On Film I Play Myself - Tim Seely (mp3)
Last week, one of our school's administrators requested that those interested in helping the school orchestrate a film series for the students pitch in with a recommendation of some Must See Movies. Asking me for a list of this sort -- movies, songs, books, TV shows, supermodels -- is something akin to sticking a banana in my tailpipe. (It's nothing of a sexual nature I assure you.)
Because I'm a waffling, indecisive poo-poo face, attempting to narrow down the 300 deserving nominees of any topic down to five, or 10, or 20, ends up taking nauseating amounts of time. Hell, just making a stupid mix CD takes me a couple hours minimum.
To help my indecisiveness, I came up with requires several caveats:
- This is a list of "important" films, not "favorite" films, although sometimes the latter overlaps;
- Our school is all boys, so this is intended for a testosterone-filled audience, meaning while the films must be "important," they cannot be "boring as shit," nor can Yentl be considered;
- While respecting the restrictive nature of #2, I wanted to provide a decent variety of generational films and genres. For my purposes here, I defined "Classic" as any film released prior to an 18-year-old being born, which means anything pre-1990.
#1 With a Bullet: Casablanca
Seriously, what's not to love about this movie? You've got the cool as a cucumber, cynical, I'll-never-love again Humphrey Bogart. You've got the smoky dame. You've got booze, gambling and Nazis. You've got some of the best sex scenes ever left to the imagination. Seriously, anyone who's ever had sex and sees this movie needs no extra footage. In a less tawdry world, this movie would remind Hollywood that sometimes the sultriest sex scenes are the ones that play out beyond our prying, Rear Window, peeping Tom eyes.
#2: Rear Window
It might not be Hitchcock's best film, but it's one of his more accessible. That it serves as a metaphor for our unhealthy obsession with movies and being mere watchers puts it on the list. Jimmy Stewart might be, for me, the consummate American actor, and that he used his golly shucks affable appearance to portray some morally flawed characters puts him right there with Paul Newman in my admiration.
#3: Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Sadly, comedies rarely survive the test of time. The half-life of great drama is tremendous. The half-life of action films is modest. The half-life of great comedies is a single generation, so that some of them make it 30 years before becoming "you had to be there" jokes. Even Some Like it Hot, deserving of it's AFC #1 rating, has lost much of its Funny Ha Ha power with passing generations. But Dr. Strangelove remains important because of the scathingly serious commentary bubbling below that quirky banter. It's a comedy with dramatic import, and it feels as important in 2008 as ever.
Boys need heroes. Sometimes, they even need heroes that aren't mired in moral ambiguity, although I certainly admire and prefer the value of those characters. Atticus Finch is morally certain in the face of societal doubt. He's the whistle-blower of an entire way of life, and his courage and conviction burn into a viewer's memory.
#5: Do the Right Thing
Easily the toughest decision, and I went with my own experience. This movie, for a sheltered white Southern boy, was something of a horror film. It was about people I kinda saw every day but didn't remotely understand. It was about all of that tension and anger that had built up between us. As a sheltered teen, I didn't completely understand "racism" and didn't understand why black people couldn't just get over it, but this movie -- and the Public Enemy album that soon followed -- forced me to recognize that maybe this issue was too important and too big for me to accept my sheltered view as right. It doesn't offer solutions, which was a big bone of contention at the time. I'm glad it doesn't. All it does is point a lot of fingers and hold up a lot of mirrors. And maybe it's lost a little of its punch, but it sure as hell continues to make you want to talk about things afterward.
Runners-up: Unforgiven (too recent, unfortunately), In the Heat of the Night (not as intense as Spike Lee's Joint), High Noon (rejected b/c George W. Bush loves it so much), Glory (the closest runner-up), Scent of a Woman (a great film, but couldn't convince myself it was as "important" as these others).
So what about you, readers? Offer up your own list, or tell me which parts of mine are egregiously flawed!
Albums by Okkervil River and Tim Seely (formerly of Actual Tigers) can be purchased through iTunes or Amazon.com's mp3 site.