5/10/2008

The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Could you narrow your favorite movies down to a list of only 10 ? I barely did. Notice there's no "Godfather" or "Pulp Fiction" here - while I like those films, the violence is too much and I can't watch them again and again. All of these films have strong female leads...hmmmm

In no particular order :



1)Gone With The Wind-(GWTW) Every little girl growing up in the south thinks she’s Scarlett O’Hara. If she doesn’t , she should. Classic tale of the Old South, plantations, Civil War, rising to meet life’s struggles. Those who can, and those who can’t. For me, I kinda looked like Scarlett, for a brief moment in my teens, and went through some family hardships, so the comparisons were more than superficial. Although some parts of this film are not entirely PC by today’s standards, the characters are so iconic that you must be familiar with them and their story to understand many cultural references. I have a group of friends who continue to this day, to discuss this film ( and book ) on a near daily basis, and to find guidance and inspiration, much like consulting the I-Ching. Our mantra often is, “ What would Scarlett do ?” ( Or Rhett ? or Mammy ? etc) True aficionados have read the book, as well, several times, and can find a quote for every situation.



2)The Year of Living Dangerously –(TYOLD) Before Mel Gibson was an old egocentric loud-mouthed bigot, he was sexy young hot Mel. Mel from Australia, Mad Max, the Road Warrior. While he was still young and cute, before he became obnoxious, he made this little charmer of a film, which I think may be one of the sexiest movies of all time. The prolonged scene where he takes Sigourney Weaver away from the party , through road blocks, political intrigue of all sort, so they can have a romantic rendezvous, is one of the most tense, drawn out, steamiest movie seductions of all times. Watch it for that, and for the beautiful south east Asian scenery, great screen chemistry between Gibson and Weaver. Also has a very nice performance by Linda Hunt as a man, a beautiful score by M.Jarre, and some rather biting socio-political commentary on Western views of third world countries.


3)A Room With A View –(ARWAV) Charming little “Masterpiece Theater “ styled romance, with a twist. This film starts out cute as can be, rolling along, and you think you know where it’s going : proper young English lady travels, enjoys Italian countryside with other ladies, prepares to lead conventional Victorian upper class life, then bam ! Julian Sands grabs the girl and gives her one of the best screen kisses of all times. (I want to be kissed like that ! ) She suddenly knows what true passion is all about. The scenery is fabulous . Each of the minor characters, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliot, Daniel Day Lewis, plays possibly the best performance of his/her career.




4)Casablanca – Woody Allen had it right. This IS the greatest film, and love story of all time. The fact that it was cobbled together at the last minute, is replete with many little errors , non-continuity slips and goofs, makes no diff. It is brilliant, charming, funny, the most beautifully sad love story ever told, and never grows tiresome. (Romeo and Juliet ? Bah, humbug ! ) Wartime tale of intrigue and romance. Bogart was never sexier, Bergman never more breath-takingly beautiful. The B & W cinematography just makes me weep with joy.




5)When Harry Met Sally – (WHMS) Of course, I have a special affection in my heart for this film, which parallels my own particular romance with hubby dear. However, what keeps me coming back to this movie time and time again is the sparkling, witty dialogue penned by Nora Ephron, one of the funniest writers of the last quarter century. There are just so many really amusing things that were said, written , or acted in this tale of modern dating in NYC, I can entertain myself for hours just remembering them all. There are several movies, similar to this that all came out around the same time – Hubby #2 is esp. fond of Sleepless in Seattle (which I find terribly contrived and sappy). Hubby #1 liked "Joe vs the Volcano"(which I never "got", it all seemed so random and pointless to me.) My other fave of this ilk is :





6)You’ve Got Mail –(YGM) It’s not just that this film represents the peak of Meg Ryans’ cuteness phase ( maybe slightly post-peak; Tom Hanks is def on the downward slope of his cuteness…hey, it happens to all of us, he had good run of it ), and an adorable romantic comedy (little known trivia : it’s a remake of an earlier movie, called The Shop Around the Corner ) along the lines of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing “. I love this film for what it says about books, writers, literacy, the big vs. the small, and the importance of the things that matter. It is quintessentially wabi-sabi. Once again penned by the magical Nora Ephron.





7)The Philadelphia Story – (TPS) When you start trying to decide, of all the great classic films out there, which ones you are going to let into your list, and which ones you leave off, the task grows daunting. Many folks argue Katharine Hepburn is better with Spencer Tracy, and of that grouping, I prefer Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner to Adams Rib or Pat and Mike. I think I prefer to see la Hepburn as imperious and sarcastic, to giddy and ditsy. This is another retelling of WS’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, one of my fave plays , it has such great chemistry if the leads are cast right. TPS is another perfect film for me, like ARWAV , each of the actors is in possibly one of the best roles of his/her career : Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant . The director is George Cukor, who filmed many of the early/better scenes in GWTW.




8)Notorious – I’m a big Hitchcock fan, for many reasons. I enjoy his story choices, how he builds suspense, how he flirts with sexual tension between the leads, very 50’s style, teasing us all along, implying a lot while actually saying very little, his stylistic conventions, the crafty film-making he experiments with ( framing and tracking shots ). There are several films he made in what I think of as his grand style : 9)Rear Window, 10)North By Northwest , and 11) Vertigo ,( ok, so I cheated my list by one !) round out my spots. I go round and round, ( joke ! ) trying to decide which of these 4 films is the best. All of these films feature some hapless man, led astray by a cold hearted yet alluring blond . In spite of the fact that these stories are mysteries, and thus less serious, in terms of potential acting chops, than “literature”, Hitchcock pulls some very fine performances out of Jimmy Stewart, Claude Rains, Cary Grant, Kim Novak. Ingrid Bergman , Eve Marie Saint, and Grace Kelly have never been lovelier. The camera makes love to all these women , and you can’t help but feel as hypnotized as the hapless men in these films.
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That’s it, for now….I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date. And I have many second tier films that almost made the list, in fact I really need to expand it to top 20, or 30:
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Crossing Delancy-more NYC dating, love Peter Reigert
The Princess Bride - perfect dialogue, humor, romance, cast
Annie Hall-Woody Allen's best performance
Manhattan-Woody's most self-deprecating , and his best cinematography ever
The African Queen -hard not to put this one on my original list
The Thin Man - #1 is the best one
Harvey-Jimmy Stewart's best role
Animal Crackers-anything the Marx brothers ever made
Sideways-wine, loveable schleps
Lawrence of Arabia-super handsome Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif
Giant-James Dean, Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson's best roles-Texas iconic story
4 Weddings and a Funeral-Hugh Grant's best
Sunset Boulevard-iconic
The Thomas Crowne Affair -toss up which version is steamier, I like Pierce Brosnan a lot
any James Bond with Sean Connery
Sound of Music, Camelot, MyFair Lady-love classic 50's musicals
Dr Zhivago-great love story, Omar Sharif is hot
The Last Picture Show-more Texas icons
Monty Python's Holy Grail-love MP humor
Star Wars ( #4 is my fave)
original Odd Couple
The Graduate-Dustin Hoffman was still cute
Pride and Predjudice - BBC version, love Colin Firth
Closer-Clive Owen is my new hottie
Bourne Identity-suspence/thriller, international travel, whats not to like ?
Atonement-still hooked on this romance
Be Kind, Rewind- introduced "sweded" to our vocabulary
Indiana Jones - #1 and 3, but not 2
Diner-replace the 50's gender bias with 80's teens, that's my life
To Kill A Mockingbird-the movie is a nice adaptation of the book
Dead Again-Branagh's best role
Jane Eyre-Timothy Dalton is a hottie
Out of Africa - Redford is still a hottie, no matter how wrinkled his forehead gets
The Big Lebowski - b/c the Dude abides
Pulp Fiction - John Travolta's best screen moments since "Saturday Night Fever" and "Urban Cowboy"
Love, Actually- a cast of 1000's, way too cute
Paper Moon - Ryan and Tatum, cute duo
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.....and this is just my list of mainstream "American" ( should say, English language ) films. The indies/foreign films will be another posting.

2 comments:

  1. Vincent the Spell-CheckerMay 11, 2008 at 6:50 PM

    Though I congratulate for spelling Scarlett O'Hara's name correctly without being told, I hasten to point out:
    KathArine Hepburn.
    Omar ShariF.
    Kenneth BRANAGH. (Who could even tell whom you're talking about, the way you spell it?)

    Also, I'd contest your assertion that Philadelphia Story has any connection to Much Ado. Though a previous liaison between Beatrice and Benedick is alluded to in the play, the prior relationship between Tracy and Dex is infinitely more complex -- they were married, rather than merely dating. The fact that "there's a kind of merry war between" Tracy and Dex does not automatically a replay of B&B make. (Consider, too, that Beatrice does not entertain other suitors, whereas Tracy has George Kittredge and Macaulay Connor to help her sort out her feelings.)

    But a nice list, all in all.

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