Blockbuster Video wants you to make it a historically-vindicating, land-of-the-free-and-home-of-the-brave loving, Josh Hartnet-heartthrobbing, Harrison Ford-style night. So the store has alphabetized a list of suggested two-day rentals.
Today, 60 years after Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, Blockbuster has chosen to commemorate the event by releasing not only the critically-panned feature film for rent, but also a list of “Movies That Make You Proud To Be an American.” Now, patriotically apathetic Yalies wandering down Chapel Street in search of hand-crafted pottery and other holiday gifts, can rent something that will provide a swift kick into America-celebrating high gear. Blockbuster suggests “Air Force One.” Or “Patton.”
According to a press release from Blockbuster Inc., the company’s executive vice president Jim Notarnicola said, “I think for many young people, Pearl Harbor has gone from an abstract event in a movie to a real, shared experience for our country since the September 11 attacks.”
Regarding the list, Mandi Schweitzer ’03, incumbent president of the Yale Film Society, didn’t quite share the zeal for the power of the Hollywood mega-hit to sway nationalistic sentiment.
“In terms of war-time propaganda,” she said, “it’s a good thing Blockbuster’s jumped on the bandwagon, but I wouldn’t say [the movies named] make me proud to be an American. It’s a silly list.”
Downtown New Haven’s video-renting monolith, like the nearly 7,800 other blue and yellow depots that pepper the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia, has avoided publicizing its collection of pride-inducing flicks. Why? Ehh, no reason, really, said company spokesman Blake Lugash. Blockbuster has distributed the list only to media, he said, and there’s no indication of the suggested viewing-list in the stores.
But right next to the “Holiday Headquarters,” two videos down from the “Jesus of Nazareth” series, is a Nu Image production of “U.S. Seals 2,” subtitled, “The Ultimate Force.” It has a small, sunny sticker on the bottom corner suggesting, “in light of the acts of terrorism on Sept. 11, please be advised this product contains scenes that may be considered disturbing to some viewers.”
According to the front cover of “U.S. Seals 2,” a movie starring “a Jackie Chan Stunt Team member,” the key to defeating terrorists who have taken over a secret Russian nuclear missile base is a three-step plan: “Infiltrate, Detonate, Annihilate.”
But “Top Gun,” which made the list and bears no such label, is a self-proclaimed “gleefully gung-ho drama [with] aerial action and ample beefcake.” In addition to abject alliteration, the film, said Notarnicola, is in the vein of Pearl Harbor in that it will, “make us feel proud of our military heritage and proud to be Americans.”
And some Yalies, like Schweitzer, agreed. In a way.
“Any movie with Tom Cruise,” Schweitzer said, “you’ve got to be proud to be from the same country as him.”
Others were less enthusiastic about the possibilities of such a list.
“It’s pretty ridiculous,” said David Cohen ’04. “I don’t really think these movies have anything to do with being an American. People just watch them as classic movies, and in some cases, like ‘Air Force One,’ as not-classic movies. So it would be weird to think of them in any more meaningful way, now.”
“I would watch ‘Patton,'” he added. “But I was planning on doing that before.”
Darrell Hartmen ’03, an officer in the film society, agreed, saying the list was arbitrary at best.
“It’s kind of a superficial category,” he said, “that these films make us proud to be American because they show Americans in their proudest military moment. That’s kind of a narrow category.
“There are good patriotic movies out there,” he added. “But they’re not ones that can be appropriated for any kind of list.”
So, when the VHS of Jerry Bruckheimer’s three-hour special-effects extravaganza starts to wear thin in your VCR, the folks at Blockbuster suggest you switch to the zany antics of Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards as fighter pilots Maverick and Goose, revel in country-loving zeal with “The Hunt for Red October,” or celebrate the glory of the United States with the troops in “Saving Private Ryan.”
“Our product department is very familiar with movies that are out there,” Lugash said, “very, very well-informed of the historical significance of movies. We’ve drawn their experience to develop this list. We actually scheduled before Sept. 11 to have it come out alongside Pearl Harbor because that has a lot of patriotic themes.”
Others that made the list include, “Crimson Tide,” “The Longest Day,” “Men of Honor,” “Tuskegee Airmen,” and “Memphis Belle.”
Blockbuster’s wartime energies are not limited to the Day of Infamy, though. Lugash said the company has been supporting soldiers, in particular, the sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, but not with patriotic movies.
“We’ve sent them copies of ‘Jurassic Park III,’ ‘Shrek,’ ‘Meet the Parents,’ ‘Rocky’ and the Godfather Trilogy,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We also sent the ship several DVD players.”