Finney’s 5: #MemorialDay weekend movie list

A low-grade depression clouds my thoughts. I don’t feel like digging deep for a meaningful column related to Memorial Day.

Anyway, it’s simple: Honor those who’ve sacrificed for our country. Honor those in your family who’ve died. Then go about your life as you see fit.

Also, don’t be the kind of fake patriot who spends time berating everyone who fails to social media about the sacrifices of our armed services.

Observe as you choose. Those who died in service of this country probably didn’t do it so we could be jerks to one another. Live. Let live.

That’s all I have to say about that.

I do have some suggestions of war movies that would be appropriate for the holiday weekend.

Here’s Finney’s Five best movies for Memorial Day.

“Hell is for Heroes,” (1962). Starring: Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, James Coburn, Bob Newhart and Nick Adams. Director: Don Siegel.

“Hell is for Heroes” may be my favorite war movie. The film successfully combines the drudgery of a soldier’s daily life with the intense action of an extended firefight. McQueen plays an unlikely hero and Bob Newhart makes his big screen debut doing one of his famous one-sided phone conversations to befuddle the enemy.

“The Best Years of Our Lives,” (1946). Starring: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Harold Russell. Director: William Wyler

Released less than a year after World War II ended, “The Best Years of Our Lives” is the most insightful and accurate film to depict the human costs of war on those who lived. The film follows three vets who return home from service and the struggles they face returning to peacetime life. Though it feels sanitized by today’s war film standards, which seem fixated on recreating the most horrific and traumatizing events in history in acute detail, the story of Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), who lost both his arms in the war, learning to trust and love again will remind you just how much the sacrifice is.

“The Big Red One,” (1980). Starring: Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch and Stéphane Audran. Director: Samuel Fuller.

“The Big Red One” watches more like a hard-boiled film noir than a war film. Director Samuel Fuller isn’t trying to tell you some deep meaning about war. It’s a story about men in a dangerous time, daily death, and bizarre coincidences, such as a Frenchwoman giving birth in a tank. The primary tension in the film comes not from combat with Nazis but bringing along replacement troops, whose greenness threatens the lives of experienced veterans.

“The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” (1956). Starring: Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones, and Fredric March. Director: Nunnally Johnson.

Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) is another anonymous World War II veteran in a gray flannel suit trying to pretend that everything is normal after the things he saw and did in World War II. The churning anger inside Rath rattles his marriage and pushes his sanity. Such a raw look at the psychological consequences of war was almost non-existent in 1955 and is all too rare today. Plus, if you’re going to spend a couple of hours watching a movie, it might as well be with Gregory Peck.

“M*A*S*H,” (1970). Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Roger Bowen, Rene Auberjonois, and David Arkin. Director: Robert Altman.

The movie only shares a name with the beloved TV series, but the film deserves a view. The behavior of the doctors toward the nurses, especially Sally Kellerman’s “Hot Lips,” is unacceptable and perhaps rage-inducing through today’s #metoo lenses, but it still manages to speak to a level of savagery required of men — even healers — at war. “M*A*S*H” also makes a statement about the level of savagery we tolerate in daily life with a culminating football match between rival posts.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
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HOT SHEET: How I’m getting ready to start my career in local television news

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: I start my new job as an assignment editor for WOI-DT on Monday. The only thing I know about television is how to watch one. I decided to turn to the best possible source to prepare myself for joining broadcast media: movies. Here are five flicks I’m watching to get ready for my new TV job:

  1. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”
  2. “Network”
  3. “Broadcast News”
  4. “The China Syndrome”
  5. “Good Night and Good Luck”

ITEM TWO: Today is new comics Wednesday. Let’s talk shop:

  1. Darth Vader: The Heart of the Sith Vol. 1— The story picks up in the hours after Vader cuts off Luke Skywalker’s hand and lets the young Jedi know who his daddy is. Vader vows revenge on the Rebellion and the people who made Luke such a wimp, but first he has some questions of his own he wants answered. First, how did Padme survive the force choke fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker put on her, and who delivered baby Luke into this world? To find the answer, Vader traces Padme’s final days and crosses paths with Padme’s old pals from Naboo. Again, Marvel proves it knows how to handle “Star Wars” characters better than the people who make the movies. This is Vader as we all dreamed of seeing him: pissed off, cutting people in half with lightsabers and just too much of a force to be reckoned with — even for giant sea monsters. The first trade paperback of the latest Vader series is on sale now.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol. 1 — What Vader gives to “Star Wars” comics, Bounty Hunters takes away. That’s not quite fair. The story centers on a comics character resurrected from the original Marvel comics of the 1970s and 80s, which were often mediocre to terrible. There’s Boba Fett, the most overrated character in “Star Wars” lore, and Bossk, a reptilian bounty hunter who makes for a better action figure than character in a story. The story deals with a protection job gone wrong, some mafia clans and other jibber jabber that just doesn’t entice more reading. The art isn’t for me. I’m always hesitant to criticize art because even the worst comic book creators make things more beautiful than I could ever create. Still, this artwork feels like posed shots that belong in pin-up galleries or sold as paintings at conventions rather than pages of a comic. It lacks action and sense of motion. But I know Boba Fett and bounty hunters as a concept sell, so a lot of “Star Wars” fans might want to give this trade paperback a look.
  • Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 — Writer Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp team for some of the best Green Lantern stories in decades. Morrison is one of modern comics’ geniuses. His stories are trippy, fun and balance badassery with a hint of Silver Age fun. Sharp’s artwork is so tremendous one might be convinced this is why God invented pencils.
  • Batwoman/Catwoman No. 1 — Writer Tom King shaped the love story between Batman and Catwoman like no other creator before him. That story propelled through his entire 85-issue run on “Batman.” This issue begins a special year-long story about Batman and Catwoman set after the events of “City of Bane,” during which Catwoman nursed a broken Batman back to health in order to defeat Bane and an alternate version of his father, Thomas Wayne. I’m looking forward to this comic more than any other on the schedule. I usually wait for trade paperbacks for stories, but I’m buying this in single issues.

ITEM THREE: A recent study found that when people preface a statement with the phrase “with all due respect” the thing that followed was in no way respectful in 100% of cases.

ITEM FOUR: A joke from a Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” from the 1970s: “A new record is out that teaches people how to have better sex. It encourages couples to play the record in the act. There’s already been a tragedy. One couple put the record on at 78 instead of 33. Services are this week.”

ITEM FIVE: This is the best #2020 thing ever and of course it comes from a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Ryan Reynolds:

ITEM SIX: One of the few things I know about English soccer leagues is the concept of relegation. The poorest performing teams are sent down to a lower league and the better performing teams are brought up to play at the highest level. Such a thing would have been a mercy to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who posted 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993 to 2012. It similarly would be a mercy to Chicago Bears fans to see the Bears sent down to the Big 12 or the Pac-12 for a couple of seasons. Let Ohio State or Alabama have a go at the pros. Their college programs are damn near that good anyway. Anything to ease the suffering of Bears fans who have to watch a team without an offense, a quarterback, a competent coach and general manager play pro football games against bonafide NFL winners such as the Green Bay Packers.

ITEM LAST: I was overwhelmed with the kind notes, messages and well-wishes after the announcement of my new job. I plan to continue to write for this blog. There will be no more politics talk and the profanity will be scaled back to PG-13 levels. As for what I’m going to be doing at WOI, well, I don’t know yet. I do know I won’t be on camera and that’s a blessing to everyone including me. I will be working with our team of reporters, anchors and producers. And I’ll be doing some reporting and writing for the WeAreIowa.com website. Frankly, it’s good to have something to look forward to each day besides more worry. Unemployment is a crushing mishmash of depression and anxiety. You’re depressed because your old shop sent you packing and even though they tell you it’s not personal, it sure as hell feels that way. It’s anxious because the money goes fast and when you start to wonder if you’re going to be living at the YMCA by this time next month, your guts churn. So at the risk of one more political comment, having been through what I’ve been through and knowing millions of Americans are still going through, I hope Congress and the new president figure out a stimulus bill as soon as possible to help everyone who wasn’t as lucky as I was to find a job in the middle of a pandemic.

Daniel P. Finney is getting down to this sick beat.

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