Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/26/15

Much like the Tuesday Ten, in which I wrote of the shows I still watch, these are the ten movies that I have to watch if I see them on TV, regardless of where it is in the plot. It could be five minutes in or fifteen minutes remaining. We all have these movies, and what makes it interesting is that we probably own them on DVD, and yet we'll sit through the commercials, bad editing, and bowdlerization nonetheless.

George C. Scott is Patton. And what I really enjoy about it (aside from the great score) is how we see him through many sets of eyes, including those of the German High Command. World War II is really just the setting and not the plot. It is a biopic in the purest sense, but of only 2-3 years of his life. Enrapturing is the word.

My favorite movie of all time, and in my estimation, the greatest film ever made (which can and will be disputed, but that is expected). It is amazing to look back and realize that the only star in the film at the time was Marlon Brando. The rest were either unknowns or on the fringes. Only retroactively can we say "wow, this was a star-laden film!"

This is a movie that I often quote at random spots. "You'll get nothing and like it!" and Chevy Chase's "wisdom" on the golf course to Michael O'Keefe, i.e. "a flute with no holes is not a flute, and a donut with no hole, is a danish." Na na na na na na na.

It's the old "environment vs. heredity" argument originally proffered in comedy by the Three Stooges (in their famous short "Hoi Polloi"), but provided by the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy representing environment and Don Ameche representing heredity). The switch of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy and their discovery of said plan leads to one of the most satisfying endings in the history of cinema.

Note: This is the only movie on this list of which I do not own the DVD.

Fish out of water is a long-used literary and entertainment cliché, but traveling in time certainly brings a new angle to it. It is by far the best of the series (as 99.7% of originals are), and has several quotable phrases to it. The one that always gets me rolling is Marty's first encounter with Doc Brown in 1955. All of the 80's references in 1955 and the notion of "Johnny B. Good" as an "oldie" is always good for a laugh.

This one isn't superior to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is a close second. First of all, the killing of Nazis is always a good thing, full stop. Secondly, while the theologian in me quibbles at some of the notions in the film (such as the nature of the cup itself), the drama of the chase and the final quest is fantastic. Also, the best laconic quip in a movie comes from this one.

This has sort of a sentimental value to me, as it was the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater (Good old Academy Center 8 at Beltway Plaza...those were the days!). It was every kid's fantasy back then, to be the king of the house and then to beat off the bad guys. My grandmother (who took me to see the sequel a couple years later) still has to throw cold water on the whole premise. Alas, it was original, refreshing, and cartoonish enough to enjoy. Also, Joe Pesci!

This was on my list of baseball movies from last Thursday's Ten. I'll just reprint what I said then...
This is one of those films that could only be done in a baseball setting: kid inherits team from deceased grandfather, fires the manager and takes over the job himself. Team initially resists and then finds itself and begins winning. It's fairly formulaic in many ways, but part of what makes it endearing is a) you root for them to win, but b) they ultimately fall short. Losing is a part of life, although I'm not going to lie and say that I particularly enjoy the "but we're ALL winners!" shtick that tends to permeate such films. Nevertheless, this one is a keeper.

Ridley Scott has had a fairly good run in his life as a director, although I have to admit, his Exodus was horrendous (I reviewed this on the site I run for my students). Gladiator was his attempt to resurrect the sword-and-sandal epic, and while it wasn't successful to that end, what we have is a fantastic film from start to finish. Yes, Russell Crowe is epically hammy at times, but that adds to the legend of Maximus.

I actually reviewed this film on this very blog five and a half years ago. It still pretty much holds up. It's an enjoyable film, despite CG wolves, heavy-handedness, and a completely useless story line (the kid with cancer).

If it's December, and this is on TV, you bet your last dollar I am watching it if I am home. The music is wonderful, the dancing is great, and it is just not the kind of film that would be made now. Yes, the plot is weak and it has a sappy ending, but that's part of the charm. Part of the problem with many films now is that they fall into two categories - a) separate the consumer from his money or b) try to say something Very Important™. It used to be that a movie was an affordable exercise in escapism. Now it is neither too often. Watching Bing sing and Danny dance is alone worth the 2+ hours.

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