|You'll get my boat when you pull it from my cold, dead fingers.|
I watched the naval epic Midway (1976) last night. A decent film - I'm inclined to like just about anything with Charlton Heston in it - but I had a rather hard time keeping track of what was going on. Carriers underway, planes flying, pilots identified with subtitles, bombs dropping...
The battle of Midway was complicated. The battle, fought just six months after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, was, of course, the turning point in the war in the Pacific. As far as I can tell it boils down to this: based on top notch cryptanalytic intelligence, the crafty Admiral Nimitz managed to fool the Japanese (we called them "Japs" when I was a kid) into thinking that the U.S. carrier forces were at Hawaii rather than at Midway. Launching an ambush, it then apparently became a matter of whose scout planes could spot whose carriers first, and who could send squadrons to bomb the hell out of the carriers. The U.S. forces sunk four Japanese carriers, the Japanese sunk one of ours.
The whole complex story is here, but suffice to say that the U.S. Navy inflicted irreparable damage upon the Japanese navy, so much so that the Japanese were unable to undertake major offensives. The Navy and the Marines were thus able to hop islands in the Pacific (a terrible phrase as it makes it sound so much easier than it actually was), eventually threatening the Japanese homeland itself. Needless to say, much American blood was spilled - the Japanese were a determined and resourceful foe.
Any avid World War II historian could find lots of anachronisms in this production, but as I know comparatively little about World War II, I was blissfully ignorant. Except for spotting "USA" markings on grey Navy Jeeps which should have been "USN." And Hal Holbrook's ridiculously long hair. And theatrical blood of too magenta a hue...
I mentioned that I'll watch just about anything with Charlton Heston in it. I have lots of favorite actors (Edward G. Robinson, Richard Widmark, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier in addition to a host of film noir stalwarts), but Heston may be my favorite. You can chalk it up to seeing The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur way too many times when I was a kid. Growing up, he was my ideal of what it was to be a good man: strong and resolved yet adaptable. Measured and unexcitable, yet intelligent and willing to accept new viewpoints. (His transitions from Moses the Egyptian prince to Moses the Hebrew slave and prophet, or from Ben Hur the embittered Jew to Ben Hur the converted Christian, are epic.) It has been remarked upon many times that he had a larger-than-life film presence; when you saw that craggy face and those lips set in that strong jaw you saw something akin to a force of nature.
Of course it helps that we both share similar conservative political philosophies; like me he was a Democrat turned Republican. I have even read his excellent autobiography In the Arena; I own a treasured autographed copy of it via a rugby friend who worked with him for a time. President of the National Rifle Association? That lends him right wing credibility, of course, but I'm just as proud of him for having taken part in equality marches and lending his considerable presence during the Civil Rights Era. And in the Nineties when the entertainment companies were presenting the public with cop-killing gangsters as role models, Heston bravely called them on it. In Hollywood you criticize entertainment industry executives at the peril of your acting career.
He made three science fiction movies, all of them good ones: The Omega Man, Soylent Green and, of course, The Planet of the Apes... damn dity apes. He made war films, westerns, a couple of films noir, sword and sandal epics and even appeared in nuanced roles you would not automatically expect him in: Cardinal Richelieu in the 1973 The Three Musketeers and Brigham Young in The Avenging Angel. A good man, a good actor. I do not believe that Hollywood has been able to find his equal as a heroic figure. I suppose Mel Gibson comes close, but the flaws in his well-known private life lessen his film impact (at least for me). Russell Crowe? Nah. The Rock, John Cena, Steven Segal? Comic book characters - parodies.
I also watched an episode of SCTV, from the 1982 season after Catherine O'Hara, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas left the show. Normally that would kill any other sketch comedy show, but Martin Short was added to the cast, the writing stayed good, and the shows were still quite funny.
Last night we took my daughter to Mike's American Grill, the best restaurant in Springfield and, arguably, the best restaurant in Northern Virginia. I had a filet mignon that was to die for. Afterwards we cruised around old neighborhoods showing her what's changed since she was last in town.
It's funny, I have a memory involving one or more of the kids with nearly every business and location in Springfield: the place where I used to take the girls to smell scented candles when they were little, the store where my son bought his electric guitar, the paint store where I got the materials to do my daughter's room in smoothies store citrus colors, the Chinese restaurant where we dined out with grandma, the Toys-R-Us where I got my son his first treasured action figure, the Popeye's where I bought chicken for my daughter's cheer leading team, etc. Even a freshly painted red neighborhood fire hydrant where I posed my daughters for a photograph, or the tree in a park used for a series of photos of the three of them. So many memories... when I'm ready to retire it will be hard to leave.