Thursday, 17 February 2011
There are plenty of gender stereotypes thrown around every day, particularly when it comes to entertainment. Guys love violence and chicks love romance, and will pay to see these movies regardless of how shallow the plot or devoid of meaning and depth. These stereotypes definitely ring true at times. Do you know any girls who wanted to see Alien Vs. Predator, or any guys who just can't wait to pay the $15 to see No Strings Attached?
There's no denying that many of our guy's night movies are just plain bad films. Rambo, XXX, The Patriot (as a holder of a BA in American history I feel quite strongly about this one), and anything Steven Seagal ever did are some obvious examples. But, there are plenty of super manly flicks out there that are also plain super. In no particular order, here are just a few:
Saving Private Ryan: The first scene of this movie is overwhelming no matter how macho you consider yourself to be. Well-portrayed characters are easy for viewers to identify with, and the film really opens your eyes to how badly the world, or rather the West, fucked up and how much the "Greatest Generation" sacrificed in an attempt at correcting it. By remaining largely accurate, the film does the history justice. Great acting, realistic battle scenes, and in general just a well put together film.
Goodfellas: Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci simultaneously fill the roles they were born for in this Scorsese masterpiece, set in 1950's Brooklyn. The perfect mob movie comes complete with violence, crime, sex, and even humor. Personally, what I most enjoy about Goodfellas is how we follow the protagonist Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) from his childhood through his growing involvement with the mafia as he goes through various rites of passage. This intimate relationship leaves us feeling euphoric as he reaches certain highs but also bummed out about his undoing, even though as a mobster Hill's collapse was inevitable.
The Shining: Stanley Kubrick transforms Steven King's book into an onscreen beauty, and once again, I feel like the film's star (in this case Jack Nicholson) stepped into the role that he was born to play. I also think The Shining is a treasure because it is a good horror movie, something really hard to come by. The acting is solid, while the cinematography is straight-up fantastic, and really saves the film from a quite predictable story. You know going in that Jack (coincidentally also the characters name) is going to lose his marbles, but it takes forever to actually happen. Nonetheless, Kubrick uses camera techniques and especially music as teasers to build and release tension. Because of this, moments where nothing is actually happening become scary as hell. I also find it interesting that the mistreatment of Native Americans is a prominent theme and sub plot in the film, giving you something to think about while you're being scared to death.
Pulp Fiction: I think we all saw this one coming, how could it not be on this list? Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta make this movie, portraying some seriously badass gangsters who, deep down, are normal, and incredibly quirky, characters. Uma Thurman also does awesome, the whole scene where John Travolta takes her out for the evening ending with her overdose was out of this world. The best part about this movie, though, is the way Quentin Tarantino decided to chop the story up and give it to us out of order, gradually enlightening us on how the characters are all interrelated. A fine piece of work with no shortage of blood, guns, fucked up violence, and hilarious quips.
Apocalypto: This movie makes all men think about what a true state of nature would be like. And I can say fairly confidently that even the most manly of men today would be in tears if they were to find themselves in this kind of situation. Can you imagine having your entire livelihood - your community, friends, family, land, economic and political structures - shattered in a few minutes? Jaguar Paw is the most badass of badasses as he struggles to escape his conquerors and rescue his pregnant wife and young son. He lives by his father's words, and is a strong man for it. "Did you see? Fear is a sickness. It will crawl into the soul of anyone who engages it. It has tainted your peace already. I did not raise you to see you live with fear. Strike it from your heart. Do not bring it into our village."
Fight Club: An extremely well-written story about anarchism and the suppressive nature of a middle-class society that tames male aggression that reveals the brutish animal nature we all share in varying degrees. Also, the twist at the end is great, and it's one of those movies that gets better every time you watch it. I'm gonna stop talking now, lest I break the first AND second rules.
Oh, and you should definitely read the book by Chuck Palahniuk, which is also incredible.
Apocalypse Now: This film presents an, in my opinion, imaginative and insightful reinterpretation of the literary classic Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The story is cleverly rewritten in a way that applies Conrad's story of colonialism in Africa to modern American imperialism in Vietnam. Director Francis Ford Capolla, along with a cast highlighted by Marlin Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall, created a "haunting and hallucinatory" timeless masterpiece that will never get old. I'll particularly never get sick of the scene accompanied by The Doors' "The End" (SPOILER ALERT: this is the end of the movie, so if you haven't seen it yet I recommend watching it from the beginning.)
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning."The Shawshank Redemption: Shawshank is film that can really inspire men, and people in general, to hold onto your faith. I don't mean faith as in going to church and putting a dollar in the collection bin; I mean faith that, despite the dog-eat-dog nature of our world, there are certain things that no one can take from you. It's kind of stoic in that it rejects the ability of the outside world to cause grief, distress, and suffering, but not really because it does not completely favor rationalism over passion. In fact, passion is a prevalent force in the movie's progress, as Tim Reynolds' character actually deals with all of these negative emotions early on. It's more about learning to shut out the outside world from negatively influencing your happiness and sense of dignity by learning to enjoy the little things in life and clinging to hope that they'll eventually lead to something great. The film also idealizes freedom, individuality, and dignity, refreshing to those of us living in the increasingly depersonalized world of today.
Animal House: So, yeah, this movie is definitely an outlier on this list, as it has nothing to do with violence, war, or rage. But, even though men and women alike can enjoy Animal House, it's still a film that's heavily male-biased and that tackles the concept of "manhood."
That being said, Animal House is one of those iconic films that has defined modern comedy. All guys between the ages of 15 and 25 can relate to the Deltas, as they spend their time doing what most males in that age group want to do: get fucked up, do stupid shit, and laugh about it later on. This film astutely mocks frat culture while idolizing it at the same time. To a degree, it tells us what frat life, college life, and - well - real life should be all about: having a good time and getting into as much shennanigans as you can. And fuck authority!
Mancouchers, tell me what movies I've forgotten or I really need to see...
Note: I intentionally left Braveheart and Gladiator off this list because, as manly and iconic as they are, they are both bastardizations of history and, as I mentioned earlier, historical accuracy is important to me, especially when real names and events are being used. I also find Braveheart particularly to be both trite and oversimplified in their thematic endeavors. I figured some people would be upset that these two were left off, so I thought I'd explain why, even though I expect these people to still be upset.