While everyone spent their weekend getting pumped up for the 2014 Grammy Awards, I was watching back-to-back movies about World War II — one about saving Jewish people, the other a precursor to "Major Payne," and the last movie containing the most graphic depiction our war outside of filming an actual battlefield in real-time. It's difficult to make jokes out of one of the devistating wars in human history and of course the holocaust, so bear with me here.
Best Depiction of Redemption: Winner — Schindler's List
Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) is a money-hungry industrialist in early 1940s. When he hears Jews are the cheapest workforce, he decides to get a whole lot of them out of the ghetto of Warsaw, and his company starts making a killing using free Jewish labor!
After five years, Schindler suddenly looks past the dollar signs covering his eyes and comes to the realization that his entire free work force is made up of real, actual human beings who are being exterminated by the train loads at the hands of the Nazis. Schindler then does everything in his power to collect as many Jews as he can to work in his factories to keep them protected.
By the end, Schindler has saved over 1,000 Jews, has spent all of his money and is a shoe-in for sainthood on the first ballot. However, since he is a sworn member of the Nazi Party, Schindler is considered a war criminal by the Allies and is forced to flee to avoid capture. The film ends with over 600 Jewish people, all of whom were saved by Schindler, visiting his grave to show their respects. Damn, it just got really dusty in here.
Best Use of Death Row Inmates: Winner — The Dirty Dozen
Army Major Reisman (played by Lee Marvin) is "given" a new assignment: to train 12 military convicts who are either sentenced to death by hanging or life imprisonment in order to complete a mission in return for full pardons. He not only has to train them, he has to get them to start acting like a fully functional military unit!
When a Colonel tells the Major that his unit is not working out, the Major asks the General to test his recruits by having them participate in a friendly war game in order to prove themselves. If this sounds all too familiar and you're roughly around my age, you might remember a similar premise for the more family appropriate 1995 comedy, "Major Payne," starring Damon Wayans.
But unlike Major Payne, The Dirty Dozen — given their nickname because of their hardened-criminal refusal to shave with cold water — are rewarded with prostitutes, parachuted behind enemy lines to raid a German chateau, attempt to kill as enemy officers as they can to disrupt the German chain of command, and all except for one die in combat. But hey, at least those dead convicts will be listed as soldiers who gave their lives honorably in the line of duty.
Best Flashback-Inducing Scene: Winner — Saving Private Ryan
I've played "Medal of Honor: Frontline" on Xbox a lot — I mean, A-fucking-LOT. During college I played enough "Medal of Honor" to become fluent in German, counteract any terrorist insurgency, know the most efficient way of destroying German tanks, and tell the difference between over 20 different guns and rifles using only the sound it produces when shot. I single-handedly caused the "Great XBOX Controller Shortage of 2002" from the shear number of game controllers I smashed to pieces.
That being said, the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is identical to the Normandy invasion found in Medal of Honor, complete with all the combative realism of one of the bloodiest battles in history. In that very instant, I was mentally transported back 11 years to a dark living room smelling of stale beer and cannabis, yelling expletives at Axis soldiers, and punching away at the Xbox controller buttons. Ah, the memories.
Anyway, after the most graphic vision of D-Day ever, the movie continues from there and follows Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks) and his squadron as they embark on their mission to find and bring home Private Ryan (played by Matt Damon) somewhere in Nazi-occupied France. An onslaught of pistols, rifles, grenades, land mines, smoke bombs, bazookas, tanks, machine guns, and something called a "sticky bomb" is used to successfully complete their mission (sans Tom Hanks). Now cue the American flag back-lighted by the afternoon sun, gently waving in the breeze!