Thursday, October 30, 2014

John Adams movies

What's the best movie about John Adams?

Young John Adams

My answer would be that it depends on what you're looking for - all the ones I've seen have things that they do better than the other ones. So I'll compare and contrast the ones I've seen, to show where each one is strongest. The ones I've seen are a two-hour PBS documentary (which also talks about Abigail), an eight-hour HBO miniseries (with Paul Giamatti), and an old thirteen-hour miniseries called "The Adams Chronicles."

Why John Adams is fascinating

"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."

- John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail Adams (26 April 1777)

He was a powerful leader, who stood only five feet six inches tall. He was popular enough to be elected president, but considered himself an obnoxious man, with a brashness that could alienate even his friends. And he was one of our greatest presidents, but was only elected to one term, passed over in favor of an old friend.

Young John Adams

His name was John Adams, and he was one of this country's Founding Fathers. He had many significant accomplishments in his life, but the greatest of them was his central role in the Declaration of Independence. Even his presidency was not as important as this. He was on the Committee of Five assigned to write the Declaration of Independence, but did not want to write the document, preferring that it instead be written by Thomas Jefferson. Why, then, is he remembered as such a central figure in the document's history? Mainly, it is two things: One is that he was the one who convinced Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration, and the other is that he was the principal force behind getting it passed. Jefferson was the one who wrote it, but Adams was the one who convinced the Continental Congress to sign it; thus risking their own lives in an act of revolution punishable by death. We could easily have lost that war, and every signer of that document could have been hanged as a traitor. But despite their knowing the risks, they all took the risk (save John Dickinson), largely due to the powerful leadership of John Adams.

John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Eisenhower movies: A comparison of some films

There's something about war heroes and statesmen that holds the fascination of many; and so there have been a number of movies about the life of Dwight Eisenhower. He fits both categories, being both a victorious Allied general in World War II; and a President of the United States during the 1950's. Thus, there have been a number of films about him since his time.

The Cuban Missile Crisis: A comparison of two movies

"It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

- John F. Kennedy, in his Address on the Cuban Missile Crisis (22 October 1962)

I have watched two movies about the Cuban Missile Crisis, in addition to the episode about it in CNN's Cold War series. I've also seen it treated in some documentaries about the Kennedys, so I feel like I have some basic knowledge about it. I'm thus in a position to compare the different media about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and say what the advantages and disadvantages of each one are.

U-2 reconnaissance plane (during refueling)

How the crisis began

But before I do this, I should probably explain what the Cuban Missile Crisis was, for those who don't know. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the time in world history when the world came closest to nuclear war. The Soviets began to put nuclear missiles in Cuba, which were discovered by an American U-2 reconnaissance flight. The plane brought photographic evidence of them back to the United States, which alarmed the few authorized to see them. President Kennedy and his advisers knew that these missiles were well within range of a significant portion of the United States, and would have allowed the Soviets to nuke much of the country with little or no warning. This would have given them a first-strike capability.

Actual U-2 reconnaissance photograph of Soviet missiles in Cuba (visible when magnified)

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