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The Wonder of the Cinema

Movies that make me thankful…

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2011.  So I thought I’d do a quick post on films that make me thankful.

The first group are a small selection of films that make me thankful for those US citizens who volunteered or answered the draft to serve in our armed forces.

  1. Saving Private Ryan – Just watch the first 20 minutes of the film.  According to the soldiers who landed on the beach June 6, 1944 the D-Day invasion scene was so well done and so accurate to what the soldiers on the beach experienced.  Without such remarkable bravery the Second World War could have had a very different outcome.
  2. The Crossing – This little film, broadcast on A&E, depicts the Christmas crossing of the Delaware River by General Washington and his tiny rag-tag band of soldiers.  Cross a river at night in the rain, march ten miles(many soldiers were barefoot) in freezing temperatures, attack an enemy that had an aura of invincibility and savagery(the Hessians), win, march the ten miles back to the boats, and then cross again.  Then Washington did it again less than a week later.  Without those soldiers we might have remained a British colony for much, much longer.
  3. Gettysburg & Glory – This pair of films illustrates both the bravery of the individual called upon in our nation’s time of need and the lofty moral goals that some(not all) attached to the outcome of the war.  Had the nation simply remained split in half, what would our present day look like?
  4. The Best Years of Our Lives – This film does not depict a single second of combat, yet the visceral impact of the film is tremendous.  The scars soldiers bring back from war can be both very physical or entirely psychological.  This was also a time when there was no understanding of PTSD(post-traumatic stress disorder) or of any of the other psychological traumas a soldier may have endured.  The soldiers came home and just “figured it out.”  It wasn’t always pretty and the journey was not an easy one, but this generation returned to build America into a scientific and economic powerhouse.
  5. The Pacific & Band of Brothers – This pair of HBO miniseries from the duo of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg provide modern audiences a glimpse into the horrors of the war, the courage of the soldiers, and the necessity of the “good war”  in Europe and Asia.

The next group are films that make me thankful we didn’t somehow destroy the entire planet during the Cold War.

  1. On the Beach – Nuclear war has destroyed the US and Russia (as well as the entire northern hemisphere).  Australia did not participate nor did it receive a nuclear strike, but it too is doomed all the same.  At present the USA has nearly 2,000 active nuclear weapons.  Russia about 2,400.  The UK and China each have about 160 warheads.  France about 240.  The exact numbers for Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and India are not known. Just the same there are enough warheads out there to turn the entire surface of the Earth to glass several times over.
  2. Fail-Safe – This is the classic “what if” scenario.  What if a bomber didn’t answer the recall signal due to an electrical fault?  What if it destroyed Moscow?  How would the US President react to stave off World War III and the inevitable destruction of probably all life on Earth?  A thought provoking film.  Both the original and the live TV version are worth watching.

These are movies that make me thankful I live in America in 2011…

  1. Slumdog Millionaire – Just look at the slums…
  2. Amistad – Imagine the terror and torment of being a slave… being someone’s property.
  3. Bloody Sunday – Our religious freedom as well as the restrained police forces of our nation make such a terrible incident unlikely if not altogether impossible here.
  4. The Killing Fields – One of the few western films on the Khmer Rouge and one of the most brutal films I think I’ve ever seen.
  5. The Crucible – This film makes me thankful in two major ways.  First, we do not live in a theocracy like the citizens of Salem.  The entire idea of spectral evidence galls me deeply.  Second, the parallel Arthur Miller, whose play this film is based on, was commenting on the blind “you’re either with us or against us” thinking of the early Cold War.  We saw this resurface somewhat post 9/11, but thankfully it did not rise to the level Miller saw in the early 1950s.
  6. The Last King of Scotland –  Idi Amin was a 100% certified whack-job… a brutal dictator of Uganda.  Human rights observers estimate 100-200,000 of his own citizens died as a result of his rule through executions, purges and death during imprisonment.

Movies that make me thankful such people lived:

  1. Gandhi – Victory without violence…
  2. Schindler’s List – The list is life.
  3. Judgement at Nuremberg – Rather than simply executing the most notorious Nazi war criminals who fell into Allied hands, the Allies conducted a rigorously legal trial to judge the guilt or innocence of these men.  It was necessary to separate the lawless methods of the Nazis from those of the Allies and those which we wanted the new Germany to use.  I’m thankful for the judges, the lawyers and the staff members who despite the calls for blood conducted these trials.
  4. All the President’s Men – A free press is a founding principal of our democracy.  No president is above the law.
  5. John Adams – This HBO miniseries is strongest in the first couple of episodes, but it does an outstanding job of giving us a window into this important founding father’s life.

Well, I’m certain I have missed quite a few, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less thankful.  They are all great films and worth watching.  Happy Thanksgiving!


About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...


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