Stalin is Still Dead

Strong language advisory as to the above video:

I have long thought that there was a hilarious dark comedy waiting to be written about the power struggle that occurred in the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin.  His daughter described his dying which took several days:

“Father’s death was slow and difficult…. His face became dark and different… his features were becoming unrecognizable…. The death agony was terrible. It choked him slowly as we watched… At the last moment he suddenly opened his eyes. It was a horrible look — either mad, or angry and full of fear of death…. Suddenly he raised his left hand and sort of either pointed up somewhere, or shook his finger at us all… The next moment his soul, after one last effort, broke away from his body.”

The film is coming out on October 20, and judging from the trailer it looks rather historically accurate.  Stalin’s death began a long chain of events that ended with the fall of the Soviet Union.  A fitting “celebration” of the centennial of the October Revolution.

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Published in: on September 29, 2017 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Bonnie Blue Flag

 

 

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

 

Donald Sutherland as Confederate General Pierre Beauregard calms a group of Confederate civilians under bombardment by Union forces in besieged Charleston by singing The Bonnie Blue Flag. This is from the 1999 movie The Hunley, a film about the Confederate proto-submarine. Sutherland has always been a Hollywood liberal, and this scene demonstrates just how recent the politicization of all things Confederate has been by the left in this country.

 

 

Published in: on September 14, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Bonnie Blue Flag  
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Darkest Hour

 

You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

Winston Churchill, May 13, 1940

The second Winston Churchill movie this year will appear in the US at Thanksgiving. The first was a bigger bomb than any dropped by the RAF in World War II. Go here to read British historian Andrew Robert’s scorching review. However Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldham in the title role, looks magnificent. It focuses on Churchill’s role in summoning the British people to fight on alone after the Fall of France.

If the English had negotiated peace with Nazi Germany in 1940, I have no doubt that Hitler would likely have conquered the Soviet Union in the next year. In circa 1948-1952 the US might have faced Japan and a nuclear armed Nazi Germany, controlling Europe and the former Soviet Union, with missile technology, and the world may well have been a much darker place indeed after the rubble settled from such a conflict. The resolution of one man, Churchill, likely changed history for the better, and no greater accolade can be given to any statesman. I am looking forward to seeing this film with great anticipation.

Published in: on September 5, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Darkest Hour  
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On the Firing Line With the Germans

 

The things you find on Youtube.  Thirty-two year old  Wilbur H. Durborough, an American reporter, for seven months in 1915 followed the German army taking photographs for the Chicago Newspaper Enterprise Association.  He was also producing a movie documentary on the German army in the field, the documentary being financially backed by several Chicago businessman.  Durborough hired cameraman Irving G. Ries, who would later work in Hollywood and who received an academy award nomination for his work on the movie Forbidden Planet (1956).  Driving a Stutz Bearcat, one of the fastest cars of its time, flying an American flag, Durborough and Ries followed in the wake of the German army on the Eastern front, creating  a historically priceless visual record of the German army in action.  Lost for decades, the film was restored recently by the Library of Congress. Durborough went on to serve in the US Army as a public relations officer after the US entered the War.

Published in: on August 1, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on On the Firing Line With the Germans  
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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…)

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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D-Day on Film

 

There have been surprisingly few movies on D-Day, as indicated by the fact that three out of the five videos looked at below are from television miniseries.  Here are the five best from  a scarce lot:

5. Ike: The War Years (1978)

Robert Duvall as Eisenhower gives his usual riveting performance.  The late Lee Remick  gives a good performance as Captain Kay Summersby, the British driver/secretary assigned to Eisenhower.  Unfortunately the miniseries centers around the relationship of Eisenhower and Summersby, a relationship which is subject to historical dispute.

4.  Ike: Countdown to D-Day (1995)

Tom Selleck gives a very good portrayal of Eisenhower in the days leading up to D-Day.  The video does a first rate job of portraying the problems that Eisenhower confronted:  getting prima donnas like Montgomery and Patton to work as a part of a team, concerns about the weather, the deception campaign to convince the Nazis that Calais would be the invasion site, etc.  The video also shines a light on the weight of responsibility which Eisenhower bore, especially when we see him write out a note just before the invasion taking full responsibility on his shoulders if it failed.

3.  Band of Brothers (2001)

The epic miniseries covering the exploits of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne, captures well the chaos of the parachute and glider operations behind German lines that were so critical a part of the Allied victory on D-Day. (more…)

Published in: on June 7, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on D-Day on Film  
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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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