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By Jared Bowen | Wednesday, November 10, 2010
|A scene from Saving Private Ryan. Photo by Amblin Entertainment – © 1998|
BEDFORD -- Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass. has a lot of what you might expect: Fighter jets, uniformed men and women bustling about and the requisite on-base hangout. At the back of Hansom’s MinuteMan Club sits 2nd. Lt. Patrick Gernert, who sits at a card table with two other servicemen, talking about their favorite war movies.
“Mine would probably be Forrest Gump,” says Gernert. “Even when he was miles from home he always thought about Jenny, and he always wanted to get back to her. He got bit in the butt, but he did definitely get home.”
Just like every football player has seen Rudy, and every filmmaker has studied Citizen Kane, for America’s men and women in uniform there are a go-to set of must-see movies that are often quoted, joked about and heavily relied on.
Its first and last acts are among the most realistic and brutal depictions of war captured on film. In between is a timeless story of innocence facing the ultimate test.
One of a handful of movies granted full cooperation by U.S. Miltary, Top Gun defined heroics in the air for a generation with iconic star turns by Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.
On one hand the story of a simple fan living an extraordinary life. Dig deeper and follow the baby boom generation as it grows up through Elvis, Vietnam, and the age of disco, drugs, and disease.
Classic Bill Murrary comedy. "Don't leave. The flowers will die."
Stanley Kubrick's mix of surrealism and dark humor follows a Vietnam platoon's evolution from boyhood to war machine.
“I mean, you can’t go wrong with Full Metal Jacket,” chimes Staff Sgt. Andre Edgardo Olaciregui-Perez, who normally craves the comedy stylings of Bill Murray and company. “Stripes is good, too. ‘The name’s Francis Sawyer. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I kill ya.’”
Olaciregui-Perez then wades into the danger zone with his next pick, Tony Scott’s 1986 melodramatic ode to military machismo Top Gun. He sums it up in one word: "Lame.”
Tech Sgt Khaliliah Velez is a little kinder. “All I gotta say is Take My Breathe Away. Every time I hear that song, that movie pops into my head, and I liked it," Velez said. "Now, it’s not Air Force, but I like the movie.”
The one movie they all agree is paramount is the untouchable Saving Private Ryan. “This movie, straight from the entrance, the Battle of Normandy” says Gernert. “It’s like—wow—boom—bomb—you know all this stuff going on, everybody ducking down, you hear the splash of the water—splush. It’s just intense, really intense.”
For the group assembled at this card table, there are a variety of different missions under their collective belts -- some of which include long deployments. To them, there is a different set of go-to comfort movies: The ones that take them home, when home is many miles and months away.
“They kind of helped me get through my time there,” says Velez. “You know, reminded me of my family and of things that I like to do in the States that I wasn’t afforded in Iraq. The Devil Wears Prada, The Breakup, Failure to Launch, Underworld 2, you always gotta switch it up a little bit. Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift was one that was close to home because it reminded me of son because he loves cars. And then, The DaVinci Code, just to kill time. I fell asleep most of the time, you know, it’s a long movie.”
Sergeant Olaciregui Perez has a shorter list of comfort movies. ”I was in Kuwait in 2007 and 2009, and my two favorite movies of all time, that I’ve watched repeatedly over when I was deployed, were Cast Away and Gladiator.”
“Cast Away is really interesting cause you know, you have this guy that gets stranded, in the middle of nowhere and really has no hope. But because of his determination in wanting to go back to what was close to his heart, it kind of deals with the same thing as in deployment," Perez said. "You know, you’re ready to go back, but you understand that you have to do certain things at the location. It’s like a journey, or an adventure. That’s why Cast Away is close to me, I guess.”
As for Ridley Scott’s action-packed historical epic Gladiator -- that one is a little more obvious.
“Every guy, they all wanna be Russell Crowe in that movie,” says Perez. “You know, screaming out, ‘Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not what you want?’ You know, it’s just very thrilling—it’s amazing.”
It’s also an escape. So in wartime, amid the intensity, the brutality, the loneliness—it’s clear listening to these veterans that in the 21st century, movies are an integral part of the war experience.
“I guess I would tell someone that’s in the military with me, you know, whatever makes you laugh, smile, cry, because we all have different tastes,” says Velez. “Whatever takes you to your happy place—just watch it.”
By Jared Bowen | Tuesday, November 2, 2010
|The Boston Jewish Film Festival runs through Nov 14th at local theaters, including the Coolidge Corner Theatre.|
2010 marks the 22nd Anniversary of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and in that time, its mission has kept consistent and clear.
“We began as a way to showcase films with Jewish themes from around the world, and we’ve pretty much stayed that way,” says Sara Rubin, artistic director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
“We focus on very contemporary films. Sometimes we push the envelope a little bit, if it’s a fiction film, but we want either the theme or the characters to the Jewish. We don’t really care about who directed the film, or who acts in it. And if it’s a documentary, most things from Israel are going to be fair game.”
Being steeped in the Jewish experience certainly hasn’t limited the appeal of this festival, especially for film lovers simply looking for good films that wouldn’t come to Boston otherwise. And for Boston’s Jewish community, says Sara, “I think that film festivals are a place where Jews who might be a little uncomfortable in a more organized setting—a synagogue for example—can come and be comfortable exploring their Jewishness.”
In terms of “place”, the “place” Sara refers to is the community that gets built each year through the festival, and continues year-round. The festival itself is housed in a number of venues, primarily the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline and the Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, there are a number of screenings in the suburbs, including the West Newton Cinema and Arlington’s Capitol Theater.
One of the highlights of festival is the film Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.
Sara explains, “It’s a wonderful, wonderful film, and what it does is touch upon something that has obviously struck a nerve.”
Directed by Peter Miller (who grew up in Lexington) and narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story confronts an old stereotype: That Jews are not athletic. It does this by exploring the historical connection between Jewish Americans and the nation's pasttime.
“It’s the puny Jew versus the strong athletic Jew,” says Sara. “I think that there are a couple of really strong characters that have resonated with audiences. Certainly, Sandy Koufax by not playing on Yom Kippur, and Hank Greenberg who did the same. They’re both real giants, both physically… and um… sort of morally.”
Sara also recommends a couple of hidden gems, including one called The Socalled Movie, about a very quirky artist called Socalled. Who is he?
“Socalled’s real name is Josh Dolgin, and he’s from Montreal. I’d say that he is kind of a ‘schlump,’ which is a Yiddish word for someone that’s sloppy. He’s taken Klezmer music, which is an old music from Eastern Europe, and has added hip-hop music to it. He’s got quite the following among Klezmer and hip-hop types alike."
“We’ve shown more traditional Klezmer films, and this one is a little bit cutting edge. So I hope people will go, because they’ll see something different. That’s what we try to do with the Festival.”
The Boston Jewish Film Festival is underway all the way through November 14th.
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