The Band of Brothers series so far:
As you may have guessed (if you read the title of this post), we’re starting a new series on Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and HBO’s preeminent World War II mini-series, Band of Brothers.
But--huge but here--we’re not planning on reviewing the series, because, honestly, what’s left to review?
On almost every level, from writing to directing to cinematography to historical interest to special effects to whatever, almost everyone everywhere admires Band of Brothers. The series won six Emmy’s out of 19 nominations, a Golden Globe and a Peabody. On Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, Band of Brothers garners a 9.7, a 96% and a 9.6 rating, respectively. When I tried to find Band of Brothers criticism, the only critiques I could find were written by white supremacists. On a personal level, our dad has plunged his way through the series at least four times; if the series comes on TV, he watches the whole damn thing.
Reviewing the series would mean ranking and comparing episodes against one another, which means we would have to disparage one episode in favor of another, pointing out criticisms that come across as nitpicks. (When Chuck Klosterman suggested that The Wire was the second best television series of all time--pretty strong praise--some internet commenters interpreted that as, “Klosterman hates The Wire!”) Who cares if “Carentan” isn’t as good as “Points”? Both episodes are better than most TV in general.
We don’t want to do that.
Instead, we want to ask big questions. Researching this series, I found this essay by Leonard Pierce, “Saving Private Ryan, Band Of Brothers, and The Pacific: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ World War II“. Describing Saving Private Ryan, Pierce sums up the goal of our series on Band of Brothers:
“Spielberg and screenwriter Robert Rodat deserve equal praise for depicting, in what is essentially an action-movie format, the kind of Big Questions that are usually reserved for smaller, more philosophical films: Is any goal worthy of the carnage of total war? How much value do we place on a single human life, and is one life worth more than another if it has symbolic value? Where do we find heroism and courage, and how do we deal with cowardice and failure?”
Big questions. Band of Brothers inspires big questions, so we’re starting a series on the miniseries. It makes us think. It makes us want to write, on everything from paratroopers to the media portrayal of officers and World War II to the futility of killing civilians in war. It’s all in there. (Leonard Pierce, strangely enough, was the one critic we could find who didn’t like Band of Brothers. For the exact opposite opinion--hating Saving Private Ryan but loving Band of Brothers--read Paul Fussel’s review of the series on Slate.)
Here’s how the series is going to work: every other week, using one episode as a jumping off point, we’re going to write about an idea sparked by the miniseries. Some episodes may have more than one post, and we’ve already invited regular guest poster Matty P to contribute his ideas.
Guest posts on Band of Brothers are more than welcomed. Again, we don’t want reviews of the episodes, or posts on which episode is your favorite. We want the thoughts and ideas Band of Brothers gave you about your life, the military, the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, on art, whatever.