ANZACS Part I Gallipoli (1985)

I need to thank Soldier’s Mail who left a comment on my post Australian War Movies: A List mentioning ANZACS. This is really, really worth watching.

ANZACS has five episodes in total and I have just watched the first one that could be called “Gallipoli”. I would say it is easily as good – if in parts not even better – as Peter Weir’s movie Gallipoli (one of my top 10!).

The series starts in Australia where the young guys, full of enthusiasm and inspired by a sense of adventure, enlist. While some of their parents think it is their duty towards their motherland (some can still not fully grasp the idea of being independent by now), the young men see the war as a means to travel and see the world. A bit of fighting will be great as well. Why not bash some Germans? Sounds sporting, right?

They are a composite little group heading off to Europe (as they think). Some are farmers, some are sports heroes, others are students.

When they finally arrive in Gallipoli, they are told that they will fight the Germans by entering the back door. Once they have overrun the Turks there will be no stopping them and victory will be certain.

Gallipoli is one of those names that stands for an unsuccessful campaign and battles in which losses were extremely high. The young lads are mown down by Turkish guns like weeds and the sporting spirit dies as soon as they have lost the first among their ranks. I couldn’t help wondering whether the British sent the Australians on purpose on this futile mission but considering that they lost as many and more of their own in France and Belgium, it seems more likely that high command had simply no clue what they were doing. Anyone reading this who is better informed is welcome to explain/contradict.

I liked the way this first part was told. It seems very accurate, very realistic, not overly emotional. There is a couple of brothers and friends who are devastated by the loss of their siblings and friends but this isn’t overly exploited.

I’m extremely curious to see how this will develop and whether the next episodes will be equally good or even better. At the end of episode one they were ready to move on to France.

Here is part one of episode I

Battlestar Galactica (2003) The Pilot Movie

It is debatable whether Battlestar Galactica is a war movie or not. Considering that even experts of the field (I’m talking movie historians and critics) think so, I thought I might include it here. Whether you think this is justified or not, is totally up to you.

I started watching the series with the three-hour long pilot movie. I’m not familiar with the old series and haven’t seen any other episodes so far but the pilot made me want to watch at least a few other episodes.

The pilot takes a lot of time introducing the characters and I found some of them to be quite interesting. We also have many conflicts that we usually see in war movies. Leadership is a theme, insubordination, taking responsibilities, going to war or trying to avoid it. In a certain way I found that it combined two war movie subgenres that I usually like, namely air combat and submarine combat. The battleship, although flying in space and really huge, isn’t so much different from a submarine.

Now, what’s the story? The 12 colonies of mankind have last heard from their robotic creations, the Cylons, some 12 years ago. It seems as if the war is definitely over. The old museum-piece battleship, the Galactica, is about to be decommissioned for good and turned into a full-time museum when the unthinkable happens. The Cylons, who have developed into human looking creatures by now, strike again. Number six, an extremely attractive and sexy-looking Cylon, has tricked Gaius Baltar, a scientific genius, into telling her about the human’s defense systems. Without his knowing, this opens the door to one huge strike in which all the colonies are blown up. The Galactica and a few smaller ships, plus some 50’000 humans survive.

Lead by Commander Adama, the Galactia now goes on a mission to find the 13th colony, the Earth. The Cylons will try to destroy them and follow them wherever they can and they have also managed to have one of their own among the crew of the Galactica.

The crew is a group of very composite and quite flawed characters. We have Commander Adama, a wise and thoughtful commander but also a person who is guilt-ridden as his second son has died as a pilot. Capt Lee Adama aka Apollo, his son, a gifted pilot, hates his father’s guts because he thinks he is the reason for his brothers premature death. Lt Kara Thrace aka Starbuck was the girlfriend of Adama’s late son. She clearly has issues with subordination and anger management but she is the most gifted pilot. Starbuck is the type of “soldier” you would never find in a real war movie and she certainly is one of the reasons that makes me like this series. She is gutsy, ballsy, courageous and highly talented. Col Tigh is second in command. Maybe not a bad soldier but someone with an alcohol issue. Aboard are also the newly appointed president of the colonies who has just heard that she has cancer, the sleazy Gaius Balter who is constantly haunted by Number Six and many other more or less interesting characters.

I was surprised to find it this entertaining and will gladly go on watching it.

Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto (2005) A Really Different Look at The Troubles

Taking into consideration that the definition of war is  “armed conflict between hostile parties, nations or countries” it is fair to include Breakfast on Pluto or any other movie dealing either with The Troubles, the IRA, Terrorism and similar things in a blog dedicated to war movies.

A while back I reviewed Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins, and an other outstanding movie on the Irish Civil war and war of Independence, The Wind that Shakes the Barley (also starring the stunning Cillian Murphy), and I did also review Bloody Sunday. Each of these movies tells about another era in this long-lasting conflict between Ireland and the UK.

Breakfast on Pluto is not only a highly original variation on the theme of The Troubles, Northern Ireland and the IRA but also one actors tour de force.

Patrick Kitten Braiden (Cillian Murphy) is not exactly like other boys. Left as a baby by his single mother on the doorsteps of a church, he is given to a foster family who can’t handle him. Already the very young Patrick is not interested in boy’s things or clothes. He likes to dress like a girl, uses make-up and lives in a fantasy world where he is either a famous film star or meets his mother who lives a glamorous life in London.

Small-minded Irish small town life of the 70s isn’t an ideal place for a young man with gender issues. Despite being an outsider, his charming likable nature provides him with friends, still it is obvious he doesn’t want to stay in Ireland. He wants to go to London and find his mother.

Some of the group of friends he hangs out with are politically active and join the IRA. Kitten isn’t exactly interested in politics, at least not conscioulsy, but he wants change. He wants to express himself freely and be accepted the way he is.

After a huge fight with his foster family he leaves the small town and travels around. He is picked up by some Irish Glitter Rock Band and tours with them in their bus through Northern Ireland. But wherever he goes, people seem to be involved with the IRA  and through his naivety he gets himself into a lot of trouble and finally departs to London.

He lives under the illusion that once in London he will magically bump into his mother.

Regarding the IRA, things haven’t changed in London, Kitten still seems to be always somehow at the heart of things. The big difference however is that this time, he doesn’t see the angry hostile presence of British soldiers but the mayhem created by a terrorist attack. Being the only Irish present in the club that is blown up, he is arrested.

The adventures of cross-dressing Kitten, his tribulations and struggles to find his mother are told in a charming, funny and quirky way. Breakfast on Pluto manages to tell the story of The Troubles seen from a completely different angle. Cillian Murphy as the unworldly, gentle Kitten is really astonishing. To a certain extent Kitten reminded me of Birdy. Like Birdy the movie Breakfast on Pluto is also a really touching tale of friendship and a call for tolerance.

Maybe not your average war movie, but well worth watching. I really enjoyed it. The music is also very well chosen.

I owe thanks to Novroz from Polychrome Interest who introduced me to this movie. If you are interested in Cillian Murphy’s other movies, go visit her website. She is a true “Cillianiac”.

Spike Lee’s Miracle at St.Anna (2008) The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers and the Massacre at St. Anna

I would say that Miracle at St.Anna is one of the best American war movies and the best American WWII movie of the last ten years. I was surprised to see how good it is, as critics and public have been equally harsh. I assume they are biased because of its director. The end is corny but overall it is absolutely excellent and tells a lesser known story in a very engaging way.

The movie starts somewhat surprisingly in 1982 New York. A modest post-office worker kills a man who buys stamps from him. He shoots him with a German Luger. The incident attracts a lot of attention, even more so when they discover the head of an Italian Renaissance statue in his apartment.

Next we are in Italy, in 1944. The 92nd company, the so-called Buffalo soldiers, a company consisting almost only of African-American soldiers gets under heavy German fire. A small group is separated from the rest and makes their way to a little mountain village that is surrounded by Germans.

One of the soldiers, a huge man, saves a little boy who seems to be ill and slightly crazy. He takes the disturbed little kid with him, all together they find refuge in the house of some Italians, one of them a Fascist. The Germans aren’t really looking for the Buffalo soldiers, they are hunting Italian partisans. And the partisans are hunting them. The Italians know, and so it seems does the little boy, that there is a traitor among them.

While they stay at the village, some of the soldiers realize that the Italians treat them much better than the white people back home. And they also treat them better than some of the white American civilians living in Italy. There is a particularly infuriating scene with an American bar owner who doesn’t want to serve black people. They fight for their country but their country doesn’t appreciate them.

The core scene of the movie is the massacre at St. Anna, a true story, in which hundreds of Italian civilians got killed by the Nazis because the Partisans have killed some of the Germans. The Germans have been told by their command that they have to shoot 10 Italians for one dead German.

Miracle at St. Anna is very rich. It combines a multitude of elements and many stories that circle around different relationships but still feels like a whole. It’s sad, it’s moving and it is very suspenseful as it also works like a thriller. We really want to know why the guy killed the other one. There aren’t many good WWII movies showing the African-American participation and there aren’t many good ones on Italy during WWII. This covers both. And there is also some fighting, for those who want this from their war movies.

Miracle at St. Anna is also part of the Children in War Movies List and African-American Soldiers in war movies.

For those of you who like to watch TV series, the actor who played Shane in The Shield and the guy called “Omar” in The Wire are in this movie.

This is a highly watchable and very original movie that can be named together with other great WWII movies like Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line. 5/5

All About War Movies is One Year Old or A Best of War Movie List

What started as a simple experiment to fight procrastination and get me back into a daily writing routine has become sort of an institution. Another aim of this blog was to explore the topic of war movies systematically. It ended up being less systematic than intended. For the time being that is. I still have a project in the back of my mind and should I find more time I will pursue it. I have lost a few friends and won a few on the way. What does that mean you wonder, well, I had some funny reactions from people I know in real life. Seems as if my interest in war movies didn’t match the picture they had of me… Do I care? A little bit but not too much.

Ok, now, so this little blogging project is one year old. I have written 220 posts, at first three per week and then, during last summer, almost daily. If I wasn’t writing two other blogs, maybe I would have gone on at that pace.

I could tell you a lot of different things looking back on this year, a lot of things about myself but let’s not go there. In lieu of all that let me give you a best of list. A very personal best of list that takes into consideration what I like, nothing else.

Best movie on the Napoleonic wars

Waterloo

Best Civil War Movie

Glory

Best WWI movie

Gallipoli

Best WWII movie

When Trumpets Fade

Best Vietnam

Platoon

Best Vietnam Vet

Jacknife

Best Korea

Gotta pass, haven’t seen enough

Best Gulf War

Three Kings

Best Iraq

Battle for Haditha

Best other American war movies

Black Hawk Down

Best Resistance

L’armée du crime aka The Army of Crime

Best German war movie

Stalingrad

Best Submarine movie

Das Boot

Best Sniper movie

Enemy at the Gates

Best War Romance

Casablanca

Best least known war movie

When Trumpets Fade

Best female actress in a war movie

Madeleine Stowe in Last of the Mohicans

Best war movie score

Black Hawk Down

Most watched war movie

Black Hawk Down

Best Irish Civil War

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Best Hitler Movie

Der Untergang aka The Downfall

Best Holocaust movie

The Pianist

Best Remake

Are you joking?

Best epic war movie

King Arthur

Most surprising war movie

My Boy Jack

Best Infantry combat

Saving Private Ryan

Best Cavalry Combat

The Lighthorsemen

Best Air Combat

The Dam Busters

Best Naval Combat

Master and Commander

Funniest war movie

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Best Children and War

Voces Inocentes aka Innocent Voices

Best War and Journalism

Welcome to Sarajevo

Best POW

Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence

Best Legal Drama

Judgement at Nuremberg

Best war movie poster

Platoon

Most dreaded war movie (obviously not watched yet)

Tha Battle of Algiers

Yeah well, I could go on but that’s it and since it’s my blog’s birthday, I’m lazy and will not link the movies. Or just not today…