This last year I spent more time on Greyhound than anyone should ever have to. Some people probably think this is a sentence worse than death. But I freakishly love bus travel.
My bus travels are marked by the waiting, the constant smell of urine, the angry passengers who just can’t go with the flow, the people watching (so much people watching), the weird dude who will undoubtedly snore, and the unexpected sense of calm that falls over me. Especially if it is around 4 p.m. on a bus bound for upstate NY with only ten other passengers. It is those nearly deserted bus rides that are the best.
How does my freakish fascination with bus travel relate to movies? As you can imagine, I adore anytime a movies features a bus (except Speed).
Like Bus Stop.
And the “Tiny Dancer” scene in Almost Famous.
And when Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert meet in It Happened One Night
What I like most about buses, if I will attempt to rationalize this, is that they are this confined in-between space. Even though there is a destination in mind, for a few hours you are just somewhere. And that is what these three movies are about: just somewhere, but really no where importantl. They’re special because of the parts that make the movie.
I found this tag on Kung Fu Monkey. Thought it was an interesting challenge and decided to give it a whirl.
“The challenge is to explain America to someone from somewhere else by giving them 10 movies to watch.
The idea is not to give them a history lesson, so you don’t have to start with The New World and end with Jarhead.What you’re trying to do is give them a sense of who we are — your take on our dreams, our attitudes, our idioms, what we think we are, what we are afraid we are, what we really might be.”
I’m not sure how well I did, but I tried. Here are my picks:
1) Field of Dreams (1989) – One word: baseball. Paired with a touch of magical realism, a game of catch between father and son, road trips with no destination, Burt Lancaster’s last role, dreaming big when no one else believes, and listening to voices no one else hears.
2) Almost Famous (2000) – A witty coming of age picture with great music. You could probably argue that this one doesn’t belong on the list, but I think it shows a fun and loving side to America.
3) Woman of the Year (1942) – The first pairing of Hepburn and Tracy. It’s all about career, love, and the battle of the sexes. It all about the compromises to have a successful marriage and career.
4) The Searchers (1956)– To have a list of American movies without including a Western, is sacreligious. To have a Western but not a John Ford directed picture, is just crazy. But including a Western on any list and it NOT starring John Wayne would be like a day without sunshine. Westerns are America. Simple enough.
5) To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)- A man who possesses great honesty, integrity, and wisdom, stands up against the injustice of a fellow man. Atticus Finch, the greatest hero in American film.We can learn a lot from him.
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – A naive man takes on the supremeacy and corruption of the US Senate. Politics in this country aren’t always pretty and this movie shows that.
7. TheBreakfast Club (1985) – A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. The stereotypes of an American high school. 20 years later and this film still resonates.
8. Manhattan (1979) – Most Woody Allen films are a testimate to New York City. From the black and white cinematography to the shots of the NY skyline, this film showcases how far the love of a city and of home stretches. This is my city…. I’ve been through a lot with her over the years.
9. Out of the Past (1947) – The first film noir ever. Romance, mystery, thriller. Every person has their skeletons and you may never know the truth.
10. The Graduate (1967) At some point in life, we all feel like Benjamin. We’re a little lost in the big world and in Benjamin’s case, being smart and wealthy isn’t much help. If only we had Mrs. Robinson to fill the void.
The Runners Up:
In the Heat of the Night Singin’ in the Rain Stand by Me North by Norhtwest The Maltese Falcon Norma Rae Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Bonnie and Clyde Erin Brokovich The Best Years of Our Lives Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Rear Window Blade Runner Unforgiven The Philadelphia Story From Here to Eternity Touch of Evil
What’s missing from my list?
Obviously, there is a lack of romantic comedies and not every great star is represented. Perhaps a documentary could have been included. But ten is a small number when it comes to selecting films. There are so many good movies that represent American ideals and culture, picking ten was enough work.