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Black Hawk Down (2001)
Sadly, I expected a lot from this movie. Unfortunately, it is about the worst depiction of an important event that I've ever seen, particularly considering that the entire mission was so well documented by the Army, the media, et al.
First, I think it only correct to say that I did not read the book and therefore cannot reasonably comment on what may have been written by it's author, but the motion picture left so much about the actual event, it's purpose, the events that occurred before the "mission" and other important facts out, that is it left out so much about what was ordered and what actually happened before the events depicted ever happened and how they happened, that I found it agonizingly tiresome. How am I an expert concerning the mission? I'm not, but I do remember it vividly and I particularly remember that the American media, after being "scooped" by the European media to the point of absurdity, finally told a great deal of the story, if only obliquely - which the motion picture does not.
For instance. The while the movie depicts itself as the "mission," it was not, as the actual mission was not the attempted abduction of Aidid and his aids, but was the ambush of the America combined force that attempted the abduction.
There is one redeeming factor. This motion picture does show in some truth what happens to "green" troops in their first real battle, that is troops that have by and large never seen any real combat. These troops were extremely well trained and a few senior officers surely served in the first Desert Storm, and possibly other very limited engagements. Therefore, this show of what happens to unseasoned "green" troops the first time out is the redeeming feature of the movie. In the coming months, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of War as he may more appropriately be called in future, as a member of The White house team, had approved a plan sometime around the first of January to attack Iraq based on the best possible scenario. Fortunately two of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps have made apolitical speeches around the middle of December criticizing this "best case scenario" plan and may have actually awakened The White House to the real potential for possible disaster in Iraq if the president and his aids continue with their initial strike plan against Iraq assuming that there will be no need for reinforcements or back up' troops. In fact, the now announced delay of our attack on Iraq from the first of January until sometime after the first of February may be a result of what this motion picture illustrates. No matter how well trained our troops going into Iraq may be, they will be unseasoned, "green" troops and when the operation does not go exactly as planned, may well, as they did in "Black Hawk Down," become desperately confused and badly need reinforcements and a second wave.
Nevertheless, after watching it more than once, I do not recommend this movie to anyone but those who want to see the results of a documentary style history lesson that does not explain or depict the truth.
High Road to China (1983)
While this may not be a work of art, it is a very entertaining and for that reason, a worthwhile movie. It has action, romance, keeps moving, is reasonably historically accurate, and the action is not gratuitous violence. Unusual for a movie of it's time.
The characters are well played and there are a number of excellent character actors besides the stars who add a great deal to the movie.
I highly recommend it for an evening's entertainment.
The Ritz (1976)
There are times when a play is very successfully made into a movie, but not usually a comedy. The Lion In Winter was a very successful transformation form the stage to the big screen by James Goldman, author of both, and brother of William Goldman, a highly well thought of screenwriter. But all of that aside, if you would like to forget your troubles and simply laugh yourself into exhaustion, I highly recommend this movie.
The best or not?
"Platoon" was/is so far the best of the Vietnam war movies, with the possible exception of "The Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now," both of which had more of a feel for that war in terms of the civilians that knew little about it as they stayed safely alive and insulated at home. The problem is Olive Stone didn't have the creativity nor did he do the research that Steven Spielberg did in the making of "Saving Private Ryan." I do not believe in gratuitous violence or the like, but Vietnam was a hell that cannot be imagined by those who weren't there, as Spielberg so aptly demonstrated about the hell of WW 2. Further, at the end, Stone did 'cop out' by trying to "explain" too much about what was going on. He should have made the motion picture to do its job.
"Platoon" was the best 'ground action' movie to come out of that war, but "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter" both did a much better job of giving the audience a more realistic understanding of the politics and the misunderstanding of war as a means of settling questions of countries. Nevertheless, I recommend it.
Out of Africa (1985)
Another example of a great work of art.
The art form of the 20th Century, at least in the US, is the motion picture and I say that as a painter and writer. Of the approximately 1100 copies of movies I own, "Out Of Africa" is one of the most serious examples of art. Sydney Pollack did an excellent job as both producer and director of this motion picture and I heard on a PBS show that he made this movie as a tribute to Karen Blixen, the author of the book, and possibly the greatest woman author to ever live. I strongly recommend "Out Of Africa" to anyone who hasn't seen it and further recommend that the viewer watch the picture more than once as Karen Blixen put an amazing collection of philosophical and theological comments into the mouths of her characters which were included by the screenwriter in to the motion picture.
I like "The Godfather," and have watched it more than once, as I have watched "Doctor Zhivago" more than once, but "Out Of Africa" is an extraordinary work of art that is not only well written from Mrs. Blixen's book which is autobiographical, but which makes it even more of a work of art.
Going in Style (1979)
A great movie with three great entertainers.
"Going In Style" is one of the more entertaining movies I've seen. The characters, Joe, Al and Willie exemplify the elderly male generation of our time. Three men who've partially lost their identities in no longer being able to carry on their vocations. As more and more of us will be moving into the retired or "seniors" group, this movie shows us both the problems of retirement and one very entertaining and interesting solution. All three characters are at an age which is too often ignored in motion pictures. Though basically this movie isn't exactly moral, it's a very good insight into the lives of its characters. Art Carney is an accomplished actor and George Burns was an accomplished entertainer. I'm not sure how many people know that Lee Strasberg was one of, if not the great teacher of dramatic acting during his lifetime. In "Going In Style," Strasberg, as the "not always up to speed" character Willie, is nevertheless often a bit of a surprise. All three men, portraying the various ways we age, give a beautiful performance, each in his own way. As a minor collector, I consider the motion picture the major art form of the past century. That's not to say that all the movies made during the last century are works or art, but quite often many were. It remains to be seen whether that tradition will be carried on into the new century before us. Whatever, I am very grateful for the gift of this movie and highly recommend it.