Memorial Day Weekend. The official start of summer. Memorial Day (Observed). Three-Day Weekend. No mail service on Monday. Garbage pickup delayed by one day all week.
What are we to make of Memorial Day? Well, I guess we do a better job of commemorating the official job of it than we do Veterans Day.
Of course not everyone makes it to parades. Or to cemeteries. Not everyone has served in the military, though my dad did and most of my uncles, a couple of cousins. Many, many friends. In the U.S. we give such short shrift to many working people in terms of vacation days and holidays, that making a big commercial deal of Memorial Day is inevitable.
It's the Indianapolis 500 -- won this year under caution as one driver tried a bold move on the start of the last lap and ended up crashing. It's baseball -- with the Cubs swept by the Pirates to complete a 12-game losing skid, mollified only by a dramatic 11-7 win on Monday against the Evil Padres. (If you don't know why they're evil, then you don't know Cubs history.) (grin)
It's the National Memorial Day Concert on the Mall in Washington DC, hosted by Joe Mantegna and Gary Senise, with dramatic readings of letters of those left behind by war, carried live by PBS... well up until the point that they had to switch to a tape of last year's concert, due to severe weather rolling in and having to clear the space.
Even were I to wish to go to any of the public celebrations, parking and my left leg and crowds would have made it difficult. We mostly stayed home.
AMC in particular spent quite a lot of the weekend showing war movies -- it's how a lot of people who don't read, serve or talk to those who do, know anything about war. The weekend started, as I recalled, with Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, which we hadn't seen before. Wikipedia says it's "Tarantino's highest-grossing film to date." More than Kill Bill? Amazing. And quite an entertaining train wreck of a movie. Think of it as The Dirty Dozen but more improbable. (grin) Then there's Midway, which aside from some silly personal plotlines, I've always liked Midway more than Pearl Harbor's Tora! Tora! Tora! *** -- you can't beat not knowing how many carriers there are, or "sinking" the Yorktown twice, to turn an assured defeat into a great victory. And thank goodness no one seemed to be showing that stinker Pearl Harbor. Patton, always a personal favorite of mine and George C. Scott's greatest, gravelly role. Heartbreak Ridge, is also improbable and implausible, but there's very little else that covers the invasion of Grenada to free the American medical school students. Call it a guilty pleasure, especially to watch Clint & Co. chew up the scenery. The Great Escape, a romanticized version of an actual breakout during WW II. From the age of Big Epic Movies. I'm surprised it isn't paired up with Stalag 17 for a killer POW double-feature every time.
Then they ran Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers followed by Letters From Iwo Jima, his bookend movies about Iwo Jima -- one about the American invasion and the using of the publicity machine regarding the raising of the flag(s) over Iwo Jima to sell War Bonds, and the other about the Japanese essentially abandoned in place and dug in to delay the Americans and die for the Emperor. I saw most of both, Mrs. Dr. Phil packed it in because the second was running into the early morning hours. We hadn't seen either in the theatres, particularly since (mostly) B&W films don't get booked much and I swear Letters From Iwo Jima was only shown for a couple of days shy of a week on one screen in one theatre-plex in Grand Rapids.
History Channel's six part/three-night miniseries Hatfields & McCoys also began airing on Monday, and given that the roots for the feud began during the American Civil War, which also prompted the historical roots for Memorial Day itself, I suppose it could also be grandfathered into the Memorial Day war movie filmfest.
So there you have it -- a day (or weekend) of Memorial and remembrance of those who have fallen, distilled down to a few public events and hours of movies. Thanks to all who have served, who are serving and who will someday sign up to serve.
From others in the UCF:
David on family who served.
Vince in a poignant Ken Burns moment.
Random Michelle starts with a WW I sad comment.
And then there's Jim Wright from last year, as only Jim can put it.
*** Ack! I knew it was Tora not Toro. Thanks! Corrected 5-31-2012.