Sunday, June 7, 2015

Must Sees

During a recent coffee date, my friend, Mallorie, remarked that Carrie Fisher hadn't had any movie roles since the original Star Wars trilogy concluded.  When I pointed out she'd

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played Marie in When Harry Met Sally, Mallorie said she hadn't seen it.  I was surprised.  Until that moment, I'd thought of the 1989 romantic comedy as one of those films which everybody had seen, such as The Wizard of Oz.

So, what makes a movie a "must see?"  While MANY movies mindlessly regurgitate cliches, a must see movie, at least in my mind, is one which starts a cliche, or worms its way into the fabric of our culture in some other way.

An example from TV would be Star Trek.  Thanks to the 60s series, when people part ways they often tell one another to, "live long and prosper."  The synonym for goodbye is used today by trekkies and non-trekkies alike.

Being a man who likes to visit the outside world from time to time, I can't sit here and list every such film.  However, below you'll find a list of 10 films, or film series, in no particular order, which, I believe,  influenced the way we talk and/or think.

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01. The Wizard of Oz - This early addition to the fantasy genre taught us to appreciate what we have with the tag line, "There's no place like home."

02. The Star Wars Saga - Like Jar Jar, hate Jar Jar, the fact is that wishing the force be with somebody has become synonymous with wishing them good luck.

03. When Harry Met Sally - OK, 99.99% of romantic comedies make me want to punch kittens.  Yet, writer, Nora Ephron, understood the way people think to such a degree that this movie is frequently quoted by men who feel they can't be "just friends" with women.  Plus, the "I'll have what she's having" moment has been lampooned multiple times over the years.

04. The Godfather - If one is going to "make someone an offer they can't refuse" it helps to have some context for the classic quote.

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05. Casablanca - Not only is "always having Paris" a popular way to say you can't take away our happy memories of what was, the irony of "beginning a beautiful friendship" is lost on those who haven't seen the movie.

06. The Maltese Falcon - Bogart makes a second appearance here.  If you've ever seen a spoof of Film Noir movies with a beautiful dame sauntering into a P.I.'s office, this film best defines the genre.  It's the stuff dreams are made of.

07. Rocky I & II - Yes, there are six Rocky films, with a rumored seventh coming soon.  Yet, it was the first two which chronicled the journey of the fictional underdog becoming the heavyweight champion.  If you've ever seen someone shout, "Adrian!" after accomplishing a significant goal, these movies will lend context to that cry.

08. Dirty Harry: Sudden Impact - While the original Dirty Harry, and its four sequels, became the flag bearers for tough guy cop movies, it was Sudden Impact (the fourth movie) which inserted, "Go ahead, make my day," into our collective vocabulary.

09. Gone with the Wind - This four hour saga has given us multiple cliches from a woman who "should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how," to a determined woman swearing, "as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again," as she shakes her fist at the sky.

10. Psycho - Alfred Hitchcock's classic shower murder scene has become a mental representation of shock and horror.

Movies of Honorable Mention

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Pre-Casino Royale 007 movies - Before the modern revamp into a grittier franchise, James Bond movies told fanciful tales of an irreverent super spy who utilized gadgets, concepts cars, bullets, booze, and babes to foil the plots of over-the-top villains embodying the fears of each film's particular era.  Notable offerings include, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, The Living Daylights, and GoldenEye.

John Wayne Westerns - Whether one believes Wayne was a good actor, or merely played himself in every movie, his westerns painted a picture of a noble justice driven west.  While films such as El Dorado, True Grit, The Comancheros, The Searchers, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Chisum, and The Sons of Katie Elder have been rebuked as being white friendly revisionist depictions of an actually oppressive time, I prefer to think of these offerings as a reflection of where we WISH we had come from, even if the ideal was never realized by our forebears.

Musicals - As I've said before, there's no denying that musicals deliver a certain amount of fantasy based cheese.  However, in amongst the glitz and the high steps, audiences are given access to characters inner most thoughts and feelings.  Notable offerings include, Fiddler on the Roof, The King & I, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Chicago, Les Misrables, and, for the kinky among us, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Of course, I could add 50 more movies to this list, and still not be finished.  Yet, seeing the films on this list is a good start for anyone wanting to understand modern conversational/pop culture allusions. 

What movies would you include on a must see list?

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