Film review for a winner of four Academy Awards, ‘Platoon’

Director Oliver Stone and Producer Arnold Kopelson first released Platoon on a limited basis in movie theater’s in December 1986. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound, and Direction. To underscore that this movie was well received by the academy would be a disservice to the film.

Platoon 8(Oliver Stone in cameo in Platoon)

While arguably first a movie with an ensemble cast set in the Vietnam War circa 1967, the story of the movie is a tale of idealism and innocence lost in the jungle of Vietnam as seen through the eyes of Chris Taylor (as played by Charlie Sheen) and others. The character of Chris Taylor volunteers for service after dropping out from college with little worldly experience, which in my opinion serves as a metaphor for much of how the United States viewed itself at the time.

Platoon 3(Charlie Sheen)

While the enemy that the United States was fighting in Vietnam was the communist ideal and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the argument offered in the movie was that there was an internal struggle within America for the fight. The movie wasn’t aiming to argue those politics, though the internal American struggle was viewed through the lens of youthful innocence and some degree of rich versus poor.

Platoon 2(Willem Dafoe, left, and Tom Berenger, right)

Sargent Barnes as played by Tom Berenger serves as the jaded by war experience and morally corrupted platoon leader. Barnes has a quite unsympathetic and unfeeling attitude toward the Vietnam natives in country, and takes ruthless and criminal actions against the people of a farming village that the platoon in the movie comes upon. Sheen’s Taylor finds sympathy with the platoon faction lining up behind the more sympathetic Sargent Elias, who is played by Willem Dafoe.

The characters of Elias and Taylor take illicit drugs during the course of the movie. Barnes does not take that step, receives praise for his toughness within members of the platoon, and is shown for moments of leadership fallibility and moral turpitude, especially amongst the Vietnamese farming villagers as well as in the fate of Sargent Elias.

Platoon 5(Forest Whitaker)

In underscoring some of the military policy of integrating the military that was part of the legacy of the Vietnam War, the notion of the larger ensemble cast also sharing in the taking of sides between Sargent’s Barnes and Elias was clear. Big Harold, as played by Forest Whitaker, gave voice to the same inner turmoil that Chris Taylor (Sheen) was experiencing. This was communicated most strongly, perhaps, after the Vietnamese village was raised and farmers were killed.

Platoon 4(Keith David)

In the role as King, Keith David was a voice of moralizing that helped the character of Chris Taylor come to his own sense of moral clarity within the film. David’s initial role was in taking stock of the character that Taylor was as well as helping guide the change that Taylor would experience by the end of the movie. The character of Rhah, as played by Francesco Quinn, was another strong voice for the audience and Taylor in speaking for the directorial messages of immediacy and vision that I heard in the film.

Platoon 6(Francesco Quinn)

There is no question that Platoon lands firmly in the camp of war movie. The scenes of war action were real and intense for their day, though later surpassed by some of the film quality of a picture like Saving Private Ryan. Similar in ensemble quality to Saving Private Ryan, I would be remiss if I were to not point out that Johnny Depp also served as Private Gator Lerner in Platoon.

Platoon 7(Johnny Depp)

Part of the larger power of the movie that worked so well as a war movie is that the experience offered was that of the platoon level combatant. The notion of Taylor losing the ability to write home, and his platoon mates asking him about it were quite real. The notion of staying morally forthright while facing many opportunities to lose innocence and idealism were also fair, gritty, and in ways unpleasantly real. The depictions of combat, of corrupted leadership and the counterpoint rectitude, and the coping with having thoughts on each while feeling powerless to affect the course were strong and cogent messages.

With all these things said, the reason that I watched Platoon without Lynn reflect the same reason that I watched Dunkirk, reviewed here, without Lynn. The violence and sensibility of war that were parts of Platoon and Dunkirk were not things that Lynn would enjoy. Quite easily put, there was nothing to be gained by subjecting her to an experience that she would not enjoy.

Platoon, still, was worthy of Academy Award attention.

Matt – Sunday, March 18, 2018

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Offering a Song of Love

Three times before today, we at Matt Lynn Digital have offered a firsthand experience with the speaking and leadership organization called Toastmasters International. This organization has helped me grow personally in confidence, vision creation, voice, and many areas professionally and personally.

There was the time where in this blog where I compared my early experience in confidence finding to peeling back the layers of an onion. There was another time where I was excited to hear the current president of the Toastmasters organization speak to members of my district. There was the time where I mentioned cultivating the relationships formed in Toastmasters to help me land a new career opportunity following a layoff with my employer of more than 16-years.

As you might tell from the opening two paragraphs, my heart wishes to offer a feeling of gratitude for the growth and bridge of friendship that I found during my time there. One of the ways I have given back to Toastmasters is in service to the district where I experience the organization. Stated another way, I aim to give back by sharing my talents and willingness to support others taking or supporting similar journeys themselves.

Finally, I bring myself to the example that brings me to my bigger point. I was giving a speech to my home club on a night when Lynn, the better half of this blog team, visited the club after a rough day at home. Sensing an opportunity to entertain my Toastmaster colleagues and wife at the same time, I chose to sing in public for one of two times I had in my entire public speaking career.

Modifying the lyrics to Bette Midler‘s song The Rose, I sang the song of love to our then 11-year-old dog to my wife. The dynamic of the singing as well as the dynamic of an interplay through unaccustomed presentation style was less than award-winning music while being full blown emotionally dynamic and groundbreaking for a group that had previously seen me take a less pronounced public speaking style.

The Toastmaster Rose 2(Bette Midler)

The speech itself professed my love for Kayley, included visual images of Kayley for the audience to share, and included some precious moments of love and cuteness. The subject matter even included the speech title, which included the simulated barking of the letter R five-times in rhythmic succession.

The entertainment value and coherence of the speech brought itself together in the end by tying the “puppy love” of my affection for our dog into a telling of how it was that my first introduction to our four-legged friend that began to build the affection my wife and I would build from infatuation, to something mature, to the very real decisions to act together as one in marriage. In five-to-seven minutes, I had taken my club and my wife on a journey of puppy love, song, and vision to the mature dynamic of a love story that was unwrapped for everyone to see.

At least, that concept of unwrapping is how I tell myself in my head the speech went. The striving for something that compelling was there. I had given this speech to the members of my club at a winter meeting in December 2016. The time to share it here, with you, was today. Happy new year.

Matt – Saturday, January 6, 2018