3 Memorial Day Movie Recommendations From NPR's Scott Simon
We are grateful this Memorial Day weekend for those many who have fallen in service to the country which, even with the changes it needs to make, so many enjoy today.
I know our family, and perhaps yours, will see one or more venerated films that resonate with a holiday that, after all, is about more than sales on websites. I've chosen just three of my favorites here:
Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee's 2020 film that follows five friends who shed blood, sweat and tears together during the Vietnam War and return, after 50 years, to bring home the body of a fallen friend, and perhaps a treasure buried with him. But is the treasure true riches, just reparations, or a curse?
We interviewed one of the stars, Delroy Lindo, who says, "I hope there is an enhanced recognition of, as a result of seeing this film, is these men, their contributions, their courage and their love of America, and their love of country in context of the presentation of their humanity."
His character wears a MAGA hat for much of the film, and Lindo says he grew to feel what it means to the man he was portraying, which is what an actor has to do.
The Best Years of Our Lives (based on MacKinlay Kantor's 1945 novella) is William Wyler's powerful and poignant 1946 film, winner of multiple Oscars. If you're not in tears within a few minutes, as three veterans return home from World War II and fly over their old hometown, consult a specialist.
Harold Russell won and deserves a lot of attention for his performance as a veteran who lost his hands in battle. But note the strong and subtle performances, too, of Fredric March as the middle-aged enlisted man who returns to his life as a bank vice president ("Everybody's going to try and rehabilitate me," he worries) and Myrna Loy as his wife, who has kept the family together.
Wyler's film is central in Mark Harris' 2014 book, Five Came Back, and lucid about the human costs of war, even to those lucky enough to survive. (Look for the scene in which a mother and father read the citation their son received for a medal.)
And finally, 1949's Twelve O' Clock High is set among American aircrews flying out of war-time England. It is a brave film that captures breakdowns among some of its most heroic figures. Gregory Peck is terrific, of course, but see Dean Jagger, wordless and eloquent, as the veteran in the opening scene who returns to his old airfield, now a place for cows to graze, and remembers more than he perhaps wanted.
We are grateful for the sacrifices of so many. We hope you have a fine holiday weekend.
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