Friday, May 27, 2016

THE BIG PARADE (3) vs. THE LOST BATTALION (11)

Well, we are now through the first round and there were some upsets. We have a #12 seed moving on - All Quiet (1979). Here are the second round match-ups.

#1 - All Quiet (1931)
#9 - Oh! What a Lovely War

#12 - All Quiet (1979)
#4 - Sergeant York

#11 - Lost Battalion
#3 - The Big Parade

#7 - Westfront, 1918
#2 - Paths of Glory


VS.




REALISM:   “The Big Parade” is weak on realism.  The soldiers go through little hardship, other than stale cake from home.  The first part of the combat payoff has the Americans advancing in lines through a forest.  This is actually a true depiction of the naivete of the American army in its early battles.  We had learned little from the experiences of the British and French.  And the filmmakers had learned little of the effects of machine gun fire on lines of men.  The night attack is also shown in lines which would have been appropriate even in crossing no man’s land, but it is staged at night.  This would have been uncommon.  The artillery fire is the most realistic thing about the combat.  GRADE:  Big Parade  -  C

“The Lost Battalion” is above average in realism.  The weak moments can be attributed to its made-for-TV nature.  The trench and no man’s land are authentic, but some of the fighting defies logic.  For instance, in some of the fighting, the Americans leave cover to confront the superior German forces in the open.  During artillery bombardments, they do not hunker down.  There is more hand-to-hand fighting than would have occurred.  On the other hand, the hardships the men went through are accurately depicted.  The film includes the lack of food and ammunition and the suffering of the wounded. GRADE  -  B

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Battalion  -  8    Parade  -  6

DIALOGUE:  Being a silent movie, the dialogue that makes the title cards is sparse.  Most of the dialogue spoken by the actors must be inferred.  This is a good thing because I can guess that if we had to listen to all of it, it would not be an improvement.  At least it is not flowery.  It just is not special.  The attempts at jokes are uniformly lame.  GRADE  -  C

“The Lost Battalion” throws in a lot of faux soldier banter.  The screenwriter picked up a copy of “Early 20th Century Brooklyn Slang” and sprinkled his research throughout the film.  The interchanges between Gaedecke and Rosen smack a lot of those between Rivera and Friedman in “A Walk in the Sun”.  The combat may be R-rated, but the dialogue is decidedly PG-13.  Much of it is pious.  The words put in the German officer’s mouth are what Hollywood can imagine a sympathetic German saying about the amazing Americans.  GRADE  -  B-

HALFTIME SCORE:   Battalion  -  14    Parade  -  13

SOLDIER BEHAVIOR:  “The Big Parade” skips over training and plunks the trio on the Western Front.  Their billeting at a French farm is all fun and games.  Like living in a frat house, there are pranks and ribbing in a lame sort of way. Their naivete is not far from the cluelessness of the newcomers from across the Atlantic.  The movie gets the camaraderie right and the way the war brought men of different backgrounds together. However, the film is not really interested in giving the audience an accurate picture of what the soldiers went through.  Go to France, make some friends, fall in love!  GRADE  -  C

“The Lost Battalion” does attempt to show how the soldier’s lived.  The movie splits time between command decisions and soldier interaction before going full combat mode.  The comradeship is apparent.  The movie makes a point of having the veterans instruct the newbies.  Much of this is patronizing to anybody familiar with the AEF, but for the average viewer it is instructive.  The screenwriter gets the brash attitude of the Yanks down.  But some of the characters are not gung-ho.  GRADE  -  B

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Battalion  -  22     Parade  -  19

ENTERTAINMENT:  “The Big Parade” is mainly a romance set in war with a buddy picture aspect thrown in.  It is not aimed at the macho combat groupies.  It is pretty good entertainment for a silent movie that wants to please both males and females.  If the men can sit through the character and relationships development, they get a fairly kick-ass combat payoff.  It holds up well over the years, but it is not something you could show students with any success whatsoever.  You must like classic films to like “The Big Parade”.  GRADE  -  B

“The Lost Battalion” is almost the exact opposite movie from “The Big Parade”.  For instance, there is not a single female in the movie. It is definitely a movie aimed at a male audience.  Unless you are a female who is hot for Rick Schroder.  Some of the movie comes close to combat porn.  It is amazingly intense and graphic.  If you enjoyed the opening to “Saving Private Ryan”, you will enjoy much of “The Lost Battalion”.  The fact that it is a true story accurately rendered makes it more entertaining than it otherwise might be.  GRADE  -  A

FINAL SCORE:  Lost Battalion  -  31
                           Big Parade  -  27

MATCH ANALYSIS:  I am a big fan of all war movies, no matter the era.  “The Big Parade” is one of the best silent movies set in WWI.  I was impressed with it the first time I saw it, but it does not improve with repeat viewings.  It is Old School which can be a good thing.  However, since the plot is dusty, it has a hard time going up against a modern war movie with a competent plot.  A movie like “The Lost Battalion” (even one with a made-for-TV budget and the constraints of that medium) has huge advantages in cinematography and effects.  When you look at the quantity and quality of the combat and the surprisingly good acting, it is not surprising that it won comfortably.

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