I’m trying to get up to speed again on this weekly film series after my trip. I had ordered a couple of movies from Netflix based on recommendations from some of you and I watched these but they weren’t right for the series. They were a couple of WWII movies, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far.
This series is about finding examples of strong character and to demonstrate character. War movies, with their crucibles of courage, sacrifice and heroism, can be a rich source of material (as well as providing examples of less than admirable behavior as well). These two movies are acknowledged as classics but they left me flat. It took me a little while to put my finger on it, but watching them close together helped. Both take the “grand spectacle” approach to filming a war movie with casts of thousands and dozens of big stars. Additionally, both take an almost reverent view of these historical moments. This is justified, but in these movies “reverent” means “slow.” Both drag on ponderously (especially the aptly named Longest Day) while the big name stars make their brief cameo appearances. There’s very little chance to examine a particular character, or small group of characters, or identify with them.
In contrast, a war movie such as Saving Private Ryan or Glory brings you up close to the men. For my purposes, this is essential because you have to see and relate to them being tested, not only by outside forces but from within. War movie or otherwise, this will be a key factor I’ll look for when considering including a film that’s new to me.
You might recall that we currently have a “second front” (to stretch the war analogy) going on with this series. A couple of months ago I started going through these movies again with a new group of boys, this time accompanied by their fathers. Initially the boys were kind of silly when it came to the discussion part after the first movie (High Noon) , but they started to get into the rhythm and purpose of it as we went through Zulu and The Tin Star.
In fact, we watched the latter right before I left on our trip and we had a very good discussion on motives, behavior, the nature of a bully, and how to use your brain before you use a gun. One of the questions I always ask with this movie is, “Who do you think the best man in the movie was?” We went around the room with boys and their dads saying either “Ben” or “Morg”; to my delight, however, one of the dads said, “Dr. Joe.” This was what I was looking for because the elderly doctor displays a lot of good qualities that can easily be overlooked in a movie like this because he’s “old” or doesn’t carry a gun. It was a good class.
After the trip hiatus though we had a “technical difficulty” and the boys also seemed to revert a bit to the silliness of our first get-together. The technical difficulty was in getting a copy of the movie I wanted to watch, the Gary Cooper classic, “Sergeant York.” This film is not available on DVD yet, and the Hollywood and Blockbuster stores near me (where I had originally rented this a few years ago) no longer carried it in their stock. I may have to buy a VHS copy from Amazon, but on short notice I pulled my copy of John Wayne’s The Quiet Man from my shelf and went with that. It’s a good story with a great fight scene at the end, but it’s also “mushy” and mainly a love story (including Director John Ford’s love of Ireland) so I may have lost the lads a bit. It was harder to keep them on focus during the discussion, but they were all interested in hearing what the next movie will be. I’ll either get a copy of Sergeant York or go with Glory.
There might also be a chance to move this class in a third direction. Our church has been approached about hosting a Boy Scout “lock-in” this summer, and it’s been suggested that I put on one or two of these movies during that. We’ll see how it goes. At any rate, next week I’ll be back in this space either with a new film in the series or a report from the next group gathering.