Ladybug Ladybug (1963), Director: Frank Perry, Running Time: 82 minutes.
Frank and Eleanor Perry, makers of "David and Lisa," have produced a new motion picture... a picture dedicated to life. Staff and students at a rural school react to a warning of an imminent nuclear attack, not knowing whether it is real or mistaken.
Les Carabiniers (1963), Director: Jean-Luc Godard, Running time: 80 minutes.
Godard's powerful anti-war and anti-imperialist film, Les Carabiniers, centers on two peasants who join the King's army. Seduced by the promise of riches, the two leave their wives and embark into the war sending postcards home that detail their conquests. Upon their return, they learn that a peace treaty has been signed and in turn, are betrayed by the king for their overzealousness.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2007), Director: Clint Eastwood, Running time: 140 minutes.
The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. General Kuribayashi, however, does not favor the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester among his staff. In the lower echelons, a young soldier, Saigo, a poor baker in civilian life, strives with his friends to survive the harsh regime of the Japanese army itself, all the while knowing that a fierce battle looms. When the American invasion begins, both Kuribayashi and Saigo find strength, honor, courage, and horrors beyond imagination.
Life Is Beautiful (1998), Director: Roberto Benigni, Running time: 116 minutes.
In this extraordinary tale, Guido (Benigni)—a charming but bumbling waiter who's gifted with a colorful imagination and an irresistible sense of humor—has won the heart of the woman he loves and created a beautiful life for his young family. But then, that life is threatened by World War II ... and Guido must rely on those very same strengths to save his beloved wife and son from an unthinkable fate! Honored with an overwhelming level of critical acclaim, this truly exceptional, utterly unique achievement will lift your spirits and capture your heart!
Lions for Lambs (2007), Director: Robert Redford, Running time: 91 minutes.
Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep deliver "three knockout performances" (Vue Weekly) in this powerful story about how the decision makers at the top affect American soldiers on the ground half a world away. An idealistic professor (Redford), a charismatic U.S. Senator (Cruise) and a probing TV journalist (Streep) have opposing viewpoints about the actions of our nation and the attitudes of its citizens. But the human consequences of war become chillingly clear for two of the professor's former students, who find themselves trapped behind enemy lines, fighting for freedom... and their very lives.
The Lives of Others (2006), Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Running time: 138 minutes.
Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this is a first-rate thriller that, like Bertolucci's The Conformist and Coppola's The Conversation, opts for character development over car chases. The place is East Berlin, the year is 1984, and it all begins with a simple surveillance assignment: Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe in a restrained, yet deeply felt performance), a Stasi officer and a specialist in this kind of thing, has been assigned to keep an eye on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, Black Book), a respected playwright, and his actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck, Mostly Martha). Though Dreyman is known to associate with the occasional dissident, like blacklisted director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), his record is spotless. Everything changes when Wiesler discovers that Minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme) has an ulterior motive in spying on this seemingly upright citizen. In other words, it's personal, and Wiesler's sympathies shift from the government to its people—or at least to this one particular person. That would be risky enough, but then Wiesler uses his privileged position to affect a change in Dreyman's life. The God-like move he makes may be minor and untraceable, but it will have major consequences for all concerned, including Wiesler himself. Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck starts with a simple premise that becomes more complicated and emotionally involving as his assured debut unfolds. Though three epilogues is, arguably, two too many, The Lives of Others is always elegant, never confusing. It's class with feeling. (Kathleen C. Fennessy for Amazon.com)
Lord of War (2005), Director: Andrew Niccol, Running time: 121 minutes.
Based on actual events, this black comedy/drama stars Nicholas Cage as international arms smuggler Uri Orlov. The story follows Uri from his humble beginnings as a Soviet immigrant in 1970s Brooklyn and peaks with his involvement in selling off the stockpiled arsenal of post-Cold War Ukraine to—among other top clients—the sadistic African dictator Andre Baptiste, Sr. (Eamonn Walker). Jared Leto costars as Uri s little brother Vitaly, whose conscience and a burgeoning cocaine problem get in the way of business. Ethan Hawke is good as a sanctimonious Interpol agent with a vendetta against Uri, but the film's biggest dose of onscreen gravitas comes from Walker, whose Baptiste seethes with a heavy, serpent-like malevolence. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the film makes fine use of the brisk stream-of-consciousness narration style that Martin Scorcese brought to the true crime genre with Goodfellas (1992), and a near constant flow of action and classic rock songs that ensure a speedy, riveting ride through three decades of global carnage. Cage, who co-produced, lets his patented oddball magnetism slowly change polarity, until viewers realize they’ve been led into a moral quagmire by falling for his self-delusory spiels about supply and demand, making this one of the bravest and most jet-black comedies of its decade.
M*A*S*H (1970), Director: Robert Altman, Running time: 116 minutes.
It's set during the Korean War, in a mobile army surgical hospital. But no one seeing M*A*S*H in 1970 confused the film for anything but a caustic comment on the Vietnam War; this is one of the counterculture movies that exploded into the mainstream at the end of the '60s. Director Robert Altman had labored for years in television and sporadic feature work when this smash-hit comedy made his name (and allowed him to create an astonishing string of offbeat pictures, culminating in the masterpiece Nashville). Altman's style of cruel humor, overlapping dialogue, and densely textured visuals brought the material to life in an all-new kind of war movie (or, more precisely, anti-war movie). Audiences had never seen anything like it: vaudeville routines played against spurting blood, fueled with open ridicule of authority. The cast is led by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland, as the outrageous surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre, with Robert Duvall as the uptight Major Burns and Sally Kellerman in an Oscar-nominated role as nurse "Hot Lips" Houlihan. The film's huge success spawned the long-running TV series, a considerably softer take on the material; of the film's cast, only Gary Burghoff repeated his role on the small screen, as the slightly clairvoyant Radar O'Reilly. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), Director: Nagisa Oshima, Running time: 124 minutes.
Director Nagisa Oshima and co-writer Paul Mayersburg's narrative is more fractured than in most films of the POW camp genre, in which the story inevitably leads to some kind of escape. They are interested in exploring the psychology of their characters and the geometry of the camp, in which the captors are both wardens and interrogators, and the prisoners both captors and resisters. A rarity among prisoner of war films, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence also addresses the subject of homosexuality, not in overt fashion, but as a fact of POW camp life. Using two androgynous performers, Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also wrote the film's score) and British musician David Bowie, to play the adversaries Yonoi and Celliers, Oshima suggests that Celliers' ability to withstand abuse from his captors elicits more than just admiration from the commandant. Tom Conti's John Lawrence is the supposed bridge between the two warring sides, thanks to his ability to speak Japanese, but he is powerless to stop the sadistic Sergeant Hara (Beat Takeshi Kitano, here billed as "Takeshi") from abusing Celliers. If the film isn't the crowd-pleaser that The Great Escape was or a more coherent mediation on the officers' code that Grand Illusion was, it is an honest attempt to examine the cultural differences that mark the POW setting.
A Midnight Clear (2007), Director: Dallas Jenkins, Running time: 102 minutes.
Set in 1944 France, an American Intelligence Squad locates a German Platoon wishing to surrender rather than die in Germany's final war offensive. The two groups of men, isolated from the war at present, put aside their differences and spend Christmas together before the surrender plan turns bad and both sides are forced to fight the other. (Written by Anthony Hughes for IMDb)
Miss Rose White (1992), Director: Joseph Sargent, Running Time: 100 minutes.
She fled Poland with her father before Hitler's invasion...her mother and older sister weren't as lucky. Fifteen years later, Rayzel Weiss is Rose White — a career girl with her own apartment and a promising future at the largest department store in Manhattan. Beautiful, successful and happy, she keeps her family's tragic past in a scrapbook hidden in her closet... until news comes that her long-lost sister somehow survived the ravages of World War II and is on her way to America. But when Lusia arrives, the reunion is haunted by memories of her struggle to survive...and an unspoken, unforgivable secret she shares with her father. As Rose struggles to balance her obligation to her sister with her dreams for the future, she is forced to confront the truth about her life and her family... and the past that she's managed to forget. The production received five Emmy Awards as well as the Humanitas Prize.
Missing (1982), Director: Costa-Gavras, Running time: 123 minutes.
The peril facing a lone American amid Third World political turmoil is elegantly communicated in this important film from Costa-Gavras, adapted by the director and Donald Stewart from Thomas Hauser's nonfiction book. The key to its power onscreen stems from the decision not to center the action merely on the disappearance of Charles Horman (John Shea), but also on the search for him by his father Ed (Jack Lemmon)—and on Ed's discovery of a son he never knew. The Oscar-winning script flows freely between that search and Charles's earlier experiences in the unnamed country (in the true account, Chile). Providing a link between those two stories is Charles's wife Beth (Sissy Spacek), who follows her father-in-law around a country in chaos, teeming with reckless authority and disinterested American diplomats (epitomized by ace character actor David Clennon). The film, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won the Cannes Film Festival's top prize, is certainly manipulative, but it works because of its finely detailed human elements. Usually emotionally extroverted, Lemmon gives one of his finest performances playing against that type—he's a controlled, intellectual man who learns more about his son, and his country, than he ever dreamed he would. (Doug Thomas for Amazon.com)
Mother Night (1996), Director: Keith Gordon, Running time: 113 minutes.
In 1961, the fictitious Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American by birth, shares the same deserted prison with Adolph Eichmann. As he prepares to stand trial for war crimes, the former playwright scribes his memoirs. Now this is the same Howard W. Campbell Jr. who was a notorious voice on German radio during the war, tearing into American policy and spreading Nazi propaganda. Was he a willful participant or an American spy? Campbell, who romanticizes at the drop of a hat, tells his story of indifference, morality, and love. His days of notoriety in Berlin give way to anonymity back in the States. He purrs about his true love (Sheryl Lee) and tells truths with his shrewd neighbor in New York (Alan Arkin).
The movie is based on Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 novel of the same name. Gordon and screenwriter Robert E. Weide have an uncommon insight into Vonnegut's material: the mesh of fact and fiction, the sweeping themes, the tragic goofiness. The movie is perfectly suited to Nolte's gruff style with a husky voice that pierces the night. The film is a cherished companion piece to Slaughterhouse Five. (Doug Thomas for Amazon.com)
My Name is Ivan (1962), Director: Andrei Tarkovsky, Running time: 95 minutes.