Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bens #'s 100-91: Clyde, The Kid and Cukoo Kings

It's been a while since a post, largely because Brent and I were awaiting the introduction of wise new bloggers.

Turns out they're so wise they aren't joining us at all. So, abandoned by the only three readers we would have ever had, we're starting up 100-1 from the ground up.

My first ten are a strange brew, 30's, 50's and 70's, war movies/post war movies, shiftless criminal lowlifes and shiftless political lowlifes, heart warming family's and crossdressers galore!

With that, here are 10 movies that aren't the greatest (not by any means) but have something going for them that makes them special.

100--Bonnie & Clyde
Rather than building up the myth of history’s most famous bank robbing duo, this exposes their more sincere flaws. Insensitive, afraid, co-dependent, everything you don’t envision from the bland descriptors in books. Plus it features great performances from Beatty and Dunaway.

99--The Best Years of Our Lives
What makes this often sappy soldiers-come-home drama, worthy of a top 100 spot is the reality of it all. The romance of the army, shattered (before Vietnam) the return of heroes, quickly forgotten (before Gulf War I/II), Though the central love story rather stinks, Fredrich March and Myrna Loy (HELENA WOOH!) do have one of the great love scenes of all time: “How many times have I told you I hated you and believed it in my heart? How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me; that we were all washed up? How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?” Beautiful, and true, I think, I’ve never been married.

98--All the King’s Men
A political drama in an era when politicians were considered nigh untouchable. The dramatization of Huey Long’s life does two intersting things in equal measure. First, it makes you admire the idealism of the man, regardless of the tactics he uses to get them. And secondly, it openly confronts the viewer asking how you can approve of him with your votes.

97--The Kid
I heart Charlie Chaplin (as you’ll no doubt notice during the revelation of this list). This is the beginning of Chaplin’s real exploration of his Tramp character. Whereas most of the other movies are focused on getting the girl, this one’s focused on his fatherly instincts, and it’s extremely affecting (if not as funny)

96--King Kong
As close to an epic monster movie as you’re like to come to with the first real development of special effects in story telling. It can be forgiven the lame remakes, but what is so surprising is that the grandeur you can tell was inteded in the 30’s still resonates today.

95--Grapes of Wrath
As sincere and heartwarming as the novel it’s based on, this is a great American story (and I’m pretty sure that’s a phrase I’ll end up using about twenty times before this is over). What’s so stunning about this film though is that it pushes Tom Joad to the brink of iconic hero status, only to reassert his flawed humanity upon his exit. It’s not quite Steinbeck’s words or art but it is Henry Fonda which is close enough

Regardless of what Brent says, this is funny. Not so much Dustin Hoffman in drag, or talking about being in drag, but rather Dustin Hoffman himself. His overblown obsession with Love Canal, his inimitable sleaziness in picking up women, and in a perfect match, Bill Murray’s understated writer is the ultimate dead-pan counterpoint to Hoffman’s occassionally overwrought zaniness. A crappy synth-sound track nearly ruins it, but doesn’t.

The standard for post-Vietnam War movies. It takes many of the elements of The Best Years of our Lives and sets it in the time of war itself. We are confronted with the reality of humanity in war time, or rather, the lack of it. Painting with a broad brush, soldiers are either corrupt killers or disenchanted druggists, but in Charlie Sheen we have a measured lens for both worlds, reporting the facts and enabling a personal judgement on the world it portrays. 91--One

92--One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Though it seems more dated now, this is still an excellent exhibition of the madhouse, and madman Jack Nicholson’s methods. At turns charming, antagonistic, humane and anarchic, Nicholson’s McMurphy is superb. Best of all he has a host of wild men to play off of, each of whom brings their own quirks and habits to their role.

91--All Quiet on the Western Front
A wonderful combination of gritty battle reality and post-service after shock, all told from the German perspective. A humanizing look at the villanized victims not all together different from their counterparts in the opposite bunker.

(Next week 90-81, and potentially comments from people who have even less of a life than I do)