Letter to a Critic

Stephen Holding The New York Times Dear Mr. Holden,

It was with some disappointment that I read your review of Gods and Generals last February. I have always considered you a fair-minded, sometimes illuminating critic. No one, least of all a filmmaker who has received his share of praise and scorn over the years, questions your prerogatives and opinions. As the French say, “Vive la difference!”  That said, however, you were simply wrong in your assertion in today’s NY Times that ."..all the critics agree with me.”  

It is hard to miss the extreme hostility that some critics (which based on your latest comments now include yourself) have shown towards this film.  It goes beyond movie-reviewing. It’s as if the film hit a raw nerve or scraped at an open wound. Perhaps you are inclined to put the whole “ludicrous” experience behind you. May I humbly suggest, that at another time, perhaps years from now, when you are no longer reviewing movies, content in writing a memoir or a film history, that you re-visit the film in DVD.

But for now, I would greatly appreciate a simple correction in my favorite newspaper. As you can see from the reviews I have quoted below, all the critics did not agree with you.

I will continue to read your reviews with great interest as always. With best wishes for a prosperous and happy New Year.

~ Ron Maxwell

“Surpasses even Gettysburg as a Civil War film masterpiece.” JIM FERGUSON / FOX TV

“Stirring, spectacular epic achievement.” “History has never been brought to life with such insight and vivid detail, with such vibrant emotions, with so much to learn and so much to live in a movie experience that is awesome to behold.” DAVID SHEEHAN / CBS-TV

“A big, ambitious, sweeping epic … Stephen Lang gives one of the best performances of his career.” JEFFREY LYONS / NBC-TV

."..powerful, riveting, monumental… divine inspiration.” “Ron Maxwell’s attention to detail effortlessly puts vivid life into names once memorized from a History book.” STAN URANKAR / CLEVELAND SUN NEWSPAPERS

“People passionate about History, and especially about the Civil War…will love this one.” PAUL VILLENEUVE / LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL

."..thoughtful…” ."..a heartfelt film with an enlightening message. ” “The production values, including the cinematography, art direction and musical score, are each outstanding.” PHIL BOATWRIGHT / BP NEWS   

."..remarkable battle sequences…” “Maxwell’s re-creation and grand design make this movie special – along with Duvall’s re-strained, majestic portrayal of Lee.” MICHAEL WILMINGTON / CHICAGO TRIBUNE 

." awesome sense of authenticity and scope…”  KEVIN THOMAS / LOS ANGELES TIMES 

“If you love history…you’ll want to see GODS AND GENERALS.” ."..Duvall invests his part with integrity and authenticity.” ELEANOR RINGEL GILLESPIE / THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

."..strong performances…” ."..massive, incredibly rendered sequences of sustained warfare.” ."..astounding battle scenes…” ."..galvanizing performances by Jeff Daniels and Stephen Lang.” “Daniels brings the same intellectual panache and understated determination to the part as he did in Gettysburg…” “But it’s Lang, as Gen.Stonewall Jackson, who rides off with the movie. He’s truly a revelation.” TOM SIEBERT / CITY PAPER 

“The engrossing performance of Lang as Jackson is the first great performance of 2003. It’s the most dynamic screen portrayal of a military man since George C. Scott’s Patton in 1970.” JACK GARNER / ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE

“GODS AND GENERALS is one of the more remarkable movies of the decade.” STEVE SAILER / UPI

“Stunning, inspired, and inspiring, GODS AND GENERALS is the finest Civil War movie ever made – including Gone With The Wind.” JIM SVEJDA / CBS RADIO

“Answers and questions some of the great civil war myths.” “Daring film-making about a war American’s should never forget.” “GODS AND GENERALS is a rarity, a historical epic that stays true to the facts. Robert Duvall and Stephen Lang bring the civil war icons Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson to life.” RICHARD CROUSE / REEL TO REAL

“GODS AND GENERALS is an extraordinary achievement in filmmaking. The story is fascinating and the performances are outstanding.” KAREN BUTLER / UPI

” Offers a powerful human context for understanding the US Civil War!” ” Presents in a powerful way the impact of war on the families of the soldiers.” “Captures the horror and devastation of war on civilians and soldiers alike.” “Jeff Daniels is outstanding as Colonel Chamberlain, leader of the 20th Maine.” “Much more than a clash of two armies – a vivid portrait of a nation in conflict with itself.” JOHN J. PUNGENTE / SCANNING THE MOVIES BRAVO

“Writer-director Ron Maxwell paints an incredibly vivid portrait of such legendary men as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. More than that, we get a real sense of life in those troubled times, the strategy and mechanics of battle, as well as the tragedy of pitting brother against brother.” “I’m awfully glad I saw it, and if you have a taste for history, you should too. “LEONARD MALTIN / HOT TICKET

“It’s like Ken Burns come alive, but with color and clash.” “Some films bring out the best in actors. This role is Jeff Daniels’ legacy. If there is a third part to this trilogy, he’ll complete the arc of triumph of one man’s character.” “History is not dates and battlefields. It’s people and passions…in this film, you’re right up against those people, seeing the world from their viewpoint.” ."..sweeping, yet sweet; it’s an epic with emotion.” PATRICK STONER / “FLICKS” PBS

“A compelling tale of honor, values, and the horror of war.” “Visceral, engrossing and highly entertaining.” “Epic in scale, universal in its humanity.” “Superb performances from an exceptional cast." MIKE SARGENT / WBAI-FM

“Duvall and Lang form a dynamic duo that captivates the audience and vividly brings these historical figures to life." “GODS AND GENERALS will teach you all of those things that you missed in history class.” WILLIE WAFFLE / WMAL-AM

."..a landmark epic." SUSAN GRANGER / SSG SYNDICATE

“Masterfully done. It was truly moving to see a realistic account of how our country was divided not too long ago.” RICH WEST / FMiTV NETWORKS

“GODS and GENERALS is not only the finest movie ever made about the Civil War, it is also the best American Historical Film. Period.” BILL KAUFFMAN / AMERICAN ENTERPRISE MAGAZINE 

December 30, 2003

Ronald F. Maxwell, writer, producer, director of the movies Gettysburg & Gods and Generals, lives in Los Angeles, California. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America.

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