Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Five: Gangster Movies

For a while there I was doing regular posts of rankings, but it got too time-consuming to rank everything in a category so for now I'm going to try weekly posts listing just five things in a category.

And since I just re-watched Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels last night, I thought I'd start with gangster movies.  But not gangster movies like The Godfather, which I hated.  Gangster movies like

1.  Pulp Fiction.

Back when I used to take things seriously, by which I mean "I was young and stupid and thought it actually mattered who won the Superbowl or whether a team cheated in the NFL or which film got Best Picture," that being in the time before I had real worries like mortgages and building a business and kids and stuff, I thought it was terrible that this movie lost out to Forrest Gump for Best Picture.  Nowadays, I'm not so worried about dumb stuff like pop culture, and I save my righteous indignation (which emoticon I invented, and it looks like this:

: ( )

), but I still like this movie for the crazy fun and the interesting dialogue that would be ripped off by a million lesser movies, and for John Travolta before he got all scientology, and for Bruce Willis before he became BRUCE WILLIS(TM), which is how I think of actors once they stop acting and just start doing the same shtick in every movie (Bruce Willis, Robert DeNiro, etc etc).

2. Go. I don't really remember all the details of this movie, but what I do remember is it was a lot of fun watching; I favor twisty-turny movies with characters who have a lot of moral ambiguity: decent streaks in terrible criminals, and so forth.  This movie had that; it was like Pulp Fiction for millenials.

3. Drive.  

And speaking of morally-ambiguous stylish films, this Ryan Gosling movie is one of the best I've seen.  It's one of those movies where even full-sunlight days seem somehow tainted and dark, and you can feel the desperation behind every single thing every character does.  Watching movies like this make my life feel safe, even in the most stressful times.  BONUS POINTS: I once read an article that suggested using music to help your mood, and one of the ways to do that was to play techno- or punk music whenever you are under stress, because that will make you feel like you are the main character in a thriller, and since the main character always wins out (the article theorized) you will feel more in control and able to cope.  Sort of "pretend your life is a thriller," I guess, which never worked for me, really.  I don't want my life to be a thriller. 

When I get under stress, I imagine my life is a comedy, with a voice-over discussing what I'm doing in very British, dry wit.  That works wonders.  Try it the next time you are in a traffic jam or have a deadline and the copier jams or you were certain there was leftover pizza but there wasn't any.  Any stressful situation, really.

4.  Collateral.  In addition to our book club, Sweetie and I have embarked on a quest to watch every Tom Cruise movie, ever.  Collateral was one of those, and it's amazing how good that movie still is.  So many movies age badly, but this movie stayed great.  I always get the feeling that I wouldn't personally like Tom Cruise, but I also think that if I met him and he wanted me to like him, I'd have no say in the matter.  Seeing how awesomely winning he is on the screen, could you imagine that in real life? He even made me want to hang around with the cold-blooded hit man he played in this movie.

5. Blue Ruin.  This was a sort of real-life gangster movie.  You know how sometimes movies or books will try to depict what a real-life superhero might be like? This movie shows what would likely happen if just regular guys decided to become gangsters.  The main character's parents were murdered by a guy who just got released from prison, and so the main character ... I have to call him that because  I never know anybody's names in movies, any more than I do in real life.  If I don't interact with you on a more or less weekly basis at least, I probably do not know your actual name. Movie characters don't stick around long enough for me to remember who they are... and so the main character sets out to get revenge, and things go about as well as you'd expect them to go when regular people do irregular things like revenge sprees.  It's one of the saddest -- in a good way -- movies I've ever seen.  Totally worth watching.

Bonus Sweetie Pick: I asked Sweetie what movie she'd put on this list, and she said Goodfellas. When I asked why, she said "because it's good." I wouldn't know, I haven't seen it.  I asked her what it's about and she said "I don't remember, it was so long ago."  Then she added The Departed, which ought to be on this list, too.  

Sweetie's comment about Goodfellas brings up something I hadn't thought about until just now: There are many, many movies (like Go, for example) which I like, and which I can barely remember anything about other than it was pretty good.  That doesn't happen with books or songs, probably because unlike movies, books take longer to experience and songs you listen to over and over and over.  Movies are generally one-shot deals, over in 2-3 hours, and with rare exceptions, I don't remember the details of movies like I do books.  That probably says something about me, but I'm trying to keep these posts short so I'll deal with that some other time.

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