Film (with rating): Saving Private Ryan (R)
Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment
the Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944, a few United States soldiers
go behind enemy lines to retrieve a private whose three brothers have been
killed in action.
honor of Memorial Day, let’s haul out a classic war film. Steven Spielberg’s
“Saving Private Ryan” is perhaps the most powerful war film of modern
time. Maybe ever. The opening half-hour scene depicting the landing in
Normandy from a soldier’s point of view is unquestionably the most raw, harsh,
violent, visceral depiction of war ever filmed. Spielberg created an utterly
unforgettable cinematic masterpiece that’s both beautiful and absolutely
For a long time, I avoided watching this film, since my
grandfather was one of those men storming the beaches. He escaped, barely. Extensively wounded, sent home with the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, he again never talked
about his time on that foreign shore. But according to many World War II vets
who were also there, Spielberg’s depiction of the event was spot-on. It’s
almost too much to watch. Knowing that more than 400,000 Americans were killed
in WWII made “Saving Private Ryan” almost too painful
to see, especially knowing that my grandfather was nearly one of those 400,000.
The casting for “Saving Private Ryan” couldn’t
have been better. While not Tom Hanks’ biggest role, it is one of his finest.
He played Capt. John Miller, the man chosen to lead a team of eight soldiers
ordered to locate and rescue Pvt. James Ryan (Matt Damon). His three brothers
died in the war and his mother is scheduled to receive the telegrams all on the
same day. The powers-that-be, in a goodwill stunt tinged with a P.R. campaign, order
that the surviving Ryan son be sent home safely. Capt. Miller is called to
duty to fulfill the mission.
The acting of the entire cast–including Tom Sizemore, Ted
Danson, Paul Giamatti, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, Giovanni Ribisi–is beyond
compare, which is saying something, since the film leans heavily on action
sequences. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who also shot “Schindler’s
List,” brings his talent to the table, as well.
But here’s where “Saving Private Ryan” really
shines: Spielberg and his screenwriter, Robert Rodat, created a riveting action
film, an unforgettable human-interest tale, and a philosophical stance on war itself. But since it’s Sir Steven here,
he does all of this in such a way that the messages and images morph together
into a piece of art. He says what he does about war without preaching, without
pulling the viewer from the story. Somehow, in the midst of this action-packed
movie, Spielberg found a way for his characters, and his script, to speak
Check out the director’s message. Or just find a soldier and tell him or her thanks.
What to serve for dinner: It’s Meatless Monday again! Now I know many of us will be
barbequing this holiday, but just because we’re forgoing the meat doesn’t mean
we need to shut down the grill, too. Let’s try vegetable skewers and black bean
veggie burgers (allrecipes.com).
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch slices
2 yellow summer squash, cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 pound whole fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
On metal or soaked bamboo skewers, alternately thread
zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms. In a bowl, combine the remaining
ingredients. Brush some of the mixture over vegetables. Grill, uncovered, over
medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning and
basting occasionally with herb mixture.
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly
oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees and
lightly oil a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork
until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and
garlic. Then stir into mashed beans. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili
powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix
in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture
into four patties. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8
minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about
10 minutes on each side.
What to talk about over dinner: What did you think of the opening scene? Did this
film deserve all five Oscars (including Best Director and Best Cinematography)?
Who was your favorite character? What would it be like if we lost 400,000
Americans in the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What was it like to
live through WWII? How did that experience change our country? What is the most
powerful war story you’ve ever heard? What’s next for Matt Damon? What is your
favorite Tom Hanks film? Why is he the most likeable guy in Hollywood? What’s
your favorite Steven Spielberg movie? If you could spend one day with him, what
would you ask him? What do you think “Saving Private Ryan” says about
war? Do you agree?
So for all those serving our country now or in the past, we salute you. Happy Memorial Day.