John Carlson: Great Flicks? Here Ya Go!

Movie tickets lead to Oscar statuettes. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonMovie tickets lead to Oscar statuettes. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

Academy Awards time, also known as Oscar Night, is nearing, so I decided to offer my thoughts on movies.

Of the Best Picture nominees, Nan and I have seen two, “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land.” Both of us loved the former, but were divided on the latter. Oddly enough, I liked it more than she did, even though it is full of girly stuff like romance, joyful music and happy dancing.

Why did I like it so? Beats me.

“Hey,” Nan suggested, tactfully. “Maybe you should go have your testosterone level checked.”

Ha! That wife of mine! What a kidder!

Anyway, I’m sure all this year’s nominees are wonderful. So how do I pick the best movie? First, I ask this question: Is Jennifer Lawrence in it?

If so, then that’s the winner. Nan knows I’m nuts about that little hottie. It doesn’t matter whether her role has her designing a mop, being a loopy person with a crush on another loopy person, or shooting arrows into somebody.

Jennifer Lawrence on the big screen. Photo by: Mike Rhodes

Jennifer Lawrence on the big screen. Photo by: Mike Rhodes

Fact is, were I to find myself in a big room with Jennifer Lawrence, to meet her I would gladly crawl across the floor, propelled solely by my lips. But that’s not to say I am some sicko creep who pores over her publicity photos late at night, obsessively counting the little birthmarks on her chest between her neck and her, um, décolletage.

Believe me, I’m not (there are six of them).

Meanwhile, Nan indulges me because I overlook her lurid infatuation with three men from TV. They are that little gray-haired Trivago twerp, er, gentleman; then Mayhem, the smart-aleck insurance dude who keeps almost killing himself, and finally Poldark, that 1700s English fella on PBS who rides around on horses all the time, flashing his navel.


But back to the movies …

Since Jennifer Lawrence isn’t up for an Oscar this time, I would suggest Hollywood wait until she is before passing out the awards. But on second thought, since they probably already have Oscar Night’s  backstage shrimp bowls ordered, why don’t they choose a winner from MY all-time favorite movies?

In no particular order, these are “Jaws,” “Rocky,” “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Dirty Harry,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Pride of the Yankees.”

From this list, obviously my second most-important criteria for an Oscar – Jennifer Lawrence being first, you’ll recall – is Blood and Guts. Who needs good acting when you’ve got gore and gristle? When I see a movie, I want it to look like a strawberry margarita machine exploded on the set.  Therefore, “Jaws” takes first in this category, based on the amount of blood the shark leaves awash in its wake after snacking on swimmers.

But, you ask, based on that criteria, what is that bloodless old Gary Cooper movie “Pride of the Yankees,” the classic 1942 baseball tale of Lou Gehrig facing his last at-bat, doing on your list?

Truth is, it represents my third Oscar criteria. This is Number of Times During a Movie a Man Slinks Off to the Bathroom, Where He’s Actually Blowing His Nose and Wiping His Eyes Instead of, Um, You Know. But let’s get one thing straight. Personally, I’m not some wuss who cries at movies. Now that we have that settled, for me, “Pride of the Yankees” and “Saving Private Ryan” usually tie in this category, at about ten trips to the tinkler.

Finally, my fourth Oscar criteria is Greatest Line of Dialogue. Forget Orson Welles’ dying croak “Rosebud,” or Clark Gable’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dang,” from overrated films like “Citizen Kane” and “Gone With the Wind.”

For real impact, start with “Dirty Harry” and his line, “Well, do ya, punk?” Wow. That’s like, right out of a Shakespearean sonnet. And with “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” it’s gotta be the line from his brief career-counseling scene with the impetuous young bounty hunter whose belly he’s about to blast, to wit: “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, son.”

Those timeless Clint Eastwood lines really resonate, especially for people who enjoy killing people.

The rest of us? To my mind, the ultimate Oscar-worthy line of dialogue should be a simple yet elegant message that captures the futility so many feel in this nebulous age, caught up by a soulless machine in which we are mindless cogs. Topping my list, then, is Sylvester Stallone’s unforgettable line in “Rocky,” when Adrian is getting all cuddly on his lap, and he says six words that perfectly summarize  the human condition:

“Whyn’t you go cook the meat?”

What passion! What truth! What beauty! “Whyn’t you go cook the meat?” If only he’d said that to Jennifer Lawrence instead.


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.