10 THINGS YOU SHOULDN'T FORGET ABOUT 06.06.06 Keith Boyd
Let's face it; along with the many gems out there, we are surrounded by junk. There are crappy bands, terrible coffee houses, lame restaurants, bunk movies, awful places and generally a lack of quality. This pervasive atmosphere of junk leads many to operate with a sense of lower expectations. As my old friend Al Hansen used to say when confronted with any sub par situation, "Keith, when you lower your expectations, a whole new world awaits." Well, that may work for one person's desperate inner martyr but, come on, life is too short! With this in mind I've decided to provide a primer for all of you seekers of experience. Each month I'll take some topic and compose a list of 10 examples that shouldn't be overlooked or forgotten. Many of these things won't be new. They may also be local to San Diego . If you live here, great! Use this list to experience some parts of your hometown you either didn't know about or had forgotten. If you don't live here, come visit some time! Either way, not to worry as most of the lists will focus on stuff available everywhere. With that being said I hope you find the time to tune in every month and check it out. This month's topic is, 10 MOVIES YOU SHOULDN'T FORGET ABOUT.
- In the Heat of the Night : This movie has it all! Racist cops, chase scenes, nympho-hillbilly women and a few amazing character studies to boot. The righteous Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, "They call me MR. TIBBS!" and is generally on fire from the get go. He is a big city detective who gets mixed up in a small Southern town murder. He is of course the only one with the skills to figure the whole thing out and he is beset with problems from every side as he attempts to do so. Rod Steiger plays Police Chief Bill Gillespie and he must have owned stock in a gum factory as he chews it from the beginning to the end. The movie also has an awesome soundtrack and Ray Charles theme song. Given the 1967 release of this movie they were tackling, in an unflinching manner, some very topical, hot-button themes.
- Taxi Driver : What can you say about this movie? Let's just start with Travis Bickle. The mowhawked, taxi driving, gun wielding vigilante that this movie revolves around is amazingly acted by Robert De Niro. He gives us the classic line, "You talkin' to me?" and just rivets your eyes to the screen as he slowly descends into madness. The story is about Bickle, a Vietnam vet, who drives a cab and fantasizes about (then acts on) cleaning up the crime and politics of New York City . Ultimately this movie is a portrait of a particularly American version of loneliness and alienation. We're confronted with how even in our most crowded cities; many people have no one and nothing to hold on to. It is also a parable of misguided idealism.
- El Topo : The first thing I want to tell you about this film is that if you choose to watch it be prepared. What with the blood and naked malformed dwarves it can be a lot to take in. El Topo is director Alejandro Jodorowsky's psychedelic/spiritual western. The plot is about a gunfighter and his son and well, it's really hard to say what else it's about. The visuals of this film are captivating and stunning. You can't turn away. Rather than a traditional plot line arc this film is more concerned with spiritual truths. An amazing feast for the eyes and a strong visionary experience.
- Mediterraneo : An absolutely charming film. This movie has an emotional lightness that never descends into the sappy. It concerns a misfit platoon of Italian soldiers during the waning days of World War 2. They end up cast shore on a remote and beautiful Greek island and there the fun begins. At first they are adamant about maintaining their military routine. Once they discover that the island is actually occupied however, they slowly drop the routine and assimilate into the village. As the film moves different characters have a chance to develop parts of their personalities and pursue activities such as fresco painting and poetry. The light touch gives this movie an easy and seductive brilliance.
- Rear Window : Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock. Enough said!
- Being There : Peter Sellers is amazing as the Zen style holy fool Chance or Chauncey Gardener. This film shows us a portrait of the lengths people will go to when trying to assign a meaning to everything they encounter. Chance is a "simple" gardener who's employer has died and as he leaves the home where is has lived and been sheltered his whole life, he encounters the greater world. He bounces from one mishap to the next and in the face of every corrupting influence in society maintains his gentle and calm approach to life. His simple utterances about gardening are mistaken for a philosophy of life and he slowly becomes a member of Washington , D.C. 's power elite. The ambiguous nature of Chance is a major element of the story. Is he a philosopher, a saint, mentally retarded or an angel? Perhaps he's all of them rolled into one?
- Seven Samura i : In 1954, Akira Kurosawa made film history with Seven Samurai. Everything about this film is just terrific. The film lasts around 3 1/2 hours, and every minute of it is unbelievable filmmaking. Kurosawa's blend of stellar craft, captivating cinematography, ravishing art direction, and unforgettable characters makes this one of the most intelligent films ever made. The first hour is devoted to developing and fleshing out the characters that inhabit the film throughout. While watching, the audience cares for, trusts, mourns and ultimately believes in every character. Samurai set up the way that many action films are made today; films like Predator and Alien still work within its boundaries. Many of the Clint Eastwood 1960's Westerns used this film as a template. The battle scenes are terrific and the fast-paced editing is ground-breaking. If people have a problem with subtitles and long movies, then see this and your opinions will change. Also, if you have a problem with subtitles and long movies, get over it! Most of the world doesn't speak English!
- The Godfather : This is one of the all time great films! It has been such a cultural touchstone for so many years that most people feel they have seen it even if they actually haven't. That is a pity because it is simply a wonderful movie. The cast, the script, the cinematography, the music.Everything! Francis Ford Copolla lingers over details and scenes that many directors would cut. These long shots really serve to surround us in the world being depicted. We are presented with a classic story and allowed access to the rich pageantry of the Italian experience in America .
- Hud : This is one of those movies that while remaining a small tale of a few individuals manages to tackle larger and more universal themes. Hud is the story of a family of Texas ranchers and the conflicts that tear them apart. It is also a story of the general conflict between older and younger generations. In telling the tale of the Bannon family we are presented with the never ending story of youth and age as they struggles to come to terms with life and choices. Hud is brilliantly played by Paul Newman and his performance leaves one truly pondering the nature of a hero and also the psychology of hero-worship.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou ? : I simply love this movie. The Coen brothers retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey" is delightful fun from the beginning to the end. The cast is packed with excellence but perhaps the focal point is George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill. The "Dapper Dan Pomade" using ring- leader of a trio of escaped convicts is a universe unto himself. Before seeing this movie (and Syriana) I would have never guessed just how deep of an actor Clooney is. The comedy is both overt and subtle. While this movie comes right out of the box funny, it is also one that tends to grow on people. A visual and verbal treat.
Well, that's it for now folks! I hope this list gives you a few nights of viewing pleasure. Enjoy and remember, in this universe of crap and crème, choose the later.
BSD Ten Films not to Forget
1. Once Were Warriors - Director Lee Tamahori recently picked up in drag for prostitution in LA.
2. Papillion and/or Midnight Cowboy - Dustin
3. Hearts of Darkness - Documentary on the making of Apocalypose Now by Eleanor Coppola
4. Grizzly Man - Werner Herzog and Richard Thompson!
5. The Thin Red Line - ah, the beauty of war
6. Cool Hand Luke - Cool Newman
7. Warriors and/or Escape From New York - adolescent pleasure
8. Country Boys - PBS Documentary, very special
9. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask - Woody
10. Eraserhead - For the soundtrack alone