Paying Homage – ANZAC Day and Paul

Yesteday was ANZAC Day, a remarkable day forever etched into the psyche of every Australian and New Zealander, a day to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom and the values we believe in. Nicole and I attended the dawn service at Nobby’s beach in Newcastle and it was one of the more powerful and moving services I have attended in recent years. The waves were crashing, the rain was falling, and the sounds of mortar shells and gunfire could be heard through the speakers whilst the narrator gave everyone a quick history of the Gallipoli campaign.

For those who don’t know, on the 25th of April 1915 the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed at Gallipoli, a heavily fortified Turkish beach that was halting the progress of the Allied Navies into the Black Sea (http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/). While historians continue to debate about whether or not the ANZAC forces landed at the right coordinates, what we do know is that the ANZAC forces were faced with a heavily fortified enemy located at the top of steep and rugged terrain. In what was clearly an “unwinnable” battle, the ANZAC forces continued to charge the Turkish fortifications for eight months, at which point the casualties became too high and the Allied forces were withdrawn. During this time over 44,000 Allied soliders (8,709  from Australia and 2,712 from New Zealand) and over 86,000 Ottoman Empire soliders were killed.

Australia had only been a sovereign nation for 13 years when the ANZAC forces landed at Gallipoli. The courage and valour displayed by these men against overwhelming odds had a profound impact on the people of Australia and New Zealand, shaping the way we looked at ourselves as nations and becoming an integral part of our identities.  Every year before dawn on the 25th of April we remember the sacrifices made by all brave soldiers who fight for Australia and New Zealand. We have many traditions that we recite during the dawn service, but the reading of the fourth stanza from the poem For The Fallen has had the most profound impact on my life:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Tradition usually dictates a trip to the local RSL for a few beers and a game of Two-Up, but recently these events have been overtaken by small proportion intoxicated teenagers using this day as an excuse to get completely legless. Instead, Nicole and I decided to visit a few sites around Newcastle before going to see a movie.

We ended up seeing Paul the latest movie from Nick Frost and Simon Pegg that pays homage to some of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. Frost and Pegg play two sci-fi geeks on their way to the US to attend Comic-Con and take a tour of the “UFO Belt”. During this tour they meet Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an alien who has just escaped from Area 51 in an attempt to get back home. As is standard fare for a Frost/Pegg movie, hilarity ensues.

The movie is packed with both subtle and overt references to almost everything geeky and nerdy, from the FBI agent named Lorenzo Zoil to the Mos Eisley Cantina music playing in the one of the pubs. Frost and Pegg fill the movie with plenty of wit, while Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig provide all the slapstick and and toilet humour, creating a well balanced mix of humour that keeps you laughing from start to finish. For pure entertainment value, Paul is heading straight to #1 on my list of Best Movies of 2011.

I’m pretty sure that nearly everyone around the world had a public holiday yesterday so how did you spend your day? For those Australians and New Zealanders that attended a dawn service, where was it and what was it like? For those who have seen Paul, do you think it is a worth addition to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz?

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