Pentagon meets Tinseltown

Thursday, July 10, 2008

After countless movies about Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale just wants filmmakers to tell it like it is… or perhaps how the Army says it is. But is Breasseale’s Army Media Relations division concerned with telling the truth, or promoting its own agenda?

Guest: Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, Army Relations Los Angeles Division

A timeline of selected movies and events connecting Hollywood and the U.S. military

The U.S. Army provides aircrafts and pilots for the silent film Wings. The film wins two Oscars in 1929, the first year awards were given.

Could you change the title?
August 1949
At the conclusion of World War II, the Department of War is renamed the Department of Defense. Over the next decades, the military will ask producers to change plot points and characters in Hollywood movies to favor U.S. objectives. Filmmakers use the relationships to save money on military hardware and sets and to consult with personnel to create authentic scripts.

From Here to Eternity
The Burt Lancaster drama, set around the events of the Pearl Harbor attack, wins eight Academy Awards. Foul language and unsavory locations from the novel are changed to show the military in a better light. The Army provides real soldiers as extras and surplus for props.

The Army OK's the story of General George S. Patton during World War II. It earns seven Academy Awards in 1971 including Best Picture and Best Director. Best Actor George C. Scott refuses his award citing the "innately corrupt" Oscars ceremony.

Robert Altman's dark comedy about the Korean War wins the Grand Prix at 1970's Cannes Film Festival, winning an Oscar for best screenplay.

The crazy Vietnam vet
The 1980's to early 1990's
The Department of Defense says a lapse in pre-emptive note-giving allow Hollywood to invent a stereotype: the crazy Vietnam vet. See Apocalypse Now (1979) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989).

Top Gun
Navy recruitment jumps after the release of Top Gun, the top-grossing film of 1986. The military offers assistance in the film's production and gets its wishes for changes. Kelly McGillis's character, originally an officer, becomes a civilian contractor — a relationship between the officer and Tom Cruise's Navy pilot would have been frowned upon. Other films have had scripts changed to earn military approval since: A Few Good Men, Clear and Present Danger, Air Force One, GoldenEye, Pearl Harbor, Behind Enemy Lines, The Sum of All Fears.

Executive Decision
The Pentagon assists the production of Executive Decision, in which a terrorist group seizes an airplane bound for Washington, D.C., and plans to use it as a weapon.

Institute for Creative Technologies
The military gives the University of Southern California $45 million to establish and support a research center that creates military simulations. The center seeks to answer, "What would happen if leading technologists in artificial intelligence, graphics, and immersion joined forces with the creative talents of Hollywood and the game Industry?"

Rules of Engagement
William Friedkin directs Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson in a film written by former Navy secretary and future Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Rob Reiner will reportedly helm the Webb-penned "Whiskey River," a film slated for a 2009 release about a wounded Iraq war veteran who's called back to duty.

Fahrenheit 9/11
The Michael Moore film slams President Bush's "War on Terror" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and shatters box-office records for documentary films in the process.

Laughably inaccurate
2006 The military calls Hollywood's depiction of the Department of Defense "laughably inaccurate," then lauds a current production, Transformers. "The Army has never fought giant robots, but if we did, this is probably how we'd do it," Army Lt. Col Paul Sinor, a public affairs officer, says in a press release.

A player in Hollywood
Army Media Relations provides support for 250–300 films in 2007.

The Bush wars on film
Three Iraq- and Afghanistan-themed films compete for 2008's Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary: No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming and Taxi to the Dark Side — Recent films about Iraq and Afghanistan, both documentary and fictional (Stop Loss, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Lions For Lambs, The Kingdom, Grace is Gone, Redacted, A Mighty Heart), tank at the box office.

Iron Man
The Nation calls summer blockbuster Iron Man "a military triumph" after it flips reality: Americans are tortured by an international terrorist group in Afghanistan, not the other way around. Film critic Roger Ebert calls main character Tony Stark "the embodiment of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against."

Timeline compiled from Box Office Mojo, Lt. Col. J. Todd. Breasseale, The Department of Defense, The Guardian, the Internet Movie Database, L.A. Times, The Nation, "Operation Hollywood," University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, The Takeaway


Jonathan Topaz

Comments [2]

Kathy Bunk

[[Comment moderated. Off-topic. Moved to "Mornings Need a Makeover."]]

Jul. 10 2008 11:24 AM

I walked into the room where this segment was playing and I caught the guest in the middle of a sentence where this slicko was talking about the valiant struggle for truth and breaking through stereotypes. I assumed he was speaking, in language traditionally used by progressives, on behalf of an historically repressed minority. Imagine my utter disgust when this man was revealed to be none other than a spokesperson for the U.S. Military! The extreme right has successfully stolen the rhetoric of the left, especially those fighting for civil rights struggles, to advance its own purposes. Discrimination against the military? I don't know whether to laugh or cry!
Oh, by the way, the movie "Redacted" was cited as a particularly egregious and biased example of anti-military propaganda; I will make sure to see this film immediately!

Jul. 10 2008 10:25 AM

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