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26 March 1998 Edition

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Television: The American way

By Sean O Donaile

Casualties of War Channel 4 Sun
The 70th Annual Oscars BBC1 Tues
Prime Time RTE1 Thurs
Insight UTV Weds
With Bill Clinton and the American world police drooling at the prospect of bombing Baghdad, it would do them no harm to reflect on the damage they caused to themselves and others during the Vietnam war.

Channel 4 is currently showing a host of `Nam movies on Sunday nights and their latest offering was the harrowing drama ``Casualties of War'' starring Sean Penn of Madonna husbandry fame and that Mickey Rooney of the 80s, Michael J. Fox.

The comparisons with the British soldiers in West Tyrone or in Ardoyne are many, including their complete lack of understanding of the situation, and the nervous eyes of the raw recruits at the prospects of an imminent ``guerrilla'' attack.

Their treatment of the locals was similar and indeed worse in many situations, only because there were no Bloody Sunday justice campaigns, CAJs or Sinn Féins to pull them up. Massacres of civilians was commonplace and Sean Penn set the tone by kidnapping a villager and gangraping her with his colleagues ``to keep morale up''.

Penn is the by now cliched `Nam psycho sergeant - ``I'm the meanest motherfucker in the valley'' - and his contemptous words would've gone down well at the recent DUP rally in Portadown - ``they're nothing but slopes and cockroaches and total destruction is the only answer''.

``Hatch'' is your average dumbass yankee private who passes his time sweating, drinking cans, telling silly jokes and swopping Playboy.

As the unit progress upriver ``looking for gooks'' they desend into a morass of evil, raping and murdering the young women and spraying the forest with napalm.

Michael J. Fox, as ever the good guy, refuses to yield to peer pressure and on reporting the sordid deeds to his superiors is informed in a Stalker-style inquiry that ``What happens is the way things are and you best just relax and forget''.

The reaction of the recruits and their superiors to the charges are very Lee Cleggish - ``these guys will be out of the stockade in no time''.

But Hollywood being Hollywood, Micheal J. ensures a happy ending, with the baddies getting their just desserts.

Pity it didn't happen like that in real life.

Meanwhile back at the ranch they were busy showering each other with thank yous as the 70th Oscars were doled out.

Everyone bar Mr Eastwood got a mention from the emotional, excited and coke-laden recipients. All the mammies and daddies got a mention and the next door neighbours cat, although quote of the night must go to Robin Williams on receiving his first Oscar, for best supporting actor - ``When I told my dad that I wanted to be an actor he said, `Fine, just have a real job as well, like welding','' which sums up the attitude of many to the arts.

The show was hosted by the affable Billy Crystal, complete with a bag load of Terry Wogan jokes and guest presenters included the ever changeable Madonna.

Titanic was a lot more successful than the ship, reeling in 11 statues, but questions must be asked about one film claiming a host of awards year in, year out.

That was the only Irish connection with the show as alas ``Dance, Lexie, Dance'' didn't get to step out, which I'm sure didn't stop them having a few jars on Monday night in Derry.

For those of us in the real world familiar expectations of owning a house of our own is quickly becoming fantasy, not because it's ideologically unsound for revolutionaries to enter the rat race of consumer capitalism and consumerism but because of the spiralling prices, particularly in Dublin, where the average semi will set you back £100,000.

Prime Time predicted a demand of 30,000 homes a year in the 26 Counties alone, with couples having to commute to Dublin from as far away as Mullingar or Dundalk, as city prices escalate out of all but the fat cats' reach.

Daithi Downey of Threshhold rightly portrayed the situation as a social crisis, with the rich getting richer. House prices have jumped 25% in the last 12 months compared to a 4% rise in the cost of building.

Downey rightly called for state intervention to eliminate the super profits of a few, central planning and more equal distribution of wealth.

The much forgotten Tuskar Rock disaster of 1968 was also raised by Prime Time, when an Aer Lingus jet was mysteriously downed off the Wexford coast with 70 losses. The murky paws of the British military was and is suspected of involvment, reinforced by the finding of British missile fragments near the crash site five years later.

Sure what's new?

What can one say about the nonsensical one sided ``Raymond Gilmore - I was an RUC agent'' on UTV last week. The programme was given over to a one sided rant by the man who ``had a very deep and damaging effect on the Bogside''(E. Mc Cann), for the sake of a poker machine - ``his only motive was money'' (defendant).

Amid all the twaddle about being the James Bond of Derry it was let slip the judges comments of 1984 - ``this man is a habitual liar..completely selfish and self regarding'' - thus discrediting the entire programme.

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