329--Week 10 Questions/Comments

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1 Movie as secondary source about the past (What did it get right? What did it get wrong?)

a Right:

The movie did a good job portraying all the different people who worked in the mines. There were native men and children, as well as the blacks and Italians, who were brought in to break the strike. - Christine W.

I thought the movie did a good job showing the conflicting sentiments about joining a union. They showed all the men who wanted change but knew the company would just bring in scabs. It also showed how the blacks and the Italians were persuaded to join the union so they could be stronger. The movie also showed how women felt about their husbands and sons joining the union. - Christine W.


Along with the idea of wanting to join the union and being conflicted, it seems that most men did know which was best for them. They knew that the union might get them better wages and conditions, but at the same time joining the union meant they could be out of a job. Joining the union also could mean upsetting the company owners, which could lead to losing their home or other privileges. The movie did a good job showing what could happen if you upset or went against the mine owners.-- Kellye Sorber

I liked how Joe tapped into the idea of Scientific Management during his first rousing speech at the workers meeting. He described the exploitative practices of the bosses and how workers were like parts of a machine that could be replaced. - Jason Ward

Agreeing with Jason, I have to say I was actually kind of surprised that Kenehan brought up the subject of Scientific Management during his speech. I think it was helpful for swaying the men to the union because I don't think many men realized just how invaluable they really were to large companies. The white men could easily have been (and were in the process of being) replaced by the Italian men and the blacks that were also arriving in Matewan. -Kelly Wuyscik

I liked that the Italian woman and the old white woman, though at first not being very good neighbors (at least the old one) eventually became reconciled to share and sit together--and to provide comfort when the old lady's son (grandson?) was killed. The union had to get the miners to accept the minority scabs who wanted to join the union with them, so it seems appropriate to show that their families had to learn to get along and accept each other, as well. -Whitney Holcomb

I think that the movie was pretty generally accurate. It's not the most perfect of the films we've watched, but it did seem to present most of the different sides and opinions involved in the formation of unions and the difficulties of the time. For the record, 'villain' is a side, in this case, as we are still talking about a Hollywood movie, and the corporations and secret police could be legitimately cruel. ---Amanda Russell

The movie did a good job with showing how even though the men had skepticisms about joining the Union, it was necessary in order to stand up to the mining companies and to demand that they be treated better than just mere "equipment." The movie accurately portrayed the brutality that went along with the competition for jobs between races and ethnicities. Also, as Kenehan pointed out it was a fight between those who worked and those who didn't ( bosses standing around holding guns as miners walked out of mine), it shouldn't be about skin color or background because at the end of the day they're all workers and they're all oppressed. --Mallory C.

I haven't finished the movie yet, in fact I'm not in to it all that much. However, from the beginning of the movie they did get right just how dirty the men got, and also that they coughed a lot from the dust and particles. --Ashley Wilkins

The tensions between the whites/blacks, blacks/Italians and Italians/Whites were all very well-portrayed in my opinion. The attacks that Few Clothes incurred towards the beginning of the movie, as well as the tension between the Italian grandmother and white mother throughout the film were both very realistic to me. -Cash Nelson

We learned in class that the Red Scare was a real blow to the Labor Movement in the U.S and people were suspicious of anyone/anything that could be seen as promoting Communism. This is shown in the movie when Hatfield (I believe) is writing a letter to Felts and says he believes it's possible Kenehan could be a Red. --Mallory C.

I felt the movie did a good job in portraying the problems facing the workers. Particularly I felt they did a good job dealing with the issue of the company store and company owned houses. The movie made clear the problems mine workers faced because of this arrangement and also shows the fact that the company really did have a lot of power. - Jonathan Bell

I thought the movie portrayed the level of desperation and volatility that was present in these areas where unions were trying to get off the ground. Before the title even came up you are treated to the hostility of the miners toward the "dago" scabs. Then there is the attack of the black miners brought in as well. The ethnic/racial tension was pretty well represented. I also felt that the taking up of arms against the company was powerful in its depiction of the desperation of the miners, and the lack of real government control in the region. -Bryan Mull

From what I gathered from Tuesday's lecture, I thought Matewan was an accurate portrayal of the time. The racial tensions among the white miners, African-American miners, and the Italian immigrants were present, as was their coming together in the face of incredible adversity. The racism, while certainly prevalent, didn't overwhelm the characters. Sayles also included the anti-Communist sentiment that plagued the labor movement. All in all, probably the most historically accurate movie we've seen so far this semester. - Sarah Richardson

Matewan did a fine job capturing many large issues in a historically accurate way. The people were very religious (as seen in the readings) and seemed to rely on it for a sense of comfort in their unjust world. The dangers of the coal mines were mentioned when the lack of husbands are discussed, and it is clear in the opening scene that mining had some pretty adverse health effects and the conditions were all around terrible. It was also obvious that the miners and their families were forced into dependence on the coal company by the company’s backhanded tactics (like raising store prices while lowering the worth of company scripts). Also, the racial and ethnic tensions and how the company used those tensions against the union is covered, as well as the gap between skilled and unskilled workers (the white miners complained that those E-talians had no mining experience). They showed that the company employed spies to undermine the striking miners, and the Baldwin-Felts men were about as brutal as could be expected. Yet, they also added a bit of complexity when the men were talking before the massacre, showing that they also had their reasons for doing things. Nevertheless, while they didn’t show them poisoning children, I could see them doing it. I think one of the most important things was the depiction of the powerlessness and victimization of the miners and their families. With living conditions like that, it’s not hard to see why people turned to unions to take some control over their lives and make things better for themselves. Finally, things don’t end happily no matter how nice it would be, which reflects the real life failure of the strike. --Taylor Brann

The movie stayed close to the history and even refrained from ignoring the unfortunate aftermath of the events it depicts. This is impressive since the movie is very pro-union yet it doesn’t pretend that the union fixed everything. – Wesley Weeks

I found the scene where the black miners are told of the company policy regarding wages and wares to be quite effective. As Taylor mentioned these tactics put the workers into instant dependency on the company as most of their wages for the first month are deducted for lodging and clothes. The man going through the protocols drones on and you can see the workers just deflate. Also I felt that this scene, in addition to the whole setting up camp showed just how difficult it was to unionize and go against the owners. No wonder unions had such trouble gaining a lasting foothold. While there could be historical discrepancies in these scenes, the emotions and messages they convey are powerful to understanding the hardships of labor during this era. - Bryan Mull

Like the old miner, Ratliff, with the whistle said in the readings that the system pretty much made "slaves" out of the workers. Freedom was attainable in theory, but surrounded by catch-22s (every option was lose-lose for the miners and their families) and this was clearly depicted in the film- in the company policies explained to the black strikebreakers, in the rhetoric of Kenehan's speeches, and in the relationships between the women and their families. The mention of "the Wobbilies" was brief and unexplained for the lay-viewer. However, Kenehan mentioned he "used to be a member" and then a miner chimes in that he used to be one "back when it meant something." The movie, through this line, helps quickly reveal that groups like the International Workers of the World that were strongly and publicly associated with socialist ideas had lost power and credibility. In 1920 the Red Scare was in full swing and it shows in how the miners begin to distrust and grew suspicious of poor, pacifist Kenehan in the middle of the film. Kenehan, although I believe is fictional, accurately represented union field organizers of the time. The movie makes him his hero, reflected in the words of the aged narrator, constantly quoting him. In the reading, Ratliff recalls field organizer Tom Raney, a unionizing hero, giving speeches that captivated Kentucky miners, much like those of Kenehan's in the movie.--Jackie Reed

b Inaccurate/issues:

Would a woman shoot a dead man multiple times like that woman did after the massacre? I know people were pissed at the mine owners' treatment of miners and their families, but that's excessive. -Lauren

If I was that woman, I probably would have done the same thing, simply because her boy just had his throat slit by those men. She was pissed off and emotionally a wreck from not just the union stuff, but her boy being murdered. Just my opinion though. --Ashley Wilkins

While I do not think there were many the movie had some problems. The main problem was with the main character, Kenehan, was he actually real? I do not remember talking about him in class at all? Why have a main character that did not exist when so many of the other would have done the job just fine. -- Kellye Sorber

Kellye, it is funny that you made that comment because I thought the same exact thing when I watched the movie. By presenting Joe as this archetypal stock character all the screenwriters had to worry about was the accuracy of his ideals and motives. By creating this fictional character the movies’ creators could simply say ‘Oh, Joe didn’t exist, but this is an accurate depiction of what it would have been like if he did- and hey, we don’t have to worry about adhering to anyone’s biography now!’. The problem with fictionalizing his character is that it distorts the historical accuracy of the film as it relates to the real story of Matewan. In other words, by adding in this stereotypical character Matewan rivals Glory in the way that history is caricatured. - Jason Ward

I liked the movie a lot, but for the sake of criticism I think the stereotypical characters and characterizations need to be examined. Now that I have a complex about “stealing people’s thunder” I will only briefly layout my litany and encourage people to elaborate on and/or discredit my claims. The Stone Mountain men clearly mocked the hill people and miners’ way of life, but were especially damning (pun intended) of their religiosity. Were businessmen at this time secular, or was this a plot device to further distinguish the two groups? The mayor was quite noble and honest, was the real Testerman so virtuous or was that too a mechanism of contrast? Finally, the boy preacher Andrew, were young miners (another pun?) that well- educated and articulate, and capable of rallying the members of a community to champion a cause? – Jason Ward

Like Kellye and Jason, I was caught off guard when the main character was fictional. At least in the other movies we've watched, the main characters have been based off of, and were supposed to be, the historical figure. To see "Few Clothes" Johnson and Sheriff Hatfield in this movie you would expect the writers to use an actual member of the union to be the central figure. I just don't understand why filmmakers decide to create people instead of take an historical event and follow through with it. -Kelly Wuyscik

I think that although Testerman was noble and honest, he was also portrayed as naive and unassertive. He's the character to take pity on when he dies at the end because he was only for upholding what was right and never hurt anybody. He was not assertive in anything he said, from a first "this is town property" to the agents (that was their point...) to his final "You people have no right to come to this town...." Ultimately, we find that his words were pretty much in vain. Nevertheless, his and Hatsfield's standing up to the agents is a testament to their characters, who in reality refused bribes from coal corporations. -Whitney Holcomb

I would like to point out another Glade Plug-In Moment - When Hillard's (not sure how to spell) Mom offers her extra food to the large Italian family and there is some trouble in the communication - then all of the sudden a vague gesture indicates for the white lady to sit down and POOF the Italian woman understands a compliment about her beautiful children. I agree that there is a good point here that there was a mixing of cultures, immigrants, blacks and white hillbillies, but it is cinematic effect again that transcends all language barrier that is unbelievable to me. And for the record I was a grumbler as we left the theater, I didn't particularly like the movie and I'm not a film buff but I do know what I like and don't like entertainment-wise. - Elle

Was it common to have young people working in the coal mines? I think the movie showed the boy preacher, I believe his name was Danny, working in the coal mines. ~Katherine~

I feel like someone as young as Danny would not have been allowed to work in the coal mines, or would he of because he would have been cheaper labor? Also, would a congregation really sit and listen to a 15 year old preach to them? That just seemed a bit weird to me. Danny also didn't know how to throw a baseball apparently, but that's a different subject altogether. -Kelly Wuyscik

Katherine and Kelly, I'm pretty sure that at the time, especially with labor like this, that there were HS-age kids working in the mines. They are cheap labor and are probably going to be healthier for longer, also making them long-available labor. -Cash Nelson

I also don't think the movie did all that great of a job showing the dangers of working in a coal mine. None of the characters had coal mining related injuries, but there was one guy in the beginning of the movie who had a bad cough, he might have had black lung from all the coal dust. ~Katherine~

I agree with Katherine. Did anyone else notice how spacious the mine seemed? They could stand up fully and there was even room to socialize. That's a far cry from the boys who get deformed because the mine is too cramped for even their small bodies to be in. -Whitney Holcomb

Just a minor issue, the readings led me to believe, it could have been just the one, that most miners didn't leave or get out of the mines until after dark, but they definitely left and got home in the daylight, at least in the beginning. I'll try to remember to update this after I finish the movie. --Ashley Wilkins

Some of the problems I had with this movie is that I feel it really simplified the race ethnic union unification. It would not be something that would happen as rapidly and easily as the movie showed, but something that would take a lot of effort over time. I also did not like the fact that after the first scene in the movie no one else was shown either sick or coughing although the damage to peoples lungs would carry on even when they were not working in the mines. A lot of scenes also felt cliche or just silly. - Jonathan Bell

According to the reading "The Bitter Cry of Children," there were kids working in the coal mines with men. They acted as "breaker boys," collecting coal deposits and doing other menial tasks. The significance here is that they experienced the same harsh conditions as the men, but at a greater cost because they are weaker (i.e. most die as a result). I think Danny is representative of this youth (but keep in mind that there were younger kids working as well), but I have trouble interpreting his role as a preacher-in-training. How much of a role did religion play with the labor union? - David F.

I enjoyed the part when the different groups (whites, Italians, Blacks) were playing their traditional music, which ended up harmonizing together to foreshadow in a way of unity to come. How long did it take normally for each race to trust each other and join as one union? –Ashley Scutari

The biggest problem with Matewan is probably the lack of a larger national context. There isn’t much mention of the other parts of America going through the same struggles, which gives the sense that the strike in Matewan is somehow unique. In fact, I don’t think they even uttered the name United Mine Workers of America. Perhaps it makes the movie stronger in that it focuses on the interworkings and interrelationships of a small community, but it feels almost like Matewan exists in a bubble. Also, there is the issue of the fictional outsider, Joe Kenehan, who comes to bring his message of hope and economic justice and essentially “clean up” the town by spreading ideas of passive resistance and equality and what not. It almost plays like some Western movies (a la My Darling Clementine), but not quite, as it’s clear that Joe’s efforts didn’t really succeed. There are also a lot of issues that aren’t covered, as things in Matewan didn’t end with the massacre. I didn’t feel like Danny gave much of a conclusion at the end of the movie that portrayed the continuing conflict. --Taylor Brann

To add to Taylor's point, the only reference to a national labor movement was the fictional character Joe, who was supposed to serve as its representative. Several times in the movie, Joe made reference to what "the Union" had to say on the issue of the strike at Matewan - how the people were supposed to wait for further instruction while the big national guys decided their next move. Well, in the movie, the local workers of Matewan were initially very excited about the prospect of joining a union and being part of a bigger movement (eluded to when the initial leader/ Baldwin Felts spy proclaims to have been a union man all his life). When Joe gives the workers the wait and see speech, after they all followed his advice and joined the union at great personal risk, all the workers felt betrayed and ostracized him, held meetings without him and even plotted his assassination. Now, to what extent did a backlash actually occur against national union organizers? I got the impression from class and the readings the union leaders were highly regarded - Buster Ratliff cites the UMWA president John L. Lewis as delivering him from slavery, so it was odd to see such local animosity against the outside union man.~Juliann

2 Film's relationship to current scholarship or to primary sources from the time

When the black scabs are considering joining the union, Few Clothes likens the mining situation to slavery, largely due to the fact that the miners are made to be entirely dependent upon the company for its needs. Referring to the start of the UMWA, Ratliff has called the mining situation slavery. In "The Tyranny of the Company Store" we read accounts of the forced dependence. Having to work for as long as they did, in the danger they did, essentially getting in return their food and housing, perhaps clothing, all subtracted from the binding scrip wages, and not being economically able to move out of the town, was akin to some conditions of slavery. -Whitney Holcomb

I found it interesting that the Piece Rate system that we heard only good things about in the reading was actually not endorsed by Joe in the film. Now I am skeptical of who wrote this account. Joe's machinery explanation makes more sense to me. - Elle

Another part of the readings that I found odd in comparison to the film was the passivity of the dying coal miners in their last notes to their loved ones. In the film these miners seemed anything but passive. Religious and definitely along the same lines of waiting for their loved ones in heaven, but a little more spiteful towards the poor conditions that caused deaths and injuries. Only one man writes to his sons to never become coal miners - I felt it should have been more than that. - Elle

What I didn't like about the movie was how little they focused on actually being in the mines (although, for the record you couldn't see a thing while they were actually in the mines so maybe it's for the best.) because the audience never got a sense of how terrible work actually was in there. In some of the readings you can really get a sense that there was little air and that they were getting sick and trapped and injured but in the movie, more people died of gunfire than via coal mining. It just didn't seem to measure up right. -Kelly Wuyscik

The reading for this week titled “Oh God, For One More Breath”: Early 20th century Tennessee Coal Miners’ Last Words, showed how religious these people were. They constantly referred to Jesus, and how they were going to go to Heaven, and wanted to meet their family up there too. These documents reminded me of how religious the miners in the movie, especially the Italians, were with their statues of Mary, and other religious items. ~Katherine Stinson~

In the reading, “The Greatest Thing” Hawkins and Ratliff were talking about the revival of the UMWA by John L. Lewis and the election of FDR as the end of “slavery”. The use of slavery- era rhetoric is interesting, and I think apt. Using this language has particular prudence in the American discussion of workers rights, but was it uniquely American? I imagine that in the European context “slavery” would not be as emotive and catalytic. So, I guess that begs the question, how effective was this kind of rhetoric in America in terms of union membership and support?- Jason Ward

Considering how religious mine workers were from the readings it seems off the way movie treats religion. Joe Canahan is accepted in the movie easily enough even after he states he is not religious. It seems that type of behavior would alienate and anger a lot mine workers who were very religious. - Jonathan Bell

The "Tennessee Coal Miners' Last Words" does not directly relate, but I think it does help to further impress just how serious a job coal mining was, and why it was so important to fight for better working conditions and more rights. --Amanda Russell

In the reading by John Spargo, he talks about the poor conditions of coal mining for the children. An example is being a coal break. In the film Danny is a good example of a child who is too young to work in the coal mines. –Ashley Scutari

To learn more about the role of religion among the child coal breakers, the author of "The Bitter Cry of Children" asks a boy if he knows God. The boy says, "God? He must work in some other mine." That is one extreme effect that coal mining has on the life of a child. We saw the religion in the adult miners' last letters, but this boy is worked so much that he has no time for religious study and any family or acquaintances of his have taught him anything about God. He's not living in the greatest conditions to believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God. Apparently the role of religion was not consistent throughout different mining towns or the ages of miners. In the film, the religious men can believe that the union holds a higher hope for them from their lowly, oppressed state, such that they will be delivered from the tyrant's hand. It is good to take advantage of religion for Preacher boy to get his points across to the miners without having to rat anyone out. Besides, Danny tells the end of his Bible stories inaccurately just to make his point. -Whitney Holcomb

Reading Eugene V. Deb's platform for socialism, it seems pretty clear why there was such a socialist movement in the early 20th century, evident by the kind of votes he received in 1912. Even after the red scare, the appeal of socialist ideals was still strong for many exploited workers, such as equality for all workers, regardless of race or ethnicity. The "class conflict" was evident in the movie too, in the form of the workers or the producers versus the non producers. That is what was ironic about the red scare - even though the people were afraid of communists, they themselves agreed with many socialist policies. ~Juliann

3 Movie as primary source about makers/time/setting/genre

I found a United States Court of Appeals case that included UMWA and a coal company back in the 1980s (INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. BIG HORN COAL COMPANY, a Wyoming corporation, Defendant-Appellant: 916 F.2d 1499; 1990 U.S. App. LEXIS 18131; 135 L.R.R.M. 2663; 116 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P10,363 [Source: Lexis Nexis www.lexisnexis.com]). Since the events that was discussed in the case happened when the movie came out, this is evidence that there was unrest between the miners and the mine owners that they worked for, even up to the late 1980s. So, there had to be tensions during the production of the film. In this particular case, there was an agreement between the two parties that expired in spring of 1987. The employers gave the miners an offer that the union rejected by striking. Afterward, the company refused to let some of the workers back on the basis of misconduct during the strike (like Dr. M said during the lecture, the companies found ways to get at the strikers). The court ruled in favor of the union.-Lauren

I found an article comparing the 1920s and 1980s (in a general sense, it seems) that mentions the state of unions in both periods. Basically, it seems to say that unions in the 1980s were facing the same problems as in the 1920s - layoffs, wage slashes, inability to affect policy or working conditions. Union membership declined in the 1980s, from some 25 percent of the workforce to 17 percent, much like in the 1920s when union membership dropped from 4.5 million in 1920 to 2.7 million in 1928 (according to this article, but generally it does jive with what we learned on Tuesday). --Amanda Russell

s far as the movie being a primary source, it portrays Sid Hatfield as an archetypal cowboy. Perhaps this because he was the sheriff. Either way, this portrayal is romanticized and informs us more about ourselves than the historical Sid Hatfield. – Wesley Weeks

4 Public reaction/impact

I think it was neat how they made the impression that the young boy, Danny, was the narrator in the movie. --Ashley Wilkins

I agree with Ashley on how they made Danny as the narrator for the film. Most characters who narrate are much older than Danny’s age when telling a story about their past life situations. –Ashley Scutari

I was looking up old movie reviews for Matewan, and the critics seemed to like it - called it one of Sayles's best pictures. Personally, I didn't really care for the movie. I found it boring and hard to follow, even if it was mostly historically accurate. ~Juliann

5 Other movies/questions of style/framing/storyline

I have a feeling a lot of people are going to trash this movie as a film because of the grumbling I heard leaving our luxury theatre. So here's my defense of the film for all your contemplation. It reminded me a whole lot of "There Will Be Blood," a period film not about the coal industry but the oil industry, and a little more heart warming (the life of a poor wretched town not a mean, wretched man). Still, the style and the pacing was annoyingly slow and only climactic in short, tense spurts. And when the people were in the church I was waiting for someone to yell out "I abandoned my boy!" There is no denying that both movies are slow and pretty depressing, but the acting and the stylistic elements (definitely the authentic bad-ass music) are undeniable. If someone can point out one bad performance in the, largely, ensemble cast of characters, please do and then we will duke it out Thunder Dome-style. No one can understand a Western Virginian accent and the sound quality was a bit crappy but hey, it was a low budget film from the 80s, what can you expect? I think Matewan falls in the upper-end of the films we've watched both cinematically and historically (themes of union efforts and coal miners run true without being over-the-top preachy or sentimental). --Jackie Reed

I couldn't agree more! - Jason Ward

Holy crap. Take it back Jackie. Take it back right now. There Will Be Blood was the best movie I've seen in years, unquestionably. How can you possibly rag on a PT Anderson film?! And if we are going to nitpick actors, Will Oldham showed everyone why he should have stuck to music. He's great in Old Joy, but pretty awful in this. However, Chris Cooper showed why he has been given so many solid roles in later years, and I have yet to see a James Earl Jones movie I don't like. And did anyone else notice that the guy who plays Dr.Kelso on Scrubs was in this?? -Cash Nelson

Ok, now I enjoyed Matewan, but I feel that comparisons to TWBB are mostly superficial. Yes they both are centered on extractive industries in rural areas pre WWII, and yes there is the young preacher in both films as well. But first, I have to say that the music (at least for me) served different purposes in each film. Whereas in Matewan (and again I wasn't wholly focused on it) the music struck me more as just capturing the feel of the region, but TWBB's score (by the guitarist from Radiohead I believe) served more to heighten tension and highlight the rise and fall of Daniel Plainview. Then there are the characters. Matewan as you said, has a strong ensemble, but TWBB was basically all Daniel Day Lewis all the time (though Paul Dano was effectively creepy). Also, Matewan focuses on the workers themselves and to my knowledge didn't even name the owners, whereas in TWBB the lowly workers largely are ignored. Regarding the films' young preachers, I felt that in TWBB Dano's character was used to be a sort of distorted mirror image of DDL. His church grows as does Plainview's oil company, and in the end they are both men who have essentially fallen from grace, and I don't feel that Matewan used the boy-preacher in the same manner. Also, Matewan was attempting to depict a specific historical event and place, whereas I felt that TWBB (based off an Upton Sinclair novel) was more allegorical in its approach by showing the self-made (and self-destructed) man. -Bryan Mull

Cash, I enjoy PT Anderson as well, but certainly he is not infallible. The ending to Magnolia, I don't want to spoil it because it's still a good movie, but seriously what the hell? -Bryan Mull

Bryan, '--This section has been edited by the professor to avoid any chance of ruining the ending of Magnolia in a class focused on MATEWAN --' -Cash

Okay, I must respond! Working backwards- yes, Cash is right about Magnolia (even if it is off topic), brilliant ending that ....see above...! Next, I am not saying that Matewan and TWBB are completely the same or total parallels, Bryan. I was simply trying to preemptively defend Matewan since so many people were grumbling about it after the viewing (or inappropriately laughing...). I wanted to compare it to another acclaimed film that could easily receive the same criticisms towards pacing or depressing themes on humanity (making it, simply, not a fun watch). The films are also both stylistically excellent, though I was not trying to compare the scores, since they are obviously very different and used for very different story-telling effects (I just said I liked them). And on the topic of Will Oldham's performance, the character annoyed me at first, but his performance only grew stronger throughout the movie, along with his character. And lastly, Cash, you must be very sensitive about TWBB if you think I was ragging on it before. Personally, I never want to see it again because DDL's character is so excellently despicable and undeserving of sympathy and the long open shots of the midwest make me want to fall asleep... but it is in no way a bad movie (in fact it is quite original, creative, brilliantly acted/scripted, thought provoking, and stirring) as I think I have made clear. --Jackie Reed

Also, I liked how the spy in Matewan was the guy who played the warden in Shawshank. That man is good at being evil. -Bryan Mull

Oh come, now, Jackie. You couldn't understand the WV accent? I enjoyed listening to the dialect (and understanding it all), but I think my awareness of and interest in dialects other than my own (I'm told it's largely Midwest) have been heightened since I've been taking linguistics. -Whitney Holcomb

Slowest. Movie. Ever. I don't care how accurate it was, for me it was as slow as Last of the Mohicans. Scratch that, it felt 12 times longer. Also, I'm beyond upset that they killed Hillard. He was my favorite. -Kelly Wuyscik

I think this was the movie that was the hardest for me to get through. Although, I thought it was comparable to Patriot's meandering story, not so much Mohicans, which I love every time I sit down to watch it. I'm not the biggest Heath Ledger fan though... -Cash Nelson

I think that that this movie is very evenly paced for what it is depicting. Its not like a war movie, this deals with strikes and unions. Its not like Mel Gibson is in this movie. The miners have to strike hard enough to be noticed but not enough to be considered a riot.-- Matt DeMarr

Awh, come on now, those accents were bad or thick. I should know, been out that way a lot with having lots of family from WV... I thought it was easy enough to understand them to be honest, but my golden rule is if you have trouble understanding put subtitles on.  :-D --Ashley Wilkins

My rule is...if you can't understand some words...context, context, context. Then subtitles if you still can't get it. -Whitney The way the Baldwin detectives in the movie feels very stylistic too me. They are portrayed as complete vllians with no sympathetic attributes whatsoever. The movie takes a clear good versus evil approach. Sure the Baldwin detectives may have done terrible things, but I think this movie goes too far in portraying them as evil. - Jonathan Bell

I had to watch this movie over two days (not because it was boring, but because I had to leave in the middle of the screening, so I finished the next day). So during my intermission, I IMDB'd the film and was impressed by how critically-acclaimed the movie was. Upon finishing the film and the readings (and regarding the lecture), I found very strong correlations between all sources. Matewan included all the characters mentioned in class (unlike My Darling Clementine), it implemented the main themes from the readings (children working in the mines, the idea of science in industry, the role of violence, etc). So while the movie indeed moved at a snail's pace, I think we should sacrifice that for movies that work hard to achieve historical accuracy. I also challenge the class to not mention Mel Gibson once for next week's wiki comments. We can put his name in the same bubble as we did with Gone With the Wind. - David F.

I agree with Bryan on the comparison with There Will Be Blood. These are two very different, though great, films. (TWWB or Atonement should have won the Oscar over No Country!) - Sarah Richardson

Matewan is definitely a film buff's movie. It's one of those films I'm glad I've seen, but probably wouldn't watch again. Stunning cinematography and use of music, great acting, etc. It effectively conveys the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere of a West Virginia mining town (and of the mines themselves). To echo what I said above, I think this is the best secondary source of the past that we've seen so far. Too bad we couldn't have watched this before the midterm! - Sarah Richardson

Thinking about Matewan, I started to get the idea that this movie was kind of like a Western, at least in the conventions it used. You have the lone lawman standing up to ruthless oppressors in Chief Hatfield. Kenehan is the outsider who rides (though by rail) into town and stirs up trouble. There are the women who are basically just there to be manipulated or ignored by the men. The final shootout that the movie builds up to is just like any number of western shootouts. You could even argue that Few Clothes functions in a similar fashion to an Indian chief. I found it interesting to see the fight for unions and labor rights in Appalachia applied to traditional aspects of the western genre. -Bryan Mull

6 Overall

Overall I think the movie did a pretty good job with historical accuracy but I think it made the film suffer. It seemed really long and was very slow. At times it was hard to follow the plot if there even was a plot. - Christine W.

Did the Mine companies unusually allow the widows of mine workers to still live in company housing? Did they also give them some kind of pension to use in the company store? -- Kellye Sorber

I agree with this movie being slow but it is definitely one of the more accurate movies we've watched (company stores and the cruel/creepy bosses/Felts just to name a few). But, the music is awesome and I felt claustrophobic (esp during the opening credits) just watching this movie! -- Mallory C.

I thoght the use of the church to tell parts of the story was a very well done and really moved it along.--matt

This movie does a good job at recreating the rugged life of a union mineworker. Parts of the movie aid the historical accuracy in the film. The viewer gets an idea of how rough life was for mineworkers by observing their union meetings. Race relations are portrayed well by showing how the Africans and Italians resented each other, but in the end in order to strengthen the union they put their differences aside for the bigger picture. Earl Jones refers to once being a member of the wobblies, which adds context to other labor movements. Few Clothes Johnson as a strikebreaker turned union leader is accurate, along with the portrayal of hard life in coal mining towns. Communism is also mentioned. The movie makes it seem like all mine workers took in some form on union, when only 1/3 were unionized and when 60% of coal came from non-union mines. Also, it would have been nice to have seen more resistance from the coal miners portrayed in the movie, such as more coal mine explosions, shootouts, and strikers that have signs with large anti corporal print. A scene portraying something similar to the 1921 10,000 man armed march on Logan WV would have added intensity. –James Drury

I really do love this movie. I think it pretty much hit the nail on the historical head despite some of its issues. And really, do some of these issues matter too much in a general sense? How many people even knew about Matewan before this class? I had never heard of the town, and I certainly didn’t know about the strike. It wasn’t even a successful strike, and it didn’t really turn the tide either against or in favor of unions. On the subject of its pacing, I understand why some people might find it boring because it moves slowly and there isn’t always a lot of action, but I personally think that seeing character interactions and emotional responses make for stronger movies. This movie definitely did well in getting across the emotions of these people, and I think that’s why it’s so good. The great acting certainly helps too, and there were some really amazing performances here. I could feel their complete powerlessness, victimization, desperation, and bitter rage. Heck, it makes me want to join a union to combat corporate injustice! I do think that this is also a terrible movie in that it is so depressing. While there are certainly heroic “hell yeah!” moments where it makes you proud to be a member of the human race (the police chief Hatfield in general, Danny informing the crowd of Joe’s innocence through a sermon, Elma shooting the Baldwin-Felts jerk), there are a lot more “people are jerks, life sucks and you can’t do anything about it” parts (I think special mention goes to the murder of poor Hillard). At the very least, the movie makes it clear that whether unions are successful or not, they can provide a sense of hope and community among different people, which was maybe John Sayles’ message, as Matewan was made during the 1980s when union membership and political power was declining. --Taylor Brann