War is hell indeed and a blight on mankind any right-thinking progressive should oppose in principle. It is also the source of vital works of entertainment.
DVD: The Hurt Locker If you havent yet seen this lauded and awarded work that earned its maker Kathryn Bigelow the first Best Director Oscar won by a woman, gird yourself and do so. It unfolds at one of the most dangerous edges of the Iraq War as it follows a tour of duty by an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team and traces the effects of their task on its soldiers. And in the process offers what is most likely the closest you are there glimpse of that conflict. With no star power but masterful performances that feel real and human, and quite assured direction that shows Bigelow deserved her landmark Academy Award, its a tense, sharp and genuinely dramatic glimpse into life on the ground in a war this nation should never have fought.
Book: If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim OBrien The author who has produced two of the masterpiece works of fiction from the War in Vietnam The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato (the latter being that wars Catch 22) recounts his year as a foot soldier in that conflict in this superb memoir. Like the above movie, it is redolent with on the ground reality, and is written with a gripping eloquence that makes the facts and emotions of being at war tangible to those of us who have never served. It also captures the inherent conundrums of the US misadventure in Vietnam and war itself without any polemics, just human experience that unfolds in a way that puts the readers feet in his combat boots.
DVD/TV: The World at War This 1973 26-episode documentary made by the BBC about the last good war (if there can even be such a thing) currently airs on The Military Channel and is available in a special 25th anniversary DVD collection. Taking the nearly 24 hours to watch it all is time well spent an essential primer in the pivotal event of the 20th Century. It collects archival footage and matches it with talking heads that range from average soldiers and citizens to top leaders to create perhaps the finest work of TV history ever made.
DVD: The Messenger The war at home arrives most dramatically in the coffins of dead soldiers. And this 2009 film centers on the flash point of the Army Casualty Notification service that visits next of kin to inform them of combat deaths. Like everything war touches, this duty has a profound effect on the servicemen who perform it, and The Messenger portrays that with genuine profundity. The movie also features a superb performance by Woody Harrelson that showcases the actors dramatic chops.
From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2010
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