Sunday, March 16, 2008

HBO starts mini-series "John Adams"

Tonight, March 16, 2008 HBO presented the first two segments (1:10 and 1:35 in length) of its seven-part miniseries “John Adams” about the second president of the United States. Each segment looks like a movie suitable for theatrical presentation (Picturehouse) if suitable later.

Paul Giamati (“Sideways”) plays the headstrong Adams, and Laura Linney is wife Abigail. Stephen Dillane is Thomas Jefferson, David Morse is George Washington, and Tom Wilkinson is a hippy-like Ben Franklin.

The first segment “Join or Die” John Adams, after standing with the colonists opposing the Stamp Act, defends British soldiers. Near the end of the segment, there is a graphic and horrific tarring of a man’s body on camera.

The second segment “Independence” opens up. Ben Franklin populates the dialogue with his clever epigrams, like, you have to let the British win, and that he is an extreme moderate. Later he says something like, introspection is not such a good thing, especially when it becomes public. (Does that mean he would not have approved of Internet blogs?) The founding fathers talk about Mother Country (the way we were taught about it in Va. and US History), and then about their rights as Englishmen being violated. So they must seize the moment and reinvent themselves, like using The Secret.

South Carolina plays devil’s advocate, at one time saying that the country, without the British, could be overrun by “Indians” and “Negroes.” But S.C. comes around. The final vote for independence is 12-0, with New York abstaining.

This will be the kind of film that history teachers will show (especially when substitutes work), and hand out video worksheets for student attention to detail.

Some of the remaining segments will have scenes in Colonial Williamsburg, and it has been said that this is the first time that “Hollywood” has been allowed to film on location in Colonial Williamsburg (outside of Paramount’s “Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot” (1957), a VistaVision short that plays continuously in the Visitor’s Center). If my own story, that starts at William and Mary, were ever to be filmed and done well, one would have to create Williamsburg as it was around 1961, and then as it is today. The lecture at the Old Capitol (with the tracing of the three branches of US government) would apply. Revolutionary City (which started in March 2006) demonstrates, in skits at the Capitol and on the main colonial street, many of the historical incidents in Williamsburg leading up to and through independence, including the effect of the Revolutionary War on the slaves. It will be interesting to see if this is worked into the HBO miniseries.

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