The White Ribbon (2009) -vs- The Last Station (2009)

February 23, 2010 Sherry Coben

Over the fifteen months preceding the first world war, a series of increasingly strange events unfold in a tiny German town. (In this hamlet, something’s rotten in the state of Germany, not Denmark.) The denizens are not individual characters so much as monstrous archetypes; the landed baron a controlling overlord who gradually loses control, the doctor a cold, cruel, and sexually perverse father, the pastor sexually repressed and physically abusive to his many children, the schoolteacher ineffectual, romantic, and somewhat distracted. The children are beaten and tortured, molested and abandoned, mistreated and punished for every infraction. The women are muzzled, abused, and dispatched with not much fanfare. Even the crops suffer brutal beheadings, and the pets savagely killed. In revenge, they act out their dark fantasies, traveling in a creepy Children-of-the-Corn-style pack, walking in an ominously straight line, visiting mysterious cruelties on the different, the Other. All this ritualized punishment rains down on the entire town; initially, the town looks normal, but soon the bucolic vistas yield to a slow motion horror movie, all portent and unease.
[…]

Saving Private Ryan (1998) -vs- The Thin Red Line (1998)

July 1, 2009 Movie Smackdown

War is hell. And until Steven Spielberg got involved, we’d never really experienced war through the eyes of a soldier. We’d come close, with filmmakers as diverse as Coppola and Oliver Stone all giving us their interpretations, but it always seemed to be at a safe distance. The viewer was taken on a journey, but not our own journey. Unlike Ron Kovic or Ben Willard, who undertake a journey for us, Spielberg attempted to give us our own experience in war without having to leave the cinema. “Saving Private Ryan,” which graphically shows us the D-Day landings of a group of US forces in 1944, opens with an assault on the senses unlike any we’d ever seen. It thrust us into the heat of battle, the confusion and carnage of an assault that beggars description. It wanted us to know exactly what war is really like.
[…]