One of MCC’s steadfast rules is that every film I see in theaters gets its own entry, for better or worse or in between. My wife Anne and I saw Roland Emmerich’s Midway on opening weekend because World War II history is among her greatest proficiencies. Theaters don’t screen as many WWII films as they used to back in ancient times, but when they do, we try to be there. For us they’re good excuses for am afternoon date, even when they’re not a good use of filmmaking funds or resources.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Jojo Rabbit One of the Year’s Best Films!
That doesn’t mean much to anyone outside my own head, but it’s fun to type and just stare at it for a while. What if I said things and they mattered? Pretty cool daydream, right? Sometimes it’s comforting to traipse around in a world of pure imagination, until you’re forced to look at it from another angle and recognize when you’re wallowing in nonsense.
Longtime MCC readers know Anne is a lifelong American history aficionado with a deep specialization in World War 2. It comes up in our conversations even after all these years, in her reading matter and library selections, and even in our origin story. From time to time WWII has also come up during our travels. There was the time we spent hours in the massive National WWII Museum in New Orleans, then six months later my tour of the National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs, not to mention Anne’s birthday that same year, when we spent the afternoon with concentration camp survivor Eva Mozes Kor, among other occasions.
All told, WWII is kind of Anne’s thing. It was completely understandable that she would be intensely interested in visiting the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, in viewing artifacts and reminders drawn from the life of the American President who was in charge throughout most of that. The museum didn’t disappoint.
In an era when the word “Nazi” is being overused as an insult to the point of meaninglessness and being cherished as a badge of honor by warped minds with zero sense of morality or history, perhaps it’s a wise time to return to one of the classic Hollywood subgenres of yore: the Nazi-huntin’ adventure flick.
Operation Finale could have taken the crowd-pleasing shoot-’em-up route and very few who matter would’ve complained or been surprised with a mainstream director at the helm like Chris Weitz, whose credits include The Golden Compass, the second Twilight, and the original American Pie. The results are surprisingly low-key, mostly faithful to the original event, and curiously devoid of either bullets or accurately sickening Holocaust violence…which makes sense given that Eichmann wasn’t caught till 1960.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present. As of February 21st I’ve officially seen all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover all of them in full before the Oscars telecast on March 4th, but let’s see how far I can get before I burn out.
Onward to nominee #5, Darkest Hour, the second and more old-fashioned of the two World War II entrants into the race as brought to us by director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna). The short version of this entry: my wife Anne, lifelong WWII buff, found this much more engrossing than Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Your Mileage May Vary.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
The Historic Ships in Baltimore number four in all, and four is the number of preserved watercraft lining the north piers of the Inner Harbor for your perusal. After our casual walk through the 120-year-old USS Constellation, we tried to pick up the pace as we wound our ways through the other three. After a while some parts began to look alike, but each had its own unique features, especially the submarine.
Before we begin our usual movie discussion format, I present to you a historic milestone here on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our first guest movie reviewer! Reprinted here in its entirety is the full summation of Christopher Nolan’s latest Best Picture nominee Dunkirk as presented to me by my wife Anne, a lifelong World War II student/expert who can deliver literally hours’ worth of speeches on numerous aspects of it without using a single note card. It’s extremely rare for Anne to write or co-write anything here on MCC because she thinks of this site as my thing and prefers to read my creative takes on our experiences. She’s contributed to maybe three or four past entries, tops, but now we can add our Dunkirk entry to her official MCC bibliography.
Take it away, Anne:
“THEY TOOK THE MIRACLE AT DUNKIRK AND MADE IT BORING!“
…ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Anne, won’t you?
In this age of wall-to-wall summer action blockbusters and the multiple temptations to entertain ourselves at home for cheap, we have a hard time getting out there to see and support the obscure, scrappy little films whenever they air in the precious few local theaters that bother to screen them. On rare occasion my wife and I will find spare moments to make the long trek to the one art-house theater on the opposite side of Indianapolis if something tempts us on a not-so-busy weekend. Nine out of every ten experiences have ranged from pleasant to surprising to thrilling.
It’s been a while since we’ve run up against that tenth out of ten films. As soon as it opened here in town, we made an appointment with Anthropoid because films about World War II are usually her cup of tea. This time, not so much.
Visiting the National Museum of WWII Aviation without my wife was a bizarre experience. She’s the one who’s a WWII aficionado, the one who aced history classes left and right, the one with the PoliSci degree, and the one who doesn’t need a tour guide through museums like this. While she spent another Colorado Springs morning fulfilling the company business obligations that made this trip possible, I did the best I could to take photos and notes of what she was missing. Maybe she already knows it all, but if I could bring her just one new trivia tidbit, then this tourist’s mission was a success.
Last July my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the National World War II Museum in scenic New Orleans, Louisiana. Anne is the big, big WWII buff in the family, but I enjoyed myself well enough to devote four chapters to it in our nearly completed July 2015 road trip series (here, here, here, and especially here). Four months later, I was surprised to discover Colorado Springs has a place that’s the perfect sequel — the National Museum of WWII Aviation.
I previously posted about my Day Five visit later that evening from the hotel and used up most of my intro material in that one sitting. The single plane pictured in that entry, their F7F Tigercat, was hardly the only aircraft on the premises. The museum is 30% display cases and 70% actual war planes in various states of disrepair, restoration, and flight capability. Tonight’s presentation, then: another batch of World War II fighter planes to go with our July set.
MCC readers may recall my wife Anne and I visited the National WWII Museum as part of our 2015 road trip to New Orleans back in July. When I researched possible stops for this week’s trip to Colorado Springs, I was surprised to find they have a logical companion attraction, the National Museum of WWII Aviation. The latter isn’t owned by the same people, hasn’t been given the same official accreditation, and definitely doesn’t have the same ginormous funding, but it serves as a local hands-on educational center for students and aficionados specifically interested in World War II air combat history. Like the National WWII Museum’s Boeing Center, this one boasts its own collection of vintage WWII planes in various states of flight readiness. Unlike its rival, this one isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of engine design, aviation mechanics, comparison/contrast studies with Axis aircraft, carburetor logistics, and related vocabulary such as “pitch” and “ailerons” and “sorties”. But the important thing is you still get to look at real planes.
Pictured above is their F7F Tigercat, one of the largest intact planes on site. This particular model wasn’t deemed ready for war use until August 1945, by which time the Allies had everything pretty much under control. The Tigercat came in handy years later as a night-flying option during the Korean War. Its development occurred during WWII, but it just missed out on any real action against Nazis or Zeros. It wasn’t the Tigercat’s fault that it couldn’t be there.
Anne, major WWII history buff that she is, might’ve appreciated the museum more than I did, if only she could’ve had that chance in person.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum. Not every activity they offer involves artifacts or invites photography. For a few dollars more, guests can visit the Solomon Victory Theater and catch an exclusive viewing of Beyond All Boundaries, a 48-minute “4-D” experience designed to be thoroughly incompatible with home video.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum. Of all the buildings in the complex, the tallest was the most fascinating and contained the largest objects of all: half a dozen military airplanes suspended in midair.
(See that yellow-and-orange dot in the faraway window that kinda looks like a Ms. Pac-Man fruit? That’s my lovely wife.)
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum — four super-sized buildings and one smaller, locked gallery used for restoration work. With all that square footage and so many high ceilings, the Museum has plenty of space to display the largest wartime souvenirs: the vehicles that men drove into combat.
Considering recent headlines, maybe I picked the wrong week to share photos of guns. Or the perfect week, if you’re on the other side. Blame World War II for the wide selection here.
When I first suggested driving to New Orleans for this year’s road trip, my wife was hesitant because most online tourism resources summed up the general ambiance as HERE THERE BE MANIACS. No matter where you stay, how brightly the sun shines, how large your group is, or how tall and muscular you are, message boards and review sites and travel books and Fodor’s agree sooner or later a tag team of America’s Most Wanted will come gunning for you.
Then we found out New Orleans is the home of the National WWII Museum. Not a WWII museum — the National WWII Museum, as duly designated by Congress in 2003. Anne knows stuff about WWII. Longtime MCC readers might recall the story of how we first met:
[Anne had] been a WWII buff for years, and read extensively about Germany in general and Hitler in particular. I still remember the time when the teacher (one Frau Schmitz by name) basically turned the class over to Anne and let her give us a speech about Hitler. Anne proceeded to do so…with no notes, and no real preparation beforehand. As I recall, her extemporaneous speech filled two solid class periods over two days — roughly 100 minutes total — with what she knew about Hitler before Frau Schmitz finally stepped in and resumed teaching.
She’s always up for learning more about WWII, above and beyond what she’s already accumulated over the course of decades. When she learned the National WWII Museum was in New Orleans…well. Murderers, schmurderers.
World War II dramas win awards. Biopics win awards. Unhappy endings win awards. Films released by the Weinstein Company win awards. Films with Benedict Cumberbatch in them get nominations, and maybe the occasional award for the people around him. For now. So why not toss all those ingredients into a moviemaking mixer and watch the resulting casserole win the big awards bake-off?
Thus did my annual Oscarquest continue with The Imitation Game, in which The Cumberbatch takes a break from playing licensed characters to try out a historical figure instead, as he did in The Fifth Estate except farther from the present and without changing hair color this time. If this pays off and kicks off a lifetime of nonstop peer recognition, maybe someday he’ll have half as many nominations as Meryl Streep does. The internet can dream!