Host a patriotic film fest this weekend
On Monday, you can celebrate America at Hutchins Street Square, and on Tuesday, Lodi Lake will be the place to be from the Kiwanis pancake breakfast through fireworks after dark.
But that leaves Saturday and Sunday empty. How about filling them with a patriotic film festival?
Invite some friends, fire up the barbecue, grab a few bottles of locally brewed beer and uncork some Lodi wine. Then, watch a couple movies to get in the Independence Day spirit.
1. ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’
Of course. This humans vs. aliens flick is cheesy science fiction at its finest — evil aliens try to invade, and humanity has to fight back. Set on July 4, the movie will bring out your patriotic pride as the fictional U.S. president and his rag-tag team of heroes race to save the world.
The 2016 sequel has humanity far more technologically advanced, thanks to alien tech, but in no less danger from the invaders. Once again, a team of heroes — this time a little more global — has to save the world.
Sure, the movies have a few plot holes, but they’re full of good, explosive underdog vs. evil action.
2. ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’
Capt. Steve Rogers is an embodiment of everything America should be. He protects those who need protecting, stands up for the little guy, and puts his life on the line to do what’s right, even when it’s not easy.
The sequels are fun, too, but you can’t go wrong with “The First Avenger.” Set during the darkest days of World War II, Cap goes to great lengths to join the Army and gets involved in a secret experiment to become a super soldier. But while battling Nazis — he’s knocked out Adolf Hitler over 200 times — Rogers uncovers a deeper evil: Hydra, which plans to use ancient, magical artifacts to remake the world.
It’s an imaginative, superhero take on World War II, but a fun romp nonetheless.
3. ‘An American Tail’
This kid-friendly animated movie shares the story of Fievel Mousekewitz and his family as they immigrate from Russia to the United States in 1885. They flee Cossacks and Jewish pogroms looking for a better life in America, but Fievel is separated from his family.
After escaping a sweatshop, Fievel throws his lot in with Irish and Italian mice who are fighting the cats exploiting mice workers. He also befriends Tiger, an orange tabby cat who wants to help the mice. Fievel’s main goal, though, is to find his family and live the American dream.
In the midst of the Civil War, Capt. Robert Shaw, a white officer, is injured at Antietam and sent home to recover, where he is quickly promoted and put in charge of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
Despite the danger — the Confederacy announces that any black men in Union Army uniform will be executed, not taken prisoner — the men insist on fighting to free other slaves and keep America united.
During the war, Shaw lobbies for his men to be allowed to fight, rather than being treated as a laborers for the other regiments. Finally, the 54th gets their chance when they volunteer to lead a charge at Charleston Harbor, despite knowing it will lead to heavy casualties.
(For a similar story, check out “Only the Brave,” which follows the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team — the most decorated unit in U.S. military history — as they risk their lives to save the Texas Lost Battalion during World War II.)
5. ‘Born on the Fourth of July’
“Born on the Fourth of July” tells the true story of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic.
Kovic — who really was born on July 4 — joins the Marines during Vietnam. Through two tours in Vietnam, Kovic learns that war is not glorious, after being involved in an attack that leaves Vietnamese civilians dead and losing a fellow Marine to his own friendly fire.
When he’s injured in battle and paralyzed from the chest down, he returns to the U.S., where the veterans hospital ignores him and American citizens have turned against the war and the soldiers who fight in it.
Through his struggles with disability, PTSD and life in America as a veteran, Kovic struggles with what it means to be truly patriotic, and whether criticism of American involvement in Vietnam and other wars is right or wrong.
The movie is based on Kovic’s autobiography of the same name.
Speaking of guilty pleasures, this movie about a killer shark doesn’t seem to have much of a connection to Independence Day — beyond being set during the Fourth of July holiday, that is.
But between the schlocky shark-fighting fun, there is an incredibly moving scene where hard-bitten seafarer Quint shares that he is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis disaster during World War II.
That’s all I can say without spoiling the film for those who haven’t seen it yet!
The wax figure of Captain America, portrayed by Chris Evans in the 2011 movie “Captain America: The First Avenger,” stands at Madame Tussauds in Washington, D.C. in 2015. The movie is one of several that can be added to the list for a patriotic film festival.