America At A Crossroads: Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience (2007)
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Critic Reviews for America At A Crossroads: Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience
Operation Homecoming never quite captures anything so poignant or precise, rather falling into seemingly endless variations of 'war is hell.'
It provides an illuminating portrait of the mind-set of those men and women serving overseas.
The anthology format would fit better on TV, as would director Richard E. Robbins' unfortunate use of cheesy slo-mo re-enactments. When Robbins flickers through a series of photos of the fallen, the rapid cutting becomes absurd and dehumanizing.
The cumulative effect of Operation Homecoming is to bring to light the soldiers' collective experiences and the enduring nightmares they suffer in our place.
Operation Homecoming is a spinoff from an anthology of essays, e-mail messages, poems and letters from soldiers in Iraq.
Audience Reviews for America At A Crossroads: Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience
I think I?ve been socially hardened by documentaries that don?t show all sides of a story, or instill the documentary-makers? opinions or images (see [i][url="http://www.filmreviewstew.com/sicko.htm"][color=#800000]SICKO[/color][/url][/i]) in place of what should be being told.
So it is with a heavy sigh of relief that I wholeheartedly recommend this [i]Academy Award[/i] nominated documentary, [i]OPERATION HOMECOMING: WRITING THE WARTIME EXPERIENCE[/i].
First let?s look at why this film is so successful. It?s fresh. Most war writings are done by established or well-groomed writers, giving them decent syntax, etc., but lacking that up-close and personal process that goes along with firing weapons and being fired at during war. And this is where Operation Homecoming succeeds. The writings are all firsthand accountings from soldiers who?ve walked the walk and talked the talk.
Secondly is the unique filming. Each segment contains a different milieu and a different style of filming. From animation to quick-flash photography of those that?ve given their lives, the stories are told in a highly interesting fashion that keeps the viewer very interested.
Thirdly is the internal conflict that so easily comes across. From the beginning of the film when soldiers discuss their upbringing from childhood and being told killing is wrong, to being thrown into a situation where you?re trained to kill for ?God and Country,? the film watcher understands the conundrum these men and women are put into.
The final successful element is the men and women themselves and how they deal with tough situations. There?s never the ?Why am I here? question asked. They know why they?re there. They don?t care about policy or partisan politics or money or oil. They care about the guy to their left and right who?s protecting their backside during a fire-fight.
Each ?chapter? (if you will) contains a title and the story of a soldier. From the grunts on the ground, to the medic flying the injured to Germany, to the honor guard who sees the dead to their final resting place, [i]Operation Homecoming[/i] is truly a unique gem in the documentary genre.
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This is the second film of Oscarpalooza (well, leaving aside those movies I saw before nominations), and it's the first of the documentaries. It was originally made for PBS but got a brief theatrical release about a year ago first, presumably [i]because[/i] they wanted the Oscar consideration, and a film first aired on TV is ineligible. (Though I believe it has happened at least once in the past because of those occasional screw-ups resulting from the fact that no one really understands the Oscar rules.) There are certain stylistic decisions that stem from its public television origins; like most documentaries not done by Michael Moore, it had an astonishingly low budget, despite having more than a few big-name stars doing some of the voiceovers--Robert Duvall being but one prominent example.
This is the first war to have ordinary soldiers be the best reporters, due to the blogging phenomenon. It's said, in fact, that the only way to get a clear picture of what's going on is to read soldiers' blogs. In fact, this trend has been encouraged, and that's what Operation Homecoming--both the operation and the movie--is about. These people have been connected with famous writers, though I'm not sure exactly what those writers have done, and they've been helped in some way to write down their experiences. [i]Operation Homecoming[/i] is part of the results. This film is a series of vignettes showing various people's personal experiences both in war zones and on the home front. Each vignette has a different style, presumably because each person has a different experience.
I can only imagine that they've chosen the best of the writers they encountered, because these are astonishingly well-told stories. The first one is gut-wrenching; the last one is poignant. The ones in between are funny or horrifying in turns, perhaps even both in places. One guy writes about the actual conditions these people are under--the sand, the lack of privacy, the lack of space. One writes about watching a young Iraqi man die. One writes about the American dead. These are, again, deeply personal stories, and it's by adding them together that we start to get a picture of what things are really like over there.
I've never been a fan of this war, though I very carefully avoid going on about it unless it's relevant. I'm thinking about giving you a tirade about the writers' strike (I support the writers, thank you) later in the week, but I would not likewise subject you to a tirade about the war itself. My place in it? Yeah, I've done that once or twice. But I avoid the politics. Still, I find it [i]shocking[/i] that in an age with more news coverage than any other, the networks and the news channels aren't all over these stories, these men. Without the Oscar nomination, I wouldn't have even heard of this until I got to "O," and we all know how far away that is.
These are stories that people need to hear. As my regular readers (all beloved six of you) will attest, I didn't watch war movies while Graham was gone after a certain point, and even for Oscarpalooza, I'm not sure I would have made this an exception. Heck, I didn't even watch [i]the news[/i] unless someone (blessed Gwen) had vetted it for me first in order to assure me that there was nothing terrible that I would discover first on the news. (Since I'm not legally anything to Graham, the news would have had to have gotten to me from his family, and I can't say how quickly that would have happened were his mother grief-stricken.) The only thing I was allowed to watch on my own was [i]The Daily Show[/i]. However, not everyone has my excuse; it's a combination of personal significance and unstable mental state. What's yours?
[center][b][i][size=6][color=darkolivegreen]Writing The Wartime Experience[/color][/size][/i][/b][/center]
I don't want to spend too much time on this review. If I do, I'll get myself worked up about why our country is putting innocent lives at risk, both US and Iraqi, for this war. It makes no sense and is not something that can be solved in a Rotten Tomatoes posting, so...
This documentary is very well done. It was a pleasant surprise visually as the different writings of those who have served in Iraq were presented as separate 'stories' shot in different visual styles from animation to stills and many others. Of course, the most moving part of Operation Homecoming were the letters, read by many prominent figures. I definitely recommend this film. Sicko has just been replaced on my Oscar list as the leading documentary contender.
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