Monday, May 27, 2013

My Answer to the Latest Criticwire Survey Questin: Memorial Day Viewing

This week's question is what is the best movie to watch on Memorial Day. Since I'm Canadian, and hence don't even have Memorial Day off work - we had the previous weekend for Victoria Day this year - this is a hard question to answer. But I'll take in the spirit in which it was intended and answer is with a war movie - actually two of them. What I would watch - since far too few people did back in 2006 - is Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima double bill Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. I'm not saying these are the best war movies ever made - they certainly are not - but I think they're good for Memorail Day viewing. Why? Because as flawed as Flags of Our Fathers may have been, it is a fascinating movie not just about war heroes, but on the nature of what makes a war hero itself. The men who raised the flag and become icons, did not do it to become icons - and were uncomfortable with the fame it brought it - in some cases with really bad after effects. We should celebrate the men and women who willingly sacrificed their lives for us - but we should not exploit them, or glamorize what they did. It wasn't glamourous, and men young men died. Letters from Iwo Jima is a more straight forward film, but a less flawed one. And it took decades for an American filmmaker to make a film from the Japanese point of view. I think Letters from Iwo Jima is a great film because it reminds us that our enemies are just people too - people who are fighting for their homeland, just like our soldiers are fighting for theirs. The grunts on the ground don't make the decisions that led us to war - but they're the ones who pay the price for it.

There are lots of choices to choose from though - and I think any number of documentaries about returning soldiers and they sacrifices they have made - and how, at times, they have been mistreated by the government would also fit. The Tillman Story, Restrepo, To Hell and Back and The Invisible War all leap to mind as well.

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