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Patriotism Means Many Things To Many People
by Spotlight Mike

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With Independence Day coming up this weekend, it behooves me to think of what we think is patriotic when it comes to entertainment.  When originally starting this column, I was going to name my top patriotic movies.  But halfway through it, I decided it would be more interesting to see what other people think of patriotism when it comes to movies.  What I came up with surprised me.  When it comes to patriotism, Americans embrace everything from foreign sentiment to blatant lies, and every emotion from sappy Americana to racial hatred as patriotic.  I was actually overwhelmed by the variety of movies listed under the various lists I researched that individuals considered patriotic.  I'll try to cite the most surprising movies that I found.  Keep in mind that this is not a single list from a single source, but a compilation of many, many lists off the Internet that others considered patriotic:

BIRTH of a NATION - This 1915 silent movie tells a love story (???)  and of two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War.  What makes this the most disturbing movie on the list of "patriotic" movies is the blatantly broad stereotyping of the Northern Abolitionists and the former slaves, and the deification of the Ku Klux Klan as the Saviors of the South.  Noted as one of D.W. Griffith's crowning achievements, it is defiled by the rest of the world as the most damning depiction of life in America.

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY - This bio--pic is only half correct as the life of showman George M. Cohan, son of Irish Catholic parents Jere and Nellie Cohan, is romantically, but grossly inaccurately portrayed as a devoted husband who had no children, at least on screen.  But this was 1942, and in the spirit of patriotism and the usual total disregard for the truth in a musical, Cohan was celebrated for his many patriotic songs, such as "Over There" and "You're a Grand Old Flag."


-  another unusual choice, this 1962 tense drama is of a white lawyer defending a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman.  The premise was very closely mirrored in the 1996 drama, A TIME TO KILL, but the later version had the usual Hollywood Ending, and is  jokingly called the "sweatiest movie ever made."

PATTON - a gritty biopic, this 1970 patriotic movie is a relatively accurate bio on the the controversial tank commander whose genius and temper were equally legendary.  One of the many war movies on several patriotic movie lists.

1776 - an obvious, but silly choice, this 1972 musical featured the Founder Fathers as as a singing troupe of argumentative statesmen trying to knock out the Declaration of Independence.  On a personal note, I was able to see a live performance of this musical, several times in fact, on Independence Mall right across the street from Independence Hall next door to where the Second Continental Congress actually met, and every night, at the climax of the show, the signing of the Declaration was accented by the ringing of the Liberty Bell across the street (a replica, actually - the real bell has not rung since 1846.)

ALL the PRESIDENT'S MEN - one of the many "Nixon" movies on patriotic movie lists, this 1976 movie chronicles the Watergate scandal that led to the downfall of a President and his eventual resignation.

BORN on the FOURTH of JULY - the first of the Oliver Stone movies on this list, this 1989 movie is the  biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.

Author's Note:  Oliver Stone had spent most of his movie career dissecting and re-assembling - albeit controversially - recent American history.  He was especially obsessed with the Viet-Nam War as two films on this list, as well as

PLATOON are prime examples.

JFK - another Oliver Stone project, more accurately, his obsession, this 1991 movie makes broad speculations around the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, involving everyone from a New Orleans District Attorney to the Vice-President of the United States. Possibly the most controversial of the Oliver Stone movies, this movie gave renewed interest to "the incident."

DAVE - a metaphor of it's time, this 1993 light comedy puts Kevin Kline, a dead ringer for the President of the United States filling in for the real President, incapacitated due to an unfortunate accident.  Two familiar themes ring here - an actor as President, and the real power behind the Oval Office.

FORREST GUMP - another unusual choice for a patriotic movie, this 1994 film is one person's experience in America, if one person could experience it all, the good and the bad.

THE PATRIOT - Mel Gibson became very patriotic in the beginning of the millennium.  This 2000 film tells the story of a father's grief and the Revolutionary War.  He previously did a very similar theme in the  1995 biography BRAVEHEART.  Two years after PATRIOT, he did WE WERE SOLDIERS.  What makes these amusing choices for an American patriotic movie is that Mr. Gibson was born in Australia, but has a dual Irish and American citizenship.

DICK - another of the many "Nixon" movies on patriotic movie lists, this 2005 comedy depicts the unintentional downfall of Richard Nixon as perpetrated by two airhead teenagers, one a devoted "groupie" of the President.

RECOUNT - in the midst of the

2008 Presidential election, this film depicted the speculated events surrounding the 2000 Presidential election, arguably most controversial presidential election of our time.

Then there were the obvious ones, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, BARNUM, STARS and STRIPES FOREVERINDEPENDENCE DAY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and every John Wayne movie.  The films on this list were chosen because they wouldn't be the first choice of films when one thinks of Mom, Apple Pie and the American Dream.  These films, in my opinion, showcase why we need an America, as the baser aspects of our nation is depicted in these controversial films.  In some, America won.  Others, well, we came away with a bloody nose.  Of all the themes portrayed in these lists, the main ones here were disillusionment, bigotry, deception and war.  But they all show an aspect of America that's uniquely American.  Each one is a study of what's wrong, and in most cases, what is essentially right with America.  I try to make no judgments; the films speak for themselves.  And if they spark conversation, well, this is America and we as Americans enjoy the right to converse it.

As a popular saying goes, "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it," which, like every other bit of Americana, the phrase is popularly attributed to Voltaire but was first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G. Tallentyre in "The Friends of Voltaire."

Of course, I could be wrong!

"God bless America. And no place else!" - Nick Searcy as Presidential candidate Brian Lewis in  Chris Rock's HEAD of STATE

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Jun 30, 2010 8:19 AM
[comment deleted by Jeff]
Jul 5, 2010 6:56 PM
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on a more serious not, you could have included the under rated SWING VOTE with Kevin Costner. A great movie that showed the farce that is the American presidential campaing and how the real issues that matter to the average AMerican are all but swept under the rug for their administrations. Even the ending was hugely symbolic as in the end it didn't even matter who won ( it would be more of the same anyway)

Jun 30, 2010 8:27 AM
[comment deleted by Jeff]

Jun 30, 2010 8:28 AM
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Mel Gibson was NOT born in Australia, he was born in New York and moved to Ausralia when he was 12 years old, plenty of time to develop a strong American identity
Mike Thomas
Jun 30, 2010 12:23 PM
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You're right. His family moved to Australia when he was twelve. What is not mentioned was that one of the reasons his family moved was to avoid the draft.

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/2231/mel-gibson-family-dodged-vietna m-draft/

Kinda overshadows the citizenship error, huh?
Jul 1, 2010 5:26 AM
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NOt mentioned by who, me or most sources? Every source I read said that it was to avoid the draft for his brother, and that the family had the money to do it after his dad won at Jeopardy. If it was me, I didn;t know I needed to point this out, what would have been the point.

Also, I don't get what you mean by the last statement Are you insinuating that a 12 year old Gibson can't have American sensibilities and pride because his FATHER decided to move his Family to duck the draft?
Mike Thomas
Jul 1, 2010 11:34 PM
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Well, he was quoted with saying, "Honor thy father and thy mother...."

Look, the article was not a Gibson-bashing tirade, as I think you're taking it. Gibson's a fine actor. But when his personal life is splayed across the headlines, well then he's a target. Added to the his sharing his Catholic beliefs, which apparently includes knowing all Jews "will burn in hell" (again, his words) divorcing his wife and refusing child care for his mistress' child, I can't help but look.

I was never one for hero worship anyway, especially for actors. Before the Twentieth Century, actors weren't even allowed to enter city limits, much like circus folk and gypsies. Sure they give us enjoyment, but it doesn't justify paying someone millions to do what we ourselves use to do as five-year-olds.

But, this is America, and opinions are like anal orifices: everybody's got one, nobody wants anyone else's.

Of course, I could be wrong!
Jul 2, 2010 6:53 AM
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Actually I didnt think a thing about your article, I simply commented that you got your fact wrong and in your next response I have no idea what you are even talking about

Mel Gibson is also bi polar, you can't always fault him for crap that comes out of his mouth, but people forget that not everyone has a perfectly working brain.

Again, could you actually clarify what you meant by your previous post, It is not clear in any way

How does people not knwoing he moved to duck the draft overshadow a citizenship error?

Please simply make sense and actually answer the question you are asked, don't assume how I feel please
Mike Thomas
Jul 2, 2010 12:19 PM
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It's apparent to me now that I-WILL-NEVER give you an answer that will satisfy you.

I'm sorry offended you to this point.
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Jul 3, 2010 3:18 AM
[comment deleted by Jeff]
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Jul 3, 2010 3:44 AM
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Oh my god, you must be retarded. I simply asked you to clarify what you were saying then you go off on some pedantic rant and tell me I was saying or feeling things I wasn't

Are you unable to clarify how your one comment justified/excused the other.

Jesus, standards for columnists must have lowered since I left, I mean I wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but at least I knew how to answer a direct bloody question when asked

Again, you never offended me, i just asked you to clarify what you meant, but it's clear you have no idea what the hell you are saying or why.
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Jul 5, 2010 11:33 AM
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Interesting choices-- I especially love DAVE and DICK.

To venture away from movies and towards TV, might I suggest "Mr. Lisa Goes To Washington," from the third season of The Simpsons.

Lisa wins an essay contest and travels to D.C. to present her essay and compete on a national level. While she's there, she discovers that the U.S. government is corrupt, but by the end, some of her faith in her country is restored. She determines that, even with her faults, the U.S. worth another chance. (Mel Gibson, on the other hand, has run out of chances. He can cram it with walnuts).
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 12:18 PM
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I remember that episode (avid Simpsons fan) and it would fit with the theme of my article - flawed but fixable.

Thanks for reading my column.
Jul 5, 2010 7:51 PM
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My pleasure!

Please don't see my Simpsons contribution as implying anything was wrong with your column-- I talk about The Simpsons. It's sort of my thing.
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 7:54 PM
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Don't think anything of it! If I had seen it on one of the lists I researched, I might have considered it.

Besides, The SIMPSONS are a genre all to themselves!
Jul 5, 2010 6:08 PM
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I liked the episode of the Simpsons that had Mel Gibson in it. PS good job MIke, just totally ignore my comments, that shows intelligence, I mean why answer the question when you can brush me off and you can continue to show you have no clue what you meant by the comment I asked you about.

Good Job
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 6:35 PM
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"Mouthing Off is the no bull, tell it like it is column on various issues in the Hollywood arena. You want PC, then keep on moving, you won't get it here."

Sound familiar?

When you said you did columns a while, I did some research.

- in a year and a half, you only wrote 22 columns, when there should have been 36

- you DROPPED OUT for a year

- you said in so many words that if you don't like what you read, move on

I read your columns, and not only were they hateful, no one even bothered enough to comment on them, with very few exceptions.

You can't keep a commitment, you don't care what other people say, and you think you can come and go as you please.

You want to continue this charade? Fine. Write a review on Mel Gibson. Set the record straight. Say I'm wrong - I don't care. This article will fade into oblivion. Your review, if you have the guts or the juice to write one, will be there for anyone who wants to look up the man. Better yet, start up your column again. Put your money where your mouth is. You can spew your hate again. It'll probably make entertaining reading.

The ball's in your court.
Jul 5, 2010 6:54 PM
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Ok Again you idiot, what I asked was YOU to clarify YOUR comment. Yeah I quit, I didnt have the time to do a good articel that often, and I didn't want to put up crap work

You were asked a DIRECT question, you ducked it, said that I felt a certain way that I didn't and then threw up your hands and said " i guess I can't give you an answer that I want'

so AGAIN, ( if you can stil remember what the question was) how about your try answering the question I asked, as it made no sense at all.

SO before you drop the gauntlet like an imbecile, one I will not pick up by the way, how about you show enough blody maturity to actually do what was asked of you before you basically insulted me and then ignored my question.

I never defended Gibson, I don't want to defend Gibson, I simply asked how he couldnt have American sentiment because his father moved so his brother could duck the draft when he was 12.

BUt apparently answering that question challenged your intelligence too much.

As for my columns being hateful? Please! a couple of them were downright negative, but all well, there were a number ( like about half) that were quite neutral
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 7:04 PM
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Swing and a miss!
Jul 5, 2010 7:55 PM
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still too stupid to answer your own comment eh?

YOu tell me I think something That I don't, and you research my articles and tell me they are all hateful, when at least half are not,

That and you are too stupid to realise I never ever was defending Gibson,

I have wasted too much time on your idiocy, lok forward to your next article where you can't get either your facts or your own position accurate ( or articulated)

(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 7:58 PM
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I answered the question to MY satisfaction. And according to YOUR standards that's good enough for me.

Strike Two
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Jul 5, 2010 8:01 PM
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oh and by the way, I assume (only because your fav movie is the ten cmmandments, forgive me if I am wrong) that you are a Christian, likely a Catholic, let me ask you, do you dislike the pope for his false and ignorant commenst that its no Christians who have polluted and destroyed our planet, or does he like get a free pass because he's the pope?

I mean I am not defending Gibson but at least A) he was drunk, B) he is bi polar C) he doesnt run a huge religion D) he is sputing his own opinion, nit lying about facts, or falsy misrepresenting facts to serve his own agenda
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Jul 5, 2010 8:02 PM
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so NOT answerring the question AT ALL< to you is answering it to your satisfaction,

good for you buddy, yep, your idiocy remains unchallenged
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 8:08 PM
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Good review.

Oh, except The TEN COMMANDMENTS is usually shown during Passover. And is a celebration of the Jewish religion.

Christianity is about 3,000 years away.

So - when you write a column, you don't care what people say, but when you want an answer, you resort to name calling. You've demeaned me, you've demeaned my religion. What's next? Care to attack me with the race card also?

Strike Three. Last comment.
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Jul 5, 2010 9:49 PM
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listen buddy, I simply asked you to clarify your comment, you made a total non sequiter and I called you on it, you assumed that I had positions I didnt have. Dont compare the crap I say with putting words in someone elses mouth, I am not that ignorant.

As for demeaning your religion, I have done nothing of the kind, I simply asked you if you held the pope to the same ignorant criteria that you condemn Mel Gibson for, and your response to pretty much anything is "strike and a miss"

As for your race card attack question i would actually have to attakc you at some point, calling you stupid or retarded when you are showing both by your inability to answer a simple question or make a logical argument is how I roll.

Later, I can't be bothered to post anymore for someone as closed minded, or illogical as you.

I am sure that you will say "strike 4" or something equally stupid in response.
Mike Thomas
Jul 5, 2010 10:07 PM
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Boy, you're not hateful....
Jul 8, 2010 7:30 AM
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Here go ahead and educate yourself on the pope and his awesome values.

If it had been any other person they would have been crucified ( no insult intended) in the press

BUt the pope can say something so absurd and false and get away with it, and people will think he's right.

Don't tell me that I am insulting your religion. I am a Christian, and I would think Christ would be appaled by this speech

http://www.examiner.com/x-10853-Portland-Humanist-Examiner~y2009m8d 29-Pope-blames-atheists-for-global-warming
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Mike Thomas
Jul 8, 2010 12:16 PM
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Thank you for the info
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)
Jul 8, 2010 6:47 PM
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no problem, generally I enjoy religious discussions, especially when I can show a catholic the ignorant double standards many of them ( NOT ALL) posses when it comes to pretty much anything in thier religion. One of the main reasons I got out of the religion, any religion to be honest.
(only 5 levels of comments are allowed)

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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