Mr. Bill George Presents

Posts Tagged ‘Mr. Bill George’

The Case Against Fantasies

In Film on July 18, 2009 at 8:53 AM

In my previous post I fully admitted I have a bias against the fantasy genre, which I would explain later. Well, here we are and I believe I owe you all an explanation. (Keep in mind that I in no way am arrogant enough to pretend I know every single fantasy text in existence or have seen every movie in history. I’m basing my knowledge purely on what I’ve seen and what most frequently appears in popular culture.)

At the very root of my prejudice is a major, internal factor: I don’t find fantasies interesting. Keep in mind this is not something I have control over. For the same reason I don’t like the taste of tomatoes or cringe when I hear certain sounds, whenever I see a movie involving wizards or talking animals or magical potions my brain sends me a signal asking, “is there anything else on?”

However, this hasn’t been the case is every instance and some films have been compelling enough to break through this barrier. Namely, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I still consider that film, the first in the trilogy, to be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the second film is a bore and the third falls victim to my biggest criticism of the genre: anything goes.

Put simply, a fantasy author has too much power. They can write any absurdity they want and if, God forbid, I try to raise a logistical concern or address a plothole, I am immediately lambasted with, “it’s fantasy Bill. Relax!” Which is tantamount to the old saying, “it’s just a movie!”

But that doesn’t cut it for me. A writer should create the characters and set up the story but once it is underway it should feel as though it resolves itself naturally. The better the writer, the more it seems to flow. The worse the writer, the more you can feel their hand involved, manually arranging and forcing plot developments. And no where is this more apparent than the fantasy genre.

I have two perfect examples that put me in a rage every time I consider them (warning, these do include LOTR and HP spoilers):

First, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It’s the second to last (if I remember correctly) battle. The evil army is destroying the good guys. I mean really beating the hell out of them. They are outnumbered to the point of lunacy as the camera flies over the CGI battlefield, showing there is no possible way our heroes can win this battle.

Which is now a problem for our screenwriters. They have written themselves into a corner. The bad guys are about to win, but the good guys have to pull out a victory for the story’s sake. Luckily, this is fantasy, so anything goes.

Out of nowhere (fine, out of one brief scene penciled in earlier to cover themselves) comes an invincible army of ghost pirates! Convenient! Do these extra hands on deck help turn the momentum of the battle? No, they simply win the battle… immediately.

Because they are ghosts, of course, these pirates cannot be struck down by conventional weapons, but luckily for our heroes, they can still strike their enemies. Allowing them to flow over the battlefield like a giant, ectoplasmic tidal wave and single handedly win the battle instantaneously.

It was the single cheapest moment I’ve ever witnessed in the history of film. It forever tainted the series for me. My blood boils when I think of the audacity of the screenwriter playing God like that. But I can’t argue because, “it’s fantasy Bill. Relax!”

(Whether it is explained in more depth in the novel is beside the point because the film needs to be able to stand alone as a product for all those like me who simply watched the LOTR series.)

Another prime example of an author making his or her presence all too clear comes courtesy of the final novel in the Harry Potter series: The Deathly Hallows. This complaint is not specific to fantasies, it is more regarding bad writing in general, but this type of bad writing seems to crop up more in fantasies than anywhere else.

Much like the above example, it has to do with the author creating his or her own plot turning event out of convenience rather than natural story progression.

It occurs in the middle of The Deathly Hallows. Our leads are on the run, apparating every day to random sections of different woods all over the world. To reiterate, every day they are in a new part of a new forest that could be anywhere in the world and is totally at random in order to hide.

… And the story ends.

The book is essentially over. There is no where else to go. Nothing else to do. The characters have no leads, no direction, no forward momentum.

Obviously Rowling has made a mistake and now has to write herself out of it. But, hey, it’s fantasy so anything goes. One night the characters happen to appear in a particular part of a particular forest where a group of people happen to be. And these people happen to have information regarding what’s going on at Hogwarts and they happen to say it out loud and happen to give our heroes something to go off of for the rest of the novel.

That one scene, made purely of forced coincidence, is the fulcrum point of the entire novel and essentially the entire series. I’m sorry, but I refuse to accept that. I cannot let that pass by saying, “oh ok, that works.” My anger towards this event knows no bound. This appearance of the author as the hand of God is far too blatant to be ignored.

Another factor that doesn’t help fantasies in general is the fact that the main ambassadors for the genre, the most visible moneymakers, are some of the worst movies in recorded history. I cannot summarize just how much I hated The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass and Eragon.

To sum it up, on one level, my dislike for the genre stems purely from the subject matter. On another it is based on the actions of the writer and could actually occur in any book or film. It just happens to occur more often in fantasies and because it uses that moniker, ‘fantasy,’ people give it a pass. But not me.

And you may note that I love superhero movies and science fiction and ask, “are those not fantasy?” No, they are not. There is a distinction. That distinction being that they still occur within the real world and that world has rules (as Morpheus says).

Superman is a fantastical character but he exists in the real world. He is the one anomaly in his otherwise normal surroundings. Science fiction is similar. The idea of bringing dinosaurs back to life is fantasy but it’s based on very real science. As opposed to fantasies where the entire world is created and controlled by the author.

Anybody out there agree? I know plenty of people probably disagree. Sound off in the comments section below!

Harry Potter And The Blah, Blah, Blah

In Film on July 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

So this movie taught me a little something about myself: I have become completely and utterly apathetic towards this franchise. I read all the books. I’ve seen all the movies. And still nothing has occurred in any of them that has ever made me say, “wow, I have got to read/see that again.”

There are two main reasons for this. One is my bias against the fantasy genre in general (the focus of a soon to come post in which all will be explained, I assure you). The other is my tendency to cling obsessively to a subject, only to abandon it all together after. And I guess I’ve reached a point in my life where I have moved on from Harry Potter.

When the final book was set to come out (which was an atrocity, by the way) I read all the previous ones in sequence in order to catch up. But the minute I put down the trainwreck that was The Deathly Hallows, I immediately began losing interest in everything I had just invested so much time into.

Sure, I held on long to enough to be excited for the fourth (and even fifth) film, but that goodwill has waned. And going into the sixth, I was simply going through the motions.

Don’t get me wrong, I in no way actively disliked this film. In fact, I enjoyed it and chuckled at a number of moments (the humor was well-played and Alan Rickman is mesmorizing as usual) but I was never excited.

To be perfectly honest: I felt no passion whatsoever. And it seemed to me like the director didn’t either. The film rolled along not because there was a worthwhile story to tell, but because the movie had to be made.

Which makes sense, putting this film on the same level as the book it represents: It’s all set up. Its entire purpose is to build to the eventual finale. And it fulfills that purpose. It’s just not a very fruitful endeavor when put on the big screen for 2+ hours in the hope of entertaining the masses.

So back to the reason you’re here. What did I think of Warner Bros.’ new release Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Well, I sincerely thought it was good.

That’s all I can say. It is what it is. If you’ve seen the others you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and you already know how you are going to feel about it. No surprises here.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Entourage has returned to HBO for its sixth season. I enjoyed the premiere because it gave us a chance to see the boys together again after all this time. But the series is definitely spinning its wheels. The seasons are becoming very cyclical. Something really has to happen this season that fundamentally changes the dynamic of the show and Vince’s career. Just showing his rise and fall and cheap rise again at the end of each season is not enough. (And yes, having Martin Scorsese call at random when all hope seemed lost, was very cheap.)

– After only two episodes I already expect great things from the new show that now precedes EntourageHung. Definitely worth a watch. (It is available OnDemand to those who already have HBO but may have missed it.)

– Quick reminder: Wipeout remains the best show on television. Period.

My Primary Home Screen And Why

In Technology on July 7, 2009 at 12:26 AM

1st Home Screen

Above is an image of the primary home screen on my iPhone 3GS. I recently rearranged it and have been very pleased with my current setup. So much so, I rarely check the other screens, except when searching for games. Which I consider a good thing.

So, here is the breakdown, going top to bottom, left to right.

SAFARI – Built in web browser. ‘Nuff said.

BYLINE$4.99One of the best apps The best app I’ve ever purchased. It’s an RSS reader that syncs with my Google Reader account. Anything I read on the road and mark as read, is marked as read in greader, so if I check my feeds online or through EventBox, I never get repeats. It’s perfect. I love it. (I just hope it gets push notification support so I can see a badge with the number of unread articles.)

TWEETIE$2.99 – Best twitter app I’ve found. I used Tweetsville for a long time but one day it failed to update for me and I moved on. And I found a lot more to like in Tweetie, like the ability to see people’s profiles, followers and who they follow etc. Also has a nice clean interface.

DONE$.99 – Easy to use, color coded to-do list manager. Best part: you can take a snapshot of your list and set it as your background, so every time you wake your phone you see a slick, priority sorted, color coded list of things you have to do.

AP MOBILEFree – AP Mobile is an associated press news app that utilizes push notifications, including sounds, badges or pop-over alerts. I decided to have a dedicated news app instead of flooding my greader with a CNN feed. So far it’s working out pretty well.

MAPS – Built in Google Maps, perfect for GPS and directions. Especially with the 3GS’ built in compass that will reorient the google map depending on which direction you are facing. (Except when there is ‘compass interference.’ Lame.)

PHOTOS, CAMERA – Also have my camera set to come up when I double-tap the home button. Never know when you’re going to need it quickly.

FACEBOOKFree – Of course. Although I hope it gets updated to include events. It has zero event support right now.

BANK OF AMERICAFree – A life saver. Let’s me view my accounts and transfer funds on the fly. A requirement for any BofA customer.

THE WEATHER CHANNEL MAX$2.99 – Yes, I know there is a free app that’s very similar from the same people, but it’s ad supported and the ads take up about a third of the screen! I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I spent the money and sprung for the clean one. It’s so much easier to read and use. Great forecasts, radars, severe weather alerts etc. Must have.

22 NEWSFree – Local news that you can’t find on something like AP Mobile. Gotta stay in touch with the community.

iPOD, iCAL, CLOCK, APP STORE – All built in. All essential.

And finally, the constant four:

PHONE, MESSAGES, MAIL, SETTINGS – The key things I find myself checking regardless of what home screen I may be looking at. If I’m playing a game or looking at something and I’m interrupted, it’s because I get an email or call or text or need to adjust my settings. Gotta have access to them at all times.

Alright. So that’s me. What is everyone else doing? Give a shout out for your favorite apps in the comments below!

Odds And Ends #1

In Film, Technology on July 2, 2009 at 12:08 AM

Alright, so I tacked a #1 at the end of the title of this post because I imagine this will happen again: I don’t have any one thing to discuss at length at the moment, but there are a number of subjects stirring around in my mind. So I’ll just blurt them out in no particular order.

PUBLIC ENEMIES – I just got home from seeing Michael Mann‘s latest film, Public Enemies. It stars two of the finest actors working today: Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. Together they recreate the cat and mouse game between famous depression-era outlaw John Dillinger and investigator Melvin Purvis.

Mann maintains his usual style, using almost all handheld cameras to give the film a more real and gritty feel as well as putting plenty of emphasis on the frenetic and riveting gunplay. But as engaging as the action is, it is spread out across ~2.5 hours of fairly thin plotting. The story of Dillinger is an interesting one but it is done in such a matter-of-fact way that it can be underwhelming. And the unconvincing love story doesn’t help move things along.

At the end of the day it is a solid piece of filmmaking but it could have used more upbeat pacing and 15-20 minutes could have been shed easily. Which would have made for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

THE CORPORATE TREE – A contributor and friend to TIAW has officially launched his own site! At TheCorporateTree.com you’ll find insights into the business world courtesy of the founder’s own business philosophy and those of his contributors. As well as a bevy of links to interesting articles and enterprises on the web. It has just launched and will continue to grow over time so head on over to get in on the ground level and follow him on Twitter. Good luck TCT!

GDGT LAUNCH – More news about a site launch. This time from the guys who brought you engadget. Their new site, gdgt.com, is one of those things that I wish I thought of. It’s a community driven site for gadget lovers where you set up your profile, including a list of all the gadgets you own, and then read up on tech news, review products, connect with people with the same stuff, troubleshoot etc. It’s pretty genius and I, for one, have already signed up. Check it out.

THE RAVEN – Isn’t The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, like, the greatest poem ever? Tell me I’m not alone on this one. I recently read it yet again and it’s just so good that I felt like sharing it. Especially after being on a literary kick from my last post. I’ll leave you with a taste, enjoy:

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

(It’s so good that you can’t not read it out loud. Am I right?)

“The Dome” By Steven Millhauser

In Comedy on June 28, 2009 at 9:06 PM

I desperately felt the need to share Alec Baldwin‘s reading of The Dome by Stephen Millhauser instead of keeping it to myself (as I have for a few months now).

I heard only a portion of it once while driving to work and could not stop thinking about it that entire day until I got home and found it. I downloaded the podcast it was a part of and finally heard the story in its entirety and have since listened to it another handful of times, picking up on something new every time.

It was read as part of a selection of short stories on an NPR podcast and I present it to you here:

(Sooo, I had trouble uploading the audio file so I just threw up a graphic and made it a video because I knew that would work. If you want to directly download the file, you can access it here: http://files.me.com/mrbillgeorge/49y1zg.mp3 )

The More Things Transform, The More They Stay The Same

In Film on June 24, 2009 at 11:04 PM

Hey, remember the first Transformers movie? Yea? I just saved you ten bucks! You no longer need to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

This sequel to the 2007 summer blockbuster is beat-for-beat the same as the original… minus the novelty, spontaneity or excitement that comes with a new franchise. It is two and a half hours of same old, same old. AKA Michael Bay being Michael Bay. Which, when working with something new and exciting like alien robots that transform into American made motor vehicles, is fine. But that was 2007 and this is now. I need something a little more fresh.

So how does he attempt to liven things up? For starters, introduce a new element to the story in the first minute and leave us in the dark about for the next 149 minutes. Not only that, but also toss in a bone headed authority figure character written with a level of unrealism not seen since the chief of police in Die Hard.

And, for good measure, two new “comic relief” autobots make their debut and in the process set back race relations in this country 50 years. I’m sorry, but the very existence of Mudflap and Skids is an affront to humanity itself. Anyone who laughed at their appearance, antics or dialogue should be ashamed of themselves. And all the people responsible for writing them into the script, giving them a voice, digitally rendering them or letting them appear in the final film should face jail time.

There were so many damn things in this movie that actually caused a physical, adverse reaction in my body. The biggest being the noise level. I still have a pounding headache from the decibel level in that theater as I type this. As for the script itself I cannot count the number of times I rolled my eyes, put my head in my hands or smacked my forehead.

I could go on but I’m sick of sitting here seething over this atrocity. The more I think about it, the more anger I feel. (Oh! And I didn’t even get into the ridiculousness of all the subplots like going to college, capturing a decepticon or revisiting John Turturro’s character! AHH! Memories rushing back! Make it stop!)

BOTTOM LINE: Long on spectacle, short on spectacular.

In Other Movie News:

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, in all of their glorious wisdom, has decided to expand the field of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 starting this year. You can find their official press release on the matter HERE.

I, for one, am relieved. That show was already running pretty short. Thank God we’ll have more clips to show and nominees to read off in order to fill all that air time.

One more quick note: I recently saw a commercial for the next Harry Potter. Now I know I read the book two or three summers ago, but I think it’s a bad sign when I don’t recognize a single thing from the ad. Either this movie is going to take some huge liberties with the material or I really need to work on better retaining what I read.

Stuff

In Music, Technology on June 23, 2009 at 1:37 AM

So, there hasn’t been a post in quite some time. Reason being: I’ve been busy. And I assume so have my contributors. I’ve been working a lot more than usual lately due to the release of a new iPhone you may have heard a little something about. But I figured I’d take this opportunity to share with you some of the stuff I’ve been reading, while I haven’t been writing.

The Perry Bible Fellowship. It’s a comic strip that was introduced to me by @angusmcweiner back when we were roommates in college. It is honestly some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen. But be warned: it’s addictive. They are short and sweet so once you start reading, you don’t stop. Multiple times I’ve taken 45 minutes out of my day just going through all of them. Definitely worth a look.

John Elliott & The Hereafter. John just came out with a new live album called Too Many Ghosts, available now via iTunes. I just picked that up and am listening to it as I type. It’s amazing just like the rest of his music. It is certainly worth checking out. Especially since in the albums page you’ll find his first release Parade available in its entirety as a free download. You can’t go wrong (especially with The Girl Next Door). And don’t forget to check out the video for American in Love off his latest studio album… because I made it. (Shameless plug? Yes.)

Mint.com. Little late to the game on this one but I just got into it and love it. Mostly because it actually succeeds at syncing with my Bank of America accounts with ease and dividing my spending into accurate categories automatically. I just wish it included pending transactions instead of just cleared. Oh well. Best part? It’s free and so is its corresponding iPhone app.

– I’ve also been spending a lot of time reading articles from a blog entitled, Lifehacker. Including this stand out article I’ve been sharing with everyone I know. It’s genious ideas like this and tech news/stories that make Lifehacker a wonderful addition to anyone’s RSS readers. (This one comes courtesy of TIAW friend @mattrawding)

– Okay, last one: This is just interesting – Movies with the Most Instances of the F-word.

So that’s some of the stuff I’ve been reading while I haven’t been writing. Anyone else been occupied with anything particularly interested? Leave links in the comments!

Prized (Tech) Possessions

In Technology on June 16, 2009 at 12:48 PM

So I’m getting a new phone very soon and I’m very, very excited. But this change is not insignificant. It has given me pause and caused me to reflect. I’ve been using the same phone for a while now and we’ve been through a lot. It has been good to me, even if I have not been to it. It is one of many pieces of technology that has stuck with me, not often replaced by newer or better models.

Which made me think: what other tech do I have that won’t be replaced anytime soon? What other gear do I have that I consider a truly prized possession and has become virtually invaluable?

Here are the big three:

1. My (soon to be retired) Phone:

G'Zone

The Casio Gz’One phone in burgundy and gold. A color scheme only available if purchased at a Verizon kiosk in the now defunct Circuit City. That in and of itself makes it special. But the best part of the phone is its build quality. It is virtually indestructible. It’s shock resistant. It has plungers over all the ports, making it water resistant. And it’s dirt resistant. And (just like King Leonidas did to the Immortals) I’ve put its name to the test. And it has passed time and time again.

I love the weight of it in my hand. I love how I never have to worry about its condition. I love how I can drop it anytime I want merely to prove a point. It’s a luxury so many phone owners don’t have.

What I won’t miss though are the cheap plastic belt clips. I’ve gone through two already. (But that’s still not as bad as the six Razr clips I plowed through back in the day…)

2. My Microsoft Trackball Explorer

Microsoft Trackball

God I love this thing. One of the primary reasons it is so valuable to me is because it is so valuable period. They don’t make it anymore! Don’t ask me why. I love it and so do lots of people on the forums (yes, I’ve visited trackball forums… don’t judge me!). But the thing is selling for a couple hundred bucks on Amazon.

Would I ever sell mine? No. Regardless of the price (within reason). I just love it too much. The ball is moved by the fingers instead of the thumb like many trackballs today. It has a primary and secondary click seperated by a solid scroll wheel. All perfectly positioned. And then the biggie: it has forward and back buttons for your ring and pinky finger. And they work across apps, not just browsing. You can do next song or previous song in iTunes etc. It is the most functional and fast pointing peripherial I have ever come across.

3. My Gibson (originally made for GH3 but used exclusively for RB) Guitar Controller:

Gibson

You have to picture mine with an American Flag face plate. I couldn’t find a picture online of one with it. And my camera is being lent out to a friend at the moment so I couldn’t take a personal shot. (Which shows you right there how my camera is not one of these prized possessions.)

Unlike the trackball, this item could easily be replaced if it breaks down. You can get one of these at any Best Buy (like I got mine) or Gamestop or online. But… it wouldn’t be the same, ya know? Sure, it’d be the same model. But it wouldn’t be the guitar that I finally beat Painkiller and Panic Attack with. It wouldn’t be the same guitar I’ve taken to endless Rock Band parties. It wouldn’t be the same guitar I’ve devoted hours of my life to beating Green Grass and High Tides with (still unfinished business there…).

This guitar has been with me a year or so, maybe even less. But I still feel like it has become an intimate part of my collection. It hangs on my wall like a trophy earned and comes with me wherever I go to rock. It will not soon be replaced.

But enough about me:

How about all of you? What gear do you have that seems indispensable? Shout out your stories in the comments!

‘Jimmies’ Isn’t Racist. You’re Wrong.

In Comedy on June 8, 2009 at 1:43 AM

I grew up in the Northeast. So for years I’ve had people call me out when I ordered ‘jimmies’ as a topping for my ice cream. (For those unfamiliar, I’m referring to what others may call chocolate sprinkles.)

‘It’s a derogatory term from the Jim Crow law era,’ they tell me.

Listen: Where I’m from, we call them ‘jimmies.’ I’ve never met anyone in my entire life who was offended by the phrase and I refuse to give up on a part of my culture just because of a group of pushy, ignorant fools who want to feel superior.

And now, I am here to declare that I am proud of myself for sticking to my guns. After rigorous research, it is official: Jimmies is not a racist term. It is a trademarked name coined by the company that invented them (Just Born Inc.) and was named after the man who produced them. And his name was… wait for it… JIIMMY!

What should have given it away is the fact that no one can actually tell you where the racist theory stems from. Everyone just seems to hear it from someone else and then cling to it. It is a nasty myth that somehow still has legs and I am asking you to take a stand with me! If someone criticizes you when you order jimmies, ask the person how they know that. Call them out and bring their ignorance to light!

Forward this article to everyone you know so we can quash this despicable rumor once and for all. Then enjoy a nice twist with jimmies (guilt free) this summer!

Below are links to my supporting evidence with the apporiate section excerpted in italics for your reading pleasure.

Exhibit ABoston.com Article

There are some who believe jimmies to be a racial slur – a play on the Jim Crow segregation laws – but McCarthy (linguistics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst) says it originated as a trademark name from a local company that made the chocolate topping, a contention that is supported by the Dictionary of American Regional English.

Exhibit B: Brighams.com Fun Facts

In 1930 James Bartholomew was lucky enough to acquire a job at Just Born, Inc. Bartholomew operated a machine that produced Born’s latest invention, tiny hot-dog shaped chocolate sprinkly things. But what to call them? Born briefly pondered that question before deciding to accredit the name to the producer, Jimmy Bartholomew. The new product was named JIMMIES.

Exhibit C: Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist Michael Vitez’s article: “The beloved jimmy could be lost: A sprinkling of history for a name that’s melting away.”

The Boston Globe investigated the origin of jimmies last winter after a reader inquired about a rumor that the term originally was racist – the idea being that some people refer only to chocolate ones as jimmies, and rainbow ones as sprinkles. Perhaps, the reader surmised, the word descended from Jim Crow.

The Globe found no evidence of this, but did cite a commentary in 1986 on National Public Radio by the late Boston poet John Ciardi, who claimed: “From the time I was able to run to the local ice cream store clutching my first nickel, which must have been around 1922, no ice cream cone was worth having unless it was liberally sprinkled with jimmies.”

‘Saving’ June 6, 1944

In Film on June 5, 2009 at 7:07 PM

Well, it’s (just about) June 6th.

On this day 65 years ago the allied expeditionary force led by General Dwight Eisenhower landed on the beaches of Normandy in France and proceeded to overtake the German fortified coastline and open a passageway that would lead the allies to ultimate victory in the European theater of World War II… in other words: we pwned the Nazis.

Known as D-Day, this event has come to symbolize the allied efforts in Europe during WWII and has been dissected, reproduced and romanticized in every possible form of media. It is especially spotlighted in the opening sequence of one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest accomplishments: Saving Private Ryan (1998).

America’s premiere director brought that battle to the screen with such brutal honesty it led to veterans walking out of the theater, not being able to handle what felt like actually reliving the war. It was that powerful.

The entire film is an undisputed masterpiece. The cinema had never seen a war movie quite like it before, and any that have come after are considered clones. This is the original.

So on this anniversary of D-Day, I’d like to take the time to discuss what I consider one of the best films ever made by asking myself a question and then proceeding to provide multiple answers. Enjoy:

Q: So, just how good is Saving Private Ryan?

A1: Well, Saving Private Ryan is so good…

… that the FCC doesn’t even censor it. After the movie aired, unedited, on Veteran’s day, the FCC got complaints about it and had to rule on whether the ABC affiliates who aired it had broke indecency standards by doing so. The complaints they cite include:

Following the November 11, 2004, broadcast, the Commission received the complaints, alleging that the aired film contains indecent or otherwise actionable material. The Complainants generally cite, among other things, film dialogue containing expletives including: “fuck,” and variations thereof; “shit,” “bullshit,” and variations thereof; “bastard,” and “hell.” In addition, the Complainants cite the presence in the film of other allegedly offensive language, such as “Jesus,” and “God damn.” They also object to the film’s graphic depiction of wartime violence. Accordingly, the Complainants argue that the ABC Network Stations should be sanctioned for airing material that violates federal indecency and profanity restrictions.

Know how the FCC responded?

The subject matter of the film, the portrayal of a mission to save the last surviving son of an Iowa farm family, involves events that occurred during World War II. As stated in the introduction to the broadcast, in relating this story, the motion picture realistically depicts the fierce combat during the Normandy invasion, including, according to a veteran who participated in and witnessed these events, “things that no one should ever have to see.” Essential to the ability of the filmmaker to convey to viewers the extraordinary conditions in which the soldiers conducted themselves with courage and skill are the reactions of these ordinary Americans to the barbaric situations in which they were placed. The expletives uttered by these men as these events unfold realistically reflect the soldiers’ strong human reactions to, and, often, revulsion at, those unspeakable conditions and the peril in which they find themselves. Thus, in context, the dialogue, including the complained-of material, is neither gratuitous nor in any way intended or used to pander, titillate or shock. Indeed, it is integral to the film’s objective of conveying the horrors of war through the eyes of these soldiers, ordinary Americans placed in extraordinary situations. Deleting all of such language or inserting milder language or bleeping sounds into the film would have altered the nature of the artistic work and diminished the power, realism and immediacy of the film experience for viewers. In short, the vulgar language here was not gratuitous and could not have been deleted without materially altering the broadcast.

And another member of the committee added:

This film is a critically acclaimed artwork that tells a gritty story one of bloody battles and supreme heroism. The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels. The true colors are muddy brown and fire red and any accurate depiction of this significant historical tale could not be told properly without bringing that sense to the screen. It is for these reasons that the FCC has previously declined to rule this film indecent.

If you didn’t feel like reading all of that (which you should, it’s fascinating) I’ll translate: “This movie is too good to change or censor.”

You think they make these exceptions for The Thin Red Line? or Platoon? No. And you wanna know why? They aren’t as good. Period.

A2: Saving Private Ryan is so good…

…that it always runs virtually commercial free. This has a lot to do with the previous answer. The movie is just too good to cut up and sell ad space during. It would be inappropriate to stop in the middle of this depiction of heroism only to try and sell some Volkswagens.

A3: Saving Private Ryan is so good…

… that every video game about World War II that came out after blatantly rips it off. And there are not a small number of them. Let’s list just a few, shall we? Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (and every other MoH), Every Call of Duty (except 4), Day of Defeat, Company of Heroes, Brothers in Arms, Battlefield 1942, et al.

A4: Saving Private Ryan is so good…

… that when you remind people it didn’t win Best Picture, they stare at you incredulously. Spielberg got Best Director, true, but the film itself did not go home with the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences‘ biggest prize. And what did, you ask?

Shakespeare in Love

Nope, not kidding you. That really happened. It still baffles me to the point where all I can do now is try to laugh about it. But it is hard to laugh about such a travesty.

So, if you haven’t seen it in a while, I urge you to go back and watch SPR on this anniversary of D-Day and give thanks to the brave men and women depicted on screen fighting for the lives we now live.