Morning Pour is your daily stop for quick links, news commentary and trend-spotting. Here are your ten topics for this Veterans Day, November 11, 2011:
1. Promoting future movies for veterans
Seems Veterans Day/Remembrance Day is good for marketing, as both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have upcoming movies about soldiers, and each production is using this day to promote these respective films in the vets' honor. The former has "War Horse," which is screening for ex-soldiers in Canada way in advance of its release, though still a bit late for the holiday, next Wednesday. Representing Lucas, meanwhile, is Cuba Gooding Jr., who talked about the Tuskegee Airmen film "Red Tails" on CNN today.
2. The Best Movies About the Veterans' Experience
Entertainment Weekly lists some great Veterans Day movies, though no documentaries. At least they included this underrated gem, which is always fitting since today is also Vonnegut's birthday:
In this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's semi-autobiographical sci-fi novel, World War II vet Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks, shown, center) becomes ''unstuck'' in time, shifting randomly and helplessly between his dull present-day existence as a suburban optometrist, his future as a zoo exhibit on the planet Tralfamadore, and his past as a POW who managed to survive the horrific Allied firebombing of Dresden (as did Vonnegut). The movie's surreal, fantastic elements aside, Slaughterhouse-Five does approximate the book's absurdist, wistful, satirical tone, and it makes vividly real the veteran's sense that he is always about to relive the most devastating moments of his life.
Dane Ingham at ComicBookMovie.com reminds us of the veterans who could one day risk their lives fighting aliens (a la "Independence Day," "Predator" and "Starship Troopers"). His list of "Sci-fi/Genre Movies Featuring the Military" also honors fanstically represented historical vets in films like "300," "Inglorious Bastards" and "Captain America: The First Avenger."
4. Veterans as villains
For the most part Daniel Eagan is "Saluting Veterans in Film" with his piece at The Smithsonian's Reel Culture blog. But here's a section I found interesting because it's not as commonly addressed:
Not all post-World War II films treated veterans so kindly. The Blue Dahlia, for example, a mystery thriller written by Raymond Chandler. In it, Navy aviator Alan Ladd returns home to an unfaithful wife who killed their son in a drunk driving accident. “A hero can get away with anything,” his wife sneers after he knocks her around. Ladd’s pal William Bendix, a brain-damaged vet with a steel plate in his head, flies into violent rages when drinking. Worried about the film’s negative portrayal of soldiers, censors forced Chandler to come up with an ending that exonerated the obvious killer. Veterans as villains show up in Crossfire (1947), a drama that also tackled anti-Semitism, and in Home of the Brave (1949), which dealt with racial issues.
5. Veterans Day documentaries on Hulu, Documentary Channel and SnagFilms
Basil Tsiokos' latest curation for Indiewire of docs on Hulu is Veterans Day themed, and I like that not all are the usual focus on soldiers returning home:
It's not just the soldiers themselves who must contend with war - it also affects those on the homefront. Aron Gaudet's "The Way We Get By" profiles three senior citizens who volunteer welcoming American troops returning from combat and seeing off those heading into it. At the same time, this moving film wrestles with issues of aging, mortality, and purpose.
Also, if you have Documentary Channel, they're showing Veterans Day themed docs all day, including the classic "The Negro Soldier" and Oscar nominee "Operation Homecoming." And SnagFilms is always a great place to find Veterans Day docs. They've even got a new one for this year, "Left in Baghdad":
6. Robert Altman's Veterans Day documentary
I could really do a whole Morning Pour on nothing but Veterans Day docs and posts about them, but here's just one more that non-doc enthusiasts can appreciate at least. Jesse Walker at Reason's Hit & Run blog spotlight's Robert Altman's 1955 film sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, "The Magic Bond." Some context:
In terms of Altman's career, you can see it as a dry run for Combat!, the TV series he helped create in 1962, and you might even see some early traces of Altman's movie M*A*S*H. If it's a little rough around the edges, well, it is journeyman work. But it's good journeyman work. Altman was a veteran of the Second World War, and it's likely that many of the actors were vets as well, so their semi-improvised scene has an air of truth to it.
7. Okay, one more documentary
Gary Sinise's band's documentary, "Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good," hit DVD this week and is doing a special promotion for the veterans. Via Big Hollywood:
A portion of the proceeds raised by sales of “Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good” at the film’s official site between Nov. 8 and Dec. 15 will be donated to charities like Operation Support our Troops America, Snowball Express and The Gary Sinise Foundation.
8. "Remembering the Actresses We Wish Were Around Today"
In her latest Girls on Film column at Movies.com, Monika Bartyzel turns focus on vets of a different kind, such as Hattie McDaniel, Bette Davis and Myrna Loy, who are included in a list of 11 "of Hollywood's most powerful lost fighters." From the intro:
The day marks the official end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Yes, it's designed to remember veterans and fighters, but I think it can work just as well for the brave, cinematic women who used to grace the big screen -- who were both stars and fighters, who faced rigid systems and accomplished amazing feats during times of inequality, moral choking, war, and political paranoia.
Very much contrasting Bartyzel's list is one at Radar.com, which is actually just another excuse for candid shots of "Bikini Babes." But they're tied to a remembrance of "The 10 Sexiest Stars of Military Movies," titles of which include "G.I. Joe," "G.I. Jane," "Pearl Harbor" and Jessica Simpson's "Major Movie Star." Uma Thurman is featured even though her military movie, "Girl Soldier," doesn't come out until next year.
10. A veteran returns to the Oscars
How fitting that the Academy has decided to go with a veteran host for next year's Oscars ceremony, following the Brett Ratner debacle. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to include the hire as a topic today. How else would you know Billy Crystal is back, and where else would you talk about it? But is this the end of the Muppets Oscar hopes? Here's a bit from my Conversation roundup at Movies.com:
And of course Grazer will be crazy not to let the Muppets on stage in some capacity. Even Disney head Bob Iger says he "wouldn't count the Muppets out." Won't it likely be nominated for Best Original Song anyway? Actually, they'll probably be in the opening montage, as well. Hopefully bringing together Crystal, Muppets and Carol Kane. Yeth? Yeth!