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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 09:04 pm

Neverending wars

Here are few movies Bush should have watched before 2003

Untitled Document May 1 marked the four-year anniversary of President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo-op debacle, and the Iraq War rages on. Just as Hollywood avoided confronting the Vietnam War while it was in progress, we aren’t likely to see anything significant representing Iraq until it comes to an end, whenever that may be. Clint Eastwood probed the truth behind the most famous military photo op in history, the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima, in the film Flags of Our Fathers (2006). Eastwood deserves some credit for attempting to bring some cynicism to the normally revered World War II, but the finished result is a dull and ponderous movie. The structure jumps among so many different time periods one can easily lose sight of the characters and the chronology. This might work in an art film, but here it is just plain annoying. World War I receives even worse treatment in the historically bogus Flyboys (2006). A squadron of American pilots flying for the Lafayette Escadrille dodges German fighter planes but is shot down by clichés and stereotypes. The programmed storyline telegraphs which pilot is likely to be the next to die. The filmmakers were apparently so enamored of the sight of red Fokker triplanes, they ignored the fact that Baron von Richtofen was the only pilot to fly one. World War I was much better served by the French film A Very Long Engagement (2004). Director Jean-Pierre Jeunot reteamed with his Amélie star, Audrey Tautou, for this sprawling epic of a young woman’s obsessive search for her missing fiancé in the trenches of Europe. The highlight of Jeunot’s visual feast is an astounding and intricately constructed scene involving a zeppelin.
The best American war film of this decade, the recent DVD release Black Hawk Down (2001), ironically does not take place during a declared war. The U.S. military concocted a plan to fly into the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, capture a pair of lieutenants to a warlord, and then fly out. Gen. George Custer couldn’t have come up with a better plan. Almost immediately the Americans are ambushed by the heavily armed Somalis, who apparently weren’t expected to notice the helicopters. Perhaps Bush should have viewed this film before deciding to occupy Iraq.

New on DVD this Tuesday (May 15): Pan’s Labyrinth, The Fountain, Stomp the Yard, The Dead Girl, Seraphim Falls, The Last Sin Eater, and Family Law (Derecho de Familia).


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