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Movies About Battle Invade UCR this Fall


Movies About Battle Invade UCR this Fall

(September 7, 1999)

NOTE TO EDITORS: The descriptions of the films were provided by Katherine Kinney, associate professor of English at UCR.

A free screening of Steven Spielberg's landmark "Saving Private Ryan" at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 leads off a Thursday night film series at the University of California, Riverside that will explore how Hollywood films have influenced the American perc eption of war.

Terence Malick's "The Thin Red Line," which like "Private Ryan," is credited with helping a new generation understand the sacrifices made by veterans of World War II, will end the series of nine films on Thursday, Dec. 2. Set against the backdrop of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, these films are part of the campus' War and Society initiative, planned by the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences in conjunction with the November meeting in Riverside of the Reci pients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Funded by a variety of centers and foundations, UCR will offer classes on the Vietnam era, the war novel and World War II, high-profile guest speakers such as journalist Mark Danner and author Tim O'Brien, and a variety of fine arts performances.

The films series begins first, with rich and varied stories exploring the horrors, the heroism and the aftermath of war. Each will screen at 7 p.m. in Life Sciences 1500, a large auditorium just east of the campus bell tower. While the films are free, par king on campus costs $3.

Sept. 23rd: "Saving Private Ryan" (director, Steven Spielberg, 1998) Led by Tom Hanks, a small unit of soldiers sets out after the Normandy landing in WWII to find one American soldier and bring him home alive. The opening twenty-five minutes depicting the American landing at Normandy has been called the most realistic battle sequence ever filmed. Spielberg has recently been decorated by both the Pentagon and the Smithsonian in recognition of his powerful, emotionally gripping vision of American soldier s in World War II.

Sept. 30: "The Big Red One" (director, Samuel Fuller, 1980) Independent filmmaker Samuel Fuller was himself a veteran of Normandy, who landed on Omaha beach as a lieutenant in the First Division of the US Army, known as "the big red one. "Compare "Saving Private Ryan's graphic vision of the battle to Fuller's image of the watch on a dead man's wrist washed over by an increasingly bloody surf. Fuller was also among the first American troops to liberate a Nazi concentration camp. It was at Falkenau Camp tha t he used a camera for the first time. Thirty five years later, Fuller recreated those images to haunting effect.

Oct. 7: "M*A*S*H" (director, Robert Altman, 1970) At the height of the Vietnam War, Robert Altman made this iconoclastic film about an army surgical unit in Korea. The film's startling use of overlapping sound and unusual camera angles, as well as its censor-breaking representation of both blood and sex, worked to tell a very different kind of war story. The famous television show that followed took up the films' setting, but softened its raw humor and intensity into a much more conventional "anti-war" message.

Oct. 14: "The Deer Hunter" (director, Michael Cimino, 1978) The first Hollywood film after the end of the Vietnam War to gain both popular and critical attention. The story of four friends from the steel mills of Pittsburgh who ship out together for Vie tnam, "The Deer Hunter" offers some of the most enduring and controversial images of the Vietnam War, from POWs Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken being made to play Russian roulette, to its final mournful singing of "God Bless America." Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Walken.

Oct. 21: "Hamburger Hill" (director, John Irvin, 1987) Often overshadowed by Vietnam War films such as "The Deer-Hunter," "Apocalypse Now," "Platoon," and "Full Metal Jacket," "Hamburger Hill" is a powerful film which takes up much more immediately the conventions of the WWII combat film in envisioning the bloody battles of the A Shau Valley. "Hamburger Hill" is particularly remarkable for its portrayal of black soldiers in Vietnam, featuring outstanding performances by Courtney Vance and a young Don Ch eadle.

Oct. 28: "Three Seasons (director, Tony Bui, 1999) A truly original new film about life in Vietnam today, "Three Seasons" was the first American feature filmed in Vietnam, the first to be acted in Vietnamese, and the first to feature Vietnamese actors. " Three Seasons" tells the story of four characters trying to adjust to the rapidly changing cultural and economic landscape of Saigon: a determined prostitute, the cyclo driver who loves her, a young shoe shine boy on his own, and a white American veteran who has returned to find the now adult daughter he left behind. While not a war movie, director Tony Bui, who immigrated from Vietnam at the age of two, comments directly on what American films about the Vietnam war have continually refused to see and ima gine. "Three Seasons" won all three major prizes at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

Nov. 4: No film

Nov. 11: "Ashes and Embers" (director, Haile Gerima, 1982) Haile Gerima was one of a celebrated group of black filmmakers who worked at UCLA in the 1970's. "Ashes and Embers" tells the story of a black soldier returning from Vietnam, his alienation from a racist society and estrangement from black nationalist politics. Gerima draws on the structures of African oral tradition to tell this soldier's story of coming home, intertwining the story of the Vietnam War with the complex history of African American s.

Nov. 18: "Coming Home" (director, Hal Ashby, 1978) Jane Fonda won an Academy Award for her portrayal of an army officer's young wife who goes to work in a veterans hospital while her husband is overseas in Vietnam. Jon Voigt also won an Academy Award for his role as the paraplegic vet who dramatically turns against the war. The film is a remarkable portrayal of how deeply feelings about the Vietnam War were connected to questions about the role of women in society.

Nov. 25: No film, Thanksgiving

Dec. 2: "The Thin Red Line" (director, Terence Malick, 1998) Released six months after "Saving Private Ryan," "The Thin Red Line" tells the story of a battle even bloodier than the landing at Normandy--that for the Pacific island of Guadalcanal. Less sho cking in its violence, Malick's film has been called "poetic," in contrast to Spielberg's "realistic" work, but the complex difference in style and story between these films raises interesting questions about the differences between the European and Paci fic theaters of WWII and the stories which continue to be told about them.


The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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