144 years ago this coming week, a Union regiment from Massachusetts led a futile assault on a Confederate bastion near Charleston known as Battery Wagner. As Civil War battles go, it was relatively minor and would normally go unremarked compared to the Battle of Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, which both happened at roughly the same time. What made this action remarkable was the fact that 54th Massachusetts Volunteers was the first regular unit of the Union army to consist entirely of black soldiers, led by a white colonel, the son of prominent Boston abolitionists.
As an account of this event, Glory is reasonably accurate and thoroughly inspiring, built around a core of superb actors giving some of their best performances. It’s portrayal of Civil War combat is technically on par with the later Gettysburg, only more realistic and bloody, fully deserving of the film’s R rating.
Oliver Stone‘s JFK is a movie as admirable in its technique as it is troubling in its agenda. Much like Birth of a Nation sought to rewrite the early history of the original Ku Klux Klan, JFK represents a concerted effort on Stone’s part to insert certifiable falsehoods into the historical record of the Kennedy assassination. He gets two basic facts correct. John F. Kennedy was indeed assassinated on November 22, 1963 and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison did actually prosecute businessman Clay Shaw for his role in an alleged conspiracy. After that, the facts and Mr. Stone have a strained relationship at best. I sincerely hope that this movie will be as routinely dismissed by future generations as Birth of a Nation is today.