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September 21, 2007
Times Reviewer Savages New Ken Burns WW II Documentary
The New York Times television reviewer Alessandra Stanley has a history of injecting her own political views into her reviews (she aspires to be the next Frank Rich, apparently).
Today,she outdoes herself in reviewing Ken Burn's new documentary that is a tribute to the veterans who won World War Two.
Burns was motivated to film the documentary when he heard that thousands of veterans of that conflict were passing away and felt he needed to memorialize their stories and their lives. Stanley fails to see the honor behind this endeavor and instead criticizes Burns for failing to use this documentary for other purposes: such as attacking George Bush and the Iraq War and for not providing a sympathetic view to the views of our enemies.
Within the first few paragraphs, Stanley launches her own blitz against Ken Burns and against George Bush. Among her gems was a complaint that Burns failed to consider the views of our enemies during that conflict!
Examining a global war from the perspective of only one belligerent is rarely a good idea.
Stanley also opines that:
The tone and look of Mr. Burns’s series, which begins Sunday on PBS, is as elegiac and compelling as any of his previous works, but particularly now, as the conflict in Iraq unravels, this degree of insularity — at such length and detail — is disconcerting. Many a “Frontline” documentary has made a convincing case that the Bush administration’s mistakes were compounded by the blinkered thinking of leaders who rushed to war without sufficient support around the world or understanding of the religious and sectarian strains on the ground.
She also mocks the American people:
Campaign debates, standardized tests and game-show questions all suggest that as the global economy expands, Americans are growing more hidebound and parochial.
This is a very common view of New York Times journalists: Americans are an ignorant benighted mass of people. When the Times wants the views and opinions of the American people, the paper will tell them.
Stanley also feels that this documentary approach is redundant because other books and films have covered the same ground.
The last decade alone produced a welcome profusion of best-selling books and films that focus on the sacrifice of individual Americans caught up in a global calamity. These include Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” and the collaborations of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the happy few who made “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers.” Along with Clint Eastwood (“Flags of Our Fathers,” “Letters From Iwo Jima”) they are Hollywood’s leading World War II aficionados: Band of Buffs.
Ms. Stanley neglects to mention that in our age the visual impact tends to be overwhelming since it adds emotions to facts so the fact that books have been written to honor our veterans is not relevant. Her comment that movies have been filmed to reflect this history is absurd: the movies she chooses (with the exception of Saving Private Ryan) are anti-war movies that depict our veterans as engaged in a mindless, ridiculous, meaningless war (and in the case of "Letters from Iwo Jima" actually tries to understand and sympathize with Japanese soldiers and thus dishonors our men in uniform). Burns is a documentarian who, in the best tradition of his craft, allows the soldiers own voices to be heard.
In her parting shot, Stanley complains that 'The War" only allows American voices to be heard and that it is the "only tale he wants to tell" (the word "tale" can have negative connotations since it evokes the image of fictional stories being told). Well..this is the history (not tale) that Burns wants us to hear; these are the voices of a dying generation that saved our nation and brought peace to a world that was rent by war.
The documentary will be aired in 7 parts beginning this Sunday on PBS. Check local listings for the time.