The Alternative List


Taste is a funny thing at the best of times, lack of taste even funnier. Not surprisingly, Gamma and I disagree on what makes the top ten. I don't quibble with Bridge over the River Kwai, Das Boot and Apocalypse Now (not the undisciplined Redux reboot). I recognise The Thin Red Line, Dr. Stranglelove, The Deer Hunter and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence for being good movies, even great movies but they wouldn't make my list. They lack something. Patton is terribly over-rated. Henry V doesn't cut it. And Ghandi ain't a war movie no matter how hard you twist it.

I would nominate the following for consideration for elevation to the list of the all-time great war movies:

The Americanization of Emily. This is movie that his slipped off our cultural radar. It is funny, charming and clever. The legendary Paddy Chayefsky's script demonstrates how satire can be subtle and effective, a lesson that Dr. Strangelove might learn. In Emily, James Garner plays a scam artist and self-procalimed coward who revels in his corrupt lifestyle. He falls in love with Julie Andrews, a young war widow and gets caught up in mentally unstable Admiral's scheme to keep the Navy relevant after the war to make the first dead man on Omaha Beach a sailor.

 Battleground. Despite the black and white this is one of the first modern war movies. It presents a realistic account of the 101st Airborne during the Seige of Bastogne. Robert Pirosh, who was a gag writer for the Marx brothers before serving in the Battle of the Bulge himself, wrote a movie that showed a culturally diverse group of American soldiers scared, scheming to go home, cold, critical of authority and only occasionally brave.

 Three Kings. How soon we forget... remember the last time we left Iraq? Set in the savagery of the failed Sunni uprising, an "Iraqi ass map" leads a group of soldiers to a cache of hidden gold. Again, David O. Russel, with a great performance from George Clooney shows that satire does not have to be over the top to be funny.

Stalag 17. Written by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski and based on their own experiences as prisoners of war, it is a story that carries particular weight in these paranoid times. Billy Wilder coaxes a brilliant performance from William Holden as Sefton, a cynical, scheming prisoner who always has an angle or odds on anything and everything. He is disliked but necessary to life in the camp. When circumstances reveal that one of the prisoners is a traitor, suspicion falls on Sefton and he is reviled and threatened and must uncover the real traitor before its too late.


 Boys in Company C. Released in 1978 when the wounds of Vietnam were still festering, this movie presented the war in all its unpleasant, ambivalent, gory detail. This is a movie that was overshadowed by the next generation of Vietnam war movies but stands up favourably to them.

 M*A*S*H  Robert Altman's chaotic corralling of the acting talents of Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Elliott Gould and Sally Kellerman produced one of the funniest movies of all time. M*A*S*H is the blackest of black comedies about war. doctors, nurses and football and is fresh and funny with every viewing.



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