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Domino is
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AV Club Review
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Monday, May 25, 2020
PARADE LIST - 'CASUALTIES' ONE OF 50 BEST WAR FILMS
AND POCKET-LINT - "WHAT ORDER SHOULD YOU WATCH THE BEST VIETNAM WAR FILMS?"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/casualties15a.jpg

Parade's Neil Pond kicked off this weekend Friday with "50 Must-See War Films for Your Memorial Day Movie Marathon." "Encompassing everything from the awfulness of war to the far reaches of its absurdity," Pond states, "this list of the best war movies serves as our tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our prolonged times of peace." While the list is not numbered, Casualties Of War is the fourteenth film from the top:
Casualties of War (1989)

Best known for his work in the genres of suspense, crime, horror and thrillers (like Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables and Body Double), director Brian de Palma takes a harrowing plunge into the battlefield with this take on a real-life incident about how an American soldier finds himself on the outside of his rogue squad when they kidnap a young Vietnamese woman and rape her. Michael J. Fox (who took time off from TV’s Family Ties to film) and Sean Penn give riveting performances on opposite sides of the situational-ethics line, and the movie marks the first film appearance of John C. Reilly.


Meanwhile, last week, Pocket-lint's Chris Hall attempted to place the best Vietnam films in a chronological viewing order:
The conflict in Vietnam spanned decades of fighting, from the outbreak of the war with France in 1946, through to the political and ideological division of the country into north and south which formed the foundation for the US involvement in Vietnam. That involvement escalated through advisory roles through the early 1960s, until emerging as full conflict around 1965.

For the USA, the era of the Vietnam War is surrounded by socially and culturally significant events in the homeland, the passage of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon through the presidency and a rich depiction in a wide range of movies. There are a vast number of productions that owe their stories Vietnam, from the Rambo series, to Forrest Gump, the characterisation of The Simpson's Principal Skinner - "I was in 'Nam" - to those movies that actually tell the stories of Vietnam itself.

Here we present many of the best films that address Vietnam. We think the best order is chronological, based on the dates of the events depicted. But we're also giving a number of different approaches, which you can jump to in the table below, avoiding spoilers if you want to.

...

The best Vietnam movie viewing order (spoilers)

These are the movies we consider to be essential viewing not only for the stories that they tell, but how they tell those stories. They are ordered to fit the unfolding of events in the Vietnam War, although in some cases we deviate from that timeline when the emphasis of the film is on the return home, for example. Where there's no clear event being portrayed - because it's a fictionalised work - we've placed that movie in its position based on its content and context in the passage of the conflict.


The chronological order of films then goes like this:
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • We Were Soldiers
  • Casualties of War
  • Rescue Dawn
  • Tour of Duty
  • Platoon
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Hamburger Hill
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Tigerland
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • The Deer Hunter

And here is Hall's description of Casualties Of War:

Casualties of War takes us into 1966, telling a true story reported by Daniel Lang in The New Yorker in 1969. Michael J Fox plays Max Eriksson, a "cherry" in Vietnam who joins a squad to head out to Hill 192. Squad leader Sergeant Meserve, played by a powerful Sean Penn, has other ideas for the mission, kidnapping a Vietnamese girl to take with them for a little "R&R". It's a haunting tale, depicting the breakdown of any sort of moral standards and the conflict between comrades that ensues. The 1989 film from director Brian De Palma pulls at many of the threads we see across Vietnam movies, particularly the dehumanisation of the Vietnamese reflected in the US GIs. Watch out for Dale Dye's appearance, who also stars in Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.

Posted by Geoff at 8:05 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, May 25, 2020 8:08 PM CDT
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Saturday, January 11, 2020
'CASUALTIES' RANKS ON VULTURE'S 50 BEST WAR MOVIES
KEITH PHIPPS - "IT REMAINS A TOUGH FILM TO WATCH"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/casualtiesbeer.jpg

Yesterday, as Sam Mendes' 1917 opened in U.S. theaters, Vulture's Keith Phipps posted his ranking of "the 50 greatest war movies ever made." The article includes the subheadline, "A look back at a genre that has inspired a century of cinema." Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War doesn't rank very high on Phipps' list, but two excellent Paul Verhoeven films, Black Book and Soldier Of Orange, didn't make Phipps' list at all, which speaks, perhaps, to the inherently subjective nature of one person's viewpoint. In the article's intro, Phipps thoughtfully discusses how war films are viewed and perceived, as well as what constitutes a "war film" for his list:
Speaking to Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune in 1973, Francois Truffaut made an observation that’s cast a shadow over war movies ever since, even those seemingly opposed to war. Asked why there’s little killing in his films, Truffaut replied, “I find that violence is very ambiguous in movies. For example, some films claim to be antiwar, but I don’t think I’ve really seen an antiwar film. Every film about war ends up being pro-war.” The evidence often bears him out. In Anthony Swofford’s Gulf War memoir Jarhead, Swofford recalls joining fellow recruits in getting pumped up while watching Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, two of the most famous films about the horrors of war. (On the occasion of the death of R. Lee Ermey, the real-life drill instructor who played the same in Full Metal Jacket, Swofford offered a remembrance in the New York Times with the headline “Full Metal Jacket Seduced My Generation and Sent Us to War.”)

Is it true that movies glamorize whatever they touch, no matter how horrific? And if a war movie isn’t to sound a warning against war, what purpose does it serve? Even if Truffaut’s wrong — and it’s hard to see his observation applying to at least some of the movies on this list — it might be best to remove the burden of making the world a better place from war movies. It’s a lot to ask, especially since war seems to be baked into human existence.

So, like other inescapable elements of the human experience, we tell stories about war, stories that reflect our attitudes toward it, and how they shift over time. War movies reflect the artistic impulses of their creators, but they also reflect the attitudes of the times and places in which they were created. A World War II film made in the midst of the war, for instance, might serve a propagandist purpose than one made after the war ends, when there’s more room for nuance and complexity, but it also might not.

Maybe the ultimate purpose of a war movie is to let others hear the force of these stories. Another director, Sam Fuller, once offered a quote that doesn’t necessarily contradict Truffaut’s observation but better explains the impulse to make war movies: “A war film’s objective, no matter how personal or emotional, is to make a viewer feel war.” The films selected for this list of the genre’s most essential entries often have little in common, but they do share that. Each offers a vision that asks viewers to consider and understand the experience of war, be it in the trenches of World War I, the wilderness skirmishes of Civil War militias, or the still-ongoing conflicts that have helped define 21st-century warfare.

Compiled as Sam Mendes’s stylistically audacious World War I film, 1917, heads to theaters, this list opts for a somewhat narrow definition of a war movie, focusing on films that deal with the experiences of soldiers during wartime. That means no films about the experience of returning from war (Coming Home, The Best Years of Our Lives, First Blood) or of civilian life during wartime (Mrs. Miniver, Forbidden Games, Hope and Glory) or of wartime stories whose action rests far away from the battlefield (Casablanca). It also leaves films primarily about the Holocaust out of consideration, as they seem substantively different from other sorts of war films. Also excluded are films that blur genres, like the military science fiction of Starship Troopers and Aliens (even if the latter does have a lot to say about the Vietnam War). That eliminates many great movies, but it leaves room for many others, starting with a film made at the height of World War II in an attempt to help rally a nation with a story of an operation whose success required secrecy, extensive training, and beating overwhelming odds.


Casualties Of War places at #44 on Phipps' list:
Brian De Palma’s brutal, fact-inspired film about the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young Vietnamese woman didn’t catch on with audiences, helping to end the cycle of ’80s Vietnam War films and sidelining star Michael J. Fox’s attempt to cross over to more dramatic roles. It remains a tough film to watch, in part because De Palma shifts his skills as a creator of tense suspense films to a story of unbearable sadness in which a group of American soldiers (whose ranks include John C. Reilly and John Leguizamo in their film debuts) uses the permission of a violent, charismatic superior (Sean Penn) to engage in barbaric acts. Fox’s casting as the film’s moral center, and a man who suffers for his honesty, feels disorienting at first, but it works. Marty McFly looks out of place in such an awful situation, but that only drives the point home.

Posted by Geoff at 10:07 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 11, 2020 10:10 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 8, 2020
'CASUALTIES' PART OF KAEL SERIES NEXT WEEK - CHICAGO
KAEL'S CAUSES CÉLÈBRES RUNS JAN 10-22 AT GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/kaelscauses.jpg

Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War will screen at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago on Saturday, January 18, and on Tuesday, January 21st. The screenings are part of a series centered around critic Pauline Kael, who wrote a deeply impassioned New Yorker review of Casualties Of War upon its initial release in 1989. The series, "Kael's Causes Célèbres," runs January 10-22, featuring "seven films that are especially important in defining Kael's taste and influence," Martin Rubin, associate director of programming at the Gene Siskel Film Center, states in the program notes. Also screening alongside the series is the recent documentary, What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael.

Here's Rubin's program description of Casualties Of War:

One of Kael's last great causes célèbres was CASUALTIES OF WAR, a film that divided critics and represented a marked change-of-pace for a director whose stylish thrillers she had long championed. Based on a real incident from the Vietnam War, it tells of a American reconnaissance squad, sexually and otherwise frustrated, who are incited by their sergeant (Penn) to kidnap a Vietnamese girl, over the increasingly urgent (and risky) objections of one of the soldiers (Fox). What's remarkable is how many of the characteristic elements of De Palma's thrillers and crime films (ominous p.o.v. tracking shots, split-focus widescreen frames, voyeurism, complicity, lingering guilt, the link between sex and violence, etc.) are adapted so effectively to a very different context, rendering the Vietnam War as an expressionistic nightmare rooted in reality rather than in genre tropes. 35mm widescreen.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019
ZANZIE VIDEO -AN ORAL HISTORY OF 'CASUALTIES OF WAR'
DE PALMA, RABE, THUY THU LE, DALE DYE, & MORE ALL ANSWERED QUESTIONS FOR ZANZIE'S VIDEO
For the past few months, Adam Zanzie has been working on the above video, "An Oral History of CASUALTIES OF WAR (1989)," and now it is here. Here is Zanzie's full description from YouTube:
On this day, 53 years ago, in 1966, a woman named Phan Thi Mao was murdered in Vietnam.

50 years ago this year, in 1969, journalist Daniel Lang's article about the incident was published in The New Yorker Magazine.

And 30 years ago this year, in 1989, director Brian De Palma's Hollywood feature film adaptation was released.

For this oral history video essay about the legacy of "Casualties of War", director Brian De Palma, screenwriter David Rabe, co-producer Fred Caruso, Captain Dale Dye, Sergeant Mike Stokey, actor Erik King, actor Jack Gwaltney, actor Darren E. Burrows and actress Thuy Thu Le all kindly answered questions that I had about their memories of the production.

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted. "Fair Use" guidelines: copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

Music by Ennio Morricone and the Chamber Brothers.


Posted by Geoff at 7:33 AM CST
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Thursday, August 22, 2019
JEREMY SMITH ON 'CASUALTIES OF WAR' 30 YEARS LATER
"CRUELTY, AMERICAN STYLE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cowinbetween.jpg

At Yardbarker, Jeremy Smith takes a look at the relevance of Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War 30 years later-- here's an excerpt:
Judged strictly on its artistic merits, there’s a case to be made that "Casualties of War" is the most acutely devastating condemnation of the United States’ ravaging of Southeast Asia ever filmed. De Palma was at the height of his visual storytelling powers when he took on this production, and he presents the moral quandary with a savage concision; at no point in the film are you allowed to draw back and get your bearings. When the squad’s most beloved member, Brownie (Erik King), is gunned down with a month left on his tour, the swaggering Sgt. Meserve (Sean Penn) takes charge. Also a short-timer, he’s outraged at his friend’s horrendous luck. When he’s denied the opportunity to blow off steam with a prostitute while on leave, Meserve decides to requisition some "portable R&R" — a young Vietnamese woman named Oanh (Thuy Thu Le) — to boost morale during their next assignment. Only Eriksson (Michael J. Fox), a relatively new arrival (hence his nickname "Cherry"), openly protests, though another member of the squad, Diaz (John Leguizamo), claims he has his back. There’s hope they might be able to talk sense to the dim but seemingly decent Hatcher (John C. Reilly).

Of course, when Meserve decides it’s time to make good on their brutal intentions with Oanh, Diaz buckles. It’s one against four. To his credit, Eriksson draws down on Meserve, but a very far gone Meserve delights in the standoff. "We all got weapons," he exclaims. “Anybody can blow anybody away at any second. Which is the way it ought to be. Always." Meserve already had a healthy distrust of the people he was ostensibly sent to defend, but now he views them as animals to be used and abused for his amusement. Clark (Don Harvey) is and probably always was a full-blown psychopath. But the rest of the squad still retains a sense of right and wrong; it’s just that for Diaz and Hatcher, their fear of Meserve supersedes their morality. They will participate in the gang rape. And when the time comes, they will murder Oanh rather than face the consequences of a court martial. It’s a disquieting numbers game De Palma is playing here, and according to the current electoral scoreboard in this country, it’s possible he’s being charitable.

Eriksson’s scorched conscience won’t allow him to back off on calls for a court martial (even though his superiors are desperate to sweep the incident under the rug). Whereas an Oscar bait film would portray his quest for justice as the centerpiece of the story, De Palma makes it plain that he failed by not fighting harder for Oanh when he had a chance. He tries to inform a sympathetic superior before they head out on their mission, and he threatens to take up arms against Meserve and the others prior to the assault, but he can’t bring himself to make the ultimate moral sacrifice. Should he have shot Meserve? Given the moral calculus crunched by De Palma (though not explicitly stated), yes. Better that than to be a shell of a man numbly riding the BART.

The absence of a conventionally rousing courtroom victory is the final subversive flourish of De Palma’s film. The only meaningful sentence dished out to the squad goes to Clark: life in prison. It didn’t stick. Three years after the release of "Casualties of War," the real-life Clark — a white supremacist — was charged as an accessory after the fact in the murder of African-American soldier Harold J. Mansfield. He served one year’s probation.

"Casualties of War" was a box office disappointment in 1989, but as a depiction of this country’s capacity for cruelty, it is startlingly relevant.


Posted by Geoff at 12:42 AM CDT
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Sunday, August 18, 2019
CASUALTIES OF WAR, OPENED 30 YEARS AGO TODAY
BASED ON TRUE EVENTS FIRST REPORTED IN THE NEW YORKER IN 1969
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cow1.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 11:49 AM CDT
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Saturday, September 15, 2018
JOHN C. REILLY - HUMOR, DRAMA, 'CASUALTIES OF WAR'
"HE'S A FUNNY CHARACTER WITHIN A VERY SERIOUS MOVIE"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/heysarge2.jpg

John C. Reilly sat down for several interviews last week at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote Jacques Audiard's The Sisters Brothers, which Reilly stars in (with Joaquin Phoenix) and also co-produced with his wife, Alison Dickey. At least two of those TIFF interviews have led to some discussion about Reilly's film debut in Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War (which Sony has just released on Blu-ray for the first time, but not with the extended director's cut). Here are a couple of links and excerpts:

David Edelstein, Vulture

When you hear stuff like this, you can understand why directors liked working with Reilly right from the beginning and why Sean Penn, of all people, suggested De Palma give Reilly a lead role in Casualties of War. “I think Sean saw something that I always aspire to be,” says Reilly: “Guileless.”

The Casualties story is amazing. After graduating from the Theatre School at DePaul University, Reilly worked at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, then flew to Thailand to be a “day player” in De Palma’s war film. When a supporting actor was fired, Reilly got a bigger part. After flying home to the U.S., he learned another actor had been fired and De Palma and Penn wanted him back to play one of the leads. He’d missed the last flight of the day going west across the Pacific, so he flew, he says, “across America, across the Atlantic, over to Asia, and then down back down to Bangkok,” where he was promptly whisked to the set, given a haircut and a costume, and escorted to a rice paddy, where he had to pretend to snooze and be jarred awake.

I ask what he thinks they saw in him, and he tells me about the days in “a weird conference room” in a Thai hotel: “It’s full of guys trying to out-impress each other, because Sean sets a high bar. The two guys that got fired were doing that shit: ‘I’ll out-Method you. I’ll outdrink you after work. I’ll fucking say something insulting to you because you think you’re such a fucking hotshot actor.’ I’m like, ‘Guys, What are you doing? Are you insane? You can’t say that to that person. Aren’t we trying to put on a play?’ ”

“A play,” as in what he was doing in Chicago, where actors who pull out-Method-you shit don’t last. “You’re not going to get discovered in Chicago,” he says, “the way you might in New York or L.A., so that takes some of the pressure off. You’re part of an ensemble. You’re there to play.” In that Bangkok hotel, he says, he was ready to do anything. “I’d go nuts. I’d read not just my part but an old Vietnamese man or whoever wasn’t there. ‘Have John do it,’ they’d say.” Penn was so taken with Reilly’s gung ho spirit that he recommended Reilly for parts in We’re No Angels (1989) and State of Grace (1990). As a bonus, on Casualties Reilly met Dickey. She was Penn’s assistant.


Mike Ryan, UPROXX
Speaking of more relevance, you’re never going to admit to this, but it felt like you were making a statement in this movie. I looked and 26 of your first 27 movies were dramas.

That never occurred to me. When my wife read me that part of that review, I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing. I should start using that line: Well, I made 26 before I did any comedies!”

I feel like you’re on screen going, look, I can carry a drama Western, how about that?

You know, the truth is, I don’t really have to remind people. My work has a lot of variety to it and the last few things I’ve done haven’t been comedy. And even though, like you say, the first 26 movies I did were not necessarily thought of as comedies, but I was often a funnier character. Even my first movie, Casualties of War, he’s a funny character within a very serious movie.

That was on TV the other day and I was shocked when you showed up in it.

Yeah, it was the first time I was on an airplane! The first time I left the country. It was a surreal time.

Your first director was Brian De Palma.

I know, Sean Penn and all these people. The thing is, I would never lecture an audience (over not being remembered for dramatic work).

It would be funny if you did. “Look, people…”

“You forgot!” No, because the truth is, I actually feel really grateful to audiences. Because actors often get stereotyped into things and it’s not their fault. It’s often because an audience wants people to be a certain way. They find you really appealing when you play this kind of role and they want that over and over again. And I feel really lucky and grateful that, over the years, the audiences allowed me to be all these different things. So even though certain kinds of moviegoers might know me for comedy, it just depends what you’re into. At this point, I’ve made almost 80 movies or something. So the chance is that I’ve made some kind of movie that you like at some point in my life.


Posted by Geoff at 7:46 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2018 7:48 PM CDT
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Friday, June 22, 2018
VIDEO LINK - DE PALMA DISCUSSES 'CASUALTIES OF WAR'
AT CINEMATHEQUE MASTERCLASS EARLIER THIS MONTH - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LINK
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/artemasterclassjune2018.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 8:16 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 3, 2018
DE PALMA TALKS 'CASUALTIES' AT MASTERCLASS IN PARIS
AND SIGNS COPIES OF 'SNAKES' AFTERWARDS, WITH SUSAN LEHMAN
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/masterclasschristian4.jpgChristian Grevstad snapped this picture of Brian De Palma after getting his book signed last night at La Cinémathèque in Paris. De Palma and co-author Susan Lehman signed copies of Are Snakes Necessary? after De Palma presented a Masterclass tied in with a screening of his great 1989 film, Casualties Of War. Here is Christian's report from last night's event:
De Palma entered the podium after a screening of the harrowing Casualties of War. After only a few minutes Brian became very emotional. "It was a very difficult movie to make. I have a hard time watching it, it's very sad, Brian said tearing up. "I can't listen to that score."

It was one of several poignant moments. A few minutes later he told the audience that often times after a difficult time in your life, something positive will happen: "So don't give up."

Later he mentioned that he quit Fatal Attraction after deciding the short film made by the original writer of the project was perfect as it was. "Why remake it?" And it led to a very difficult lunch with his producer where De Palma told her: "I can't do this."

Two weeks later Art Linson called about The Untouchables.


In line with what Christian wrote above, La Cinémathèque itself posted an image juxtaposition on Twitter last night (see below), showing De Palma's mood shift when speaking of Casualties Of War. The text of the Cinémathèque post translates as: "A good hour with Brian De Palma, generous, scholarly, spiritual - then upset at the mention of Casualties Of War and the score of Ennio Morricone. To see the film, and all De Palma, it's at the Cinémathèque until 7/04 http://www.cinematheque.fr/cycle/brian-de-palma-455.html ... Photos (thank you) @cliffhangertwit"


Translation: "Just out of the Brian De Palma Masterclass at the @cinemathequefr! A very interesting character to listen to, with an immense experience in his career and his eclectic filmography, but also someone very authentic and spontaneous. It was almost too short!"


Posted by Geoff at 11:47 AM CDT
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Monday, April 30, 2018
DE PALMA TO PRESENT MASTERCLASS, SIGN BOOKS
AFTER SCREENING OF 'CASUALTIES OF WAR' JUNE 2ND AT PARIS CINEMATHEQUE; LAGIER TO PRESENT 'PHANTOM'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/depalmamasterclass2018.jpgLa Cinémathèque in Paris will present a Masterclass with Brian De Palma on June 2nd. The Masterclass, which will follow a screening of De Palma's Casualties Of War, will be hosted by Bernard Benoliel. Immediately after the Masterclass, Susan Lehman will join De Palma in the bookstore to sign copies of their novel, Are Snakes Necessary?

The event is part of a full retrospective of De Palma's films that kicks off May 31st with Blow Out. On June 7th, Luc Lagier will present De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, after which Lagier will discuss the film, and also look at De Palma's career.

As previously reported, a few days prior to De Palma's Cinémathèque Masterclass, De Palma and Lehman will sign copies of Are Snakes Necessary? at 7pm May 30th at Librairie Millepages in Vincennes, an eastern suburb of Paris.

Previously:
Paris Cinémathèque teases De Palma Retrospective


Posted by Geoff at 8:24 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2018 8:10 AM CDT
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