Posts

Showing posts with the label War

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Image
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a Japanese/British film about a POW camp during World War II directed by the controversial Japanese film maker Nagisa Oshima. I have a few complaints, but overall it's a well-made, engrossing movie exploring some fairly large questions about culture and human nature.

The movie centers around four characters: two prisoners and two jailers. The titular Mr. Lawrence is the sole English character who speaks both languages, and he has a fairly good grasp of Japanese culture. Also held prisoner is a South African soldier, Jack Celliers, notably played by David Bowie, who the camp commandant, Captain Yonoi, becomes obsessed with. Also key is Sergeant Hara, a man who oscillates between cruelty and compassion.

The movie's plot is somewhat murky, as the events are intricately linked to the complex motives of its characters. I'm not going to try to offer a complete synopsis - I don't think it would begin to make sense - but I'll focus instead…

Peace on Earth (1939) and Goodwill to Men (1955)

Image
"Peace on Earth" is an animated short from 1939. It was made by Hugh Harman, one of the founders of the Warner Bros. animation studios. "Goodwill to Men" is a remake made by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera fourteen years later. The two pieces are extremely similar, so I'll talk about them together.

As works of animation, these are beyond topnotch. "Peace on Earth," in particular, is absolutely breathtaking. If this had been made a half-century later, it would still have been cutting edge. The remake is also great. You can drop every association you have with Hanna-Barbera: this is beautiful work. Both versions were clearly labors of love, stories the animators and directors clearly believed needed to be told.

If you've never seen these, the fact they exist is utterly shocking. In fact, if you've never seen either of these - and especially if you've never heard of them - you owe it to yourself to stop reading and watch the original. It…

Joyeux Noël (2005)

Image
This was an enjoyable, though not amazing, entry into the genre of ‘Christmas war movie’. Joyeux Noël is a French movie based loosely on the Christmas Truce of 1914. if you were asleep in history class and a dozen other pop-culture references, the Christmas Truce refers to a series of informal cease-fires along the front lines of World War I.

We think this movie did a really good job of conveying aspects of that event, mostly around the way it probably felt. The surreality of the situation was compelling, and the tension was well done around what a person is told to feel toward people of another country, versus how they react when face-to-face. Also I liked the fact that different minor characters reacted completely differently.

The movie followed a half-dozen or so characters from three units. I did really like how multilingual the movie was. No characters speak an unnatural language for the courtesy of the audience.

So we have two brothers and a preacher from Scotland, a lieutenant…

Doctor Who: Time of the Doctor (2013)

Image
I found the final Matt Smith Doctor Who episode to be engaging, though it lacked a satisfying payoff. That is to say, it's a good example of his entire run. Fortunately, it was a Christmas special, so I can discuss it here.
Oh, and just so no one complains later, discussing it will include details. So then. Spoiler. Warning. Got it? Good.

They certainly went to great pains to establish this as Christmas-related. The doctor follows an unknown transmission to a planet besieged by all his enemies. Once he gets down, he finds a town named Christmas. They play with this quite a bit: there are no shortage of lines about how the Doctor is protecting or saving Christmas. This is in addition to a Christmas dinner playing out in Clara's apartment in the present.
In some ways, a Christmas special is the perfect time for a regeneration, at least from a symbolic standpoint. They play with this, as well: the days in Christmas are almost impossibly short.
In the town, he comes across a crac…

Stalag 17 (1953)

Image
Stalag 17 is considered a classic. Along with It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, it's on the IMDB's top 250 movies of all time (as a society, we really need to get A Christmas Story off that list). Between the IMDB and its 97% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it was pretty much a given this was going to be good. Well, this late in the season, we're ready for some good movies.

This is, indeed, worth seeing, providing you're a fan of the era. The movie is well written and directed with a genuine sense of mystery and suspense broken up by occasional comic relief. The entire movie takes place inside a German POW camp during World War II. It's a few weeks before Christmas, and the Americans held there are continuously undermined in their attempts to escape or conceal information from their captors. The consequences aren't sugar coated, either: the movie opens with two of their number being gunned down in an escape attempt.

It becomes apparent they'…

A Midnight Clear (1992)

Image
This was highly ranked on a list over at Rotten Tomatoes, so I decided to check it out. It's a Christmas war movie, which seems to be a fairly sparse sub-genre, especially when compared to the almost absurdly large Christmas action movie genre. It's a stark and fascinating film, at times sad, beautiful, and funny. It's got some issues which hold it back from being a bona fide classic, but it's still worth watching.

The movie follows a unit of "whiz kid" soldiers in World War II who are sent to gather intelligence. When the movie opens, half of their unit is already dead and most of the rest are sick of combat. Every synopsis I've seen focuses on the movie's second act, when they have a series of bizarre encounters with a German squad culminating in a Christmas celebration. There's some good film making on display here. These scenes are tense, funny, and engaging.

Gradually, we learn the Germans want to surrender, but there are some complications.…

Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion: The Boy Who Found Christmas (1955)

Image
What. The. Hell. Is. This. Shit.

I mean, besides awful. It’s clearly awful. This show stars Buster Crabbe, a guy who would definitely take a different name if he were working in Hollywood today. And his son. And a comic character actor playing himself, sort of, which makes no sense, but nothing here makes sense. But let’s get back to the fact that there is no excuse for how terrible the kid is.

The kid is truly terrible; both at acting and in the story. The 3 minutes of plot in this 30 minute slog tell the story of how this brat, disappointed that the train with his christmas presents is stuck in a sandstorm, runs off to try to bring the packages himself. Alone. Through the desert.

The whole base turns out to look for the kid, and we get some really boring footage of the kid, I guess scared by being alone? I don’t know. I didn’t feel bad for him and I’m sorry he didn’t die alone in the desert for being a thoughtless moron. But instead, the adults catch up with him and forgive him …