How Accurate Is: All The President’s Men (Movie, 1976, Alan J. Pakula)

Hello everyone! Today’s (long-delayed) post will be on the 1976 film All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, and directed by Alan J. Pakula. This film chronicles the Washington Post investigation of the Watergate Scandal and, like the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight, focuses almost exclusively on the investigation itself. The film is very strong overall. Similar to the process of investigative journalism, it is slow-moving in parts; however, it never lets the audience forget what is at stake. Robert Redford in particular does an excellent job as Bob Woodward, and Hoffman as Carl Bernstein is also a strong performance. With regards to historical accuracy, All the President’s Men is one of the most accurate films this site has reviewed.

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How Accurate Is: Bridge of Spies (Movie, 2015, Steven Spielberg) Post 2

Donovan.
Donovan.

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be part 2 of the series on Bridge of Spies, focusing on the negotiations themselves and the treatment of the main character, James Donovan. Both historically and in the film, Donovan was a New York attorney and former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials who was called upon to defend Abel in American court; he then became involved in the negotiations for the prisoner exchange because neither the American nor the Soviet government wanted to send officially recognized representatives. By and large, the film did a good job with the character of Donovan, with his arguments in court in particular lifted directly from the historical record (including his excellent arguments in front of the Supreme Court, which almost seem to have been made for a movie).[1] Donovan’s friendship with Abel was also accurate; historically, in fact, Abel sent Donovan 400-year old Latin commentaries on the Code of Justinian to thank him for his efforts on Abel’s behalf.[2] The role of Donovan in the negotiations was also more or less accurate with the major exception that attempting to free Pryor as well as Powers was not Donovan’s side project against direct orders from the CIA: in fact, the American government had always hoped to have Pryor freed as well.[3] This change was one of the largest because it made the CIA significantly less sympathetic than they come across as in the historical record, and increased Donovan’s role in the negotiations.

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How Accurate Is: Bridge of Spies (Film, 2015, Steven Spielberg) Post 1


Bridge Of Spies

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the 2015 film Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. The film focuses on one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War: the 1962 spy swap of spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers and PhD student Frederic Pryor for “Rudolf Abel”, a high-ranking Soviet spy in the United States. The film was quite good, and Hanks in particular played his role to a tee; Mark Rylance, who played Abel, also did an excellent job. Overall, the film was also fairly accurate. It took its title and its inspiration from Giles Whittell’s Bridge of Spies, a book chronicling the events leading up to and comprising the spy swap. The film began its narration later than did the book; while the book, for example, devoted more than a chapter to Abel’s mission in the United States, the film began with his capture.

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How Accurate Is: Valkyrie (Film, 2008, Bryan Singer)

Valkyrie

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the film Valkyrie. Released in 2008, directed by Bryan Singer, and starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie chronicles the 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler, in which a significant number of upper-ranking German military officers participated. The plot was equal parts desperation due to Germany’s looming defeat in the war and genuine disgust with Nazi methods; the conspirators were an odd combination of fervent anti-Nazis (such as Stauffenberg, Beck, and others) and former Nazis who had decided that Hitler’s time had come (including von Neurath, the former foreign minister and governor of Bohemia). Tom Cruise played the leader of the plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg; his primary co-conspirators in the film included Major-General Henning von Tresckow, General Friedrich Olbricht, and (former) General Ludwig Beck.

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One-Year Anniversary Post

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Hello everyone! Today’s post is a special post, because two weeks ago (tomorrow) was the one-year anniversary of the very first post on ButISawItOnTv! On this occasion (the special qualities of which are up for debate) I would like to thank all of those who have read the approximately 50 posts which have made their way onto this site, or nearly one a week, in the past year. I would also like to say that I look forward to another exciting year of posts, and already have some ideas for topics: however, if any of you have ideas of your own or would like me to continue reviewing a television show I have already begun, it would be wonderful if you sent them in via the comments or social media.

If you truly love history, I cannot recommend enough that you enjoy some form of historical media during the following year. Whether this includes reading history books, listening to historical podcasts (during lunch is a good time, I have found), watching movies or television shows, or playing video games, it will enrich your life, I assure you. On that topic, I firmly hope that ButISawItOnTv has enriched yours during its year of existence thus far. Thank you all for reading as always, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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How Accurate Is: Gladiator (Film, Ridley Scott, 2000)

Gladiator

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe. To begin I should point out that Gladiator is only a historical film in the sense that Inglorious Basterds is; the names are right, and the story is quite satisfying, but there is little relation to actual history. Just as Hitler was evidently not assassinated, so too was the Roman Republic evidently not restored in 180 CE (I should point out that I am not making any comparison between these two events). It is, therefore, a difficult task to truly assess the historical accuracy of Gladiator.

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Troy (Film, 2004) Part 4

Cassandra, giving a prophecy. Guess how many people believed her?
Cassandra, giving a prophecy. Guess how many people believed her?

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be fairly brief; I just wanted to write a final post for Troy. Of all the omissions in Troy, there is one as yet unmentioned which was particularly glaring. This was the absence of Cassandra, the famous prophet and princess of Troy. In the original Iliad, Cassandra was simply one of Priam’s daughters; it fell to later poets to give her the gift of prophecy along with the curse to never be believed.[1] She would have made a valuable addition to this film, lending a much-needed sense of historic tragedy; the fate of Cassandra is, after all, among the most tragic of the war. Cassandra was a prophet; she would have known she would be murdered by Clymnestra upon reaching Mycenae, but chose to keep silent about it, either because she knew she would never be believed or simply to spite Agamemnon. The mental fortitude required to know the fate of Troy and all its inhabitants but to have her warnings constantly dismissed is incredible. The absence of this complex side character from the war damages the film immensely.

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Troy (Film, 2004) Part 3

Paris being saved by Aphrodite.
Paris being saved by Aphrodite.

I hope everyone had a lovely week, and welcome to part 3 of How Accurate Is: Troy! The subject of today’s post is my personal favourite, Hollywood Romanticism. This subset of historical errors is the most widespread in Hollywood, and represents the love of screenwriters for a happy ending. In Troy, these errors find their expression in any departure from the story of the Iliad which steer Troy towards traditional Hollywood romance and a happy ending; this was almost certainly the largest category of errors in Troy. Many of these changes served to make Troy a happier story than the Iliad, but not necessarily a better one.

One of the first changes in this category is also the most ambiguous; the story of Helen itself. In the Iliad and later literature, as well as in discussions surrounding the story of the Trojan War, there has always hovered the question of whether Helen was taken by force or consented to travelling with Paris.[1] Certainly, both sides of the argument have merit; the film, in the spirit of Hollywood Romanticism, settles on the latter. Helen being in love with Paris ensures the palatability of the story, as it is difficult to root for a kidnapper (not to mention difficult to believe it of Orlando Bloom). Therefore, while this does not represent an error per se, choosing this side of the story does represent a predisposition towards the romantic.

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Troy (Film, 2004) Part 2

Poor Hector being retrieved by Priam.
Poor Hector being retrieved by Priam.

Hello everyone! For today’s post about Troy, I will be focusing on my second classification of issues with the film: Anti-Myth Realism. (By the way, if anyone has any opinions on the classification system let me know in the comments, because I am considering incorporating it into future posts.) Anti-Myth Realism was, to anyone who has read the Iliad, perhaps the category that loomed largest when watching Troy. What do I mean by Anti-Myth Realism? Essentially, that Troy decided it did not want to be a movie grounded in Greek mythology. This was either because the director felt strongly about the issue or because it was believed (wrongly, in my opinion) that the mythological aspects of the Iliad would serve only to confuse audiences.

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Troy (Film, 2004) Part 1

Troy poster

Hello everyone! I know it has been a while, but hopefully from here on in posts will be somewhat more regular, as the last month has been very busy for me. Today’s post is on the movie Troy, released in 2004, and starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana. The topic of Troy, as might have been evident from the title, is the Trojan War. This is technically not a historical event, it is true. However, given the length of time the story of the Trojan War has been in circulation, it would seem to be reasonable to hold media which attempts to interpret the story to a standard similar to that applied to historical media. As a film for this site, Troy is an interesting case. Had Troy not been based on the Iliad, it would have been a decent movie, if not a particularly inspired one. Eric Bana as Hector was particularly good in this film, and the battle scenes were excellently choreographed throughout. Furthermore, the script writers for this film did a wonderful job, and almost every line in the movie was highly quotable (“I see fifty thousand men, brought here to fight for one man’s greed”); some, no doubt, were inspired directly by the Iliad.

However, Troy is based on the Iliad, and therein lies the problem. The story veers so heavily from its source material that it becomes unrecognizable; only the bare bones of events remain the same. Because there are so many differences, it is a good idea to divide the differences into four categories:

  1. Condensation
  2. Anti-Mythical Realism
  3. Hollywood Romanticism
  4. Fact-based Omissions

Because the movie is fairly long and there is so much to talk about (particularly with numbers three and four), only the first set of differences will be covered in this post. For more, continue past the link.

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