Letters from Iwo Jima

[Amazon Link] [4.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Perhaps an odd choice for a Memorial Day weekend movie, but such are the mysterious workings of the the Blockbuster Online rental queue.

As General Patton said: "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." This movie is all about the other bastards, the Japanese ones, mostly dying on the dinky island of Iwo Jima.

The movie won one Oscar, and was nominated for three others: Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), and Best Writing (Original Screenplay). I came away saying: fine, but Ken Watanabe (who played commanding General Kuribayashi) deserved a nod too; he's amazingly good.

One quibble is that the movie doesn't do a very good job in conveying basic facts about the battle. In the movie, it seems Mount Suribachi is overtaken nearly immediately, but the famous flag-planting didn't happen until the fourth day after the landing. The movie's final battle happened in late March of 1945, about five weeks after the landing; the movie doesn't give you a hint of that timespan. But that's why we have Wikipedia.

As you probably know, this movie is a companion to Flags of our Fathers, told from the American side. Haven't seen that one yet, and will probably wait a bit until I recover from this one.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:29 PM EDT

Dead Again

[Amazon Link] [5.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This 1991 movie is a sentimental favorite of mine; at one point last year the DVD was going for $6.99 at Amazon, so I bit. (It's since gone up to $9.98 new, still a pretty good deal.)

Kenneth Branagh directed, and starred with his then-wife Emma Thompson. They both play dual roles. In scenes set in the late 1940s, they play composer Roman Strauss and his musician wife Margaret; in the opening scenes, Roman is about to be executed for Margaret's murder. In the modern-day scenes, they are private eye Mike Church, and the mute amnesiac Grace; Mike has been dragooned into trying to find out her identity.

The movie itself is a combination of straightforward mystery and supernatural mumbo-jumbo, which could have easily been a disaster; but Ken and Emma are at the peak of their powers here, and made it work for me. Things are helped along by good supporting performances from Derek Jacobi, Wayne Knight(!), Robin Williams, and Andy Garcia.

And Emma Thompson never looked more beautiful.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:28 PM EDT

Memorial Day 2007

Jeff Emanuel gives you four young men to remember.