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Reason Writers At the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Amigo in The Washington Times

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Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews Amigo, a new movie about the Phillipine-American war from director John Sayles, in today's Washington Times

John Sayles' "Amigo" is a war movie that doesn't take sides—except against war itself.

Set in a tiny village during the Philippine-American War near the start of the 20th century, it's equally critical of American violence toward the locals and Filipino rebel cruelty toward their own people. Even more surprisingly, it's equally sympathetic to the soldiers caught up in the battle on both sides—leaders and grunts alike.

Mr. Sayles' decision to humanize both sides is the film's greatest strength, but may also be its most glaring weakness. Clever, unassuming, and determinedly understated, its biggest flaw may be its commitment to announcing its own evenhandedness.

Read the whole review here

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  1. speaking of early 20th century soldiers, teddy roosevelt defeated lawrence of arabia on deadliest warriors. the gatling gun was more reliable than the vickers & the 30-06 springfield was superior to the enfield 303. plus teddy looked waay cool w spats, high-waisted trousers complete w suspenders, & the US cavalry hat. >lawrence was resplendent, however, in his prom dress & corsage.

    1. Teddy was a fat fuck even when he was in battle.

      1. at least teddy didnt get bent-over by the turks. aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    2. How is an 03 superior to an enfield??? Sounds like some bullshit justification. They are pretty comparable, but the 03 is just a Mauser knockoff, and the enfield has a substantially larger magazine. Teddy gets points for monocle, but all he has is his ruff-riders, while TE had hordes of pissed off Arabs. Also TE campaigned in infinitely more difficult terrain, and therefore was probably way more “hard”.

      1. Furthermore, why would Teddy have gotten any rifles in .30-’06? He had been done with war for several years in 1906. If we’re talking a hypothetical situation in which Teddy leads troops against Lawrence in 1917, he would obviously not have been using hand-cranked Gatling guns. The whole thing is Orrin-level stupidity.

    3. teddy roosevelt defeated lawrence of arabia on deadliest warriors.

      Arabs were more humane to Turk Soldiers then the Turks were….which in all fairness was a pretty easy mark to hit.

      Plus they fought an a-symmetrical war…blowing up trains and train tracks rather then mowing down ill equipped and ill trained natives.

      The Arabs saw each man as a man and fought that way. Good ol Teddy saw each man as an expendable, replaceable unit…and commanded his soldiers as such.

    4. Teddy’s name was “Teddy”. Lawrence’s name was “Lawrence”. I’m calling it a 0-0 draw.

  2. Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews Amigo, a new movie

    Yikes. How awkward is it gonna be when Suderman runs into Loder at the office today?

    1. Yeah srsly. You can’t just throw in a new reviewer willy nilly. Wedon’t know where they are coming from or if we find them reputable. What does Loder have to say about “AMIGO”?

  3. Link to article at the bottom is very broken.

    https://reason.com/admin/pages/John Sayles’ “Amigo” is a war movie that doesn’t take sides – except against war itself. Set in a tiny village during the Philippine-American War near the start of the 20th century, it’s equally critical of American violence toward the locals and Filipino rebel cruelty toward their own people. Even more surprisingly, it’s equally sympathetic to the soldiers caught up in the battle on both sides – leaders and grunts alike. Mr. Sayles’ decision to humanize both sides is the film’s greatest strength, but may also be its most glaring weakness. Clever, unassuming, and determinedly understated, its biggest flaw may be its commitment to announcing its own evenhandedness.

  4. Mr. Sayles’ decision to humanize both sides is the film’s greatest strength, but may also be its most glaring weakness. Clever, unassuming, and determinedly understated, its biggest flaw may be its commitment to announcing its own evenhandedness.

    First off, Suderman doesn’t actually follow this teaser-blurb up with any follow-on explanation in the actual review as to how this ‘evenhandedness’ part doesn’t actually ‘work’, or is a ‘weakness’ in any way; in fact, nothing personal, but its a pretty shit review overall. Just falls short in every category. Doesn’t tell me anything about the film.

    few other thoughts =

    1) when’s the last time you heard about a movie about the philippine-american war? BZZZ. There aren’t any. I’ve done ‘trick questions’ asking people to name all the American military actions since 1800 and they ALL miss this one. They might get the ‘Spanish American War’, but forget the subsequent Philippine?American War, where many more died and which was much more brutal… or at least shameful, it being so blatantly and self-interestedly colonial. Its one of the least covered aspects of American history, in textbooks, and much less *movies*. Anything *at all* that makes an effort to bring the historical events to attention deserves a hat tip at least for bucking the trend to ignore this particular war.

    2) some of the best war movies in recent memory have taken the ‘tell both stories’ POV, or gone further and flipped the script (no pun), a la Letters From Iwo Jima… Most war movies are invariably about ‘one guys experience in a horrible situation’ – moving away from that to show how something like War affects a wide swath of people is a historical trend that isn’t new or necessarily a bad thing. Most war films in recent history include a degree of ambiguity about who the Good Guys and Bad Buys really are. I don’t really see the point of making an exception in this case unless you can explain why it doesnt work in context. I mean, say, compared to TORA TORA TORA!! the notable first ‘tell both sides of a war’ movie, that didn’t really tell both sides at all, but was more like Sands of Iwo Jima with more scenes with Japanese actors.

    3) Mr. Sayles has always been more of a wordsmith than a visualist.

    WTF?

    Lone Star? Men With Guns? Matewan? The Secret of Roan Inish?… fuck, almost all of his films are notable for their naturalistic cinematography. Maybe he’s not doing slo-mo Michael Bay explosions and pan/zooms…. but for fucks sake… that’s kind of an offhand diss of a guy that has a pretty diverse and long body of work, some of which got awards for their cinematography. Sure, he’s a writer/actor/director who’s probably strongest on the writing side… but, what, you got to be Terence Malik, or else you’re a hack, or something? As far as action…whats missing exactly? Water-Cure re-enactments? (that would be politically a real winner, right?), Moros torturing soldiers to death? Shooting children? (all of these things happened) The piece doesn’t specifically say what actually was visually ‘lacking’, other than suggesting there was too much talky-talk for a ‘war movie’.

    Here’s a short review from someone who hasnt seen it =

    “Sayles track record is pretty incredible, with remarkably few failures despite very ambitious storytelling challenges – this is awesome subject material, and few would be up to the task of doing it justice. He is. Go watch it, idiot”

    1. Maybe an interesting article as a complement (by Sayles himself) =

      http://www.berkeleydailyplanet…..n-War-Film

      .. apparently there *was* an american film covering the war (“The Real Glory”(1937)). But he stresses the point that historical details have been largely buried in American media.

      Perhaps no armed conflict in the modern era has received less cinematic treatment than the Philippine-American War. When one thinks of the number of movies inspired by individual American gunslingers or gangsters- Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, for example, have graced the screen dozens of times- this dearth seems hard to explain. The Fil-Am war ran ‘officially’ from 1899 to 1902 (though armed hostilities continued at least till the beginning of WWI) and at least a million Filipinos died violently or through related starvation and disease during its course. When the history of Philippine-American relations is examined, however, this cinematic silence becomes more understandable.

      1. Final thought =

        Imagine someone ever made a movie of Blood Meridian

        ..whoo boy.

        I googled this question, and surprisingly, got a pretty good answer. The WSJ asked the man himself..

        http://online.wsj.com/article/…..74572.html

        WSJ: People have said “Blood Meridian” is unfilmable because of the sheer darkness and violence of the story.

        CM: That’s all crap. The fact that’s it’s a bleak and bloody story has nothing to do with whether or not you can put it on the screen. That’s not the issue. The issue is it would be very difficult to do and would require someone with a bountiful imagination and a lot of balls. But the payoff could be extraordinary.

        I agree with the man. Difficult. Balls. And could be really good.

        Probably all reasons it might never happen. It also has an even less-satisfying and more-ambiguous ending than No Country For Old Men. Hollywood hates it when the bad-guys ‘win’. Or when the ‘good guys’ are worse than the ‘bad guys’. The Fil-Am story is actually one of these, which is why i think Suderman’s review was so shallow. The fact the subject was being broached at all is something to commended, and is notable for the very fact that its being attempted. If it falls short of being honest to the story or historical details, then that’s the worst criticism to be made. But I haven’t seen that comment made yet. I look forward to seeing the film… in fact, its the first film in a long time I’ve even cared to make sure to see.

        1. I heard James fucking Franco was gonna try and direct Blood Meridian and almost gagged….

          I imagine if someone pulled it off right, it would be a mix of Apocalypse Now, The Wild Bunch, and No Country for Old Men

          1. have you read the book?

            its not like any of those movies

            1. I take that back, partially. Apocalypse Now shares some fundamentals. it is very much a ‘heart of darkness’ story. A boy is born, all he ever sees is bad, and he grows though it, but isnt necessarily controlled by the bad. It is a case for the idea that even a baby-killing marauding warrior has a soul, regardless of the quantity of evil he has committed. The corruption of his soul ends with him trying to destroy what he thinks is the source…but he never gets there. Or dies in the attempt. Thats why the ending is so hard to get. Its a failed redemption narrative – or one that questions why people ever need to attempt redemption at all. Whoever might try to make a film out of that book is dealing with heavy material. I can see why most filmmakers prefer the packaged cant of PKD or other pulp writers. Like Jim Thompson maybe (other good film that could be make is “Pop. 1280”), where the ‘moral’ is much more clear and absolute…. they have satisfying endings. McCarthy’s stuff doesn’t.

              Whatever. I think Coppola and Apocalypse are the closest anything would ever come to a translation of Blood Meridian. And I don’t expect anyone to try in my lifetime. But would be excited if they did.

    2. Who’s scratching their head about why “flipped the script” is a pun? Not me, just asking. How sensitive of you to mention it.

      1. I.e. told the story from the other side.

        thought that would be obvious.

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