Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


History Repeats and Hollywood Remakes
January 6, 2009 7:44 PM   Subscribe

You know the trouble with Historically-Based Movies? Unless you're an uneducated, ignorant moran, you know how they're gonna end. At least that's the argument of this Premiere article on 10 Movie Endings Spoiled By History. Of course there are ways to avoid that problem, as Cracked.com's (yeah, them) 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy declares. Books have been written about Historical Movies' accuracy or inaccuracy, and everybody has an opinion on what the Best Historical Movies are, but if you want your History purely entertaining, there's only one mandog you can count on: here are Mr. Peabody, Sherman and the original Wayback Machine dropping in on Cristopher Columbus, Pancho Villa and Francisco Pizarro and the Incas (sorry, no USA History episodes on YouTube).

Notes: "300" is the only movie on both the 'Spoiled by History' and 'Saved by Historical Inaccuracy' lists. But it was the inclusion of the Star Wars Prequels on Premiere's 'History' list that motivated me to make this post. What The Frak?!?

And the first episode of Peabody's Improbable History is less about history and more about adoption issues that are still relevant today.
posted by wendell (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
metafilter: we're uneducated, ignorant morans (sic)
posted by jourman2 at 7:53 PM on January 6, 2009


Quest for Fire would have to be among the most accurate ever made, because Everett McGill and Ron Perlman actually are cavemen.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:02 PM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Apocalypto's place (#4) on "Movied Saved by Historical Inaccuracy" seems to imply that the movie somehow did not already suck.
posted by deanc at 8:05 PM on January 6, 2009


Those who do not learn from history are doomed to watch it repeated in watered-down Hollywood versions... and pretend they don't know the difference.
posted by crossoverman at 8:11 PM on January 6, 2009


On 2001: A Space Odyssey:

Why It Would Have Sucked Otherwise: Because a movie true to the events of 2001 would have been about Super Bowl XXXV (a 34-7 snooze-fest), the release of the Planet of the Apes remake and the Spice Girls breaking up. Oh, and Mir, the world's most advanced piece of space technology, falling to Earth in a fiery blaze and crashing into the sea.

erm...
posted by jimmythefish at 8:14 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh. I had no idea there was a first episode of Peabody in which he adopts Sherman.

BTW... this is the dude that did Sherman's voice.
posted by evilcolonel at 8:15 PM on January 6, 2009


I rather enjoyed Patton Oswold's take on Star Wars in the first link.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:22 PM on January 6, 2009


Everett McGill and Ron Perlman actually are cavemen.

Ron Perlman... Has there ever been another actor typecast as "non-human"?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:33 PM on January 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


A couple of those 'best' lists are bonkers. Amistad? Munich? And Jesus of Nazareth, as if that guy was a documented real person.
posted by grounded at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2009


Don't historical movies often avoid this problem by focusing on a relatively minor and unknown (or totally fictional) participant? Even if you know how the big story ends, you don't know what's going to happen to the individuals who you're following. So to cite a crap example, you know the Titanic is going to sink, but you don't know if Jack and Rose are going to survive.
posted by craichead at 8:40 PM on January 6, 2009


Oh, I forgot to link to the Full List of Peabody's Historical Subjects (wikipedia)
posted by wendell at 8:59 PM on January 6, 2009


Good lord was "Titanic" the shittiest movie.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Surely any film about a historical event more than say a hundred years ago is bound to be inaccurate. Not just because what appears on screen fails to be a literal facsimile of what happened, but also because our own understandings of motives and meanings become more inaccurate the further the distance between the object and the viewer. Even if we had in court broadcasts from the Salem with trials or Cicero's Catiline speech, we still couldn't accurately receive what was happening. At least by bending the truth, filmakers are recognising that it's our interpretation and entertainment which matter most. Maybe introducing inaccuracies to better frame history in a modern understanding is more useful than just telling it straight?


Don't historical movies often avoid this problem by focusing on a relatively minor and unknown (or totally fictional) participant? Even if you know how the big story ends, you don't know what's going to happen to the individuals who you're following.

They should come with a warning: No real history was trampled in the production of this movie. (Though several prosopographic exemplars were brutally and repeatedly violated by the empire of modernity.)
posted by Sova at 9:00 PM on January 6, 2009 [4 favorites]



Apocalypto's place (#4) on "Movied Saved by Historical Inaccuracy" seems to imply that the movie somehow did not already suck.


I love Apocalypto. A real Bang! Pow! of a movie.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:14 PM on January 6, 2009


Hooray for Jay Ward!
posted by not_on_display at 9:15 PM on January 6, 2009


metafilter: we're uneducated, ignorant morans -- but we have a highly developed sense of irony, apparently.
posted by $0up at 9:23 PM on January 6, 2009


Would 300 be better placed in the "top 10 movies based on graphic novels based on historical events interpreted by the angst created by repressing my homosexual desires but not actually based on history" list?
posted by munchingzombie at 9:26 PM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


#3 on Cracked's list: Shakespeare in Love

""Hilarious" references to the Shakespearean cannon are as plentiful as they are obscure."

The Shakespearean cannon was replaced by the Miltonic musket, I believe.

Historians still argue as to whether he was gay, a front for the Earl of Oxford and/or Sir Francis Bacon

No. No, they don't.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:28 PM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


There is a livejournal called history_spork where they mock bad historical movies. It's hilarious.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:42 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The film itself sort of makes my teeth hurt (probably a side effect of a strong allergy to Celine) but Cameron's Titanic does historical film "right" in my book: use the (known) ending as a setting, and then tell your own original story within.
posted by rokusan at 11:02 PM on January 6, 2009


Given the number of Mel Gibson flicks on these lists, I'm surprised they never mentioned his most historically accurate film. Road Warrior.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:32 PM on January 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Gallipoli is actually excellent. It's hideously sad. What happened to Gibson since then, I mean. The movie's a bit of a downer, too.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If Shakespeare had a cannon, then I too am a moran.
posted by ronin21 at 12:59 AM on January 7, 2009


The premiere article actually has 'Titantic' as the title for Titanic.

Tit Antic. I would go see that movie regardless of historical accuracy.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:46 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


One interesting series espn.com does (used to do? haven't seen it in a while) is "Reel Life vs Real Life" (or something along those lines), where they compare sports movies to what actually happened. It's actually almost made me anti-"based on a true story" sports movies, because of the way the movie industry feels the need to take an already good story, and flower it up with bull.
posted by inigo2 at 6:48 AM on January 7, 2009


Tit Antic. I would go see that movie regardless of historical accuracy.

Allow me to spoil it for you : the nip goes down with the ship.
posted by mannequito at 6:57 AM on January 7, 2009


Perry Bible Fellowship's Now Showing (spoiler! the good guys win)
posted by wobh at 7:16 AM on January 7, 2009


The first "historical movie which may or may not be spoiled by knowing the outcome" that came to mind was Day of the Jackal (the 1973 version.) You know de Gaulle will not be assassinated, that the plot will fail, but my god what a gripping movie. Even after reading the book by Frederick Forsyth (his best by far) and therefore being doubly sure that de Gaulle is not assassinated, the movie still kept me on the edge of my seat. What's amazing is that some part of the viewer ends up pulling for the jackal, wanting the assassination to succeed-- rather like movies about JFK where you find yourself hoping against hope that this time the assassination will fail.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:31 AM on January 7, 2009


The premiere article actually has 'Titantic' as the title for Titanic.

Just wait for the next version, Titantric.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or Titantrum-- in which director Cameron has a big snit because he is no longer "King of the World."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2009


Medieval History in the Movies. Worst. Best. As chosen by a mailing list group of medieval academics.
posted by stbalbach at 8:07 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even after reading the book by Frederick Forsyth (his best by far) and therefore being doubly sure that de Gaulle is not assassinated, the movie still kept me on the edge of my seat.

Even though I was dragged to see it and not enthusiastic about the first half, I will say I felt similarly about Valkyrie.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2009


“metafilter: we're uneducated, ignorant morans (sic)”
I believe wendell (the OP) was referencing this
Although he him self is part of another (local) meme (this will not wendell) his brother, Sy, is much more famous for his method of easing up next to people.
(Oh Mr. Smedleyman, you don’t mean!)

That’s right, he used to si-dell.

Quiet you!

Gotta 2nd Secret Life of Gravy on Day of the Jackal.
The Best Years of Our Lives was pretty good as well.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM on January 7, 2009


Turns out Peabody isn't just some egghead professor dog -- apparently he works for Blackwater. That episode describes him as "the world's most famous soldier of fortune" and he mentions working in "the foreign service." Who knew?
posted by Amanojaku at 6:09 PM on January 7, 2009


Also, that list of best historical movies includes ... the 1938 Robin Hood?! It's a great movie, sure, but they fence, about as egregious an inaccuracy as if they all decided to start kickboxing. I'm amazed that one's in there.
posted by Amanojaku at 6:17 PM on January 7, 2009


Dammit, misread the list criteria. This place really needs an "edit" button.
posted by Amanojaku at 6:19 PM on January 7, 2009


« Older A lot of people have nightmares about showing up t...  |  Virtually all the predictions ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments