Memorial Day Movies: I caught parts of some excellent war movies this past weekend, including a couple I hadn't seen yet. In "honor" of Memorial Day then, here are my top 7 (too lazy for 10) war movies/series (not in order of preference -- hard to compare apples to oranges in some instances):
1. A Bridge Too Far -- what a cast; great realism; displays Operation Market Garden from various perspectives and shows the good guys losing, which was a nice touch, artistically speaking.
2. A Band of Brothers -- HBO mini-series that moved me to tears. Based on the Stephen Ambrose book, this series takes us from training camp for a bunch of new Army paratroopers (Easy Company), through D-Day, Battle of the Bulge and ultimately through Berchtesgarten, and then peace. Really engrossing, and told at a nice pace due to its multi-episode sequencing. Bonus is the extra episode involving interviews with some of the real soldiers involved, including the beloved Major Winters. Bonus for me: I met two of the soldiers who live in the Philadelphia area.
3. The Great Escape: It's the anti-Bridge Too Far -- cartoonish, coy, with some god-awful stereotyping, but what fun to watch! The music was outstanding, and while it bordered on Hogan's Heroes at points, you were always interested in what would happen next. A classic.
4. The Caine Mutiny: Great movie that nearly lived up to the book's promise. Interesting tidbit on IMDB about how the movie wasn't going to be endorsed by the Navy, which would have made the movie nigh-impossible, so a compromise was reached -- the film would start by noting that no actual mutiny has been recorded in the U.S. Navy's history. Anyway, it's all about the psychology of leadership and when to challenge that leadership. Bogie at his finest.
5. Das Boot: The anti-war movie to end all anti-war movies. Dark, claustrophobic, paranoid -- these are just a few adjectives to get you going. Nowhere is a captain more independent than on a submarine -- or more isolated. The Nazi party-line is not so strict when you're being depth-charged for the 20th time. Wonderful direction.
6. All Quiet on the Western Front: Released in 1930, this was the first truly "cinematic" war movie -- and a more horrible subject could not be envisioned at the time. WWI was well known for the atrocities of the trench, and this movie does not spare the audience. Parts of it seem dated, while others seem like they could be part of any "big" movie today. We don't see much on WWI (with bookends like the Civil War and WWII, one can imagine why), but this is worth a view.
7. Platoon: I'm sure many will howl over this selection, but say what you will about Oliver Stone, in this film, his "trust no one" attitude is well served. Charlie Sheen actually showed some promise as a young actor - sad to see that promise turn into ridicule, but a great score and some unflinching camera work sucks you in. If it's on, I'm watching it.
Honorable Mentions: Patton (just not a huge fan of Scott, but it's a great bit of acting no doubt); Schindler's List (less of a war movie really, but unflinching and a film that needed to be made); MASH (for obvious reasons); Lifeboat (a Hitchcock gem -- another psychological examination of humans under the stresses of war, both political and personal).
Didn't See: So I don't get totally reamed, I did not see, and therefore cannot comment on such notables as: Paths of Glory (Kubrick); Stalag 17; Breaker Morant; or Lawrence of Arabia (I know, I know....)