Sunday, July 27, 2014

Movies of World War I

Kirk Douglas in 'Paths of Glory'
Considering that it was pointless war, but one that changed the world forever, it is amazing how many films have been made about World War I. And, how few of them are worth remembering.

The Great War, which officially began 100 years ago July 28, doesn't get its proper due because when footage of it is shown on TV, we get fast-motion, black-and-white footage. It makes the horror seem comical.

That's not to say there wasn't some comic relief during World War I. Or that there wasn't "black" humor. Or that some movies didn't capture those aspects.

Although, check out this link of an interactive documentary that has some amazing normal footage.

The war to end all wars gave us the Treaty of Versailles, which is better known as the peace to end all peace. With millions killed and maimed and with four empires dissolved, WWI should have more than it's fair share of stories.

While I haven't seen all the movies made about WWI, I have seen a few that are worth recommending.

1) "Grand Illusion" (1937). Directed by Jean Renoir, this wonderful film chronicles French soldiers in a German POW camp. In German, French and English, this gem usually makes the list of top movies because of its heart and soul. Erich Von Stroheim, the legendary Hollywood director and actor ("Sunset Boulevard"), plays a classic role. Renoir first served in the French cavalry and then as a reconnaissance pilot. He suffered a bullet wound in the leg which left him with a lifelong limp.

2) "Paths of Glory" (1957). When I first saw this Stanley Kubrick opus as a kid, I was horrified that French generals would order the execution of three of its own soldiers in order to keep the other soldiers in line. After seeing it years later, of course, I finally got the dark humor that Kubrick was famous for in other films like "Dr. Strangelove," and "Lolita." Kirk Douglas is great as a French officer who must lead his men out of the trenches in suicidal attacks.

3) "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962). While this David Lean epic is far from the western front, it does highlight the fight in the Middle East as Arabs sought independence from the Ottoman empire. Peter O'Toole is great as T.E. Lawrence, the self-styled British leader of Arab resistance. Always a visual stunner of a film.

4) "Gallipoli" (1981) Peter Weir directed this film about one of the most important events in Australian history that was commemorated during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Conversely, it's regarded as one of the greatest moments in Turkey's history. Starring Mel Gibson, the film chronicles how Aussies were ordered to make suicidal runs against machine guns of the Turks on the Gallipoli peninsula. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, championed this catastrophe and would be ostracized because of it until World War II.

5) "King of Hearts" (1966) While it's not about warfare directly, this movie is a cult classic about an insane asylum that is left unattended after the Germans retreat. Alan Bates is the King of Hearts.

6) "The African Queen" (1951) This John Huston epic uses WWI as a backdrop in German East Africa to explore the relationship between the boat captain and the missionary, played by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, respectively.

Other films of note include:

"Joyeux Noel" (2005). Although I have yet to see this film, it is on my to-watch list. Based on a true story, it takes place during the Christmas truce of 1914 when French, Scottish and German soldiers put down their arms to celebrate Christmas. Unfortunately, the soldiers returned to their posts so that they could kill each other rather than lay down their arms. Imagine if troops had led their officers and political leaders to end the war. Yes, a grand illusion. Actually, troop rebellions on both sides helped end the conflict.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930) A sympathetic portrayal of German soldiers on the Western Front. Considered the first serious film to win best picture.

"Wings" (1927) This silent flick won the first best picture award. While anachronistic, this film of the aerial war is worth checking out.

"Sergeant York" (1941) Directed by Howard Hawks, starring Gary Cooper at Sgt. Alvin York, the pacifist turned war hero.

"War Horse" (2011) Haven't seen this Steven Spielberg epic about a fabled horse before and during WWI.

"A Farewell to Arms" (1932 and 1957) The earlier version, starring Gary Cooper is the better version.

There have been a number of films about the aerial part of the conflict including "Flyboys," "The Blue Max," "The Red Baron," "Hells Angels," etc. What's amazing is that planes had almost no impact on the war. And these movies had little, lasting impact.

Finally, one of the best anti-war statements emerged from WWI in the form of Dalton Trumbo's  novel "Johnny Got His Gun," which was made into a largely forgotten film in 1971.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The smallest 4-year university in Bend?

Also known as OSU-Pumice Pit
It appears that the brain trust behind OSU-Cascades/Pumice Pit wants to create one of the smallest four-year university campuses in the world.

Imagine squeezing 5,000 students (or 8,000 to 10,000) onto a 10-acre parcel.

Let's see, Central Oregon Community College, which is just a two-year school in Bend, sits on more than 200 acres and serves about 12,000 students.

According to the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, a 300-student elementary school needs 13 acres. A high school with 2,000 students needs 50 acres. But, OSU-Cascades needs only 10 acres. Yeah, right.

Since OSU officials believe their plans for Bend's overcrowded west side should not be judged on their future expansion to the adjacent 46-acre pumice pit, then they must be content with a 10-acre campus they bought at 22 percent above the assessed value.

Actually, they're lying to the taxpayers of Oregon.

They have an offer to buy the pumice pit, but are delaying the completion of the deal until they can get city approval for the entire campus based solely on its plans for the 10-acre parcel.

It's deceitful and wrong.

They absurdly claim that they shouldn't be held responsible for land they don't currently own.

So, do they plan to expand to the pumice pit and also to the adjacent 72-acre demolition landfill?

Shouldn't "planners" be looking ahead to what OSU-Cascades ultimately plans to do?

Actually, the lack of planning plagues Bend and most cities in the country. It is why basic infrastructure -- roads, water, sewer -- is such a mess here and elsewhere.

Is a 10-acre campus big enough for the long-sought, four-year university in the state's fastest growing area?

The answer is no. The hearings officer should reject the current plans for OSU-Cascades until the school's leaders tell the truth about what they plan to do.

You would think, with the thousands of acres of vacant land in and around Bend, there should be more than 10 acres of decent land available  on which to build an expandable four-year university.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Impeachment heat wave

It's hot in Bend with 90-degree temps forecast through next week.

Evidently, it's hot all over the country because people are doing some stupid things.

In Nebraska, a 4th of July parade had a float that featured an outhouse with the words: "Obama Presidential Library." Apparently, it was a big hit there.

A New York newspaper ran an op-ed column with the headline: "The Nigger in the White House."

The column, while supportive of President Obama, attracted scores of comments  from various websites that defended the headline as largely accurate.

These incidents come on the heels of a poll that says President Obama is the worst president since World War II. 

Of course, the joke is that these poll respondents also blame President Obama for starting WWII.

After House Speaker John Boehner threatened to sue President Obama, impeachment fever has swept the teabagging landscape. Of course, talk of President Obama's impeachment began before he even took office years ago.

This week, though, the most powerful Republican woman, Sarah Palin, now calls for President Obama's impeachment.

The real joke here is that Palin still commands respect among teabaggers and GOPers alike.

The GOP in Montana and South Dakota are now calling for President Obama's impeachment.

Republicans are upset about a host of things like Benghazi, which so upsets them, that they can't even locate it on a map.

They also have their panties in a wad over President Obama's and use of executive orders. Nevermind, that Obama has used  this tactic far less than any president of the 20th century.

GOP Lawmakers also allege his "lawlessness" in not enforcing our immigration laws. Evidently, President Obama is enforcing the 2008 immigration law, which passed with substantial bipartisan support and was eagerly signed by President Bush.

Republicans love saying that President Obama is a "feckless" president and, at the same time, rail against him for being dictatorial.

Gee, is he weak or strong? Make up your mind.

Republicans need their base of racists to come out and vote this fall if they hope to retake the Senate. They'll resort to any tactic to get out this vote.

Good luck with that "Southern strategy."

That dog will no longer hunt.