Thanks to Vox for the cool graphic

Arizona's First Political Blog

E-mail Anonymous Mike at

By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Friday, November 21, 2008
War! What's It Good For? Movies....

Four months ago at some bloggerama involving beer, the topic came up about favorite war movies. I put the theme in the deep freeze and decided to take out and defrost in order to avoid a discussion of politics (but I do appreciate the SecTres pick.) I guess we call it "Zonitics: Weekend Edition" or something.

Anyway I'll list my top 10 war movies and give you the reasons for it. You may agree, but you probably won't. If you think the topic is weird then hey move on and come back Sunday... in the mean time why don't you go read Tedski freak out about the coming Brewapocalypse and then come back and tell me who is being freaky. That's how we fly here, throwing some link love to other Arizona bloggers.

I'll go through the picks in reverse order and get through the 5 today and then the next 5 tomorrow. The reason is that I have some commentary and let's face it these posts are long enough anyway.

10. A Bridge Too Far. The story about the ill-fated Operation Market Garden and based ont he book from Corneillus Ryan. One of the last of the great ensemble war movies: James Caan, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, and a young Anthony Hopkins. Also a watershed movie in how it looked at WW II, contrast it with another film based on a Ryan book The Longest Day which was filmed 15 years earlier; the latter is a gung-ho movie that could have been shot during the war itself for homefront purposes while the former has a grim, bitter take.

Well of course it's grim because the battle was one we lost (sorry for the spoiler) but I couldn't see this filim being made in 1962; people weren't ready for it, it wasn't what they expected for a WW II film.

The other reason I picked the film is because of some of the great characters. You'll notice a theme in my picks in that they are often based on or related to some book or movie and that also there are great characters involved. In this case it's Hopkins' character; Lt. Colonel John Frost who led the doomed 2nd Battalion that was trapped at Arnhem Bridge. Read the book first and you get the impression that this was a man who should have been born 60 years earlier, perhaps to stand shoulder to shoulder with Gordon at Khartoum or to fight river pirates in China. Years after the battle, Frost is at the Bridge with the author and the old man looks south as if searching for XXX Corps but instead he shakes his fist and yells "Do you call that fighting?"

That's the man Hopkins brings to life.

9. Das Boot: A movie that perfectly captures the rottenness of life as a WW II German submariner: boredom, terror, and stinky conditions

8. Full Metal Jacket: In his 1985 book "War", Gwynne Dyer takes a chapter to discuss the US Marine Corps. Remember this is your typical 1985 anti-war book that assumes we are going to incinerate ourselves in a nuclear holacaust for re-electing Reagan. However Dyer casts an approving eye on the Marines for the simple reason that they are honest about what they do; they train men to survive combat and to ensure their enemies do not.

I think about that every time I see the first half of the movie as it deals with the experiences of a training platoon as it undergoes basic training with a sadistic DI. The thing about "sadistic" is that the DI, played by Lee Ermey, was training the young men for Viet Nam. You don't have to admire Ermey's character for what he did but it does help to appreciate what he was trying to do, train young men to survive a brutal and sadistic environment.

The other part of the movie I found memorable was the combat. The entire film was shot in Britain and that meant recreating elements of the Battle of Hue, South Vietnam in an old abandoned gas works located in Greater London. It gave some of the shots an almost theatrical look as if instead of sprawling urban combat this was in fact a tragedy taking place on a stage.

7. The Wild Geese: No deep reasons, it's a straight adventure movie about a group of mercenaries who go on a mission to Africa and have to fight their way out. One of those ensemble casts: Roger Moore, Hardy Kruger, Richard Burton, Richard Harris.... you sort of wish they did The Dogs of War this well.

6. Master and Commander: Russell Crowe is the spitting image of what a 18th Century British frigate commander should look like; reckless, dashing, and just a bit too intense. He dominates the movie through his portrayal of the twin obessions of duty and a French frigate

More later.