Frank's Faves: Veterans Day movies

Frank's Faves: Veterans Day movies

"I will kneel to God Almighty, praisin' him for all he's done ... (but) I will stand up for my country until my dyin' day, and I'll respect the flag when they play our song; I'll never take a knee." — The Moron Brothers

Is it just me, or does it seem like Veterans Day this Saturday seems to be carrying a whole lot more weight on its shoulders than in recent years? Maybe that's because it is also being observed on Sunday and Monday this year with a National Boycott the NFL Day as a counterprotest to the players' national-anthem demonstrations.

While I am all for this Veterans Day show of support for our flag and members of the armed services, it couldn't have come on a worse weekend for diehard football fans in these parts — and me personally. After all, come on, the Bears and the Packers, the NFL's oldest rivalry, are playing Sunday — at Chicago's Soldier Field, no less. How would I be showing support for our soldiers by turning my back on a stadium named in their honor?

Tough call, any way you look at it.

But totally your call. Thank God we live in a country where we're free to disagree on such things. And ... thank a veteran. And if you do feel strongly enough that the NFL players' national-anthem protest deserves a counterprotest in support of our troops, I salute you.

And I offer a suggestion. If you need alternate viewing possibilities this weekend, might I suggest a good Veterans Day movie? Or five of them?

I hear via our film critic Chuck Koplinksi that a good one is in theaters right now, director Jason Hall's "Thank You for Your Service." I haven't seen it yet, but I have seen quite a few others suitable for this occasion.

In fact, I've listed some of my favorite war movies before — for Memorial Day a couple of years ago — and while those are good diversions to pro football's militaristic terms and strategies (not to mention its bone-crunching action), I think Veterans Day movies should be more about veterans ... and the lives they live after they serve.

So, in their honor ... no, rather, BECAUSE of their honor, I humbly submit:


— "Gran Torino" (2008). Clint Eastwood directed and stars as a recently widowed and disgruntled Korean War veteran who sets out to reform his neighbor, a Hmong teenager who tried to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino, and winds up a hero to the youth's family when he stands up to a local gang in their defense.

— "Legends of the Fall" (1994). Three brothers (Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas) leave their father (Anthony Hopkins) and their remote wilderness home in Montana to fight in World War I. Only two make it home, and both fall for their fallen brother's fiancee (Julia Ormond). Not your typical war-veteran movie, but it remains a gorgeous piece of filmmaking and a truly thought-provoking examination of the toll of survivor's guilt.

— "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989). Tom Cruise as U.S. Marine Ron Kovic comes home from the Vietnam War paralyzed but optimistic, until the psychological damage from the war begins to wear on him, and he eventually evolves into a dedicated anti-war activist. One of the best films from writer-director and Vietnam vet Oliver Stone, based on Kovic's best-selling autobiography.

— Coming Home" (1978). Jane Fonda nearly redeems her personal Vietnam War record with her performance as the wife of a U.S. Marine captain (Bruce Dern) deployed to Vietnam who falls in love with a paralyzed Vietnam veteran (Jon Voight) while her husband is overseas. Oscar rewarded two of the three lead performances with best acting awards, but Dern's career turn as the justifiably bitter, cuckolded serviceman remains every bit as worthy.

— "Forrest Gump" (1994). Tom Hanks' title character is a dim but true veteran, yet it's Gary Sinise's career performance as the angry, damaged Lt. Dan Taylor who loses his legs but not his life in Vietnam, thanks to Gump's Medal of Honor heroism (which continues well beyond their war service), that leaves a lasting impact on viewers.

BONUS FAVE: Best Veterans Day movie I've yet to see

"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946). Yeah, well, not yet anyway. I've heard most of my life what a landmark motion picture this is about veterans' struggles to return to civilian life but have somehow never had the occasion to see it. Except this year. I'll be recording it off TCM on Veterans Day ... and watching it Sunday. Instead of football. It really is the least I can do compared to what they did ... and do.

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