Today is Memorial Day – a day of remembrance honoring all men and women that died in active military service. And it gives us a great opportunity to salute all war heroes, and in particular Major Dick Winters and Easy Company.
I know a thing or two about war. My day job is to study and understand war. I have written academic articles on war, I have taught on war… and even though I can write about war for pages and talk about it for hours as a scholar, the human cost of war is still incomprehensible to me.
Let me take a moment and look at my own family. My maternal grandmother never knew her father because he was a soldier in WWI in the Eastern Front in Turkey, and he literally froze because of the cold as he fought against the Russians. My paternal grandmother never knew her father, either; because he was also a soldier in WWI and was killed by a shrapnel in Gallipoli as he fought against the Anzacs. Continue reading “Let’s Salute Major Winters – the Rank and the Man – on Memorial Day”
This week marks the 76th anniversary of the Siege at Bastogne, a pivotal confrontation in Battle of the Bulge, which saw the Allied forces assert their most courageous and bloody defense against the last big push by Nazi forces in WWII.
The Bastogne episode of Band of Brothers was arguably the most emotionally intense and beautifully filmed of the series. It was like watching a dream sequence through a filter of constant snow, a bitter cold that you could almost feel in your bones as you’re watching. Like an opera of bodies, bent over, running for cover, crouching near trees, or frozen solid to the ground. You could watch all the action without sound and still feel it viscerally.
Did anyone see the new Star Wars? The sight of the salt planet with the blood red soil under the thin layer of salt brought immediately to this viewer’s mind the red against white of the smoke grenades the soldiers in Band of Brothers set off to obscure their positions from the Germans. Such a visually poignant and memorable cinematic effect.
Band of Brothers is a masterful series that taps into every possible emotion that you can feel and it pulls absolutely no punches when trying to display and emphasise the horrors the men and woman fighting in World War II faced.
Band of Brothers sets out to remember those who served in World War II and show us what they had to endure. There is so much for each of us to take from the series, but my own impressions are that the intention was not to glorify war or to paint these men as superhuman.
There is a touching moment (among many) in the extras when Major Dick Winters quotes a passage from a letter he received from Sergeant Mike Ranney, “I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘No…but I served in a company of heroes’.”Continue reading “Remembrance 2020”
Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.
Il ne faut pas toucher aux idoles: la dorure en reste aux mains.
― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
How I love when art gets meta: when a writer or artist has the self-awareness and genuine capacity to make fun of themselves. That’s what we mean when we say the writing is “honest”. There’s no agenda to convince or win over the reader, just a need to show, everything, even the warty not-attractive bits.
Seventeen years ago on September 9, 2001, a documentary-like mini-series tribute to D-Day and to WWII, Band of Brothers, aired its two first episodes. Two days later that same year the world turned upside down. It was very difficult for any entertainment to be very entertaining in the days after September 11, 2001. If there were people who looked at ratings, advertising revenue, critical reviews and other such metrics to gauge the success of a series, chances are that they, like the rest of us, were distracted by other headlines. On this anniversary, I wanted to examine how Band of Brothers was perceived by critics, before and after September 11, 2001.