We’re getting down to the nitty gritty…
CIVIL WAR MOVIES
There is no easy way to do this.
Gone With the Wind is a benchmark. The gold standard. It defines Hollywood. When the movie was released in 1939 it received a standing ovation…after the opening credits! Over one million people poured into Atlanta for the world premier. It’s the most successful film in cinema history. It is a great, great film.
But is it a good one? Frankly, my dear, no, it’s not. Glory is. With Gone With the Wind it’s hard to separate the spectacle from the story. Glory blends those two parts seamlessly. It is able to get both the grand, sweeping epic part right as well as the intimate, personal drama part. Plus it features star making performances by Denzel Washington (who won his first Oscar), Andre Braugher (in his movie debut), and Morgan Freeman. (1989 was a good year for Freeman. On top of Glory, he was nominated for an Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy and also was in Lean on Me.) Glory moves on.
Gettysburg and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly have quite a few similarities. They’re both insanely long. They’re both character studies hidden behind brutal depictions of war and violence. And they both feature some impressive facial hair. But only one of them has one of the most memorable whistles of all time. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you know Ennio Morricone’s main theme. Vegas had Gettysburg as the heavy favorite coming out of the lower half of the bracket at the beginning of the tournament – but that’s why they play the games.
How do you solve a problem like Maria? Match her up against Singin’ In the Rain.
The Muppet Movie and My Fair Lady matchup is a much, much harder decision. In fact, it’s the hardest decision I’ve had to make so far in the tournament. I have deep personal connections to both films. When my wife and I were on our honeymoon we both caught the flu. There was one movie in our little cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains: My Fair Lady. Sure, we’d each seen it a dozen times, but we watched it a dozen more times that week. She was my Audrey Hepburn and I was her Rex Harrison. (Yes, just like the movie she had a horrible cockney accent when we were married and I spent the better part of the next three years trying to get her to properly pronounce her AEIOUs.)
But when we first started dating (I was 14 and she was 13), we spent many an evening watching The Muppet Movie. For her 14th birthday I bought her her very own VHS copy so we wouldn’t have to check it out from the local video rental store every other week. We still have that VHS copy and now our daughters watch it religiously. I can still vividly remember our oldest daughter singing along to the soundtrack before she could talk and, a year later, telling me she wanted to grow up to be Miss Piggy.
So how do you choose between two movies like that? Two movies that are more than movies? Well, I copped out and asked my daughters. Sure enough, the big one picked The Muppet Movie and the little one picked My Fair Lady. (She hasn’t even seen My Fair Lady. She’s just in a phase where she picks the opposite of what her big sister picks.) So, it’s back to me. The Muppets’ Cinderella run continues. They are the Florida Gulf Coast of our March Movie Madness.
BOOKS TO MOVIES
All remaining films in the Books to Movies category have been nominated for Oscars. Jurassic Park even won a few. So, how to decide who advances to the Elite Eight? I suppose, if we were looking at Oscar nominations, I’d have to go with Field of Dreams. (It was nominated for 3 Oscars, but didn’t win. The Princess Bride was only nominated for one – for best song. Also did not win.) But that just doesn’t feel right. Although Field of Dreams is a great film, and Hollywood clearly agrees, I feel like The Princess Bride is more deserving of the win. In addition to a great story, The Princess Bride is endlessly quotable:
“As you wish.”
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.”
“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”
Call it instinct, call it a hunch, call it everyone-loves-Westley syndrome—any way you look at it, The Princess Bride wins.
The battle of The Shawshank Redemption and Jurassic Park is a bit more difficult to decide. I like dinosaurs. I like Andy Dufresne. I like Jeff Goldblum. I love Morgan Freeman. Plus, who doesn’t love an escape plan that hinges on a really big poster?
The downside to Shawshank is that it has a very melancholy vibe (it does take place in prison, after all) and the end is quite ambiguous. Some people like that. I am not some people. I like a happier, more definitive ending. Preferably one with an emotional helicopter ride. Dinosaurs—oh, excuse me—Jurassic Park, advances to the next round.
It’s a choice we all have to make at some point. Do you like milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Coffee or tea? Cake or pie? Hagrid or Gandalf? (It’s obvious that lunchtime is approaching…I have food on the brain.) For me it’s got to be dark chocolate, coffee, cake, and Gandalf. Now, I didn’t make these decisions lightly. I’ll have you know that I’ve done extensive research in the fields of both chocolate and dessert pastries. And, seeing as most major television networks love Hagrid and Gandalf, I’ve seen their respective movies more than a dozen times. I think what I like best about Gandalf, in term of beardy-ness, is the wide range of looks his beard can achieve. I invite you to do a side-by-side comparison of Gandalf’s beards alone. It’s all over the place. Short, long, messy, neat—the man is a beard chameleon. Amazing. Plus it doesn’t hurt that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is awesome (although that first movie is a bit slow going…I like the Shire and everything, but let’s get a move on.)
As much as I want to keep Rebecca in the game, it’s obvious that Laurence Olivier is no match for Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Both movies are personal favorites but, ultimately, the category is movie beards and therefore must go to Mr. Hanks. It’s no accident that Hanks was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. I can only imagine it was, at least in part, his impressive beard growing skills that got The Academy’s attention.
Check back tomorrow to see which movies make the Final Four. (That is, assuming we don’t get put on the DL with carpal tunnel syndrome.)