Friday, September 23, 2005

War, what is it good for? Ask Sean Penn.

Warfare is seemingly the one timeless and ever present element of human existence. Ever since a prepubescent Lucy hit her sister with a juniper branch over the stealing of a certain rock toy, warfare has raged wherever humans have strayed. With conflict has come suffering, sorrow, destruction, loss, and misery. Like warfare, Hollywood’s attempts to capture conflict on film have mostly brought us the same anguish and torment.

The recent wave of war films, or crap conflict cinema(CCC, not to be confused with CCR or CCCP), follow in the semi-illustrious steps of their forefathers. Too be sure, war movies have always been bad. And yet, the long-ago golden era of CCC had a certain air of élan and royalty about it that the current brand of shitty war movies lack.

Gone are the days when we could expect a war flick to feature the leathery tanned hide of Lee Marvin, the boyish good looks of Steve McQueen, or the ever heartening and slightly comical voice of Charles Bronson. No longer do we see John Wayne swagger through a barrage of gunfire untouched. Never more will Gene Hackman bombast us with the worst fake Polish accent ever recorded on film(or on anything else for that matter).

Yes, throughout the fifties, sixties, and into the seventies, horribly unrealistic war movies abounded, but they had a certain class. A level of class you can only achieve by having Donald Sutherland act a wisecracking hippy tank commander alongside a laughably stoic Clint Eastwood. Elegance such as that has nary found its way onto celluloid since.

The loss of grace in war films became apparent when Hollywood made a single cataclysmic mistake. The year was 1984, and stalwart director John Milius, fresh from his success with “Conan the Barbarian”, decided to try his hand in a daring new war picture. The title, “Red Dawn”. The star, Patrick Swayze. The mistake, Patrick Swayze.

Now admittedly, Milius hadn’t yet seen “Dirty Dancing” when he cast Patrick Swayze. For this horrendous misstep in his pre-casting research, we can only partly blame Milius, for “Dirty Dancing” would not be filmed for another three years. In this regard, the physical laws of time/space continuance and linear progression must take the lions share of the blame. Still, some culpability must rest with Milius, for no one, being of sound mind and body, should ever voluntarily involve themselves with Patrick Swayze, in any venture.

The resulting movie features a United States freshly conquered by the combined might of Cuba and Nicaragua, and a band of unlikely teen-partisans, the “Wolverines”, named after their school mascot. The juvenile guerrilla fighters spend most of their time sitting around well lit and lightly camouflaged base camps and occasionally detach themselves from pickup football games to go fight the Reds. While one wonders if they would have had as much success if their school mascot, and subsequent battle-cry, was “Manatee” or “Cockatoo”, the movie is generally less than thought-provoking. In fact, the only other thoughts this film will incite are “Why was this movie made?” and “Why haven’t we organized a special committee to oversee the destruction of every copy of this movie?”

Drawing inspiration from the sheer stupidity of ‘Dawn’, Mel Gibson set forth to create not one but two war movies of epic idiocy. The resulting films, “Braveheart”, and “The Patriot”, shocked audiences with their barbarically convoluted gore scenes, and the combined eighty-seven and a half hour presence of Mel Gibson. While the films did have some positive features, namely their barbarically convoluted gore scenes, they were about as historically accurate as a Shakespeare play. Also, having Heath Ledger co-star in “The Patriot” was a grave mistake. His boyish charms and complete lack of acting talent were obviously meant to appeal to women. Unfortunately, women constitute 0.0%(mean average) of the audience for gruesome war flicks.

Inbetween “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” emerged what is internationally recognized as the worst war movie of all time. In fact, some consider it the second worst movie of all time, next to “Armageddon”. The title of this cinematic horror is “The Thin Red Line”. Following on the hard and well earned success of “Saving Private Ryan”, TTRL tried desperately to piss off every movie fan in the greater Terra Firma area. The film itself featured two and half hours of the supposedly introspective thoughts of soldiers on Guadalcanal. Also, there was a slight bit of fighting. The battle to take the island, apparently, consisted of one artillery barrage, the capture of a single bunker, and the gut-wrenching, horror inducing presence of Sean Penn. Mostly, I believe this movie failed in casting. The problem was that we just couldn’t believe the actors to be soldiers. Men like Adrien Brody, George Clooney, Woody Harrelson, and the aforementioned Sean Penn would, in real life, only venture into the jungle at Disneyland. Also, the only ‘Japs’ they know are the vaguely Asian fellows with commerce degrees who do their taxes. Yes, ultimately casting, and two and half hours of shockingly incomprehensible ramblings, doomed this movie.

To this day Hollywood continues to search for that perfect war movie. A movie so bad that it can dislodge “The Thin Red Line” from its pinnacle of absurdity. “Pearl Harbor” made a solid attempt, depicting the story of a man who single handedly won the Battle of Britain, scarred the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, and bombed Tokyo, all in a fortnight. But even with the worst performances to date by a Baldwin, an Affleck, and a Voight, the atrociously terrible “Pearl Harbor” could not shake “The Thin Red Line” from its steadfast standing.

And so this is where we stand today. We have weathered the worst Hollywood could produce, a true testament to the human spirit. But we stand shaken knowing that somewhere Owen Wilson and Hayden Christensen are likely being cast to star as two soldiers of an 'alternate lifestyle' fighting at the battle of Antietam.

Form ranks moviegoers, the assault on our intellects will continue unremittingly.


Publius said...

"Also, the only ‘Japs’ they know are the vaguely Asian fellows with commerce degrees who do their taxes."

Damn, that's half the people I went to school with. Are all the B.Comms out west Asians too? I thought it was only at U of T Commerce that a white western European could feel like a minority. My personal favourite non-realistic war film is of course the Great Escape. Nothing like Steven McQueen matching wits with the entire German motorcycle corps. Every time after watching that film as a kid I would wonder why it took six years to beat the Germans.

Junker said...

Hehe. Every time I watch that, I still think theres a chance he just might make it over the wire at the end.

Given the choice, I'll take a McQueen over a Penn anyday.


Also, I should mention that whoever can name the film where Gene Hackman plays the terribly unconvincing Pole will get a prize.

Disclaimer: Prize may or may not be awarded.

MootPoint said...

Junker - was it A Bridge Too Far? Thank you, no applause please.

I have to admit that I did like Patriot. Mainly because of the last battle scene, Cowpens. My gggg? grandfather fought in that battle. When he was 13 no less. How many 13 year olds can you get to even mow the grass nowadays?

The Dirty Dozen is also a pretty good flick to watch if you like a little humor in a war picture.

Junker said...

Right on mootpoint, "A Bridge Too Far". Decent for its day, a lot of fun like many of the classic war flicks.

Very interesting stuff about your forefathers.

The Dirty Dozen is much the same. How can you not enjoy a movie with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, AND Charles Bronson in it?

DazzlinDino said...

I like Pappilion and the Dirty Dozen. But don't forget Bilko.....

MootPoint said...

Junker - both movies had a great cast didnt they?

Dazzlindino - Papillon was very good too.

Dang, I would like to go rent all those movies at the local video shop, except the only thing I would get there would be blank stares or puzzled looks from the teenyboppers behind the counter.

DazzlinDino said...

Just throw some porn in there too and they will just think your a wierd old guy, works for me....

Aizlynne said...

I was at Blockbusters yesterday and noticed that he has a movie out. I suspect this is why he went to NO in order to get some free publicity, plus a tax break.

Has anyone spotted him in Lake Charles LA? I bet he won't even show up -- and neither will Jesse Jackson.

The Conservative UAW Guy said...

I kind of liked the Patriot.
*sigh* But then, I have poor taste in movies...

Shabbadoo said...

I didn't mind the Patriot, and I admit I loved Braveheart.

Not really sure what your criticism of Braveheart is junker. You complain that it isn't historically accurate, which is true. However, the facts about Wallace are fuzzy at best, so I personally don't find much fault in Gibson's (or writer Randal Wallace's) twisting of historical fact to dramatize the story.

That said, Red Dawn, Pearl Harbour, and Thin Red Line sucked IMO.