What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate is not being done as part of a blog-a-thon. Instead, this is a monthly event hosted by MovieRob called Genre Grandeur. The way it works is every month MovieRob chooses a film blogger to pick a topic and a movie to write about, then also picks a movie for MovieRob to review. At the end of the month, MovieRob posts the reviews of all the participants.
For February of 2023, the honor of being the “guest picker” went to Emily of The Flapper Dame, and the topic is “movies that take place in Italy.”
As far as war movies go, you’re not likely to find anything awe-inspiring in Anzio. Despite the fact it has a great cast, a tremendous director, and revolves around one the of the truly epic stories from the Second World War, it comes off as uninspired because it really can’t figure out what it wants to be. Is it a war movie or is it an anti-war movie? It never answers that fundamental question because the makers of this movie simply assumed the magic of those sweeping war epics of the 1960s came by default.
Anzio proves it doesn’t…and you’re talking to a guy who is a complete sucker for a war flick. One glance at my movie collection would prove that.
The same director who brought us The Caine Mutiny (Edward Dmytryk) simply couldn’t reproduce the magic of that film in Anzio. Viewers who have seen both films should notice in them a common theme of the ravages of war on even the toughest of the tough and bravest of the brave. In the case of Anzio, the backdrop couldn’t be better suited for such a tale. An amphibious landing on the Italian mainland, Operation Shingle was intended to outflank the formidable defenses of the Gustav Line, but instead became a four-month-long festival of carnage; easily one the bloodiest battles of the entire war.
The problem with this film it never successfully connects the concepts of the horrors of war and the fortitude of those who fight because it spends too much time wafting through a lofty load of dime-store philosophy blathered through the stylings of war correspondent Dick Ennis (played by Robert Mitchum).
The plot centers on Ennis’ exploits as a reporter embedded with the U.S. Army Rangers during their landing on the beaches of Anzio; a village about 30 miles south of Rome. Being in a key strategic position…capturing Anzio could potentially cut-off the re-supply of the Gustav Line…it figures to be heavily defended. Much to their surprise, it isn’t.
Not only is there nary a German in sight, but Ennis along with Corporals Wally Richardson (played by Mark Damon) and Jack Rabinoff (played by Peter Falk) discover that not only is Anzio undefended, the same can be said for the road to Rome…it’s wide open and waiting to be exploited. When they relay this information to Major General Jack Lesley (played by Arthur Kennedy), instead of pressing the attack, he makes the fateful decision to order his men build defensive bulwarks.
Lesley’s staggering incompetence only grows in consequence as the film progresses. Not only does he fail to take the opportunity to march into Rome unopposed, his delay allows the Germans time to re-group and counter-attack. By the time Lesley realizes his troops are surrounded, it’s too late. Despite the fact the Allies ultimately won the battle of Anzio, the result of Lesley’s gaffe was four months of completely unnecessary slaughter with over 30,000 Allied troops killed or wounded along with countless Germans and Italians.
As for the film, it might as well be two hours of stock war movie footage weighed down by the self-important didactry of Dick Ennis. In fact, the ending revolves around Ennis’ disgust upon seeing General Carson (played by Robert Ryan) smugly celebrating the Allied victory while ignoring the incompetency that led to thousands of needless deaths.
To me, the best description for both Anzio and its namesake battle is the wrong execution of the right idea.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
In a move which shook the soccer world to it’s core, in April of 2021 twelve titans of European football announced their plan to form a new European Super League (ESL). Essentially, this was intended to be a closed competition in which those dozen clubs (and select invitees) would compete against one another.
If you’re familiar with European soccer, if you were to think this was an attempt to dissolve UEFA’s Champions League, you wouldn’t be wrong. To best understand this, let’s start with what would have been the twelve original (and permanent) members.
|Arsenal||AC Milan||Atletico Madrid|
Not only are those some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but in the entire sport overall. The view that the new ESL is a frontal assault on UEFA’s Champions League becomes apparent once you look at the list of winners of that competition in the 21st century.
It doesn’t take long to notice that of all the Champions League winners in the last 20+ years, there have only been two which were not among the founding members of the ESL. Not to mention, just like when you buy a pair of shoes for your kid that are a size too big, the ESL left itself room to grow. Had the plan come to fruition, you know other huge clubs like Bayern Munich, Porto, and Paris Saint-Germain would have been amongst the “select invitees” if not eventual “permanent members.”
Obviously, the driving force behind this was the almighty Euro/Pound/Peseta/Lira. The “original 12” figured out that by starting their own competition, they wouldn’t have to share all the Champions League loot with the likes of Shaktar Donetsk, Victoria Plzen. Feyenoord, or any of the “usual” European suspects who routinely qualify for the European competition, but aren’t likely to win.
But like the makers of Anzio, the founding fathers of the ESL had the wrong execution of the right idea. While they never intended for their clubs to abandon their own domestic competitions, many fans saw it exactly that way…particularly in England. Protests broke out at stadia across the English Premier League, but quickly spread across Europe.
In no time at all, the public eye saw the “Original 12” became the “Dirty Dozen'” and by the growing size of the protesting crowds, it became clear to the would-be ESL’s powers-that-be this was a complete non-starter. That became even more of a reality once the six English clubs pulled their own version of “Brexit.”
But like the initial disaster and ultimate victory at Anzio, the idea of a European Super League isn’t going away anytime soon. This initial setback won’t kill the ultimate presence of such a league, and the reason is quite simple…the almighty Euro/Pound/Peseta/Lira. Throw in Francs, Deutschmarks, and any other European currency of your choosing, and the sheer gravitational pull of all that money will drag the dream to existence.
Completely stolen Rush lyric aside, the money involved is seriously staggering. Initial estimates have each ESL club reaping around $400 million (USD) off the bat just to set up “a secure financial foundation.” That’s almost four times more than Real Madrid banked for taking the 2022 Champions League title.
That’s just for openers.
The potential global television money goes beyond that by orders of magnitude. The Champions League Final surpassed the Super Bowl years ago as the planet’s largest single-day sporting event. That’s because it almost always features two clubs with massive global followings. Imagine the money involved with a series of hone-and-home legs between such teams, capped off with a “knock-out” round and a championship match…and they wouldn’t have to share a dime of that with their usual domestic foes.
And therein lies the rub. Putting a handful of clubs with billions more dollars in their war chest of clubs into any league will inevitably destroy “competitive balance.” That’s also an easy problem to fix, but it runs exactly count to why the concept of the Super League came about. The big clubs don’t want to share with the little ones, and the “permanent member” thing means the little guys can’t work their way up to being big guys. That’s completely antithetical to what promotion and relegation does for the European leagues.
In a matter all about money, here’s the real bottom line. The whole idea behind the ESL is ditching the “little guy,” but the “little guy” is the whole reason why ESL founders exist. You can’t have a “big ” Arsenal without a “little” Leeds United. In other words, to breakout from the beachhead in which their miscalculation has them trapped, the ESL founders have to deal with the little guys because there’s too many of them to simply blast through. Getting off the beach means admitting the rich are going to get richer anyway…unless they don’t throw a bone to the little guys who can queer the deal.
The Moral of the Story:
The only “bad” mistakes are the ones from which you don’t learn anything.
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