Well, we’ve done Romance. And we’ve done Sci-Fi. So how’s about my top ten war films of all time? Obviously, no laughing matter. But neither are Sci-Fi films if you live in my head. (They’re all true, you know.) Here are mine – I’d love to hear yours: Stalingrad: As told from the Germans’ point of view. Something we don’t see an awful lot of in this country. Soldiers on the edge of the abyss. Truly horrific and heart-wrenching to see how the common soldier suffers and endures. (And my grandad fought there too. On t’other side, mind. He was a P.O.W. in a Nazi concentration camp.) The Deer Hunter. War has a lasting impression. A deep, psychological impression. But the bond of kinship is stronger. Pittsburgh steelworkers go to Vietnam and are so traumatised by their experience one of them stays to be a Russian Roulette ‘celebrity’. His ‘buddy’, who has designs on his wife, returns to rescue him from his psychosis. Who could forget, Colonel Kurtz? A fucked-up soldier in a fucked-up war. Vietnam/Cambodia. A US colonel goes renegade/insane due to the horrors he has witnessed/enacted. And Martin Sheen is on his case as the US assassin to cover up his atrocities. “The horror.” Okay, a bit of a Hollywood epic. Still a great movie for its grasp of the complete and utter failure of a mission. Not just a failure of the mission, but the ineptitude of allied commanders and politicians. And a true story. Hamburger Hill. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. But what I like about this film is the absolute futility of war. It’s like watching dominoes being knocked over. But they aren’t dominoes. They are human beings who bleed and die. It was this or Kubrik’s Full Metal Jacket. (Or Paintlater’s Three Kings.) Probably one of the best war stories ever told. A squad of Rangers are sent out to rescue a para, whose two brothers have also been recently killed, from behind D-Day enemy lines. (It’s a PR exercise by the US govt.) How many should die to save one man? Could’ve done without the ‘book-ends’ in my book. You didn’t think I’d forget Platoon, did you? As usual, the only people to get screwed are those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. A masterpiece in social microcosm. It’s the Russian version of Hamburger Hill/Stalingrad. A forlorn company tries to hold out against a horde of Afghan liberators. And when I say ‘horde’, we’re talking ‘Zulu’ territory. Another one from Germany’s point of view. But this time made in Hollywood. James Coburn shows his commanding officer just what it takes to win the coveted Cross of Iron. His C.O. wants the medal but also likes to lead from the back. Not in Coburn’s book. And … the Oscar goes to … my all-time favourite: The Thin Red Line. An absolute masterpiece of poetry and war by Terence Malick. How nature, life, love and war de-harmonise in the Pacific. Not exhaustive by any stretch. And I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads. ‘All quiet on the western front’ might get a few votes. Feel free to suggest your faves.
Tag Archives: cross of iron
For many a year now, the urban legend has existed about a sanitation company whose strapline is: “No 1 in the No 2 business.”
Though, I’ve never actually seen a company strapline remotely resembling such a promise. (Not that I’ve looked particularly hard.)
On my way home this evening, circling the Manchester Orbital – or M60 – as it’s affectionately known, I found myself behind one of those cylindrical container trucks. And, lo-and-behold! There it was: John Howe We’re No 1 for your No 2s.
A company who specialises in emptying septic tanks. (The line was on the back. But you can check their website for proof.)
One of the great lines of all time and deserves a Cross of Iron for having the balls to run with it.
There’s a scene in Cross of Iron where James Coburn’s character, Sgt Steiner, is having a final showdown with his weasely commanding officer, Captain Stransky, played by Maximmilian Schell.
The film is set on the Eastern Front during the Russian counter offensive in 1943.
What has all this got to do with advertising, I hear you ask.
All Captain Stransky wants is an Iron Cross, (Germany’s equivalent of our Victoria Cross or America’s Purple Heart), but he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty getting it.
In fact, he’ll do pretty much anything to make sure he doesn’t have to face the enemy himself.
Including betraying his own men.
Steiner, the archetypal hero, who’d do anything for his men and has faced more bullets than a Mexican firing squad pole, informs him that you can’t just expect to get a medal for turning up. You have to go out there and do something above and beyond the call of duty.
The same should be said about awards.
At one particular advertising awards that I was honoured to be judging, I couldn’t help but notice that rather a lot of “good work” was getting through to the next stage of the competition.
My problem with this was – isn’t “Good Work” what we should be doing as a matter of course?
Surely, producing “good”, or even “very good” work is just having a good day at the office.
To warrant getting a medal it needs to be OUTFUCKINGSTANDING.
To have done something extraordinary. Something that no mere mortal could possible dream of aspiring to. (Even though we do.)
It needs to be valuable. It needs currency.
And achieving that is difficult. Very difficult. For everyone. That’s why it takes hard work, determination, diligence and most of all, desire.
I don’t believe that the best creative people do the best creative work.
I believe the most determined do.