With a bestselling original novel and smash-hit stage version behind it, Steven Spielberg’s take on this story of one boy and his horse and their experiences of WW1 could not be more highly anticipated. Opening with a swelling orchestra and chocolate-box shots of the British countryside, it is clear that we are meant to be absorbed into this bucolic ideal of Britain’s past, where shambolic farmer Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) decides to buy Joey the thoroughbred on a whim and leaves it up to his son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine), to attempt to train him into a useful working animal. A strong bond develops between man and beast, but naturally there needs to be some conflict – dastardly landlord Lyons (David Thewlis) will repossess their farm if they cannot plough a fallow field in time. one disaster follows another, however, and with the onset of war Joey is sold into service in the cavalry, to be the trusty steed of the sympathetic Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston).
As well as Thewlis and Hiddleston, the other big ‘name’ attached to the film is Benedict Cumberbatch as the head of the cavalry, Major Stewart, though it has to be said that the horses are the real stars. the film unfolds from Joey’s point of view, involving a sweet subplot with a French Grandfather and his spirited Granddaughter, as well as the true horror of what the horses were put through on the front line. Although the eventual outcome of the story is hardly unpredictable, this willingness to show the reality of conditions in the trenches saves the film from becoming overly mawkish.
Though there were a few instances of dodgy accents (the choice being for all characters to speak in English, no matter what their nationality), and the gold-saturated end sequence struck me as rather over the top, this in an unapologetic, feel-good tearjerker, and does a great job at presenting domestic and personal ordeals in the context of a wider tragedy.
A few Civil War horses and their riders:
Traveller and Robert E. Lee
Confederate General Robert E. Lee came to Richmond, Virginia in the spring of 1861. During this visit, Lee was given a bay stallion named Richmond. Richmond was a nervous horse, and proved unsatisfactory. when Richmond was near strange horses, he would tend to squeal. This was not a good thing for a Civil War horse to do. Lee took Richmond to West Virginia and purchased another horse called The Roan or Brown-Roan. Unfortunately, The Roan began to go blind during the Seven Days’ Battle in June and July of 1862. The horse Richmond died after Malvern Hill. after second Bull run, cavalryman Jeb Stuart got Lee a mare named Lucy Long. Also around this time, Lee received a sorrel horse named Ajax.
When Lee rode to Appomattox Court House to surrender on April 9, 1865, he was riding his favorite and most known horse. This gray colored horse was Traveller. after the Civil War, when Robert E. Lee was president at Washington University (later renamed to Washington and Lee University), Lee’s favorite old war-horse Traveller was still with him. when Lee died, the horse Traveller walked behind Lee’s hearse in the funeral procession. Traveller walked with his head bowed and in a slow gait. Traveller is buried outside of the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University. Robert E. Lee is interred in a crypt beneath the Lee Chapel.
Lexington, Sam, and William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman had two horses that were his favorites during the Civil War. these horse’s names were Lexington and Sam. Sherman rode Lexington at Atlanta and in the Grand Review in Washington at the close of the war. Sam was injured several times during the Civil War. At Shiloh, three of Sherman’s horses were killed during the battle. two of these three horses died as an orderly held their reigns.
Cincinnati and Ulysses S. Grant
As a young man, Ulysses S. Grant developed a love of horses when he worked at his father’s farm. Grant became a skilled equestrian. while a cadet at West Point, Grant was an exceptional equestrian and he did not stand out as having special talents in anything else while at West Point. Grant wanted a commission in the cavalry when he finished at West Point. Instead, he wound up in the infantry because the cavalry had no vacancies. The infantry assignment must have been a disappointment for the horse-loving equestrian Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant’s favorite horse during the Civil War was Cincinnati. an admirer gave Cincinnati to Grant after the Battle of Chattanooga. Cincinnati was seldom ridden by anyone other than Grant, one notable exception being President Abraham Lincoln when Lincoln last visited City Point, Virginia. Other horses Grant had in the Civil War were Jack, Fox, and Kangaroo. Kangaroo was left on the Shiloh battlefield by the Confederates. This horse was described as ugly and raw-boned. Grant however, having an eye for horses, knew that Kangaroo was a thoroughbred. after becoming a Yankee horse, Kangaroo got rest and care and became a fine horse.
Old Sorrel and Stonewall Jackson
Old Sorrel was Confederate General Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson’s horse. Stonewall was riding this horse when he was shot by friendly fire at Chancellorsville. Old Sorrel became Jackson’s horse in may of 1861 at Harpers Ferry. The horse was about eleven-years-old at this time.
That Devil Dan and George B. McClellan
Union General George B. McClellan’s favorite war-horse was named Daniel Webster. Members of General McClellan’s staff began to call this horse that devil Dan because Daniel Webster was a speedy horse. The horses of McClellan’s staff members had trouble keeping up with that devil Dan. Daniel Webster was with McClellan at Antietam. This horse was described as being a dark bay, about seventeen hands high, a pure bred, handsome, and he seldom showed signs of fatigue. Daniel Webster was a fine example of a horse. when McClellan retired from military service, the horse Daniel Webster went with him. The horse nicknamed that devil Dan became the family horse of the McClellan family.
The American Civil war (1861-65) was fought between the southern states and the Union. It lasted 4 years and was marked by some bitter battles. in India not many will know that this year (2011) was the 150th anniversary of this war which at that time changed the face of America. Popular notion is that the war when Abraham Lincoln was the President was fought on the issue of slavery. but that is a simple reason and there were deeper reasons that brought about this war. The issues involved were economic independence and the right to chart a separate course from the union.
The Scenario of the battle
But I will now refer to one battle of this civil war and that is the battle of Masard Prairie. Prairies as we know are vast grasslands of America and this battle fought on 27 July 1864 is important as it was fought in the grasslands of America with the cavalry in full cry. The vast grass fields gave excellent topographical support to the deployment of cavalry. The cavalry in those days consisted of soldiers with sabers who pressed forward on horses.
In another few days we will be witness to the 147th anniversary of this battle. The battle was fought between the Confederates and Unionists and is one of the few battles where the Confederates had the upper hand. we all know that in the final analysis the confederates were defeated and the economic scenario of the south changed after the civil war.
Tthis battle in a different light. It was one of the few confederate victories of the civil war. Masard prairie is a vast land with many grassy fields on the outskirts of Fort Smith in Arkansas. Fort Smith is thus a hallowed ground in America and Americans will remember it as part of their military heritage. The significance of this battle from the military point of view is use of cavalry in a decisive charge against the union soldiers. The battle brought out the brutal environment all around at that time and many union soldiers who had died in battle were scalped like what the Red Indian did to the white men. It was a barbaric act but perhaps it was inevitable, given the animosity that existed between the South and the north at that time. The battlefield is still preserved as a reminder of this battle and many old soldiers and men visit this place.
In 1864 all the construction which we see all around was not there and the prairie field stretched for miles and miles. It was virgin grass land and was used as a grazing ground for their horses by the Union cavalry. one of the reasons to use this area as grazing ground was the shortage of fodder in Fort Smith which was the military encampment of the union force which was commanded by Brigadier general John Thayer.
Brigadier Thayer thus had allowed the horses of his regiment to be allowed to be grazed. in addition he had entrusted the guarding to 4 companies puff the 6th Kansas cavalry. this cavalry unit had earlier taken part in some hard battles during the civil war. The Confederate force received intelligence report of the units of the union army at Fort Smith being out in the open in the prairie field and their commander Brig General R Gano planned an attack.
The Confederate Attack
Thus on 26 July the stage was set for the Confederate attack. He made his plans for an attack before the run rises. The federal troops should have been on guard, but somehow they with misplaced confidence did not take the necessary precautions.
The confederate attack began ere the first rays of the sun had hit the earth. in this Gano achieved total surprise and satisfied a basic principle of war, element of surprise. The confederates were aided by Choctaw tribes. These were Native American Red Indians who originally hailed from the Southeastern United States. The Choctaws had thrown in their lot with the Confederates as all their treaties with Union were not honored. These men entered with their war cries and that had an effect on the union troops.
A three-pronged attack was mounted by the confederates under Gano and the Union lines quickly gave way. there was some bitter fighting but with Gano himself lading the charge, the fate of the union troops was sealed. A large part of the federal force was hemmed in a small old mansion and was surrounded. The surrendered and were made POWS. Some of the troops escaped into the vast prairie field. The confederates suffered very light causalities and lost only 33 dead, while the union force suffered heavy casualties.
This battle was the launching pad to the capture of Fort Smith by the Confederates, hence it was an important battle.
This battle marks one of the most comprehensive victories of the confederates and gave them much confidence. but the tide was turning against the confederates and they finally lost the war. for students of military history the battle is studied as an example of the use of cavalry regiments in a limited engagement. The battlefield is still there, a tribute to American arms. for further details of the battle excellent exhibits are preserved at the museum at Fort Smith.
“War Horse” is a movie that perhaps only Steven Spielberg could have made. this is both good and not so good. on the plus side, the film has many of his trademark virtues – a resonant feeling for loneliness and emotional connection, stirring action sequences, vaunted storytelling. the not so good stuff, the dewy sentimentality and picture-book imagery especially, is generic Spielberg. the generic ultimately wins out.
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Originally a bestselling 1987 novel by Michael Morpurgo, “War Horse” was dramatized for the London stage by Nick Stafford in 2007 and later won a Tony on Broadway. In all of its incarnations, the heart of this material – a boy’s love for his horse – is almost as old as the movies. Set in England just before the outbreak of World War I, the narrative centers on Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine), a teenager living with his family in the English countryside who bonds with the beautiful bay thoroughbred he names Joey.
When Albert’s alcoholic father (Peter Mullan), in order to avoid eviction, sells Joey to the British cavalry, Albert is heartbroken and vows one day to reunite with him even though horses in World War I often ended up as cannon fodder. from this point on, Spielberg and his screenwriters (Lee Hall and Richard Curtis) serve up a series of extended vignettes chronicling Joey’s travails as he is adopted by a kindly English officer (Tom Hiddleston), a pair of German brothers (Leonhard Carow and David Kross), an old Frenchman (Niels Arestrup) and his teenage granddaughter (Celine Buckens), before the film finally circles back to Albert, now a British soldier in the Somme offensive.
The novel imagined the story from Joey’s point of view and the stage play utilized large-scale puppetry to represent the horses. by contrast, Spielberg’s movie is, unavoidably, more realistic. In the end, no matter how photogenic Joey is, he is still irrevocably a horse.
This is not all for the worse. the heavy-going mystic-symbolic trappings of Joey in his earlier incarnations are played down here in favor of the sheer gorgeousness of the steed. this is in keeping with the movies’ rich history of glorifying horses as horses (“National Velvet,” “The Black Stallion” etc.).
But inevitably, because Spielberg is Spielberg, Joey does indeed become more than just a horse, even if we don’t enter into his thoughts. Joey is the spiritual connection between warring factions who, at bottom, are just decent human beings caught up in a senseless war. the centerpiece sequence has an American and a German soldier venturing into no man’s land to disentangle Joey from a welter of barbed wire. It’s a powerful scene and yet, in his not too subtle way, Spielberg is manipulating us as much as those puppeteers on Broadway manipulated Joey.
In general, Spielberg milks each scene for maximum memorability, which becomes wearing after awhile. the grandfather and his granddaughter are pastoralized creations every bit as much as Albert and Joey. the rural landscapes – those that aren’t littered with corpses – are shimmering, nostalgic tableaux that evoke the films of David Lean and even, in a particularly overscaled moment at the end, “Gone with the Wind.”
Spielberg has never been the director you go to for subtlety, and, at his transcendent best, in films like “E.T.,” subtlety is the last thing you wanted from him. He’s a big-gesture, direct-emotion kind of guy. Some of “War Horse” is intensely affecting – especially the early scenes between Albert and his long-suffering mother (Emily Watson) and the massacre in the wheat fields of the overmatched British by the Germans, which ranks almost as high as the D-Day invasion sequence in “Saving Private Ryan.”
But too much of this film is felt on a cinematic level instead of an emotional one. Spielberg by now can do this sort of thing with such facility that he often lets his technical skills override his deepest engagement in the material. I guess what I’m saying is that “War Horse,” despite its excellences, is a supreme demonstration of a director phoning it in. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.)
WOULD you rather spend time with your in-laws this Boxing Day, or with stars including Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Ben Stiller?
Needless to say, Reading Cinemas Redbank is expecting a big turnout today.
Boxing Day is traditionally a big day for movie premieres, and this year is no different.
happy Feet two, The Adventures of Tintin, We Bought a Zoo, War Horse and Tower Heist are all opening at the Redbank Plaza complex today.
Cinema complex manager Jessica Barany said her team was preparing for a bumper crowd.
“We've ordered in a lot of extra stock so we're all ready,” Ms Barany said.
“There's been a bit of a lull before the storm in the lead-up to Christmas, but Boxing Day is always, always busy.”
“This year we have a lot of big-name stars in opening movies – we've got Robin Williams in happy Feet two, Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo, and Ben Stiller in Tower Heist.”
Ms Barany said her top picks for opening movies were happy Feet two for children and families and War Horse for adults.
“My favourite would be happy Feet two, it's going to be fantastic” Ms Barany said.
“And for grown ups there's a great new war drama called War Horse, which has had rave reviews.
“Tintin will also be big – it was directed by Steven Spielberg and I think there'll be a lot of grown ups in the crowd as well as children, seeing as it is such a popular cartoon.”
“We've got happy Feet two and Tintin in both 2D and 3D, so that adds to the choices.”
other films screening on Boxing Day include Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Puss in Boots in 2D, and New Year's Eve.
The Reading Cinema Redbank complex will open at 9.30am today, with full session times available at readingcinemas.com.au.
Birch Carroll and Coyle Ipswich City cinemas will screen the same opening day movies, with a family package deal available for happy Feet two in 3D.
The Ipswich cinemas will also host three movie marathons tonight, featuring films including Tower Heist and Mission Impossible: Ghost Patrol.
Boxing Day times for Birch Carroll and Coyle can be found at eventcinemas.com.au.
In the history of horse racing there have been many fantastic runners from the sensational Seattle Slew to the clubfooted comet Assault, and the filly champion Ruffian to the very determined Affirmed. but the number one and number two match up in this writers opinion was the incredible Secretariat and the great one, Man o’ War.
Of all the horse racing results which one of these two was the fastest? Or perhaps which one of these two was the best?
Let us look at the two and then try and decide the question.
First let us take a look at Man o’ War, picking him first simply because he came first. Age has its advantages.
Man o’ War was eulogized by his groom Will Harbut as de mostest hoss that ever wuz. No truer words have ever been spoken, regardless of the grammar.
All those who witnessed him race at all distances were impressed by his relentlessness and the fact that he had so much energy left after each win that it was mind boggling. whether he spotted a horse 15 pounds or 30–it did not matter. He would win and trot back to the paddock as if he had just been out for a Sunday trot in the park.
His record at two years of age in 1919 was 10 starts with 9 wins and 1 second. His lone defeat came at the hands of Upset in the Sanford Stakes in which he was the victim of major traffic problems.
Many who were still reeling from the sting of the White Sox fix of the World Series, suggested that the race with Upset had also been fixed.
At age 3 Man o’ War had 11 starts with 11 wins. He did not win the Kentucky Derby because owner Samuel D. Riddle held to the belief that 1and1/4 mile with 126 pounds was too much to ask of a 3 year old colt in the early spring.
In his last race Man o’ War defeated Sir Barton by 7 lengths, who had won the Triple Crown the year before.
We won’t go into his breeding accomplishments since this article is concerned strictly with the results of his racing abilities.
Secretariat has a more recent record and his races are recorded on film. just a day before the Belmont Stakes in 1972, retired Hall of Fame trainer Hollie Hughes was at the track and he motioned for Ron Turcotte, Secretariat’s jockey, to come over to him so he could say a few words to him. Hughes’ heyday had been during the time that the likes of Sysonby, Colin and Man o’War had raced.
His words to Turcotte were ‘Son, there is no way you can get this horse beat–just don’t fall off. Believe me boy, you are riding the greatest horse of all time and I have seen them all.’
Needless to say Turcotte did not fall off. He won the Belmont by a breathtaking 31 lengths and set the record of the mile and a half in 2 minutes and 24 seconds.
Kent Hollingsworth of the Blood-Horse wrote, ‘Two twenty four flat.I don’t believe it. Impossible. but I saw it. I can’t breathe. He won by a sixteenth of a mile. I saw it. I have to believe it.’
In his lifetime Secretariat had 21 starts and 16 victories and was named Horse of the Year two years in a row.
These two horses were two of the best athletes ever. their racing results proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are among the very best thoroughbreds to ever thunder down the stretch.
Which one was the best? You study their horse race results and you decide- if you can.