Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Monuments Men project saved history, culture, and literature

Imagine what wonderful books and pieces of history and culture could have been lost!  If you haven't seen the movie yet, check out this movie review to help you learn more about Hollywood's newest WWII movie.

Movie Title:  The Monuments Men

Grade:  B
PG-13, 1 hour 52 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This lovely movie is based on a true story and I admit that I’m curious to learn more about what really happened as the small group of art experts tried to save priceless pieces of history as the Nazi regime began to fall in WWII Europe.  I was in Italy just a few months ago, basking in all of the beautiful artwork and can’t imagine what a terrible loss it would have been to humanity if we didn’t have some of the masterpieces that exist in that country alone. 

Based on the non-fiction telling by Robert M. Edsel,Monuments Men , the subject matter and setting are fascinating.  Unfortunately, the movie falls a bit short of what could have been an outstanding journey worthy of Oscar buzz...for next year.  (It was supposed to be released at Christmas in time for this year's Oscars, but George Clooney chose to wait.)  The audience I watched the movie with consisted of mostly older people, some who looked like they could have actually fought in WWII. 

This brief tour through war-torn Europe was directed, written, and performed by George Clooney.  It’s a bit of “Geriatric Band of Brothers” meets “Saving Private Ryan”, although not nearly as realistic or good as the latter.  The audience loved the camaraderie among the men and were left wanting a little more out of the star-studded cast which includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and the exquisite Cate Blanchett.

Uplifting theme:  What a sobering reminder this film features that Hitler stole lives, art, and even history from all of us.  James Granger says “He really wanted it all.”  Frank Stokes corrects him “He wanted everything.”  Frank Stokes continually reminds his crew that their lives are worth more than a piece of art, and yet they are all willing to sacrifice everything in order to preserve it because it represents mankind’s greatest accomplishments.  

I love that the men refer to various works of art as “she” and “her”, granting true life to images that capture our very soul.  Frank Stokes narrates the journey and explains that they were fighting for culture, our history, and our very way of life.  The works of art are not simply beautiful things to look at and admire, but our history…yours….mine.   It was inspiring to learn that over 5 million pieces were recovered through The Monuments Men project.

Things I liked:
  • It was refreshing to see a loyal husband resist an invitation of infidelity, especially on a lonely night in romantic Paris.  Matt Damon’s character, James Granger, even returned the tie he was given by the hopeful woman.
  • The sets and scenery were breathtaking.
  • One of the most profound scenes was when (SPOILER ALERT) the group finds a big barrel of gold nuggets and then realizes they were from the mouths of Jews who were killed by the Nazis. The scene carried a sobering weight that other scenes lacked.  The audience gasped a few times, which I think, would have made George Clooney proud.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s a bit slow-moving and disjointed with not nearly enough humor and some missed opportunities to make the film truly wonderful. 
  • Substitute the last line of the movie with something better like “Come on, I want to show you something else!”

Funny lines:
  • “Do we get to kill anybody?” – Preston Savitz
  • “Speak English” said several people to James Granger whose French was terrible.  I’ve been to France and they really do hate it when we Americans attempt to speak their beautiful language.
  • James Granger explains “I seem to have stepped on a land mine.” Frank queries “Why would you do that?” repeated by Walter Garfield.  James says “It was a slow day.”  I thought that scene was well done as they tried to come up with a solution and were prepared for any outcome.
  • An American soldier says after the war was announced to be over “Isn’t there supposed to be a parade or something?” to which James Granger gently corrects “Probably not in Germany.”
  • While talking about setting up some dynamite, two on the team have the following exchange: “Maybe I should do this.”  “What do you know about explosives?”  “Nothing.”  “Ok.”

Inspiring lines:
  • Who will be their protectors?  Who will make sure the Mona Lisa is still smiling?” – Frank Stokes
  • “It’s not bad.”  “It’s not good” – an exchange as two of the crew look at a canvas of Hitler’s artwork from his failed run as an art student
  • “Frank explains his passion about the Monument Men project by saying “If you destroy their achievements, it’s like they never existed.”
  • “Great works of art can never belong to one individual.”  - Donald Jeffries

Things to learn more about:  George Clooney said of this film “It’s so rare to do any story that people don’t know.” I would love to learn more!

Tips for parents:  There is some profanity, but not as much as you would think there would be in a war movie.  People are killed and wounded with some blood and gore.

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