The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-13 05:53am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-12 10:59pm
True. But even then, I find the story very much subverted into something that wasn't, because Churchill's story is that of political intrigue and disposal of less fortunate rivals. Maybe it could've been done differently, or maybe I just overreacted to a film.
Churchill's story is both that of intrigue and, objectively, of him being one of the few Britons who was warning everyone about the Nazis and turned out to be right all along. He was, in fact, correct to point them out as a threat, at a time when the British establishment, including both the conservatives and the socialists, underestimated it seriously.

It is not wrong to tell a story that points this out. The entire reason Churchill is a historical figure of any note at all is because he was in this place, at this particular moment in history. A moment when he was largely vindicated on an important issue (the threat of Naziism and the need to confront it with force), and when his most useful personality traits (stubborn determination, a good command of inspirational speech and writing, and wide-ranging, flexible thinking about military issues) were more or less the ones his country needed.
Simon, please. It's as if you've fallen for the typical propaganda story, too! You're smarter than this, surely?!

Sure, Churchill understood the threat - but not until he finally realized himself that Hitler wasn't a that much of a great man and neither was Mussolini (Churchill spoke of Hitler on different occasions, urging him to simply be more peaceful, but saying that Hitler is restoring German national dignity and all; and as of Mussolini, Churchill actually commended his turn from left to right in the late 1920s. Churchill warned everyone about the Nazis at a time when most critically-minded people already understand what they are; but many just did not want to fight them, and in that his stubborn attitude was for the good. Absolutely.

But let's not kid ourselves that Churchill was some kind of visionary or prophet here!
Churchill wrote:I will, however, say a word on the international aspect of Fascismo. Externally, your movement has rendered a service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or working-class leader has been that of being undermined or overbid by someone more extreme than he: It seems that a continued progression to the Left, a sort of inevitable landslide into the abyss was characteristic of all revolutions. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society.
Very soon Churchill would see what kind of "service" Mussolini rendered to the world, with actual 60 million dead over the course of some 10 years only.

That quote, as many others, did not make it into the film. Because it would detract from the singular, simple story and would show that Churchill turned his back on fascism because it started threatening British interests and Britain directly, and NOT because Churchill was a principled anti-fascist - for whatever reasons. For a long time he was against fascists and nazis only inasfar as they've posed a problem for Britain, and otherwise supportive as they've "restored national dignity" and "defended the honour and stability of civilized society".
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-13 06:31am

As to whether the overbearing prevalence of fiction over fact not having consequences... hmmm...

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/ar ... id=3559065

Maybe I was wrong, a flawed movie is better than no movie, given the bullshit in people's heads. At least they'll know Churchill existed. Along with Conan and Gandalf.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-13 09:44am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-13 03:50am
I don't want to be the censor for these films. I just don't like them and want different films. Big difference. I also think that primitive stories have a huge detrimental effect even as you guys bend over backwards to explain how this is totally normal, natural etc.
No, I am not. I'm saying there exist a multitude of narratives that convey a very different purpose. I want more diverse narratives being told. I just think you are complaining about film not being historical enough when that has never been the goal of the film in the first place.

It's basically retelling a particular historical narrative within a dramatic format. Film has never been about truly representing history as it is. Can such narrative cause harm to society? Yeah, of course, they could. However, saying such films should not be made is basically useless censorship. This is because such stories are based on the exisitng cultural perception of Churchill, so such stories would continue to be told even if a movie was not made.

What a movie does is to simply retell the story the public is already telling themselves in a format that suits entertainment.
That's gotta be one of the most 1984-esque replies I've ever gotten here. You're entitled to think that way, but let me be as I am. Accuracy in depiction of historical events is truthfulness, and to deny it is silly. More accurate depictions are by definition more true.
No, generally speaking, historians don't claim to be able to depict the historical truth. They might be able to depict a more in-depth version of events backed up by actual sources, but the historian is well aware that this is not the "truth". Historical truth, in essence, is the idea that they could fully capture everything in history and represent it in your historical narrative. This is simply not possible. As much as you are able to include as many sources as possible, you are still selecting what sources are more "valid" in your opinion.

For example, you may see Churchill's private letters as more revealing about Churchill than his interaction with the general public. However, this itself is your selection bias, by placing more importance in telling the story of Churchill as a private man as opposed to his public image. Both Churchill as a private man and Churchill as a public figure represented two valid interpretation of him as a historical figure. We might use the letters to say this is truly what Churchill was thinking at the time, but the general public in the west aren't as aware of that. They don't see Churchill as a private person and what's recorded in people's cultural memory is the public persona of Churchill.

Say, you want to make a narrative that glorifies Nazis, but you stumble upon the fact it's hard to do, as if you depict events accurately, it would be hard for the audience to sympathize. If you, however, depict facts differently or omit them, you can go through with the narrative.
It's not about making up facts. It's about selectivity in historiography. A social history of Nazi Germany from the perspective of the Jews or anyone deemed an undesirable would inherently be a different story from an economic perspective. Every historical approach would emphasise more on certain stuff at the expense of others. The narrative offered by different historians have different emotional resonance in the reader.

This doesn't seem damaging to you because the world is well-educated - at least, some parts of it - on what threat such stories pose and what actually happened. But there are other, less known moments, where the world is not yet sufficiently educated to reject a false and damaging narrative.

Imperialism and colonialism is one set of such events, because until now imperialistic metropolies dominated in terms of spreading their own vision and culture; a great many people thus are not adequately educated on how bad these things are. And as it stands now, due to enormous opposition from entrenched metropolies, many might never be.
Such stories are damaging if they are the sole narrative. Take the Opium war as an example. The shaping of the opium war as an unjust war was not something that came from the perspectives of the Chinese. Even the name "Opium War" was adopted restropectively by the Chinese after seeing it appear in the Western newspaper. There was a fierce public opposiiton in the UK towards the Opium war, and active campaign to see it as an unjust war( The party lost the next election because of this).

This is not to excuse the UK public just because they oppose the war, but highlighting how western rhetoric had played a role in shaping the Chinese rhetoric and their cultural memory of the war. The anti-war movement did manage to get their preferred name stuck in history books.
So it's kind of... imagine living in a world where Nazis won and then retroactively they rewrote history - both in the education sphere but also in the arts - film, book, murals, paintings - to show them fundamentally in the right, and the rest more or less in the wrong.

Think about this for a moment and then I'm willing to listen to your arguments again.
Historians do not need to make up facts to depict who is "right" or "wrong". Learning to remove ourselves from making a moral judgment is a key part of historian's training.

It's not about winners getting to write the history books, but being aware that any historical work is subject to a perspective the writer is trying to convey. A history book about Nazi propaganda in the media, for instance, would paint a different picture of Nazi Germany from a book about the state of German science under Nazi rule. Both works can be equally critical of the Nazi regime, but they would still convey a very different picture of the Nazis. A moral judgment is not the same as a historical judgment.

If you want to see what historians think about imperialism in British academia, this letter should be helpeful:

http://theconversation.com/ethics-and-e ... lars-89333
We are scholars who work on histories of empire and colonialism and their after-effects, broadly understood. We teach our students to think seriously and critically about those histories and their contemporary legacies. We write to express our opposition to the public stance recently taken on these questions by Nigel Biggar, also an academic at Oxford, and the agenda pursued in his recently announced project entitled “Ethics and Empire”.

Professor Biggar has every right to hold and to express whatever views he chooses or finds compelling, and to conduct whatever research he chooses in the way he feels appropriate. But his views on this question, which have been widely publicised at the Oxford Union, as well as in national newspapers, risk being misconstrued as representative of Oxford scholarship. For many of us, and more importantly for our students, they also reinforce a pervasive sense that contemporary inequalities in access to and experience at our university are underpinned by a complacent, even celebratory, attitude towards its imperial past. We therefore feel obliged to express our firm rejection of them.

Biggar’s media interventions have been spurred in defence of a discredited polemical opinion piece by American political scientist Bruce Gilley. This advocated a “recolonisation” of parts of the world by Western powers as a solution to misgovernment in the global south. His own call for British “pride to temper shame” in the assessment of empire is similarly intended to fortify support for overseas military interventions today. Such prescriptions not only rest on very bad history, they are breathtakingly politically naive.

We do believe that historical scholarship should inform public debate and contemporary politics. But it cannot do so through simple-minded equations between “pride” and swaggering global confidence, or between “shame” and meek withdrawal.

Nor can it pretend to offer serious history when it proposes such arguments as that the British empire’s abolition of the slave trade stands simply as a positive entry in a balance-book against (for example) the Amritsar massacre or the Tasmanian genocide. Abolition does not somehow erase the British empire’s own practice of slavery and the benefits it continued to reap from the slave trade long after it ended – such as railway investments in the UK or cotton imports from the US South. Nor can historians accept the simple claim that imperialism “brought order” without examining what that actually meant for those subject to it. Aimé Césaire’s morally powerful Discours sur le colonialisme dispatched such absurd “balance-sheet” arguments as long ago as 1950. It’s disappointing, to say the least, that they should be resurrected for a history of ethics in 2017.

To state his argument for this history, Biggar sets up a caricature in place of an antagonist: an allegedly prevailing orthodoxy that “imperialism is wicked”. His project’s declared aim is to uncover a more complex reality, whose “positive aspects” dispassionate scholarship can reveal. This is nonsense. No historian (or, as far as we know, any cultural critic or postcolonial theorist) argues simply that imperialism was “wicked”.

Good and evil may be meaningful terms of analysis for theologians. They are useless to historians. Nor are historians much moved by arguments that because Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe was a despot, British imperialism or white supremacy under UDI in Rhodesia must surely look better in comparison. That is not a meaningful comparison. Biggar’s argument fails even its own test in the case of Iraq, where in the aftermath of invasion, occupation, civil war and the terror of Daesh that came in their wake, there is no lack of nostalgia for the “order” and “security” of Saddam Hussein.

The “Ethics and Empire” project asks the wrong questions, using the wrong terms, and for the wrong purposes. However seriously intended, far from offering greater nuance and complexity, Biggar’s approach is too polemical and simplistic to be taken seriously. There is doubtless much to be said about the ethical regimes that have historically been used to justify or critique imperial rule (a story at least as old as Tacitus). But there is no sense in which neutral “historical data”, from any historical context, can simply be used to “measure” the ethical appropriateness of either critiques of or apologia for empire, let alone sustain an “ethic of empire” for today’s world.

Neither we, nor Oxford’s students in modern history will be engaging with the “Ethics and Empire” programme, since it consists of closed, invitation-only seminars. Instead, we want students and the wider public to know that the ideas and aims of that project are not those of most scholars working on these subjects in Oxford, whether in the history faculty or elsewhere. We welcome continued, open, critical engagement in the ongoing reassessment of the histories of empire and their legacies both in Britain and elsewhere in the world. We have never believed it is sufficient to dismiss imperialism as simply “wicked”. Nor do we believe it can or should be rehabilitated because some of it was “good”.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by MKSheppard » 2018-01-13 01:27pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-11 05:45pm
So, the film turns out to have ahistorical fragments
You forgot him talking to FDR on the scrambler phone, something that did not exist until around 1942-43. :D
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-13 02:05pm

ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 09:44am
However, saying such films should not be made is basically useless censorship. This is because such stories are based on the exisitng cultural perception of Churchill, so such stories would continue to be told even if a movie was not made.
Would you please go to a dictionary and check the meaning of “censorship”. Specifically, whether saying something should not be made constitutes censorship.

This is getting tiresome. Did I somehow censor the shit factory called “Hollywood” by posting my opinion of how historical films should be made here? If so, wow, just wow, and I’m very glad they listen to me, a random nobody. Hooray me the unknown shaper of the world’s most educational films of the future. :lol:
No, generally speaking, historians don't claim to be able to depict the historical truth.
That is why they regularly offer comment about historical veracity of films, books and plays, that must be it. Poor historians. Nobody informed them that they do not have a say in this.
It's not about making up facts.
Is it? Why are there so many made up “facts” then? Misattributed quotes and plain lies. You could construct entire stories from this material, and some less scrupulous do so.
Such stories are damaging if they are the sole narrative.
They are always damaging, even if they are not the sole narrative. Ask yourself how many people, outside those fascinated by history, even know what the Opium War is. When you can’t make the name stick, next thing you try is oblivion from public memory.
Historians do not need to make up facts to depict who is "right" or "wrong". Learning to remove ourselves from making a moral judgment is a key part of historian's training.
This is nigh impossible. History is always ideological, and a lot of those pushing a hard agenda will invent facts, as opposed to just using real facts. Even discounting those, the way events are presented is itself a moral judgement. Language used to describe events is also a moral judgement. Impartiality is hard to achieve. So winners write the books. They even create and shape the language. If they succeed in that, they achieve something close to win forever. They can eradicate the alternative viewpoint on a language level.
If you want to see what historians think about imperialism in British academia, this letter should be helpeful
What I see is that funds of the university will be committed to a blatantly pro-imperialist propaganda project. Some people out of conscience probably acted to sign an open letter. It is good for them, but it doesn’t change the system. End of story.

http://cherwell.org/2017/12/15/oxford-d ... sh-empire/
Oxford University has defended a professor after student campaigners accused him of using a “racist trope” to “whitewash” the history of empire.

Common Ground condemned Nigel Biggar’s “historical amnesia” towards British imperialism, questioning his suitability to lead the recently launched ‘Ethics and Empire’ project.

But an Oxford spokesperson has now hit back at the charge, stating that the University supports “academic freedom of speech”, and that the history of empire is a “complex topic” that must be considered “from a variety of perspectives”.

They said: “This is a valid, evidence-led academic project and Professor Biggar, who is an internationally-recognised authority on the ethics of empire, is an entirely suitable person to lead it.”
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-13 03:38pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-13 02:05pm

Would you please go to a dictionary and check the meaning of “censorship”. Specifically, whether saying something should not be made constitutes censorship.

This is getting tiresome. Did I somehow censor the shit factory called “Hollywood” by posting my opinion of how historical films should be made here? If so, wow, just wow, and I’m very glad they listen to me, a random nobody. Hooray me the unknown shaper of the world’s most educational films of the future. :lol:
Of course not. I'm saying the best way to counter such narrative is not to call for them not to be made, but simpy find other ways to construct your narrative. A more critical Churchill TV might be a good solution for instance.

I think your approach towards the things you don't like is a fundamentally ineffective approach, even if you are somehow able to "censor" Hollywood.
That is why they regularly offer comment about historical veracity of films, books and plays, that must be it. Poor historians. Nobody informed them that they do not have a say in this.
Offering comments about the historical veracity of the film does not mean they are defending some sort of historical truth. Historical verifiablity is not the same as saying there is a historical truth.
Is it? Why are there so many made up “facts” then? Misattributed quotes and plain lies. You could construct entire stories from this material, and some less scrupulous do so.
Because those are stories trying to create and project an idealised and simplified version of historical persona or narrative? I mean if you look into ancient history, you get all sort of anecdotes and speeches by people who never said those stuff.

They are always damaging, even if they are not the sole narrative. Ask yourself how many people, outside those fascinated by history, even know what the Opium War is. When you can’t make the name stick, next thing you try is oblivion from public memory.
And the idea you can somehow ask people to stop making those narratives you deem to be harmful is a fool's dream. And the opium name was stuck in history books. It didn't start off as the opium war. That name came up after the war itself.


This is nigh impossible. History is always ideological, and a lot of those pushing a hard agenda will invent facts, as opposed to just using real facts. Even discounting those, the way events are presented is itself a moral judgement. Language used to describe events is also a moral judgement. Impartiality is hard to achieve. So winners write the books. They even create and shape the language. If they succeed in that, they achieve something close to win forever. They can eradicate the alternative viewpoint on a language level.
Of course, but part of a historian's training is to understand our own preferences in the narrative we are constructing. It's about not trying to cast a judgment about the morality of an issue as best as we can, to enlarge our historical enquiry.

If not, you'll simply end up not pursuing history in search for a more "truthful" account, but simply using history to validate your own sense of morality. That itself creates a limited perspective of what kind of history will be recorded and what will be forgotten.

Christopher Bayly, who was one of the leading historians on global history made a really good point about the problems with moralising history. It's certainly something that a historian might not be able to avoid, but eagerly jumping in and making moral judgment will make it harder for ask to out why did these empires even last as long as it did. ( Christopher Bayly, 2006, "Moral judgment: empire, nation and history" in European Review)

I'm inclined to agree with his position because otherwise, you're fundamentally limiting people's right to argue historical empire as a force for good as a historiographical approach. If you are allowed to take a moral standpoint in making an argument about historical empire being morally bad, then you are setting up a debate in which your opponent can make their checklist on why they think X empire is morally good.

Side note, are you familiar with Foucault's arguments about ethics and morality? I'm interested to hear what you think about Foucault's approach towards history.
What I see is that funds of the university will be committed to a blatantly pro-imperialist propaganda project. Some people out of conscience probably acted to sign an open letter. It is good for them, but it doesn’t change the system. End of story.

http://cherwell.org/2017/12/15/oxford-d ... sh-empire/
Then you don't know history well as a discipline. The point about history is not to cast judgment on a historical person, but to understand things like causation or a better idea of what the "past" is like.

The point they are making is not to say imperialism isn't bad, but recognising making a moral judgment is a different discipline from history. Because if we do treat making a moral judgment as a part of the historical discipline, we are effectively narrowing the scope of our historical narratives. Or else, you are grossly oversimplifying historical events and causation into political arguments.


I understand your moral concerns about historical depiction. But I think the way you go about arguing them is rather strange and lacks any persuasiveness. Because all I've heard from you so far is about you defending the morally right position. That alone isn't sufficient to change a societal's attitude towards certain myths and ideas. Yes, you would probably enjoy a more nuanced and more critical movie about Churchill, but that's your personal preference. It's unlikely such a project could see fruition because I don't think there is sufficent will or finance to make a movie about this.

Unless you happen to be a billionaire that can fund your own movie like Jack Ma. But that doesn't not mean it will become widely accepted and instead it will simply be a forgotten chapter in people's cultural memory.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-13 05:08pm

ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Of course not. I'm saying the best way to counter such narrative is not to call for them not to be made, but simpy find other ways to construct your narrative. A more critical Churchill TV might be a good solution for instance.

I think your approach towards the things you don't like is a fundamentally ineffective approach, even if you are somehow able to "censor" Hollywood.
I still think that a more nuanced film could do just fine. Maybe it wouldn't be a Hollywood one but instead a European one. Maybe someone will have a go at it.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Offering comments about the historical veracity of the film does not mean they are defending some sort of historical truth. Historical verifiablity is not the same as saying there is a historical truth.
Once again you try to lecture me on semantics in a very hilarious way. I already said that I'm not going to play the "war is peace" game, didn't I? "Verifiable - able to be checked or demonstrated to be true, accurate, or justified"
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Because those are stories trying to create and project an idealised and simplified version of historical persona or narrative? I mean if you look into ancient history, you get all sort of anecdotes and speeches by people who never said those stuff.
Exactly. And we are supposed to be moving beyond this. We have tools to check quote attribution, instead of relying on mere hearsay, we have a mass of documentary sources that dwarfs anything previously available, and this relates in the most direct way to the XX century history.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
And the idea you can somehow ask people to stop making those narratives you deem to be harmful is a fool's dream. And the opium name was stuck in history books. It didn't start off as the opium war. That name came up after the war itself.
I know the story, and it is one of the rare instances where the losing side got to name the war. Exceptions only solidify the rule: empires win wars, they rewrite history to absolve themselves, and in the end, there is no objective information, just stories and myths. As the defeated normally cannot raise their viewpoint sufficiently, they have to wait until they have the power to retaliate culturally.

I saw a Chinese movie that centered on repatriating cultural relics stolen by the British and the French. It took what, just 200 years to tell a very basic story from a different, non-Western point of view where the modern-day Chinese thieves are the good guys restoring a grave historical injustice done by the colonialists?
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Of course, but part of a historian's training is to understand our own preferences in the narrative we are constructing. It's about not trying to cast a judgment about the morality of an issue as best as we can, to enlarge our historical enquiry. If not, you'll simply end up not pursuing history in search for a more "truthful" account, but simply using history to validate your own sense of morality. That itself creates a limited perspective of what kind of history will be recorded and what will be forgotten.
And yet, this is exactly what happens - attacks and counterattacks by people of different views. If these are factual debates, then we learn more as facts are unearthed by people looking to further their moral claims. If they stoop low and employ underhanded tactics (lies, fake events, fake documents) - we suffer as a whole, because the field is muddied by fakes which need to be proven fake, by false statements which take a great deal of effort to dismantle even with lots of factual information, and by misquotes that stick no matter the rebuttals. So in essence, history is a moral contest, or more precisely an ideological one, but underpinned also by personal moral perceptions.

Make no mistake, Christian historians who engage in "unbiased" studies of beneficiality of Christianity aren't really. Nobody is. But the search of a more truthful account happens even in this imperfect state.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
It's certainly something that a historian might not be able to avoid, but eagerly jumping in and making moral judgment will make it harder for ask to out why did these empires even last as long as it did. ( Christopher Bayly, 2006, "Moral judgment: empire, nation and history" in European Review)
Why? Something bad can't last? That's also a statement, which implies by definition that only good things last long. But the Dark Ages lasted long. Witch-burning, executions of heretics and the Inquisition lasted long. So his argument is not strong. It betrays his own bias only.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
I'm inclined to agree with his position because otherwise, you're fundamentally limiting people's right to argue historical empire as a force for good as a historiographical approach. If you are allowed to take a moral standpoint in making an argument about historical empire being morally bad, then you are setting up a debate in which your opponent can make their checklist on why they think X empire is morally good.
You should be allowed to make a moral stand that the Empire is bad, because the whole god damn apparatus of a defunct Empire will be there to claim that it's good!
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Side note, are you familiar with Foucault's arguments about ethics and morality? I'm interested to hear what you think about Foucault's approach towards history.
You mean the geneaology? I like some of his ideas (like starting with the present and working into time before, in the process of historical study), but I don't think I'm an authority on Focault. I like "Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison" (Focault recanted later, saying he went overboard - I think he didn't and I love that book, a rare cry of pain in our numb age), but I'm not that well-versed in his ethics studies.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Then you don't know history well as a discipline.
I am not a historian.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
The point about history is not to cast judgment on a historical person, but to understand things like causation or a better idea of what the "past" is like.
Who are you to say what is the point of something? History is just ideology turned towards the explorable past, just as propaganda and TV are manifests of ideology in the present.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
The point they are making is not to say imperialism isn't bad, but recognising making a moral judgment is a different discipline from history. Because if we do treat making a moral judgment as a part of the historical discipline, we are effectively narrowing the scope of our historical narratives. Or else, you are grossly oversimplifying historical events and causation into political arguments.
So far I see here that historical events are routinely faked, not merely "oversimplified". And films are full of fakes, and that's where most of the population gets their historical knowledge. So please bear with me. It is not as if I want to narrow the breadth of exploration - and even if I did, who would listen to this nobody? I want to broaden the scope of popularization. Make the popular narratives more complex and more accurate. But you're so hostile to the idea that you've already made your conclusions about my views, and they're hard to shake.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
I understand your moral concerns about historical depiction. But I think the way you go about arguing them is rather strange and lacks any persuasiveness. Because all I've heard from you so far is about you defending the morally right position. That alone isn't sufficient to change a societal's attitude towards certain myths and ideas. Yes, you would probably enjoy a more nuanced and more critical movie about Churchill, but that's your personal preference. It's unlikely such a project could see fruition because I don't think there is sufficent will or finance to make a movie about this.
If you would have paid attention, I said that correcting factual errors - even in a simplified narrative - is a good start, and we shouldn't say "no let's keep films as bad as they are" just because it's the way it used to be.
ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 03:38pm
Unless you happen to be a billionaire that can fund your own movie like Jack Ma. But that doesn't not mean it will become widely accepted and instead it will simply be a forgotten chapter in people's cultural memory.
This would depend a lot on the skills of translating a complex narrative into a dramatic story, and on the people's preferences at the time. If there's a sizeable demand for a critical look, it can be successful. If not - well, at least we tried, y'know. :D
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-13 06:25pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-13 05:08pm
I still think that a more nuanced film could do just fine. Maybe it wouldn't be a Hollywood one but instead a European one. Maybe someone will have a go at it.
I would not have justified its budget because I doubt it could meet the expectation of a wide audience. A European (technically Darkest Hour is British as opposed to American) about Churchill would have been odd because there isn't a demand for such a thing. It would have been extremely low budget.

Once again you try to lecture me on semantics in a very hilarious way. I already said that I'm not going to play the "war is peace" game, didn't I? "Verifiable - able to be checked or demonstrated to be true, accurate, or justified"
Able to be verified doesn't make one particular narrative more truthful, that's my point. Even if one film has more veritfiable facts than the other, it's still trying to convey a particular narrative over others.
Exactly. And we are supposed to be moving beyond this. We have tools to check quote attribution, instead of relying on mere hearsay, we have a mass of documentary sources that dwarfs anything previously available, and this relates in the most direct way to the XX century history.
I'm saying we can't. Human society as a whole doesn't verify facts even if they are easily accessible to us. Some of us do, but human society as a whole doesn't. We still rely on implicit trust in our social circle or sources we trust.
I know the story, and it is one of the rare instances where the losing side got to name the war. Exceptions only solidify the rule: empires win wars, they rewrite history to absolve themselves, and in the end, there is no objective information, just stories and myths. As the defeated normally cannot raise their viewpoint sufficiently, they have to wait until they have the power to retaliate culturally.
Nope, that's not the argument. The point made by Chen (2016) was that it was the victors who got to name the war. It was the British public that named the war, popularise it worldwide before the Chinese decided to adopt it because they themselves benefits from such a name.

You're misreading the naming of the war because you are injecting your own moral sensibility to history. That's the issue I have.
I saw a Chinese movie that centered on repatriating cultural relics stolen by the British and the French. It took what, just 200 years to tell a very basic story from a different, non-Western point of view where the modern-day Chinese thieves are the good guys restoring a grave historical injustice done by the colonialists?
And such a movie got made because there was a popular demand for such a narrative that can finance such a project.
And yet, this is exactly what happens - attacks and counterattacks by people of different views. If these are factual debates, then we learn more as facts are unearthed by people looking to further their moral claims. If they stoop low and employ underhanded tactics (lies, fake events, fake documents) - we suffer as a whole, because the field is muddied by fakes which need to be proven fake, by false statements which take a great deal of effort to dismantle even with lots of factual information, and by misquotes that stick no matter the rebuttals. So in essence, history is a moral contest, or more precisely an ideological one, but underpinned also by personal moral perceptions.
Yet by casting a moral judgment on historical events, we limit our abilities to search for a much wider historical understanding. If we were to say, cast the interlocutors of imperialism, the local elites that benefited from Imperialism as morally wrong, we hinder our ability to understand the reason they made such decisions and why did empires last as long as they did.

We need to separate our moral/philosophical understanding of ethics from our study of history.
Make no mistake, Christian historians who engage in "unbiased" studies of beneficiality of Christianity aren't really. Nobody is. But the search of a more truthful account happens even in this imperfect state.
But that's not really the case. People looking at the benefits of Christianity aren't looking at historical questions in the very first place. They are looking at historical events for the sake of using them as examples to defend their modern sensibilities. It completely ignores how different Christianity was in the past from what it is today. We need to break away from our modern day ideas of morality if we are to study history.
Why? Something bad can't last? That's also a statement, which implies by definition that only good things last long. But the Dark Ages lasted long. Witch-burning, executions of heretics and the Inquisition lasted long. So his argument is not strong. It betrays his own bias only.
No, it's that looking at things from a moral perspective would hinder our ability to ask more historical questions. It doesn't allow us to understand things from the perspective of the people participating in the imperial projects.

And come on Pital. Surely you've read enough by now to dispell the whole notion of a "Dark Age"? Historians spent decades trying to deconstruct the whole idea of "dark ages", and you're buying into the popular and out-dated periodization of western history. You're falling into the trap of an artificially created period and letting the name cloud your understanding of history.

You should be allowed to make a moral stand that the Empire is bad, because the whole god damn apparatus of a defunct Empire will be there to claim that it's good!
No one said you can't. I'm saying that simply isn't historical.

You mean the geneaology? I like some of his ideas (like starting with the present and working into time before, in the process of historical study), but I don't think I'm an authority on Focault. I like "Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison" (Focault recanted later, saying he went overboard - I think he didn't and I love that book, a rare cry of pain in our numb age), but I'm not that well-versed in his ethics studies.
I was hoping to ask what do you think about his views on ethics within the realm of history, as it would have tied into our current discussion.
I am not a historian.
I'm not saying you are, or you should be. Although I do think you've read quite a number of historical works. My point is you need to understand casting moral judgment in historical narratives isn't the best approach to conveying your idea across.

Who are you to say what is the point of something? History is just ideology turned towards the explorable past, just as propaganda and TV are manifests of ideology in the present.
Because otherwise, it would make history entirely indistinct from fiction?


So far I see here that historical events are routinely faked, not merely "oversimplified". And films are full of fakes, and that's where most of the population gets their historical knowledge. So please bear with me. It is not as if I want to narrow the breadth of exploration - and even if I did, who would listen to this nobody? I want to broaden the scope of popularization. Make the popular narratives more complex and more accurate. But you're so hostile to the idea that you've already made your conclusions about my views, and they're hard to shake.
Our fundamental disagreement lies in how we perceive films and history. Most of the people' population doesn't come from the domain of film alone, but instead, it's through a much wider variety of sources and cultural discourse. People already possess views about Churchill even if they never saw any movie about him. They "know" about him in the way people know about figures like "Boudica" or William the conqueror.

Films are merely representing what people already "knew" about historical figures. Films are an expression of what we think we know on some level. A WW2 movie must dress in certain way, a medieval movie must dress in certain way and so on.

If you would have paid attention, I said that correcting factual errors - even in a simplified narrative - is a good start, and we shouldn't say "no let's keep films as bad as they are" just because it's the way it used to be.
Going back to my original point. I'm saying films aren't history and certain events are conjured up for narrative reasons. Films have certain technical constraints and limitations. We can't just blindly ignore them and assume correcting factual errors would make a film watchable in the eyes of the audience.

Hence my point about Tora, Tora Tora. Is it a well-researched movie? Sure, but it's also considered by many people as too boring that they don't even want to watch it in the first place. If the masses reject a work, all your effort about historical research would have gone to waste because no one actually sees your work.

Another example is Gladiator. The story is entirely fictional, but not everyone is bothered by that, even if they are Roman historians like Thanas. Does it portray a more idealised version of Rome and Marcus Aurelius? Certainly, but most people understand it's a fictional movie first, historical documentary last.
This would depend a lot on the skills of translating a complex narrative into a dramatic story, and on the people's preferences at the time. If there's a sizeable demand for a critical look, it can be successful. If not - well, at least we tried, y'know. :D
My main argument is there is no sizeable demand that can allow a movie of that budget to see any decent return. Historical validity and accuracy is not a big demand in most audience's minds. It's akin to people asking the world-building in Star Wars to be consistent. Drama in a story always overrides detail concern. You're expecting most of humanity to be something they're not.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-13 06:38pm

Hence my point about Tora, Tora Tora. Is it a well-researched movie? Sure, but it's also considered by many people as too boring that they don't even want to watch it in the first place. If the masses reject a work, all your effort about historical research would have gone to waste because no one actually sees your work.
Tora, Tora, Tora wasn't a bad film, and it actually made back it's budget (I've checked) with just domestic US performance. It also was the go-to thing for a long time before PH was even filmed for a huge number of people.
My main argument is there is no sizeable demand that can allow a movie of that budget to see any decent return.
You seem to think demand and tastes are a fixed or given thing. They're not.
And come on Pital. Surely you've read enough by now to dispell the whole notion of a "Dark Age"? Historians spent decades trying to deconstruct the whole idea of "dark ages", and you're buying into the popular and out-dated periodization of western history. You're falling into the trap of an artificially created period and letting the name cloud your understanding of history.
I've read enough to only solidify that name.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-13 07:47pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-13 06:38pm
Tora, Tora, Tora wasn't a bad film, and it actually made back it's budget (I've checked) with just domestic US performance. It also was the go-to thing for a long time before PH was even filmed for a huge number of people.
It made back its budget eventually after home release and etc. But it's certainly not a hallmark of success.
You seem to think demand and tastes are a fixed or given thing. They're not.
Taste are not fixed. But film as a time-limited format is fixed. Narrative pacing is also something that don't simply change easily.
I've read enough to only solidify that name.
I don't think so. Historians are perfectly willing to talk about the economic decline in most of the western provinces post-fall of the Western Roman Empire. That itself does not mean the entire period is one of decline in all areas. The idea of a "dark age" is one that focuses predominately on western Europe and excludes much of the East.

And even in the case of western Europe, respectable historians are perfectly willing to make an argument on how peasants are better off in your so-called Dark ages than under earlier Roman rule. This is coming from someone who is quite Marxist in his views. ( Chris WIckham's Framing the Early Medieval Ages).

There's a reason why most professional historians rejected the term Dark age as outdated. If you think you've read enough, I suggest you should try reading up more about the period and look at why most people prefer to use the term "late antiquity" instead.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-14 01:12am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-13 05:53am
Simon, please. It's as if you've fallen for the typical propaganda story, too! You're smarter than this, surely?!

Sure, Churchill understood the threat - but not until he finally realized himself that Hitler wasn't a that much of a great man and neither was Mussolini (Churchill spoke of Hitler on different occasions, urging him to simply be more peaceful, but saying that Hitler is restoring German national dignity and all; and as of Mussolini, Churchill actually commended his turn from left to right in the late 1920s. Churchill warned everyone about the Nazis at a time when most critically-minded people already understand what they are; but many just did not want to fight them, and in that his stubborn attitude was for the good. Absolutely.

But let's not kid ourselves that Churchill was some kind of visionary or prophet here!
In early 1935, Churchill was advocating increased defense spending. The opposition leader (Attlee, Labour) was saying it was wrong and nationalist to increase defense spending, and was advocating international disarmament. Labour came out looking kind of stupid when Hitler instated conscription that year.

Churchill then attacked the government (Conservative, his own party), for not doing enough to build up the nation's air forces. Shortly thereafter Hitler announced that he was rapidly building up his own air forces, causing something of a stir. It later turned out that the Luftwaffe was a key element in many of the early German conquests thanks to the role of air attacks in Blitzkrieg.

Churchill wasn't a visionary, he had no supernatural inspiration or clarity. He was, simply, an old warhorse too stubborn to pretend that wars could no longer happen, in an era when that had become the fashion. He was no prophet, there were others saying essentially the same things- but not many, and few if any of them where anywhere near as close to the levers of power in Britain.

...

The point here is not that Churchill was a visionary British genius who recognized the threat of fascism from the beginning. No, that would be George Orwell (that is, Eric Blair), who is a more laudable British figure if you are looking for one. Sadly not a powerful politician, just an anti-Stalinist socialist.

The point here is that Churchill began publicly declaring that German rearmament was a threat, that Hitler was a threat, significantly before most of his fellow conservatives and LONG before the British left could do so consistently given the contradictions of trying to be anti-fascist and pro-Stalin at the same time.

This much is fact. Whataboutism cannot deflect it.

Did Churchill deftly exploit his reputation as the Cassandra of British prewar military preparations (or lack thereof)? Yes, yes he did.

But he obtained that reputation honestly. If Hitler had simply not started wars of aggression, had settled for the outcome of the Munich agreement and ruled Germany the way Mussolini was ruling Italy, Churchill would have wound up looking like an alarmist idiot. If Hitler had been run over by a bus in 1938, Churchill would have wound up looking like an alarmist idiot. Churchill took a risk by predicting a future threat that most of his countrymen did not perceive or did not care about, and this threat materialized.

This is the kind of thing that contributes to a man's historical reputation, and does so fairly.
Churchill wrote:I will, however, say a word on the international aspect of Fascismo. Externally, your movement has rendered a service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or working-class leader has been that of being undermined or overbid by someone more extreme than he: It seems that a continued progression to the Left, a sort of inevitable landslide into the abyss was characteristic of all revolutions. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society.
Very soon Churchill would see what kind of "service" Mussolini rendered to the world, with actual 60 million dead over the course of some 10 years only.

That quote, as many others, did not make it into the film. Because it would detract from the singular, simple story and would show that Churchill turned his back on fascism because it started threatening British interests and Britain directly, and NOT because Churchill was a principled anti-fascist - for whatever reasons. For a long time he was against fascists and nazis only inasfar as they've posed a problem for Britain, and otherwise supportive as they've "restored national dignity" and "defended the honour and stability of civilized society".
In the same era in which Churchill lauded Italian fascism, he also condemned "frightfulness" and state terrorism and secret police and the like.

Yes, the picture is complicated, the man was not simple, the times were not simple either. If you want a gold standard of an Englishman who was alive in those days and saw clearly, look to George Orwell, not Winston Churchill.

But of prominent British politicians, Churchill came closer than any other to recognizing the danger that World War II would present to the underprepared Western democracies, far enough in advance to do something about it. It is a mixed statement of approval, since the standard of performance in those days was low- but it is a true statement.

Likewise, Churchill had the right personal traits to be useful- not infallible, useful- as a wartime leader, for the war in which Britain found itself in 1940. It is a mixed statement of approval, but a true statement.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-14 04:00am

ray245 wrote:
2018-01-13 07:47pm
It made back its budget eventually after home release and etc. But it's certainly not a hallmark of success.
Seems to be OK to me. Idiots can go watch idiot films as long as I’ve got my alternative.
I don't think so. Historians are perfectly willing to talk about the economic decline in most of the western provinces post-fall of the Western Roman Empire. That itself does not mean the entire period is one of decline in all areas. The idea of a "dark age" is one that focuses predominately on western Europe and excludes much of the East.

And even in the case of western Europe, respectable historians are perfectly willing to make an argument on how peasants are better off in your so-called Dark ages than under earlier Roman rule. This is coming from someone who is quite Marxist in his views. ( Chris WIckham's Framing the Early Medieval Ages).

There's a reason why most professional historians rejected the term Dark age as outdated. If you think you've read enough, I suggest you should try reading up more about the period and look at why most people prefer to use the term "late antiquity" instead.
Look, I know that Early Middle Ages are preferred when describing the period neutrally. But there’s ample evidence of backwardness, damage by religious fanaticism, collapse of cities. If “Bronze Age collapse” is called a collapse, there is little reason to not say that there were dark ages - maybe multiple instances of them even.

I know there is a tendency to re-evaluate and shy from calling some things evil. I mean, we even have apologists of witchhunts and stake burnings, and once upon a time Christian and Muslim destruction of prior cultural relics was not thought of in terms of cultural loss but that of triumph.

But from today’s age, there is no reason to not judge. In case we do not judge the past negatively for shortcomings or outright evil, and idealize it, we can then well repeat it. See Wahhabism and ISIS.

We don’t need more fucking re-enactors. Those who say “well Early Middle Ages were not bad enough for calling them “dark”, stop judging” are, even if unwillingly or for the sake of being neutral, playing right into the hands of the alt-right, by the way. Hence, as history is always ideology, I see little reason to side with reactionaries.

The evidence of damage to civilization in the Early Middle Ages is no less ample than the one during the Bronze Age collapse. If you know this, you also know that rehabilitation is not going to be easy, even if some more extreme prejudices of the XIX century were incorrect.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-14 07:01am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-14 04:00am
Seems to be OK to me. Idiots can go watch idiot films as long as I’ve got my alternative.
The thing is who are you going to get the funding from? Studios do not want a movie that barely make back its budget because it's an extremely risky thing to do. They're not making the movie for their own enjoyment.

Look, I know that Early Middle Ages are preferred when describing the period neutrally. But there’s ample evidence of backwardness, damage by religious fanaticism, collapse of cities. If “Bronze Age collapse” is called a collapse, there is little reason to not say that there were dark ages - maybe multiple instances of them even.
BUt you're still looking at history from a rather western point of view, even then it doesn't apply to everything nicely. We know for instance the cities in the east never suffered as badly as the one in the west. Religious fanaticism has always been a part the ancient world. And why should we necessarily see cities as a positive thing, considering cities in the ancient world aren't productive in a way similar to an industrial city.

I know there is a tendency to re-evaluate and shy from calling some things evil. I mean, we even have apologists of witchhunts and stake burnings, and once upon a time Christian and Muslim destruction of prior cultural relics was not thought of in terms of cultural loss but that of triumph.
How does calling those stuff evil ( from a historical point of view, not a moral one) helps our understanding of history?
But from today’s age, there is no reason to not judge. In case we do not judge the past negatively for shortcomings or outright evil, and idealize it, we can then well repeat it. See Wahhabism and ISIS.
I'm not saying we can't judge the past from a moral standpoint. I'm saying our own sense of morality is very much a product of our time. Our sense of morality is constantly changing, and it's not in a linear progression way. The issue with ISIS is those people don't see themselves as evil in the current era.
We don’t need more fucking re-enactors. Those who say “well Early Middle Ages were not bad enough for calling them “dark”, stop judging” are, even if unwillingly or for the sake of being neutral, playing right into the hands of the alt-right, by the way. Hence, as history is always ideology, I see little reason to side with reactionaries.
We are playing into the hands of the alt-right if we inject morality into our study of history. The question of imperialism being seen as a positive thing today came in large part from the counter-reaction against those that disliked imperialism. If one side is willing to talk about the past by evaluating it as "bad", you are giving plenty of fuel to the other side as well.

The evidence of damage to civilization in the Early Middle Ages is no less ample than the one during the Bronze Age collapse. If you know this, you also know that rehabilitation is not going to be easy, even if some more extreme prejudices of the XIX century were incorrect.
The damages aren't even and in some case, certain regions even manage to grow and prosper. I would say the Bronze Age collapse is far worse than the late antique era. The idea that you can call it a dark age is a very limited perspective if you are only looking at say Western Europe alone, and solely via the political/economic perspective. Is life worse for the aristocrats? Well, yeah considering they no longer own land all over the Mediterranean. That itself doesn't necessarily mean life is worse for every peasant.

There were developments in the field of medicine for instance, with Arab doctors expanding upon the knowledge left by the Greco-Romans.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-14 08:42am

That’s veering too much into off-topic, ray.

I’ve laid out my concernsand wishes clearly enough.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-14 08:59am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-14 08:42am
That’s veering too much into off-topic, ray.

I’ve laid out my concernsand wishes clearly enough.
Yeah true, I'll be willing to discuss this in the history forum if you wish.

My main point is you're right to enjoy a film that suits you and others, but it's unlikely that this will be a sentiment shared by a large public.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by mr friendly guy » 2018-01-16 03:54am

ray245 wrote:
2018-01-12 12:07pm

How do you make a movie about Churchill's misrule dramatic enough to appeal to a wide audience?

A coming of age story set during this time with the climax being when India got it's independence. The novel "the power of one " was a best seller set during apartheid south Africa and it didn't even need to end with the fall if apartheid. It was just a coming of age story.

Bonus points, for the Chinese market have the now elderly protagonist be an ambassador and being in Hong Kong in 1997 for the handover and have prince Charles sighing and I quote from the prince "such is the end of empire." Just to rub it in and all that.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-16 06:14pm

Just seen the movie. It's a piece of wonderful acting by Gary Oldman. He completely disappears into the role as Churchill. It's not a whole life story of Churchill or an overall assessment of him as a historical figure. It's exploring how someone can refuse to surrender despite all the pressure surrounding him, and it's quite well done and covers his early days as Prime Minister well.
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-01-16 06:21pm

I would agree with the above. It's also not afraid of showing the decidedly negative views many contemporaries had of him. As the King says "his record is a history of catastrophe, the Gallipoli campaign, the Indian policy, the Gold Standard..." Yeah they didnt' pull many punches.
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Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.

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The Romulan Republic
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-01-21 07:32pm

They did paper over his racism for the most part, however. The only indications I can think of that there might be are a brief allusion to a failed India policy attributed to Churchill, and I think a derogatory reference to Hitler's heritage by Churchill, of all things. Which are both "blink and you'll miss it" moments.
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy." - Lincoln.

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ray245
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Re: The Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman plays Churchill).

Post by ray245 » 2018-01-21 07:36pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-01-21 07:32pm
They did paper over his racism for the most part, however. The only indications I can think of that there might be are a brief allusion to a failed India policy attributed to Churchill, and I think a derogatory reference to Hitler's heritage by Churchill, of all things. Which are both "blink and you'll miss it" moments.
Expanding on them would have hindered the pace of the movie. It's not about Churchill's entire life or trying to assess what he did as a leader throughout his term as Prime Minister. It's about the very short period of time when he first came to power, with British seemingly losing the war for good.
Humans are such funny creatures. We are selfish about selflessness, yet we can love something so much that we can hate something.

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