Picks of the Litter

Bryant Lewis and Joel Corbin

This Edition's Litter: War Movies

Bryant's Pick: "Gettysburg"

Think of an average, typical, run of the mill movie. Maybe it's about two hours in length, has some famous Hollywood stars, and has no really ambitious storyline or plot. No matter what you may consider to be "normal" about a film, "Gettysburg" is certainly not an average flick. With a cast you'll hardly recognize (at least in their authentic Civil War era outfits), and a length of over 4 hours, "Gettysburg" magnificently explores the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War.

The film revolves around the actual characters of the Battle of Gettysburg, and recreates the fight for Little Round Top and Pickett's Charge, among other moments. Director Ronald Maxwell did a fantastic job of authentically depicting the events of the battle, and showcases the heroes of Gettysburg during numerous fighting scenes. The cinematography involved in the movie is most impressive, especially during the famed Pickett's Charge. The aerial view of thousands of uniformed Confederate soldiers marching toward the center of the Union entrenchment line (and toward their own deaths) is an absoltely unforgettable scene. This scene, among others, humanizes the events of the Civil War, and help us realize the magnamity of what actually happened.

I often found myself becoming rather emotional during "Gettysburg," especially since the viewer gets to experience both the soft, human side of the characters, and the harsh, destructive reality of war. Maxwell's development of characters as being more than just simply fighting machines is remarkable, since the Civil War today can be often thought of as rather impersonal and distant, espcially during these rather conflict-free times.

As a Civil War buff, I found this movie to very enjoyable and memorable, but that does not mean that others would not enjoy this film. Sit down with a heaping bowl of popcorn, a big 2-liter of pop, and see the movie through to the end. I hope you find it to be as enjoyable and engaging as I did.

For complete information on "Gettysburg," visit its page on the Internet Movie Database (http://us.imdb.com/cache/title-exact/47907)

Joel's Pick: "Bat 21"

Don't worry if you haven't heard of this movie; I'm sure you've heard of its two stars, Gene Hackman and Danny Glover. The film's premise is also well-known: A solider is cought behind enemy lines and must escape to safety. What makes this film unique (and one of my favorites) is the innovative way the film solves its dilemma.

Hackman stars as Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton, a real-life Air Force officer with a high level desk job in Vietnam. While planning a bombing mission, "Ham" decides to go along with a recon flight, which is then shot down. Enter Danny Glover as Captain Bartholomew Clark, who flies a small spotter plane used to aid in the recovery of downed pilots. Glover is Hackman's lifeline, a ray of hope to a man who has never had to deal with life on the ground, where the real action is. Hackman must evade Vietnamese troops as well as a major bombing campaign by US forces as he works his way to a pickup.

What makes Hackman's character so appealing is that he is not a superman. His foray through enemy territory is not as easy as Rambo's might be. Hambleton does not have lots of firepower or a wide array of weapons to aid his journey. Instead of blasting away the enemy, he must elude them in such a way that those trying to rescue him know where he is headed, while at the same time maintaining radio silence. Hambleton hits upon the idea of mapping out a golf course in the jungle using holes from Air Force courses he and a buddy have played dozens of times. The golfing partner provides the map to Glover, and a few hitches later, Hambleton is rescued.

While watching this movie, I was impressed with some very intricate camera shots showing flying action as well as shots off the wing of Glover's plane. The music is also appropriate, though somewhat uninspiring. This film does lean toward an anti-war position, as Hambleton gets face to face with war on the ground and decides he doesn't like what he must deal with.

I highly recommend this film. Glover performs nicely and Hackman is, well, Hackman. I find "Bat 21" realistic and involving, and it's a great film to watch with others.

For more information, see "Bat 21" page at the Internet Movie Database: http://us.imdb.com/cache/title-exact/16377

As always, feel free to write Bryant or Joel with ideas or comments.
Bryant: brlewis@indiana.edu; Joel: jcorbin@indiana.edu.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener

Bryan Wilhelm

Bryant Lewis
Joel Corbin