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Posts Tagged ‘favorite movies’

Second in an occasional series on movies I love

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I love Clint Eastwood. I love him so much I forgive him those stupid movies with the chimp. Or orangutan, I always get them mixed up. But I have chosen to ignore those films. I can overlook the fact that he made an animal buddy movie because the bulk of his work is just so damn good.

I like bad guys in movies. Not necessarily villains, though I do usually favor them, but good guys who might have a little bit of bad in them. I don’t go for the “kill the baddies, save the women and children, hero of the day” kind of character. I like my action heroes rugged and worn and more than a little on the dark side. Which is why I love this movie, and Eastwood’s character, so much.

Despite the title, you’ve really got three bad guys here:

Angel Eyes -The Bad. He’s demonic, soulless and evil. Devoid of morals. He will kill anyone as long as there is something in it for him.
Tuco – The Ugly. Selfish, greedy guy who reminds me a bit of Daffy Duck in that “I’m a happy miser” episode. He’s also a bit of comic relief.
Blondie – The Good. Except, how good is he, really? Is he just good by comparison? Relatively speaking? He’s not a hero, not by a long shot. So calling him good is like telling an ugly girl she has a great personality. Just because the guy has a great sense of honor doesn’t make him completely good. Not that I’m complaining. Like I said, I like my heroes a little rough around the edges. Blondie is all dirty faced and squinty eyed and cool as ice. That’s my kind of Good.

So we’ve got three guys that are really in it only for themselves. We’ve got the Civil War, some buried treasure. There are alliances forming and double crossing going on. A nice set up for some quality action/drama/supsense/violence.

What sets this apart from other movies like it (besides Eastwood himself) is the almost sublime combination of Leone’s direction and Ennio Morricone’s score. The whole movie seems almost off-kilter. There are long shots and weird angles and time seems stretched out at certain points. Leone he builds up incredible tension in a scene and then Morricone’s music will kick in, sometimes just a few notes, the music becomes an actor in the movie in itself. It plays just an important role in the movie as any of the main characters. This is beautiful film making.

Everyone has their favorite part in this film. For some people, it’s the bridge scene. For others, it’s when Tuco does that weird jig through the graves, looking for the right one. For a lot of people, it’s in the very ending itself.

Of course, mine is different:

Tuco is in the bath. A bubble bath, mind you. The One Armed Man walks in. And he does something I hate in movies. He talks when he should kill. I mean, he’s standing there with his gun, Tuco is sitting in a freaking bathtub and he’s going to start yapping?

I’ve been looking for you for 8 months. Whenever I should have had a gun in my right hand, I thought of you. Now I find you in exactly the position that suits me. I had lots of time to learn to shoot with my left.

Tuco does what anyone in that circumstance should do. Well, anyone who takes a gun into a bubble bath with him. Tuco looks at the One Armed Man and says “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk!” And shoots him. Lesson learned there, kids. When you are about to kill someone, don’t take the time to be all macho about it. Don’t tell your damn life story. Don’t talk. Shoot.

See, this movie is full of little life lessons if you pay close attention. And the best one is given by Blondie himself:

You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.

Think about that.

You can learn a lot from a squinty eyed, semi-Good guy. Especially when he’s a quick draw.

Previously in this series

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the first in what will be an occasional series of tributes to my favorite movies.

Night of the Living Dead

Let’s start here by telling you that I really, really want to be a zombie some day. Some people want to be firemen, some people want to be rock stars, I want to be a zombie. I’m really rooting for this whole bird flu thing to take off in the hopes that it will end in zombie infestation and I can just give up my being to the flesh eaters. You think I’m fighting the undead? No way. Why fight off the zombies? Why spend days running from them, trying to fend them off, beating them, shooting them, cowering in fear in the basement (we don’t even have a basement) when eventually, they are going to win? Once the zombie infestation starts, that’s it. It’s assimilate or die. You can shoot as many brains as you want, but in the end, the undead will outnumber the living and you may as well just let them bite you early on rather than attempting to put up some brave and noble fight for survival.

Had they realized this in Night of the Living Dead, things would have worked out a lot differently. Maybe if Barbra and Johnny and Ben had a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy, they could have avoided all that family-eating-family tragedy. No one wants to see that. Give yourself up at the start and you won’t find yourself staring down your zombified teenage daughter gnawing on her father.

Yes, I would give up that easily. What can I say? I’m a joiner. I follow trends, I don’t set them. It’s just so much easier to hold out your arms and accept what fate hands you than to fight it. It’s easier to convince yourself that being a zombie wouldn’t be so bad after all – no work, no taxes to pay, abundant food supply and, best of all, I could go on the hunt for people I hate and zombiefy them. How cool would it be to sink my undead teeth into Yngwie Malmsteem’s fleshy neck?

Anyhow, Night of the Living Dead. Yes, I know; social commentary, racism, class warfare, women are weak, blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all. But let’s get down to basics. It’s a zombie movie. People get eaten. Teeth are bared. Kids eat their parents. Brains explode. The living dead! Braaaaainnnnnnnssssss! Who the hell cares if George Romero was giving us a subtle lesson in social mores? There are zombies. And they’re coming to get you, Barbra!

For all I care the movie – and all Romero’s movies, really – could have contained within the dialogue the hidden codes to figuring out the order of the universe, the secret life of Jesus Christ, and how to get eternal life in Legend of Zelda and I still wouldn’t care. Well, maybe I’d care about the Zelda thing. Because eternal life would rule.

There’s not much to else say about Night of the Living Dead. It’s a classic. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen it. It paved the way for zillions of zombie movies after it. Without the cheesiness and stilted dialogue and awkward social commentary of Night of the Living Dead, we wouldn’t have Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead or Return of the Living Dead or even Shaun of the Dead. And then where would we be? If it weren’t for Romero, I would be just another aimless human being, a worker drone living out a meek existence just waiting for death to come take me away. But, no. I have a goal. I have a plan. I’m going to become a zombie someday! Come on, bird flu! Work your viral magic!

I can’t wait for the day I wake up only to find my children all bug eyed and bloody, arguing over the last piece of my neighbor’s leg. Then I’ll know I made it. I will walk out the door and down the street and look for the first large group of zombies I can find. they're coming to get you, barbara And then I’m going climb on top of the nearest building and do the most awesome stage dive ever right into the middle of that pack of living dead things, some Slayer song playing inside my head. Sure it might hurt at first. The flesh tearing thing probably isn’t a whole lot of fun. But in the end, I win. I get to be zombie.

We need to pay tribute, not really to this film, per se, but to the undead in general. How many Misfits songs would have gone unwritten if not for zombies? Would there be an Army of Darkness? A House of Dead game at your local arcade? See what I mean? Don’t mess with the zombies, man. They have added more to our culture than most Europeans.

Next time you’re enjoying brains for dinner or brains for lunch, give a little thanks to George Romero, ok?

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