On April 5th, the Indiegogo campaign for a new Civil War short film titled Our War will be marching into action, in need of fan support to help subsidize the cost of production. The movie is to be directed and co-written by J.D Mayo, who has extensive work with independent films, as well as Civil War historian and reenactor Steven Hancock, who will be producing the film as well as writing the screenplay. Having known Mr. Hancock for many years, I can attest that his passion and knowledge for the American Civil War will make for an interesting film project, which we can be sure will be as authentic and historically accurate as possible. Pre-production has already been underway, with the filming of a teaser trailer featuring the star of the film Ryan Daniel Thompson, who appeared in two episodes of the hit AMC historical drama Turn: Washington’s Spies.
The Minions are cute. They’re adorable. They’re evil. Well, maybe not exactly evil, but through their stupidity and drive to serve the world’s most powerful master, they usually end up not working for someone you’d invite to Thanksgiving (except the first guy on the list). As seen in the Minions movie last summer, they have been around forever. They first sought to serve a gigantic T-Rex, the world’s biggest and baddest dinosaur since no humans were around. They ended up accidentally killing him by pushing him into a volcano. Then came Count Dracula, who by all accounts, they served well. Unfortunately, when it came time to celebrating the Count’s 357th birthday, they killed him too by allowing sunlight into his castle. Lastly, they ended up in Napoleon’s Army during his ill-fated invasion of Russia. Napoleon’s fate was left up in the air, but it didn’t look good: totally by accident they kind of blew up the general with a cannon.
The Minions then wandered throughout history searching for their next “Big Boss”. After struggling, next thing you know, they end up in the 1960’s. First in New York, then in England. But what happened in the meantime? What mischief, destruction, and evil-doing were the Minions up to between the Napoleonic Wars and the 1960’s? They’re not exactly the best workers because their stupidity and absent-mindedness almost always leads to the death of their boss or some kind of massive catastrophe for whoever they are serving (and no, I checked; they never worked for the US Government). After doing some serious research and digging, I have uncovered four other instances of them popping up throughout history. So, peel back a banana, relax, and enjoy.
Made during the turn-Lincoln-into-anything-you-want phase that was popular for about fifteen minutes back in 2012, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies is a typical Asylum film destined for endless showings on the Scy-Fy Channel, meaning yes, it is a bad movie—a very bad movie. With a title as such, let’s not even pretend this film ever had a chance of being good, or be pretentious enough to actually sit down and take it seriously. Even with me being highly defensive of how the Civil War is portrayed on film, all I can do here is laugh and grunt “Oh my God” every other scene or two. Putting aside the fact that Bill Oberst Jr., who plays Abraham Lincoln, is an acquaintance of mine, he actually does a great job here, considering what he has to work with. He takes his role seriously amidst the chaos of a zombie apocalypse set in 1863, where both Union and Confederate soldiers are coming back to life.
I was first introduced to George Ryan by my friend Jeff Huber about five years ago. We all served on the board of trustees for a museum, which sometimes was the equivalent of fighting a war. If there was ever something that needed to be said, or something right that needed to be stuck up for, George was the one to do it. We quickly became friends, all three of us sharing a love of the American Civil War. He oversaw accounting for the museum and soon became my family’s accountant. I don’t think there are many people who looked forward to seeing their tax guy in April as much as me, because every time was cause for a conversation about the Civil War in some way. His office contained paintings and artifacts which I used to marvel at. He could talk about anything to anyone, but we more often than not got on the subject of Gettysburg. He used to take scout troops out there camping, and always looked forward to it.
I blame Andrew Johnson. Had Reconstruction in the post-Civil War era in American history not been such an abysmal failure, perhaps we would not be in the shape we are currently in when it comes to race relations in this country. Putting modern ignorance and our ability to be so easily distracted aside, Reconstruction was presented with a gaping wound that required surgery. Instead, they slapped a band-aid on it and called it a day. Over the last 150 years, that band-aid started to peel off, and the response has been to keeping pushing it back and rubbing it down, and maybe putting a piece of tape over the ends. Now, with various race-related incidents nationwide over the last year, we are confronted with the same situation. Are we finally going to go in for surgery, or do we just put another band-aid on it? I am not getting into the Confederate Flag debate on this blog. As a Civil War scholar, I will not allow myself to stoop down to discuss what a popularized notion of the flag is, and the history that attaches itself to that. However, if you are of the mindset that simply demanding what the masses believe to be a racist symbol to come down is the answer to ending racism in this country, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are seriously mistaken.
I bet you missed it, didn’t you? How lucky you are. As I sit down to write this, I am indeed still wondering if fortune smiled down upon me whilst I was looking through the channels for programs to DVR and saw an Ancient Aliens episode flip across the scene, and somewhere, my brain caught the words “Civil War”. Ha! I thought. It must have just been something else. That is how my eyes saw it. As I continued to scan, I decided to go back, and sure enough there was the episode from this latest season titled, “Aliens and the Civil War”. I gasped. I laughed. Then, I cried. I decided to save it for a later date so I could sit there, laptop in hand, and devote my entire attention to a minute-by-minute blog of what was going on during the show. It was in 2011 when I took this same approach, after stumbling on “Aliens and the Old West”. It was this episode which tried to argue that Harrison Ford’s newly released Cowboys and Aliens might be more fact than fiction. If you think that previous post and this one coming up now are all part of some gigantic, three-weeks-late, history-nut April Fool’s Day joke, you are wrong. These episodes really did air. You can catch them on re-runs.
Nearly 150 years after his death, Abraham Lincoln remains a polarizing figure. To some, he is the greatest president the United States of America ever had, a man who freed the slaves and saved the Union. To others, he was a power-hungry tyrant, who invaded his own country and used back-room, sometimes scandalous politics to get what he wanted. No matter what one’s personal view of him, however, all can agree on two things: he was a master politician, and a deeply conflicted man, both internally and his public persona. No person of such high standing in American history has had his views gradually change to the point of nearly a complete reversal. No president has ever been in office in the midst of such terrible and chaotic internal strife.
It is difficult today to look back upon Abraham Lincoln and give him a singular label for what he should be remembered for, but almost always, it boils down to the slavery issue, and how he had the Emancipation Proclamation drafted and then his fight to get the 13th Amendment passed to free the slaves prior to the conclusion of the American Civil War. However, as is the case with many figures when studied through the looking glass back through history, people see what they want to see. Lincoln is a much more complicated figure to study, because at the same time this country was experiencing its single greatest moment of political dissent, Lincoln was dissenting against his own government and party, and sometimes, even himself. His views, which began as quite simple ones began to change and morph over time to what we know them as today, but to ignore the journey that he went through would be a disservice to both the man and the history of this nation.