A thoughtful commenter named Richard S. Webster added some superb suggestions to the list I published for Memorial Day, and I wanted to post them for families to have as they salute the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces.
1. “The Sands of Iwo Jima” This film both shows the sacrifice and hardship involved in war but also the personal toll it takes on the men. [I would also add Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” — NM]
2. “Bataan” War costs lives to win and this one does so in a hauntingly morose way.
3. “The Guns of Naverone” Perhaps the best behind the lines war film ever. The cast could never be duplicated.
4. “Battleground” Captures the suffering of the common soldier during the Battle of the Bulge.
5. “To Hell and Back” I love “Sergeant York” but Audie Murphy was even more extraordinary. [Note from NM: And the most decorated soldier of WWII plays himself in this story of his accomplishments.]
6. “From Here to Eternity” Captures the disorganization and problems the military had just prior to the onset of WW2.
7. “Flyboys” This extremely underrated WW1 film presents the American volunteer forces known as the Lafayette Escadrille who took to the skies early in WW1.
8. “We Were Soldiers” Despite many who will argue against this statement this is possibly the best Vietnam War film ever made. It certainly captures the feel of the early days of the war when America still had faith that we were doing the right thing.
9. “Midway” Realistically captures the most important naval battle in history…fought entirely in the air.
10. “The Court Marshall of Billy Mitchell” Your list has military court cases and here is one back at you but a better one and a real one. 16 years prior to WW2 Billy Mitchell realized what the Japanese plan of attack in the Pacific would be but nobody wanted to hear it…check this one out.
Reposting from 2008:
In honor of Memorial Day, take a break from picnics and sales and share one of these great films about American soldiers, sailors, and Marines. And be sure to take time thank the military and veterans in your life for all they have done to keep us safe and free.
1. Sergeant York Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of WWI hero Alvin York, the pacifist from the hills of Tennessee who carried out one of the most extraordinary missions in military history using lessons from his life on a farm. He captured 132 men by himself, still a record for a single soldier. In addition to the exciting story of his heroism in war, this is also the thoughtful story of his spiritual journey. He is a pacifist, opposed to fighting of any kind. By thinking of what he is doing as saving lives, he is able to find the inspiration and resolve for this historic achievement.
2. Saving Private Ryan Director Steven Spielberg salutes his father and the greatest generation with this story set in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. It frankly portrays the brutality and carnage of war and its wrenching losses, but it also portrays the honor, sacrifice, heroism, and meaning.
3. Mister Roberts There are battles — and heroes — of all kinds. Henry Fonda plays a Naval lieutenant assigned to a cargo ship during WWII who feels very far from the action. He learns that his defense of the crew against a petty and tyrannical captain (James Cagney), on behalf of “all the guys everywhere who sail from Tedium to Apathy…and back again, with an occasional side trip to Monotony,” is an important and meaningful contribution.
4. M*A*S*H Set during the Korean War but released in and very much a commentary on the Vietnam War, this is the story of surgeons stationed at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The emphasis is on war’s essential absurdity — these are doctors whose job is to heal soldiers to they can be sent back into battle — and on the ways that different people respond to those situations, responses that often escalate the absurdity. See also “Captain Newman, M.D.,” with Gregory Peck as a sympathetic Army psychiatrist during WWII as well as the long-running television series this film inspired.
5. Glory The Civil War 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African American men, inspired his film. Led by abolitionist Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick), and based on his letters, this is a story of heart-breaking courage, as the men had to battle not only with the Confederacy but with the bigotry of most of the white officers on their own side.
6. The Longest Day An all-star cast shines in this sincere re-telling of the events of the invasion of Normandy D-Day, one of the transformational moments of WWII. Many of the military consultants and advisors who helped with the film’s production were actual participants (from both sides) in the action on D-Day, and are portrayed in the film.
7. Band of Brothers This 10-part miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg is based on the best-seller by Stephen Ambrose about the WWII experiences of E Company (“Easy Company”), the members of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, United States Army 101st Airborne Division and one of its officers, Richard Winters (played by Damian Lewis), from basic training through the American airborne landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of Bastogne and the end of the war.
8. Patton George C. Scott won an Oscar for his portrayal of WWII General George S. Patton. The film also won six additional Oscars, including Best Picture. Its screenplay, co-written by Francis Ford Coppola, frankly portrays Patton’s mistakes and faults as well as his leadership in turning the tide of the war.
9. The Caine Mutiny/A Few Good Men These two movies, one set in WWII and one contemporary, both center on court martial trials with similar themes — what price do we pay for the luxury of feeling safe?
10. Gardens of Stone This underrated gem from Francis Ford Coppola about the “Old Guard,” the regiment responsible for the funerals at Arlington National Cemetery has beautiful performances from James Caan, James Earl Jones, and D.B. Sweeney and subtly but powerfully explores some of the deepest and most troubling questions about the price we pay — and the price we call on others to pay — for our freedoms.
The LA Times writes about what writer Chris Lee calls a “whitewash,” with all major parts in two high-budget, high-profile films set in the Mideast played by Caucasian performers.
None of its principle cast members are of Iranian, Middle Eastern or Muslim descent. And playing Dastan, the hero and titular heir to the Persian throne in the $200-million tent-pole film, is none other than Hancock Park’s own Swedish-Jewish-American prince, Jake Gyllenhaal.
In addition to Gyllenhaal and British actress Gemma Arterton’s portrayal of Iranian characters in the swords-and-sandals action epic “Prince of Persia,” Paramount has come under attack for its live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated series ” Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Directed by “Sixth Sense” auteur M. Night Shyamalan, “The Last Airbender” (as the movie is called to distinguish it from a certain James Cameron-directed 3-D blockbuster) has enraged some of the show’s aficionados by casting white actors in three of four principal roles — characters that fans of the original property insist are Asian and Native American.
And with just weeks until the movie’s July 2 release — after a year-and-a-half-long letter-writing campaign to the film’s producers and a correspondence with Paramount President Adam Goodman to underscore the importance of casting Asian actors in designated Asian roles — members of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and an organization called Racebending are urging fans to boycott “Airbender.”
Hollywood has a long, disgraceful history of casting actors in roles of other races. Marlon Brando, Alec Guinness, and Mickey Rooney played Japanese men and Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne played Chinese characters. Apparently believing that any non-American could play any non-white part, Mexican-born Ricardo Montalban played a Native American and a Japanese man and Puerto Rican Rita Moreno played a Thai character. This goes back a long way — centuries of white actors have played Othello in blackface. And of course in Shakespeare’s day, all parts we played by men and boys, which is one reason he created female characters who disguised themselves as men. It goes back to the earliest movies as well. One of the first superstars was Rudolph Valentino, who appeared as “The Sheik.” Peter Lorre played detective Mr. Moto and Warner Oland played detective Charlie Chan.
On one hand, I am in favor of race- and gender- and disability-blind) casting and would like to see more parts opened up to a wider range of actors. I disagree with a recent piece in Newsweek that has provoked a lot of controversy because it suggested that openly gay actors could not be believable as heterosexual romantic lead characters. But the purpose of a more open approach to casting should be to be more inclusive, not less. Part of what made the animated series that inspired “The Last Airbender” popular was its Asian characters and its themes based on East Asian fables and animation styles. Its director, Shyamalan, is an American of Indian heritage. Yet apparently even he must be swayed by Hollywood prejudice that assumes that despite the world market for films, audiences will be more likely to pay to see white stars.
I loved the new Shrek Forever After movie. But I was very sorry to see that the lovable big green ogre is not just living happily ever after over in Far Far Away. He is all over the mall selling everything from credit cards and breakfast cereal to junk food and greeting cards to kids and their families. It even includes “limited edition “Ogre Green” filled Twinkies.”
The press release from Dreamworks, explains that Shrek has a wide range of “partners.”
This is of course just another way to help make more money for the studio. But it is detrimental to the integrity of the product itself to commercialize it this way and it is particularly regrettable when it is attached to products that are unhealthy for children.