Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lists, Political and Otherwise

Sad Sacks
      As Herman Cain self-immolates with repeated foreign policy gaffes and Rick Perry fails the short-term memory test, guess who emerges from the putrid quagmire called Republican presidential candidates? Our old friend, Newt Gingrich. Here's a guy with more baggage, as someone on a morning news show put it, than a Rolling Stones tour. Yet he is now challenging Mitt Romney in the latest poll of Republican voters. Once again, it seems, the GOP electorate is saying, "Anyone but Mitt."
       It's sad. With people like Cain, who becomes more ludicrous every day, and Perry, who is a cowboy posing as a politician, and Gingrich, a slimeball of the first order, making serious runs at the nomination, how does this party hold onto its base? Obama has practically gift-wrapped the election for them, and they can't bring themselves to get behind the one candidate who's capable of winning because he's "too liberal." Amazing. Time for the tea party to break away and nominate its own candidate? Say, where is that Sarah Palin?
     Let's take a break from grammar and go to one of my favorite subjects: movies. Some experts maintain that America has given the world just two art forms: jazz and Western movies. It should come as no surprise, then, that some of the greatest movies ever made were Westerns. Unfortunately, when best movie lists are compiled by "experts," Westerns barely crack the top 10. I think any of the following movies, in no particular order, could qualify for those lists:

1. The Magnificent Seven -- Based on the Japanese classic The Seven Samurai, it's the ultimate comrade-in-arms action flick, with a great cast.
2. The Searchers -- John Wayne ages realistically as he and a nephew spend years searching for his niece, played by Natalie Wood, who was captured by Indians.
3. Shane -- A multi-layered character study of a gunfighter who throws in with homesteaders, this Alan Ladd starer has two of the greatest fist fights in movie history.
4. Red River -- Wayne again, this time as a nasty old man leading a herd of cattle to market who gets crossways of his adopted son, played by Montgomery Clift. It's said that Wayne couldn't stop laughing during filming of the fight scene with the diminutive Clift, who was supposed to best Wayne in the fight.
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- Almost all the dialogue is either a punchline or a setup for a punchline, and Paul Newman and Robert Redford are pitch perfect in a comedy that ends in tragedy.
6. Lonesome Dove -- A made-for-TV epic, it starts slowly and picks up momentum with each episode. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are spot-on as two retired Texas Rangers who drive a herd through a lawless West.
7. True Grit -- Either one -- the John Wayne original or the Jeff Bridges version from last year. The latter is more realistic in terms of costuming and is more true to the book, but Wayne won his only Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, and Bridges couldn't quite match him in delivering the greatest line in movie history, Rooster's admonition to outlaw Red Pepper: "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!"
       There are many more, which I will get to in a future blog, but these will do for starters. Any thoughts about this list among my six readers?

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