Thursday, June 15, 2006

Stripes and Animal House: persevering against overwhelming odds...left off the list

Wherein I set the record straight

A few days ago, Throwing Things pointed to a new American Film Institute list: the 100 most-inspiring movies. Their number one selection is obvious and is also one of my most hated movies. Therefore, I must take issue with every selection they made. Especially, since truly inspirational movies such as Joe Versus the Volcano and Hudsucker Proxy didn't even make the cut for top 300 films.

Below is the list of the top 100 films. In addition to the linked discussion above, you can also participate in a discussion at Althouse (where I've left a few of these descriptions).

note:many of the descriptions I quote are taken from

now up to #69 and "Coal Miner's Daughter":

  1. "It's a Wonderful Life," 1946. Inspirational, my ass. It's a dark, deeply cynical movie. Guy gives up on his life's hopes and dreams to babysit a town of ignorant bedwetters. Screw showing George waht his life would be like if he'd never existed. Let's see what his life would have been like if he'd gotten on that train. Maybe he'd have become a banking genius and come back and bought out Mr. Potter. And that ending. Not only has Potter stolen the money, but the town's people scrape together what little money they have so George can pay him again. Let's see the sequel, where the S&L is closed down six months later and the only jobs available are as spittle collectors at the Potter estate.
  2. "To Kill a Mockingbird," 1962. A black man in the South can't get a fair trial.

  3. "Schindler's List," 1993. If you kill all the jews, who will work in my factory?

  4. "Rocky," 1976. Even an illiterate enforcer can dream about getting his ass kicked in front of a national TV audience.

  5. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," 1939. Naive idealist goes to Washington and the first thing he does is to try and draft a pork bill to spend money on a pet project.

  6. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," 1982. What? Where's the inspiration with this one? An alien is left behind (...left behind? I think it was the equivalent to driving an annoying pet to the middle of the woods and throwing it out the window, myself; but, whatever...), then contacts the other aliens to pick him up. Less inspirational is the lame revisionism of the twenty year anniversary release: Guns used by the agents in the 1982 were excised or digitally replaced with walkie-talkies, as was the line: "No guns - they're children." A reference to a
    "terrorist" was also changed to the word "hippie".

    It did inspire a sweet, young Drew Barrymore to turn into a whore: drinking alcoholic beverages by the time she was 9, smoking marijuana at 10, and snorting cocaine at 12.
  7. "The Grapes of Wrath," 1940. The only reason there's anything inspirational about this movie is because John Ford pissed all over the original story. The movie ends on an upbeat note, however, in the book...not so
    cheerful. Here's a summary of the final chapter:
    The rain continues to fall. On the third day of the storm, the skies still show no sign of clearing. Rose of Sharon, sick and feverish, goes into labor. The truck has flooded, and the family has no choice but to remain in the boxcar. At Pa’s urging, the men work to build a makeshift dam to keep the water from flooding their shelter or washing it away. However, an uprooted tree cascades into the dam and destroys it. When Pa Joad enters the car, soaked and defeated, Mrs. Wainwright informs him that Rose of Sharon has delivered a stillborn baby. The family sends Uncle John to bury the child. He ventures into the storm, places the improvised coffin in the stream, and watches the current carry it away. The rains continue. Pa spends the last of the family’s money on food.

    On the sixth day of rain, the flood begins to overtake the boxcar, and Ma decides that the family must seek dry ground. Al decides to stay with the Wainwrights and Agnes. Traveling on foot, the remaining Joads spot a barn and head toward it. There, they find a dying man and small boy. The boy tells them that his father has not eaten for six days, having given all available food to his son. The man’s health has deteriorated to such an extent that he cannot digest solid food; he needs soup or milk. Ma looks to Rose of Sharon, and the girl at once understands her unstated thoughts. Rose of Sharon asks everyone to leave the barn and, once alone, she approaches the starving man. Despite his protests, she holds him close and suckles him.

  8. "Breaking Away," 1979. No complaints, great movie and truly inspirational. All the characters find purpose in their lives. Should be noted that this movie also contains one of the most heartbreaking moments on film and it goes by so quickly it's easy to miss. After they've won the race and everyone is hugging and kissing, there's Daniel Stern realizing he has no one to celebrate with or to tell him he'd done good. Brutal. The most inspirational message of the movie? College girls are easy if you speak with a foreign accent.
  9. "Miracle on 34th Street," 1947. Another list this movie belongs on is "Psychiatric oddities." Back in the 1930s and 40s, there seemed to be a thing about how gentle people only interested in the welfare of others were dangerous psychotics who should be locked up and lobotomized. See also, "Harvey."
  10. "Saving Private Ryan," 1998. A good man, Tom Hanks, leads his men on a fool's errand to save one man. They all die. Moral of the story: war sucks.
  11. "The Best Years of Our Lives," 1946. Oh the jocularity: "the difficult, traumatic adjustments (unemployment, adultery, alcoholism, and ostracism) that three returning veteran servicemen experienced in the aftermath of World War II."
  12. "Apollo 13," 1995. If you're a hot shit pilot riding on top of a rocket, you'll get all the fame and glory while the engineers who saved your ass are mostly forgotten. I don't recall anyone giving Gene Krantz and his crew a ticker tape parade.
  13. "Hoosiers," 1986. A man with a violent past and the town drunk find redemption through the manipulation of teenage boys.
  14. "The Bridge on the River Kwai," 1957. This description is stolen from Icepick: Who am I supposed to be inspired by, the crazy colonel who does a bang up job helping out the enemy, the lying American enlisted man who goes on a suicide mission to avoid ending up in the stockade, or the commandos that end up having to kill their own troops to accomplish the mission?
  15. "The Miracle Worker," 1962. Isn't it great to be deaf and blind!
  16. "Norma Rae," 1979. It's fine for a fictional movie, but for it's depiction of real events, it's a bit lacking. from a 1980 article:
    What didn't really happen is that everyone lived happily ever after once the union won the election. For one thing, there is still no contract signed between J.P. Stevens and the ACTWU in Roanoke Rapids.

    A spokesman for J.P. Stevens in New York said that the boycott of its sheets and towels has not been effective, that sales and profits last year were higher than ever.

    The movie, which won an Academy Award for Sally Field but not a cent for Crystal Lee Sutton...

    Some of Cyrstal Lee Sutton's life and times were dramatized in "Norma Rae," but after the victorious election that ends the movie, the real-life scene was that she had to find a job. The first one she got after she was fired from J.P. Stevens in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., was at a fast-food fried chicken stand in another town. It was the worst job she ever had. This was after she'd been fired from J.P. Stevens for "insubordination," and after her story had been written up and was about to be dramatized on celluloid as "Normal Rae."

  17. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1975. Fight the system and we'll scramble your brains.
  18. "The Diary of Anne Frank," 1959. Never trust the Dutch.
  19. "The Right Stuff," 1983. Tell it to screwed over Chuck Yeager.
  20. "Philadelphia," 1993. Hard to find a more blatantly manipulative movie. As the movie tries to show homosexuals as normal people--because Americans are by nature stupid and ignorant and it helps to rub our stupidity and ignorance in our faces--it never shows them in normal and affectionate situations. There's no kissing; and scenes showing Hanks and Banderas in bed together were cut out of the release.
  21. "In the Heat of the Night," 1967. A black detective from
    Philadelphia finds he has a lot in common with a gay southern sheriff:
    Gillespie: You know, you know Virgil, you are among the chosen few.
    Virgil: How's that?
    Gillespie: Well I think that you're the first human being that's ever been in here.
    Virgil: You can't be too careful, man.
    Gillespie:...I got no wife. I got no kids. Boy...I got a town that don't want me...I'll tell you a secret. Nobody comes here, never.

  22. "The Pride of the Yankees," 1942. If you're a famous athlete, perhaps one day you too can have a fatal disease named after you.
  23. "The Shawshank Redemption," 1994. An innocent man spends twenty years in prison being buggered by psychopaths. His only way out is to become an embezzler and tax cheat. Eventually crawls through a pipe of shit.
  24. "National Velvet," 1944. Other than horses are nasty, smelly animals, I know nothing about this movie.
  25. "Sullivan's Travels," 1941. This would be inspirational, if Hollywood had paid attention to the epiphany of the main character:
    He succeeds in understanding that his attitude toward the poor had bordered on patronization. He finally realizes the uplifting power of laughter, and decides to return to his true calling - the making of entertaining comedies to entertain rather than to edify.

    ...and stopped making moralizing crap like The Best Years of Our Lives and Philadelphia; and idiotic lists like this.
  26. "The Wizard of Oz," 1939. A girl accidently kills one
    woman. The polite thing to do would be to hand over the dead woman's shoes to her closest relative. Instead, Dorothy keeps the shoes and willingly, and without compunction, takes another woman's life in exchange for a way home. However, this all could have been avoided if Glenda had just sent Dorothy home in the first place; instead of sending her to Oz for no explainable reason.
  27. "High Noon," 1952. Great movie, but where's the inspiration? John Wayne called the film's ending "un-American."
    There is no time for triumphant celebration - theirs is a hollow victory. Kane helps Amy board their packed buggy, brought to them by the faithful teenage boy. Then, he disdainfully looks around, reaches for his 'tin' badge, takes it off, contemptuously drops it into the dusty street, and turns to leave.

    Without support from the people, Kane will no longer be their leader. Silently, without a backward glance or goodbye, he and Amy ride off into the distance from the community of weak, fickle onlookers in the saved, unremarkable town of Hadleyville ("a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere," according to the Judge). The contemptible crowd that was unwilling to fight to preserve its law and order remains silent as the buckboard goes out of view, accompanied by the title song's famous melancholy ballad.

  28. "Field of Dreams," 1989. Struggling to make ends meet, a farmer destroys his only means of income and abandons his family to kidnap an author. Luckily, some ghosts intervene and all is saved. A message we can all take comfort in.
  29. "Gandhi," 1982. Better to be assassinated by a religious fanatic in a free India then to be beaten as a subject of the British.
  30. "Lawrence of Arabia," 1962. Why has the Mideast been in such turmoil for the last century or so? Blame the British.
  31. "Glory," 1989. About how one white man treats a minority with respect. Then they all die.
  32. "Casablanca," 1942. An allegory for limbo as refugees wait for either the hell of the nazis or a heaven sent airplane ride to the Americas. Inspirational message: never get too close to women or the French.
  33. "City Lights,". Even a blind girl, as long as she's attractive, will have men give her money.
  34. "All the President's Men,". The venal, self-important story of the Washington Post's tragic pursuit of our country's greatest president is not inspiring. Nor is the fact that this story is responsible for making reporters thinks they're more important than the story.
  35. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," 1967. Here's an interesting history of the film. If true, interracial marriage was still illegal in seventeen states when this movie was released. Considering the times, the actions of the people involved in the making of this film admirable and even inspiring. The movie, on-the-otherhand, is a moralistic 2x4 with no redeeming artistic value.
  36. "On the Waterfront," 1954. Serves as Elia Kazan's excuse for naming names in front of HUAC.
  37. "Forrest Gump," 1994. One of those movies you either love or hate. I happen to enjoy it, but inspirational? No way. What's inspirational about a person, who without anyone self-awareness whatsoever, just stumbles from one situation to another? Just his luck, his fortunes almost always improve, but it's just luck.
  38. "Pinocchio," 1940. As long as you have a magical fairy to help you out of sticky situations, you too can learn from your mistakes.
  39. "Star Wars," 1977. Inspired George Lucas to make another one, which inspired him to make another one involving those damned teddy bears. Inspired me to never again give him a single penny. Rot in hell, old man.
  40. "Mrs. Miniver," 1942. Didn't know this, it was all propaganda:
    Under the influence of the American Office of War Information, the film attempted to undermine Hollywood's prewar depiction of England as a glamorous bastion of social privilege, anachronistic habits and snobbery in favour of more democratic, modern images. To this end, the social status enjoyed by the Miniver family in the print version was downgraded and increased attention was given to the erosion of class barriers under the pressures of wartime.

  41. "The Sound of Music," 1965. I present Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp's inner monologue: Screw you Austria! I'm schtupping a nun, so we're out of here!
  42. "12 Angry Men," 1957. The film is a powerful indictment, denouncement and expose of the trial by jury system. So, as those problems have all been fixed--and the innocent always go free and the guilty are always punished--look upon this as a depiction of a harsher, less informed time. As Henry Fonda argued, "If the knife's a duplicate, we must acquit."
  43. "Gone With the Wind," 1939. Scarlett O'Hara, a slave-owner, has trouble getting laid.
  44. "Spartacus," 1960. It was fun while it lasted, then those who weren't returned as slaves were crucified. Isn't there something about "winning a battle doesn't mean you've won the war?" If not, there should be.
  45. "On Golden Pond," 1981. Growing old sucks.
  46. "Lilies of the Field," 1963. Well-intentioned Southern Baptist helps out German nuns in the Southwestern desert. If not for the comforting presence of Sidney Poitier, it is clear that white folk would still be scared of the black man.
  47. "2001: a Space Odyssey," 1968. Man has no control over his destiny. This movie is so inspirational that Oliver! won best Oscar that year; 2001 wasn't even nominated. Even worse, Planet of the Apes was given a Special Honorary Oscar for makeup, even though it was clearly inferior to 2001.
  48. "The African Queen," 1951. So I'm reading a description of the movie and thinking to myself: "Self, the African Queen would make a great amusement park ride." Then I read:
    There is a remarkable resemblance between Disneyland's 'Jungle Cruise' attraction and this film.

    That Walt Disney, what a genius.
  49. "Meet John Doe," 1941. Wasn't the depression and the war bad enough without these bombastic handwringers telling us how bad off we were from the depression and the war? No? Sorry I asked.
  50. "Seabiscuit," 2003. Another horse movie? I don't get it. Hit the horse with a stick and it runs fast. Whoot.
  51. "The Color Purple," 1985. This movie inspired many people to denounce the film and the director, Steven Spielberg. Some, because a white man directed the movie. Others, because the lesbianism of the original story was left out.
  52. "Dead Poet's Society," 1989. No. There are many things wrong with the movie and I'll skip them for now....But, we have one kid who blows his brains out because he couldn't live with his father's disapproval. And we're supposed be sympathetic with the teacher who forced this confrontation? This is an evil, evil movie.
  53. "Shane," 1953. Inspires sheep ranchers everywhere to hope for a friendly ex-gunman to ride through town.
  54. "Rudy," 1993. If you whine and complain enough, people will feel sorry for you.
  55. "The Defiant Ones," 1958.
    Ebony and Ivory
    Live together in perfect harmony
    Side by side on my piano keyboard
    Oh Lord, why don't we?

  56. "Ben-Hur," 1959. In many ways, this movie's message is about "no taxation without representation." As such, I think we'll find it to be a primary influence of the Boston Tea Party.
  57. "Sergeant York," 1941. A drunken barfighter gets religion and becomes a conscientious objector. Drafted into World War I, he ends up killing lots of Germans and becoming highly decorated. Inspirational message: go with what you're good at.
  58. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," 1977. The dumbest aliens in the galaxy show up to play Simon.
  59. "Dances With Wolves," 1990. First time I played blackjack was in Deadwood, SD at a casino owned by Kevin Costner. Playing a $2 table I won $60 in ten minutes. Costner is a genius and this movie is brilliant.
  60. "Sounder," 1972. The thing about your dad and dog dying is that it distracts from the fact that you're living in an oppressive, racist society. Kinda like stepping on someone's foot makes them forget about their headache.
  61. "Braveheart," 1995. William Wallace is executed in 1305. In 1320, Scotland's sovereignty was recognised by the major European dynasties. Today, they deep fry Snickers.

  62. "Rain Man," 1988. So to be good at blackjack all I need to do is teach myself to count cards? That's good to know. Thanks, Dustin!

  63. "The Black Stallion," 1979. Horses, bah.

  64. "A Raisin in the Sun," 1961. The story of a black family living in a small apartment in the inner city of Chicago...DY-NO-MITE!

  65. "Silkwood," 1983. We haven't opened a nuclear power plant in about thirty years, gas is almost $3 a gallon, and I'm supposed to worry about someone who drove off the road?

  66. "The Day the Earth Stood Still," 1951. Inspiring messages in this movie: Humans are instinctively violent; humans are selfish and uncaring; if we refuse to cowtow to a condescending alien, he will have us destroyed. Perhaps in a nonviolent way?

  67. "An Officer and a Gentleman," 1982. Inspired me to never work in a grocery store. Chicks don't dig grocery clerks.

  68. "The Spirit of St. Louis," 1957. The true story of a man who stayed awake for 33 hours to win a $25,000 prize. Lucky for him, two Frenchman died the week before trying to win. James Dean was supposed to have played Lindbergh, but then he had a little car trouble.

  69. "Coal Miner's Daughter," 1980. Is it wrong that I prefer Sissy Spacek's singing over Loretta Lynn's?


Blogger Pooh said...

You are a deeply unhappy man.

6/15/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Pooh said...

(Ooh, sorry that was me projecting after watching you piss on some of my favorite movies...)

6/15/2006 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger amy said...

Tom Hanks needs to die a burning, flaming death. He should have been shot after Bachelor Party.

6/16/2006 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Pooh, share with me your favorite movie and I will destroy it in an orgy of violence never before seen. Then I'll take myself out for an ice cream cone.

6/16/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Just realized while writing these, I hadn't visited Mr. Cranky in a few years. Every movie sucks, it's just a matter of how much.

6/16/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Pooh said...

Oh man, we read Mr. Cranky in my film classes as a away of demonstrating that it's more about the reviewer than about the reviewee...

As for my favorites - try here. Bring it!

vw: wesssci (rollin' wit da lench mob, wesssciiiiiiide)

6/16/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Dang, you didn't list any movies that it would be shear pleasure to eviscerate. It's not like you mentioned "The Natural" which I could rant against for a week.

Interesting note: in the years I religiously read Mr. Cranky I never knew one of the co-creators was Hans Bjordahl. He was also the co-creator of Cafe Angst. A comic strip I bought as editor of the college newspaper. Other than the Denver Post, we may have been the only subscribers.

6/16/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger the2scoops said...

Being inspirational gets you killed, buggered or Tom Hanks. Got it. Time to refill my scotch IV.

6/28/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Me, I'm just trying to figure out why this is "pooh on film" when this is more accurately so described.

6/29/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous cd said...

I agree with nearly every assessment you've made except for "The Best Years of Our Lives" which wasn't that moralizing and is oddly timely now when so little attention is being paid to the mental health of returning veterans. Not to get all hoity-toity about the film.

But I praise your evaluation of Dead Poet's Society - man is THAT piece of crap overrated.

6/29/2006 05:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anon said...

I know the goal is to be cynical and dismissive, but this description:

Better to be assassinated by a religious fanatic in a free India then to be beaten as a subject of the British.

...actually, that does sound like an inspirational movie. Just not a happy one.


6/29/2006 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Thanks CD and Anon, great comments.

I have to admit that "Best Years of their Lives" is one I haven't seen.

I'm also pleasnatly surprised at the "Dead Poets Society" hatred. I think we each thought we were alone in that.

6/30/2006 08:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Doug said...

Your reviews are hilarious, I'm truly inspired. Not so sure about Nixon being the greatest U.S. president.

3/20/2008 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Icepick said...

I had forgotten how riotous this post was. What a nice treat on a Friday afternoon!

From the Forrest Gump comment: What's inspirational about a person, who without anyone self-awareness whatsoever, just stumbles from one situation to another? Just his luck, his fortunes almost always improve, but it's just luck.

Forrest didn't JUST get by on his luck. They cut this from the movie, but in the book it's clear that the woman sleeps with him because he's hung like a horse.


But this is good work, and it's good that the interwebs are preserving it. You know, for kids!

3/21/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Icepick said...

"Shane," 1953. Inspires sheep ranchers everywhere to hope for a friendly ex-gunman to ride through town.

Wait, wasn't that the plot of Brokeback Mountain?

3/21/2008 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

I think of "Shane" as more of a cold war parable. Shane is the USA, the sheep herders are Europe, and the cattle ranchers are the Soviet Union.

3/24/2008 07:18:00 AM  

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