Archive for the 'history in movies' Category

The Rise of Rome

In our first episode on Rome in antiquity, we look at the rise of the eternal city from an insignificant hamlet ruled by petty kings to an empire spanning much of the known world. Gil and Rutger watch The First King (2019, about the founders Romulus and Remus; Coriolanus (2011), on the warfare between city-states during the early republican era; and Hannibal (2006), where Rome defeats its last existential threat. We wrap up with an early look at I, Claudius (1976), at the dawn of the imperial age.

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We launch a new series of episodes titled The Downfall of the U.S. in Movies to draw a line from American history - and more importantly, their depiction of American history - to the political, social, and economic crisis it is living through now. The first episode is about America's creation story - its War of Independence. Its so-called Revolutionary War. The movie we chose for that momentous occasion is The Patriot (2000), starring Mel Gibson, encapsulating all that is wrong in the way Americans think of their beginnings.

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To prepare for the upcoming presidential elections in the United States, we tackle movies that depict elections, from the 1970s all the way to this past decade. What can we learn about the way the Americans hold this process? About the lead characters? In this episode, Rutger and Gil start with the most recent movie, and then move back in time: The Ides of March (2011), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Primary Colors (1998), Bulworth (1998), Wag The Dog (1997) and Being There (1979).

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Imperial China has survived from antiquity all the way to the beginning of the 20th century - an unequalled historical feat. How do Chinese filmmakers view that? Are there differences between directors from Hong Kong, from Taiwan, and from the mainland? What does Hollywood do with it? Rutger and Gil glide through 2000 years of rich history through a Pod Academy record of 9 movies: Hero (2002), Red Cliff (2008), Dragon Blade (2015), Mulan (animated, 1998), The Great Wall (2015), Mulan (live-action, 2020), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001) and The Last Emperor (1987).

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In our second instalment of Revolutions in Movies, we look at two of the most earth-shattering societal overturns history has ever seen, the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Communist Revolution. We analyze the Russian Revolution via the classic Doctor Zhivago (1965), and the turmoil in China that led the nation from imperial rule to Maoism via The Last Emperor (1987). Joining Gil and Rutger yet again are Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge and Christine Caccipuoti from the wonderful history podcast Footnoting History. Check them out at footnotinghistory.com

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Revolutions are some of history's most dramatic events and have entered our collective psyche, and mostly - the story each collective is trying to tell about itself. These stories are also told through movies, and in this first instalment of Revolutions in Movies we are going to focus on the American Revolution (via The Patriot, 2000) and the French Revolution (via Les Miserables, 2012, which depicts a failed revolution that came after the original one). Gil and Rutger are happy to have on the show the two wonderfully smart and engaging Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge and Christine Caccipuoti from the wonderful history podcast Footnoting History. Check them out here footnotinghistory.com

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We re-tell the story of 20th century Paris through four movies from different time periods that represent the evolution of the French capital in the 20th century. Moulin Rouge (1998) takes us back to the bohemian wave of 1900 (La Belle Epoque); Midnight in Paris (2012) hearkens back to the Roaring Twenties (Les Annes Folles) when post-WWI Paris was a Mecca for artists from around the world; we then leap over WWII and the fall from grace as the US ascended to dominance, to get to Amelie (1997), a French fascist movie masquerading as a rom-com, and we end with the hit drama La Haine (1995) and its intense portrayal of the downtrodden minorities that live around The City of Light but were never part of its story. Does Paris live up to its hype? Gil Kidron and Dr Rutger Vos disagree.

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Over the course of 400 years, from 1500 to 1900, the interaction between Europeans and Native Americans changed enormously. Initially, the new arrivals stepped off of their boats into a maelstrom of local events. By the end, events would be entirely dominated by European settlement, with native cultures fighting for their survival on the margins. In this review, Rutger and Gil look at three snapshots along the way of this process. We begin with Apocalypto (2006), where the Europeans almost don't matter at all. Then, in Pocahontas (1995), the native people and the settlers are roughly even-keeled and the latter are even temporarily rebuffed. By the end, in Dances with Wolves (1990), autonomous native life only exists in the remote prairies, which are set to change forever as well.

 

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The HBO series, The Plot Against America, whose last episode aired on Monday, April 20th, depicts the political rise of a Trump-like figure in the US during the early stages of WWII. In this episode, Gil and Rutger discuss why this series hit us so hard. Family stories, our worries about the present, and the fragility of democratic systems come together in this review. 

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World War 1 has left an undeniable mark on the world, and in many ways shaped it, even though it is relatively under-represented on screen. It could be because of the lack of clear narrative for the war, the anti-Hollywood elements in trench wars and lack of goodies and baddies, or the fact that it preceded a much more interesting and important war. In this History in Movies podcast Gil Kidron welcomes again Rutger Vos, this time to talk about World War 1 in movies.

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