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‘Masters Of The Air’ Shows Aerial Warfare And The Horror Of Fighting In A Flying Fortress B-17 Unlike Ever Seen Before

‘Masters Of The Air’, Aerial Warfare And The Horror Of Fighting In A Flying Fortress B-17

Swarms of German fighters tear through American bomber formations like deadly bolts of lightning in a sky streaked with condensation trails and the murderous glare of tracer fire. A furious, desperate combat takes place on an infinite battlefield in the sky above. B-17s are shot down, plunging towards the ground or spinning around like the burning leaves of giant trees. The pilots of the Flying Fortresses try to maintain formation so as not to become solitary prey for enemy fighters. And in the midst of the storm of destruction, the gunner in the exposed ball turret on the plane’s underbelly explodes in a cloud of blood when hit.
A B-17 pilot in the series 'Masters of the Air'
A B-17 pilot in the series ‘Masters of the Air’

“Superb,” said the British James Holland, one of the fashionable military historians, of the new World War II miniseries Masters of the Air. Of course, stories of air combat have been told before, but never the war waged by the American heavy bombers over Germany and occupied Europe, and certainly not with the realism and emotion with which it appears in this nine-episode Apple TV+ miniseries. Masters of the Air is very faithfully based on the extraordinary 2006 book by Donald L. Miller of the same title.

With the same successful formula as Band of Brothers (parachute regiment) and The Pacific (marines) and Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg as producers, Masters of the Air follows an American unit’s campaigns throughout World War II. This time the story focuses on the members (pilots, crews, mechanics, and commanders) of the “Bloody 100th,″ a long-suffering Bombardment Group in the famous US Eighth Air Force, stationed in eastern England. From their base in the English countryside the famous Flying Fortresses — impressive four-engine Boeing B-17 heavy bombers — took off pregnant with a devastation they intended to make rain down to subdue Nazi Germany.

A B-17 'Flying Fortress' in a promotional photo for the miniseries 'Master of the Air' on Apple TV+A B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ in a promotional photo for the miniseries ‘Master of the Air’ on Apple TV+

Throughout the series we witness sensational, bone-chilling scenes, our hearts in our mouths and amazed at what human beings are capable of suffering (and inflicting) in war. In one scene Messerschmitt Bf 109s attack the bombers from the front, spraying them with bullets that open large holes in the cabin, in the fuselage and in the flesh of the American aviators. In another we see the little puffs of black smoke that comes from the Flak (the German anti-aircraft defense). The projectiles dot the sky and shake the bombers when they detonate — so much for modern-day turbulence — these little explosions can literally burst the planes and their crews wide open.

At one point, the crew of a B-17 debris from other disintegrated bombers rain down, including a body that hits their wing. Other shocking scenes are the one in which a crew member gets caught in the bomb hatch while trying to parachute out of his plane while it plunges into a dizzying fall and a comrade tries desperately to free him, or when a returning crew member falls to his knees and vomits violently as he tries to comprehend the slaughter he witnessed on an failed mission.

The series shows very well the contrast between the powerful bombers, which were marvels of aeronautical technology at the time and that take off in impressive formations, and the way in which they are destroyed. As one pilot summarized when trying to assimilate the vision of ten men and three tons of metal reduced to a cloud of black smoke, “it seems impossible that something so big could disappear so quickly.” In the scene featuring a forced landing of a bullet-riddled B-17, with two engines out of action, no wheels, and several crew members dead or badly injured, it is impossible not to shudder when the pilot utters the phrase: “Crew, prepare for landing.

Un B-17 abatido por un Me-262 sobre Crantenburg (Alemania).Un B-17 abatido por un Me-262 sobre Crantenburg (Alemania).

Most of those scenes come from the book, and from real testimonies collected by Miller. The most incredible thing about the series is that in reality it truly was like that. And after surviving bloody and terrifying missions, those young people from the four corners of the United States and from all social classes were able to get back in their planes the next day. 26,000 airmen of the 8th Air Force died. They suffered more fatalities than the Marine Corps. Masters of the Air shows definitively that if there was anything worse than serving in submarines during World War II, it was serving in the bombers.

To the soldier’s usual fear of death, being part of a bomber crew added vertigo and claustrophobia — the planes look big on the asphalt, but they are laden with bombs and space on board is tight. Not only that, the environment at 10,000 feet is extremely hostile. The lack of oxygen and the cold, along with the atmospheric conditions, were among the mortal dangers that the aviators faced, and the series shows this very well. In one episode, we see how a machine gunner who removes his gloves to unjam his weapon gets his hands stuck-frozen to the metal and tears his skin off as he frees himself.

The group’s adventures are especially well represented — as in Miller’s book — through a set of real characters, played by actors, such as Majors Gale Buck Cleven (Austin Butler) and John Bucky Egan (Callum Turner), Lieutenants Harry Crosby (Anthony Boyle), Glenn Graham (Darragh Cowley), and Curtis Biddick (Barry Keoghan, the in vogue star of Saltburn), and ground Sergeant Ken Lemmons, played by Rafferty Law, son of Jude Law.

The proven formula of telling a story from within a combat unit and emphasizing the human dimension of its members reworks its magic in Masters of the Air (we inevitably suffer for those young people in life and death situations in their planes. It awakens our affinity for them and we identify with young airmen, at a time when it is extremely difficult to do so with the military who sow chaos and destruction and devastate cities, killing the civilian population with their bombs.

Imagen de la serie 'Los amos del aire'.Imagen de la serie ‘Los amos del aire’.

And if there is any weapon that is difficult to empathize with, it is bombers. The debate over the horrific destruction caused by American high-altitude strategic bombing in World War II appears in Miller’s book and in the series, in which some airmen question the slaughter of civilians. In any case, both the series and the book opt for the reassuring thesis that this suffering was necessary to put an end to the Nazis, and that somehow the Germans had asked for it.

Miller tries to distinguish between the American bombing, which would always have been targeted, he emphasizes, at attacking the German war effort (even considering that the bombs go off course) and that of the British, who did not hesitate to destroy cities deliberately. The series and book continually remember the enormous sacrifice made by the bomber crews, who lost 60 Flying Fortresses and almost 600 men in a single mission. Another complex issue that the book and series mention is that of racism: the democratic United States allowed some Black pilots to fly fighter planes (the Tuskegee men) but in no way in bombers.

Los amos del aire
Apple TV+

What stands out about the series is its technical and operational accuracy (the missions it recounts are authentic, including the one that ended with the landing in North Africa after bombing Regensburg) and a production design that takes meticulous care of everything, from the planes to the smallest period element, passing through the aviators’ clothing, with the iconic leather and sheepskin jackets.

There are also the many historically accurate details. Among them, the secrecy with the Norden sights, the decisive instrument that allowed American bombers to hit the targets with unprecedented precision, or the scene in which a radio operator eats the sheets with the frequencies and the secret identification of the device before it can fall into enemy hands. Likewise, the way in which the atmosphere in the bases (and the canteens) is shown, the crew members’ superstitions, the stress of combat, the fear (“the Focke-Wulf funk”), the mystique of the 25 missions after which you were going home (the true story of the B-17 Memphis Belle, which the 1990 film of the same name focused on), the positive relationship of American personnel with British children, and the romantic and sexual relationships during the war.

Through parallel plots, the series very accurately captures how the escape networks worked for downed pilots (through them Chuck Yeager was able to return to combat), and the lives of the captured airmen and interned in concentration camps (Stalag Luft, like the one in The Great Escape).

Among the drawbacks, the accentuated — and sometimes excessive — epic sense of the narrative, and a certain aestheticism (it is doubtful that the “bomber boys” were all so handsome and posed so well). These are two things that certainly contribute to making Masters of the Air a great spectacle, but that jar a little with the ultimate reality of how the bombers left the world below after they had delivered their payloads.

Culture

‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The Voice Of EU | One of the most versatile comedian and actor Robin Williams left an indelible mark on an entire generation throughout the 1990s, evoking both laughter and tears. His portrayal of a strict yet endearing housekeeper in the hit film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, propelling it to resounding success across global boundaries.

Señora Doubtfire Robin Williams
Robin Williams in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993). Archive Photos (20th Century-Fox / Getty Images)

Williams played the role, despite the adversities and addictions that plagued his life at the time, by putting aside the devised script and becoming a master of improvisation during the filming of the movie, which brought in more than €400 million.

In the year of its release it was only outdone by Jurassic Park (€1 billion). This is what its director, also an avowed admirer of the American actor, explained on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut on the big screen: “It took me three months to rewrite the script. I sent it to Robin and he said he loved it.” After Williams’ suicide in 2014, in an interview for Business Insider magazine, Chris Columbus unveils details that were buried 30 years ago.

“Four and a half hours, maybe five,” is the time in which, according to the director, Robin Williams was able to play Mrs. Doubtfire, a characterization for which the film earned the Oscar for Best Makeup. The actor was not comfortable in portraying his role: a father who disguises himself as a housekeeper in order to spend more time with his children after a bitter divorce. For him, it presented a challenge. “We never could shoot two consecutive days of Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a punishing day for him, so always the next day, we would shoot him as Daniel (the father),” the director of the film reveals three decades after its release.

Comedy is acting out optimism.” — Robin Williams

In between the laughs and moments that are etched in the minds of many, Columbus describes the challenge of keeping actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, who played leading roles in the film, from breaking away from the script of their characters while Williams was at his most unrestrainedly creative.

Indeed, according to the director, his boundless energy even created situations where the script supervisor could not keep up, resulting in unrepeatable and spontaneous takes. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.” Most of the sequences in the film, and specifically all of those featuring Williams, were the result of an incredible amount of improvisation from the American comedian. “If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” recalls Columbus.

“Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This was the actor’s first warning to the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was a significant figure in Chris Columbus’ life, and he still is to this day. Not only because he was responsible for his move to San Francisco, the actor didn’t want to shoot anywhere else, but due to his ability to make people laugh and cry at the same time. “Williams wanted the film to be shot there because he was living in San Francisco with his wife, Marsha, and their children. Thanks to him I fell in love with the city that has become my home,” he explains.

“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” — Robin Williams

The director also reminisced about some memorable scenes that contributed to the film’s status as a cinematic masterpiece, as perceived by many. However, what stood out the most was his innate ability to improvise: “The entire restaurant sequence was remarkable. When Robin, portraying Mrs. Doubtfire, accidentally loses his teeth in his drink, you can see the joy on Robin’s face; he’s almost smirking to himself for coming up with that.” Following the success of the Mrs. Doubtfire premiere, the production team is currently exploring ways to honor Williams and his portrayal in the film, although no definitive plans have been made yet. “There are approximately 972 boxes of footage stored in a warehouse somewhere in California. There’s something truly special and enchanting about his performances, and I believe it would be exciting to delve deeper into it.”

Despite initial reservations about creating a sequel, the notion of a new spin-off gained traction shortly before the actor’s tragic passing on August 11, 2014, at his residence in Paradise Bay, California. “Robin’s only concern was: ‘Boss, do I have to spend as much time in the suit this time around?’ The physical toll of portraying Doubtfire was immense for Robin; it felt like running a marathon every day,” the director recounts. Following a brief meeting at the actor’s home, and a simple handshake, Chris Columbus began outlining the script mere days before the unfortunate event. “During the rewrite, we contemplated reducing the role of Doubtfire. However, Robin’s untimely demise extinguished any hopes of a sequel,” he laments. Although not spearheaded by its creator, Mrs. Doubtfire has found new life as a stage musical. “What set him apart as a performer is that there was no one like Robin Williams before him, and there will never be anyone like him again. He was truly one-of-a-kind,” reflects the actor’s superior.

Mrs. DoubtfireRobin Williams and Matthew Lawrence in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993).

In addition to the director, another Mrs. Doubtfire star who later spoke of Robin Williams’ brilliance was Matthew Lawrence, who played Daniel’s son. Lawrence was just a teenager in the film, which also gave a debut to his co-star Mara Wilson, the unforgettable Matilda. One day Lawrence went to Robin’s dressing room and did not expect what he was told: “‘Stay away from drugs, particularly cocaine.’ He was being serious and told me: ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him”, Lawrence recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2022.

The lesser-known chapter of Williams’ life, while unrelated to his demise, shed light on the inner struggles of a comedian committed to bringing joy to others yet grappling with profound personal sorrow. “As charismatic as he appeared on screen, I’d often visit him in his trailer for chats, he was tormented. It was truly agonizing for him. He didn’t conceal it. He confided in me about his battles with addiction,” the actor concluded.


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‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man

The Case Against World’s Richest Man

When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”

The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.

To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.

His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.

He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.

In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.


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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.


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