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The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

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The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Old 05-21-13, 03:54 AM
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The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

In a nutshell, here are the basics:
  • This challenge will run from 12:01 AM 1 June until 11:59 PM 30 June.
  • Movies and TV content specifically about a historical figure, event or period are eligible.
  • 2 hours TV content (based upon broadcast, not run, time) = 1 entry

Old 05-21-13, 04:24 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Last year, our discussion thread got away from the 2012 challenge and became embroiled in debate over the rules for the challenge. I have listened and reviewed those issues. The chief point of contention was that this challenge is too broad and that anything goes. Since the debut of The Historical Appreciation Challenge four years ago, the challenges have expanded to cover more of the general viewing content previously covered under our umbrella.

This year, we're shoring up the eligibility. I have often erred on the side of inclusion, but this year we're going to experiment with content austerity. How it will play out through the month, I have no way of knowing but we're going to try it this way this year and see if it helps.

Zeitgeist
This is the lid of Pandora's box that has led to the squabbling. There are and were legitimate reasons for it, but it's also easy to interpret very broadly (some would even say, easy to abuse). Here are the changes to "zeitgeist" films for 2013:

A strict limit of three "Zeitgeist" films will be allowed at the participant's discretion for his or her checklist.
"Zeitgeist" is only eligible for checklist completion.

For instance, if you wanted to watch X-Men: First Class as a "zeitgeist" film about the Cold War tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis, you may only count it as one of your three checklist choices but not on your overall list. Yes, this means that your "zeitgeist" films don't technically "count" on your list.

Wild Cards
There are none this year. Your three "zeitgeist" checklist spots are the compromise here.

Sub-Genres
  • Noirs - Owing to the fact they have their own challenge now, their setting is no longer sufficient justification for their inclusion in The Historical Appreciation Challenge.
  • Martial Arts - Only films that use a specifically historical setting and/or figure(s) are eligible. If it's just Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking a bunch of dudes in the chest and head for 90 minutes, it's banned here.
  • Costume Dramas - They still don't have a dedicated challenge elsewhere, so they're still eligible here but this isn't the time to go on a Baz Luhrmann kick.
  • Mad Men - Seriously, there are more movies and shows with more relevant historical content than this, yet that show dominates the lists each year. Expand your viewing habits!

I'm not trying to be a jerk about any of this, and for anyone new to this challenge I hope that you're not too put off by this! We've only done this three years before and we're still working out the bugs. There's a learning curve to these things, and we only really find out what does and doesn't work by actually spending a month with the changes informed by the feedback from previous years.

Ideally, the Discussion Thread would be full of posts about "I watched [title] and here's what I learned from it" instead of an endless barrage of "Is [title] eligible?" questions. Even with these stricter guidelines, there's far more blatantly eligible content for this challenge than anyone could possibly watch in a month.

It's exhausting when participants keep trying to live on the fringes and find the most tangential selections they can find. Either commit to the spirit of the challenge, or maybe sit this one out and watch those non-historical movies and shows during another challenge where they're more appropriate. That kind of chatter was directly responsible for souring several participants on the challenge last year and I want to avoid that this year.
Old 05-21-13, 07:05 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I noticed you didn't mention documentaries or shows on The History Channel. Are those not eligible this year?
Old 05-21-13, 07:20 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by shadokitty
I noticed you didn't mention documentaries or shows on The History Channel. Are those not eligible this year?
They're eligible, but I haven't quite worked out where to draw the lines on those yet. That's an area entirely open for debate if anyone has any strong feelings one way or the other.
Old 05-21-13, 08:13 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by MinLShaw
They're eligible, but I haven't quite worked out where to draw the lines on those yet. That's an area entirely open for debate if anyone has any strong feelings one way or the other.
Well, I know in the past anything but the reality shows from The History Channel were eligible, and all documentaries. Where else would you get your learn on if not for this challenge? That makes sense to me to keep those the way they have been. I even bought 3 seasons of Ancient Aliens, Blue Planet, and Planet Earth that I figured on watching for this challenge.
Old 05-21-13, 09:07 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by shadokitty
I noticed you didn't mention documentaries or shows on The History Channel. Are those not eligible this year?
I hope they would be as I do have a bunch of documentary / History Channel DVD's. examples like Sherman's March, French Revolution, Russia- Land of the Tsars etc. I would like to re-visit them as I haven't seen them probably in a few years, this would be the perfect opportunity.

Looking forward to this challenge, this historical challenge and the horror challenge are the only ones that I participate in.
Old 05-21-13, 09:58 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Can we get a more precise clarification about westerns and war movies (which I think were the genesis of this challenge)?

Is John Wayne lumbed into Zeitgeist or does it quality on it's own (similar to costume drama)?

Do fictional movies like War Horse reflect the World War I environment or is it considered sentimental popcorn fluff?
Old 05-21-13, 10:10 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by MinLShaw
L
Sub-Genres
  • Noirs - Owing to the fact they have their own challenge now, their setting is no longer sufficient justification for their inclusion in The Historical Appreciation Challenge.
  • Martial Arts - Only films that use a specifically historical setting and/or figure(s) are eligible. If it's just Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking a bunch of dudes in the chest and head for 90 minutes, it's banned here.
  • Costume Dramas - They still don't have a dedicated challenge elsewhere, so they're still eligible here but this isn't the time to go on a Baz Luhrmann kick.
  • Mad Men - Seriously, there are more movies and shows with more relevant historical content than this, yet that show dominates the lists each year. Expand your viewing habits!
I'd like to make some suggestions about sub-genres.

Noir: There are historical noir films. THE BLACK BOOK (1949, aka REIGN OF TERROR) is an Anthony Mann film about the French Revolution with Richard Basehart (straight off of HE WALKED BY NIGHT) as Robespierre. Then there are a few that are Jack the Ripper-themed, e.g. THE LODGER (1944)

Martial Arts: There are many Chinese and Hong Kong martial arts films set in historical eras, but I would urge that, for this challenge, they be limited to those with actual historical figures, e.g. San Te, Fong Sai Yuk, Wong Fei Hung, Ip Man, etc. Or revolving around specific historical incidents, e.g. the burning of Shaolin Temple, the Manchu takeover of China (Qing dynasty), etc. Many Sonny Chiba films made in Japan in the 1970s deal with specific martial artists from the postwar era.

Samurai: most samurai films are set in a specific historical period in Japan. Even if they're not about specific historical figures, I think they should be allowed. For instance, SEVEN SAMURAI is not about any specific historical figure or incident (as far as I know--I could be wrong), yet it fits perfectly into the spirit of this challenge and it's such a great film that it should be encouraged. Same with YOJIMBO, SWORD OF DOOM, SAMURAI REBELLION and a hundred others, including the Zatoichi and Lone Wolf and Cub series. They're all so steeped in Japanese history, culture and lore that you definitely learn something from watching them. You can't say the same about the average kung fu movie with a vague period setting, even the ones with actual historical figures. Yakuza movies also have frequent historical settings, even if they're set only a few years before the film was made. E.g. COPS AND THUGS (1975) is about a corrupt cop from the 1960s. THE YAKUZA PAPERS - a five-part film series (1973-74) deals with specific historical incidents that took place from the post-war years into the 1960s.

Westerns: Many westerns deal with specific historical figures (Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Cochise, Geronimo, etc.) or specific developments (the Pony Express, the building of the transcontinental railroad, the clean-up of Tombstone or Dodge City, various Indian wars, the Mexican Revolution, etc.). Many westerns are just generic shoot-em-ups with no real historical markers. I think we should include the ones with some kind of bonafide historical connection, but not the ones without. B-westerns with characters named Billy the Kid and Jesse James often had no connection to the real figures, so we get into a gray area there.

Italian westerns are even trickier and may need some mediation. Films with fictional characters like Django, Sartana and Sabata were set in some kind of spaghetti western alternate universe filmed in Spain and should probably be left out of this. Yet many Italian westerns focused on specific events, most notably the Mexican Revolution (THE MERCENARY, COMPANEROS, A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, DUCK YOU SUCKER, BLOOD AND GUNS, etc.). THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY had a historical Civil War background and even references an actual battle fought in the west. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is totally fictional, yet it's really about the building of the railroad and the towns that sprouted up along the route, so it has some serious historical bonafides. Some of these films definitely do fit the spirit of this challenge while others are just throwaway items that really shouldn't be counted.

I hope this helps.
Old 05-21-13, 01:06 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

All historically relevant documentaries are, and always will be, perfectly fine. I'm personally fine with any documentaries being eligible, but I know there have been in the past some dispute over whether even that opens the door too much. If anyone sees an area of documentaries that ought to be closed, now is the time to speak up. Otherwise, all docs are in.

Originally Posted by Undeadcow
Can we get a more precise clarification about westerns and war movies (which I think were the genesis of this challenge)?

Is John Wayne lumbed into Zeitgeist or does it quality on it's own (similar to costume drama)?

Do fictional movies like War Horse reflect the World War I environment or is it considered sentimental popcorn fluff?
Straight westerns and war/military movies are all fine, as they were the genesis of this challenge. Excluded would be something like Wild Wild West or Tropic Thunder.

"Zeitgeist" movies are those that theoretically reflect the mood of an era. This started off to include movies made at the time of a specific era that show contemporary audiences what things were like at that time. You'd have to go back to those very early Edison Films silent shorts to even find anything technically made around the era of the Old West.

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
I'd like to make some suggestions about sub-genres.
Anything directly historically pertinent is fine. What isn't fine is anything in those genres, subgenres and/or milieus that we used to include just because they were about combat.

Again, I'd like to try to make it through this year's challenge without devoting the discussion thread to arbitrating "What about...?" questions of fringe/tangential content. Just ask yourself when making your choices: "Can I actually learn something about a historical figure/event from watching this?" Setting alone is no longer sufficient criteria.
Old 05-21-13, 01:07 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by MinLShaw
Anything directly historically pertinent is fine.
I think this is a better more streamlined rule than what is currently in the first/second posts. If it's historic and plausible then it flies with 3 zeitgeist "wild cards."
Old 05-21-13, 01:16 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Undeadcow
I think this is a better more streamlined rule than what is currently in the first/second posts. If it's historic and plausible then it flies with 3 zeitgeist "wild cards."
Unfortunately, that excerpt you quoted is not sufficient to answer the endless "What about...?"s that inundate this challenge. That's why I have to spell out all the particulars. Ash's points, argued as well as they are, were already addressed by my general statements. Any of those exceptions he argued for were already covered by my previous remarks about distinguishing between a movie about a specific historical figure/event and a generic setting.
Old 05-21-13, 03:09 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I think the best example of if something counts or not is if you can answer "Can I actually learn something about a historical figure/event from watching this?", without stretching to try and make something count.

That being said, it would also eliminate a bunch of westerns that are simply costume films. Same with war movies. While Saving Private Ryan would be fine, Zone Troopers would not be fine.

Some films take place during a certain period, such as the Mexican Revolution, which Ash mentioned. While they take place during the event, it's only taking place in name really. I don't think those things should count. If they did, then what's to exclude Zone Troopers? It takes place in WWII, so it must automatically count.
Old 05-21-13, 03:15 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I have to find out more about this Zone Troopers thing.
Old 05-21-13, 03:24 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Mister Peepers
Some films take place during a certain period, such as the Mexican Revolution, which Ash mentioned. While they take place during the event, it's only taking place in name really. I don't think those things should count. If they did, then what's to exclude Zone Troopers? It takes place in WWII, so it must automatically count.
I think a film like THE WILD BUNCH should count even though none of the characters in it are based on actual historical figures (although Pancho Villa's army attacks General Mapache in one scene). THE WILD BUNCH propelled me to the library to research the Mexican Revolution and do a term paper on it for my junior year World History class in high school. It's full of great little historical details, like the German advisers aiding Mapache and the use of green troops to guard the train during the robbery. And the Bunch's possession of strictly government-issue side arms which the German adviser notes. Stuff like that. Plus, it's a great movie, like SEVEN SAMURAI, and should be encouraged.

Some of the Italian westerns set in the Mexican Revolution don't have much in the way of verifiable historical details, but then you've got something like Leone's DUCK YOU SUCKER, which ties in the Irish Rebellion to the Mexican Revolution and links two distinct historical movements. That alone should qualify it.

My point is that some films are richer historically than others even if their stories are totally fictionalized.
Old 05-21-13, 05:05 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by davidh777
I have to find out more about this Zone Troopers thing.
If you start off with seeing the "I want you" movie cover, it's all downhill from there.
Old 05-21-13, 08:59 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

What about literary adaptations? Films or TV series based on works like the following:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Huckleberry Finn
Little Women
Dog of Flanders
Heidi
Anne of Green Gables
The Great Gatsby

?
Old 05-22-13, 12:02 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
I think a film like THE WILD BUNCH should count even though none of the characters in it are based on actual historical figures (although Pancho Villa's army attacks General Mapache in one scene).
*Ahem*:
Straight westerns and war/military movies are all fine, as they were the genesis of this challenge. Excluded would be something like Wild Wild West or Tropic Thunder.
Some of the Italian westerns set in the Mexican Revolution don't have much in the way of verifiable historical details, but then you've got something like Leone's DUCK YOU SUCKER, which ties in the Irish Rebellion to the Mexican Revolution and links two distinct historical movements. That alone should qualify it.

My point is that some films are richer historically than others even if their stories are totally fictionalized.
We all know the difference between a work of fiction and a documentary. We know movies may be light on verifiable historical details. That's not the litmus test for inclusion in this challenge.

The question is, "Can you learn something from watching the movie, or is it just a general movie that only happens to be set outside the present?" This really shouldn't be this hard.

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
What about literary adaptations? Films or TV series based on works like the following:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Huckleberry Finn
Little Women
Dog of Flanders
Heidi
Anne of Green Gables
The Great Gatsby

?


I haven't seen all of those adaptations - and some of them have more than one screen version. I'm not going to research each and every "What about...?" movie. That's the point of establishing general guidelines and then trusting each participant to use his or her best judgment about whether they're choosing content that's clearly in the spirit of the challenge, or if they're just using tangential elements to rationalize watching whatever the hell they want to watch.
Old 05-22-13, 05:20 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Looks like I'm getting an extra challenge-free month.

I have less than zero interest in researching the content of a movie before I watch it.

Have fun.
Old 05-22-13, 05:31 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by ororama
Looks like I'm getting an extra challenge-free month.

I have less than zero interest in researching the content of a movie before I watch it.

Have fun.
I'm sorry you feel that way, but I think this is coming across are a lot more complicated than either I intend it or than it needs to be. I hesitate to use the term, but there should basically just be a lot of common sense involved. X-Men: First Class was allowed previously because of its tangential setting (the Cuban Missile Crisis). Does that actually feel right to you as an appropriate movie to watch for a Historical Appreciation Challenge? If you run across a movie that gives you the same "Wait, what?" reaction, then it's best left out of your viewing for the month. Otherwise, knock yourself out.

This really shouldn't be that difficult or controversial. I'm not a micro-manager, but after hearing from several people who bailed on the challenge because of all the complaining about what was being viewed by participants, I've had to do something. No one is asking you to write a thesis paper or conduct prior research beyond familiarizing yourself with the IMDb genre tags and/or synopsis. If you see "fantasy" attached to a movie on IMDb, pass on it. It's no more demanding than any other challenge's eligibility rules except Criterion, where either it is or is not part of their collection. (God, what I'd give to host that challenge!)
Old 05-22-13, 05:34 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by MinLShaw
I haven't seen all of those adaptations - and some of them have more than one screen version. I'm not going to research each and every "What about...?" movie. That's the point of establishing general guidelines and then trusting each participant to use his or her best judgment about whether they're choosing content that's clearly in the spirit of the challenge, or if they're just using tangential elements to rationalize watching whatever the hell they want to watch.
Your smartest move would be to say right now that you won't answer any specific questions about eligibility of any title. All of the questions so far seem sincere and understandable, given the rules that you've set out, but since you've decided to limit many films that were okay last year, you are certain to get more questions.

Last year's rules were clear and easy to understand, so just about all the questions were about trying to stretch the rules to include movies that clearly fell outside the rules. I had to read several things that you said about this year's changes several times to get what you were saying, and it appears that you are getting and will continue to get opposing interpretations of what you have said so far.
Old 05-22-13, 05:51 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I just audited last year's list thread. 99% of the titles I recognize all seem pretty obviously in the spirit of the challenge. I don't know why there's this thought that I'm banishing whole swaths of content. Here are the few things I see that would not be allowed this year:

Young Indiana Jones - More adventure/fantasy than straight historical fiction
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Way too tangential
Sex and the City 2 - Really?

These are the issues I'm trying to address. This is a very tiny part of what anyone actually chose to watch, but if you go back through the discussion thread from last year and you'll see even more disputes about hypothetical "What about...?"s. That is, even when most everyone chose to watch content that obviously met the spirit of the challenge, all anyone wanted to talk about there at the end was what no one should be allowed to watch. All I'm trying to do is stop that bickering before we actually start this year's challenge.
Old 05-22-13, 08:11 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I have 3 movies that are historically relevant, Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, and Flyboys. While I do have 300, I don't know if it is too fictionalized, so don't plan to watch that. Between those movies, docs, and shows on History Channel, I'm fine with what I plan to watch.
Old 05-22-13, 08:21 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by shadokitty
I have 3 movies that are historically relevant, Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, and Flyboys. While I do have 300, I don't know if it is too fictionalized, so don't plan to watch that. Between those movies, docs, and shows on History Channel, I'm fine with what I plan to watch.
One of my friends recently added Gods and Generals to our collective UltraViolet library, so that's on my to-see list, too.
Old 05-22-13, 10:18 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by MinLShaw
I just audited last year's list thread. ...All I'm trying to do is stop that bickering before we actually start this year's challenge.
I think I will just watch whatever I feel fits the challenge and if other people want to bicker about it then let them. As most challenges encourage, I reserve the right to make my own decision about what counts for my list or doesn't.
Old 05-22-13, 11:54 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by ororama
Your smartest move would be to say right now that you won't answer any specific questions about eligibility of any title.
As someone that's also run challenges, his answer was legitimate. I've been asked about movies I've never seen. I usually never did research on them and just relied on others that had seen them to offer their opinion. If I have time to look things up, I do but running a challenge along with doing the rest of the things in my life already takes up a good chunk of time and with a challenge like this, you'll get more than the average number of "Does this qualify" questions. I think this challenge and the exploitation are the two biggest in terms of questions.

That being said, figuring if something counts or not in a historical challenge shouldn't be too hard. If it's a question of something like X-Men First Class, one could ask themselves if they'd learn something about a historical event or if it would be something they'd expect to see on the History channel(back when they were showing historical stuff).

It sounds like there's just a lot of over thinking going on that's throwing some people off. We've all been there before.

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