Leslie Gray Streeter blogs about pop culture for The Palm Beach Post
Memorial Day, the special time to reflect on the sacrifices of our military, has become that special time to watch “Law and Order” and “NCIS” marathons.
If you’re gonna be home watching TV for hours and hours on end, shouldn’t there at least be an appropriate theme?
Of course it is.
1) “The Longest Day” (1962)
A massive, massive Hollywood spectacle about the D-Day landing, it also involves the best s Hollywood story a famous person every personally told me. Eddie Albert once told me that Robert Mitchum, famed for his intensity and for enjoying a beverage or 12, was in the bag during the filming of the iconic landing scene. He was told that since he was playing an officer, it was important that he not run ahead, that the whole group start charging together. Mitchum said he understood, but when they called “Action” he took off running anyway by himself, and because this was before CGI with a gazillion extras, they weren’t gonna reshoot it, so the director just sent everyone after Mitchum, who was by now stumbling and sputtering in the sand.
2) “Cast A Giant Shadow” (1966)
Kirk Douglas stars as Col. Mickey Marcus, a Jewish-American officer in the JAG corps who later becomes a leader in the Israeli Defense Forces in the 1968 Arab-Israeli War, It’s stirring and big, and offers the sight of John Wayne, who I believe was contracted to be in every war movie ever, pronouncing “L’Chaim!” like “La CHI-UM!” It’s hilarious.
3) “Saving Private Ryan,” (1998)
I saw this with a group of World War II veterans, including several that had been in the D-Day landing, and seeing their eyes as they watched a recreation of their 18 and 19-year-old selves headed into a hell they had no preparation for was moving and almost felt like an intrusion. I have been doing this job for more than 20 years now, but that moment is maybe the one in which I felt most grateful.
4) “Glory” (1989)
The story of the Massachusetts 54th, the first all-black regiment in the Civil War. (Spoiler Alert on a 25-year-old movie!) The final scene, when the men’s fates are revealed in the glare of the gunfire, is both heartbreaking and validating because it’s about sacrifice, about the glory in being a part of the revolution and not necessarily the ones who leave triumphant.
5) “Platoon: (1987)
Back when Charlie Sheen was an up-and-coming actor and not a cautionary tale, he starred in a raw, uncompromising look at the Vietnam War by veteran Oliver Stone. It’s not easy to watch, by a long shot. But it stays with you.