Does the Fourth of July holiday put you in the mood for a patriotic film? Or perhaps it gives you the urge to see more of America the beautiful? Last week I asked readers to recommend their favorite films about American history. You might want to jot down a few ideas for video rentals on the holiday weekend.
The question posed a problem for some who responded. In his e-mail, Alan Wilcox summed up the dilemma. He asks, "What are historical movies? It is nearly impossible to do good history in print, never mind such a subjective medium as film. Is a movie historical if it takes place in the past? If it conveys historical ideas? Example: Platoon is not based on actual historical events, but it certainly deals with the historical themes relating to Vietnam. But if Platoon is historical, then why not Forrest Gump? Zorro? The Crucible? The Godfather?"
Among the "historical" films about America that have impressed him: The Best Years of our Lives, Bonnie and Clyde, All the President's Men, and a troubling drama about racism in the South, Mississippi Burning.
Peter T. Chattaway, film critic for Canadian Christianity and The Vancouver Courier, suggests "Thirteen Dayspartly because it's recent and partly because the DVD includes commentary by the historians on whose work the film was based. (I love it when they point out places where the film deviates from the historical record!)"
Chattaway adds, "There is more to history than wars and politicians. Perhaps a true-story baseball movie like Eight Men Out might qualify as a 'historical' film? Or is that merely what we often call a 'period piece'? [Rich Kennedy thinks it qualifies: "John Sayles' Eight Men Out is not only a great baseball pic, but an excellent and mostly accurate account ...1
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