There was a lot of criticism following the announcement of the Oscar nominations this month. A lot of it, quite rightly, pointed out the lack of female directors and the awful lack of diversity on display. Some of it was less helpful. I saw one person on Twitter moan that 1917 had been nominated because there have already been too many World War One films. I believe the person in question actually asked: “why do we keep telling that story?” Yeah, why do we keep banging on about history? It’s already happened. It’s not like it’s important. Let’s make films about important things like The Rock and Jason Statham driving really fast cars. Although, I’ve never actually seen any of The Fast and the Furious franchise, so I’m not one to judge. The main reason being that I suspect I’d end up really liking them. Fast cars, guns, explosions, it all appeals to my inner 12-year-old boy. But I mustn’t get distracted. This is about 1917. Really, the guy answered his own question by asking it. We still need to keep telling this story when idiots fail to understand why it’s vital to keep telling it. I’m reminded of Joss Whedon’s response to the question “why do you write such strong female characters?” The answer? “Because you’re still asking me that question.”
When I looked back on my blog to find out what today’s TBT film was I audibly groaned. I’ve never wanted to see this film again. Especially now I’ve seen the amazing stage production. That was genuinely an emotional triumph and a beautiful adaptation of a (frankly) stupid story. Stupid because, for me, the story of an animal’s journey through World War 1 is never going to compare to that of a human’s in terms of emotional resonance. 2018 was the centenary of the end of World War 1 and Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old was a film experience I’ll never forget. During the run-up to the actual centenary I got annoyed by the knowledge that an animal charity had designed their own purple poppy badge in memory of the animals who died in warfare. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love animals and think remembering their sacrifice is a good thing. BUT I don’t think it’s right to focus on them over the human sacrifice and you know there are people out there who will have only worn a purple poppy. As another example, I was recently witness to someone compare having to have their dog put down to having a child on life-support. As a former dog owner who went through the experience of having to do that, I know how much it hurts but you can’t compare the situations at all. Animals are great but, surely, we can all agree it’s not the same, right?
I think it’s safe to say I got into the spirit of Remembrance Day this year. I mean it’s been 100 years since the guns stopped during the Great War. A war in which millions of young men from all over the world lost their lives fighting for freedom. For the freedom we now have to ignore their sacrifice apparently. Now I know we live in a superficial age where mentioning things on social media isn’t necessarily considered the greatest tribute but it’s still a social platform on which you can express yourself. Yet, I spent the day dismayed by the apparent apathy of the people I follow on Instagram. I decided, as I do every year, to post a simple shot of a poppy with my Penguin Little Black Classics collection of Wilfred Owen poetry. Now, the algorithm hasn’t been kind to me in general lately but that post did worse than normal. And, in general you can rely on Penguin books to do well. To put it into perspective, after that had been up for 11 hours it had 44 likes. I then posted a fairly crappy picture of my fireplace, which got 49 likes in 4 hours. What the fuck is up with people’s priorities? So, you could say I’d already had enough of humanity by the time Peter Jackson’s documentary aired on BBC2. At least it meant that I was extra prepared for a very emotional experience.
Today is marks the 100th anniversary since the end of World War One. I’ve literally just finished watching Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old. All day I’ve been dismayed by the seeming lack of awareness about this momentous occassion on my social media. So, quite frankly, I’m a little dismayed by humanity right now. So, instead of the usual spiel I’m just going to leave Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen here instead.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll be aware that last week I was lucky enough to see the stage version of the book War Horse. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget and one that left me an emotional wreck for days. I don’t understand it but the deaths of massive wooden puppets was super traumatic. As a huge literary nerd and a bit of a history geek too, World War 1 has always been somewhat fascinating for me so I’ve been interested in War Horse for a while. It wasn’t until I watched Steven Spielberg’s film in 2012 that I became familiar with the story and, if I’m honest, it left me feeling more than a little critical. As I suggested in my review, I felt sad that society could only become emotionally invested in the story of the Great War through the treatment of horses. I mean I’ve got nothing against horses but why do we need to make a film about a horse when loads of innocent, young men died as well? Human beings care more about animals at times than they do about strangers. It’s ridiculous. Going off topic for a second, I once heard a story (probably not true) about a charity that went around giving food to the pets of homeless people. Now I have nothing against this kind act on its own but the same people were (allegedly) only giving food to the animals. Now, I realise dogs that live on the street deserve food but what kind of fucked up person would not also give food to the owner? Anyway, I’ve had my misgivings about Michael Morpurgo’s story of a magical fucking horse since I laughed my way through Spielberg’s film but the stage show had me changing my mind. Maybe there was something there after all?