Unfinished business

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Published: May 01 2017, 01:01:am

Monday, May 1, 2017

     On the 100th day of his presidency (April 29), Donald Trump sat down with political chat show host John Dickerson for an interview. Broadcast yesterday (April 30) on CBS-TV’s Face the Nation, it featured the U.S. chief executive speaking to the issue of North Korea and its nuclear test program.

    Much has been made of his characterization of the communist state’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un as a “pretty smart cookie.” Listening to Trump, I wondered whether renewing military action on the Korean peninsula was part of his promise to “make America great again.” My mind drifted back to 1964, the year that the folk-singing Chad Mitchell Trio released a new song called Barry’s Boys.

    A mock marching song, it took aim at the college campus “conservatives” who rallied on behalf of that year’s Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. (During the 2016 presidential contest, Donald Trump supporters were fond of reminding voters that the Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton, had once been a “Goldwater girl.”)

    Barry’s Boys contains the rousing lyric “So let's go back to the days when men were men / And start the First World War all over again.” Today, as Trump certainly knows, the Korean War represents an historic example of unfinished business.

    Currently, the Republic of Korea (or South Korea), is in the 66th year of its war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Divided since 1945, the Korean peninsula was the site of a three-year shooting war that began in June of 1950 when the North, supported by China and the U.S.S.R., invaded the South, an ally of the U.S.

    America responded by taking the lead in a United Nations “police action” that included troops from 15 other nations, the largest contingents being from the U.K., Canada, Turkey and Australia. A 1953 armistice agreement left the two Koreas divided along the 38th parallel, but technically still at war.

    Yesterday, it seemed as if Trump was hoping to get the band back together again, a new coalition of the willing to bring America’s longest outstanding military embarrassment to a positive conclusion. (Before shipping out, the troops could be treated to a double feature of the two greatest Korean War movies, Robert Altman’s 1970 classic M*A*S*H and Terence Young’s 1981 epic Inchon.)

    After that, well, who knows? It may be time to tear up those 1973 Paris Peace Accords, that really terrible deal that ended the Vietnam War. While we're waiting to see how things work out, I’ll continue with my own Reeling Back project. The most recent additions to the archive include:

REUBEN, REUBEN — Director Robert Ellis Miller’s contribution to the sub-genre of mad poet movies, this 1983 romantic comedy introduced audiences to actress Kelly McGillis. Tom Conti starred as the self-destructive celebrity rhymer she falls in love with. (Posted April 30)

THE NEVERENDING STORY II: THE NEXT CHAPTER — This 1991 fantasy epic takes up the story begun in 1984’s The Neverending Story. Scots-born Australian director George Miller visited six countries, including Canada, during the production of his German-American family feature. (Posted April 29)

ANOTHER SMITH FOR PARADISE — Writer-director Tom Shandel made his feature film debut with this 1972 comedy about social mobility in a rapidly changing Vancouver. His satirical targets included the business, academic, artistic and ethnic communities. (Posted April 25)

A PRIVATE FUNCTION — Class consciousness in post-war Britain is played for laughs in director Malcolm Mowbray’s 1985 feature. Screenwriter Alan Bennett provided the witty dialogue for Monty Python alumnus Michael Palin and his co-star Maggie Smith. (Posted April 21)

EMBATTLED SHADOWS — Film scholar Peter Morris’s 1978 book, subtitled A History of Canadian Cinema 1895-1939, remains essential reading for anyone interested in the tangled roots of the art and commerce of moviemaking in the Great White North. (Posted April 19)

HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS — Working in the tradition of Disney’s early action fantasies, director Joe Johnston created this 1989 family feature. Rick Moranis stars as the genius whose latest invention has comic consequences for his offspring. (Posted April 18)

KNOWING THE WRITE STUFF — In my previous Editorial (aka Blog posting), I recalled the influential words of the great theatre critic Nathan Cohen, quoting his 1964 Toronto Star column headlined “Rules for Budding Critics”. I know of no better advice for any reviewer of the popular culture. (Posted April 16)

SEX, DRUGS & DEMOCRACY — In 1994, a generation before Canada embarked on its own project to legalize recreational cannabis, documentarist Jonathan Blank took a hard look at the tolerant social policies that made Holland stand out in a world that had declared “war” on drugs. (Posted April 16)

JÉSUS DE MONTRÉAL — Daringly conceived and superbly acted, writer-director Denys Arcand’s 1989 feature offers a backstage look at the production of a revisionist Passion Play. His film brims with insights into faith, organized religion and performance art. (Posted April 14)

MATINEE (Midnight Matinee) — Media artist Richard Martin made his fictional feature-film debut in 1989 with this character-rich variation on the teen slasher flick. Its cast includes many of the best Vancouver actors of the day. (Posted April 12)