Alfred McCoy

The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.”

In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, though purporting to bare his soul and confess all, is dissimulating by holding up his mentor and former WWII commander, Gen. Curtis LeMay, as a symbol of unrestrained, inhumane bombing — indeed, as an antithesis who, by implication, exculpates McNamara from the taint of such evil.”

But like all good films, it contains “the germ of its own critique,” says McCoy. “If we turn back to the scenes of McNamara working with LeMay on the mass bombing of Japan’s cities at the end of WWII, we realize that McNamara studied at the feet of the master and applied all these lessons learned when he later bombed North Vietnam.”

The author of “The Politics of Heroin” and the recently published “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror,” McCoy reports that he has never found an espionage film that approached the stunning quality of “The Third Man.” Until recently.

“For some 40 years, it has been a frustrating search until I went to see ‘Syriana,'” he says. “Apart from a similar tone of moral ambiguity that made ‘The Third Man’ so brilliantly evocative of the Cold War, ‘Syriana’ adds so deft a contemporary geopolitical dimension in its layered plotting that I can only applaud its brilliance.”

See top story and other related content

More Film

  • Frank Grillo, Anthony Mackie

    Frank Grillo, Anthony Mackie to Reunite in 'Point Blank' Remake

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

  • Universal Music Restoration

    Universal Launches Music Restoration Program, New Soundtrack Imprint (EXCLUSIVE)

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

  • Ingmar Bergman 100th Birthday Anniversary.

    Ingmar Bergman's Centennial: A Time to Celebrate Joy of Filmmaking

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

  • CAA Promotes Eric Schonberg to Agent

    CAA Promotes Eric Schonberg to Agent

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

  • The Indoraptor prepares to strike in

    Box Office: 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' Stomps to $15.3 Million on Thursday Night

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

  • Sinemia Introduces Family Plans, Challenging MoviePass

    Movie Ticketing Service Sinemia Introduces Family Plans

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

  • Longtime Disney Executive Mark Endemano Steps

    Longtime Disney Executive Mark Endemano Steps Down

    As a historian of Southeast Asia and what he calls the “covert netherworld,” McCoy makes ample use of documentary films in his classes at U. of Wisconsin-Madison. One film he shows students is Errol Morris’ recent “The Fog of War,” which he calls “a brilliant teaching tool.” In the 2003 doc, says McCoy, “Robert McNamara, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content