Friday, February 3, 2012

A Fistful of True Stories! (Brad's Picks)

One of my cinematic pet peeves is the reverence we as movie goers give to films "Based on Actual Events."  Take for example, this weekend's release of Drew Barrrymore's whale movie Big Miracle.  Isn't it wonderful and heartwarming how the Soviets and Americans put down their differences to help save a couple of ice trapped whales?  Bleck.  Once a "True Story" is filmed it's about as real as Battlefield Earth. The very act of telling turns Truth into Fiction.  My favorite True Stories are the ones that are "Loosely Based..." flicks that take a Law & Order approach, steal a headline and wrap a film around it.

5.  Ed Wood:  If you've read a single word of this blog than you are well aware that Matt & I are fans of all kinds of Trash Cinema.  Roger Corman might be our favorite purveyor of junkfood, but Ed Wood is the King of Where-There's-A-Will There's-A-Film moviemaking.  And just before director Tim Burton plunged into the unholy hells of the Planet of the Apes remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland he made his masterpiece with Ed Wood.  Johnny Depp has never been better as the ignorantly optimistic director and his saga to put Plan 9 From Outer Space on the big screen is one of the most heartwarming stories I've ever experienced.  He gives all us wannabes hope--PULL THE STRINGS!

4.  Dillinger:  Man, how do you pick just one Real Life Gangster picture?  Ask me one day and I'll go with Goodfellas.  Ask me another I'll pick The St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  But right now, my favorite Real Life Gangster flick has to be John Milius' Dillinger.  The film is filled with heaps of manly-ready-to-burst violence and its all personified in Warren Oates' beautifully ugly mug.  The film definitely doesn't have the budget it deserves (look to the future in Michael Mann's Public Enemies theatrics), but Oates feels like a real thug.  A charmer buried within a brute.

3.  Tom Horn:  One of Steve McQueen's last films is also his absolute best.  Based on the probably B.S. autobiography of Tom Horn, McQueen plays a former army scout hired by ranchers to hunt down and execute cattle rustlers.  But he's a little too good at his job and the ranchers eventually turn on the hired killer.  An absolute stunner of a flick and I'm gearing up to watch it again for my Cineawesome series of Western reviews.  If all you know of McQueen is The Great Escape and Bullitt than you should do yourself a favor and check out Tom Horn.  If for no other reason it's got a great exploding head gore effect.

2.  The French Connection:  Yep, The French Connection is loosely based on a series of articles and a book by Robin Moore.  Gene Hackman and Roy Schieder are a couple of brutal cops hellbent on busting up an actual drug trafficking scheme, and this little Law & Ordering provides for not only the first Epic Car Chase, but Gene Hackman's finest hour of scream acting.  For my money, all cop stories must be judged against this film.

1.  Fargo:  The film opens with a title card: THIS IS A TRUE STORY.  And it's the funniest damn thing about Fargo.  The Coen Brothers pull the wool over our eyes, "If an audience believes that something's based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept."  This was the film that exposed the nonsense of "Based on True Stories" storytelling and I'll always be grateful to the Coens for opening my teenage brain.  And once you get past the Facts, Fargo is a brilliant bit of futile crime fiction.  Oh, that wood chipper.


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