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John Hodgman On Full Metal Jacket
July 12, 2013 10:03 AM   Subscribe

"But The Shining speaks to what makes Kubrick such an interesting and, for a lot of people, troublesome filmmaker, because he does not give you what you want. At all. He does not give you a Vietnam movie set in the jungle, and he does not give you a horror movie that is just like Stephen King’s The Shining. He doesn’t even give you scares for a long time, [just] ominous foreboding. And it takes people a while to figure out, “Oh, maybe I don’t know what I want. Maybe this is better.” - Mefi's Own Jon Hodgman talks about Full Metal Jacket with Scott Tobias for "The Last Great Movie I Saw."
posted by The Whelk (75 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Read this yesterday and was super impressed with it. I really hope this is the kind of thing The Dissolve will be doing on the regular because I love this kind of thing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get over your Tom Cruise-phobia and go see Eyes Wide Shut, Jon. You'll love it.
posted by naju at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think the article mentions it, but the second "action" half of Full Metal Jacket was actually filmed in England, not anywhere remotely tropical.

The article also skims over Paths of Glory, which in some ways I think is a more effective anti-war film.

I recall (maybe it was in Michael Herr's memoir of Kubrick) that Kubrick really wanted to film Herr's Dispatches but couldn't find a story there. So he made FMJ instead.
posted by seemoreglass at 10:25 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the second "action" half of Full Metal Jacket was actually filmed in England, not anywhere remotely tropical.

And the palm trees looked really pathetic, too. There were like four of them, and each was half-dead or worse. That's actually one of the things that I find easily knocks me out of suspension-of-disbelief mode when I watch FMJ.
posted by chimaera at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gustav Hasford, who's book FMJ is based on, had a strange life
posted by The Whelk at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mefi's Own Jon Hodgman talks
Get over your Tom Cruise-phobia and go see Eyes Wide Shut, Jon.


It's Hedley.
posted by hal9k at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


cinema is not about story, per se, but about creating an almost orchestral mood

It is hard to conceive of a director who was better at distilling the intellectual into the visceral than Kubrick.

In his later years, every movie that Kubrick made was his own distinct and personal reinvention of a popular genre, sometimes to electrifying effect, usually by accurately identifying some aspect of that genre that had always been there, but had not been fully previously explored, and then rendering that conceptual idea as a visceral sensation for the audience.

THE SHINING turns the horror movie into a Borgesian nightmare - for some, the only horror movie that becomes more scary with each viewing (and a huge influence on the recent HANNIBAL series). It is ghost as frozen pattern, stasis, distorted relationship with time. "You have always been the caretaker". It recreates the experience of ghostliness in your head each time you watch, as a silent spectator haunting predetermined events; then it maddens you further by inviting you into an impossibly complex maze of interpretation. Plus it skewers Stephen King's self-exculpating narrative of the drunk dad.

BARRY LYNDON reinvents the historical movie by forcing the viewer to slow down to the rhythms of another era, rhythms that in a book would be delivered to the reader through the pacing and structure of nineteenth century sentences (it also has famously innovative lighting). Anyone who has read the measured prose of an eighteenth or nineteenth century writer and then felt, in some strange sense, altered by that experience has been through the textual equivalent of BARRY LYNDON's extraordinarily stately and yet thrilling pacing.

2000AD addresses that issue of the whole history and development of mankind which is implicit in all science fiction, however trashy, but it addresses it directly and attempts to make the experience of the evolution of consciousness a felt as well as an understood phenomenon.

This doesn't always work. FULL METAL JACKET attempts to reinvent the war movie, although it is one of the few Kubrick movies that seems like a lesser retread of ground covered by a stronger contemporary work (in the form of APOCALYPSE NOW). The script for Kubrick's NAPOLEON doesn't look that great to me, but then of course it doesn't have the crucial visual element. AI is a curious, marvellous mess.

So... what about EYES WIDE SHUT? I have a terrible suspicion that it is Kubrick's diseased, perverse dissection of the romantic comedy. I wonder if it would be possible to watch it and laugh and laugh and laugh...
posted by lucien_reeve at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Eyes Wide Shut is a movie about prostitution at all levels of decaying imperial society, so yes it's a romantic comedy..
posted by The Whelk at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


"I think there is no other word I would ever use to describe a Stanley Kubrick film but mesmerizing. They are hypnotic."

I think there are no other TWO words I would ever use to describe a Stanley Kubrick film but mesmerizing and hypnotic.

"Hypnotically beautiful,"

The only THREE words..

"and considered,"

Amongst the words I would use to describe a Stanley Kubrick film are mesmerizing, hypnotic, beautiful, and considered.

"and paced in such a dream-logic style that you are experiencing something cinematically that I don’t think anyone else really quite captures."


I'll come in again.
posted by Cheezitsofcool at 10:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [28 favorites]


Paths of Glory is terrific, I agree. And I still think Dr. Strangelove is one of the funniest things I've ever seen, although people younger than me don't seem to get it in the visceral way I (and my elders) do.

But, back when I used to keep track of things like this, or think it was important to have an answer to the question, I'd have told you that the best movie I ever saw was Full Metal Jacket. My 18-year-old self walked out of the theater speechless, almost in shock, at the film I'd just seen. It was an unexpected and amazing experience. I mean I suspected it would be good, but I did not expect it to be THAT.
posted by Mister_A at 10:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


That first reaction is always the wrong reaction to Barry Lyndon, to The Shining, to Full Metal Jacket, and to Eyes Wide Shut.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:43 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eyes Wide Shut is goddamn hilarious. Tom Cruise goes about trying to be a hero by paying people lots of money while his wife gets away with hating him right to his face and then at the end the bad guy says "don't worry about it Tom" so he stops worrying about it. It's a very insightful movie, and like many insightful things it is pretty hilarious all the way through.

Never liked The Shining, though. Is the point that it's supposed to be utterly un-frightening?
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:43 AM on July 12, 2013


I just rewatched Full Metal Jacket with Cosette last week, and we had this exact discussion, around not understanding people's issues with the movie. It is very good.

Vincent D'Onofrio really is amazing, also take a look at pics of him from Adventures in Babysitting, which came out the same year as Full Metal Jacket, what he did to his body between the two is almost unbelievable. (I know, I know, working out or eating do not equate to acting, but come on, his acting is perfect as well)
posted by Cosine at 10:44 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


FMJ always seemed to me like the reverse movie from A Clockwork Orange. The basic training camp is a negative Ludovico technique designed to remove all humanity from the marines and turn them into sociopaths. I think that Kubrick was saying that it's a lot easier to take normal kids and turn them into unfeeling killing machines than the other way around.
posted by octothorpe at 10:49 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Ludovico technique doesn't care about folks' humanity, that's the whole problem with it.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recall (maybe it was in Michael Herr's memoir of Kubrick) that Kubrick really wanted to film Herr's Dispatches but couldn't find a story there. So he made FMJ instead.

It's been a while since I've read Dispatches or seen FMJ, but if memory serves me correctly a number of vignettes from Herr's book make it into the movie (naturally enough, since Herr co-wrote the screenplay), including, I believe, the bit with the helicopter door gunner.
posted by Gelatin at 11:04 AM on July 12, 2013


Kubrick-related: Philip Stone's Hat Trick
posted by shakespeherian at 11:09 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing that's weird about Full Metal Jacket is that it's a two-act movie, where, as anyone who has ever read a screenwriting book will tell you, movies are "supposed to be" three-act plays. I think that's disorienting for some people. It makes it feel kind of unfinished, even though you couldn't really find a better ending than the one it has.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hodgman's particular brand of contempt for certain things (see here "bros," Tom) spoils his other charms for me. I can't tell if it's affected—if what I'm seeing is John Hodgman or a caricature of John Hodgman (the two seem indistinguishable)—but the overall effect is a kind of bizarro George Will character, which is enough to make me want to walk in the other direction.

I'm glad I didn't in this case, because I enjoyed his analysis. Loves me some FMJ. I recently watched The Shining for the first time (don't judge, I've been busy) and was underwhelmed. Think I waited too long.
posted by echocollate at 11:30 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the bit with the helicopter door gunner

Correct.
Private Joker: How can you shoot women or children?
Door Gunner: Easy! Ya just don't lead 'em so much! Ain't war hell?
It was more subtle in Dispatches, though, which was just more subtle in general than any film.
“How can you shoot women and children?”
“It's easy, you just don't lead 'em as much.”
posted by seemoreglass at 11:30 AM on July 12, 2013


Is Dispatches worth reading? I remember looking it up about six years ago before it was reprinted and promptly forgot about it when I couldn't find a copy.
posted by echocollate at 11:32 AM on July 12, 2013


Dispatches is amazing.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:33 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, my father, a Vietnam vet who served in and around in both Da Nang & Hue during the same period as depicted in FMJ (before and after the Tet Offensive), said that the second act was the most accurate depiction of his Vietnam experience portrayed in cinema (He was a Sea Bee, so he couldn't speak to the accuracy of the first act on Parris Island).
posted by KingEdRa at 11:35 AM on July 12, 2013


His films don't move me. Visually interesting, and sometimes disturbing, but I don't want to inhabit the worlds they present. Too cynical.
posted by joseppi7 at 11:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eyes Wide Shut is a movie about prostitution at all levels of decaying imperial society, so yes it's a romantic comedy

Agreed: Eye Wide Shut is all about relationships (sexual, social, romantic, collegial) as transactions, and the power that class privilege and money have on interpersonal dynamics.

Tom Cruise goes about trying to be a hero by paying people lots of money

Right?! The very first line, from husband to wife, is "Honey, have you seen my wallet?" Yeeeeeah, she has.
posted by Elsa at 11:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ragnarok, on Netflix, is pretty great though.
posted by joseppi7 at 11:39 AM on July 12, 2013


The thing that is so striking about that movie that I had never thought of before is Matthew Modine’s voice. It’s so weird. It’s so robotic. And the pacing of the way he delivers his lines is so unusual, not natural-sounding. How did that happen? That’s something I would really like to know. Was that a choice he made? Did he make that choice by default, because that’s how he talks? Did Kubrick steer him in that direction?

I'd have to go with steering based on Pvt. Pile's bathroom scene: "I... AM... in... a... world... of... shit."
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:40 AM on July 12, 2013


Dispatches is the best book I've read about the Vietnam War, and I've read truckloads. Or perhaps I should say best "creative nonfiction" book about the Vietnam War. (Herr is often credited as one of the creators of the whole genre, along with Capote, Wolfe, etc.)

(The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh is probably the best fiction. Best straight nonfiction is probably The Fire in the Lake by Frances Fitzgerald.)

Dispatches really gets at the combination of lunacy and tragedy in the whole enterprise, though. If Apocalypse Now was a "psychedelic war film", Dispatches is the ultimate psychedelic war book.
posted by seemoreglass at 11:42 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's odd that they don't talk about A Clockwork Orange at all.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:53 AM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hodgman's particular brand of contempt for certain things (see here "bros," Tom) spoils his other charms for me.

On one hand, he's right: To take as a hero one of the movie's most poisonous characters is contemptible. On the other, contempt for bros and Tom Cruise is easy, so it can seem ill-founded and smug. Since George Will and his opinions are nothing if not ill-founded and smug, I can see the resemblance between him and Hodgman, though I prefer the latter to the former.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I still think Dr. Strangelove is one of the funniest things I've ever seen, although people younger than me don't seem to get it in the visceral way I (and my elders) do.

Yeah, when I had to explain the last line of the movie to some people about ten years younger than me was the first time I really felt old. (I'm 40 now, this would have been in my early 30s).
posted by Quonab at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2013


I think Dr. Strangelove loses a layer of irony if you didn't grow up with the threat of civilization-ending nuclear war hanging over your head.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think you also have to be familiar with some of the personalities in general, like Curtis LeMay was Turgidson but worse.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:19 PM on July 12, 2013


seemoreglass: I recall (maybe it was in Michael Herr's memoir of Kubrick) that Kubrick really wanted to film Herr's Dispatches but couldn't find a story there.

I didn't know that! That's like finding out a cure for cancer was destroyed when the Library of Alexandria burned. A "loss to civilization" type event there.
posted by spaltavian at 12:35 PM on July 12, 2013


To the contrary, vibrotronica, we're all still living and growing up with the underlying threat of nuclear destruction. I think that Dr Strangelove loses a bit of its vibrancy because the lunatic, illogical comedy of that human threat is almost quaint and comforting compared to the implacable new terror of our age.
posted by forgetful snow at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2013


I think Dr. Strangelove loses a layer of irony if you didn't grow up with the threat of civilization-ending nuclear war hanging over your head.

Born in 1983, and some of my earliest memories are of learning what nuclear weapons were and about the cold war (I was a precocious 5 year old). The world was suddenly pitched on its side and forever became a much darker place.

I think Dr. Strangelove is the best piece of political satire on film, and is probably my most common answer when asked to name my favorite movie. If I show it to peers, they tend to fall into two groups: people who don't get it it and people who remember the fear that buzzed under everything like a ground loop on a stereo.

But it shouldn't lose its salience! There are still thousands of nuclear weapons pointed everywhere, and the dream of disarmament is as faded as ever.

I will accept that Dr. Strangelove is dated when the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. Until then, I will make people sit through it as I watch it for the 600th time, even if I can tell they have just checked out completely.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:58 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Born 1988. I may not remember living with the Soviet Union, but I'm pretty sure I got the jokes in Dr. Strangelove. It's a great movie.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2013


"I think you also have to be familiar with some of the personalities in general, like Curtis LeMay was Turgidson but worse."

...and Edward Teller was Dr. Strangelove but worse.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Though Kubrick gets his just dues in the critical world (at least far as I know) I've sometimes thought his oeuvre was a bit underrated. I thought Full Metal Jacket was a great film -- very real, cutting, and nuanced in its way. It was kind of like the fictionalized documentary version of Vietnam, if you will.

But I'll still always love Apocalypse Now best.

Also, though I honestly can't remember much of the plot, I saw Eyes Wide Shut in the theater and remember it as a good film. It was just so weird in many ways, and like his other films totally confounded expectations.

People don't like to have their expectations confounded. It makes them feel ooky.
posted by nowhere man at 1:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never liked The Shining, though. Is the point that it's supposed to be utterly un-frightening?

I think it is held by a lot of people as the most frightening movie of all time. Personally, I find several things in the movie very frightening. However, I think that true terror is the most difficult emotion for movies to elicit, especially if you aren't watching them in the right circumstances. I am a big fan of horror movies and can't think of more than four or five that are truly frightening (not counting cat-scares, mere suspense or gross-outs).
posted by Bookhouse at 1:14 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here is the very long piece Herr wrote about Kubrick in Vanity Fair that was ultimately turned into a book. In it he says:
Stanley wanted to meet me because he’d liked Dispatches, my book about Vietnam. It was the first thing he said to me when we met. The second thing he said to me was that he didn’t want to make a movie of it. He meant this as a compliment, sort of, but he also wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting any ideas. He’d read the book several times looking for the story in it, and quoted bits of it, some of them quite long, from memory during dinner....

He was thinking about making a war movie next, but he wasn’t sure which war, and in fact, now that he mentioned it, not even so sure he wanted to make a war movie at all.

He called me a couple of nights later to ask me if I’d read any Jung. I had. Was I familiar with the concept of the Shadow, our hidden dark side? I assured him that I was. We did half an hour on the Shadow, and how he really wanted to get it into his war picture. And oh, did I know of any good Vietnam books, “you know, Michael, something with a story?”
posted by seemoreglass at 1:30 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


...and Edward Teller was Dr. Strangelove but worse.

Strangelove is what you get when Teller and Von Neumann have a baby.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:32 PM on July 12, 2013


To the contrary, vibrotronica, we're all still living and growing up with the underlying threat of nuclear destruction. I think that Dr Strangelove loses a bit of its vibrancy because the lunatic, illogical comedy of that human threat is almost quaint and comforting compared to the implacable new terror of our age.

If someone made a Dr. Strangelove of the Global War on Terror, I would watch the hell out of that movie. To be fair, I haven't watched Four Lions yet, but I mean a film from the American military perspective.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:33 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean a film from the American military perspective.

Three agencies react entirely separately to one event, totally unaware of what any of the others are doing, dooming them all to failure; meanwhile, the NSA knows what they're all doing, but it can't tell them, and doesn't want to, anyway.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:43 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The thing that is so striking about that movie that I had never thought of before is Matthew Modine’s voice. It’s so weird. It’s so robotic. And the pacing of the way he delivers his lines is so unusual, not natural-sounding. How did that happen? That’s something I would really like to know. Was that a choice he made? Did he make that choice by default, because that’s how he talks? Did Kubrick steer him in that direction?

The primary text that FMJ is based on is a book by Gustav Hasford called The Short Timers. I read it because I was always interested where exactly all of the military jargon that the characters are so casually bantering came from ("most ricky-tick", wtf). Although it's been about 5 years since I read it, I'm guessing that it is probably the text that Modine used to interpret his narration style, since he's basically playing a stand in for Hasford (who, I've read, was a little eccentric himself).
posted by coolxcool=rad at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2013


If someone made a Dr. Strangelove of the Global War on Terror

Oh wow, I was talking about climate change. Although a Strangelove about either of them would be fantastic.

Fuck it, I'm just going to watch Dr Strangelove again.
posted by forgetful snow at 2:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hodgman's particular brand of contempt for certain things (see here "bros," Tom) spoils his other charms for me. I can't tell if it's affected—if what I'm seeing is John Hodgman or a caricature of John Hodgman (the two seem indistinguishable)—but the overall effect is a kind of bizarro George Will character, which is enough to make me want to walk in the other direction.
The thing is, he's right about the "bro" talk. And "bro" culture also borrows heavily from Animal House.

I'm an enormous fan, so maybe I'm biased, but John Hodgman does not strike me as a particularly contemptuous man. He dissed on B-movies in his podcast recently, too, because what constitutes a good film is an issue of taste, and as long as you are talking about an issue of taste, you may as well be honest about what you like instead of going, "Uh oh, people who love Tom Cruise might read this, I better come up with a better excuse for why I don't like this movie!"
posted by deathpanels at 2:16 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If someone made a Dr. Strangelove of the Global War on Terror, I would watch the hell out of that movie. To be fair, I haven't watched Four Lions yet, but I mean a film from the American military perspective.

DIBS!!!

(Although to be fair, Burn After Reading is kind of like that. Still—screenwriting powers, activate!)
posted by vibrotronica at 2:56 PM on July 12, 2013


By the way, LACMA just ended its spectacular Kubrick exhibit.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:20 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously great stuff.

Fun fact: Full Metal Jacket has no jungles because it was shot in London.
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on July 12, 2013


Devoted to the life and work of the Vietnam veteran, best-selling author and Oscar-nominated screenwriter.
The site is put up and maintained (though dormant right now) by Hasford's cousin.

Hasford quote, on the lead page of the blog: "The praise I seek from my readers is that they finish my books. After being alternately damned and praised for equally invalid reasons, I am content to trade fame for accuracy of interpretation. Fame, for a writer, is like being a dancing bear with a little hat on your head."
--Gustav Hasford
posted by dancestoblue at 4:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the palm trees looked really pathetic, too. There were like four of them, and each was half-dead or worse. That's actually one of the things that I find easily knocks me out of suspension-of-disbelief mode when I watch FMJ.

For me, the half dead pathetic-ness of the trees made me think "war zone" not "England"
posted by Dr. Twist at 4:35 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The thing is, he's right about the "bro" talk. And "bro" culture also borrows heavily from Animal House.

I'm an enormous fan, so maybe I'm biased, but John Hodgman does not strike me as a particularly contemptuous man. He dissed on B-movies in his podcast recently, too, because what constitutes a good film is an issue of taste, and as long as you are talking about an issue of taste, you may as well be honest about what you like instead of going, "Uh oh, people who love Tom Cruise might read this, I better come up with a better excuse for why I don't like this movie!"


Valid point. Nobody should ever have to apologize for their tastes (within certain legal and broadly moral boundaries), and maybe his comment was completely innocuous, a harmless observation of how aspects of popular culture are appropriated by certain groups, in which case I'm probably just projecting.

I tend to push back hard against wide, unflattering characterizations of people that seem to spring from tribal animosity, and as a nominal member of the shoegazing, polyhedral-dice-throwing, bookish set, I'm especially sensitive to it among my own. The whole jock vs. nerd dichotomy may be as old as time, but that doesn't make it less stale or two dimensional.

Horrible derail. My apologies to all!

Speaking of taste, am I the only one who found Room 237 hard to enjoy? Felt like something TLC would produce.
posted by echocollate at 5:00 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"As far as I'm concerned, Full Metal Jacket ends when Joker gets the correspondents gig for Stars and Stripes."
-said everyone that has seen the movie more than once
posted by vozworth at 5:01 PM on July 12, 2013


I've probably seen it ten times and I've never said that ever.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:12 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Speaking of taste, am I the only one who found Room 237 hard to enjoy? Felt like something TLC would produce.

I loved it for its music and it's musuc and taste in clips. After a while the nutso theories got a bit samey but that's nutso theories for you - I quiet admire the way it managed to string them out for as long as possible before their utter insanity was revealed.

MINOTAUR.
posted by Artw at 6:16 PM on July 12, 2013


And I think one of the reasons people rejected the second half of the movie is that it’s not fun the way basic training is fun, because there are human stakes.

I used to really think of FMJ as two separate movies but, now that I think about it, the stakes is the thing that connects them. Sgt. Hartman is so hard on everyone he needs to turn them into disciplined killers. Joker says as much towards the end of the basic training half. He is so much harder on Private Pyle in particular because he isn't getting it and if he can't hack it in combat, he'll get other men killed. The pressure on Sgt. Hartman is enormous. He succeeded in turning Pyle into a killer, he just failed at the discipline part. In the 2nd half, we see all of the training on display. The brutality, the gallows humor, the violence, the discipline, and an almost total lack of humanity.

The first half prepares the audience for the second half in the same way the training prepares the soldiers for war. Looking at it that way either makes the second half more fun, or the first half less fun.
posted by VTX at 6:19 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


FMJ is essentially for mine about the cost of Empire, i.e that it requires turning your young men into hollow killing machines. It does this pretty well. Perhaps too well.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:31 PM on July 12, 2013


“It’s a downhill skier. It’s not a Minotaur.”


A denial! Therefore it's all true!
posted by Artw at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2013


Watching it again, I'm reminded that the second half battle is in Hue, the siege of which is recorded in a whole section of Dispatches. So another Herr influence, and an explanation for the grim, mostly treeless urban setting. Hue is to Vietnam as Kyoto is to Japan and, pace Herr, was just leveled.
posted by seemoreglass at 6:40 PM on July 12, 2013


Holy crap, should Steve Carrell portray Edward Teller or what?
posted by rhizome at 7:27 PM on July 12, 2013


It could be that there has never been a great Vietnam War movie, the closest would be Apocalypse Now.
posted by PHINC at 9:10 PM on July 12, 2013


vozworth: ""As far as I'm concerned, Full Metal Jacket ends when Joker gets the correspondents gig for Stars and Stripes."
-said everyone that has seen the movie more than once
"

I cannot even fathom that attitude, and I readily admit it seems to be quite prevalent. FMJ is like two great movies in one. And the few Vietnam vets who I've dared to ask about it have all said it's the most accurate film they've ever seen. Mere anecdotes, for sure, and I will be the first to admit that.

I was talking to a guy who was a Marine in Vietnam in 1965-1966 and he said they actually received an order passed down from command that stated that if they were eating their chow, and happened to be attacked in close quarters by an enemy, they were forbidden from using their chow knife to harm the attacking enemy. They were ordered to use only a "combat instrument" when dispatching the enemy. Craziness!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:12 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dr. Twist: "For me, the half dead pathetic-ness of the trees made me think "war zone" not "England""

Exactly. Take a look at the palm trees in the photographs of the islands in WWII in the pacific theater after they've been re-taken. They barely resemble palm trees.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: "...and Edward Teller was Dr. Strangelove but worse."

Why do you say that? Teller admitted many times over the years that he would have preferred to pursue theoretical physics rather than working on weapons, but he knew the Soviets would eventually perfect, acquire, and deploy H-bombs, so he thought it best that the USA had them as well.

I agree that nuclear war is madness, but if your potential enemy is targeting you with multi-megaton weapons and all you have to respond are multi-kiloton sized devices, well, you're at a distinct disadvantage.

And remember, the USA may have popped off the first fusion device, but it was the Soviets who had the first deployable H-bombs. Hell, the USA had to build the B-36 specifically to carry the first H-bombs.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:34 PM on July 12, 2013


For reference, here is a Flickr set of Hue in 1968.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:37 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If someone made a Dr. Strangelove of the Global War on Terror

We at least have In the Loop about the political lead-up to invading Iraq.
posted by straight at 10:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, check out that Flickr set. I don't read Hue as "city in a jungle" at all -- it looks rather like a city in Southern France, which is when you think about it much the way it should look. I don't know that the many deciduous roadside and courtyard trees are native to Vietnam, but the French certainly weren't into planting palm trees everywhere.

Another viewpoint is through this brief doc on the Battle of Hue -- about three minutes in there's a situation similar to the ending of FMJ with snipers pinning down a fire team trying to cross the street.

It could be that there has never been a great Vietnam War movie, the closest would be Apocalypse Now.

The thing is, Apocalypse Now is about Vietnam as an imperialist exercise and about Vietnam in the crosshairs of Western military doctrine of the era, and explicitly, textually connects itself to colonialism. FMJ tackles something different in many ways and is more about the experience and mentality of the soldiers, in an abstracted way that is itself quite different from Platoon. I hesitate, however, to add any others (beyond the very problematic The Deer Hunter) to the list of candidates for "great Vietnam War movie".

If you ask me, though, AN (especially AN:Redux) takes itself so far beyond the text of Vietnam that it really is a great, brilliant, 20th century movie, period.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 AM on July 13, 2013


hamburger hill: "It don't mean nothing, man. Not a thing."
posted by kliuless at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2013


Kubrick's visual style. [self link.]
posted by grumblebee at 11:46 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, this entire "Full Metal Jacket isn't so great" attitude is completely new to me and insane. FMJ is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I had no idea there were people out there who dismissed it in the context of Kubrick's filmography.
posted by cthuljew at 3:56 PM on July 13, 2013


Man don't even start on Barry Lyndon.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2013


How can anyone speak of Full Metal Jacket without even mentioning Gustav Hasford?
posted by elmaddog at 2:26 AM on July 15, 2013


The Short Timers
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2013


How can anyone speak of Full Metal Jacket without even mentioning Gustav Hasford?

As someone who has never heard of him, it's quite easy to go on and on all day long about this movie without mentioning him even once.
posted by rhizome at 7:52 PM on July 15, 2013


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