#288- The Night of the Shooting Stars

Quick recap: Told through the perspective of a little girl, a group of Italian villagers flee their town from Nazis. Along the way to find Americans to liberate them, they decide that they are going to fight back however they can.

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fun (?) fact: The scene where the Germans bombed the church filled with villagers was based on real events. After some research years later, it was discovered that it was the Americans who were behind the accidental bombing. Oops.

My thoughts: Let me tell you, there is nothing that brings in the Christmas spirit more than a war film featuring children. I’m not much of  a ‘Christmas’ person to begin with, so it didn’t have much effect on my near non-existent cheer. Not that it would anyway, because out of the bunch of films I have watched so far featuring World War II, this one can almost be described as optimistic.

Almost. Mind you, there is still a lot of death happening to a lot of people you get attached to. But most of the death comes from fighting the Nazis and Fascists, which, by the way, really sucks that Italy had to fight two evil powers during the war. Everyone had it bad back then, but from what I’ve seen, Italian war films are generally the most depressing because it’s so difficult to grasp the amount of suffering the villagers went through. Night of the Shooting Stars further drives this point home as I watched the journey of these families as they fleed their town and homes. It made me wander where all that courage came from. I have no idea the first thing I would do if war came to my town. I’d like to say that I could muster up something deep inside to fight and keep going, but I don’t know. And these villagers didn’t know either, until it happened to them. The scenes where the people ran through the wheat fields to escape the fighting were the most heartbreaking for me. Here were these old women, impeccably dressed , crawling on their hands and knees, just trying to survive. It was almost too much at times.

But as I said before, this film is not just blood and gore and sadness. I think by putting this through the eyes of a 6 year old girl, the audience can see the optimism and hope. During the final battle scene, the little girl imagines her neighbors as Roman soldiers, defending their people. In reality, these are a bunch of people with weapons that barely work and little to no experience fighting. But to the little girl, they are heroes and they save the day. The Night of the Shooting Stars is based off Italian lore that once a year in August, shooting stars streak across the sky and if you make a wish, everything will come true. It was enough to keep her going and something for me to think about when times are rough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Forbidden Games

 

#266- Full Metal Jacket

Quick recap: A young Marine survives boot camp and gets sent to Vietnam where he can truly understand the phrase, ‘war is hell, man.’

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Here’s your friendly reminder of how amazing the Simpsons used to be.

Fun (?) fact: Private Joker’s real name in the film is J.T. Davis, a real soldier who is considered to be the first American casualty of the war.

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My thoughts: The Vietnam War alone is about as hellish as anyone would expect it to be. But just in case we Americans didn’t really ‘get it’ the first time around, a slew of war movies came out to make sure we remembered just how bad that war was: Apocalypse Now, Platoon, The Deer Hunter and so on. All the while Stanley Kubrick was watching us, unimpressed with our claims of horror and empty promises of not letting that happen again. And thus, Full Metal Jacket was born.

Full Metal Jacket is horrifying, but not in the ways I expected. I knew there would be blood and guts because this is war, duh, and I was even prepared to see innocent civilians murdered. But the scenes that stuck with me the most were the conversations the men had about the war. As evidenced by the boot camp sequence, the US wanted killing machines and that’s what they got. It’s much easier to give a man a gun and teach him to shoot than to sit him down and explain why he’s going to war. And this tactic works well, for the most part, until a group is separated from their leader and their leader is murdered and then they have to think for themselves. The juxtaposition of the young sniper dying while the soldiers tried to decide what to do with her followed by the men singing the Mickey Mouse theme song is chilling and affected me more than I expected it to.

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Besides horrific scenes, this movie also had some really funny parts. The opening scene of Sgt. Hartman yelling at his new recruits might be one of my favorite scenes on this list, although it’s also really horrible to watch and I felt bad about laughing. Full Metal Jacket is the kind of movie where, when you laugh, the next thing you say is, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I laughed at that’.The soundtrack is also great and surprised me that it was used for comedic effect as well. It’s a Kubrick film, after all, so I expect nothing less.

Final review: 5/5 but I don’t know if I could sit through it again.

Up next: Shock Corridor

#265-MASH

Quick recap: Hijinks at a hospital during the Korean War? YOU BETCHA!

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Fun (?) fact: Robert Altman’s 14 year old son wrote the lyrics to the opening theme song.

My thoughts: Four movies in, and I think I can finally say with confidence that I don’t really care for Robert Altman. I loved The Long Goodbye, but that was largely because of Elliot Gould,and I just didn’t get the appeal of Nashville or The Player. And now there is MASH to add to the list,which just might be my least favorite of all of his films thus far.

I have this image in my head of Donald Sutherland (Hawkeye) and Elliot Gould (Trapper John) standing behind me as I type this review, yelling things to me like, ‘buzzkill!’, ‘where’s your sense of humor?’ and ‘why are we here? What happened?’. Their imagined disappointment in me comes from the fact that I just didn’t think this movie was funny. Most of the jokes were about how hot the nurses were and how they wanted to have sex with the nurses, which, if you’re not an Animaniac, it’s just creepy to watch.

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I can’t speak for the show, having never watched it ( I KNOW), but I was hoping for something along the same lines of being funny but also touching and dark at times. This movie was none of that. There was that one scene where Hawkeye and Trapper John saved a baby but they acted like such jackasses towards everyone that it ruined the moment.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: Full Metal Jacket

 

#258-The Bridge on the River Kwai

Quick recap: A group of PoWs build a bridge in a Japanese camp while another group of British soldiers make plans to blow the whole thing up. It sounds much more wacky than it actually was, sorry to say.

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Elephants helped build the bridge and took breaks whenever they damn well pleased.

Fun (?) fact: The story is loosely based on the relationship between Lt. Col. Toosey and Maj. Risaburo Saito, who was actually a reasonable guy. Toosey defended him during the war crimes tribunal and after he died, Saito went to England to visit his grave.

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Lt. Col. Toosey, whom the character Col. Nicholson is based on

My thoughts: War is hell, man. This is the thought I had not while watching the movie, but earlier today as I was scrolling through pictures of actual PoW camps from WWII. Not that I expected a film made in 1957 to be so realistic, but looking at a photo of the character Shears, with his muscles upon muscles and golden skin tone from hours of manual labor, next to a photo of a real PoW, all skin and bones, it startled me, to say the least. And, maybe unfairly, took away somewhat from what I had been feeling about the film.

The Bridge on the River Kwai is based loosely on real life, so I can’t down the tone too much. In the film, Col. Nicholson is the leader every soldier wants. He’s a rule follower to the point of risking his life to do what’s right and it pays off for him and his men. He eventually convinces Col. Saito, head of the Japanese camp ,to allow Nicholson and his officers to take over constructing the bridge, because it just so happens that a few of the men are engineers. It’s oddly convenient, but this is supposed to be the inspiring tale to end all inspiring tales, so let’s just run with it. The British soldiers respond much better when they are aren’t constantly threatened with death and so the bridge is built just in time.

Meanwhile, British forces are planning on blowing up the very bridge the soldiers worked so hard to construct, because, like I’ve said, war is hell. Had the movie only focused on the soldiers, I would’ve written off the whole film as shmaltzy, patriotic entertainment, but adding this element of Allies essentially working against each other makes everything so much more complicated. I wanted to root for Shears, who escaped the camp in the beginning, only to come back to help destroy it, but I also really liked the eventual friendship between Saito and Nicholson. In the end, SPOILER ALERT the bridge gets destroyed and it felt like a defeat. That might not have been the purpose of the movie, but that’s what I’m taking away from it. It felt unfair for everyone because three of the British soldiers on this secret mission died, the bridge was blown up and the train that the Japanese sent would’ve been used to transport sick soldiers to another camp. So, not all the heartwarming when you think about it. All I learned from this movie is that there are never any easy decisions in war and the decisions you think you are making for the good of many, might not be good after all.

Final review: 4/5. Alec Guiness as Col. Nicholson is worth watching for his role alone.

Up next: Paris, Texas