November 1, 2014
“Fury” Proves the Term ‘Great War Movie’ is an Oxymoron
By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
In the late 1960s, when it looked like I could wind up fighting in Vietnam, I imagined utter horrors of the sort director-writer David Ayers devastatingly delivers in his WWII opus, “Fury.” This is terrible stuff, an adrenalin-exploding, mind-boggling journey through the evil dreads mankind is capable of perpetrating. So unless you’re a military enthusiast or feel you need a reminder of why General William Tecumseh Sherman said “War is hell,” then it might be a good idea to skip this superbly crafted revulsion.
Ironically enough, the five-man crew that battles its way behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany, circa April 1945, mans a Sherman tank. Led by Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, masterfully portrayed by Brad Pitt, they are familiar war movie types delineated with an extra dose of brutality courtesy of the scenario’s no-holds-barred severity. Few atrocities are left unturned. Your head spins in a conflicted combination of shocked disbelief and mournful cognizance.
Dipping into the library of battle-scarred clichés, Mr. Ayer introduces raw recruit Private Norman Ellison into the claustrophobic, iron-clad confines of the tank. Shades of “The Red Badge of Courage,” Logan Lerman does the symbolic stereotype justice. You’ve seen this all before, but never in such high relief. Just as the nightmare of war is always intensified through technological advances, so, too, is its graphic depiction.
Although it’s not as obviously mystical as “Apocalypse Now” (1979), aspiring more to the realism of Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), it is no surprise to learn that said Coppola tour de force is auteur Ayers’s favorite film. And while no one in the tin can that has been their home for three years — from North Africa, to Belgium, to France and now Germany — remarks, “Hey, this is like something Joseph Conrad might have written,” there is philosophical metaphor both harsh and bittersweet.
In one memorable scene, during a brief respite from the practically non-stop action, Mr. Pitt’s acknowledged juggernaut and leader of men personified allows a glimmer of the humanity he has suppressed. His weary eyes reflecting the memories he doesn’t let weaken his hard-bitten resolve, he sits with Norman at a kitchen table with a Frau and a Fräulein in a town they’ve just captured. In only a few words and gestures, Wardaddy disseminates the great contrasts between the good and bad of what we call civilization.
Otherwise, the plot is simple: kill or be killed as four tanks that remain operational attempt to clear a path to Berlin. The fighting is relentless. Hitler, by now presumably in his bunker, has called for total war. The Germans send young teenagers to the front. Amidst the muck, mire and devastation of the American onslaught, one soldier lamentingly asks the Sarge, “Why don’t they
just quit?” Pitt looks at him and tellingly responds, “Would you?”
We fear how this might end, but nonetheless hope that the quirky, ragtag crew with whom we’ve become acquainted will survive this unthinkable scourge. They gain our emotional investment, especially the multilayered warrior who leads them. Over his career, Brad Pitt has admirably risen above his initial pretty boy image. But here, he really shows us something. Imparting his signature to the iconic, battle-scarred sergeant, we are moved and intrigued.
Likewise, despite how hackneyed Logan Lerman’s novitiate is first presented, we soon line up behind him. Fact is, in a democratic republic at war, where the citizen soldier is more the rule than the exception, we are essentially all Normans, regular sorts tossed into a crucible from which man has not yet been able to evolve or extricate himself. Witnessing the carnage, we can’t help but join history’s great thinkers in pondering, ‘How can minds capable of so many wonderful things persist in this insanity?’
Not that Jon Bernthal’s Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis, the down and dirty tank mechanic, gives that any thought. He figures he’s better off just fighting. Whereas Boyd Swan, the resident Bible thumper, medic and killing machine played by Shia LaBeouf, has accepted the contradictions of his plight. Completing the ensemble, Michael Peña is likable as Trini “Gordo” Garcia, your fast talking and convivial comrade in arms.
It is a disservice to those who have fought our wars to say a film is realistic. Thus, knowing that actual war is unimaginably worse than this absolute inferno strikes cold terror in us. Watching the painfully heartfelt homage to our soldiers, I couldn’t help but think back to Mr. Krupman, the corner candy store guy of my childhood. He had been to WWII, and now here he was in peace, not saying a thing about it, making me an egg salad sandwich as I spun on the stool. The frustration of trying to reconcile it all is indeed a cause for “Fury.”
“Fury,” rated R, is a Sony Pictures release directed by David Ayer and stars Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman and Jon Bernthal. Running time: 134 minutes
By Dave Reville
Most drivers know drowsy driving is risky, yet too many still do it. Of course, we cannot always get enough sleep as easily as we can avoid alcohol and drugs, but we must try, because drowsiness can be every bit as dangerous. It causes more than 100,000 crashes nationally every year, killing more than 1,500 people and injuring at least 40,000 more. And those are conservative estimates, because drowsiness is so difficult to quantify and track. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research, 28 percent of motorists reported struggling to keep their eyes open while driving in the previous month, more than a third have fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once and more than one in 10 has done so in the past year.
Drivers who are most at risk are those who are sleep-deprived for a variety of reasons, such as parents of young children, young males, shift workers, commercial drivers and others who work long hours, those who suffer from sleep disorders or medical conditions that require sedating medication and anyone who must drive at night. These safety strategies can help.
Before you hit the road:
Be awake, alert and well-rested; get enough sleep (7-9 hours for adults, 9-10 for teens)
If you cannot stay awake and alert, don’t drive
Seek treatment for any sleep disorders
Don’t eat a heavy meal, drink alcohol or take sedating medication
Take along a driving partner to share the driving and keep you awake
On the road, watch out for these warning signs:
Trouble focusing, daydreaming
Yawning, blinking and nodding, bleary eyes
Forgetting the past few miles
Missing exits or traffic signs
Drifting from the lane, hitting rumble strips, or accidental tailgating
And use these countermeasures:
Never ignore signs of drowsiness and keep driving
Pull over in a safe area for a stretch and fresh air (do this at least every 100 miles or two hours)
Take a 15-20 minute nap (more than 20 minutes can cause grogginess)
Have coffee or other caffeine before your nap, so the boost will kick in as you wake up
Recent crashes in the news where drowsy driving is the suspected cause are timely reminders that driving drowsy is not harmless. It’s a very real danger that we all should take more seriously.
By Kim Dannies
I recently dined at a restaurant where an old Basque saying “Nola jan jakitea, nahikoa jakitea da” graced the menu: “to know how to eat is to know enough.” I am smitten by that word, enough. I feel my belly and my head and my heart come together with a satisfied sigh of pleasure and relief every time I hear it. Enoughness. It’s that countless place of comfort where basic needs are more than met, where contentment with simple means and accomplishment allows us to experience the elegance of satisfaction.
After nearly 300 Everyday Gourmet columns, it’s time to for me to say “enough.” It’s been a wonderfully satisfying experience to share cooking knowledge and stories with my community and I am grateful to the Observer, and to my readers, for all of the loving support and enthusiasm you have shown me. I have just published my first book, “Everyday Gourmet,” a collection of my favorite Observer columns since 2003. I started writing the column as a way of sharing culinary knowledge with my community, and it also served as a kind of family food journal as we raised our three daughters.
“Rashomon” is a generic term for “same story different memory.” One can share a whole life with others and all are going to tell a radically different story about what that life was like. As a parent and a wife, it was a treat for me to witness and publish my version of our story as it unfolded. I dedicate this book to my family as a way of saying thank you for allowing me to write about the intimacies and humor we experienced during the caviar of the childhood years.
When we feel we have enough, our definition of satisfaction and standards releases the pressure for “bigger, better, more” and allows us to operate in a sweet flow. “Everyday Gourmet” is a modest book, but it is enough for me. My Observer departure is an opportunity to reboot my inner navigation system and risk some new writing projects. This is my symphony moving forward: that I have enough, that I am enough, that I live in the sweet spot of enoughness.
Farewell dear readers, and pots full of love.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.
Observer staff report
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont’s First Wednesday Wellness for the month of November will take place on Nov. 5 from 5 to 7 p.m. BCBSVT will host the free event at its Information and Wellness Center, located in the Blue Mall at 150 Dorset Street in South Burlington.
BCBSVT will provide free flu vaccinations in place of the normally provided biometric screenings offered at its First Wednesday Wellness events. The flu shots are free for all participants 18 and older, regardless of their insurance status. Those without health insurance are welcome.
Flu season runs from October through May. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot every year for people 50 or older. Statistics show us that approximately 40,000 Americans die each year due to pneumococcal infections, with seniors representing the largest group of fatalities, according to AARP Vermont
“I encourage you to make time in your busy schedule to get a flu vaccination this autumn,” said Dr. Robert Wheeler, vice president and chief medical officer of BCBSVT. “Every year, thousands of adults and children become seriously ill with influenza. Vaccination helps protect you and also helps reduce the spread of the flu virus to your coworkers, family and community,”
You must make an appointment at 764-4828.
Dear Savvy Senior,
Does Medicare cover outpatient counseling or therapy sessions for seniors? Since retiring, my husband has really struggled with depression and needs to get some help. What can you tell us?
Yes, Medicare recently upgraded its coverage of outpatient mental health services to help beneficiaries with depression and other needs. Here’s how it works.
If you have original Medicare, your Part B coverage will pay 80 percent (after you’ve met your $147 Part B deductible) for a variety of counseling and therapy services that are provided outside a hospital, like individual and group therapy, family counseling and more. They also cover services for treatment of beneficiaries who struggle with inappropriate alcohol and drug use.
You or your supplemental insurance is responsible for the remaining 20 percent coinsurance.
Medicare also gives your husband the option of getting treatment through a variety of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists.
It’s also important to understand that if your husband decides to see a non-medical doctor (such as psychologists or a clinical social worker), you’ll need to make sure that he or she is Medicare-certified and takes assignment, which means they accept Medicare’s approved amount as full payment. If they don’t, Medicare will not pay for the services.
Medicare will, however, pay for the services of Medicare-certified medical doctors (such as psychiatrists) who do not take assignment, but these doctors can charge you up to 15 percent above Medicare’s approved amount in addition to the 20 percent coinsurance, which you will be responsible for.
To locate a mental health care professional in your area that accepts Medicare assignment, use Medicare’s online Physician Compare tool. Just go to medicare.gov/physiciancompare and type in your zip code, or city and state, then type in the type of profession you want locate, like “psychiatry” or “clinical psychologist” in the “What are you searching for?” box. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
If you and your husband get your Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, they too must cover the same services as original Medicare but they will likely require him to see an in-network provider. You’ll need to contact your plan directly for the details.
In addition to the outpatient mental health services, you should also know that Medicare covers yearly depression screenings that must be done in a primary care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can assure appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annual depression screenings are covered 100 percent.
Medicare will also cover almost all medications used to treat mental health conditions under the Part D prescription drug benefit. If your husband is prescribed an antidepressant or some other medication for his condition, and he has a Part D plan, you should call his plan to confirm coverage or you can search the plans formulary (the list of medications they cover) on their website.
For more detailed information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication #10184 “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” or you can read it online at medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10184.pdf.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.