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Context

Occassionally I will read the Art of Manliness website to see what the current articles are. Some of them are quite entertaining offering knowledge such as how to tie a square knot, profiles on some historical figures, information that is generally geared toward men. However it isn’t geared toward them in the way that Maxim, FHM, or Playboy is…actually if you took Playboy and just had the articles you would come close to this website.

I don’t check it everyday, simply enough it isn’t usually worth it. However once in awhile they pull off a real gem of an article that grabs my attention. The first of these articles was a list of books, the essential library of 100 that every man should read. I was quite enamored of the list thinking that it might be something worth reading through, and for the better part of the last year I have been reading something off that list (It was one of the reasons that I picked up the disappointing “Catcher in the Rye”).

Today when I was bored and trying to give Gwendolyn her privacy I clicked around and saw that a new article was the 100 Essential Men’s movies, I was intrigued wondering what kind of movies they would have on the list. Since the site itself bothers me with its focus on the 1950s ideal (WASP, suburban, Mad Men must be their favorite show) I clicked on the article with reservation. I used to be quite the film buff, seeing at least a movie a week in the theater, not counting whatever I could find on cable or at the video store.

Lately that has since taken a back seat to the writing, reading, and rearing. It is still there though, at least the memory of it. The first thing that bothers me about the list is “the best line” that caps off the end of the mini review for each entry. This is done for two reasons. The first is that readers of online magazines have difficulty holding their attention span, which is why list articles are so popular–you can go back to them right where you stopped without having to reread anything. The second is that it makes it a game, when you see a movie like “Spartacus” on a list you think to yourself, ‘what was the best scene in the movie,’ and try to guess what the authors’ pick is going to be.

Here, the article evoked a cringe almost everytime I read it. The problem? Movies might have good writing, but they have scenes. Putting in a best line removes that line from it’s context. Is the best scene in Top Gun, the part where someone says, “I feel the need…the need for speed!” or is where Maverick and Goose give an inverted flip of the bird to their Soviet Counterparts? Or how about when Goose dies? That line (their choice I should add) might be good but it pales in comparison to scenes from the movie, which I should add wasn’t that great a movie but it was the best fighter movie in the last three decades.

Their choice of Spartacus is certainly appropriate, one of the best movies of the history of film. What do they choose as the best line? “I am Spartacus.” Divorced from the scene this could literally have taken place in any movie where a person is named Spartacus. Person A asks “Which one of you is Spartacus?” and Person B responds. THe scene I am sure they are referring to is a great scene. Where the Roman Legion asks for Spartacus to surrender and they will spare his slave army. As Spartacus considers the demand members of his army stand up for him, causing the war to continue and eventually dooming the whole revolt to eventual crucifixion.

The same problem exists with the Star Wars Trilogy (Originial [although I wasn’t clear on whether they counted this as one movie or three]), “Luke I am your father.” Great scene, lackluster line. This actually isn’t Lucas’s fault as what else could a person have said in that scene. However the wordplay alone, hell even the delivery wasn’t exceptional. Only the context of the entire series does that line have any impact.

The line choices themselves aren’t always the best either. For the movie “First Blood” they chose “They drew first blood,” spoken by John Rambo. Which is ok, I guess, but the real best line is that whole speech where Rambo laments the seeming loss of his humanity and his place in a country that told him to do something then hated him for what he did.

The list is rather predictable with it’s mix of old classics and some rather odd ball new ones. Is Citizen Kane a man’s movie? Or from Here to Eternity? Or Schindler’s List?

This list is a good list of movies to see, but hardly comprises a man’s movie list since Scorcese appears once, and Tarantino not at all. They purposely avoided movies with gratuitous violence or nudity with is admirable, but what kind of men’s movie list isn’t going to have Goodfellas, Hard Boiled, the Warriors, or Bonny and Clyde?

What about the vilence of such movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Apocalypse Now? This list is missing something, perhaps the influence of a female writer is what messed it up so much. Don’t get all feminist on me, I read female movie lists as well but for a men’s list certain things just aren’t going to appeal to a woman at all.

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Categories: pop culture, reviews
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