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Shallow perhaps but meaningful
Granted there wasn't much of a plot to 1969 and the acting was fair, but nevertheless I thought the film did accomplish something important. It made you realize that this kind of "drama" - coping with the aftermath of a Vietnam KIA - played out in tens-of-thousands of homes throughout the country during the '60s and '70s. The sum of all that pain and anguish makes me cringe. I served in South Vietnam from the summer of '68 to the summer of '69 in the USMC and I am glad to see this kind of message portrayed in a movie. It keeps alive the suffering endured by family and friends from that time. Maybe that sounds morbid but I think it's important for the here and now to acknowledge and remember that suffering. We can use it to give us perspective on how fortunate we are to be able to flourish and live to a ripe old age. For me of course it has special meaning. I could have ended my life at 19 and would have missed so much.
But that's what happened to so many. A horrible shame.
The Last Waltz (1978)
Where Was I?
In 1978, when this film was released, my head must have been in the clouds! It completely passed me by. I was turned on to it by my neighbor, who shouted to me one day not long ago as I was mowing the lawn, "I bought the 25-year anniversary edition DVD of "The Last Waltz" and I'll bring it over for us to watch." Having no clue what he was talking about, I checked out good-ol' IMDB and discovered that this was one critically acclaimed film.
And the critics had it right. This is a great story with FANTASTIC music. Not canned, techno-pop garbage, but real rock and roll - rock and roll with soul! I never dreamed The Band was such an accomplished group - just knew them for "The Weight" from "Easy Rider." In today's dearth of quality music, this was a refreshing find - food for a starving man. I can listen to new music for me that for everyone else is 25-30 years old.
Discovering The Last Waltz was a bittersweet experience for me though. No sooner do I fall in love with Rick Danko's performance and songs in The Last Waltz that I learn he died in 1999 - and that Richard Manuel committed suicide in 1986. Watching Danko perform Stage Fright from so long ago, and knowing I could never see him do it live, gave me that same empty feeling I got when John Lennon was killed. I saw the Beatles in '64 and '65 and though it was always a distant, remote possibility that they would ever get together again, December 1980 stole away all hope.
Anyway, if you're a baby boomer like me looking for new music and missed this like I did, you might check it out. It's a great find!
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The Best Marine Corps Boot Camp Depiction Ever Done
I went into the Marine Corps in January 1968 and I must say that this film is by far the most authentic depiction of Marine Corps boot camp you'll ever see. If you weren't in the Corps, just watch this movie and you'll learn what it was like. When I was in, I can remember trying hard not to laugh at a lot of the one-liners my DI would utter, just like Pvt Pyle. Fortunately, though, I wasn't forced to "strangle myself" like Pyle was. I thought that was a very powerful scene, one that melted your smile away as you watched it.
I don't understand why the DI was shot at the end of the first part of the film. Perhaps it's intended as just retribution because he was so harsh, but I think killing him sends the wrong message. The DI was not a "bad guy," per se; he was doing the best job he could to prepare the recruits for combat. He was doing it so these guys would have the best chance possible to survive in war. My DI was like this guy: a strange blend of caring and meanness. And believe it or not, I carry with me fond memories of him, and always will.
The war in Vietnam certainly was a mistake. I was fortunate enough to survive my tour, but so many others weren't as lucky. I had close friends die. What's most important now is to keep the memory alive of what went on back then, so that succeeding generations can learn of the sacrifices and the suffering that took place. Films like FMJ serve this purpose well.
The War at Home (1996)
A powerful movie with stunning performances by all
Estevez, Martin Sheen and Kathy Bates are superb in this portrayal of a Vietnam vet home from the war but still haunted by it. Bates plays a clueless mother who just wants the family to be a "family." Sheen is terrific as the father who tries to understand what his son is going through but is too wrapped up in his principles to really empathize. The setting is Thanksgiving Day and the relatives are coming for dinner. Estevez, who plays the returning vet, wants no part of family tradition and insists on wearing his combat fatigues to dinner, explaining "This is what I wore last Thanksgiving." The bickering and family arguments are priceless, particularly the "peanut brittle crisis," but the ending is both gripping and terrifying. It has to be seen to be appreciated.
Overall, one of the best movies I've ever seen.
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
The last and most refined of the Pink Panther series.
Peter Sellers made 5 Pink Panther movies; this was the last and, in my opinion, the best. Planning a 6th, he died before it could be made. I remember reading in a biography that, as he was practising his Clousseau voice for the 6th film, his wife told him that the dialog he was reciting was "barely intelligible." Just the thought of that makes me chuckle. (Very nasal now: Peuwp - did you say "Peuwp?").
This Pink Panther film contains myriad classic scenes. Right at the beginning we see Clousseau (dressed as Toulouse Lautrec) tossing the "beuwm!" toward Professor Balls, who is saved from the explosion by the "new shipment of inflatable goiters!" Then, as he explains to his boss what has happened, he sets the office afire from the burning embers on his clothes and, exiting, proclaims "I must apprehend this mad 'beuwmber' before he does anymore of the 'dam-ajje'."
This goes on and on. You must be a real Clousseau aficionado to appreciate it, I suppose. It's an acquired taste! Nevertheless, I think it's a funny movie if you like silly, somewhat refined, slapstick comedy.