Friday, June 29, 2007

A translation of AFI's posturing

AFI included the following things as “Interesting Facts” about their list. Here is a Montanan Hooligan Annotated version of those interesting facts


This is the first year that RAGING BULL and VERTIGO have made the top 10. They were ranked #24 and #61 respectively when the original AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies poll was conducted in 1997.
Translation: We finally figured out that Raging Bull is a hell of a lot better than Gone with the Wind…sorry.

THE GRADUATE and ON THE WATERFRONT both stay on the list, but drop from their 1997 positions in the top 10. They now hold new positions at #17 (THE GRADUATE) and #19 (ON THE WATERFRONT).
Translation: We realized that The Graduate isn’t that good, and that no one born after 1960 has seen On the Waterfront, so we got rid of them, do you like us now?

Out of the 43 newly eligible films released from 1996 to 2006, only THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (#50), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (#71), TITANIC (#83) and THE SIXTH SENSE (#89) made the cut.
We only considered major studio blockbuster movies as things that were worthwhile in the last 10 years.

Notice the tit-for tat replacements of some new movies and some of the old ones.
INTOLERANCE (#49)--THE BIRTH OF A NATION (former #44). We figured we had to put something by DW Griffith on the list but didn’t want it to be racist…anymore.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (#75),--GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (former #99). Here’s your Sidney Poitier movie goddamit.
TOY STORY (#99)--FANTASIA (former #58)—Thanks CGI
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (#71)—ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (former #54)—Thank God we finally have a War movie about soldier’s humanity from our point of view, not the Germans
CABARET (#63)--AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (former #68),& MY FAIR LADY (former #91)—We figured we would get rid of two average musicals in favor of a really bad one.
THE SIXTH SENSE (#89)--FRANKENSTEIN (former #87): Makes sense…replace one movie about bringing the dead back to life, with another movie about the dead never really dying.
TITANIC (#83)--GIANT (former #82): There’s only room for one incredibly slow, desperately dull movie about pretty people experiencing sad things.
BLADE RUNNER (#97)--CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (former #64). There’s also only room for one incredibly dull science fiction movie that’s pretending to be more important than it actually is.
12 ANGRY MEN (#87)-- THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (former #67). Gripping portrayals of psychological warfare in black and white without explosions. Yup, only room for one of those too.
DR. ZHIVAGO (former #39), FARGO (former #84), PATTON (former #89), A PLACE IN THE SUN (former #92), AMADEUS (former #53), THE THIRD MAN (former #57), STAGECOACH (former #63)—Russia/Austria/North Dakota/Switzerland aren’t really American, We don’t want to glorify war or people who kill their wives, and uh…Stagecoach is…uh…yeah.

Steven Spielberg is the most represented director with five films: ET, JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, SCHINDLER'S LIST. Spielberg was the most represented director on AFI's original list--also with five films. (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was replaced by SAVING PRIVATE RYAN as the fifth entry.) Directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder each have four films on the list. Frank Capra, Charles Chaplin, Francis Ford Coppola, John Huston and Martin Scorsese each have three.
Once again we decide to cater to movies that people have actually seen rather than challenging them to watch something that’s actually suspenseful (Hitchcock) or well written (Wilder) or funny (Chaplin), we’ll just let them keep rewatching crap like ET and Jaws.
1969 had good movies, 1976 had great movies, and 1982 had a bunch of movies that people still watch….DAMN YOU REGAN!!

Four silent films are featured on the list--and three are new additions: THE GENERAL ((#17), INTOLERANCE (#49) and SUNRISE (#82). MODERN TIMES rounds out the list as the fourth entry, moving up three places to #78.
I’m sorry…what are they counting as sound in City Lights? And the Gold Rush?

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (#34) and TOY STORY (#99) represent the two animated films on the list. Unless you count CGI, or the countless hours it took to animate Brando’s bloated body in Apocolypse Now

The Fabulous 45, Forgotten 15 and Fuh...Fuh..oh just 40 more movies

So, the list is out there now, 100 movies chosen by “experts” in the field. Of course as anyone who has read Freakonomics will tell you (and I think I might be the last one) “experts” don’t know a damn thing.

Conveniently you have two total idiots on this web page devoted to giving you completely idiotic pieces of information. I’ll rip on AFI’s list in more time, but right now I thought you might enjoy seeing how the combined top 100 boils down for the two Montanans brave enough to throw it all on the line.

Brent and I listed the same movie 45 times, then found 15 more that we just plumb forgot to include until we saw the other one put it on his list, the final 40 are just the highest ranked movies that either one of us thinks isn’t that great but the other loves, or that one of us loves and the other hasn’t seen. Here now the Montana Hooligans Film Institute (Patent Pending) Top 100 Films of all time

1 Strangelove
2 Raging Bull
3 The Godfather
4 The Godfather II
5 Sunset Blvd
6 Citizen Kane
7 Do the Right Thing
8 Rear Window
9 Annie Hall
10 Hoop Dreams
11 Pulp Fiction
12 North by Northwest
13 On the Waterfront
14 Manhattan
15 The English Patient
16 The Gold Rush
17 Network
18 Singin' in the Rain
19 Casablanca
20 Lawrence of Arabia
21 Silence of the Lambs
22 Fargo
23 Malcolm X
24 The Apartment
25 Brokeback Mountain
26 It Happened One Night
27 Shakespeare in Love
28 Modern Times
29 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
30 Schindler's List
31 The Manchurian Candidate
32 In the Company of Men
33 Spinal Tap
34 The Great Escape
35 Goldfinger
36 Taxi Driver
37 Sense & Sensibility
38 Waiting for Guffman
39 The Graduate
40 Ben-Hur
41 Streetcar Named Desire
42 City Lights
43 Saving Private Ryan
44 The Kid
45 Platoon
46 Young Frankenstein
47 A Shot in the Dark
48 Before Sunset
49 Before Sunrise
50 A River Runs Through It
51 The Great Dictator
52 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
53 Twelve Angry Men
54 Lilies of the Field
56 Swingers
57 Hoosiers
58 Chasing Amy
59Doctor Zhivago
60 Clerks
61 King Kong
62 Blue Velvet
63 Airplane!
64 Kramer vs. Kramer
65 All About Eve
66 Sideways
67 The Night of the Hunter
68 My Dinner with Andre
69 Blazing Saddles
70 Million Dollar Baby
71 Apocalypse Now
72 The Sting
73 Patton
74 To Kill A Mockingbird
75 High Noon
76 The Shining
77 Philadelphia
78 Nashville
79 The Squid and the Whale
80 The Lion in Winter
81 Crimes and Misdemeanors
82 The Third Man
83 West Side Story
84 The Man Who Knew Too Much
85 The Searchers
86 Drugstore Cowboy
87 Traffic
88 Wizard of Oz
89 Kill Bill
90 Psycho
91 The Ice Storm
92 The Incredibles
93 Being John Malkovich
94 Hannah and Her Sisters
95 M*A*S*H
96 The Princess Bride
97 Betrayal
98 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
99 A Clockwork Orange
100 Double Indemnity

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Best Movie Ever, Or: How I Learned to Laugh at Nuclear Holocausts, Shudder at My Laughter and Laugh at My Shuddering

I was supposed to wait for Brent, I know. But I'm also supposed to leave for Mumbai in 20 hours, and when I'll next have a computer and internet access, I do not know. So, here it is. My number 1.


I’d heard of Dr. Strangelove before. It was funny. Hilarious even. So, when I was a junior in high school and ready to have a guys night, I agreed with my two buddies (one of whom is co-writing this blog with me, the other of whom is engaged or married to my co-writers ex-girlfriend) that we should watch this movie.

I didn’t last long though.

They were refueling a plane. Then there was a woman in a bikini, and I remember liking that. Then we started talking about something and lost all track of the movie. War room, what? Did they just say that guy’s name was Turgetson? What’s a British guy doing in this movie?

In short, Dr. Strangelove did not grab me at first as a contender for the title best movie ever. And, truth be told, I can’t really remember the second time I ever saw it.

But I do remember watching it again and laughing to myself. And then watching it again. And again. And again. And suddenly it dawned on me: “this is everything I love about movies, and nothing I hate.”

There is no overwrought sentimentality. There is no hackneyed dialogue. There are no unnecessary shots of explosions or breasts or any of the kind of things that executives seem to assume we want.

There is a reflection of human behavior. Fear. Hatred. Malice. Love. Lust. Ego. Pride. All included for the purpose of making the situation—as absurd as it is—as real as it can be.

There is, simultaneously, witty banter (“Shoot…a guy good have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all this stuff”) and smiple, honest, awkwardness of language (“one of our pilots went a little funny in the head…oh, you know…just, a little funny.”)

There are explosions because that’s what the movies about, not glamorous, not slow motion, not “wicked cool” but total and utter annihilation.

There are breasts because it’s part of what leads to natural human behavior.

From the first shot, the audience has to acknowledge a different and divergent tone from almost anything they’ve seen before. Planes, mid-flight being refueled. Nothing particularly remarkable, Kubrick actually took it all from long ignored stock footage. And to have it all set against soft, subtle, almost tinkling melodies sets up a monstrous punch-line.

The cast, though limited in many ways to important men in ties or medals, manages to carry through a sense of humanity and personal connection to the audience in the three leads: Slim Pickens, George C. Scott, and Peter Sellars.

I’m as surprised as anyone that Slim Pickens has been in more movies on my list than Spencer Tracy, and I’ve already mentioned how brilliant George C. Scott is, so let me say this about Peter Sellars.

For every two bit, fart joke comedy that you see in the theaters this year, there is a Peter Sellars role that out strips it by a mile. For every lame innuendo and crass characterization, there is a Peter Sellars gag that will knock you out. And suddenly, in this movie, the jokes and easy humor and natural bumbling charm that are so palpable in the Pink Panther movies give way to a series of characters simultaneously absurd and familiar.

Any time I have to deal with a frustrating bureaucrat (which in India is more often than you’d think) I nearly say: “listen, colonel Bat Guano, if that is your real name.” Any time I feel awkward on the phone I nearly say: “Of course I like to talk to you Dimitri. This is just a call to say hello.” Any time my boss is fishing for an idea, I nearly say “mine fuehrer! I have a plan!” Sellars captures all of this in a mere line here, or a line there, in a cocked eyebrow or a nervous shifting of his weight.

And when it all comes to an end, with the iconic image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb to oblivion, and George C. Scott railing about “the mine shaft gap!” you’re left not really laughing so much as smiling, sighing and thinking to yourself: “damn, how close was that to really happening?”

It’s not just the 60’s and the red phone and fingers on switches. It’s today and orange alerts and…well…fingers on switches. It’s not just a thing to laugh at because it’s ridiculous, it’s a thing to laugh at because, if you don’t, you may become ridiculously involved in the fear and forget to laugh.
It’s not just a movie of it’s time, or a movie of it’s place, but it’s something that people can feel at any time, in any cultural context. And it’s a movie that can always, make you laugh.

Friday, June 08, 2007

#31-2: Tom, Tap and Tuetonic Titwillows; Fronk-en-shteen, Frued and Flava Flav; Rage, Rain and Rosebud

30 Philadelphia—It’s less about AIDS and more of an exploration in prejudice. It’s got more to it’s core than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? And a fuller cast than Lilies of the Field (which I, like Brent, adore). What’s more it has the modern Poitier (Washington) the modern Tracy (Hanks) and the friggin’ man: Jason Robards.

29 Schindler’s List—What sets this move apart from other World War II chronicles is the simplicity of it all. Spielberg is great at showing the immediacy and humanity of one of the most hellish blots on the soul of man kind. The little slap of the red dress amidst all the dismal black and white make it even more real than you can imagine.

28 Spinal Tap—I know it’s only rock and roll but I like it. Brent goes for A Mighty Wind but the nueftet and the rest of the folkies have in numbers the rockers more than make up for in depth (as well as volume and punctuality). As this is the first real major mockumentary it gets some extra points for innovation.

27 High Noon—Unlike Brent, I love a good Western, especially when it has a flawed hero that turns the traditional idolatry of Hollywood into the blunt Western “I’m-great-yeah-but-I’m-also-kind-of-messed-up,-so-don’t-get-all-teary-on-me.” When the hero’s flaw is that he’s a work-a-holic, it makes it all the more accessible. And the clever, real time shooting of the movie (1 hour, 40 minutes from start to showdown) make it even more enjoyable

26 To Kill A Mockingbird—Of all the classic books transferred onto film, this one actually becomes a classic in it’s own right. Every student who reads it starts to wonder what kind of man Atticus Finch is and Gregory Peck embodies the soul of one of literature’s finest heroes. (He probably shouldn’t have beaten out Peter O’Toole for the best actor Oscar…but it’s a little late for that).

25 Patton—When a liberal, anti-war proponent like me is captivated and entranced by modern warfare and a modern warrior you know you’ve got something powerful. George C. Scott’s compulsive passion is a rarity in a biopic, neither idolizing nor knocking down the man, simply showing his humanity and leaving it to the audience to decide.

24 The Sting—Quite simply the gold standard for caper flicks (the Ocean’s 11 franchise still hasn’t snuck past it, despite the gltiz). The charm and poise of Newman and Redford with a gamut of twists so surprising that you never know what’s to be believed and what’s just deceiving you.

23 Million Dollar Baby—My vote for the best Eastwood movie in recent times, and far and away a better Boxing movie than any Rocky (which will somehow sneak on to AFI’s list again). It’s a study of the sport that actually explains why you do somethings and how training really works, and does more with the depth of an average boxer’s life (rub-down-whores and all) and the family you find doing what you love

22 Blazing Saddles—Silly and sophomoric at times, but by and large a supremely witty spoof on the Western (more on satire that starts Brent’s beloved Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright later). Brooks’ manic energy flows through the movie and the twittering Madeline Khan (and perhaps the funniest song ever on film) and cackling Harvey Korman (“That’s Hedley”) culminating in the ironic limo into the sunset; a perfect ending for a modern Western.

21 On the Waterfront—Everyone has heard the line, “I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” But few people actually know the context any more. But seeing Brando’s broken down palooka facing his brother makes an otherwise good drama (with a great supporting cast in Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden) great.

20 Pulp Fiction—Uber-violent, uber-witty, uber-hip. Sometimes it feels like it’s almost too much, to surprising, to daring to be as good as it is. But the trio of excellent stories and charming ne’er-do-wells beautifully balances love and business, friendship and distrust, compassion and violence. Leaving you with as complete an exploration of the human side of the world’s seedy underbelly as you’ll ever see.

19 Annie Hall—Sweetness personified in Alvy Singer’s romance and loss in the Woody Allen film. It has some of the best moments in comedy, including flopping lobsters, out of body sexual experiences and trying to do cocaine with a cold. The love story is fun, but not half as fun and familiar as the longing.

18 Shakespeare in Love—Love and a bit with a dog, oh and brilliant Tom Stoppard dialogue, a cast that doesn’t have a weak link (which, when your cast includes Ben Affleck, is saying something) and a twist on old tales that turn your average Shakespeare class into a suddenly shocking discovery that he’s a man…who liked sex…a lot.

17 The Manchurian Candidate—The kind of thriller that leaves with a twist so remarkably heartbreaking that you forget how long it took you to get there. Forget the modern remake, it’s the brilliance of the original and the hilarity of the garden party scenes that leave you chilled to the bone and curious to examine the motivation of heroes.

16 Do the Right Thing—Spike’s finest hour. Flowing cinematography, fully incorporated music into a movie world (“Fight the Power” is this movie), a host of entertaining and captivating characters, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in all their glory and an ending at once infuriating and frighteningly fair.

15 All About Eve—Manipulations, conniving, backstage back stabbing deceit. The kind of movie every actor loves. It’s less real than Guffman. But for sheer shock in terms of character development, writing and acting, it takes the cake.

14 North by Northwest—Adventure and intrigue set against a middle American backdrop. (Ask yourself, how often do you get a plane chase, gun fire, and explosions in a corn field?) I showed it to my 11th grade class yesterday and even without an introduction, even without any sense of Hitchcock, they were enthralled by the story, the script and the mystery of it all.

13 Fargo—It’s about so much more than the accent (though, for the record, the accents are pretty great). It’s that layer of Minnesota nice that permeates the movie, haunting the screen, the dinner tables, the hookers, the sheriffs. All this and two brilliant performances from Frances McDormand (a sublimely real modern heroine) and William H. Macy (the ultimate in sniveling villainy) help everyone in middle America know, big city crime isn’t as far away as you might think.

12 Young Frankenstein—Arguably the funniest, pure comedy ever. The gags come one after the other after the other, advancing the plot but barely giving you a moment to breathe. Like Blazing Saddles and Shaun of the Dead (I’ve not yet seen Hot Fuzz) it satirizes better than anything else because it actually loves the subject of its mockery. It doesn’t giggle at something that happened five minutes ago, it builds off of the brilliant work someone’s already done (in this case using the same set as Frank Whale’s classic.

11 Rear Window—The most gripping of all of Hitchcock’s movies because we, like Jimmy Stewart, are forced to watch, inert and incapable of changing the situation, but at the same time loving every minute of amateur sleuthing.

10 Hoop Dreams—Michael Moore has a career because this movie made documentaries money makers. But don't hold that against it. It made money and a point with much more class than Moore could ever hope to have. This is America. It’s not gun crazy, or morally deprived. It’s not charmingly intelligent or morbidly obese. It obsesses over things that don’t matter much, but aware of what can be better and what we can do to improve. I find something new to love every time I watch it, and no movie, none, holds me for three hours like this one does.

9 The Apartment—It’s a good comedy, yes, but it’s an even better commentary on sexual and business politics. It manages to captivate and entrance you through all of the witty Billy Wilder banter. Add to that a stellar cast (including the: never watch "My 3 Sons" again Fred McMurry) and a pitch-perfect performance by Jack Lemmon and you have an excellent movie.

8 Singin’ in the Rain—The ultimate in love letters to Hollywood, and the pinnacle of musicals in America. It has a great romance and remarkably catch songs, but more than that it has the archetype romantic comedy best body, and the funniest villainess on film. It’s hard living in India during Monsoon and not singing and softshoeing non-stop. Fortunately there are no walls to try and run up.

7 Citizen Kane—There’s a reason it’s at or near the top of every list in Christendom. It’s a great exercise in cinematography, and story telling as it chronicles the rise and fall of a man and more importantly the man’s ideals. Welles is superb, possessive, maniacal and sincerely committed to doing what he thinks is right.

6 Network—“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” This is the movie that seems to always fade away in discussions of the best-of-the year (it lost to Rocky for God’s sake), or best-of-the-decade, or best-of-all-time. But it deserves to be here.It’s a brilliant cultural critique, and boasts great characters and a brilliant script that captures the lost “TV” generation in Faye Dunawaye’s beautiful, but dead, eyes.

5 Sunset Blvd.—Speaking of William Holden’s love interests, here his creepy (in the most captivating sense of the word) lover is Gloria Swanson who turns him into the most unlikely and unwilling gigolo. Swanson is a superb counterbalance to Holden’s passive acceptance of his role, careening wildly, she doesn’t really need Wilder’s script, after, all as she says: “we had faces!”

4 The Godfather II—It has more depth than the original, in terms of family history and a brilliant portrayal of the immigrant story (the coupling of DeNiro and Pacino as fathers lost in a world they didn’t create but must survive in, is especially moving). And though it adds a little too much to maintain the first film’s astounding focus, but it still holds the audience beautifully.

3 Raging Bull—The beauty of Scorcese’s best work is simply astounding. Gorgeous cinematography, beautiful black and white shots of home, love, and violence all set to the stirring strings of subtle melodies. And DeNiro’s humanity, so perfectly palpable on the screen, could be translated to the life story of anyone, it just happens to be LaMotta’s.

2 The Godfather—Quite simply great, and without any need to explain why. It’s a robust and fully developed family drama, leaving no doubt as to why modern writers and movie makers allude to it more often than Shakespeare and the Bible. Everyone has a moment that they suddenly realize how powerful it is. For me, it was watching James Caan get shot at the toll booth while my brother walked by, saw my mouth gaping and said: “told you so.”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


A reprieve from films: Barry "U.s." Bonds

I'm flattered that Brent, the inimitable scholar and gentleman that he is still values my baseball opinion so highly. Clearly, working for the Great Falls White Sox for three months and directing Kenny Williams (architect of a franchise's first World Series title in 80 some years) to the ballpark is good for something.

So. Barry.

I like Barry.

I always liked Barry.

I am still sure that he threw out Sid Bream at home in 1991, and that Andy Van Slyke and Doug Drabek are more to blame for the Pirates losses than Barry is. (Okay, not really, but you get my meaning...and if you don't pretend that you do.)

As Barry scales the mountain towards Hammerin' Hank, I--like every baseball fan--have some mixed feelings. Brent gave you the figures (near .300 average, 8 Gold Gloves, 6 MVPs, the only man ever to hit 500 homeruns and steal 500 bases). He's right, Barry's awesome. He's incredibly talented. A gift from the Gods, a newer Mantle, or Mays, but he's forgotten. So what about Brent's questions, allow me to answer them as though they were my final exam (only with more fluency than my students use on their final exams.

1) Why do we hear so much talk about Federer as the best all-time tennis player and so little about Bonds as the best all-time baseball player?
First, I think this is a tad untrue. A few years ago, everyone was talking about Bonds as the best all-time baseball player. Until the whispers about his muscles and head and backne became chatter, became tirades, became fodder for every news organization in the known universe (The Onion has two pieces in the last month on his chase).
But there is precedent. In 1999, when they named the all-century team, the voters in America gave a spot to Ken Griffey Jr. and not to Bonds. Bonds wasn't even close (456,000 votes behind Pete Rose for the final spot, and 13,000 behind Ricky Henderson). Yes, it was a meaningless promo for Mastercard, but still, you have to figure, a game as beloved as Baseball as universally acknowledged, for all its faults and foibles as the American game (much to Football's--dominant as it is--chagrin). So we laud the players we want to laud and lose the rest. When, as Brent pointed out, a player is: " a churlish player on whose grave many beat writers will gladly dance." Griffey smiles. Barry sulks. Jeter's got charm. Barry's got his hand in your face.
So we don't really talk about him as the greatest player of all time, because we really don't want him to be that. We want someone charming and graceful, good with kids and helpful in the community. This is why Roger Maris was loathed during the Home Run battle in '61. This is why Pete Rose was beloved while going after Ty Cobb (a man, unlikable in his own right). It's not spite, it's just denile.

2nd) Where does Bond rank among the greats?
Well, the numbers are compelling. In addition to the history making 40-40 club, and 500-500 club, he'll top Aaron (probably finishing around 770, before knee injuries force him to stop) and though his average will sink a little more (probably around .297-.298, still awfully high for a power hitter) and he has no chance to win a World Series this year. (Though, for the record, the last two trips to the post season he was awfully good, crushing 6 homers against the Marlins in '03, and carrying the Giants to 7 outs from a Series title in '02), he will finish with
That's damn good. In terms of numbers he tops most every player in the game's history. Cobb doesn't have the power. Ruth and Aaron didn't have the speed, and has a better slugging and On Base Percentage than Mays. Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle, the vastly underrated Frank Robinson, and Yogi Berra: great, but really not the same.
Every player has a failing, Williams wasn't a great fielder either, Aaron and Cobb never won titles, and Ruth and Aaron were every bit the offensive hangers on that Barry has become (Aaron actually was a DH in Milwaukee). So all the critiques of Barry really don't stick.
If you notice I've been dancing around the issue of where he actually does rank though. He has ranked ahead of everyone else (as recently as 2002/2003...but Pujols was gaining pretty quick by a young Inigo Montoya ready to challenge the 6 Fingered (or 6 ringed man) again).
I'd say Barry is great. One of the best. The steroids tarnish that. As does the American obsession with "winning the big one," and the general loathing that comes out of most of America about the man. He's not the best. Mays is the best player of all time. Cobb would actually be my vote for a close second followed by Aaron. Ruth, for all his greatness, isn't much more than 4th for me, and to be honest I'd be willing to put Barry above him based on pre-73 numbers.
Those are the 5. For a while.
Until A-Rod's hits 800 with Pujols hot on his heels. Then we have another conversation to deal with.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Special Double Post: #50-31: Malcolm, McQueen, Mockumentaries, a Modern Mephistopholese, and Many ways to Make Brent Mad

I'm stepping up my production of these posts, because the AFI list comes out on the 20th of June, and because I'm going to Mumbai and Greece and don't know how often I'll be able to do this. So here's 20 more movies on my list. Most of which are too low for Brent (but I have to make room for Rocky's II-IV somewhere)

50 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers—I am not one of those who thinks that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the new Godfather. Then, why, you may ask, have I put one of the three above things like Taxi Driver and Ben-Hur? One simple reason my friend(s): the marriage of technology and classic film performances. Forget the hobbits, forget the sword fights and Orlando Bloom’s flowing silver hair. Focus on Andy Serkis, giving a performance as Gollum that is to modern audiences what Karloff in Frankenstein was to audiences in the 30s. Soulful, full body acting, using technology not as eye candy for fan boys, but as a way to make the story and the character come alive.

49 Lawrence of Arabia—If he was any prettier he would have been “Florence of Arabia.” If he was any better on screen…well…uh…there’s really no where to go in that sentence is there. He’s Peter O’Toole and he is the bomb, the desert commanding, camel riding, bomb. True, it’s long, really long, and (like Lean’s Doctor Zhivago before it) seems to present the simple truth that barren landscapes can be pretty, but life in them really sucks, but whenever you reach the point of, boredom, O’Toole turns up to keep you in your seat.

48 Psycho—This is probably going to engender one of those furious Brent postings. It’s not that Psycho’s bad. In fact it’s quite good. It’s just not everything that people build it up to be. If you go in expecting to be scared out of your wits, you’re going to yawn, especially given that so many people talk about it that unless you live in a cave you already know the shower scene is coming. It’s not a grand experiment or exploration of fear, it’s just a surprising, stunning, shocker. Alarming, but not incredible.

47 Wizard of Oz—I recently re-watched this with some friends of mine, and, between the shouts of “SHUT UP LION, I HATE YOU!!” I remembered what it is that makes this movie beloved: tradition. It’s really not that incredible, the songs aren’t so much catchy as they are part of the lexicon. The characters aren’t so much riveting as they are loved. It’s like a plate of cookies and a glass of milk at the end of the day. It’s great because every April, you’ll watch it and smell fabric softener and know that you’re family’s watching it too. It’s great because you’re comfortable and cozy when you curl up with the story

46 Waiting for Guffman—I’ve read three articles in the last week alone about the new “mockumentary” trend in comedy. It is not a new trend, it’s just been made popular by a TV show. The show is amusing, but not remotely close to this, one of the pinnacles of “mocku”comedy. Anyone who has ever been in, or seen Community Theater hurts when they see this movie. It’s a bittersweet look at people who genuinely believe they’re good, and who truly are terrible. It’s scary and sad to see, and at the same time, you end up loving the characters (which is more than you can say about almost any other “mockumentary”) because they’re more real than any of the others that follow.

45 Traffic—Like mockumentaries, complex, multi-national, multi-story-line dramas are the rage in movies today. That doesn’t mean they’re better than most, it also doesn’t mean they’re worst than most. And what makes Traffic the best of them all is that director Steven Soderbergh takes clearly separates the story lines to the point that you can distinguish everyone and then slowly slurs them together to show you how everyone is part of the same problem. He doesn’t sacrifice depth for breadth, the characters are developed, the performances are gripping and by humanizing all sides of the issue he makes it palatable regardless of politics.

44 Casablanca—Even I’m surprised I have this movie, this low. We all know the reasons it’s good (romance, passion, and pretty cinematography), so I’ll focus on why it’s not higher. Much as I hate to say it, it lags, it sags, and even a die-hard romantic like me rolls his eyes at Bergman’s doe-eyed innocence at the end. It’s much more fun to enjoy Peter Lorre and Claude Raines (“I am shocked, shocked to discover that there is gambling going on in this establishment!”), but sadly, there’s relatively little of him to go around.

43 The Searchers—I think I might have used the phrase “epic western” in connection with John Ford about 7 times already on this list. So here’s lucky number 8. It’s an epic western, sprawled out over the southwest. And, despite the long running time, despite the unfortunate undertones of mockery and racism towards Native Americans, the grandeur of the west and unflappable flawed focus of John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards makes this worth watching again and again.

42 In the Company of Men—Maybe it’s that I’m a theater geek and dig Niel LaBute. Maybe it’s that I’m a nice guy who always finishes last. Maybe it’s that I’m secretly psychotic, but this is the kind of movie that holds me and keeps me coming back. It’s the anti- Waiting for Guffman where you see people and smile and love them, here, you see people and feel sick, because they’re actually deplorable. The discordant jazz notes, the blaring, riotous anger and vitriol that colors the film and Aaron Eckhart as the most Mephistopholese-esque villain on film leaves you sick inside and with every stumble towards grace you think a little bit harder about what you’re doing to the world, and what it’s doing to you.

41 Shawshank Redemption—The kind of movie you forget, but can’t pass up if you find it on TV. It takes the standard prison movie formula and twists and turns it until you let your eyes ping-pong from Morgan Freeman to Tim Robbins again and again, relishing everything they say, and every turn of the plot that comes to be. The heartbreaking simplicity of characters and natural rhythm of the performances leaves you satisfied and guarantees that you’ll go back for more the next time you nearly flip by.

40 The Great Escape—More than the origin of British soccer chants, more than the embodiment of Steve McQueen’s cool (even in Nazi Germany), this is perhaps the most soulful action movie you could ever hope to see. (It’s also fun to see James Coburn and Charles Bronson do vague accents)Yes it has the standard, best friend dies in the arms of the hero moment, but it also has an original spin on revenge. Everyone loves Steve McQueen jumping over the fence, and coming back with a smile on his face, but James Garner resigning himself to fate, turning blithely away from his superior officer, turns the obvious into the remarkable.

39 The Gold Rush—The fifth and final Chaplin movie to make my list, the Gold Rush has everything that the other movies have (lovable tramp, nearly falling over the edge of something). But it has something else that separates it from the other movies (besides the fact that he eats his shoe). We get the Tramp’s soul more clearly than ever before, and his heartbreak when the girl (rather than being blind, or lost) rejects him out of hand (at least at first). Oh, and potatoes dancing. Funny.

38 West Side Story—Musicals tend to live or die by two things: the music (obviously) and how completely the actors captivate the audience. What’s great about West Side Story, besides the music that makes everyone either want to be a street thug or a senorita, is that while the leads are genuinely engaging, the supporting players hold us much more than anyone else. (“America” and “Officer Krupke” are a lot more fun than “Maria” and “I feel Pretty”)

37 Third Man—You know who you don’t hear much about? Joseph Cotten. Jedidiah from Citizen Kane (overshadowed by big ol’ Orson) and the lost in Austria pseudo-sluth in the Third Man. Unfortunately he’s once again overshadowed by Orson (even though Welles is on screen for only a few minutes), but he’s superb, distraught and raw when he’s pounding the cobblestones searching for Harry Lime. (Welles, is awesome too, but I felt like giving Cotten his due.)

36 The English Patient—Something of a return to the big sprawling movies in exotic locales with romance and intrigue, but the complication of the standard story line with flashbacks and side stories makes it compelling. The jumps to scenes in the present and examination of what love hath wrought in the lives of four people gives you a taste of deeper philosophy and thought without cramming it down your throat. And, as Brent will no doubt explain in more detail, erotic without giving in to simplistic pornographic detail.

35 Manhattan—Nobody does romance like Woody Allen. Which is a good thing because anyone who had a wife leave him for another woman, was dating a 17 year old and broke up his friend’s romance would need serious counseling. Much is made about Allen’s funny quips and quirks but this is really a movie made by the women, Streep, Keaton and most heartbreakingly of all: Muriel Hemingway in an honest, tender goodbye that makes Casablanca look bland by comparison.

34 The Lion in Winter—“By God I’m King, fifty and alive all at once.” Peter O’Toole is again the bomb, only this time, instead of camels and Omar Sharif he has Katherine Hepburn’s mania and Anthony Hopkins ready to cap a sword in his ass. It’s intrigue, violence, family, deception, and some of the wittiest wordplay on film. Made even stronger by the simplistic stupidity of Prince John’s, “you’re a stinker do you know that. You’re a stinker and you stink!”

33 Silence of the Lambs—Maybe it’s the more modern sensibility that makes this psycho story, more riveting than the Hitchock marvel. Or maybe it’s the fact that Lecter just looks more fierce in his mask than Bates does in his housecoat. Or maybe its that there are more compelling twists and stunning results here than the obvious ending everyone knows is coming in Psycho. Whatever the case, here is your modern treatise in fear.

32 Toy Story—It should be applauded for doing what Disney and family films in general haven’t done in decades: make something that kids giggle at with just enough reality and subtle wit that parents who have to pay for the kids, get a good laugh too. Some would criticize it for giving us Shark Tale and Robots but they miss the point. It has the eager adventurousness of kids in general with the search for identity that makes it relevant long after you’ve stopped playing with toys.

31 Malcolm X—A compelling, complete look at an American icon who is usually left to simplistic generalizations. Denzel and Spike make him complex and human, they give motive to his beliefs, and though they take a good deal of license adjusting his biography to suit the needs of their story, they make it both a film and forum for ideas, leaving the audience agape, and stunned as they hear Ossie Davis’ soothing basso into a deeper study of the man and his methods.