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One of the fun ways to get an understanding how the world has changed over the last few years is to take a look at movies about the same subject that were made in different decades.
Today I’m thinking about nuclear war (must have been that iffy breakfast burrito), so I’ll be writing about two movies that both involve imminent nuclear annihilation of the entire planet — one movie you’ve probably seen (War Games, 1983), and the other you probably haven’t (Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964).
Back in the late 50s and early 60s, your average Joe on the street had more than a little concern about the prospect of a war between the United States and the Soviet Union. We didn’t like the Communists, the Communists didn’t like us, and there were lots and lots of bombs waiting to be dropped. Both sides were terribly secretive about what weapons they had, where they were stashed, and what sort of horrific damage they could do on short notice. This is the setting for Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick.
In Dr. Strangelove, the completely insane General Jack T. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) decides that the only way to settle the Cold War and protect the US is to initiate an attack on the Soviet Union in order to get them to retaliate so that we can wipe them out. Ripper takes it upon himself to cut off all communications at his Air Force Base and issue the orders for “Wing Attack Plan R”. With General Ripper the only man in possession of the recall code and hundreds of bombers heading for Russian airspace ready to drop tons of nuclear warheads, it’s up to General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) and President Muffley (Peter Sellars) to figure out how to avoid WW III…
Now let’s skip ahead a few years to 1983. I was around then, and don’t remember being all that concerned about some general going nuts and lobbing bombs at the USSR. But by 1983 we had other worries when it came to nuclear destruction. Had our national defense system become so automated that a computer could start a nuclear war on its own? That, of course, is the premise of War Games.
When underachieving computer whiz David Lightman decides he’s just got to see what the local computer game company is up to (they didn’t have the G4 channel back then), he inadvertently ends up poking around the NORAD computer system called WOPR that analyzes the defense condition of the US and takes appropriate action to defend the country (i.e. order some crazy-ass missile launch). Thinking he’s playing next year’s hit “Global Thermonuclear War”, David engages the WOPR in a “game” that starts the countdown to a real thermonuclear confrontation…
Tune in next time for Part II: The Big Board vs. NORAD
What are these things I’d like to say? I think many of them involve movies.
Movies I love. Movies I hate. I watch a shitload of movies.
If I have an interesting thought, I’m much more confident that I can squeeze it into a post about a movie I’ve seen or heard of than a post about someone else’s job.
So witness jimsmuse 2.0…
Yes, I love the movie Carrie.
Carrie is my name, and today that movie suits my mood.