1968 was a year of extraordinary tragedy, triumph, and transformation. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy failed to halt the juggernaut of the Civil Rights Movement. Richard Nixon was elected President following riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. As rockets rained down on fighting men in Vietnam, a NASA rocket carried men into lunar orbit. From music to politics to issues of feminism, race, and war, 1968 left almost no facet of American life unchanged.
Now, legendary award-winning journalist and best-selling author Tom Brokaw commemorates the revolutionary events of this pivotal year in a feature-length special, based on his book, Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today. Drawing upon his decades of experience, Brokaw revisits the scenes of these iconic events, pairing provocative voices from the past and present to explore how these 40-year-old moments still impact our lives today.
DVD Features: Interviews with Tom Brokaw
Actor Dennis Hopper is credited with the adage "If you can remember the '60s, you weren't there." As Roger Ebert once observed, Hopper (or whomever) was no doubt referring to the late 1960s. But even so, 1968 was a hard year to forget. Pat Buchanan, one of the more prominent talking heads in this efficient, but hardly radical History Channel documentary, calls it probably the worst and most divisive year in the nation's history (our vote: 1969, when the Chicago Cubs fell from first place in a late-season collapse). But that's a typically harsh view from the former Nixon speechwriter, who coined the phrase "the Silent Majority." Others offer a fonder look back. Something of a companion to Tom Brokaw's book, Boom! Personal Reflections on the '60s, 1968 focuses on this "historic year," one rife with turmoil, tragedy, and upheaval. Brokaw guides viewers through the milestone events (the assassinations of the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the ongoing Vietnam War and the growing protest movement, Lyndon Johnson withdrawing from the presidential race, the Chicago Democratic Convention).
Interviews with a wide spectrum of voices offer a personal perspective on what was happening here. They include a glib Arlo Guthrie, whose classic Alice's Restaurant crystallized growing anti-war ferment, an earnest Bruce Springsteen, and Andrew Young, who was with Dr. King when he was gunned down. An inspired pairing is kindred spirits Tommy Smothers, who, with his brother, Dick, brought the counterculture into America's living rooms with The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. But most effective are the ordinary citizens whose lives took extraordinary turns in 1968. We meet an army nurse and wounded Vietnam vet, who married and now offer counseling to injured vets of the war in Iraq. David Smith, founder of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, decries the destructive legacy of drugs. The program ends, as did 1968, on a moment of hope and triumph as the Apollo 8 astronauts circle the moon, and newly elected President Nixon promises to "bring us together." Leave it to Buchanan to posit that 1968 was the beginning of the culture wars that would lead to the Red and Blue state divide of 2004. Still, a year that gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey, pitcher Denny McLain's 30-win season, and "the San Francisco Sound" can't be all bad. 1968 is an illuminating time capsule. --Donald Liebenson