Saturday, December 27, 2014

John Milius — A Must-Read Article!

Matthew Continetti has crated an absolutely must-read article on filmmaker John Milius (c'mon, do I even have to list any of his films????). Here's a tiny bit, but you need to read the whole thing:
Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn are not partisan movies. It is not political scenarios that attract Milius but pre-political ones. He is drawn to landscapes where there is no law, no sovereign, no state, to the desolate places where men must make their own way. His characters are renegades. They either oppose the dominant order like Dillinger, Kurtz, and the Great Raisuli (Sean Connery), or they exist outside it entirely like Jeremiah Johnson and Conan the Cimmerian and the Wolverines. The authority figure Milius admires most is Teddy Roosevelt, exponent of muscular Christianity and the New Nationalism, frontiersman, soldier, hunter, dynamo. Not exactly a square. 
Milius’ characters do not reside in the United States. They reside in states of nature. And it is in this state, Milius believes, that the true character of an individual, his guile and wit and vitality and mettle, is revealed.
In a way, it would be accurate to say that John Milius invented me. Well, his movies invented me. As I've said on the podcast, there was a time in my life when I was going to be a Citizen, have a house in the suburbs, a new car every 2 years, all the blessings I imagined America had to offer. And then one evening I went to a movie theater in downtown Tampa to see Jeremiah Johnson.

It wasn't like Saul on the road to Damascus, but more of a reminder of what that smartass in high school intended his life to if someone...some filmmaker, no less...had recalibrated my internal compass to True North. Musta worked…I'm sitting at my dining room table typing this, and out the window in front of me are the Rocky Mountains…"l told my pap and mam l was coming to the trap and be a mountain man. Acted like they was gut-shot. Says: 'Son...make your life go here. Here's where the people is. Them mountains is for animals and savages!' l said: 'Mother Gue...the Rocky Mountains is the marrow of the world.' And by God, l was right!"

I saw Big Wednesday in New York City premiere with Jan Michael Vincent, who starred in the film, and both of us cried. It was my belated discovery of The Wind and the Lion that got me interested in Teddy Roosevelt, and it was TR's observation that "critics don't count" that ultimately launched me out of NYC into the West. The whole crew teared up when Joe Mantegna did his amazing delivery of that TR speech for the closing of our GUN STORIES episode on TR's great safari. Weird how things work, isn't it?

Later I interviewed Milius by phone in the mid-1980s…it was like talking to a Nerd God King (maybe like Joss Whedon in the Firefly days)…I was pretty into martial arts then, and we talked about swords, gladiatorial weapons and the problems of doing a realistic sword fight with a 13-pound broadsword. Was cool beyond words... 


_DonWorsham_ said...

and on his tomb stone it read...

Michael Bane -
Renaissance Man

Anonymous said...

The Wind and The Lion was a great movie> Especially the letter at the end.

Frank said...

"The authority figure Milius admires most is Teddy Roosevelt, exponent of muscular Christianity and the New Nationalism..."

I am a conservative (i.e., orthodox, Bible-believing) Christian. And much as I enjoy the (relative few) Milius films I've seen, and admire what (little) I know of Milius himself, in my view, this admiration of TR — for just the reasons listed — counts as a strike against him.

I'd suspected for a while that TR's "Christianity" was unbiblically nationalistic. This interview with James Bradley re. his book The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War cinched it for me:

Roosevelt essentially declared the Japanese to be "honorary Aryans" — the Asian equivalent of the "white man" in the west, a people who genetics had obviously blessed to be the de facto leaders of the "lesser peoples" around them. In 1905, he sent a delegation to Japan to give them his blessing to exercise a sort of "Asian Monroe Doctrine."

Patriotism (love of one's country) ... yes.

Nationalism (asserting that one's country is superior to others) ... NO.

kit said...

I love him as a director/writer, truly brilliant man

Jason M said...

Don't forget to watch the excellent documentary about him from 2013: Milius

I caught it on Netflix, and it is great! I didn't know about the stroke he had which came as a complete shock to me at the end of the movie.

Jason M

Unknown said...

Though a product of his age, TR Had too many faults to ignore. Eugenics, the supremacy of the Anglo- Saxon race and helping to start a war just so he could test his manhood being among the things I abhor about him. Anything he wrote or said and the people who revere him I take with a large grain of salt. No make that a ton of salt.

Anonymous said...

The TR bashing courtesy of Glenn Peck-er head.

Frank said...

Anon: "The TR bashing..."

Not bashing TR, just some of his morally questionable ideas. Listen to the James Bradley interview I linked to, then get back with me.

Also, Joseph Sobran's "POatriotism or Nationalism?" — written just one month after the 9/11 attacks — was a genuine eye-opener for me:

Anonymous said...

A dash of Chomsky, a jigger of Zinns, a teaspoon of Jones and Gritz, and yes a swirl of Peckerhead. Put it all in your Bass-O-Matic for a quick blend. Then use a straw to suck it all up.

Frank said...

Any substantive rebuttals in there, Anon? Or do you intend simply to bore me goodbye with name-calling and guilt-by-association?

Frank said...

BTW, Anon, I have no idea what those other five guys think re. TR, but you utterly missed Joel McDurmon:

KevinC said...

Watched the documentary on him this year, and it was fascinating, and it's such a same that the voice of this master storyteller is now (temporarily) silenced.

The problem with being on the defense in the culture wars is that when we lose a giant on our side such as Milius, there is no one there to pick up his shield and continue the fight.

When someone like Sean Penn goes over the line, there are 14 other hard-core socialists of mediocre talent standing ready to take his place. When we lose a Milius, we have scour the countryside looking for someone of his ability to fight for us.

Maybe Sony's feckless behavior is changing that, maybe South Park's incessant bomb-throwing is doing it, maybe some of the creative types in Hollywood are recognizing socialism for the kinder, gentler fascism it really is, but I think something is changing in the cultural landscape of our country, and that's a good thing.

nj larry said...

"...when we lose a giant on our side such as Milius, there is no one there to pick up his shield and continue the fight."

@KevinC Don't sell our side short. I understand your frustration but there are good talented folks on our side. MB wrote about one this year. I recall he had dinner with him? David Mamet is one of those folks who once where on the hard left. Then they saw the error of their ways. Mamet is quite literally a genius. Acknowledged as such by the the right AND the left. The whole Friends of Abe group in Hollyweird is composed of rather conservative thinkers. John Voight is one also. But don't be surprised if the next generation has a bit of a conservative bent. It is typical of youngins to rebel against their elders. Have hope ! There will be a better day. Happy New Year all !