Monday, March 8, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, March 8, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that after six quick jabs from the Mareth Line toward the British Eighth Army on Saturday, Rommel’s panzers had been forced to retreat while losing fully 50 tanks to the forces of General Montgomery.

Off the coast of New Guinea and Goodenough Island, American shore patrols killed 80 Japanese survivors of the ship sinkings from the Battle of the Bismarck Sea as they waded ashore, from one salty hell fast into the blazing teeth of another. Three were captured. Five others escaped. One could hardly blame the escapees.

The Russians captured Sychevka, 35 miles north of Vyazma, last stronghold of German resistance in the central sector triangle of Velikie Luki to Vyazma to Rzhev. Another pincer took Sergo-Ivanovskaya, 24 miles northeast of Vyazma.

The map shows the tremendous territory re-captured by the Russians since the counter-offensive began three and a half months earlier on November 19.

There were few survivors in this theater as well.

The comics page of January wasn't kidding when it spoke of a Captain Hitler in the American Air Corps, leading his squadron of Mosquitoes--or was it one comprised of gliders?-- over Germany.

There was not only a Captain Paul Hitler, but a Captain Carl Goering, and Lieutenant Heil as well in the American Army.

But was this trio of officers any way to build morale among the men?

--Atteeen-tion! Lieutenant Heil and Captain Hitler will be leading you men on training exercises into the Dismal Swamp. You will bivouac for a full week under the command of Heil and Hitler. Captain Goering will be coordinating air reconnaissance for the training mission. Gut luck.

The only ones missing from the quintet were the medic, "Doc" Goebbels, and the head of the M.P.'s, Harry Himmler.

--Hey, doc, ye think I'll pull through on this broken ankle? Say, anyone ever tell ye, doc, that ye resemble that German guy in the movies, what's his name? Max Shrek. Wait a minute, Goebbels, what's with the hacksaw? I'll report ye to Major Himmler if ye don't put that down.

On the editorial page, "Dixie Touch" celebrates the better than national average among Southern labor for absenteeism and offers this exemplary brotherhood among the south's workers as a national model for patriotism.

"Slice, Slice" observes that the policy previously initiated, just abandoned, by the Government to eliminate sliced bread in favor of whole loaves to abate waste had only served not only to increase consumption by causing bread to go stale sooner than in slices, but also had caused a run by wives on knives, cutting into the steel shortage.

"Sidelight" finds sentimental retardation in wistfully recalling that which it fondly pictures as the good old days out of a vignette offered by Louis Graves, writing in The Chapel Hill Weekly, anent the black man, campus grass-mower, asked by his helpful tax form assistant to name his eight children, finding the recollection of the fourth and eighth problematic. It seems they had only called the fourth, a girl, "Sweet", and the eighth, a newborn boy, "Baby", and, for the life of the gentleman, he could not recall their true names. And so the tax form assistant settled for the nom de guerre bestowed on each. At least, the father didn't supply the name "Precious".

Ah, the longing, languid, willowy quaintness of "Gone With the Wind" on the veranda strikes at the julepped heartstrings of a Southern white once again.

Ourselves, we politely gag at the sentiment and move on down the road, now well-paved, even if too much so in some parts.

Raymond Clapper summarizes the air superiority of the Allies being demonstrated now in the Pacific, with the overwhelming victory at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, in the persistent raids over Germany and France with no more than a whimper of retaliatory strikes by the Luftwaffe, and in Tunisia, where bombing raids persisted consistently on Tunis and Bizerte and other hot spots of Nazi occupation, especially in northern and southern Tunisia. He cites the fact of 5,500 planes, 3,500 of which were combat aircraft, having been manufactured in the United States just in the previous month as representative of the air capability now being deployed.

Lose even two for every one of the enemy shot down and the odds would still favor the Allies, he offers, while hastening to add that the Allied loss ratio was, by comparison, de minimis--typically five percent, for instance, in the bombing raids over central Europe--amounting to only three (though apparently subsequently revised to be five) in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea as the Allies reportedly shot down 82 Japanese planes.

Samuel Grafton, as he had Saturday, again ferrets out the conundrum of trying to solve manpower shortages on the farm, to increase food production for the domestic market, by shifting men away from the Army, thereby prolonging the war, especially harmful to the Russians with the Nazis on the run, headed back for Poland along the Smolensk Road or into the Black Sea, west of Rostov. Make the shift being advised by Senator Bankhead or William Green of Labor, and the war might critically be delayed, says Mr. Grafton, resulting in far more American casualties than would otherwise be necessary by reducing the number of men to send to open a second front in Europe.

A year into American involvement in the war found the country not a splendid picture of harmony and understanding, united in the fighting spirit. There were rumblings, reminiscent of the pre-war spirit of isolationism, if not as determined or enumerated in such plenty.

It was a somewhat sparse day for news and an alternatingly redundant and repressed one for display of the usual wit, art, and wisdom ordinarily populating the editorial page.

It reminds, in its dullness, indeed, of last night’s Academy Awards, albeit not being, in that case, much exception from recent years, likewise characterized by the untiring insipidity of this tired and increasingly tiring annual performance. When are they going to do away with that antiquated Muzak as a backdrop, reminiscent of a movie soundtrack from the 1950's? and all those lights and sequins and phony-baloney sets, reminiscent of a 1930's musical?

Next year, why not just say, "The winners are:" at the beginning of the program, skip all of the formalities, have all of the victors come to the stage at once and collectively state, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank yoooooou, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and most of all thank you, mom, who, we are sorry to say, died last night before hearing this wonderful news, and the dog--Hi, Miss Pittypat!--who is, sadly, dying as we speak, in need of a brain transplant--please help, if your dog could be a donor, we would appreciate it…" and sit down? That way, in about fifteen minutes, the same thing with the same impact on the public would be accomplished with far more economy.

The only reason people tune into the Academy Awards ceremony is to see the unexpected, the streak, the one-handed push-ups, the crazy acceptance speech, someone making an inappropriate political statement to a round of boos, the running past the deadline making the local people of the news department frustrated by having to keep their makeup from running under the lights longer than normally--the humor. Where is the humor? After hearing two or three of those Best Actor introductions, we had thought that they were about to be canonized, not nominated for Best Actor. Extricate all of the spontaneous wetness and supplant it with dry remoteness, as some alcoholic gone suddenly so sober that he thinks the rest of the world is drunk for laughing at all, and you strip everything out worth watching. You strip out the life, the unrehearsed candor of it all.

We can't even see but limited snippets of political convention coverage to see how our democracy is working anymore, for the networks' collective decision that they were not enough business-like for the tastes of the network executives, sophisticated as we know they are by the programming typifying their daily schedules, so wonderfully imbued with educational and erudite content.

So, why present three whole hours of the Academy Awards? Next year, have an ice show or something for two hours and forty-five minutes and then fifteen minutes of edited fame. It will be every bit as interesting.

Ditto for the Best Picture and Best Director this year. We suggest not quitting your day jobs.

We happened to see "The Hurt Locker" Saturday night. It was okay for the first thirty minutes, but then became disjointed, nonsensical, and redundant, beyond acceptability, without art for the most part the whole way--a williwaw swirling across the desert sand in one scene, notwithstanding. The palpable tension which was indeed created worked for the first thirty minutes, but then simply became a redundant video game the rest of the way--perhaps existentially emblematic of the war though it might be, not something, however, which makes a two-hour movie worth watching for two hours.

Why, for instance, did the soldier contemplate killing his fellow on the emergency detonation squad by considering whether to detonate a bomb as his compadre went down into the valley to retrieve his forgotten gloves from the bomb site? The scene might have worked had there been any logical foreshadowing of it. What was he so angry about, what his motive? the fact that the demolitions expert took off his communications headset during the previous mission? Next time, in the sequel, maybe have the detonator accidentally go off, the soldier, nearly killed, but only slightly wounded, then return to beat up the hapless incompetent to within an inch of his life. Now, it works when in a subsequent scene, the stewing malefactor duly provoked deliberately contemplates murder. As it was, it was simply, as with most of the film, a scene amid a collection of scenes without cohesion, without sense in the whole fabric of the film, culled from a dozen other war films on Vietnam from the 1970's and 1980's, re-enacted and then spliced together into this one, set, instead of amid the jungle, in the desert.

If we wish to watch a documentary on the Iraq war, or Vietnam Redux, as this film tried without success to present itself, that annoying tv-esque shaky faux free-hand camera being thrown gratuitously into the bargain for those with Attention Deficit Disorder, then we shall watch a documentary on the Iraq war, infinitely more engaging and informative.

The acting in this film was uniformly quite good, we thought, and that is both to the credit, obviously, of the actors and the direction. But acting alone, without a script worth noticing and without competent direction otherwise, especially as to the continuity of the storyline, indeed without any movement of the story at all into the realm of art, just one long linear track on a dusty street, winds up after two hours as an amateurish appearing hodge-podge, something with the look and feel of television, without any comment on the war itself, one much in need of articulate cinematic comment by this juncture, seven years on, eight and a half years from its putative cause. Not, more flag-waving.

The portrayal of Iraqis, nearly uniformly, as suspicious, stupid peasants or terrorists with bomb-triggering cell phones--every worn out war-film "intense" scene, save the baby carriage wired to the radio--ready to kill themselves or Americans at the drop of a hat, was outrageously biased, stereotypically so, and likely to get more American soldiers and American civilians killed in the future than to be ameliorative of post-war relations, instilling of any understanding of the Iraqi point of view with regard to invaders in their country, with regard to the power vacuum left for absence of planning after removal of the despot from their midst.

The film was not for a thinking person as no thinking, obviously, went into the making of it. Mere technically efficient technique does not a worthwhile film make. Give us art and bad technique any day. And you win the war.

The most unjust war in which America has ever involved itself deserves no ceremony; this film deserved no Academy Award. But, on both counts, that's show business, we suppose.

Perhaps, on second thought, as support for the war in Iraq was driven in 2003 by the White House public relations men and their surrogates drumming up American sentiment behind it, through emotions and lies rather than by rationale posited on competently obtained intelligence, and as the awards for this piece of cinematic loopage were driven by public relations behind the arras undertaken in the Hollywood press, per the routine of recent decades, there is some McLuhan-esque statement to be derived from its being chosen. But we have to wonder if that was its intended message--that our society is becoming so corporatized, so technically efficient, so stage-managed in the shadow-box, without art, as to be Fascist in its final effect.

Who is writing most of the scripts these days, the Limbeck?

You know what we're talkin' about.

The Green Beret at the bar said it all. What more need be said on the subject?

That's why we found "Inglourious Basterds" refreshing. It had art, not just artisanship. Try it, Hollywood. You won't be disappointed.

Again, we state all of the above with the caveat that we have still seen only two of the ten nominated films and none of the others in the other categories.

But, please, no more shaky cameras. It makes us nervous. Do people jump around the room or something while watching this stuff? Or is it just the prescriptions? We have to keep moving our head to follow the action.

--Shaky camera? Sure thing. They might go to sleep during this turkey otherwise.

Or, maybe it was just a nervous cameraman.

Use the shaky camera to enliven the boring awards ceremony and then you may actually hit on something both funny and interesting, something out of the cookie-cutter box of canned ideas from fifty years ago and more, already rote ideas even then.

The way things are going, next year, try a new category, Hollywood: Best Comedy Short Subject in Movies over Forty Years Old, Give or Take a Decade. And the Winner is: "Ronald-Raygun-Zap".

Overall review, movie, ceremony rewarding it, and Iraq War: See the men standing above the operatic stage as the camera slowly pans up to the catwalk.

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