Like Grant in 1864 (or Lee in 1862), the To Appomattox Kickstarter campaign is rolling full speed ahead, with its launch beginning today (for an unprecedented $2.5 million), just about an hour ago. Already I am pleased to see quite a few backers and thousands of dollars raised. I am still contemplating which option to donate to, and will probably go with the $100 “Haversack” option, which includes a DVD set of the series and some other goodies. I am going to keep this post short, because I have written about this series at length already, including just a few days ago with writer and executive producer Michael Beckner himself. After years of waiting, the time has come for US to try to get this series off the ground. It looks promising, but in the end, we need results. The Civil War community, myself included, always complains about a lack of related projects, so now WE finally have the chance to get something made. There is not much more to say than that. If you are a die-hard and want to donate a thousand, or can only spare a few bucks, every little bit counts—and I am sure the production staff would agree. Please click here to check out the Kickstarter page and see all the support options. Over and out.
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. There are also a lot of people who have wanted me to do this for a long time. This afternoon, on a whim, I decided to finally go through an American History textbook and pick apart everything it had to say regarding the Civil War. While there were some facts and items strewn throughout that I liked or thought were fair, the overwhelming feeling I have for this book is one of disappointment. This is a standard middle school-level social studies textbook, used throughout the state of New Jersey and the northeastern United States. All historians understand that most textbooks are full of inaccuracies, exaggerations, and sometimes, flat-out lies. In an unrehearsed fashion, I decided to film my meandering through this book, which is open for criticism like every other literary work or piece of media available to the general public. I thought a video would be more entertaining than me just writing about it. It was very hard to keep this at a PG-13 level, but yay for me, I held back and focused on the content. Please enjoy this little rant:
After years of waiting, it appears that To Appomattox is finally picking up steam, with a realistic chance for this project to finally be filmed. As discussed on this blog numerous times, the series is going the way of a Kickstarter campaign, which will seek to receive funding from fans, in order for the first two episodes to be filmed and shopped as a backdoor pilot. If it is successful, the remaining eight episodes would then be picked up by a network. If not, then they would be released independently as a film. Producer Michael Beckner has done something unique here, and that is getting fans actively involved, not just with funding (which will provide rewards specific to the amount donated) but with the “creative” process as well. Dating back to last year, when I spoke to him via phone, he expressed his sincere hopes that this series would be one “of the people”. The Civil War community is a rabid one; a group of people always craving—no, starving—for projects related to the genre. They also demand historical accuracy, something difficult to attain in mainstream media. But that aside, are there enough potential contributors out there for this money to be raised?
While I hardly blog about it, or even talk about it now, there was a time when my love of Texas history and the Alamo equaled my love of the American Civil War. I grew up in a household that loved old movies, mainly westerns, so I was quite young when I saw Disney’s Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, and just a tad older when I caught John Wayne’s The Alamo. While both were far from historically accurate, they cemented within me an interest for a small war that occurred more than a thousand miles away from my home on the shores of New Jersey. When I was 13, a second major Alamo film came out, in 2004, starring Billy Bob Thornton. It was an amazing moment for me, getting a chance to see this film in theaters, and one that was more accurate as well. In the months prior, I had joined an online Alamo message board devoted to the film, where I met a lot of great people, who I am still in contact with a decade later. My interest then reached its peak when I was 16, and my parents took me on a vacation to Texas, to finally visit the Alamo. I remember my eyes tearing up upon seeing it for the first time, and being in awe about actually being able to walk on the same ground as heroes such as David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Travis. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life, and we would spend about a week there. However, I was also in awe about something else—the fact that all that remains from the once-sprawling two acre compound (or Catholic mission turned fortress) was the famous Alamo chapel facade and a small portion of barracks on the left side. I had known what the place looked like before arriving, but it certainly was disheartening to finally see, in person, how the history had been destroyed over the years. I merely shrugged my shoulders in a “Well, that’s that” expression and continued on exploring.
As elaborated on in my review of the premiere episode of Turn this morning, the British army is not exactly portrayed in a positive light. Though there needs to be an antagonist in the series, I believe the production went too far in trying to vilify the British, and one character in particular, Lieutenant John Simcoe. This man was the main villain in the opening episode, seen as bloodthirsty, threatening, and adulterous; someone who will try to get whatever he wants by any means necessary. In reality, there did exist a John Graves Simcoe, however, he was radically different, and almost the antithesis of what was presented on AMC Sunday night. The term used to classify taking a real person in history and then having their portrayal starkly inaccurate is called “character assassination”. We see it all the time in films, when dramatic license is taken to show a character in a certain light to fit the plot, or, quite frankly, to make it easier for the writer. The fact is, the real John Simcoe was a man so distinguished that he would eventually become the Lt. Governor of Upper Canada, someone responsible for the establishment of courts, trial by jury, and most importantly, leading an abolitionist movement that sought to banish slavery from Canada. This is a far cry from the wigged buffoon presented in Turn, who has murderous revenge on his mind when dealing with the main character.
It has been a quiet last few months for me, but finally, thanks to recent history related media projects, including AMC’s Turn, I have found some things to write about:
- It seems like forever, but Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead is finally getting released on Blu-Ray and DVD, next week, April 15. While the film did not do as well in theaters as I had hoped, this project will likely be an immense home video success, much like Gettysburg and Gods and Generals both were. Given the outstanding cinematography, I am expecting a great HD transfer that will be a feast for the eyes. Also, it is worthy to note that because the film garnered a PG-13 rating (and in my view, probably could have gotten just PG), the hope we can have is that this film will make its way into schools for use as an educational tool. The running time, family themes, and accessibility to people of all ages definitely makes this something that can be shown in a variety of settings, from trying to teach life on the homefront to middle schoolers, all the way up to high school and college with its dialogue about politics, anti-war sentiment, and states’ rights.
Within minutes, I knew this production was going to suffer from something known as “American History Textbook Syndrome”. While this series, and any like it, needs a villain to match with the obvious protagonists, the depiction of British soldiers in AMC’s Turn was in the light of evil, bloodthirsty, and out of control—another reviewer for a major entertainment site used the word “sadistic”. Every time the British are on-screen, we feel scared at what horror they might do, from bayoneting dead soldiers just to make sure, to wrongly and knowingly accusing someone of a crime they did not commit, to having an unquenchable thirst for an already married woman. Skipping right to the character of Major Hewlett, played by Burn Gorman, he apparently is the only soldier in the King’s Army with any sense of decency, and no doubt was only inserted to keep the entire army from being seen as animals.