It’s time for the Oscars ...
So we thought it might be fun to visit some of the Oscar-winning
(and Oscar-nominated) films we’ve written about for many years.
Enjoy 33 Stories Behind the Stories!
Two compelling films in contention this year...
In a series of events which brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., into America’s national consciousness, civil-rights advocates attempted to march to Montgomery from Selma, Alabama during the month of March in 1965. It took three tries, and a federal court order, before the event could actually take place. When it did, around 25,000 people celebrated in Montgomery. Later that year, Congress passed the Voting-Rights Act.
The Imitation Game
Alan Turing used the words "The Imitation Game" while pondering the question "Can machines think?" Station X codebreakers, working at Bletchley Park, benefitted from Turing's answers, to such questions, to shorten WWII.
Thirty one more powerful films from over the Oscar years ...
12 Years a Slave
In 1841, Solomon Northup (a free black living in Saratoga) is betrayed, then sold to a Southern plantation owner. He spends 12 years as a slave called “Platt,” before he is rescued. Visit Washington City, America’s capital, when it was still a place where slaves were bought and sold. See the real areas involved in Northup’s story.
A Beautiful Mind
John Nash is a Nobel-Prize-winning genius who suffers from schizophrenia. Meet John Nash and Alicia Larde Nash. Watch a video in which the famous professor explains the influence of mathematics in his life (and how he viewed such things even when he was ill).
Kidnapped Africans, on board La Amistad, do not consider themselves slaves. They revolt. Soon thereafter, they are captured and put on trial. Through an amazing set of circumstances, including an appeal to the United States Supreme Court where the Africans were represented by a former American president, they were set free and returned to their home lands.
The story of six U.S. diplomats who elude capture, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, then leave the country under the most improbable of circumstances. Meet the real people and the man with a plan who helped them escape.
For his entire life, Howard Hughes was afraid of germs and their effect on him. As an aviator, however, he was fearless. Meet Howard Hughes and watch videos of his various endeavors, including the only flight of the Spruce Goose. Hear the broadcast of a reporter who was on the massive plane during its historic flight. Learn what happened to Hughes after a near-fatal airplane crash.
Black Hawk DownInsert Image
US military troops enter every battle thinking they will win because of superior technology; this isn't always the case. In this story, virtually visit Mogadishu to view the scene of action. Meet the soldiers who gave their lives, or were wounded. See Black Hawks, including the two which were shot down. Watch the Pentagon’s video of the raid. Hear the actual radio transmission, as shocked voices exclaim: “We got a Black Hawk going down!!"
The 1920s are a time of good living and great change. In Chicago, a young reporter named Maurine Dallas Watkins writes a play based on real-court cases. Meet the actual defendants and learn how their stories (and names) differ from the popular-culture version of the musical and film.
William Bartram's 1791 book, "Travels Through North and South Carolina," accompanies Inman as he flees the Civil War. Investigate the real Inman and inspect one of his two desertion files. See what the official records, of the “War of the Rebellion,” have to say about Petersburg and the horrific events at the Battle of the Crater.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Elizabeth becomes the strong heir desired by her father, Henry VIII. Along the way, she had help from her advisors, but Elizabeth proved that she had "the heart and stomach of a king."
Erin Brockovich, working at a law firm, finds PG&E is polluting the air, water, and soil with toxic chemicals. Meet the real Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry. Take a virtual trip to Hinkley to see the compressor station (and the area where it is located). Learn about groundwater, the hydrogeologic cycle, plumes of contamination - and how they all work together when cancer-causing chemicals are in their midst.
James Matthew (J.M.) Barrie begins to write “Peter Pan” in 1903; it is a story based on five real boys he knows. The prediction of an early critic, reporting to the producer, turned-out to be wrong: “Barrie has gone out of his mind...He’s just read me a play. He is going to read it to you, so I am warning you.”
Flags of Our Fathers
Thousands of US Marines on ships head toward Iwo Jima to capture the island and its airfield. The mission’s objective is to wrest the strategically significant territory, held by the Japanese, and transfer it to Allied control. The Battle of Iwo Jima is hard-fought by both sides. “Letters from Iwo Jima” is the companion, Japanese-language film.
Gangs of New York
With the loss of Dutch control, Manhattan's town of New Amsterdam became the city of New York. Over the years, pastoral settings gave way to urban sprawl. Then ... in the 19th-century … came the Gangs of New York.
When Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, becomes Caesar himself, he pretends to be a gladiator. That is not the end of the problems which this Emperor creates for Rome, according to the ancient historian Herodian.
The title of this Oscar-winning film is problematic … we know … but there’s important history behind the movie. Delve into the fall of France, the rise of Vichy and the ultimate success of the French resistance whose efforts helped to drive the occupiers out of France during WWII. And … discover the likely background for some aspects of the film’s storyline.
Among his achievements, Nelson Mandela realized that a rugby match between South African and New Zealand – to be played in South Africa – just might help the people of his country to unite. With that in mind, he told the national team: “Play for these people!” The strategy worked. Soon South Africans made signs which said: “One team. One country.”
As Daniel Day-Lewis demonstrated, in his award-winning role as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. President had a higher-pitched voice than one might expect. As the 150th-anniversary of Lincoln’s death approaches, in April of this year, we applaud the film and honor the man.
In this story behind the movie, meet Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta and all the 2002 A’s team members. Learn what happens to the players and staff after the wonder season was over. Discover how sabermetrics works and decide for yourself if it is a better way to pick players.
Road to Perdition
Travel back in time to visit Prohibition-era Chicago. Meet the leaders of Chicago’s organized crime syndicate. Learn about the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and how it impacted America (including its many unintended consequences which ultimately led to its repeal). Along the way, think about how a man like Michael Sullivan (played by Tom Hanks) ponders the morality of what he is doing to his own life and to the lives of his family members.
At a time when Americans were enduring the Great Depression, the most unlikely of all possible champions arrived on the scene. Meet Seabiscuit and his “triple crown” of supporters: Charles Howard, Tom Smith and Red Pollard. Watch a video of the 1938 match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. See previously unpublished photos and virtually visit Ridgewood Ranch, the champion’s final resting place.
Jamal Malik knows answers to questions, in a TV game show (India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”) that the show’s host and producers believe he should not know. He is an uneducated teenager, so his correct answers must be the result of cheating. But … as Jamal’s flashbacks show … not all of life’s answers are academically based.
In this story behind a novel-based movie, meet King Kamehameha and learn how he unites the Hawaii Islands. Meet the last surviving member of the Kamehameha dynasty - Princess Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop – and learn how she benefits the children of Hawaii. Then … take a virtual tour of the Hawaiian Islands.
Half-brothers Dickie Eklund and Micky Ward both have promising boxing careers which are threatened with premature ends. Dickie becomes addicted to crack cocaine and goes to jail. Police intentionally injure Micky’s hands when he questions their arrest of Dickie during a brawl. Will these brothers be able to make their way?
"The Help" is a fictional book, made-into a move, which portrays real events in Mississippi during the 1960s when Jim Crow laws are in effect. Step back into the not-too-distant past to see what life was like when African-American women cared for the white children of wealthy Southern families.
From exploring how underwater earthquakes occur, and the horrific damage they can cause – such as tsunamis – comes a true-life story of a family’s survival despite staggeringly high odds against a reunion.
The Iron Lady
Controversial from start to end, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female Prime Minister, then served in that position for more than ten years. Forming a working partnership with President Reagan and Secretary Gorbachev, she also tried to make a difference on the world stage.
The King’s Speech
Prince Albert, Duke of York, never expects to be King. Yet … after his brother (Edward VIII) abdicates, “Bertie,” as the family calls him, becomes King George VI. Overcoming a speech difficulty is only part of his life’s events which endear him to the people of Britain. With the help of an Australian named Lionel Logue, the current Queen’s father is depicted by Colin Firth in this multi-award-winning film.
The Perfect Storm
The town of Gloucester keeps track of its “men who go down to the sea in ships.” Six men who were killed in 1991's “perfect storm” have their names on that list. Plot the last-known location of the Andrea Gail on the “perfect storm” graph. Compare the size of the boat (72 feet) with the data from a Canadian weather buoy which reported waves of 99.735 feet (30.5 meters).
Wladyslaw Szpilman asks an insightful question when he sees who’s being lined-up for transportation from their homes, in Warsaw, to a distant labor camp: “If we were going to be a labor force, then what were these old people doing here?” Although his family dies, in the Holocaust, Szpilman faces a different kind of terror when he endures what is to come in Warsaw.
In this story about Titanic’s fatal voyage, examine witness testimony from the Wreck Inquiry (in Britain) and the Senate Hearings (in America). Discover a photo of what experts believe is the actual iceberg Titanic struck. See drawings (created by surviving crew members), life jackets (which saved some, but not all, passengers) and pictures (of rescue ships, rescued people and recovered bodies). Meet Titanic herself (in life and death), learn how icebergs are formed (and why they are oft-encountered in the North Atlantic) and find out why the great ship was traveling so fast at the time of the fatal encounter.
This is the story of Joey, a WWI-era horse whose improbable tale is hardly far-fetched given the circumstances horses endured during “The Great War.” Go behind the scenes to see what life was like at the time when Europe was engulfed in “the war to end all wars.”