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Monday, November 11, 2013

Saving Private Ryan

Before we go ahead with today's edition of the Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life, there is something that I need to do.

Today is November 11, which depending on what part of the world you live in can have several different names.

For instance, if you happen to be reading this blog entry from across the pond in the group of countries known as the United Kingdom, then today is known as Armistice Day.

If you're in the country directly below the one that I am typing this blog entry from (in which case would be the United States), then you would be observing Veterans Day.

And in my home country of Canada, we take time out every November 11 to remember those soldiers who were killed during times of major conflict - which could explain why in Canada today is known as Remembrance Day.

This is the third Remembrance Day entry that I have done since I began this blog two and a half years ago, and as you can tell, there are similarities in every single November 11 blog entry that I've done.  You'll notice that every single entry that I have written on this date have been in red.  That's partly because of the fact that the international symbol of Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day is the poppy - made famous by the John McCrae poem "In Flanders Fields".  Here, I've posted the poem below this paragraph for all of you to reflect on.

Secondly, I'll be posting some image of a poppy within this blog as a show of remembrance.  You can see it below.

Now, whether you choose to wear a red poppy to honour those soldiers who died in combat, or whether you happen to decide to wear a white poppy (for more information on that controversial move, you may click HERE if you like), or whether you choose not to wear a poppy at all...well, that's entirely your choice.  Myself, I choose to wear a red poppy and display a red poppy decal because of the fact that thousands of soldiers sacrificed their lives for their country so that we still have the opportunity to make the decision as to what kind of poppy (if any) we want to wear on this date.

And, thirdly, as always, I want to take the opportunity to remember those brave men and women who died for us by posting a moment of silence within this blog.  Before you scroll down any further in this blog, take the time and observe the moment of silence with me and all of the readers who happen to be viewing this entry.

And now, on with the main topic for today - which is one that I find to be appropriate given the tone of the day.

As you well know, Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day is one of those days in which we pay respects to those who fought in the trenches and who lost their lives to protect the freedoms and dreams that all of us currently have and enjoy today.  For those of us who have known someone who served in the Army, the Marines, The Navy, or the Air Force, we all have heard the stories of war and all of the things that they witnessed.  When I was in school, we would have men come into the classrooms to talk about their experiences fighting in World War II, and while some of the stories they told were interesting, they were also very tragic.  Hearing all of the stories of those men witnessing their friends lose their lives or seeing innocent people get slaughtered because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time...they were heartbreaking.

I honestly don't think that I could imagine being on the battleground of a major conflict during the two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or even Operation: Iraqi Freedom.  My hat certainly goes off to the men and women who have fought for our freedom and defended our nations.  They certainly have exhibited more bravery than I have.  I only wish I could be as strong and valiant.

So, for today's blog, why not discuss a movie that features the bonds that soldiers formed with each other as they united for a common cause.  A film that was one of the best war movies ever made.  A movie in which its first 25 minutes featured some of the most realistic depictions of battles during the second World War.

Ever hear of a movie called "Saving Private Ryan"?  It was only one of the biggest films of 1998, after all.  It also happens to be the absolute perfect film to spotlight in this entry for Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day this year.  

I was actually torn between "Saving Private Ryan" and the 2001 film "Pearl Harbor", but I decided that Saving Private Ryan was a much better fit for today.  Besides, "Pearl Harbor" was kind of slaughtered by the critics anyway.

The film - released July 24, 1998 - was an epic masterpiece put together by the team of Steven Spielberg and Robert Rodat, and the entire cast was a who's who of Hollywood A-listers.  You had Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Adam Goldberg, Paul Giamatti, Ted Danson, Bryan Cranston, Nathan Fillion, and Dennis Farina starring in the picture.  It was almost as if they had cast the entire attendance list at the Cannes Film Festival in one movie!

Is it any wonder that the film earned a total of almost half a billion dollars at the box office, and that it earned several awards including five Academy Awards? 

The story of "Saving Private Ryan" was inspired by a trip that screenwriter Robert Rodat took to New Hampshire four years before the film was released.  In the small community of Putney Corners, Rodat found a monument dedicated to those who served in the armed forces from the early days of the American Civil War to the final days of the Vietnam War.  And one detail about the monument inspired Rodat to come up with the main plot of the story.

After discovering the names of eight siblings who fought and died in the American Civil War, Rodat went to work on drafting a story about the same subject - only changing the timeline to World War II (1939-1945).  Rodat finished the draft and sent it in to producer Mark Gordon.  Gordon did accept the script for the screenplay - but only after Rodat had to tweak it and redo it several times beforehand.

I believe that the finished draft of the final script was attempt number eleven!   But you know what?  If you were really passionate about the project as Rodat was, you'd re-write it more times than that if you really wanted to see your vision come to life!

As the story goes, actor Tom Hanks was given the script to read by Gordon, and Hanks loved it right from the start.  In fact, it was Hanks who actually passed the script along to Spielberg to read which prompted Spielberg to take the directing gig.

(Of course, this would hardly be the first and last project that Spielberg would attach himself to regarding the subject of World War II.  Spielberg - who said in an interview once that he believed World War II was the most significant event of the last one hundred years - also had his name accredited to other similar projects such as "1941", "Empire of the Sun", "Schindler's List", and "Band of Brothers".)

As "Saving Private Ryan" begins, the date is June 6, 1944.  And, those of you who are history buffs know that the date is a significant one in the history of World War II.  It's the date that is known as D-Day, the beginning of the Allied invasion of Normandy.  As as many of you might know by reading history textbooks and studying the event in class, you'd know that it was one of the deadliest days in the war, with at least ten thousand people losing their lives.

In this clip below, you can see the arrival of the Allied forces on Omaha Beach and the ensuing battle between the men led by Captain John H. Miller (Hanks) and the German forces.  Be warned though...although this clip only shows a fraction of the action (rhyme not intended) shown within the first twenty-five minutes of the movie, it's still not recommended for young children.

Captain Miller ends up surviving that attack, and forms a group of soldiers to continue to penetrate the German attacks.  

However, fate would send Captain Miller and his men off in an entirely different direction - and that direction would cross paths with the last surviving sibling of the Ryan family.

General George Marshall (Harve Presnell) has received word that of the four Ryan siblings who were all fighting in the war, three of them were killed in action.  Back in the days of World War II, whenever a soldier was killed, a telegram was sent to the homes of their families, informing them of the tragic news.  Imagine being a mother of four boys and getting the news that three of them were never going home again.  It was raw emotion at its finest.

To make matters worse, the fourth brother - Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Damon) - is MIA.  Details were sketchy, but General Marshall deduced that Private First Class Ryan was somewhere in Normandy, and he issues the orders to find him and bring him back home.

And, guess who gets assigned to the task?  You guessed it.  Captain Miller.

Miller assigns six soldiers within his crew to join him in the hunt for Private First Class Ryan - Caparzo (Diesel), Horvath (Sizemore), Jackson (Pepper), Mellish (Goldberg), Reiben (Burns), and Wade (Ribisi).  And over the course of the next few days, the team is confronted with all sorts of challenges and obstacles in order to find out the whereabouts of Private First Class Ryan.  

All I can say is that one of the group of seven meets his end very early in the movie.  I can also tell you that the group happens to have a very interesting encounter with a German soldier who calls himself "Steamboat Willie".  One of the members of the group actually has the desire to defect and flee, but changes his mind at the last minute.  And, the group also discovers the reason why Private First Class Ryan has gone missing from one of Ryan's friends.  It turns out that Ryan has decided to defend a bridge that spans across the Merderet River in the town of Ramelle which is a key place in the battle.  Whoever has control of that bridge would ultimately gain a huge advantage in the battleground.

But as Miller's group knows - attempting to launch such a mission solo would be absolute suicide - so Miller and his brothers in arms try to locate Ryan and force him to come back home before he ends up getting injured or worse.  But little does Miller and his men realize that Ryan has his own agenda in mind, and by the film's conclusion, we learn exactly what it means to be a part of a brotherhood of men, fighting together for the greater good...and learning the true meaning of sacrifice along the way.

And, that's all that I plan on talking about in regards to this film.  I purposely refused to give out too many spoilers in this film because I recommend that for today, you give this movie a viewing.  It is probably one of the best examples of a film that I can think of to honour those who fought for the freedom that we all enjoy today, and to really appreciate just what these brave men and women sacrificed in order to keep the peace.

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