Museums remember and recognize the past whether it be art, history or inventions. Some just mean more than others as in the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in the heart of Fayetteville, NC, at 100 Bragg Boulevard. You can’t miss it because Iron Mike is standing tall in front of the museum’s entrance.
The Covid-19 virus caused many museums to close for several months while the world fought the deadly contagious virus. Now, many museums are opening back up with restrictions and the Airborne and Special Operations museum is one of them. This museum shows a different kind of war but just as deadly nonetheless. More than that, in addition to combat and direct action casualties, service men and women have had to also deal with infectious diseases such as Trench Fever, Typhoid and others during the course of a war’s timeline. Sometimes, the diseases they have to endure are not over even if they survive and make it back home. That’s a reality for any country’s service men and women.
Museums are important for remembering, admiring, honoring and also to generate discussions for historical bad behavior and cautionary inaction toward evil. When diplomacy, discussion, and negotiations fail, elected officials, dictators and other forms of nation governments turn to the military to fix it. Because of this hard truth, it’s vital and right to recognize service men and women as well as others who put themselves in danger to solve disputes started by political leaders.
The Airborne and Special Operations museum takes you through the history of wars and significant battles and their roles in the engagements. At the time of the visit, the traveling Korean War Memorial was in place to see. In addition to the museum, a visitor could take in the memorial’s coverage over a large land mass and its appreciation of the job of the everyday ground soldier.
It’s good that the various museums across the globe and in the United States are beginning to open.
The museum rolls out many exhibits to look over and many are surprisingly large. It’s worth a trip but in my view. I think many museums not matter how small are worth a visit for many reasons.
I figured this might be a good time to send out a few suggestions for your viewing pleasure. The streaming services are a goldmine concerning documentaries. As a huge fan of documentaries, these are my picks for some of the best out there. These are not listed by rating or any particular order because they are all good. They are only a click away.
Bobby Kennedy For President-Netflix
This extensive and fair documentary shows Bobby Kennedy from childhood to his last moments after the California primary in 1968. It is a study in a transformation from growing up, college life, his work on the congressional committees, running his brother John Kennedy’s Presidential campaign to his election as New York’s senator and his presidential run. Although his core personality traits remain as he matures into his 30s and beyond, Bobby Kennedy begins to harness how he uses them for the greater good. Revealing interviews with friends, colleagues and other people who met or knew him define this video portrait in a documentary that is an objective view of Kennedy’s personality and accomplishments. Like John Kennedy before him, you wonder what might have been after viewing this film.
Bobby Sands: 66 Days-Netflix
Good documentaries educate as well as create their own own mark on the genre. This is one. This is the story of the Provisional Irish Republican Army soldier Bobby Sands and his hunger strike while in HM Prison Maze in 1981. The story cuts back and forth from the start of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, and why he began it, to the history of the conflict between England and Ireland as well as the Northern Ireland troubles. Sands was a person who had the courage to finish what he started and from there, the countdown to day zero begins. The compelling part of this story lies in the total commitment Bobby Sands had toward first volunteering for a hunger strike and then following through. The essential part of the film covers the timeline showing how the Northern Ireland Troubles came to this point of a hunger strike as well as the how that flash point started the road towards a peaceful solution we see today. This documentary is an education on different levels.
20 Feet From Stardom-Netflix
A fascinating view telling the stories of the backup singers for several popular solo artists and groups. The personalities and voices from these singers make this documentary a captivating story. Interviews with Darlene Love, Sheryl Crow, Claudia Lennear and Merry Clayton and several more singers let the viewer know where they were on stage and why they remained in a supporting role. Legends Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Sting offer their viewpoints and praise. The interview with Darlene Love is especially entertaining. The film’s concert footage and interviews with some of the greats in the music business make this a fascinating look at the voices you’ve heard on the music track to your life. One last point—Lisa Fischer’s voice is fantastic.
Command and Control-Netflix
I read the book and watched this documentary about how the United States managed and controlled our nuclear capabilities during the Cold War period in American history. The book offers more detailed accounts of certain events that occurred during the tense stand off with the Soviet Union. The documentary focuses on one event that occurred in Damascus, Arkansas, in September of 1981 that caused a ground explosion at a Titan Missile complex. Accident investigations drill down to the cause of major disasters and 100 percent of the time these events happen due to a series of mistakes. In this case, it was due to ignoring standard operating procedures, not using the correct tool for a particular job and other command and control issues. It’s a story about how one mistake can lead to a catastrophe that could have lead to an even bigger disaster.
The Wrecking Crew-Hulu
The artists you thought were playing the instruments on all of those hit records weren’t. The musicians on all those Beach Boy hits, The Mamas and the Papas songs, Sonny and Cher records, The Righteous Brothers tunes and many more were men and woman on a exclusive list. They were guitarists, percussionists and keyboard players in the LA area that had the chops. Records producers and engineers needed people who could create and hit the notes when they needed it. Once more, these people could help produce a hit record on time and under budget when record companies looked at the bottom line. Names like Tommy Tedesco and Glenn Campbell showed up at the studio and delivered. In addition to the interviews, the audio from the recording sessions all those years ago is awesome. When you hear Brian Wilson creating the Good Vibrations music tracks with the Wrecking Crew, you will move forward in your chair.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown-Hulu
Much like the Wrecking Crew, this is a film about the Funk Brothers from the hit Motown years. These musicians created the Motown sound for the Temptations, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and a whole lot more. When Berry Gordy formed Motown Records in Detroit, he did a smart thing. He went to all the Jazz and Blues clubs in the Detroit area and hired the best musicians to back up the tons of hit records his label would produce in the future. Another fascinating story about the people behind the hits who made the Motown sound.
The Dawn Wall-Netflix
This documentary explores the motivation, perseverance and obsession of free climber Tommy Caldwell and climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson’s attempt to scale the impossible 3000ft Dawn Wall of El Capitan. The cinemaphotography and the physical toll in taking on the climb makes the audience tired just watching it. The film is vertigo inducing just looking at some of the shots from where they stop and look down but also when they set up their overnight bed that hangs off the side of a flat mountain rock face. It’s an edge of your seat and edge of the cliff roller coaster ride.
Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown-Hulu
The comedy legend and philanthropist Jerry Lewis is featured in the documentary that offers more than just laughs. It’s a serious look into the life and personality of Jerry Lewis. He had to be the businessman as well as the funny man during his life and career. The film interviews friends and colleagues to find out what makes Jerry, well Jerry. The clown make up is off and real Jerry is revealed. if you think you know Jerry Lewis, this film will surprise you.
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene—Hulu
The 78 and 52 refers to 78 camera setups and 52 cuts. The shower scene in Psycho has been talked about and analyzed before for film documentaries and in just about every film school class. It is required viewing for film study the world over. Nevertheless, this documentary shows us new territory by interviewing the body double for Janet Leigh, as well as top film editors from the industry.. As a person who has worked in the video production and news editing business, this documentary was fascinating on many levels. The level of detail on story boarding, stage planning, and the creation of the music score demonstrates that Alfred Hitchcock was at the top of his craft. The editors and other experts in the documentary tell us how Hitchcock set audience up in the beginning of the film to illicit the shock of the seeing the shower scene. It is not hyperbole to say this scene changed film editing moving forward. Yes, Hitchcock broke the rules for this montage sequence, but he knew which ones he was breaking.
The great thing about the United States is eventually wrongs are righted. A few of these documentaries I have seen more than once, and this is one of them. This film tells the story of women pilots from the barnstorming days, then to the WWII pilots supporting the war effort and onto the Mercury 13. Who are the Mercury 13? I didn’t know this but there once was a program in the early 1960s for women astronauts when NASA first began its quest to get to the moon and return. The men who ran the program in the early 60s killed it. The prejudices, social mores of that time and the boys club mentality shut it down. Consequently, the first women into space was Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. Here’s the great thing about this documentary, other than the interviews and footage of the great women pilots from that era, and that is they did better on the NASA tests than the men did. Well, there you have it. The women featured on this documentary were excellent pilots and maybe the best of them all was Jacqueline Cochrane. She’s feature here too but she didn’t get selected for the program. The story of the original Mercury 13 women astronaut candidates paved the way for all who followed and ushered in the success of women in NASA’s Shuttle program.
Bonus Documentary—The Keepers. One that will keep you thinking long after you watch it.
Films released in the early days of Hollywood, specifically from the 40s, 50s and later give the audience a snapshot from the past. Films that are set in the era when they were filmed, show us cars, clothes, storefronts, street signs and everything retro that people like. Granted, many people from the buying public prefer cutting edge electronics, cars, and technological breakthroughs. Some consumers choose the past and everything associated with it such as classic cars, vintage houses, timeless music, and furniture from the 19th and 20th Centuries. It’s like looking at old photographs of your grandparents and seeing all of the old stuff in the pictures.
The classic Film Noir movie gives you all that. Presented to us for our viewing pleasure are old cars, small-town street fronts, New York City in the 1950s, classic furniture, street lingo as it was uttered back then, and one more thing. That would be the feature that is difficult to find in today’s movies–black and white photography shot to perfection in the best contrast shots ever seen on film.
With this in mind, here are some of the best Film Noir movies and why they are still popular today.
Gun Crazy is one of the best of all time. The movie title may not be politically correct for today’s politically charged environment, but it perfectly sums up the film. It’s about Guns, Guns, Guns, and Guns–and not the kind of gun show you see at the gym. This is about people who like guns, what people do with guns, people who like people who like guns and obsessiveness. The kind of obsession that makes you love crazy. The title characters portrayed by John Dall and Peggy Cummins, who is considered an all-time favorite Femme Fatale, demonstrate this so well you almost wish a psychiatrist was handy so they could see one in the middle of the movie. Cummins is sensational in this movie to the point that until her passing recently, she was invited to many seminars and Film Noir retrospectives to talk about the role. That’s saying something considering there are many brilliant actresses in the Film Noir genre.
John Dall loves guns, is a crackerjack shot and also loves the Peggy Cummins’ character, Annie Starr, who also can handle the iron with the best of them. You can see within the first few minutes after the film credits scroll away that Annie’s gunplay is top-notch and hits her targets whether it is a man or a cigarette in someone’s mouth. Annie Starr loves guns, worships money. Annie Starr should have a stop sign draped around her neck but Dall would run through it anyway without tapping the breaks. As the movie races along, the movie’s finish line doesn’t disappoint.
It has Barbara Stanwyck in it. Enough said. Well, it also starts out like many Film Noir classics with the audience realizing that something didn’t go well. From the moment Fred MacMurray walks in the door and sees Barbara Stanwyck at the top of the staircase, the audience knows he’s in trouble. You also know that because of the narration MacMurray provides when he starts dictating within the first few moments of the movie. The movie’s dialogue is classic for the double entendre back and forth between Stanwyck and MacMurray. I never saw speed signs the same way afterward. The toxic relationship between the two principle characters is just one part of the movie. The other significant character is Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of the insurance investigator. It’s a classic story in several ways and worth seeing just for Stanwyck and MacMurray’s relationship.
Starring Robert Mitchum, who could be called one of the kings of the genre, and Jane Greer, another actress revered by the Film Noir community. Just to make sure it’s a classic, the movie also has Kirk Douglas as a major figure in the storyline. The movie has a strong supporting cast including Dickie Moore who doesn’t say a word in the movie but through his relationship with Mitchum’s character and his acting ability tells the audience all it needs to know. Jane Greer, known as The Queen of Film Noir, works her magic (incredible eyes even in black and white) on Mitchum and he tosses aside his job of finding Jane Greer and the money. Mitchum’s decisions catch up to him with the past interloping on his present good fortune.
An early Stanley Kubrick directorial effort starring another Film Noir favorite, Sterling Hayden. This is an example of meticulous planning gone wrong due to unforeseen circumstances. Compartmentalizing responsibilities and parsing out information for those who need to know is one way of planning a heist. It makes you wonder if there is a perfect crime and how much planning should be involved if human nature is unpredictable. The story takes the audience on a ride and you find yourself rooting for Sterling Hayden all the way.
I AM big…It’s the pictures that got small–Norma Desmond
Another Sterling Hayden Film Noir classic. This one is another heist gone wrong but also involves a lawyer who is cash strapped due to his infidelities and other choices. This film is also remembered for Marilyn Monroe’s early screen performance as the “other” woman. Sterling Hayden portrays Dix Handley, the muscle behind the crime caper. Louis Calhern is the lawyer who finances the operation with an intent to double-cross. Like most film Noir classics, it all goes bad but the way it goes wrong for everyone is the fun part of watching the movie. The best acting turn is Sam Jaffe as the brains of the whole operation with one weakness that gets him at the end.
A Sam Fuller film, this would be higher on the list if not for the many outstanding films in the genre. Thelma Ritter as Moe Williams is a character in the movie that many can identify with as someone living a day to day existence trying to get one more paycheck to survive. She remarks at one point in the movie how tired she is, looking at her performance you believe every word she is saying. She was nominated for an Academy Award four straight times including this role and you understand why. She almost steals the film like she almost did in the James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock vehicle, Rear Window. Richard Widmark’s main character light’s the firecracker at the beginning of the movie by pickpocketing the wrong victim’s purse on the subway. The events unfold with Widmark not yielding to any intimidation from both sides of the law enforcement aisle. He straddles both sides and gets some revenge so that, in the end, the anti-hero can call his own shots with help from Jean Peters, the girl he pickpockets on the subway at the beginning.
The movie opens not in the gritty city, but on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere with a lady in distress trying flag a car down for a ride. Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer sees her and stops and that’s where it all begins. Hammer wakes up two weeks later in a hospital room and must figure out what happened, why and who is responsible. Strother Martin with his eccentric one of a kind delivery is in the movie. Strother Martin as in the same Strother Martin from “Cool Hand Luke” and “what we have here is failure to communicate” movie fame.
Another Orson Welles classic, this film is a class in photography work, tracking shots, and how to use natural sound. The whole story of how they produced one of the longest tracking shots in movie history. The customs agent guard at the gate kept blowing his lines and they had to do the whole thing over again and again. Finally, the tracking shot was finished just before sunrise because Marlene Dietrich plays a memorable character and says the famous line about Welles’ character, “He was some kind of man…what does it matter what you say about people.” The film is legendary just because of the backstories associated with the production and editing process after the film was in the can. The film is confusing in some places because of a couple of reasons, Welles wanted it to be confusing and because of the studio executives butchering the editing process.
Adapted from a short story by Ernest Hemingway, this is the movie that catapulted Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster to stardom. It also has Edmund O’Brien in it to keep the story flowing as the insurance investigator Jim Reardon. William Conrad shows up at a diner and eats up the screen in a bad guy portrayal that is memorable. Conrad and Charles McGraw, another Film Noir mainstay, show up at the diner and start harassing everyone in the place and even give the guy behind the counter a hard time just for good measure. They are looking for Swede Anderson played by Burt Lancaster. They want to find him and they are not going to ask questions first.
Sunset Boulevard is memorable for two reasons: the audience knows how it will end because of the first shot and because of William Holden’s narration and the other is Gloria Swanson and her portrayal of Norma Desmond. Many actresses turned down the role before Gloria Swanson accepted it. Swanson portrays the character to the max as a fading star trying to hold on to her last bit of fame and dignity. This movie threw some rocks directly at the whole Hollywood glass menagerie. The script took a magnifying glass to how people are used and then thrown out like trash at the end of their careers. As Norma Desmond retorts to Holden in one scene, “I AM big…It’s the pictures that got small.” The film has Buster Keaton, Jack Webb and Eric Von Stroheim in it as well as other stars from the silent era who didn’t have a place in talkies. The director Billy Wilder enjoyed poking the movie industry with his script he co-wrote with Charles Brackett and D.J. Marshman. To give the movie an even more surreal feel, Cecille B. DeMille shows up in a cameo to throw out some needling remarks about Norma Desmond.
Film Noir showed up in American movie theaters after World War II. With two World Wars behind them, the Korean War in progress and the Cold War about to heat up, the late 1940s and 1950s movie-going public wanted darker, gritty, realistic stories with even darker personalities. Positive, delightful story conclusions were still being made but audiences also wanted stories without cheerful conclusions. The audience preferred to take a walk down a dark alley and because of that some of the best movies of that time period were produced.
Honorable Mentions: Detour, Sweet Smell of Success, Criss Cross, They Live by Night, The Maltese Falcon.
The Library of Congress released its annual list of 25 films worthy of preserving for film students and movie aficionados for generations.
Included this year are: My Fair Lady, The Informer, Bad Day at Black Rock, Broadcast News, Days of Wine and Roses, Hud, and Brokeback Mountain.
What is interesting to note is that some films are just now being included in the National Film Registry, like My Fair Lady. Movie buffs would have thought a movie based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion would be on the list already. Some of the exclusions have to do with the process. A group of film professors, scholars, critics and columnists get in a room and argue and debate which 25 films from more than 100 years of producing them should be included. Some people in the room champion their causes. They all can’t be the most popular because some of them are educational and serve a higher purpose other than entertainment like this year’s inclusion, Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984). It is an entertaining and highly informative animated film about the social and personal issues black women and their hair. The following link gives an example of the eclectic nature of year’s choices.
The Library of Congress and the Film Registry committee has selected 25 films for the last 30 years that inform, entertain, educate, and represent the past so that people will take a second look or watch for the first time and maybe, just maybe, learn something in the process.
If you consider film and cinema a modern art form worthy on the same level of literature and art masterpieces such as Leonardo Da Vince’s Mona Lisa and Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, then The National Film Registry is doing all of us a favor by saving and preserving the films on the list for posterity.
Films selected the past 29 years include: Gentlemen’s Agreement, about anti-Semitism; Field of Dreams, about Baseball and father/son relationships; Being There, Starring Peter Sellers, giving the performance of his career; Thelma and Louis, with maybe the best final shot of any movie; Saving Private Ryan and the Right Stuff, two movies about sacrifice; The Best Years of Our Lives, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Modern Times and Singin’ in the Rain, all selected in the first year.
Some of the films that are included are documentaries and merge disciplines like the inclusion of the Monterey Pop (1968) this year. As the description on the National Film Registry states,
“This seminal music-festival film captures the culture of the time and performances from iconic musical talent. “Monterey Pop” also established the template for multi-camera documentary productions of this kind, predating both “Woodstock” and “Gimme Shelter.” In addition to director D. A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles and others provided the superb camerawork. Performers include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Hugh Masekela, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garfunkel, and Ravi Shankar. “
The National Film Registry and the Library of Congress websites are worth checking out for a variety of reasons, including the wealth of information that is featured on each site.
For movie historians and movie buffs who want to take a deep dive into the craft of movie making and editing there are two books that deliver that and more.
One is authored by Russian and Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein and is titled, The Film Sense. It covers how the cinema master Eisenstein edits film frames to illicit an emotional and psychological response when the audience watches.
His master pieces of film include Strike and Potemkin, with the Odessa Steps sequence that many modern film directors have studied and used. It includes the technique of collision editing and features the baby carriage rolling down the steps scene. This was used effectively in the movie “The Untouchables” with Sean Connery and Kevin Costner.
Another movie book comes from another master craftsman that studied Eisenstein. It is The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures. The book covers Hitchcock and his film all the way to the last, Family Plot. This one shows us how Hitchcock was able to tap into everyone’s fear and horror. If nothing else, he made the movie public think twice about stepping into a shower.
Every two years the voting public absorbs the wave of political commercials, email voting reminders, and US Postal Service flyers about getting to the polls to do their civic duty. After election day is over and we all come up for air, we can only hope that we did not make a mistake that we can’t correct for another 2, 4 or 6 years, whichever the case may be.
Why should the movie industry be any different? The cinema has its collective lenses on all the social issues including politics. Among the movie industry’s favorite genres is the political or election themed movie. What follows is a list of political movies that make you think. The Founding Fathers certainly did the movie industry a favor when they gathered in Philadelphia and engineered our representative government. So here’s my vote for a few of the best.
1. The Candidate- 1972-Starring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, and Melvyn Douglas
Robert Redford portrays Bill McKay, a somewhat naive political candidate, that gets in the race for a California Senate seat for noble reasons. He starts out the campaign without any chance of unseating the incumbent but soon momentum grows. His political handlers want to control him, but he fights to be his own person. Melvyn Douglas, who plays Redford’s father, a former governor of California, is a favorite character. He is cynical, politically savvy, and opportunistic. He is not fully involved with his son’s campaign until he determines he has a viable chance to win the thing.
In a televised debate near the end of the campaign, he breaks away from the predetermined closing statement, stunning his staff, and delivers his own message. It’s a brilliant movie about the trajectory of a campaign and of a candidate as the election cycle moves fast towards election day. It’s has one of the best closing lines in movie ever put on screen. After winning the election and beating the incumbent, Redford is with Peter Boyle, in a small room as he is ready to meet the adoring crowd. Redford says to Boyle, his campaign manager, “What do we do now.”
2. Ghandi-1982-Starring Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Rohini Hattangadi, Roshan Seth
When thinking of this movie, a viewer might say, “well this is a good autobiography of Ghandi.” This is an incisive, penetrating study on the politics of getting what you want through public opinion. Ghandi’s struggle for independence from British control over India and what is now Pakistan glued the biopic together. Ghandi’s tactic, played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley, of fighting bad laws and oppression with non-violence, boycotts and media outrage was adopted by Martin Luther King to fight racism in the 1960s. Ghandi studied law in England and practiced law in South Africa before returning to London and then British controlled India in in the early 1900s.
Ghandi’s ability, through out the movie, to understand the British ruling group, with their class mentality and preconceived notions of intellectual aptitude, enabled him to outmaneuver authorities. His nonviolent strategy and willingness to sacrifice prison time made the ruling government impatient. This led to many mistakes that turned public opinion.
3. Being There-1979-Peter Sellers, Shirley MacClaine and Melvyn Douglas
Melvyn Douglas seems to be in the most perceptive movies about politics. Sellers’ character is a an intellectually challenged gardener whose rich boss has died and he doesn’t have anywhere to go when the lawyers kick him out of the house. He walks around until he is taken in eventually by Shirley MacClaine’s character Eve Rand. She is married to Melvyn Douglas’ character, Benjamin Rand, who knows the President of the United States. Sellers answers questions in terms of gardening or what he has seen on television.
For example, when the President, played by Jack Warden, asks Sellers a question about the economy and temporary incentives he responds.
“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well in the garden. And all will be well in the garden.”
“In the Garden,” says the President.
Sellers responds with, “ Yes. In the garden, growth has its seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”
The President looks puzzled but Melvyn Douglas steps in and interprets the statement in economic terms. After the meeting, everyone thinks Sellers’ character Chance the Gardener is a genius.
It’s a statement about how simplistic someone can make an issue and the political environment, in their zeal to find a new idea, accepts it. Sellers is brilliant because he plays his character in calm, tightly controlled manner so it keeps everyone guessing. But as soon as gets confirmation from the President and other political leaders, he is accepted. The movie is also interesting in how people communicate and interpret messages and words into a deeper meaning.
4. The Contender-2000-Starring Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges and Advise and Consent-1962-Starring Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon and Henry Fonda
In today’s heated political world, these two movies capture the vendetta climate perfectly. Both movies involve a President’s selecting a choice for public office and then the political process of trying to destroy the candidate’s reputation by his opposing political group. Joan Allen is the target in the Contender while Henry Fonda receives the smear campaign in the form of a communist sympathizer in Advise and Consent. Both Presidents dig in and back their choice through the process but both outcomes at the end are less than satisfying. Each movie analyzes how far the process will go toward achieving their goal of ousting a candidate for office. In today’s climate, both movies dive into themes the public should be rethinking. How much is enough and how far will we go to win against the other side. Will both political parties work with each other or will there always be a chasm from now on, with the in-power pendulum swinging back and forth between the left and the right.
5. All the Kings Men-1949-Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru and Mercedes McCambridge
Based on the Robert Penn Warren book, “All The Kings Men”, the movie and the book is based on Louisiana 1920s and 1930s politician Huey P. Long’s rise to power and ultimate death. He was the state’s governor and later a US Senator who was shot in Baton Rouge, LA, on September 8, 1935, and died two days later. The movie’s title refers to Huey Long’s share-the-wealth motto, “Every Man A King.” Broderick Crawford delivers an award winning performance as a populist, fighter for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of Louisiana. He quickly falls into a power trap of intimidating enemies, with plenty of corruption and blackmail to achieve his goals. It asks the question are Machiavellian ways justified as long as the outcome is righteous. Crawford’s performance hit all the personality traits that first endears someone to the people and then how absolute power poisons the relationships close to a person. This movie mirrors another that explores the idea that power reveals a personality deep within a soul. Power doesn’t change a person but reveals the true self. That movie starred Andy Griffith in the movie that predicted the future titled, “ A Face in the Crowd.”
6. Lincoln-2012-Starring Daniel Day-Lewis——-Abe Lincoln in Illinois-1940-Starring Raymond Massey and Ruth Gordon——Young Mr. Lincoln-1939-Starring Henry Fonda and Marjorie Weaver
These 3 movies together capture the substance of our 16th President. What they all capture with performances by Daniel Day Lewis, Raymond Massey and Henry Fonda is his ability to understand people and react to the moment. His gift for moving people to his side on a political issue aided him as he moved through the political ladder. The earlier movies with Massey and Fonda gives the audience a window into how his personality worked for him. Massey’s interpretation of Lincoln reflects Lincoln’s moodiness in addition to his sense of humor. Fonda’s portrayal highlights his sense of humor but also his intellectual ability to handle professional challenges with poise.
In Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis shows the President’s ability to command a room and work with people. In fact, most of his cabinet was composed of people who ran against him for the Republican nomination for President, Secretary of State William Seward being one who ended up being a strong support and friend after the 1960 election.
Website about Lincoln’s personality and other aspects of his life
7. The Manchurian Candidate-1962-Starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Lawrence Harvey and Janet Leigh
This is a film noir thriller about McCarthyism, communist sympathizers, assassinations, and brainwashing and psychological control. The most politically motivated and strategically ruthless personality jumping off the screen is Angela Lansbury’s portrayal of the controlling mother to Lawrence Harvey. The movie is released during the height of the cold war when espionage, the nuclear arms race and the domino theory concerning Vietnam, North Korea, China, Cuba, the Soviet Union and their motivations to spread Marxist and Communist ideology.
8. All the President’s Men-1976=Starring Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards, and Hal Holbrook
No movie list about politics is legitimate without the inclusion of this movie based on the Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward book of he same name. In addition to the Watergate break in and the election slush funds and cover up, the movie is an excellent demonstration about how journalist work and the decisions that lead to printing a story. The scenes where Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman put in the leg work to confirm facts and get additional sources for the details make the movie authentic. The movies shows the audience is behind the front page story and headline so when government officials denounce the story, the newspaper or television news program can fight back.
Story about the source behind the Watergate story and why he became a source
9. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-1939-Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Claude Rains
Stewart’s Mr. Smith fills a US Senate position and gets an education in how some of Washington’s power players work the system. His reality check sours him on the whole system but Jean Arthur coaches him parliamentary procedures as he fights his way toward a dramatic conclusion. This is another movie that is required for any movie list about the nature of politics.
Article about the making of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
10. The Mortal Storm-1940-Starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, and Robert Young
Another movie with James Stewart that is not at top of most James Stewart movie lists, This is a story about politics dividing a family and the slow disintegration of civility and rational thought. The Roth family is caught up in the pre-war Nazi hype. Nazi policies and propaganda divide the family as the country moves toward inevitable war. James Stewart is against the Nazi ideology and it pits him against his former Roth family friends. The movie is a study in how a cult of personality can poison a whole country and divide a family living in a small village in the Alps. It leads to a heartbreaking conclusion.
Article on the rise of Nazism and the power of propaganda
Let’s face it. People love stuff that makes their lives simpler, easier and efficient. These gadgets and other products have gotten the mistaken reputation of making all of us lazier. It’s time to champion these universal monuments make the world safe again for inventions that keep us bolted to our lounge chair.
Back in the day of cheap gas, people controlled their televisions in two ways–leg power, or children power as in “Ricky, please change the channel from 7 to 4 for Daddy and Mommy.” The other way was a tethered remote control that traveled from your seat in the corner of the living room to the television, creating a booby trap for anyone entering the room, . The tethered remote was invented in 1950, which is a surprise to the baby boomer generation because our parents could have saved us several low crawls across the living room to change channels. Managers in the Zenith organization thought there was a better way. Time for Eugene Polly, an electronics engineer, to bring his awesomeness.
Eugene Polly-Zenith Electronics-1955-He used light beams transmitted from the remote to receptors on the TV to change channels or mute the sound. This worked most of the time but it had its drawbacks due to the receptors misreading other light sources like the sunset or sunrise. However, Mr. Polly, because he got the whole thing started, deserves a big five from every sports fan on earth.
The remote was perfected by Robert Adler-Zenith Electronics Physicist-1956-Adler’s remote used hammers striking metal rods that produced ultrasonic waves to change channels and control the TV. This was the standard until infrared technology became the new way to control a TV more than 25 years later.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Back in the day of cheap gas, drivers had to multitask in the worst way. Forget about texting and driving, try reading a map while driving. It was doing that, or pulling over to the side of the road, getting the map out of the glove compartment where no gloves were kept and try to determine your current location and how to get your destination. Now, it was easier if you had a passenger, like a spouse, to look at the map and navigate while driving but often this just created arguments and shouts of, “You’ve got the map, can’t you read a map!” if you were driving alone and had enough forethought, you could list your highway and road numbers and the exits and turns you had to take so you didn’t have to look at the map. Later on, drivers could print it out on MapQuest or some other navigation site but that didn’t come along until the 1990s.
Roger Easton-Naval Research Laboratory-1964– Easton called it the Timation for Time Navigation-He developed the technology to track satellites orbiting the earth, specifically ones the Soviet Union Launched during the space race. He was granted a patent 10 years later and in the 1970s the Department of Defense took certain features and developed and renamed it the Global Positioning System. That steered the technology (See what I did there) to what we use today in automobiles. We can all thank Mr. Easton for getting us back home and preventing millions of arguments among friends and spouses.
Automobile and All Things Travel Oriented
Back in the day when there were no gas stations anywhere let alone cheap gas, people traveled by horseback, carriage, ships crossing the ocean and moving down the rivers. Then trains and locomotives entered the culture, followed by the motor carriage or automobile and then passenger airplanes crossing continents and the oceans. We can all thanks several people for saving us time and creating a mobile society where we can see people thousands of miles away in a matter of hours. It also enables us to receive food products and other consumables in our stores and restaurants faster by truck, train, and air freight. When we want our pizza, we want our pizza.
The Light Bulb
Back in the day there were only candles and the light by the fire place or, later, using oil burning lamps that you had to carry around. Then electricity was harnessed and then Thomas Edison and his team perfected the light bulb and got his patent in 1979. Inventors and scientists first experimented with electricity properties producing light as far back as 1800. The issues they faced included finding an inexpensive filament and making it burn for several hours.
Thomas Edison-Inventor-1879-As with any important development that is life changing, it takes someone who takes what is already been tried and perfecting it from there. This is what Edison did. He also hire intelligent and hard working people to work in his laboratory. One of these was a scientist named Francis Upton from Princeton University. We can all thank Thomas Edison and his staff for bumping into the furniture at night and being able to read a book anywhere in the house.
Benjamin Franklin-You know, the Kite flying thing-You can argue about Benjamin Franklin’s experiment just establishing a connection between lightning and static electricity. You could also point out that many inventors developed electricity to the point when it could be managed and used for greater purposes. Benjamin Franklin must be given his recognition though. Nicolas Tesla’s experiments with Alternating Current was a game changer despite Thomas Edison’s propaganda against AC in favor of his Direct Current technology. The game changer for society was the ability to send electric current through wires to homes and businesses in a fashion that used electricity only when a person needs it-Turning lights on and off in a room when you need it.
Isaiah Rogers-Architect-1829-The first modern case of indoor plumbing occurred in 1829 when Isaiah Rogers planned indoor plumbing for 8 water closets at the Tremont Hotel in Boston, Mass. Before that, historical records proved the existence of several plumbing systems going back several hundred if not thousands of years. The flush toilet appeared in 1851 but was first invented in 1596. The whole human race thanks everyone involved for this one.
Johannes Gutenberg-1439-Before Gutenberg’s movable type printing press, books and documents were hand written or printed using wood block letters with ink covering the raised letters. This was pressed against paper to create a word, a tedious process at best for both techniques. It would be nice to think that Gutenberg invented the movable machine type printing press for the betterment of mankind but, as with most inventions, he was interested in producing mass amounts of a product in a short period of time to make the most money. Now in the digital age with downloading books to your laptop or mobile device, it’s all done with binary computer instructions and data centers that send pages and pages over the internet.
All Things IT related–The First Microchip
Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce- Texas Instruments-1959- The invention and the development of the Microchip began the revolution. The Microchip let computers do what they do like logic gates and controlling instruction sets. This ushered in the future of smaller chips and faster computer memory for today’s computers. Everything from garage door openers, mobile phones, software for fixing pictures you take on your smart phone, digital music playback devices that keep your entire music collection in a shirt pocket, gaming devices, streaming devices for television, credit card hardware at the store for purchases to all of the information technology that makes your car run, these are all due to many engineers and inventors constantly thinking of ways to change the way we live all due to the original microchip.
Martin Cooper Motorola-1973-Everyone carries around a small computer to be accessed when we need it, it’s the mobile or smart phone. We carry around the ability to ping data centers placed around the world in strategic places for answers to any question. You don’t even have to type it anymore, just ask Siri. Using satellite technology and the power of the microprocessor and application development, we use the power of our search terms to buy, read, navigate and find a good restaurant. We can thank Mr. Cooper for making that first mobile phone call.
Sometimes the simple developments are the most satisfying. Cutting a bagel can be hazardous. While researching, the term BRI came up. It’s a Bagel Related Incident. One wrong move with a knife, or a distraction in any way, you could hurt yourself all in the name of preparing the perfect bagel Several designs are on the market but one of the best is the Bagel Guillotine. The name gives you the picture of what it looks like. Some one hit a home run on this one.
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Combination
Harry Burnett Reese-1928-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups-If a choice had to be made between one of these on the list and peanut butter cups, most people would probably remove something else and keep the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. People have to have their priorities. In fact, anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate makes the whole world a better place. If more people ate Peanut Butter Cups there would be less arguments and the two parties in US Congress would be able to get along and get more done.
NASA-July 20th, 1968-This moon landing was significant because it forced the space agency and its subcontractors to step up their game. One of which was the way computer language was processed. The Apollo Guidance Computer had to process instructions differently. MIT hardware and software developers developed restart protection and priority task scheduling where the most important systems like attitude control and landing guidance get the highest priority compared to other instructions that are not life threatening. The computer core systems told the AGC that this task is more important that that task so ignore the one that is not as important right now. This was different than previous computers where computers were batch scheduled where each instruction was given the same priority in a round robin fashion. This became important in the development in home computers in the 70s. The world of computer hardware and software development was pushed forward because NASA had a goal of reaching the moon before the end of decade.
Some citizens of the world during certain decades have to deal with more adversity than others if war breaks out or the economies move into a recession or depression. Wars caused by leadership and diplomacy failures cause a heartache as well as a depletion in a generation’s men and women who could have the answers for curing disease and making the world a better place. Economic depression is caused by a number of factors including the malaise of industry captains and government officials. When these people who are educated by the world’s finest institutions neglect to act by exercising preventative measures society bears the burden.
Some decades are better than others but some are more tumultuous than others. It occurred to me the other day that if I had to rank the decades in order according to how much chaos and achievement occurred during that time period, this is list I would compose. To keep the list a short one, I am ranking the decades from the time period of 1900 to 2010. Otherwise, I would have to include the Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, British, Russian, and Mongol empires and I am sure I am leaving a few out.
Effect on subsequent decades
Significant Figures in History
Reason for Rank: There was so much going on during this decade it’s a wonder that the world didn’t have a collective stroke from the stress endured by the population. The Cold War, The Vietnam War, Nuclear build up and testing, the Middle East tensions, The Iron Curtain, North Korea and South Korea, the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of Malcolm X, civil rights marches, the Freedom Riders in the south, tensions in Europe, South American coups, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Fidel Castro and the list goes on and on. While these historical events were playing out, we managed to put a man on the moon, create some of history’s enduring works of art, literary classics and cinematic masterpieces. Sometimes chaos can bring out the best as well as the worst in human kind.
As Orson Welles said in “The Third Man”.
In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The Cuckoo Clock. So long Holly
Reason for Rank: When an event such as “The Great War” appears in a decade, you have to rank it high. Additionally, the Russian Revolution shocked the world in the decade and it was felt for several decades to come because it influenced foreign policy and caused several wars after World War II. In addition, naval power advanced with aircraft carriers and the further development submarines. The industrial revolution moved forward and the population of cities grew. The Panama Canal was finished in this decade, changing the way products were shipped from one side of the continent to the other. The decisions from this decade, like the Treaty of Versailles, had a negative effect on countries two decades later.
Reason for rank: Hitler and the Nazi regime’s rise to power brought on World War II and cruelty that equaled violence and destruction documented during the medieval age. World War II dominated the decade followed by the rebuilding of several major cities. The testing of the nuclear bomb and using it to force Japan’s surrender forever altered the diplomatic landscape. The cold war followed the end of the Second World War. The end of the decade saw tension increase to the point of North Korea invading the South in June of 1950 to start the Korean War, where two countries still remain proxies for a higher stakes game diplomacy between super powers. The formation of the United Nation, headquartered in New York.
Reason for rank: Terrorism on a global scale, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Hinting down of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Immigration in North America and Europe. The proliferation of social media. The used of social media and the internet for business models; Amazon, Apple, etc. The use of smart phone for communicating.
Reason for rank: The depression, the election of FDR and the New Deal socialist policies. Hitler’s election to Germany’s ruling party, the invasion of Austria, Poland, and other Eastern European countries, the annexation of the Sudetenland and the invasion of France, beginning World War II. Japan’s military build-up, the invasion of Manchuria, the Nanking Massacre and many other aggressions. The Hoover Dam was completed.
Reasons for rank: This decade featured President Teddy Roosevelt taking on monopolies and creating labor laws to curb the power of large corporations. Roosevelt, a proponent of taking care of the land and its wildlife in it, oversaw legislation for many natural parks that we enjoy today.
Reasons for rank: The decade saw the end of the Vietnam War under the Nixon administration after being escalated by the Johnson power brokers. The Watergate conspiracy played out on America’s television screens. Nixon resigned, President Gerald R. Ford became the first President not be elected. Jimmy Carter was elected. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan start their long stay there. The Shah of Iran was deposed and because of the United State support for the Shah, the Iranian hostage crisis lasted until President Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration day.
Reasons for rank: The decade began with silent movies and ended with sound on film, the talkies. It began with unprecedented economic growth and wealth accumulation. The motor car or automobile was having an impact on society and how people socialize with one another. The Hoover Dam was planned as well as other engineering projects.
Reasons for rank: Low on the list because there wasn’t that much upheaval compared to other decades. The most significant event was the destruction of Berlin Wall and the fall of communism in the Eastern Bloc countries, opening up the Iron Curtain in front of the Soviet Union whose communist ideology would fall later on.
Reason for rank: Some may rank this decade higher due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 in addition to the Persian Gulf War after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces. A significant event but because we had to revisit the Iraq after the turn of the century, this isn’t high on my list. Also, the Soviet Union was on a path to dissolution in the later 1980s, the next decade just made it official. The election of President Bill Clinton also was significant due to his influence in subsequent decades. The dissolving of Yugoslavian states resulted in genocide that had to be dealt with by UN Forces. The ethnic cleansing was an event that should have been prevented and stopped by the United Nations. This was one of the reasons the UN was formed after World War II but it failed in this mission.
Interesting voices have always been pleasant to hear. The selections below from the music industry are based on these measures: Passion, Versatility, Outstanding Live Performances, and the best one, does it catch your ear and pull you in. A voice can be deep, gravelly, soprano, alto, clear, clean, distinctive, have range, and illicit an emotional response. This list of ten can be longer because there are many voices that please the ear while doing daily activities. These are just a few of the voices that make my list.
Maria McKee, Lead Singer for Lone Justice as well as a solo performer. Favorites: Shelter; Ways to be Wicked; Sweet. Sweet Baby, Show Me Heaven, Breathe, Wheels. She has an incredible stage presence and can sing a ballad or belt out a rock and roll tune that mesmerizes audiences.
Stevie Nicks, Member of Buckingham/Nicks, Fleetwood Mac as well as solo performer and back-up singer for many other artists. Favorites: Dreams, Standback, Stop Draggin my Heart Around, Silver Spring, Landslide, Nightbird. One of the most instantly recognizable voices in the music business and an equally impressive song writer.
Ann Wilson (Heart), Lead Singer for Heart. Favorites: Crazy on You, Barracuda, Straight On, Magic Man, Never, Dream Boat Annie. Her voice can send chills when she hits certain notes.
Bonnie Raitt, Pop and Blues singer and outstanding guitarist. Favorites: Nick of Time, Not the Only One, Thing Called Love, Angel From Montgomery. Her voice is clean and can handle a ballad or blue tune. She sets the mood with her voice no matter what genre she sings.
Janice Joplin, Member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Solo Artist. Favorites: Piece of My Heart, Mercedes Benz, Ball and Chain. Me and Bobby McGee. Passion and memorable live performances define this legend’s reputation.
Linda Ronstadt, Member of The Stone Poneys and solo artist. Favorites: Poor, Poor Pitiful Me, Hurt So Bad, Blue Bayou, You’re No Good. She is the one performer who can take a classic hit from another performer and make it her own. She has been able to make her mark in many different musical tastes throughout her career.
Grace Slick, Member of The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Starship. Favorites: White Rabbit, Somebody to Love, Wrecking Ball, Dreams, Seasons. Her voice on White Rabbit hypnotizes the listener while on Somebody to Love she shows off how she can do voice gymnastics when she needs it.
Adele, Solo Performer. Favorites: Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You, Skyfall, When We Were Young. Just listening to Rolling in the Deep should give you an idea of why she is considered one of the best voices to come along in a while. The Jame Bond theme Skyfall is fine example of her vocal skill also.
Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders), Lead Singer for Pretenders. Favorites: Back on the Chain Gang, Brass In Pocket, Don’t Get Me Wrong, Talk of the Town. The Pretenders’ classic Back on the Chain gang features Hynde’s voice in all of its glory as she goes up and down the scale.
Aimee Mann (Til Tuesday), Favorites: Voices Carry, Coming Up Close, What About Love, Lucky, Love in a Vacuum. Mann’s voice cuts through the music on everything she sings, especially for Voices Carry and What About Love.
Other interesting voices
Rickie Lee Jones, Natalie Merchant, Sara McLaughlin, Melissa Etheridge, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading, Mama Cass, Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde), Amy Winehouse, Christine McVie, Annie Lennox, Debbie Harry, Lady Gaga, Kate Bush, Christina Aguilera, Enya.
Two movies, one bomb. The movies Fail Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) will always be linked together for the year they were released and the different take that each had on the same idea of nuclear proliferation. One really isn’t better than the other movie. Each approach the idea of nuclear war during the Cold War in different ways.
There’s nothing like a discussion about Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and movies that speak to the topic. With all of this talk about Rocket Man, North Korea’s testing program and nuclear build up and proliferation, I think it is time to revisit two movies which came out at the same time that addressed the idea of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. The two movies are Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. They are both classic movies and meet the idea of a doomsday scenario with fear and dismay.
One was a serious look at how mankind could be destroyed if weapon use, policies and procedures were not well thought out. The other was a brilliant movie about the absurdity of it all and the personalities that could bring to fruition such a chain of events.
Both featured military officers who lost their composure due to personal issues. At the same time, these officers were also with people who provided a reasonable voice during the madness. Strangelove, memorably, also featured Peter Sellers playing three roles. In one of my favorite characters of all time, Sterling Hayden gives us General Jack D. Ripper, a general who doesn’t have all of his chess pieces.
In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Dr. Strangelove one of the best satire movies of all time. Just about every line in the script is brilliant. The idea that man would destroy itself is a concept to horrifying to contemplate for an extended time. Therefore, the only real course of action is to just ridicule and laugh at the thought.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fail Safe, directed by the equally legendary Sydney Lumet, is a serious study of policy, procedure and the decision making process required to save mankind. Spoiler alert here…. Henry Fonda portrayed the President of the United States with a likable quality in a situation where he had to make decisions no one would want to make, namely taking out an American city to save the world. The movie had the unfortunate luck of being released after Dr. Strangelove thanks to Kubrick employing the court system after he found out the serious movie Fail Safe was being produced. He knew the first one to be released would be the most successful. Strangelove was released first and did well while Fail Safe didn’t not sell well. Time has elevated both movies to cult status. Fail Safe is considered a well thought out, intelligent perspective on nuclear warfare while Dr. Strangelove is considered a classic satire with several quotable lines in the dialogue.
Lines from Dr. Strangelove
General Jack D. Ripper: But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
President Merkin Muffley: Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.
General Jack D. Ripper: Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.
Major T. J. “King” Kong: Goldie, how many times have I told you guys that I don’t want no horsing around on the airplane?
General Jack D. Ripper: For God’s sake, Mandrake! In the name of Her Majesty and the continental congress, get over here and feed me this belt.
Major T. J. “King” Kong: Well, I’ve been to one World Fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones.
The President: How did you get to be a translator, Buck? You don’t seem the academic type.
Buck: I guess I have a talent for languages, sir. I hear a language once I pick it right up. I don’t even know how. They found out about it in the Army.
Gordon Knapp: We’ve told them how to blow up our air-to-air missiles, and with them our planes.
Professor Groeteschele: They know we might have a doomsday system, missiles that would go into action days, even weeks after a war is over and destroy an enemy even after that enemy has already destroyed us.
Gordon Knapp: The more complex an electronic system gets, the more accident prone it is. Sooner or later it breaks
Game theory is the analysis of how decision makers interact in decision making to take into account reactions and choices of the other decision makers. International conflict and other phenomena in international relations occur as a result of decisions made by people
As I write this on a word document, I have always admired people who can string a few memorable words and put them in the correct order. So with that thought, this is my take on the best songs by great lyricists. As with all of my lists, there are many like it but this one is mine.
Simon and Garfunkel-Sounds of Silence-1964
This is a tour-de-force in songwriting. Every line of it is unforgettable and it starts with one of the best lines of all time, “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.” As the songs reflects, the “words of the prophets are written on the subway walls” but when this was written down it was gold.
Sometimes you just nail it. This song is got everything great lyrics, perfect guitar rifts and defining the thin line between a dream and a nightmare.
McCartney-Lennon/The Beatles-Eleanor Rigby-1966
Of all the great lines in this song, one for me, still stands out, “All the lonely people, where do they all come from, All the lonely people, where do they all belong.” A simple question but not so easily answered.
Jackson Browne has delivered many great songs over the years (That Girl Could Sing) but his triumph is “The Pretender” because it covers many themes. One of the best parts, “I’ve been aware of the time going by, they say in the end it’s a wink of an eye, and when the morning light comes streamin’ in, we’ll get up and do it again, Amen”
This is so good it has been covered by many artists through the years. I prefer Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians version. This one starts right out with some terrific lines, “I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains, I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways, I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests.” I have to admit it was a toss-up between this and “The Jokerman.”
Most people like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” song from 1988. I like that one also, but I like this one better because it is reflective. I have always liked her voice but these words hit you like a Fast Car. Words like, “Although I’ve mostly walked in the shadows, I’m still searching for the light, Won’t you put your faith in me.”
The opening song to the “Born to Run” album hooks you right away and reels you in for a listening ride. This song’s opening lines are just the beginning for Mary to come along for the ride, “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves, Like a vision she dances across the porch, As the radio plays, Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, Hey that’s me and I want you only”
Written by Eric Woolfson along with Alan Parsons, “Time” expresses the true meaning of time passing by and the friends you meet along the way. I think about all of the people I have met in my life and how I would like to see them again. This song can be sad and inspirational in one listening. It’s about making the most of your time, “Time, flowing like a river, Time, beckoning me. Who knows when we shall meet again. If ever, But time, Keeps flowing like a river, To the sea.”
Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here-1975 and On The Turning Away-1987
The title track from the album of the same name, “Wish You Were Here” laments their missing friend and how circumstances have over taken them. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” may be about Syd Barrett and could just as well be on this list but this song puts their feelings into one phrase. The best lines are in the opening, “So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain. Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell?”
“On the Turning Away” is an insightful song about looking away rather than doing something to make the world and society a better place.
I think everything Rickie Lee Jones does is terrific so I may be writing this with a little bias. From her debut self titled album, this song along with Night Train are my favorites from it, although “Chuckie’s in Love” was the hit. This song uses personification to put human characteristics on an automobile. It’s brilliant piece where instrument, voice and words meet to create a great song. “It’s her last chance, Her timing’s all wrong, Her last chance, She can’t idle this long, Her last chance, Turn her over and go, Pullin’ out of the last chance Texaco, The last chance”
This one is written by two songwriters but performed by Miranda Lambert and this favorite of mine might have something to do with the way she sings it.
The words can bring back memories, “You leave home, you move on and you do the best you can. I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am. I thought if I could touch this place or feel it. This brokenness inside me might start healing.”