Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: A Memorial Day Film

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. This week’s movie is “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946).

This selection “The Best Years of Our Lives” for Memorial Day was inspired by an interview with Sebastian Junger talking about his new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

It seems the human race has had war with it forever.  Three of our oldest books, The Bible, Homer’s Iliad, and Sun tzu’s The Art of War gave accurate descriptions of war. It didn’t stop there.  Ancient Greek works like Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War and The Persian Expedition by Xenophon were very good at this. Again and again and again, our literature reinforces the belief that the humanity is a violent sort of being.

The Japanese got in on the act with such books as The Book of Five Rings. The Germans too contributed to the literature. On War by Carl von Clausewitz was an important work on teaching us how to do a better job whacking the soup out of each other. T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom screamed that Lawrence won World War I single handedly. Maybe not the whole war but, at the least, the Middle Eastern part.

On and on the list goes. Toward the middle part of the twentieth century, books saying war was not quite as nice as we all thought started appearing. This was the theme of All Quiet on the Western Front, Hiroshima and Catch 22. Still there were those novels and books that continued to argue against the realities soldiers experienced in the field. Those works told us that it was the patriotic thing to be gung ho when it came to sending our children out to fight the good fight.

This rah-rah attitude continued with the movies. Especially the World War II movies. Even today, Hitler and the Nazis continue to be the all-time bad guys. Nobody was nastier. Want to make a supervillain. Make him a Nazi.

John Wayne’s movies were good at this. Since the Duke won the West for us, it was a pretty sure bet that he could win World War II, and he would do it the hard way. On a Hollywood sound stage. After seeing “Sands of Iwo Jima”, “The Longest Day” and “The Fighting Seabees”, it became ever so obvious the Duke did a darn good job too. After all, he was the Fighting Kentuckian at the Alamo. Unfortunately, for the Duke, his contribution to the Vietnam War (“The Green Berets”) left a lot to be desired. It seemed to be that Old Duke Wayne no longer had the cojones to do the job. Maybe it was time for Rambo and John McClane to step up to the plate.

This attitude about war as the best way to solve international disputes began to erode as men returned from combat. We began to realize the real mantra for grunts on the ground in combat was: “I just want to get back home.”

One of the few movies about the toll war plays on a soldier’s psyche was “The Best Years of Our Lives”. “Best Years” is William Wyler’s great film about combat veterans returning to civilian life at the end of World War II. It chronicles the difficulty many, if not all, had re-adjusting to civilian life. It takes the viewer by the hand and gives an up-close-and-personal view of the psychological trauma these men carried with them after leaving combat. And the impact that return had on their loved ones.

The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture. One of the standouts in the movie was Harold Russell as Petty Officer 2nd Class Homer Parrish. He was one of two non-professional actors to win Academy Awards. The other was Haing S. Ngor for “The Killing Fields”. In addition to this, Russell had lost both hands in a training accident during the war.

The amazing thing is that the film was made at all. By the late forties and early fifties, Americans began to see World War II mythologically. There was little room for doubt in the mind of the public that World War II was the Great Crusade against Evil and that those who went into combat were heroes who stood tall. American society totally ignored the wounds war stamped upon its citizen soldiers. It took the War in Vietnam for our doubts to begin to surface. With films like “The Hurt Locker” and “American Sniper”, America is finally waking us up to the realities of the psychological damage war leaves on its participants. And makes us realize that war has no real victors.

When soldiers return home from combat the wounds are not always visible. For some, it takes years for those scars to show. And they always show one way or another.

On this day when we honor our veterans, the best thanks we can give those who went in harm’s way for us is to try not making war anymore. Instead of puffing out our chests with our “kick butt” attitude, our words of gratitude would be so much more meaningful if we embraced John Lennon’s sentiment when he sang “Give Peace a Chance”. Just think how much better our world would be if we poured half the effort and the resources into peace that we pour into war. Perhaps. Just perhaps. Anyway I would like to think so.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: It’s a Man’s World

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti performing James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World”.

It don’t get any better than this. Two great musicians from two different genre do a song. When I first heard this one, the shivers ran up from my toes through my spine and out the top of my head. This one goes deep. No matter how many times I listen to James Brown and Luciano they still blows the top of my head off. Now both of them are with the angels, blowing God’s head off too. I can hear the Big Guy telling anybody who will listen, “I made these guys.” It just don’t get any better than this. Enjoy.

Politics in America 8: When the Circus Comes to Town

It’s like Buggs and the Looney Tune Gang used to say, “On with the show, this is it.” The choo-choo came around the mountain, Old Bicuspid. Yes, it was that same famous mountain where General Beauregard T. Abouttopop lost the Battle of the Other Side of the Mountain to General Hoppingmad. Yes, the choo-choo came ‘round that mountain.

Mayor P F Sneeze steadied himself for what was to come. He had never ever been on a train. He was almost sure the ride would make him sea sick. But there the train was, standing in the station, all red and beautiful like. It was the Delegate Special.

B S Pudding kissed her Honey good luck and have a wonderful time. It was such a good kiss that P F couldn’t follow his usual protocol. He didn’t ignore his lady love. He kissed her back. It was such a kiss that B S just about swooned and fainted. She didn’t but she just about did.

As the whole town was hip-hip-hurrahing, P F stepped into the train car. He took his seat in his cabin. He found himself sitting in the lap of Luxury. It was not that the suite was great. The girl’s name was Luxury and P F was actually sitting on her lap.

“Get off me,” Luxury expressed herself as the train was building up enough choo-choo to boogey out of the station.

“I am sorry, Ma’am,” the Mayor said, standing up and taking his hat off to show his southernly manners. He took his seat across from the lady and kindly asked, “Are you a delegate?”

“I am,” Luxury responded.

“This is my first time delegating,” P F said with a smile. He smiled because he didn’t know what else to do.

“My third time,” the woman said. “There’s nothing to it. You just show up. Raise your hat when you’re told. Then go home with some swag. You’ll be getting the red carpet treatment. It’s like the Academy Awards for Politicians.”

“The Academy Awards?”

“Yes indeedy. The PEs will be handing out all sorts of awards. The Award for Best Delegate. Best Favorite Son. Best Candidate with an Ax to Grind. My ex-husband two-husbands-removed won that one two conventions ago. I got to say he was a smoothy, that one. Then there’s even Best Song. That will be the Presidential Candidate’s theme song like ‘Don’t Stop’ was Bill Clinton’s.”

P F had never been to an Academy Awards Ceremony. He had never even seen one on tv. He didn’t even own a tv. So he wasn’t sure what it were. It sounded like an occasion to take a snort. If it was an occasion to take a snort, it must be mighty fine. Just in case of an occasion like that, he had brought his own jug. No city licker for him. No city licker could compare with Dr. Pudding’s Own Home Brew. That he knew.

If all his fellow delegates were as nice as Miss Luxury, P F decided he was bound and determined to enjoy sit on their laps too. It would be a dereliction of duty not to.

In the meantime, he and Miss Luxury discussed deep political things. Like the weather. Like being an early riser and a late riser. Like the surrender of General Lee to General Grant. She was for it, he was agin it. Like the nature of a bowl of grits. Then they discussed the weather some more. They were having a fine old time. From time to time, a fellow delegate would drop by their cabin to see what was cooking.

“Did you know that Dinah is in the kitchen?” one feller asked.

“Did she rise up early in the morning?” Luxury asked and waited on baited breath.

“She most assuredly did. The captain wanted her to blow her horn.”

“She does play a mean trumpet,” Luxury said.

“Sad thing is they caught her in the kitchen with someone strumming on an old banjo. You know what they were playing on that banjo?”

“I do not,” Luxury said, then asked P F, “Do you know?”

P F shook his head. He did not know.

“Fie, fi, fiddly I o, that’s what,” the delegate in the straw hat said.

“You don’t say,” Luxury said.

“I do say,” Straw Hat said.

Then Straw Hat was gone. He was in hog heaven. The Do Naughty Convention was the only time the wife let him out of her sight. He was making the best of it.

Luxury said toodley doo and went on her way. You know the way the way Luxury always go. Sliding right through our hands. The good Lord giveth and the good Lord taketh away.

Alone and by hisself, the Mayor dropped to his knees and prayed a little pray, then ended up pleading and cajoling and begging real real hard. “Please, God, don’t let me screw up.” Of course, that has been every presidential candidate’s prayer since George Washington showed his teeth on television. They always screw up.

Before P F knew it, lickety split the train was pulling into Convention City Station. There were party colors everywhere. There were ticker tape parades. There were cheerleaders.

The Delegates stepped off the train and into a parade, all fine and dandy in their monkey suits and top hats for the male persuasion and white gowns and tiaras for the women folk. They walked into the Convention Center, the cheering crowds cheering, the exciting music musiking. It was going to be a wing ding daddy of a time.

There was just one little thing that kept the whole darn event from being the best darn political convention since God let the animals out in the Garden of Eden. The Do Naughties did not have a Presidential Candidate.

Next Wednesday there’ll be a hot time in the old town.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Pacino & De Niro

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Heat” (1995).

Pacino and De Niro. De Niro and Pacino. It’s hard to choose. Thanks to director Michael Mann we don’t have to. This one is one of the few crime movies that works both sides of the law.

With a top notch cast, this is a movie with no lead guys. Just guys doing their jobs. Pacino is the cop. De Niro is the criminal. It’s hard to know which to root for. I like ’em both in this movie. It’s wonderful seeing them doing their stuff together. The restaurant scene is worth the price of admission.

An armored car heist may very well be one of De Niro’s last job. His crew hits the car fast. Everything goes according to plan until Waingro, the new guy he’s taken on, does something stupid. He gets trigger happy during the robbery and kills a guard. Like Old Murphy told us, what will go wrong will go wrong.

As we’ve learned from movies like “Dial M for Murder”, there ain’t no such thing as the perfect crime. De Niro and his crew meet up at a restaurant. They boot Waingro out. They go to kill the dude but he eludes their bullets.

Thrown into the cops and robbers mix are the relationship issues. Pacino’s wife (Diane Venora) is having an affair. He moves out of the house. Val Kilmer. one of De Niro’s crew, is having marital problems too. His wife, Ashley Judd, is about to ditch  him. He’s a gambler.

De Niro is a loner, knowing a relationship will get him into trouble. But this time things are different. He meets someone (Amy Brenneman). This gives us the gist that maybe, just maybe, he’s ready to get out of the life and go straight.

Mann gives us both Pacino’s investigation and De Niro’s life after the robbery. The heist yielded bonds owned by a money launderer. The money launderer is not happy about being taken by De Niro. When he comes after De Niro, De Niro turns the tables on the money launderer. There’s also a new heist he’s planning. It will definitely be his last.

All this leads up to a shootout at the O K Coral kind of thing. Until the last minute, we’re not sure who will walk away from the gun battle, Pacino or De Niro.

One thing is for sure. Just writing about this movie makes me want to see it again. That’s proof of just how good this one is.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: Two for the Price of One

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection. “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Footprints in the Snow” by Emerson Lake and Palmer.

I don’t usually post two songs for this post  But I just had to do this one. We lost Keith Emerson last March. I got to tell you that we lost one of the great musicians of our times. With Keith on keyboards, Carl Palmer on guitar and vocals and Greg Lake on drums, they played music on a high level. Emerson Lake and Palmer were unbelievable in what they could do as this version of an American classic, Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”, shows. For a British band, they sure did one heck of an interpretation of it. They explored classical, folk, jazz and rock. And always left us wanting more. For those of you who have never had the benefit of hearing the band, they were something. Just take a listen and see what I mean.

Thank you, Keith, for your music. You are missed but I am sure you’ve been welcomed with open arms to that great band upstairs.

Carl’s “Footprints in the Snow” is a fitting farewell to his fellow band mate. This one sent shivers up my spine. It’s that beautiful.