This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Samurai and the Swastika (2000)

"In effect, Japan felt that to eat at the top table of the great powers, like them, it had to have colonies."
-Dr. Rana Mitter.

Since I was a little kid, my dad has told me many stories about the experiences of his late, great father during World War II. My paternal grandpa fought for the Army in the European Theater and may have ended up in the Pacific Theater with his unit had Hiroshima and Nagasaki not been destroyed. When I was in grade school, I had the pleasure of asking him some questions about those experiences for a school paper.

I have also seen numerous books detailing Germany's alliance with Italy during the war but none focusing on Germany's alliance with Japan, even though an alliance between the two existed.

Samurai and the Swastika, which originally aired on the History Channel, takes a look at that alliance, which began in 1940 with Japan following the Japanese defeat fighting the Soviet Union in Mongolia. Japan viewed this alliance as insurance that the U.S.S.R. would not invade their country.

Germany and Japan immediately communicated via diplomats. These meetings led to Hitler proposing what he called Operation: Orient, which was a plan to conquer the world.

However, this intricate plan, which called for both countries to sweep across Africa and Asia to meet up in India, was delayed due to Hiter's focus on conquering the Soviet Union (Operation: Barbarossa), despite the pleas of Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka for Hitler to make peace with Stalin, as Japan had prior to its assault on Pearl Harbor. This displeased Hitler as he had wanted Japan to attack the U.S.S.R.

The one major joint operation by Germany and Japan during the war was to take the island of Madagascar, which failed after the U.S. entered the war. It was 1942, and Operation: Orient was no longer a priority.

By May 1945, Hitler was dead and Germany surrendered, with Japan doing the same five months later. Most of the architects of the countries' alliance were executed.

It is ironic that, while there was prosperity in the alliance between Germany and Japan, it was their differing stategies which contributed to their defeat.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Hitler Lost the War (1989)

"Whatever he was, Adolf Hitler killed 50 million people and came perilously close to conquering the world!"
-Norman Rose.

It's now February and, while many think of suitable viewing for Valentine's Day during this month, I'm going to focus on two wonderful documentaries about World War II.
The first of these is How Hitler Lost the War. Narrated by Norman Rose, it analyzes the mistakes Hitler made during the war and how those mistakes basically sealed Germany's fate for the next few decades. The historians interviewed here state that he basically lost the war by the time the U.S. entered it thanks to Pearl Harbor (and we must remember that the U.S. devoted soldiers and resources to the European Theater due to Hitler declaring war on the country).
German and British veterans of the war are interviewed and give fascinating insights into their experiences. The German vets discuss the power Hitler had over the German people during his rise to become dictator, as well as their astonishment at some of his later decisions, such as continually ordering his forces in different directions in his attempt to invade the Soviet Union and his refusal to allow full-scale production of the first-ever jet fighter.
The British vets discuss the Battle of Britain, and how Hitler basically stopped his forces despite the fact that he was in a position to easily annex the U.K. Sir Christopher Foxly Norris states that the outcome of that battle was due more to Hitler's poor decision-making rather than British ingenuity.
The film doesn't really go into the intricacies of Hitler's childhood, his relations with Italy and Japan, or D-Day (each of which could fill a documentary of its own). Rather it looks at Hitler himself and how he became the person he was when he decided to enter politics after his initial goals of being an artist and an architect fell through.
Hitler's well-known racism also seemed to play a factor in his poor decisions. The film points out his mistake in invading the Ukraine and killing many of its people, despite the fact that they wanted to ally themselves with Germany against Stalin. But Hitler's racism against the region's Slavic people kept him from considering such a tactic. It also kept him from possibly developing the atomic bomb before the U.S. when he exiled many of Germany's best scientists because they were Jewish.
The best documentaries are always informative, but this one also give us chilling 'What if...?' scenarios to ponder.