Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Sam Mendes’ War Movie

Whether 1917 is a great film will take some time to determine. I can only say that director Sam Mendes has made a very good war film. And I would caution my readers that this is a war film, not an action film. If you go to see it and expect bang-bang-shoot-’em-up or a superhero movie, this one is not for you.

If you are looking for a good film about the realities of war, 1917 does that, and does it with six stars. If ever there was a war that was hell, it was World War I. The war has been going on for almost three years, and 1917 is not all quiet on the western front. At least, not in the trenches where men fight with the rats over food.

A battalion of 1600 British troops men are planning on pursuing the Germans the next morning as they retreat. But headquarters behind the lines have intelligence that it’s a trap. Unfortunately there is radio silence and the British cannot inform the advance company.

The British general sends two corporals, Schofield and Blake, on a mission to hand-deliver a message, warning the Dev Regiment of the trap. They have to cross the no-man’s land between the British and the German trenches, then make their way through the abandoned German trenches and through a town before the reach their comrades. They have less than twenty-four hours. And to emphasize the urgency, Blake’s brother is an officer with the Regiment.

In what could have been a boring slog of a journey, Mendes direction, Roger Deakens’ cinematography, the script by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Sam Mendes, and Thomas Newman score heighten the tension again and again and make this film well-worth the two hours of viewing. There may be Germans ready to take the two down. As they make their way through a landscape strewn with the ravages of war, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for something to happen.

It has been said that combat brings out the best, and the worst, in men and women. And 1917 shows how true that can be. Schofield and Blake are two ordinary guys who swallow hard and face the unknown with courage. At the end of the movie, I was reminded of the Scripture that says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Schofield and Blake have shown that kind of love.

If there is a better film this year, I’m not sure what it would be. As for me, I give 1917 a big thumbs up and six out of five stars.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Faith and Imagination

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the Netflix production of “The Little Prince” (2015):

This film appealed to my child’s imagination. Showed me how often I put up boundaries to it. As children, we let our imaginations fly. If writing haiku has taught me anything, it’s only by letting go and following my imagination that creativity comes.

Maybe there’s a bench across the street. I leave work late at night and see the bench all alone. My imagination allows me to feel what that bench must be feeling. How come nobody loves me? Most of us have days like that. Then the next day, the bench is so happy that people come and sit on it and talk to other people about the day ahead. Or being tired at the end of the day.

Then the bench is all alone again. Then the bench takes to meditating what people must be like when it sees people at their best and at their worst. There’s no Mr. In-between.

Follow your Imagination and you too will find the Little Prince.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: The Boxer

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: “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel:

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were princes. In the midst of all that great rock and roll, in the midst of Dylan and the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, there was these two kids from Queens, New York, giving me some of the most personal songs. The first time I heard “The Sounds of Silence” I knew here were two guys who knew what I was feeling deep down.

I went through that album, hungering for more. Then they gave me “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme” and “Bookends”. When I set the needle down on “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, it was something beyond. A spiritual experience. Each song just right. I flipped vinyl disc over and dropped the needle onto “The Boxer”. Through the years, I have carried this song inside me. It’s gotten me through so much crap. Just about when I want to give up, it’s the boxer in that song that helps me pick myself back up. He’s something else.

The Addiction

It takes a certain kind of courage to speak to the world the way writers do. Yes, it takes a lot of guts to put yourself down on a blank page, then send that page out into the world. To do it well is a Big Something Else.

Yet everyday hundreds, thousands, millions of human beings do the brave act. And do it unselfishly. Because there is never enough return to pay for the hours a writer needs to create, even the well-paid ones. It may be in their job description to write. But no one, other than a fellow writer, understands the amount of time required to come up with an idea, develop it into something unique, then fill out that skeleton of an idea with meat and blood.

That bestselling novel that just hit number one on the New York Times list may very well have taken twenty years to get right and to make it sing. The author is declared a genius, then asked to do it again. And again. And again. If they don’t produce by a deadline somebody else set, that bestseller is declared a fluke by the high and mighty. Her readers go on to other things.

Writing stories, writing novels, writing itself can be an addictive thing. Most of us who pick up this addiction don’t make it big time. Sure we get a story or an essay or a blog post published every now and then. They are often featured in publications that don’t pay much or not at all. When it happens, we go around strutting our stuff like some rooster in a chicken coop of hens.

Mostly we are battered around by family and friends and community who harp at us to get a life. Go do something productive. The only answer we can give is that we would if we could. Then we’re back to that very thing they call useless. We sit ourselves down day-in and day-out and do the one thing we know that gives us value and brings us pure pleasure.

Along the way we are given a bagful of don’ts. Show, don’t tell. Don’t use passive voice. Don’t begin with the weather. Don’t use run-on sentences. Don’t use -ly adverbs. Never use clichés. Get rid of all the dialogue tags except for “said” and “asked”. Kill your darlings. Write what you know. After a while, we begin to understand that all those don’ts are a line of hooey. After we’ve read a few bestselling, and well-reviewed, writers who break every don’t in the book, we come to understand that the rules can be broken. The important thing is to know the rules, then to have a good reason to kick them in the shins.

By the time we come to realize this, we have developed a bit of a style of our own. That is when we throw the bag away and do what we please as well as we can.

We are a drunken lot, we writers. Drunk on words. When we finish a good day’s writing, it’s like we’re at a bacchanalia. We want to dance and sing and tell someone, anyone, what we have done. To have that feeling once is a wonderful thing. To have it again and again and again, that is a life. And there is no way I am going to give it up. Like my motto says, “A day without writing is still a day without writing.”

Yes, I am an addict. Unapologetically so. I’m addicted to laying down words on an empty page, and I am proud of it. Do I hear an amen?