Let me acknowledge, upfront, that as a member of the cast of the new Civil War epic movie “Gods & Generals,” I cannot, even with my bit part, objectively review this production which meant so much to me.
I do believe, however, that I have the moral journalistic right to marvel at the absolutely incredible contrast in various reviews.
In the Baltimore Sun, movie critic Michael Sragow compared watching this movie to what he termed: “Being forced to stare for an entire afternoon at a statue of Stonewall Jackson in some Deep South town square. Before long, you hope a flock of pigeons will do their worst to it.”
Mr. Sragow’s notable yearning for bird defecation on a memorial to one of America’s greatest military geniuses is a devastating contrast to what this same Baltimore Sun published just nine days earlier, by columnist Greg Kane:
“Ron Maxwell’s unrelentingly brilliant film may be rewarded at the 2004 Oscars. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences should just give [Stephen] Lang his Best Actor Oscar this year, instead of waiting until next. His unparalleled performance as Jackson should be one thing about which there is no debate.”
Ah, but there is great debate. A large majority of the daily newspaper movie critics panned this film with excited ferocity – illustrating the price to be paid by any director-producer who is honest and courageous enough to portray Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and the Confederate Army as anything other than dastardly villains. (New York’s frequently incredible Village Voice, with typical understatement, compared Lee and Jackson to Hermann Goering and Erwin Rommel.)
Repeatedly, there echoes throughout these full-time movie reviewers’ work the same politically correct historic distortions as by the Baltimore Sun’s Bird Dung Sragow, who wrote:
“Writer-director Maxwell falls in love with Jackson and lets him and Lee dictate the movie’s political and dramatic terms.”
Is it possible for most of our nation’s daily newspapers to cover historical films with writers having some historical knowledge and perception?
Stonewall Jackson’s definitive biographer, James Robertson of Virginia Tech, praised this as: “The best Civil War movie I have ever seen and I’ve seen them all.”
But Sragow and several of his fellow full-time movie critics – who must watch and review all of Hollywood’s large percentage of garbage production writes:
“His equally preachy yet more perfunctory scenes are simply a way for [director-producer] Maxwell to cover his left flank against attacks on his film’s reverence for secessionists.”
Thus speaks the left-wing in review, after review, after review – by the full-time movie critics.
But one editor who covered Hollywood for 10 years and writes that with some exceptions “Hollywood is a garbage factory, a moral cesspool with precious few great films being made,” is Joseph Farah, CEO of WorldNetDaily, which reaches 5 million people on the Internet.
Farah writes that “Gods & Generals” is “A must-see – as perfect a movie as fallen human beings are capable of producing. Uniquely, this film recognizes the deep spiritual values of those involved in this conflict on both sides. Soldiers pray in this movie, they pray heartfelt, sincere prayers. They read Scripture. They make great personal sacrifices to carry out their duty. They love and revere their wives … this movie will make you proud to be an American – from the North or South … I can honestly say I have never seen a better movie than ‘Gods & Generals.'”
But the Baltimore Sun’s Sragow, like his fellow movie critics writes: “‘Gods & Generals’ is a fiasco as a movie and as history, partly because it fails to dramatize the contradictions in the positions of Jackson and Lee – men who say they love the Union but love their native state more.”
Is reviewer Sragow at all acquainted with the extraordinary combat heroism of both Lee and Jackson during the Mexican War as officers of the United States Army?
Has he ever read Gen. Winfield Scott’s salute to Lee’s extraordinary courage and ability, which doubtless led President Lincoln to offer Lee command of the entire Union field army?
And what do such movie critics think of the Treaty of Paris and the Declaration of Independence with their references to “Free, sovereign and independent states”? Can they find anything in the Constitution denying the same right to secede from the Union as was insisted upon in the New York and Rhode Island ratifications of the U.S. Constitution?
Baltimore Sun critic Sragow also charges Director Maxwell with “Driving slavery into the background and fringes of his movie. The subjugation of black men and women emerges as a theme only with cringe-worthy clumsiness. A house slave who takes charge of her Fredericksburg mansion (while her white family runs from the Union invaders) tells Gen. Hancock that no matter how devoted she is to her owners, she wants to die free.”
How is it that this movie critic failed to mention the name of this superb actress who played the part of the slave Martha?
Her name is Donzeleigh Abernathy, and I marched in the same procession of the Selma March with her father the Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
Sun critic Sragow also charged, as did other movie critics, that Director Maxwell “handed the film over to Jackson … turning him into a plaster saint.”
By striking contrast, American Enterprise magazine’s writer Bill Kauffman wrote:
“‘Gods & Generals’ is not only the finest movie ever made about the Civil War, it is also the best American historical film period.”
Along with the negative newspaper movie critics, there is from CBS’ David Sheehan: “Stirring, spectacular epic achievement. History has never been brought to life with such insight and vivid detail, with such vibrant emotions, with so much to learn and so much to live in a movie experience that is awesome to behold.”
As for the vast majority of daily newspaper movie critics who roasted “Gods & Generals,” I am led to recall four of the major daily newspaper critiques of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
–The Harrisburg Patriot-Union
–The Chicago Times
–The London Times