“Ready to start filming Mr. Stone.”  This week drums something up in me every year where I need to start feeling like a patriot.  Regardless of what side you sit on in the current situation in the middle east, you cannot argue that we all are in great need of a patriotic shot in the arm.  I have a few movie suggestions for you that will make you proud to be an American.

   When you think of patriotism, your definition may be different than mine.  I feel most American not when I am shown films and pictures depicting American soldiers or its people as heroes, but when they show the sacrifices made by those in our history.  I feel cheap and/or cheated when I am shown some video on how great the American soldiers were angels fighting against the evil Vietcong during the Vietnam conflict.  I know how horrific the fighting was in Vietnam.  I don’t need propaganda shoved in my face assuring me everything is all right.

   The first on my list of must sees this holiday weekend, is United 93.  A controversial film that was either released too soon or not soon enough.  What I mean by this of course, is that you either were so off put by the events of 9/11 that you want to forget it because you cannot face your pain, or you are of the type I hope you are, which is the kind that never wants to forget that horrifying day.  There were four planes hijacked on that fateful day.  Two toppled the towers in New York, while another leveled a wall of our Pentagon.  The fourth, which was aimed at our Capitol Building, never reached its destination.  The reason for this was simple in speech, but far more complex in its stalwart bravery and heroism.  The passengers of this plane banded together and overtook the hijackers so that their evil plan would never come to fruition.  This film is their story.  I urge you to watch this film and dare you not to swell with pride.

  The second in my list of must sees for this weekend is a two parter.  First, Flags of Our Fathers, then Letters From Iwo Jima.  This is a series of films, so you can’t watch one without the other.  The first tells the story of the brave men who fought on the beaches of Iwo Jima and raised the flag after the beach was taken.  It follows them back to America where they are met as heroes, but heroism is not what they want.  They are soured by the way the American people view the war and want the recognition put back on the ‘real’ heroes that
gave their lives in taking that beach.  Although you are disgusted by the way the Americans feel toward the war, you can’t help but appreciate the sacrifices made by the men over there so that we may live those ignorant lives.  The second part tells the story of that same battle on those same beaches.  Only this time, it is from the point of view of the Japanese.  A very new and interesting way to display WWII.  It shows the horror of war and makes you realize that no matter which side you fight for, there is no bad guys or good guys.  The real bad guys are the politicians that cannot get along and send young men to their deaths to settle the disputes of the fat and happy.  Every one of those men had families that they didn’t want to leave behind.  But what makes you appreciate what we have in this country the most is the Japanese culture.  The things they are expected to do for their country, like give their lives without asking why or putting themselves headlong into a no win situation because they know that if they don’t it will bring dishonor to their families and they will suffer for it.  Seeing these films is a must.

   Third is an Oliver Stone classic starring Tom Cruise, Born on The Fourth of July.  Another Vietnam slice that shows the horror of the bloodiest conflict in American History.  The main point of this film is not so much the horrors of the jungle, but the horrors of the American society.  The people in this country were so upset at the idiots in Washington, they took it out on the easy targets.  The men in uniform.  This film shows us not to be too hasty to judge our men and women in uniform mainly because we have no idea what they have had to endure, nor do we know what goes through their heads on a daily basis.  If you ask me the real monsters during that time were not the greedy politicians that sent our boys to death, or the Communists that were thrown into a war because they had no other choice, but the lazy people of America that had not the wherewithal nor the vision to attack the leaders, but hit the easy target proxies that were merely doing their jobs.  At the end of this film, however, we are shown how the American system does indeed work as Tom Cruise’s character us elected to office and promises to change the system for the better.  If there
is a tale of more American pride, I know it not.

   This weekend could prove to be a long one if you sit and watch all these, but they are ones that can’t be denied as greats of the genre.  Next on my list is one that is primarily a science fiction film instead of an action drama.  Independence Day, starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman is a little hokey and cheesy at times I know.  Some of the dialog could use a little reediting, but all in all, if you can look past those little inadequacies, the non stop action and pride in mankind more than makes up for it.  As a coach I am always looking for any spot of inspiration to give my players, and the speech Bill Pullman gives to his pilots before their last stand, is one I have used multiple times, altered of course to better suit my situation.  This film, properly titled for the day, isn’t so much about feeling patriotic for America, but feeling prideful for mankind in their resolve and refusal to give in.  Whenever a film maker decides to depict a ‘never say die’ attitude, if done right, can be very inspiring.

   Finally, (and if you only watch one of my film picks for the fourth, watch this one) is another Oliver Stone favorite, World Trade Center.  I assume if you are reading this, you were old enough to remember that day vividly.  When I look back at my emotional state that day, I remember the phrase, “You don’t do this to the United States,” being uttered by myself as if it were my mantra.  I have talked about heroes more than once in this article, but if there was ever a time in my lifetime, where there was a clear definition of what a hero was, it was during that day.  The men and women of the New York police and fire department, without any regard for their own safety, began to evacuate the people of the two
trade center buildings, knowing full well that they would probably be giving their lives that morning.  They had a job to do.  Plain and simple.  It didn’t matter what the danger was.  People needed to get out of that place and there was no one else to get them out of there.  The combination of performances by Nicholas Cage, Michael Pena, and the stirring up of old feelings, you can’t help but bring up all sorts of emotions deep from within.  

  I hope you all have a great fourth and remember…Do your chewing in the sewer!