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July 28, 1998

Two of the hottest new summer movies link us backward in time to a period when my generation was just lurching into young adulthood. That would be in the late 1930s and early 1940s. "Gone With the Wind," the romantic novel as well as the historic 1939 movie, is an icon of that era and it still has a compelling presence in the newly released, digitally restored film version now on display in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. I don't know how many times I've seen it on the big screen and on TV, but I can't wait to see it again.

The other new movie,, "Saving Private Ryan," is creating an unusual amount of discussion because of its grippingly accurate portrayal of combat during the Allied invasion of Europe following the 1944 D-Day landings in France. Director Steven Spielberg has achieved a level of intensity perhaps greater than anything heretofore offered. Mr. Spielberg himself recommends that young teen-agers should not see it. The gritty, bloody reality of young men blasted to pieces by shrapnel and other means is more than some of us can handle. Those protracted scenes are offered not for their shock value but to impress on us that war is a chaotic, surrealistic nightmare layered with unbearable terror in which heroism and cowardice are sometimes blended without forethought.

The story of "Private Ryan" is a gripping drama played against the backdrop of a battleground from hell. You may forget the names of the actors, even those who are very familiar although seen here in mere cameo roles, but the characters they portray will become very real. The three-hour film will tug at your emotions, especially if you are old enough to remember the time it portrays.

"Saving Private Ryan" is not a happy film by any stretch of the imagination, but it will make you think about the lunacy and utter waste of warfare. The families and the fighting men who have suffered because of war throughout all of history deserve our compassion and pity. What about those who allow the insanity of global politics or the seeking of personal aggrandizement to create maelstroms such as this movie brings to our vision? We should despise what they inflicted on the world and pray for them.

By all means, see the movie. Leaders at every level in every nation of the world should see it and then be asked if war is worth the cost. Free men have always been willing to place their lives on the altar to protect liberty when challenged by despots or lunatics. They were brave men. We must never forget that their heroism was a high price to pay so that we can talk about it today and reflect on the madness of the time that produced the horror.

Try to see both of these epic movies. They are worth the price of admission.