The Great Movie Post (3/6) For the Drama

Hero

when an individual either gains a super power or uses great ability to accomplish something

Drama

just the human element of drama, but not the drama queen kind

Sports Drama

with or without balls

Death Drama

when a movie sucks us into someone life, and the only way to end the story is with their death

Crime Drama

bang bang bang.  nice suit

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Batman Begins – 2005  (Hero)

Close 2nd  Unbreakable

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Written by Bob Kane and David Goyer

Wings by Boeing

Bruce Wayne loses his philanthropic parents to a senseless crime, and years later becomes the Batman to save the crime-ridden Gotham City on the verge of destruction by an ancient order.

There have been too many Batman movies for my taste, and I’m not happy about choosing any of them as the best “hero” film.  For me, the 2nd choice is really the best overall hero movie.  However, when it comes to all of the Batman movies, this one is significantly better than the others because of how well it details what created him.  And I don’t just mean his parents being killed as much as I mean what Bruce Wayne does for years, disappearing in Asia, physical training with secret Ninja warrior guys who seriously beat the crap out of him, attempting to kill him in order to seriously toughen him up.

I’m not a Christian Bale fan, but I would be rather cynical and lying to myself to say he isn’t the best Batman yet.  He’s not physically dominant, but he’s got skills.  He’s not a pretty boy, nor should he be because his money talks.  That’s why he ends up in a fountain with two women at a fancy schmancy white-tie event and then drives away in something Ferrari-like with both women stacked up in the passenger seat.

I’m a fan of “why,” not what.  I don’t care what superheroes do.  We all know “what” they do.  I know Superman flies.  I want to know why.

I’m giving the last paragraph to Unbreakable because there’s a great hero in there.  Bruce Willis plays a most regular guy, a college stadium security guard, who is the only survivor of a train crash.  Closer examination shows that he’s never been sick a day in his life, never been hurt, and this isn’t the only crash he’s survived.  He starts to realize that he might have some kind of special power or ability, and he decides to test it.  It’s a realistic shot at how someone might really react when learning that he might be superhuman.  An added dimension is Samuel L. Jackson, who counterbalances the positives the Willis possesses.  Jackson, being extremely fragile, suspects his opposite is out there.  However, the lengths he goes to find him are disturbing.

Favorite scene:  training with Liam Neeson

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 Forrest Gump– 1994  (Drama, plain storytelling drama)

Close 2ndTo Kill a Mockingbird

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Written by Winston Groom (novel), Eric Roth (screenplay)

Shrimp by Bubba Gump Shrimp

Oscars won for best director, best picture, actor in a leading role, adapted screenplay, visual effects, editing.

“Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny, eludes him.”

At this time, let us put our hands together and give a very sincere “thank you” to John Travolta for passing up on the offer to play Forrest, Forrest Gump and allowing Tom Hanks to forever imprint himself upon our hearts with what is the single most amazing male acting performance I have ever seen.

I would love to interview actors about playing characters who are “special” in one way or another.  There’s a great scene in Tropic Thunder in which Robert Downey Jr. lectures Ben Stiller about going “full retart”

I would love to know how Hanks approached this role, what he studied, or what he didn’t study.  Leonardo DiCaprio did a fabulous job in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but he was limited by his script.  The script for Forrest Gump was epic.

Forrest Gump is the most innocent creature on Earth, and despite the chaos surrounding him, he never wavers from two things:  1. The “right” thing, according to what his ever-caring mother (Sally Field) has taught him and 2. Whatever Jenny (Robin Wright) wants.  He’s been in love with Jenny since he first saw her on his first bus ride to school when he had “never seen anything so beautiful.”  When not playing football for legendary coach Bear Bryant, being honored by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon; Forrest is trying to find – and be loved by – Jenny.  Despite the ridicule from and redemption of Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinese), Forrest never stops his quest to just help and be a good guy.

There are special effects moments that allow Forrest to be in the presence of the afore-mentioned presidents as well as other historical moments by using actual footage and creative splicing.  Film vets will likely remember this from an offbeat Woody Allen film called Zelig, which was a little underrated.  Here, the effects are accepted more easily because of the span and scope of the entire film and the history it encompasses.

How it remains off most published top-10 lists is a mystery.  The film’s greatness is not a mystery.

Favorite scene:  when Forrest returns from shrimping and sees Lieutenant Dan on the dock.

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 Rocky – 1976  (Sports drama)

Close 2ndThe Natural

Directed by John G. Alvidsen

Written by Sylvester Stallone

Punching bags by Shamrock Meats

Oscars won for best director, best picture, editing

 “A small time boxer gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight the heavyweight champ in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.”

To begin, there is no more perfect soundtrack ever to be placed with a movie than Rocky.  Yeah, Saturday Night Fever and Grease are a hair’s breadth away, but they haven’t had the same legacy or impact on their audiences.  If you’re a fan of 50’s and Doo Wop, you’re a fan of Grease.  If you’re into disco, you’re into Saturday Night Fever.  But Rocky?  What else is there?  It’s a niche all its own.  Technically, it’s classical music, but fans of classical music are not fans of the Rocky soundtrack, and fans of Rocky are not fans of classical music.  Over 100 words and not one about the film, that’s how great it is in its entirety.

A schlub of a nobody – Sylvester Stallone – not the offspring of Hollywood elite, not the nephew or cousin of a second unit director, just nobody.  Just a guy with a story in his head that he couldn’t put aside.  The story of Rocky is a Rocky story.  What?  Don’t understand that?  Yes you do.  Everyone knows what it means if I say ”It’s a Rocky story.”  It means that a nobody was able to succeed, and the writing and pitching and selling of the film Rocky is its own story.

Stallone was offered many things to give up his script and let the “experts” handle it, but he stood his ground.  They weren’t getting his story without him, and he was right.

Robert “Rocky” Balboa is a two-bit strong arm for a local two-bit loan shark and also a three-bit boxer.  He gets no respect, but he hasn’t earned any either.  He is most of us.  He feels and knows the greatness within him, but he never had his chance until a showboat among showboats, a self-promotion machine and heavyweight champ named Apollo Creed wants to give a three-bit nobody a chance of a lifetime – to step into the ring with the champ.  While everyone around him acts like fools trying to get involved with Rocky’s big chance, this biggest loser seems to be the only one able to keep his cool and his eyes on the prize.  The prize, however, is not winning the fight.  It’s just being on his feet and not looking like a fool after the final bell.

Favorite scene:  when Mickey wants to be his manager.

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Goodfellas – 1990  (Crime Drama)

Close 2ndBonnie and Clyde

Directed by Martin Scorcese

Written by Nicholas Pileggi

Guns by Smith and Wesson

Oscar won for best supporting actor, nominated for best director, picture, adapted screenplay, supporting actress, film editing.

 “Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.”

Henry Hill was just a kid when he got involved in the mob.  However, he was loyal, respectful, and likable.  So much that he was invited further into the mob than he expected.  Henry had an energy and youth that was different from the established elder statesmen.  The old mob had a respect, a dignity, a code of what was acceptable and what wasn’t, but Henry’s youth did not easily accept that.  He was steering the mob in a different direction, just as the mob was steering him in a different direction.  When you push the mob, they push back.

Ray Liotta gives a powerful performance in the midst of a very powerful cast that includes Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Paul Sorvino.  We watch the rise of a mob-star and the fall of those around him.  But Henry’s success is not appreciated by everyone, and everyone else has to decide just how far they’ll allow Henry to go.  Liotta has the youthful enthusiasm.  Pesci has the killer instinct, and De Niro has a combination of both while still trying to hold on to the old-style mob values, one of which is to not mess with drugs.  Unfortunately, not everyone in the gang agrees, and that’s where things turn south.

What’s also worth appreciating about this film is how it makes this handful of mobsters seem like real people instead of brutal, violent, mindless criminals.  They’re the kind of guys about whom you’d say, “If they only used their intelligence for good instead of evil, who know what they could have accomplished?”

Favorite scene:  When the mobsters are cooking in prison.

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Bang the Drum Slowly 1973  (Death drama)

Close 2ndPowder  (sort of)

Directed by John D. Hancock

Written by Mark Harris

Tears by Visine

 “The story of the friendship between a star pitcher, wise to the world, and a half-wit catcher, as they cope with the catcher’s terminal illness through a baseball season.”

 I hate death movies.  A “death movie” is a story that introduces us to a character, takes us through someone’s interesting life, runs out of what to do next, so they must kill the character.  Notable death movies are Love Story, Beaches, Terms of Endearment, etc.  In my not-so-humble opinion, a death story is the result of a writer not knowing what to do next because there was no conflict, just an interesting idea that was never fully developed.  You can try to prove me wrong, and you might succeed, but until then – I hate death stories.

With that being given, the best death story is Bang the Drum Slowly, which could be argued as a sports drama, but I say no because the very first scene tells us that fairly talented, good guy, and baseball catcher Bruce Pearson has a terminal illness.  Further gaining our sympathy is that Pearson is not the brightest crayon in the box.  I’m trying to politely say his intelligence is below average.  He’s not smart, but he can catch and throw, and he’s very likable.  So we care.

As the season progresses, so do the team’s success as Pearson’s illness.  Only Pearson’s best friend and ace pitcher Henry Wiggen knows what’s coming, although others suspect.  It’s a celebration of life, of fun, of making the most of the short amount of time we have on Earth.  I first saw it when I was a kid because I thought it was a baseball movie, and it’s no secret I love baseball.  When I realized what was actually happening, I was a shriveled mess of tears and curly hair, but it took another viewing for me to really see what the movie was about.  Jock itch.  Just kidding.

Favorite scene:  various moments when De Niro smiles when he knows what nobody else knows, but he’s come to grips with it.

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Up next:  For the Laughs

13 thoughts on “The Great Movie Post (3/6) For the Drama

  1. I think Christian Bale is too ‘pretty boy’ for Batman. Not a square or strong enough lower face. Superb Bruce Wayne though. Michael Keaton was the best, in my opinion. He could pull off the gruff Batman voice the most authentically since he had ‘voices’ in other movies he’s done. Great post – adding them to the list.

  2. The love affair between Forrest and Jenny is so incredible. If he had not been “simple” in his love for her, I don’t think he would have been able to love her for everything she wasn’t. His devotion to her was unwavering. Even in death. My favorite movie quote comes from that movie: I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is. If I watched that movie today, that line would still move me to tears. Maybe it’s not the way he says it, but the way Jenny looks at him after he tells her that.

  3. Pingback: The Great Movie Post (2/6) For the Dark | brainsnorts inc.

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