Patton (1970)

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Is this America enough for you?

Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest:  I only half-watched this movie.  I’ve certainly done that before in this project, where I play poker on my phone or fold laundry or something while the movie plays in the background.  I figure, whatever, it’s not like I’m writing a proper review or something, so if it doesn’t grab me, then I might as well do something useful with my time.  But Patton was another thing entirely.  I definitely sat through the whole three hours, but I can’t say I gained anything from it.

If you want to actually learn something about World War II, I’d recommend reading a book.  If you’d prefer to watch a bunch of explosions and see a guy who’s kind of an asshole depicted as a hero, you can watch this film – or, really, just about any war movie from the past fifty years.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I struggle to follow movies with large casts of hard-to-distinguish characters or films that attempt to dramatize a swath of real-life events.  Though I’ve read quite a bit about WWII in my time, I didn’t know much about Patton’s role in the war.  This movie didn’t clarify a lot, except that his big “claim to fame” was that he mocked soldiers he believed weren’t courageous enough in battle, which almost cost him any lasting glory.  The film chose to overlook entirely his expressed views on Jews and blacks (spoiler alert:  not positive).

I don’t often mention topical issues in conjunction with my Oscar project, but I couldn’t help seeing the parallels here between Patton’s near-fatal mistake and Trump.  Patton slapped a soldier in hospital for “battle fatigue” – the era’s euphemism for what we now think of as PTSD – because he considered it to be cowardice.  Apparently, soldiers are meant to be mindless killing machines in his world.  Fortunately, instead of ruining his career, it merely redirected his command to Operation Fortitude, the phantom army at Dover that was meant as a diversion from the real invasion at Normandy.  Most of this I learned from Wikipedia rather than the movie.

There were a couple of interesting moments that sparked my attention.  At one point, someone says, “I shaved very closely in anticipation of being smacked by you,” which sounded startlingly familiar.  I should have guessed it, considering my memory for quotes is limited to those scenes I’ve seen many times.  Turns out, it was used on Battlestar Galactica, when Tom Zarek encounters Laura Roslin in a moment of political rivalry.  Apparently, the writers of BSG really loved this movie, because another line features prominently, as well.  Patton makes an off-hand comment about needing soldiers who are razors, once again echoed in a storyline on BSG.  Admiral Caine apparently has a crossover kinship with General Patton.  Imagine the fanfiction.

My attention to this film project has been flagging a bit recently, probably in part because I have a fair number of films like this to get through that don’t inspire me much.  That’s okay; I’m in the home stretch, and there’s definitely a trilogy or two of movies that I can look forward to binge-watching in the near future.


Theme:  General

First Time Watching?  Yup

Final Verdict:  Not as funny as Patton Oswalt


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