Normally, this column attempts a snapshot approach to events that, hopefully, drive you to punch holes in the nearest wall. For example, after the 1994 slaughter of more than 800,000 Rwandans, a U.N. tribunal is only now getting ’round to prosecuting those allegedly responsible. Or, occasionally, this column kicks measly compliments in some worthy direction. How about Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean’s rejection of federal matching campaign funds? Nice one.
At the expense of treading on the precious waters of colleagues and film reviewers Scott Renshaw and Greg Beacham, this week’s wrath is reserved for Men’s Journal magazine’s recently announced list of “The 50 Best Guy Movies of All Time.” Now, it would be folly for anyone to state blindly that there are no differences between the sexes. What annoys so is the blatant manner in which this list resorts to male stereotyping—yes, there is such a thing—at nearly every turn. The magazine’s editorial board defines a “guy movie” as one wherein “violence trumps sex, war beats peace.” The board also rejects outright any movie “too serious or sensitive.” Now that’s a set of criteria destined to take us all down the same tired road. Presumably, the magazine would laugh at any woman with affection for Beaches, Ghost, or Dirty Dancing. Yet they blindly fall into their own self-made hole. Admittedly, the magazine’s top 10 picks (the full list arrives in December) contains one acknowledged masterpiece, The Godfather. The remaining nine gleefully trot out Eastwood, Pacino’s Scarface, Bruce Willis and Schwarzenegger. In one of the few films where no one gets killed, Caddyshack, we get lines like “Hey, everybody, we’re gonna get laid!”
In an era when Western women, at least, have unparalleled freedom to define themselves as individuals, a men’s magazine pumps a sad stereotype full of mindless violence and hormones. Of course, this injustice pales beside what women must still put up with: unequal pay, condescension and harassment. But the magazine could have taken a higher road. Here’s an alternate list:
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, 1943: A British officer copes with romantic loss and grapples with increasingly horrific warfare. Sheer class.
& ull; if ..., 1968: Malcolm McDowell, his girlfriend, and a young gay man lead a boarding school revolt. Rebellion with intelligence.
& ull; Chimes at Midnight, 1966: Orson Welles directs and stars in the best story of male friendship ever, Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Prince Hal.
& ull; The Tin Drum, 1979: Disgusted with the fascist Germany around him, a drummer boy refuses to grow. But he matures.
& ull; This Sporting Life, 1963: Richard Harris plays a brooding, passionate rugby player. Beats Raging Bull to a pulp.
& ull; Performance, 1970: Mick Jagger and friends teach a London gangster in the ways of drugs, sex, and true identity. Best movie ever.
& ull; Withnail & I, 1986: Two friends go “on holiday by mistake” at the end of the 1960s. Funniest movie ever.
& ull; Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, 1998: A violent movie worth your time, only because it has style and humor to burn.
Good entertainment never takes violence or crass humor as a given “criterion.” Then again, some of us love watching someone get his ear sliced off. And Schwarzenegger is governor of California.