Friday, December 07, 2007

Happy Pearl Harbor Day

Today, on December 7th, a day that would live in infamy, we remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the movies which made it famous.

Sixty-six years ago (my God, has it been that long??) the dastardly Empire of Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a United States Naval base in Hawaii. At the time Hawaii was just a far flung American colonial interest. But the Japanese, eying the pristine and halcyon islands as a possible vacationing spot for weary troops, sailors, and airmen, attacked on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941.

The attack which caught the sunbathing, surfing, and beach-lovemaking Americans unawares destroyed two battleships, two destroyers, 188 aircraft, along with 2,333 killed and 1,139 wounded. The attack also forever ruined the torrid love-affair between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr (meow!) as seen in the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity.

The only thing which prevented the complete destruction of America's entire Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor was the timely arrival of the U.S.S. Nimitz from the year 1980, captained by Kirk Douglas, as seen in the classic film The Final Countdown.

A monster cast, including Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, John Voight, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dan Ackroyd, and Jennifer Garner all joined with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay, to help stave off the Japanese attack, documented accurately in their 2001 summer blockbuster film Pearl Habor.

The movie boasted a production budget of 132 million dollars, far more than the actual Japanese cost to attack Pearl Harbor. "We're going to do it right this time," Bay announced.

Although they were ultimately successful, critic Roger Ebert called the affair "a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle." He then added, "The filmmakers seem to have aimed the film at an audience that may not have heard of Pearl Harbor, or perhaps even of World War Two." Bay, incensed at the criticism, which he called the worst of his career, had Ebert's house bombed into the ground with dramatic flair.

The film did go on to win one academy award, and also was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Actor (Affleck), Worst Remake of a Sequel (of "Tora, Tora, Tora"); but lost to Tom Green's truly awful "Freddy Got Fingered" on all cards.

The spirit of the movie was later immortalized in the Team America World Police song "The End of an Act."

I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark
When he made Pearl Harbor

I miss you more than that movie missed the point
And that’s an awful lot
And now, now you've gone away

And all I'm trying to say

Is Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you

The successful attack lulled the Japanese Empire into a sense of self confidence and soon it turned its power towards making giant-monster-movies. America seized the initiative and struck back. In less than four years the Pacific had been re-secured and the war culminated in Bay-like flair with the total incineration of two Japanese cities by the A-bomb.

And that's the story of how the good ol' US-of-A won World War Two. The Big One. W-W-I-I. Even after being sucker-punched America went on to become the richest, most powerful country in the world, with the movies to prove it. And today Japan provides her with cars, cell phones, and robotic vacuum cleaners, in a tight-knight symbiotic relationship. But it all started with Pearl Harbor.

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