epic – so it’s impressive when you come across one. I like it.

note: I watched the extended version. I can’t compare it to the other one since I haven’t seen it, but it sounds like the way to go since the studio made Spielberg cut it shorter than he wanted to and he later went back and added stuff back in before it started playing on television.

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69 Responses to “1941”

  1. Glad you liked it, Vern. I can understand the popular criticism that 1941 is, as Ebert would say, “too much of a muchness” but that’s kind of the point for me. I don’t think it would have been improved by being smaller or less bloated. It’s a kitchen sink movie, and if it was any less it wouldn’t be what it is.

    Or something. I need some more coffee, I think.

  2. I love this movie! I’m glad you saw the extended version, Vern. The original cinema version’s good too, but it has less Pickens and less tank action (we never see that they shoot up the police car, only the police man’s reaction afterwards, among other things). And let’s not even talk about the cleaned up TV version they sometimes air on…well, TV.

    Along with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and to a certain degree Rat Race, this is sort of a genre in itself – Anarchist Mayhem Comedy, if you will. And even if Spielberg’s contribution can’t compete with Mad, Mad… it’s a definetively a classic!

  3. There is an extended version of it? Holy shit, I must check if this version was released over here. Do we learn in this one why Christopher Lee suddenly is in the very last shot before the end credits?

  4. In terms of Spielberg and broad comedy, I think he never got over the commercial and critical failure of this movie and that’s a shame. On the other hand it’s not like he stopped ignoring that silly type of comedy at all. Remember back in the early to mid 90’s, when he was producing all those completely fucked up cartoons like ANIMANIACS or FREAKAZOID? Sure, he didn’t write them, but he was willing to put his name right in front of it! And he didn’t do it with all the stuff he produced. Huggbees!


  5. Excellent review. 1941 isn’t great, but it is under-appreciated.

    And any site with an Eddie Deezen tag makes me want to buy its book on Steven Seagal’s oeuvre that much more.

  6. I’ve always like 1941 too. It’s got a few awful moments, and was the first prime example of Spielberg in his bludgeon-the-audience mode that he still sometimes uses (see: The Adventures Of Tintin). But it’s a lot better then it’s reputation. And a lot of the time it’s really damn funny. Not a good follow-up to Close Encounters, no. But a fun movie.

    The extended version is currently the only one available on DVD (and personally, I think it’s a lot better then the original theatrical / vhs cut. Like James Cameron’s extended cuts, it pretty well supplants the other cut as soon as you see it). CJ, it still doesn’t explain the presence of Slim Pickens and Christopher Lee in the big final wide shot, but Speilberg clarifies that in the making-of documentary. He says that originally, right before the house falls down, a police car pulled up in the background and the cops got out along with Pickens and a handcuffed Lee. It sounds like such a brief moment, I’m not sure why they bothered cutting it in the first place (especially considering you can still see those characters there at the end!)

  7. PS: In a 1976 interview with John Milius, he refers to the forthcoming comedy he’s making with Steven Spielberg several times as THE NIGHT THE JAPS ATTACKED. That’s right up there with STARBEAST, SEASON OF THE WITCH and RIDERS ON THE STORM* as one of the great working titles of all time.

    *Alien, Mean Streets and Point Break.

  8. Waitminute!!! That 1941 comic book adaptation was by Rick Veitch and Steve Bissette?!? That’s right up there with Walt Simonson’s ALIEN comic book adaptation! And it had a Steven Spielberg introduction?? REPRINT!!!

  9. Correction, Vern: it was Nancy, not Karen, Allen who had the airplane fetish. I mention this because, to me, Nancy Allen was never hotter than in this movie, as that character. I’m getting a little chub just thinking about it.

    Honestly, sex is what I think of when I think of 1941. To me, it’s the one movie that shows Spielberg is capable of a raging libido. So much of this flick is about fucking or trying to fuck.

  10. It’s funny to think that the same dude who made 1941 later was known for presenting WWII as ultra-serious/”realistic”/tearjerky. Would things have turned out differently if this movie hadn’t tanked? Would SCHINDLER’S LIST have been filmed in color and featured peppy musical numbers? Would SAVING PRIVATE RYAN’s Tom Hanks have been a drunk who kept getting his men lost?

  11. I thought POINT BREAK’s working title was SURFCOP.

  12. Jaimery: I think all that libido comes from Spielberg trying to be cool. That’s what this whole movie was about. He’d been hanging out at Margot Kidder’s hipster hangout apartment for years, the only guy she didn’t fuck, and he had a reputation as a total nerd that his films did nothing to disprove. So he figured he’d hook up with those crazy, anarchic perverts from SNL and show how “with it” he was. Of course, his version of “with it” is a retro screwball comedy full of Three Stooges gags and swing dance sequences. So his plan failed and he never tried to be cool again. Thank God.

  13. “Both John Wayne and Charlton Heston turned down roles in the movie, and Wayne tried to convince Spielberg that it was offensive to make a joke out of this. He had a point. I mean, DR. STRANGELOVE is an obvious influence, and that’s about as dark of a topic as there is, but it didn’t involve an actual historic incident where lots of people died. That made it easier to laugh at, I think.”
    On the (other) other hand though, you actually have a WWII vet in Christopher Lee is a WWII in the movie, and he’s probably killed more Nazis in real life than Wayne ever has in his movies.

  14. ^On the (other) other hand though, you actually have a WWII vet in Christopher Lee in the movie

  15. Mixing war and comedy have never been a sport for amateurs, but it is a bit strange that they seemed to have a higher tolerance for it 40, 50, 60 years ago (apart for John Wayne apparently). That said, 1941 is hardly a war comedy. It’s a riff on the (sadly not true) story of how Orson Welles managed to scare people witless with his radio show about a martian invasion in the 30’s. The panic and fear we see aren’t based on an actual threat, and that’s why it doesn’t leave a bad taste in the (or at least my) mouth. Unlike the scene in Kelly’s Heroes, where they massacre a couple of hundred German railroad workers, and it’s supposed to be funny because they play American country music (Hank Williams jr., who wasn’t even born at the time) while they’re doing it.

  16. FOUR LIONS is a great recent war comedy. If you count the War on Terror as a war.

  17. Wow, to hear Vern describe the plot, 1941 sounds great. I’ll have to give it another chance and watch the extended version, which I didn’t know existed. The one I saw was surely only 2 hours.

    I remember from SPIELBERG ON SPIELBERG he theorized the reason it did so badly was because it was so loud and aggressive. Makes sense, if you’re not on board, it certainly doesn’t give you an out.

  18. My favourite piece of trivia about this from IMDB:

    “The extras cast as the Japanese submarine crew were hired because they were Asian. Most were typical laid-back Southern Californians, and none had any acting training. Toshirô Mifune was so outraged at their attitudes that he asked Steven Spielberg if he could deal with them. He then started yelling at them to get in line, and slapped one of them, saying, “This is how Japanese men are trained!” Mifune worked with them from that point on. “

  19. yup, I’ve always refused to believe this movie could be anything but awesome, sure wish it was on blu ray

    do you think they’ll ever make a comedy about America’s post 9/11 reaction?

  20. I’ve always wondered why Mifune agreed to be in 1941, being a war vet himself. Maybe he was one of the few who got the joke.

    Damn, now I feel like watching Hell In The Pacific again.

  21. If by “they” you mean “the dudes from SOUTH PARK” then probably.

  22. oh wait, I forgot about Team America

  23. Rumor has it Spielberg DID get down with Margot….

    The original, pre-Bigelow, pre-Cameron version of Point Break was called JOHNNY UTAH. (Supposedly, that draft was almost made by Ridley Scott with Charlie Sheen and Mathew Broderick. Somehow, I doubt it.) When Kathryn Bigelow got it and had Jim Cameron rewrite it, they changed the title to RIDERS ON THE STORM. That’s what it was shot as (on the DVD, if you look carefully at the slate in some of the behind-the-scenes footage, you can see “Riders On The Storm” written in as the title). Then, they changed it again to POINT BREAK (a surfing term describing wave activity) because somebody was worried it would be confused with Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS.

  24. Griff, believe it or not, Uwe Boll’s POSTAL could also be called a post-9/11 reaction comedy.

  25. Jek:

    And a zany comedy of errors “Empire of the Sun” would star Corey Feldman instead of Christian Bale. Feldman would go on to star in a comedic musical interpretation of “American Psycho”. Now industry powerhouse Feldman would follow up with a reboot of the Batman franchise in 2005: “Holy Batman Begins!” A lighter, campier tone in contrast with the earlier, darker Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher fare from the ’90s, which ended with the miserable David Fincher “Batman v Alien.”

  26. damn, i thought i had an original idea…


    luckily i still have my completely unique and original abraham-lincoln-as-vampire-hunter idea

  27. Vern – you’re right, 1941 comes off as a John Landis type comedy. In fact I’m certain Steven saw ANIMAL HOUSE, loved it and thought he could do it too but BETTER with bigger budget and with two stars from it.

    It’s hard for me to explain or even understand why something is funny, but not to others, or even the art of it. The closest I’ve come to it I suppose is the idea that the humor comes from the unexpected thrown at your expectations. (I guess?)

    Point is, I didn’t like 1941. Oh god it tried to be funny, way too damn hard as it fired more joke bombs than were dropped on Germany and Japan during the war, and maybe a handful only worked for me. (Robert Stack’s storyline was hilarious. I loved that bit of him just enjoying DUMBO immensely and looking around the theatre to see if anybody else was enjoying it as much as he was…only to find he was the only one. That was funny.)

    To put it another way, in Mr. Majestyk’s own words for another movie, 1941’s humor amounts to putting a lampshade on its head and screaming BOGA BOGA!

    Which begs another question: If I didn’t like 1941, why did I like BLUES BROTHERS? That’s another frantic epic car crash of a comedy, and it works for me. Why?

    Also Vern, did you know Spielberg directed 2nd unit on 1941, including those miniature SFX shots?

    Knox harrington – because it’s Steven Spielberg when he was hotter than hot shit and “hip,” and basically the same reason why such hot shots like him or your Coppolas or Tarantinos or Nolans can get their own fanboy castings done that perhaps wouldn’t have happened otherwise. (Its why Brad Pitt did BASTERDS, even though his part was rather damn thin for the supposed “leading star.”)

    I think 1941 was when Steven first really got the keys to the kingdom (if you will) to do whatever he wanted, and well he played fanboy. Oh I love Mifune, let’s get him. Slim Pickens is awesome, him too! Hey if we can, Wayne and Heston! Christopher Lee? OH HELL YES.

    Then again, how many American movies had Mifune done? I remember Frankenheimer’s THE CHALLENGE and his underrated GRAND PRIX, and 1941 obviously…and what else? I can’t remember.

    FUN FACT: George Lucas allegedly played around with the idea of casting Mifune for Obi-Wan Kenobi. And honestly, that makes perfect sense. Except I wouldn’t have bought Yojimbo losing a lightsabre fight to an asshole in a robot suit. No way.

  28. There could be humor wrung from specifically post 9/11 things and possible 9/11-related wacky misunderstandings:

    -DHS Secretary Tom Ridge’s ridiculous color-coded terror alert level

    -airport security measures (see: half of all stand-up comedy routines of the past decade)

    -The “underwear bomber” (see: hours worth of Jay Leno’s monologue material 2 years ago)

    -George W. Bush’s bumbling & endless vacation time while in office as President juxtaposed with his tragically forceful, far-reaching, poorly thought-out foreign policies (Haha, it’s funny that he retreats to Camp David and/or plays golf in Texas 3+ months of the year while thousands of people die in wars he started! And he’s the President, but he can barely read! And his Vice President shoots a guy in the face and makes the victim apologize for it!)

    -being on the No Fly List because you’re brown

    -Perhaps a Pauly Shore-type of scenario in which a skinny naive young Marine Corps enlistee, who joins the service in peacetime in the summer of 2001 for some comically stupid Oedipal reason, semi-accidentally proves to have a valuable oddball military skill and finds himself suddenly en route to Afghanistan, where, when he’s not hiding in cowardice, he drives his tightwad commander crazy and somehow ends up in an enemy camp, where he uses Frank Drebin techniques to embarrass an Osama lookalike and somehow saves his whole platoon —
    Trailer tagline: “This spring, join Private Joe {goofy sound effect over quick montage of DJ Squalls in an ill-fitting USMC uniform falling in mud, being yelled at, negligently discharging rifle, goat striking Afghan man in the groin} as he makes Kabul go kablooey.”

    Griff has made me realize Hollywood shouldn’t bother with “post-9/11” comedy. That being said, my awesome ideas are copyrighted unless you’re offering me a deal, Weinsteins. Call me.

  29. Another thought came to mind: I could see why Zemeckis/Gale would write 1941, I could see why Spielberg was inspired to make it. But…why was John Milius the super right winger doing that movie? Maybe John Wayne should’ve given him the friendly advice instead.

    Anyway, how about some PG Porn?


  30. He was in a few, he did previously mentioned Hell in the Pacific, the great movie I think by John Boorman with Lee Marvin. He also did Red Sun, a samurai western, with Charles Bronson. Then he’s in war things like this and Midway plus he was in Shogun which was big in it’s day.

  31. nabroleon dynamite

    January 5th, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    If Spielberg didnt hit Margot Kidder’s hoe ass, then sorry for him. Richard Pryor was killing it though.

    9/11 Movie (by the maker’s of Meet the Spartans) I’d buy that for a dollar.

    @Jek. Four Lions was dope!!

  32. This was, until recently, the only Spielberg film I have not even seen more than a few seconds of. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen even a minute of this one. It and Amistad were the only two I haven’t seen all the way through (before War Horse and Tin Tin), although I’ve watched big chunks of Amistad. For years I’d thought this was a straight-up war film. Then I found out who was in it and decided to double-check the genre. I still haven’t been able to catch it anywhere.

  33. It’s going to get its ass kicked I’m sure, but….I liked AMISTAD? Solid Beard entry.

    Oh and I forgot my rating for 1941: One and Half Runaway Ferris Wheels of Doom out of 5.

    (Fuck Movie Popcorn Buckets.)

  34. I wonder if John Wayne’s problem with the script for 1941 stems from Hollis P. Wood’s (Pickens) line to the Japanese; “Bet you’re gonna bomb John Wayne’s house, ain’t ya?” Maybe The Duke didn’t want the fact that he didn’t serve during WWII brought up again?

  35. boy, I forgot AMISTAD even existed (I have not seen it)

    why is that one so obscure?

  36. I sometimes find Spielberg’s casting very lazy. It’s like he just goes with whoever’s hot at the moment. Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law in A.I., Colin Farrell in Minority Report, Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds, Matthew McConaughey in Amistad, Shia in Crystal Skull. I doubt he’d cast any of those actors for any of his movies now.

    The casting of 1941 kinda reminds me of Kevin Smith’s casting for Zack and Miri. He basically hijacks the entire cast from another movie (or kind of movie) that’s popular at the time. Zack and Miri has about half a dozen Apatow regulars. I guess filmmakers trying to be other filmmakers is nothing new. Just seems a little too blatant and obvious at times.

  37. Isn’t that just how it is in Hollywood? I mean, Sam Worthington’s not that good…

  38. -Yes, Knox, I’m sure. Why on earth would he want to cast Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, or Dakota Fanning ever again? They’re terrible actors, right? I mean, Dakota Fanning, please, when was she ever good in anything.

    -McConaughey is actually pretty good in Amistad. It may seem like odd casting, but his performance is fine in the context of the movie. RRA: I like Amistad too. It’s a mess structurally–it feels like it’s either way too long or too short–but if you accept that they never really figured out how to tell the story, you can appreciate what’s good about it, which is a whole lot. All the stuff with Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams is wonderful. Also, parts of it have that same old-fashioned, Hollywood Golden Age feel as War Horse.

    -The deal with Zack And Miri was that what’s his name, the male lead, went to Kevin Smith and recommended a whole bunch of his Apatow buddies for various roles. And Smith was like, “Hey, why not? If we can get ’em….”

    -pegs: Worthington has been GREAT in the past. He was incredibly dynamic in this Australian modern-day gangster version of MacBeth.

  39. I never got around to seeing 1941 despite it’s legend as a curiosity. I will have to remedy that.

    I concur that Amistad is an interesting entry into Spielberg’s canon. I recently rewatched it after many, many years, and I was surprised at what a departure it was from some of his other work. Like a lot of Spielberg, it’s a little heavy on the constant music, but overall an enjoyable costume drama. I really liked the way that he portrayed the enslaved as participating in their own defense. I’m not sure how much of this is strictly historically true, but it makes sense since a lot of the legal arguments relied on information that only the African prisoners would have access to. I love historical films, especially the rare few that are set in America, so I guess I was the audience for this movie. And, surprisingly, Matthew McConaughey was pretty damn good. I forgot that guy was actually an actor. Who knew?

  40. Jareth Cutestory

    January 6th, 2012 at 8:28 am

    RRA: I always thought that THE BLUES BROTHERS is actually a fairly dour and grim film. It feels very lived-in, almost world-weary. Even the slapstick stuff is kind of gritty.

    The somber tone of THE BLUES BROTHERS grounds the larger spectacle of the choreographed set-pieces, keeps them from feeling preposterous (even though they clearly are). Couple this earthier tone with a very focussed script and I think you end up with a much different creature from the madcap, shaggy dog film 1941.

    THE BLUES BROTHERS is also a masterpiece of deadpan. 1941 is straight up goofball. In my mind the two films are worlds apart, despite both being somewhat epic.

  41. GrimGrinningChris

    January 6th, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Vaguely on topic (WWII, Lucas/Spielberg… me reaching)… has anyone seen the new television spots for RED TAILS?
    What the hell? Dubstep music (or some sort of weird hybrid, I admit ignorance about modern electronica)???
    Tonally, I really hope this isn’t how the movie plays out and that they are just trying to sell the shit to dumb teens and college-aged kids any way they can with this shit… but really? Jesus.

  42. The trailer for RED TAILS seems like a parody of an [black-centric] inspirational movie geared toward mass audiences. Cuba Gooding, Jr. & Terence Howard, the safest dark-skinned actors alive, plus a motivational scene that looks & sounds like a Drew Brees pregame huddle — it all looks like THE HELP meets REMEMBER THE TITANS meets the most heavy-handed race-based parts of PEARL HARBOR.

    Every emotional response is programmed into the musical cues and simplistic proving-your-worth-to-the-racist-Man moments. No thanks.

    I’ll probably go see it, though, could be good.

  43. Griff- I’ve yet to see it, but isn’t HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY a sort of post-9/11 movie?

    Overall I’d rather see fictional post-9/11 comedies than see dramas using 9/11 as a plot point for fictional stories(REMEMBER ME, REIGN OVER ME, that upcoming Tom Hanks one).

  44. Isn’t Method Man in that? I’m sure he’ll have a song on the credits called “Red Talez”, hopefully with a guest verse from Redman.

  45. I wasn’t really commenting on the quality of those actors, JD. It was more about how “trendy” Spielberg’s casting can be at times.

    I happen to think that Colin Farrell and Jude Law are damn good actors.

  46. And yes, Red Tails looks like glossy shit.

  47. Yeah, Red Tails looks like some of those uber inspirational tales of overcoming racism that ultimately tells the audience, “Look how bad racism used to be. Good thing we don’t have to worry about that anymore.” When dealing with racism from the past, I think it’s best to look at ways in which past racism looks awfully similar to racism today (a great way of doing this is to look at the use of “coded” language when it comes to race). Racists of the past and present didn’t just run around shouting racial epithets, they used carefully constructed rhetoric to hide the ugliness of their ideas. Even during the days of slavery, slave owners would argue that their slaves were really just a part of a big Southern family, and, after all, what would blacks do if they were free? They couldn’t take care of themselves. So, in their words, if not in their actions, slave owners claimed they were really helping those slaves out. What they didn’t say is that they believed the life of a slave to have no value and could be subject to forced labor, torture and rape at the whim of their owner.

    That being said, I’ll probably see Red Tails in the theaters. The trailers could be misleading, and maybe it’s more nuanced and layered than what we’ve been shown. A couple of moments in the trailer make me a little optimistic. First, the dogfights could be good. Second, they include an African-American call and response ring shout, which suggests that the writers may have done some of their homework.

  48. Apparently the director is one of the creators of TREME, which I haven’t seen but is supposedly a pretty good show. So maybe he’ll balance out Lucas’ innate cheesiness with a little authenticity.

  49. Knox: I understand, and I concur that Spielberg can sometimes seem to just be going for the hot actor of the moment, but you should have clarified WHY you thought Spielberg wouldn’t cast Dakota Fanning or Colin Farrell in a movie now–which, trendy or not, I still highly doubt.

    RBatty: Great points about Amistad and portrayals of racism. I’ll add that before the Civil War, some doctor actually claimed to have diagnosed a mental illness that made slaves run away–I think it was called “droptomaine” or something like that. Amazing….

    I’m always down with a movie that admits there were black Americans in combat in World War II, and after the severe dissapointment of Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna, I still have hopes for Red Tails. There was already a pretty good Tuskegee Airmen tv movie–I’m interested to see some of the same ground covered now in the age of CGI effects. It’s been way too long since we’ve had a decent World War II / Air Corps / pre-jet-fighters movie. Pearl Harbor sure as hell wasn’t it; I think the last great one was probably Memphis Belle.

  50. Knox – re: Spielberg casting, I wouldn’t say he casts people who are “hot” at the time, but I think he has a knack for casting them right before they get household-name hot, i.e. Daniel Craig in Munich, Farrell in Minority Report.

    But I think the main problem is that alot of times he doesn’t use his actors well. I remember how excited I was that Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore were going to be in a big budget CGI Summer Movie, but they were both so underused in The Lost World, that I bet most people don’t remember Vaughn was in it. Lebouf was so good in Holes but not very memorable in KOTCS. He wasn’t bad, but when you’re the son of Indiana Jones, you have to be excellent.

    However – you have to admit Saving Private Ryan was a phenomenal casting job. Pretty much everyone in that movie is a star now (Vin Diesel! Paul Giamatti! Nathan Fillion!) It’s like The Outsiders: The Next Generation.

  51. RED TAILS was one of those pet projects Lucas has been wanting to do for decades, a possible directing project too (I remember an article from the 90s with him stating he hoped to get it made after the SW prequels). But alas, he’s only producing.

    Yes folks, exactly the war movie version of RADIOLAND MURDERS. whoopee!

  52. Dear Vern… Kinda off topic, but The Police Academy theme is actually a rip-off of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from Patton. And Goldsmith did consider suing, according to legend…

  53. “However – you have to admit Saving Private Ryan was a phenomenal casting job. Pretty much everyone in that movie is a star now (Vin Diesel! Paul Giamatti! Nathan Fillion!)”
    Bryan Cranston too.

  54. Another thing 1941 has in common with Pearl Harbor: they both feature Dan Aykroyd.

  55. As for Sam Worthington, I believe he’s like Colin Farrell – there’s a great actor in there somewhere but he is quick to coast on big films and not really strive for his true potential.

    When Farrell was hot shit, he did that same sort of passable leading man hunk thing Worthington is doing now. But when he was no longer cast in the 100 million plus dollars summer tentpole films he really started showing his teeth. Farrell was great in IN BRUGES and HORRIBLE BOSSES.

    Maybe guys like that need just the right director. Or maybe they work better when there isn’t the pressure to headline in a film where you are engineered to be a heartthrob designed to appeal to whatever trends the marketing people think will sell, and where the film’s failure can bankrupt a studio. They can more freely experiment and push themselves without the need to prove themselves to some arbitrary box office dollar value.

    Hopefully Worthington will move on to great things once his fifteen minutes as the Hollywood golden boy has passed. He was pretty good in THE DEBT, but it was more of him tipping his toes in the pool rather than a full-blown acting tour de force. That film was pretty much all Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirror show. But it’s something.

  56. Mirren, not Mirror. D’oh!

  57. well I think Red Tails actually looks pretty good

    is that bad?

  58. you guys do know the creator of the Boondocks was one of the screenwriters right?

  59. DavidBalls, you’re right, the Police Academy theme is a total rip off of Patton! I saw the Police Academy movies first as a kid and when I was older and saw Patton I immediately thought of Police Academy!

  60. Griff – I’m all for it if its good. Certainly the CGI sky fighting footage looks incredible.

    I think once again, without meaning to, we’re possibly dismissing a movie simply from marketing.

    Amazing how we keep making that mistake.

    (or RED TAILS might be drivel, who knows?)

  61. Certainly the lack of any real buzz is troubling. For a Lucas pet project that’s been delayed forever? But I have seen a few tv spots while dvring.

  62. HT – to be fair, Matt Damon was supposed to play that part in MINORITY REPORT, but he dropped out and Farrell came in.

    Come to think of it, I haven’t found a Vern review of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (he did though review the Adaptation made by those kids) nor TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE.

    Can’t wait.

  63. Vern – off-topic, but are you also planning to review Spielberg’s directed episode in the TWILIGHT ZONE movie?

    Just curious.

  64. RED TAILS looks like a cartoon. I’m thinking they should’ve just taken the title seriously and have communist cats flying around in military airplanes for 2 hours. It would’ve at least looked more interesting.

  65. I like how those RED TAILS ads are now syncing with rap/dance mixes. Oh I get it, get the urban youth into a movie about the sacrifices made by their forefathers in the struggle for integration and freedom.

    They’ll honor those sacrifices instead by going to see THE DEVIL INSIDE.

  66. I rewatched this movie again yesterday and I think it gets funnier with age. It was a teenage years favourite of mine, but I don’t think I ever laughed harder about all the ridiculous shit that goes down in there, than I did yesterday. (I really have to watch that extended version at one point. It’s not on the German DVD.)

  67. PEGSMAN: Orson Welles DID scare the hell outta people in’38….my Great Grandfather died of a heart attack after tuning the broadcast in late, & the neighbors & his son all packed up to run as they lived north of NYC

  68. Sorry to hear about your great grandfather, Johan, but according to Jefferson Pooley and Michael J. Socolow the story about Welles scaring (lots) of people was created by a couple of newspapers and doesn’t hold water.

  69. I really wanted to like this movie. I was on its side when I started watching it. But it broke me down and I just found it depressing and exhausting.

    I’ve tried to give it another chance a few times since and except for that first viewing I’ve never been able to get all the way through it. Fred has it right: loud and aggressive. Ironically the dancing-in-the-kitchen scene is one that I remember particularly disliking.

    I bet what would save this movie for me is if I could see individual scenes as high-quality clips on YouTube. That’s helped me to appreciate other movies I didn’t think I would like.

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