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March 02, 2009

Fictionalised Movies I Will Never See


I started commenting on Cowfish's blog post about this, but it turned into a bit of a rant, so I extracted it to put here. He doesn't deserve my righteous anger against all things 'factual'.

He feels he has wasted his weekend watching bad films, and so is redeeming himself with a double-bill of "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk".

The problem I have with this is that I have issues with films based on real events - fictionalised. I will not willingly watch either of those films, I will actively avoid them in fact, and hope I never, ever see them.

Sure, they may be great dramas, they may have astonishing Oscar winning acting. But when I watch a film, my top reason for doing it is entertainment. Milk and Frost/Nixon are not primarily entertainment, they are documentaries that have been jazzed up a bit. So anyone watching is expecting to learn something about the people in the film, and are hoping it's an entertaining ride for a couple of hours. This is a Bad Thing. I saw David Frost on TV the other day talking about the play the film is based on, and on how he had pointed out to the writer at the time inaccuracies. He had been convinced by the writer that it was necessary to add some things to make it a more interesting story. (they completely downplay Frost's interviewing experience at the time, to make it look like he was more of an underdog than he really was). You might not think this very important, as long as they get the main points correct. Maybe you are right, but how do you know they got the main points right? How do you know they didn't embellish a few more things here and there to make a more exciting story?

If I want to learn about Frost/Nixon, and I think I would actually, I'd much prefer to watch a documentary made by serious broadcasters who attempted to tell the truth as far as they could find it. I don't want my memories polluted by half truths and fabrications in the name of entertainment. I've no real idea who "Harvey Milk" was, but if I want to find out, I'll try Wikipedia.

Films I have avoided due to dubious fictionalised historical aspects:

Pearl Harbour
that one about Tina Turner, and the one about Johnny Cash
the one about Larry Flint

err, anything really with a real person's name in the title, including all the recent Elizabeth ones.

I used to be capable sometimes of turning off this switch in my head and enjoying a biopic movie - Amadeus and Schindler's List come to mind - but I didn't take either completely seriously, and mostly enjoyed the former for the wonderful soundtrack. and sometime after Schindler's List I realised that I actually felt bad about having watched something purporting to be true, but with quite probably huge amounts of fiction in (all the dialogue for example is almost certain to be invented in these kinds of films). So much so, that I was forced to go and do some backgound reading to make sure I hadn't been mislead completely. So, why not just do the reading if you are interested.

"Let me entertain you" is what I want to hear from a film maker, not "Let me educate you with a half true story about a person's life that hightlights some issues I want you to be aware of".
Life is too short to watch things you don't trust - at least with Barb Wire, you know what you're getting isn't real :-)

Posted by se71 at March 2, 2009 01:12 PM


You're missing out on lots of good stuff if you refuse to watch anything "based on real life". Admittedly a lot of it is dross (Pearl Harbor, Braveheart), but Amadeus, Elizabeth, the Madness of King George, etc etc etc are all damned fine films. Sure, do your research first (although preferably not on wikipedia!) but don't refuse to watch them.

Incidentally, another pseudo-historical docu-drama that's well worth watching is the BBC/RAI/HBO series "Rome" about the civil wars that lead to the fall of the Roman republic. As an overview of what really happened, it's pretty good, although some of the details have been fiddled with. I suppose I should write a review.

Definitely not kiddy-friendly though, lots of violence.

Posted by: DrHyde [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 3, 2009 11:58 AM

Thanks for taking the time to sign in and comment - I'm going to try and make this easier by upgrading MT.

I'm sure I would enjoy the films you list, but I expect that afterwards I'd feel bad about it. There are so many other good films I would like to see that there is little point in taking this risk.

I never though of "Rome" as an accurate historical drama; now I have an excuse to watch all that violence and nudity in the pursuit of education :-)

Posted by: se71 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 4, 2009 02:07 PM

There sure are a lot of these films coming out.

"Young Victoria"
"The Damned United"
"The Boat That Rocked"

Avoiding them all. In fact, Michael Scheen (in "The Damned United") seems to be making a career out of appearing in things I'll never watch - haven't seen a film or TV program with him in it yet.

Posted by: se71 [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 15, 2009 12:50 PM

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