Thursday, November 10, 2005

Powerful movies (my random recommendations)

Many movies from the 60s and 70s that dealt with hot-button issues of the time are horribly dated. The same goes for movies about contemporary issues from any time period, I suppose. (In general, none of the 80s teen movies make any sense to me - they might as well be from the 16th century - but that's just me and I realize they are quite beloved by a surprisingly large group of usually intelligent people.)

I just thought I'd highlight three movies that I think stand out despite the fact that in some ways they're 'dated.' One of them is a classic. The other two should be, but a relegated to the status of cult classic. And all three, due to something that happened to me relatively recently, resonate a bit more strongly than they used to.

1) Easy Rider (1969). This is an easy one to mention. It's universally viewed as a classic. The compelling story of a couple of easy going counter-culture figures making their way down south and facing the wrath of a society not ready to accept anything that's not just like them is one that still resonates. Sure, having long-hair or riding motorcycles won't usually get you run out of town. But the sense that many southerners don't much like northerners still persists today. And in effect, that's sort of what the movie is about. As well as being about people judging the book by the cover.

2) Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song (1971). The original blaxploitation film (although some argue that Cotton Comes to Harlem is the first, that movie is in fact the first commercial blaxploitation film, while this is the first real one). This movie's a bit hard to understand. The characters quite frequently speak in jive, and it takes a couple of viewings to pick up on exactly what everyone is saying. Much of the plot makes very little sense. But that's not the point. The point is about the man. It's about the oppression of blacks. It's about unrestrained racism, discrimination and police brutality. And the movie's opening shot dedicates it to "Brothers and sisters who have had enough of the Man." It's a very metaphorical movie, filled with symbolism and surreal imagery. It definitely still packs a punch today.

3) Alice's Restaurant (1969). It's time to watch this movie again - Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and this is the quintessential Thanksgiving movie. It's not an intense movie in the way of the previous two I mentioned. But in its sweet, naive innocence, accentuated by the young Arlo Guthrie's almost angelic face, it points out some of the idiocy and some of the beauty of everyday life, where a young man with good intentions gets arrested for littering, and the dangers of hard drug addiction are emphasized in a much more powerful way than most of those awful public service announcements. It's a movie about good people with good intentions and after watching it, you feel like you've just had a great big turkey dinner with the people you love, even if it's the middle of July. Sometimes we need movies that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, even if throughout Alice's Restaurant, there's the nagging reminder that the cold chill of reality lies just outside.


Post a Comment

<< Home