Monday, May 25, 2009

Jeff's Top Ten Flicks for Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day I thought it would be a good idea to list my top 10 films about our men and women in Uniform. Each of these movies are unique as they bring us insight to the perils and pitfalls as well as the honor and glory of serving in our Armed Forces. As you may notice right away that excellent films like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Glory, Platoon, etc. are not represented here. There was a particular tone I was avoiding with this particular top 10 and that is why they are not here.

Before we begin I just wanted to recognize my cousin's husband, Zack who was recently sent back to Iraq with the National Guard. "Good luck, man and come home safe."

10. Top Gun (1986) "I feel the need, the need for speed."

This was a great ride, as a kid I loved the aerial battles in this flick. Anthony Edward's Goose has to go down in the books as the most beloved tragic sidekick. And the calls signs--I loved these names: Maverick, Goose, Viper, Wolfman, Jester, Ice Man etc.. Who could forget Tim Robbins immortal role as Merlin. Yes there was a sense of sexual tension between Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Ice Man (Val Kilmer) and it sometimes overpowered the so-called romance between Maverick and Charlie (Kelly McGillis) but that is not the point. After the movie was released Air Force and Naval recruitment went through the roof. Everybody was humming Highway to the Danger Zone as they were doing barrel roles over the Pacific. The power of Kenny Loggins knows no bounds.

9. Navy Seals (1990) "There's no reason to thank us because we don't exist. You never saw us. This never happened."

Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn play a couple of highly trained Navy Seals tasked with taking out a group of terrorists who have in their possession a weapon of mass destruction. Yes it's a little short on character and plot but it makes up for it in sheer bad ass action. After watching this movie you almost want to join up with the Navy and take on the challenge of what is considered to be the most dangerous training program in the world. Nah, on second thought I'll just enjoy the movie and pretend to be a kick ass soldier who can almost breathe underwater.

8. Blackhawk Down (2001) "Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics and all that shit just goes right out the window."

Urban warfare at it's most hellish. It's the early 90's as U.S. troops are sent in to raid and capture two extremists. When two Blackhawk Helicopters are shot down in the middle of the Market in Mogadishu the mission parameters change to a rescue op. Yes, this is based on a true story. Yes it was a colossal blunder that cost American lives. But it is also a harrowing tale of survival in the middle of a war zone. You've seen all of those campy Chuck Norris Delta Force movies, but these Deltas in Blackhawk were the real deal. They make Chucky look like a pre-stare recruit.

7. The Rock (1996) (Any Michael Bay Film) "General, we've spilled the same blood in the same mud. And you know Goddamn well I cannot give that order."

Nobody gives their props to the men in women in uniform better than Michael Bay. Hell half the movies he makes are glorified promotions for the Armed Services. The Rock is no exception. You have rogue Marines doing bad things. But you have plucky Stanley Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage) and a tough former MI-6 agent John Mason (Sean Connery) to set things a-right. Plus it was nice to see Michael Biehn as a tough as nails Seal Commando again. Whether it's the Rock, Pearl Harbor or Transformers Michael Bay makes our Military forces look sleek and unbeatable.

6. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) "It looks good on paper, but for God's sake... that's not a paper fleet sitting out there."

This extraordinary film that shows both sides, the Japanese and the Americans before the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. As the 2001 film Pearl Harbor was sleek, shiny and somewhat unrealistic, Tora! Tora! Tora! shows in a documentary format the blunders leading up to the day of infamy. An exceptional cast with E.G. Marshall, Joe Cotton, Jason Robards, James Whitmore as Admiral Halsey and Junya Usami as Admiral Yoshida. The film pushed to exonorate General Short(Robards) and Admiral Kimmell (Martin Balsam) as they did their best with little or no communication from their superiors.

5. Good Morning Vietnam (1987) "Excuse me sir. Seeing as how the V.P is such a V.I.P., shouldn't we keep the P.C. on the Q.T.? Cause if it leaks to the V.C. he could end up M.I.A., and then we'd all be put out in K.P."

It's the only film that has captured the horrors of the Vietnam War while keeping the funny. Based on the life of Armed Forces radio jock Adrien Cronauer (Robin Williams). Cronauer claims he wasn't as funny or wild as Robin Williams but he did bring smiles to the faces of our boys as they endured the hardships of Vietnam. There are some great performances from Forrest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby and J.T. Walsh. I really enjoyed this movie and have seen it many times since. Cronauer is an airman but he kind of represents us, the civilians, looking at this war through our eyes as he tries to make sense of all the chaos.

4. The Hunt For Red October (1990) "Ryan, some things in here don't react well to bullets." "Yeah, like me. I don't react well to bullets."

Who doesn't love a good nautical thriller? I've actually grown fond of Crimson Tide, as a fun submarine flick, but it pales in comparison to Red October. The first film of the Jack Ryan series and is still the best of the bunch. It's hard to watch this film and not want to be a Submarine Commander. This was a great cast with Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, Sean Connery, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn and Sam Neill. I also would give a shout out to Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Both are good in their own right and of course it's Harrison Ford. Writer Clancy understands the capabilities of our armed forces and he shows it with this great cold war flick.

3. A Few Good Men (1992) "Sam, we have softball games and marching bands. They work at a place where you have to wear camouflage or they might get shot!"

This is one of my favorite movies written by one of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin. The banter is so excellent that it makes Tom Cruise seem super smart and witty. A Few Good Men is a great morality play. Two honorable soldiers who inadvertently kill a fellow Marine while following orders. We get to see how difficult it is to operate a base so close to the enemy. I never thought a courtroom drama could be so good. Having Jack Nicholson helped I'm sure. Overall, fine performances all around and a film that can be admired and enjoyed for years to come.

2. The Great Escape (1963) "I haven't seen Berlin yet, from the ground or from the air, and I plan on doing both before the war is over."

This has to be Steve McQueen's best movie of all time. He was the "Cooler King." Everytime they played the theme song, someone tosses him his ball and glove and they march him into the Cooler you know you are watching something special. This is an international cast with British actors Richard Attenborough and Donald Pleaseance and James Coburn playing an Aussie. I can't remember what nationality Charles Bronson was playing but it definitely wasn't American. Then you've got the Yanks. McQueen, of course, and James Garner as the scrounger. Some of the best sequences were the bike scenes, where McQueen actually did most of his stunts, jumping over barbed wire. When I was a kid I must have seen the movie fifty times. I wore out the tape. This also was based on a true story. As D-Day approached the men captured in the POW camps confounded the Germans by trying to break out as many prisoners as possible. This was a major part of D-Day's initial success. How they came up with these elaborate schemes within the camps to dig their way out was just incredible. And through that effort they were able to break out 70 POW's in one night. This film makes a valiant effort to honor the 50 brave men that were re-captured and killed. A great tribute and a classic film.

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998) "I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel."

This film showed us, the uninitiated, what war was really like. What sacrifice was all about and why it was so important to protect the guy next to you. I remember being in the theatre when this came out and I sat next to a nice elderly gentleman. As the D-Day sequence began I noticed the man had gripped the edge of the armrest and he seemed pained by watching what was unfolding on screen. I was getting nervous I thought he was going to have a heart attack but he seemed to calm down moments later and as the credits began to roll at the end of the film he leaned over to me and he said, "That's truly the way it was." That was all he needed to say. I can only imagine my own Grandfather, who fought in the Philippians, going through this Nightmarish experience. How the hell did he survive that, how did any of them?


Speck said...

full metal jacket?????

Jeff said...

Yeah I was waiting for someone to ask-- I love Full Metal Jacket but I didn't feel it fit my parameters for this particular post. I picked these particular films because of my connection to them. I also tried to avoid war flicks. Apocalpyse Now, Platoon, notice I didn't even put Born on the Fourth of July which is also a great flick--If you read the posts you will understand my logic.

Captain Mike said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.