Dunkirk: A Review

 

My son and I saw Dunkirk (2017) yesterday.  I was looking forward to seeing it, but I am afraid I found it disappointing overall.   My review is below the fold, and the usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect. (more…)

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Published in: on July 30, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Dunkirk: A Review  
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Eliot Ness and The Untouchables

 

I have foresworn myself. I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right!

Eliot Ness, The Untouchables (1987)

 

Hard to believe it is 30 years since The Untouchables (1987) movie was released.  My bride and I saw it in Joliet that year and we both loved it.  A year or two later and I was sitting next to one of the last of the surviving members of Al Capone’s gang.  A truckdriver for Capone, he had invested in Central Illinois farmland and by the time I knew him he was a grey headed and kindly great grandfather.  I never worked up the courage to ask him if Capone had asked him to bury some gangland slaying victims in the ground he purchased, as local rumor indicated.

 

The film was magnificent with the screenplay by David Mamet and the haunting, and period appropriate, musical score by Henry Mancini.  De Niro gave the performance of his career as Capone and Sean Connery, who won a best supporting Oscar for his performance, was completely believable as honest cop Jimmy Malone, joining Ness in his crusade against the corruption that sickened Malone.  Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness was superb as an innocent who learns the terrible cost that is sometimes demanded when evil is confronted. (more…)

Published in: on June 19, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Eliot Ness and The Untouchables  
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American History: Memorial Day Weekend Movies

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

A few films to help remember that there is much greater significance to Memorial Day than sun and fun:

 

 

1.  American Sniper (2015)- A grand tribute to the late Chris Kyle and to all the other troops who served in Iraq.

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle

2.   Hamburger Hill (1987)- A moving film about our troops in Vietnam who served their nation far better than their too often ungrateful nation served them.

3.  Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there,  including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died a few years ago, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the above clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

 

4.   Hacksaw Ridge (2016):  Mel Gibson fully redeemed his career as a director with this masterpiece.  A film that goes far beyond mere entertainment and illustrates what a man of faith can accomplish when he stays true to his beliefs and cares so much more about helping others than he does about his own mortal life.  Incredibly, the movie does justice to Desmond Doss, a true American hero.

 5.   Sergeant York (1941)-A film biopic of Sergeant Alvin C. York, who, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive  on October 8,  1918, took 32 German machine guns, killed 28 German soldiers and captured another 132.  Viewers who came to see the movie in 1941 must have been initially puzzled.  With a title like Sergeant York, movie goers could have been forgiven for thinking that Sergeant York’s experiences in World War I would be the focus, but such was not the case.  Most of the film is focused on York’s life in Tennessee from 1916-1917 before American entry into the war.  Like most masterpieces, the film has a strong religious theme as we witness York’s conversion to Christ.  The film is full of big questions:  How are we to live?  Why are we here?  What role should religion play in our lives?  How does someone gain faith?  What should we do if we perceive our duty to God and to Country to be in conflict?  It poses possible answers to these questions with a skillful mixture of humor and drama.  The entertainment value of Sergeant York conceals the fact that it is a very deep film intellectually as it addresses issues as old as Man.

The film was clearly a message film and made no bones about it.  The paper of the film industry Variety noted at the time:  “In Sergeant York the screen has spoken for national defense. Not in propaganda, but in theater.”

The film was a huge success upon release in 1941, the top grossing film of the year.  Gary Cooper justly earned the Oscar for his stellar performance as Alvin C. York.  It was Cooper’s favorite of his pictures.  “Sergeant York and I had quite a few things in common, even before I played him in screen. We both were raised in the mountains – Tennessee for him, Montana for me – and learned to ride and shoot as a natural part of growing up. Sergeant York won me an Academy Award, but that’s not why it’s my favorite film. I liked the role because of the background of the picture, and because I was portraying a good, sound American character.”

The film portrays a devout Christian who had to reconcile the command to “Love thy Neighbor” with fighting for his country in a war.  This is not an easy question and the film does not give easy answers, although I do find the clip above compelling. (more…)

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Judge Dan Haywood

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, You must believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

Judgment at Nuremberg, (1961)

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), loosely based on the trial of German jurists after World War II, is a powerful film.  Burt Lancaster, an actor of the first calibre, gives the performance of his career as Ernst Janning.  The early portion of the movie makes clear that Ernst Janning is in many ways a good man.  Before the Nazis came to power Janning was a world respected German jurist.  After the Nazis came to power evidence is brought forward by his defense counsel that Janning attempted to help people persecuted by the Nazis, and that he even personally insulted Hitler on one occasion.  Janning obviously despises the Nazis and the other judges who are on trial with him.  At his trial he refuses to say a word in his defense.  He only testifies after being appalled by the tactics of his defense counsel.  His magnificent and unsparing testimony convicts him and all the other Germans who were good men and women, who knew better, and who failed to speak out or to act against the Nazis.  Janning’s testimony tells us that sins of omission can be as damning as sins of commission.  When he reveals that he sentenced a man to death he knew to be innocent because of pressure from the Nazi government, we can only agree with his bleak assessment that he reduced his life to excrement.  Yet we have to respect Janning.  It is a rare man who can so publicly take responsibility for his own evil acts.

Yet even this  respect is taken away from Janning in the final scene of the film where he attempts to justify himself to Judge Haywood, superbly portrayed by Spencer Tracy, by saying that he never believed that it would all come to the millions of  dead in the concentration camps.  Judge Haywood delivers his verdict on this attempt by Janning to save some shred of self-respect:  “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.” (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Judge Dan Haywood  
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They Don’t Like the Bill of Rights

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic.  Although more political than I normally get on Almost Chosen People, I thought the film mavins of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

Last night I watched The FBI Story (1959) starring Jimmy Stewart as FBI agent Chip Hardesty.  Through the story of his career the history of the FBI was told.  A somewhat sanitized version to be sure but accurate as far as it went.  Go here to read some background on the film.  From an entertainment standpoint it is a great film, full of humor and drama, Jimmy Stewart and Vera Miles doing a good job of making you care about Chip Hardesty and his wife.  In one moving scene Hardesty and his wife learn that their only son was killed in the first assault wave on Iwo Jima.  As the black tide of grief washes over them as it does almost all parents who lose a child, Stewart seemed to be actually experiencing that sorrow.  A decorated Colonel in the Eighth Air Force who flew bomber missions during the War, I expect that Stewart while filming that scene was recalling the many young men he had known who had died in the units he commanded, and the letters he wrote to their parents and wives.  A good film, but that is not why I am writing this post.

In a clash with the Ku Klux Klan Hardesty describes it as follows:

The next day, Sam and I were sent down South with five other agents.  We were given simple instructions:  To check on a group of terrorists known as the Ku Klux Klan.  They had one minor complaint:  They didn’t like the Bill of Rights.  They said so in speeches.  They said so  in a lot of different ways.  They ransacked homes……and defiled ancient devotions.  It was a secret organization……that was so powerful it didn’t have to be secret.

This struck home to me because in this country we see the growing influence on the left of groups that also do not like the Bill of Rights.  To their credit some leftists are beginning to speak out against these groups, including Senators Warren and Sanders, Professor Cornell West and talk show host Bill Maher.  It is a frightening movement that bodes ill for civic peace.  Here is a current example of what these groups are accomplishing:

For years, the 82nd Avenue of the Roses parade has kicked off Portland’s annual Rose Festival and marked beginning of the Oregon city’s parade season.

But after a threatening email was sent to parade organizers – singling out members of the Multnomah County Republican Party (MCRP) who were planning to take part – officials have decided to cancel the family-friendly procession in an effort to avoid any clashes between protesters and marchers.

“This would have been the 11th year of the parade. This is culturally enriched community that has grown very diverse over the years,” Rick Jarvis, a spokesman for the Rose Festival Foundation, told Fox News. “The association has worked very hard to get everyone together in one common are and the parade helped served in that function.”

Local media reported that the email was sent from “thegiver@riseup.net,” and said that if members of the MCRP marched on Saturday they planned to have “two hundred or more people rush into the parade into the middle and drag and push them out.”

“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” the anonymous email said, in reference to the violent riots that broke out in Portland after the 2016 presidential election, reported the Oregonian. “This is non-negotiable.” (more…)

Published in: on May 3, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on They Don’t Like the Bill of Rights  
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The Case for Christ: A Review

 

My bride and I went to see The Case for Christ last Saturday.  I must admit to some trepidation on my part.  I have seen quite a few “Christian” films that had their hearts in the right place but were also simply bad, even laughably bad, films.  I was fearful this film would be more of the same.  I am pleased to report that The Case for Christ is a very good film, and a profound one.  I heartily endorse it for anyone who wishes to see a well-acted and well-made film that asks profound questions about the human condition.  My review is below the fold and the usual caveat about spoilers is in full force: (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin

 

 

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), perhaps the greatest of Westerns, contains this gem of a scene with John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, Strother Marvin, Lee Van Cleef and Woody Strode.  Marvin as Liberty Valance is the archetypal mercenary gunslinger, his days, and the days of his kind, about to come to an end.  Wayne as Tom Doniphon, rancher, is the obverse of Marvin, a man just as tough as Valance, if not tougher, but no bully.  However, his time is also closing.  Their destroyer?   The almost clown like figure of Ransom Stoddard, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart.  He knows nothing about guns, but he knows a lot about law, and law and civilization are fast coming to the range.  This is John Ford’s eulogy to the Old West, and to this type of Western. (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin  
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February 8, 1915: Birth of a Nation Debuts in Los Angeles

The film Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece, was  controversial at its release and remains so.  At three hours the film was a pioneering effort using then cutting age technology to produce a movie that stunned viewers by its cinematic quality.  Its viewers had seen nothing like it in film entertainment before.  At the same time the film, based on the pro-Ku Klux Klan novel the Clansman by Thomas Dixon, a friend of President Woodrow Wilson, drew outrage from Grand Army of the Republic Union Veterans and black groups with its depiction of the Klan as noble heroes attempting to fight against evil Unionists and its depiction of blacks as little better than beasts who walked erect.  Race riots broke out in cities where the film was shown.  President Wilson viewed the film in the White House and was reported to have said, “It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true”.  The White House denied the remark, and in the wake of continuing protests, Wilson eventually condemned the “unfortunate production”.  The film used quotes from Wilson’s scholarly works to buttress its negative depiction of Reconstruction and its positive depiction of the Klan.  Considering the fact that Wilson imposed segregation on the Civil Service it is difficult to discern what he found to be “unfortunate” about the film.

(more…)

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 8, 1915: Birth of a Nation Debuts in Los Angeles  
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Seven Days in May Redux

 

 

 

(I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

 

What is it with liberals and coups?  Recently several liberals, including entertainer? Sarah Silverman, and Obama era Pentagon bureaucrat Sarah Brooks, have  been calling for/predicting a military coup against the Trump administration.  Such fools have no concept of our military where the officers are trained from day one of their careers in the essential fact of civilian control of the military.  If the impossible ever happened and some rogue faction of the military ever did move against Trump, the shots fired in such a coup attempt would merely be the opening shots in Civil War II.  Liberals have often fantasized about a conservative military coup against the government of the United States, perhaps most famously in the novel and film of the Sixties entitled Seven Days in May.  From current calls for a military coup emanating from the portside of our politics, such concerns about a conservative coup apparently were a case of the left projecting upon the right what the left would be tempted to do if confronted by a civilian government they viewed as a menace.

Hard to believe that it is more than half a century since the film Seven Days in May (1964) was released.  Directed by John Frankenheimer with a screenplay by Rod Serling based on a novel published in 1962, the movie posits a failed coup attempt in the United States, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, played by Burt Lancaster, being the would be coup leader.  Kirk Douglas plays Scott’s aide Marine Corps Colonel Martin Casey who, while agreeing with Scott that President Jordan Lyman’s nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets is a disaster, is appalled when he learns of the proposed coup, and discloses it to the President, portrayed by Frederic March.

The film is an example of liberal paranoia in the early sixties and fears on the port side of our politics of a coup by some “right wing” general.  The film is unintentionally hilarious if one has served in our military, since the idea of numerous generals agreeing on a coup and keeping it secret, even from their own aides, is simply ludicrous.  Our military leaks like a sieve, and general officers almost always view each other as competitors for political favor, rather than as co-conspirators.

Ironies abound when the film is compared to reality: (more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Seven Days in May Redux  
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We’re No Angels

What would Christmas be without Devil’s Island and escaped convicts?  This is probably a Christmas movie to avoid unless, like me, you are blessed\cursed with a quirky sense of humor.  On Christmas Eve 1895, three escaped convicts from Devil’s Island, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray, fall in with a family who run a store.  Initially planning on robbing and murdering them, the convicts instead end up helping the family and by the conclusion of the film decide to return to prison to serve out their sentences.  Hearing the plot, I am sure you are aware that a fair amount of suspension of disbelief is required while watching the film.

The dialogue is witty and the performances are superb, especially that of Basil Rathbone who portrays the greedy and villainous Uncle of the family.  His greed proves his undoing as this scene relates:

 

 

(more…)

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on We’re No Angels  
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