Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Back to the Favorites!

I freely admit, I have a bad habit of leaving projects unfinished. Alas, one of these projects has been this very blog. 

Granted, I've been through a lot of trials this year, not the least of which was a tree falling through my house and briefly giving me the unusual feature of being able to see my living room from my bedroom. More recently, at my job, I find myself having to move from the entertainment beat to the education beat. 

Neither of these was a change that I expected, but I am making the best of both. My house has mostly been repaired, and the good news is that since I'm not writing about entertainment as much at work, I will be writing more often about it here.

In so doing, I will pick up one of those unfinished projects from this very blog. Quite some time back, I asked several of you to submit lists of your favorite films to me. In turn, I would comment on the list and maybe even gain some new viewing material in the bargain. And so would you, I hope! 

My friend Martha had been so enthusiastic about the idea that she submitted no less than THREE lists. Believe me, I can relate. When you're a film nut, it's kinda hard to narrow things down. 

Nevertheless, I will start narrowing down Martha's favorites, with the first of her lists. The titles are hers, the comments are mine. 

Ride the High Country - Just watched this for the first time recently. It's great to see two old pros like Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott go at it. It's also fun to see director Sam Peckinpah start to bend the conventions of the Western genre - you can see the road to The Wild Bunch begin here.

Elizabethtown - Sad to say, this is my least favorite Cameron Crowe film. He went so far into himself in this one, he got lost - so much so that his usually reliable soundtrack choices were disappointing. "Pride (In the Name of Love)" playing during a trip to the Civil Rights Museum? That's a liiiiiitle too on the nose, Cam.Breakfast at Tiffany's - Essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in Audrey Hepburn - but ye gods, Mickey Rooney's Asian caricature is the nadir of this film, and his career.

Casablanca - Bogie and Bergman rule - and Claude Rains matches them.
From Here to Eternity - Terrific acting from the largest role to the smallest. But I have to say I have a soft spot for Donna Reed, who can't help but be lovable, even when playing a woman of ill repute.

Suddenly, Last Summer - Another terrific acting showcase - particularly for how Liz Taylor more than holds her own with the great Kate.
The Green Pastures - This film buff has to admit he had never heard of this one. But Bible stories from the perspective of blacks - in 1936, no less - certainly sounds interesting.

Driving Miss Daisy - Too many people decry this as the "nice" civil rights film that came out the same year as Do the Right Thing. There's much more to this story than that broad brush will paint.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Believe it or not, I've never seen Miss Tandy's follow-up to Driving Miss Daisy. Come to think of it, I've never even tried a fried green tomato either.

The Green Mile - Hmmm. More green. I like the film a pretty good deal, but I thought the sequences with the "old" Tom Hanks were a bit much.

It Happened One Night: You know those cliches you saw in the last Hollywood rom-com? Most of them came from this movie.
Moulin Rouge (1952) - This is the John Huston picture, not the hyperactive Baz Luhrmann musical. But I've always wanted to see it, particularly because of the way it drains the color palette, which was daring for a film of that time.  

My Favorite Wife - I prefer The Awful Truth, but this is delightful too.
Paper Moon - Tatum O Neal didn't get her Oscar just because she was cute. She got it because she jolly well deserved it. And I was rather delighted to see they still make Nehi.
Sullivan's Travels: "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan."

O Brother Where Art Thou?: Hmmm. I wonder HOW Martha got from the last film to this film ...

Do the Right Thing: 

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys a community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't even call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence.- Malcolm X

The truth of this film lies in the distance between those two quotes.

Peggy Sue Got Married: This film, from one of Francis Ford Coppola's "I'll direct anything as long as they pay me" phases, gets a lot of juice from Kathleen Turner's wonderful performance. But it also hits a lot of sour notes thanks to Nicolas Cage's truly annoying performance. 

The Shawshank Redemption: I remember when I saw this film once in the theater, two of the reels were transposed. How did I know this?  Because Raquel Welch came before Marilyn Monroe on the wall.

More from Martha later. In the meantime, if you'd still like to submit a favorites list, feel free to do so in the comments. 

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