Saturday, February 26, 2011

Movies I Can Watch Anytime

I watch a lot of movies. Some of them are great. Most are “ok.” Some are just complete crap where I lament “I’ll never get those two hours of my life back.” Then there are those I can watch at anytime. These are the movies that if I’m surfing TV stations looking for something to watch, and if one of these movies happens to be on, the surfing stops. It doesn’t matter how much of the movie has already been shown, I’ll watch the rest of it. So in no particular order, here’s my list:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – the first movie Paul Newman and Robert Redford made together. There’s a lot of witty banter in this movie. “Who are those guys?”

Unforgiven – Clint Eastwood’s last western [so far]. Great storytelling – you know that by the time Clint’s character takes that first drink from a whiskey bottle, all hell will break loose shortly thereafter. There are some very fine performances from Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman. Clint wasn’t too bad either.

The Wild Bunch – Sam Peckinpah moviemaking at it’s best. You know the minute William Holden says “if anybody moves, kill ‘em!” you’re in for a wild ride. Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson are also in it. It’s one of those few movies that has a big-name cast that doesn’t suck.

The Long Riders – the tale of the James/Younger Gang. The Brothers Carradine, Keach and Quaid are in this one. The bank robbery scene in Minnesota was taken out of the Sam Peckinpah slow-motion death handbook. Ry Cooder did the music. What’s not to like?

Shaun of the Dead - a wonderful spoof of zombie movies that’s a pretty good zombie movie itself. Just mention the words “Shaun of the Dead” and my boys go right into Shaun’s plan – “kill Phil…”

O Brother, Where Art Thou? – A very fine Coen Brothers movie. This movie has so many quotable one-liners in it. Such is the popularity of this movie that one day I put in my Facebook status “We thought you was a toad” and before I knew it, many friends followed that with other one-liners from the movie. It was fun to watch…

The Big Lebowski – This is another fine Coen Brothers movie, one that launched the Cult of Dudeism. Oh to be an unemployed slacker who smokes pot, drinks White Russians, and bowls all the time? Jeff Bridges may have won the Oscar for his role in Crazy Heart, but he’s much more convincing here. He is The Dude. John Goodman nearly stole the show as The Dude’s best friend Walter Sobchak, a Vietnam veteran who has more than one screw loose.

A Lion In Winter – My favorite actor, Peter O’Toole, is King Henry II. Katherine Hepburn is his estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The writing in this is fantastic. There are so many twists and turns in this tale of palace intrigue it’s almost dizzying to follow. “The Lion” is King Henry, who is facing the end of his life and is trying to pick a successor to his throne. He has his favorite [Prince John], and Eleanor has hers [Richard the Lionhearted, played by Anthony Hopkins].

Becket – Richard Burton is Thomas Becket, Peter O’Toole is King Henry II. This takes place about 100 years after the Norman Conquest. In his desire to exercise control over the church, Henry [the French-born king] the makes his best friend Thomas Becket [a Saxon] the Archbishop of Canterbury. He didn’t count on Becket having his own religious awakening and becoming a thorn in his side. One of the best lines in the movie, as spoken by Henry: "Becket is the only intelligent man in my entire kingdom...and he is against me!" While on a drunken binge Henry asks of his barons "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" These same barons take this as direction from their king, travel to Canterbury, and kill Becket in the cathedral. Henry does penance by having Saxon monks whip him, after which he proclaims Thomas Becket a saint. It’s a long movie, but a great one.

This Is Spinal Tap – when Carol and I saw this in a theatre in 1984, the only people who “got it” were the two of us and the two people sitting behind us. It was in Pueblo after all, so it’s no wonder the audience didn’t understand satire. Yeah, that’s a gratuitous slam on Pueblo, but you try living there for nine years and see how you feel about the place.

The Manchurian Candidate – it has to be the Frank Sinatra original, not the Denzel Washington remake. Directed by John Frankenheimer, this is a political thriller with Russian and Chinese Communists, John Birch Society-type right wingers, brainwashing, and political assassination [almost]. Angela Landsbury was sufficiently evil in this movie. She definitely was not the nice little old lady from Murder She Wrote. Sinatra was pretty good in this one.

Seven Days in May – John Frankenheimer made this one in 1964 right after The Manchurian Candidate. Rod Serling wrote the screenplay. Set in the Cold War, the President of the United States, Jordan Lyman [played by Frederic March] signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USAF Gen James Matoon Scott [played by Burt Lancaster] doesn’t like the treaty – neither does most of the American public. Gen Scott’s aide, USMC Col Jiggs Casey, learns of a plot by Gen Scott, the Joint Chiefs and others to launch a coup d’etat in seven days, which coincides with the Preakness horse race [hence the title]. The scene where President Lyman confronts Gen Scott in the Oval Office provides a great civics lesson about the American political system and civilian control of the military. In a great exchange between Gen Scott and Col Casey at the end of the movie, Gen Scott asks "Do you know who Judas was?" to which Col Casey answers "Yes. He's a man I used to work for and respect, until he disgraced the four stars on his uniform." Great stuff…

Patton – My favorite movie – ever. George C. Scott has me convinced he really was Patton. Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay which is based on two books – Ladislas Farago’s Patton: Ordeal and Triumph, and Omar Bradley’s memoir A Soldier’s Story. The opening monologue, the “Patton speech,” is iconic. I first saw the movie when I was a kid. I’ve been hooked on it ever since.

Apocalypse Now – This is Carol’s favorite movie. Which Coppola movie is better, this one or The Godfather? That’s a tough call, but I know which one I like better. When I was a freshman at the University of Colorado, I saw this movie on-campus. Of all the movies I saw that year (and I saw one on-campus every Saturday night), this was the only one that sold out. In Boulder of all places! It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the movie, but I’d have to say it was any part that had Robert Duvall in it. I love the smell of napalm in the morning…

Full Metal Jacket – this Stanley Kubrick movie is set during the Vietnam War. This is where I first met R. Lee Ermey. His performance as a Marine Corps drill instructor is simply mesmerizing. After he gets killed by “Private Pyle” at the end of basic training, the rest of the movie is kind of a letdown in comparison, but it’s still very good.

Tora! Tora! Tora! – This one is the only movie about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that matters. Forget about that POS that Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale made years ago. This movie from 1970 is great.

The Big Red One – This one came out while I was in high school. Lee Marvin and four other guys fight in the US Army First Infantry Division [the “Big Red One” patch on their sleeve] through North Africa, Sicily, and France and survive the war.

My Favorite Year – Yet another movie with Peter O’Toole. In this he plays a drunken English actor Alan Swann [think Errol Flynn] who has to do a live comedy show in the early 1950s in order to pay off the IRS and avoid deportation. Mark Linn-Baker is a writer for the show named Benjie Stone who has to ensure that Swann, who is notorious for getting drunk and not showing up for engagements, shows up for all rehearsals and the show itself. Hilarity ensues as Benjie tries to keep up with Alan Swann for a week. Who knew that Peter O’Toole could be so funny?

Breaker Morant – This Australian film was about the court martial of three Australians being tried for murder at the tail end of the Boer War [“a new kind of war for a new century”]. This is based on a true story. Morant led a unit of Aussies attached to the British Army named the Bushveldt Carbineers. After his unit captures and executes Boer commandos and a German missionary, Morant and two lieutenants [Hancock and Witton] are arrested and tried for their murder. Lord Kitchener wants to end the Boer War, and he uses the prosecution of Morant and his men as proof to the Boers that he would deal harshly with those under his command if they disobey the rules of war. But the Boer War was no “regular” war. It was a very irregular war, fought by men wearing no uniforms. Kitchener rigs the trial by transferring anyone who could help Morant to India, and gives their court-appointed lawyer only one day to prepare his case. There’s superb acting from Edward Woodward [Morant] and Jack Thompson [the attorney Major Thomas].

Dirty Harry – “Was it six shots or only five? In all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But this being a 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and could blow your head clean off, you have to ask yourself a question – ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?” Need I say more?

Casablanca – American expatriates, refugees from many countries, crooked French cops, Nazis, and Ingrid Bergman all come together to make one of the finest films ever. For the record, Bogart never said “play it again, Sam.” He just said “play it!” Of all the characters in the film, I think Claude Raines’ Capt Renault is my favorite.

The Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula: Prince of Darkness - All three of the are Hammer Studios horror movies. The very first time I was allowed to go to a movie by myself was when I was 11 years old. It was a horror double-feature at the Fairborn theater. They showed The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Christopher Lee was both Dracula and the Frankenstein monster. Peter Cushing was Dr Frankenstein and Dr Van Helsing. Three words about Christopher Lee – best Dracula ever! He didn’t say a single word in Dracula: Prince of Darkness and he still scared the crap out of me that day.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Life of Brian – of course!

The Blues Brothers – my boys love it, especially the car chase scenes. It’s all good for me.

Ferris Beuller’s Day Off – who hasn’t wanted to skip school and get away with it? I always wanted to, but like Ferris’ sister, I would have been caught.

Animal House – are college fraternities really like this?

Dr. Strangelove – a great movie, one of Stanley Kubrick’s best. Peter Sellers rocks! He plays three roles in the movie. And who knew that George C. Scott could be so funny? The image of Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb to its target like a rodeo cowboy is unforgettable. Sterling Hayden’s Gen Jack Ripper reminds one of Curtis LeMay. The best name for a character in this movie? Col Bat Guano, played by Keenan Wynn.

Raising Arizona – the first Coen Brothers movie I ever saw. Between H.I and Ed McDonough, unpainted furniture salesman Nathan Arizona, escaped convicts Gale and Evelle Snoats, and the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, it’s all good. Frances McDormand telling Holly Hunter that “Junior” needs his “dip-tet” so he won’t get lockjaw and night vision – priceless!