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January 20, 1987 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1987-01-20

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The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, January 20, 1987

Page 5

Vet, professor talk about Vietnam films

By John Shea
I am only nineteen years-old.
Had I been that old, that many
years ago, I might well have fought
in the Vietnam war. As it stands
now, all I know about the war is
what I've read in textbooks and
what I've seen in the movies and as
it stands now, I don't know a
helluva lot about the Vietnam war.
The first major motion picture
to depict the war was The Green
Berets. Released back in 1968, it
starred John Wayne, Jim Hutton
and David Janssen. Wayne, who
also co-wrote the script, said he was
interested in the project because he
wanted to present to America the
horrifying reality of Vietnam. Even
President Johnson assisted Wayne
in the making of The Green Berets.
I saw it the other night on VCR,
hoping to gain some insight into
what the war meant. A hundred a
twenty minutes - and several
hundred dead Vietnamese later -
Wayne told me.
"Why, this is all about you," he
tells a little Vietnamese boy. The
two are standing on a beach; the
boy's parents are dead and 'his only

friend just got killed. Upon hearing
this, though, the boy wipes away
the tears and takes the Duke's hand
as they walk off into the sunset.
The End. If all I knew about
Vietnam was what I saw in The
Green Berets, then I know less than
a little.'
Lawrence Obrist knows about it,
though; perhaps more than he cares
to remember. He was there - in
Vietnam - working as a medic for
the 25th Infantry Battalion. He
now works as a social
worker/psychology specialist at the
Ann Arbor Veteran's Hospital. He
remembers seeing The Green
"I saw it while in the Philipines
on R&R," he tells me in a
telephone conversation. "We were
all curious to see if a group of men
who had never fought in Vietnam
could capture what the war was like
and what we went through."
He sighs, and lets out a little
laugh. "The good guys always
won," he says in reference to
Wayne and Hollywood's standard
American war picture. "It was,
ludicrous. If you'd have been there,
you could see that."
The problem is, until recently,
every single writer/director who has
ever made a major motion picture

depicting Vietnam hasn't been
there, and can't see what Obrist
saw. And this has led to many
factual inaccuracies, several of
which have been gross; there's been
little improvement since the days of
The Green Berets.

Platoon's violence boarders on
being excessive, but none of it is
glorified. It presents an intense,
unforgiving vision where there are
no sandy beaches and warm sunsets;
just frightened young men who
want to make it home.

'There hasn't been a single satisfactory representation
of war in Vietnam ... until today.'

- Gerald Linderman,
University history professor

"There hasn't been a single
satisfactory representation of war in
Vietnam," says Professor Gerald'
Linderman, an historian of twenieth
century American wars at the
University, "until today."
'Today' means Platoon.
Currently in release, this film won
critical acclaim. The writer and
director of the film, Oliver Stone,
was in Vietnam, along with Obrist,
in the 25th Infantry Battalion -
Platoon is based on those
The release of the film breaks a
five year trend in Hollywood, which
began in 1982 with Sylvester
Stallone's First Blood; a
revisionist's version of the war,
where America finally wins the war
we lost in the seventies, along with
excessive and gratuitous violence.

This is the vision Obrist knows
all too well, and he's not sure if he
wants to see it again. "I haven't see
the film yet," he tells me. His
voice becomes softer, deeper as he
searches for the right words. "I'm
basically torn in wanting to see it
because its based on the 25th
Infantry... What shuns me from
seeing it is because its too graphic,
too true-to-life...real people got
killed, even by their buddies."
This is a vision Hollywood has
never really projected before. Death
has been well-depicted in the
Rambo films, but those who died
resembled cardboard cut-ups more
than people. First Blood and
Uncommon Valor were films which
were mildly entertaining but used a
sledgehammer to get across there re -

spective political messages; they
strayed too far from the Vietnam
At the close of the seventies,
shortly after America withdrew
from Vietnam, three films were
released in a two year span; they
seemed to capture the essence of
what the veterans were going
through: 1978's Apocalypse Now
and Coming Home, and 1979's The
Deer Hunter. These films focused
more on the psychological
aftermath of the war. Yet, while
they were critically acclaimed, there
were, nevertheless, gross
inaccuricies. "The Deer Hunter was
'a travesty of Vietnamese culture,"'
says Linderman, referring to the
infamous Russian Roulette game
that stars Robert DeNiro and
Christopher Walken were forced to
play after being captured by the
VC. And Apocalypse Now, Francis
Ford Coppola's 31 million dollar
epic concerns itself more with art
than with its subject matter.
Obrist has little interest in
seeing any of these movies but as a
psychology specialist at the
Veterans Hospital, he has talked
with many of the men there about
Vietnam pictures. It's not easy for
them to do this; many of them have
had nightmares about Vietnam and

these films seem to rekindle those'
memories. But most of them agree:
- Platoon is the most accurate of
the Vietnam films. "They feel:
strongly it (captures what we've;
been through). People died for less;
than patriotic reasons...its a direct:
contrast to Johnny marching and:
flag waving." He points out that of
the 58,000 men who died in
Vietnam, over 10,000 of them died
of "non-combat deaths."
Linderman is pleased with
Stone's film. "I value Platoon
because it raises the issue if such a
war, under any favorable
circumstances, could be won. I
hope this...jerks us beyond 'Rea
Rambo III is scheduled foi
release sometime this spring. It is
not likely Sylvester Stallone hag
the same aspirations to depict
Vietnam as Oliver Stone does. But
several other Vietnam films are due
out this year, including Stanley
Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and
John Irvin's Hamburger Hill
Should these films follow in
Stone's style, it's possible that the
revisionist's trend will give way to
that of depicting the truth. And then
nineteen years old like me can learn
a thing or two.

Eclipse presents 'Big Beat' jazz lecture series

By Wendy Kaplan
But can you dance to it?
That question has pervaded the
music of America's youth for the
past twenty-five years. It is a query
spurred by Dick Clark's pimply
teenagers-on-parade program, "Am-
erican Bandstand," and widely used
by both teens and, post-teens to
judge popular music today. The
song may be simplistic. It may be
loud - eardrum shattering, if you
will. But if you can dance to it,
well, that's what matters.

But what about jazz? The
simultaneously hot and cool music
of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie,
Wynton Marsalis and the like has
great beats. You can even dance to
it. So why has jazz all but
disappeared from the record
collections of those born after
1960? According to J.C. Heard, a
prolific jazz drummer who's played
with Billie Holliday, Benny
Goodman, and Dizzy Gillespie
among others, rock 'n' roll is the
music of the day because promoters
want it that way.
"Rock is fast money, just like

fast food places," Heard says.
"They shove it down the kids'
throats. They're selling show, not
In an effort to put jazz back into
contemporary record collections,
Eclipse Jazz, a non-profit, student-
run organization, is sponsoring a
six-week lecture series entitled,
"The Big Beat: The History Of Jazz
Through The Perspective Of The
Drummer." The series will trace the
progression of jazz drumming from
its initial position as the backdrop
rhythym of Big Band through its
active role in Be-Bop to its eminent

frontman position in jazz today.
Heard, who has contributed over
55 years of percussive innovation
to his field, says that young people
today have been deprived of a know -
ledge of jazz, "the greatest Ameri -
can art form and the most con,-
sistent music in history." Those
who grew up with Benny Goodman
and Ella Fitzgerald can appreciate
the richness and creativity of the
music. Those who grew up after the
age of Be-Bop and Big Band lack
the knowledge, and thus appreci -
ation, of the jazz enthusiast.

Through his experiences in this
country and abroad, Heard has lived
the music, touring the world over
ten times.
"I open the eyes up and the
ears," he asserts. "I show them that
the drummer is really the driver of
the car."
Other drummers contributing to
the series will be Roy Brooks, a
member of the Aboriginal Choir
and other Detroit-based groups, and
Tani Tabbal, the percussionist from
Myth World Rhythym Troupe and
Griot Galaxy. All three artists will.

give live demonstrations and/or vid -
eotapes of drumming techniques. In
addition, Arwulf Arwulf, the
director of WCBN's jazz pro -
gramming, will be speaking on
drummers of the sixties while Greg
Dahlberg, an Art Blakey expert,
will speak on that artist's influence.
The series will meet in the
Michigan Union every Tuesday
night beginning tonight from 7:30
to 9:30. The price is $4 per lecture
or $25 and half off Thursday's Art
Blakey show for the series. For
more information, contact the
Eclipseazz office d763-0046.

The University of Michigan Housing Division
The Housing Division is looking for well-qualified candidates to serve as resident staff
members in Residence Halls. We specifically are looking for students interested in:
-Serving as positive academic and group living role models
-Fostering a spirit of community
-Developing and strengthening leadership, communication and group skills and
-Developing programs for a diverse student population.
Sunday, January 25, 1987 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 27, 1987 - 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Representatives from the Housing Division will be there to provide information and
answer questions regarding candidate qualifications, selection processes and job
expectations. Applications are available only at these meetings.
An Equoa Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employer
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