While other websites cried afoul at the thought of Zack Snyder tackling George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware in the style of 300, (discussed in the director’s Bloomberg profile) we saw a chance for opportunity. Why wouldn’t we want Snyder, whose previous adaptations have brought legions of viewers together in universal adoration, to tackle an even more sacred lore? In complete honesty, Snyder’s ambition as a filmmaker is never less than impressive and even when he doesn’t hit all the right chords, his decisions are always interesting. 300 married aspects exploitation films to a dose of absurdism to create a stylish Spartan propaganda piece. Needless to say, the film and the graphic novel it was based off of took historical accuracy lightly. But considering how many liberties we see taken with the more accurate historical-accounts and bio-pics that aim for Oscars every year, perhaps we can be a little more lenient on purposeful deviations from the truth. So folks, let the social media debates begin because you’ve just entered Zack Snyder’s America.
Needle Work: The Story of Betsy “The Badass” Ross
Welcome to the wind-swept plains of Pennsylvania, where Betsy Griscom has spent her entire life under the strict rules of her Quaker family. Her childhood of sewing tutelage and her apprenticeship as an upholsterer have left her with unparalleled needle work sills. But as skilled as Betsy is, she’s also bored. At 21, she elopes with a fellow apprentice, a dashing Anglican named John Ross. Cast out from her family and the Revolutionary War looming on the horizon, Betsy questions her place in America. When John is killed during the war, Betsy decides to put her needle work skills to use, not by making tents or repairing uniforms as legend says she did, but by working in the shadows as a mercenary. Armed with 2 sixteen-inch needles, Betsy takes on the monstrous Hessians and inadvertently allows for George Washington to cross the Delaware. Through her exploits over the years, Ross sewed together a tapestry of America, one not made of cloth and string, but of the body parts of those who would threaten our country.
The Last Ride of the Pony Express
19 months was all it took for the most efficient postal service America had ever known to become obsolete. The rise of the telegraph is in motion, but Billy Sadler refuses to turn his life over to a machine. He knows that machines are impersonal, and have little concern for the person at the other end of the wire. In the dark of the night, he loads up all the time-sensitive letters he can on his horse, Nightwind, and sets off on a journey from Missouri to California. On his way, he fends off attacks from wild animals, Native American tribes, and dangerous marauders. Injured and with questions of mortality circling in his head, Sadler rides on, determined to prove himself against the impending rise of the machine. His journey is halted by strangers with their own messages to deliver, strangers whom Sadler can’t deny. As Sadler’s years-long journey branches off and takes him across every inch of America, he never forgets about the sack of time-sensitive letters by his side. This is the story of one man’s journey to deliver the mail by hand.
The time of excess is at an end. It is Tuesday, October 29th, 1929 and investor Charlie Baker just wants to make it home from work. The streets are full of panic, wealthy businessmen are leaping from their office windows, and looters have already begun their frenzied grab for whatever they can take with them. This is a horror story set through the lens of economic despair, with every skyscraper casting a looming gray shadow on everyone below. Every step Charlie takes, whether it’s leaving his office building, or taking a back alley, is fraught with danger, not only from the population gone mad but his own suicidal impulses. With the help of a crazy homeless woman named Lucy, Charlie moves through the maze of New York as despair grips the city. Charlie knows the woman expects to be rewarded for his safe passage in the end, but he also knows that the bills in his wallet may be all his family has left. His business suit left in tatters, and his code of refinement tearing at the seams, Charlie’s sanity begins to crumble as New York becomes a distorted and frightening hellscape. Morality, greed, and familial responsibility all come to head as Charlie inches closer to Lucy’s perspective than he ever thought possible. Welcome to Black Tuesday.
Here Lies Woodstock
Despite the photographic evidence and video footage, Woodstock isn’t what we think it was. Nearly every source of information we have about America’s most notorious concert is shrouded in conspiracy. The acid trips and rambling stories are only a cover for the truth. It is August 1969, and the musical energy has steadily been building all day. Right after Janis Joplin’s set, but before Sly and the Family Stone really got going, the Woodstock Festival enters a time known as the Witching Hour. The purpose of the concert was to create a bridge between our world and the world of fantasy, a peaceful alternate dimension of sprites, elves and fairy people. It was here that the Woodstock attendees planned to crossover. But instead, a portal to a dark dimension is opened, unleashing demons, witches, and dragons into our world. Peace is no longer an option. It is at Woodstock where hippies and some of the greatest musicians this world has ever known sought to close the gate between our world and damnation. This is the story of Janis Joplin versus the harpy, the story of The Who’s battle against the Necromancers, the story of how Jimmy Hendrix slayed the dragon but lost his soul in the process. This is the greatest musical fantasy the world has ever known.
Placing satire aside for this final entry, imagine a film written by John Ridley and directed by Zack Snyder. It is LA, 1992. Four police officers have just been acquitted of the excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. It is Day 3 of the six-day riot and communities are already in shambles. The National Guard has entered the city and the President has addressed the country to no avail. There’s little need to embellish history, as this story examines the struggle between LA locals and the National Guard. Centering on the perspective of an 18-year old black man, his mother, a Korean shop owner, a young white LA cop, and a masked member of the National Guard, Riot! employs the broad scope of Watchmen and provides no easy solution to the violence plaguing the streets. The brutality displayed in this story isn’t for our entertainment, but a means to provide a look at the lasting impact of racial tensions in America. But this isn’t Crash. With Ridley’s uncompromising script and Snyder’s wide-lens visuals, this a war story set on American grounds. As easy as it is for some to criticize Snyder, his ability to ground us in the impossible, is a rare talent. And there are few true stories more seemingly impossible than this one.
Featured Image: Emanuel Leutze