Arts of War By Marc Leepson

Welcome to “Arts of War,” Vietnam Veterans of America’s up-to-the-minute compendium of information, news and reviews about the arts—movies, television, stage plays, musicals, music, dance, popular and fine arts, and more—that deal with Vietnam veterans and the Vietnam War.

This web page replaces the “Arts of War” column that ran in Vietnam Veterans of America’s national magazine, The VVA Veteran, from 1986-2009. That popular column was written by The VVA Veteran’s arts editor, Marc Leepson, who continues that work on this web site.

We encourage feedback. Please email your comments, questions, and suggestions to mleepson@vva.org

Posted on January 28th 2009 in Comments

PBS Vietnam War docs

PBS is broadcasting four Vietnam War documentaries tonight and tomorrow night:

  • “The Draft,” a history of the American mandatory military service tonight at at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time
  • “Dick Cavett’s Vietnam,” selections that deal with the war from the old “Dick Cavett Show” tonight at 10:oo p.m. Eastern
  • “Kent State: The Day the Sixties Died,” tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m Eastern
  • “Last Days in Vietnam” tomorrow at 10:00 p.m.

VVA Veteran Arts Editor Marc Leepson’s reviewed “Last Days in Vietnam” on this page last fall.

For more info on the other shows go to  www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2015/vietnam-special-programming

 

Posted on April 27th 2015 in Documentaries, TV Series, Vietnam War

Giving Peace a Chance

The Peace Mural Foundation in Miami is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War with a exhibit that focuses on world peace and ending war. It opens today and runs through April 30.

It features twenty four  large multi-media murals created by the Vietnamese artist Huong, who left Vietnam in 1975 with her infant son and now lives and works in Florida.

The murals use the themes of violence and despair, she says, in order to “make the world understand that the final victory does not belong to a nation, but to humanity.”

Posted on April 24th 2015 in Art, Art Exhibits

Harry Bosch on Amazon – No Longer A Vietnam Veteran

Tim Welliver as Harry Bosch in the new Amazon series

A little over a year ago we reported on “Bosch,” a cop procedural drama pilot that began streaming on Amazon Prime. “Bosch” was based on the Harry Bosch novels of Michael Connelly, and Connelly, in fact, co-wrote and co executive produced the pilot. As a big Harry Bosch fan since the first novel appeared in 1992, I was delighted to see the flawed but heroic LAPD detective who did a tour of duty as a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War come alive on film.

After the pilot got good reviews, Amazon agreed to produce a full ten-episode season. Shooting began last August and ended in December, and now Amazon Prime subscribers can watch all ten episodes, plus a Behind the Scenes piece, on line.

One disappointment: mainly because of main character Titus Welliver’s age, Connelly agreed that Bosch couldn’t be a Vietnam veteran. He’s now a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War.  Here’s how he put it in an interview in The Washington Post:

“Harry Bosch is 100 percent, and L.A. is 100 percent. But we blended the [first] three books together that, as books, stood apart. We had to create evidentiary connections. We had to play with Bosch having been in Vietnam, because Titus Welliver is too young to have been there, so we changed his military experience.”

Posted on March 30th 2015 in Drama, On Line

Maya Lin Receives Gish Prize

Maya Lin—he artist, sculptor and environmental artist best known as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—received the 21st annual $300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in November. The prestigious award recognizes architects, musicians, playwrights, directors, actors and other artists for “outstanding and continuing artistic contributions to society and to the beauty of the world.”

“I am deeply touched and grateful to become a part of this astonishing line of prize winners,” Lin said, “all of whom were selected because of the very simple but powerful goal set down by Lillian Gish: to bring recognition to the contributions that artists make to society, and to encourage others to follow on that path. Because I have been donating so much of my time over the past seven years to a single long-term project, ‘What Is Missing?’, the award will make an enormous difference in enabling me to move the work forward.”

What Is Missing” is a multi-site and multi-media work that includes an interactive website with dozens of videos, a book, and a sound and media sculpture installation, all of which calls attention to the world’s loss of biodiversity and natural abundance.

“I sort of call it my last memorial, but it is a memorial that will basically reinvent [itself],” Lin told an interviewer in 2012. The website, she said, is “a map of the world looked at from an ecological point of view, but it is a map that allows us to see the past, the present, and … plausible future scenarios, what we call green print, which is really rethinking what the planet could look like.”

Lin’s goal, she said, is “to raise awareness about the present crisis surrounding biodiversity loss, link it to habitat loss, and not just be about raising awareness about what we are losing, but maybe using it as a wake-up call, telling you what is being done right now by all the environmental groups, all the experts, but then let’s dream up plausible ways, by 2050, to re-imagine what the world could look like.”

 

 

 

Posted on March 16th 2015 in Art, Honors and Prizes, Memorials

Scruggs to Step Down at VVMF

Jan Scruggs, the former Vietnam War infantryman who spearheaded the effort to built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington—and who has headed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for many years—has announced that he is stepping down from running VVMF in June.

“I’ll continue to sort of be the president emeritus of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund,” Scruggs told The Washington Post. “I’ll continue to work with them on a part-time basis. But basically, running the fund full time is someone else’s domain, and it’s good.”

“There would be no Wall without Jan Scruggs,” former Senator and Secretary of Defense (and Vietnam veteran) Chuck Hagel told The Post. He “came up with the whole concept of, first of all, honoring Vietnam veterans, and then had the courage to make it happen.”

 

 

Posted on February 26th 2015 in Memorials

Writer Query: Vietnam Veteran Interviews

Jack Griffiths, a staff writer at History of War magazine in the U.K., is working on a feature entitled “The Vietnam 50,” and would like to interview Vietnam veterans for it.

“We are looking for veterans who have served in the below operations, events and regiments if possible, but it is not essential,” Griffiths told us:

Battles and Operations – Ia Drang – Khe Sanh – Siege of Hué – Hamburger Hill – Binh Ba

Events – US Marines land – ground offensive begins – Tet Offensive – My Lai massacre – Fall of Saigon

Regiments – Mobile Riverine Force

For more info, email  jack.griffiths@imagine-publishing.co.uk

go to www.historyanswers.co.uk 

Posted on January 24th 2015 in Artistic Queries, History, Journalism, Magazines

The First Vietnam Veterans Memorial?

The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial was dedicated on April 20, 1966, in Charlottesville, Virginia, honoring Army Spec 4 Champ Jackson Lawson, Jr., who died in Vietnam in November 1965. The memorial, which now honors all Vietnam veterans, is scheduled to be rededicated on April 24.

Its supporters would like to know if it is, indeed, the nation’s first Vietnam veterans memorial. If you know any other memorials honoring Vietnam veterans that were dedicated before April 20, 1966, please email mkeating@vva.org or jshisler@embarqmail.com

If you do, please mention you read about this on The VVA Veteran‘s “Arts of War”page on the web. Thanks.

Posted on January 16th 2015 in Artistic Queries, Memorials

Robert Stone, 1937-2015

The novelist Robert Stone, whose best-known and best-received book, the Pulitizer-Prize-winning Dog Soldiers (1975) dealt with the legacy of the Vietnam War, died January 10 in Key West, Florida. He was 77.

Stone, who served in the U.S. Navy in the mid-1950s, wrote eight novels, two short story collections, and a memoir,  Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties (2007). That book includes a section on Stone’s 1971 trip to Vietnam as a dubious stringer for a British publication.

Here is Marc Leepson’s review of Prime Green, which appeared in the print edition of The VVA Veteran.

Dog Soldiers was the basis for the 1978 Hollywood movie, Who’ll Stop the Rain, which starred Nick Nolte as Stone’s antihero, Vietnam war veteran Ray Hicks.

 

 

Posted on January 13th 2015 in Uncategorized

Neil Leinwohl Exhibit Opening in NYC

Neil Leinwohl served as a U.S. Army photographer in Vietnam. These days Leinwohl is an artist working in acrylic and oil.

The latest exhibit of his work, entitled “Pathway to Abstraction,” opens today, December 23, at the Agora Gallery in New York City. The exhibit runs through January 15, with a reception on Thursday, January 8, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The exhibit includes the above painting, “Dawson’s Finger.”

Leinwohl’s painting “Cu Chi,” was  featured in a recent Veteran Artist Program exhibit at the Pentagon.

Posted on December 23rd 2014 in Art, Art Exhibits

Bill Murray as a Saintly Vietnam War Veteran

Bill Murray is a great comic actor, a fact we’ve known since he hit the big time when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1977. He’s also a very good dramatic actor, as evidenced by his work in a ton of movies, including Tootsie (1982), Groundhog Day (1993), Rushmore (1998), Lost In Translation (2003), and this year’s excellent (if depressing) HBO film Olive Kitteridge.

Which brings us to Murray’s latest, St. Vincent, in which the sixty-four-year-old stars as Vincent MacKenna, a cranky, antisocial, hard-drinking Vietnam veteran beset by physical, financial, and emotional problems. This is not a comedy, although Murray provides a few grins here and there—as does Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) playing a kindly, clever, young-ish Catholic school teacher. So does a terrific child actor named Jaeden Lieberher. He plays a smart, bullied pre-teen named Oliver who moves in next door to Vincent with his struggling single mother (Melissa McCarthy) and immediately comes under his curmudgeonly neighbor’s spell.

St. Vincent was written and directly by Theodore Melfi, who based Murray’s character on his wife’s father, a Vietnam veteran “who had a gaggle of kids he never really knew,” and who “abandoned my wife when she was nine-years-old,” Melfi told an interviewer. When she was thirty-four, Melfi’s wife sent her father “a letter and then the phone rang. They reconnected and became father and daughter for the last ten years of his life. He became a saint for her and she for him.”

When the film opens Vincent is anything but saint-like. He is a slovenly introvert who has a regular date with a pregnant prostitute (Naomi Watts with a Russian accent), drinks to excess, and blows money regularly at the race track. Things start to go rapidly downhill for Vincent when he has to come up with money he doesn’t have to pay off his gambling debts.

As the plot spins out (mainly involving Vincent’s reluctant babysitting of Oliver and the consequences it has for both of them), we begin to see some of his saintly qualities. One of them involves his service in the Vietnam War where he fought heroically in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

This small film could have descended into hokum. In fact, it comes very close at times. But it is saved by the natural and endearing acting of young Jaeden Liberher, by Murray’s charisma, and by a plot that has a few surprises. Several times Melfi makes the point that saints are, after all, human and Vincent is as human as they get, a walking contradiction of strengths and weaknesses.

Then there is the image question. Is Vincent just another in a long line of stereotypically Hollywood screwed-up Vietnam vets?  The good news is that he isn’t. Yes, he drinks, curses, and treats people unkindly. But that’s a far cry from the walking-time-bomb cardboard cut-out Hollywood used to offer us in countless movies and TV shows. Vincent is a fully flushed out human being with good and bad qualities—anything but a stereotype.

St. Vincent is a serious-minded film with a few laughs and has an ending that will not surprise you. But it’s entertaining and thoughtful. And worth seeing.

—Marc Leepson

 

Posted on December 21st 2014 in Feature Films