Great War Movies

So what makes a great war movie? In my opinion a great movie about the subject of war must show the nightmare that war is. Any movie that romanticizes the horror of war or tries to make the subject of war anything less than the human nightmare it is, does a disservice to the young men and women who fought in died in war and who have given their lives for the country they are fighting for.

As far as great war movies, in my opinion, no movie will ever top “Saving Private Ryan”, which came out in 1998 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. The fact that this great movie did not win best picture in 1998 and lost to the movie “Shakespeare in Love” means that at least in the year 1998, there was something very wrong with the voting process or the people who voted for best picture that year. Saving Private Ryan showed the horror of war so well that even the veterans who served during the Normandy Invasion thought that this movie showed what it was like better than anything they had ever seen before. First and foremost, the opinion of any person who had seen the horrors of war means everything to how effective a wary movie and Saving Private Ryan has forever set the bar at the highest possible mark in this regard.

I recently saw the movie “American Sniper”, which was about the war career during the IRAQ war of Chris Kyle who at 160 kills, is the all-time record holder as a sniper in the US Navy Seals. What was great about American Sniper is that it showed the psychological effects of war after the soldier returns home better than any movie I have seen in a long time. This movie has already been nominated for best picture this year and should win in my opinion mainly due to the performances and the importance of the subject matter.

A close second this year would be the movie the “Imitation Game”, which was the story of a great scientist Alan Turing, who due to his genius was able to figure out the German communication code by building a machine for Great Britain. Due to this brilliant invention, Turing and his team was able to break the German code in 2 years and according to the movie, probably shortened the war by 2 years and may have saved as many as 14 million lives. I loved this movie because it showed the importance of intelligence during a war better than anything I have ever seen and it was also a great history lesson because not only did Turing break the German code, but he also created what would be considered the first ever modern computer. Unfortunately due to the fact Turning was gay, he was not celebrated as he should have been for saving the world after World War 2, but instead was forced to take drugs to try and prevent him from being gay, which tragically lead to his suicide at age 41.

Now You’re Going To Get To See Star Wars in 3D?

Okay I’ve been a Star Wars fan for almost 30 years now. I’ve consumed all the games, toys and remakes of the movies that any loyal Star Wars fan can. But now it appears that Lucas is going to remake the entire 6 Star Wars movies in 3D? What the hell? I know the guy likes milking the franchise for all it’s worth and I’m even behind the re-release of the original sacred trilogy with all the unseen footage. I’ll even pre-order the sucker so I can add it to my collection.

But alas these Star Wars 3D shennanigans is up there with the worst decision he’s made since Greedo has to shoot first. I’d even forgive him for Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen acting the movies into the ground. But to suddenly jump on the 3D bandwagon… it’s that step too far George. You own the movies – that’s cool. But what makes you think that adding 3D bits to them would make any sense at all?

If this was something being done for the fans then I’d get it. I’d be cool with it. But it’s not for the fans so I don’t get it and I’m not cool with it.

Avatar set the tone for what a movie planned and shot in 3D can achieve. I’m still amazed by how immersive the Avatar experience was but it was planned to be that way all along so it worked and worked very, very well. Say what you want about the movie or the plot but the entire experience worked a treat.

Then we need to take a look at Clash of the Titans. This was the movie that proved that not everything should be shot in 3D. Not only that but you definitely don’t bolt on 3D effects after the movie was made. Jaws 3D had more realism when it came down to it and the one lasting impression that COTT left on me was – very, very annoying. 3D actually ruined the movie for me and I’ve been waiting for that remake for a good 20 years or so!

Adding 3D to the Star Wars franchise for future movies is a great idea. It can be planned and implemented from the very start. But to take movies that are over 20 years old and start adding in silly 3D effects just for the sake of it. Nope I can’t get behind that one at all.

Hopefully Mr Lucas will have a rethink on this one because unless he’s willing to reshoot all the original movies with entirely digital actors I can’t see how this can work in a way that will make any Star Wars fan happy.

Star Wars – What Were Your Favorite Moments?

No movie or set of movies has ever stuck in my head quite so much as the Star Wars franchise. I’ll admit that I’m more of a fan of the older movies truth be told but there are lots of different reasons for that. The movies themselves have spanned generations but I think it’s interesting that despite the age gaps between one generation of fan and the next that Star Wars has held it’s appeal over the decades.

So now we know you’re a fan of Star Wars can you pick out your favorite moments from these movies? I know for most fans that’s like asking how far is up but if you think about it there are some moments in these movies that will stand out more than others. While I was putting the first parts of this article together I had a quick ponder on my own favorite moments from all 6 Star Wars movies.

Darth Vader Vs Luke lightsaber duel in Jedi

AT-AT and Snowspeeder battle on in Empire

Darth Maul vs Qui Gonn and Obi Wan duel in Phantom Menace

Millennium Falcon asteroid chase in Empire

Republic Army Vs Droid Army in Clone Wars

Anakin Vs Obi Wan lightsaber duel in ROTS

Rebel assault on the first Death Star – Episode IV

There’s no real theme to any of my favorite parts of these movies. Well except for maybe the John Williams score – particularly for the Darth Vader Vs Luke Skywalker lightsaber duel in Jedi and the millennium Falcon asteroid chase in Empire. The cinematography and score for these scenes set them apart from most others because every element worked so well. These scenes are embedded in my memory in a way that new movies failed to.

It’s not that the new movies (only Lucas would release prequels last eh?) are lacking in amazing scenes – I’ve listed some of my favorites ones already. But the older movies relied more on atmosphere and shooting the scene properly than just throwing in a load of special effects to overload your brain! It’s when movie making was more of a craft and when less definitely did more.

So what were your Top 5 favorite moments from all the Star Wars movies??

A War Movie For People Who Know Or Care Nothing About War

Last summer, NBC’s Brian Williams wrote a piece called “The Hurt Locker: Hurting for a Fact-Checker” regarding one of the top two contenders for Best Picture at this weekend’s Oscars. Williams noted, “I found a slew of technical inaccuracies based only on my few trips to Iraq during the height of the conflict. Seeing the movie made me go back over many of the positive reviews I read… [I]t is now clear none of them was written by anyone who had spent any time with U.S. armed forces in Iraq.”

Williams suggested that the filmmakers botched the following minor details: the vehicles, the armor, the armaments, the helmets, the uniforms, the communications technology, the military jargon, the unit structure, the command procedure, and the mission logistics.

On the plus side, Williams noted that the filmmakers accurately portrayed soldiers’ fingernails being dirty and their eyelashes being covered with dust. Score one for cinema verite! Williams also praised the film’s lovely desert scenery.

Williams ended, “I’d like to watch ‘The Hurt Locker’ with a combat veteran, but my layman’s eyes found way too much to quarrel with.”

Fortunately for Williams, combat veterans have already seen the film. Unfortunately for director Kathryn Bigelow, their criticism of the film is even more scathing than Williams’.

Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, submitted a recent article for Newsweek concluding that “Hollywood’s latest attempt to define the Iraq War and the American troops who have fought in it is just as disappointing as all the others produced so far.”

Rieckhoff’s critique, while pointing out additional and more nuanced inaccuracies than Williams’, argues that the snowballing accumulation of gaffes in the movie is not trivial, but rather reflects a sloppy, unforgivable rendering of the military that reveals profound ignorance and amounts to great disrespect on the filmmakers’ part.

For example, Rieckhoff criticizes the depiction of the highly specialized Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) group at the center of the film as casually putting on other military hats in their spare time, expertly carrying out sniper missions and kicking in doors and checking buildings for insurgents, jobs for which they would never have been trained.

Rieckhoff writes, “The scene with Jeremy Renner’s character sneaking off base to chase a boy he is worried about is as fictional as Jason Bourne… The men in my platoon followed rules and orders, and they stuck with their fellow soldiers… They don’t run around on their own unless they want to be court-martialed-or killed.”

The L.A. Times’ Julian Barnes cites EOD team members in Iraq who damn “The Hurt Locker” with faint praise: they call it “a good action movie if you know nothing about defusing roadside bombs or the military.” (How about that sound editing!)

Barnes quotes EOD technician Sgt. Eric Gordon saying, “I would watch it with other EOD people, and we would laugh.” (Then again, many people I know have had the same reaction to fellow Oscar nominee “Avatar.”) Gordon compared one soldier defusing a bomb using wire cutters to “a firefighter go into a building with a squirt bottle.”

An even more sobering criticism of the movie involves its portrayal of the main character, Sergeant William James, as a danger-loving, adrenaline-addicted, protocol-shredding commando who wantonly disrupts unit cohesion and endangers unit members with irresponsible, tough-guy playacting.

The Washington Post quotes Iraq veteran Ryan Gallucci stating that he had to keep turning the movie off “or else I would have thrown my remote through the television”; Gallucci admits that he kept wanting to see James “blown up… I wanted to see his poor teammates get another team leader, who was actually concerned about their safety.”

In an essay for The New York Times subtly titled “How Not to Depict a War,” EOD team videographer Michael Kamber adds that the film’s many factual errors “are mere details compared to the way Sergeant James repeatedly swaggers up to bombs… [T]he chances of recklessly approaching even a single command-detonated bomb and surviving are quite small. Yet we are made to believe that Sergeant James has disabled over 800 bombs in this reckless, cowboy-like fashion.” (Yes, but will the film win the statue for Best Sound Mixing?)

The most damning indictment of the film, however, comes from American-Israeli journalist Caroline Glick. She notes of the film, “There is no plot. We don’t know anything about these soldiers. We don’t know why they joined the US Army. We don’t know how they feel about Iraq… All we are given are GI Joes who defuse bombs. Supposedly by watching them, we are supposed to achieve some deeper understanding of the war. But really all we see is context-free violence which teaches us nothing about war. Supposedly James is a hero. But we don’t have any idea what he’s fighting for. So why should we care about him?”

So why is “The Hurt Locker” nominated for a gazillion Academy Awards? My theory is that the movie was made for, and enjoyed by, people who either (1) know nothing about war, and are curious about what it would be like to be embedded in the Army and able to observe a slice of life in a particular unit, or (2) care nothing about war, and are delighted to see it depicted as a meaningless, nihilistic exercise that illustrates the futility of picking up arms to fight for one’s country’s security interests.

The former group are are not getting an accurate representation of life in the Army, at least for this group in this conflict.

As for the latter group, Glick writes, “The Hurt Locker works for them because its post-modern, context-free rendering of the war is a picture-perfect far-left portrayal of war. No, the Americans aren’t terrible, they are nothings… War is futile. There is no purpose to war except staying alive.”

Glick counters this view: “[S]oldiers aren’t two-dimensional and war isn’t about nothing. And the war in Iraq is neither futile nor meaningless. The Hurt Locker was a two-dimensional film about a meaningless war and nothing soldiers.”

In other words: par for the course for Hollywood war films these days.

5 Great War Movies to Watch Before You Die

War has been a theme of movies right from the earliest days when D.W. Griffith made his controversial movie, “Birth of a Nation”. War has given movie makers several narratives and conflicts that make for great cinema. Some of the most memorable movies of the past few decades were about war, so here’s my list of my personal favorites amongst them:

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Words cannot do justice to this movie, whose opening 15 minutes are arguably the most visceral in movie history. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan features some of the most realistic and violent battle scenes ever filmed. It remains one of the most loved and influential war movies of all time.

2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
This 1979 movie starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando and directed by Francis Ford Coppola remains one of the most haunting narratives on war ever filmed. Coppola claimed that his movie was not about Vietnam, “it is Vietnam”. A story of a soldier who has to wade through deep jungles to find a renegade Colonel, the movie has strong echoes of the novel, “Heart of Darkness” and features a memorable, haunting soundtrack (anchored by The Doors’ “The End”).

3. The Deer Hunter (1978)
This 1978 film starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Cazale is a deep meditation on the Vietnam war. The first hour of the movie may be dull, but after that, it thrusts you completely into the war. But more than the war, this movie is remarkable for its depiction of the impact war can have on people back home.

4. Schindler’s List (1993)
Steven Spielberg scores another entry on this list with a haunting, personal look at the horrors of the holocaust. Liam Neeson plays a reluctant hero who saves the lives to hundreds of Jews in Nazi Germany.

5. Black Hawk Down (2001)
This 2001 Ridley Scott film had it all: visceral action, compelling story telling, and a great cast. One of the best narratives on modern day war.

So there you have it: five great war movies, just in time for the Oscar sweep of “The Hurt Locker”.

Jedi Church Created From Star Wars Movies

So a couple of days ago, May the Fourth, was a special nerd day: it was Star Wars Day. “What makes May the 4th Star Wars Day?” you may ask. May the 4th be with you. I hope you get it now. That day, I was planning on making a frivolous post for my blog commemorating one of my favorite series’ of all time. However, as I started looking for some well-designed art pieces of Star Wars to post, I came across something…frightening, to say the least.

Did you know that there is an actual religion called Jediism? It’s based upon Buddhism and Taoism, so says Order of the Jedi. I decided to write this article as a enlightenment, no pun intended. While I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with Star Wars or media in the church, there is something desperately wrong when the two become blurred. This is a prime example of what happens when media is used improperly, specifically with regards to culture.

Now this isn’t some church/media integration gone bad. It didn’t start out as a Baptist church, or even a Pentecostal church for that matter, that just liked Star Wars a little too much. This is a group of people that took Star Wars and formed a religion out of it. I don’t even know if religion is the right term. It is more of a philosophy; the Order of the Jedi affirms that much anyway. The scary part is they believe this actually exists and that they created it. Temple of the Jedi Order writes on its homepage, “We are not fictional Jedi from the wonderful Star Wars movies, neither are we role playing. Jediism is not the same as that which is portrayed within the Star Wars Saga by George Lucas and Lucasfilm LTD. George Lucas’ Jedi are fictional characters that exist within a literary and cinematic universe.”

One thing is certain, they cannot afford a good website. Both of those links are to.org websites and contain poor designs. Now there’s nothing wrong with.org websites, but.com is more professional. I suppose they are trying to claim themselves as a non-profit organization. In my mind that type of thing is reserved for charities and churches, but I guess they claim themselves as a church.

Just to show you how big of a problem this really is, Jedi Church claims that in the most recent New Zealand census, over 200,000 people claimed Jedi as their religion, more than Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Assembly of God. So just what do they believe in? As would be expected, they believe in an all powerful force in the world and that there are two sides of that force: A light side and dark side. They claim that, while most religions will try to tell you what is right and wrong, “[we believe] good and evil, are all axioms of the force, and that we must listen to the force so that we will know the right thing to do.” That’s a load of hogwash. That’s like saying listen to your heart, it will tell you what to do. Do you know what the Bible says? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. Do you want the truth? The Bible is truth. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17

But what’s the worst part in all of this? After all, we already know there are some crazy religions out there that are down right evil, especially Satanism. An article written by Matthew Cresswell of The Guardian states that Jediism is becoming a growing problem in the UK. “Chi-Pa Amshe, speaking as a spokesperson for the Jedi council (Falkna Kar, Anzai Kooji Cutpa and Daqian Xiong), believes that Jediism can merge with other belief systems, rather like a bolt-on accessory. ‘Many of our members are in fact both Christian and Jedi,’ he says.”

That’s the problem that we face. This is just another tactic of the devil. The Bible warns against false teachers (Jude 4). They are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 5:17). Paul said to reject anyone who teaches another doctrine than that which he has preached because it’s trying to lead you astray (Galatians 1:8). The weaker Christians in our churches can be easily duped by this type of message. We need to preach the whole counsel of God to our congregations (Acts 20:27). We need to teach them sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). When bank tellers are taught to spot counterfeit money they don’t examine the fake bills, they examine the real thing so that when they see the fake, they will know immediately. We must help our people put on the full armor of God so that they can withstand in the evil day, having done all to stand, and so that they can resist the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 16).

What are your thoughts? If you’d like to add your 2 cents, there’s a comment box below. Feel free to continue this post by sharing your thoughts.

As a side note, if you like this article may I ask you share it on Facebook or another social media network to get the word out. People need to be aware of this topic so that they know what’s going on behind the religious scenes of the world.