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Memflix Has Seen GENERATION KILL!! The Next HBO Series From The Fellows Behind THE WIRE!!

I am – Hercules!!
“Generation Kill,” based on the acclaimed bestseller by Rolling Stone contributor Evan Wright, is the new HBO miniseries from David Simon and Ed Burns, who previously gave us “The Wire.” It bows July 13. Longtime spy “Memflix” used up a lot of expensive gasoline to see the creators and their first two episodes at the Nashville Screenwriter’s Conference. His report:
Hello all. It’s Memflix. Been awhile.I haven’t had anything cool to write about until recently, but when I got a chance to see the first two episodes of “Generation Kill,” I had to write in about it. We all know about audience’s tepid reactions to movies and television shows focusing on the war in Iraq. We don’t want to see Hollywood’s version of events transpiring while we enjoy the comforts of an air-conditioned theater or the amenities of our home life. And since even powerful and expertly made documentaries make us feel too far removed to feel any kind of emotional impact from the men and women fighting this war, how do filmmakers bridge the gap and show us just what these soldiers are up against and who they really are? Well, you write a book and have “The Wire’s” David Simon and Ed Burns translate it perfectly to the small screen for HBO. On assignment with Rolling Stone magazine, Evan Wright went to Camp Mathilda in Kuwait, to ride along with The Marine’s First Recon unit on their excursion through Iraq to invade Baghdad. He wrote three award-winning articles for the magazine and compiled his experience in the book “Generation Kill.” The soldiers of First Recon, for lack of a less clichéd term, are a few of the Marine’s most elite force of soldiers. They are fearless warriors, most of which aren’t there to look imposing and strike a chord of fear. They are the real deal. They are killers and revel in it, never making apologies for their savagery because without that mindset, they would never survive the war. First Recon’s (or as a soldier calls them “First Suicide Battalion”) first mission was to travel through the country and secure a bridge over the Euphrates. But what they didn’t know at the time is that their real reason for being there was to be the first group of soldiers the enemy would attack. The idea was that this small band of soldiers drives through and the Iraqis attack in full force. When First Recon leaves, the Iraqis think they have faced down the enemy, but then a much larger military force comes in, and has a far greater chance of defeating a worn out enemy. Last weekend, I attended the Nashville Screenwriter’s Conference. The main reason I drove up from Memphis was to see the first two episodes of HBO’s “Generation Kill,” a seven-part mini-series based on the book Wright wrote about his three week journey with First Recon. While I love seeing movies or television before the rest of the world, I went there to listen to the panel. Ed Burns, David Simon, Evan Wright, and Eric Kocher (a Marine with First Recon who served as senior military advisor on the show) were on hand to discuss the show the morning after. As you know, Ed Burns and David Simon were the writers/creators/producers of HBO’s “The Wire.” In my opinion, “The Wire” is hands-down the best show ever made. Period. End of discussion. Sure, I love “The Sopranos,” “Lost,” the Whedonverse, and several other TV staples, but what makes “The Wire” excel above all the rest, is its journalistic approach to filmmaking. Simon and Burns use TV, as a writer uses a notepad. No flash or bombast. No overreaching character arcs designed to bludgeon you to death with their profundity. They’re intent is not to entertain, but to inform. After hearing Simon and Burns speak about their style, it’s as if they merely tagged along with Det. McNulty or Avon Barksdale or Marlo Stanfield, with a pen and pad taking notes while the characters lived their life. Knowing that, it makes perfect sense why they were attracted to the book “Generation Kill.” Wright just wrote it how he saw it in a very minimalistic way devoid of heady euphuisms or purple prose. The entire book is a string of fairly short declarative sentences, capturing the soldiers reactions to everything around them; the bullets, the emotions, and the explosions. It’s also an unflinching look at the human error of combat and leadership. My initial plan was to transcribe the panel and Q&A and let you hear all of it for yourself. But my hand-me-down digital jukebox went kablooey. But things happen for a reason. One of the things Simon said is that he wants the show to speak for itself. There isn’t a “Based on a True Story” title card at the beginning. The show opens at Camp Mathilda and takes off. There’s very little exposition. You aren’t supposed to identify an antagonist or protagonist in the first ten minutes. You aren’t supposed to see feel the force of a thematic sledgehammer. The idea is that the viewer is just like Wright -- along for the ride. So transcribing a lengthy Q&A session isn’t necessary to give you an idea of what the show’s about (neither is this lengthy story I’m writing, now that I think about it. I just want people to experience what I did.) In the first five minutes you see the soldiers trying to confirm a rumor that JLo died and a humorous and extremely vulgar reaction to letters grade school girls wrote to the soldiers (The language is more graphic than anything I’ve ever heard on television, because these were actual utterances by trained killers). Every character in the show is based on a real person, but even the phrase ‘based on’ is misleading. Yes. Actors are portraying these people, but having read the book, each character on screen is a damn-near exact interpretation of the real men. What you see are men going days and days with no sleep, spun on Ripped Fuel, screaming “Get Some!” as soldiers kill the enemy or drop bombs on motorcades. The character that I think people are really going to respond to is Cpl. Ray Person, played by James Ransone (“Inside Man”). Person, who I had the pleasure of talking with at the luncheon afterwards, has the kind of sense of humor you flinch at while laughing uncontrollably. Almost everything he says in the book and the movie has a “this guy has to be fictional” quality. Just his name says it all. If a writer just came up with this character and had the balls to name him “Person,” you’d think the writer was brilliant. But the fact that this guy exists is the kind of thing that just makes you sit back and enjoy the absolute absurdity of life. It is very hard to watch, but the best thing about it the show and the book is that I didn’t feel guilty watching it. I’m one of the millions of people who purposely stayed away from “In the Valley of Elah,” “Home of the Brave,” Lions for Lambs,” “Stop-Loss,” because I didn’t want to see someone’s fictional interpretation of what these soldiers were going through. We owe it to the soldiers, not to fill our guts with popcorn and sugar watching fakery, with manipulative string music telling us what to feel and when to feel it. (Simon commented on this specifically. He said he never uses a score because he feels it’s up to the audience to make up their mind on how to take in what they’re watching.) Also, it’s important to note that the show doesn’t have a political slant. All of the writers left their personal opinions at the door. If you want to see a movie on how terrible the war in Iraq is and who’s responsible, look elsewhere. If you want to see soldiers complaining about the war and regretting their decision to be warriors, look elsewhere. If you want to step into the shoes of real-life killers fighting for their country, if you want to know how a soldier deals with killing the enemy and innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, if you want to see life unfold before your eyes in vivid exciting detail, check out the book and the show.

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