Midway 1976

The original Midway movie has been on my mind since I was underwhelmed by the 2019 version. Tonight I made the effort to watch it again.

Either I have grown up somewhat or I was too harsh in my original judgement of it – which is probably why I have avoided it for years – but it is not as bad as I remember it.

It has a similarly contemporary stellar cast to Midway 2019 so it’s not like the quality of the actors is a factor in the failure of 2019; certainly the quality of the acting is though. I feel that the modern attempt simply lacks an awareness of basic storytelling and instead falls back on a series of cliches and one-liners that totally fail to impart any sense of urgency or drama to the story.

Watching Midway 1976 tonight, I really felt the gravity of a battle on which both sides depended for strategic survival. Ultimately for the US, Midway was the end of the beginning; for Japan it was the beginning of the end…that sense of urgency, of great issues at stake, comes through so much better in the 1976 version.

Even though it relies on live footage for most of its combat scenes, the earlier version acknowledges it in the opening credits. Even though some of the scenes cut JAG-like between aircraft types…what was a Vindicator is now a Dauntless is now a Hellcat…it is remarkable effective, more so when one remembers that this footage is of actual young men in combat, where an aircraft explodes in flame or smashes into the ocean, there are actual people aboard…It’s a lot smoother than the incredibly-detailed but chaotically-edited digital imagery of the latter version.

The earlier production also relies heavily on surviving aircraft from the era: the J2F Duck parked outside HQ CINCPAC (fond memories of the Airfix Duck that I finished in a night and painted with Mum’s oil colours – which took a year to cure!); stubby F4F Wildcats on the deck of one of the carriers (Dad brought me one back from one of his trips to Wellington – finished in a day but used the right(-ish) paints this time; and the Catalinas that spotted the Japanese fleet and rescued Ensign George Day, the sole survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8, who spent the day of the battle avoiding attention as he floated in the middle of the Japanese fleet.

1976 makes only scant mention of Pearl Harbor and starts with Jimmy Doolittle’s daring launch from the Hornet on 18 April 1982 with black and white footage from (I think, I’ve never seen the movie) Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. In the first 10-15 minutes, Midway The Earlier has established the Doolittle Raid as the chief catalyst for the Japanese drive on Midway, and established the Japanese objective “AF” as Midway. It does this without any smug smiles or glib one-liners: the characters of Nimitz, Fletcher, Rochefort, etc are well-played and feel authentic.

On the Japanese side, the characters are more Western than their portrayal in either Pearl Harbor or Midway 2019; we are spared the contemporary fascination with subtitles in favour of clear unaccented English. Even so, the characters feel less like caricatures than their modern equivalents, less 2D and more like real people. And Midway 1976 depicts the Japanese as people as well, not the brutal barbarians shown in Pearl Harbor and Midway 2019.

Midway was THE battle that changed the course of the Pacific War: Coral Sea stopped the Japanese advance south, Midway turned them around. After Midway everything was downhill for Japan. It’s a tale that deserves to be told well. Give the 1976 Midway a second chance and hunt down some of the excellent reading available on the battle…

Ice Cold in Alex

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Something else that I picked up from the Warewhare bargain bin, the 60th Anniversary issue…it’s been sitting in the wait list for weeks, til I was in the mood for something like this…

Ice Cold is one of the real British classics, understated and effective with elements of edge of the chair suspense and quiet humour against the backdrop of one of the less known theatres of World War 2. Although all the major Allied nations campaigned in North Africa, few know the details of the battles that raged up and down and back again along the North African coast from 1940 until 1943.

We may know some of the placenames…Tobruk, El Alamein…some of the personalities…Montgomery, Freyberg, Upham…but little of the detail…I’m likely that, as part of my guinea pig role at Waikato, I was able to study the New Zealand Division in WW2 under Laurie Barber and credit that one paper with opening my eyes to the ebbs and flows of this campaign.

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Ice Cold is the story of an Austin K.2 ambulance named Katie – the style brought to life for many in Airfix’s classic Emergency Set – retreating from Tobruk to Alexandria with a very small but very effective cast, only four key characters including Harry “You Can’t Kill a Squadron” Andrews, with a dozen or so minor supporting roles…through minefields, avoiding German land and air patrols, and negotiating steel sand drifts, hard rocky ground, and soft treacherous desert sands…

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The driving motivation through Katie’s odyssey is the vision of an ice cold beer in Alex(andria) and the end of the journey…

There’s plenty of opportunity for spoilers so I won’t go any further other than to say that this is a must-see classic…and the sort that I can watch time and again, each time picking up subtleties that I have missed before…

…possibly quite a timely one as I’m researching potential ‘ice colds’ for this summer…

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…seeking a vision that will motivate Tongariro Alpine Crossing hikers throughout this summer…

…possibly with onion rings…

 

The little dog that ran away…

…pretty well sums up my day…three times I’ve been out in the rain chasing the little ratbag…I didn’t used to worry too much but she has been out on the road a couple of times now…

…she ran away at breakfast time, just in time for a fire call across to Whakapapa Village; got back to confiscate the tunnel and fill in the wooden horse…the next time, I was a little slow with the door bringing in firewood and was almost late – but definitely wet – for my FENZ annual health check; for the trifecta, she bolted past me as I was loading the RARO laptops for a SARTrack training session at the school, putting in an appearance at the gate and being confined – noisy little yap dog – in the back of the truck til I finished fire training – fun with extinguishers – tonight…

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Our movie treat – and it truly was a treat – tonight was Darkest Hour, the lesser known story of Britain’s darkest hour in May 1940 when all appeared lost, the German juggernaut unstoppable and poised to cross the Channel. When surrender, at best, negotiated terms, was entirely on the cards as Britain stood alone…when  the unpopular and anguished Churchill defined the fate of the nation…

I was singularly unimpressed by last year’s Dunkirk; the semi-comedy Finest Hour was more Dunkirk than Dunkirk…Darkest Hour captures that time, with France and the rest of Europe fallen, a disastrous and expensive campaign in Norway that achieved naught when Britain had to chose between standing and falling…

The pivotal underground scene probably never happened, some artistic license around the great man’s occasional habit of delving into the people. I don’t remember it from any of the histories or bios that I have read and we’ll probably never know what brought Churchill to the point of open defiance and the legendary speech that concludes:

…we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

The full text is on the Churchill Society site, or listen to it:

It’s worth a listen as Churchill describes the collapse of campaign in France. This is indeed mobilising language and sending it into battle, a rare art…

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Little dogs aside, it’s been a good day, a community day…I should have been writing letters and continuing the campaign but after so long, I’m just over it. Someone came up to me in the Village today and said that he used to be in the banking industry and knew a bit about it. He’d read something I had written a couple of days ago (detail hereand just wanted to make sure that he’d understood it. “Here it comes” I thought, “finally the reverse smoking gun from someone who knows that points out an obvious hole in my campaign with ANZ”.

But no, he agreed with me, for personal and commercial lending, disclosure of additional lending to guarantors is expected and required. This is what is so frustrating…giving up and walking away is just not me, even less so when everything I know says that we;re in the right…but how do you poke the bully in the eye hard enough to divert it from its course?

Five years ago, this all started with an ANZ branch manager; now it’s been escalated all the way to the board of ANZ New Zealand Ltd who still intend proceeding on their juggernaut path; who had the gall to suggest that poor ANZ might not be able to recoup all the money it loaned so recklessly; who really don’t seem to get the concept of taking responsibility for their actions, or as leaders, the actions of their subordinates…

They may be trite but the words of Ben Parker still ring so true…

With great power comes great responsibility…

Actually…Voltaire said it first: With great power comes great responsibility.

Others prefer a more-recent attribution, citing Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Spiderman.

Winston Churchill said: The price of greatness is responsibility.

But the sentiment rings true…maybe Antonia Watson, David Hisco and their bud son the board need to reflect on that and do the right thing

I sing you to me…

…just finished watching Australia…and really liked it…in my younger days I had a soft spot for those Aussie mini-series like Sword of Honour, The Flying Doctors, The Last Frontier, etc…I think that they are something that Australia does really well and that it’s a good indicator of the domestic maturity of your film industry when you can make a movie about yourself where everybody DOESN’T die in the last five minutes, that isn’t controversial or revisionist and that keeps legends alive…we’ve become very good at making other people’s movies here, when will we see New Zealand?

To be honest, I still have a soft spot for movies with a upbeat conclusion – I really don’t need much reminding that the world can be a bad place and that the bad guys usually win and the little guy always gets ground down – I just don’t want to be reminded in ‘my’ time so I guess I am a bit of a sucker for true blue hero stories…more so when accompanied by a good soundtrack. Waltzing Matilda makes me sad from the time I first saw the original On the Beach: no longer upbeat but haunting…