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B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings

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Jeff Breuer
B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Jul 22, 2013 at 4:19:05 pm

Spent the past couple weeks getting revitalized in Belize and Oregon, but now I'm back in the desert and getting back into the swing of things. TCM tweeted this great blog about 31 B&W movies and gave life lessons (sometimes humorous) that every twenty-something should see. Great article. What movies would you add to this list and what would the lessons be? Here are a few of mine-

Sometimes society needs to come together to solve problems in the community. Also, to ask yourself the meaning of justice.

The Treasure of Sierra Madra
Your greed can be your downfall.

Father of the Bride
For now, just realize that someday you will understand

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Stephen Smith
Re: B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Jul 22, 2013 at 5:18:23 pm

Belize and Oregon are very far away from each other.

Fun list, I was happy to see Harvey on it since that seems to be a film no one I personally know has seen. I thought that I read that they where looking into re-making it. Roman Holiday is fun especially since I just got back from Italy. And yes, I got a great photo of the Mouth of Truth biting my hand. Everyone in line waiting laughed. So that's double points for me :-)

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Tim Wilson
Re: B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Jul 22, 2013 at 6:17:33 pm

Wow, fun post!

I know that they were trying to be quippy with the list -- hard to argue that hailing a cab with your bare leg isn't a great lesson to take from the great It Happened One Night; it is -- but I wondered if they'd actually seen some of those movies.

The Apartment in particular is fascinating because it's basically Mad Men DURING the Mad Men era (1960) -- adultery, despair, corporate climbing through the ritualized degradation of women...lovely. Yes, a "comedy" that won five Oscars including Best Picture, but I guess the REAL lesson is that if you help your bosses commit adultery base enough that the woman attempts suicide, you can get in trouble if you try to rescue her.

And the lesson of Grapes of Wrath is "some people have it worse than you" is the exact OPPOSITE of the lesson, which is that hunger, joblessness, hopelessness, and violence can be alleviated when people and society decide to make a difference. You could draw the conclusion that unregulated banking and predatory lending caused people to lose their homes LONG before you get to the message of "Whew! I guess I have it pretty good after all."

Christ, the people running the camp the Joads found shelter in SAID they were SOCIALISTS! Shown in explicit contrast to the exploitative life of unregulated capitalist conditions. This was the one American movie played in Soviet cinemas of the day. The book had already led Eleanor Roosevelt to call for congressional hearings into the plight of migrant workers, and labor laws were actually changed as a result. NOT a "well, I guess I have it pretty good after all" movie.

To provide a little balance, you can say that it's about the triumph of the human spirit...but it's the triumph of the human spirit over dehumanizing social forces, and the responsibility we have for each other's well-being.

Maybe I'm overreacting to the presence of one of my least favorite movies and one of my very favorites being on the list and so thoroughly trivialized.

I don't feel quite so strongly about Gentlemen's Agreement, but again, the lesson in the article is EXACTLY the opposite of the movie. The point isn't that "we're no better than each other," but that the bigotry that our culture is built on exposes the cynical worst in all of us, even in our most intimate moments, making it both a social AND a PERSONAL crisis.

The idea of playing a reporter who pretends to be Jewish to expose antisemitism was considered poison. Cary Grant passed on it, and Peck's agent begged him not to take it, fearing it would end his career.

So again, the point might be to laud the price that activist investigative journalists pay to uncover society's ills, or to drive home the lesson of the intractability of apparently civilized racism....but it is explicitly NOT "you're no better than anyone else."

His Girl Friday is a terrible choice for a triangle movie. It's barely a triangle at all -- Cary Grant is the ex-husband, Ralph Bellamy is the boring fiancee...but the movie's not ABOUT the triangle. The movie is ABOUT a reporter trying to free an innocent man about to be executed. He'd been railroaded by corrupt government officials who see the execution as a way to court right-wing votes. When the reprieve comes from the governor, they bribe the messenger to go away and "arrive" when it's too late to save the innocent man...ARE YOU KIDDING ME. THAT's when the intrepid reporters arrive, having previously been derailed by kidnapping charge against Grant's character.

That was because he'd ACTUALLY kidnapped Russell's character's mother-in-law to force her hand into covering the story in the first place. But he only did that after his plot to derail her marriage by getting her husband arrested over and over again on trumped-up charges.

So one lesson could be that capital punishment is driven by corrupt politicians trying to score votes from their most savage constituents, that in fact corruption is easily driven by people with connections, and that bosses can motivate employees by threatening their families.

Another movie I'm supposed to love but actually hate. LOL Not that I disagree with its life lessons mind you. LOL

On the other hand, a FANTASTIC triangle movie, and a far better movie overall, is The Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant once again, but this time with Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. An upgrade in every way.

It's actually something of a "square" rather than a triangle, with John Howard playing the third suitor, so to speak -- the lovable rake ex (Grant), the charming interloper (Stewart), and yes, Howard's put-upon dullish fiance. It's an interesting twist in that a cynical tabloid journalist finds his heart softened by the people he went there to mock. Funny now to think of this as a "comeback" movie for Katherine Hepburn, but it was. She was pretty much done at that point, but saw her shot, so her pal Howard Hughes helped her buy the movie rights. She was playing for keeps, and it showed. Really wonderful movie that is far too easily forgotten these days -- to wit, its absence from this list.

Only a slight tweak for Roman Holiday, but again, exactly the opposite: it's fun to get away, but in the long run, you can't evade responsibility.

Otherwise, I mostly like what's there.

Having completed my rant...for now LOL....

A Hard Day's Night
All of life's answers can be found in books. (Really, truly, one of my all-time favorite movies.)

The Thin Man
You're almost surely drinking too much, but hey, it's kinda cute, and it might actually work in your favor. LOL Or more succinctly: Martinis are YUMMY but dangerous.

Schindler's List
What's "expected" for you to do changes when you want to do the right thing

The Miracle Worker
The only thing harder than helping is letting yourself be helped

Raging Bull
What you want most can destroy you

Citizen Kane
Unchecked ambition will definitely destroy you

The Seventh Seal
The existence of God can raise more questions than it answers

The Big Sleep
You only THINK you understand what's happening around you

My Man Godfrey (another inexplicably overlooked movie - I LOVE THIS THING)
High society do-goodery can make a mockery of compassion, but true love triumphs...and the rich should still be doing their part to alleviate poverty.

So yeah, even with an unparalleled romantic comedy, the pinnacle of the screwball form, ima come back to THAT. LOL

Look, the wingnuts in Congress ran completely off the rails with this, but in the 40s and 50s, there really was a major strain of left wing politics in movies that went far, far beyond an actor talking about gay marriage on a talk show. THAT's the lesson I'd hope would be drawn from most of these movies: critical social issues once squarely addressed in popular entertainments have become trivialized and marginalized.

The other lesson is that it's Monday morning, and I'll do anything than actually get back to work. LOL

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Mark Suszko
Re: B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Jul 22, 2013 at 7:02:30 pm

I think instead of "Casablanca", or perhaps "before" watching "Casablanca", watch "To Have And have Not".

Perhaps less intimidating than watching "Kane", first watch "Lady From Shanghai" and/or "Touch Of Evil".

A few others you will want to watch:

The Best years oF Our Lives

A Face In The Crowd

The recently fully-restored "Metropolis"


Top Hat (Astaire/Rogers)


The 400 Blows

The Sea Hawk

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Tim Wilson
Re: B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Jul 22, 2013 at 7:12:04 pm

Yeah, I wrestled with Touch of Evil, but I couldn't come up with a life lesson...except maybe something about police corruption again. LOL But I also agree that, as IMPORTANT as it is, Kane isn't as ENJOYABLE as Touch of Evil.

I'm also a huge fan of Metropolis. Definitely belongs on a list of must-see B&W movies, but less of a life lesson...except maybe the dehumanizing nature of capitalist labor. LOL

But both absolutely wonderful movies, though. Good choices, as is Top Hat. I was thinking about Night At The Opera for the same reason, a stellar example of the high art -- even just the set dressing -- that mainstream "light" fare was so often aiming for.

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Scott Roberts
Re: B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Jul 24, 2013 at 2:27:20 pm

Here's a few more not mentioned...

Young Frankenstein
Ambition can lead to hilarious results.

Strangers on a Train
Just keep your head down and don't make eye contact with that weird guy sitting across from you.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
It's nice to have a good lawyer.

In Cold Blood
C'mon guys, don't be assholes.

You know, there's a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you.

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Kylee Peña
Re: B&W movies for Twenty-Somethings
on Aug 5, 2013 at 3:35:11 am

Man, I've only seen 5 of these. I need to get on it. I've only got 3 years left to watch them all.

twitter: @kyl33t

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