“In a world crying out for a Top Ten show…”
I have been loving the Top Ten Show with John Rocha and Matt Knost on the Schmoes Know Network, and I have been trying to follow along each week and make my own list here at EYG. It has been great fun, and you can listen to the show here.
I made a copy of the title page from YouTube of the Top Ten Show and added EYG to it so there could be a title heading to this weekly column. I wish I knew who had created the artwork for the Top Ten Show so I could give that person credit for that person’s remarkable creative vision. I love it so here it is, with the EYG logo added.
This week’s episode included special guest Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing and the three of them went through the list of Top Ten Historical Figures in Film.
I will be honest… I cheated several times on the list. Rocha, Knost and Cushing thought the list needed to disqualify those movies of “cultural” figures but I am including those, at least a couple of them. I am missing a chunk of this knowledge as this would not be my best category, so I am including what I want. One of the rules I did “basically” adhere to was the person in the film should have been known to me prior to the film. I follow that rule (for the most part).
#10. Gandhi. This one was one that I almost dropped off the list, but it felt like a movie that really fit this category and so I decided to add it. I have only seen this one time in high school history class (thanks Mr. Hillebrand). Ben Kinsley was magnificent in the role of the Indian leader. The film was an Oscar winner and it deserves the praise.
#9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the titular roles of the outlaws like no others. Written by William Goldman (who also wrote my all time favorite movie, The Princess Bride), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid became a cultural iconic film that inspired many future films. Add to that a great use of “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” and you have got something.
#8. Man on the Moon. The first of my “cheats” but this one was mentioned in the honorable mention by Matt Knost, and I really liked this film, so I am giving it a slot. Jim Carrey, who starred as comedian Andy Kaufman, literally became Any Kaufman and drove people crazy. His commitment to the role was phenomenal, if not insane. I loved the story of Kaufman and how the film included the world of professional wrestling that Kaufman entered looking for that perfect way to interact with people. Kaufman, many times, seemed like a comedian who was only trying to do things that HE found funny, and this movie shows that beautifully.
#7. Frost/Nixon. This was a tremendous film that showed the relationship between these two men in a dramatic and stunning manner. Watergate was over and Richard Nixon continues to compulsively require a chance to explain himself. The film does a great job of looking at the neuroses that drove the former president and what led him to this interview with David Frost. The film also examined Frost and how he was believed to be below Nixon in intelligence, only to expertly lead the president into, basically, a confession. Frank Langella and Martin Sheen give wonderful performances throughout the film. It is compelling and dramatic and it is the first time that Nixon appears on the list (though not the last time- you may be surprised on the next one).
#6. Bonnie and Clyde. Another example of outlaw movies, Bonnie and Clyde focuses on the infamous pair of bank robbers who wound up in a bloody pile on the road. Such a tragic ending that, in the film, really comes out of nowhere and ends the film suddenly. I had not expected such a brisk end to the film and in such a violent manner. I knew that they were killed in a riddle of bullets, but to see it happen in an instant really drove home the way these two lived their lives. Great performances too from Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman as well.
#5. Lincoln. I am with John Rocha on this one. I probably wouldn’t have put this one on a list of my personal favorites if the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis had not been so eerily perfect. It really was as if Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, stepped out of our collective consciousness and onto the screen to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis really cemented himself as an acting auteur. While the film was entertaining, there is simply no denying how much the performance of Day-Lewis dominated everything about it.
#4. 42. My next “cheat” although I think one could argue that Jackie Robinson could be (or should be) considered a historical figure for what he did for baseball and for the African-American world. I really enjoyed this movie as a baseball fan and as a Dodger fan. The amount of brutality and cruelty that Jackie Robinson faced was off the charts and those ball players who refused to accept the man really displayed the ugliest aspect of ourselves. It was great watching Jackie win them over with his play and his attitude. Chadwick Boseman is great as Jackie and Harrison Ford is transcendent as Branch Rickey. I loved this movie.
#3. Braveheart. This was another one that I thought might be a cheat, and then Matt Knost made it (spoiler) his number one film on his list, so I immediately added it back on mine. Sure, Mel Gibson is a piece of work (another one of those is coming up at #2) but that does not take away from this triumph of a film. Sure, it absolutely took historical liberties with the character of William Wallace, but an argument could be made that all of the films on this list may have done the same. The fight scenes are still unbelievably epic and several of the monologues are iconic. Braveheart is the best Mel Gibson has ever been and certainly was the peak of his career.
#2. Elvis & Nixon. I, like most, am saddened by the news about Kevin Spacey. I liked to think that the actors I watch on the screen aren’t pieces of scum, but apparently, they are just as likely to be horrible people as any other occupation. Who’d have guessed. So, when compiling this list, I thought about this film. It tells the story of a time when Elvis Presley arrived at the White House to have a meeting with President Nixon. There is photographic proof that the meeting took place, although much of what was discussed is speculation. This is a funny and real presentation and I really loved the movie. Neither Spacey nor Michael Shannon tried to imitate their famous character. Instead, they took what made them larger than life and added that to their performance. Shannon, in particular, was perfect. And the film was deeper than it had any right to be. This was a wonderful hidden gem that I hope people don’t lose track of because Kevin Spacey is a horrible man.
#1. Apollo 13. Another Ron Howard film to appear on the list is the final “cheat” of the group. The historical figure was the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 vessel on the way to the moon only to have technical problems, stranding them in space. Apollo 13 was an amazing film that brought us into that capsule with Jim Lovell, so wonderfully played by Tom Hanks, and the rest of the crew. A brilliant cast gave great performances across the board bringing this compelling and fascinating story to life. Some claimed that this was the greatest moment in NASA history as they are able to save the crew through intelligence and ingenuity. This film is consistently rewatchable and remarkably entertaining and deserves a spot at the top of this list whether it be a cheat or not.
Honorable mention: The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Social Network, Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn, Selma, Ed Wood.