Monday, August 13, 2007

Tomatoes and Private Ryan

Tomato Season...the smoothness...the smell!

Andy and I finally watchedSaving Private Ryan. This is primarily interesting because we got the DVD from Netflix about eleven months ago and has been sitting around the house all this time. So we have a long history with the movie, starting with Andy bidding on an enormous framed poster of it, with autographs, and, when no one else bid, getting the darn thing, which hangs portentously in the stairwell.

We knew we wanted to see it, but couldn’t get ourselves to sit down for a three hour war movie. People kept saying it’s the best war movie ever, that the opening sequence on Omaha Beach is a masterpiece, and if you can get through that the rest is easy, etc. etc.

You certainly see why it got the Oscar, and you certainly admire the acting. Tom Hanks is a real American master, and Spielberg too: the emphasis is on the American, though because in the end, it really is maybe the best ever but still a war movie like the ones I used to watch with Daddy in black and white late at night on t.v. This one was more realistic in any number of ways– the core group included a Jew and a hillbilly but no black soldier. It had lots of blood and gore and the suddenness of death, but at its heart it is (is Spielberg's work always?) that all-American combination of shocking violence and sentimentality.

There is one truly cheesy part too: the German that the intellectuals, Hanks and The Kid, let go (rather than allowing the working class G.I.’s to just shoot him like a normal redblooded American would want to do) shows up at the final sequence kills the people who said if they let him go he’d just go on to fight some more plus plenty of others. Then the weepy wimpy Kid kills him, but is still left with the full horror of how his “weakness” has destroyed his friends.

I’m not saying you should be kind to people who are trying to shoot you– if you’re in a shooting war, you have to shoot, and if your nearest and dearest are in imminent danger and you have the means of offing the attackers, who wouldn't do it?

But the fact that this German is brought back neatly at the end as a monster is what I consider prime Hollywood cheese. Andy said he didn’t think it was the same German (he liked the movie better than I did), but we went back and looked, and it was.

Spielberg, I'd guess, identifies with the intellectual Kid who doesn’t fight very well and ends up with much guilt.

Well, it was entertaining (which is also what makes it Hollywood) and fantastically realistic (more Hollywood) and the Omaha Beach sequence had me holding onto the arms of my chair to keep me from running away. All Hail Hollywood.

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