Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, "I used this book as an inspiration for the biggest win of my career when we ended UCLA's all-time 88-game winning streak in 1974."

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Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information.

In the Valley of Elah (7/10)

by Tony Medley

This comes advertised as an anti-Iraq war polemic, complete with the usual cast of left wing characters, writer-director Paul Haggis, Susan Sarandon, Al Gore’s old roomie Tommy Lee Jones, and Charlize Theron. But I wonder what today’s commentators would have thought of From Here to Eternity (1953), made in the middle of the Korean War. That Oscar®-winner depicted the pre-WWII army as less than stellar. There was the Company Commander, Captain Holmes, a womanizing adulterer who encouraged the abuse of one of his soldiers, protagonist Robert E. Lee Prewitt, First Sergeant Warden, who cuckolded his boss, a sadistic sergeant, Fatso, who ran the stockade and ends up beating an inmate to death. This film, one of my all time favorites, certainly didn’t paint the army in a favorable light in wartime, but I don’t remember it being unduly criticized for its negative portrayal.

That said, the principals involved in this film, especially Jones, have emphasized that they made this movie as an anti-war statement. I don’t recall director Fred Zinnemann or Burt Lancaster or Frank Sinatra or Monty Clift or Ernest Borgnine making similar comments about ‘Eternity.

Clearly, the point they are making is that war is dehumanizing. Well, duh! Unfortunately, in light of their comments they apparently intend it to indict the United States in general and the Army in particular. Even though I don’t think this movie is particularly effective in their stated purpose, it’s odd to me that they would take so much effort to complain about America in light of the brutality of our enemies. Why not a movie about the way Islamic jihadists treat women or the devastation they have been wreaking on each other or the huge numbers of innocent victims of their suicide bombers or their barbaric beheading of journalists or the way they stone accused adulterers to death? I guess Haggis and Jones and Sarandon and Theron don’t have that kind of courage.

Even so, Haggis & Co. have put together a highly entertaining film. Hank Dearfield (Jones) learns early on that his son has been brutally murdered after returning from Iraq. He immediately goes to the base to investigate. There he meets Det. Emily Sanders (Thereon), who is subject to extreme sexual harassment by her other detectives because she slept with the boss to get her job. The film proceeds as a whodunit as Hank refuses to be rebuffed and continues to push the investigation despite the lack of cooperation of the civilian police force and the Army, winning Emily over to his side in the process.

Haggis knows what he’s doing and has put together an intriguing story, buttressed by very good acting by the entire cast. The two-hour plus film falls apart at the ending because they wanted to make their point, and the dénouement leaves one saying, “what?” As such, it does significant damage to what is, up until then, a very entertaining film.

September 15, 2007