Saturday, August 9, 2014
By MICHAEL WALSH
Like the X-Files' Fox Mulder, I want to believe. In my case, what I want to believe in is the basic goodness of humankind, and of our willingness to learn from our mistakes. Looking about on this, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, that's not an easy call.
History tells us that the use of atomic weapons on a defeated Japan was unnecessary and inhuman. The lesson that we seem incapable of learning is that wars never end well. Armed conflict is never worth the cost, and there is no such thing as "victory."
And yet here we are in August 2014, awash in media-driven nostalgia for the First World War, an unmitigated disaster for all concerned. In the midst of all the new jingoism, a precious few voices are pointing out the direct links between that early 20th-century realignment of empires and the insane conflicts generating today's headlines from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Still we cling to our belief. We recall bits of poetry — Alexander Pope's 1734 assertion that "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" — and heartfelt quotes from those who have experienced injustice — police-beating victim Rodney King's 1992 plea "can we all get along?"
And that hope is real. In preparing my Rhapsody in August posting, I discovered the story of Father George Zabelka, a U.S. Army Air Force chaplain. Zabelka was the Catholic priest for the airmen of the 509th Composite Group, the men who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He gave them his blessing.
The horror of what he had done never left him. After the war, Zabelka became a priest for peace, working with Martin Luther King during the U.S. civil rights struggle. Until his death in 1992, he preached the gospel of pacifism and nuclear disarmament from his Flint, Michigan pulpit. "I was there. I was wrong," he said of his military ministry in an August 1985 speech.
Stories are important to fostering hope and, perhaps, positive change. I do take the view that that glass is always half full, and will carry on in that belief. My ten most recent reviews:
RHAPSODY IN AUGUST — Master director Akira Kurosawa's 1991 meditation on family, forgiveness and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki was not well received in the United States. (Posted August 9)
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES — Before it mutated into a money-spinning franchise, there was actually a satirical point to its "heroes on the half shell," something still visible in this 1990 live-action feature. (Posted August 8)
CHARIOTS OF FIRE — The 60th anniversary of the Roger Bannister/John Landy "Miracle Mile" race in Vancouver brought to mind this 1981 sports movie classic, and my interview with its star, BEN CROSS, on the eve of the 1982 Academy Awards (Posted August 7)
A FISH CALLED WANDA — An inspiration to all senior citizens, the all-but-forgotten British writer-director Charles Crichton managed a spectacular golden-years comeback in 1988 with this Oscar-nominated hit comedy. (Posted August 6)
BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS — Wealth and mainstream fame eluded porno auteur Gerard Damiano during his lifetime, but he never stopped experimenting within his genre, producing this Bergmanesque fantasy in 1981. (Posted August 4)
BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS — Roger Corman, a producer legendary for his penny-pinching, spent an estimated $2 million in 1980 to parody George Lucas's Star Wars with this homage to Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai. (Posted August 1)
THE TERMINATOR — On the occasion of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 67th birthday, Reeling Back says "blame Canada" for his rise to superstardom (and political prominence) following his appearance in this 1985 sci-fi classic. (Posted July 30)
JAWS — Anticipating another Sharknado attack, Reeling Back identifies the man responsible for the onslaught of scary fish: David Brown, the producer who brought along a young director named Steven Spielberg and his 1975 superhit. (Posted July 28)
HERCULES — As 2014 has seen two new pepla celebrating the son of Zeus, it seemed only fair to look back at 1983's incarnation of the Graeco-Roman muscleman, the one that starred Lou Ferrigno in the title role. (Posted July 27)
LA FEMME NIKITA — In common with Joss Whedon, writer-director Luc Besson has shown a career-long interest in strong women, an appreciation he first demonstrated in this 1991 tale of France's most dangerous assassin. (Posted July 25)