Saturday, January 14, 2006

Explain America In 10 Films

Picked up on this over at Lance Mannion and decided to take a shot. The challenge is to explain America and Americans to someone in ten movies.

"What you're trying to do is give them a sense of who we are---your take on our dreams, our attitudes, our idioms, what we think we are, what we are afraid we are, what we really might be."

Remember in The Princess Bride, when Inigo Montoya decided to take on the masked man left handed to make it more of a challenge. I decided to take on the movie challenge by selecting only black and white films.

Add your films to the comments below. Here are mine.

1. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - I was knocked out to see others put this John Ford classic on their list. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

2. They Were Expendable - Sticking with Ford. This is the story of America's defeat in the Philippines at the start of WWII. "You and I are professionals. If the manager says sacrifice, we lay down the bunt and let somebody else hit the home run. That's what we were trained for and that's what we'll do."

3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - I was shocked that this wasn't on anyone's list. An idealist crushed by the corrupt political system. Smith is done until he makes a personal appeal to the one man who can save him. "All you people don't know about the lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason that any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor.' And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine."

4. It's a Wonderful Life - Sticking with Capra. This film is dark and disturbing. George Bailey throws himself off a bridge and, instead of death, finds out that his small town life was indeed important. Some considered this film subversive, including the FBI. "Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence."

5. Dr. Strangelove - This is Cold War America. This is the military industrial complex at full throttle. "But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."

6. To Kill A Mockingbird - Still the most powerful exploration of racial hatred and human decency. "Stand up your fathers passin'."

7. Lilies of the Field - Decency, commitment, faith. God works in mysterous ways and small miracles happen. "I'm gonna' build me a chapel."

8. Stalag 17 - Not in the same league as The Grand Illusion, but this is Americans under stress. Things aren't very noble and motives tend to be mixed. "Only in a democracy can a poor guy get his keister shot off with a rich guy.

9. His Gal Friday - The MSM like is was and still is. Howard Hawks' remake of the Front Page. Political corruption, greed, and the "gentlemen" of the press. "I wouldn't cover the burning of Rome for you if they were just lighting it up!"

10. Casablanca- The film only has one American in it, Richard Blaine aka Rick, and he is on the run for some unspecified reason. In the end, Rick does the right thing and that's what we hope all Americans will do. "I stick my neck out for nobody."

Give it a try.