Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TOP TEN ROAD MOVIES! A BY REQUEST, Top Ten List: Part 2!

(Last Time on "David does a TOP TEN LIST POLL Top Ten List Hoping for More Innovative Ideas than the One's He Gets....")

Okay, it's been over a few days, let's look at the results.

RESULTS
Top Ten Road Films 10
Top 10 Films that build their own mythology for the world of film. 10
Everything else: Less than 10.

Oh, c'mon, a TIE, really, a fucking TIE! But, I don't wanna do two TOP TEN LISTS, (Whiny and crying like an baby-ish eight-year old)

AND NOW, BACK TO THE BLOG!

TWO WEEKS LATER

(Annoyed sigh)

I still don't wanna do this. I mean, I'm doing it, but it's not exactly that original a list idea. I mean, I'd much rather come up with an idea or two that's far more cerebral than something like the best of a subgenre. Well, it's not a sub-genre, it's really a-, what is the proper term, plot structure? Story structure?  (Sigh, deep breath) .... Alright nevermind, we'll get to that now. So, what is a road movie, exactly?

Well, while this can cover many films in many different genres a "Road Movie", basically is just a movie where the main protagonist(s) is travelling, after usually, leaving home, and through the journey, they end up having their personal perspectives and possibly lives altered, because, people who go on such journeys, usually have their lives altered through the journey. This is, by no means, new. In fact the earliest pieces of literature, such as "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and Homer's "The Odyssey", are basically the premiere examples of the genre, and that makes sense. Especially in the days of Ancient Greece, people rarely went twenty miles outside of where they live in their lives, outside maybe of war, so journeys to other lands, and places were common tales. It also makes sense, because, well, it's basically the base for, well, drama.

Drama is about, change, a character starts one way, something happens, and then they end up another way, and the journey that character goes through is the inciting agent that effects the change. That is literally, every piece of literature, ever, pretty much. So everything is a road movie? Well, from a deconstructionist perspective, yes, but let's not use that parameter. Let's look at the other part of the term, road movie, the "road" part. Now, normally, through most of literature, the "road" part has rarely, if ever been literal. Mainly because, well, roads are kind of a new thing. Okay, they're not new, new, but if there was travel, it usually wasn't very Jack Kerouac-ian, if you get my drift. Often times, a road movie is very much, just an adventure story or just a film where the main characters are often travelling from one place to another. Hell, by that logic, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is just a road movie. Of course, all the actual traveling aspects of that movie, well, most of them, are basically just shown on a red line on a map.

So, let's-, let's narrow this is a bit, let's actually make sure there's roads, in the films I select. And not just, travelling from one place to another, the whole other point of this genre, and it can often be the inherit flaw in the genre, is that, it's also a way to get in a lot of side plots and characters, so there's travelling, there's stopping, there's actual adventures, etc., and there's actually traveling by the use of roads. Doesn't have to be predominantly roads, it doesn't even have to be roads by car either, but traveling by way of the road. We're "On the Road" if you will. Eastbound and Down, or whatever direction we're heading.

So, those are the narrow standards, the literal journey for the characters is also a literal journey, and it has to be a journey and long distances too, not just going from one part of a town to down another street or whatever, through the medium of road, and it has to be more than a simple stop, it's got to be, essentially a Road Trip, somehow.

I'm not doing really well at this am I? You see, this, this is why I'm looking for different Top Ten Lists to do, and not just, Best of something that's-, way too simple. (Frustrated scoff) Alright, alright, I'm doing it, I'm doing it. You wanted it, you're getting it, here we go...


THE TOP TEN ROAD MOVIES OF ALL-TIME! I guess, maybe it's just the Top Ten I've seen, or-, I don't know Top Ten Random Road Movies, I don't know, let's just get this done.

Okay, actually before I begin, let me also point out, that, just to make this even more particular to a Top Ten Road Movies, I wanted to eliminate a couple kinds of movies. For one thing, chase movies, that's an easy thing to kick off, also, revenge movies, I kinda want to stay away from them. This should really be films about the journey, not movies where the characters had to go on a journey in order to achieve a goal. Same mostly goes for mysteries, and also, since literal roads are a bit scarce in the genre anyway, I'm also eliminating most westerns. There's a lot of westerns about people travelling, but that could be too easy. I also wanted to make sure journeys of the mind where not the only main journey. So no lifelong or lifetime journey films, so "Forrest Gump", "Slumdog Millionaire" I'm not sure those kind of "road of life" movies should count. Also, stories of survival, like say, "Life of Pi", I'm not sure should really count. So what the hell do I have left? Well, more than you'd think, but yeah, this limits things quite a bit.

I mean, if "Gilgamesh" and "The Odyssey" are the earliest inspirations, then the immediate genre that was inspired by them is fantasy, but wow, does that eliminate a lot of fantasy. There's quite a few road movies in the genre, but very few actual roads that they travel by. I mean, they climb mountains, the travel through waters, they fly through the air on animals, they rarely travel by road. I mean, I'm not sure I can really include one of these films unless they really, very specifically make it a point that a good part, or most of the travelling the protagonist(s) are travelling on is actually on a road?

NUMBER 10:


10. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Director: Victor Fleming)



Yeah, I'm pretty sure you all saw this one coming. I won't go into too many details and thoughts on "The Wizard of Oz", or a lot of these movies, partly because I've written on them already, including this one, check my CANON OF FILM post at the link below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/12/canon-of-film-wizard-of-oz.html

Plus, it's the fucking "Wizard of Oz", who hasn't seen it and know it by heart at this point. Honestly, I'm not actually the biggest fan of the movie myself, I am actually more fascinated by the political metaphor of the book, it's actually a metaphor for the Populism movement of the late 1800s, if you're interested in American Political History, it's actually quite fascinating, except it's not 'cause I've read L. Frank Baum's original book, or tried to, it's really convoluted to read, I'm actually kinda amazed the book became such a classic. Anyway, the movie, it's a great, and it's a great road movie. Journey of a character who's changed by the end, yeah, this hits every note pretty easily, I don't suspect there will be too many people arguing this one.


NUMBER 9: (Soggy Bottom Boys "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" plays) I didn't pick "O Brother, Where Art Thou", no. I do love that film, and actually I'm a bit surprised that no Coen Brothers movie made my list, a few could've. "Raising Arizona", that's a road movie. "Fargo," is a road movie technically. "No Country for Old Men" came really close to making the list, but there's a few technicalities of the rules that it doesn't quite apply with. "Inside Llewyn Davis", that's a great recent one too. But, there's a reason I'm putting this song in your head. First of all, this song, in many ways, is a perfect description for the main character and many of the emotions and events in my number nine choice, which makes perfect sense, because the title "O Brother, Where Art Thou", came from a line of dialogue in this movie.


9. Sullivan's Travels (1942, Director: Preston Sturgess)



This is probably Hollywood's favorite road movie, I know it's one of mine. In a better world, Preston Sturgess's name would be more widely mentioned among the best comedy writer/directors of all-time. I never hear his name brought up or mentioned among the Brooks, or Allen, or Farrelly's or whoever. "Sullivan's Travels" in particular is his best and often noted as his most beloved film, especially for film people. Joel McCrea play John L. Sullivan a famous comedy director, who's tired of making light entertainment and wants to make something serious and dramatic for once, however he has never felt hardship and knows little of the struggles of the poor and common man he wants to glorify, so he goes out on the road, disguised as a hobo. The movie is ironically, not that funny, at least as it goes on. It actually is a dramatic movie about how important it is for us to have comedy in our lives, as a distraction from the horrors of the everyday. This is why I rank it so high, this isn't just a great movie about making movies, it's a great movie about why we make movies and watch them and enjoy them. It's also a great defense of comedy as an important and relevant, something that definitely needs to be brought up more.


NUMBER 8:Road trip movies are also a really popular genre among surrealist literature, and that often includes movies as well. If I were to say, stretch the definition of road movie, I could probably include some David Lynch movies here, Although the road movie, is more a metaphor in most surrealist works for a journey into the mind as opposed to literal road trips. Although "Wild at Heart" is a literal road trip, and hell, it's actually, spoilers, a retelling of one of the other films on this list, so that one definitely qualifies, but I didn't pick that one.


8. Wild Strawberries (1957, Director: Ingmar Bergman)



Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" came out the same year as "The Seventh Seal", and basically these are the two movies that introduced him to a wider world. I don't know how often people discuss "Wild Strawberries" among Bergman's best anymore, I rarely see it mentioned but I think it's among his top tier films. The movie details an old professor, who's decided to separate himself from society in his age, but gets somewhat reconnected with it, after deciding to take a day-long road trip from Stockholm to Lund to accept an Honorary Degree. (I'm told there's no way a trip from Stockholm to Lund can take a single day) In the meantime, there's two journeys he goes through, one is in his mind, as he reflects upon his dreams and memories from a past life and how they seem to coincide and often conflict, and the other is the literal journey, where he runs into some old friends, some representatives of his youth, and others. The movie plays like a reunion of Bergman's old actors, all coming together for this film, except it was made almost forty years before Bergman passed, so he made more movies about life close to death later, and also, with the actual journey, which runs into more than a few detours. Famously, Bibi Andersson plays roles in both universes, although I like her real-life character, a flirty young coed who's travelling with two other young men, she's basically Catherine from "Jules and Jim", only five years before that film. It's one of Berman's more introspective films, but also one of his lightest and most fun to watch and foreshadows many of his later films, that reflect on life that consider both the past and the present.


NUMBER 7: You know, um, this is by far, the toughest of all these lists I've done to rank. I mean, these are all great, great films, another reason why I don't like doing such straight up great lists like this, how these films are ranked, as much as I can try to structure or construct these lists into a mathematical ranking..., I mean, that previous list I did on films building their own mythology, that was much easier, it was actually fairly measurable, the mythology they created the world of the mythology, the effect, the importance, the relevance, that's something I can figure out. This sorta list, is where I use all those and more qualifications and end up with a ten film tie-, (Actually more than ten films, there's plenty that could've made this list) and then try every little factor until I basically have to get down to, "Which films feel like they're supposed to be ranked" basically. I guess, what I'm saying is that, this is probably the film that's gonna cause the most controversy based on where I rank it and the fact that it's ranked at all, at least I suspect it will, compared with every other film on this list. I mean, if this was a game of "One of these things is not like the other", this is probably the film most people would single out as not being like the rest, I suspect, but that said, well.... I guess what I'm saying is, um, well..., (Deep breath) I put the Mumblecore movie on here.


7. The Puffy Chair (2005, Director: Jay Duplass)



The Duplass Brothers to me are the American Mumblecore movement, sorry Andrew Bujalski, and my introduction to them, as with many was seeing "The Puffy Chair". I actually caught this film earlier than most, seeing it shortly after it premiered at Sundance at the now-defunct CineVegas Film Festival and I was amazed at it. I guess there are other recent road movie comedies that I could've considered, I can think of one really obvious one that I'm leaving off that will probably shock most people, and for the record, "Sideways", came really close to being in this spot instead, it's probably a better movie, but is a better road movie? "The Puffy Chair", as simple as it is, is probably a better road movie. It's all a road movie, and it's symbolism and characters are brilliant. I've always read the movie as a metaphor for domesticity. That point in love where you're debating whether you're settling down and are truly going to be in love and spend the rest of your lives together, and what better more absurd maguffin can you have for that this giant purple puffy chair that Josh decides to get and deliver to his father for his birthday, along with his longtime girlfriend who makes baby sounds when she talks way too often and his more hippie-ish brother Rhett, who's along for the ride. (Not to mention, what happens to the chair through the film, and inevitably what happens to their relationship). "The Puffy Chair" is one of those under-the-radar great films that I suspect people will go back and revisit for years and will only improve upon time, and as a road movie, especially from a writer perspective, this is a film that really should be studied in classes. Probably the most underrated film on the list.


NUMBER 6: There's a few movies I'm gonna get some crap for not putting on this list, I suspect one of them is "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Again, this one came close, and I thought about it, and it's a great example of a comedy, arguably John Hughes's best film and it's a become a holiday classic, shown every Thanksgiving, sad, emotional ending that always gets me. But, there's only ten films on this list and when I think of a comedy that's a road movie, I think of one that's much, much, much, much, bigger!


6. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, Director: Stanley Kramer)



Yeah, this one's probably a bit of a cheat, but it's probably the biggest road movie of all-time, in terms of size. Stanley Kramer intended "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" to be the biggest comedy of all-time with as many comedy stars as possible, all of them in a race to find a hidden treasure of money. All of them, traveling however possible, by road, by plane, by, whatever to get the cast. I've talked about the film before, here's the Canon of Film entry below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2015/12/canon-of-film-its-mad-mad-mad-mad-world.html

but, I mean, if there's ever a movie that's about the journey and not the destination, it's gotta be this one. The road movie is just an excuse to throw in as many possible comedic situations as possible, and, they do, and it doesn't hurt that it's pretty much a who's who of the greatest comics of all-time. Gotta give it up for "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World".


NUMBER 5! Man, that's a fun movie. I'm finally starting to get into this Top Ten. Road trips, wacky antics, great collection of characters we meet along the way, it's fun. Alright, five down, five to go, let's get to the next one. What fun movie is next?


5. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990, Director: John McNaughton)



O-ooooooo-eh, um.... Yee-yeah, um,- well, that's the bloody end of a lollipop, ain't it? (Sigh) Oh-kay, well you know how most of the time the "protagonist" run into new characters on their journey along the road, and we getting intrigued or fascinated by them. Yeah, "Henry..." just kills them. Violently, in fact, any discussion of the most violent movie ever made that doesn't include "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" is really inadequate to me. I don't care how much blood or dead teenagers you can find, these deaths, may have seem acted well, but they-. I mean, this movie sat on the shelf for three and a half years before finally getting a theatrical release in 1990, 'cause of how graphic it was. Director John McNaughton's debut feature remains his best and most brutal. Purportedly based on the life of Otis Toole, the killer most famous for being the main suspect in the Adam Walsh murder (John Walsh's son, the guy who hosts "American Most Wanted"), Michael Rooker, is a loner and a serial killer, who will inevitably kill everyone he meets, including his so-called friends. I didn't put this film in the Canon yet, but you can find a movie review I did of it at the link below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/03/movie-reviews-27-drive-guard-of-gods.html

NUMBER 4: (Sigh) Okay, well, not everybody goes on the road to just kill women, (And everyone else) sometimes people head out on the road to have sex with women. Hell, there's a whole subset of movies where people, usually guys head on trips somewhere just to bangs other people, usually women, not always but still, this is quite a common theme in many road movies, the search for nookie. Although sometimes the guys bring the nookie with them and then go on the road trip.


4. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001, Director; Alfonso Cuaron)



I'm sure somebody has, more than once explained to me all the symbolic meanings in "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and how it represents, practically all of Mexican history and modern Mexico's political construct, I can't say I understand it all, but that's okay, 'cause the movie gives us the feeling of the importance of Mexico. In this story about two horny teenagers going on a road trip with a girl ten years their age who looks like a supermodel. Why is she going on such a trip? Well, that I won't reveal, but "Y Tu Mama Tambien", which roughly translates to "And Your Mother Too," which is kind of an insult I guess, is just this rich idyllic story about these characters travelling through Mexico, learning about each other, learning about the country and exploring their sexual identities, all with each other. Yes, it's a movie about a two teenage boys banging a girl, and yes, it is about that, it's NC-17, but it's about so much more than that, and there's really few movies with that kind of premise that actually are about more than what's on the surface.


NUMBER 3: You know, strangely enough, other than "Y Tu Mama Tambien", we haven't seen a movie on the list that involved kids, or at least teenagers, you know? That's a bit strange.There's, lord knows, how many movies about families going on summer vacation or making long trips somewhere, and so many movies about supposedly the trips that changed everything. Yeah, I-, I can think of a few really good ones, but not that many great ones, really, really special ones. I don't really know why, but occasionally some really special ones do come along every once in a while.
(Piano intro plays)
Truly great ones that actually do seem/feel like the road trip actually did change people's lives, those are rare.
(Piano continues, singing)
Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her, dancing in the sand
And now she's with me, always with me, Tiny Dancer, in my hand....


3. Almost Famous (2000, Director: Cameron Crowe)



Yeah, I'm talking about "Almost Famous" again, it feels like it's the 100th time for me that I've brought this film up. Maybe I haven't on the blog, but somewhere this movie often comes up and I think I'm one of the few that continually ranks "Almost Famous" as one of the best films of all-time. I know, it doesn't have the hallmarks of films that supposedly are great, especially by all the film student definitions of greatness. Yeah, Cameron Crowe could probably never make "2001: A Space Odyssey", but I don't think Stanley Kubrick could've or would've made this film either. Based on Crowe's own experience, being a teenage writer for Rolling Stone magazine and touring with people like Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers Band, he's never made a movie this personal, this beautiful or this magical, and that fact will probably haunt Crowe for the rest of the career, but man, what a movie he made. This is the kind of road trip schoolboy fantasy that most just wish they had, Again, here's my Canon of Film post on the movie if you want to see more of what I've written on the subject:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/10/canon-of-film-almost-famous.html


NUMBER 2: I might be talking about this film in the near future and I don't want to get too deep into it at the moment, but it's arguably the best movie of the '60s so, it's kinda essential to be on here.


2. Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Director: Arthur Penn)



There's two movies that basically idealized the idea of the modern road movie, one was "Easy Rider", which, no, that didn't make the list; I'm not particularly sure that film holds up as well as this one, "Bonnie and Clyde" does. At the time, the tale of the modern-day folk heroes, the last great tale of the wild west bank robbers, although "wild west" is stretching it, was looked at as an expression of the modern culture of the era. I guess there's some truth to that, they're anti-establishment rebels who go against the authority, whoever that is. I don't know if that depiction holds up as well, but fifty years later, it's spirit of youth remains. Spirit of freedom and the spirit of anarchy. Embrace of the counterculture, embracing the culture of celebrity and fame. Bonnie and Clyde were ahead of their time, and despite being the American movie most influenced by French New Wave ever created, "Bonnie and Clyde" was also a film ahead of it's time.

AND NOW, THE NUMBER 1 ROAD MOVIE OF ALL-TIME!

At one point, I wasn't even gonna put this on the list. I thought, well, it's, it's actually not technically a road movie-, well, I mean it is, but not like, the majority of the movie is on the road, travelling, in fact there's a great deal of the movie where the main character stays in one place, and they don't actually go and stop and visit with several other people, but, after I regained my focus, I- kinda eventually realized that, that wasn't right. I mean, when I think of road movies, I think of this director, more than anybody. I mean, his characters are constantly travelling, going from place to place, often drifting through the world until, well, sometimes they stop, and make a decision to stay, but mostly even when they do, it's temporary and they're just constantly drifting and seeing and exploring more of the world. Sometimes it's in the mind, but very, very often, it's literal. And-, well, I can think of a few movies of his I haven't seen that are probably more appropriate as road movies, but, I don't think any movie of his, that I've seen, or any other movie get the emotional feeling correct of, travelling on the road, that make it a more spiritual journey than this film. That feeling of being on the road, that's...- yeah, this-, this was a relatively easy call for me. I mean, if travelling over West and East Berlin counted as a technical road movie, maybe I'd put that one number one but, Wim Wenders's other undeniable masterpiece of the '80s, will do as well.


1. Paris, Texas (1984, Director Wim Wenders)



Influence by the plot of "The Searchers" and "Taxi Driver", written by Sam Shepard, and a movie that's about a search for home, in the literal sense, and the metaphorical sense, "Paris, Texas" is the number one road movie of all-time. Again, here's my CANON OF FILM post on the film:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2016/03/canon-of-film-paris-texas.html

But, the movie's on Youtube for the moment, it's probably on one or two other places, go watch it. It's really a beautiful loving film about traveling to get home, whatever, wherever that may be, and represents all the best and most, ideal aspects of travelling on the road, and through the desert and across the country, multiple times too. My choice for the best road movie of all-time, Wim Wenders's masterpiece, "Paris, Texas".

Alright, I'm not doing another one of these for awhile and next time it better be more interesting a topic. In fact, I'll probably insist it'll involve television again, just to change it up. Alright, let's move on, after some spirited debate on this subject of course.

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