Some Actors of The Wire and their Roles in Recent War Movies

I am not the most avid viewer of series but there are some I did or do enjoy a lot. Six Feet Under was just excellent and so is True Blood. I also quite like Dexter. One of the best series however is The Wire, pretty awesome. Maybe you liked The Wire too and were wondering what some of the excellent actors did after  the The Wire has ended.

Set during the British Civil War, The Devil´s Whore is a very convincing historical drama.   Dominic West, Detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, stars as Oliver Cromwell. This mini series is a must-see for everybody interested in British history. It does take some liberties with some facts but still it is more than just good.

Idris Elba who played the unlikable baddie Russell “Stringer” Bell in The Wire can be seen in the leading role in Sometimes in April. I have not seen this yet but I read that it is the best movie that has been done on the war in Rwanda. Far better than Hotel Rwanda. It is a TV production, maybe that is  the reason why it is not widely known. Unlike Hotel Rwanda it really looks into the history of Rwanda and the reasons for the conflict.

Last but not least, James Ransone, who played the annoying character Ziggy Sobotka, stars as Cpl. Josh Ray Person at the side of Alexander Skarsgard in Generation Kill. A very good performance.

Ok, it is slightly off topic, but what series do you think are outstanding? Any preferences? Suggestions?

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Hope and Glory (1987) Trailer

War seen with the eyes of a child… Endless holidays, summer. An enchanted time that has gone forever.

Hope and Glory is one of the Top 100 war movies of all times. Sheer beauty.

Review will follow soon.

Under Fire: A Century of War Movies, edited by Jay Slater (2009)

Under Fire is simply a must-have for people seriously interested in war movies or even movies in general.

It contains a collection of essays on all sorts of topics regarding war movies, from WWI to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many different people have contributed to this very dense work. Well-known film critics and academics alike.

This is really something to sink your teeth into. Quite demanding reading but extremely insightful.

For example did you know how important YouTube´s influence was on contemporary Iraq movies (yes, I even started to understand Redacted)? Or how Vietnam changed the war movies? Do you know a lot about British propaganda movies of WWII? Did you consider to interpret Starship Troopers as WWII and Nazi satire?

These are only a few topics of many that are analysed in these very thoroughly researched essays.

Sure, this is no movie guide as such. It is not recommending or rating anything. Under Fire provides criticism and analysis for those who like to interpret not only the apparent but also the subtext.

This book is really worth having and I am quite excited about this find that manages so well to show the variety, the depth and the virtuosity of war movies.

Here you find the link to the publishing house. It contains an interview with the editor and interesting additional chapters.

Barnes and Noble

amazon.com

amazon co.uk

Katyn (2007) or The Crime and the Lie about a Gruesome Massacre on Polish Officers

This is an outstanding movie. Truly outstanding from every possible point of view. Narrative style, cinematography, actors, story, technical aspects. Absolutely great.

The Polish movie Katyn is about the massacre of some 22000 Polish officers by the Russian army and the subsequent  disposal of their bodies in the Katyn forest in 1940. Once the mass grave is found in 1943 the so-called Katyn list is established.  After having waited anxiously for the return of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers the families are now informed if or if not their loved ones have been among the victims. However not all the victims are on the list. Many more a still missing and may or may not have been murdered. Many wives still wait for their husbands in 1945.

The movie focuses on two families. One is the family of a Polish General, the other the family of a Polish officer. The story is told in two sequences. The first half tells the story until the massacre, the second tells the story of the lie and ends again with the massacre but this time shown much more explicitly (The way these murders were executed…How can people do this to people?). After the first half we think the story should be over but in reality it only just begins. Seeing it first from the point of view of the victims, we are then guided towards the point of view of the families who wait for them. Their ordeal is a different but very cruel one. Even though everybody knows who killed those officers, officially it is said to have been a massacre committed by the Germans. To say otherwise would be very dangerous. The political climate of the time that made it impossible to even mention a critical view of this incident until 1989 is palpable in all its atrocity.

On my DVD of this movie is an interview with the Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda. He tells the interviewer how difficult it was to make this movie. He didn´t know how to tell the story. Should he tell his father´s story, who had been among those officers, or his mother´s who was one of those who did not give up hope until 1945. He decided eventually to tell both stories, juxtapose them, have one mirror the other. This is very skillfully done. Wajda belongs to the so-called Polish Film School and has made many movies, two of his better known earlier ones also deal with WWII:  A Generation aka Pokolenie (1955) and Kanal (1957) about the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.

This film is truly the work of a master, of someone who does not just deliver a story but who weaves it carefully, adding symbolism and criticism alike. And  still it is highly watchable.

10 Reasons Why you should (re) discover Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)

I am probably going to review this movie at length in a few days. It is worth to look into some cultural elements.  Here, as a starter, 10 reasons why you should watch Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

  1. Highly original. Really not your everyday material.
  2. It is not sufficiently known or almost forgotten.
  3. POW movie that is by many people believed to be better than Bridge on the River Kwai.
  4. The main title, Forbidden colors, is very haunting (there are two versions, the instrumental one by Ryuichi Sakamoto and the vocal one by Sakamoto and David Sylvian).
  5. Beautifully filmed.
  6. Japanese culture and esthetics (Samurai, hara-kiri, honor, belief in demons and what not).
  7. Not your average war movie theme. Captain Yonoi is tragically attracted to Maj Celliers.
  8. Nagisha Oshima has directed it (he is famous for his very sensuous and erotic movies, albeit bordering the sadomasochistic. Undertones are clearly present here.)
  9. Great acting. Not only by the two singers Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Bowie but also by Tom Conti and Takeshi Kitano.
  10. Very impressive. Once you have seen it, you will never forget it.

Stop-Loss (2008): The End of Denial or The War that Takes Place in Living rooms

Stop-Loss

“Sand, fleas, flies, heat, boredom. Or you can get shot at. Or blown up. That’s pretty much it. There are sheep on the highway”, says SSgt. Brandon King (a remarkable Ryan Philippe) in Stop-Loss after Steve’s girlfriend tells him that Steve doesn’t talk much about being over there. Brandon doesn’t go into details, he sums it up and turns it into a joke. It’s difficult to talk about it. And not even wanted as his father tells Brandon when he is getting too graphic. There is denial in both camps. Those who stay home do not want to know because they want to believe in their sons/lovers/friends/brothers doing the right thing. To be invulnerable heroes and return as such. Nothing really bad happens over there, right? Soldiers like Steve do not want to talk about it because they simply do not want to think about it. As soon as they start thinking, like Brandon does, the only thing they want is: getting out! And that’s when the trouble begins

Brandon has seen it all. His people dying, being terribly wounded and crippled for life. Dead civilians. The war taking  place in living rooms. He’s done his job. He returns from a completed tour of duty in Iraq a hero and now he wants out. Unfortunately he is stop-lossed. In times of war, when there is no draft and not enough volunteers, the government can stop-loss soldiers, meaning send them back even if they want out.

What begins as a war movie with heavy fighting, interspersed with grunt-video like elements, turns now into a road movie. Brandon wants out and goes AWOL.

He and his best buddies girlfriend Michelle are taking a trip to… A new life with a fake identity or back to where his friends are?

Watch it and you will find out. It should suffice to say that this movie is a character study, a very critical look at what is going on “over there” and a way out of the speechlessness of those involved and those waiting for them. The young men, depicted in this movie are of the kind who rather hit you in the face than voice their uneasiness. They drink, they fight, they like to shoot guns and listen to heavy music. They are self-destructive but loyal friends. They do not have much other professional options but join the army.

The movie’s strength is not only to be highly watchable but to convey a deep feeling of  sadness. Sadness about many things: the loss of naivety,  the governments cheating, the waste of lives and ultimately hope.