Monday, March 01, 2010

Monologue - It's War! Or is It?

Jose here.

What better way to kick start Oscar week than with a call to battle by one of the greatest performances of all time? George C. Scott as Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

When Patton begins, the General reminds his soldiers that,

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.

After taking hold of your attention with this impressive statement he continues affirming that

Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

When you were kids you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball player, the toughest boxer. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Seen under a modern perspective the speech might come off as looking either awe inspiring or psychotic. Those very words very well could represent the moral ambiguity some think is lacking at the center of this year's The Hurt Locker.
The effect after all is the same; you either agree or disagree.

Even if the film is set in WWII, the speech has become a timeless symbol of pro and anti war movements. At the time of its original release this sequence cause such a stir that soldiers-home from Vietnam-would stand up to attention and salute the screen as Scott addressed them and you need do nothing more than to browse YouTube to see how it's deformed, reshaped and parodied by fans who use it to reference the Middle East conflict, Obama's political campaign and self reflections on the state of the American psyche.

Towards the end of the speech though we are reminded that this man was above all a brilliant leader disguised as a reckless army General.

He finishes by saying:

Alright, now you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel. Oh... I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere.

Without the need of being too obvious he reveals his humanity and compassion towards the troops without hiding his demigod-ness within the army.

Scott rightfully won the Academy Award for Best actor, in a slightly controversial Oscar win (he used to call the Oscars a "meat parade") and entering into the days leading to the big battle, it's nice to put everything in perspective.

There are far too many problems in the world, to take a bunch of movie awards we rarely agree with, so seriously. Right?
So why not just breathe and bash in their ability to entertain us, they have always succeeded at it.

At ease.


Casey said...

before football games in high school everybody sat and got completely silent and we'd play this speech. we made it so loud that it was impossible to think of anything else. rousing stuff

Luke said...

Oh, Patton. Thanks to my WWII vet grandfather's love of this movie (and to Mr. Scott), I learned some brand new words from this monologue. :)

W.R. said...

Great write-up. Have never seen this performance, now I think I will. :) said...

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monkey101 said...

I wonder if the academy can change the winner of the best actress winner at the last minute. Because Sandra and Meryl are not worthy if Gabourey Sidibe who should win.

G1000 said...

Possibly the greatest lead acting performance I've ever seen. The movie itself was overlong and bloated, but Scott was absolutely brilliant.

brandz said...

excellent write-up, Nate. i recently just saw this film for the first time. George C. Scott was outstanding. what a character!

Carl said...

Thanks, Jose - nice to see my favorite male performance of all time get some love. Unlike others, I also love the movie, bloated or no.

As famous as the opening monologue is, I have a soft spot for the closing monologue. Patton is quietly describing the ancient Roman tradition of the Triumph, in a scene that is as opposite to the opening as it is possible to create. I can still hear the closing words, "...that all glory is fleeting." After an entire movie where he is a bombast, a genius, and a cauldron of ill-concealed rage, we are left at the last with a great man who is quietly, and stunningly, vulnerable.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Don't usually like "War" movies, but just saw THE HURT LOCKER, and that was amazing. I think it will win best film.

Yancey said...

I've never seen this film and I have the DVD at home for it. I really should get on that eventually, especially for Scott's performance.