I've been spending much of today updating the Hot Topics page on Hollywood and the movies. There's a LOT of wonderful pieces in our archives about Hollywood history, how Hollywood influences our views of history, love letters to old movies, top ten lists of the most historically inaccurate movies ever (the UK list is topped by U-571--it struck me as innocuous fluff when I saw it years ago, but then again I suppose I'd be irritated too if there was a British movie that took all the credit for cracking the Japanese PURPLE machine). It's been great reading for a Thursday afternoon.
I've also been coming across a haul of movie reviews written by historians, and there have been quite a few negative ones. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't like The Last Samurai either; in addition to its innumerable historical problems, it was basically just a Dances with Wolves rehash set in Japan. Hidalgo also got trashed; again, fair enough. But I worry that if historians write about recently released history films only to savage their historical inaccuracies, they risk being dismissed out of hand as cranks.
That's one of the reasons I've been so pleased with this week's Oscar special--articles about history movies that actually have some affection for them! But, let's be honest: it's the upcoming Academy Awards and the nine history movie nominees for Best Picture (yes, I'm counting Moneyball) that sparked it, not the release of the movies themselves.
Why hasn't an historian reviewed The Artist or Midnight in Paris? Is it because a lack of controversy and gross historical distortions just hasn't sparked a whole lot of interest?
So, in an effort to rectify this, I'm extending an open invitation to all historians, especially film historians: if there's a history movie out there that you actually liked, review it! We'd be happy to run it on HNN.
And, for the record, my money is on The Artist.