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Monument Men displays outcasts that change history

Hometown George in Monuments Men
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Monuments Men

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Biased from the start? Yes I am a George Clooney and a Matt Damon fan! Plus on the subject of WW II… since childhood, I’ve read and seen everything I can get my hands on. The greatest generation has always had a level of awe…. Seemingly sold when the trailer hit the air waves, at least as a cursory “must see” personal viewing.

Hmmm, is it recommendable to others not so sold? Did the movie live up to the billing? A strong YES!

The full cast including Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and Cate Blanchett had chemistry and believability, as they set out in what seemed an impossible mission. The details of uniform fittings, basic training, small glimpses of their backgrounds and families…. Allowed the viewer to engage with the characters… immediately cheering for the underdog’s success! A small amount of language, and reality violence… definitely “family friendly” for the tween set through adulthood.

A mission deemed unworthy? Men undeserving a commission? A crew that seemed more like outcasts, than an elite fighting force? As the push from Normandy was underway to recapture Europe, wouldn’t appear the ideal for art and historic monument survival was a priority…. “Is ART worth a man’s life? “ Many might say absolutely not! Thank goodness, softer hearts and wiser minds said yes! The historical figures LOVE and passion for the work may have saved a generation, and our souls.

In the field of economics, art continues to be a top $$ investment! LOOK at the latest auctions, how many sales have exceeded the listing prices by more than 50%? As a place marker in history, how can a DaVinci, or Michelangelo, or ….. be replaced?

The burning of Picassos, ….. and so many masters as part of Hitler’s “Nero Clause” cements his role as top historic villain. Like a small child, if I can’t have it, neither can you! The vastness of the collections the Nazi regime accumulated was more than breath taking…. Instant thoughts arise on “What if the Monument Men hadn’t taken up the mission”? The film picks up on the urgency of their task….. it deals with main premises with tension, action, humor, a little geography, and some art history to boot.

The picture did take some dramatic freelancing with the facts, enough actual history to warrant a nice portrayal for “real life” families (finally beeming with pride? The story could have gone unmerited..). Parents a great opportunity to talk about sacrifice, history, … Educators can definitely utilize the movie to peek a student’s interest in the era, art, and the group’s accomplishments. Faith leaders can utilize clips in multiple directions…

The acute contrast with Russian troops in “returning” the works to families/museums vs. keeping ill gotten gains for war reparations was clearly delineated. Patriotism is at it’s finest! Lives were risked for more than the bottom line, or personal national gain… what other conquering nation has done that?

Many of the featured art items were RELIGIOUS in nature…. Some of the most inspired art, then and now, continues to be talented men and women who express their faith! Michelangelo’s “Madonna and Child” was literally the redeeming factor for an alcoholic lieutenant ….

The Jewish Holocaust was a central theme without being showcased “in your face”. The towering warehouse of goods, the barrels of gold teeth, the label on the back of the painting, the return of the portrait to an empty apartment…. Seemless in drawing your empathy in, and outrage to enact justice. One of the most touching scenes in the film is when the group’s German Jewish immigrant views the Rembrandt (a tour banned, when with his grandfather in Germany).

As Valentine’s Day approaches, a great “starter” to distinguish true passion from a greedy lust … can LOVE be used in conjunction with things? Is it ok to love our beginnings? Lessons from history? On a broader sense, what are we willing to sacrifice?

Bottom line…. Will power and violence always take what they want, i.e. will the bad guys be victorious? Or despite the risk of life, can action by principled people of integrity win the day?

Can’t forget the Cincinnati tie to an actual Monument Man (information provided by the Cincinnati Art Museum): “Walter Ings Farmer was born in Alliance, Ohio in 1911 and worked in Cincinnati as an interior designer until he joined the Army in 1942. Farmer went on to become one of the original Monuments Men, serving as the Director of the Wiesbaden Collecting Point and helping to recover thousands of works of art that had been confiscated by the Nazis. Farmer returned to the US in 1946, where he again worked as an interior decorator but also served as a lecturer here at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Columbus Museum of Art and the University of Cincinnati until his death in 1997. Upon his death, Farmer bequested several works of art to the Cincinnati Art Museum, including this self-portrait by Martin Quandal. “

Perhaps some difficult themes for mainstream consumption… While not on the level of a “Saving Private Ryan”, the antics and action combined with the “star attraction” may overcome a choice to spend movie $$ elsewhere.