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Thanks for 'Gods and Generals': Michael Medved's open letter to Ted Turner ^ | Friday, February 21, 2003 | Michael Medved

Posted on 02/20/2003 10:40:32 PM PST by JohnHuang2

Dear Ted Turner,

At this advanced stage of your long and complicated career you have finally crossed the line – making a contribution to your country and its culture so unequivocally positive and powerful that every American, regardless of political perspective, owes you a debt of gratitude.

No matter how one feels about your creation of CNN, your donation of a billion dollars to the UN, your marriage to Jane Fonda, your operation of the Atlanta Braves, your divorce from Jane Fonda, your dismissal of Christianity as "a religion for losers," your bison ranching, or your yachting, or your fanatical feud with Rupert Murdoch, you have now performed a massive good deed that should provoke universal appreciation.

Not that "Gods and Generals" – produced due to your singular determination and generosity – constitutes a perfect film; many commentators, especially among your politically correct pals, will no doubt find fault with it for a portrayal of the War Between the States that aims for truth rather than trendiness. Nevertheless, your personal investment of some $80 million in a project of such audacious ambition has resulted in a major movie miracle. I've been reviewing movies for 23 years now (having started at CNN, in fact) and I've never before sat spellbound for nearly four hours (the film runs more than three hours and 40 minutes, with an intermission) wishing, at the end, that this heroic movie had gone on even longer.

Despite the epic scale of this effort, director-writer Ron Maxwell reached the right decision in making no attempt for comprehensive coverage of the period he illuminates. The movie begins in April, 1861, and concludes 25 months later, making no reference to epic battles like Antietam or the Peninsula Campaign, or to important personalities like McClellan, Winfield Scott, Halleck or Fremont. Even though Maxwell focuses most of his attention on the single fascinating figure of "Stonewall" Jackson, he never portrays that general's most astonishing triumph – the breathtakingly brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign in the Spring of 1862, still studied today as an example of inspired leadership and masterful tactics. Maxwell chooses to concentrate on the general's human qualities rather than his undeniable military genius, and the result is a film that should appeal to women as much as men, to history fanatics as well as those who don't know the difference between Bull Run and Valley Forge.

Stephen Lang plays General Jackson with such startling authority and vitality that if there is any justice at all in Hollywood (a dubious proposition), he will receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination next year. The amazing element in this utterly riveting characterization is its balance and complexity: Lang's Jackson is simultaneously fierce and tender, spiritual and practical, petty and magnanimous, eccentric, implacable and incomparably charismatic. The physical resemblance to the historic Stonewall is uncanny, even eerie – complete with the blazing blue eyes that led his men to nickname him "Old Blue Light."

Robert Duvall similarly shines as Robert E. Lee, bringing to crackling life the dignity, poetry and ruthless edge of this legendary commander. Duvall takes over the role from Martin Sheen (of all people) who proved adequate but uninspired in Ron Maxwell's previous battlefield spectacular, "Gettysburg" (1993). Sheen's Lee seemed dreamy, almost effete, and much too kindly; Duvall's "Marse Robert" comes across (accurately) as an altogether more formidable customer.

In every way, "Gods and Generals" shows quantum improvements over "Gettysburg" – reflecting the vastly larger budget which your commitment made possible, Mr. Turner. The false beards and over-fed re-enactors that proved seriously distracting last time have been replaced by impeccable art direction, costumes, make-up and sets. The result, with the sweeping depiction of three crucial battles (First Bull Run, Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville, all filmed on the actual battlefields), ranks with "Alexander Nevsky," the Soviet "War and Peace," and "Saving Private Ryan" in terms of thrilling immediacy. One particularly moving sequence involves Meagher's Irish regiment charging for the Union up Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg, only to run directly into a Confederate Irish regiment, greeting them with recognition, tears, cheers, and deadly, withering fire.

With its emphasis on Jackson, including his moving friendship with a 5-year-old-girl during the Christmas season break in the fighting in 1862, "Gods and Generals" will undoubtedly draw criticism for its sympathetic treatment of the Confederate cause. In fact, Maxwell's four hours of cinema provide a richer understanding of Southern motivation and passions than Ken Burns ever did in his hours and hours of gripping documentary on PBS. Looking down at the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, just before the battle, Maxwell provides a stunningly effective speech for Robert E. Lee, as he recalls that he met his wife in that very village. "It's something these Yankees do not understand," he says, "will never understand. Rivers, hills, valleys, fields, even towns. To those people they're just markings on a map from the war office in Washington. To us, they're birthplaces and burial grounds, they're battlefields where our ancestors fought. They're places where we learned to walk, to talk, to pray. …They're the incarnation of all our memories and all that we love."

Maxwell treats his Union characters with less love, even while making clear their moral superiority on the issue of slavery.

Jeff Daniels returns to play Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the Maine college professor who became one of the major heroes at Gettysburg. Though the events of "Gods and Generals" precede the struggle in "Gettysburg," Jeff Daniels looks unmistakably, distractingly older this time – showing the passage of 10 years. Maxwell also gives him a big moment before the Federal charge at Fredericksburg in which he recites the timeless words of Julius Caesar to inspire his men. The historical Chamberlain might well have delivered such a speech, but the hammy, lengthy, Latinate, declamation fizzles on screen. The heavy, intrusive and occasionally lumpish musical score by Randy Edelman and John Frizzell works poorly for this sequence, and other key moments in the movie.

Nevertheless, "Gods and Generals" inflames the imagination and inspires the soul – never more than in its frank, friendly treatment of the deep religiosity of men on both sides. The compassionate re-creation of so many vivid, decent characters never apologizes the paradox that soldiers in both blue and gray remained convinced that they served the Almighty's will in battle; Maxwell allows us to believe that both sides may have been right.

Small moments provide some of the movie's richest gifts: with Jackson and other officers singing "Silent Night" at a Christmas party while Stonewall yearns to see the newborn daughter he has never met; a Rebel and a Yankee walking on stones to the middle of a river, to trade tobacco for coffee and to pass a few peaceful moments; Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain explaining to his distraught wife (superbly played by Mira Sorvino) why he feels compelled to risk his life far from home; Lee declining to visit the wounded, dying Jackson, as if this refusal will force his indispensable lieutenant to a miraculous recovery.

There's also a fine moment, Mr. Turner, when your smiling face appears for a few seconds along with other Confederate officers listening to a spirited rendition of the music hall favorite, "The Bonny Blue Flag."

"We are a band of brothers, and native to the soil," sing these sons of the South, and that sense of regional pride, loyalty to hearth and home, permeates this remarkable and richly rewarding movie.

Even those who have criticized you in the past, Mr. Turner, should recognize that with this film you've raised your own Bonny Blue Flag and challenged other Americans of wealth and influence to follow your example. Focus groups and market studies would have tried to discourage you from investing $80 million in a strikingly intelligent four-hour spectacle that never stoops to score cheap political points or conform to current fashion by showing the Confederates as redneck Nazis, or providing a one-dimensional focus on slavery as the only issue in the war.

Any consumers of pop culture who long for more ambition and substance in American entertainment must rush to see this movie; in fact, to show support for bold new directions in cinema, you should see it several times. If this film succeeds beyond expectations it will send powerful messages to the gatekeepers in show business, encouraging a new emphasis on juicy, accurate historical and, yes, religious content.

This movie, in fact, could amount to a turning of the tide in the ongoing battle to enrich and uplift the culture. If that occurs, we must thank God and two generals: Ron Maxwell, and that unlikely leader for the cause of the angels, Ted Turner. As in any great battle, deliverance can come from an unexpected source.

Thank you, Mr. Turner, and I wish you great success with your courageous effort.

FOUR STARS. Rated PG-13, for some intense battlefield violence.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: civilwar; confederacy; emancipation; gg; godsandgenerals; hollywierd; hollywood; lincoln; movies; robertelee; slavery; starsandbars; stonewalljackson; union
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Friday, February 21, 2003

Quote of the Day by Republic

1 posted on 02/20/2003 10:40:32 PM PST by JohnHuang2
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To: JohnHuang2
With all due respect, I'll be catching this when it comes to cable. Not one dime of my money will find it's way into Ted Turner's pocket.
2 posted on 02/20/2003 10:46:07 PM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: DoughtyOne
It occurs to me that when there's a buck to be made, the biggest anti-US malcontents suddenly find core values and religion easy to palet. Now if Ted can just keep his mouth under control for a month or two it will be a miracle.
3 posted on 02/20/2003 10:48:17 PM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: JohnHuang2
The film was indeed an epic piece of work: well-acted and directed. I do take umbrage with Mr. Medved's characterization of Jeff Daniel's Chamberlain. I thought the speech was moving. And no, I didn't pay a dime to see "Gods And Generals"; I won a free screening pass from our local Conservative Station (KCBQ) in San Diego.

-Regards, T.
4 posted on 02/20/2003 10:54:17 PM PST by T Lady (.Freed From the Dimocratic Shackles since 1992)
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To: DoughtyOne
Is this a futile effort? If you subscribe to cable, chances are that some of your money will find its way to pay for TNT, TBS, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, CNN, etc. So if you want to see it on cable, some of your money will still go towards him. A bit less, but still some. I'd rather see it on the big screen, and I plan to the first chance I can Friday.
5 posted on 02/20/2003 10:54:38 PM PST by Pyro7480 (+ Vive Jesus! (Live Jesus!) +)
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To: JohnHuang2
I saw the trailer for this film a couple of months ago, and even that was riveting.

6 posted on 02/20/2003 10:55:28 PM PST by EternalVigilance
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To: Pyro7480
Good point about TNT. There's only so much you can do. It may be a good movie. I won't be paying to see it in the theater.

Why would I spend money part of which will go to help pay Ted's promise to the U.N.? Why should I give him money to donate to the likes of the Clintons or the DNC?

Sorry, no sale here.

7 posted on 02/20/2003 10:59:52 PM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: DoughtyOne
Me either. The man who married Hanoi Jane as a way to give the finger to America doesn't get a pass for financing a movie, no matter if it is good.
8 posted on 02/20/2003 11:05:18 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: DoughtyOne
The point is that you do every month if you use even basic cable, or satellite television service. We all do.
9 posted on 02/20/2003 11:11:38 PM PST by doglot
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To: JoJo Gunn
see above
10 posted on 02/20/2003 11:12:58 PM PST by doglot
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To: doglot
So you're saying Red Ted's your ball and chain regardless? That you people aren't able to tear yourselves away from that gangrenous glass mammary? You can't stay away from the theaters? You can't wean yourselves from AOHell?

It never ceases to amaze me how people just "accept" old Ted has them no matter what.
11 posted on 02/20/2003 11:30:18 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: JoJo Gunn
The long arm of AOL/Time-Warner/Turner reaches around the world, across the nation and up your street. That's just the way it is.
12 posted on 02/20/2003 11:36:57 PM PST by doglot
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To: doglot
Yeah, if you say so. But Red Ted doesn't exist from franchise fees alone, singularly obvious since commercials haven't disappeared. If everyone would just not turn their sets on for a month, they'd bring him and Jennings and their ilk to their knees.

I KNOW they don't own me. What's so hard to understand about the power YOU all have?
13 posted on 02/20/2003 11:47:08 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: JohnHuang2
First movie worth watching since the Two Towers, even if KKK Byrd gets a cameo.
14 posted on 02/20/2003 11:49:20 PM PST by Russell Scott
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To: JoJo Gunn
Cick on the different companies. Here's a link: AOL/TIME-WARNER COMPANIES That probably isn't all either.

Have you and yours cut out everything listed? If you have, then good for you. You try to live what you preach.

15 posted on 02/21/2003 12:00:35 AM PST by doglot
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To: JohnHuang2
I will go see it ASAP. Red Ted's politics cannot keep me away.

If I had skipped "The Civil War" on PBS I never would have known (I have read every Civil War Book I could find since) what a remarkable event the Civil War was in the history of America and the World.

16 posted on 02/21/2003 12:02:06 AM PST by Mike Darancette
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To: JoJo Gunn
doesn't exist from franchise fees alone, singularly obvious since commercials haven't disappeared

Ya think he doesn't get a piece of the ad revenue? Advertising is where he got his seed money.

17 posted on 02/21/2003 12:03:00 AM PST by doglot
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To: doglot
Uh, excuse me, but I already told you that. The FCC franchise fees you pay him by having cable or a dish isn't enough. If we all stop watching TV, even though we all have cable or a dish or just an antenna, his advertisers will have a cow from the overnight ratings, and in a month they'll be jumping off the tops of buildings.

As far as his "reach", so what? I don't "have" to buy any books or magazines, or go to the movies (which I actually haven't in 3 years), or drop money in the record stores, whatever. I won't "die" from lack of his crummy product.

So, are you gonna come back and once again justify his "power" over you?
18 posted on 02/21/2003 12:14:24 AM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: JoJo Gunn
After reading this review it shows even a liberal can unintentionally do a world of good. Considering the toxic liberal wasteland called Hollyweird its amazing among all the sewage there sometimes pops up a rare cultural find. I don't know if this movie will mark a shift in our culture for the better but Americans for a long time have wanted their past, their values, and their abiding faith in God to be given sympathetic understanding in a film. At long last that moment has arrived. Thanks to AOL Time Warner for "Gods and Generals." Despite all your troubles for one shining moment it has made America proud.
19 posted on 02/21/2003 12:19:38 AM PST by goldstategop
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To: goldstategop
Look, the only reason I came in here was because the article was an "open letter" to Hanoi Ted. If anyone likes the movie, fine. The fact remains that he has more than once shown what he thinks of American core values, and a hunk of celluloid from that S.O.B. isn't enough to deserve instant absolution.
20 posted on 02/21/2003 12:39:05 AM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: JoJo Gunn
Uh, excuse me, but you didn't say if you and your family have cancelled all the products and services offered by these companies, their subsidiaries and their advertisers. You may want to write all the advertisers just so they'll know you don't have a power outage and the mail hasn't quit running.
21 posted on 02/21/2003 12:40:43 AM PST by doglot
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To: nutmeg
22 posted on 02/21/2003 12:41:47 AM PST by nutmeg
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To: DoughtyOne
As much as I despise Turner, I will be seeing this film soon, appreciating that he put a financial stake into the film. The chances he will make a dime out of this epic effort are very slim, and truth be told, I will be far happier that he earn money with this film than I am about how he earned most of the remainder of his fortune.
23 posted on 02/21/2003 12:45:22 AM PST by AFPhys
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To: AFPhys
Sometimes people you don't like have you over a barrel. Sheesh!
24 posted on 02/21/2003 12:53:05 AM PST by doglot
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To: doglot
Look, if you take cable you're going to get some Turner channels. Unless you wish to give up on the other seventy channels or more, you have to put up with it. We don't have to go see Turner's movie.
25 posted on 02/21/2003 4:03:21 AM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: DoughtyOne
Tuner is complex and speaks before he thinks. He is international in his vision, but has little expertise on how marxism can hijack his vision.

I pray for him, that he gets his soul healed.
26 posted on 02/21/2003 4:33:58 AM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: Russell Scott
...even if KKK Byrd gets a cameo...

Maybe they should have Senator Byrd play Nathan Bedford Forrest in the sequel. Or would that be typecasting?

27 posted on 02/21/2003 4:38:00 AM PST by Non-Sequitur
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To: LadyDoc
Ted has been a long time worshiper of Fidel Castro. I don't think Marxism is going to hijack anything. I think it does play an important role in Ted's plans though. How a guy can gain as much as Ted has by capitalism, yet salivated at the thought of Castro exploits escapses me.
28 posted on 02/21/2003 5:23:44 AM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: JohnHuang2
We'll be at the first showing today...have waited a long time for this movie . You can get the soundtrack cd (special edition) which also includes a dvd with outtakes of the movie, and 2 music videos.
29 posted on 02/21/2003 6:38:32 AM PST by let us cross over the river
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To: DoughtyOne
NO SALE here either.
Even though it looks good..just the thot that TT had ANYthing to do with it causes me to say HELL NO
30 posted on 02/21/2003 8:35:14 AM PST by BIOMAN
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To: JohnHuang2
If Medved likes the movie I probably will too, based on past viewings of movies he has reviewed.

FWIW, the movie critic of the Florida Times-Union,(Jacksonville) panned the film in today's issue. He said it was boring,overly long and he didn't like Steven Lang's portrayal of Stonewall Jackson, all positions diametrically opposed to Michael Medved's review. I will go see it and judge for myself, as usual, but I do generally agree with Medved's reviews.

We'll see what happens. I am in a Civil War frame of mind having visited the Olustee re-enactment here in Lake City last week-end.

31 posted on 02/21/2003 8:44:25 AM PST by oldsalt
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To: DoughtyOne
Here I was all this time, thinking it had been made for TV.

I might watch it when it does come on.

32 posted on 02/21/2003 8:56:25 AM PST by onedoug
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To: JohnHuang2
Turner also created the first movie, Gettysburg. I disagree with those who don'see these films. Gettysburg was supurb. I've waited for this one for a long time. It looks as though it may be better than the first. There is also a third book behind "Killer Angels' and 'Gods.' I hope they make that one as well. Those who skip the film because of political reasons are missing some fine, historical work.
33 posted on 02/21/2003 9:00:09 AM PST by Types_with_Fist
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To: JohnHuang2
Interesting competition for this year's LOTR entry. It would be amusing to see a couple of good movies up for Best Picture.
34 posted on 02/21/2003 9:05:18 AM PST by js1138
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To: sheltonmac; sola gracia; greenthumb
35 posted on 02/21/2003 9:09:49 AM PST by Dawntreader (HHD)
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To: JohnHuang2
Here's another unintended endorsement from Boo allen of the Denton Record Chronicle:

"Boring and bloated, this sanctimonious work will appeal only to warmongers and the religious right."

36 posted on 02/21/2003 9:11:15 AM PST by The Iguana
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To: JohnHuang2
Rod Dreher of NRO speaks of the critics:

February 21, 2003 9:00 a.m.
Battle Hymn
A complex look at Civil War believers.

It's been a critical Antietam for the film Gods and Generals, which opens in theaters Friday. Ron Maxwell's Civil War epic got massacred by reviewers. "Turgid, textureless and endless ... history as punishment," was the Associated Press verdict, typical of so many others. "Stiff, ponderous, fluttering in its 'poetry,' and crudely simplistic as an apologia for the Confederate ideology," says Entertainment Weekly. Declaims New York Press: "It is truly a whitewash of the past."

Well. If the four-hour battlefield epic doesn't work for reviewers on an artistic level, it's hard to make a case against that kind of judgment. But the moral and political indictment of the film as a "whitewash of the past" is politically correct slander. Gods and Generals commits the unpardonable sin of depicting the Confederate generals not as prototypes of Goering and Rommel, but as noble, tragic men whose motives for fighting were complex and fully human. The movie invites understanding of the historical south, not outright condemnation, and that's something that the present age will not tolerate.

Gods and Generals, which is loosely based on the Jeff Shaara novel of the same name, concerns itself with key battles in Virginia during the first half of the Civil War. It focuses on three characters: Union Col. Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels), later a hero of Gettysburg; Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (a stunning Robert Duvall); and most especially, Lee's right hand, Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang). While there is a great deal of battlefield action, the film takes care to show the thinking that went into each great man's reasons for fighting the war. The Southern side gets much more screen time, perhaps because Maxwell leaned toward the north in his previous film, Gettysburg.

The film is about conflicting ideas of patriotism, God, personal conscience, and history. Its basic point is that Lee and Jackson (like many southerners) fought not because they loved slavery or detested the Union, but because they felt honor-bound to defend their homeland.

What is one's homeland? To mid-19th-century Americans, most of whom never traveled more than a few miles from the place of their birth, the United States was an abstraction. In those days, it was much easier and more natural for them to feel loyalty to their state and its people. The rock singer Little Steven has a great song called "I Am a Patriot," the chorus of which captures this deeply personal sense of nationalism: I am a patriot/And I love my country/Because my country/Is all I know/I want to be with my family/With people who understand me/I got nowhere else to go.

Lee opposed secession, but once the decision was taken, it was this sense of duty that bound him to fight for the Confederacy. If you or I had been Virginians back then, how many of us would have had the courage to have gone north to fight for the Union, or even had the imagination to conceive of such a thing? What Maxwell is trying to do here is show contemporary audiences why good men would take up arms to defend a government and a culture that enslaved other men. It is for much the same reason that black GIs fought bravely in World War II for a country that still didn't guarantee them their full rights: because their homeland asked them to.

Maxwell takes a big risk in downplaying questions of race and slavery here. You can understand why he may have done this; do modern audiences really need to be told that slavery was evil? We see now how vicious and evil slavery was, but if you're trying to show audiences why Lee and Jackson behaved as they did, you're simply not going to put slavery front and center, because it didn't figure prominently in their own deliberations, certainly not compared to the centrality of the claims their native soil had on their loyalties.

Perhaps this explains why some critics find it phony that the film's two black characters, a house slave named Martha (Donzaleigh Abernathy) and a cook named Jim (Frankie Faison) relate so affectionately to whites. It's easy to see these portrayals as Confederate clichés of happy black folks watched over paternally by their masters. This would be wrong, and unfair. However paradoxical, it's simply true that whites and blacks in the south loved each other despite the structural sin in which they were mired.

Anyway, Martha and Jim both express a desire for freedom, and a clear awareness of their people's oppression. There is a lovely scene in which Jim, who prepares meals for Jackson's camp, prays under a starry sky with the general. Jackson is an extremely pious Presbyterian, and prays constantly. Standing next to Jim, with whom he is close, Jackson asks the Lord to protect Jim's family. Jim, also addressing the Almighty, prays, "How is it, Lord, that good Christian men, like some men I know, tolerate they [sic] black brothers in bondage?" The general stands next to Jim, looking heavenward, beseeching God to "show us the way, and we will follow." Jim's face falls. He knows the general, his friend and a good man, just doesn't get it.

That scene serves to illuminate a particularly tragic aspect of Jackson's character. We see him throughout the film intensely praying, seeking to do the will of God. You cannot doubt his sincerity, nor the uprightness of his character. Yet there is a blindness there, an inability to grasp that his ways are not necessarily the Lord's ways. He can be absolutely merciless. One moment he is having gentle words of prayer at the bedside of a dying soldier, and in the next breath is chillingly calling for the total slaughter of the enemy. He is both tender and ruthless — again, a paradox, but a very human and very believable one.

Religion is an integral part of Gods and Generals, particularly on the southern side. Lee and Jackson are forever talking about God's will — Jackson at one point refers to his men as "the Army of the Lord," as he is about to execute deserters — but don't seem much troubled by the question as to whether or not their cause is just in His eyes. Jackson is a true Christian Stoic, believing that man's role was to be largely passive as the will of God worked itself out through history. His conception of God was austere and tribal, as in the Old Testament. Jackson thought God ordained slavery for inscrutable reasons, but in time would end it, if that was His will. Man's role is to wait on God, and accept everything he sends to us.

A convinced Calvinist, Jackson believed God had predestined each man to die on his appointed day. "My religion teaches me that I am as safe in battle as in bed," he says here. "That is the way all men should live, then all men would be equally brave." Yet this same noble conviction that allowed him to bear misfortune with equanimity also kept his conscience untroubled in the face of the unspeakable cruelty of slavery.

By contrast, the god of Col. Chamberlain is the more universalist and egalitarian vision we see in the New Testament. Chamberlain here gives voice to a vision of a God who expects His followers to act as His agents to bring justice to the world. If that should mean war, then we must make sure the ends we're fighting for justify the suffering war will entail. Unfortunately, Chamberlain's view, which I'm guessing is Maxwell's, gets short shrift in the film. Nevertheless, Chamberlain has a good monologue in which he explains that even though slavery has always been with mankind, it is intolerable, and if he has to die to "end this curse and free the Negro, then God's will be done."

There were tremendous historical consequences from this clash of religious visions. A soldier in battle must believe God is on his side in order to bear the pain and suffering of war, yet there is great danger in presuming that the Almighty endorses your actions. He is infinite; we are finite. Gods and Generals is filled with challenging theological questions, but the movie appears to have struck historically and theologically illiterate reviewers as showing little more than a bunch of Bible-thumping rednecks sitting around talking about Jesus while fighting to keep the slaves back on the plantation.

Maxwell told me he made Gods and Generals "without judgment of that generation" of men who fought the Civil War. It wouldn't have been true to history to make a film depicting a simplistic conflict between good and evil. Slavery was completely indefensible, but there was more to that war and the men who fought it than race hatred.

"It's easy to judge [antebellum southerners] because of slavery," Maxwell said. "At the same time we should recognized that they were incredibly faithful people, of incredibly strong fiber. We've descended from those people, and we can take solace from that."

Solace? Maxwell seems to have no use for the au courant idea that all decent people, southerners in particular, must repudiate and be ashamed of their ancestors to be morally and socially acceptable. Brave man. He'll pay.

37 posted on 02/21/2003 9:21:52 AM PST by The Iguana
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To: Pyro7480
Does he even own all this anymore, or is it just a part of the AOL-TimeWarner behemoth? I think the latter.

As such, it matter less. As we now know, Ted Turner is not more nor less Liberal and anti-American than 80% of Hollyweird. But he does have a bit more money to throw around.
38 posted on 02/21/2003 10:05:34 AM PST by WOSG
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To: onedoug
I will watch it when it comes to television, because it does interest me. It looks good and I've heard that it was.
39 posted on 02/21/2003 10:11:09 AM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: JohnHuang2
I heard the director, Ron Maxwell, interviewed by Les Kinsolving once (during the production of this film). Maxwell stated that it was right for the city of Gettysburg to take down the tourist tower (i think it was done through eminent domain).

Much as I hated that tower, it was not right for the City of Gettysburg to do that.

A more PC guy you won't find.

40 posted on 02/21/2003 10:15:01 AM PST by sauropod (It's OK to drive an SUV if it helps you get babes.....)
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To: countrydummy; Carry_Okie; hellinahandcart; KLT; EBUCK; Grampa Dave; farmfriend; madfly
41 posted on 02/21/2003 10:15:54 AM PST by sauropod (It's OK to drive an SUV if it helps you get babes.....)
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To: doglot
Considering the reaction from that perennial running sore Entertainment Weekly, I just might have to rethink my postion. :)
42 posted on 02/21/2003 10:21:50 AM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: The Iguana; sheltonmac; stainlessbanner; Michael2001; AnnaZ; P-Marlowe; RaceBannon; yendu bwam; ...

‘Gods and Generals' Succeeds ‘Chariots of Fire’ as the Christ-Honoring Film for This Generation

Review by Doug Phillips

Jackson: "My esposita! Come, before I leave, we must sit, read together ... a verse." Jackson finds his Bible on a shelf. Jackson: "Yes, yes, here. Corinthians. Second Corinthians, chapter 5. I have been thinking about this verse." Anna puts her hand on his, and they read it together. "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." They kneel together, his arm is around her. -- From the script of Gods and Generals

In every generation, one film emerges from the dust heap which is Hollywood and reminds even the most hardened of us skeptics that God can turn ashes into beauty, that He often works outside our tidy little mental boxes, and that there yet remains a witness for Jesus Christ in our culture -- though that witness may take the form of a hero speaking from the grave. When I was a young man en route to college, that film was Chariots of Fire, the epic tale of Christian Olympian Eric Liddell. For our children's generation, that film is Gods and Generals, the stunning prequel to the Civil War masterpiece Gettysburg.


In February of 2002, I flew to Hollywood with my father to see a private five-and-a-half-hour director's cut with our friend Ron Maxwell, the genius behind the movie. None of us were prepared for what we saw that day -- what can only be described as the most compelling and distinctively Christian tribute to principled biblical leadership that this generation has seen on celluloid.

It took me more than a week to recover from what I experienced. For one brief moment in our lives, those of us in that forty-person theater were transported out of the twenty-first century and into the more distant time of the Civil War, the events of which would help define the people which we are today. And for a few hours, we were allowed to live and breathe with the man whose very sobriquet has become synonymous with manhood. We rode with Stonewall. The heart and the soul of Gods and Generals is Stephen Lang's never-to-be-surpassed portrayal of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, the most misunderstood, but most overtly evangelical and Christian general in our nation's history. (See Life and Campaigns of Stonewall Jackson by Robert Louis Dabney.)

Here we see Jackson seeking to win dying souls, not to some god, but to Jesus Christ. Here we watch him praying that God would allow a cessation from battle to honor the Holy Sabbath. Here we weep with him as he rejoices that God would bless the fruit of the womb. Here we see the man, who was known to most as a warrior, demonstrate a love and loyalty to his wife so precious and sanctified that an aura of holiness engulfs the couple as they pray before their God.

Here we watch in awe, as we have never watched a man before, embrace a holy ferocity in battle motivated by the singular belief that the warrior of Christ need never fear bullets, for he will not die one day sooner nor later than the sovereign God decrees. And here, with heartbreaking anguish, we watch the dying warrior commend his soul to his God, while the loved ones around him bathe him with hymns of eternal love to the Savior.

After seeing the film, James Robertson, our nation's premier Civil War historian, declared that "Gods and Generals is the greatest Civil War film I have ever seen, and I have seen every one of them." Historian Bill Kauffman commented: Mr. Lincoln said he liked his speeches short and sweet, so here it is: The new Warner Brothers picture Gods and Generals is not only the finest movie ever made about the Civil War, it is also the best American historical film. Period.

Writer-director Ron Maxwell's prequel is so free of cant, of false notes, of the politically conformist genuflections that we expect in our historical movies, that one watches it as if in a trance, wondering if he hasn't stumbled into a movie theater in an alternative America wherein talented independents like Maxwell get $80 million from Ted Turner to make complex and beautiful films about what Gore Vidal has called "the great single tragic event that continues to give resonance to our Republic."


By this film, Maxwell has emerged as the most humble, the most visionary, and the most fearless director of the day. His humility is evidenced by what the film does not say, as much as by what it does say. Maxwell understands that the poignant complexities surrounding the Civil War and the profound nobility of purpose imagined by the players on both sides of the conflict demand a film that neither preaches nor skirts the true issues. He not only refuses to reduce history to trite sound bites, but he weaves a film that requires the viewer to understand the heart and soul of the key players on both sides before making judgments. Maxwell's vision is especially impressive.

He has understood what no other producer of note has understood -- namely, that a profanity- and sensuality-free epic battle film with an overtly evangelical Christian protagonist can be utterly compelling to the people of this nation. Not since Cecil B. DeMille has this even been attempted. Yet many viewers will find that Maxwell surpasses even DeMille in his open enthusiasm for teaching history through the lens of Christian heroism. Maxwell is simply fearless.

My first reaction after seeing the movie in 2002 was, "it will never reach the theaters -- someone will blackball the project." Maxwell has dared to tell the truth about the much-maligned Southern cause: Namely, that the leadership was predominantly made up of men whose entire ethic was defined by their personal relationship with Jesus Christ; and that black men and women -- many of them brothers and sisters in Christ with their white counterparts -- willingly and proudly served with the Confederacy, standing against those whom they perceived to be the invaders of their homeland.

But note: Maxwell is not taking sides. He is simply presenting truths that are not easily processed by those who want to reduce the complexities of history to socially acceptable sound bites about slavery. Equally compelling is Maxwell's portrayal of the federal soldier, personified through the character of Joshua Chamberlain (played by Jeff Daniels).

I predict that even the most ardent Southerner will find himself deeply touched by Chamberlain and the heroic battle of the Irish Brigade. I spoke with actors Stephen Lang (Stonewall Jackson), Jeff Daniels (Joshua Chamberlain) Bruce Boxleitner (General Longstreet) and Bo Brinkman (aide to Lee) during a visit to the film set just a few weeks following the 9-11 disaster. (I was visiting with my sixteen-year-old brother, whose "home school project" was to personally assist director Maxwell for several months.) Each of these men, in their own way, indicated that this film was different from any other project on which they had previously worked, that their participation was a labor of love, and that their own lives had been influenced by discovering the nobility of the men they portrayed.

Which brings me back to my own amazement about Gods and Generals: In one of the more remarkable episodes in the history of modern film, the Lord moved in the life of a Hollywood writer/director/producer to speak to the issue of manhood and faith, and then gave him favor in the eyes of media mogul Ted Turner, who opened up the door by bankrolling the $80 million project.

Impossible, you say? We serve the God of the impossible. Now here's some tough medicine: If this film had been left to the Christian community to produce, it probably would never have been made -- not for lack of money, not even for lack of ability -- but for lack of a courageous vision. Too many Christians would have been afraid of the inevitable and bogus charges of racism which abound whenever Confederate leaders are portrayed favorably. They would have been afraid of Jackson's uncompromising and manly Christianity. But most of all, they would have been afraid that the film was, well, just too Christian!

That's right. Christians are afraid of overtly Christian culture. Most Christian filmmakers and cultural communicators have bought into the notion that one must either reduce the Gospel message to trite little maxims, or present it with such subtlety that the Gospel message is almost undecipherable. Don't get me wrong. There's a place for subtlety, but there is also a place for the overt proclamation of truth.

Gods and Generals presents orthodox, no-holds-barred Christianity. Not because the film was designed as a tool of evangelism, but because the film is faithful and true to the life of a soldier who was first and foremost an obedient evangelist for Jesus Christ. This is not a "nice" film, but Christianity is not always "nice." It's not nice when a general is called to execute his own soldiers for desertion. It is not nice, but it is biblical, as Jackson explains with tremendous clarity and precision. It is not nice to pick up the sword and go to battle, but when one is defending one's homeland, it is mandatory.

My single greatest concern is that many Christians will lack the spiritual and theological maturity to understand the consistency and orthodoxy of Jackson's worldview. They will seek to evaluate this man through the twenty-first century grid of pop-Christianity, or brand him a self-contradiction, or an enigma.

The truth is that Jackson was one of the most rigorously consistent and principled leaders in American military history. He represents the type of man we rarely see any more: focused under pressure, fearless in the face of death, ferocious in battle, but singularly tender in home life and wedded bliss. (See: Beloved Bride: The Life and Letters of Stonewall Jackson to His Wife to better understand the Christian character of this great man. (Click here to see how you can receive a free copy.)


Those of us privileged to watch the director's cut with Maxwell last February knew that we had observed something truly extraordinary, something which was bigger than the film itself. Here was a movie that would do more than accurately record history; it would make history. Maxwell has given the children of this generation the opportunity to gain rich insights into the fathers of their fathers. Only by engaging their history truthfully can we even dare to understand our present identity or our future destiny as the American people.

We sat motionless, completely unable to speak even after the last credit rolled and the music came to an end. The first words I heard came from a man sitting near me, a writer of some note. Fighting back the emotions, the writer whispered: "He's given me my country back." And so he has.

Ron Maxwell has defied the political correctness police of both the Right and the Left by giving the American people a truthful vision of their past. He has shown a time when men defended women, when faith in God defined a man's vision of duty, when the greatest leaders were also the most committed Christians.

For the first time in the history of modern major motion pictures, a director with guts has given us the opportunity to understand the complexities, the beauty, the horror, the glory, the tragedy, and the Gospel witness found in one of the greatest fratricides in the history of any people.

After the review, my father and I drove director Maxwell home. That night we prayed with him and for him. We prayed that the final product would be pleasing to God, that God would use the film to bring honor to Jesus Christ, and that millions would better understand manhood as a result of watching the film. What a blessing to think that the testimony of a warrior who died more than one hundred and thirty years ago could lead people to Christ today.

Gods and Generals is rated PG-13 for battlefield violence.

Doug Phillips is the president of Vision Forum and the producer/director of the documentary film Raising the Allosaur. He is the proud 38-year-old big brother to Samuel Phillips, a 16-year-old home educator who served as personal assistant to director Ron Maxwell on the film set of Gods and Generals, and both a Yankee and a Confederate extra in the film. At the time of this writing, Doug has yet to see the edited and final 3.5-hour version of the film. To learn more about Christianity during the Civil War, we suggest:

Beloved Bride: The Letters of Stonewall Jackson to His Wife

Christ in the Camp: The True Stroy of the Great Revival During the War Between the States

The Life and Campaigns of Stonewall Jackson , by Robert Louis Dabney

Yankees vs, Rebels, an audiocassette discussion of the issues behind the War


43 posted on 02/21/2003 10:43:58 AM PST by ppaul
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To: JohnHuang2
The funny thing is that I can imagine the Medved of twenty years ago doing a hilarious writeup of this movie for a modern update of The Hollywood Hall of Shame (the volume dedicated to big-budget disasters such as Heaven's Gate).
44 posted on 02/21/2003 12:22:52 PM PST by steve-b
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To: DoughtyOne
I don't have cable for the same reason (partially) that you're not seeing the movie in the theater. Yet, I plan on seeing the movie on saturday. LOL I try to stand by this principle as much as I can, but I am dying to see this movie.
45 posted on 02/21/2003 12:35:37 PM PST by RAT Patrol
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To: steve-b
We do grow up, don't we. Some before others; Good to have Medved on our side.
46 posted on 02/21/2003 12:42:24 PM PST by TFMcGuire
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To: RAT Patrol
Hey look, a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. I'm not trying to slam you guys. I'm just saying what works for me. Enjoy yourself.
47 posted on 02/21/2003 12:44:50 PM PST by DoughtyOne (Freeper Caribbean Cruise May 31-June 6, Staterooms As Low As $610 Per Person For Entire Week!)
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To: DoughtyOne
48 posted on 02/21/2003 12:58:29 PM PST by RAT Patrol
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To: DoughtyOne
I am a big Civil War fan, and loved Gettysburg, even though the movie was almost as long as the actual battle. But I'm with you, I will not give that socialist bastard one cent of my money.
49 posted on 02/21/2003 1:09:14 PM PST by Republic of Texas
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To: Republic of Texas
...and yes I know he earns money from my cable bill, blah, blah, blah. But I don't have to give him $8 to see his movie, so I'll wait and see it for free.
50 posted on 02/21/2003 1:13:57 PM PST by Republic of Texas
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