March 8, 2013, - 3:45 pm

Wknd Box Office: Emperor, Dead Man Down, Oz The Great and Powerful – Another US War Hero Gets Defamed By Hollywood

By Debbie Schlussel

I can always tell when we’re getting closer and closer to the May start of the major movies of the year. It’s when the movies start to get better. And this weekend, I liked all three of the new offerings. But keep in mind that one of the “good ones” was good until I found out that it defames a great American soldier who served his country well in battle and got Hollywood crapping all over him in return.

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* “Emperor“: I really liked this movie, until I went home and did some research, discovering that a major portion of the movie is not only a lie but a disgusting exercise in defamation against a World War II hero who is no longer alive to defend himself and set the record straight. The man who’s severely defamed here is Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, who served in both World War I and II and directed America’s psychological warfare efforts in World War II. Played by Matthew Fox (who is good in this role), he is the central character in this movie.

“Emperor” takes place just after World War II has ended. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones–who is always excellent, even if he and I have had it out) is leading the efforts at rebuilding Japan and trying Japanese leaders involved in ordering the bombing of Pearl Harbor for war crimes. Originally, America has decided to leave Emperor Hirohito alone, but soon President Truman and the brass back at home decide they want the Emperor tried for war crimes and executed. Gen. MacArthur assigns Brig. Gen. Fellers the task of running the investigation and finding the evidence to hang Hirohito. But, as portrayed in this movie, Fellers feels that’s the wrong move, because the Japanese really respect and admire the Emperor. Fellers believes this would sow the seeds of rebellion and hurt any efforts at maintaining the peace and rebuilding Japan. The movie shows his investigation and his efforts to court Japanese officials in order to get to the bottom of things and save the Emperor from execution.


And, now, the giant lie: a major portion of the movie and its plot is focused on Fellers and his Japanese girlfriend from college. It’s at least half of the movie, if not more. The movie shows him spending a good deal of time on the job searching for his lost love. And the movie portrays Fellers as some sort of a traitor because of this, who compromised our war efforts by aiming our bombs away from important targets in order to save his girlfriend’s life. But none of that ever happened. In fact, there is no evidence in real life that Fellers ever had a Japanese girlfriend (although a cousin of his reportedly married a Japanese diplomat). There is no evidence whatsoever that Fellers ever aimed our bombs away from important Japanese targets during World War II. It’s just total fiction. The movie portrays Bonner as what I would call a “Nippon-ophile” (not sure if there’s a word for that so I made it up), who speaks Japanese and loves all things Japanese (because of this fictional girlfriend). I’m not sure if even that was true.

And as the movie ends, there are postscripts on what happened to each of those depicted in the film. The movie correctly notes that Fellers was demoted from Brigadier General to Colonel when he retired from the Army, making it seem as if he was demoted because of this disobeying of orders during World War II and mis-aiming of bombs and other weapons (which never happened). In fact, Fellers’ demotion in rank was a result of the military downsizing of the number of those holding the rank of general. It had nothing to do with his performance or any (fictional) disloyalty to America. His rank of Brigadier General was restored in 1948.

I hate when filmmakers pretend they are making a historically accurate movie, as this movie purports to–using real-life World War II footage and the real-life photos of the people portrayed within it at the end of the movie. I especially hate it when they do this by defaming a man who is a genuine hero and good guy and make him look like he was disloyal to this country, when he was anything but. This isn’t the first time Hollywood did that to a genuine war hero. See the defamation of Gene DeBruin–a genuine Vietnam war hero, who gave his life to save that of a fellow American soldier–in “Rescue Dawn,” which I noted in my review column on that movie.

The real life Bonner Fellers’ life was very interesting, more so than the falsehoods depicted in this movie. A military attache in Egypt, he made very detailed reports to his Army superiors, which were so vital that they were highly valued by the Army Chief of Staff. He was so concerned about security that he did not want his reports transmitted by radio, but his superiors insisted on it. And, as it turns out, his fears were well founded because the Axis spies intercepted his reports and used the reports to their advantage. Fellers earned a chest full of major medals for his service and went on to become active in American politics in an interesting way. He was active in the Robert Taft for President campaign and that of Barry Goldwater. He also worked for the Republican National Committee and was one of the early members of the John Birch Society. An interesting character indeed, but not in the way he was portrayed in this movie as some sort of pan-Japanese traitor.

I hate to say, “But other than that, it’s a great movie,” since the defamation is a major part of the movie, and it just isn’t true. But the movie–if you ignore the false, unnecessary love story–is in fact a good one otherwise. It’s interesting, and I think the portions of it showing the investigation of Hirohito and what happened with the Emperor are more accurate and an important and interesting part of post-World War II history. If you see this movie, just keep in mind that it is a travesty, a disservice to, and really a major crime against the reputation of Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, may he rest in peace.

If this well-acted movie hadn’t engaged in a major set of lies against Bonner Fellers, I’d give it THREE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS (and probably even FOUR REAGANS). But since it did and it’s the biggest part of the movie, I can only give it . . .

TWO REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Dead Man Down“:I really enjoyed this movie, despite the fact that it is violent and bloody (and I didn’t need to see a scene of some filthy gangster having sex with a prostitute). I liked the story, which was unusual and different for standard Hollywood fare. And the thing that’s best about this movie is that it’s about revenge against scumbags who deserve it and also about redemption. There is no moral equivocation in this film. As you dig into the film, you soon see that in this the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad and get theirs. The movie is riveting, suspenseful, and a taut thriller. And, for women looking for a chick flick, there is also a love story at hand, too.

I can’t give up too much of the plot because I don’t want to spoil the movie, but here’s what I can say. Someone is targeting New York City gangsters in a gang led by Terrence Howard. We soon learn that the murderer is secretly a member of Howard’s gang, played by Colin Farrell. At the same time, Farrell spies a woman (with a scarred face, which she’s gotten in a car accident) across the balcony from his apartment, and she spies him. The woman is played by Noomi Rapace. Soon, they get together and find that they are both seeking vengeance (for legit reasons in at least one of the cases). But one of them becomes unwillingly entangled in the other’s story. I wish I could tell you more, but it would give a good chunk of it away.

The movie was not your typical thriller. It’s, in some ways, odd and weird. But odd and weird as in this movie make for a cool and interesting movie. It’s different. Yes, there are a few holes in the plot, the most gaping of which is a person trusting another on an important item, where such trust would simply not attach. But other than that, it’s worthwhile. A caveat: if you shy away from violent movies, this is not for you, even if–as in this movie–most of the violence is the good guys doing what’s just and right.

THREE REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Oz the Great and Powerful“: While the story and plot of this movie are just okay, the visuals are fabulous and stunning and it’s worth seeing just for that. There are very few movies for which the extra price for 3D glasses is worth it, and this is one of them. The three-dimensional computer-generated graphics are a virtual binge of eye candy. It’s based on the L. Frank Baum books about Oz.

James Franco plays a magician in the early 1900s traveling circus or carnival. He’s a con artist of sorts and a womanizer who is on the run from a fellow carnie whose girlfriend he hit on. He runs away in a balloon which ends up in a tornado and lands him in Oz. When he lands in Oz he meets a good witch, played by Mila Kunis, but she is not necessarily what she seems. She and her sister, another witch played by Rachel Weisz, say that legend has it that a wizard will come to Oz and save them and the Emerald City from the evil witch. And, naturally, this con artist magician pretends he’s the Wizard who can perform the miracles of the legend. Soon, however, the faux-Wizard Franco meets the real good witch (Michelle Williams), and with her and a china doll and a monkey busboy, they help save Oz. The story is sort of like a prequel to the original “Wizard of Oz” movie, but not nearly as good. Not even close.

This movie was the largest of those financed by the Michigan Film Tax Credit boondoggle and was shot entirely inside a studio in Pontiac, Michigan, which is struggling to survive (sadly, the studio is financed by bonds from Michigan pension funds). While the movie is cute and has its funny moments, it’s not worth having Michigan small business and taxpayers give away $40 million to Hollywood (which they did). Also, while entertaining, it’s quite slow and a little boring and long. It’s also a little scary for young kids (but given the times, maybe not). Still, it’s not bad, has a great old Hollywood/1940s starlet feel to it, and it’s worthwhile if just for the stunning visuals. Make sure to see it in 3D.

ONE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

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23 Responses

Thanks for the reviews. Wasn’t sure about “Oz”, but I will go to it now and in 3D.

DS_ROCKS! on March 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Debbie you are good and pretty and smart for a girl and I would like you to bear my children. But your Reagan based movie ratingsI find confusing. Are you rating movies on a political scale? I’d prefer you rate them on a pure monetary level, as in a great movie is worth paying $12 to see it. A really bad movie like a Lifetime flick could be worth a negative amount, eg. how much you should be payed for watching it. This system I could understand and would better inform my PPV decisions. Good Shabbes.

A1 on March 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Trust me A1, it would not be confusing for you if you were normal instead of a weirdo, pervo, Asperger-like freak.

    Mental illness is when a weirdo like you habitually and compulsively posts perverted nonsense that is not funny or clever. Just creepy and weird. It’s why you don’t have the girl you hunger for.

    Go away!

    Skunky on March 8, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Skunky, I totally agree with you about A1 but I have to say that I doubt he has Asperger’s.

      Aspies are neither freaks nor are we mentally ill. We just march to a different drummer and many of us are in the genius IQ range and are disproportionately highly represented in the arts.

      Italkit on March 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Well said, Skunky.

      skzion on March 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm

        Skzion, the silver lining is that you and I get annoyed by the same things. *Clinks champagne glasses*.

        At least when I am annoyed I can know I have a brother in arms. :D

        Skunky on March 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Debbie,
Just want to let you know that my mentor who was also a WW2 vet and served in OSS/CIA was a friend of Brig Gen Bonner Fellers. My mentor was also an early member of the John Birch Soceity.
R

Rex on March 8, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Sadly you can’t find a Judy Garland or Harold Arlen in Hollywood these days….

#1 Vato on March 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm

#1 Vato, you can find a Judy Garland in Hollywood today, unfortunately she will have a penis.

ender on March 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm

ENDER…Yes…ever hear of Jim Bailey? You are so very correct.

#1 Vato on March 9, 2013 at 12:02 am

Hey Debbie, in regards to the General, I can think of a normal situation to the loss in rank. My dad who was is a Korean War era vet who enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was discharged from the US Air Force and served under MacArthur in the Philipines at Headquarters, Headquarters 13th Air Force as one of the top clerks, told me that many people had 2 ranks. They had a permanent rank and a temporary rank. This was usually due to battlefield commissions and battlefield promotions. Many were uninformed that they had not had their permanent ranks increased to their temporary ranks. There were many who faced being discharge as a private who had attained high level officer ranks. My dad had gone about informing and helping all that he could bring their permanent ranks up to their current temporary rank or at least one paygrade below their current rank. They had to periodically request an increase in their permanent grade, I think my dad said they had to do it every 3 months, many officers were very grateful for him bringing it to their attention. It is quite possible the General hadn’t increased his permanent rank before discharge and General might have been his temporary grade with Colonel being his permanent grade. It was apparently a very common occurrence back then. When I was in the Navy, my dad always confused me by asking me what my temporary and permanent grade was. When he explained it to me, I had told him it doesn’t work like that any more. In the Navy the only thing that is temporary is when you are frocked to the next paygrade. Frocked means you are authorized to wear and have all the authority that goes with the promotion in rank, you just aren’t getting the pay that goes with it yet.

Markswfl on March 9, 2013 at 5:21 am

I saw “Oz the Great and Powerful” and liked it as Debbie did, maybe even a little more. In my view it’s an oasis of innocent storytelling in a culture of sludge. It was sweet, pure, fun and full of wonder. Frank Baum would have approved, I think.

I looked for one tiny hint of feminism, environmentalism, anti-racism, or preachy liberalism and couldn’t find it. That’s a good thing.

The film was beautifully cast. James Franco was so much more appealing than Depp, Jackman, or—ugh—Harrison Ford (rogue with heart of gold) could ever have been. Michelle Williams was a doll like usual; great roles for Rachel Weisz, Tony Cox, Mila Kunis, and even including a Bruce Campbell cameo (“Evil Dead” fans will appreciate that last).

Some of the characterization was a little broad, but I realized that was only to cast a net to include small children (who I could hear squealing with delight and crying their eyes out all around me as they viewed the show).

Thomas Edison was praised repeatedly. Really? I thought he was an old, dead white man like Henry Ford and Carnegie. Isn’t he supposed to be irrelevant?

Super-sophisticated this film was not. Some critics in their reviews called it “corny,” a couple others claimed it was “dull.” Not enough suggested horror, edgy humor or character deconstruction for them, I guess.

Burke on March 9, 2013 at 7:08 am

A1, you’ve made me laugh quite a few times but sometimes I get worried.
Never let hope die my friend ;).

Frankz on March 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm

As in any conflict,the victor owns the history. It’s the way it always has been but to actually defame one your own is typical of those born since 1970. (who wrote the screen play ? they are the ones who should be criticised) .
I have seen plenty of similar situations in real life to understand what it is about. His political adversarys are making a point by rewriting history.
Witness the book written about Churchills involvement in the attack on Pearl Harbour by the japanese and how much information the english had.

This is possibly why I never watch too many of these historical type movies these days. Too much puffery and too little fact.

Aron B on March 9, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I saw “Dead Man Down” today and enjoyed it as Debbie did. Many (actually most) critics panned the film, calling it muddled and full of holes. Trust Debbie to separate the wheat from the chaff, seeing that this was one of the good ones.

One critic wrote about it, “The plot and story were convoluted, but it was all consistent and eventually made sense, so it worked.” That’s right.

The film was on the dark side and I would consider it more “noir” (which I particularly like) than “action.” I wish there were more noirs like this.

Thank you, Debbie, for so consistently picking out the good ones.

Burke on March 10, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I also saw “OZ the Great and Powerful” and saw it in 3D. I like it about as well as Debbie and Burke did. One other thing about the movie that has not yet been mentioned is that unlike “The Wizard of OZ”, there are no songs or musicals here.

And I would like to second Burke in thanking Debbie for your reviews of movies and identifying which movies are good and which are bad so that we can see only the good ones and skip the bad ones.

JeffE on March 10, 2013 at 11:01 pm

P.S. Thank you, Burke, for also giving your reviews as well.

JeffE on March 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm

You’re welcome, JeffE. I always appreciate reading your reactions to films, too. I’ve found your instincts concerning movies pretty similar to mine.

In my opinion, there are a lot of good films out right now: “Phantom,” “Dark Skies,” “Dead Man Down,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and a couple others, too. None of them have been generally reviewed well, perhaps because none of them are cynical, hip or politically trendy enough. If you can’t go to Debbie’s blog to get the truth, where can you go? No place that I’ve found.

Burke on March 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Burke. I also saw “Jack the Giant Slayer” last week and it was good. I just re-read your review of the movie as well as Debbie’s and were both spot on as usual. I haven’t seen the others yet but I plan to in the near future.

JeffE on March 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Also, Burke, you are correct about Debbie being the only movie reviewer who tells the complete truth about the movies. Not only do the other reviewers don’t tell the whole truth, some of them have even taken Debbie to task for having done so, which I read as them criticizing Debbie for being a better movie reviewer than them. One recent example of that is “Avatar”. Sometimes non-movie reviewers are also upset at Debbie for daring to state too much truth about a movie, like “Act of Valor”. But Debbie continues to stand her ground and tell the complete truth about the movies and thereby continues to be the best.

JeffE on March 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    JeffE, Debbie’s review of “Avatar” was a shining moment for her and this blog. Never was there such a contrast between the trashy emptiness of a film and the extolling reviews that came out from the mainstream critics. Debbie wasn’t fooled for even a second. That was terrific. There are many other examples, too.

    Burke on March 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Debbie: Maybe you can help me with this, as you’re more “up on it” than I am. I had heard that the new Oz movie was going to be a re-make/prequel to the original film, with Lea Michele voicing the Dorothy character (and such a movie may in fact be in the works). Obviously, the new Oz movie, despite having the excellent James Franco, is not what I thought it was going to be.
Do you have any knowledge of such a movie being produced at this time? I ask as I can’t think of anyone better to “star” as Dorothy (presumably a CGI character, as all of the characters would be) than Lea Michele (Sarfati), who possesses such an incredible instrument that she compares favorably, maybe even outclasses, Judy Garland (nee Gumm) in the vocal department, and I would love to see THAT film, if it’s ever made.
Thanks!

jc15 on March 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm

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