Saturday, April 16, 2016

My - More or Less - Top Ten Movies

A comment from my posting "The Hardest Working Man in Sci Fi Hollywood:

I am intrigued by the movies you noted after mentioning this top ten list. What else is in your top ten? Also, those "youngsters" over at renaissance fan have youngsters of their own!

OK, fair enough.  First lets get something out of the way.  A prerogative of age is the privilege to regard anyone you have known since they were in diapers to be "youngsters" for all time.  Deal with it.  Oh, and if by youngsters, plural, you are hinting at some sort of announcement I say "Well played Sir, well played indeed."

I have never done "Top Ten" lists.  Frankly they seem like a gimmick.  But thinking on my favorite movies of all time I got to wondering, why these?  What elevated them above the forgettable popcorn grazers?

I think the Best movies are actually "about" something.  There is a theme that is not obvious without reflection.  Perhaps this is why my Top list features so few recent entries as Hollywood has of late been cranking out visually stunning dreck that is assembled more than written, and that has no purpose beyond fast food merchandise tie ins and the Chinese market.

Do not infer any particular ranking from this list.  This is just the order that came to me.

1. Alien Series.  Oh, mostly the first two.

What it seems to be about: Slasher movies in Outer Space with disturbing sexual overtones.
What it is really about: An indictment of the sins of Western Culture.  Colonialism and Third World Brush Wars.  Regards the first there are assorted references to various Conrad novels and characters sprinkled here and there.  And the Vietnam quagmire scenario in the second film is overt.  But it is done without the tedious guilt that is usually heaped on us for our past.  We are rooting for those poor crewmen and later for the Colonial Marines.

The sub theme is the importance of family and comradeship in the face of peril.

2. Terminator Series.  I will embrace the first three.

What it seems to be about:  Killer Robots

What it is really about:  Free Will versus Predestination.  "No Fate but what we make".  What a crock. You can learn things you have no business knowing.  You can dispatch high tech assassins out of Deep Time.  You can try any trick in the book.  And Judgement Day still comes, every bit as relentless as the Terminators themselves.  You win, Yay!  And out of the wreckage slowly rises the Destructor.  Again.

It would be depressing if it did not touch upon the indomitable nature of the human spirit.  We also keep on getting up, patching our wounds and coming back for another round.

3. The Lord of The Rings

What it seems to be about:  Walking trees, Keebler Elf hobbits.  A whole bunch of Peter Jackson choppy-choppy.

What it is really about: It is simply the most fully realized, elaborate internal fantasy world that has ever been poured out onto the written page and into a film.  Sure Tolkien claimed he was trying to recreate an Anglo Saxon mythos that had been wiped out by the conquering Normans. (With a fair bit of Christianity mixed in).  But I think that was just cover.

J.R.R. Tolkien was simply a highly erudite Walter Mitty.  As somebody who can himself muse on a thought and create an entertaining fantasy world I can but salute the Master.

4. Galaxy Quest

What it seems to be about:  Out of work actors from a cheesy Star Trekesque show becoming fish out of water in a real fantasy.

What it is really about:  Fandom.  The Thermians being the Ultimate, Transcendent Fans, the earth bound "Questerians" their human incarnations.  The Respect that fans have for their object of adoration - and it is not necessary to really believe its truth - and later the Respect that is reciprocated when the fans get are saluted in the final scenes.

5. The Princess Bride

What it seems to be about:  (cue Peter Falk voice) "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...."

What it is really about:  You probably have to read the original book to pick up on this but the author William Goldman has had a very long career as one of the premier screen writers and script doctors in The Business.  If Princess Bride shines a  light on the most lovable, magical, heroic good guys it is primarily to cast in sharper contrast the vile and corrupt bad guys.  Basically Goldman was unloading on all the slimeballs he had to kow tow to on a regular basis.  A shorter version of his world view comes from this quote:

"Understand this:  all the sleaze you have heard about Hollywood?  All the illiterate scumbags who scuttle down the corridors of power?  They are there, all right, and worse than you can imagine."

I wonder which Power Lunch with a Studio Executive inspired this?
Boy it must have been liberating to write that book!

6. The Usual Suspects.

What it seems to be about:  The world we perceive is an elaborately staged deception.

What it is actually about:    The world we perceive is an elaborately staged deception.

7.  Field of Dreams

This one is pretty straightforward.  It is about Faith.  If you believe enough in something it will come true.  In another, earlier era Ray Kinsella would clearly have joined Joan of Arc at the stake for hearing those peculiar, persistent voices.

8. Bull Durham

What is seems to be about:  Like the promo says, "Love and Baseball".

What it is really about: Growing old.  Letting go of youthful dreams in favor of a new life.  The cycle of youngsters coming along and veterans stepping aside.  Annie gives up on seducing impressionable rookies while Crash admits he will not get to The Show as a player.  They move on, together.

But of course if years later Crash meets Nuke in a pool hall somewhere the dynamic will be the same as always.  To Crash the youngster will always be young.  And will always be called "Meat".

Deal with it.

Yes, I know that's only eight.  But my last two picks keep changing on me.  Not having a fixed place in my Pantheon of Cinema they will have to go unmentioned.


Arthur Bernhardt said...

Haha top eight it is! I like it! Surprise picks with terminator and alien, also at the top of my list. Also furry kiebler elf hobbits.

Arthur Bernhardt said...

Haha top eight it is! I like it! Surprise picks with terminator and alien, also at the top of my list. Also furry kiebler elf hobbits.