(Gotta bip up the site hits somehow.)
You may know by now, if you are a regular purveyor of this blog, that I can be rather critical of modern society, and especially popular culture. Since all my regular readers (all four of you) are just dying to know what works of modern cinematic art Urban Prairie Schooner actually considers to be worthy of his adulation, let's shimmy on down the rundown....
The official list of Urban Prairie-certified-safe-for-your-sensibilities films, in no particular order:
The Shawshank Redemption: Good acting, excellent mood, great story about man's struggle against the absolute corruption and tyranny of the State (notwithstanding Tim Robbins' personal political viewpoints).
The Remains of the Day: This film nearly made me cry. Seriously, it's painful, but in a satisfying way. Anthony Hopkins literally becomes his character. Well worth watching!
Raging Bull: Scorsese's second best film (his best film comes later). A triumph of art film technique and Method acting.
Scarface: "Say hello to my lil' frien'!!" This film just rocks. Also captures the look and feel of an era in the not so distant past, that has already vanished before our eyes.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips: As you can see, I have a soft spot for sentimental films which focus on lonely older men who find love late in life. This would be the 1939 version starring Robert Donat and the always lovely Greer Garson.
Network: Prophesy. That's all I'm gonna say. A kickass film to boot, too.
Dr. Strangelove: My favorite comedy of all time. "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the War Room!" Did you know that this film is actually a documentary? This is actually what goes down in the halls of Defense in times of crisis.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: I have always liked this film for some reason, likely having something to do with its musical score (composed by the great Bernard Hermann) or its star, the beautiful Gene Tierney. And yeah, Rex Harrison as the ghost is an older man who finds love very late in life...
Vertigo: Yeah, yeah, I know, the plot is unrealistic and convoluted. But San Francisco has never looked better on film, and music has never sounded better on film either (courtesy of the great Hermann again).
Marty: Yet another loner who finds love. A good film even if it plays to stereotypes a little too much.
A Face in the Crowd: An excellent story about how the media can manipulate and corrupt absolutely. If the only place you've seen Andy Griffith is on the Andy Griffith Show or Matlock, then this will set you up for a shock. Also starring Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau as the conscience character. Semi-based on the rise and fall of 1950s TV icon Arthur Godfrey.
The Aviator: This was a decent effort by Scorsese to make a biopic about the twisted and convoluted life of the legendary Howard Hughes. As a bonus, the film contains an underlying theme of individualism and standing up to the idiocracy of the State. (Regrettably, the truth in real life, as always, was somewhat different.)
Ocean's Eleven: The 1960 original - no crappy big budget remakes in this list. Wonderfully captures the sleaze and glamour of Rat Pack era Las Vegas.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: An incredible and stupendous array of stunts, one liners, and car chases packed into four hours of laugh out loud mayhem. This was Stanley Kramer's answer to those who said he couldn't do comedy.
Beavis and Butt-head Do America: YES!!! "Whoa, Butt-head, we're on the Urban Prairie Blog...." "You said log, huh huh huh." Gave us classic lines such as, "It's coming from the ass, but it's also coming from the ass of the ass." (I have very lowbrow tastes, I know.)
The Blues Brothers: The greatest musical of all time. Car chases, great music, dead malls, Chicago....this has it all.
North by Northwest: A rollicking good suspense/comedy from Hitchcock. Favorite line: "Your next role will be when you play dead. You'll be quite convincing, I assure you."
Forrest Gump: This film always makes me cry, for some reason. Otherwise it is sap and Hollywood cheese 100% of the way. But something about it always seems to get to me.
A Beautiful Mind: Also another film that makes me cry. Individuals struggling against great adversity strikes a chord with me. Of course with this film you get the sanitized for public consumption Hollywood version of John Nash's life; the reality was a tad bit different.
And now the list of Urban Prairie's finest:
Taxi Driver: My favorite film, hands down. Living in the 'hood does something to a person. It makes one cynical and bitter. Living on one's own in the 'hood for a long period of time exaberates that process. In any case, Scorsese spoke to me on this one. I understand where Travis is coming from, because I think sometimes, when we're down, we all feel like he does. We all want to wash the scum off the streets at times. Granted most of us are not psychotic loners, but don't we all experience alienation of this sort at times? (I guess not if you're rich, white, and twenty-one, or if you're female, blonde, and have a rich daddy, but not all of us in this world have the good fortune to be so 'blessed'.)
This film would be merely great without Bernard Hermann's excellent and dark musical score, the last he completed before his death. The music makes all the difference - it makes this film legendary.
Citizen Kane: Enough has been written about this film and its greatness. So I will add nothing here other than to say it lives up to its reputation.
Casablanca: Yeah, I like it too.
If The Magnificent Ambersons had been cut according to Orson Welles' vision, it might be here also. But let's just say that RKO loused that one up real good.
I have ideas for films that would be even greater than these. But since I don't have a spare $100 million lying around and I'm not related to anyone in the film industry, these will remain just that - ideas. Maybe I'll get around to sharing them here sometime....