Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's war movie time!

Have you had your share of war movies yet?  As is the custom, we are once again being subjected to the war movie genre, this time on AMC, as we move through the Memorial Day weekend.  And, while I love the genre and the tradition of this TV viewing weekend, can we please mix it up a bit?  I mean, repeated showings of The Green Berets, one of the worst movies ever, means that many other very deserving war flicks aren't getting air time.

Here's one film website's list of the best post-1900 war movies:

1. Apocalypse Now (1979)
2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
4. Schindler's List (1993)
5. Platoon (1986)
6. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
7. Patton (1970)
8. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
9. The Longest Day (1962)
10. From Here to Eternity (1953)
11. Sergeant York (1941)
12. The Great Escape (1963)
13. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
14. Das Boot (1981)
15. The Deer Hunter (1978)
16. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
17. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
18. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
19. The Guns of Navarone (1961)
20. Open City (1945)

I think that this is a pretty accurate portrayal of the best in this genre and note it here given the author's listing of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War movie as number one--a movie which had many dramatic twists and turns before even making it to the big screen.

Martin Sheen played Apocalypse Now's central character, Captain Benjamin Willard, who as a US Army special ops officer was sent into the jungle to kill the presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando.)  Sheen wasn't Coppola's first pick and actually was quite down the list of potential actors who were approached about this role.  Steve McQueen was the director's first choice but declined given the amount of time out of the U.S. for filming.  Al Pacino was also offered the role but he too did not accept for the same reason.  Others approached included Jack Nicholson, James Caan and Robert Redford.

Sheen suffered a heart attack during film production and was rumored to have dealt with psychological issues as well during the making of the film.  So, perhaps ironically, it was Sheen's acting sidekick, Robert Duvall, playing the part of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, who won a Golden Globe for his wacked-out portrayal of the surfing, war-crazed chopper squadron leader.  Sheen was nominated for an American Movie Award for Best Actor but lost out to Alan Alda (The Seduction of Joe Tynan.)

Overall, Apocalypse Now was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but only won for Cinematography and Sound.  It is one of those films which now is considered a classic and whose impact seems to increase with age.  As one writer opined, "it is a masterpiece of the New Hollywood age."

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