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Monday, May 27, 2002

Taken in the context of a day of remembrance, Pearl Harbor isn't such a bad flick. Actually, it's a good old-fashioned war movie, part soap opera, part video game, and part history lite. I have nothing against soap opera, and I like a movie better if it has a little romance in it anyway. As for the pyrotechnics, the attack sequence is stunningly pulled off, telling smaller, personal stories as it flashes through the big, world-changing story.

It's the history that's behind the movie that makes it special on this particular day. Real people are behind the characters portrayed, and real acts of bravery and sacrifice turned that horrible day into the beginning of something that would end in victory over tyranny. The DVD has interviews with some of the survivors of Pearl Harbor, and a documentary filled with chilling eyewitness accounts.

The picture is as complete now as we'll ever have it again. The survivors are in their seventies and eighties, and the next quantum leap in film technology will likely come too late to take advantage of their contributions. This movie honors them, along with their fallen comrades, by telling their stories and showing their humanity as well as their heroism. Today it was as important a document as the filmmakers set out to make.

On any other day, the stilted dialog and wooden characters might detract from the experience. I can see where all the lukewarm reviews came from, but I'd rather enjoy the movie for what it is, rather than complain about what it isn't. Sometimes there's more glory in the attempt than in the execution.

The impressions of Pearl Harbor are reinforced when you see the movie after watching HBO's graphic, disturbing documentary tribute to New York on 9/11. The two events seem to have become entwined in the minds of many of us. They're the twin towers of the last century of American history, from which all subsequent history diverges.

The unheeded warning, missed signals, and lack of communication that occurred in the months leading up to both attacks are part of the reason that both December 7 and September 11 were complete surprises. Both attacks also brought the nation together, thwarting the long-term objectives behind them. After initial confusion and many deaths, we drew strength from our suffering. The names of the victims and the heroes are called on the same roll.

If the attack on Pearl Harbor had been filmed and documented as much as September 11, we wouldn't need a movie about it. Chances are we would have made one anyway, but to those who lived through either of these great defining moments, forgetting isn't an option. That's part of what this holiday is about, reviving and passing on the memories.


Flags on Mom's mailbox and beyond.

Does that mean that tomorrow we go back to moving forward and living our lives? Yes, probably, because that's also what it's all about. We answer the call because our way of life is worth fighting for, and carrying on in the face of threats is part of that fight.

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Latest recommendation:

Stephanie, Yer Blues, May 27, For Those Who Served

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: An Off Day
"The answer, as it turns out, is: it just happens."

Two years ago: Intimations of Mortality
"Pain is a great motivator."

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