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WW2 - World War II
I'd hoped to finish my mega fan edit before the fall semester begins tomorrow, but, despite some progress, I'll need to re-record certain bits of my old man's narration, and do a lot more editing grunt work (I'm pretty much up to 1945, but, given the dozens and dozens of sources involved, fine-tuning the audio into a consistent mix will take some time indeed.) I've been reluctant to work on said project while school is in session, but maybe I'll try to do so during the fall, as my academic responsibilities won't exactly wane in the next year and a half...

Anyhow, last week marked the 80th anniversary of the start of WW2. As I've discussed above, a terrific "real time" documentary YouTube channel started up last year, but the weekly mini-documentaries have the dates in their titles, so, if one likes, one can spend the next few years reliving the disaster, one handful of days at a time:

Babylon Berlin S1/2 (2017)

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What's that? The most expensive non-English language TV series yet produced is a 1929-set adventure/thriller/crime drama, with the barest of hints (at least at first) of the Nazi disaster to come? And it's all on Netflix? Stream away, fellow polizei! The first two seasons, which aired back-to-back and are really one big story, comprise 16 big-budget, action-packed episodes that come highly recommended. Grade: A-, and I look forward to the upcoming third season, concentrating on Berlin's thriving film world, newly threatened by the the fragmenting advent of talkies. Big Grin

So, okay, Operation Prangertag, an attempted right-wing coup to restore Germany's monarchy under Wilhelm II is fictional, albeit plausible. I was alarmed to see that Ludwig Beck, the elder statesman hero of Valkyrie (played by Terence Stamp) was one of the conspirators against the state; I had no illusions as to what his sympathies would have been at the time, but I was alarmed to think of him as an assassin and a traitor. Well, maybe the portrayal is fair and maybe it isn't; I'm hardly knowledgeable enough to judge.

And, oh, boy, did I buy that Charlotte was dead as a doornail! I was so engrossed by the scene it didn't occur to me to wonder how they were able to film her drowning so convincingly. Dry for wet with CG enhancement, I guess. (Though apparently Rath's knowledge of CPR is almost certainly anachronistic.)

And what will become of poor Greta?! So cute, so redhead... so manipulable and naive. Sad!
^ Arrrghh. Why haven't they released that ^ on blu-ray with English subtitles yet.
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"Worse than Pearl Harbor?" Daaaammn, Dr. Kermode!

(Hey, that other guy in the clip shown is Joe Blake from The Man in the High Castle!)

The AV Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky is similarly unimpressed:

Both of these specimens of testosterone-fueled all-American derring-do (played by Brits who periodically struggle with their accents) are real historical figures, as are almost all of the characters in Midway, which attempts to dramatize the most famous naval battle of World War II by drawing equal inspiration from the monotonous historical reenactments of 1970’s Tora! Tora! Tora!, the butt-numbing soap-opera spectacle of 2001’s Pearl Harbor, and the Irwin Allen influences of Emmerich’s own disaster movies.
^ The tone of the thumbnail image selected for that review is enough.
Another day, another fascinating WWII film (not to mention bit of history) to learn about. Today it's I Was Monty's Double, the story of M. E. Clifton James, an actor who pretended to be General Montgomery in the lead-up to D-Day. And who plays this Clifton James, you ask? Why, Clifton James himself, of course!

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Alas, it doesn't look as though the new Region B blu-ray release will be easily found Stateside anytime soon. eBay has some fairly affordable imported DVDs, however.
Overlord (2018) (currently on Amazon Prime)

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I'm all for grindhouse WWIIsploitation flicks, and Overlord is pleasingly gory. Trouble is, if you've seen the preview, there's not much reason to watch the movie proper - it's Band of Brothers' second episode plus three or four zombies, and over twice the run time. Even if one doesn't mind the anachronistically color-blind heroes, the rote script has plenty of stupid - I'm pretty sure there weren't any photographers parachuting into France the night before D-Day, a woman outruns a motorcycle to a comical extent, there's some nonsense about how the whole dang invasion is doomed if one radio tower isn't destroyed, and what educated French person hasn't heard of Louisiana?! It's too schlocky to take seriously, but too small-scale, slow, and long to be a popcorn classic. I guess it gets a point for being the first WW2 movie I've seen to play rap over its credits, though. Grade: B-

(11-18-2018, 03:52 PM)TM2YC Wrote: Like Dredd, the filmakers have delivered an expensive looking film for a quarter of the budget of others

Can't say I quite agree with you here - yes, the production values are solid and it looks good, but this no-name flick cost $40m, when nearly half of it takes place in a house? Not sure where a good half the budget went... For $40m, give us a climactic, huge-ass spider monster or something! Blush
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The Man in the High Castle, Season 4/final (2019)

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(S1 thoughts, S2 thoughts, S3 thoughts)

The war is over... the war endures.

The Man in the High Castle is a weird show. It's a series with a schlocky, B-movie premise that it takes deadly seriously - so much so that the first season was perhaps particularly slow and unpleasant specifically to avoid charges of exploitation, though that's just a guess on my part. It's a series that is inherently, fundamentally political, but never quite pulls back and gives us the big picture of what's going on outside the US and Berlin; even when a main character becomes the leader of a territory, we don't get much sense of their day-to-day job. Finally, it's a show that ditches several main characters and plot threads in its fourth and final season, which is likely due in part to onboarding its third showrunner.

But while plot points came and went, the consistent thread throughout the series is a rumination on the daily miseries of life under totalitarianism, where the elites and common people alike are forced to betray their humanity again and again merely to survive. The show premiered in early 2015, months before the current president announced his campaign, and the country has arguably changed since then. What was once a grim but outlandish counterfactual is still that, but its somber tone and dearth of cheap thrills throughout feels dignified and appropriate. As the show reminds us, there are no unvarnished "good guys": when we get a glimpse of our Nazi-free 1960s America, while the Nuremberg Trials are justly celebrated, we also see segregation and the start of the Vietnam War. There are no easy answers or morally pure Captain Americas to unleash the grapes of wrath and wipe the evil in the hearts of men away. (Though former SHIELD Director Jason O'Mara does provide a reasonable substitute!)

The show pulls a nifty fake-out in its penultimate episode: could the creepy-ass young Führer Wilhelm Goertzmann be less psychotic than he appears? Of course not: his promise of autonomy to Smith and the American Reich is a blatant lie. Smith has no desire to perpetrate another holocaust on the West Coast, but, presented with long-prepared plans for the same, doesn't dare change course, lest he be replaced as swiftly and mercilessly as Hitler, Heusmann, Rockwell, Himmler, Hoover, and who knows how many others. Instead of an operatic political climax, there are two emotional, family political climaxes, both featuring first-rate performances by Chelah Horsdal as Helen Smith.

As for that ending: I really liked it. It's random and weird enough to operate on dream logic, and heartening enough to end on a note of hope. Unless the Reich is on the brink of collapse at home in Berlin, which for all we know could be the case, the easy, obvious answer is that even if Whitcroft (who in the 1946 flashback told John Smith they'll join the occupiers for now, but bide their time for rebellion) has secretly remained a halfway-decent American, Goertzmann and the Reich will soon enough give them all fresh hell. So, if that's the alternative, yeah, I'm okay with the conclusion. As I've said before, this series has always felt like a spiritual successor to HBO's Great Depression fantasy drama Carnivàle, exploring what might have happened in a world where Brother Justin triumphed, and this ending felt very much in that vein.

The Man in the High Castle wasn't Amazon's first TV series, but it got a bigger promotional push than any of their shows until the inevitable splash for their upcoming Middle-Earth epic... and yet, as seems to happen with all but the biggest series, its final season has largely landed under the cultural radar. Maybe its vision of a fascist America, even an alternate 1960s one, was just too discomforting in the past few years to reach event status. It seemed to have a decent budget throughout, but maybe its failure to soar curtailed the producers' ability to get more epic than the S2 finale. No, protagonist Juliana Crain's arc never quite reached the heights it seemed the show was nudging her toward; in the end, the central spoke in the gear turned out to be Rufus Sewell's magnificently tormented antihero John Smith. The takeaway? Never forget: as the saying goes, it can happen here.

Season One: B
Season Two: B+
Season Three: B-
Season Four: B+
Series overall: B+
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That Lydia's up to no good, I'm sure of it. Tongue


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