In keeping with my determination to critically examine all of the crap I consume, I suppose I should say a few words about the movie "13 Days"
. I'm a bit of a closet history buff, so I was looking forward to seeing a dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis, about which I know very little. My parents, who were living in Florida when all this went down, have often talked about the constant stream of military traffic heading south, but I've never really bothered to read much about it.
I enjoyed the movie, although Kevin Costner's strange northeastern accent was a little hard to take. Costner was sort of at the center of the film, although he was playing Kenny O'Donnel, a sort of Kennedy-era Karl Rove who never figured that prominently in anything I read about the Kennedy White House. I'm sure that he was a mover and shaker behind the scenes, but it still seems a little weird to have him at the center of the action, surrounded by such familiar folks as McNamera, Stevenson, and Bobby Kennedy.
The whole things was fairly believable, although they did seem to lean kinda heavy on paranoia about the Joint Chiefs being ready to plunge us into global thermonuclear war. The action shots of the U-2 and the F8U Crusaders were pretty cool, and most of the military stuff looked believable. I started to fade as the film droned on through the final 147 minutes, but it was definitely worth watching.
The real virtue of DVDs in the extras, and I had some mixed feelings about the extras. The commentary track had quotes from JFK, the real Kenny O'Donnel, and a variety of experts. Unfortunately, there were so many folks that they had to keep interrupting with a generic female voice introducing them ("The next voice you will here is John F. Kennedy"). I found this disconcerting and confusing -- they should've just used subtitles or something on the screen to handle this. They did use subtitles to introduce interesting historical information about what was going on; I wish they'd provided more information that they did.
The really interesting extra was something that they called "Ultravision". It provided popup labels every few minutes offering a chance to view some one or two minute short snippets that would illuminate the current action. This included short biographies of the main characters, the typical "making of" shorts about the White House set or the writer's filmography, and historical newsreel footage. This is a great idea, and I hope to see it in more DVDs.
Unfortunately, the actual short clips were taken from the "making of" documentary and from a clumsy "Roots of the Cuban Missile Crisis" documentary; they often felt like (no surprise here) they were taken out of context. Speakers were not introduced, so I had no idea who the grizzled guy was talking about the event, whether he was a professor of history or the actual guy we were seeing in the film. With a little more effort, this could've been much better.