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Pocahontas (1995)
The Hunt for the Real Story of Pocahontas, 23 February 2001

Pocahontas directed by Michael Gabriel presents a fictionalized chronicle of the arrival of the English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Led by the greedy, bombastic Governor Ratcliffe (voice of David Ogden Stiers) and Captain John Smith (voice of Mel Gibson), the explorers have come to the New World in search of gold. They promptly begin cutting down trees, digging holes, and preparing to kill Indians. Meanwhile, a young woman, Pocahontas (voice of Irene Bedard), observers the newcomers with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. Her father, Chief Powhatan (Russel Means), is certain that the landing of the white men means war. The only hope to avert a battle between the Indians and English settlers arises out of the romance that develops between John Smith and Pocahontas.

Anyone who expects historical accuracy from a Disney animated film should be ashamed of themselves. In reality, Pocahontas was a 12-year old girl with over 100 siblings from her father's many marriages as chief of the Powhatan Indians. She had a break with her father and moved to another village when she was 14 where she is rumored to have married the Kokwam from the movie. Pocahontas was captured and held in captivity by the English for ransom, which was never paid in full. She was moved to another English settlement where she fell in love with another Englishman, John Rolfe, whom she married in a peacemaking marriage between the Indians and English. Rolfe converted Pocahontas to Christianity and he went with her back to England where she was honored and met the king and queen. Sadly, though she died in England before she could return back to America. Furthermore, John Smith in real life was a bit of a professional adventurer as he had endured many escalades in the Mediterranean where he was captured as a soldier. He was then forced into slavery, which he escaped from and traveled all over Europe to return home to England. He was the only man to come over to America actually on three ships that had any real leadership experience, as the other men on the voyage were noble gentlemen. Smith whose stories were known to be a little sketchy at best alledgedly was scouting the land outside Jamestown when Indians captured him. Smith awed the Indians with a compass he had with him and was depicted in the movie as the spinning arrow in Pocahontas' dream. Nonetheless, Powhattan imprisoned Smith for some time before sentincing him to death. Then according to Smith as he was about to be struck by the ball over the head as shown in the movie Pocahontas jumped on top of him and pled with her father to spare Smith. Yet, there never was any emotional relationship between the two as was falsely depicted in the movie. Smith did go on to become a sort of adopted son to Powhattan after his capture until on another scouting mission his gun powder exploded in his pocket forcing him to return home to England for treatment. In the film, the material culture was fairly well done. The Indian village was recreated fairly accurately with the depiction of the longhouses but a log wall that surrounded the village failed to be portrayed. In the summer the Powhatan would live in wigwams, which were left out of the movie. The clothing of the English was accurate, as were the loincloths and moccasins of the Indian men. However, the Indian women did not wear tops to their dresses as shown in the film. The natives did possess primitive tattooing techiques but not advanced ehough to make patterns like the one seen on Pocahontas' arm and were more likely to paint their bodies. In addition to the bows seen in the film, the Indians possessed spears, tomahawks, and small knives for weapons. As shown in the movie, there were dug out canoes in Indian society but most of the fishing was done with nets not spears. The English at Jamestown had basic shovels, axes, and picks as seen but no wheelbarrels. The ignition system of the matchlock guns used by the English was well portrayed yet the lack of accuracy of these guns was not shown. The Indians were in fact leery of the English when they arrived and did initially skirmish with the white men as shown in the movie. The Indians' concept of property as communal and the white's as personal was depicted as well. Furthermore, lacosse was played by the Indians but not the version shown in the movie as the games were huge spanning several miles at a time.

A recognizable message can be seen in the movie Pocahontas as the need for tolerance between those of different races and cultures is evident throughout the film. The director, Michael Gabriel, shows this by initially having the English and the Indians, who are from very different cultural and ethic backgrounds skirmish and prepare for battle. Yet, he has John Smith and Pocahontas unite these two different cultures together. They show how misconceptions or ignorence about the other culture caused this amnimosity, which once they actually interacted with each other was nowhere to be found. In addition, this film is a reflection of the values of the 1990's when it was produced as it gives a more accurate and politically correct representation of Native Americans in the film. The character of Pocahontas was physically modeled after Irene Bedard, a woman with Indian heritage who also did the speaking voice of Pocahontas. In addition, Native American activist Russel Means did the voice of Chief Powhatan. This was done in part to assure the support of Native Americans who could have protested and made a big to do over the changing of the actual story, which the moviemakers did not want to occur.

Technically the film is very sound. It uses visually creative techniques in its animation that are leading the way for the movie industry. The scenery, which may have been a bit exaggerated in its depiction of Jamestown, Virginia, is beautiful, as are all the characters in this full-length animated color film. The music by Alan Menken throughout the movie is electrifying in greatly adding to the overall experience.

All in all, Pocahontas is an enjoyable viewing experinece that I would recommend to both kids and adults. The question about the movie lingers whether the lack of a happily ever after ending will hurt the movie in the eyes of audiences. Pocahontas is sure to entertain viewers and hopefully by transporting both kids and parents alike to another time and place will inspire children to learn the actual history of this legendary story and their parents to teach them the real account.

Titanic (1997)
399 out of 618 people found the following review useful:
Triumph in Tradgedy: Titanic, 23 February 2001

Titanic directed by James Cameron presents a fictional love story on the historical setting of the Titanic. The plot is simple, noncomplicated, or not for those who love plots that twist and turn and keep you in suspense. The end of the movie can be figured out within minutes of the start of the film, but the love story is an interesting one, however. Kate Winslett is wonderful as Rose, an aristocratic young lady betrothed by Cal (Billy Zane). Early on the voyage Rose meets Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), a lower class artist on his way to America after winning his ticket aboard Titanic in a poker game. If he wants something, he goes and gets it unlike the upper class who are so concerned with their social worries. The two fall in love and the audience sees the sinking of the Titanic primarily through their eyes.

The movie begins in modern times with the exploration of the wreck by a group searching for treasures, that sunk with the Titanic, which has recently occurred. One of the survivors of the Titanic, Rose DeWitt Bukater, who had heard of the exploration of the wreck on television and is flown to the boat where the search is being led from to tell of what she remembers to help the search. She gets to telling her memory of the one and only voyage of the Titanic. With this, the scene shifts to Southhampton, Ireland where the Titanic set sail from on April 10, 1912 as all the passengers are boarding. After another stop on the Irish coast Titanic went out to see on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic bound for New York. Historically the first few days of the voyage went by uneventful, but the fictional plot of the story is developed during this time as Rose sees the hopeless entrapement of an engagement that she is in to the wealthy Cal Hockley and falls in love with third class passenger, Jack Dawson. Captain Smith alledgedly as shown in the movie was urged by the White Star Line Director to increase the speed of the ship so they would make the newspaper headlines and receive extra publicity by arriving in New York on Thursday night and not on Friday morning as planned. Smith then ordered the fateful decision going against his thirty-two years of experience to stretch the Titanic's legs out to full speed. The Titanic had reports that the waters in the Atlantic they were sailing in were full of icebergs, but they ignored these warnings and proceeded at full speed as shown in the movie. On April 15, 1912 at 11:39, an iceberg was sighted. They attempted to shut off the engines and turn the ship out of the path of the iceberg but there was not enough time and the ship hit the iceberg on the starboard side as depicted in the film. The portrayal of the many small holes in the side of the ship and not one large gash along the side is accurate. The crew of Titanic sent out distress calls and set off distress rockets as shown until 2:18 when the lights finally failed. The lights of the California were spotted six miles away but they failed to realize what was going on and did not respond to Titanic's many pleas for help. The California had tried earlier in the day to warn Titanic of the severe ice that had caused them to stop their trip but Titanic had brushed them off causing the California to turn off its radio and leave the Titanic on its own. The first class women and children were the first as depicted to be put into the twenty lifeboats that were on the ship. Overwhelmingly the third class passengers suffered the most amount of deaths of any class and the crew was hit hard in this tragedy too. The word of White Star Line employees and first class passengers was believed over that of second and third class passengers when authorities were trying to gain information of the sinking. Also, the metal that was used to build the Titanic has been found in recent years under conditions of severe cold, which were experienced the night Titanic sank to be extremely brittle. Overall, the basic plot is very accurate in its portayal of the events and the times at which these events took place on the Titanic.

Many of the characters in the story were not real and created simply for the purpose of the movie or as composite characters to represent possible characteristics and ideas of people on the ship. The core group of Rose, Jack, Cal, and Rose's mother all were fictional characters added into the story as they represent different groups of people from the time. Yet many characters such as the Unsinkable Molly Brown; Captain Edward Smith; the ship designer, Thomas Andrew; the White Star Line Representative, Bruce Ismay; and all of the Titanic's officers were real. The maiden voyage was going to be Captain Edward Smith's last voyage anyway as he planned to retire afterwards. He had been a part of the White Star Line since 1880 where he worked his way up to his status as the Millionaire's Captain when the Titanic sunk. The portrayals of the officers is accurate as only four survived the tragedy except for the officer who threatened to kill all of the passengers of the ship with his pistol. He is on record as acting heroicly and was misportrayed to the point that James Cameron apologized and evoked a monument in his honor in the officer's former Canadian hometown. As shown in the movie there was a language problem between the crew and many of the lower-class passengers from non-English speaking nations. In addition, Officer Lowe was the only officer who came back in the lifeboat as depicted. The old people shown in their bed as the water came in their room were based on the Strauss'. Not wanting to leave her husband's side Mrs. Strauss refused to get in her lifeboat and died with her husband on the Titanic. Furthermore, Mr. Goggenheim who was shown sipping his brandy and smoking a cigar reportedly did go out like this dressed in his best. The richest man on the ship, John Jacob Astor, who owned most of Manhattan died nonetheless as well, but his much younger wife was saved in a lifeboat. In addition, Molly Brown was saved and later had medals made up for the crew of the Carpethia that picked the survivors of Titanic up from the water. Her ticket on the Titanic had cost over four-thousand dollars and by the end of her life she ended up broke. All of the interiors of the ship were masterfully replacated down to the last pieces of china and silverware. The gymnasium, which is hardly seen is recreated perfectly with all of the machines reproduced to match those seen in old photographs. The wonderful outfits and costuming were an excellent re-creation of the Post-Victorian era of 1912. The rich at this time practically ruled everything, as the women's suffrage movement had not quite gotten moving yet. Women during this time often married for financial security as Rose was considering doing and normally took a back seast status to their husbands as Cal wished for Rose to do. The rich did not take well to `new money' such as Molly Brown as depicted. Everything of the time was very formal. Women had to be escorted to dinner by a male figure as seen with in the dining scenes. Smoking was not very common among women of the time but holders of cigarettes, which were just coming in at the time were used as seen with Rose in the movie. Men of the time generally smoked cigars not cigarettes. Women were constained physically by their corsets and socially by society. Although James Cameron had no background in historical films he brought in experts of Titanic coupled with two years spent cross-referencing the history of the Titanic and few liberties were taken. The beautiful cinematography and special effects also helped to make the film even more breathtaking.

A recognizable message can be seen in the movie Titanic as the people on the ship had about three hours to contemplate their demise. The director, James Cameron, shows the various reactions to this time of crisis in people's lives. Everyone reacts differently and he gets you to think of how you might have reacted had you been in that situation on the Titanic on that fateful night. In addition, this film is a reflection of the 1990's when it was produced as it gives a look into the wreck of the Titanic. Only in the past fifteen years has the site of the actual Titanic been found and explored. This movie was able to give us a deeper look into a disaster that many would not have viewed. However, the moral question of whether people today should be taking treasures from the wreck of an underwater graveyard is posed. There have been attempts to stop treasure seeking missions such as the one portrayed in Titanic but all have failed. As it stands today anyone can make a voyage to the Titanic and take whatever valuables they as portrayed in the film showing the general values of our time on this matter.

Technically the film is very well done. To get footage of the wreck at the bottom of the ocean it took twelve dives to get all of the footage needed for the movie. In addition, a special camera had to be created to withstand the intense pressure at the bottom of the ocean. Cameron did not plan on using the probe to go as far inside Titanic as anyone has in the 88 years since the ship sunk but it worked out that this provided an unique perspective into the ship. Furthermore, throughout the film fade ins and outs from the wreck of Titanic to the scene of Titanic during its actual voyage. This shift between the modern scene to the past scene during the voyage works as an excellent transition that makes the story easy to follow in aclear manner. At the very beginning of the movie a septune recreation is used to recreate the scene when the actual people left the European coast on Titanic giving it distinction from the rest of the events of the film.

Titanic plays almost like a historical biography and is like a work of art, a true epic. Like most history novels, we know the ending, but it doesn't take away from the wonderful treats that can be found in this picture. Certain aspects of this film are Academy Award material including costuming, sound, cintematography, and editing. If you like interesting characters that will give you an insight into the life of characters in the early 1900's and how they face disaster, then this movie definitely is for you.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
And The Monkeys Shall Inherit the Wind?, 21 February 2001

Inherit the Wind directed by Stanley Kramer in 1960 was based on the play of the same name by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. They wrote Inherit the Wind as a response to the threat to intellectual freedom presented by the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era. The movie depicts the famous Scopes trial where schoolteacher John T. Scopes in movie Bertram T. Cates (Dick York) was arrested in Hillsboro, Tennessee for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution, which was against state law. The law forbade the teaching of any doctrine denying the divine creation of man as taught by the bible. The trial shows the confrontation between fundamentalist literal belief of the bible and people who believed the bible was allegory or myth. The attorney paid for by Baltimore journalist E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) for the defense was the famed trial lawyer Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) and the prosecutor was the orator and statesman Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March). The trial is set to decide whether God's word or the word of science should be taught in school.

Inherit the Wind does not purport to be a historically accurate depiction of the Scopes trial. The place names and names of trial participants have been changed. The trial actually took place in Dayton, Tennessee not Hillsboro, Tennessee, but the carnival like atmosphere surrounding the trial did exist. The case should not have gone as far as it did, but it was a publicty stunt by the people of Dayton. Lest there be any doubt, even the pattern of the names and the number of syllables in each name carefully match the real names of the people they purport to portray. The prosecutor, Matthew Harrison Brady, represents William Jennings Bryan from the real event is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a heart attack while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom. The Bryan actually died five days later after the trial ended of a cerebral hemorage not a `busted belly' as said in the movie. Bryan had in fact run for president three times as said in the movie (1896, 1900, and 1908). He was a democrat who appealed to the common man including many farmers and was the secretary of state before. Fredric March's physical portrayal of the balding Bryan bears a striking resemblance as well. Furthermore, Henry Drummond is actually the famed defense lawyer Clarence Darrow. Darrow was a great defense attorney from Chicago who opposed the fyndamentalist beliefs of his rival Bryan. He had been in many important cases in his years as an attorney but the Scopes trial was his last case. Darrow is less cynical and biting than as his Drummond character he was shown. In addition, the journalist E.K. Hornbeck from the Baltimore Herald is actually H.L. Menkein from the Baltimore Sun. H.L. Menkein did work with the Baltimore Herald, but in 1906, he switched to the Baltimore Sun long before the Scopes Trial. Menkein was a great writer and and incredible intellectual. He was accurately portrayed as a biting, sarcastic critic in the film. As mentioned above, John T. Scopes is shown as Bertam T. Cates in the film. Scopes actually was not even a real teacher but rather a long-term substitute teacher instead. After the trial he never taught school again and became a geologist. In an effort to dramatize the movie several fictional characters were created, including a fundamentalist preacher, Reverand Jeremiah Brown, and his daughter, Rachel Brown, who is the fiancé of John Scopes. The townspeople of fictional Hillsboro are far more frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant than were the real denizens of Dayton.

Some theatrical liberties were exercised in developing the plot but the courtroom screenplay was adapted word for word from the transcript of the Scopes trial. The events that take place around the courtroom drama are largely fictional. The movie begins with John Scopes getting caught teaching evolution and he is indicted for breaking the law against teaching evolution. Scopes is immediately jailed and remains in jail throughout the trial. Where as in reality no one ever intruded in John Scopes' classroom. Scopes was not kept in jail as shown and he only agreed to a trial because he thought it would be very low key. The law that provided the basis for Scopes' arrest in Tennessee was the Butler Act. The Butler Act was rarely enforced and was only an issue because the ACLU approached Scopes. During the trial, it was in fact very hot and the people had fans. The trial which went on for several weeks not just a few days as the film made it seem was moved outside to deal with the excessive heat. Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of one hundred dollars. Later, on appeal, the state Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law but acquitted Scopes on the technicality that he had been fined excessively. The Butler Actwas finally repealed in 1967. William Jennings Bryan died five days after the initial trial not on the courtroom floor as depicted in the film. This was the first major trial that radio was a part of and the involvement of radio was accurately depicted in the movie. The material culture was very accurate. The suits, broad brimmed hats, and suspenders of the men were accurately depicted. The wearing of shifty, loose dresses by the women was well done too. The lawyers and men in the court did ask to take their coats off, as socially at the time the coat was an important component of men's clothes. The film was very well produced and incorporates song components that better set the feeling for the time-period of the movie.

Inherit the Wind in following closely on the heels of the McCarthy era, was very much an allegory of its time. This dimension is fully exploited by Kramer and his screenwriters. Indeed, if he film can be faulted at all, it is on this level: The townspeople seems a trifle too bigoted, while Drummond's unrelenting altruism is equally suspect. Just the right degree of cynical detachment is brought to the pivotal role of E. K. Hornbeck without once sacrificing the empathy of the audience. Kramer's version therefore, becomes an affirmation of the worth of all people, modernist, or fundamentalist, orthodox and progressive. Even the final scene is an attempt to downplay this cultural conflict and look for some consensus. As Drummond walks out of the courtroom, with the Bible and Darwin side by side in his briefcase, an old religious hymn begins to play. As `Glory, Glory Hallelujah' echoes throughout the courtroom, this atheist evolutionist, defender of the modernist viewpoint, seems more religious than ever.

Technically this film was very sound. The use of black and white color sets the audience in the early 20th century scene in the great South of America. Stanley Kreimer is quite a fine director with many movies to his credit and his talents were fully displayed in Inherit the Wind. Using many visuals and signs throughout the length of the movie, the film is clear and easy to follow.

Overall, I thought that Inherit the Wind is a very valuable film. It is not the most entertaining film for modern audiences but if you enjoy classic acting and a classic plot this film is definitely for you. I feel that all students should view this movie at some point in time for their own educational purposes. For to fully understand why they are learning certain ideas in school as opposed to others and the struggle that has insued to determine which ideas should be taught in our schools. This trial raised for the first time in people's mind the question of academic freedom of speech and may do the same for modern viewers facing similar problems with the educational system that conflict with their own personal beliefs.

Glory (1989)
No Guts No Glory, 21 February 2001

Glory directed by Edward Zwick is the true story of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, the first black fighting unit recruited by the North during the Civil War. Matthew Broderick plays Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the young white officer who led the black soldiers into battle. Shaw is the son of well to do abolitionists hailed from Boston high society. Glory is the story not only Colonel Shaw, but also of the black soldiers who laid down their lives to free their brothers from slavery. Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Lihmi Kennedy, and Andre Braughter lead the cast of black volunteers portrayed in the movie based on Shaw's letters to home and two books. The movie introduces us to a handful of recruits and follows them from their enlistment to their climatic assault on Fort Wagner.

Overall, this production is historically accurate. In the film, all of the dates are correct in the scenes they are depicting. In real life, Shaw did fight at Antietam where he suffered a small wound to the neck and was asked by Governor Andrew to lead the 54th Massachusetts, which was to be the Union's first all black enlisted regiment. In the movie when he was asked this, he quickly decides that he does want to lead this group while in reality it took him some time to come to this conclusion. In general, some slaves and many free blacks were enlisted in the 54th. The training at Readville's Camp was fairly accurate in its portayal of the hard conditions the soldiers were put through except for the portrayal of an Irish drill sergeant which there is no record of anywhere. The Confederacy did issue the proclamation stating that any blacks fighting and white commanding officers of blacks would be killed if captured, but all the men were aware of this when they enlisted in the army as it occurred a month earlier than portrayed in the movie. The 54th Massachusetts was short of supplies but not especially shoes as depicted and they did leave to a parade in Boston. Furthermore, all of the movements of the 54th throughout the South were accurate. Shaw's men did in fact quarrel with Colonel Montgomery's troops as shown, but Shaw and Montgomery actually got along fine unlike in the film. The 54th Massachusetts saw action in the Battle of James Island as shown in defending the Confederates attacks. Fort Wagner was portrayed well however, the attack occurred on wrong side, as the actual attack came from the south not the north as depicted in the movie. The charge itself was well portayed except for that the flagbearer survived yet 281 of the 600 men in the 54th Massachusetts did wind up being killed, injured, or wounded in battle. Going against the military etiguitte of the time, Shaw being an officer was buried in a mass grave with his black soldiers. Dealing with the characterizations in the film, most of the black regiment members were composite characters who were not actual people but did repesent the thoughts and actions of the men in the 54th Massachusetts. Frederick Douglas' sons served as the basis for the character of Thomas or the educated free black in the regiment. The portrayal of Shaw was accurate and Shaw's assistant did exist but there is no record that he was a previous friend of Shaw's. Throughout the Civil War, the hospital were overwhelmed and in horrible conditions as was the hospital scene in the movie at Anteitam. Most of the nurses were untrained and did not use aniseptics causing many wounds to become infected nor were there blood transfussions. There were not many anesthesias available and whisky was often used as a substitute in the event of an amputation. As it turns out you were far more likely to die from disease during the Civil War than from a bullet. Throughout the film, the American thirty-five star flag is accurate. Yet the Confederate flag flown over Fort Wagner at the end of the film did not exist in addition to many of the confederate flags shown that were rectangular in shape when they actually were square. The uniforms of both sides were well done in the film as were the boys marching in front of the units. The guns in the film were historically accurate except for the portrayal of serial numbers on rifles, which at the time only existed on pistols. The material culture overall was very well done though. Shoulder to shoulder fighting still was used at the time as shown but the weapons over time had become far more accurate causing many to perish during the Civil War. The idea of having an all black regiment was largely unpopular with whites of the time. Most thought that blacks would make bad soldiers, but the black men of the 54th proved themselves worthy in battle leading to the creation of many more all black units. The etiquitte between enlisted men and officers was depicted with Shaw and Thomas during basic training when Shaw broke off a casual conversation that his friend Thomas was trying to hold with him because it was not proper to do so. There is no evidence of any gospel session with the men the night before a battle but sessions like the one shown in the movie did occur on slave plantations from time to time. Finally, as depicted blacks undoubtedly faced racial slurs in their efforts to participate in the Civil War.

This film is a reflection of the values of the late 1980's and into the early 1990's when it was produced in the simple fact that there was a movie about black soldiers in the Civil War. Blacks until recently were thought to have no part in the battles of the Civil War. Glory opened people's eyes to broader horizons or views. It showed that America and the study of history is now inclusive to all. Where as once blacks were thought to have had no part in the Civil War a movie now depicts one of their shining triumphs in battle. Yet a recognizable message can still be seen when the director, Edward Zwick, chose to show a story about black soldiers through the perspective of a white man. In this, it can be seen that however far Hollywood and America as a society have come in racial equality there are still many strides yet to be made before everyone in this nation is truly equal.

Technically the film is very well done. It includes graphic and stunningly choreographed scenes first at the Battle of Antietam and then in the stunning climactic scene at Fort Wagner. It has been described as the most accurate re-creation of a Civil War battle ever throught its extensive attention to every painstaking detail. The strong visuals in the film greatly add to the plot and help to set the emotion of the time period in helping to make the film more realistic to the viewer.

Like any war film, Glory, has its share of violence and despair, but ultimately it proves to be a truly uplifting experience and an important history lesson. It is a valuable viewing experinece that I would strongly recommend to mature teenagers and adults. Glory serves as a valuable reminder that despite what history book say or rather what they don't say, blacks played a critically important role in the North's victory over the South in the Civil War, forever changing the evolution of America.