Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Froggy's 13 Day Memorial Day Film Festival

     I'm a day late on this one but it is time for another of my Holiday Film Festivals, this time celebrating Memorial Day.  While it's easy for many of us to think of this holiday as merely an excuse for a long week-end, it was intended to honor those who have lost lives or been gravely injured in service to our country.  I have picked thirteen films with this intention in mind.  They DO tend to be centered a little more on films from the last few decades than my previous festivals.  I'm not sure why this is, but this is the list I came up with:

  1. Paths of Glory (1957) - One of director Stanley Kubrick's earliest films, this film tells the story of soldiers who refuse a suicide mission in World War I.  Needless to say, their superiors were not amused.  Besides being an important entry in the Kubrick canon, this is considered one of living legend Kirk Douglas's seminal performances.

  2. Forrest Gump (1994) - It is only during the early part of director Robert Zemeckis's epic of late twentieth century America that we see Forrest as a soldier, but the loss of his friend Bubba during Vietnam influences the events of the rest of his life.  The picture also presents a pretty vivid picture of how the war affected all Americans.  Besides that, Tom Hanks gives a power house (and Oscar winning) performance, alongside such luminaries as Sally Field, Robyn Wright & Gary Sinise.

  3. Saving Private Ryan (1998) - And of course, you can't discuss Tom Hanks and war movies without mentioning this modern classic which reset the bar for realism in combat sequences.  Steven Spielberg proves once again that he can handle ANY genre with an amazing cast that also includes Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti and Dennis Farina.

  4. The Thin Red Line (1998) - Saving Private Ryan wasn't the only film about soldiers in World War II that was up for Best Picture in 1998.  It went head to head with this Terrence Malick production.  A very different sort of movie about war, "Line" is very introspective, with limited dialogue.  It DOES, however, boast a tremendous cast that includes Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Jim Caviezel, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, John Travolta, George Clooney & Nick Stahl.  I promise it's a little more accessible than Tree of Life.

  5. Private Benjamin (1980) - This picture from director Howard Zieff isn't so much about soldiers falling in battle, as it is about women in the armed forces finally rising to their feet, but this list desperately needed some comedic relief.  This little gem from the early eighties should fit the bill nicely.  It was up for three Oscars (impressive for ANY comedy) including a Best Actress nod for producer/star Goldie Hawn whose career was thusly made.

  6. Restrepo (2010) - And we snap right back to the dark realities of warfare with perhaps the most well known documentary on the subject so far in the twenty first century.  Made famous by the "death in the line of duty" suffered by documentarian Tim Hetherington not long after the film's release, it tells the story of a platoon of soldier's in one of the most dangerous valleys in Afghanistan.  They have named their outpost "Restrepo" in honor of a fallen comrade.  Hetherington himself died on location with more soldiers, making his next documentary.

  7. Born on the Fourth of July (1989) - This film tells the true story of Ron Kovic, who (after being paralyzed fighting in Vietnam) becomes an anti-war activist.  The picture was up for eight Oscars, winning two (Director & Editing) and marked a high point in the careers of director Oliver Stone and star Tom Cruise.

  8. The Messenger (2009) - Writer Oren Moverman's directorial debut is not only one of the most criminally under-appreciated movies of 2009, it is also perhaps the MOST perfect choice on this entire list.  It tells the story of two soldiers (Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson) whose assignment is to alert the families of soldiers who have fallen on the field of battle.  Foster's character falls in love with one of the widows (played with typical brilliance by Samantha Morten) and we all take a hard look at grief and coping.  The Messenger should have been up for Best Picture.  It got nods for Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Harrelson)...sigh...

  9. MASH (1970) - Before the TV series broke all kinds of Emmy records, it was inspired by this movie by one of my all time favorite directors: the late, great Robert Altman.  As dark as the show's humor was for television of the time, this reflection of the Korean Conflict was even darker (but still funny).  Boasts a cast including: Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall & Rene Auberjonois.

  10. Inglorious Basterds (2009) - Quentin Tarantino's more than slightly cracked vision of World War Two is far from historically accurate, but it is a hell of a lot of irreverent and violent fun.  It is also one of the greatest revenge fantasies ever made, as a platoon of highly skilled Jewish soldiers assassinate Nazis left and right.  The film stars Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender & Daniel Bruhl.  It was up for eight Oscars (including Best Picture) winning Waltz his first Best Supporting Actor trophy.

  11. Apocalypse Now (1979) - Director Francis Ford Coppola's OTHER masterwork, this loose adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness moves the tale of man and his inner demons to the timely location of Vietnam.  Widely considered one of the best War films ever made, its cast includes such notable talents as Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper & Scott Glenn.  This is the flick that the line: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." comes from!

  12. The Hurt Locker (2008) - If I were asked to pick THE modern master of the war movie, you might be surprised that I would quite likely choose a woman.  You won't be surprised if you check out the works of director Katherine Bigelow when teamed with writer Mark Boal.  This first collaboration is the most thoughtful meditation about how the war on terror affects our soldiers psychologically that I have ever seen, and is the little indie flick that kicked Avatar's ass at the Oscars.  It is also the picture that launched Jeremy Renner's career.


  13. Full Metal Jacket (1987) - There's just no way to top off a list that starts with Stanley Kubrick than with the master director's last great film.  This iconic story of the Vietnam War just MIGHT be my favorite war movie ever.  Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio & R. Lee Ermey lead the cast.  The picture is at times touching, funny, and horrifying.  If you have never seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.

     And that is that.  Keep those flags waving, and I'll try and step up production of new articles here in the tail end of the month...Froggy. 

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