The Hunger Games phenomenon has whetted my appetite for a blog with a cinematic theme. So grab the popcorn. Here goes.
My 10 favorite movies.
1. Cool Hand Luke (1967): This movie is better put together than Sophia Vergara. Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) lands on a chain gang for sawing the heads off parking meters, and prisoners cling to him as an anti-establishment figure. Egg-eating contest is filmmaking genius. George Kennedy earned an Oscar; Newman deserved one. The religious undertones in this flick are everywhere if you pay attention.
2. Outlaw Josey Wales (1976): In my opinion, Clint Eastwood’s best Western. Clever script saves its most memorable lines for the laconic Eastwood. “Well, Mr. Carpetbagger. We got somethin’ in this territory called the Missou-rah boat ride.” Chief Dan George is a hoot as Josey’s sidekick. Don’t forget to count how many times Eastwood spits.
3. Goodfellas (1990): Mobstermania at its finest. Director Martin Scorcese expertly weaves the true saga of Henry Hill with rich storytelling and character development. Watch for Frank Vincent (Billy Batts), Lorraine Bracco (Karen Hill), Tony Sirico (Tony Stacks), Vincent Pastore and Michael Imperioli (Spider), all of whom appeared later in HBO Mafia series “Sopranos.”
4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): I didn’t see this one until my college English professor introduced me it to me in 1983. I’ve seen it about 100 times since. Doesn’t matter. We’ve all known a George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in our life. In fact, we may have felt like George at some point. That’s what makes this movie timeless. If you don’t cry at the end, you’re not human.
5. The Graduate (1967): An affair with an older woman. Isn’t this — and I’m talking hypothetically here — every 22-year-old’s dream? Buck Henry’s screenplay is hilarious. Anne Bancroft (Mrs Robinson) resonates as pathetic alcoholic who seduces Dustin Hoffman. Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack will have you humming for days.
6. Gone with the Wind (1939): How can I leave out a movie with my namesake character, Rhett Butler? Epic Civil War story that somehow manages not to drag despite its 238-minute running time. Dialogue between Rhett (Clark Gable) and Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) carries film. Has there ever been a woman more beautiful than Leigh?
7. Deliverance (1972): Reminds me a lot of my many trips down the Current River, minus the sodomy. Rare serious role for Burt Reynolds. Authentic backdrop makes for chilling tale. Dueling Banjos battle between Ronny Cox (Drew) and inbred boy may be most memorable music scene in cinematic history.
8. Bonnie and Clyde (1967): Violent saga about gangster pair who terrorized Midwest during the Great Depression. Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow) and Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker) even better than they look. Gene Hackman does good turn as Buck Barrow, Clyde’s brother. Beautifully shot. Memorable slow-motion climax during which Clyde and Parker are gunned down.
9. Dial M for Murder (1954): No list would be complete without an Alfred Hitchcock entry. Smart script keeps audience immersed in fast-moving mystery. Ray Milland steals show as detective.
10. Born on the Fourth of July (1989): Tom Cruise nails it as paralyzed Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. Painful to watch. Coming home scene between Kovic and father is as raw as it gets.
Honorable mention: Shawshank Redemption, Rear Window, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, All the President’s Men, Little Big Man, American Graffiti, Jaws, In the Heat of the Night, Platoon.