Tag: Films

Friday Five: This Means War

I’ll try to revive the Friday Five today. Lately, I’ve seen several movies either set in a war or dealing with the aftermath of a war (M*A*S*H, Best Years of Our Lives). So how about a war thread? They can be about a war or the aftermath; they can be pro- or anti-war. Inspiring or harrowing. This list quickly got out of control, so I narrowed it to movies that focus on the military in particular, therefore excluding films like Gone With the Wind, where the war is just part of a bigger film or movies like The Pianist, which are more focused on the Holocaust. YMMV.

My five?

Saving Private Ryan: I can still remember how devastated I felt walking out of the theater. The recreation of D-Day was so harrowing that veterans started having flashbacks. It changed the way action films would be filmed forever (although, unfortunately, its red-headed stepchild was the fast-edited shaky cam action scene that you can’t see).

Patton: George C. Scott. That is all.

Letters from Iwo Jima: I know a few people had issues with this one because it is told from the POV of the Japanese. But I found it brilliant and touching, with some incredible performances. Flags of Our Fathers is not bad, either.

Das Boot: Feature film or the entire mini-series. Another film told from the point of view of our Axis enemies but another film that emphasizes the common soldier who is motivated less by ideology than by his sense of duty and his band of brothers.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: How good was this film? I read the entire Aubrey-Maturin canon because of it. Just a great film. Also worth your time: A&E’s Horatio Hornblower made-for-TV movies.

Honorable Mention: Platoon, The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Gallipoli, The Big Red One, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down.

Friday Five: Oscar Upsets

Oscar nominees came out earlier this week. I don’t take the Oscars terribly seriously anymore since they’ve long since beclowned themselves. Even the people I know who watch it do so for the spectacle and the celebrities. But I did get to thinking: what are the worst Oscar winners? You can pick anything: directors, actor, actress, best special effects if you’re that passionate about it.

My five?

Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan: This is really what motivated the post. Shakespeare was a decent but forgettable movie. Even now, I can barely remember what it was about except that Gwyneth Paltrow took her clothes off. Saving Private Ryan was an extraordinary movie that changed war films forever. Everything since has followed in its large boot print. I’ve watched it half a dozen times and it is still shattering. This abomination of a pick was when I stopped caring about Oscars.

How Green Was My Vally over Citizen Kane: Green is actually not a bad movie. But Kane was great and changed film-making. And the Hollywood celebs, who always tell us how brave they are, geeked when Hearst told them to.

Annie Hall over Star Wars: Hey, I’m Jewish. I like Annie Hall. It’s not a bad movie. It’s even good. Star Wars, however, was a great movie.

Crash over Anything: Crash was a movie I liked on initial seeing but came to dislike the more I thought about it. It is lessons about race taught with a sledge hammer. Any of the other four nominees would have been better. Revenge of the Sith would have ben a better choice.

Meryl Streep’s Thatcher caricature in The Iron Lady: I realize I am out on a limb on this and much of my ire is for the movie itself, which seemed to enjoy Thatcher’s senility more than her extraordinary career. But while Streep looked and sounded like Thatcher, she carried none of the presence that Thatcher did. I know people who met Thatcher and every single one — even those that hated her — talked about how compelling a figure she was, how she absolutely commanded the attention of everyone in the room. Streep … didn’t. In a career filled with great performances, this was the one the Academy recognized?

Honorable Mention: The Greatest Show on Earth over anything else. Forrest Gump over Shawshank Redemption. I Just Called to Say I Love You over Purple Rain — really? Gandhi over ET — even Attenborough said this was a bad choice. Driving Miss Daisy — seriously? A Beautiful Mind over Fellowship of the Ring, which had the knock on effect of denying an Oscar to Master and Commander. Rain Man over Dangerous Liasons. I could go all day.

Your five?

Retelling History

Friday night is movie night in my house, tough to do with a 16 year old who is at that age where the veneer of his parent’s coolness is beyond diaphanous. The beginning and ending credits of “The Conspirator” revealed a studio I’ve never heard of before, The American Film Company. First off, the movie was really good and I highly recommend it, but what struck me was the byline ,”Films based on true stories from America’s past”. As you can see from the website, they offer a lot of cool features, not only stuff that would sate your normal history buff, but also items to pique even the casual historian. They are currently working on two new films, also history related.

I’ve mentioned in other posts the almost supernatural and fortuitous confluence of events that was needed to give birth and survive infancy of this great country of ours. The tumultuous and rapid point of advancement, from 13 independent colonies (only about of third of the colonists truly committed, with one third loyal to England and the other third ambivalent either way) breaking away from mother country to that point a couple hundred years later as the most powerful nation on the planet, it almost stretches the incredulity of fate.

But I was thinking how cool this concept is, to make movies, accurate authentic movies that not only entertained the audience but taught them something as well about our history. Sure, PBS has been doing this for years with their American Experience series (who can forget Ken Burn’s Civil War?) but feature length films? This is something we need to embrace and support.

So, here is the question, you are on the board who decides what movies get made, what stories, events, people, or occurrences in our history do you think would make a good movie?

Some movies I would vote for:

The Corp. Of Discovery- about 10 years ago I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, a book that chronicled Lewis and Clarke’s 2 year journey across America to discover the Northwest Passage and to map out new territories bought by Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase. These guys would make Navy Seals proud, the stuff they encountered along the way, their new discoveries, exciting stuff.

Battle of New Orleans- Andy Jackson and a band of Kentucky long riflemen take down a vastly superior British army, inflicting casualties greater then 20 to 1.

Aaron Burr- including the Hamilton duel, the plan to detach parts of the western states for his own nation, and his subsequent trial for treason.

And if the company is still in business, with more projects warranted, something on both Benedict Arnold and Stephen Decatur.

But with many aspects of our history untouched, what projects do you think should go forward, anything else you find worthy?